Persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire

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The persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire began late during the reign of Constantine the Great, when he ordered the pillaging and the tearing down of some temples.[1][2][3] The first anti-Pagan laws by the Christian state started with Constantine's son Constantius II,[4][5] who was an unwavering opponent of paganism; he ordered the closing of all pagan temples, forbade Pagan sacrifices under pain of death,[2] and removed the traditional Altar of Victory from the Senate.[6] Under his reign ordinary Christians started vandalizing many of the ancient Pagan temples, tombs and monuments.[7][8][9][10] This persecution had proceeded after a period of sporadic persecution of Christians.

From 361 till 375, Paganism was relatively tolerated, until three Emperors, Gratian, Valentinian II and Theodosius I, under Bishop of Milan Saint Ambrose's influence, reinstituted and escalated the persecution.[11][12] Under pressure from the zealous Ambrose, Theodosius issued the infamous 391 "Theodosian decrees," a declaration of war on paganism,[12][13] the Altar of Victory was removed again by Gratian, the Vestal Virgins were disbanded, and access to Pagan temples was prohibited.

Anti-paganism policy of Constantine I[edit]

The anti-paganism policy of Constantine the Great evolved from the initial prohibition on the construction of new temples[14] and the toleration of pagan sacrifices,[15] to orders for the looting and the tearing down of the temples by the end of his reign.[1][1][2][2][3][3] Earlier in his reign he had prohibited the construction of new temples[14] but tolerated the practice of pagan sacrifices.[15]

According to Church historians writing after his death, Constantine converted to Christianity and was baptised on his deathbed, thus making him the first Christian emperor.[16][17] Constantine was baptised by Pope Sylvester I.[18]

Ban on new temples, toleration of sacrifices[edit]

Constantine, though he made his allegiance clear, did not outlaw paganism; in the words of an early edict, he decreed that polytheists could "celebrate the rites of an outmoded illusion," so long as they did not force Christians to join them.[19][20] In a letter to the King of Persia, Constantine wrote how he shunned the "abominable blood and hateful odors" of pagan sacrifices, and instead worshiped the High God "on bended knee",[15][21] and in the new capital city he built, Constantine made sure that there were no pagan temples built.[14] Constantine would sporadically prohibit public sacrifice and close pagan temples; very little pressure, however, was put on individual pagans, and there were no pagan martyrs.[19]

When Constantine dedicated Constantinople, two Neoplatonists friends - Sopater and Praetextus - were present. A year and a half later, on Monday 11 May 330, when the festival of Saint Mocius was celebrated, the city was finally dedicated. The goddess Tyche was invited to come and live in the city, and her statue was placed in the hand of the statue of the emperor that was on top of the Column of Constantine, on the Forum with the same name. Although by now Constantine openly supported Christianity, the city still offered room to pagan cults: there were shrines for the Dioscuri and Tyche. The Acropolis, with its ancient pagan temples, was left as it was. As for worshipping the emperor, Constantine's mausoleum gave him a Christ-like status: his tomb was set amid 12 monuments, each containing relics of one of the Apostles. Constantine had continued to engage in pagan rituals. The emperor still claimed to be a supernatural being, although the outward form of this personality cult had become Christian.[22]

Early coin of Constantine commemorating the pagan cult of Sol Invictus

According to some authors,[who?] the issuing of the Edict of Milan,[23] showed that Constantine continued the policy of toleration that Galerius had established.[citation needed] He "continued to pay his public honors to the Sun", until 325, on coins that showed him jointly with Sol Invictus, whereas his later coins showed the Chi-Rho sign.[24] In that year he had the Christian Bishops convene at the First Council of Nicaea, and from then on continued to take an active interest in the affairs of the Church.

Many historians, including MacMullen, have seen the seeds of future persecution by the state in Constantine's more belligerent utterances regarding the old religion.[1] Other historians[who?] emphasize that de facto paganism "was tolerated in the period from Constantine to Gratian.[need quotation to verify] Emperors were tolerant in deed, if not always in word."[25]

Church restrictions opposing the pillaging of pagan temples by Christians were in place even while the Christians were being persecuted by the pagans. Spanish bishops in AD 305 decreed that anyone who broke idols and was killed while doing so was not formally to be counted as a martyr, as the provocation was too blatant.[26]

Constantine became the first Emperor in the Christian era to persecute specific groups of Christians, the Donatists, in order to enforce religious unity.[27]

