CONSTANTINE AND CHRISTIANITY
THE cultural and religious crisis through which the Roman Empire was passing in the fourth century is one of the most significant events in the history of the world. The old pagan culture came into collision with Christianity, which received official recognition during the reign of Constantine at the beginning of the fourth century and was declared the dominant state religion by Theodosius the Great at the end of that same century. It might have seemed at first that these two clashing elements, representing two diametrically opposed points of view, would never find a basis for mutual agreement. But Christianity and pagan Hellenism did intermix gradually to form a Christian-Greco-Eastern culture subsequently known as Byzantine. Its center was the new capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople.
The person who was chiefly responsible for the many changes in the empire was Constantine the Great. During his reign Christianity stepped for the first time on the firm ground of official recognition. From this time forward the old pagan empire gradually changed into a Christian empire.
The conversion of nations or states to Christianity has usually taken place during the early stage of their historical existence when the past has created no firmly established traditions, but merely some crude and primitive customs and forms of government. In such cases the conversion has caused no great crisis in the life of the people. But this was not characteristic of the Roman Empire in the fourth century. It already possessed an old world culture and had developed forms of government perfect for that time. It had a great past and an extensive body of ideas which had been assimilated by the population. This empire, changing in the fourth century into a Christian state, entered upon an era during which its past was contradicted, at times completely denied; this was bound to lead to an extremely acute and difficult crisis. Apparently the old pagan world, at least in the domain of religion, no longer satisfied national wants. New needs and new desires appeared, which only Christianity could satisfy.
When a moment of unusual importance is associated with some historical personage who happens to play a leading part in it, a whole literature about him is created which aims to evaluate his significance for the given period and attempts to penetrate into the innermost regions of his spiritual life. For the fourth century this important personage was Constantine the Great.
Constantine was born at the city of Naissus (Nish at present). On the side of his father, Constantius Chlorus, Constantine belonged probably to an Illyrian family. His mother, Helena, was a Christian who later became St. Helena. She made a pilgrimage to Palestine where, according to tradition, she found the true cross on which Christ was crucified.1 In 305, after Diocletian and Maximian had renounced their imperial rank according to the established agreement and had retired into private life, Galerius became the Augustus in the East, and Constantius, father of Constantine, assumed the title of Augustus in the West. In the following year Constantius died in Britain, and his legions proclaimed his son Constantine Augustus. At this time a revolt broke out in Rome. The mutinous population and the army rejected Galerius and proclaimed as emperor Maxentius, the son of the Maximian who had resigned his imperial power. The aged Maximian joined his son and again assumed the imperial title. A period of civil war followed, during which both Maximian and Galerius died. Constantine then formed an alliance with one of the new Augusti, Licinius, and defeated Maxentius in a decisive battle near Rome in 312. Maxentius was drowned in the Tiber while trying to flee from the enemy (at Saxa Rubra near the Milvian bridge across the Tiber). The two victorious emperors, Constantine and Licinius, met at Milan where, according to historical tradition, they proclaimed the famous Edict of Milan. The peaceful relations between the two emperors did not last very long, however. A struggle soon broke out between them, which ended in a complete victory for Constantine. Licinius was killed in 324 A.D., and Constantine became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire.
The two main events of Constantine’s reign which were of paramount significance for the subsequent course of history were the official recognition of Christianity and the transfer of the capital from the shores of the Tiber to the shores of the Bosphorus, from ancient Rome to Constantinople, the “New Rome.” In studying the position of Christianity in Constantine’s time scholars have considered two problems in particular: the “conversion” of Constantine and the Edict of Milan.1a
The conversion of Constantine
Historians and theologians have been primarily interested in the causes of Constantine’s “conversion.” Why did Constantine favor Christianity? Should his attitude be viewed only as an indication of his political wisdom? Did he see in Christianity merely a means of gaining his political aims? Or did he adopt Christianity because of his own inner conviction? Or, finally, was this “conversion” influenced by both political motives and a spiritual leaning toward Christianity?
The main difficulty in solving this problem lies in the contradictory information found in the sources. Constantine as depicted by the Christian bishop Eusebius does not in the least resemble Constantine created by the pen of the pagan writer Zosimus. Historians have found ample opportunity for answering this entangled question according to their own preconceived opinions. The French historian Boissier wrote in his Fall of Paganism:
Unfortunately, when we deal with great people who play a leading part in history and try to study their lives and account for their actions, we are seldom satisfied with the most natural explanations. Since these men have the reputation of unusual people, we never want to believe that they acted just like other ordinary people. We search for hidden reasons behind their simplest actions; we attribute to them subtle considerations, depth of thought and perfidies of which they never dreamed. All this is true in the case of Constantine. A preconceived conviction became current that this skilful politician wanted to fool us; the more fervently he devoted himself to religious affairs and declared himself a true believer, the more definite were our attempts to prove that he was indifferent to these matters, that he was a skeptic, who in reality was not concerned about any religion and preferred that religion which could benefit him most.2
For a long time historical opinion was influenced greatly by the skeptical judgment of the well-known German historian, Jacob Burckhardt, expressed in his brilliant work, The Time of Constantine the Great. He represents Constantine as a statesman of genius, seized by high ambitions and a strong desire for power, a man who sacrificed everything to the fulfillment of his worldly aims. “Attempts are often made,” wrote Burckhardt, “to penetrate into the religious conscience of Constantine and then draw a picture of the changes which presumably took place in his religious beliefs. All this is done in vain. For in the case of this man of genius, whose ambitions and thirst for power troubled every hour of his life, there could be no question of Christianity and paganism, of a conscious religiousness or non-religiousness; such a man is essentially irreligious [unreligiös] .. . . If he had stopped even for a moment to consider his real religious consciousness it would have been fatal.” This “deadly egotist,” having recognized that Christianity was boundto become a world force, made use of it precisely from that point of view. In this recognition, according to Burckhardt, lies Constantine’s great merit. Yet Constantine gave very definite privileges to paganism as well as to Christianity. To look for any system in the actions of this inconsistent man would be all in vain; there was only chance. Constantine, “an egotist in a purple mantle, does and permits all that will increase his personal power.” Burckhardt used as his main source Eusebius’ Life of Constantine, disregarding the fact that this work is not authentic.3 The judgment of Burckhardt, given briefly here, makes no allowance for any genuine religious feeling on the part of the Emperor.
Basing his arguments on different grounds, the German theologian Adolph Harnack, in The Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries,4 arrived at similar conclusions. After a study of the status of Christianity in individual provinces of the empire he admitted the impossibility of determining the exact number of Christians and concluded that though toward the fourth century they were numerous and influential in the empire, they did not constitute the majority of the population. But he remarked further:
Numerical strength and real influence need not coincide in every case; a small circle may exercise very powerful influence if its members are largely drawn from the leading classes, whilst a large number may represent quite an inferior amount of influence if it is recruited from the lower classes, or in the main from country districts. Christianity was a religion of towns and cities; the larger the town or city, the larger (even relatively) was the number of Christians. This lent it an extraordinary advantage. But alongside of this, Christianity had already penetrated deep into the country districts, throughout a large number of provinces; as we know definitely with regard to the majority of provinces in Asia Minor, and no less so as regards Armenia, Syria, Egypt, Palestine, and Northern Africa (with its country towns).
Dividing all the provinces of the empire into four categories according to the wider or narrower spread of Christianity, Harnack analyzed the position of Christianity in each category and concluded that the headquarters of the Christian church at the opening of the fourth century lay in Asia Minor. It is well known that for a number of years previous to his famous “flight” to Gaul, Constantine stayed at the court of Diocletian in Nicomedia. His impressions of Asia became apparent in Gaul, in the form of political considerations which led him to make his decisive resolve: he could benefit by the support of the firm and powerful Church and episcopate. It is idle to ask whether the Church would have gained her victory even apart from Constantine. Some Constantine or other would have come upon the scene. In any event, the victory of Christianity all over Asia Minor was achieved before Constantine came on the scene at all, and it was assured in other provinces. It required no special illumination and no celestial army chaplain to bring about what was already in existence. All that was needed was an acute and forceful statesman who had a vital interest in the religious situation. Such a man was Constantine. He was gifted, inasmuch as he clearly recognized and firmly grasped what was inevitable.5
It is quite apparent that Harnack viewed Constantine as a gifted statesman only. Naturally, even an approximate statistical estimate of the number of Christians at that period is out of the question. It is admitted by many of the best modern scholars, however, that paganism was still the dominant element in the state and society, while the Christians were decidedly in the minority. According to the calculations of Professor V. Bolotov, which coincided with the estimates of several other scholars, “it is probable that toward the time of Constantine the Christians constituted one-tenth of the entire population; perhaps even this figure needs to be reduced. Any claim that the number of Christians exceeded one-tenth is precarious.”6 At present there seems to be uniform agreement that the Christians were in the minority during the time of Constantine. If that is true, then the purely political theory in regard to Constantine’s attitude toward Christianity must be dropped. A great statesman would not have allowed his wide political schemes to depend upon one-tenth of the population which at that time was taking no part in political affairs.
Duruy, the author of the History of Rome and of the Roman People, wrote somewhat under the influence of Burckhardt in evaluating Constantine’s activities; he referred to “honest and calm deism, which was shaping Constantine’s religion.” According to Duruy, Constantine “very early became aware of the fact that Christianity in its fundamental dogmas corresponds with his own belief in one God.”7 But in spite of this, Duruy continued, political considerations were of primary importance to Constantine:
As Bonaparte sought to conciliate the Church and the Revolution, so Constantine proposed to have the old and the new religions live peaceably side by side, at the same time favoring the latter. He understood which way the world was moving, and aided its movement without precipitating it. It is to the honor of this Emperor that he made good his claim to the title assumed by him on his triumphal arch, quietis custos (custodian of peace). . . . We have sought to penetrate the deepest recesses of Constantine’s mind, and have found there a policy of government rather than a religious conviction.8
Duruy remarked elsewhere, however, that “the Constantine pictured by Eusebius often saw between earth and heaven things which no one else ever noticed.”9
Two of the large number of publications which appeared in 1913 in connection with the celebration of the sixteenth centennial of the so-called Edict of Milan were: Kaiser Constantin und die christliche Kirche, written by E. Schwartz, and Collected Papers (Gesammelte Studien), edited by F. Dölger. Schwartz stated that Constantine, “with the diabolical perspicacity of a world-master, realized the importance which the alliance with the church had for the universal monarchy which he was planning to build, and he had the courage and energy to accomplish this union against all traditions of Caesarism.”10 E. Krebs, in the Papers edited by Dölger, wrote that all the steps taken by Constantine toward Christianity were but secondary causes of the acceleration of the victory of the church; the main cause lay in the supernatural power of Christianity itself.11
Opinions of various scholars on this subject differ widely. P. Batiffol defended the sincerity of Constantine’s conversion,12 and more recently J. Maurice, a well-known scholar in the field of numismatics of Constantine’s time, attempted to substantiate the miraculous element in his conversion.13Boissier noted that for Constantine the statesman to deliver himself into the hands of the Christians, who constituted a minority and were of no political importance, would have meant a risky experiment; therefore, since he did not change his faith for political reasons, it must be admitted he did it through conviction.14 F. Lot was inclined to accept the sincerity of Constantine’s conversion.15 E. Stein maintained a political reason. The greatest significance of Constantine’s religious policy, he said, is the introduction of the Christian Church into the organism of the State, and he presumed that Constantine was influenced to some extent by the example of the Zoroastrian state church in Persia.16 H. Grégoire wrote that policy always takes precedence over religion, particularly external policy.17 A. Piganiol said that Constantine was a Christian without knowing it.18
However, the “conversion” of Constantine, generally connected with his victory over Maxentius in 312, should not be considered as his real conversion to Christianity; he actually adopted the religion in the year he died. During his entire reign he remained thepontifex maximus; he never called Sunday anything but “the day of the sun” (dies solis); and the “invincible sun” (sol invictus) at that period usually meant the Persian God, Mithras, whose worship was spread throughout the Empire, in the East as well as in the West. At times this cult of the sun was a serious rival to Christianity. It is certain that Constantine was a supporter of the cult of the sun; such devotion was hereditary in his own family. In all probability his sol invictus was Apollo. Maurice observed that this solar religion assured him an immense popularity in the Empire.19
Recently some historians made an interesting attempt to represent Constantine as merely the continuator and executor of a policy initiated by others, rather than as the sole champion of Christianity. According to Grégoire, Licinius, before Constantine, originated a policy of tolerance toward Christianity. Schoenebeck, the German historian, questioned Grégoire’s opinion; he considered Maxentius a champion of Christianity in his section of the Empire and the one who provided a model for Constantine to follow.20
Granting Constantine’s leanings toward Christianity, his political schemes were nevertheless bound to have a dominating influence upon his attitude toward Christianity, which could be helpful to him in many ways. He understood that in the future Christianity would be the main unifying element among the races of the Empire. “He wanted to strengthen the unity of the Empire through a unity of the Church.”21
The conversion of Constantine is usually connected with the famous story of the appearance of a luminous cross in the sky during the struggle between Constantine and Maxentius; an element of miracle is thus introduced as one of the causes of the conversion. However, the sources related to this event arouse much disagreement among historians. The earliest account of a miracle belongs to a Christian contemporary of Constantine, Lactantius, who, in his work On the Death of the Persecutors (De mortibus persecutorum),spoke only of the warning Constantine received in a dream to inscribe on his shields the likeness of the divine sign of Christ (coeleste signum Dei).22 Lactantius said nothing about the heavenly vision which Constantine was supposed to have seen.
Another contemporary of Constantine, Eusebius of Caesarea, wrote in two of his works about the victory over Maxentius. In his earlier work, The Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius remarked only that Constantine, starting out to save Rome, “invoked in prayer the God of Heaven and his Word, Jesus Christ, the Savior of all.”23 Apparently nothing was said here about the dream, or about signs on the shields. Another work, The Life of Constantine, was written about twenty-five years after the victory over Maxentius and is usually, though probably wrongly, attributed to Eusebius. This work relates that the emperor himself told and confirmed by oath the famous story of how during his march on Maxentius he saw above the setting sun a luminous cross, with the words “By This Conquer!” (τoύτῳ νίκα). He and his legions were awe-struck at this vision. The following night Christ came to Constantine in a dream, bearing the same sign, and bade him make a likeness of the cross and with it march against his enemies. As soon as dawn broke the Emperor communicated to his friends the marvelous dream and then, calling together artificers, he described to them the outlines of the vision he had seen and ordered them to execute the standard,24 which is known as the labarum.25 The labarum was a long cross formed like a spear. From the transverse bar hung a silk cloth, embroidered in gold and adorned with precious stones, bearing the images of Constantine and his two sons; at the peak of the cross was a golden wreath surrounding the monogram of Christ.26From the time of Constantine the labarum became the banner of the Byzantine Empire. Reference to the divine apparition and to armies marching in heaven, which were sent by God to aid Constantine in his struggle, may be found in the works of other writers. The information on this point is so confusing and contradictory that it cannot be properly evaluated from a historic point of view. Some writers go so far as to say that the miracle took place, not during the march against Maxentius, but before Constantine’s departure from Gaul.
The so-called Edict of Milan
During the reign of Constantine the Great, Christianity received official permission to exist and develop. The first decree favoring Christianity was issued in 311 by Galerius, who had been one of its most ferocious persecutors. This decree gave pardon to the Christians for their former stubborn resistance to government orders aimed at turning them back to paganism, and announced their legal right to exist. It declared: “Christians may exist again, and may establish their meetings, yet so that they do nothing contrary to good order. Wherefore, in accordance with this indulgence of ours, they will be bound to pray their God for our good estate, that of the commonwealth, and their own.”27
Two years later, after his victory over Maxentius and agreement with Licinius, Constantine met Licinius in Milan, where they issued the very interesting document incorrectly called the Edict of Milan. The original text of this document has not been preserved, but a Latin rescript of Licinius sent to the prefect of Nicomedia has been preserved by Lactantius. A Greek translation of the Latin original is given by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History.
According to this document the Christians and people of other religions were given full freedom to follow whatever faith they chose. All measures directed against the Christians were declared null and void:
From now on every one of those who have a common wish to observe the Christian worship may freely and unconditionally endeavor to observe the same without any annoyance or disquiet. These things we thought good to signify in the fullest manner to your Carefulness [i.e., the praeses of Bithynia], that you might know that we have given freely and unreservedly to the said Christians authority to practice their worship. And when you perceive that we have made this grant to the said Christians, your Devotion understands that to others also freedom for their own worship and observance is likewise left open and freely granted, as befits the quiet of our times, that every man may have freedom in the practice of whatever worship he has chosen, for it is not our will that aught be diminished from the honor of any worship.28
The document also ordered that private buildings and churches previously confiscated from Christians be restored to them freely and unreservedly.
In 1891 the German scholar O. Seeck advanced the theory that no Edict of Milan was ever issued. The only edict which ever appeared, he stated, was the edict of tolerance issued by Galerius in 311.29 For a long time most historians failed to accept this view. In 1913 the sixteen-hundredth anniversary of the Edict of Milan was solemnly celebrated in many countries and a vast literature on the subject was produced. In reality, however, the edict quoted above, promulgated at Nicomedia by Licinius in 313, was a confirmation of Galerius’ edict of 311, which apparently had not been satisfactorily carried out. The document which was issued at Milan in March, 313 by Constantine and Licinius was not an edict but a letter to the governors of the provinces in Asia Minor and in the East in general, explaining and directing how they should treat the Christians.30
The conclusion, on the basis of this edict, is that Constantine and Licinius gave Christianity the same rights enjoyed by other faiths, including paganism. It is premature to speak of the triumph of Christianity in Constantine’s time. To Constantine, Christianity seemed compatible with paganism. The great significance of his act is that he not only allowed Christianity to exist but actually placed it under the protection of the government. This was an extremely significant moment in the history of early Christianity. The Edict of Nicomedia, however, gave no basis for the claim made by some historians that during the reign of Constantine Christianity was placed above all other religions, that the others were only tolerated,31 and that the “Edict of Milan” proclaimed, not a policy of toleration, but the predominance of Christianity.32 When the question of the dominance or the equal rights of Christianity is raised, the decision must be in favor of equal rights. Nevertheless, the significance of the Edict of Nicomedia is great. As one historian has said, “In reality, without any unnecessary exaggeration, the importance of the ‘Edict of Milan’ remains unquestionably great, for it was an act which ended the illegal position of the Christians in the empire and declared at the same time complete religious freedom, thus reducing paganism de jure from its former position of the only state religion to the rank of all other religions.”33
The attitude of Constantine toward the Church
Constantine did more than merely grant equal rights to Christianity as a definite religious doctrine. The Christian clergy (clerici) were given all the privileges granted to the pagan priests. They were exempted from state taxation and duties as well as from the officeholding which might divert them from the performance of their religious obligations (the right of immunity). Any man could bequeath his property to the Church, which thereby acquired the right of inheritance. Thus, simultaneously with the declaration of religious freedom, the Christian communities were recognized as legal juridical entities; from a legal point of view, Christianity was placed in an entirely new position.
