The members of a brotherhood who in the Early Church voluntarily undertook the care of the sick and the burial of the dead
Parabolani, Greek: paraboloi, parabalanoi the members of a brotherhood who in the Early Church voluntarily undertook the care of the sick and the burial of the dead. It has been asserted, though without sufficient proof, that the brotherhood was first organized during the great plague in Alexandria in the episcopate of Dionysius the Great (second half of third century).They received their name from the fact that they risked their lives (Greek: paraballesthai ten zoen) in exposing themselves to contagious diseases. In addition to performing works of mercy they constituted a bodyguard for the bishop. Their number was never large. The Codex Theodosianus of 416 (xvi, 2, 42) restricted the enrolment in Alexandria to 500. A new law two years later increased the number to 600. In Constantinople the number was reduced according to the Codex Justinianus (I, 2, 4) from 1100 to 950. The Parabolani are not mentioned after Justinian’s time. Though they were chosen by the bishop and always remained under his control, the Codex Theodosianus placed them under the supervision of the Proefectus Augustalis. They had neither orders nor vows, but they were enumerated among the clergy and enjoyed clerical privileges and immunities. Their presence at public gatherings or in the theatres was forbidden by law. At times they took a very active part in ecclesiastical controversies, as at the Robber Synod of Ephesus.
PATRICK J. HEALY