J. G. Hoffmann: Ruina Superstitionis Paganae. Vitemb. 1738. Tzschirner: Der Fall des Heidenthums. Leipz. 1829. A. Beugnot: Histoire de la destruction du paganisme en occident. Par. 1835. 2 vols. Et. Chastel (of Geneva): Histoire de la destruction du paganisme dans l’empire d’orient. Par. 1850. E. v. Lasaulx: Der Untergang des Hellenismus u. die Einziehung seiner Tempelgüter durch die christl. Kaiser. Münch. 1854. F. Lübker: Der Fall des Heidenthums. Schwerin, 1856. Ch. Merivale: Conversion of The Roman Empire. New York, 1865.


 § 2. Constantine The Great. a.d. 306–337.


1. Contemporary Sources: Lactantius († 330): De mortibus persecutorum, cap. 18 sqq. Eusebius: Hist. Eccl. l. Ix. et x.; also his panegyric and very partial Vita Constantini, in 4 books (Eij" tovn bivon tou' makarivou Kwnstantivnou tou' basilevw") and his Panegyricus or De laudibus Constantini; in the editions of the hist. works of Euseb. by Valesius, Par. 1659–1673, Amstel. 1695, Cantabr. 1720; Zimmermann, Frcf. 1822; Heinichen, Lips. 1827–30; Burton, Oxon. 1838. Comp. the imperial documents in the Codex Theodos.l. xvi. also the Letters and Treatises of Athanasius († 373), and on the heathen side the Panegyric of Nazarius at Rome (321) and the Caesars of Julian († 363).

2. Later sources: Socrates: Hist. Eccl. l. i. Sozomenus: H. E. l. i et ii. Zosimus (a heathen historian and court-officer, comes et advocatus fisci, under Theodosius II.):  Jistoriva neva, l. ii. ed. Bekker, Bonn. 1837. Eusebius and Zosimus present the extremes of partiality for and against Constantine. A just estimate of his character must be formed from the facts admitted by both, and from the effect of his secular and ecclesiastical policy.

3. Modern authorities. Mosheim: De reb. Christ. ante Const. M. etc., last section (p. 958 sqq. In Murdock’s Engl. transl., vol. ii. p. 454–481). Nath. Lardner, in the second part of his great work on the Credibility of the Gospel History, see Works ed. by Kippis, Lond. 1838, vol. iv. p. 3–55. Abbé de Voisin: Dissertation critique sur la vision de Constantin. Par. 1774. Gibbon: l.c. chs. xiv. and xvii.–xxi. Fr. Gusta: Vita di Constantino il Grande. Foligno, 1786. Manso: Das Leben Constantins des Gr. Bresl. 1817. Hug (R.C.): Denkschrift zur Ehrenrettung Constant. Frieb. 1829. Heinichen: Excurs. in Eus. Vitam Const. 1830. Arendt (R.C.): Const. u. sein Verb. zum Christenthum. Tüb. (Quartalschrift) 1834. Milman: Hist. of Christianity, etc., 1840, book iii. ch. 1–4. Jacob Burckhardt: Die Zeit Const. des Gr. Bas. 1853. Albert de Broglie: L’église et l’empire romain au IVme siècle. Par. 1856 (vols. i. and ii.). A. P. Stanley: Lectures on the Hist. of the Eastern Church, 1862, Lect. vi. p. 281 sqq. (Am. Ed.). Theod. Keim: Der Uebertritt Constantins des Gr. zum Christenthum. Zürich, 1862 (an apology for Constantine’s character against Burckhardt’s view).


The last great imperial persecution of the Christians under Diocletian and Galerius, which was aimed at the entire uprooting of the new religion, ended with the edict of toleration of 311 and the tragical ruin of the persecutors.1  The edict of toleration was an involuntary and irresistible concession of the incurable impotence of heathenism and the indestructible power of Christianity. It left but a step to the downfall of the one and the supremacy of the other in the empire of the Caesars.

This great epoch is marked by the reign of Constantine I.2  He understood the signs of the times and acted accordingly. He was the man for the times, as the times were prepared for him by that Providence which controls both and fits them for each other. He placed himself at the head of true progress, while his nephew, Julian the Apostate, opposed it and was left behind. He was the chief instrument for raising the church from the low estate of oppression and persecution to well deserved honor and power. For this service a thankful posterity has given him the surname of the Great, to which he was entitled, though not by his moral character, yet doubtless by his military and administrative ability, his judicious policy, his appreciation and protection of Christianity, and the far-reaching consequences of his reign. His greatness was not indeed of the first, but of the second order, and is to be measured more by what he did than by what he was. To the Greek church, which honors him even as a canonized saint, he has the same significance as Charlemagne to the Latin.

Constantine, the first Christian Caesar, the founder of Constantinople and the Byzantine empire, and one of the most gifted, energetic, and successful of the Roman emperors, was the first representative of the imposing idea of a Christian theocracy, or of that system of policy which assumes all subjects to be Christians, connects civil and religious rights, and regards church and state as the two arms of one and the same divine government on earth. This idea was more fully developed by his successors, it animated the whole middle age, and is yet working under various forms in these latest times; though it has never been fully realized, whether in the Byzantine, the German, or the Russian empire, the Roman church-state, the Calvinistic republic of Geneva, or the early Puritanic colonies of New England. At the same time, however, Constantine stands also as the type of an undiscriminating and harmful conjunction of Christianity with politics, of the holy symbol of peace with the horrors of war, of the spiritual interests of the kingdom of heaven with the earthly interests of the state.

In judging of this remarkable man and his reign, we must by all means keep to the great historical principle, that all representative characters act, consciously or unconsciously, as the free and responsible organs of the spirit of their age, which moulds them first before they can mould it in turn, and that the spirit of the age itself, whether good or bad or mixed, is but an instrument in the hands of divine Providence, which rules and overrules all the actions and motives of men.

Through a history of three centuries Christianity had already inwardly overcome the world, and thus rendered such an outward revolution, as has attached itself to the name of this prince, both possible and unavoidable. It were extremely superficial to refer so thorough and momentous a change to the personal motives of an individual, be they motives of policy, of piety, or of superstition. But unquestionably every age produces and shapes its own organs, as its own purposes require. So in the case of Constantine. He was distinguished by that genuine political wisdom, which, putting itself at the head of the age, clearly saw that idolatry had outlived itself in the Roman empire, and that Christianity alone could breathe new vigor into it and furnish its moral support. Especially on the point of the external Catholic unity his monarchical politics accorded with the hierarchical episcopacy of the church. Hence from the year 313 he placed himself in close connection with the bishops, made peace and harmony his first object in the Donatist and Arian controversies and applied the predicate "catholic" to the church in all official documents. And as his predecessors were supreme pontiffs of the heathen religion of the empire, so he desired to be looked upon as a sort of bishop, as universal bishop of the external affairs of the church.3  All this by no means from mere self-interest, but for the good of the empire, which, now shaken to its foundations and threatened by barbarians on every side, could only by some new bond of unity be consolidated and upheld until at least the seeds of Christianity and civilization should be planted among the barbarians themselves, the representatives of the future. His personal policy thus coincided with the interests of the state. Christianity appeared to him, as it proved in fact, the only efficient power for a political reformation of the empire, from which the ancient spirit of Rome was fast departing, while internal, civil, and religious dissensions and the outward pressure of the barbarians threatened a gradual dissolution of society.

But with the political he united also a religious motive, not clear and deep, indeed, yet honest, and strongly infused with the superstitious disposition to judge of a religion by its outward success and to ascribe a magical virtue to signs and ceremonies. His whole family was swayed by religious sentiment, which manifested itself in very different forms, in the devout pilgrimages of Helena, the fanatical Arianism of Constantia, and Constantius, and the fanatical paganism of Julian. Constantine adopted Christianity first as a superstition, and put it by the side of his heathen superstition, till finally in his conviction the Christian vanquished the pagan, though without itself developing into a pure and enlightened faith.4

At first Constantine, like his father, in the spirit of the Neo-Platonic syncretism of dying heathendom, reverenced all the gods as mysterious powers; especially Apollo, the god of the sun, to whom in the year 308 he presented munificent gifts. Nay, so late as the year 321 he enjoined regular consultation of the soothsayers5 in public misfortunes, according to ancient heathen usage; even later, he placed his new residence, Byzantium, under the protection of the God of the Martyrs and the heathen goddess of Fortune;6 and down to the end of his life he retained the title and the dignity of a Pontifex Maximus, or high-priest of the heathen hierarchy.7  His coins bore on the one side the letters of the name of Christ, on the other the figure of the Sun-god, and the inscription "Sol invictus."  Of course there inconsistencies may be referred also to policy and accommodation to the toleration edict of 313. Nor is it difficult to adduce parallels of persons who, in passing from Judaism to Christianity, or from Romanism to Protestantism, have so wavered between their old and their new position that they might be claimed by both. With his every victory, over his pagan rivals, Galerius, Maxentius, and Licinius, his personal leaning to Christianity and his confidence in the magic power of the sign of the cross increased; yet he did not formally renounce heathenism, and did not receive baptism until, in 337, he was laid upon the bed of death.

He had an imposing and winning person, and was compared by flatterers with Apollo. He was tall, broad-shouldered, handsome, and of a remarkably vigorous and healthy constitution, but given to excessive vanity in his dress and outward demeanor, always wearing an oriental diadem, a helmet studded with jewels, and a purple mantle of silk richly embroidered with pearls and flowers worked in gold,8 His mind was not highly cultivated, but naturally clear, strong, and shrewd, and seldom thrown off its guard. He is said to have combined a cynical contempt of mankind with an inordinate love of praise. He possessed a good knowledge of human nature and administrative energy and tact.

His moral character was not without noble traits, among which a chastity rare for the time,9 and a liberality and beneficence bordering on wastefulness were prominent. Many of his laws and regulations breathed the spirit of Christian justice and humanity, promoted the elevation of the female sex, improved the condition of slaves and of unfortunates, and gave free play to the efficiency of the church throughout the whole empire. Altogether he was one of the best, the most fortunate, and the most influential of the Roman emperors, Christian and pagan.

 Yet he had great faults. He was far from being so pure and so venerable as Eusebius, blinded by his favor to the church, depicts him, in his bombastic and almost dishonestly eulogistic biography, with the evident intention of setting him up as a model for all future Christian princes. It must, with all regret, be conceded, that his progress in the knowledge of Christianity was not a progress in the practice of its virtues. His love of display and his prodigality, his suspiciousness and his despotism, increased with his power.

The very brightest period of his reign is stained with gross crimes, which even the spirit of the age and the policy of an absolute monarch cannot excuse. After having reached, upon the bloody path of war, the goal of his ambition, the sole possession of the empire, yea, in the very year in which he summoned the great council of Nicaea, he ordered the execution of his conquered rival and brother-in-law, Licinius, in breach of a solemn promise of mercy (324).10  Not satisfied with this, he caused soon afterwards, from political suspicion, the death of the young Licinius, his nephew, a boy of hardly eleven years. But the worst of all is the murder of his eldest son, Crispus, in 326, who had incurred suspicion of political conspiracy, and of adulterous and incestuous purposes towards his step-mother Fausta, but is generally regarded as innocent. This domestic and political tragedy emerged from a vortex of mutual suspicion and rivalry, and calls to mind the conduct of Philip II. towards Don Carlos, of Peter the Great towards his son Alexis, and of Soliman the Great towards his son Mustapha. Later authors assert, though gratuitously, that the emperor, like David, bitterly repented of this sin. He has been frequently charged besides, though it would seem altogether unjustly, with the death of his second wife Fausta (326?), who, after twenty years, of happy wedlock, is said to have been convicted of slandering her stepson Crispus, and of adultery with a slave or one of the imperial guards, and then to have been suffocated in the vapor of an over-heated bath. But the accounts of the cause and manner of her death are so late and discordant as to make Constantine’s part in it at least very doubtful.11

At all events Christianity did not produce in Constantine a thorough moral transformation. He was concerned more to advance the outward social position of the Christian religion, than to further its inward mission. He was praised and censured in turn by the Christians and Pagans, the Orthodox and the Arians, as they successively experienced his favor or dislike. He bears some resemblance to Peter the Great both in his public acts and his private character, by combining great virtues and merits with monstrous crimes, and he probably died with the same consolation as Peter, whose last words were: "I trust that in respect of the good I have striven to do my people (the church), God will pardon my sins."  It is quite characteristic of his piety that he turned the sacred nails of the Saviour’s cross which Helena brought from Jerusalem, the one into the bit of his war-horse, the other into an ornament of his helmet. Not a decided, pure, and consistent character, he stands on the line of transition between two ages and two religions; and his life bears plain marks of both. When at last on his death bed he submitted to baptism, with the remark, "Now let us cast away all duplicity," he honestly admitted the conflict of two antagonistic principles which swayed his private character and public life.12


From these general remarks we turn to the leading features of Constantine’s life and reign, so far as they bear upon the history of the church. We shall consider in order his youth and training, the vision of the Cross, the edict of toleration, his legislation in favor of Christianity, his baptism and death.

Constantine, son of the co-emperor Constantius Chlorus, who reigned over Gaul, Spain, and Britain till his death in 306, was born probably in the year 272, either in Britain or at Naissus (now called Nissa), a town of Dardania, in Illyricum.13 His mother was Helena, daughter of an innkeeper,14 the first wife of Constantius, afterwards divorced, when Constantius, for political reasons, married a daughter of Maximian.15  She is described by Christian writers as a discreet and devout woman, and has been honored with a place in the catalogue of saints. Her name is identified with the discovery of the cross and the pious superstitions of the holy places. She lived to a very advanced age and died in the year 326 or 327, in or near the city of Rome. Rising by her beauty and good fortune from obscurity to the splendor of the court, then meeting the fate of Josephine, but restored to imperial dignity by her son, and ending as a saint of the Catholic church: Helena would form an interesting subject for a historical novel illustrating the leading events of the Nicene age and the triumph of Christianity in the Roman empire.

Constantine first distinguished himself in the service of Diocletian in the Egyptian and Persian wars; went afterwards to Gaul and Britain, and in the Praetorium at York was proclaimed emperor by his dying father and by the Roman troops. His father before him held a favorable opinion of the Christians as peaceable and honorable citizens, and protected them in the West during the Diocletian persecution in the East. This respectful tolerant regard descended to Constantine, and the good effects of it, compared with the evil results of the opposite course of his antagonist Galerius, could but encourage him to pursue it. He reasoned, as Eusebius reports from his own mouth, in the following manner: "My father revered the Christian God and uniformly prospered, while the emperors who worshipped the heathen gods, died a miserable death; therefore, that I may enjoy a happy life and reign, I will imitate the example of my father and join myself to the cause of the Christians, who are growing daily, while the heathen are diminishing."  This low utilitarian consideration weighed heavily in the mind of an ambitious captain, who looked forward to the highest seat of power within the gift of his age. Whether his mother, whom he always revered, and who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in her eightieth year (a.d. 325), planted the germ of the Christian faith in her son, as Theodoret supposes, or herself became a Christian through his influence, as Eusebius asserts, must remain undecided. According to the heathen Zosimus, whose statement is unquestionably false and malicious, an Egyptian, who came out of Spain (probably the bishop Hosius of Cordova, a native of Egypt, is intended), persuaded him, after the murder of Crispus (which did not occur before 326), that by converting to Christianity he might obtain forgiveness of his sins.


The first public evidence of a positive leaning towards the Christian religion he gave in his contest with the pagan Maxentius, who had usurped the government of Italy and Africa, and is universally represented as a cruel, dissolute tyrant, hated by heathens and Christians alike,16 called by the Roman people to their aid, Constantine marched from Gaul across the Alps with an army of ninety-eight thousand soldiers of every nationality, and defeated Maxentius in three battles; the last in October, 312, at the Milvian bridge, near Rome, where Maxentius found a disgraceful death in the waters of the Tiber.