Eusebius outlines various edicts in which Constantine expressed his lack of support and at time disgust for act of sacrifice and idol worship. Eusebius tells us that while Constantine disposed their “shires of falsehood”, Constantine did not attempt to bring down any of the shrines or idols that populated various cities, including his new capital Constantinople. The historian T.D. Barnes makes multiple references to Eusebius’s work with by which Barnes attests that Constantine was heavily in favor of the banning of pagan worship. Instead of taking down pagan worship sites, Constantine chose to instead ban the erecting of more sites as well as expanding and funding the creation of more churches. Lastly in the text of Codex of Theodosianus out lined in Religious Conflicts of Fourth Century Rome it seems that Constantine outright bans the “madness of sacrifice.” Sacrifice is the cornerstone of the pagan religion and was necessary for worship. In this letter it is not clear whether it was issued by Constantine before or after his death, but it is addressed to his praetorian prefect. The problem with this interpretation of a more religiously zealous Constantine is the issue of his reign. Although Constantine is regarded as the first Christian emperor, this does not mean that there are no longer any pagans in the empire. The explosive growth of the Christian population and powerbase through the second and third century does indicate that Christian were now the dominant force of the empire. However that does not mean that Christian held a numerical advantage or a sufficient powerbase on which to draw on to begin a systematic persecution of pagans. To start a persecution after only a few years on the throne among a population of only recently demoted pagans in the East did not make sense. In addition there are various accounts that Constantine was still somewhat tolerant of the pagans. His earlier edict, the Edict of Milan, was changed to the Edict of the Provincials. The historian H. A. Drake points out that this edict, which called for peace and tolerance: “Let no one disturb another, let each man hold fast to that which his soil wishes…” Constantine never reversed this edict and Drake even goes as far as to believe Constantine may have been trying to create a society where to two religions merged peacefully. Regardless there is also evidence that Constantine did in fact erect several pagan worship sites. With the pagan historian Zosimus, we see that Constantine erected several statues of Apollo as well as other pagan gods. While it is clear that Constantine removed many pagans from office and replaced them with Christians as well as removing the requirement of sacrifice for imperial officers, Constantine seemed to only care about spreading his religion, not abolishing all others.

Legislation against magic and private divination[edit]

Constantine legislated against magic and private divination, but this was may have been motivated by a fear that others might gain power through those means.[28] Despite enacting such legislation, he also enacted contradictory legislation that called for the consultation of augurs after an amphitheater had been struck by lightning in the year 320.[29] Constantine explicitly allowed public divination as well as public pagan practices to continue.[30] Constantine also issued laws confirming the rights of flamens, priests and duumvirs.[31] In 321 he legislated that the venerable day of the sun should be a day of rest for all citizens. This ambiguous wording is capable of being interpreted as referring to the Christian day of rest or to 'the Invincible Sun. In the year 323, he issued a decree banning Christians from participating in state sacrifices[32]

Looting and destruction of temples[edit]

During the course of his life he progressively became more Christian and turned away from any syncretic tendencies he appeared to favour at times, thereby demonstrating, according to his biographers, that "The God of the Christians was indeed a jealous God who tolerated no other gods beside him. The Church could never acknowledge that she stood on the same plane with other religious bodies, she conquered for herself one domain after another".[33]

Even if Constantine had desired to Christianise the state, expediency dictated otherwise since Christians may have formed only a fifth part of the population in the West and a half of the population in the East.[2][34]

Constantine had a complex attitude towards morality; both his son and wife were executed at his instigation (the consensus view of ancient sources), destroyed the Temple of Aphrodite in the Lebanon,[35] and ordered the execution of eunuch priests in Egypt[1] because they transgressed his moral norms. According to the historian Ramsay MacMullen Constantine desired to obliterate non-Christians but lacking the means he had to be content with robbing their temples towards the end of his reign.[36] He resorted to derogatory and contemptuous comments relating to the old religion; writing of the "true obstinacy" of the pagans, of their "misguided rites and ceremonial", and of their "temples of lying" contrasted with "the splendours of the home of truth".[2]

The first episodes of persecution of Paganism in the Christan history of the Roman Empire started late in Constantine's reign, with his orders for the pillaging and the tearing down of pagan temples.[1][2][3]

Anti-paganism policy of Constantius II[edit]

A cult statue of the deified Augustus, disfigured by a Christian cross carved into the emperor's forehead.

The anti-paganism policy of Constantius II lasted from 337 till 361. It was marked by laws and edicts that punished pagan practices.[4][5] Laws dating from the 350s prescribed the death penalty for those who performed or attended pagan sacrifices, and for the worshipping of idols;[4][37][38] temples were shut down,[2][5] and the Altar of Victory was removed from the Senate meeting house.[6] There were also frequent episodes of ordinary Christians destroying, pillaging, desecrating, vandalizing many of the ancient pagan temples, tombs and monuments.[7][8][9][10]

Paganism was still popular among the population at the time. The emperor's policies were passively resisted of many governors and magistrates.[2][39][40][41]

Initial measures[edit]

Constantius II's legislation began with the banning of the pagan practice of sacrifice.[4][4][5][5][37] This was in keeping with his personal maxim was: "Cesset superstitio; sacrificiorum aboleatur insania" (Let superstition cease; let the folly of sacrifices be abolished).[34] According to Libanius, Constantius was effectively under the control of others who inspired him to end pagan sacrifices.[42][42]

With the collapse of official government sanctioned pagan rites, private cults attempted to infiltrate the temples. In the year 353 Constantius prohibited pagan sacrifice under the penalty of death. He also shut down some temples, forbade access to them, and ended their subsidies of public taxes.[2][5]

Consistent with Christian theology, Constantius carried out on an active campaign against magicians, astrologers and other diviners. This may also be due to his becoming fearful that others might use these means to make someone else emperor.[43]

Herbermann contends that the anti-paganism legislation had an unfavourable influence on the Middle Ages and become the basis of the Inquisition.[34][39][40][41]

Relative moderation[edit]

The emperor never attempted to disband the various Roman priestly colleges or the Vestal Virgins,[44] He never acted against the various pagan schools. He ordered the election of a priest for Africa.[44] Also, he remained pontifex maximus until his death, and was deified by the Roman Senate after his death. The relative moderation of Constantius' actions toward paganism is reflected by the fact that it was not until over 20 years after Constantius' death, during the reign of Gratian, that any pagan senators protested their religion's treatment.[45]

Pagan Resistance[edit]

The government's policies could not be rigidly executed due the strength of paganism among the population.[2][39][40] No matter what the imperial edicts declared in their fearful threats, the vast numbers of pagans, and the passive resistance of pagan governors and magistrates rendered them largely impotent in their application.[2][41] However, the effects of policy were enough to contribute to a widespread trend towards Christian conversion, though not enough to make paganism extinct.

