Date of Award

12-2001

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Comparative Religion

First Advisor

Dr. Jaclyn Maxwell

Second Advisor

Dr. Brian Wilson

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul L. Maier

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only

Abstract

Arianism, a Christian heresy from the fourth century, proved to be one of orthodox Christianity's most resilient enemies. Though the Council of Nicaea technically condemned Arianism as a heresy in 325 C.E. , the religion persisted in parts of Europe through the late sixth century- particularly among the 'barbarian' Goths.

Many Goths had become Arian Christians reluctantly upon entering the Roman Empire in the mid-fourth century. The Goths' continued adherence to Arianism, once it was condemned, was a result of two factors. First, a compatibility existed and was nurtured between Gothic culture and Arianism. This made the heresy that much harder to relinquish. Secondly, adherence to Arianism kept the Goths in a desirable marginal status within the Roman Empire. Arianism was Christian enough to provide acceptance, but different enough to help the Goths avoid assimilation.

Similar examples occur in other contemporary groups-especially the Nestorians of Persia. Studies of these phenomena demonstrate how religion was used as a tool in identity establishment and also show the tensions that existed in regard to identity among the various groups of the later Roman Empire.

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