Here belongs the familiar story of the miraculous cross. The precise day and place cannot be fixed, but the event must have occurred shortly before the final victory over Maxentius in the neighborhood of Rome. As this vision is one of the most noted miracles in church history, and has a representative significance, it deserves a closer examination. It marks for us on the one hand the victory of Christianity over paganism in the Roman empire, and on the other the ominous admixture of foreign, political, and military interests with it.17  We need not be surprised that in the Nicene age so great a revolution and transition should have been clothed with a supernatural character.

The occurrence is variously described and is not without serious difficulties. Lactantius, the earliest witness, some three years after the battle, speaks only of a dream by night, in which the emperor was directed (it is not stated by whom, whether by Christ, or by an angel) to stamp on the shields of his soldiers "the heavenly sign of God," that is, the cross with the name of Christ, and thus to go forth against his enemy.18  Eusebius, on the contrary, gives a more minute account on the authority of a subsequent private communication of the aged Constantine himself under oath—not, however, till the year 338, a year after the death of the emperor, his only witness, and twenty-six years after the event.19  On his march from Gaul to Italy (the spot and date are not specified), the emperor, whilst earnestly praying to the true God for light and help at this critical time, saw, together with his army,20 in clear daylight towards evening, a shining cross in the heavens above the sun) with the inscription: "By this conquer,"21 and in the following night Christ himself appeared to him while he slept, and directed him to have a standard prepared in the form of this sign of the cross, and with that to proceed against Maxentius and all other enemies. This account of Eusebius, or rather of Constantine himself, adds to the night dream of Lactantius the preceding vision of the day, and the direction concerning the standard, while Lactantius speaks of the inscription of the initial letters of Christ’s name on the shields of the soldiers. According to Rufinus,22 a later historian, who elsewhere depends entirely on Eusebius and can therefore not be regarded as a proper witness in the case, the sign of the cross appeared to Constantine in a dream (which agrees with the account of Lactantius), and upon his awaking in terror, an angel (not Christ) exclaimed to him: "Hoc vince." Lactantius, Eusebius, and Rufinus are the only Christian writers of the fourth century, who mention the apparition. But we have besides one or two heathen testimonies, which, though vague and obscure, still serve to strengthen the evidence in favor of some actual occurrence. The contemporaneous orator Nazarius, in a panegyric upon the emperor, pronounced March 1, 321, apparently at Rome, speaks of an army of divine warriors and a divine assistance which Constantine received in the engagement with Maxentius, but he converts it to the service of heathenism by recurring to old prodigies, such as the appearance of Castor and Pollux.23

This famous tradition may be explained either as a real miracle implying a personal appearance of Christ,24 or as a pious fraud,25 or as a natural phenomenon in the clouds and an optical illusion,26 or finally as a prophetic dream.

The propriety of a miracle, parallel to the signs in heaven which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, might be justified by the significance of the victory as marking a great epoch in history, namely, the downfall of paganism and the establishment of Christianity in the empire. But even if we waive the purely critical objections to the Eusebian narrative, the assumed connection, in this case, of the gentle Prince of peace with the god of battle, and the subserviency of the sacred symbol of redemption to military ambition, is repugnant to the genius of the gospel and to sound Christian feeling, unless we stretch the theory of divine accommodation to the spirit of the age and the passions and interests of individuals beyond the ordinary limits. We should suppose, moreover, that Christ, if he had really appeared to Constantine either in person (according to Eusebius) or through angels (as Rufinus and Sozomen modify it), would have exhorted him to repent and be baptized rather than to construct a military ensign for a bloody battle.27  In no case can we ascribe to this occurrence, with Eusebius, Theodoret, and older writers, the character of a sudden and genuine conversion, as to Paul’s vision of Christ on the way to Damascus;28 for, on the one hand, Constantine was never hostile to Christianity, but most probably friendly to it from his early youth, according to the example of his father; and, on the other, he put off his baptism quite five and twenty years, almost to the hour of his death.

The opposite hypothesis of a mere military stratagem or intentional fraud is still more objectionable, and would compel us either to impute to the first Christian emperor at a venerable age the double crime of falsehood and perjury, or, if Eusebius invented the story, to deny to the "father of church history" all claim to credibility and common respectability. Besides it should be remembered that the older testimony of Lactantius, or whoever was the author of the work on the Deaths of Persecutors, is quite independent of that of Eusebius, and derives additional force from the vague heathen rumors of the time. Finally the Hoc vince which has passed into proverbial significance as a most appropriate motto of the invincible religion of the cross, is too good to be traced to sheer falsehood. Some actual fact, therefore, must be supposed to underlie the tradition, and the question only is this, whether it was an external visible phenomenon or an internal experience.

The hypothesis of a natural formation of the clouds, which Constantine by an optical illusion mistook for a supernatural sign of the cross, besides smacking of the exploded rationalistic explanation of the New Testament miracles, and deriving an important event from a mere accident, leaves the figure of Christ and the Greek or Latin inscription: By this sign thou shalt conquer! altogether unexplained.

We are shut up therefore to the theory of a dream or vision, and an experience within the mind of Constantine. This is supported by the oldest testimony of Lactantius, as well as by the report of Rufinus and Sozomen, and we do not hesitate to regard the Eusebian cross in the skies as originally a part of the dream,29 which only subsequently assumed the character of an outward objective apparition either in the imagination of Constantine, or by a mistake of the memory of the historian, but in either case without intentional fraud. That the vision was traced to supernatural origin, especially after the happy success, is quite natural and in perfect keeping with the prevailing ideas of the age.30 Tertullian and other ante-Nicene and Nicene fathers attributed many conversions to nocturnal dreams and visions. Constantine and his friends referred the most important facts of his life, as the knowledge of the approach of hostile armies, the discovery of the holy sepulchre, the founding of Constantinople, to divine revelation through visions and dreams. Nor are we disposed in the least to deny the connection of the vision of the cross with the agency of divine Providence, which controlled this remarkable turning point of history. We may go farther and admit a special providence, or what the old divines call a providentia specialissima; but this does not necessarily imply a violation of the order of nature or an actual miracle in the shape of an objective personal appearance of the Saviour. We may refer to a somewhat similar, though far less important, vision in the life of the pious English Colonel James Gardiner.31  The Bible itself sanctions the general theory of providential or prophetic dreams and nocturnal visions through which divine revelations and admonitions are communicated to men.32

The facts, therefore, may have been these. Before the battle Constantine, leaning already towards Christianity as probably the best and most hopeful of the various religions, seriously sought in prayer, as he related to Eusebius, the assistance of the God of the Christians, while his heathen antagonist Maxentius, according to Zosimus,33 was consulting the sibylline books and offering sacrifice to the idols. Filled with mingled fears and hopes about the issue of the conflict, he fell asleep and saw in a dream the sign of the cross of Christ with a significant inscription and promise of victory. Being already familiar with the general use of this sign among the numerous Christians of the empire, many of whom no doubt were in his own army, he constructed the labarum,34 or rather he changed the heathen labarum into a standard of the Christian cross with the Greek monogram of Christ,35 which he had also put upon the shields of the soldiers. To this cross-standard, which now took the place of the Roman eagles, he attributed the decisive victory over the heathen Maxentius.

Accordingly, after his triumphal entrance into Rome, he had his statue erected upon the forum with the labarum in his right hand, and the inscription beneath: "By this saving sign, the true token of bravery, I have delivered your city from the yoke of the tyrant."36  Three years afterwards the senate erected to him a triumphal arch of marble, which to this day, within sight of the sublime ruins of the pagan Colosseum, indicates at once the decay of ancient art, and the downfall of heathenism; as the neighboring arch of Titus commemorates the downfall of Judaism and the destruction of the temple. The inscription on this arch of Constantine, however, ascribes his victory over the hated tyrant, not only to his master mind, but indefinitely also to the impulse of Deity;37 by which a Christian would naturally understand the true God, while a heathen, like the orator Nazarius, in his eulogy on Constantine, might take it for the celestial guardian power of the "urbs aeterna."

At all events the victory of Constantine over Maxentius was a military and political victory of Christianity over heathenism; the intellectual and moral victory having been already accomplished by the literature and life of the church in the preceding period. The emblem of ignominy and oppression38 became thenceforward the badge of honor and dominion, and was invested in the emperor’s view, according to the spirit of the church of his day, with a magic virtue.39  It now took the place of the eagle and other field-badges, under which the heathen Romans had conquered the world. It was stamped on the imperial coin, and on the standards, helmets, and shields of the soldiers. Above all military representations of the cross the original imperial labarum shone in the richest decorations of gold and gems; was intrusted to the truest and bravest fifty of the body guard; filled the Christians with the spirit of victory, and spread fear and terror among their enemies; until, under the weak successors of Theodosius II., it fell out of use, and was lodged as a venerable relic in the imperial palace at Constantinople.


After this victory at Rome (which occurred October 27, 312), Constantine, in conjunction with his eastern colleague, Licinius, published in January, 313, from Milan, an edict of religious toleration, which goes a step beyond the edict of the still anti-Christian Galerius in 311, and grants, in the spirit of religious eclecticism, full freedom to all existing forms of worship, with special reference to the Christian.40  The edict of 313 not only recognized Christianity within existing limits, but allowed every subject of the Roman empire to choose whatever religion he preferred.41  At the same time the church buildings and property confiscated in the Diocletian persecution were ordered to be restored, and private property-owners to be indemnified from the imperial treasury.

In this notable edict, however, we should look in vain for the modern Protestant and Anglo-American theory of religious liberty as one of the universal and inalienable rights of man. Sundry voices, it is true, in the Christian church itself, at that time, as before and after, declared against all compulsion in religion.42  But the spirit of the Roman empire was too absolutistic to abandon the prerogative of a supervision of public worship. The Constantinian toleration was a temporary measure of state policy, which, as indeed the edict expressly states the motive, promised the greatest security to the public peace and the protection of all divine and heavenly powers, for emperor and empire. It was, as the result teaches, but the necessary transition step to a new order of things. It opened the door to the elevation of Christianity, and specifically of Catholic hierarchical Christianity, with its exclusiveness towards heretical and schismatic sects, to be the religion of the state. For, once put on equal footing with heathenism, it must soon, in spite of numerical minority, bear away the victory from a religion which had already inwardly outlived itself.


From this time Constantine decidedly favored the church, though without persecuting or forbidding the pagan religions. He always mentions the Christian church with reverence in his imperial edicts, and uniformly applies to it, as we have already observed, the predicate of catholic. For only as a catholic, thoroughly organized, firmly compacted, and conservative institution did it meet his rigid monarchical interest, and afford the splendid state and court dress he wished for his empire. So early as the year 313 we find the bishop Hosius of Cordova among his counsellors, and heathen writers ascribe to the bishop even a magical influence over the emperor. Lactantius, also, and Eusebius of Caesarea belonged to his confidential circle. He exempted the Christian clergy from military and municipal duty (March, 313); abolished various customs and ordinances offensive to the Christians (315); facilitated the emancipation of Christian slaves (before 316); legalized bequests to catholic churches (321); enjoined the civil observance of Sunday, though not as dies Domini, but as dies Solis, in conformity to his worship of Apollo, and in company with an ordinance for the regular consulting of the haruspex (321); contributed liberally to the building of churches and the support of the clergy; erased the heathen symbols of Jupiter and Apollo, Mars and Hercules from the imperial coins (323); and gave his sons a Christian education.

This mighty example was followed, as might be expected, by a general transition of those subjects, who were more influenced in their conduct by outward circumstances, than by inward conviction and principle. The story, that in one year (324) twelve thousand men, with women and children in proportion, were baptized in Rome, and that the emperor had promised to each convert a white garment and twenty pieces of gold, is at least in accordance with the spirit of that reign, though the fact itself, in all probability, is greatly exaggerated.43

Constantine came out with still greater decision, when, by his victory over his Eastern colleague and brother-in-law, Licinius, he became sole head of the whole Roman empire. To strengthen his position, Licinius had gradually placed himself at the head of the heathen party, still very numerous, and had vexed the Christians first with wanton ridicule44 then with exclusion from civil and military office, with banishment, and in some instances perhaps even with bloody persecution. This gave the political strife for the monarchy between himself and Constantine the character also of a war of religions; and the defeat of Licinius in the battle of Adrianople in July, 324, and at Chalcedon in September, was a new triumph of the standard of the cross over the sacrifices of the gods; save that Constantine dishonored himself and his cause by the execution of Licinius and his son.

The emperor now issued a general exhortation to his subjects to embrace the Christian religion, still leaving them, however, to their own free conviction. In the year 325, as patron of the church, he summoned the council of Nice, and himself attended it; banished the Arians, though he afterwards recalled them; and, in his monarchical spirit of uniformity, showed great zeal for the settlement of all theological disputes, while he was blind to their deep significance. He first introduced the practice of subscription to the articles of a written creed and of the infliction of civil punishments for non-conformity. In the years 325–329, in connection with his mother, Helena, he erected magnificent churches on the sacred spots in Jerusalem.

As heathenism had still the preponderance in Rome, where it was hallowed by its great traditions, Constantine, by divine command as he supposed,45 in the year 330, transferred the seat of his government to Byzantium, and thus fixed the policy, already initiated by Domitian, of orientalizing and dividing the empire. In the selection of the unrivalled locality he showed more taste and genius than the founders of Madrid, Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, or Washington. With incredible rapidity, and by all the means within reach of an absolute monarch, he turned this nobly situated town, connecting two seas and two continents, into a splendid residence and a new Christian Rome, "for which now," as Gregory of Nazianzen expresses it, "sea and land emulate each other, to load it with their treasures, and crown it queen of cities."46  Here, instead of idol temples and altars, churches and crucifixes rose; though among them the statues of patron deities from all over Greece, mutilated by all sorts of tasteless adaptations, were also gathered in the new metropolis.47  The main hall in the palace was adorned with representations of the crucifixion and other biblical scenes. The gladiatorial shows, so popular in Rome, were forbidden here, though theatres, amphitheatres, and hippodromes kept their place. It could nowhere be mistaken, that the new imperial residence was as to all outward appearance a Christian city. The smoke of heathen sacrifices never rose from the seven hills of New Rome except during the short reign of Julian the Apostate. It became the residence of a bishop who not only claimed the authority of the apostolic see of neighboring Ephesus, but soon outshone the patriarchate of Alexandria and rivalled for centuries the papal power in ancient Rome.

The emperor diligently attended divine worship, and is portrayed upon medals in the posture of prayer. He kept the Easter vigils with great devotion. He would stand during the longest sermons of his bishops, who always surrounded him, and unfortunately flattered him only too much. And he even himself composed and delivered discourses to his court, in the Latin language, from which they were translated into Greek by interpreters appointed for the purpose.48  General invitations were issued, and the citizens flocked in great crowds to the palace to hear the imperial preacher, who would in vain try to prevent their loud applause by pointing to heaven as the source of his wisdom. He dwelt mainly on the truth of Christianity, the folly of idolatry, the unity and providence of God, the coming of Christ, and the judgment. At times he would severely rebuke the avarice and rapacity of his courtiers, who would loudly applaud him with their mouths, and belie his exhortation by their works.49  One of these productions is still extant,50 in which he recommends Christianity in a characteristic strain, and in proof of its divine origin cites especially the fulfilment of prophecy, including the Sibylline books and the Fourth Eclogue of Virgil, with the contrast between his own happy and brilliant reign and the tragical fate of his persecuting predecessors and colleagues.

Nevertheless he continued in his later years true upon the whole to the toleration principles of the edict of 313, protected the pagan priests and temples in their privileges, and wisely abstained from all violent measures against heathenism, in the persuasion that it would in time die out. He retained many heathens at court and in public office, although he loved to promote Christians to honorable positions. In several cases, however, he prohibited idolatry, where it sanctioned scandalous immorality, as in the obscene worship of Venus in Phenicia; or in places which were specially sacred to the Christians, as the sepulchre of Christ and the grove of Mamre; and he caused a number of deserted temples and images to be destroyed or turned into Christian churches. Eusebius relates several such instances with evident approbation, and praises also his later edicts against various heretics and schismatics, but without mentioning the Arians. In his later years he seems, indeed, to have issued a general prohibition of idolatrous sacrifice; Eusebius speaks of it, and his sons in 341 refer to an edict to that effect; but the repetition of it by his successors proves, that, if issued, it was not carried into general execution under his reign.


