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They were not a regular congregation but were deemed "borderline heretics" by the Church for their near-suicidal zeal in the search for martyrdom. They swore to undertake the care of the plagued hoping to die for Christ this way.
They took their name from gladiators (disbanded by Theodosius) which engaged in lion-fighting in the Roman arenas.
Parabalani or parabolani?
Could we have some discussion of this issue, please, rather than unilateral action? The ODB is not the only respectable source (well, how about the Catholic Encyclopedia for one example?). I haven't looked into this, but to all appearances both names were used from an early date. The conciliar incidents and the legislation make it fairly clear that the group had a political role from an early date too.
My own guess would be that the dual names make sense in terms of the politics. Either they were initially parabalani (attenders of the sick in their baths), whose enemies used the play on words to call them parabolani (people who take risks to make trouble for those they disapproved of). Or else they were parabolani (people who risked contagion to help the sick), who adopted a radical political position and liked to call themselves parabalani (bath-attendants) as a euphemistic distraction from their more extremist behaviour. Either way, suggesting that one version of the name is "right" and the other "wrong" would actually obscure the historical truth rather than clarify it. Deipnosophista (talk) 07:20, 1 June 2010 (UTC)
- I don't really know much about this subject, I came upon it after watching the Agora movie ;). The ODB however is quite explicit in calling the "parabolani" form erroneous. Likely this means that "parabalani" is the original designation, which became corrupted into "parabolani" with its attendant alternative etymologies. On this subject, IMO the ODB is more reliable than the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia with its inevitable pro-Christian bias. From what I've seen in searching through Google Books, in general, older sources seem to favour the "parabolani" form, while newer ones, including the few dedicated articles in journals, tend to stick with "parabalani", e.g. , . Perhaps "erroneously" is too strong a word, since both terms were actually used, but the distinction should somehow be made clear. Constantine ✍ 13:20, 1 June 2010 (UTC)
death of hypatia
Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 1030 cites Bingham, Origines sive Antiquitates Ecclesiasticae as 'evidence' of the claim that the parabalani may have helped to kill Hypatia.
Bingham, in his section on the parabalani (Bk III ch. 9 pp.302ff), has no reference to the murdered philosopher or the role of the parabalani in her death (Pamour (talk) 15:05, 18 October 2017 (UTC)).