Very important privileges were given to episcopal courts. Any man had the right, if his opponent agreed, to carry a civil suit to the episcopal court, even after proceedings in that suit had already been started in the civil court. Toward the end of Constantine’s reign the authority of the episcopal courts was enlarged still more: (1) The decision of a bishop had to be accepted as final in cases concerning people of any age; (2) any civil case could be transferred to the episcopal court at any stage of the proceedings, even if the opposing side did not agree; (3) the decisions of the episcopal courts had to be sanctioned by civil judges. All these judicial privileges increased the authority of the bishops in society but at the same time added a heavy burden to their responsibilities and created many complications. The losing side, in view of the illegality of appealing a bishop’s decision, which could not always be correct, often remained dissatisfied and irritated. Moreover, these additional duties introduced too many worldly interests into the lives of the bishops.
The Church at the same time was growing in material wealth through gifts from state resources of landed property or money and grain. Christians could not be forced to participate in pagan festivals. At the same time Christian influence brought about some mitigation in the punishment of criminals.
In addition to all this, Constantine’s name is connected with the erection of many churches in all parts of his immense empire. The basilica of St. Peter and the basilica of the Lateran in Rome are ascribed to him. He was particularly interested in Palestine, where his mother, Helena, supposedly found the true cross. In Jerusalem, in the place where Christ was buried, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was erected; on the Mount of Olives Constantine built the Church of the Ascension and at Bethlehem the Church of the Nativity. The new capital, Constantinople, and its suburbs were also adorned with many churches, the most prominent the Church of the Apostles and the Church of St. Irene; it is possible that Constantine laid the foundations of St. Sophia, which was completed by his successor, Constantius. Many churches were being constructed in other places during Constantine’s reign, at Antioch, Nicomedia, and North Africa.34
After the reign of Constantine three important Christian centers developed: the early Christian Rome, in Italy, although pagan sympathy and tradition continued to exist there for some time; Christian Constantinople, which very soon became a second Rome in the eyes of the Christians of the East; and, finally, Christian Jerusalem. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Emperor Titus in 70 A.D., and the formation in its place of the Roman colony, Aelia Capitolina, during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian in the second century A.D., old Jerusalem had lost its significance, although it was the mother church of Christendom and the center of the first apostolic preaching. Christian Jerusalem was called to new life in the period of Constantine. Politically, Caesarea, and not Aelia, was the capital of that province. The churches built during this period in the three centers stood as symbols of the triumph of the Christian church on earth. This church soon became the state church. The new idea of the kingdom on earth was in direct contrast with the original conception of Christianity as a kingdom “not of this world,” and of the rapidly approaching end of the world.35
Arianism and the Council of Nicaea
Because of the new conditions created in the early part of the fourth century, the Christian church experienced a period of intense activity which manifested itself particularly in the field of dogma. In the fourth century problems of dogma preoccupied not only individual men, as was the case in the third century with Tertullian or Origen, but also entire parties, consisting of large, well-organized groups of individuals.
In the fourth century councils became a common occurrence and they were considered the only effective means for settling debatable problems. But in this movement a new element is present in the relations between church and state, highly significant for the subsequent history of relations between the spiritual and the temporal powers. Beginning with Constantine the Great, the state took part in the religious disputes and directed them as it saw fit. In many cases, obviously, the interests of the state did not coincide with those of the church.
For many centuries the cultural center of the East was the Egyptian city Alexandria, where intellectual activity rushed forth in a powerful stream. Quite naturally, the new dogmatical movements originated in Alexandria which, according to Professor A. Spassky, “became the center of theological development in the East and attained in the Christian world the particular fame of a philosophical church which never tired of studying higher problems of religion and science.”36 Although it was an Alexandrian presbyter, Arius, who gave his name to the most significant “heretical” teaching of Constantine’s period, the doctrine had originated in the second half of the third century in Antioch, Syria, where Lucian, one of the most learned men of the time, had founded an exegetical-theological school. This school, as A. Harnack said, “is the nursery of the Arian doctrine, and Lucian, its head, is the Arius before Arius.”37
Arius advanced the idea that the Son of God was a created being. This idea formed the basis of the Arian heresy. Beyond the boundaries of Egypt, Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, and Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, sided with Arius. Feeling ran high. Arius, in spite of the efforts of his adherents, was refused communion by Alexander, bishop of Alexandria. Local efforts to pacify the disturbances in the church did not succeed.
Constantine, who had just defeated Licinius and had become sole Emperor, arrived in 324 at Nicomedia, where he received numerous complaints from both the opponents and the adherents of Arius. Desiring above all to maintain religious peace in the Empire and not realizing the full significance of the dogmatic dispute, the Emperor sent a letter to Bishop Alexander and Arius, urging them to come to an agreement. He pointed out as an example the philosophers, who had their disputes yet lived in peace. He also indicated in his letter that it should not be difficult for them to come to an agreement, since both of them believed in Divine Providence and Jesus Christ. “Restore me then my quiet days, and untroubled nights, that the joy of undimmed light, the delight of a tranquil life, may henceforth be my portion,” Constantine wrote in his letter.38
This letter was delivered to Alexandria by Bishop Hosius (Osius) of Cordova (Spain), whom Constantine held in great esteem. He delivered the letter, investigated the matter thoroughly, and explained to the Emperor on his return the full significance of the Arian movement. It was only then that Constantine decided to call a council.
The First Ecumenical Council was called together by imperial edicts in the Bithynian city, Nicaea. The exact number of people who came to this council is not known; the number of Nicaean Fathers is often estimated at 318.39 Most of them were eastern bishops. The aged bishop of Rome sent in his place two presbyters. Among the matters taken up by the council the most important was the Arian dispute. The Emperor presided at the council and sometimes even led the discussions.
The acts of the Council of Nicaea have not been preserved. Some doubt that any written records of the proceedings were kept at all. Information about the council comes from the writings of those who participated in it as well as from the accounts of historians.40The most enthusiastic and skillful opponent of Arius was the archdeacon of the Alexandrian church, Athanasius. After heated discussions the council condemned the heresy of Arius, and after introducing some corrections and additions, it adopted the Creed in which, contrary to the teachings of Arius, Jesus Christ was recognized as the Son of God, unbegotten, and consubstantial (of one essence) with His Father. The Nicene Creed was signed by many of the Arian bishops. The more persistent of them, including Arius himself, were subjected to exile and confinement. One of the best authorities on Arianism wrote: “Arianism had started with a vigour promising a great career, and in a few years seemed no unequal claimant for the supremacy of the East. But its strength collapsed the moment the council met, withered by the universal reprobation of the Christian world. . . . Arianism seemed hopelessly crushed when the council closed.”41 The solemn proclamation of the council announced to all communities the new state of harmony and peace within the church. Constantine wrote: “The devil will no longer have any power against us, since all that which he had malignantly devised for our destruction has been entirely overthrown from the foundations. The Splendor of Truth has dissipated at the command of God those dissensions, schisms, tumults, and so to speak, deadly poisons of discord.”42
Reality did not fulfill Constantine’s hopes. The Council of Nicaea, by its condemnation of Arianism, not only failed to put an end to Arian disputes, but caused many new similar movements and complications. In the attitude of Constantine himself there came to be a marked change in favor of the Arians. A few years after the council, Arius and his most fervent followers were recalled from exile.43 But Arius’ restoration was prevented by his sudden death. Their place in exile was taken by the leaders who supported the Nicene Creed. And while the Nicene creed was never officially repealed and condemned, it was purposely forgotten and partly replaced by other formulas.
It is very difficult to explain the origin of the strong opposition to the Nicene Council and the cause of the change in Constantine’s attitude. Perhaps among the many varied explanations, such as court influences, intimate family relations, and the like, attention should be called to this view: When Constantine first attempted to solve the Arian problem he was not acquainted with the religious situation in the East, where the prevailing sentiment was in favor of Arianism; the Emperor was educated in the West and influenced by his western leaders, such as Hosius, bishop of Cordova, and so he decided in favor of the Nicene Creed. This was in harmony with his views at the time but was not suitable to conditions in the East. When later Constantine realized that the Nicene decisions were contrary to the spirit of the church majority and conflicted with the desires of the masses in the East he assumed a more favorable attitude toward Arianism. During the last years of Constantine’s reign Arianism penetrated even to the court and became every year more firmly established in the eastern part of the Empire. Many of the partisans of the Nicene Creed were deprived of their sees and sent into exile. The history of Arian predominance during that period is still not sufficiently clear because of the unsatisfactory condition of the sources.44
Constantine remained a pagan until the last year of his life. Only on his death bed was he baptized by Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, an Arian; but A. Spassky remarked that he died while directing that Athanasius, the famous opponent of Arius, be recalled.45Constantine made his sons Christian.
The foundation of Constantinople
The second event of primary importance during Constantine’s reign, next to the recognition of Christianity, was the foundation of a new capital on the European shore of the Bosphorus, at its entrance to the Propontis (Sea of Marmora), on the site of the former Megarian colony, Byzantium(Bυζἀντιoν).
Long before Constantine the ancients had been fully aware of the strategic and commercial advantages of Byzantium, situated as it was on the border of Asia and Europe, commanding the entrance to two seas, the Black and the Mediterranean. It was also close to the main sources of the glorious ancient cultures. Judging by the sources, in the first half of the seventh century B.C. the Megarians had founded a colony named Chalcedon, on the Asiatic shore of the southern end of the Bosphorus, opposite the site where Constantinople was built in later years. A few years after the founding of this colony another party of Megarians established a colony on the European shore of the south end of the Bosphorus, Byzantium, named for the chief of the Megarian expedition, Byzas(Bύζας). The advantages of Byzantium over Chalcedon were well understood by the ancients. The Greek historian of the fifth century, B.C., Herodotus (iv, 144) wrote that the Persian general, Megabazus, upon arriving at Byzantium, called the inhabitants of Chalcedon blind people, because, having a choice of sites for their city, they had chosen the worse of the two, disregarding the better site, where Byzantium was founded within a few years. Later literary tradition, including Strabo (vii, 6, c. 320) and the Roman historian, Tacitus (Ann. xii, 63), ascribes this statement of Megabazus, in a slightly modified form, to the Pythian Apollo who, in answer to the Megarian’s question as to where they should build the city, answered that they should settle opposite the land of the blind. Byzantium played an important part during the epoch of the Greco-Persian Wars and the time of Philip of Macedon. The Greek historian of the second century B.C., Polybius, analyzed thoroughly the political and economic position of Byzantium. Recognizing the importance of trade relations between Greece and the cities along the Black Sea, he wrote that without the consent of the inhabitants of Byzantium not a single commercial vessel could enter or leave the Black Sea and that the Byzantians thus controlled all the indispensable products of the Pontus.46
After Rome ceased to be a republic the emperors more than once wanted to transfer the capital from republican-minded Rome to the East. According to the Roman historian, Suetonius (I, 79), Julius Caesar intended to move from Rome to Alexandria or to Ilion (former Troy). In the first centuries of the Christian era the emperors often deserted Rome for long periods during their extensive military campaigns and journeys through the empire. At the end of the second century Byzantium received a heavy blow: Septimius Severus, upon defeating his rival, Pescennius Niger, who was supported by Byzantium, submitted the city to a terrible sack and almost complete destruction. Meanwhile the East continued to attract the emperors. Diocletian (284–305) preferred to live in Asia Minor in the Bithynian city, Nicomedia, which he beautified with many magnificent new edifices.
When Constantine decided to create a new capital, he did not choose Byzantium at once. For a while, at least, he considered Naissus (Nish) where he was born, Sardica (Sofia), and Thessalonica. His attention turned particularly to Troy, the city of Aeneas, who according to tradition, had come to Latium in Italy and laid the foundations for the Roman state. The Emperor set out personally to the famous place, where he himself defined the limits of the future city. The gates had already been constructed when, as Sozomen, the Christian writer of the fifth century, related, one night God visited Constantine in a dream and induced him to look for a different site for his capital. After this Constantine’s choice fell definitely upon Byzantium. Even a century later travelers sailing near the shores of Troy could see the unfinished structures begun by Constantine.47
Byzantium, which had not yet fully recovered from the severe destruction caused by Septimius Severus, was at that time a mere village and occupied only part of the cape extending to the Sea of Marmora. In 324 A.D. Constantine decided upon the foundation of the new capital and in 325 the construction of the main buildings was begun.48 Christian legend tells that the Emperor, with spear in his hand, was outlining the boundaries of the city when his courtiers, astonished by the wide dimensions planned for the capital, asked him, “How long, our Lord, will you keep going?” He answered, “I shall keep on until he who walks ahead of me will stop.”49 This was meant to indicate that some divine power was leading him. Laborers and materials for the construction work were gathered from everywhere. Pagan monuments of Rome, Athens, Alexandria, Ephesus, and Antioch were used in beautifying the new capital. Forty thousand Goth soldiers, the so-called “foederati,” participated in the construction of the new buildings. Many commercial and financial privileges were proclaimed for the new capital in order to attract a larger population. Toward the spring of 330 A.D. the work had progressed to such an extent that Constantine found it possible to dedicate the new capital officially. The dedication took place on May II, 330 and was followed by celebrations and festivities which lasted for forty days. In this year Christian Constantinople was superimposed upon pagan Byzantium.50
Although it is difficult to estimate the size of the city in the time of Constantine, it is certain that it exceeded by far the extent of the former Byzantium. There are no precise figures for the population of Constantinople in the fourth century; a mere assumption is that it might have been more than 200,000.51 For protection against the enemy from the land, Constantine built a wall extending from the Golden Horn to the Sea of Marmora.
In later years ancient Byzantium became the capital of a world empire and it was called the “City of Constantine” or Constantinople. The capital adopted the municipal system of Rome and was subdivided into fourteen districts or regions, two of which were outside the city walls. Of the monuments of Constantine’s time almost none have survived to the present day. However, the Church of St. Irene, which was rebuilt twice during the time of Justinian the Great and Leo III, dates back to Constantine’s time and is still preserved. The famous small serpent column from Delphi (fifth century B.C.), erected in commemoration of the battle of Plataea, transferred by Constantine to the new capital, and placed by him in the Hippodrome, is still there today, although it is somewhat damaged.
Constantine, with the insight of genius, appraised all the advantages of the position of the city, political as well as economic and cultural. Politically, Constantinople, or, as it was often called, the “New Rome,” had exceptional advantages for resisting external enemies. It was inaccessible from the sea; on land it was protected by walls. Economically, Constantinople controlled the entire trade of the Black Sea with the Aegean and the Mediterranean seas and was thus destined to become the commercial intermediary between Europe and Asia. Finally, in the matter of culture, Constantinople had the great advantage of being situated close to the most important centers of Hellenistic culture, which under Christian influence resulted in a new Christian-Greco-Roman, or “Byzantine,” culture. Th. I. Uspensky wrote:
The choice of a site for the new capital, the construction of Constantinople, and the creation of a universal historical city is one of the indefeasible achievements of the political and administrative genius of Constantine. Not in the edict of religious toleration lies Constantine’s great service to the world: if not he, then his immediate successors would have been forced to grant to Christianity its victorious position, and the delay would have done no harm to Christianity. But by his timely transfer of the world-capital to Constantinople he saved the ancient culture and created a favorable setting for the spread of Christianity.52
Following the period of Constantine the Great, Constantinople became the political, religious, economic, and cultural center of the Empire.53
REFORMS OF DIOCLETIAN AND CONSTANTINE
The reforms of Constantine and Diocletian were characterized by establishment of a strict centralization of power, introduction of a vast bureaucracy, and definite separation of civil and military power. These reforms were not new and unexpected. The Roman Empire began its trend toward centralization of power as early as the time of Augustus. Parallel with Roman absorption of the new regions of the Hellenistic East, which developed through long centuries higher culture and older forms of government, especially in the provinces of Ptolemaic Egypt, there was a gradual borrowing from the living customs and Hellenistic ideals of these newly acquired lands. The distinguishing characteristic of the states built on the ruins of the empire of Alexander the Great of Macedon, Pergamon of the Attalids, Syria of the Seleucids, and Egypt of the Ptolemies, was the unlimited, deified power of the monarchs, manifested in particularly firm and definite forms in Egypt. To the Egyptian population Augustus, the conqueror of this territory, and his successors continued to be the same unlimited deified monarchs as the Ptolemies had been before them. This was quite the opposite of the Roman conception of the power of the first princeps, which was an attempt to effect a compromise between the republican institutions of Rome and the newly developing forms of governmental power. The political influences of the Hellenistic east, however, gradually changed the original extent of the power of the Roman principes, who very soon showed their preference for the East and its conceptions of imperial power. Suetonius said of the emperor of the first century, Caligula, that he was ready to accept the imperial crown—the diadem;54 according to the sources, the emperor of the first half of the third century, Elagabalus, already wore the diadem in private;55 and it is well known that the emperor of the second half of the third century, Aurelian, was the first one to wear the diadem publicly, while the inscriptions and coins call him “God” and “Lord” (Deus Aurelianus, Imperator Deus et Dominus Aurelianus Augustus).56 It was Aurelian who established the autocratic form of government in the Roman Empire.
The process of development of the imperial power, primarily on the basis of Ptolemaic Egypt and later under the influence of Sassanid Persia, was almost completed by the fourth century. Diocletian and Constantine desired to effect the definite organization of the monarchy and for this purpose they simply replaced the Roman institutions with the customs and practices which predominated in the Hellenistic East and were already known in Rome, especially after the time of Aurelian.
The times of trouble and military anarchy of the third century greatly disturbed and disintegrated the internal organization of the empire. For a while Aurelian re-established its unity and for this achievement contemporary documents and inscriptions bestow upon him the name of the “restorer of the Empire” (Restitutor Orbis). But after his death a period of unrest followed. It was then that Diocletian set himself the goal of directing the entire state organism along a normal and orderly path. As a matter of fact, however, he simply accomplished a great administrative reform. Nevertheless, both Diocletian and Constantine introduced administrative changes of such extreme importance to the internal organization of the Empire that they may be considered to be the true founders of a new type of monarchy created under the strong influence of the East.
Diocletian, who spent much of his time in Nicomedia and was on the whole favorably inclined toward the East, adopted many characteristics of the eastern monarchies. He was a true autocrat, an emperor-god who wore the imperial diadem. Oriental luxury and the complex ceremonial were introduced at his court. His subjects, when granted an audience, had to fall on their knees before they dared to lift their eyes to view their sovereign. Everything concerning the Emperor was considered sacred—his words, his court, his treasury; he himself was a sacred person. His court, which Constantine later transferred to Constantinople, absorbed large sums of money and became the center of numerous plots and intrigues which caused very serious complications in the later periods of Byzantine life. Thus autocracy in a form closely related to Oriental despotism was definitely established by Diocletian and became one of the distinguishing marks of government structure in the Byzantine Empire.