With this shrewd, cautious, and moderate policy of Constantine, which contrasts well with the violent fanaticism of his sons, accords the postponement of his own baptism to his last sickness.51  For this he had the further motives of a superstitious desire, which he himself expresses, to be baptized in the Jordan, whose waters had been sanctified by the Saviour’s baptism, and no doubt also a fear, that he might by relapse forfeit the sacramental remission of sins. He wished to secure all the benefit of baptism as a complete expiation of past sins, with as little risk as possible, and thus to make the best of both worlds. Deathbed baptisms then were to half Christians of that age what deathbed conversions and deathbed communions are now. Yet he presumed to preach the gospel, he called himself the bishop of bishops, he convened the first general council, and made Christianity the religion of the empire, long before his baptism!  Strange as this inconsistency appears to us, what shall we think of the court bishops who, from false prudence, relaxed in his favor the otherwise strict discipline of the church, and admitted him, at least tacitly, to the enjoyment of nearly all the privileges of believers, before he had taken upon himself even a single obligation of a catechumen!

When, after a life of almost uninterrupted health, he felt the approach of death, he was received into the number of catechumens by laying on of hands, and then formally admitted by baptism into the full communion of the church in the year 337, the sixty-fifth year of his age, by the Arian (or properly Semi-Arian) bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, whom he had shortly before recalled from exile together with Arius.52  His dying testimony then was, as to form, in favor of heretical rather than orthodox Christianity, but merely from accident, not from intention. He meant the Christian as against the heathen religion, and whatever of Arianism may have polluted his baptism, was for the Greek church fully wiped out by the orthodox canonization. After the solemn ceremony he promised to live thenceforth worthily of a disciple of Jesus; refused to wear again the imperial mantle of cunningly woven silk richly ornamented with gold; retained the white baptismal robe; and died a few days after, on Pentecost, May 22, 337, trusting in the mercy of God, and leaving a long, a fortunate, and a brilliant reign, such as none but Augustus, of all his predecessors, had enjoyed. "So passed away the first Christian Emperor, the first Defender of the Faith, the first Imperial patron of the Papal see, and of the whole Eastern Church, the first founder of the Holy Places, Pagan and Christian, orthodox and heretical, liberal and fanatical, not to be imitated or admired, but much to be remembered, and deeply to be studied."53

His remains were removed in a golden coffin by a procession of distinguished civilians and the whole army, from Nicomedia to Constantinople, and deposited, with the highest Christian honors, in the church of the Apostles,54 while the Roman senate, after its ancient custom, proudly ignoring the great religious revolution of the age, enrolled him among the gods of the heathen Olympus. Soon after his death, Eusebius set him above the greatest princes of all times; from the fifth century he began to be recognized in the East as a saint; and the Greek and Russian church to this day celebrates his memory under the extravagant title of "Isapostolos," the "Equal of the apostles."55  The Latin church, on the contrary, with truer tact, has never placed him among the saints, but has been content with naming him "the Great," in just and grateful remembrance of his services to the cause of Christianity and civilization.


 § 3. The Sons of Constantinea.d. 337–361.


For the literature see § 2 and § 4.


With the death of Constantine the monarchy also came, for the present, to an end. The empire was divided among his three sons, Constantine II., Constans, and Constantius. Their accession was not in Christian style, but after the manner of genuine Turkish, oriental despotism; it trod upon the corpses of the numerous kindred of their father, excepting two nephews, Gallus and Julian, who were saved only by sickness and youth from the fury of the soldiers. Three years later followed a war of the brothers for the sole supremacy. Constantine II. was slain by Constans (340), who was in turn murdered by a barbarian field officer and rival, Magnentius (350). After the defeat and the suicide of Magnentius, Constantius, who had hitherto reigned in the East, became sole emperor, and maintained himself through many storms until his natural death (353–361).

The sons of Constantine did their Christian education little honor, and departed from their father’s wise policy of toleration. Constantius, a temperate and chaste, but jealous, vain, and weak prince, entirely under the control of eunuchs, women, and bishops, entered upon a violent suppression of the heathen religion, pillaged and destroyed many temples, gave the booty to the church, or to his eunuch, flatterers, and worthless favorites, and prohibited, under penalty of death, all sacrifices and worship of images in Rome, Alexandria, and Athens, though the prohibition could not be carried out. Hosts now came over to Christianity, though, of course, for the most part with the lips only, not with the heart. But this emperor proceeded with the same intolerance against the adherents of the Nicene orthodoxy, and punished them with confiscation and banishment. His brothers supported Athanasius, but he himself was a fanatical Arian. In fact, he meddled in all the affairs of the church, which was convulsed during his reign with doctrinal controversy. He summoned a multitude of councils, in Gaul, in Italy, in Illyricum, and in Asia; aspired to the renown of a theologian; and was fond of being called bishop of bishops, though, like his father, he postponed baptism till shortly before his death.

There were there, it is true, who justified this violent suppression of idolatry, by reference to the extermination of the Canaanites under Joshua.56  But intelligent church teachers, like Athanasius, Hosius, and Hilary, gave their voice for toleration, though even they mean particularly toleration for orthodoxy, for the sake of which they themselves had been deposed and banished by the Arian power. Athanasius says, for example: "Satan, because there is no truth in him, breaks in with axe and sword. But the Saviour is gentle, and forces no one, to whom he comes, but knocks and speaks to the soul: Open to me, my sister?57  If we open to him, he enters; but if we will not, he departs. For the truth is not preached by sword and dungeon, by the might of an army, but by persuasion and exhortation. How can there be persuasion where fear of the emperor is uppermost?  How exhortation, where the contradicter has to expect banishment and death?"  With equal truth Hilary confronts the emperor with the wrong of his course, in the words: "With the gold of the state thou burdenest the sanctuary of God, and what is torn from the temples, or gained by confiscation, or extorted by punishment, thou obtrudest upon God."

 By the laws of history the forced Christianity of Constantius must provoke a reaction of heathenism. And such reaction in fact ensued, though only for a brief period immediately after this emperor’s death.


 § 4. Julian the Apostate, and the Reaction of Paganism. a.d. 361–363.




These agree in all the principal facts, even to unimportant details, but differ entirely in spirit and in judgment; Julian himself exhibiting the vanity of self-praise, Libanius and Zosimus the extreme of passionate admiration, Gregory and Cyril the opposite extreme of hatred and abhorrence, Ammianus Marcellinus a mixture of praise and censure.

1. Heathen sources: Juliani imperatoris Opera, quae supersunt omnia, ed. by Petavius, Par. 1583; and more completely by Ezech. Spanhemius, Lips. 1696, 2 vols. fol. in one (Spanheim gives the Greek original with a good Latin version, and the Ten Books of Cyril of Alex. against Julian). We have from Julian: Misopogon (Misopwvgon, the Beard-hater, a defence of himself against the accusations of the Antiochians); Caesares (two satires on his predecessors); eight Orationes; sixty-five Epistolae (the latter separately and most completely edited, with shorter fragments, by Heyler, Mog. 1828); and Fragments of his three or seven Books kata; Cristianw'n in the Reply of Cyril. LibaniusjEpitavfio" ejp j jIoulianw'/ , in Lib. Opp. ed. Reiske, Altenb. 1791–97. 4 vols. Mamertinus: Gratiarum actio Juliano. The relevant passages in the heathen historians Ammianus Marcellinus (I.c. lib. xxi-xxv. 3), Zosimus and Eunapius.

2. Christian Sources (all in Greek): the early church historians, Socrates (l. iii.), Sozomen (I. v. and vi.), Theodoret (I. iii.). Gregory Naz.: Orationes invectivae in Jul. duae, written some six months after the death of Julian (Opp. tom. i.). Cyril of Alex.: Contra impium Jul. libri x. (in the Opp. Cyr., ed. J. Aubert, Par. 1638, tom. vi., and in Spanheim’s ed. of the works of Julian).




Tillemont: Memoires, etc., vol. vii. p. 322–423 (Venice ed.), and Histoire des empereurs Rom. Par. 1690 sqq., vol. iv. 483–576. Abbé De la Bleterie: Vie de l’empereur Julien. Amst. 1735. 2 vols. The same in English, Lond. 1746. W. Warburton: Julian. Lond. 3d ed. 1763. Nath. Lardner: Works, ed. Dr. Kippis, vol. vii. p. 581 sqq. Gibbon: l.c. ch. xxii.–xxiv., particularly xxiii. Neander: Julian u. sein Zeitalter. Leipz. 1812 (his first historical production), and Allg. K. G., iii. (2d ed. 1846), p. 76–148. English ed. Torrey, ii. 37–67. Jondot (R.C.): Histoire de l’empereur Julien. 1817, 2 vols. C. H. Van Herwerden: De Juliano imper. religionis Christ. hoste, eodemque vindice. Lugd. Bat. 1827. G. F. Wiggers: Jul. der Abtrünnige. Leipz. 1837 (in Illgen’s Zeitschr. f. Hist. Theol.). H. Schulze: De philos. et moribus Jul. Strals. 1839. D. Fr. Strauss (author of the mythological "Leben Jesu"): Der Romantiker auf dem Thron der Caesaren, oder Julian der Abtr. Manh. 1847 (containing a clear survey of the various opinions concerning Julian from Libanius and Gregory to Gibbon, Schlosser, Neander, and Ullmann, but hiding a political aim against King Frederick William IV. of Prussia). J. E. Auer (R.C.): Kaiser Jul. der Abtr. im Kampf mit den Kirchenvaetern seiner Zeit. Wien, 1855. W. Mangold: Jul. der Abtr. Stuttg. 1862. C. Semisch: Jul. der Abtr. Bresl. 1862. F. Lübker: Julians Kampf u. Ende. Hamb. 1864.


Notwithstanding this great conversion of the government and of public sentiment, the pagan religion still had many adherents, and retained an important influence through habit and superstition over the rude peasantry, and through literature and learned schools of philosophy and rhetoric at Alexandria, Athens, &c., over the educated classes. And now, under the lead of one of the most talented, energetic, and notable Roman emperors, it once more made a systematic and vigorous effort to recover its ascendency in the Roman empire. But in the entire failure of this effort heathenism itself gave the strongest proof that it had outlived itself forever. It now became evident during the brief, but interesting and instructive episode of Julian’s reign, that the policy of Constantine was entirely judicious and consistent with the course of history itself, and that Christianity really carried all the moral vigor of the present and all the hopes of the future. At the same time this temporary persecution was a just punishment and wholesome discipline for a secularized church and clergy.58

Julian, surnamed the Apostate (Apostata), a nephew of Constantine the Great and cousin of Constantius, was born in the year 331, and was therefore only six years old when his uncle died. The general slaughter of his kindred, not excepting his father, at the change of the throne, could beget neither love for Constantius nor respect for his court Christianity. He afterwards ascribed his escape to the special favor of the old gods. He was systematically spoiled by false education and made the enemy of that very religion which pedantic teachers attempted to force upon his free and independent mind, and which they so poorly recommended by their lives. We have a striking parallel in more recent history in the case of Frederick the Great of Prussia. Julian was jealously watched by the emperor, and kept in rural retirement almost like a prisoner. With his step-brother Gallus, he received a nominally Christian training under the direction of the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia and several eunuchs; he was baptized; even educated for the clerical order, and ordained a Lector.59  He prayed, fasted, celebrated the memory of the martyrs, paid the usual reverence to the bishops, besought the blessing of hermits, and read the Scriptures in the church of Nicomedia. Even his plays must wear the hue of devotion. But this despotic and mechanical force-work of a repulsively austere and fiercely polemic type of Christianity roused the intelligent, wakeful, and vigorous spirit of Julian to rebellion, and drove him over towards the heathen side. The Arian pseudo-Christianity of Constantius produced the heathen anti-Christianity of Julian; and the latter was a well-deserved punishment of the former. With enthusiasm and with untiring diligence the young prince studied Homer, Plato, Aristotle, and the Neo-Platonists. The partial prohibition of such reading gave it double zest. He secretly obtained the lectures of the celebrated rhetorician Libanius, afterwards his eulogist, whose productions, however, represent the degeneracy of the heathen literature in that day, covering emptiness with a pompous and tawdry style, attractive only to a vitiated taste. He became acquainted by degrees with the most eminent representatives of heathenism, particularly the Neo-Platonic philosophers, rhetoricians, and priests, like Libanius, Aedesius, Maximus, and Chrysanthius. These confirmed him in his superstitions by sophistries and sorceries of every kind. He gradually became the secret head of the heathen party. Through the favor and mediation of the empress Eusebia he visited for some months the schools of Athens (a.d. 355), where he was initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries, and thus completed his transition to the Grecian idolatry.

This heathenism, however, was not a simple, spontaneous growth; it was all an artificial and morbid production. It was the heathenism of the Neo-Platonic, pantheistic eclecticism, a strange mixture of philosophy, poesy, and superstition, and, in Julian at least, in great part an imitation or caricature of Christianity. It sought to spiritualize and revive the old mythology by uniting with it oriental theosophemes and a few Christian ideas; taught a higher, abstract unity above the multiplicity of the national gods, genii, heroes, and natural powers; believed in immediate communications and revelations of the gods through dreams, visions, oracles, entrails of sacrifices, prodigies; and stood in league with all kinds of magical and theurgic arts.60  Julian himself, with all his philosophical intelligence, credited the most insipid legends of the gods, or gave them a deeper, mystic meaning by the most arbitrary allegorical interpretation. He was in intimate personal intercourse with Jupiter, Minerva, Apollo, Hercules, who paid their nocturnal visits to his heated fancy, and assured him of their special protection. And he practised the art of divination as a master.61  Among the various divinities he worshipped with peculiar devotion the great king Helios, or the god of the sun, whose servant he called himself, and whose ethereal light attracted him even in tender childhood with magic force. He regarded him as the centre of the universe, from which light, life, and salvation proceed upon all creatures.62  In this view of a supreme divinity he made an approach to the Christian monotheism, but substituted an airy myth and pantheistic fancy for the only true and living God and the personal historical Christ.

His moral character corresponds with the preposterous nature of this system. With all his brilliant talents and stoical virtues, he wanted the genuine simplicity and naturalness, which are the foundation of all true greatness of mind and character. As his worship of Helios was a shadowy reflection of the Christian monotheism, and so far an involuntary tribute to the religion he opposed, so in his artificial and ostentatious asceticism we can only see a caricature of the ecclesiastical monasticism of the age which he so deeply despised for its humility and spirituality. He was full of affectation, vanity, sophistry, loquacity, and a master in the art of dissimulation. Everything he said or wrote was studied and calculated for effect. Instead of discerning the spirit of the age and putting himself at the head of the current of true progress, he identified himself with a party of no vigor nor promise, and thus fell into a false and untenable position, at variance with the mission of a ruler. Great minds, indeed, are always more or less at war with their age, as we may see in the reformers, in the apostles, nay, in Christ himself. But their antagonism proceeds from a clear knowledge of the real wants and a sincere devotion to the best interests of the age; it is all progressive and reformatory, and at last carries the deeper spirit of the age with itself, and raises it to a higher level. The antagonism of Julian, starting with a radical misconception of the tendency of history and animated by selfish ambition, was one of retrogression and reaction, and in addition, was devoted to a bad cause. He had all the faults, and therefore deserved the tragic fate, of a fanatical reactionist.

