All over the empire, including the Celtic lands of north-west Europe, Christianity had advanced. But the real problem facing any would-be persecutor was its progress into the countryside. For reasons that are by no means clear, in the provinces bordering the Mediterranean from the south, the traditional deities that had watched over the respective populations for millennia lost favour and support. In Numidia, hitherto devoted to the worship of Saturn (Baal Hammon), the last dated inscriptions in his honour are from 272.95 In Cyrenaica, Apollo has no dedicatory inscription after 287.96 In Egypt, the last known inscription in hieroglyphs dates from 250,97 and from 270 onwards the Copts were moving towards an alternative form of religion in monasticism. By 300, persecution of the Christians could no longer count on the completely willing support of public opinion, either in town or countryside.

By this time, Christianity had emerged as the final obstacle to Diocletian's (284-305 ce) policy of unifying the empire under the aegis of the Latin language, the Roman gods and, in particular, Jupiter and Hercules as the guides of a uniform administration. In 286, imperial power was divided into a dyarchy, Diocletian taking Maximian as his colleague responsible for the west. Then in 293 each emperor appointed a deputy or Caesar, Galerius in the east and Constantius in the west. In Diocletian himself, however, resided the wisdom of the gods, the Providentia associated with Jupiter, while Maximian was associated with Hercules, who represented heroic energy combined with willing obedience. The establishment of the tetrarchy was followed by other measures promoting unification and uniformity. Traditional city mints, including that of Alexandria, were scrapped, and in 295-6 a single uniform currency was struck featuring on the reverse of its most common unit, the follis, a dedication 'to the genius of the Roman people' (genio populi Romani).98 Provincial administration was also reorganised,99 and in 301 the Edict of Prices attempted to impose a uniform system of valuation for a vast range of goods throughout the empire.100

95 From Novar (Sillegue), CIL 8.20435. See Frend, Donatist church, 83-4. Alater dedication, dated November 323, has been found on a temple site near Beja in western Tunisia, but the tria nomina of the dedicant (Marcus Gargilius Zabo) suggests that by the early fourth century the cult had become aristocratic rather than popular, although there seems also to have been a priestly hierarchy. See Beschaouch, 'Une stèle consacrée a Saturne', 258-9.

96 Roques, Synésios de Cyrene, 318.

97 Geffcken, Der Ausgang des griechisch-römischen Heidentums, 25.

98 See Mattingly, ' Quattuor principes," 337-8, for discussion of Diocletian's coinage reform.

99 See Ensslin, 'Development of paganism'.

100 Lactant. Mort. 7.6-7. Fragments of the inscription have been found on more than 40 sites in the east but, so far, none in the west. On its relatively limited purpose, see Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 11.

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