Anician family, built a church to St Stephen on the Via Latina three miles from Rome.25

In addition to such traditional building activities, the senatorial elite of Rome were encouraged to give charity. The senator Pammachius' feast for the poor at St Peter's represents the channelling of a traditional act of patronage before a new audience, an act that will win him (in Paulinus of Nola's striking phrase) recognition among those who are truly 'noble', the prophets, apostles and martyrs who compose the 'heavenly senate'.26 It was with an awareness of their audiences that bishops frequently emphasised the rewards of such acts. In fourth-century sermons advocating charity, the arguments are directed toward the spiritual well-being of the donor; the poor are faceless and there is little attention to them.27 This notion of charity was very apt for Rome's aristocratic audiences, and we hear of the wealthy responding to these arguments with record acts of generosity; the wealthy Melania the Younger is said to have distributed funds to 'Mesopotamia, Syria, all of Palestine and Egypt', in short, to 'all the West and the East': she gave whole islands to the church.28 Although bishops emphasised that Christian patronage was different from that practised by pagans because it was done with a humble attitude, neither with pride nor out of self-pity, there were a good number of Rome's elite who saw it as a continuation of their traditional role.29

The acquisition of social status by Christianity in Rome was gradual, and it had to rise in the face of deeply imbedded pagan aristocrats, wedded to their traditions. These factors help to explain why it took approximately a century after Constantine for Rome's senatorial elite to adopt Christianity. It is only in the fifth century that a clerical career had become a viable option for Rome's upper-class families; none of the fourth-century bishops of Rome come from socially privileged backgrounds, and the first election of a pope from one of the noble families occurred in 496 with the elevation of Anastasius, a member of the Symmachan family.30 By the late fifth century, the identification of elite status with civic polytheism had been completely transferred to Christianity. The senatorial aristocracy of Rome, however, was among the last of Italy's

25 Liber pontificalis 47.1 (ed. Duchesne, 1: 238); see too Demetrias in PLRE 11: 351-2; on Pammachius, see PLRE 1: 663.

26 Paulinus of Nola, Carm. 21.202-24 (CSEL 30.164-5).

27 B. Ramsey, Almsgiving in the Latin church'.

28 Melania was a model of Christian generosity: see Life of Melania the Younger 19 (SC 90:

29 Ambrose, Deofficiis 1.30, Jerome, Tract. inps. 133.164-74, and other texts notedby Salzman, The making of a Christian aristocracy, 206 n. 36.

30 C. Piétri, Aristocratie et société clericale'.

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