Anti-pagan actions by ordinary Christians[edit]

Some Christians encouraged the emperor to take even more extreme measures in their zeal to stamp out paganism, e.g. in the aftermath of the abolition of sacrifices.[2] Firmicus Maternus, a convert to Christianity, urged: "Paganism, most holy emperors, must be utterly destroyed and blotted out, and disciplined by the severest enactments of your edicts, lest the deadly delusion of the presumption continue to stain the Roman world" and "How fortunate you are that God, whose agents you are, has reserved for you the destruction of idolatry and the ruin of profane temples."[4]

Sozomen contends that Constantius did not, apparently, attempt to stop the Christians from destroying and pillaging many of the ancient temples.[7][8] However, in the Theodosian Code there is a law for the preservation of the temples that were situated outside of city walls.[9]

Constantius enacted another law that exacted a fine from those who were guilty of vandalizing sites holy to pagans and placed the care of these monuments and tombs under the pagan priests.[10]

Magnentius rebellion[edit]

Magnentius rebelled against and killed Constans. Although he used Christian symbols on his coins, he revoked the anti-paganism legislation of Constans and even permitted the celebration of nocturnal sacrifices. Three years later, in the year 353, Constantius defeated Magnentius and once again forbade the performance of the rituals.[46] This law seems to have had little effect as we find Constantius once again legislating against paganism in 356. Constantius now declared that anyone found guilty of attending sacrifices or of worshipping idols would be executed.[38] It appears the magistrates were uncomfortable with carrying out this law; it was largely ignored.

Removal of the Altar of Victory[edit]

In 357 Constantius removed the Altar of Victory in the Senate house because of the complaints of some Christian Senators. This altar had been installed by Augustus in 29 BCE; each Senator had traditionally made a sacrifice upon the altar before entering the Senate house. This altar was later restored, either silently, soon after Constantius' departure, or by Emperor Julian the Apostate.[6]

Restoration and tolerance from Julian until Valentinian I/Valens (361-378)[edit]

Ivory diptych of a priestess of Ceres, still in fully classical style, ca 400, which was defaced and thrown in a well at Montier-en-Der.[47]

Julian the Apostate (361-363) attempted to revive paganism during his brief period of rule. Under equally brief reign of his successors, Jovian, Valens and Valentinian I (363-378), persecution of pagans was minimal.

Under the sole rule of Julian, 361–363[edit]

Julian the Apostate was Roman co-emperor since 355, and ruled solely for 18 months 361–363. Julian was a nephew of Constantine and received a Christian training. After childhood Julian was educated by Hellenists and was attracted to the teachings of neoplatonists and the old religions. However, he witnessed the assassination of his father, brother and other family members by the guards of the imperial palace; rightly or wrongly, he blamed this brutal act on the Christian Emperor Constantius. His antipathy to Christianity was deepened when Constantius executed Julian's only remaining brother in 354AD.[48] Julian's religious beliefs were syncretic and he was an initiate of at least three mystery religions. But Julian's religious open-mindedness did not extend to Christianity. Christianity was fundamentally incompatible with syncretic paganism.[2][49] Upon becoming emperor, Julian attempted to restore the old Roman religion. He also introduced some reforms to that religion in the hope of making it the driving force behind the empire.[2][50][51] Julian allowed religious freedom and avoided any form of actual compulsion. The Christian Sozomen acknowledges that Julian did not compel Christians to offer sacrifice nor did he allow the people to commit any act of injustice towards the Christians or insult them.[52] However, no Christian was allowed to teach or study the ancient classical authors, "Let them keep to Matthew and Luke", thus ending any chance they had of a professional career.[2][53] He did not believe Christians could honestly teach subjects replete with allusions to Greek deities whose existence they denied[54] The Jewish historian and theologian Jacob Neusner writes: "It was only after the near catastrophe of Julian's reversion to paganism that the Christian emperors systematically legislated against paganism so as to destroy it."[55]

"In the eighteen brief months that he ruled between 361 and 363, Julian did not persecute [Christians], as a hostile tradition contends. But he did make clear that the partnership between Rome and Christian bishops forged by Constantine and maintained, despite conflicts over goals, by his son Constantius II, was now at an end, replaced by a government that defined its interests and those of Christianity as antithetical."[56]

Religious toleration under Jovian, Valentinian and Valens[edit]

After the death of Julian, Jovian seems to have instituted a policy of religious toleration which avoided the extremes[need quotation to verify] of Constantius and Julian.[57] Under Valentinian and Valens, religious toleration continued. Pagan writers praise both of these emperors for their liberal religious policies.[58] Valentinian, who ruled in the west, seems to have only been a half-hearted Christian as he avoided attending his inaugural ceremony by twenty-four hours in order to avoid an inauspicious day (the inter-calary day of the bi-sextile year).[59] Valentinian and Valens granted complete toleration for all cults at the beginning of their reign in 364.[60] Valentinian even allowed the performance of nocturnal sacrifices, which had been previously prohibited due to the attempt of some people to practice unlawful divination under the cover of the night, after the proconsul of Greece appealed to him.[61] Valentinian also confirmed the rights and privileges of the pagan priests and confirmed the right of pagans to be the exclusive caretakers of their temples.[62] Valens, who ruled the east, was an Arian and was too engaged with fighting against the Orthodox Christians to bother much with pagans. In both west and east, severe laws were once again passed prohibiting private divination.[63] Due to the over zealousness of the populace to stop harmful divination, the haruspices and augurs began to be afraid to show themselves in public. This led the emperors to formally authorise the practice of official and lawful divination by law in 371.[60]

Anti-paganism policy of the emperors Gratian, Valentinian II and Theodosius I[edit]

Saint Ambrose and Emperor Theodosius, Anthony van Dyck.

