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The episcopate of Damasus (366-84) neatly illustrates the emergence of Rome as the pre-eminent church of Western Christianities.63 Its beginnings were difficult enough: the schism between Liberius and Felix II was dividing the church. Two parties arose after Liberius' death (24 September 366): one, perhaps the minority, ordained Ursinus in the Basilica Iuli in Trastevere; their opponents elected Damasus in S. Lorenzo in Lucina.64 Damasus gained possession of the Lateran church where he was ordained bishop of Rome in early October. He had the urban prefect Viventius expel Ursinus and two of his deacons, but they were liberated by the people and sought refuge in the Basilica Liberii on the Esquiline Hill. On 26 October, Damasus' supporters - an armed rabble of clergy, charioteers, arena orderlies and gravediggers (fossores) - besieged the church, set fire to it and massacred 160 men and women. Further unedifying episodes in the conflict with Ursinus overshadowed the rest of his episcopate. Several Roman synods and the Council of Aquileia (381) dealt with these problems, and Damasus appealed to the secular authorities to curtail the Ursinians. In 373, a certain Isaac accused Damasus of murder, among other things. The emperor Valentinian, convinced that this was false, terminated the judicial proceedings. In 378, a Roman synod acquitted Damasus and also made detailed proposals for ecclesiastical jurisdiction that enhanced the bishop of Rome's position among the churches of Italy and the Western empire. It further suggested that the pope should be exempted from the urban prefect's jurisdiction.65

Papal elections remained problematical in the following centuries: if the clergy (presbyters and deacons) could not agree on a candidate, there existed no fixed procedure to resolve the conflict. Schisms were the result. The most severe ofthese was probably the so-called 'Laurentian schism' at the close ofthe fifth century (see above).66 The politicisation of papal elections confirms in a more general way the growing prestige and importance ofthe episcopate in late antiquity. On the one hand there was the local scene with an easily manipulated plebs, a powerful if seldom unanimous Christian aristocracy and an often-assertive clergy.67 On the other hand, there were various regional and transregional powers: Roman/Byzantine emperors, their various plenipotentiaries, and Germanic kings.

64 See A. Lippold, 'Ursinus'; A. Coskun, 'Der Praefect Maximinus' (with updated bibliography).

65 Pietri, Roma Christiana, i: 741-8.

66 See E. Wirbelauer, Zwei Papste.

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