We have seen that Damasus worked with Gratian and Theodosius to suppress heresy and was named in their edict of 380 C.E. as a model of orthodoxy, and that in 377 C.E. he had commissioned Jerome's edition of the Vulgate. It remained for him to contest openly Rome's primacy with the two other major sees, Constantinople and Antioch. In 382 C.E., he convened a church council to produce a list of the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. In the third part of the resulting Decretum Damasi, "Decree of Damasus," he argued for the primacy of the see of Rome. Here, he appealed to the apocryphal Acts of Peter, which had portrayed Peter and Paul together ministering to the faithful in Rome. Later noncanonical texts drew upon the Acts to formalize the pictorial sequence encapsulated in the concordia apostolorum: Paul had arrived to Rome first and was ministering there; when he learned of Peter's arrival, he went out eagerly to meet him; the apostles embraced and embarked upon their joint mission of preaching, teaching, converting, and ministering to the faithful. The image of the apostles' embrace symbolized their joint mission and also played into Damasus' claim for episcopal supremacy. By recalling similarly paired authority figures in the imperial history of Rome, such as Romulus and Remus, the image of the apostles represented a familiar hierarchical model. Pagan Rome, the ancient imperial capital founded by Romulus and Remus and ruled by the emperor, was now replaced by Christian Rome, the primate see, founded by the apostles Peter and Paul and ruled by the pope.
According to Damasus, Rome was prima Petri apostoli sedis, "the first see of the apostole Peter," above Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople (in that order), for three reasons: Jesus had called Peter the "rock" of the church and had given him the "keys" to the kingdom of heaven; Peter and Paul had come to Rome from the east and ministered in a harmonius concordia apostolorum; and both had suffered martyrdom there on the same day and at the same time under Nero. It was this last claim more than the others that authenticated the apostolic foundation of the Roman church. Among his other efforts to garner credibility for the papacy and to strengthen his claim for Rome's primacy, Damasus skillfully exploited the legendary and textual evidence for the martyrdoms of both Peter and Paul under Nero.
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