The Christian community under the sons of Constantine

The three sons of Constantine who followed him successively in the imperial purple were much more positive in furthering the Christian faith than their father had been. In 341 the second of them ordered that pagan sacrifices be abolished in Italy. The third, Constantius, commanded that "superstition cease and the folly of sacrifices be abolished" and removed from the Senate the statue of Victory which had been placed there by Augustus after the battle of Actium. He ordered temples closed. Yet of the pagan rites only sacrifices were forbidden, and processions, sacred feasts, and initiation to the mysteries, still permitted, presumably continued.

Under this prolonged patronage by the Emperors the Christian communities grew rapidly. The momentum acquired before Constantine was accelerated. Many now sought admission to the Church from other motives than purely religious conviction. Official favour and even wealth could be hoped for where formerly persecution, always in the background, tended to give pause to all but those impressed by the truth of the faith. Huge church structures were erected, some of which survive.

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