To A Priest

I should never have favored Pegasius unhesitatingly if I had not had clear proofs that, even in former days, when he had the title of Bishop of the Galilaeans, he was wise enough to revere and honor the gods. This I do not report to you on hearsay from men whose words are always adapted to their personal dislikes and friendships, for much current gossip of this sort about him has reached me, and the gods know that I once thought I ought to detest him above all other depraved persons. But when I...

Chapter

We may never know the real reasons for Constantine's conversion, although many have been proposed it is likewise impossible to gauge the depth of Constantine's dedication to Christian doctrine. Many scholars ascribe sincere religious motives to him, while others see him as an opportunist currying favor with a vocal minority. We do know that Constantine's contemporaries and successors viewed his patronage of Christianity as a watershed for pagans, such as Zosimus, it was the beginning of the end...

Christianity

Father's protection, as it were, and, above all, his sons. But they are not destitute whom he left as the heirs of his piety they are not destitute for whom he gained the grace of Christ and the loyalty of the army, to which he was a proof that God cherishes devotion and is the avenger of treachery. (3) Recently, then, we lamented the death of this prince, and now we are celebrating the fortieth day, with the prince Honorius assisting at the holy altar. For as holy Joseph performed the burial...

Conversion The Texts

In the fourth and fifth centuries, as Christianity became the majority religion of the Roman Empire, narratives of conversion instructed Christians on the profound significance of their religious affiliation. Christians composed and circulated stories of their own conversions and those of others to understand what their entry into Christian life could and should entail. These narratives became especially significant in this era during which Christianity achieved legitimacy and prominence as...

Becoming a Christian

The North African Christian writer Tertullian noted in the second century, Christians are not born, but made. Christians from the beginning construed their religious affiliation as a matter of choice and felt the imperative to spread the message and persuade as many others as possible to make the same choice. Even in established Christian communities in the fourth and fifth centuries, Christians continued to be made an infant born of Christian parents still had to be formally brought into the...

A

Caught organizing secret conspiracies against him, God miraculously disclosing the plots of all these to his servant by supernatural signs. (3) Indeed, he often vouchsafed him manifestations of deity, when divine visions were miraculously displayed to him and provided him with all sorts of foreknowledge of future events. It is not possible to describe in words those unspeakable marvels from God's grace that God himself saw fit to bestow on his servant. (4) By these he was safely hedged about to...

Christianity and Roman

Law in the Roman Empire was something of a jumble. Legal arbitration was not a full-time profession, but rather the job of political appointees who held local administrative office for a limited time. These administrator-judges acted on common sense, some legal precedent, and the advice of professional experts. Often regional law in the provinces contradicted laws emanating from the Senate or imperial courts, as documentary evidence from Egypt has shown. There was no standing police force both...

Theodosiuss Novella

ON JEWS, SAMARITANS, HERETICS, AND PAGANS Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian Augustuses to Florentius, Praetorian Prefect Among the other anxieties that Our love for the State has imposed upon Us for Our ever watchful consideration, We perceive that an especial responsibility of Our Imperial Majesty is the pursuit of the true religion. If We shall be able to hold fast to the worship of this true religion, We shall open the way to prosperity in human undertakings. This We have learned by the...

To The Highpriest Theodorus

I have written you a more familiar sort of letter than to the others because you, I believe, have more friendly feelings than others toward me. For it means much that we had the same guide, and I am sure you remember him. A long time ago, when I was still living in the West, I learned that he had the highest regard for you, and for that reason I counted you my friend, and yet because of their excessive caution, I have usually thought these words well said, For I never met or saw him 1 and well...

To Maximus The Philosopher

Everything crowds into my mind at once and chokes my utterance, as one thought refuses to let another precede it, whether you please to class such symptoms among psychic troubles or to give them some other name. But let me arrange what I have to tell in chronological order, though not until I have first of fered thanks to the all-merciful gods, who at this present have permitted me to write and will also perhaps permit us to see one another. Directly after I had been made emperor against my...

For Further Reading

Constantine and Eusebius. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 1981. Bowersock, Glen W. Julian the Apostate. London Duckworth, 1978. Drake, H. A. Constantine and the Bishops The Politics oflntolerance. Baltimore Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. Holum, Kenneth. Theodosian Empresses Women and Imperial Dominion in Late Antiquity. Berkeley University of California Press, 1982. Lieu, Samuel N. C, and Monsterrat, Dominic. Constantine History, Historiography, andLegend....

Ambrose On the Death of Theodosius

Before he became bishop of Milan (from 374 to 397), Ambrose was a politician, serving as provincial governor before being abruptly drafted (according to his biographer) into episcopal service. Ambrose's political savoir-faire may explain his success in crafting a particular relationship between the ecclesiastical and political hierarchies. As bishop, he triumphed in several notorious confrontations with Roman officials the prominent pagan prefect Sym-machus, who unsuccessfully sought to have a...

Eusebius The Life of Constantine

Eusebius (ca. 260-ca. 339), bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, is best known as the father of Christian history because of his highly influential Church History (see an excerpt in Text 50). He portrayed himself as an ecclesiastical spokesperson for Constantine's house, although it is unclear how well he knew the first Christian emperor personally. He wrote the laudatory Life of Constantine shortly after Constantine's death. The work contains elements of a typical imperial biography the relation...