His apostasy from Christianity, to which he was probably never at heart committed, Julian himself dates as early as his twentieth year, a.d. 351. But while Constantius lived, he concealed his pagan sympathies with consummate hypocrisy, publicly observed Christian ceremonies, while secretly sacrificing to Jupiter and Helios, kept the feast of Epiphany in the church at Vienne so late as January, 361, and praised the emperor in the most extravagant style, though he thoroughly hated him, and after his death all the more bitterly mocked him.63  For ten years he kept the mask. After December, 355, the student of books astonished the world with brilliant military and executive powers as Caesar in Gaul, which was at that time heavily threatened by the German barbarians; he won the enthusiastic love of the soldiers, and received from them the dignity of Augustus. Then he raised the standard of rebellion against his suspicious and envious imperial cousin and brother-in-law, and in 361 openly declared himself a friend of the gods. By the sudden death of Constantius in the same year he became sole head of the Roman empire, and in December, as the only remaining heir of the house of Constantine,64 made his entry into Constantinople amidst universal applause and rejoicing over escape from civil war.

He immediately gave himself, with the utmost zeal, to the duties of his high station, unweariedly active as prince, general, judge, orator, high-priest, correspondent, and author. He sought to unite the fame of an Alexander, a Marcus Aurelius, a Plato, and a Diogenes in himself. His only recreation was a change of labor. He would use at once his hand in writing, his ear in hearing, and his voice in speaking. He considered his whole time due to his empire and the culture of his own mind. The eighteen short months of his reign Dec. 361-June 363) comprehend the plans of a life-long administration and most of his literary works. He practised the strictest economy in the public affairs, banished all useless luxury from his court, and dismissed with one decree whole hosts of barbers, cup-bearers, cooks, masters of ceremonies, and other superfluous officers, with whom the palace swarmed, but surrounded himself instead with equally useless pagan mystics, sophists, jugglers, theurgists, soothsayers, babblers, and scoffers, who now streamed from all quarters to the court. In striking contrast with his predecessors, he maintained the simplicity of a philosopher and an ascetic in his manner of life, and gratified his pride and vanity with contempt of the pomp and pleasures of the imperial purple. He lived chiefly on vegetable diet, abstaining now from this food, now from that, according to the taste of the god or goddess to whom the day was consecrated. He wore common clothing, usually slept on the floor, let his beard and nails grow, and, like the strict anachorets of Egypt, neglected the laws of decency and cleanliness.65  This cynic eccentricity and vain ostentation certainly spoiled his reputation for simplicity and self-denial, and made him ridiculous. It evinced, also, not so much the boldness and wisdom of a reformer, as the pedantry and folly of a reactionist. In military and executive talent and personal bravery he was not inferior to Constantine; while in mind and literary culture he far excelled him, as well as in energy and moral self-control; and, doubtless to his own credit, he closed his public career at the age at which his uncle’s began; but he entirely lacked the clear, sound common sense of his great predecessor, and that practical statesmanship, which discerns the wants of the age, and acts according to them. He had more uncommon sense than common sense, and the latter is often even more important than the former, and indispensable to a good practical statesman. But his greatest fault as a ruler was his utterly false position towards the paramount question of his time: that of religion. This was the cause of that complete failure which made his reign as trackless as a meteor.

The ruling passion of Julian, and the soul of his short but most active, remarkable, and in its negative results instructive reign, was fanatical love of the pagan religion and bitter hatred of the Christian, at a time when the former had already forever given up to the latter the reins of government in the world. He considered it the great mission of his life to restore the worship of the gods, and to reduce the religion of Jesus first to a contemptible sect, and at last, if possible, to utter extinction from the earth. To this he believed himself called by the gods themselves, and in this faith he was confirmed by theurgic arts, visions, and dreams. To this end all the means, which talent, zeal, and power could command, were applied; and the failure must be attributed solely to the intrinsic folly and impracticability of the end itself.


I. To look, first, at the positive side of his plan, the restoration and reformation of heathenism:

He reinstated, in its ancient splendor, the worship of the gods at the public expense; called forth hosts of priests from concealment; conferred upon them all their former privileges, and showed them every honor; enjoined upon the soldiers and civil officers attendance at the forsaken temples and altars; forgot no god or goddess, though himself specially devoted to the worship of Apollo, or the sun; and notwithstanding his parsimony in other respects, caused the rarest birds and whole herds of bulls and lambs to be sacrificed, until the continuance of the species became a subject of concern.66  He removed the cross and the monogram of Christ from the coins and standards, and replaced the former pagan symbols. He surrounded the statues and portraits of the emperors with the signs of idolatry, that every one might be compelled to bow before the gods, who would pay the emperors due respect. He advocated images of the gods on the same grounds on which afterwards the Christian iconolaters defended the images of the saints. If you love the emperor, if you love your father, says he, you like to see his portrait; so the friend of the gods loves to look upon their images, by which he is pervaded with reverence for the invisible gods, who are looking down upon him.

Julian led the way himself with a complete example. He discovered on every occasion the utmost zeal for the heathen religion, and performed, with the most scrupulous devotion, the offices of a pontifex maximus, which had been altogether neglected, although not formally abolished, under his two predecessors. Every morning and evening he sacrificed to the rising and setting sun, or the supreme light-god; every night, to the moon and the stars; every day, to some other divinity. Says Libanius, his heathen admirer: "He received the rising sun with blood, and attended him again with blood at his setting."  As he could not go abroad so often as he would, he turned his palace into a temple and erected altars in his garden, which was kept purer than most chapels. "Wherever there was a temple," says the same writer, "whether in the city or on the hill or the mountain top, no matter how rough, or difficult of access, he ran to it."  He prostrated himself devoutly before the altars and the images, not allowing the most violent storm to prevent him. Several times in a day, surrounded by priests and dancing women, he sacrificed a hundred bulls, himself furnishing the wood and kindling the flames. He used the knife himself, and as haruspex searched with his own hand the secrets of the future in the reeking entrails.

But his zeal found no echo, and only made him ridiculous in the eyes of cultivated heathens themselves. He complains repeatedly of the indifference of his party, and accuses one of his priests of a secret league with Christian bishops. The spectators at his sacrifices came not from devotion, but from curiosity, and grieved the devout emperor by their rounds of applause, as if he were simply a theatrical actor of religion. Often there were no spectators at all. When he endeavored to restore the oracle of Apollo Daphneus in the famous cypress grove at Antioch, and arranged for a magnificent procession, with libation, dances, and incense, he found in the temple one solitary old priest, and this priest ominously offered in sacrifice—a goose.67

At the same time, however, Julian sought to renovate and transform heathenism by incorporating with it the morals of Christianity; vainly thinking thus to bring it back to its original purity. In this he himself unwittingly and unwillingly bore witness to the poverty of the heathen religion, and paid the highest tribute to the Christian; and the Christians for this reason not inaptly called him an "ape of Christianity."

In the first place, he proposed to improve the irreclaimable priesthood after the model of the Christian clergy. The priests, as true mediators between the gods and men, should be constantly in the temples, should occupy themselves with holy things, should study no immoral or skeptical books of the school of Epicurus and Pyrrho, but the works of Homer, Pythagoras, Plato, Chrysippus, and Zeno; they should visit no taverns nor theatres, should pursue no dishonorable trade, should give alms, practise hospitality, live in strict chastity and temperance, wear simple clothing, but in their official functions always appear in the costliest garments and most imposing dignity. He borrowed almost every feature of the then prevalent idea of the Christian priesthood, and applied it to the polytheistic religion.68  Then, he borrowed from the constitution and worship of the church a hierarchical system of orders, and a sort of penitential discipline, with excommunication, absolution, and restoration, besides a fixed ritual embracing didactic and musical elements. Mitred priests in purple were to edify the people regularly with sermons; that is, with allegorical expositions and practical applications of tasteless and immoral mythological stories!  Every temple was to have a well arranged choir, and the congregation its responses. And finally, Julian established in different provinces monasteries, nunneries, and hospitals for the sick, for orphans, and for foreigners without distinction of religion, appropriated to them considerable sums from the public treasury, and at the same time, though fruitlessly, invited voluntary contributions. He made the noteworthy concession, that the heathens did not help even their own brethren in faith; while the Jews never begged, and "the godless Galileans," as he malignantly styled the Christians, supplied not only their own, but even the heathen poor, and thus aided the worst of causes by a good practice.

But of course all these attempts to regenerate heathenism by foreign elements were utterly futile. They were like galvanizing a decaying corpse, or grafting fresh scions on a dead trunk, sowing good seed on a rock, or pouring new wine into old bottles, bursting the bottles and wasting the wine.


II. The negative side of Julian’s plan was the suppression and final extinction of Christianity.

In this he proceeded with extraordinary sagacity. He abstained from bloody persecution, because he would not forego the credit of philosophical toleration, nor give the church the glory of a new martyrdom. A history of three centuries also had proved that violent measures were fruitless. According to Libanius it was a principle with him, that fire and sword cannot change a man’s faith, and that persecution only begets hypocrites and martyrs. Finally, he doubtless perceived that the Christians were too numerous to be assailed by a general persecution without danger of a bloody civil war. Hence he oppressed the church "gently,"69 under show of equity and universal toleration. He persecuted not so much the Christians as Christianity, by endeavoring to draw off its confessors. He thought to gain the result of persecution without incurring the personal reproach and the public danger of persecution itself. His disappointments, however, increased his bitterness, and had he returned victorious from the Persian war, he would probably have resorted to open violence. In fact, Gregory Nazianzen and Sozomen, and some heathen writers also, tell of local persecutions in the provinces, particularly at Anthusa and Alexandria, with which the emperor is, at least indirectly, to be charged. His officials acted in those cases, not under public orders indeed, but according to the secret wish of Julian, who ignored their illegal proceedings as long as he could, and then discovered his real views by lenient censure and substantial acquittal of the offending magistrates.

He first, therefore, employed against the Christians of all parties and sects the policy of toleration, in hope of their destroying each other by internal controversies. He permitted the orthodox bishops and all other clergy, who had been banished under Constantius, to return to their dioceses, and left Arians, Apollinarians, Novatians, Macedonians, Donatists, and so on, to themselves. He affected compassion for the "poor, blind, deluded Galileans, who forsook the most glorious privilege of man, the worship of the immortal gods, and instead of them worshipped dead men and dead men’s bones."  He once even suffered himself to be insulted by a blind bishop, Maris of Chalcedon, who, when reminded by him, that the Galilean God could not restore his eyesight, answered: "I thank my God for my blindness, which spares me the painful sight of such an impious Apostate as thou."  He afterwards, however, caused the bishop to be severely punished.70  So in Antioch, also, he bore with philosophic equanimity the ridicule of the Christian populace, but avenged himself on the inhabitants of the city by unsparing satire in the Misopogon. His whole bearing towards the Christians was instinct with bitter hatred and accompanied with sarcastic mockery.71  This betrays itself even in the contemptuous term, Galileans, which he constantly applies to them after the fashion of the Jews, and which he probably also commanded to be given them by others.72  He considered them a sect of fanatics contemptible to men and hateful to the gods, and as atheists in open war with all that was sacred and divine in the world.73  He sometimes had representatives of different parties dispute in his presence, and then exclaimed: "No wild beasts are so fierce and irreconcilable as the Galilean sectarians."  When he found that toleration was rather profitable than hurtful to the church, and tended to soften the vehemence of doctrinal controversies, he proceeded, for example, to banish Athanasius, who was particularly offensive to him, from Alexandria, and even from Egypt, calling this greatest man of his age an insignificant manikin,74 and reviling him with vulgar language, because through his influence many prominent heathens, especially heathen women, passed over to Christianity. His toleration, therefore, was neither that of genuine humanity, nor that of religious indifferentism, but a hypocritical mask for a fanatical love of heathenism and a bitter hatred of Christianity.

This appears in his open partiality and injustice against the Christians. His liberal patronage of heathenism was in itself an injury to Christianity. Nothing gave him greater joy than an apostasy, and he held out the temptation of splendid reward; thus himself employing the impure means of proselyting, for which he reproached the Christians. Once he even advocated conversion by violent measures. While he called heathens to all the higher offices, and, in case of their palpable disobedience, inflicted very mild punishment, if any at all, the Christians came to be everywhere disregarded, and their complaints dismissed from the tribunal with a mocking reference to their Master’s precept, to give their enemy their cloak also with their coat, and turn the other cheek to his blows.75  They were removed from military and civil office, deprived of all their former privileges, oppressed with taxes, and compelled to restore without indemnity the temple property, with all their own improvements on it, and to contribute to the support of the public idolatry. Upon occasion of a controversy between the Arians and the orthodox at Edessa, Julian confiscated the church property and distributed it among his soldiers, under the sarcastic pretence of facilitating the Christians’ entrance into the kingdom of heaven, from which, according to the doctrine of their religion (comp. Matt. xix. 23, 24), riches might exclude them.

Equally unjust and tyrannical was the law, which placed all the state schools under the direction of heathens, and prohibited the Christians teaching the sciences and the arts.76  Julian would thus deny Christian youth the advantages of education, and compel them either to sink in ignorance and barbarism, or to imbibe with the study of the classics in the heathen schools the principles of idolatry. In his view the Hellenic writings, especially the works of the poets, were not only literary, but also religious documents to which the heathens had an exclusive claim, and he regarded Christianity irreconcilable with genuine human culture. The Galileans, says he in ridicule, should content themselves with expounding Matthew and Luke in their churches, instead of profaning the glorious Greek authors. For it is preposterous and ungrateful, that they should study the writings of the classics, and yet despise the gods, whom the authors revered; since the gods were in fact the authors and guides of the minds of a Homer, a Hesiod, a Demosthenes, a Thucydides, an Isocrates, and a Lysias, and these writers consecrated their works to Mercury or the muses.77  Hence he hated especially the learned church teachers, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzen, Apollinaris of Laodicea, who applied the classical culture to the refutation of heathenism and the defence of Christianity. To evade his interdict, the two Apollinaris produced with all haste Christian imitations of Homer, Pindar, Euripides, and Menander, which were considered by Sozomen equal to the originals, but soon passed into oblivion. Gregory also wrote the tragedy of "The Suffering Christ," and several hymns, which still exist. Thus these fathers bore witness to the indispensableness of classical literature for a higher Christian education, and the church has ever since maintained the same view.78

Julian further sought to promote his cause by literary assaults upon the Christian religion; himself writing, shortly before his death, and in the midst of his preparations for the Persian campaign, a bitter work against it, of which we shall speak more fully in a subsequent section.79


3. To the same hostile design against Christianity is to be referred the favor of Julian to its old hereditary enemy, Judaism.

The emperor, in an official document affected reverence for that ancient popular religion, and sympathy with its adherents, praised their firmness under misfortune, and condemned their oppressors. He exempted the Jews from burdensome taxation, and encouraged them even to return to the holy land and to rebuild the temple on Moriah in its original splendor. He appropriated considerable sums to this object from the public treasury, intrusted his accomplished minister Alypius with the supervision of the building, and promised, if he should return victorious from the Persian war, to honor with his own presence the solemnities of reconsecration and the restoration of the Mosaic sacrificial worship.80

His real purpose in this undertaking was certainly not to advance the Jewish religion; for in his work against the Christians he speaks with great contempt of the Old Testament, and ranks Moses and Solomon far below the pagan lawgivers and philosophers. His object in the rebuilding of the temple was rather, in the first place, to enhance the splendor of his reign, and thus gratify his personal vanity; and then most probably to put to shame the prophecy of Jesus respecting the destruction of the temple (which, however, was actually fulfilled three hundred years before once for all), to deprive the Christians of their most popular argument against the Jews, and to break the power of the new religion in Jerusalem.81

The Jews now poured from east and west into the holy city of their fathers, which from the time of Hadrian they had been forbidden to visit, and entered with fanatical zeal upon the great national religious work, in hope of the speedy irruption of the Messianic reign and the fulfilment of all the prophecies. Women, we are told, brought their costly ornaments, turned them into silver shovels and spades, and carried even the earth and stones of the holy spot in their silken aprons. But the united power of heathen emperor and Jewish nation was insufficient to restore a work which had been overthrown by the judgment of God. Repeated attempts at the building were utterly frustrated, as even a contemporary heathen historian of conceded credibility relates, by fiery eruptions from on subterranean vaults;82 and, perhaps, as Christian writers add, by a violent whirlwind, lightning, earthquake, and miraculous signs, especially a luminous cross, in the heavens,83 so that the workmen either perished in the flames, or fled from the devoted spot in terror and despair. Thus, instead of depriving the Christians of a support of their faith, Julian only furnished them a new argument in the ruins of this fruitless labor.

