The seven documents in this book, which appear for the first time in an English translation from Greek and Latin, constitute a unique contemporary witness to the stalwart opposition of the monk Maximus the Confessor to seventh-century imperial edicts enforcing adherence to the doctrines of monoenergism and monothelitism (the doctrines that in Christ there are, respectively, only one energy and one will). The monastic resistance led by Maximus gained the support of Popes John IV, Theodore, and Martin I and found many other followers in the West, as can be judged by the convocation of 150 bishops at the Lateran Synod in Rome in 649 to condemn imperial religious policy. The documents, which have been translated from a recent critical edition, cover events from the time of Maximus' arrival in Constantinople for his first legal trial in 655; the futile attempts to persuade him to accept an imperial compromise; to his final trial in the capital in 662, and his death under appalling conditions in Lazica, on the coast of the Black Sea, in the same year.
The contents of these documents provide a rare insight into the difficult period of transition from the decentralized provincial system of government that characterized late antiquity, to a more hierarchical structure centred on the power of the emperor in Constantinople. They also shed light on some lesser-known but significant participants in the monothelite controversy, several of whom followed their master into exile in Lazica; Maximus' two disciples Anastasius the monk and Anastasius the Apocrisiarius, their friends Theodore Spudaeus, Theodosius of Gangra, and the brothers Theodore and Euprepius. The religious controversies of both East and West appear in these documents against a backdrop of political turmoil, and Arab and Persian invasions. The documents will be important for those interested in early Byzantine studies, church history, historical theology, and hagiography.
Pauline Allen is Director of the Centre for Early Christian Studies at Australian Catholic University
Bronwen Neil is Research Associate, the Centre for Early Christian Studies at Australian Catholic University