In order to systematize the administration of the vast Empire, which included many races, Diocletian introduced the system of tetrarchy, “of the power of four persons.” The administrative power was divided between two Augusti, who had equal plenipotence. One of them was to live in the eastern, and the other in the western, part of the Empire; but both had to work in the interests of one Roman state. The Empire remained undivided; the appointment of two Augusti, however, indicated that the government recognized even in those days that a difference existed between the Greek East and the Latin West, and that the administration of both could not be entrusted to the same person. Each Augustus was to be assisted by a Caesar, who, in case of the death or retirement of the Augustus, became the Augustus and selected a new Caesar. This created a sort of artificial dynastic system which was supposed to do away with the conflicts and conspiracies originating in the ambitions of various competitors. This system was also meant to deprive the legions of their decisive influence at the time of the election of a new emperor. The first two Augusti were Diocletian and Maximian, and their Caesars were Galerius and Constantius Chlorus, the father of Constantine the Great. Diocletian retained his Asiatic provinces and Egypt, with headquarters at Nicomedia; Maximian kept Italy, Africa, and Spain, with headquarters at Mediolanum (Milan); Galerius kept the Balkan peninsula and the adjoining Danubian provinces, with a center at Sirmium on the River Save (near present Mitrovitz); and Constantius Chlorus kept Gaul and Britain, with centers at Augusta Trevirorum (Trier, Treves) and Eburacum (York). All four rulers were considered as rulers of a single empire, and all government decrees were issued in the name of all four. Although theoretically the two Augusti were equal in their power, Diocletian, as an emperor, had a decided advantage. The Caesars were subjects of the Augusti. After a certain period of time the Augusti had to lay down their titles and transfer them to the Caesars. In fact Diocletian and Maximian did lay down their titles in 305 and retired to private life. Galerius and Constantius Chlorus became the Augusti. But the troubles which followed put an end to the artificial system of tetrarchy, which had already ceased to exist at the beginning of the fourth century.
Great changes in the provincial government were introduced by Diocletian, During his reign the distinction between senatorial and imperial provinces disappeared; all provinces were dependent directly upon the emperor. Formerly, the provinces being comparatively few and territorially very large, their governors had enormous power in their hands. This condition had created many dangerous situations for the central government; revolts were frequent and the governors of these large provinces, supported by their legions, were often serious pretenders to the imperial throne. Diocletian, wishing to do away with the political menace of the large provinces, decided to divide them into smaller units. The fifty-seven provinces in existence at the time of his ascension were divided into ninety-six new ones, perhaps more. Moreover, these provinces were placed under governors whose powers were purely civil. The exact number of smaller provinces created by Diocletian is not known because of the unsatisfactory information given by the sources. The main source on the provincial structure of the Empire at this time is the so-called Notitia dignitatum, an official list of court, civil, and military offices, which contains also a list of provinces. According to scholarly investigations, this undated document refers to the first half of the fifth century and hence includes the changes in provincial government introduced by the successors of Diocletian. The Notitia dignitatum numbers 120 provinces. Other lists, also of doubtful but earlier dates, give a smaller number of provinces.57 Under Diocletian also a certain number of small new neighboring provinces were grouped together in a unit called a diocese under the control of an official whose powers were likewise purely civil. There were thirteen dioceses. In their extent the dioceses resembled the old provinces. Finally, in the course of the fourth century the dioceses in turn were grouped into four (at times three) vast units (prefectures) under praetorian prefects, the most important officials of that time. Since Constantine had shorn them of their military functions, they stood at the head of the whole civil administration and controlled both the diocesan and the provincial governors. Toward the end of the fourth century the Empire, for purposes of civil government, was divided into four great sections (prefectures): (1) Gaul, including Britain, Gaul, Spain, and the northwestern corner of Africa; (2) Italy, including Africa, Italy, the provinces between the Alps and the Danube, and the northwestern portion of the Balkan peninsula; (3) Illyricum, the smallest of the prefectures, which embraced the provinces of Dacia, Macedonia, and Greece;58 and (4) the East, comprising the Asiatic territory, as well as Thrace in Europe in the north and Egypt in the south.
Many details of Diocletian’s reforms are not yet available because of the lack of adequate sources on the subject. It should be stressed, however, that in order to secure his power still more against possible provincial complications, Diocletian strictly separated military authority from civil authority; from his time onward the provincial governors had only judicial and administrative functions. The provincial reforms of Diocletian affected Italy in particular; from the leading district she was transformed into a mere province. The administrative reforms resulted in the creation of a large number of new officials and a complex bureaucratic system with strict subjection of the lower officials to the higher. Constantine the Great further developed and enlarged in some respects the reorganization of the Empire begun by Diocletian.
Thus the chief features of Diocletian’s and Constantine’s reforms were the definite establishment of absolute monarchical power and a strict separation of military and civil functions, which led to the creation of a large and complex bureaucracy. During the Byzantine period the first feature was preserved; the second experienced a great change because of a constant tendency to concentrate military and civil authority in the same hands. The numerous offices and titles were retained in the Byzantine Empire. This bureaucratic system survived to the last years of the Empire, but many changes took place in the nature of the functions and the names of the dignitaries. Most of the titles were changed from Latin to Greek; many offices degenerated into mere titles or ranks; and a number of new offices and dignities were created during subsequent periods.
A very important factor in the history of the Empire in the fourth century was the gradual immigration of the barbarians, that is, the Germans (Goths). A detailed examination of this question appears after the discussion of general conditions in the fourth century.
Constantine the Great died in 337 A.D. He has met with rare and deep appreciation from many different points of view. The Roman senate, according to the historian of the fourth century, Eutropius, enrolled Constantine among the gods;59 history has named him “the Great”; and the church has proclaimed him a saint and equal of the Apostles (Isoapostolic). Modern historians have likened him to Peter of Russia60 and Napoleon.61
Eusebius of Caesarea wrote his “Panegyric of Constantine” to glorify the triumph of Christianity in putting an end to the creations of Satan, the false gods, and destroying the pagan states:
One God was proclaimed to all mankind. At the same time one universal power, the Roman Empire, arose and flourished. At the selfsame period, by the express appointment of the same God, two roots of blessing, the Roman Empire and the doctrine of Christian piety, sprang up together for the benefit of men. . . . Two mighty powers starting from the same point, the Roman Empire swayed by a single sovereign and the Christian religion, subdued and reconciled all these contending elements.62
EMPERORS AND SOCIETY FROM CONSTANTINE THE GREAT TO THE EARLY SIXTH CENTURY
After the death of Constantine his three sons, Constantine, Constantius, and Constans, all assumed the title of Augustus and divided among themselves the rule of the Empire. A struggle soon broke out among the three rulers, during which two of the brothers were killed, Constantine in the year 340 and Constans ten years later. Constantius thus became the sole master of the Empire and ruled until the year 361. He was childless, and after the death of his brothers he was greatly troubled by the question of a successor to the throne. His policy of extinguishing all the members of his family spared only two cousins, Gallus and Julian, whom he kept away from the capital. Anxious, however, to secure the throne for his dynasty, he made Gallus Caesar. But the latter incurred the Emperor’s suspicions and was assassinated in the year 354.
Such was the state of affairs when the brother of Gallus, Julian, was called to the court of Constantius, where he was appointed to the position of Caesar (355) and married Helena, a sister of Constantius. The short reign (361–63) of Julian, whose death ended the dynasty of Constantine the Great, was followed by the equally short rule of his successor, the former commander of the court guards, Jovian (363–64), who was elected Augustus by the army. After his death the new choice fell on Valentinian I (364–75) who, immediately after his own election, was forced by the demands of his soldiers to appoint his brother, Valens, as Augustus and co-ruler (364–78). Valentinian ruled the western part of the Empire and entrusted the eastern half to Valens. Valentinian was succeeded in the west by his son Gratian (375–83), while at the same time the army proclaimed as Augustus Valentinian II (375–92). the four-year-old stepbrother of Gratian. Following the death of Valens (378), Gratian appointed Theodosius to the high position of Augustus and commissioned him to rule over the eastern half of the Empire and a large part of Illyricum. Theodosius, originally from the far West (Spain), was the first emperor of the dynasty which occupied the throne until the death of Theodosius the Younger in 450 A.D.
After the death of Theodosius his sons Arcadius and Honorius divided the rule of the Empire; Arcadius ruled in the east and Honorius in the west. As in previous instances in the fourth century under the joint rule of Valens and Valentinian I, or of Theodosius, Gratian, and Valentinian II, when the division of power did not destroy the unity of the Empire, so under Arcadius and Honorius that unity was maintained: there were two rulers of one state. Contemporaries viewed the situation precisely in this light. The historian of the fifth century, Orosius, the author of the History Against the Pagans, wrote: “Arcadius and Honorius began to keep the common empire, having only divided their seats.”63
Among the emperors who reigned in the eastern part of the Empire during the period 395–518, the first were from the lineage of Theodosius the Great: his son Arcadius (395–408), who married Eudoxia, the daughter of a German (Frankish) chief; and the son of Arcadius, Theodosius the Younger (408–50), whose wife Athenais was the daughter of an Athenian philosopher and was named Eudocia when she was baptized. After the death of Theodosius II his sister Pulcheria married Marcian of Thrace, who became emperor (450–57). Thus in 450 A.D. ended the male line of the Spanish dynasty of Theodosius. Following Marcian’s death Leo I (457–74), born in Thrace or “Dacia in Illyricum,” i.e. in the prefecture of Illyricum, a military tribune, was chosen emperor. Ariadne, the daughter of Leo I, who was married to the Isaurian Zeno, had a son Leo, who, after the death of his grandfather, became emperor (474) at the age of six. He died a few months later, after he had succeeded in appointing as co-emperor his father, Zeno, of the wild tribe of Isaurians, dwellers of the Taurus Mountains in Asia Minor. This Leo is known in history as Leo II the Younger. His father, Zeno, reigned from 474 to 491. When Zeno died his wife, Ariadne, married a silentiary,64 the aged Anastasius, originally from Dyrrachium (Durazzo) in Illyria (present-day Albania). He was proclaimed emperor in 491 and ruled as Anastasius I until 518.
This list of emperors indicates that from the death of Constantine the Great until 518 A.D. the throne at Constantinople was occupied first by the Dardanian dynasty of Constantine, or rather the dynasty of his father, who probably belonged to some Romanized barbarian tribe of the Balkan peninsula; then by a number of Romans—Jovian and the family of Valentinian I; then by three members of the Spanish dynasty of Theodosius, followed by occasional emperors belonging to various tribes: Thracians, one Isaurian, and an Illyrian (perhaps an Albanian). During this entire period the throne was never occupied by a Greek.
The sons of Constantine ruled the Empire jointly after the death of their father. The hostility among the three brothers who had divided the rule of the Empire was further complicated by the hard struggle with the Persians and Germans which the Empire had to face at that time. The brothers were kept asunder not only by political differences, but by religious ones as well. While Constantine and Constans were adherents of the Nicene Creed, Constantius, continuing the development of the religious policy of the last years of his father’s life, openly sided with the Arians. During the ensuing civil strife Constantine, and a few years later Constans, were slain. Constantius became the sole ruler of the Empire.
As an ardent adherent of Arianism, Constantius carried out a persistent Arian policy against paganism. One of the decrees of Constantius proclaimed: “Let there be an end to all superstition, and let the insanity of sacrifices be rooted out.”65 But the pagan temples outside the city walls still remained inviolable for the time being. A few years later a decree ordered the temples closed, forbade entrance to them, and prohibited the offering of sacrifices in all localities and cities of the Empire under the threat of death and confiscation of property. Still another edict stated that the penalty of death would be incurred by anyone who offered sacrifices or worshiped the gods.66 When Constantius, wishing to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of his reign, arrived for the first time at Rome, he inspected the numerous monuments under the guidance of the senators, who were still pagans, and ordered that the Altar of Victory, personifying for paganism all the former greatness of Rome, be removed from the Senate. This act made a very deep impression on the pagans, for they sensed that the last days of their existence were approaching. Under Constantius the immunities of the clergy were broadened; bishops were exempted from civil trial.
In spite of the harsh measures directed against paganism, it not only continued to exist side by side with Christianity, but at times it even found some protection from the government. Thus Constantius did not disperse the vestals and priests in Rome, and in one of his edicts he even ordered the election of a priest (sacerdos) for Africa. Until the end of his life Constantius bore the title of Pontifex Maximus. On the whole, however, paganism experienced a number of setbacks during his reign, while Christianity in its Arian interpretation advanced.
The persistent Arian policy of Constantius led to serious friction between him and the Nicaeans. Particularly persistent was he in his struggle with the famous leader of the Nicaeans, Athanasius of Alexandria. Constantius died in 361, and neither the Nicaeans nor the pagans could sincerely mourn the death of their emperor. The pagans rejoiced because the throne was to be occupied by Julian, an open adherent of paganism. The feelings of the Christian party in the matter of Constantius’ death was expressed in the words of St. Jerome: “Our Lord awakes, he commands the tempest; the beast dies and tranquillity is restored.”67 Constantius died during the Persian campaign in Cilicia, but his body was transported to Constantinople. His pompous funeral took place in the presence of the new Emperor Julian in the Church of the Apostles, supposedly erected by Constantine the Great.67a The Senate enrolled the deceased emperor among the gods.
Julian the Apostate (361–63)
The name of Julian, the successor of Constantius, is closely connected with the last attempt to restore paganism in the Empire. Julian was an extremely interesting personality, who for a long time has attracted the attention of scholars and writers. The literature about him is very extensive. The writings of Julian himself, which have been preserved, give abundant material for judging his philosophy and actions. The chief aim of investigators in this field has been to understand and interpret this enthusiastic “Hellen” so firmly convinced of the righteousness and success of his undertaking, the man who in the second half of the fourth century set out to restore and revive paganism and make it the basis of the religious life of the Empire.
Julian lost his parents at a very early age: his mother died a few months after his birth, his father died when he was only six years old. He received a very good education. His most influential tutor and general guide was Mardonius, a scholar of Greek literature and philosophy, who had taught Homer and Hesiod to Julian’s mother. While Mardonius acquainted Julian with the masterpieces of classical literature, a Christian clergyman, probably Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia and later of Constantinople, a convinced Arian, introduced him to the study of the Holy Scriptures. Thus, according to one historian,68 Julian received two different kinds of education which lodged in him side by side without affecting each other. Julian was baptized in his early youth. In later years he recalled this event as a nightmare which he must try to forget.
The early years of Julian’s life were spent in great fear and anxiety. Constantius, regarding him as a possible rival and suspecting him of having designs on the throne, sometimes kept him in provinces far from the capital as a kind of exile and sometimes called him to the capital in order to keep him under observation. Conscious of all the facts about the massacre of many members of his family who had been slain by the order of Constantius, Julian feared death constantly. Constantius forced him to spend a few years in Cappadocia, where he continued the study of ancient writers under the guidance of Mardonius, who accompanied him, and where he also became well acquainted with the Bible and the Gospels. Later Constantius transferred Julian first to Constantinople and then to Nicomedia, where he continued his studies and first exhibited his serious leanings toward paganism.
The greatest rhetorician of that period, Libanius, was lecturing in Nicomedia at that time. He was the true leader of Hellenism, who refused to study Latin, regarding it with disdain. He despised Christianity and attributed the solution of all problems to Hellenism. His enthusiasm for paganism knew no bounds. His lectures were exceedingly popular at Nicomedia. When Constantius decided to send Julian there, he foresaw perhaps what ineffaceable impression the enthusiastic lectures of Libanius might make upon the mind of the young student, and he forbade Julian to attend the lectures of the famous rhetorician. Julian did not formally disobey this imperial command, but he studied the writings of Libanius, discussed the lectures of the inspiring teacher with people who had heard them, and adopted the style and mode of his writings to such an extent that he was afterwards spoken of as a pupil of Libanius. It was also at Nicomedia that Julian studied with enthusiasm the occult neo-Platonic teachings, which at that time aimed to penetrate the future through calling out, by means of certain conjuring formulas, not only ordinary dead people but even the gods (theurgy). The learned philosopher Maximus of Ephesus greatly influenced Julian on this subject.
After surviving the dangerous period of the death of his brother Gallus, slain by the orders of Constantius, Julian was called to the court at Milan for acquittal and then exiled to Athens. This city, famous for its great past, was no more than a quiet provincial town where the famous pagan school stood as a reminder of the former glorious days. Julian’s stay at Athens was full of deep interest. In later life in one of his letters he “recalled with great pleasure the Attic discourses … the gardens and suburbs of Athens and its myrtles, and the humble home of Socrates.”69 Many historians claim that it was during this stay in Athens that Julian was initiated by an Eleusinian hierophant into the ancient mysteries of Eleusis. This, according to Boissier, was a sort of baptism of a newly converted soul.70 Some scholars, however, have expressed doubt about the Eleusinian conversion of Julian.71
In 355 Constantius appointed Julian to the position of Caesar, married him to his sister, Helena, and sent him as head of the army to Gaul to aid in the long and arduous campaign against the advancing Germans, who were devastating the land, ravaging the cities, and slaying the population. Julian handled the difficult task of saving Gaul very successfully and defeated the Germans near Argentoratum (later Strassburg). Julian’s main seat in Gaul was in Lutetia (Lutetia Parisiorum, later Paris). At that time it was a small city on an island of the Seine, which still bears the name La Cité (Latin civitas), a city which was connected with both banks of the river by means of wooden bridges. On the left side of the Seine, already occupied by many houses and gardens, was the palace erected probably by Constantius Chlorus; the remains of it may still be seen near the Cluny Museum in Paris. Julian chose this palace as his residence. He was fond of Lutetia, and in one of his later works he recalled wintering in his “beloved Lutetia.”72
Julian was successful in driving the Germans across the Rhine. “Three times, while I was still Caesar,” he wrote, “I crossed the Rhine; twenty thousand persons who were held as captives on the farther side of the Rhine I demanded and received back. … I have now with the help of the gods recovered all the towns, and by that time I had already recovered almost forty.”73 Among his soldiers Julian inspired great love and admiration.
Constantius regarded the success of Julian with suspicion and envy. While undertaking the Persian campaign he demanded that Julian send him a reinforcement of legions from Gaul. The Gallic soldiers revolted against this demand and, lifting Julian upon a shield, they proclaimed him Augustus. The new Augustus demanded that Constantius recognize the fait accompli, but Constantius refused to do so. A civil war seemed to be unavoidable. But just at this time Constantius died. In the year 361 Julian was recognized as Emperor throughout the Empire. The adherents and favorites of Constantius were condemned to harsh punishments and persecution instigated by the new Emperor.
Julian for a long time had been an enthusiastic adherent of paganism, but he was forced to hide his religious convictions until the death of Constantius. Upon becoming the full master of the Empire, he set out to realize his sacred dream of restoring his favorite religion. During the first weeks following his ascent to the throne, Julian issued an edict in connection with his cherished plan. The historian Ammianus Marcellinus described this period:
Although from his earliest childhood, Julian inclined to the worship of the gods, and gradually, as he grew up, became more attached to it, yet he was influenced by many apprehensions which made him act in things relating to that subject as secretly as he could. But when his fears were terminated, and he found himself at liberty to do what he pleased, he then showed his secret inclinations, and by plain and positive decree ordered the temples to be opened, and victims to be brought to the altars for the worship of the gods.74
This edict was not unexpected, for everyone knew of Julian’s leaning toward paganism. The joy of the pagans knew no bounds; to them the restoration of paganism meant not only religious freedom but religious victory as well.
