Term of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of History

Committee Chair

Timothy Teeter

Committee Member 1

James Woods

Committee Member 2

Nadya Williams


This purpose of this thesis is to examine the extent of the agency Pope Damasus I demonstrated in the expansion of papal primacy and exaltation of the Roman See. Damasus reigned as bishop of Rome from A.D. 366 until 384. To answer this question, the research for this thesis focuses on involvement, of Damasus in contemporary theological disputes, his appropriation of Roman geography and his Latin language initiatives, both liturgical and Scriptural. Research was conducted first by consulting primary sources. These included the writings of Damasus himself, particularly his epigraphs, as well as epistolary correspondence. A key component of the research was also comparison and contrast of a number of historical narratives of the pontificate of Damasus. Other primary sources included works, primarily epistolary, of a number of the pope’s contemporaries, who collaborated with him in varying degrees. All primary sources were read in light of recent scholarship and historiography, the conclusions of which were critically evaluated. Ultimately, Damasus demonstrated a significant amount of agency in increasing the power of the papacy at a pivotal moment in its history. This fact has been largely overlooked by scholars but is slowing gaining recognition.