Epistolarum sollemnium mos: Soziale Netzwerke und Kommunikation in den Briefen des Augustinus von Hippo (387-430)

This project examines the letter collection of Augustine of Hippo (357-430) through the lenses of social network theory. It focuses on Augustine’s epistolary ties with a wide range of individuals from different cultural and social backgrounds and from different geographical regions of the Late Roman empire. It investigates the way in which Augustine created, maintained, and put to use a large personal network by means of letter writing, by examining his various strategies of initiating, cultivating, or calling into question relationships. Given its considerable size and the large number of correspondents, Augustine’s epistolary corpus is particularly suited to an analysis of his social ties, as it offers fascinating glimpses into the often intricate dynamics of interpersonal relationships of late ancient Christian and Roman elites. Despite offering rich grounds for investigation, so far there have been only a handful of scholarly attempts which touch on this subject and no comprehensive study is dedicated to an analysis of Augustine’s epistolary ties.

In order to analyze the nature of Augustine’s epistolary relationships and the structure of his epistolary network, this project intends to draw on a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods for the study of social networks. The first step will be prosopography, namely the identification of the members of Augustine’s epistolary network. The second step corresponds to the detection and analysis of the different types of epistolary relationships. This will be followed by an investigation into the role that discursive techniques played in the formation of Augustine’s epistolary networks. Next, attention will be paid to how religious doctrine shaped the social behavior of Augustine and his correspondents, leading either to the establishment or dissolution of interpersonal relationships. The following step will investigate how Augustine constructed his own identity/ies in relation to others. These stages of the project are informed by qualitative approaches to social networks developed in the fields of social anthropology and relational sociology, which allow not only to detect different types of relationships, but which also draw attention to the importance of “meaning” and “culture” for the formation of social networks. The last step of the investigation will be concerned with the analysis of the structure of Augustine’s epistolary network based on techniques developed within the field of social network analysis. The SNA will help visualize and analyze a version of Augustine’s social environment as it emerges from his letter collection.

The in-depth analysis of the nature of Augustine’s epistolary ties and of the structure of his personal network will allow us to shed new light on the intricate mechanisms of social interactions in late ancient society, to identify what kinds of business could be transacted through the use of the epistolary network, and to reevaluate how successful Augustine was in his interactions with prominent individuals of his day.

Preparatory plubications of the project manager:

Cvetković, C.A. (forthcoming), Network Analysis and Epistolary Networks, in: E-M. Becker, U. Egelhaaf-Gaiser, A. Fürst (eds.), Handbuch Brief – Antike, approx. 6000 words, accepted.

Cvetković, C.A. (forthcoming), Ecclesiastical Travel and Communication Networks in Late Antiquity, in: M. Dana, M. Haake (eds.), People of Knowledge on the Move: Networks, Connectivity and Mobility in the Ancient Mediterranean World from the Early Archaic Period to Late Antiquity, Franz-Steiner Verlag: Stuttgart, approx. 10,000 words, accepted.

Cvetković, C.A., Gemeinhardt, P. (eds.), (2019) Episcopal Networks in Late Antiquity: Connection and Communication across Boundaries, Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte 137, De Gruyter: Berlin.
Cvetković, C. A., Gemeinhardt, P. (2019b), Introduction, in: C.A. Cvetković, P. Gemeinhardt (eds), Episcopal Networks in Late Antiquity: Connection and Communication across Boundaries, AKG 137, Berlin: De Gruyter, 1-16.

Cvetković, C. A. (2019c), Niceta of Remesiana’s Visits to Nola: Between Sacred Travel and Political Mission, in: C.A. Cvetković, P. Gemeinhardt (eds), Episcopal Networks in Late Antiquity: Connection and Communication across Boundaries, AKG 137 Berlin: De Gruyter, 179-203.

Cvetković, C. A. (2015a) Memory, Language, and the Making of Truth: Towards an Hermeneutic of Augustine’s Conversion Narrative, in: Augustinianum, 55/479-512.

Cvetković, C. A. (2015b) Change and Continuity: Reading Anew Augustine’s Conversion, in: Birgitte Bøgh (ed.), Conversion and Initiation in Antiquity: Shifting Identities - Creating Change, Early Christianity in the Context of Antiquity series 16, Peter Lang: Frankfurt.

Cvetković, C. A. (2012) Seeking the Face of God: The Reception of Augustine in the Mystical Thought of Bernard of Clairvaux and William of St Thierry, Brepols: Turnhout.