The anti-paganism policies pursued by the emperors Gratian, Valentinian II and Theodosius I may have been influenced by Saint Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan.[11][12][64][65] Under pressure from Ambrose, Theodosius issued the infamous Theodosian Decrees of 391.[12][13] The Altar of Victory was removed by Gratian.

Anti-paganism policy of Gratian[edit]

Gratian took steps to repress pagan worship; this policy may have been influenced by his chief advisor, Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan.[1][66][67][68] In 382, Gratian appropriated the income of pagan priests and the Vestal Virgins, confiscated the possessions of the priestly colleges and ordered the Altar of Victory removed again.[69][70] The colleges of pagan priests also lost all their privileges and immunities. Gratian declared that all of the pagan temples and shrines were to be confiscated by the government and that their revenues were to be joined to the property of the royal treasury.[71]

Anti-paganism policy of Valentinian II[edit]

In 388 Valentinian II assumed the office of Emperor in the Western Roman Empire. He refused to grant the request from pagans to restore the Altar of Victory to the Senate House. He also refused to overturn the policies of his predecessor by restoring the income of the temple priests and Vestal Virgins. These policies may have been influenced by Ambrose.[72] In the year 391, Valentinian II issued a law that prohibited sacrifices and that forbade anyone from visiting the temples.[73] A later law of Valentinian declared that pagan temples were to be closed; this was viewed as practically outlawing paganism.[74]

Anti-paganism policy of Theodosius (381-395)[edit]

The anti-paganism policies of Theodosius I began in 381, after the first couple of years his reign in the Eastern Roman Empire. Theodosius reiterated Constantine's ban on pagan sacrifice and haruspicy on pain of death. He pioneered the criminalisation of Magistrates who did not enforce the anti-pagan laws. He broke up some pagan associations and destroyed pagan temples.

Between 389-391 he issued the infamous "Theodosian decrees," which established a practical ban on paganism;[74] visits to the temples were forbidden,[73][75] remaining pagan holidays were abolished, the Sacred fire of Vesta in the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum was extinguished, the Vestal Virgins disbanded, auspices and witchcraft punished. Theodosius refused to restore the Altar of Victory in the Senate House when asked to do so by pagan Senators.

In 392 he became emperor of the whole empire. From this moment till the end of his reign in 395, while pagans remained outspoken in their demands for toleration,[76][77] he authorized or participated in the killing of pagan priests, destruction of many temples, holy sites, images and objects of reverence throughout the empire[1][78][79][80][81] and participated in actions by Christians against major Pagan sites.[82] His later decrees were seen as effectively a declaration of war on traditional religious practices[12][13] and for anyone caught, was a death sentence, as well as an automatic confiscation of property, even for private familial rites within the home. However, it appears that many covertly still chose to do so in defiance of the edicts, despite the risk to their heirs.[83] He likely also suppressed the Ancient Olympic Games; the last record of the Olympics being celebrated in ancient Rome is from 393.[84]

Anti-paganism policies from Theodosius I until the collapse of the principate[edit]

Anti-paganism polices continued from Theodosius I until the fall of the Roman Empire through a long series of emperors both in the Eastern and Western parts of the Empire from 395 till 476). Anti-paganism laws were instated throughout this period, by emperors including Arcadius, [85][86][87][88][89] Honorius,[90][91][92] Theodosius II,[93][94] Marcian[95] and Leo I the Thracian. The reiterations of the bans, especially on pagan rites and sacrifices. Penalties were increased which indicates that the old religion had still many followers.[96][97] Significant support for paganism was still present among Roman nobles,[98] senators, magistrates,[99] imperial palace officers,[100] and other officials,[99] who often protested or failed to enforce the edicts.

Paganism continued to be practised by a large portion of the population, although they had to worship their gods undercover in order to comply formally with the edicts.[83] There were many who pretended to convert to Christianity while secretly continuing pagan practices,[101] and many Christians converted back to Paganism; numerous laws against apostasy were promulgated and penalties increased from those in the time of Gratian and Theodosius.[102][103][104][105] Pagans openly voiced their resentment in historical works, such as the writings of Eunapius and Olympiodorus; some writers blamed the Christian hegemony for the 410 Sack of Rome. Christians destroyed almost all such political literature and threatened to cut off the hands of any copyist who dared to make new copies of the offending writings.[106][107]

Laws declared that buildings belonging to known Pagans and heretics were to be appropriated by the churches.[108][109][110] Saint Augustine of Hippo exhorted his congregation in Carthage to smash all tangible symbols of paganism they could lay their hands on.[109] The application of the policies was somewhat reduced in some periods under the influence of the high-ranking general Stilicho[83][111][112][113] and under the "usurper" Joannes Primicerius;[114] a revival was attempted by Anthemius from 467.[115][116]