At the time of Julian’s accession there was not a single pagan temple in Constantinople itself, and since it was impossible to erect temples in a short period of time, it is very likely that Julian performed his solemn offering of sacrifices in the main basilica, originally intended for promenades and conferences and decorated since the time of Constantine the Great by the statue of Fortuna. According to the church historian Sozomen, the following incident took place in the basilica: An aged blind man led by a child approached the Emperor and publicly called him an irreligious man, an atheist, and an apostate. Julian answered to this: “Thou art blind, and the Galilean, thy God, will not cure thee.” The aged man answered, “I thank God for my blindness, since it prevents me from beholding thy impiety.” Julian passed by this daring remark without any comment and continued the offering of sacrifices.75
In proposing to revive paganism Julian was fully aware that it was impossible to restore it in its former purely material form; it was necessary to reform and improve paganism in many respects in order to create an organization capable of combating the Christian church. For this purpose the Emperor decided to borrow many elements from the Christian organization, with which he was well acquainted. He organized the pagan priesthood along the principles of the hierarchy of the Christian church; the interiors of pagan temples were arranged according to the examples set by Christian temples; the pagans were to conduct discourses and read about the mysteries of Hellenic wisdom (this compared with the Christian sermons); singing was introduced into pagan services; an irreproachable mode of living was demanded of priests; orders were threatened with excommunication and penance. In other words, in order to revive and adapt the restored paganism, Julian turned to a source which he despised deeply.
The number of beasts sacrificed on the altars of the gods was so great that it called forth doubt and a certain amount of jest even among the pagans. The Emperor himself took an active part in the offering of sacrifices and did not abhor even the lowest menial labor connected with these performances. According to Libanius, he ran around the altar, kindled the fire, handled the knife, slaughtered the birds, and knew all about their entrails.76 In connection with the unusually large number of animals used for sacrifices, the epigram once directed toward another emperor, the philosopher Marcus Aurelius, became current again: “The white cattle to Marcus Caesar, greeting! If you conquer there is an end of us.”77
This apparent triumph of paganism was bound to affect strongly the position of the Christians in the Empire. At first it seemed that no serious menace was threatening Christianity. Julian invited the dissenting leaders of various religious parties and their congregations to the palace and announced that now, civil strifes having been ended, every man could follow his chosen religion without any impediment or fear. Thus a proclamation of religious tolerance was one of the first acts of Julian’s independent rule. Sometimes the Christians would begin their disputes in the presence of Julian, and then the Emperor would say, in the words of Marcus Aurelius, “Listen to me, to whom the Alemanni and Franks have listened.”78 Soon after Julian’s accession an edict recalled from exile all the bishops banished during the reign of Constantius, no matter what their religious convictions, and returned to them their confiscated property.
Because these religious leaders recalled from exile belonged to different religious parties and were irreconcilable in their opinions, they could not live peacefully side by side and soon became involved in very serious disputes. Apparently Julian had counted on just such a development. Although seemingly he granted religious freedom to all, Julian was well acquainted with the psychology of the Christians and felt certain that discord would follow immediately; a disunited Christian church could not be a serious menace to paganism. At the same time Julian offered great privileges to those who would consent to renounce Christianity. There were many cases of such apostasy. St. Jerome called this policy of Julian “a gentle persecution, which attracted rather than forced people to join in the offering of sacrifices.”79
Meanwhile, Christians were being gradually removed from civil and military posts and their places were being taken by pagans. The famous labarum of Constantine, which served as the standard in the army, was abolished, and the shining crosses on the soldiers’ shields were replaced with pagan emblems.
But the act which dealt Christianity the most painful blow was Julian’s school reform. The first edict concerned the appointment of professors in the leading cities of the Empire. The candidates were to be elected by the cities, but each choice was to be submitted to the Emperor for approval. The latter could thus refuse to sanction the election of any professor he disliked. Formerly the appointment of professors had been within the jurisdiction of the city. Still more important was a second decree, preserved in the letters of Julian. It stated that “all who profess to teach anything whatever must be men of upright character and must not harbor in their souls opinions irreconcilable with the spirit of the state.”80 By “the spirit of the state” this decree meant the paganistic tendencies of the Emperor himself. In this order Julian declared it absurd that men who expounded the works of Homer, Hesiod, Demosthenes, Herodotus, and other classical writers should dishonor the gods whom these writers honored:
I give them this choice, either not to teach what they do not think admirable, or, if they wish to teach, let them first really persuade their pupils that neither Homer nor Hesiod nor any of these writers whom they expound and have declared to be guilty of impiety, folly, and error in regard to the gods, is such as they declare. For since they make a livelihood and receive pay from the works of these writers, they thereby confess that they are most shamefully greedy of gain, and that, for the sake of a few drachmae, they would put up with anything. It is true that, until now, there were many excused for not attending the temples, and the terror that threatened on all sides absolved men for concealing the truest beliefs about the gods. But since the gods have granted us liberty, it seems to me absurd that men should teach what they do not believe to be sound. But if they believe that those whose interpreters they are and for whom they sit, so to speak, in the seat of the prophets, were wise men, let them be the first to emulate their piety toward the gods. If, however, they think that those writers were in error with respect to the most honored gods, let them betake themselves to the churches of the Galilaeans to expound Matthew and Luke. . . . Such is the general ordinance for religious and secular teachers. . . . Though indeed it might be proper to cure these, even against their will, as one cures the insane, except that we concede indulgence to all for this sort of disease. For we ought, I think, to teach, but not punish, the demented.81
Ammianus Marcellinus, a friend of Julian and his companion in military campaigns, explained briefly this edict: “[Julian] forbade the Christian masters of rhetorical grammar to teach unless they came over to the worship of the gods,”82 in other words, unless they became pagans. On the basis of references made by some of the Christian writers of that time, some people suppose that Julian issued a second decree forbidding Christians not only to teach but even to study in the public schools. St. Augustine wrote: “And did not Julian, who forbade the Christians to teach and study the liberal arts (liberales litteras), persecute the church?”83 But the text of the second decree has not been preserved; it is possible that such a decree was never issued, especially since the first decree forbidding the Christians to teach indirectly involved the restriction upon study. After the publication of the teaching edict the Christians could send their children only to grammar and rhetorical schools with pagan teaching, and from that the majority of Christians abstained because they feared that within one or two generations of pagan instruction Christian youth might return to paganism. On the other hand, if Christians were not to receive a general education, they were bound to become the intellectual inferiors of the pagans. Thus Julian’s decree, even if there was only one, was of extreme significance to the Christians, since it greatly endangered the future of Christianity. Gibbon quite justly remarked: “The Christians were directly forbidden to teach; they were also indirectlyforbidden to study, since they could not [morally] attend pagan schools.”84
An overwhelmingly large majority of the Christian rhetoricians and grammarians preferred to abandon their profession rather than turn back to paganism. Even among the pagans the attitude toward Julian’s edict varied. The pagan writer Ammianus Marcellinus wrote concerning this: “But Julian’s forbidding masters of rhetoric and grammar to instruct Christians was a cruel action, and one deserving to be buried in everlasting silence.”85
It is interesting to note how the Christians reacted to this edict. Some of them naively rejoiced that the Emperor made it more difficult for the faithful ones to study the pagan writers. In order to replace the forbidden pagan literature, the Christian writers of that period, especially Apollinarius the Elder and Apollinarius the Younger, father and son, proposed to create for use in the school, a new literature of their own. With this aim in view, they translated the Psalms into forms similar to the odes of Pindar; the Pentateuch of Moses they rendered into hexameter; the Gospels were rewritten in the style of Plato’s dialogues. Of this sudden literature, which could not possess any genuine artistic qualities, nothing has survived. It disappeared immediately after Julian’s death, when his decree lost its significance.
In the summer of 362 Julian undertook a journey through the eastern provinces and stopped at Antioch, where the population, according to Julian himself, “have chosen atheism,”86 that is, Christianity. The predominance of Christians explains why in the triumphal official reception accorded the Emperor at Antioch there was felt, and at times manifested, a certain coldness and even hatred. Julian’s stay at Antioch is very significant, because it convinced him of the difficulty, and even impossibility, of restoring paganism. The Syrian capital remained completely unmoved by the religious sympathies of the visiting Emperor. Julian told the story of his visit in his satirical work, Misopogon, or Beardhater.87 During an important pagan holiday he expected to see at the temple of Apollo, in the Antioch suburb of Daphne, a large crowd of people, beasts for sacrifice, libations, incense, and other attributes of a pagan festival. Upon entering the temple, he found, to his great astonishment, only one priest with a single goose for sacrifice. In Julian’s version:
In the tenth month, according to your reckoning—-Loos, I think you call it—there is a festival founded by your forefathers in honor of this god [Helios, Sun God, Apollo], and it was your duty to be zealous in visiting Daphne. Accordingly, I hastened thither from the temple of Zeus Kasios, thinking that at Daphne, if anywhere, I should enjoy the sight of your wealth and public spirit. And I imagined in my own mind the sort of procession it would be, like a man seeing visions in a dream, beasts for sacrifice, libations, choruses in honor of the god, incense, and the youths of your city there surrounding the shrine, their souls adorned with all holiness and themselves attired in white and splendid raiment. But when I entered the shrine I found there no incense, not so much as a cake, not a single beast for sacrifice. For the moment I was amazed and thought that I was still outside the shrine and that you were waiting the signal from me, doing me that honor because I am supreme pontiff. But when I began to inquire what sacrifice the city intended to offer to celebrate the annual festival in honor of the god, the priest answered, “I have brought with me from my own house a goose as an offering to the god, but the city this time has made no preparations.”88
Thus Antioch failed to respond to this festival occasion. Similar occurrences provoked Julian’s hatred against the Christians. His irritation grew still stronger when a sudden fire broke out in the temple of Daphne. Naturally the Christians were suspected of setting the temple on fire. Greatly provoked by this calamity, Julian ordered that the Christians should be punished by the closing of the main church of Antioch, which was immediately robbed of its treasures and subjected to sacrilege. This example was followed by many other cities. Conditions were becoming very grave. The Christians in their turn destroyed images of the gods. Some of the Christian leaders suffered martyrdom. Complete anarchy menaced the Empire.
In the spring of 363 Julian left Antioch and started out on his Persian campaign, during which he was mortally wounded by a spear. He died shortly after being transported to his tent. No one knew exactly who struck the fatal blow, and later many versions of this incident became current. Among them, of course, was the version that the Emperor was killed by the Christians. Christian historians, however, relate the well-known legend “that the Emperor threw a handful of his own blood [from his wound] into the air and exclaimed, ‘Thou hast conquered, Oh, Galilaean!’ “89
His army generals and close friends gathered about the dying Emperor in his tent and Julian addressed to them his farewell message. This speech is preserved in the writings of Ammianus Marcellinus (xxv, 3, 15–20). While anticipating his death with philosophical calmness, the Emperor presented a defense of his life and actions, and, feeling that his strength was ebbing, he expressed the hope that a good sovereign might be found to take his place. However, he did not name any successor. Noticing that all around him were weeping, he reproved them with still undiminished authority, saying that it was humiliating to mourn for an emperor who was just united to heaven and the stars. He died at midnight, on June 26, in the year 363, at the age of thirty-two. The famous rhetorician Libanius compared the death of Julian to the death of Socrates.90
The army proclaimed as emperor the head of the court guards, Jovian, a Christian of the Nicene Creed. Forced by the king of Persia, Jovian had to sign a peace treaty according to which Persia obtained several provinces on the eastern bank of the Tigris. The death of Julian was greeted with joy by the Christians. Christian writers named the Emperor “dragon,” “Nebuchadnezzar,” “Herod,” and “monster.” But he was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in a porphyry sarcophagus.
Julian left a number of writings which afford an opportunity to become more closely acquainted with him. The center of Julian’s religious convictions was the cult of the sun, which was created under the direct influence of the cult of the bright god, Mithras, and the ideas of a degenerated Platonism. From his very early childhood Julian loved nature, especially the sky. In his discourse on the “King Sun,”91 the main source for his religious philosophy, he wrote that from early childhood an extraordinary longing for the rays of the divine planet penetrated deep into his soul. And not only did he desire to gaze intently at the sun in the daytime, but on clear nights he would abandon all else without exception and give himself up to the beauties of the heavens. Absorbed in his meditations he would not hear those who spoke to him and would at times be unconscious of what he himself was doing. According to Julian’s own rather obscure account of his religious theories, his religious philosophy reduced itself to a belief in the existence of three worlds in the form of three suns. The first sun is the supreme sun, the idea of all being, the spiritual intelligible (νoητóς)whole; it is the embodiment of absolute truth, the kingdom of supreme principles and first causes. The visible world and the visible sun, i.e. the material world, is only a reflection of the first world, but not an immediate reflection. Between these two worlds, the intelligible and the material, there lies the intellectual (νoερóς) world with a sun of its own. Thus, a triad of suns is formed: the intelligible or spiritual, the intellectual, and the material. The intellectual world is a reflection of the intelligible or spiritual and in its turn serves as an example for the material world, which is thus only a reflection of a reflection, an inferior reproduction of the absolute model. The supreme sun is too inaccessible for man. The sun of the physical is too material for deification. Therefore Julian concentrated all his attention on the central intellectual sun. He called it the “King Sun” and adored it.
In spite of his enthusiasm, Julian understood that the restoration of paganism involved many great difficulties. In one of his letters he wrote: “I need many to help me to raise up again what has fallen on evil days.”92 But Julian did not understand that the fallen paganism could not rise again because it was dead. His undertaking was doomed to failure. “His schemes,” Boissier said, “could afford to be wrecked; the world had nothing to lose by their failure.”93 “This enthusiastic philhellen,” Geffcken wrote, “is half Oriental and ‘Frühbyzantiner.’”94 Another biographer said, “The Emperor Julian seems as a fugitive and luminous apparition on the horizon beneath which had already disappeared the star of that Greece which to him was the Holy Land of civilization, the mother of all that was good and beautiful in the world, of that Greece which, with filial and enthusiastic devotion, he called his only true country.”95
The Church and the State at the end of the fourth century
Theodosius the Great and the triumph of Christianity.—During the reign of Julian’s successor, Jovian (363–64), a devoted follower of the Nicene Creed, Christianity was restored to its former position. This did not involve new persecutions of the pagans, however, whose fears on this account at the time of Jovian’s succession proved to be unfounded. Jovian intended to establish throughout the empire the order which had existed before Julian. He proclaimed complete religious toleration. He allowed the pagans to reopen their temples and continue the offering of sacrifices. In spite of his adherence to the Nicene doctrines, he undertook no compulsory legislation against the other ecclesiastical parties. Christian exiles of different sects returned from banishment. The labarum appeared again in the army. Jovian reigned only a few months, but his activity in the realm of ecclesiastical affairs made a strong impression on his contemporaries. The Christian historian of the fifth century, Philostorgius, an Arian, remarked: “The Emperor Jovian restored the churches to their original uses, and set them free from all the vexatious persecutions inflicted on them by the Apostate.”96
Jovian died suddenly in February, 364. He was succeeded by two brothers, Valentinian I (364–75) and Valens (364–78), who divided the rule of the Empire: Valentinian became the ruler of the western half of the Empire and Valens was authorized to govern the eastern half. The brothers differed greatly in their religious outlook. Valentinian followed the Nicene Creed; Valens was an Arian. But the Nicene allegiance of Valentinian did not make him intolerant of other creeds, and during his reign religious freedom was more secure and complete than before. At the beginning of his rule he issued a decree granting each man “the freedom of worshiping whatever his conscience dictated to him.”97 Paganism was freely tolerated. Yet Valentinian showed that he was a Christian emperor by a number of measures; one of them restored all the privileges granted the clergy by Constantine the Great. Valens followed an entirely different policy. Upon declaring himself a follower of Arianism, he became intolerant of all other Christian doctrines, and though his persecutions were neither severe nor systematic, people in the eastern part of the Empire did go through a period of great fear and anxiety during his reign.
In the matter of external affairs the brothers were forced to face a very severe struggle with the Germans. Valens died prematurely during his campaign with the Goths. Valentinian was succeeded in the West by his sons, Gratian (375–83) and the child Valentinian II (375–92). After the death of Valens (378), Gratian appointed Theodosius as Augustus of the East and Illyricum.
Disregarding the young and irresolute Valentinian II, an Arian adherent, who played no important role in the internal policies of the Empire, the government under Gratian and Theodosius quite definitely forsook the policy of religious toleration and manifested a decided inclination toward the Nicene Creed. Of particular significance in this respect was the policy of the eastern ruler, Theodosius, surnamed “The Great” (379–95), whose name is always associated with the triumph of Christianity. His decided preference for his chosen creed left no room for toleration of paganism.
The family of Theodosius came into the foreground in the second half of the century as a result of the efforts of the father of the Emperor, also named Theodosius, who was one of the brilliant army generals in the West during the reign of Valentinian I. Before his appointment to the high rank of Augustus, Theodosius was only slightly interested in Christian ideas; but in the year following his appointment he was baptized in Thessalonica by the bishop of the city, Ascholius, a Nicaean.
Theodosius has to face two difficult problems: (1) the establishment of unity within the Empire which was being torn asunder by the dissenting religious parties; and (2) the defense of the Empire against the steady advance of the German barbarians, the Goths, who at the time of Theodosius threatened the very existence of the Empire.
During the reign of Valens, Arianism played the dominant role. After the death of Valens, especially in the absence of a ruler during the short period preceding the election of Theodosius, religious disputes burst forth once more and at times assumed very crude forms. These disquieting movements were felt particularly in Constantinople. The disputes on dogma, passing beyond the limited circle of the clergy, were taken up by all classes of society and were discussed even by the crowds in the streets. The problem of the nature of the Son of God had aroused heated discussions everywhere since the middle of the fourth century: in the cathedrals and churches, in the imperial palace, in the huts of hermits, in the squares and markets. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, wrote, not without sarcasm, of the prevailing conditions in the second half of the fourth century: “Everything is full of those who are speaking of unintelligible things—streets, markets, squares, crossroads. I ask how many oboli I have to pay; in answer they are philosophizing on the born or unborn; I wish to know the price of bread; one answers: ‘The Father is greater than the Son’; I inquire whether my bath is ready; one says, ‘The Son has been made out of nothing.’ “98
By the time of the succession of Theodosius conditions had changed. Upon arriving in Constantinople, he proposed to the Arian bishop that he renounce Arianism and join the creed of Nicaea. The bishop, however, refused and preferred to leave the capital and live outside the city gates, where he continued to hold Arian meetings. All the churches in Constantinople were turned over to the Nicaeans.