The providential frustration of this project is a symbol of the whole reign of Julian, which soon afterward sank into an early grave. As Caesar he had conquered the barbarian enemies of the Roman empire in the West; and now he proposed, as ruler of the world, to humble its enemies in the East, and by the conquest of Persia to win the renown of a second Alexander. He proudly rejected all proposals of peace; crossed the Tigris at the head of an army of sixty-five thousand men, after wintering in Antioch, and after solemn consultation of the oracle; took several fortified towns in Mesopotamia; exposed himself to every hardship and peril of war; restored at the same time, wherever he could, the worship of the heathen gods; but brought the army into a most critical position, and, in an unimportant nocturnal skirmish, received from a hostile arrow a mortal wound. He died soon after, on the 27th of June, 363, in the thirty-second year of his life; according to heathen testimony, in the proud repose and dignity of a Stoic philosopher, conversing of the glory of the soul (the immortality of which, however, he considered at best an uncertain opinion);84 but according to later and somewhat doubtful Christian accounts, with the hopeless exclamation: "Galilean, thou hast conquered!"85  The parting address to his friends, which Ammianus puts into his mouth, is altogether characteristic. It reminds one of the last hours of Socrates, without the natural simplicity of the original, and with a strong admixture of self-complacence and theatrical affectation. His body was taken, at his own direction, to Tarsus, the birthplace of the apostle Paul, whom he hated more than any other apostle, and a monument was erected to him there, with a simple inscription, which calls him a good ruler and a brave warrior, but says nothing of his religion.

So died, in the prime of life, a prince, who darkened his brilliant military, executive, and literary talents, and a rare energy, by fanatical zeal for a false religion and opposition to the true; perverted them to a useless and wicked end; and earned, instead of immortal honor, the shame of an unsuccessful Apostate. Had he lived longer, he would probably have plunged the empire into the sad distraction of a religious civil war. The Christians were generally expecting a bloody persecution in case of his successful return from the Persian war. We need, therefore, the less wonder that they abhorred his memory. At Antioch they celebrated his death by festal dancings in the churches and theatres.86  Even the celebrated divine and orator, Gregory Nazianzen, compared him to Pharaoh, Ahab, and Nebuchadnezzar.87  It has been reserved for the more impartial historiography of modern times to do justice to his nobler qualities, and to endeavor to excuse, or at least to account for his utterly false position toward Christianity, by his perverted education, the despotism of his predecessor, and the imperfections of the church in his day.

 With Julian himself fell also his artificial, galvanized heathenism, "like the baseless fabric of a vision, leaving no wreck behind," save the great doctrine, that it is impossible to swim against the stream of history or to stop the progress of Christianity. The heathen philosophers and soothsayers, who had basked in his favor, fell back into obscurity. In the dispersion of their dream they found no comfort from their superstition. Libanius charges the guilt upon his own gods, who suffered Constantius to reign twenty years, and Julian hardly twenty months. But the Christians could learn from it, what Gregory Nazianzen had said in the beginning of this reign, that the church had far more to fear from enemies within, than from without.


 § 5. From Jovian to Theodosius.  a.d. 363–392.


I. The heathen sources here, besides Ammianus Marcellinus (who unfortunately breaks off at the death of Valens), Zosimus and Eunapius (who are very partial), are: LibaniusJUpe;r tw'n iJerw'n, or Oratio pro templis (first complete ed. by L. de Sinner, in Novus Patrum Grace. saec. iv. delectus, Par. 1842). Symmachus: Epist. x. 61 (ed. Pareus, Frcf. 1642). On the Christian side: Ambrose: Epist. xvii. and xviii. ad Valentinian. II. Prudentius: Adv. Symmachum. Augustin: De civitate Dei, l. v. c. 24–26 (on the emperors from Jovinian to Theodosius, especially the latter, whom he greatly glorifies). Socr.: l. iii. c. 22 sqq. Sozom.: l. vi. c. 3 sqq. Theodor.: l. iv. c. 1 sqq. Cod. Theodos.: l. ix.–xvi.

II. De la Bleterie: Histoire de l’empereur Jovien. Amsterd. 1740, 2 vols. Gibbon: chap. xxv–xxviii. Schröckh: vii. p. 213 sqq. Stuffken: De Theodosii M. in rem christianam meritis. Lugd. Batav. 1828


From this time heathenism approached, with slow but steady step, its inevitable dissolution, until it found an inglorious grave amid the storms of the great migration and the ruins of the empire of the Caesars, and in its death proclaimed the victory of Christianity. Emperors, bishops, and monks committed indeed manifold injustice in destroying temples and confiscating property; but that injustice was nothing compared with the bloody persecution of Christianity for three hundred years. The heathenism of ancient Greece and Rome died of internal decay, which no human power could prevent.

After Julian, the succession of Christian emperors continued unbroken. On the day of his death, which was also the extinction of the Constantinian family, the general Jovian, a Christian (363–364), was chosen emperor by the army. He concluded with the Persians a disadvantageous but necessary peace, replaced the cross in the labarum, and restored to the church her privileges, but, beyond this, declared universal toleration in the spirit of Constantine. Under the circumstances, this was plainly the wisest policy. Like Constantine, also, he abstained from all interference with the internal affairs of the church, though for himself holding the Nicene faith and warmly favorable to Athanasius. He died in the thirty-third year of his age, after a brief reign of eight months. Augustin says, God took him away sooner than Julian, that no emperor might become a Christian for the sake of Constantine’s good fortune, but only for the sake of eternal life.

His successor, Valentinian I. (died 375), though generally inclined to despotic measures, declared likewise for the policy of religious freedom,88 and, though personally an adherent of the Nicene orthodoxy, kept aloof from the doctrinal controversies; while his brother and co-emperor, Valens, who reigned in the East till 378, favored the Arians and persecuted the Catholics. Both, however, prohibited bloody sacrifices89 and divination. Maximin, the representative of Valentinian at Rome, proceeded with savage cruelty against all who were found guilty of the crime of magic, especially the Roman aristocracy. Soothsayers were burnt alive, while their meaner accomplices were beaten to death by straps loaded with lead. In almost every case recorded the magical arts can be traced to pagan religious usages.

Under this reign heathenism was for the first time officially designated as paganismus, that is, peasant-religion; because it had almost entirely died out in the cities, and maintained only a decrepit and obscure existence in retired villages.90  What an inversion of the state of things in the second century, when Celsus contemptuously called Christianity a religion of mechanics and slaves!  Of course large exceptions must in both cases be made. Especially in Rome, many of the oldest and most respectable families for a long time still adhered to the heathen traditions, and the city appears to have preserved until the latter part of the fourth century a hundred and fifty-two temples and a hundred and eighty-three smaller chapels and altars of patron deities.91  But advocates of the old religion—a Themistius, a Libanius, and a Symmachus—limited themselves to the claim of toleration, and thus, in their oppressed condition, became, as formerly the Christians were, and as the persecuted sects in the Catholic church and the Protestant state churches since have been, advocates of religious freedom.

The same toleration continued under Gratian, son and successor of Valentinian (375–383). After a time, however; under the influence of Ambrose, bishop of Milan, this emperor went a step further. He laid aside the title and dignity of Pontifex Maximus, confiscated the temple property, abolished most of the privileges of the priests and vestal virgins, and withdrew, at least in part, the appropriation from the public treasury for their support.92  By this step heathenism became, like Christianity before Constantine and now in the American republic, dependent on the voluntary system, while, unlike Christianity, it had no spirit of self-sacrifice, no energy of self-preservation. The withdrawal of the public support cut its lifestring, and left it still to exist for a time by vis inertiae alone. Gratian also, in spite of the protest of the heathen party, removed in 382 the statue and the altar of Victoria, the goddess of victory, in the senate building at Rome, where once the senators used to take their oath, scatter incense, and offer sacrifice; though he was obliged still to tolerate there the elsewhere forbidden sacrifices and the public support of some heathen festivities. Inspired by Ambrose with great zeal for the Catholic faith, he refused freedom to heretics, and prohibited the public assemblies of the Eunomians, Photinians, and Manichaeans.

His brother, Valentinian II. (383–392), rejected the renewed petition of the Romans for the restoration of the altar of Victoria (384). The eloquent and truly venerable prefect Symmachus, who, as princeps senatus and first Pontifex in Rome, was now the spokesman of the heathen party, prayed the emperor in a dignified and elegant address, but in the tone of apologetic diffidence, to make a distinction between his private religion and the religio urbis, to respect the authority of antiquity and the rights of the venerable city, which had attained the dominion of the world under the worship of the gods. But Ambrose of Milan represented to the emperor, in the firm tone of episcopal dignity and conscious success, that the granting of the petition would be a sanctioning of heathenism and a renunciation of his Christian convictions; denied, that the greatness of Rome was due to idolatry, to which indeed her subjugated enemies were likewise addicted; and contrasted the power of Christianity, which had greatly increased under persecution and had produced whole hosts of consecrated virgins and ascetics, with the weakness of heathenism, which, with all its privileges, could hardly maintain the number of its seven vestals, and could show no works of benevolence and mercy for the oppressed. The same petition was renewed in 389 to Theodosius, but again through the influence of Ambrose rejected. The last national sanctuary of the Romans had hopelessly fallen. The triumph, which the heathen party gained under the usurper Eugenius (392–394), lasted but a couple of years; and after his defeat by Theodosius, six hundred of the most distinguished patrician families, the Annii, Probi, Anicii, Olybii, Paulini, Bassi, Gracchi, &c., are said by Prudentius to have gone over at once to the Christian religion.


 § 6. Theodosius the Great and his Successors.  a.d. 392–550.


J. R. Stuffken: Diss. de Theod. M. in rem. Christ. meritis. Leyden, 1828. M. Fléchier: Histoire de Theodose le Grand. Par. 1860.


The final suppression of heathenism is usually, though not quite justly, ascribed to the emperor Theodosius I., who, on this account, as well as for his victories over the Goths, his wise legislation, and other services to the empire, bears the distinction of the Great, and deserves, for his personal virtues, to be counted among the best emperors of Rome.93  A native of Spain, son of a very worthy general of the same name, he was called by Gratian to be co-emperor in the East in a time of great danger from the threatening barbarians (379), and after the death of Valentinian, he rose to the head of the empire (392–395). He labored for the unity, of the state and the supremacy of the Catholic religion. He was a decided adherent of the Nicene orthodoxy, procured it the victory at the second ecumenical council (381), gave it all the privileges of the state religion, and issued a series of rigid laws against all heretics and schismatics. In his treatment of heathenism, for a time he only enforced the existing prohibition of sacrifice for purposes of magic and divination (385), but gradually extended it to the whole sacrificial worship. In the year 391 he prohibited, under heavy fine, the visiting of a heathen temple for a religious purpose; in the following year, even the private performance of libations and other pagan rites. The practice of idolatry was therefore henceforth a political offence, as Constantius had already, though prematurely, declared it to be, and was subjected to the severest penalties.94

Yet Theodosius by no means pressed the execution of these laws in places where the heathen party retained considerable strength; he did not exclude heathens from public office, and allowed them at least full liberty of thought and speech. His countryman, the Christian poet Prudentius, states with approbation, that in the distribution of the secular offices, he looked not at religion, but at merit and talent, and raised the heathen Symmachus to the dignity of consul.95  The emperor likewise appointed the heathen rhetorician, Themistius, prefect of Constantinople, and even intrusted him with the education of his son Arcadius. He acknowledged personal friendship toward Libanius, who addressed to him his celebrated plea for the temples in 384 or 390; though it is doubtful whether he actually delivered it in the imperial presence. In short this emperor stood in such favor with the heathens, that after his death he was enrolled by the Senate, according to ancient custom, among the gods.96

Theodosius issued no law for the destruction of temples. He only continued Gratian’s policy of confiscating the temple property and withdrawing entirely the public contribution to the support of idolatry. But in many places, especially in the East, the fanaticism of the monks and the Christian populace broke out in a rage for destruction, which Libanius bitterly laments. He calls these iconoclastic monks "men in black clothes, as voracious as elephants, and insatiably thirsty, but concealing their sensuality under an artificial paleness."  The belief of the Christians, that the heathen gods were living beings, demons,97 and dwelt in the temples, was the leading influence here, and overshadowed all artistic and archaeological considerations. In Alexandria, a chief seat of the Neo-Platonic mysticism, there arose, at the instigation of the violent and unspiritual bishop Theophilus,98 a bloody conflict between heathens and Christians, in which the colossal statue and the magnificent temple of Serapis, next to the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome the proudest monument of heathen architecture,99 was destroyed, without verifying the current expectation that upon its destruction the heavens would fall (391). The power of superstition once broken by this decisive blow, the other temples in Egypt soon met a similar fate; though the eloquent ruins of the works of the Pharaohs, the Ptolemies, and the Roman emperors in the valley of the Nile still stand and cast their twilight into the mysterious darkness of antiquity. Marcellus, bishop of Apamea in Syria, accompanied by an armed band of soldiers and gladiators, proceeded with the same zeal against the monuments and vital centres of heathen worship in his diocese, but was burnt alive for it by the enraged heathens, who went unpunished for the murder. In Gaul, St. Martin of Tours, between the years 375 and 400, destroyed a multitude of temples and images, and built churches and cloisters in their stead.

But we also hear important protests from the church against this pious vandalism. Says Chrysostom at Antioch in the beginning of this reign, in his beautiful tract on the martyr Babylas: "Christians are not to destroy error by force and violence, but should work the salvation of men by persuasion, instruction, and love."  In the same spirit says Augustin, though not quite consistently: "Let us first obliterate the idols in the hearts of the heathen, and once they become Christians they will either themselves invite us to the execution of so good a work [the destruction of the idols], or anticipate us in it. Now we must pray for them, and not exasperate them."  Yet he commended the severe laws of the emperors against idolatry.

In the west the work of destruction was not systematically carried on, and the many ruined temples of Greece and Italy at this day prove that even then reason and taste sometimes prevailed over the rude caprice of fanaticism, and that the maxim, It is easier to tear down than to build up, has its exceptions.


With the death of Theodosius the empire again fell into two parts, which were never afterward reunited. The weak sons and successors of this prince, Arcadius in the east (395–408) and Honorius in the west (395–423), and likewise Theodosius II., or the younger (son of Arcadius, 408–450), and Valentinian III. (423–455), repeated and in some cases added to the laws of the previous reign against the heathen. In the year 408, Honorius even issued an edict excluding heathens from civil and military office;100 and in 423 appeared another edict, which questioned the existence of heathens.101  But in the first place, such laws, in the then critical condition of the empire amidst the confusion of the great migration, especially in the West, could be but imperfectly enforced; and in the next place, the frequent repetition of them itself proves that heathenism still had its votaries. This fact is witnessed also by various heathen writers. Zosimus wrote his "New History," down to the year 410, under the reign and at the court of the younger Theodosius (appearing in the high office of comes and advocatus fisci, as he styles himself), in bitter prejudice against the Christian emperors. In many places the Christians, in their work of demolishing the idols, were murdered by the infuriated pagans.

Meantime, however, there was cruelty also on the Christian side. One of the last instances of it was the terrible tragedy of Hypatia. This lady, a teacher of the Neo-Platonic philosophy in Alexandria, distinguished for her beauty, her intelligence, her learning, and her virtue, and esteemed both by Christians and by heathens, was seized in the open street by the Christian populace and fanatical monks, perhaps not without the connivance of the violent bishop Cyril, thrust out from her carriage, dragged to the cathedral, completely stripped, barbarously murdered with shells before the altar, and then torn to pieces and burnt, a.d. 415.102  Socrates, who relates this, adds: "It brought great censure both on Cyril and on the Alexandrian church."


 § 7. The Downfall of Heathenism.