After the fall of the Western Empire[edit]

In 476, the last emperor of Rome, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by Odoacer, who became the first "barbarian" king of Italy. Pagans used the occasion to attempt to revive the old rites. In 484, the Magister militum per Orientem, Illus, revolted against Eastern Emperor Zeno and raised his own candidate, Leontius, to the throne. Leontius hoped to reopen the temples and restore the ancient ceremonies; as such, many Pagans joined in his revolt against Zeno.[115] Illus and Leontius were compelled, however, to flee to a remote Isaurian fortress, where Zeno besieged them for four years. Zeno finally captured them in 488 and promptly had them executed.[117] Following the revolt, Zeno instituted a harsh anti-paganism policies. With the failure of the revolt of Leontius, some pagans became disillusioned and became Christian, or pretended to do so, in order to avoid persecution.[118] The subjugation of the Roman Empire to Christianity became complete when the emperor Anastasius I, who came to the throne in 491, was required to sign a written declaration of orthodoxy before his coronation.

Under Pope Gregory I, the caverns, grottoes, crags and glens that had once been used for the worship of the pagan gods were now appropriated by Christianity: "Let altars be built and relics be placed there" wrote Pope Gregory I, "so that [the pagans] have to change from the worship of the daemones to that of the true God."[119][120]

"The triumph of Catholic Christianity over Roman paganism, heretical Arianism [and] pagan barbarism," asserts Hillgarth[121] "was certainly due in large part to the support it received, first from the declining Roman state and later from the barbarian monarchies."[122]

Evaluation and legacy[edit]

Except for the most recent literature, for at least the last 200 years historical scholarship has followed a conceptual scheme in which the persecution of those Mediterranean religions that we now label "paganism" was seen as the result of the religious intolerance inherent in the monotheistic Christian faith. The classic expression of this view occurs in the work of Edward Gibbon, who, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. As historian Herbert Drake puts it, "It is difficult to overestimate the influence of Gibbon's interpretation on subsequent scholarship."[123]

Herbert Drake takes issue with the historiography of Gibbon, arguing that while persecution certainly occurred for religious reasons, that the underlying motivation was consolidation of power in the Constantinian dynasty, which was offered in the form of promoting the cult of Christianity to the exclusion of others. He writes that "while there is obviously some truth in the proposition that intolerance follows from the rejection of other gods that lies at the core of monotheistic belief," this alone could neither explain why pagans had previously persecuted Christians, nor why there were "important voices for moderation in the early Christian community."[124] H.A. Drake writes: "Gibbon skirts a serious problem: for three centuries prior to Constantine, the tolerant pagans who people the Decline and Fall were the authors of several major persecutions, in which Christians were the victims."[125] Gibbon, however, implies that such an argument is in itself flawed, in that Christians later exaggerated the depth and magnitude of the persecutions against them. He argues that a diligent review of the earliest Christian source, Eusebius, reveals by his own accounting that less than one hundred Christians were executed in Palestine under Diocletian for refusing civic sacrifices as a test of their loyalty.[126]

It should be remembered, however, that early persecution of Christians did not follow the same prerogatives commonly ascribed to religious persecution in the modern sense, but rather arose from a feeling of "otherness" that Christians aroused in the society of the time, being adverse as they were to participating in the religious life of the Roman empire at large. Private religion, or the sacra privita, was not regulated by the state until the Christianization of the Empire, when paganism was proscribed even within the home. Private religion was the purview of the family and the individual, and varied between various ethnic groups. As such, many pagans were not opposed to Christian theology per se, but rather to the motivations of early Christians, who seemed rather "unpatriotic" in their isolation and aggressiveness towards other faiths. Christians were also seen as being a public embodiment of superstitio; what might be described today as religious zeal, but which also had connotations of magical thinking. While this was usually regarded as a private vice, one which was commonly thought to cause mental instability, it could also been seen as dangerous to the order of society. Romans had previously ascribed superstitio to excessive practice of magic, as well as other religious groups, namely Druidism and Judaism, both of which were seen as opposed to the interpretatio romana, under which their public observances would be syncretised and brought into line with Roman practices. Unlike Christianity, however, these groups were not generally seen as threats to traditional Roman religious observance itself, but as obstacles to civic order and Romanization.

Peter Garnsey strongly disagrees with those who describe the attitude of the "plethora of cults" that are labelled 'Paganism' as "tolerant" or "inclusive."[127] What Ramsay MacMullen wrote, that in its process of expansion, the Roman Empire was "completely tolerant, in heaven as on earth"[128] (with the notable exceptions of the Jews, Christians and Druids), is for Garnsey a simple "misuse of terminology."[129] The foreign Gods were not tolerated, but made subject together with their communities when they were conquered. The Romans "cannot be said to have extended to them the same combination of disapproval and acceptance which is toleration."[129]

The example of Constantine, Theodosius and Justinian, who were seen as "godly emperors (...) serving the church and crushing its enemies," has been cited repeatedly by Christian authors who endorsed an idea of religious persecution.[130] According to the historian Ramsay MacMullen, a council of bishops at Toledo in 681 called on civil authorities to seize and behead all those guilty of non-Christian practices of any sort.[131] Medieval Emperor Charlemagne ruled in September 774 that the Saxons (Westfali, Ostfali, and Angrarii) must be presented with the alternative of baptism or death[132] and had 4,500 pagan Saxons beheaded in the Massacre of Verden.

