Contrary to common belief, Christian bishops did not simply continue practicing traditional euergetism in Christianized form in cities of the late Roman Near East. From the late fourth century onwards, they had to answer for their use of church resources to an ideologically significant special interest group known as the ptōchoi. Entitled to church resources called the poor fund (ptōchika), this constituency was often comprised not only of the urban poor but of local monastic leaders who had close connections with influential lay donors. This chapter examines the details of three early fifth-century allegations of episcopal lithomania (excessive construction of church buildings) to date the historical emergence of this urban constituency and show how it pressured bishops to spend funds in their interest. It argues that the pressure exerted by this group was crucial in ensuring that episcopal budgets would be spent not just on monumental vanity projects but on philanthropic institutions and services. Hence these ptōchoi were actively involved in the politics that changed the urban landscape of the Roman Near East.
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