Serving in a large city clearly offered huge advantages interms ofprestige and rank, and the bishops of large cities quickly floated to the top of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In the Eastern empire Antioch was a very important city during the fourth century. Not only was it the actual birthplace of Christianity, distinguished in Christian traditions as the city where the followers ofJesus were first called Christians. Not only had the Council of Nicaea already acknowledged that its bishops had a regional jurisdiction of some sort. Antioch furthermore was often the residence of emperors such as Constantius, Julian and Valens who were campaigning against the Persians. But all the neighbouring provinces already had their own metropolitan bishops, and rather than conceding primacy to the see of Antioch, these neighbouring bishops often schemed over its episcopacy. The episcopacy of Antioch was so important that during the fourth century it was contested by two, three, even four rival bishops who represented different factions.

Alexandria became an even more influential see. Its bishops claimed metropolitan rights over the whole of Egypt, even after it had been subdivided into smaller provinces, as well as over the neighbouring region of Cyrenaica. They then reinforced their jurisdiction with their enormous wealth. Bishop Theophilus was notorious for disguising the 'stench' of his ambition with the 'fragrance' of his bribes. To ensure support for the decisions of the Council of Ephesus in 431, Cyril of Alexandria distributed over a thousand pounds of gold to members ofthe court at Constantinople, as well as numerous carpets, rugs, tapestries, curtains, cushions and ivory thrones. These new pharaohs of Egypt hence exercised a vast influence that could readily lead them to meddle in ecclesiastical affairs throughout the Eastern empire.14

The foundation of Constantinople posed a particularly direct challenge to the bishops of Alexandria. At least initially, its significance in the ecclesiastical hierarchy was solely a consequence of its importance for emperors in the imperial administration. At the Council of Nicaea there was no bishop from Byzantium in attendance. Once Byzantium was inaugurated as the new capital of Constantinople, however, it became the most important residence for Eastern emperors and other magistrates. The ecumenical council that met at Constantinople in 381 finally acknowledged the city's eminence as 'New Rome', and it defined a 'seniority of honour' for the bishop of the capital 'second only to the bishop of Rome'. This council furthermore limited the authority of the bishops of both Antioch and Alexandria to the civil dioceses

14 Theophilus' stench: Palladius, Dialogus de vita lohannis Chrysostomi 8. Cyril's gifts: Cyril of Alexandria, Breve directorum ad mandatarios Constantinopolim missos (ACO 1.4.2: 224-5).

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