The final dissolution of heathenism in the eastern empire may be dated from the middle of the fifth century. In the year 435 Theodosius II. commanded the temples to be destroyed or turned into churches. There still appear some heathens in civil office and at court so late as the beginning of the reign of Justinian I. (527–567). But this despotic emperor prohibited heathenism as a form of worship in the empire on pain of death, and in 529 abolished the last intellectual seminary of it, the philosophical school of Athens, which had stood nine hundred years. At that time just seven philosophers were teaching in that school,103 the shades of the ancient seven sages of Greece,—a striking play of history, like the name of the last west-Roman emperor, Romulus Augustus, or, in contemptuous diminutive, Augustulus, combining the names of the founder of the city and the founder of the empire.

In the West, heathenism maintained itself until near the middle of the sixth century, and even later, partly as a private religious conviction among many cultivated and aristocratic families in Rome, partly even in the full form of worship in the remote provinces and on the mountains of Sicily, Sardinia,104 and Corsica, and partly in heathen customs and popular usages like the gladiatorial shows still extant in Rome in 404, and the wanton Lupercalia, a sort of heathen carnival, the feast of Lupercus, the god of herds, still celebrated with all its excesses in February, 495. But, in general, it may be said that the Graeco-Roman heathenism, as a system of worship, was buried under the ruins of the western empire, which sunk under the storms of the great migration. It is remarkable that the northern barbarians labored with the same zeal in the destruction of idolatry as in the destruction of the empire, and really promoted the victory of the Christian religion. The Gothic king Alaric, on entering Rome, expressly ordered that the churches of the apostles Peter and Paul should be spared, as inviolable sanctuaries; and he showed a humanity, which Augustin justly attributes to the influence of Christianity (even perverted Arian Christianity) on these barbarous people. The Christian name, he says, which the heathen blaspheme, has effected not the destruction, but the salvation of the city.105  Odoacer, who put an end to the western Roman empire in 476, was incited to his expedition into Italy by St. Severin, and, though himself an Arian, showed great regard to the catholic bishops. The same is true of his conqueror and successor, Theodoric the Ostrogoth, who was recognized by the east-Roman emperor Anastasius as king of Italy (a.d. 500), and was likewise an Arian. Thus between the barbarians and the Romans, as between the Romans and the Greeks and in a measure also the Jews, the conquered gave laws to the conquerors. Christianity triumphed over both.

This is the end of Graeco-Roman heathenism, with its wisdom, and beauty. It fell a victim to a slow but steady process of incurable consumption. Its downfall is a sublime tragedy which, with all our abhorrence of idolatry, we cannot witness without a certain sadness. At the first appearance of Christianity it comprised all the wisdom, literature, art, and political power of the civilized world, and led all into the field against the weaponless religion of the crucified Nazarene. After a conflict of four or five centuries it lay prostrate in the dust without hope of resurrection. With the outward protection of the state, it lost all power, and had not even the courage of martyrdom; while the Christian church showed countless hosts of confessors and blood-witnesses, and Judaism lives to-day in spite of all persecution. The expectation, that Christianity would fall about the year 398, after an existence of three hundred and sixty-five years,106 turned out in the fulfilment to relate to heathenism itself. The last glimmer of life in the old religion was its pitiable prayer for toleration and its lamentation over the ruin of the empire. Its best elements took refuge in the church and became converted, or at least took Christian names. Now the gods were dethroned, oracles and prodigies ceased, sibylline books were burned, temples were destroyed, or transformed into churches, or still stand as memorials of the victory of Christianity.107

But although ancient Greece and Rome have fallen forever, the spirit of Graeco-Roman paganism is not extinct. It still lives in the natural heart of man, which at this day as much as ever needs regeneration by the spirit of God. It lives also in many idolatrous and superstitious usages of the Greek and Roman churches, against which the pure spirit of Christianity has instinctively protested from the beginning, and will protest, till all remains of gross and refined idolatry shall be outwardly as well as inwardly overcome, and baptized and sanctified not only with water, but also with the spirit and fire of the gospel.

Finally the better genius of ancient Greece and Rome still lives in the immortal productions of their poets, philosophers, historians, and orators,—yet no longer an enemy, but a friend and servant of Christ. What is truly great, and noble, and beautiful can never perish. The classic literature had prepared the way for the gospel, in the sphere of natural culture, and was to be turned thenceforth into a weapon for its defence. It passed, like the Old Testament, as a rightful inheritance, into the possession of the Christian church, which saved those precious works of genius through the ravages of the migration of nations and the darkness of the middle ages, and used them as material in the rearing of the temple of modern civilization. The word of the great apostle of the Gentiles was here fulfilled: "All things are yours."  The ancient classics, delivered from the demoniacal possession of idolatry, have come into the service of the only true and living God, once "unknown" to them, but now everywhere revealed, and are thus enabled to fulfil their true mission as the preparatory tutors of youth for Christian learning and culture. This is the noblest, the most worthy, and most complete victory of Christianity, transforming the enemy into friend and ally.



* Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. This material has been carefully compared, corrected¸ and emended (according to the 1910 edition of Charles Scribner's Sons) by The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998.

1  Comp. vol. i. § 57. Galerius died soon after of a disgusting and terrible disease (morbus pedicularis), described with great minuteness by Eusebius, H. E. viii. 16, and Lactantius, De mort. persec. c. 33."His body," says Gibbon, ch. xiv. "swelled by an intemperate course of life to an unwieldy corpulence, was covered with ulcers and devoured by innumerable swarms of those insects which have given their name to a most loathsome disease." Diocletian had withdrawn from the throne in 305, and in 313 put an end to his embittered life by suicide. In his retirement he found more pleasure in raising cabbage than he had found in ruling the empire; a confession we may readily believe. (President Lincoln of the United States, during the dark days of the civil war in Dec. 1862, declared that he would gladly exchange his position with any common soldier in the tented field.) Maximin, who kept up the persecution in the East, even after the toleration edict, as long as he could, died likewise a violent death by poison, in 313. In this tragical end of their last three imperial persecutors the Christians saw a palpable judgment of God.

2  His full name in Latin is Caius Flavius Valerius Aurelius Claudius Constantinus Magnus.

3  jEpivskopo" tw'n ejkto" [pragmavtwn], viz.: th'" ejkklhsiva", in distinction from the proper bishops, the ejpivskopoi tw'n ei[sw th'" ejkklhsiva". Vid. Eus.: Vit Const. iv. 24. Comp. § 24.

4  A similar view is substantially expressed by the great historian Niebuhr, Vorträge über Röm. Geschichte, 1848. iii. 302. Mosheim, in his work on the First Three Centuries, p. 965 sqq. (Murdock’s Transl. ii. 460 sqq.) labors to prove at length that Constantine was no hypocrite, but sincerely believed, during the greater part of his life, that the Christian religion was the only true religion. Burckhardt, the most recent biographer of Constantine, represents him as a great politician of decided genius, but destitute of moral principle and religious interest. So also Dr. Baur.

5  The haruspices, or interpreters of sacrifices, who foretold future events from the entrails of victims.

6  According to Eusebius (Vit. Const. l. iii. c. 48) he dedicated Constantinople to "the God of the martyrs," but, according to Zosimus (Hist. ii. c. 31), to two female deities, probably Mary and Fortuna. Subsequently the city stood under the special protection of the Virgin Mary.

7  His successors also did the same, down to Gratian, 375, who renounced the title, then become quite empty.

8  Euseb. Laud. Const. c. 5.

9  All Christian accounts speak of his continence, but Julian insinuates the contrary, and charges him with the old Roman vice of voracious gluttony (Caes. 329, 335).

10  Eusebius justifies this procedure towards an enemy of the Christians by the laws of war. But what becomes of the breach of a solemn pledge? The murder of Crispus and Fausta he passes over in prudent silence, in violation of the highest duty of the historian to relate the truth and the whole truth.

11  Zosimus, certainly in heathen prejudice and slanderous extravagance, ascribes to Constantine under the instigation of his mother Helena, who was furious at the loss of her favorite grandson, the death of two women, the innocent Fausta and an adulteress, the supposed mother of his three successors; Philostorgius, on the contrary, declares Fausta guilty (H. E. ii. 4; only fragmentary). Then again, older witnesses indirectly contradict this whole view; two orations, namely, of the next following reign, which imply, that Fausta survived the death of her son, the younger Constantine, who outlived his father by three years. Comp. Julian. Orat. i., and Monod. in Const. Jun. c. 4, ad Calcem Eutrop., cited by Gibbon, ch. xviii., notes 25 and 26. Evagrius denies both the murder of Crispus and of Fausta, though only on account of the silence of Eusebius, whose extreme partiality for his imperial friend seriously impairs the value of his narrative. Gibbon and still more decidedly Niebuhr (Vorträge über Röm. Geschichte, iii. 302) are inclined to acquit Constantine of all guilt in the death of Fausta. The latest biographer, Burckhardt (l.c. p. 375) charges him with it rather hastily, without even mentioning the critical difficulties in the way. So also Stanley (l.c. p. 300).

12  The heathen historians extol the earlier part of his reign, and depreciate the later. Thus Eutropius, x. 6: "In primo imperii tempore optimis principibus, ultimo mediis comparandus." With this judgment Gibbon agrees (ch. xviii.), presenting in Constantine an inverted Augustus: "In the life of Augustus we behold the tyrant of the republic, converted, almost by imperceptible degrees, into the father of his country and of human kind. In that of Constantine, we may contemplate a hero, who had so long inspired his subjects with love, and his enemies with terror, degenerating into a cruel and dissolute monarch, corrupted by his fortune, or raised by conquest above the necessity of dissimulation." But this theory of progressive degeneracy, adopted also by F. C. Schlosser in his Weltgeschichte, by Stanley, l.c. p. 297, and many others, is as untenable as the opposite view of a progressive improvement, held by Eusebius, Mosheim, and other ecclesiastical historians. For, on the one hand, the earlier life of Constantine has such features of cruelty as the surrender of the conquered barbarian kings to the wild beasts in the ampitheatre at Treves in 310 or 311, for which he was lauded by a heathen orator; the ungenerous conduct toward Herculius, his father-in-law; the murder of the infant son of Maxentius; and the triumphal exhibition of the head of Maxentius on his entrance into Rome in 312. On the other hand his most humane laws, such as the abolition of the gladiatorial shows and of licentious and cruel rites, date from his later reign.

13  According to Baronius (Ann. 306, n. 16) and others he was born in Britain, because an ancient panegyric of 307 says that Constantine ennobled Britain by his birth (tu Britannias nobiles oriendo fecisti); but this may be understood of his royal as well as of his natural birth, since he was there proclaimed Caesar by the soldiers. The other opinion rests also on ancient testimonies, and is held by Pagi, Tillemont, and most of the recent historians.

14  Ambrose (De obitu Theodos.) calls her stabulariam, when Constantius made her acquaintance.

15  This is the more probable view, and rests on good authority. Zosimus and even the Paschal Chronicle call Helena the concubine of Constantius, and Constantine illegitimate. But in this case it would be difficult to understand that he was so well treated at the court of Diocletian and elected Caesar without opposition, since Constantius had three sons and three daughters by a legal wife, Theodora. It is possible, however, that Helena was first a concubine and afterwards legally married. Constantine, when emperor, took good care of her position and bestowed upon her the title of Augusta and empress with appropriate honors.

16  Even Zosimus gives the most unfavorable account of him.

17  "It was," says Milman (Hist. of Christianity, p. 288, N. York ed.), "the first advance to the military Christianity of the Middle Ages; a modification of the pure religion of the Gospel, if directly opposed to its genuine principles, still apparently indispensable to the social progress of man; through which the Roman empire and the barbarous nations, which were blended together in the vast European and Christian system, must necessarily have passed before they could arrive at a higher civilization and a purer Christianity."

18  De mortibus persecutorum, c. 44 (ed. Lips. II. 278 sq.): "Commonitus est in quiete Constantinus, ut coeleste signum Dei notaret in scutis, atque ita proelium committeret. Fecit ut jussus est, et transverse X litera, summo capite circumflexo Christum in scutis notat [i.e., he ordered the name of Christ or the two first letters X and P to be put on the shields of his soldiers]. Quo signo armatus exercitus capit ferrum."—This work is indeed by Burckhardt and others denied to Lactantius, but was at all events composed soon after the event, about 314 or 315, while Constantine was as yet on good terms with Licinius, to whom the author, c. 46, ascribes a similar vision of an angel, who is said to have taught him a form of prayer on his expedition against the heathen tyrant Maximin.

19  In his Vita Constant. i. 27-30, composed about 338, a work more panegyrical than historical, and abounding in vague declamation and circumlocution. But in his Church History, written before 326, though he has good occasion (l. ix. c. 8, 9), Eusebius says nothing of the occurrence, whether through oversight or ignorance, or of purpose, it is hard to decide. In any case the silence casts suspicion on the details of his subsequent story, and has been urged against it not only by Gibbon, but also by Lardner and others.

20  This is probably a mistake or an exaggeration. For if a whole army consisting of many thousand soldiers of every nation had seen the vision of the cross, Eusebius might have cited a number of living witnesses, and Constantine might have dispensed with a solemn oath. But on the other hand the two heathen witnesses (see below) extend the vision likewise to the soldiers.

21  touvtw/ [tw'/ shmeivw/]nivka_ Hac, or Hoc [sc. signo] vince, or vinces. Eusebius leaves the impression that the inscription was in Greek. But Nicephorus and Zonaras say that it was in Latin.

22  Hist. Eccl. ix, 9. Comp. the similar account of Sozomenus, H. E. i. 3.

23  Nazar. Paneg. in Const. c. 14: "In ore denique est omnium Galliarum [this would seem to indicate a pretty general rumor of some supernatural assistance], exercitus visos, qui se divinitus missos prae se ferebant," etc. Comp. Baronius, Annal. ad ann. 312, n. 11. This historian adduces also (n. 14) another and still older pagan testimony from an anonymous panegyrical orator, who, in 313, speaks of a certain undefined omen which filled the soldiers of Constantine with misgivings and fears, while it emboldened him to the combat. Baronius and J. H. Newman (in his "Essay on Miracles") plausibly suppose this omen to have been the cross.

24  This is the view of the older historians, Protestant as well as Catholic. Among more modern writers on the subject it has hardly any advocates of note, except Döllinger (R.C.), J. H.Newman (in his "Essay on Miracles," published in 1842, before his transition to Romanism, and prefixed to the first volume of his translation of Fleury), and Guericke (Lutheran). Comp. also De Broglie, i. 219 and 442.

25  So more or less distinctly Hoornebeck (of Leyden), Thomasius, Arnold, Lardner, Gibbon, and Waddington. The last writer (Hist. of the Church, vol. i. 171) disposes of it too summarily by the remark that "this flattering fable may very safely be consigned to contempt and oblivion." Burckhardt, the most recent biographer of Constantine, is of the same opinion. He considers the story as a joint fabrication of Eusebius and the emperor, and of no historical value whatever (Die Zeit Constantins des Gr. 1853, pp. 394 and 395). Lardner saddles the lie exclusively upon the emperor (although he admits him otherwise to have been a sincere Christian), and tries to prove that Eusebius himself hardly believed it.

26  This is substantially the theory of J. A. Fabricius (in a special dissertation), Schröckh (vol. v. 83), Manso, Heinichen (in the first Excursus to his ed. of Euseb), Gieseler, Neander, Milman, Robertson, and Stanley. Gieseler (vol. i. § 56, note 29) mentions similar cross-like clouds which appeared in Germany, Dec. 1517 and 1552, and were mistaken by contemporary Lutherans for supernatural signs. Stanley (Lectures on the Eastern Church, p. 288) refers to the natural phenomenon known by the name of "parhelion," which in an afternoon sky not unfrequently assumes almost the form of the cross. He also brings in, as a new illustration, the Aurora Borealis which appeared in November, 1848, and was variously interpreted, in France as forming the letters L. N., in view of the approaching election of Louis Napoleon, in Rome as the blood of the murdered Rossi crying for vengeance from heaven against his assassins. Mosheim, after a lengthy discussion of the subject in his large work on the ante-Nicene age, comes to no definite conclusion, but favors the hypothesis of a mere dream or a psychological illusion. Neander and Robertson connect with the supposition of a natural phenomenon in the skies a dream of Constantine which reflected the optical vision of the day. Keim, the latest writer on the subject, l.c. p. 89, admits the dream, but denies the cross in the clouds. So Mosheim.

