In the second part of her book, the author analyzes the rural communities and the many rural bishops, and in the third part, the subject is the circumcellions
. These two chapters are the most innovative parts of the study, because Dossey uses anonymous Christian sermons that are very rarely used by ancient historians.
Especially valuable are the eight appendixes on the number of African Catholic and dissident bishops, the chronology of the divisions, the Catholic conference of 348, the edict of unity and persecution of 347, the mission of Paul and Macarius, historical fictions in interpreting the circumcellions
, archeological evidence of self-killings by the dissident Christians, and the listing of Augustinian and Pseudo-Augustinian African sermons.
Shaw, "Bad Boys: Circumcellions
and Fictive Violence," in Violence in Late Antiquity: Perceptions and Practices, ed.
The volume contains a wide-ranging collection of essays including articles on violence in daily life (for example, Sofia Tovar's paper on the violence of the arrest and imprisonment process), the rhetoric of violence (for example, Brent Shaw's essay on the "fictive violence" of the Circumcellions
), and violence associated with a particular movement or group (for example, Wolf Liebeschuetz's article on violence in the barbarian successor kingdoms).
In the days of Saint Augustine (354-430 A.D.) there was a schismatic group known as the Circumcellions
who professed a fanatical devotion to the early Christian martyrs.
There, the principal missionary problem was either to detach the peasants (few of whom had any Latin) (3) from the Donatist community, to which the intimidation of the circumcellions would securely cement them, or to emancipate them from dependence on astrologers and other forms of divination by which they guided their lives.
17) and from Possidius (Vita 12), when the circumcellions set an ambush intended to silence Augustine for ever and stop his evidently influential attacks, and providentially the guide took him by the wrong road so that he escaped their murderous intentions.
Repeated asides like "we'll see them again" (of the Circumcellions
, 152) and "more about that below" (210) could have been avoided.
The sure hand of Lepelley guides us through the activities of the circumcellions
and the modern interpretations, together with the understanding of civis and civitas within which Augustine worked.
"`They Lived as Brigands, Died as Circumcellions
, and Were Honored as Martyrs': Ethnicity and Holy Warriors in Roman North Africa," Nancy Weatherwax, Vanderbilt University