This chapter began with Ammianus Marcellinus' description of Con-stantius Il's first visit to Rome in 357 c.e. Constantius was dazzled by the pagan splendor of ancient Rome and to commemorate his visit he dedicated an ancient (pagan) obelisk in the Circus Maximus. Yet, he had also passed legislation against pagan religious practices and closed pagan temples. Imperial subsidies for the traditional religions were withdrawn, and he even removed the altar of Victory from the Roman Curia.

A focused study of the important literary exchange concerning the removal of the altar of Victory forms the core of this chapter. In this exchange, the Christian bishop Ambrose and the Roman senator Sym-machus presented written arguments to successive emperors over whether to return the altar of Victory to the Roman Curia. In their smooth eloquence Ambrose and Symmachus compete not so much for the cause of religion as imperial favor, and they both rely upon the same classical literary training that was at the center of the pagan heritage that the altar of

Victory represented. After each delegation from the senate, the emperors decided in favor of Ambrose and refused to subsidize pagan religious celebrations or return the altar of Victory. More than any religious impetus, what persuaded the emperors Gratian and then Valentinian II to bow to the demands of the Christian bishop Ambrose rather than the pagan Symmachus had more to do with the weakness of the imperial court in the face of political revolt.

Ambrose had proved himself to be an effective benefactor and indispensable patron of the court. He was himself a member of the well-educated senatorial aristocracy. In several critical situations, he used his power and patronage and his privileged classical education on behalf of the emperors. In turn, the emperors gave him leave to use that same power and education to suppress the traditional religious cults practiced by his fellow (pagan) aristocrats in Rome. It is ironic that the very same rhetorical training that Symmachus deployed in his arguments to restore the altar Ambrose also deployed to oppose its restoration. They shared alike in the classical heritage that the altar symbolized.


Conclusion: The Christian Church through the Centuries— Conflict and Accommodation

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