In the 20th century, the Roman Catholic Church issued the decree "Dignitatis Humanae" that fully embraced the right of every human person to religious freedom, as part of the Vatican II council, on 7 December 1965. On 12 March 2000, Pope John Paul II prayed publicly for forgiveness because "Christians have often denied the Gospel; yielding to a mentality of power, they have violated the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, and shown contempt for their cultures and religious traditions".[133]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h R. MacMullen, "Christianizing The Roman Empire A.D.100-400, Yale University Press, 1984, ISBN 0-300-03642-6
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Hughes, Philip (1949), "6", A History of the Church I, Sheed & Ward 
  3. ^ a b c d Eusebius Pamphilius and Schaff, Philip (Editor) and McGiffert, Rev. Arthur Cushman, Ph.D. (Translator) NPNF2-01. Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine quote: "he razed to their foundations those of them which had been the chief objects of superstitious reverence"
  4. ^ a b c d e f Kirsch, J. (2004) God against the Gods, pp. 200-1, Viking Compass
  5. ^ a b c d e f "The Codex Theodosianus On Religion", XVI.x.4, 4 CE
  6. ^ a b c Sheridan, J.J. (1966) The Altar of Victor – Paganism's Last Battle. in L'Antiquite Classique 35 : 186-187.
  7. ^ a b c Ammianus Marcellinus Res Gestae 22.4.3
  8. ^ a b c Sozomen Ecclesiastical History 3.18.
  9. ^ a b c Theodosian Code 16.10.3
  10. ^ a b c Theodosian Code 9.17.2
  11. ^ a b Byfield (2003) pp. 92-4 quote:
    In the west, such [anti-pagan] tendencies were less pronounced, although the enemies of paganism had an especially influential advocate. No one was more determined to destroy paganism than Ambrose, bishop of Milan, a major influence on both Gratian and Valentinian II. [...] p. 94 The man who ruled the ruler - Whether Ambrose, the senator-bureaucrat-turned-bishop, was Theodosius's mentor or his autocrat, the emperor heeded him--as did most of the fourth-century church.
  12. ^ a b c d e MacMullen (1984) p. 100 quote:
    The law of June 391, issued by Theodosius [...] was issued from Milan and represented the will of its bishop, Ambrose; for Theodosius--recently excommunicated by Ambrose, penitent, and very much under his influence43--was no natural zealot. Ambrose, on the other hand, was very much a Christian. His restless and imperious ambition for the church's growth, come what might for the non-Christians, is suggested by his preaching.
    See also note 43 at p.163, with references to Palanque (1933), Gaudemet (1972), Matthews (1975) and King (1961)
  13. ^ a b c King (1961) p.78
  14. ^ a b c Gerberding, R. and J. H. Moran Cruz, Medieval Worlds (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004) p. 28.
  15. ^ a b c Peter Brown, The Rise of Christendom 2nd edition (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2003) p. 60.
  16. ^ "Constantine The Great", Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908
  17. ^ "The Codex Theodosianus On Religion", XVI.v.1, 4 CE
  18. ^ See The Roman and British Martyrology. Publisher: O’Neill and Duggan, Dublin, 1846. 31st December, p. 427: "In Rome, the feast of St. Sylvester, pope, who baptized the Emperor Constantine, and confirmed the decrees of the Council of Nice." Also see The Roman Breviary, translated out of Latin into English by John, Marquess of Bute, K. T. Publisher: William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1908. Vol. 1, Winter, Dec. 31: Pope St. Sylvester, Matins: Second Nocturn: Fourth Lesson, p. 307: "Silvester [I.] was a Roman by birth, and his father’s name was Rufinus. ... In his thirtieth year he was ordained Priest of the Holy Roman Church by Pope Marcellinus. In the discharge of his duties he became a model for all the clergy, and, after the death of Melchiades, he succeeded him on the Papal throne, [in the year of our Lord 314,] during the reign of Constantine, who had already by public decree pro¬claimed peace to the Church of Christ. ...It was Silvester who caused him [Emperor Constantine] to recognise the images of the Apostles, administered to him holy Baptism, and cleansed him from the leprosy..." and The Roman Breviary, translated out of Latin into English by John, Marquess of Bute, K. T. Publisher: William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1908. Vol. 2, Summer, November 9: Dedication of the Cathedral Church of the Most Holy Saviour, at Rome, Matins: Second Nocturn: Fifth Lesson, pp. 1346-47: "But when the Emperor Constantine had by the Sacrament of Baptism received health both of body and soul, then first in a law by him published was it allowed to the Christians through¬out the whole world to build Churches, to the which holy building he exhorted them by his example as well as by his decree. He dedicated in his own Lateran Palace a Church to the Saviour, and built hard by it a Cathedral in the name of St. John the Baptist, upon the place where he had been baptized by holy Silvester and cleansed from his leprosy." Also see the Liber Pontificalis for December 31 and the inscription on a side of the St. John Lateran obelisk at Rome which reads, "CONSTANTINUS PER CRUCEM VICTOR AS SILVESTRO HIC BAPTIZATUS CRUCIS GLORIAM PROPAGAVIT." (Della Letteratura Italiana, by Cesare Cantù. Publisher: Presso L’Unione Tipografico-Editrice, Torino, 1856. Chap. 5, §4, p. 338)