Theodosius was confronted with the questions of regulating his relations with the heretics and pagans. Even in Constantine’s time the Catholic (i.e. universal) church (ecclesia catholica) had been contrasted with the heretics (haeretici). During the reign of Theodosius the distinction between a Catholic and a heretic was definitely established by law: a Catholic was an adherent of the Nicene Creed; followers of other religious tendencies were heretics. The pagans (pagani) were considered in a separate category.
After Theodosius had openly declared himself a follower of the Nicene Creed, he began his long and obstinate struggle with the pagans and heretics, inflicting upon them penalties which grew more harsh as time went on. By the decree of 380 A.D. only those who believed in the trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as preached by the apostolic writings and the Gospels, were considered Catholic Christians; all others, “the mad and insane” people, who adhered to “the infamy of heretic doctrine,” had no right to call their meeting places churches and were subject to severe punishment.99 According to one historian, this decree shows clearly that Theodosius “was the first of the emperors to regulate for his own sake, and not for the sake of the church, the body of Christian doctrine obligatory on his subjects.”100 Theodosius issued several other decrees which definitely forbade the heretics to hold assemblies, either public or private; the right to assemble was reserved solely for the followers of the Nicene symbol, who were to take over all the churches in the capital and throughout the Empire. The civil rights of the heretics were greatly curtailed, especially those concerned with bequests and inheritance.
For all his partisanship, Theodosius was anxious to establish peace and harmony in the Christian church. For this purpose he convoked a council in the year 381 at Constantinople, in which only members of the eastern church participated. This council is known as the Second Ecumenical Council. Of no other ecumenical council is the information so inadequate. The proceedings (acts) of this one are unknown. For a while it was not even recognized as an ecumenical council; only in the year 451, at a later ecumenical council, was it officially sanctioned as such. The chief religious question discussed at the Second Ecumenical Council was the heresy of Macedonius, a semi-Arian who attempted to prove that the Holy Spirit was created. The council condemned the heresy of Macedonius, as well as a number of other heresies based upon Arianism; confirmed the declaration of the Nicene symbol about the Father and Son, adding to it the part about the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father; and adopted the teaching that the Holy Spirit is of one essence with the Father and the Son. Because information about this council is so inadequate, some western European scholars are dubious as to the creed of Constantinople, which became not only the dominant creed, but the official symbol as well, for all Christian denominations, in spite of their divergence as to dogma. Some scholars have affirmed that this new creed was not and could not be the work of the second council, that it was apocryphal; others have tried to prove that this symbol was composed either before or after the second council. The majority of scholars, however, especially the Russian church historians, agree that the creed of Constantinople was actually framed by the Fathers of the second council, though it became widespread only after the victory of orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon.
The second council also established the rank of patriarch of Constantinople in relation to the bishop of Rome. The third canon of the council declares: “The bishop of Constantinople shall rank next to the bishop of Rome, because Constantinople is New Rome,” because of the political pre-eminence of the city as the capital of the Empire. Patriarchs of older eastern sees objected to this exaltation of the patriarch of Constantinople.
The see of Constantinople was at that time occupied by Gregory of Nazianzus, the Theologian, who had played a very important role in the capital during the first years of the reign of Theodosius. He was unable to manage the numerous dissenting parties represented at the council and was later forced to withdraw from his see, leave the council, and depart from Constantinople. His place was taken by Nectarius, a man of the world, one of limited theological attainments, who knew how to keep on good terms with the Emperor. Nectarius became president of the council, which in the summer of the year 381 closed its sessions.
In his attitude toward the clergy at large, that is, the Catholic (Nicene) clergy, Theodosius was rather generous. He conserved and occasionally enlarged the privileges granted by some of his predecessors to the bishops and clergy, privileges regarding personal duties, court responsibilities, and the like. He took care, however, that all these privileges should not interfere with the interests of the government. Thus by one edict Theodosius imposed upon the church extraordinary government duties (extraordinaria munera).101The availability of the church as a refuge for criminals prosecuted by the government was greatly limited because of the frequent abuses of this privilege. In particular, people indebted to the government were forbidden to seek protection in the temples against debt collectors, and the clergy were prohibited from hiding them.102
Theodosius aimed to be the sole arbiter of the church affairs of the Empire, and on the whole he succeeded in this aim. In one instance, however, he came into serious conflict with one of the distinguished leaders of the western church, Ambrose, bishop of Mediolanum (Milan). Theodosius and Ambrose held diametrically opposed views on the relation between the church and the state: the former stood for the supremacy of the state over the church; the latter assumed that the church could not be subject to the temporal power.
The conflict centered about the massacres which took place in Thessalonica. In this rich and populous city a large number of Germanic troops were quartered, headed by a very tactless and inefficient commander who did nothing to prevent the violence of the soldiers. The city population, provoked by the German outrages, finally revolted and killed the commanding officers as well as many soldiers. The infuriated Theodosius, well disposed toward the Germans, who ranked high in his army, smote the citizens of Thessalonica with a bloody massacre, showing no mercy to sex or age; the Emperor’s orders were executed by the Germans. The horrible deed was not allowed to pass unpunished. Ambrose excommunicated Theodosius, who, in spite of his power, was forced publicly to acknowledge his own guilt and then to observe humbly the penance imposed by Ambrose, who forbade him to wear the imperial regalia during the period of atonement.
During the merciless struggle with the heretics, Theodosius took decisive steps also against the pagans. Several decrees prohibited the offering of sacrifices, the divinations by the entrails of animals, and the visiting of the temples. In effect this amounted to the closing of many pagan temples, some of which were then used for government purposes, while others were almost completely destroyed, and all their rich treasures of art demolished by the fanatical mob. The destruction of the famous temple of the god Serapis, the Serapeum, which still remained the center of pagan worship in the city of Alexandria, is particularly significant. The last decree against the pagans was issued by Theodosius in the year 392. It prohibited completely the offering of sacrifices, burning of incense, hanging of garlands, libations, divinations, and so forth. It also declared all who disobeyed these orders guilty of offense against the Emperor and religion and liable therefore to severe penalties. This decree referred to the old religion as “a pagan superstition”(gentilicia superstitio).103
One historian called this edict of 392 “the funeral song of paganism.”104 It was the last step taken by Theodosius in his war upon paganism in the East.
In the western part of the Empire a particularly well-known episode during the struggle of Gratian, Valentinian II, and Theodosius against paganism centered about the removal of the Altar of Victory from the Roman Senate. The altar had been removed during Constantine’s reign, but had been restored by Julian the Apostate. The senators, who were still half pagan, viewed this forced removal of the altar as the final ruin of the former greatness of Rome. The famous pagan orator, Symmachus, was sent to the Emperor with a plea for the restoration of the statue to the Senate. Th. I. Uspensky spoke of this plea as “the last song of a dying paganism which timidly and mournfully begged mercy of the young Emperor (Valentinian II) for the faith to which his ancestors were indebted for their fame, and Rome for its greatness.”105 Symmachus did not succeed in his mission. The year 393 saw the last celebration of the Olympic games. Among other monuments of antiquity, the statue of Zeus, the work of Phidias, was transferred from Olympia to Constantinople.
The religious policy of Theodosius, therefore, differed greatly from that of his predecessors, who, while favoring some one Christian party or paganism (as did Julian), still followed to some extent a policy of toleration toward other religious groups; de jure parity of religious beliefs still persisted. But by designating the Nicene Creed as the only legal creed, Theodosius laid an absolute veto upon all other tendencies in the Christian fold, as well as upon paganism. Theodosius was one of those emperors who believed that their authority should encompass the church and the religious life of their subjects. The aim of his life was to create a single Nicene church; but in spite of his efforts he did not succeed. Religious disputes, far from ceasing, only multiplied and spread very rapidly, making religious life in the fifth century most stormy and passionate. Over paganism Theodosius attained a complete triumph. Deprived of opportunity to avow its faith openly, paganism ceased to exist as an organized whole. There were still pagans, of course; only as separate families or individuals did they cherish secretly the beloved past of their dying religion. The famous pagan school at Athens, however, was not affected by any of the decrees of Theodosius; it continued its work of spreading the knowledge of classical literature among its students.
The German (Gothic) problem in the fourth century.—The Gothic question was the most acute problem of the Empire at the end of the fourth century. For reasons still unknown the Goths, who at the opening of the Christian era had occupied the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, migrated, probably in the latter part of the second century, further south into the territory of present-day Southern Russia. They reached as far as the shores of the Black Sea and settled in the districts between the Don and lower Danube. The Dniester divided the Goths into two tribes: the eastern Goths, otherwise named Ostrogoths or Ostgoths, and the western Goths, or Visigoths. Like all other Germanic tribes of this period, the Goths were barbarians. In their new territory they found themselves under very favorable cultural conditions. The northern shore of the Black Sea for a long time before the Christian era, had been covered with numerous rich Greek colonies, whose cultural level was very high. Their influence, as proved by archeological data, reached out far into the north, and was felt even centuries later during the early Christian period. At the time of the Gothic migration to the shores of the Black Sea, the Crimea was occupied by the rich and civilized kingdom of the Bosporus. Through contact with these old Greek colonies and the kingdom of the Bosporus, the Goths became acquainted with the classical culture of antiquity, while by continuous proximity to the Roman Empire in the Balkan peninsula they came in touch with more recent developments of civilization. As a result of these influences, the Goths, when later they appeared in western Europe, were culturally superior to all the other Germanic tribes, who entered their historical life in the West in a state of complete barbarism.
During the third century, following their settlement in the south near the Black Sea, the Goths directed their activities along two distinct paths: on the one hand, they were attracted by the sea and the possibilities it offered for raiding the cities along its shores; on the other hand, in the southwest, the Goths reached the borders of the Roman Empire on the Danube and came in contact with the Empire.
The Goths first gained a hold on the north shore of the Black Sea, and then, in the third century A.D., they invaded the greater part of the Crimea and the kingdom of the Bosporus. In the second half of the third century they undertook a number of piratical raids, using Bosporian vessels. They repeatedly robbed the rich coastland of the Caucasus and Asia Minor. By following the western shore of the Black Sea they entered the Danube, and crossing the sea, they even made their way, by the Bosphorus, to the Propontis (Sea of Marmora), and through the Hellespont (the Dardanelles) into the Archipelago. On these raids they pillaged Byzantium, Chrysopolis (on the Asiatic side facing Byzantium; Scutari at present), Cyzicus, Nicomedia, and the islands of the Archipelago. The Gothic pirates went even farther than this: they attacked Ephesus and Thessalonica, and upon reaching the Greek shores they sacked Argos, Corinth, and probably even Athens. Fortunately, however, the invaluable monuments of classical art in Athens were spared. The islands of Crete, Rhodes, and even far-removed Cyprus suffered from several Gothic attacks. Still, in all these expeditions by sea, they contented themselves with pillage, after which the Gothic vessels would return to their homes on the northern shores of the Black Sea. Many of these bands of sea robbers were either exterminated on foreign shores or captured by Roman troops.
Far more serious were the relations of the Goths with the Empire on land. Taking advantage of the troubles and anarchy in the Empire in the third century, the Goths began to cross the Danube and to enter the territory of the Empire as early as the first half of that century. The Emperor Gordian was forced to pay the Goths an annual tribute. But even this did not suffice. A short while later the Goths again entered Roman territory and swarmed over Macedonia and Thrace. The Emperor Decius marched against them and fell in battle in the year 251. In 269 Claudius succeeded in defeating the Goths near Naissus (Nish). Of the large number of prisoners captured during this battle, some were placed in the army, while others were made to settle as coloni in the depopulated Roman provinces. For this victory over the Goths, Claudius was surnamed “the Gothic” (Gothicus). But Aurelian, who had temporarily restored the Empire (270–75), was forced to give up Dacia to the barbarians and transfer its population to Moesia. In the fourth century there are frequent references to Goths in the army. According to the historian Jordanes, a division of Goths served the Romans faithfully during the reign of Maximian.106 It is well known that the Goths in the army of Constantine the Great helped him in his struggle with Licinius. In Constantine’s time the Visigoths agreed to furnish the Emperor with 40,000 soldiers. There was also a Gothic regiment in the army of Julian.
In the third century Christianity began to spread among the Goths; it was most probably imported by Christian prisoners captured in Asia Minor during the numerous sea raids. The Gothic Christians were even represented at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea by their bishop, Theophilus, one of the signers of the Nicene symbol. The true enlightener of the Goths on the Danube during the fourth century was Ulfila (Vulfila), supposed by some to be of Greek extraction, but born on Gothic soil. He had spent a number of years in Constantinople, where he was later ordained bishop by an Arian bishop. When he returned to the Goths he preached Christianity according to the Arian doctrine for a number of years. In order to introduce the Gospels among his people he invented a Gothic alphabet, based in part on the Greek letters, and translated the Bible into the Gothic language. The spread of Arian Christianity among the Goths was of great significance for their subsequent historical life, for during the period of their settlement on the territory of the Roman Empire it was this difference in religious convictions which prevented them from blending with the natives, who were followers of the Nicene Creed. The Crimean Goths remained orthodox.
Peaceful relations between the Goths and the Empire ceased in the year 376 with the advance of the Huns from Asia. They were a savage people of Mongolian race.107 In their onward march to the West they defeated the east Goths, or Ostrogoths, and with them advanced farther, reaching the territory occupied by the Visigoths. The latter, exposed as a border nation to the full force of the attack and unable to offer adequate resistance to the Huns, whose horrible massacres did not even spare the Gothic women and children, had to force their way across the border into the territory of the Roman Empire. The sources relate that the Goths stood on the northern bank of the Danube and with loud lamentations entreated the Roman authorities to permit them to cross the river. The barbarians offered to settle in Thrace and Moesia and till the soil, and promised to furnish soldiers for the army and to obey all commands of the Emperor just as his subjects did. A delegation was sent to the Emperor to state the case of the Goths. The majority of high Roman officials and generals were in favor of accepting the Goths, for they recognized all the advantages the government would gain by doing so. First, they thought it a good way of rehabilitating the farming districts and the army. Then, too, the new subjects would defend the Empire, while the old inhabitants of the provinces could be exempted from military service by the payment of a money tax, which would greatly increase the government income. The men in favor of admitting the Goths were victorious, and the barbarians received official permission to cross the Danube. “Thus,” said Fustel de Coulanges, “four or five hundred thousand barbarians, half of whom could handle arms, were admitted to the territory of the Empire.”108 Even if the foregoing figure be considered an exaggeration, the fact still remains that the number of Goths who settled in Moesia was very large. At first these barbarians led a very peaceful life, but gradually they became dissatisfied and irritated because of the peculations of the generals and officials, who made a practice of concealing part of the funds assigned for the needs of the settlers. Not only did these high officials feed the Goths poorly, but they also mistreated the men, insulted their wives, and offended their children. Many of the Goths were shipped across the sea and settled in Asia Minor. The complaints of the Goths received no attention, and the barbarians finally revolted. They obtained the help of Alans and Huns, forced their way into Thrace, and headed for Constantinople. At that time the Emperor Valens was carrying on a campaign with Persia, but when the news of the Gothic revolt reached him he left Antioch and arrived at Constantinople promptly, A decisive battle took place near Hadrianople in the year 378, in which Valens was killed and the Roman army completely defeated.
The road to the capital apparently lay open before the Goths, who overran the Balkan peninsula as far as the walls of Constantinople, but they evidently had no general plan of attacking the Empire. The successor of Valens, Theodosius, aided by his own Gothic troops, was successful in defeating and stopping their raids within the Empire. Thus, while one group of the Goths struggled against the Empire, the others were willing to serve in the imperial army and fight against men of their own tribe. The pagan historian of the fifth century, Zosimus, related that after the victory of Theodosius, “peace was established in Thrace, for the barbarians who had been there had perished.”109 The victory of the Goths at Hadrianople did not aid them in becoming established in any one province of the Empire.
On the other hand, from this time forward the Germans began to influence the life of the Empire in a peaceful manner. Theodosius was fully aware that he could not master the barbarians within the Empire by force, and he decided to follow a policy of peaceful relations with the Goths, to introduce among them certain elements of Roman culture, and to draw them into the ranks of the Roman army. In the course of time the army, whose duty it was to defend the Empire, was gradually transformed in its greater part into a German army, whose members often had to defend the Empire against their own kinsmen. Gothic influence was felt in higher military circles as well as in the administration. Many very responsible posts were in German hands. Theodosius, in following his Germanophile policy, failed to realize that a free growth of Germanism might menace the Empire’s existence. He showed particular lack of wisdom in placing the defense of the Empire in the hands of the Germans. In due time the Goths assimilated the Roman art of warfare, Roman tactics and methods of combat, and were rapidly growing into a powerful force which could at any moment challenge the Empire. The native Greco-Roman population, forced into the background, watched the growth of German power with restlessness. An anti-German movement grew up, which might have led to very grave crises in the life of the Empire.
Theodosius died in the year 395 at Milan; his embalmed body was transferred to Constantinople and buried in the Temple of the Apostles. For his great service to Christianity in its struggle with paganism Theodosius was surnamed “the Great.” His too young and weak sons, Arcadius and Honorius, were proclaimed the rulers of the Empire; Arcadius became the emperor of the eastern part, and Honorius ruled in the West.
Theodosius did not succeed in solving the main problems of his period. The Second Ecumenical Council, by proclaiming the Nicene Creed the dominant form of Christianity, failed to achieve church unity. Arianism in its various manifestations continued to exist and in its further development caused new religious movements, which in the fifth century involved not only the religious interests of the Empire, but also connected with them, the social life of that period. This was particularly true of the eastern provinces, Syria and Egypt, where the new religious developments caused extremely significant consequences. In fact, Theodosius was forced during the later years of his life to recede from his original firm Nicene position. He was compelled to make concessions to the Arian Germans, who at the time formed the overwhelming majority in the army. Thus, in the religious field as well as in administrative and military realms, the Goths exerted great influence. The main center of their power was the capital itself, the Balkan peninsula, and part of Asia Minor. The eastern provinces, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, did not feel the Gothic power to any considerable extent. Thus on religious as on racial grounds, the dissatisfaction of the native population was growing very strong. In short, Theodosius failed to solve the two significant problems of his reign: the creation of a unique and uniform church and the establishment of harmonious relations with the barbarians. These two exceedingly complicated problems remained for his successors.
Nationality and religion in the fifth century.—This epoch is of particularly great importance for the ways in which the main national and religious problems were met. The national problem was concerned with the discord among the different nationalities within the Empire as well as the conflicts with the tribes attacking it from without.
Hellenism, it would seem, should have been the main force unifying the varied population of the eastern part of the Roman Empire, but in reality it was not. Hellenistic influence could be found in the East as far as the Euphrates and in Egypt as early as the time of Alexander of Macedon and his successors. Alexander himself considered colonization one of the best means for transplanting Hellenism; it is said that he alone founded more than seventy cities in the East. His successors continued this policy of colonization. The areas to which Hellenism had spread to some extent reached as far as Armenia in the north and the Red Sea in the south and as far as Persia and Mesopotamia in the East. Beyond these provinces Hellenism did not reach. The main center of Hellenistic culture became the Egyptian city, Alexandria. All along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, Hellenic culture predominated. Of these three sections, Asia Minor was perhaps the most Hellenized; its coast had been occupied for a long period of time by Greek colonies, and their influence gradually, though not easily, penetrated into the interior of the region.
