having been a prefect of Gaul, he himself a governor of the provinces Liguria and Aemilia). In 374, he succeeded the Homoian bishop Auxentius. Ambrose was media-savvy and as determined as any pope. A prolific preacher and writer and author of hymns, he appears to have rivalled Constantine - and surpassed Damasus - with his church building.91 As we have already noted, Damasus' and Ambrose's Nicene 'rollback' in Italy and Illyricum had marginalised Homoian orthodoxy. After councils in Aquileia, Rome and Constantinople (381/2), the Nicene side prevailed - backed by the emperor Theodosius I himself. Milan became the local stage for the great struggle.

The emperor Gratian, who was confronting the usurper Magnus Maximus in Gaul in 383, was killed there by a traitor. Maximus plotted to gain legitimacy by acting as Valentinian II's guardian. Ambrose and the leading men around Valentinian's mother, Justina, conspired to keep emperor and court in Milan. He succeeded, but the court's stay in Milan led to problems. Justina and many around her, including the soldiers, professed the Homoian orthodoxy of the Constantinopolitan council of 360. In March 385, Ambrose was summoned before the consistory in the imperial palace. There, he was required to give the Homoian Christians a small church outside the city walls (Basilica Portiana). Ambrose refused. This was the prologue to the famous 'basilica quarrel' in 386 which pitted Ambrose and his flock against the court and its soldiers.92 An imperial decree of 23 January 386 guaranteed all Homoian Christians the right of assembly and threatened any opponents with capital punishment.93 But, for Ambrose, Nicene and Homoian Christianities could not co-exist in Milan. When the court attempted to confiscate the Basilica Portiana, Ambrose and his people occupied the church until the troops were withdrawn. The situation escalated again during Easter week when the court sent soldiers to requisition a church inside the city. Ambrose emerged as a strong demagogue: without openly opposing the emperor, he manipulated the populace to keep control of the churches.94 Meanwhile, the Christian laity strengthened their resolve by singing hymns and psalms, among them Augustine's mother Monica.95 At length, Ambrose and his people prevailed. When Maximus finally marched on Italy in 387, Valentinian II and his court withdrew from Milan to Illyricum. Maximus embraced Nicene orthodoxy, as

91 B. Brenk discusses this further in ch. 29.

92 I follow the reconstruction by G. Nauroy, 'Le fouet et le miel'.

93 CTh 16.1.4; the law was later abolished: CTh 16.5.15.

94 N. McLynn, Ambrose of Milan.

95 Augustine, Confessions 9.7.15; in that passage, he also claims that at this time Ambrose introduced hymns 'sung after the custom of the eastern churches' (trans. H. Chadwick). See further Fontaine, Naissance de la po├ęsie.

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