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landscape of the later Roman empire. Situated close to the frontiers, Milan lay on the crossroads of the east-west and north-south highways from the Balkans to Gaul and from Africa and Rome to the Alpine passes and the Rhineland. With Milan as his base, the emperor could respond in person to threats from across the Rhine as well as maintaining communication between the Eastern and Western empire. It was in this tetrarchic capital that the victorious emperor Constantine met with his eastern co-emperor Licinius soon after his victory over Maxentius, and where the victors crafted, among other laws, a post-persecution policy of toleration toward Christians, issued later by Licinius but traditionally known as the Edict of Milan.48

The imperial court continued to make Milan its seat of power; emperors returned there after military campaigns and intermittently resided there to administer the Western empire from the time of Constans and Constantius II continuing down to Theodosius II (between 340 and 402). The presence of the emperor and his court opened up new possibilities for Milan's provincials as the city grew in prominence and size. The best estimates indicate that the city increased from a pre-fourth-century population of 30-50,000 to 130-150,000.49 By the end of the fourth century, Milan had earned a reputation as a wealthy and important city, with 'numberless elegant mansions' and - as was required for an imperial capital and the seat of the governor of Liguria, the praetorian prefect of Italy and the vicarius of Italy - possessing an elite class that was 'able, eloquent and cheerfully disposed'.50

The fourth-century imperial presence in Milan helps to explain how the city and its aristocracy came to adopt Christianity so easily, so early, and in such large numbers. Christian emperors encouraged and supported coreligionists as courtiers and bureaucrats. It was advantageous, if one were an upwardly mobile provincial from Milan, to be able to attend church services in the presence of the emperor. How much and how quickly Milan's Christian community grew is hard to say with certainty, for the origin and extent of the Christian community in Milan prior to Constantine's Edict of 313 is not well attested; Paul the Deacon's claim that Milan's episcopate was founded by Anatolius, the envoy of the apostle Peter, lacks historical veracity.51 Yet, by the second half of the fourth century, the Christian community in the city was large

48 Drake, Constantine and the bishops, 193-8.

49 F. Monfrin, 'A propos de Milan chrétien', 19; although certainty about the scale of Milan's increase is impossible, the vast granaries in Milan lend credence to this notion of a booming city: see M. Mirabella Roberti, Milano Romana, 75-7.

50 Ausonius, Ordo urbium nobilium (trans. White, i: 272).

51 Monfrin, 'A propos de Milan chrétien', 9-12 n. 12.

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