Hellenization of Syria, where Hellenic culture reached only the higher educated class, was much weaker. The mass of the population, unacquainted with the Greek language, continued to speak their own native tongues, Syriac or Arabic. One learned orientalist wrote: “If even in such a world-city as Antioch the common man still spoke Aramaic, i.e., Syriac, then one may safely suppose that inside the province the Greek language was not the language of the educated class, but only the language of those who made a special study of it.”110 The Syrian-Roman Lawbook of the fifth century was striking proof of the fact that the native Syriac language was widely used in the East.111 The oldest Syriac manuscript of this lawbook now in existence was written in the early part of the sixth century, before Justinian’s time. This Syriac text, which was probably written in northeastern Syria, is a translation from the Greek. The Greek original has not yet been discovered, but on the basis of some existing data it must have been written some time during the seventies of the fifth century. In any case the Syriac translation appeared almost immediately after the publication of the Greek original. In addition to the Syriac text there exist also Arabic and Armenian versions of the lawbook, which indicate that the book was very probably of church origin, since it analyzes with much detail the items of marriage and inheritance laws and boldly advances the privileges of the clergy. The fact that it was very widely distributed and applied to the living problems in the East, in the territory between Armenia and Egypt, as evidenced by the numerous versions of the lawbook as well as by the borrowings from it found in many Syriac and Arabic works of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, shows the continuing predominance of the native tongues. Later, when Justinian’s legislation became officially obligatory upon the whole Empire, his code proved to be too bulky and difficult of comprehension for the eastern provinces, so that in actual practice they continued to use the Syriac lawbook as a substitute for the codex. In the seventh century, following the Moslem conquest of the eastern provinces, the same Syriac lawbook was in wide use even under the Moslem domination. The fact that this lawbook was translated into Syriac as early as the second half of the fifth century indicates clearly that the mass of the people were still unacquainted with Greek or Latin and clung strongly to the native Syriac tongue.
In Egypt also, in spite of the proximity of Alexandria, the very center of world culture, Hellenism spread among the higher class only, among the people prominent in the social and religious life of the province. The mass of the people continued to speak their native Egyptian (Coptic) language.
The central government found it difficult to manage the affairs of the eastern provinces, not only because of the racially varied composition of the population, but also because the great majority of the population of Syria and Egypt and a certain part of eastern Asia Minor firmly held to Arianism with its subsequent ramifications. The complex racial problem became further complicated in the fifth century by important new developments in the religious life of these provinces.
In the western provinces of the Eastern Empire, that is in the Balkan peninsula, in the capital, and the western part of Asia Minor, the important problem of this period was that of Germanic power, which threatened the very existence of the Empire. After this problem was settled favorably for the government in the middle of the fifth century it seemed for a while that the savage Isaurians would occupy in the capital a commanding position similar to that of the Goths. In the East the struggle with the Persians continued, while in the northern part of the Balkan peninsula the Bulgarians, a people of Hunnic (Turkish) origin,112 and the Slavs began their devastating attacks.
Arcadius was only seventeen when he ascended the throne. He possessed neither the experience nor the force of will necessary for his high position, and he soon found himself completely overruled by his favorites, who directed the affairs of the Empire in a manner satisfactory to their own interests and the interests of their respective parties. The first influential favorite was Rufinus, appointed during Theodosius’ lifetime as general guide of Arcadius. Rufinus was soon murdered and two years later the eunuch Eutropius exerted the greatest influence upon the Emperor. The rapid rise of this new favorite was due primarily to his success in arranging the marriage of Arcadius and Eudoxia, the daughter of a Frank who served as an officer in the Roman army. Honorius, the younger brother of Arcadius, had been placed by his father under the guidance of the gifted chief, Stilicho, a true example of a Romanized Germanic barbarian, who had rendered great service to the Empire during its struggle with his own people.
The settlement of the Gothic problem.— The central issue for the government in the time of Arcadius was the Germanic problem. The Visigoths, who had settled during an earlier period in the northern part of the Balkan peninsula, were now headed by a new and ambitious chief, Alaric Balta. At the beginning of the reign of Arcadius, Alaric set out with his people for Moesia, Thrace, and Macedonia, threatening even the capital. The diplomatic intervention of Rufinus brought about a change in Alaric’s original plan for attacking Constantinople. The attention of the Goths was directed to Greece. Alaric crossed Thessaly and advanced into Middle Greece by way of Thermopylae.
The population of Greece at that period was almost purely Greek and, on the whole, almost the same as Pausanias and Plutarch had known it. According to Gregorovius, the old language, religion, customs, and laws of the forefathers remained almost unchanged in the towns and villages. And in spite of the fact that Christianity had been officially pronounced the dominant religion, and the worship of the gods, condemned and forbidden by the state, was doomed to die out, ancient Greece still bore the spiritual and artistic impress of paganism, mainly because of the preservation of the monuments of antiquity.113
In their march through Greece the Goths pillaged and devastated Boeotia and Attica. The Athenian harbor, Peiraeus, was in their hands; fortunately they spared Athens. The pagan historian of the fifth century, Zosimus, narrated the legend of how Alaric, upon surrounding the Athenian walls with his army, beheld the goddess Athena Promachos in armor and the Trojan hero Achilles standing before the wall. So greatly astonished was Alaric by this apparition that he abandoned the idea of attacking Athens.114 The Peloponnesus suffered greatly from the Gothic invasion, for the Visigoths sacked Corinth, Argos, Sparta, and several other cities. Stilicho undertook to defend Greece and landed with his troops in the Gulf of Corinth on the Isthmus, thus cutting off Alaric’s way back through Middle Greece. Alaric then pushed his way to the north into Epirus with great effort and against many difficulties. The Emperor Arcadius apparently was not ashamed to honor the man who had devastated the Greek provinces of the Empire with the military title of Master of Soldiers in Illyricum (Magister militum per Illyricum). After this Alaric ceased to threaten the eastern part of the Empire and directed his main attention to Italy.
In addition to the menace of the Goths in the Balkan peninsula and in Greece, the prevailing Gothic influence since the time of Theodosius the Great was felt particularly in the capital, where the most responsible army posts and many of the important administrative positions were in Germanic hands.
When Arcadius ascended the throne the most influential party in the capital was the Germanic party, headed by one of the outstanding generals of the imperial army, the Goth Gaïnas. About him were gathered soldiers of Gothic origin and representatives of the local pro-Germanic movement. The weakness of this party lay in the fact that the majority of the Goths were Arians. Second in strength, during the first years of Arcadius’ reign, was the party of the powerful eunuch, the favorite Eutropius. He was supported by various ambitious flatterers who were interested in him only because he was able to help them to promote their greedy personal interests. Gaïnas and Eutropius could not live side by side in peace, since they were competing for power. Besides these two political parties, historians speak of a third party, hostile to the Germans as well as to Eutropius; its membership included senators, ministers, and the majority of the clergy. This party represented the nationalist and religious ideology in opposition to the growing foreign and barbaric influence. This movement, naturally, refused to lend its support to the coarse and grasping Eutropius. The party’s main leader was the city prefect, Aurelian.115
Many people of the time were aware of the menace of Germanic dominance, and ultimately the government itself became conscious of it. A remarkable document has been preserved which describes vividly the reaction of certain social groups to the Germanic question. This document is the address of Synesius on “The Emperor’s Power,” or, as it is sometimes translated, “Concerning the Office of King,” which was presented, or perhaps even read, to Arcadius. Synesius, a native of the North African city of Cyrene, was an educated neo-Platonist who adopted Christianity. In the year 399 A.D. he set out for Constantinople to petition the Emperor for the remission of the taxes of his native city. Later, upon his return home, he was chosen bishop of the North African Ptolemaïs. During his three years’ stay at Constantinople, Synesius came to see very clearly the German menace to the Empire, and he composed the address, which, according to one historian, may be called the anti-German manifesto of the national party of Aurelian.116 Synesius cautioned the Emperor:
The least pretext will be used by the armed [barbarians] to assume power and become the rulers of the citizens. And then the unarmed will have to fight with men well exercised in military combats. First of all, they [the foreigners] should be removed from commanding positions and deprived of senatorial rank; for what the Romans in ancient times considered of highest esteem has become dishonorable because of the influence of the foreigners. As in many other matters, so in this one, I am astonished at our folly. In every more or less prosperous home we find a Scythian [Goth] slave; they serve as cooks and cupbearers; also those who walk along the street with little chairs on their backs and offer them to people who wish to rest in the open, are Scythians. But is it not exceedingly surprising that the very same light-haired barbarians with Euboic headdress, who in private life perform the function of servants, are our rulers in political life? The Emperor should purify the troops just as we purify a measure of wheat by separating the chaff and all other matter, which, if allowed to germinate, harms the good seed. Your father, because of his excessive compassion, received them [the barbarians] kindly and condescendingly, gave them the rank of allies, conferred upon them political rights and honors, and endowed them with generous grants of land. But not as an act of kindness did these barbarians understand these noble deeds; they interpreted them as a sign of our weakness, which caused them to feel more haughty and conceited. By increasing the number of our native recruits and thus strengthening our own army and our courage, you must accomplish in the Empire the things which still need to be done. Persistence must be shown in dealing with these people. Either let these barbarians till the soil following the example of the ancient Messenians, who put down their arms and toiled as slaves for the Lacedaemonians, or let them go by the road they came, announcing to those who live on the other side of the river [Danube] that the Romans have no more kindness in them and that they are ruled by a noble youth!117
What Synesius advocated, then, in the face of the Germanic menace to the government, was the expulsion of the Goths from the army, the formation of an indigenous army, and the establishment of the Goths as tillers of the soil. Should the Goths be unwilling to accept this program, Synesius suggested that the Romans should clear their territory of Goths by driving them back across the Danube, the place from which they originally came.
The most influential general in the imperial army, the Goth Gainas, could not view calmly the exclusive influence of the favorite, Eutropius, and an opportunity to act soon arose. At this time the Goths of Phrygia, who had been settled in this province of Asia Minor by Theodosius the Great, had risen in rebellion and were devastating the country under the leadership of their chief, Tribigild. Ga’inas, sent out against this dangerous rebel, later proved to be his secret ally. Joining hands with Tribigild, he deliberately arranged the defeat of the imperial troops sent out to suppress the revolt, and the two Goths became masters of the situation. They then presented to the Emperor a demand that Eutropius be removed and delivered into their hands. Complaints against Eutropius were coming from Eudoxia, the wife of Arcadius, and from the party of Aurelian. Arcadius, pressed by the success of the Germans, was forced to yield. He sent Eutropius into exile (399 A.D.). But this did not satisfy the victorious Goths. They compelled the Emperor to bring Eutropius back to the capital and to have him tried and executed. This accomplished, Gainas demanded that the Emperor allow the Arian Goths to use one of the temples of the capital city for Arian services. A strong protest against this request came from the bishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom (“the Golden-Mouthed”). Knowing that not only the entire capital but also the majority of the population of the Empire sided with the bishop, Gaïnas did not insist on this demand.
After gaining a stronghold in the capital, the Goths became complete masters of the fate of the Empire. Arcadius and the natives of the capital were fully aware of the danger of the situation. But Gaïnas, in spite of all his success, proved himself incapable of keeping his dominant position in Constantinople. While he was away from the capital a sudden revolt broke out in which many Goths were killed and he was unable to return to the capital. Arcadius, encouraged by the new course of events, sent against Gaïnas his loyal pagan Goth, Fravitta, who defeated Gaïnas at the time when he tried to sail across to Asia Minor. Gaïnas tried to find refuge in Thrace, but there he fell into the hands of the king of the Huns, who cut off his head and sent it as a gift to Arcadius. Thus the Gothic menace was warded off through the efforts of a German, Fravitta, who was designated consul for this great service to the Empire. The Gothic problem at the beginning of the fifth century was finally settled in favor of the government. Later efforts of the Goths to restore their former influence were of no great importance.
John Chrysostom.—Against the background of Germanic complications appeared the significant figure of the patriarch of Constantinople, John Chrysostom.118 He was born in Antioch and studied with the famous rhetorician, Libanius, intending to follow a worldly career. He later forsook this idea and after his baptism devoted himself completely to preaching in Antioch, where he remained for a number of years as a presbyter. After the death of the patriarch Nectarius, Eutropius chose this preacher of Antioch, whose fame was already widespread, as the new patriarch. He was transported to the capital secretly for fear that the population of Antioch, devoted to their preacher, might oppose his departure. In spite of the intrigues of Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, John was consecrated bishop and given the see of the capital in the year 398. Thus the episcopal throne came into the hands of a man unusually accomplished in the art of oratory, an idealist whose actions were always in harmony with his theories, and an advocate of very severe moral principles. As a ruthless opponent of superfluous luxury and a firm defender of Nicene doctrines, John made many enemies among his flock. One of his most dangerous enemies was Empress Eudoxia, a lover of luxury and pleasure, whom John publicly denounced in his addresses. In his sermons he went so far as to compare her with Jezebel and Herodias.119 His harsh policy toward the Arian Goths also earned him many enemies; it was he who strongly opposed the granting of one of the large churches of the capital to the Goths for their services. The Goths later became reconciled to the Emperor’s refusal, however, and continued to use the church allotted to them outside the city gates. John was very considerate of the orthodox Goths. He gave them one of the city churches, visited it very often, and held frequent conferences with them through an interpreter.
John’s earnest religious ideals, his unwillingness to compromise with anyone, and his harsh criticism of luxury gradually increased the number of his enemies. The Emperor himself soon fell under the influence of those who were opposed to the patriarch and openly expressed himself against John. This open opposition caused John to retire to Asia Minor, but the unrest among the masses in the capital which followed the departure of the beloved Patriarch forced the Emperor to recall him from exile. The new peace between the state and the Patriarch did not last very long, however. The inaugural ceremonies at the dedication of the statue to the Empress furnished a new occasion for a fiery speech in which John denounced the vices of the Empress. He was again deposed, and his followers, the Johannites, were severely persecuted. Finally, in the year 404, John was exiled to the Cappadocian city Cucusus, which he reached only after a long and strenuous journey, a city which he described as “the most deserted place in the universe.”120Three years later he was sent to a new place of exile on the distant eastern shore of the Black Sea, and he died on the journey. Thus ended the life of one of the most remarkable leaders of the eastern church in the early Middle Ages. The pope and the Emperor of the West, Honorius, had both interceded in an attempt to stop the persecutions of John and the Johannites, but without success.
John left a rich literary treasure, containing a vivid picture of the social and religious life of his period. Personally he was one of the very few men who did not fear to speak out openly against the Arian pretensions of the all-powerful Gaïnas and he defended with conviction and steadiness the ideals of the apostolic church. He has been called one of the most beautiful moral examples humanity has ever had. “He was merciless to sin and full of mercy for the sinner.”121
Arcadius died in the year 408, when his wife, Eudoxia, was already dead and his son and successor, Theodosius, was only seven years old.
Theodosius II, the Younger (408–50)
According to some sources, Arcadius left a testament in which he appointed as guardian for his young successor the Persian king, Yezdegerd I, because he feared that the favorites at Constantinople might deprive Theodosius of the throne. The king of Persia devotedly fulfilled the office conferred upon him, and through one of his own loyal men he guarded Theodosius against the intrigues of the courtiers. Many scholars deny the authenticity of this story, but there is nothing intrinsically implausible about it; since similar instances occur in other periods of history, there seems to be no good reason for rejecting it.122
The harmonious relations between the two empires explain the unusually favorable position of Christianity in Persia during the reign of Yezdegerd I. The Persian tradition, which reflects the state of mind of the Magi and nobles, calls Yezdegerd “the Apostate,” “the Wicked,” the friend of Rome and the Christians, and the persecutor of the Magi. But Christian sources praise him for his goodness, mildness, and munificence and at times claim that he was even at the point of becoming converted to Christianity. In reality, however, Yezdegerd I, like Constantine the Great, appreciated how important the Christian element in his empire was to his political plans. In 409 he formally granted permission to the Christians to worship openly and to restore their churches. Some historians call this decree the Edict of Milan for the Assyrian Christian church,123
In 410 a council met at Seleucia at which the Christian church in Persia was organized. The bishop of Seleucia (Ctesiphon) was elected head of the church. He was given the title of “Catholicos,” and was to reside in the capital of the Persian Empire. The members of the council made the following declaration: “We all unanimously implore our Merciful God that He increase the days of the victorious and illustrious king Yezdegerd, King of Kings, and that his years be prolonged for generations of generations and for ages of ages.”124 The Christians did not enjoy complete freedom for long. Persecutions were renewed within the later years of Yezdegerd’s reign.
Theodosius II was not a gifted statesman, nor was he particularly interested in matters of government. Throughout his long reign he kept aloof from the actual affairs of government and led a solitary monastic life. Devoting most of his time to calligraphy, he copied many old manuscripts in his very beautiful handwriting.125 But around Theodosius were very able and energetic people who contributed much to crowning his period with such important events in the internal life of the Empire that historians no longer look upon Theodosius as a weak and ill-fated emperor. One of the most influential persons during the reign of Theodosius was his sister, Pulcheria. It was she who arranged the marriage of Theodosius and Athenais (later baptized Eudocia), the daughter of an Athenian philosopher and a woman of high cultural attainment and some literary genius. Eudocia wrote a number of works, treating chiefly of religious topics, but reflecting also some contemporary political events.
In external struggles the eastern half of the Empire was more fortunate than the western half during the period of Theodosius II. No strenuous campaign had to be organized in the East, but the West was going through a very severe crisis because of the German migrations. The most terrific shock to the Romans was the entrance into Rome, former capital of the pagan Roman Empire, of the commander of the Visigoths, Alaric. Shortly afterwards the barbarians formed their first kingdoms on Roman territory in western Europe and northern Africa. The eastern part of the Empire was for a time endangered by the Huns, who attacked Byzantine territory and raided almost as far as the walls of Constantinople. Before friendly relations were established, the Emperor was forced to pay them a large sum of money and cede the territory south of the Danube. Later, however, an embassy headed by Maxi-min was sent from Constantinople to Pannonia. His friend, Priscus, who accompanied him, wrote an extremely important and full account of the embassy, describing the court of Attila and many of the customs and manners of the Huns. This description is particularly valuable for the light it throws not only on the Huns but also on the Slavs of the Middle Danube whom the Huns had conquered.126
Theological disputes and the Third Ecumenical Council— The first two ecumenical councils definitely settled the question that Jesus Christ is both God and man. But this decision fell short of satisfying the probing theological minds haunted by the problem of how the union of the divine substance of Jesus Christ with his human nature was to be conceived. In Antioch at the end of the fourth century originated the teaching that there was no complete union of the two natures in Christ. In its further developments this teaching attempted to prove the absolute independence of Christ’s human nature both before and after its union with the divine nature. As long as this doctrine remained within the confines of a limited circle of men it did not cause any serious disturbance in the church. But with the passing of the patriarchal throne of Constantinople to the Antiochene presbyter Nestorius, an ardent follower of this new teaching, conditions changed considerably, for he imposed the teaching of Antioch upon the church. Famous for his eloquence, he addressed the Emperor immediately after his consecration: “Give me, my prince, the earth purged of heretics, and I will give you heaven as a recompense. Assist me in destroying heretics, and I will assist you in vanquishing the Persians.”127 By heretics Nestorius meant all those who did not share his views on the independence of the human nature in Jesus Christ. Nestorius’ name for the Virgin Mary was not the “Mother of God” but the “Mother of Christ,” the “Mother of a man.”