  19. ^ a b Peter Brown, Rise of Christendom 2nd edition (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2003) p. 74.
  20. ^ Codex Theodosianius 9.16.2.
  21. ^ Eusebius, Life of Constantine 4.10.
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ "Edict of Milan", 313CE.[2]
  24. ^ MacMullan 1984:44.
  25. ^ Garnsey 1984: 19
  26. ^ Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire, 1986, Yale University Press.
  27. ^ "There is No Crime for Those who Have Christ: Religious Violence in the Christian Roman Empire", Michael Gaddis, p55-56, University of California Press, 2005, ISBN 0-520-24104-5
  28. ^ Zosimus 2.29.1-2.29.4, Theodosian Code 16.10.1. Laws against the private practice of divination had been enacted ever since the time of the emperor Tiberius. The fear of a rival had led many emperors to be severe against those who attempted to divine their successor.
  29. ^ Theodosian Code 16.10.1
  30. ^ Theodosian Code 9.16.1-9.16.3.
  31. ^ Theodosian Code 12.1.21, 12.5.2
  32. ^ Codex Theodosianus 16.2.5
  33. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Constantine the Great". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  34. ^ a b c C. G. Herbermann & Georg Grupp, "Constantine the Great", Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911, New Advent web site.
  35. ^ J. Kirsch, "God Against the Gods", Viking Compass, 2004.
  36. ^ MacMullan 1984:96.
  37. ^ a b The Codex Theodosianus On Religion, 16.10.2
  38. ^ a b Theodosian Code 16.10.6
  39. ^ a b c Catholic Encyclopedia (1914) Flavius Julius Constantius
  40. ^ a b c Ammianus Marcellinus Res Gestae 9.10, 19.12. quote summary: Ammianus describes pagan sacrifices and worship taking place openly in Alexandria and Rome. The Roman Calendar of 354 cites many pagan festivals as though they were still being openly observed. See also the descriptions of pagan worship in the following works: Firmicius Maternus De Errore Profanorum Religionum; Vetus Orbis Descriptio Graeci Scriptoris sub Constantio.
  41. ^ a b c Bowder, D. (1978) The Age of Constantine and Julian
  42. ^ a b "Libanius Oration" 30.7, For the Temples
  43. ^ Theodosian Code 9.16.4, 9.16.5, 9.16.6
  44. ^ a b Vasiliev, A.A, History of the Byzantine Empire 324–1453 (1958), p. 68
  45. ^ Salzman, M.R., The Making of a Christian Aristocracy: Social and Religious Change in the Western Roman Empire (2002), p. 182
  46. ^ Theodosian Code 16.10.5
  47. ^ Hans Kung, "The Catholic Church", Ch3 The Imperial Catholic Church", p45, 2001, Weidenfiled & Nicolson, ISBN 0-297-64638-9
  48. ^ "FLAVIUS CLAUDIUS JULIANUS", Karl Hoeber, Catholic Encyclopedia 1910, retrieved 1 May 2007.[3]
  49. ^ "Julian the Apostate and His Plan to Rebuild the Jerusalem Temple", Jeffrey Brodd, Biblical Archaeology Society, Bible Review, October 1995.
  50. ^ Pope Benedict XVI (2006) Deus Caritas Est (Encyclical)
  51. ^ Julian's training in Christianity influenced his ideas concerning the revival and organisation of the old religion, shaping it into a more coherent body of doctrine, ritual and liturgy. with a hierarchy under the supervision of the emperor.: "FLAVIUS CLAUDIUS JULIANUS", Karl Hoeber, Catholic Encyclopedia 1910, retrieved 13 May 2007.[4] Julian organized elaborate rituals and attempted to set forth a clarified philosophy of Neo-Platonism that might unite all Pagans.(Ammianus Res Gestae 22.12)
  52. ^ Sozomen Ecclesiastical History 5.5
  53. ^ Ammianus Res Gestae 25.4.20
  54. ^ "Julian the Apostate and His Plan to Rebuild the Jerusalem Temple", Jeffrey Brodd, Biblical Archaeology Society, Bible Review, October 1995
  55. ^ R. Kirsch, "God against the Gods", Viking Compass, 2004.
  56. ^ H.A.Drake, Lambs into Lions, p.33
  57. ^ Themistius Oration 5; Photius Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius 8.5
  58. ^ Ammianus Res Gestae 20.9; Themistius Oration 12.
  59. ^ Grindle, Gilbert. The Destruction of Paganism in the Roman Empire. (1892): 17–18.
  60. ^ a b Theodosian Code 9.16.9
  61. ^ Zosimus 4.3
  62. ^ Theodosian Code 17.1.60, 17.1.75, 16.1.1
  63. ^ Theodosian Code 9.16.7, 9.16.8, 9.16.10, 9.38.3, 9.38.4
  64. ^ Roldanus (2006) p.148
  65. ^ Hellemo (1989) p.254
  66. ^ "Gratian," Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909
  67. ^ "Letter of Gratian to Ambrose," The Letters of Ambrose Bishop of Milan, 379 AD.[5]
  68. ^ Theodosian Code 2.8.18-2.8.25, 16.7.1-16.7.5
  69. ^ Sheridan, J.J., "The Altar of Victory – Paganism's Last Battle." L'Antiquite Classique 35 (1966): 187.
  70. ^ Ambrose Epistles 17-18; Symmachus Relationes 1-3.
