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DAMASUS I

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Originally appearing in Volume V07, Page 786 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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DAMASUS I  . was pope from 366 to 384 . At the time of the banishment of Pope Liberius (355), the deacon
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Damasus, like all the
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Roman clergy, made energetic protest . When, however, the emperor Constantius sent to Rome an anti-pope in the person of Felix II., Damasus, with the other clergy, rallied to his cause . When Liberius returned from exile and Felix was expelled from Rome, Damasus again took his place among the adherents of Liberius . On the
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death of Liberius (366) a consider-able party nominated Damasus successor; but the irreconcilables of the party of Liberius refused to pardon his trimming, and set up against him another deacon, Ursinus . A seriousconflict ensued between the
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rival factions, which quickly led to rioting and hand-to-hand fighting . In one of these encounters the then new
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basilica, called the Liberian Basilica (S . Maria Maggiore), was partially destroyed, and 137 dead bodies were
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left in the
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building . On several occasions the secular arm had to intervene, although the government of the emperor Valentinian was averse from involving itself in ecclesiastical affairs . From the outset the prefect of Rome recognized the claims of Damasus, and exerted himself to support him . Ursinus and the leading men of his faction were expelled from Rome, and afterwards from central Italy, or even interned in Gaul . They, however, persisted obstinately in their opposition to Damasus, combating him at first by riots, and then by calumnious law-suits, such as that instituted by one Isaac, a converted and relapsed Jew .

To the

official support, which never failed him, Damasus endeavoured to join the popular sympathy . From before his election he had been in high favour with the Roman aristocracy, and especially with the
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great ladies . At that period the urban masses, but recently converted to
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Christianity, sought in the worship of the martyrs a sort of substitute for polytheism . Damasus showed great zeal in discovering the tombs of martyrs, adorning them with precious
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marbles and monumental inscrijitions . The inscriptions he composed himself, in mediocre verse, full of Virgilian reminiscences . Several have come down to us on the
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original marbles, entire or in fragments; others are known from old copies . In the interior of Rome he erected or embellished the church which still bears his name (S . Lorenzo in Damaso), near which his
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father's house appears to have stood . The West was recovering gradually from the troubles caused by the Arian crisis . Damasus took
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part, more or less effectually, in the efforts to eliminate from Italy and
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Illyria the last champions of the council of
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Rimini . In spite of his declaration at the council convened by him in 372, he did not succeed in evicting Auxentius from Milan . But Auxentius died soon afterwards, and his successor, Ambrose, undertook to bring these hitherto abortive efforts to a successful conclusion, and to
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complete the return of Illyria to the confessions of Nicaea .

The bishops of the

East, however, under the direction of St Basil, were involved in a struggle with the emperor
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Valens, whose policy was favourable to the council of Rimini . Damasus, to whom they appealed for help, was unable to be of much service to them, the more so because that episcopal
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group, viewed askance by St Athanasius and his successor Peter, was incessantly combated at the papal court by the inveterate hatred of Alexandria . The Eastern bishops triumphed in the end under
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Theodosius, at the council of Constantinople (380, in which the pope and the Western church took no part . They were invited to a council of wider convocation, held at Rome in 382, but very few attended . This council had brought to Rome the learned monk Jerome, for whom Damasus showed great esteem . To him Damasus entrusted the revision of the Latin text of the Bible and other
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works of religious erudition . A short time before, the pope had received a visit from the Priscillianists after their condemnation in Spain, and had dismissed them . Damasus died in 384, on the rrth of December, the day on which his memory is still celebrated .

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