II, which had guaranteed the right of public worship to the anti-Nicenes. In retaliation, imperial troops surrounded the Episcopal Basilica of Milan where Ambrose continued to conduct services and lead his congregation in a night of non-stop hymns. The emperor and his anti-Nicene mother, Justina, backed down.52

Ambrose's defence of Nicene Christianity and episcopal autonomy was successful in part due to the weakness of the Western rulers and the disarray in the imperial court, but it was also due in no small part to his ability to unite behind him the strong, elite, pro-Nicene Christian community of Milan. This community included a number of powerful men and women, many of whom were deeply imbedded within the imperial bureaucracy and court. Indeed, 'many faces from the consistory must have appeared each Sunday in the bishop's basilica'.53 Ambrose's congregation included men like Benivolus, an affluent and pious former civil servant who had stepped down from his office as magister memoriae rather than take any part in the drafting of a law favourable to Arians. Many were men who, once active in state service, settled in Milan after retirement, like the former tribunus et notarius, Nicentius. These were politically adept congregants, like the upwardly mobile Africans Ponticianus, an agens in rebus in imperial service, and the brilliant professor of rhetoric, the future saint Augustine, who had come to Milan to take up a teaching position. The court and the bishop attracted to Milan men with intellectual leanings, like the former praetorian prefect of Gaul, Mallius Theodorus, a leading proponent of Neoplatonism who assumed the consulate in Milan in 399. Such wealthy, influential men lent credibility and support, intellectual as well as political, to Ambrose's attempts to spread Nicene Christianity. Their numbers swelled the growing Christian community of Milan's upper class, now increasingly united in support of their actively pro-Nicene bishop.

Patronage in Milan

For such a prestigious and growing community, Ambrose, following the example of the bishops of Rome, was eager to build imposing places of worship. Milan already possessed a large, centrally located church, the Basilica Nova, whose expensive decoration suggests that it was an emperorwho first financed this, probably in the 350s. However, Ambrose is responsible for the dedicatory inscription on the basilica's baptistery, if not for the baptistery itself. And he

52 M. Colish, 'Why the Portiana?', 363-4. The emperor and his mother may have held out for several more months, until Ambrose's discovery of the relics of SS. Gervasius and Protasius on 17 June of that year.

53 N. McLynn, Ambrose of Milan, 220.

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