27  Dr. Murdock (notes to his translation of Mosheim) raises the additional objection, which has some force from his Puritan standpoint: "If the miracle of the luminous cross was a reality, has not God himself sanctioned the use of the cross as the appointed symbol of our religion? so that there is no superstition in the use of it, but the Catholics are correct and the Protestants in an error on this subject?"

28  Theodoret says that Constantine was called not of men or by men (oujk ajp j ajnqrwvpou, oujde; di j ajnqrwvpou, Gal. i. 1), but from heaven, as the divine apostle Paul was (oujranovqen kata; to;n qei'on ajpovstolon). Hist. Eccl. l. i. c. 2.

29  So Sozomenus, H. E. lib. i. cap. 3, expressly represents it: o{nar ei\de to; tou' staurou' shmei'on selagivzonetc. Afterwards he gives, it is true, the fuller report of Eusebius in his own words. Comp. Rufin. ix. 9; Euseb. Vit. Const. i. 29; Lact. De mort. persec. 44, and the allusions of the heathen panegyrists.

30  Licinius before the battle with Maximin had a vision of an angel who taught him a prayer for victory (Lactant. De mort. persec. c. 46). Julian the Apostate was even more superstitious in this respect than his Christian uncle, and fully addicted to the whole train of omens, presages, prodigies, spectres, dreams, visions, auguries, and oracles (Comp. below, § 4). On his expedition against the Persians he was supposed by Libanius to have been surrounded by a whole army of gods, which, however, in the view of Gregory of Nazianzen, was a host of demons. See Ullmann, Gregory of Naz., p. 100.

31  According to the account of his friend, Dr. Philip Doddridge, who learned the facts from Gardiner, as Eusebius from Constantine. When engaged in serious meditation on a Sabbath night in July, 1719, Gardiner "suddenly thought he saw an unusual blaze of light fall on the book while he was reading, which he at first imagined might have happened by some accident in the candle. But lifting up his eyes, he apprehended, to his extreme amazement, that there was before him, as it were suspended in the air, a visible representation of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, surrounded with a glory; and was impressed as if a voice, or something equivalent to a voice, had come to him, to this effect: ’O sinner, did I suffer this for thee, and are these the returns?’ " After this event he changed from a dissolute worldling to an earnest and godly man. But the whole apparition was probably, after all, merely an inward one. For the report adds as to the voice: "Whether this were an audible voice, or only a strong impression on his mind, equally striking, he did not seem confident, though he judged it to be the former. He thought he was awake. But everybody knows how easy it is towards midnight to fall into a doze over a dull or even a good book. It is very probable then that this apparition resolves itself into a significant dream which marked an epoch in his life. No reflecting person will on that account doubt the seriousness of Gardiner’s conversion, which was amply proved by his whole subsequent life, even far more than Constantine’s was.

32  Numbers xii. 6: "I the Lord will make myself known in a vision, and will speak in a dream." Job xxxiii. 15, 16: "In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed, then he openeth the ears of men and sealeth their instruction." For actual facts see Gen. xxxi. 10, 24; xxxvii. 5; 1 Kings iii. 5; Dan. ii. 4, 36; vii. 1; Matt. i. 20; ii. 12, 13, 19, 22; Acts x. 17; xxii. 17, 18.

33  Histor. ii. 16.

34  Lavbwron, also lavbouron; derived not from labor, nor from lavfuron, i.e. praeda, nor from labei'n, but probably from a barbarian root, otherwise unknown, and introduced into the Roman terminology, long before Constantine, by the Celtic or Germanic recruits. Comp. Du Cange, Glossar., and Suicer, Thesaur. s. h. v. The labarum, as described by Eusebius, who saw it himself (Vita Const. i. 30), consisted of a long spear overlaid with gold, and a crosspiece of wood, from which hung a square flag of purple cloth embroidered and covered with precious stones. On the of top of the shaft was a crown composed of gold and precious stones, and containing the monogram of Christ (see next note), and just under this crown was a likeness the emperor and his sons in gold. The emperor told Eusebius (I. ii. c. 7) some incredible things about this labarum, e.g. that none of its bearers was ever hurt by the darts of the enemy.

35  X and P, the first two letters of the name of Christ, so written upon one another as to make the form of the cross: P with x (Rho with Chi on the lower part) or P with(Rho with a dash on the lower part to make a cross), or aPw (i.e. Christos—Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end with a chi on the stem to make the cross), and similar forms, of which Münter (Sinnbilder der alten Christen, p. 36 sqq.) has collected from ancient coins, vessels, and tombstones more than twenty. The monogram, as well as the sign of the cross, was in use among the Christians Iong before Constantine, probably as early as the Antonines and Hadrian. Yea, the standards and trophies of victory generally had the appearance of a cross, as Minucius Felix, Tertullian, Justin, and other apologists of the second century told the heathens. According to Killen (Ancient Church, p. 317, note), who quotes Aringhus, Roma subterranea, ii. p. 567, as his authority, the famous monogram (of course in a different sense) is found even before Christ on coins of the Ptolemies. The only thing new, therefore, was the union of this symbol, in its Christian sense and application, with the Roman military standard.

36  Eus., H. E. ix. 9: Touvtw/ tw'/ swthriwvdei (salutari, not singulari, as Rufinus has it)shmeivw/, tw' ajlhqinw'/ ejlevgcw/ tw'" ajndriva" , thvn povlin uJmw'n ajpo; zugou' tou' turavnnou diaswqei'san ejleuqevrwsa, k. t. l. Gibbon, however thinks it more probable, that at least the labarum and the inscription date only from the second or third visit of Constantine to Rome.

37  "Instinctu Divinitatis et mentis magnitudine." Divinitas may be taken as an ambiguous word like Providence, "which veils Constantine’s passage from Paganism to Christianity."

38  Cicero says, pro Raberio, c. 5: "Nomen ipsum crucis absit non modo a corpore civium Romanorum, sed etiam a cogitatione, oculis, auribus." With other ancient heathens, however, the Egyptians, the Buddhists, and even the aborigines of Mexico, the cross seems to have been in use as a religious symbol. Socrates relates (H. E. v. 17) that at the destruction of the temple of Serapis, among the hieroglyphic inscriptions forms of crosses were found, which pagans and Christians alike referred to their respective religions. Some of the heathen converts conversant with hieroglyphic characters interpreted the form of the cross to mean the Life to come. According to Prescott (Conquest of Mexico, iii. 338-340) the Spaniards found the cross among the objects of worship in the idol temples of Anahnac.

39  Even church teachers long before Constantine, Justin, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, in downright opposition to this pagan antipathy, had found the sign of the cross everywhere on the face of nature and of human life; in the military banners and trophies of victory, in the ship with swelling sails and extended oars, in the plow in the flying bird, in man swimming or praying, in the features of the face and the form of the body with outstretched arms. Hence the daily use of the of the cross by the early Christians. Comp. vol. ii. § 77 (p. 269 sqq.).

40  This in the second edict of toleration, not the third, as was formerly supposed. An edict of 312 does not exist and rests on a mistake. See vol. ii. § 25, p. 72.

41  "Haec ordinanda esse credidimus ... ut daremus et Christianis et omnibus liberam potestatem sequendi religionem, quamquisque voluisset ... ut nulli omnino facultatem obnegandam putaremus, qui vel observationi Christianorum, vel ei religioni mentem suam dederet, quam ipse sibi aptissimam esse sentiret ... ut, amotis omnibus ominino conditionibus [by which are meant, no doubt, the restrictions of toleration in the edict of 311], nunc libere ac simpliciter unusquisque eorum qui eandem observandae religioni Christianorum gerunt voluntatem, citra ullam inquietudinem et molestiam sui id ipsum observare contendant." Lact., De mort, persec. c. 48 (ii. p. 282, ed. Fritzsche). Eusebius gives the edict in a stiff andobscure Greek translation, with some variations, H. E. x. 5. Comp. Niceph. H. E. vii. 41. Also a special essay on the edicts of toleration, by Theod. Keim in the Tübinger Theolog. Jahrbücher for 1852, and Mason, persecution of Diocletian, pp. 299 and 326.

42  Compare the remarkable passages of Tertullian, cited in vol. ii. § 13, p. 35. Lactantius likewise, in the beginning of the fourth century, says, Instit. div. l. v. c. 19 (i. p. 267 sq. ed. Lips.): "Non est opus vi et injuria, quia religio cogi non potest; verbis potius, quam verberibus res agenda est, ut sit voluntas .... Defendenda religio est, non occidendo, sed moriendo; non saevitia, sed patientia; non scelere, sed fide .... Nam si sanguine, si tormentis, si malo religionem defendere velis, jam non defendetur illa, sed polluetur atque violabitur. Nihil est enim tam voluntarium, quam religio, in qua si animus sacrificantis aversus est, jam sublata, jam nulla est." Comp. c. 20.

43  For the Acta St. Silvestri and the H. Eccl. of Nicephorus Callist. vii. 34 (in Baronius, ad ann. 324) are of course not reliable authority on this point.

44  He commanded the Christians, for example, to hold their large assemblies in open fields instead of in the churches, because the fresh air was more wholesome for them than the close atmosphere in a building!

45  "Jubente Deo," says he in one of his laws. Cod. Theodos. l. xiii. tit. v. leg. 7. Later writers ascribe the founding of Constantinople to a nocturnal vision of the emperor, and an injunction of the Virgin Mary, who was revered as patroness, one might almost suppose as goddess, of the city.

46  The Turks still call it emphatically the city. For Stambul is a corruption of Istambul, which means: eij" th;n povlin.

47  The most offensive of these is the colossal bronze statue of Apollo, pretended to be the work of Phidias, which Constantine set up in the middle of the Forum on a pillar of porphyry, a hundred and twenty feet high, and which, at least according to later interpretations, served to represent the emperor himself with the attributes of Christ and the god of the sun! So says the author of Antiquit. Constant. in Banduri, and J. v. Hammer: Constantinopolis u. der Bosphorus, i. 162 (cited in Milman’s notes to Gibbon). Nothing now remains of the pillar but a mutilated piece.

48  Euseb. V. C. iv. 29-33. Burckhardt, l.c. p. 400, gives little credit to this whole account of Eusebius, and thus intimates the charge of deliberate falsehood.

49  Euseb. Vit. Const. iv. 29 ad finem.

50  Const. Oratio ad Sanctorum coetum, was preserved in Greek translation by Eusebius as an appendix to his biography of the emperor.

51  The pretended baptism of Constantine by the Roman bishop Sylvester in 324, and his bestowment of lands on the pope in connection with it, is a mediaeval fiction, still unblushingly defended indeed by Baronius (ad ann. 324, No. 43-49), but long since given up by other Roman Catholic historians, such as Noris, Tillemont, and Valesius. It is sufficiently refuted by the contemporary testimony of Eusebius alone (Vit. Const. iv. 61, 62), who places the baptism of Constantine at the end of his life, and minutely describes it; and Socrates, Sozomen, Ambrose, and Jerome coincide with him.

52  Hence Jerome says, Constantine was baptized into Arianism. And Dr. Newman, the ex-Tractarian, remarks, that in conferring his benefaction on the church he burdened it with the bequest of an heresy, which outlived his age by many centuries, and still exists in its effects in the divisions of the East (The Arians of the 4th Century, 1854, p. 138). But Eusebius (not the church historian) was probably the nearest bishop, and acted here not as a party leader. Constantine, too, in spite of the influence which the Arians had over him in his later years, considered himself constantly a true adherent of the Nicene faith, and he is reported by Theodoret (H. E. I. 32) to have ordered the recall of Athanasius from exile on his deathbed, in spite of the opposition of the Arian Eusebius. He was in these matters frequently misled by misrepresentations, and cared more for peace than for truth. The deeper significance of the dogmatic controversy was entirely beyond his sphere. Gibbon is right in this matter: "The credulous monarch, unskilled in the stratagems of theological warfare, might be deceived by the modest and specious professions of the heretics, whose sentiments he never perfectly understood; and while he protected Arius, and persecuted Athanasius, he still considered the council of Nice as the bulwark of the Christian faith, and the peculiar glory of his own reign." Ch. xxi.

53  Stanley, l.c. p. 320.

54  This church became the burial place of the Byzantine emperors, till in the fourth crusade the coffins were rifled and the bodies cast out. Mahomet II. destroyed the church and built in its place the magnificent mosque which bears his name. See von Hammer, i. 390.

55  Comp the Acta Sact. ad 21 Maii, p. 13 sq. Niebuhr justly remarks: "When certain oriental writers call Constantine " equal to the Apostles,’ they do not know what they are saying; and to speak of him as a ’saint’ is a profanation of the word."

56  So Julius Firmicus Maternus, author of a tract De errore profanarum religionum, written about 348 and dedicated to the emperors Constantius and Constans.

57  Song of Sol. v. 2.

58  So Gregory of Naz. regarded it, and Tillemont justly remarks, Mem. vii. 322: "Le grand nombre de pechez dont beaucoup de Chrétiens estoient coupables, fut cause que Dieu donna a ce prince la puissance imperials pour les punir; et sa malice fut comme une verge entre les mains de Dieu pour les corriger."

59  Jul. ad Athen. p. 271; Socr. iii. 1; Sozom. v. 2; Theod. iii. 2.

60  Comp. vol. i. § 61.

61  Libanius says of him, Epit. p. 582: ... mantevwn te toi'" arivstoi" crwvmeno", aujtov" te w[n oujdamw'n ejn th'/ tevcnh/ deuvtero". Ammanius Marcellinus calls him, xxv. 4, praesagiorum sciscitationi nimiae deditus, superstitiosus magis quam sacrorum legitimus observator. Comp. Sozom. v. 2.

62  Comp. his fourth Oratio, which is devoted to the praise of Helios.

63  Comp. Jul. Orat. i. in Constantii laudes; Epist. ad Athenienses, p. 270; Caesares, p. 335 sq. Even heathen authors concede his dissimulation, as Ammianus Marc. xxi. 2, comp. xxii. 5, and Libanius, who excuses him with the plea of regard to his security, Opp. p. 528, ed. Reiske.

64  His older brother, Gallus, for some time emperor at Antioch, had already been justly deposed by Constantius in 854, and beheaded, for his entire incapacity and his merciless cruelty.

65  In the Misopogon (from misevw and pwvgwn, the beard-hater, i.e. hater of bearded philosophers), his witty apology to the refined Antiochians for his philosophical beard, p. 338 sq., he boasts of this cynic coarseness, and describes, with great complacence, his long nails, his ink-stained hands, his rough, uncombed beard, inhabited (horribile dictu) by certain qhriva. It should not be forgotten, however, that contemporary writers give him the credit of a strict chastity, which raises him far above most heathen princes, and which furnishes another proof to the involuntary influence of Christian asceticism upon his life. Libanius asserts in his panegyric, that Julian, before his brief married life, and after the death of his wife, a sister of Constantius, never knew a woman; and Namertinus calls his lectulus, "Vestalium toris purior." Add to this the testimony of the honest Ammianus Marcellinus, and the silence of Christian antagonists. Comp. Gibbon, c. xxii. note 50; and Carwithen and Lyall: Hist. of the Chr. Ch., etc. p. 54. On the other hand, the Christians accused him of all sorts of secret crimes; for instance, the butchering of boys and girls (Gregor. Orat. iii. p. 91, and Theodor. iii. 26, 27), which was probably an unfounded inference from his fanatical zeal for bloody sacrifices and divinations.

66  Ammianus Marc. xxv. 4 ... innumeras sine parsimonia pecudes mactans ut aestemaretur, si revertisset de Parthis, boves jam defuturos.