Nestorius’ persecutions of his opponents aroused a great storm in the church. Particularly strong was the protest by the Alexandrian patriarch, Cyril, and Pope Celestine, who condemned the new heretical teaching at a council gathered in Rome. Theodosius, wishing to put an end to these church disputes, convoked at Ephesus the Third Ecumenical Council, which condemned the Nestorian doctrine in the year 431, Nestorius was exiled to Egypt where he spent the remainder of his life.
The condemnation of Nestorianism did not end it; there still remained numerous followers of this teaching in Syria and Mesopotamia and the Emperor ordered the administration of these provinces to take severe measures against them. The main center of Nestorianism was Edessa, the home of the famous school which spread the ideas of Antioch. In the year 489, during the reign of Zeno, this school was destroyed and the teachers and pupils were driven out of the city. They went to Persia and founded a new school at Nisibis. The king of Persia gladly admitted the Nestorians and offered them his protection, for, since he considered them enemies of the Empire, he counted on using them to his advantage when an opportunity arose. The Persian church of the Nestorian or Syro-Chaldean Christians, was headed by a bishop who bore the title of Catholicos. From Persia, Christianity in its Nestorian form spread widely into central Asia and was accepted by a considerable number of followers in India.
The Council of Ephesus was followed in the Byzantine church itself, and in Alexandria in particular, by the development of new movements in opposition to Nestorianism. The followers of Cyril of Alexandria, while they believed in the preponderance of the divine nature over the human in Jesus Christ, arrived at the conclusion that the human was completely absorbed by the divine substance; hence Jesus Christ possessed but one—divine—nature. This new teaching was called Monophysitism, or the Monophysitic doctrine, and its followers are known as the Monophysites (from the Greek μóνoς, “one,” and φύσις, “nature”). Monophysitism made great progress with the aid of two ardent Monophysites, the Alexandrian bishop Dioscorus, and Eutyches, the archimandrite of a monastery in Constantinople. The Emperor sided with Dioscorus, whom he considered an advocate of the ideas of Cyril of Alexandria. The new teaching was opposed by the patriarch of Constantinople and by Pope Leo I the Great. Dioscorus then urged the Emperor to call a council in the year 449 at Ephesus, which is known as the “Robber Council.” The Alexandrian party of Monophysites headed by Dioscorus, who presided at the council, forced members of the council who did not agree with them to recognize the teaching of Eutyches (Monophysitism) as orthodox and to condemn the opponents of the new doctrine. The Emperor ratified the decisions of the council, officially recognizing it as an ecumenical council. Naturally the council failed to establish harmony in the church. A period of stormy disturbances followed, during which Theodosius died, leaving to his successors the solution of the problem of Monophysitism, highly important in Byzantine history.
Besides the stormy and significant religious events of the period of Theodosius there were a number of events in the internal life of the Empire which marked this epoch as historically important.
The higher school at Constantinople.—The organization of the higher school at Constantinople and the publication of the Theodosian Code, which took place during the reign of Theodosius, were both of great significance in the life of the Byzantine Empire.
Until the fifth century the city of Athens, the home of the famous philosophical school, was the main center of pagan teaching in the Roman Empire. Greek teachers of rhetoric and philosophy, better known as the sophists, came there from all parts of the Empire, some to display their knowledge and oratorical eloquence, others in hopes of obtaining good positions in the teaching profession. These teachers were supported partly from the imperial treasury, partly from the treasuries of the various cities. Tutoring and lecturing were also better paid in Athens than elsewhere. The triumph of Christianity at the end of the fourth century dealt the Athenian school a heavy blow, and intellectual life there was also greatly affected at the very close of the century by the devastating advances of the Visigoths into Greece. Even after the departure of Alaric and the Visigoths, the Athenian school did not rise to its former position; the number of philosophers was greatly decreased. Most severe of all was the blow dealt the Athenian pagan school by the organization of the higher school, or university, in Constantinople.
When Constantinople became the capital of the Empire, many rhetoricians and philosophers came to the new city, so that even before Theodosius II a kind of high school may have existed there. Teachers and scholars were invited to Constantinople from Africa, Syria, and other places. St. Hieronymus remarked in his Chronicle (360–62 A.D.): “Euanthius, the most learned grammarian, died at Constantinople, and in his place Charisius was brought from Africa.”128 Accordingly a recent student of the problems of the higher schools in Constantinople in the Middle Ages says that under Theodosius II the higher school was not founded but reorganized.129 In the year 425 Theodosius II issued a decree dealing with the organization of a higher school.130 There were to be thirty-one professors teaching grammar, rhetoric, jurisprudence, and philosophy. Three rhetors(oratores) and ten grammarians were to conduct their teaching in Latin, and five rhetors or sophists (sofistae) and ten grammarians were to teach in Greek. In addition to this the decree provided for one chair for philosophy and two chairs for jurisprudence. While Latin still remained the official language of the Empire, the foundation of Greek chairs at the University indicates that the Emperor was beginning to see that in the new capital Greek had undeniable rights as the language most spoken and understood in the eastern part of the Empire. The number of Greek rhetors exceeded the number of Latin rhetors by two. The new higher school was given a separate building with large lecture rooms and auditoriums. The professors were forbidden to tutor anyone privately in their homes; they were to devote all their time and effort to teaching at the school. They were provided with a definite salary from the imperial exchequer and could advance to very high rank. This educational center at Constantinople became a dangerous rival of the Athenian pagan school, which was steadily declining. In the subsequent history of the Byzantine Empire the higher school of Theodosius II long stood as the center about which were assembled the best cultural forces of the Empire.
Codex Theodosianus.—From the period of Theodosius II also dates the oldest collection of decrees of Roman emperors which has been preserved. For a long time such a collection had been needed because the numerous separate decrees were easily forgotten and lost, thus introducing much confusion into the juridical practices of the day and creating many difficult situations for the jurists. There were two earlier collections of decrees, the Gregorian and the Hermogenian codes (Codex Gregorianus and Codex Hermogenianus), named perhaps after their authors, Gregory and Hermogenes, about whom little is known. The first collection dates back to the epoch of Diocletian and probably contained decrees from the period of Hadrian to that of Diocletian. The second collection, compiled during the reign of the successors of Diocletian in the fourth century, contained decrees dating from the late third century to the sixth decade of the fourth century. Neither of the two collections has survived; both are known only through the small fragments which have been preserved.
Theodosius’ idea was to issue a collection of laws modeled after the two earlier collections. It was to contain decrees issued by the Christian emperors from Constantine the Great to Theodosius II, inclusive. The commission appointed by the Emperor produced, after eight years’ work, the so-called Codex Theodosianus, in Latin. It was published in the year 438 in the East and shortly afterwards it was introduced in the western part of the Empire. The code of Theodosius is divided into sixteen books, which in turn are subdivided into a definite number of titles (tituli). Each book treats of some phase of government, such as offices, military affairs, religious life. In each title the decrees are arranged in chronological order. The decrees which appeared after the publication of the code were called novels (leges novellae).131
The code of Theodosius is of very great historical importance. First, it is the most valuable source on the internal history of the fourth and fifth centuries. Since it also embraces the period when Christianity became the state religion, this legal collection may be considered as a sort of summary of what the new religion accomplished in the field of law and what changes it brought about in juridical practices. Furthermore, this code, together with the earlier collections, formed a solid foundation for the subsequent juridical activities of Justinian. Finally, the code of Theodosius, introduced in the West during the period of Germanic migrations, together with the two earlier codes, later novels, and a few other juridical monuments of imperial Rome (the Institutions of Gaius, for example), exerted great influence, both direct and indirect, upon barbarian legislation. The famous “Roman Law of the Visigoths” (Lex Romana Visigothorum), intended for the Roman subjects of the Visigothic kingdom, is nothing more than an abridgment of the Theodosian code and the other sources mentioned. It is for this reason that the “Roman Law of the Visigoths” is also called the “Breviary of Alaric” (Breviarium Alaricianum), that is, an abridgment issued by the Visigoth king, Alaric II, in the early part of the sixth century. This is an instance of direct influence exerted by the code of Theodosius upon barbarian legislation. But still more frequent was its indirect influence through the Visigoth code. During the early Middle Ages, including the epoch of Charlemagne, western European legislation was influenced by the Breviarium, which became the chief source of Roman law in the West. This indicates clearly that Roman law at that period influenced western Europe but not through the code of Justinian, which spread in the West much later, sometime during the twelfth century. This fact is sometimes overlooked by scholars; and even such a distinguished historian as Fustel de Coulanges stated that “science has proved that Justinian’s collections of laws maintained their force in Gaul late into the Middle Ages.”132 The influence of the code went still further, for the Breviarium of Alaric has apparently played some part in the history of Bulgaria. At least it is the opinion of the famous Croatian scholar, Bogišič, whose arguments were later developed and confirmed by the Bulgarian scholar, Bobtchev, that the Breviarium Alaricianum was sent by Pope Nicholas I to the Bulgarian king Boris, after he had petitioned the pope in the year 866 to send to Bulgaria “the mundane laws” (leges mundanae). In answer to this demand the pope, in his “Responses to the Consults of the Bulgarians” (Responsa papae Nicolai ad consulta Bul gar or um), announced that he was sending them the “venerable laws of the Romans” (venerandae Romanorum leges), which Bogišič and Bobtchev considered to be the breviary of Alaric.133 Even if this be so, the value of this code in the life of the ancient Bulgarians should not be exaggerated, because only a few years later Boris broke away from the Roman curia and drew nearer to Constantinople. But the mere fact that the pope sent the Breviarium may indicate its significance in European life during the ninth century. All these instances show clearly the great and widespread influence of the Codex Theodosianus.134
The walls of Constantinople.—Among the important events of the time of Theodosius was the construction of the walls of Constantinople. Constantine the Great had surrounded the new capital with a wall. By the time of Theodosius II the city had far outgrown the limits of this wall. It became necessary to devise new means for the defense of the city against the attacks of enemies. The fate of Rome, taken by Alaric in the year 410, became a serious warning for Constantinople, since it too was menaced in the first half of the fifth century by the savage Huns.
The solution of this very difficult problem was undertaken by some of the gifted and energetic men of Theodosius’ court. The walls were built in two shifts. In 413, during the early childhood of Theodosius, the praetorian prefect, Anthemius, who was at that time regent, erected a wall with numerous towers which extended from the Sea of Marmora to the Golden Horn, somewhat to the west of Constantine’s wall. This new wall of Anthemius, which saved the capital from the attack of Attila, exists even today north of the Sea of Marmora as far as the ruins of the Byzantine palace known as the Tekfour Serai. After a violent earthquake which destroyed the wall, the praetorian prefect Constantine repaired it and also built around it another wall with many towers and surrounded with a deep ditch filled with water. Thus, on land, Constantinople had a threefold series of defenses, the two walls separated by a terrace and the deep ditch which surrounded the outer wall. Under the administration of Cyrus, prefect of the city, new walls were also constructed along the seashore. The two inscriptions on the walls dating back to this period, one Greek and the other Latin, speak of the building activities of Theodosius. They are still legible today. The name of Cyrus is also associated with the introduction of night illumination of the streets in the capital.135
Theodosius II died in the year 450. In spite of his weakness and lack of ability as a statesman, his long reign was very significant for subsequent history, especially from the cultural point of view. By a lucky choice of responsible officials, Theodosius succeeded in accomplishing great results. The higher school of Constantinople and the code of Theodosius still remain splendid monuments of the cultural movement in the first half of the fifth century. The city walls built during this period made Constantinople impregnable for many centuries to the enemies of the Byzantine Empire. N. H. Baynes remarked: “In some sense the walls of Constantinople represented for the East the gun and gunpowder, for lack of which the Empire in the West perished.”136
Marcian (450–57) and Leo I (457–74). Aspar
Thedosius died leaving no heir. His aged sister Pulcheria agreed to become the nominal wife of Marcian, a Thracian by birth, who was later proclaimed Emperor. Marcian was a very capable but modest soldier and rose to the throne only because of the entreaties of the influential general Aspar, of Alan descent.
The Gothic problem, which became a real menace to the state at the end of the fourth, and early part of the fifth century, was settled during the time of Arcadius in favor of the government. However, the Gothic element in the Byzantine army continued to be an influence in the Empire, though in a very reduced measure, and in the middle of the fifth century the barbarian Aspar, supported by the Goths, made a final effort to restore the former power of the Goths. He was successful for a while. Two emperors, Marcian and Leo I, were raised to the throne by the efforts of Aspar, whose Arian leanings were the only obstacle to his own accession to the throne. Once more the capital openly began to express its discontent with Aspar, his family, and the barbarian influence in the army in general. Two events aggravated the tension between the Goths and the population of the capital. The sea expedition to northern Africa against the Vandals, which Leo I undertook with great expenditure of money and effort, proved a complete failure. The population accused Aspar of treason because he had originally opposed it, naturally enough, since the purpose was to crush the Vandals, that is, the Germans. Aspar then obtained from Leo the rank of Caesar for his son, the highest rank in the Empire. The Emperor decided to free himself of Germanic power and with the aid of a number of warlike Isaurians quartered in the capital killed Aspar and part of his family, dealing a final blow to Germanic influence at the court of Constantinople. For these murders Leo I received from his contemporaries the name of Makelles, that is, “Butcher,” but the historian Th. I Uspensky affirmed that this alone may justify the surname “Great” sometimes given Leo, since it was a significant step in the direction of nationalizing the army and weakening the dominance of barbarian troops.137
The Huns, who constituted so great a menace to the Empire, moved at the beginning of Marcian’s reign from the middle Danube to the western provinces of the Empire, where they later fought the famous Catalaunian battle. Shortly afterwards Attila died. His enormous empire fell to ruin so that the Hunnic danger to the Byzantine Empire disappeared in the latter years of Marcian’s reign.
The Fourth Ecumenical Council.—Marcian inherited from his predecessor a very complicated state of affairs in the church. The Monophysites were now triumphant. Marcian, favoring the stand taken by the first two ecumenical councils, could not become reconciled to this triumph, and in the year 451 he called the Fourth Ecumenical Council, at Chalcedon, which proved to be of great importance for all subsequent history. The number of delegates to this council was very large and included legates representing the pope.
The council condemned the acts of the Robber Council of Ephesus and deposed Dioscorus. Then it worked out a new religious formula completely rejecting the doctrine of the Monophysites and wholly according with the views of the Pope of Rome. The Council affirmed “one and the same Christ in two natures without confusion or change, division or separation.” The dogmas approved by this Council of Chalcedon, triumphantly confirming the main doctrines of the first ecumenical councils, became the basis of the religious teachings of the orthodox church.
The decisions of the Council of Chalcedon were also of great political significance in Byzantine history. The Byzantine government, by openly opposing Monophysitism in the fifth century, alienated the eastern provinces, Syria and Egypt, where the majority of the population was Monophysitic. The Monophysites remained true to their religious doctrine even after the condemnations of the council of 451 and were unwilling to make any compromises. The Egyptian church abolished the use of Greek in its services and introduced the native Egyptian (Coptic) language. The religious disturbances in Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch caused by the forced introduction of the decisions of the council assumed the character of serious national revolts and were suppressed by the civil and military authorities only after much bloodshed. The suppression of these revolts, however, did not settle the fundamental problems of the period. Against the background of the conflicting religious disputes, which became more and more acute, clearly defined racial contradictions, particularly in Syria and Egypt, began to appear. The Egyptian and Syrian native populations were gradually becoming convinced of the desirability of seceding from the Byzantine Empire. The religious disturbances in the eastern provinces, aided by the composition of the population, created toward the seventh century conditions which facilitated the transfer of these rich and civilized districts into the hands of first the Persians and later the Arabs.
The twenty-eighth canon of the Council of Chalcedon, which called forth a correspondence between the Emperor and the pope, was also of great importance. Although not confirmed by the pope, this canon was generally accepted in the East. It raised the question of the rank of the patriarch of Constantinople in relation to the Pope of Rome, a question already decided by the third canon of the Second Ecumenical Council. Following this decision, the twenty-eighth canon of the Chalcedon council gave “equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome, rightly judging that the city which is honored with the Sovereignty and the Senate and enjoys equal privileges with the old Imperial Rome should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her.”138 Furthermore, the same canon granted the archbishop of Constantinople the right to ordain bishops for the provinces of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace, inhabited by people of various tribes. “It is sufficient to recall,” said Th. I. Uspensky, “that these three names embraced all the Christian missions in the East, in southern Russia, and in the Balkan peninsula, as well as all those acquisitions of the eastern clergy which could eventually be made in the indicated districts. At least, this is the opinion of later Greek canonists who defended the rights of the Constantinopolitan patriarch. Such, in brief, is the universal historical significance of the twenty-eighth canon.”139 Both Marcian and Leo I, then, were emperors of strict orthodox mind.
Zeno (474–91). Odovacar and Theodoric the Ostrogoth
After the death of Leo I (474) the throne passed to his six-year-old grandson, Leo, who died in the same year, after conferring the imperial rank upon his father, Zeno. Following the death of his son, Zeno became sole emperor (474–91). His accession to the throne marks the supplanting of the former Germanic influence at the court by a new barbarian influence, that of the Isaurians, a savage race of which he was a member. The Isaurians now occupied the best positions and most responsible posts in the capital. Very soon Zeno became aware that even among his own people men were plotting against him, and he showed much determination in quelling the revolt in mountainous Isauria, ordering the inhabitants to pull down the greater part of their fortifications. The dominance of Isaurians in the Empire continued, however, throughout Zeno’s lifetime.
During the period of Zeno’s reign very significant events took place in Italy. In the second half of the fifth century the importance of the leaders of German troops increased very greatly until their will was almost decisive in making and deposing Roman emperors in the West. In the year 476 one of these barbarian chiefs; Odovacar, deposed the last western emperor, the young Romulus Augustulus, and himself became the ruler of Italy. In order to make his rule in Italy more secure, he sent ambassadors to Zeno from the Roman Senate with the assurance that Italy needed no separate emperor and that Zeno might be the ruler of the entire Empire. At the same time Odovacar asked Zeno to confer upon him the rank of Roman patrician and to entrust to him the administration of Italy. This request was granted and Odovacar became the legally appointed ruler of Italy. The year 476 formerly was considered the year of the fall of the Western Roman Empire, but this is not correct, because in the fifth century there was still no separate Western Roman Empire. There was, as before, one Roman Empire ruled by two emperors, one in the eastern, the other in the western, part. In the year 476 there was again only one emperor in the Empire, namely Zeno, the ruler of the eastern part.
