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The Sad Reign of Theodosius

PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 8:56 am
by Valerius Claudius Iohanes
The following timeline is drawn from Wikipedia as a source and its accuracy is disputable. But per our SVR calendar, this Sunday is the date that the Emperor Theodosius ordered traditional Roman religionists converted or imprisoned and tortured. Not a red-letter day.... And so I had to review the reign of this Intolerant Emperor.

Summary of the Sad Reign of Theodosius I

379 AD Theodosius I is elevated as Roman Emperor at Sirmium.
Gratianus (existing Emperor in the West) refuses the title of Eastern Emperor.
Gratian renounces the title pontifex maximus.

380 AD Emperor Theodosius I is baptized.
Theodosius, with co-emperors Gratianus and Valentinian II, declare their wish that all their peoples convert to trinitarian Christianity.
This is an implicit outlawing of the Arianism of the patriarch of Constantinople as heretical.
Theodosius I makes his adventus, or formal entry, into Constantinople.

381 AD A deputation from the Roman Senate delivers to Gratianus the robe of the Pontifex Maximus, which has been worn by every Roman Emperor since Augustus. He refuses to accept this insignia, insulting the pagan aristocrats of Rome.

382 AD Theodosius I commands his general Saturninus to conclude a peace treaty with the Visigoths, allowing them to settle south of the Danube.
Christians who do not recognise Trinitarianism are persecuted.
Gratian officially moves the capital of the Western Empire from Rome to Mediolanum.
The Visigoths, although defeated by Theodosius, are installed as foederati in Moesia and Thrace with the title of "Allies of the Roman People", under the condition that they furnish a contingent of auxiliary troops to defend the borders.
Alaric I becomes king of the Visigoths.

383 AD Gratianus is assassinated. Arcadius is elevated to Emperor.
Magnus Maximus proclaimed Emperor by troops in Britain. He crosses over to the continent and makes Trier his capital. Gaul, the Italian provinces and Hispania also proclaim loyalty to him.
Theodosius calls the First Council of Constantinople (some authorities date this council to 381), a general council to affirm and extend the Nicene creed, and denounce Arianism and Apollinarism. Most trinitarian Christian churches consider this an Ecumenical council.
The schismatic Eunomian heresy was formally condemned by the Council of Constantinople. Eunomius of Cyzicus is banished to Moesia.

384 AD The Forum of Theodosius I is built in Constantinople.
Quintus Aurelius Symmachus becomes urban prefect of Rome.
An edict of Theodosius closes pagan temples in the Nile Valley.
Stilicho marries Serena, the niece of Theodosius.

385 AD Theodosius' wife and daughter both die.
The Serapeum in Alexandria is destroyed.
Pope Siricius proclaims the primacy of Rome and the priestly obligation of celibacy.
Priscillian, Spanish theologian, the first person in the history of Christianity to be executed for heresy

386 AD Priscillian, Spanish theologian, becomes the first person in the history of Christianity to be executed for heresy.
Theodosius I concludes peace with Persia, dividing Armenia between them.
Theodosius I begins to rebuild the present-day Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.
Maximus invades Italy, driving out Valentinian II, who takes refuge with Theodosius.
A column is constructed in Constantinople to celebrate of a victory of Theodosius I.
Augustine converts to Christianity. He ends his marriage plans after hearing a sermon on the life of St. Anthony.
The fight in the Roman Empire against anti-pagan laws becomes increasingly futile.

387 AD
The widowed Emperor Theodosius I marries Galla, sister of his colleague Valentinian II.
Saint Augustine is baptized by Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan.

388 AD The rebellion of Magnus Maximus is put down at the Battle of the Save, and Valentinian II is restored as Western Roman Emperor.
A group of Christians storms the synagogue of the city Callinicum, at the river Euphrates, and destroys it.
St. Jerome moves to Palestine, where he will live out his life.

389 AD All pagan buildings in Alexandria, including the library, are destroyed on the order of Theodosius.
Theodosius I bans the worship of Vesta.

389 AD All pagan buildings in Alexandria, including the library, are destroyed on the order of Theodosius.
Theodosius I bans the worship of Vesta.

390 AD In response to the murder of his general Butheric, Theodosius I orders a massacre of the inhabitants of Thessalonica. Appalled by the brutality of this action, Ambrose excommunicates him. Theodosius humiliates and scourges himself publicly as penance.

