Christopher M. Blunda

  • Fellowship year:2019-2020
  • University: University of California- Berkeley
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Ancient History
  • Dissertation Title: Origenism in the Western "Desert": Gennadius, Salvian, and the Making of Asceticism in Southern Gaul
  • My dissertation explores the legacy of Origen of Alexandria's theology in southern Gaul during the fifth-century A.D. Integrating historical, philological, and theological analysis, it argues that the theology of Origen and his followers—Evagrius Ponticus, John Cassian, and Rufinus of Aquileia—exerted a determinative influence upon southern Gallic asceticism despite having been condemned in 400 by Theophilus of Alexandria and Anastasius of Rome. To demonstrate the debt that southern Gallic ascetics owed to Origen and his followers' theology, I focus my analysis on Gennadius of Marseilles' De viris illustribus (c. 470), a carefully wrought catalog of Christian writers intended to shape the reception of individual authors and their texts. I supplement my analysis of De viris illustribus with an independent case study: a thorough reexamination of the life and writings of a prominent Gallic ascetic not previously associated with Origen or his followers either in the extant primary sources or in modern scholarship—Salvian of Marseilles. By foregrounding the prominent role of Origenist theology, my dissertation reconsiders the earliest history of Gallic asceticism, particularly the tendency to label its practitioners "Semipelagians" because of their opposition to Augustine of Hippo's late theology of grace and predestination.