convene as necessary.143 Apart from co-ordinating the Catholic strategy against Donatism, these councils formulated a body of ecclesiastical law to unify the African churches in such matters as the biblical canon, clerical discipline and the fight against paganism. Important parts of this conciliar legislation were collected in the canons of Dionysius Exiguus.144
Influenced by Augustine, other African councils denounced Pelagian heresy: two synods at Milevis and Carthage in 416 were followed by a plenary council in Carthage on 1 May 418. As in the case of the Donatists shortly before (see below), the African bishops won imperial support: Honorius issued the anti-Pelagian decree on 30 April 418. But relations with Rome were not always harmonious. In May 419, a general council of 217 bishops with Aurelius presiding dealt with the case of Apiarius, a priest from Sicca Veneria. Apiarius had appealed to Rome against his excommunication and Pope Zosimus had accepted his appeal, citing as Nicene canons 3 and 4 of the Council of Serdica. The African council readmitted the delinquent priest, but referred to the sees of Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria about the authenticity of the canons cited.145 African churches were prepared to defend their autonomy and to reject Roman interference.146
The situation repeated itself some years later, with precisely the same results. A second council expelled Apiarius (424 /5); the bishops from the council wrote a letter demanding that Rome stop interfering and even formulated a canon that explicitly prohibited appeals to Rome. During the Vandal occupation, in c. 445, Pope Leo I tried to intervene in the affairs of the churches at Mauretania Caesariana. Among other things, he enjoined the African bishops to submit a full report about all issues of the churches and the concord of the bishops to the pope - but this demand was probably never met. In any case, we know that when some sixty African bishops assembled in Carthage during 525 (after the Vandal persecution), they duly reiterated the canon of 424/5.147
In the fourth century, African Christianity was split by the Donatist schism, which (like the Melitian schism in Egypt) followed from events during the Great Persecution.148 When a certain Caecilian was elected and ordained as
143 Concilia Africae (CCSL 149: 269-70; 215).
144 No acts or conciliar legislation survive from Donatist councils.
145 Concilia Africae (CCSL 149: 89-165; 94).
146 Already the plenary African council of 1 May 418 had been explicit in this respect; see Concilia Africae (CCSL 149: 227).
147 Concilia Africae (CCSL 149:169-72, 266); Leo, Letter 12.13 (PL 54: 656). See Lepelley, 'Saint Léon le Grand'.
148 G. Bonner, St. Augustine of Hippo, 237-311; E. Grasmtick, Coercitio; Schindler, Afrika I', 654-68; S. Lancel, 'Donatistae'. A collection of the relevant sources with commentary
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