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preaching. Every week throughout the Roman empire bishops and their priests preached thousands of sermons and celebrated the liturgy with millions of parishioners. To accept an episcopacy was to commit to a lifetime of service and devotion. During the ceremony of consecration newbishops could literally feel the heavy spiritual weight of the office settling on their shoulders. A young, and very hungry, ascetic knew exactly how demanding this episcopal burden might be, since he was driven by a similar commitment to 'oversight':

1 am a bishop for the kitchens, the taverns, the tables, and the crockery. If the wine is bitter, I excommunicate it; but I drink the fine wine. I am a bishop for the cooking pot too. If salt or some other spices are missing, I sprinkle them in, season [the food], and eat it. This is my episcopacy, and I have received my consecration from the craving of my appetite.2

This network of cities had been responsible for many of the important administrative functions in the Roman empire, above all the maintenance of order and the collection of imperial taxes. But from the later third century, changes in the imperial administration had challenged the viability of these cities. By sanctioning the existence of multiple legitimate emperors Diocletian increased the number of imperial courts. He and his fellow emperors in the Tetrarchy more than doubled the size of the imperial administration by dividing provinces and adding more layers of administrators. They then recruited more secretaries and bureaucrats to serve in the ministries attached to courts, prefects, vicars and provincial governors. In addition to this expansion ofthe imperial administration they considerably enlarged the army. Since these reforms certainly stressed the resources available to the state, cities had to pay the price. To finance this larger administration and larger army emperors confiscated more of the municipal revenues raised from rents on landed endowments and from local taxes and tolls.

For centuries local notables hadproudly served as civic magistrates and decu-rions ('councillors') on their municipal councils. As magistrates and decurions they had assumed responsibility both for the administration oftheir cities and for the fulfilment of imperial obligations, such as the collection of taxes and the levying of recruits for the army. As private patrons they had furthermore used their own wealth to fund buildings, games, and other amenities in their cities. In return their grateful fellow citizens hailed them as benefactors and commemorated them in public dedications. After these administrative reforms, however, the expenses and responsibilities ofcivic service increasingly became

2 Demosthenes: Asterius of Amaseia, Homiliae 11.1. Old Testament: Gregory of Tours, Historiae 5.42. Oversight: Palladius, Historia Lausiaca 35.10.

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