Theodosiuss Novella


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 experience of Our long life and by the decision of Our pious mind We decree that the ceremonies of sanctity shall be established by a law of perpetual duration, even to posterity.

(1) For who is so demented, so damned by the enormity of strange savagery, that when he sees the heavens with incredible swiftness define the measures of time within their spaces under the sway of the divine guidance, when he sees the movements of the stars that control the benefits of life, the earth richly endowed with the harvests, the waters of the sea, and the vastness of this immense achievement confined within the boundaries of the natural world, he does not seek the author of so great a mystery, of so mighty a handiwork? We learn that the Jews, with blinded senses, the Samaritans, the pagans, and the other breeds of heretical monsters dare to do this. If We should attempt by a remedial law to recall them to the sanity of an excellent mind, they themselves will be blameworthy for Our severity, since they leave no place for pardon by the obstinate wickedness of their unyielding arrogance.

(2) Wherefore, since according to the ancient

From The Theodosian Code and the Sirmondian Constitutions, ed. Clyde Pharr et al. Copyright © 1952 by Clyde Pharr, renewed 1980 by Roy Pharr. Reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press.

maxim,' no cure must be employed for hopeless diseases, in order that these deadly sects, oblivious of Our age, may not spread too wantonly into the life of Our people like an indistinguishable confusion, We finally sanction by this law, destined to live in all ages, that no Jew, no Samaritan, who does not rely on either law shall enter upon any honors or dignities; to none of them shall the administration of a civil duty be available, nor shall they perform even the duties of a defender. Indeed, We believe that it is wrong that persons hostile to the Supernal Majesty and to the Roman laws should be considered the avengers of Our laws under the protection of a surreptitious jurisdiction; that they should be protected by the authority of a dignity thus acquired; that they should have the power to judge or to pronounce whatever sentence they may wish against the Christians and very often against the bishops themselves of the holy religion, as if they were insulting Our faith.

(3) With an equally reasonable consideration also, We prohibit any synagogue to arise as a new building, but license is granted to strengthen the ancient synagogues that threaten immediately to fall in ruin.

(4) To these regulations We add the provision that if any person should seduce a slave or a freeborn person, against his will or by punishable persuasion, from the worship of the Christian religion to an impious sect or ritual, he shall suffer capital punishment, together with the forfeiture of his fortune.

(5) If any person of these sects, therefore, has assumed the insignia of office, he shall not possess the dignities that he has acquired, and if he has erected a synagogue, he shall know that he has labored for the profit of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, if any of these persons has stolen into a position of honor, he shall be considered, as previously, of the lowest condition, even though he should have obtained an honorary dignity. If any one of them should begin the building of a synagogue, not with the desire merely to repair it, in addition to the loss of fifty pounds of gold, he shall be deprived of his audacious undertaking. Besides, he shall perceive that his goods are proOf Hippocrates.

scribed and that he himself shall immediately be destined to the death penalty if he should overthrow the faith of another by his perverted doctrine.

(6) Since it behooves Our Imperial Majesty to embrace all contingencies in such a provision that the public welfare may not be injured in any way, We decree that the decurions of all municipalities and also the gubernatorial apparitors shall be bound to their onerous duties, even those of the imperial service, or to the various obligations of their resources and the duties of their personal compulsory services, and they shall adhere to their own orders, of whatsoever sect they may be. Thus We shall not appear on account of the contumely of corrupt solicitation to grant the favor of exemption to men who are execrable, since it is Our will that they shall be condemned by the authority of this constitution.

(7) The following exception shall be observed, namely, that apparitors who are members of the aforesaid sects shall execute the sentences of judges only in private suits, and they shall not be in charge of the custody of prisons, lest Christians, as customarily happens, may at times be thrust into prison by the hatred of their guards and thus suffer a second imprisonment, when it is not certain that they appear to have been rightfully imprisoned.

(8) Hence Our Clemency perceives that We must exercise watchfulness over the pagans also and their heathen enormities, since with their natural insanity and stubborn insolence they depart from the path of the true religion. They disdain in any way to practice the nefarious rites of their sacrifices and the false doctrines of their deadly superstition in the hidden solitudes, unless their crimes are made public by the nature of their profession, to the outrage of the Supernal Majesty and to the contempt of Our times. A thousand terrors of the laws that have been promulgated, the penalty of exile that has been threatened, do not restrain them, whereby, if they cannot be reformed, at least they might learn to abstain from their mass of crimes and from the corruption of their sacrifices. But straightway they sin with such audacious madness and Our patience is so assailed by the attempts of these impious persons that even if We desired to forget them, We could not disregard them.

