J. H. W. G. Liebeschuetz compares the personalities and the respective careers of two of the greatest of the early Christian Fathers, Ambrose and John Chrysostom. While the statesmanlike Ambrose ended his life as a pillar of the Western establishment, Chrysostom, the outspoken idealist, died in exile. However, their views and ideals were remarakably similar: both bishops were concerned with the social role of the Church, both were determined opponents of what they called the Arian heresy, and each attracted a dedicated following among his urban congregation. This similarity, Liebeschuetz argues, was due not to the influence of one on the other, but was a consequence of their participation in a Christian culture which spanned the divide between the Eastern (later Byzantine) and Western parts of the Roman Empire. The monastic movement figures throughout the book as an important influence on both men and as perhaps the most dynamic development in the Christian culture of the fourth century.
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