391 AD All non-Christian temples in the Empire are closed, as Theodosius establishes Christianity as the official state religion.
Quintus Aurelius Symmachus is urban prefect in Rome, and petitions Theodosius I to re-open the pagan temples. He is opposed by Ambrose.

392 AD Arbogast elevates Eugenius as Emperor, after the mysterious death of Valentinian II in Gaul.
Theodosius I issues an edict reinforcing the prohibition of prayers or sacrifices at non-Christian temples.

393 AD Emperor Theodosius I proclaims his nine year old son Honorius Augustus.
Theodosius I outlaws the Olympic Games, ending a thousand years of festivals.

394 AD Battle of the Frigidus: Emperor Theodosius I defeats and kills the usurper Eugenius and his Frankish magister militum Arbogast.
The sacred fire of the Roman Empire stops burning (see Vesta and Vestal Virgins).

395 AD Theodosius, extremist Trinitarian Christian emperor, dies.
After his death of emperor Theodosius I, the Empire is once again divided into an East and West.
- The eastern half is centered in Constantinople under Arcadius, son of Theodosius I;
- The western half in Rome under Honorius, his brother.
Alaric the Visigoth, general of the foederati, renounces Roman fealty and is declared king, ending a 16-year period of peace between Romans and Visigoths.
The Visigoths, led by Alaric, invade and devastate Thrace and Macedonia, impose a tribute on Athens.

396 AD
The Eleusinian Mysteries come to an end, but not by the Emperor's hand: this disaster is committed by Alaric and the Visigoths as they destroy the ancient Eleusinian sites in Greece.
Stilicho campaigns to menace the Visigoths, but does not engage them.
The Visigoths then turn their sights on the West.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 08, 2008 3:36 pm
by Marcus Tullius Ioannes
I have always been amazed by the way Christianity transformed the empire from being tolerant of most religions (if they did not endanger the state) to intolerant of all other religions, and intolerant even of certain kinds of Christianity. I don't think intolerance is a necessary condition of Christian belief, so perhaps the intolerance derived from the fact that Christianity became the religion of the state, and that whatever threatened Christian belief therefore threatened the state. I am sure that someone must have done a study of this question, and if anyone knows of one, would appreciate it if you would let me know.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 1:22 am
by Gaius Iulius Tabernarius
Fascinating, and infuriating.

Personally I think it has more to do with the implications of Monotheism than anything else. 1 god = no other god = persecution.

Sometimes I wonder who I have more in common with Constantine or Julian?

Funny, my real given is Giuliano and I am a catholic... or at least that's what I am going to be until I have reason to convert elsewhere.

But I prefer paganism, and I kind of wish it would become more popular.

As it is, I don't know who god is, and I have done my best not to worry about it. He, she, it, or they may exist, or not, either way. I am content as a doubtful catholic, apostate, pagan admirer.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 7:06 am
by Valerius Claudius Iohanes
Salvete, Sodales -

Eheu, it's hard for us to imagine WHAT they were thinking, how much was belief and how much mere politics and opportunism, and how much was delusion fed to the powerful. I'm not naturally of the rah-rah-go-team turn of mind, so -- here, well-fed, in America in the 21st century -- it seems plainly wrong. Yet I can think of times when I have held parallel sorts of ideas....
In general, oppression seems to usually consist of (a) a false apprehension that a certain group of people somehow constitute a dire threat to the dominant group; and then (b) that concrete economic advantages stand to be gained for the dominant group or its leaders by eliminating or enslaving said "dire threat".
Throw in a world which may not have had any deep popular regard for tolerance -- as in general each populus only sees its own people as 'properly human'.
As Iulius Tabernarius said, "1 god = no other god = persecution", ie a religion of a revealed CERTAINTY (never mind that they couldn't agree on WHICH version of the story was true) which I think would involve constantly sharpening that conviction of certainty.
Add to that the almost biologically-repetitious historical practice of scapegoating.
As you, Tullius Ioannes, said -
    perhaps the intolerance derived from the fact that Christianity became the religion of the state, and that whatever threatened Christian belief therefore threatened the state.
The people may have associated pagans with the old regime, with the tax-gatherers and marauding soldiers, making the Christian revolution appealing, and then the powerful built on this to secure their power.

