typically became bishops immediately. The most notable was Ambrose, whose father had served as a powerful prefect in Gaul. He himself was governor of a province in northern Italy when he was acclaimed as bishop of Milan in 374. Another was Nectarius, a senator at Constantinople when the emperor Theodosius promoted him as bishop of the capital in 381.5

As service as a bishop became more prestigious, however, and as more local notables acquired senatorial rank, more senators became bishops. In the early 440s Cyrus reached the height of the imperial administration by serving simultaneously as prefect of the East and prefect of Constantinople. After his downfall he became bishop of Cotyaeum in Phrygia. For him episcopal service was a suitable, even if temporary, sinecure. This transition was perhaps most apparent in fifth-century Gaul, where the shrinking of Roman rule meant that local aristocrats who managed to acquire senatorial rank had fewer opportunities to hold additional high offices in the imperial administration. In the early fifth century Germanus served as a provincial governor before becoming bishop of Auxerre. After serving as prefect of the city of Rome in the mid-fifth century, Sidonius returned to Gaul to become bishop of Clermont. At Tours in the second half of the fifth century, three consecutive bishops were all descendants of a senatorial family. Eventually some great families became episcopal dynasties and produced bishops over several generations, sometimes at the same city. 'I am pregnant with a bishop,' one expectant wife announced to her surprised husband; their son was Nicetius, bishop of Lyon in the mid-sixth century. When Gregory became bishop of Tours in the later sixth century, he claimed that all but five of his episcopal predecessors had been relatives.6

As these senators became bishops, they transferred some of the language and ideals of aristocratic ideology. Paulinus was a Gallic notable who served as a provincial governor in Italy before adopting an ascetic life. He considered his subsequent episcopacy at Nola as a promotion. 'What did I have when I was called a senator that is similar to what I have here and now when I am called a pauper?' Bishop Hilary of Arles once disparaged the family connections of an episcopal predecessor in order to praise his new ecclesiastical pedigree instead: 'the peak of nobility is to be reckoned among the sons of God'. Just as local notables might enter the clergy in order to preserve their municipal influence while sidestepping service as decurions, so by becoming bishops great senators could now preserve and even enhance their nobility. Service as

5 Eleusius of Cyzicus: Sozomen, H. E. 4.20.2. Gregory of Nazianzus' brother: Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes 7.15.

6 Pregnant: Gregory of Tours, Vitapatrum 8.1.

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