67  Misopog. p. 362 sq., where Julian himself relates this ludicrous scene, and vents his anger at the Antiochians for squandering the rich incomes of the temple upon Christianity and worldly pleasures. Dr. Baur, l.c. p. 17, justly remarks on Julian’s zeal for idolatry: "Seine ganze persönliche Erscheinung, der Mangel an innerer Haltung in seinem Benehmen gegen Heiden und Christen, die stete Unruhe und schwärmerische Aufregung, in welcher er sich befand, wenn er von Tempel zu Tempel eilte, auf allen Altären opferte und nichts unversucht liess, um den heidnischen Cultus, dessen höchstes Vorbild er selbst als Pontifex maximum sein wollte, in seinem vollen Glanz und Gepränge, mit alten seinen Ceremonien und Mysterien wieder herzustellen, macht einen Eindruck, der es kaum verkennen lässt, wie wenig er sich selbst das Unnatürliche und Erfolglose eines solchen Strebens verbergen konnte."

68  Julian’s views on the heathen priests are laid down especially in his 49th Epistle to Ursacius, the highpriest of Gaul, p. 429, and in the fragment of an oration, p. 300 sqq., ed. Spanh. Ullmann, in his work on Gregory of Nazianzen, p. 527 sqq., draws an interesting parallel between Gregory’s and Julian’s ideal of a priest.

69  jEpieikw'" ejbiav zeto, as Gregory Nazianzen, Orat. iv., expresses it.

70  Socrates: H. E. iii. 12.

71  Gibbon well says, ch. xxiii.: "He affected to pity the unhappy Christians, but his pity was degraded by contempt, his contempt was embittered by hatred; and the sentiments of Julian were expressed in a style of sarcastic wit, which inflicts a deep and deadly wound whenever it issues from the mouth of a sovereign."

72  Perhaps there lay at the bottom of this also a secret fear of the name of Christ, as Warburton (p. 35) suggests; since the Neo-Platonists believed in the mysterious virtue of names.

73  jAsebei'", dussebei'" , a[qeoi.. Their religion he calls a mwriva or ajpovnoia. Comp. Ep. 7 (ap. Heyler, p. 190).

74  j vAqrwpivsko" eujtelhv".

75  Matt. v. 89, 40.

76  Gregory of Naz., Orat. iv., censures the emperor bitterly for forbidding the Christians what was the common property of all rational men, as if it were the exclusive possession of the Greeks. Even the heathen Ammianus Marcellinus, xxii. 10, condemns this measure: "Illud autem erat inclemens, obruendum perenni silentio, quod arcebat docere magistros rhetoricos et grammaticos, ritus Christiani cultores." Gibbon is equally decided. Directly, Julian forbade the Christians only to teach, but indirectly also to learn, the classical literature; as they were of course unwilling to go to heathen schools.

77  Epist. 42.

78  Dr. Baur (l.c. p. 42) unjustly charges the fathers with the contradiction of making use of the classics as necessary means of education, and yet of condemning heathenism as a work of Satan. But this was only the one side, which has its element of truth, especially as applied to the heathen religion; while on the other side they acknowledged, with Justin M., Clement and Origen, the working of the divine Logos in the Hellenic philosophy and poetry preparing the way for Christianity. The indiscriminate condemnation of classical literature dates from a later period, from Gregory I.

79  See below, § 9.

80  Jul. Epist. 25, which is addressed to the Jews, and is mentioned also by Sozomen, v. 22.

81  Gibbon, ch. xxiii.: "The restoration of the Jewish temple was secretly connected with the ruin of the Christian church."

82  Julian himself seems to admit the failure of the work, but, more prudently, is silent as to the cause, in a fragment of an epistle or oration, p. 295, ed. Spanh., according to the usual interpretation of this passage. He here asks: Tiv peri; tou' new; fuvsousi, tou' par j aujtoi'", trivton ajnatrapevnto" , ejgeiromevnou de; oujde; nu'n:: "What will they [i.e., the Jewish prophets] say of their own temple, which has been three times destroyed, and is not even now restored?" "This I have said (he continues) with no wish to reproach them, for I myself, at so late a day, had intended to rebuild it for the honor of him who was worshipped there." He probably saw in the event a sign of the divine displeasure with the religion of the Jews, or an accidental misfortune, but intended, after his return from the Persian war, to attempt the work anew. It is by no means certain, however, that the threefold destruction of the temple here spoken of refers to Julian’s own reign. He may have meant, and probably did mean, the destruction by the Assyrians and the destruction by the Romans; and as to the third destruction, it may be a mere exaggeration, or may refer to the profanation of the temple by Antiochus, or to his own reign. (Comp. Warburton and Lardner on this point.) The impartial Ammianus Marcellinus, himself a professed pagan, a friend of Julian and his companion in arms, tells us more particularly, lib. xxiii. 1, that Julian, being desirous of perpetuating the memory of his reign by some great work, resolved to rebuild at vast expense the magnificent temple at Jerusalem, and committed the conduct of this enterprise to Alypius at Antioch, and then continues: "Quum itaque rei fortiter instaret Alypius, juvaretque provinciae rector, metuendi globi flammarum prope fundamenta crebris assultibus erumpentes fecere locum exustis aliquoties operantibus inaccessum; hocque modo clemento destinatius repellente, cessavit inceptum." ("Alypius, therefore, set himself vigorously to the work, and was assisted by the governor of the province, when fearful balls of fire broke out near the foundations, and continued their attacks until they made the place inaccessible to the workmen, after repeated scorchings; and thus, the fierce element obstinately repelling them, he gave up his attempt.") Michaelis, Lardner (who, however, is disposed to doubt the whole story), Gibbon, Guizot, Milman (note on Gibbon), Gieseler, and others, endeavor to explain this as a natural phenomenon, resulting from the bituminous nature of the soil and the subterranean vaults and reservoirs of the temple hill, of which Josephus and Tacitus speak. When Herod, in building the temple, wished to penetrate into the tomb of David, to obtain its treasures, fire likewise broke out and consumed the workmen, according to Joseph. Antiqu. Jud. xvi. 7, § 1. But when Titus undermined the temple, a.d. 70, when Hadrian built there the Aelia Capitolina, in 135, and when Omar built a Turkish mosque in 644, no such destructive phenomena occurred as far as we know. We must therefore believe, that Providence itself, by these natural causes, prevented the rebuilding of the national sanctuary of the Jews.

83  Gregory Nazianzen, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, Philostorgius, Rufinus, Ambrose, Chrysostom; all of whom regard the event as supernatural, although they differ somewhat in detail. Theodoret speaks first of a violent whirlwind, which scattered about vast quantities of lime, sand, and other building materials, and was followed by a storm of thunder and lightning; Socrates mentions fire from heaven, which melted the workmen’s tools, spades, axes, and saws; both add an earthquake, which threw up the stones of the old foundations, filled up the excavation, and, as Rufinus has it, threw down the neighboring buildings. At length a calm succeeded the commotion, and according to Gregory a luminous cross surrounded by a circle appeared in the sky, nay, crosses were impressed upon the bodies of the persons present, which were shining by night (Rufinus), and would not wash out (Socrates). Of these writers however, Gregory alone is strictly a contemporary witness, relating the event in the year of its occurrence, 363, and that with the assurance that even the heathens did not call it in question. (Orat. iv. p. 110-113). Next to him come Ambrose, and Chrysostom, who speaks of this event several times. The Greek and Roman church historians, and Warburton, Mosheim, Schröckh, Neander, Guericke, Kurtz, Newman, Robertson, and others, of the Protestant, vindicate the miraculous, or at least providential, character of the remarkable event. Comp. also J. H. Newman (since gone over to Romanism): "Essay on the Miracles recorded in ecclesiastical history," prefixed to the Oxford Tractarian translation of Fleury’s Eccles. Hist. from 381-400 (Oxford, 1842) I. p. clxxv.–clxxxv. Warburton and Newman defend even the crosses, and refer to similar cases, for instance one in England in 1610, where marks of a cross of a phosphoric nature and resembling meteoric phenomena appeared in connection with lightning and produced by electricity. In Julian’s case they assumed that the immediate cause which set all these various physical agents in motion, as in the case of the destruction of Sodom, was supernatural.

84  Ammianus, l. xxv. 3. He was himself in the campaign, and served in the body guard of the emperor; thus having the best opportunity for observation.

85  Sozomen, vi. 2; Theodoret, iii. 25 (Nenivkhka" Galilai'e ); then, somewhat differing, Philostorgius, vii. 15. Gregory Nazianzen, on the contrary, who elsewhere presents Julian in the worst light, knows nothing of this exclamation, to which one may apply the Italian maxim: "Se non è vero, è ben trovato." The above-named historians mention also other incidents of the death, not very credible; e.g. that he threw toward heaven a handful of blood from his wound; that he blasphemed the heathen gods; that Christ appeared to him, &c. Sozomen quotes also the groundless assertion of Libanius, that the mortal wound was inflicted not by a Persian, but by a Christian, and was not ashamed to add, that he can hardly be blamed who had done this " noble deed for God and his religion" (dia; qeo;n kai; qrhskeivan h}n ejphv/nesen)!This is, so far as I know, the first instance, within the Christian church, of the vindication of tyrannicide ad majorem Dei gloriam.

86  Theodor. H. E. iii. 27.

87  The Christian poet, Prudentius, forms an exception, in his well known just estimate of Julian (Apotheos. 450 sqq.), which Gibbon also cites:

——"Ductor fortissimus armis;

 Conditor et legum celeberrimus; ore manuque

 Consultor patriae; sed non consultor habendae

 Religionis; amans tercentûm millia Divûm.

 Perfidus ille Deo, sed non et perfidus orbi."

88  Cod. Theodos. l. ix. tit. 16, I. 9 (of the year 371): Testes sunt leges a me in exordio imperii mei datae, quibus unicuique, quod animo imbibisset, colendi libera facultas tributa est. This is confirmed by Ammian. Marc. l. xxx. c. 9.

89  Libanius, l.c. (ed. Reiske, ii. 163): to; quvein iJerei'a ejkwluvqh para; toi'n ajdelfoin, ajllj j ouj to; lianwtovn. No such law, however, has come down to us.

90  The word pagani (from pagus), properly villagers, peasantry, then equivalent to rude, simple, ignorant, ijdiwvth", a[frwn, first occurs in the religious sense in a law of Valentinian, of 368 (Cod. Theodos. l. xvi. tit 2, I. 18), and came into general use under Theodosius, instead of the earlier terms: gentes, gentiles, nationes, Graeci, cultores simulacrorum, etc. The English heathen and heathenism (from heath), and the German Heiden and Heidenthum (from Heide), have a similar meaning, and are probably imitations of the Latin paganismus in its later usage.

91  According to the Descriptiones Urbis of Publicus Victor and Sextus Rufus Festus, which cannot have been composed before, nor long after, the reign of Valentinian. Comp. Beugnot, l.c. i. 266, and Robertson, l.c. p. 260.

92  Cod. Theos. xii. 1, 75; xvi. 10, 20. Symmach. Ep. x. 61. Ambrose, Ep. xvii.

93  Gibbon gives a very favorable estimate of his character, and justly charges the heathen Zosimus with gross prejudice against Theodosius. Schlosser and Milman also extol him.

94  Cod. Theos. xvi. 10, 12.

95  Prudent. in Symrnachum (written A-D. 403), l. i. v. 617 sqq.:

"Denique pro meritis terrestribus aequa rependens

 Munera sacricolis summos impertit honores

 Dux bonus, et certare sinit cum laud e suorum,

 Nec pago implicitos [i.e. paganos, heathen] per debita culmina mundi

 Ire viros prohibet: quoniam coelestia nunquam

 Terrenis solitum per iter gradientibus obstant.

 Ipse magistratum tibi consulis, ipse tribunal


96  Claudian, who at this period roused pagan poetry from its long sleep and derived his inspiration from the glory of Theodosius and his family, represents his death as an ascension to the gods. De tertio consulatu Honorii, v. 162 sqq.

97  Ambrose, Resp. ad Symmachum: "Dii enim gentium daemonia, ut Scriptura docet." Comp. Ps. xcvi. 5, Septuag.: Pavnte" oiJ qeoi; tw'n ejqnw'n daimovnia. On this principle especially St. Martin of Tours proceeded in his zeal against the idol temples of Gaul. He asserted that the devil himself frequently assumed the visible form of Jupiter and Mercury, of Minerva and Venus, to protect their sinking sanctuaries. See Sulpit. Severna: Vita B. Martini, c. 4 and 6.

98  Gibbon styles him, unfortunately not without reason, "a bold, bad man, whose hands were alternately polluted with gold and with blood."

99  See an extended description of the Serapeion in Gibbon, and especially in Milman: Hist. of Christianity, &c., book iii. c. 8 (p. 377 sqq. N. York ed.).

100  Cod. Theodos. xvi. 5, 42: "Eos qui Catholicae sectae sunt inimici, intra palatium militare prohibemus. Nullus nobis sit aliqua ratione conjunctus, qui a nobis fide et religione discordat." According to the somewhat doubtful but usually admitted testimony of Zosimus, l. v. c. 46, this edict was revoked, in consequence of the threatened resignation of a pagan general, Generid, whom Honorius could not dispense with. But Theodosius issued similar laws in the east from 410 to 439. See Gibbon, Milman, Schröckh, and Neander, l.c. The latter erroneously places the edict of Honorius in the year 416, instead of 408.

101  Theodos. II. in Cod. Theodos. xvi. 10, 22: "Paganos, qui supersunt, quamquam jam nullos esse credamus, promulgatarum legum jamdudum praescripta compescant." But between 321 and 426 appeared no less than eight laws against apostasy to heathenism; showing that many nominal Christians changed their religion according to circumstances.

102  Socrat. vii. 15 (who considers Cyril guilty); the letters of Synesius, a pupil of Hypatia; and Philostorg. viii. 9. Comp. also Schröckh, vii. 45 sqq. and Wernsdorf: De Hypatia, philosopha Alex. diss. iv. Viteb. 1748. The "Hypatia" of Charles Kingsley is a historical didactic romance, with a polemical aim against the Puseyite overvaluation of patristic Christianity.

103  Damascius of Syria, Simplicius of Cilicia (the most celebrated), Eulalius of Phrygia, Priscianus of Lydia, Isidore of Gaza, Hermias, and Diogenes. They had the courage to prefer exile to the renunciation of their convictions, and found with King Chosroes of Persia a welcome reception, but afterwards returned into the Roman empire under promise of toleration. Comp. Schröckh, xvi. p. 74 sqq.

104  On these remains of heathenism in the West comp. the citations of Gieseler, i. §79, not. 22 and 23 (i. 2. p. 38-40. Engl. ed. of N. York, i. p. 219 sq.).

105  Aug.: De Civit. Dei, l. i. c. 1-6.

106  Augustin mentions this story, De Civit. Dei, xviii. 53. Gieseler (vol. i. § 79, not. 17) derives it from a heathen perversion of the Christian (heretical) expectation of the second coming of Christ and the end of the world; referring to Philastr. haer. 106: "Alia est haeresis de anno annunciato ambigens, quod ait propheta Esaias: Annuntiare annum Dei acceptabilem et diem retributionis. Putant ergo quidam, quod ex quo venit Dominus usque ad consummationem saeculi non plus nec minus fieri annorum numerum, nisi CCCLXV usque ad Christi Domini iterum de coelo divinam praesentiam."

107  Comp. August.: Epist. 232, where he thus eloquently addresses the heathen: Videtis simulacrorum templa partim sine reparatione collapsa, partim diruta, partim clausa, partim in usus alienos commutata; ipsaque simulacra vel confringi, vel incendi, vel includi, vel destrui; atque ipsas huius saeculi potestates quae aliquando pro simulacris populum Christianum persequebantur, victas et domitas, non a repugnantibus sed a morientibus Christianis, et contra eadem simulacra, pro quibus Christianos occidebant, impetus suos legesque vertisse et imperii nobilissimi eminentissimum culmen ad sepulcrum piscatoris Petri submisso diademate supplicare."