Therefore, although the love of religion can never be secure, although their pagan madness demands the harshness of all kinds of punishments, nevertheless We are mindful of the clemency that is innate in Us, and We decree by an unshakable order that if any person of polluted and contaminated mind should be apprehended in making a sacrifice in any place whatsoever, Our wrath shall rise up against his fortunes, against his life. For We must give this better victim, and the altar of Christianity shall be kept inviolate. Shall we endure longer that the succession of the seasons be changed and the temper of the heavens be stirred to anger, since the embittered perfidy of the pagans does not know how to preserve these balances of nature? For why has the spring renounced its accustomed charm? Why has the summer, barren of its harvest, deprived the laboring farmer of his hope of a grain harvest? Why has the intemperate ferocity of winter with its piercing cold doomed the fertility of the lands with the disaster of sterility? Why all these things, unless nature has transgressed the decree of its own law to avenge such impiety? In order that we may not hereafter be compelled to sustain such circumstances, by a peaceful vengeance, as We have said, the venerable majesty of the Supernal Divinity must be appeased.

(9) It remains to be said, O Florentius, dearest and most beloved Father, that all inaction shall cease and that the regulations shall be put into swift execution that have been issued in innumerable constitutions against the Manicheans, always odious to God; against the Eunomians, authors of heretical folly; against the Montanists, the Phrygians, the Photini-ans, the Priscillianists, the Ascodrogians, the Hy-droparastatae, the Borboritae, and the Ophitans.

(10) Therefore, since it is dear to your heart to exercise implicit obedience to both the divine and the imperial commands, Your Illustrious and Magnificent Authority, by duly posting edicts ofYour Excellency shall cause to come to the knowledge of all that which We have decreed for the insatiable honor of the Catholic religion. You shall also direct that these commands shall be announced to the governors of the provinces, so that by their like solicitude they may make known to all the municipalities and provinces what We have necessarily sanctioned (438).


Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian Augustuses to Albinus, Praetorian Prefect for the Second Time

That superstition that was condemned also in pagan times, which is hostile to the public discipline and an enemy to the Christian faith, has not undeservedly provoked Our Clemency to its own destruction. We are speaking of the Manicheans, whom the statutes of all the former emperors have adjudged execrable and worthy of expulsion from the whole world. Their crimes, which have been recently detected, do not permit Us to disregard them. For what things that are obscene to tell and to hear have been revealed by their very manifest confession in the court of the most blessed Pope Leo, in the presence of the most august Senate! Thus even the man who was also said to be their bishop both betrayed with his own voice and wrote out all the secrets of their crimes. This matter could not escape Our notice, since it is not safe for Us to disregard so detestable an outrage to the Divinity of God and to leave unpunished a crime whereby not only the bodies of deluded persons, but also their souls, are inexpiably polluted.

(1) Whence, O Albinus, dearest and most beloved Father, Your Illustrious and Excellent Magnificence shall know that We have decreed by this law, which shall live forever and which you shall cause to come to the knowledge of all the provinces by posting edicts, that if any of the Manicheans should be apprehended anywhere in the world, he shall receive, by the authority of the public severity, the penalties that the laws have sanctioned against persons guilty of sacrilege.

(2) This heresy shall be a public crime, and every person who wishes shall have the right to accuse such persons without the risk attendant upon an accusation.

(3) It shall not be licit and safe for any person either to conceal such persons or to connive at them, since all the constitutions of the former emperors in regard to such heretics have been confirmed by Us, so that all men shall know that by this edictal law that has been published the Manicheans shall be deprived of the dignity of the imperial service and of the right of residence in the cities, in order that no innocent person may be ensnared by the intercourse and association of such persons. They shall neither take nor leave inheritances, but such inheritances shall be added to the resources of Our fisc. They shall not seek by any fraud that which We publicly forbid them. They shall forfeit the right of action for out rages against them; they shall have no freedom of contract at all.

(4) The primates of every branch of the imperial service and of every office staff shall be punished with a fine of ten pounds of gold, which shall be exacted by your apparitors, if they should permit any person polluted by this superstition to perform imperial service. For it does not appear that anything too severe can be decreed against those persons whose unchaste perversity, in the name of religion, commits crimes that are unknown and shameful even to brothels (445).

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