an obligation and an onerous financial burden. Now many local notables tried to avoid service as decurions.

Even as the imperial administration wanted local notables to serve as decu-rions, it also multiplied the means for them to avoid this obligation. Wealthier provincial elites had more opportunities to hold offices and acquire higher ranks by making a career in the imperial administration; lesser notables could find jobs as secretaries and functionaries in the palatine ministries, official staffs and provincial bureaus, or serve as soldiers and officers in the army. Once Constantine inaugurated Constantinople as a new capital, it needed new senators to match the venerable senate at Rome. Local elites from the Eastern provinces left their hometowns and migrated to New Rome. By the late 350s the senate at Constantinople had about 300 members, by the 380s 2,000 members. The acquisition of senatorial rank, through membership in the senate at the capital, holding a high office, or long service in the imperial civil service, conferred immunity against service as decurions.

By extending a similar immunity to bishops and clerics Constantine effectively made clerical service as attractive and as important as service in the imperial administration and the army. According to his son Constantius, the reward for the 'singular virtue' of clerics was 'perpetual immunity'. Julian, the last pagan emperor, of course tried to cancel this privilege; subsequent Christian emperors modified and restricted it; but they did not withdraw this grant of immunity. This sign of respect for Christianity had significant, and perhaps unintended, political and social consequences. From the fourth century most of the known bishops with known origins were from the class of local notables who would otherwise have been expected to serve as municipal magistrates and decurions.3

Some of the most prominent bishops were also some of the best examples. In the early fourth century, the father of Gregory of Nazianzus was most likely a decurion at Nazianzus in Cappadocia. But after he witnessed Constantine's patronage for the bishops travelling to the Council of Nicaea, he converted to Christianity and soon became bishop of his hometown. His sons then used contrasting strategies to avoid municipal obligations. One was offered membership in the senate at Constantinople and started a career in the imperial administration. The other, Gregory himself, served as a priest and then, off and on, as a bishop, including a stint at Constantinople. The family of Basil

3 Singular virtue: CTh 16.2.16. Julian: CTh 12.1.50 = 13.1.4. A. H. M.Jones, The later Roman empire, 923-4: 'The great majority of the higher clergy the urban deacons and priests and the bishops, were drawn from the middle classes, professional men, officials, and above all curiales."

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