I don't know, amici; in this area, I'm still a student of this sad story.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 9:52 pm
by Marcus Lupinius Paulus
I think if monotheism itself makes people intolerant, then we are left with the questions of why the polytheists drew first blood. It was the Roman pagans who attacked first, and their attempted imposition of Caesar worship accounts for the change in attitude we find in the New Testament from such passages as 'render to caesar' and 'pray for the emperor' to cursing the 'whore of babylon'.

We can go back further and see how in the aftermath of Alexander's conquests an attempt by Hellens to impose polytheism in the Jews. The result was the Maccabean revolt, and the eventual reestablishment of a Jewish state.

At the center of both incidents is this principle: "Religious loyalty equals political loyalty". The idea of separating governement promotion of a religion is a modern idea that would nevber have occured to anyone in the ancient world.



PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 11:40 pm
by Valerius Claudius Iohanes
Bene dictum, Marce.

Also, I don't want to stir up animosity inter Christianos et Eos Religionis Romanae here - far from it. I posted that to start with because -- with my view from this last century -- the whole things is a shock and a mystery to me. It seems incredible to me, raised Christian, that the early Christian temporal powers needed to strike downward so hard and so long at the Pagan priests and their folk, or that Emperors of Rome would order the altar of Victory removed from the center of their Empire! I'm too traditionalist, heck.

But how do the adherents of the Religion of Peace become the mob that destroys others' temples? Something is working at other levels; the religious thing is bound up with fear and prejudice and fear of magic, I think. As you say, I think we should look back at the initial persecutions of resistant monotheists back in Hellenistic and early Imperial times, and so on. There must be a lot of literature on this. It's amazing -- maybe not -- that it's still divisive in our century.

I think also of the still older monotheism of Akhenaten - again, imposed on people, and then the reaction of the traditionalists after his death -- social disorder and violence there, too, right?

The separation of church and state -- has anyone traced out the origins of this? Was it an American thing first? Or theoretical at some level? Obviously it didn't come from notions of Rome, but more in reaction to the identity of the Church with the powers that be.

A big subject. De totis modis, Vale bene.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 12:59 am
by Marcus Lupinius Paulus
Well, several years ago I read John Locke's "Letter Concerning Toleration", and that was something the Founders of the US were influenced by. Locke's toleration however did not extend so far as to include atheists. That is the oldest exposition that I am aware of.

Lutheranism also had an early role in this. Lutheranism includes the idea of the "two kingdoms". The Kingdom og God was the sphere of the church, and of course earthly government was the sphere of the magistrate. Luther would not have favored the kind of state-church separation we have, but his two kingdom teaching did help prepare the way.

I have tosay I am not sure anymore that our state-church separation is all it's cracked up to be. Not that I want the government having a state religion. But the real intolerance today seems to come from the anti-relious side. Constitutional restrictions on government are now used as restrictions on the people. When advertisements for the movie 'The Nativity Story' are banned from a city's Christmas Fair, things have gone beyond absurd.

As for magic, wasn't there a prohibition on magic in the Twelve Tables?
I would be interested to know what the Roman definition of magic or sorcery was.

I guess the most important point to grasp is that the ancient world had no such wall of separation between the religious and the secular as we are used to having. Even belief in the resurrection of the dead had political overtones. If you believe in a future life or a new world, you are in effect saying something is wrong with this one and it needs to be corrected in the new one. And that means the rulers of this one are themselves deficient. Now you can see why pious Jews like the the Pharisees belived in resurrection, and the collaborationist Saducees who liked the status Quo were against it!


De Toleratione

PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 7:04 pm
by Valerius Claudius Iohanes
Gratias ago, Marce Lupinii -

Looking up Locke's Letter that you mentioned, I found a copy at a rather remarkable site whose document collection touches on all this -

I'm going to read the Locke at lunch-hour today. I had missed the whole doctrine of "Two Kingdoms" up till now, so thanks for that.

Valete omnes! Enjoy the Vestalia here in High Summer.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 1:54 pm
by Marcus Lupinius Paulus
Wow...that is an impressive site! I dread tho think of the work involved in typing out all those documents and assigning them a page.

If you come across any other writings which paved the way for separation of religion and government, let me know.


PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 8:53 am
by Valerius Claudius Iohanes
Salve, Marce, atque salvete, qui legitis -

I'll certainly post when I run across goodies like that site.

Not important, but ironic: Here we are, on a Roman site, talking about Locke's Letter on Toleration. The only copies available are translations into English or some other modern colloquial language -- but Locke wrote the original in Latin, and that original version is nowhere to be found. (At least, I've had no luck).