The Novellas

The promulgation of the Theodosian Code did not close the door on Roman law and did not give the final word on imperial intervention into religious matters. The emperors of the fifth and sixth centuries (up to the publication of a new Code by Emperor Justinian in 529) continued to issue supplemental laws, novellas. The following are two such novellas, from the Emperors Theodosius II and Valentinian III, that return to themes of religious significance addresssed in the Theodosian Code the...

Rescript On Christian Teachers

I hold that a proper education results, not in laboriously acquired symmetry of phrases and language, but in a healthy condition of mind, I mean a mind that has understanding and true opinions about things good and evil, honorable and base. Therefore, when a man thinks one thing and teaches his pupils another, in my opinion he fails to educate exactly in proportion as he fails to be an honest man. And if the divergence between a man's convictions and his utterances is merely in trivial matters,...

Julian Letters on Religion

Flavius Claudius Julianus (ca. 331-363) reigned as emperor for only nineteen months (361-363), but left a lasting impact on subsequent Christian conceptions of the imperial house. Although raised a Christian, Julian took the opportunity of his ascension to power to renounce his Christian upbringing and publicly declare himself a worshipper of the traditional gods of Greece and Rome. He called himself a Hellene, emphasizing the link between traditional culture and cult later Christians called...

Hymn

On the melody Rely on the truth The sceptre of kingship shepherds humankind, cares for cities, drives away wild animals. The opposite was the sceptre of the king who apostatized. The wild animals saw it and exulted the wolves were his partisans the leopard and the lion raged even the foxes raised their voices. The wolves saw the clouds, rain, and whirlwind. Calling to one another, they attacked. Ravenous, they rampaged. Utterly hemmed in, they were all furious. But the sceptre that had...

Bookfour

14 (1) Thus finally, all nations of the world being steered by a single pilot and welcoming government by the Servant of God, with none any longer obstructing Roman rule, all men passed their life in undisturbed tranquillity. (2) The emperor judged that the prayers of the godly made a great contribution to his aim of protecting the general good, so he made the necessary provision for these, becoming himself a suppliant of God and bidding the leaders of the churches make intercessions for him....

To The Community Of The Jews

In times past, by far the most burdensome thing in the yoke of your slavery has been the fact that you were subjected to unauthorized ordinances and had to contribute an untold amount of money to the accounts of the treasury. Of this I used to see many instances with my own eyes, and I have learned of more, by finding the records that are preserved against you. Moreover, when a tax was about to be levied on you again, I prevented it and compelled the impiety of such obloquy to cease here and I...

Zosimus The New History

The adamantly anti-Christian historian Zosimus composed his history of the corruption of the Roman Empire some time around the year 500. His vitriolic account of Constantine, reproduced, in part, here, relies on an earlier account by the equally ardent non-Christian Eu-napius (writing around 400). It is, in some respects, an accurate historical account we read about Constantine's reorganization of the political, military, and economic structures of the empire following his rise to sole rule. We...

Theodosian Code On Religion

Book 16, the final book of the Theodosian Code, treats religion. The tenor and contents of this book give us a sense of how the imperial court refashioned its own religious authority in the centuries following the legalization of Christianity. Although bishops might attempt to subordinate the imperial house to episcopal authority (see Text 8), the emperors still maintained their role as guardians of religious equilibrium. So emperors convoked Christian councils (see Chapter 8) and legislated on...

Ephraim Hymns Against Julian

Ephraim (ca. 306-73) lived in the far eastern reaches of the Roman Empire, where the language of daily life was Syriac (a dialect of Aramaic, related to Hebrew). Until 363, Ephraim was a teacher and hymnographer for the church in Nisibis following Julian's disastrous campaign against the Persians and the surrender of Julian's successor Jovian (in 363), Nisibis was ceded to the Persian Empire. Ephraim, along with other Christian refugees, found himself transplanted to the city of Edessa. There...

Bookthree

25 Such was the situation when another memorable work of great importance was done in the province of Palestine by the Godbeloved. It was this. He decided that he ought to make universally famous and revered the most blessed site in Jerusalem of the Savior's resurrection. So at once he gave orders for a place of worship to be constructed, conceiving this idea not without God, but with his spirit moved by the Savior himself. 26 1 Once upon a time wicked men or rather the whole tribe of demons...

Book

22 1 The empire, however, was not left ungoverned. Arrayed in his father's own purple robe, Constantine emerged from his father's halls, showing to one and all that, as though revived, his father reigned through him. Then he led the cortege, and with his father's friends about him, he formed the escort for his father. Enormous crowds of people and military guards, some before and some following behind, attended the Godbeloved in full state. All of them honored the Thriceblessed with...

The Origin of Constantine

Although this brief life of Constantine survives only as incorporated into a later sixth-century text, it may, in fact, be the earliest biographical record of the first Christian emperor. References to Constantine's Christian enthusiasm were inserted by a later Christian editor, taken mainly from the early fifth-century History against the Pagans by Orosius, a disciple of Augustine. The original text probably ended with the defeat of Constantine's co-emperor Licinius and the founding of...

Late Antiquity

The mother of Galerius was a worshiper of the gods of the mountains. Since she was a very superstitious woman, she offered sacrificial repasts almost every day and made donations of the meals to her countrymen. Christians kept away, and while she would be dining with her fellow-pagans, they would redouble fasts and prayers. Therefore, she conceived a hatred for them and, with womanly complaints, she prevailed upon her son, no less superstitious, to get rid of these men. Therefore, secret...