At moments of crisis, moments of internal and external threat, the fears of militants attain greater credibility. The half-century between Constantine and Theodosius I constitutes one of these flash points, and it should not be surprising that, in this very period, Christian militants - those members of the community who had always adopted an aggressive and hostile attitude toward other beliefs - should have gained the upper hand. In polarised situations such as this, moderates are vulnerable. The real surprise is that the alternative tradition that true belief cannot be compelled persisted as long as it did.

The effect of the aggressive marketing of the examples of Ambrose and Chrysostom was that even emperors were taught to yield in order to keep the peace. The process begun in 300 by the persecution of Diocletian ends in the sixth century with persecution by Christian emperors. Both owe their policies to a concept of the ancient state, and even more to the role of the ruler in that state. In subsequent centuries, the idea of a state that is responsible for the moral and spiritual well-being of its citizens became more and more attenuated, but it continues to provide the intellectual underpinnings for disputes over the appropriate role of the modern state in the formation of its citizens.


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