  71. ^ Theodosian Code 16.10.20; Symmachus Relationes 1-3; Ambrose Epistles 17-18.
  72. ^ Ambrose Epistles 17, 18, 57.
  73. ^ a b Theodosian Code 16.10.10
  74. ^ a b Theodosian Code 16.10.11
  75. ^ Routery, Michael (1997) The First Missionary War. The Church take over of the Roman Empire, Ch. 4, The Serapeum of Alexandria
  76. ^ Zosimus 4.59
  77. ^ Symmachus Relatio 3.
  78. ^ Grindle, Gilbert (1892) The Destruction of Paganism in the Roman Empire, pp.29-30. Quote summary: For example, Theodosius ordered Cynegius (Zosimus 4.37), the praetorian prefect of the East, to permanently close down the temples and forbade the worship of the deities throughout Egypt and the East. Most of the destruction was perpetrated by Christian monks and bishops.
  79. ^ Life of St. Martin
  80. ^ Gibbon, Edward The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch28
  81. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia (1912) article on Theophilus, New Advent Web Site.
  82. ^ Ramsay McMullan (1984) Christianizing the Roman Empire A.D. 100–400, Yale University Press, p.90.
  83. ^ a b c Gibbon, Edward The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch28
  84. ^ Kotynski, p.3. For more information about the question of this date, see Kotynski.
  85. ^ Theodosian Code 2.8.22
  86. ^ Theodosian Code 16.10.13
  87. ^ Theodosian Code 16.10.14
  88. ^ Theodosian Code 16.10.16, 15.1.36
  89. ^ Theodosian Code 15.6.1, 15.6.2
  90. ^ Gibbon, Edward The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch28, note 54.
  91. ^ Theodosian Code 16.5.42
  92. ^ Theodosian Code 16.10.19
  93. ^ Theodosian Code 16.5.63
  94. ^ Constitutiones Sirmondianae 6
  95. ^ Justinian Code 1.11.7
  96. ^ Theodosian Code 16.7.7
  97. ^ Justinian Code 1.11.8
  98. ^ Sidonius Epistle 1.11.6
  99. ^ a b Theodosian Code 16.5.46
  100. ^ Zosimus 5.46
  101. ^ This law (Theodosian Code 16.10.24) is interesting because it officially recognises the fact that there were many people who only pretended to be Christian.
  102. ^ Theodosian Code 16.5.51
  103. ^ Theodosian Code 16.7.1, 16.7.2, 16.7.3, 16.7.4, 16.7.5, 16.7.6
  104. ^ Justinian Code 1.7.2.
  105. ^ Theodosian Code 16.10.25
  106. ^ MacMullen, Ramsay (1997) Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries, Yale University Press, p.4 quote: "non Christian writings came in for this same treatment, that is destruction in great bonfires at the center of the town square. Copyists were discouraged from replacing them by the threat of having their hands cut off
  107. ^ Kirsch, R. (1997) God Against the Gods, p.279, Viking and Compass
  108. ^ Constitutiones Sirmondianae 12.
  109. ^ a b MacMullen, R. Christianizing The Roman Empire A.D.100-400, Yale University Press, 1984, ISBN 0-300-03642-6
  110. ^ Theodosian Code 16.5.43
  111. ^ Theodosian Code 16.10.15
  112. ^ Theodosian Code 16.10.17
  113. ^ Theodosian Code 16.10.18
  114. ^ A law in the Theodosian Code (16.2.47) refers to a tyrant who issued edicts in opposition to the church. This tyrant (i.e. usurper) is most likely to be identified with Joannes the Primicerius.
  115. ^ a b Photius Bibliotheca cod. 242
  116. ^ Marcellinus Chronicle s.a. 468
  117. ^ Theophanes Chronographia s.a. A.M. 5976-5980; John Malalas Chronicle 15.12-15.14.
  118. ^ Pagans were still sufficiently numerous during the reign of Justinian for a law to be published, in 527 (Justinian Code 1.5.12), which barred pagans from office and confiscated their property.
  119. ^ The modern Church takes a much less antagonistic stance to non-Abrahamic religions. See Dignitatis humanae and Nostra aetate
  120. ^ R. MacMullen, "Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries," Yale University Press, 1997.
  121. ^ J.N Hillgarth, ed. "Christianity and Paganism 350-750,:The Conversion of Western Europe", rev. ed., University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986.
  122. ^ R. Kirsch, "God Against the Gods," p. 278, Viking Compass, 1997.
  123. ^ H.A.Drake, Lambs into Lions, p. 8
  124. ^ H.A.Drake, Lambs into Lions, p. 5
  125. ^ H.A.Drake, Lambs into Lions, p. 7
  126. ^ Gibbon, Edward The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XVI, Part 2; online text from Project Gutenberg
  127. ^ Garnsey 1984: 24
  128. ^ quoted after Garnsey 1984: 25
  129. ^ a b Garnsey 1984: 25
  130. ^ John Coffey (2000), Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England 1558-1689, Studies in Modern History, Pearson Education, p. 31; O. O'Donovan (1996), The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology, esp. ch. 6.
  131. ^ Ramsay MacMullen, "Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries," Chap 1:16, "Persecution," ISBN 0-300-07148-5
  132. ^ Thomas J. Shahan & E. Macpherson, "Charlemagne," The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908 [6]
  133. ^ "POPE JOHN PAUL II ASKS FOR FORGIVENESS". March 12, 2000. Archived from the original on 2008-10-23. Retrieved 16 April 2007.