28953 - Ancient Christian Literature (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the ending of the courses, the student will be acquainted of the literary production processes in ancient Christianity between I and VIII centuries, starting from the authors and their writings, in relation with classical literatures and with the 'Fortleben' in Middle Ages and modern times.

Course contents

1st part (10 hours)

– Pelagius: biography, educational training, works;

– historical background: the development of the ascetical movement in Egypt, Palestine, and Rome (III-IV cent.)

– a short account of the anti-pelagian controversy;

2nd part (20 hours):

– literary structure, philosophical and theological contents of Pelagius’ Letter to Demetrias;

– reading, translation and commentary of the Latin text of Pelagius’ Letter to Demetrias.


1) Texts:

– (Critical edition of the Letter to Demetrias): J.-P. Migne (ed.), Patrologia Latina, vol. 30, coll. 15-45 (the text will be uploaded in the didactic material).

2) Studies:

a) Introduction to Pelagius; at student’s choice:

  • S. Prete, Pelagio e il pelagianesimo, Morcelliana, Brescia 1961 (the text will be uploaded in the didactic material);
  • J. Ferguson, Pelagius: a Historical and Theological Study, Cambridge 1956 (rist. New York 1978);
  • G. De Plinval, Pélage. Ses écrits, sa vie et sa réforme. Étude d'histoire littéraire et religieuse, Lausanne 1943 (the text will be uploaded in the didactic material);
  • G. de Plinval, Essai sur le style et la langue de Pélage, Fribourg en Suisse 1947; (the text will be uploaded in the didactic material);

b) two essays, at student’s choice:

  • P. Brown, Augustineof Hippo. A Biography, Faber & Faber, London 1967; tr. it., Agostinod'Ippona,Einaudi, Torino 1971 (e rist.), pp. 346-359;
  • P. Brown, Pelagius and His Supporters: Aims and Environment, in Id., Religion and Society in the Age of St. Augustine, Faber & Faber London 1972, pp. 183-207; tr. it., Pelagio ed i suoi sostenitori: fini e ambiente, in Religione e società nel!'età di sant'Agostino, Einaudi, Torino 1975, pp. 173-196;
P. Brown, The Patrons of Pelagius: the Roman Aristocracy between East and West, in Id., Religion and Society in the Age of St. Augustine, cit., pp. 208-226; tr. it., I protettori di Pelagio: l'aristocrazia romana tra Oriente e Occidente, in Religione e società nell’età di sant'Agostino, Einaudi, Torino 1975, pp. 197-214.

Teaching methods

Lectures; use of bibliographic and electronic databases.

Assessment methods

a) The students who attend lessons will be able to read and translate Pelagius’ Letter to Demetrias in the original Latin text (required for students of Classics). With the help of a commentary (see Bibliography, Studies, point [b]), of the Introduzione generale (see Bibliography, Studies, point [a]), they will be able to comment the text of the Letter to Demetrias from an historical, philosophical, and theological point of view.

The students not belonging to the course of Classics will read Pelagius’ Letter to Demetrias in an italian translation, and will replace the translation from the original Latin text with the reading of the following essay (to be uploaded in the didactic material):

  • M.R. Salzman, The making of a Christian aristocracy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA – London UK 2002, pp. 1-177.

b) The students who cannot attend lessons will study the same program as the students who attend lessons; they will substitute lesson notes with two essays by choice from the following (which will be uploaded in the didactic material):

  • C. Tibiletti, Moduli stoici in Pelagio (A Demetriade), in Filologia e forme letterarie. Studi offerti a Francesco della Corte, Urbino 1987, pp. 109-119;
  • J.McW. Dewart, TheChristology of thePelagian Controversy, in “Studia Patristica” 17/3, Oxford 1982, pp. 1221-1244;
  • W. Dunphy, Saint ]erome and the Gens Anicia [Ep. 130 to Demetrias], in “Studia Patristica” 18/4, Peeters, Kalamazoo-Louvain 1990, pp. 139-145;
  • G. Bostock, The Influence of Origen on Pelagius andWestern Monasticism, in W.A. Bienert - U. Kühneweg (edd.), Origenes in den Auseinandersetzungen des 4. Jahrhunderts (Origeniana Septima - BETL, 137), Peeters, Louvain 1999, pp. 381-396;
  • P. Laurence, Proba, ]uliana et Démétrias. Le christianismedes femmes de la gens Anicia dans la premièremoitié du Ve siècle, «Revue des Études Augustiniennes» 48 (2002), pp. 131 -163;
  • Ch. Pietri, Le difficoltà del nuovo sistema (395-431). La prima eresia dell' Occidente: Pelagio e il rifiuto del rigorismo, in J.-M. Mayeur et alii, Storia del Cristianesimo. Religione-Politica-Cultura,Ch.eL. Pietri(edd.), La nascita di una cristianità (250-430), Roma 2000,pp. 429 -452;
  • J.B. Valero, El estoicismo de Pelagio, “Estudios eclesiásticos” 57 (1982), pp. 39-63. {page:WordSection1;}ol {margin-bottom:0cm;}ul {margin-bottom:0cm;}

Teaching tools

Lectures; seminars; use of electronic databases; PC.

Office hours

See the website of Antonio Cacciari