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Marsilius of Padua and 'the Truth of History'$
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George Garnett

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199291564

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199291564.001.0001

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Providential History from the Reign of Constantine

Providential History from the Reign of Constantine

(p.106) 3 Providential History from the Reign of Constantine
Marsilius of Padua and 'the Truth of History'


Oxford University Press

Although Marsilius has doubts about the authenticity of the Donation of Constantine, it is too important to his argument for him to reject it. For it records the emperor ceding legislative power to the bishop of Rome. This, for Marsilius, was the point at which Christian history began to go awry. Previously, the bishop of Rome had of necessity come to exercise quasi-jurisdictional powers over Christians, because the emperor was not fulfilling this role, but was, rather, persecuting them. Constantine's fatal but providentially ordained act provided the basis on which claims to plenitudo potestatis were asserted by later bishops of Rome. Over time, these claims became more and more extreme. They came to be embodied in canon law, sanctioned by bishops of Rome who called themselves popes, rather than by emperors. This is the singular cause of discord of which Aristotle had known nothing, because it had come into being long after his death.

Keywords:   Donation of Constantine, bishop of Rome, plenitudo potestatis, Scripture, canon law

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