Upstanding Donatists: Symbolic communication at the Conference of Carthage (411)
The Conference of Carthage in 411 CE played a decisive role in the history of the long-running controversy and schism between Catholics and Donatists in Roman North Africa, helping significantly to end the schism after more than a century. The imperial Edict of Unity (Codex Theodosianus 16,6,3 [Theodor Mommsen, ed., Codex Theodosianus: Theodosiani libri XVI 1,2: Textus cum apparatu (Berlin, 1904) 881]) of 405 CE had already made the legal standing of the Donatist church virtually untenable; it used the category of heresy against Donatists, forbade their conventions and threatened severe penalties in what amounted in effect to a prohibition of their cult. Donatist support and communities were slowly being eroded thereafter. As a consequence of the ensuing pressure on the Donatists and the repeated lobbying of the imperial authorities by the Catholic bishops, the imperially mandated conference finally brought about the debate which Catholics had demanded for some time, and which Augustine in particular hoped would confute the Donatist case and discredit them publicly.