Upon becoming the ruler of Italy, Odovacar assumed an attitude of marked independence. Zeno was fully aware of it; unable to struggle against Odovacar openly, he decided to act through the Ostrogoths. The latter, after the collapse of the power of Attila, remained in Pannonia and, under the leadership of their king, Theodoric, carried on devastating raids in the Balkan peninsula, menacing even the capital of the Empire. Zeno succeeded in directing the attention of Theodoric to the rich provinces of Italy, thus attaining a double aim: He got rid of his dangerous northern neighbors and settled his disagreements with the undesirable ruler of Italy through the efforts of an outside party. In any event, Theodoric in Italy was less of a menace to Zeno than he would have been had he remained in the Balkan peninsula.
Theodoric moved on to Italy, defeated Odovacar, seized his principal city, Ravenna, and after Zeno’s death, founded his Ostrogothic kingdom on Italian territory with the capital at Ravenna. The Balkan peninsula was thus definitely freed from the Ostrogothic menace.
The Henoticon—The main internal problem during the reign of Zeno was the religious problem, which continued to cause many disturbances. In Egypt and Syria and to some extent in Palestine and Asia Minor, the population held firmly to the doctrine of one nature. The firm orthodox policy of the two emperors who preceded Zeno was little applauded in the eastern provinces. The leaders of the church were fully aware of the seriousness of the situation. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Acacius, who at first favored the decisions of Chalcedon, and the Patriarch of Alexandria, Peter Mongus, were particularly anxious to find some way of reconciling the dissenting parties in the church. They proposed to Zeno that he attempt to reach some mutual agreement by means of compromises on both sides. Zeno accepted this proposal and issued in 482 the Act of Union, or the Henoticon (ἑνωτικóν), addressed to the churches subject to the Patriarch of Alexandria. In this act he tried above all to avoid any sign of disrespect toward either the orthodox or the Monophysitic teachings on the union in Jesus Christ of two natures, the divine and the human. The Henoticon recognized as entirely sufficient the religious foundations developed at the first and second ecumenical councils and ratified at the third council; it anathematized Nestorius and Eutyches, as well as all their followers, and stated that Jesus Christ was “of the same nature with the Father in the Godhead and also of the same nature with us in the manhood.” Yet it obviously avoided the use of the phrases “one nature” or “two natures” and did not mention the statement of the Council of Chalcedon in regard to the union of two natures in Christ. The Council of Chalcedon is mentioned in the Henoticon only once, in this statement: “And here we anathematize all who have held, or hold now or at any time, whether in Chalcedon or in any other synod whatsoever, any different belief.”140
At first the Henoticon seemed to improve conditions in Alexandria, but in the long run it failed to satisfy either the orthodox or the Monophysites. The former could not become reconciled to the concessions made to the Monophysites; the latter, in view of the lack of clarity in the statements of the Henoticon, considered the concessions insufficient, and new complications were thus introduced into the religious life of the Byzantine Empire. The number of religious parties increased. Part of the clergy favored the idea of reconciliation and supported the Act of Union, while the extremists in both the orthodox and the Monophysitic movements were unwilling to make any compromise. These firmly orthodox men were called the Akoimetoi, that is “the Sleepless,” because the services in their monasteries were held continuously during the day and night, so that they had to divide their groups into three relays; the extreme Monophysites were called the Akephaloi, that is “the Headless,” because they did not recognize the leadership of the Alexandrian Patriarch, who accepted the Henoticon. The Pope of Rome also protested against the Henoticon. He analyzed the complaints of the eastern clergy, dissatisfied with the decree, then studied the Act of Union itself and decided to excommunicate and anathematize the Patriarch of Constantinople, Acacius, at a council gathered in Rome. In reply Acacius ceased to mention the pope in his prayers. This was in reality the first true breach between the eastern and western churches; it continued until the year 518, when Justin I ascended the throne.141 Thus the political breach between the eastern and western parts of the Empire, in evidence since the founding in the fifth century of the barbarian German kingdoms in the West, became wider during the reign of Zeno because of the religious secession.
Anastasius I (491–518)
Settlement of the Isaurian problem. The Persian War. Bulgarian and Slavic attacks. The Long Wall. Relations with the West.—Following the death of Zeno, his widow, Ariadne, chose the aged Anastasius, a native of Dyrrachium, who held the rather minor court position of silentiary(silentiarius).142 Anastasius was crowned as emperor only after he had signed a written promise not to introduce any ecclesiastical innovations, a promise extracted by the Patriarch of Constantinople, an ardent adherent of the Council of Chalcedon.
Anastasius’ first problem was to settle with the Isaurians, who had acquired so much authority during the reign of Zeno. Their privileged position irritated the population of the capital and when it was also discovered that after the death of Zeno they were plotting against the new Emperor, Anastasius acted with dispatch. He removed them from the responsible posts, confiscated their property, and drove them out of the capital. A long and hard struggle followed this action, and only after six years of fighting were the Isaurians completely subjugated in their native Isauria. Many of them were transported to Thrace. The great service of Anastasius was this decisive settlement of the Isaurian problem.
Among external events, in addition to the exhausting and profitless war with Persia, the state of affairs on the Danube boundary was of great consequence to subsequent history. After the departure of the Ostrogoths to Italy, devastating raids against the northern boundary were undertaken by the Bulgarians, Getae, and Scythians during the reign of Anastasius I. The Bulgarians, who raided the borders of Byzantine territory during the fifth century, were a people of Hunnic (Turkish) origin. They are first mentioned in the Balkan peninsula during the reign of Zeno in connection with the Ostrogothic migrations north of the Byzantine Empire.
As to the rather vague names of Getae and Scythians, the chroniclers of that period were not well informed about the ethnographic composition of the northern peoples; hence it is very likely that these were collective names, and historians consider it probable that some Slavic tribes were included among them. Theophylact, the Byzantine writer of the early seventh century, directly identified the Getae with the Slavs.143 Thus, during the reign of Anastasius, the Slavs, together with the Bulgarians, first began their irruptions into the Balkan peninsula. According to one source, “a Getic cavalry” devastated Macedonia, Thessaly, and Epirus, and reached as far as Thermopylae.144 Some scholars have even advanced the theory that the Slavs entered the Balkan peninsula at an earlier period. The Russian scholar Drinov, for example, on the basis of his study of geographical and personal names in the peninsula, placed the beginning of Slavic settlement in the Balkan peninsula in the late second century A.D.145
The attacks of the Bulgarians and Slavs during the reign of Anastasius were not of very great consequence for that epoch, for these bands of barbarians, after robbing the Byzantine population, went back to the places from which they came. Yet these raids were the forerunners of the great Slavic irruptions into the Balkan peninsula in the sixth century during the reign of Justinian.
In order to protect the capital against the northern barbarians, Anastasius erected in Thrace, about forty miles west of Constantinople, the so-called “Long Wall” which extended from the Sea of Marmora to the Black Sea, “making the city,” said one source, “practically an island instead of a peninsula.”146 This wall did not fulfill the purpose for which it was erected, however. Because of its hurried construction and the breaches made by earthquakes it did not serve as a real barrier to the enemy’s approach to the city walls. The modern Turkish fortifications of the Chatalja lines erected in almost the same place pretty closely approximate the Anastasian wall, traces of which may still be seen today.
In western Europe further important changes were taking place in the time of Anastasius. Theodoric became the king of Italy; and in the far northwest Clovis founded a strong Frankish kingdom even before Anastasius ascended the throne. Both these kingdoms were established on territory which theoretically belonged to the Roman, in this case the Byzantine, emperor. Quite naturally, the distant Frankish kingdom could in no way be dependent upon Constantinople; yet in the eyes of the conquered natives the power of the newcomers had real authority only after official approval from the shores of the Bosphorus. So it was that when the Goths proclaimed Theodoric king of Italy “without waiting,” said a contemporary chronicler, “for directions from the new princeps [Anastasius],”147Theodoric nevertheless asked the latter to send him the insignia of imperial power previously returned to Zeno by Odovacar. After long negotiations and the sending of several envoys to Constantinople, Anastasius recognized Theodoric as the ruler of Italy, and the latter then became the legal sovereign in the eyes of the native population.148 The Arian beliefs of the Goths stood in the way of a closer friendship between the Goths and the natives of Italy.
To Clovis, the king of the Franks, Anastasius sent a diploma conferring upon him the consulship, which Clovis accepted with gratitude.149 This, of course, was only an honorary consulship, which did not involve the exercise of the duties of the position. Nevertheless it was of great importance to Clovis. The Roman population in Gaul looked upon the eastern emperor as the bearer of supreme authority, who alone could bestow all other power. The diploma of Anastasius conferring the consulship proved to the Gallic population the legality of Clovis’ rule over them. It made him a sort of viceroy of the province, which theoretically still remained a part of the Roman Empire.
These relations of the Byzantine emperor with the Germanic kingdom show clearly that in the late fifth and early sixth centuries the idea of a single empire was still very strong.
The religious policy of Anastasius. The rebellion of Vitalian. Internal reforms.—In spite of the promise of the Patriarch of Constantinople not to introduce any ecclesiastical innovations, Anastasius in his religious policy favored Monophysitism; somewhat later, he openly sided with the Monophysites. This act was greeted with joy in Egypt and Syria, where Monophysitism was widespread. In the capital, however, the Monophysitic leanings of the Emperor aroused great confusion and when Anastasius, following the example of Antioch, ordered that the Trisagion (“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts”) be chanted with the addition of the words “who wast crucified for us,” (that is, “Holy God, Holy Strong One, Holy Immortal One, crucified for us, be merciful to us”), great disturbances took place in Constantinople and almost brought about the deposition of the Emperor.
This religious policy of Anastasius led to the rebellion of Vitalian in Thrace. At the head of a large army composed of Huns, Bulgarians, and perhaps Slavs, and aided by a large fleet, Vitalian advanced toward the capital. His aim was political; he wished to depose the Emperor. But to the world he announced that he rose to defend the oppressed orthodox church. After a long and strenuous struggle the rebellion was finally suppressed. This revolt was of no little importance in history. “By three times bringing his heterogeneous troops close to Constantinople and by obtaining from the government enormous sums of money,’ said Th. I. Uspensky, “Vitalian revealed to the barbarians the weakness of the Empire and the great riches of Constantinople, and taught them something about combined movement on land and sea.”150
The internal policy of Anastasius, not yet sufficiently studied or evaluated in historical literature, was marked by intense activity and affected important economic and financial problems of the Empire.
One of his very important financial reforms was the abolition of the hated chrysargyron, a tax paid in gold and silver (in Latin it was called lustralis collatio, or sometimes by a fuller name, lustralis auri argentive collatio). This tax, from as far back as the early part of the fourth century, applied to all the handicrafts and professions in the Empire, even to servants, beggars, and prostitutes. It was levied, perhaps, even on the tools and livestock of the farmers, such as horses, mules, donkeys, and dogs. The poor classes suffered particularly from the burden of the chrysargyron. Officially, this tax was supposed to be collected only once in five years, but in reality the date for its collection was set by the administration arbitrarily and unexpectedly, and these frequent collections at times drove the population to despair.151 In spite of the large income poured into the government treasury from this tax, Anastasius definitely abolished it and publicly burned all the documents connected with it. The population greeted the abolition of the tax with great joy; to describe this imperial favor, according to one historian of the sixth century, one “needs the eloquence of Thucydides or something still more lofty and graceful.”152 A Syriac source of the sixth century described the joy with which the edict of abolition was received in the city of Edessa:
The whole city rejoiced, and they all put on white garments, both small and great, and carried lighted tapers and censers full of burning incense, and went forth with psalms and hymns, giving thanks to God and praising the emperor, to the church of St. Sergius and St. Simeon, where they celebrated the eucharist. They then re-entered the city and kept a glad and merry festival during the whole week, and enacted that they should celebrate this festival every year. All the artisans were reclining and enjoying themselves, bathing and feasting in the court of the great Church and in all the porticos of the city. The amount raised by the chrysargyron at Edessa was 140 pounds of gold every four years.153 The abolition of this tax gave special satisfaction to the church, because, by participating in the earnings of prostitutes, the tax implicitly gave legal sanction to vice.154
Of course the abolition of the chrysargyron deprived the exchequer of considerable revenue but this loss was very soon made good by the introduction of a new tax, the chrysoteleia (χρυσoτέλεια), a “gold tax,” or “a tax in gold,” or a tax in cash instead of kind. It was apparently a land tax, which Anastasius applied to the support of the army. This also weighed heavily on the poorer classes, so that the whole financial reform had in view a more regular distribution of tax burdens rather than a real diminution of them.155Perhaps the most important financial reform of Anastasius was the abolition, upon the advice of his trusted praetorian prefect, the Syrian Marinus, of the system under which the town corporations (curiae) were responsible for collecting the taxes of the municipalities; Anastasius assigned this task to officials named vindices, who probably were appointed by the praetorian prefect. Although this new system of collecting the taxes increased the revenue considerably, it was modified in following reigns. Under Anastasius the problem of sterile lands seems to have become more acute than ever. The burden of additional taxation fell on persons unable to pay, as well as on the unproductive land. The owners of productive land thus became responsible for the full payment of taxes to the government. This additional assessment, called in Greek “epibole” (ἐπιβολή), that is, “increase,” “surcharge,” was a very old institution going back to Ptolemaic Egypt. It was enacted with particular firmness during the reign of Justinian the Great.156Anastasius also decreed that a free peasant-tenant, who had lived in the same place for thirty years, became a colonus, a man attached to the soil, but he did not lose his personal freedom and right to own property.
The time of Anastasius I was marked also by the great currency reform. In the year 498 the large bronze follis with its smaller denominations was introduced. The new coinage was welcome, especially to the poorer citizens, for the copper money in circulation had become scarce, was bad in quality, and had no marks of value. The new coins were struck at the three mints which were in operation under Anastasius, at Constantinople, Nicomedia, and Antioch. The bronze coinage introduced by Anastasius remained the model of imperial currency until about the second half of the seventh century.157
To his list of humanitarian reforms Anastasius added a decree forbidding fights between men and beasts in the circus.
Although Anastasius often granted tax reductions to many provinces and cities, especially those in the East devastated by the Persian War, and although he carried out a building program including the Long Wall, aqueducts, the lighthouse of Alexandria, and other projects, the government toward the end of his reign still possessed a large reserve which the historian Procopius estimated, perhaps with some exaggeration, at 320 thousand pounds of gold, equivalent to about $65,000,000 or $70,000,000.158 The economy of Anastasius was of great importance to the abundant activities of his second successor, Justinian the Great. The time of Anastasius was a splendid introduction to the Justinian epoch.
The main interest of the epoch beginning with Arcadius and ending with Anastasius (395–518) lies in the national and religious problems and in the political events, which were always closely connected with the religious movements. The Germanic, or, to be more exact, the Gothic, tyranny grew very strong in the capital and menaced the entire state in the late fourth century. This was further complicated by the Arian leanings of the Goths. This menace decreased at the beginning of the fifth century under Arcadius and was completely removed by Leo I at the time of its later and much weaker outburst in the middle of the fifth century. Then, at the end of the century, came the new Ostrogothic menace from the north, which was successfully diverted by Zeno into Italy. Thus the Germanic problem in the eastern part of the Empire was settled to the advantage of the government.
The eastern part of the Empire was also successful in achieving in the second half of the fifth century a favorable settlement of the less acute and significant national problem, that of the Isaurian predominance. The Bulgarians and Slavs were only beginning their attacks upon the borders of the Empire during this period and it was not yet possible to foretell the great role which these northern peoples were destined to play in the history of the Byzantine Empire. The period of Anastasius may be viewed as only an introduction to the Slavic epoch in the Balkan peninsula.
The religious problem of this epoch falls into two phases: the orthodox, up to the time of Zeno, and the Monophysitic, under Zeno and Anastasius. Zeno’s favorable attitude towards the Monophysitic doctrine and the explicit Monophysitic sympathies of Anastasius were important not only from the dogmatical point of view but from the political point of view as well. By the end of the fifth century the western part of the Empire, in spite of a theoretically recognized unity, had practically detached itself from Constantinople. In Gaul, in Spain, and in northern Africa new barbaric kingdoms were formed; Italy was practically ruled by German chiefs, and at the end of the fifth century the Ostrogothic kingdom was founded on Italian territory. This state of affairs explains why the eastern provinces—Egypt, Palestine, and Syria— became of exceptionally great importance to the eastern half of the Empire. The great merit of both Zeno and Anastasius lies in the fact that they understood that the center of gravity had shifted and, appreciating the importance of the eastern provinces, they used every possible means to find a way of binding them to the capital. Since these provinces, especially Egypt and Syria, were in general devoted to the Monophysitic doctrine, there could be only one course for the Empire—to make peace with the Monophysites at any cost. This explains Zeno’s evasive and purposely rather obscure Henoticon. It was one of the first steps toward the reconciliation with the Monophysites. When this attempt failed to bring results, Anastasius decided to follow a very definite Monophysitic policy. Both these emperors were politically perspicacious rulers as compared with the emperors of the subsequent period. In their Monophysitic policy both were confronted by the orthodox movement, widely supported in the capital, in the Balkan peninsula, in most of the provinces of Asia Minor, in the islands, and in some portions of Palestine. Orthodoxy was also defended by the pope, who broke off all relations with Constantinople because of the Henoticon. The inevitability of the collision between politics and religion explains the internal religious upheavals during the reign of Anastasius. He did not succeed in bringing about during his lifetime the desired peace and harmony within the Empire. His successors, moreover, led the Empire along an entirely different path, and alienation of the eastern provinces was already beginning to be felt at the end of this period.
On the whole this was a period of struggle on the part of the different nationalities, spurred by greatly differing aims and hopes: the Germans and the Isaurians wanted to attain political supremacy, while the Copts in Egypt and the Syrians were concerned primarily with the triumph of their religious doctrines.
LITERATURE, LEARNING, EDUCATION, AND ART
The developments in literature, learning, and education during the period from the fourth to the beginning of the sixth century are closely connected with the relations established between Christianity and the ancient pagan world with its great culture. The debates of the Christian apologists of the second and third centuries on the question of whether or not it was permissible for a Christian to use pagan materials brought no definite conclusion. While some of the apologists found merit in Greek culture and considered it reconcilable with Christianity, others denied that pagan antiquity was of any significance to the Christian and repudiated it. A different attitude prevailed in Alexandria, the old center of heated philosophic and religious disputes, where discussions on the compatibility of ancient paganism with Christianity tended to draw together these two seemingly irreconcilable elements. Clement of Alexandria, for example, the famous writer of the late second century, said: “Philosophy, serving as a guide, prepares those who are called by Christ to perfection.”159 Still, the problem of the relation between pagan culture and Christianity was by no means settled by the debates of the first three centuries of the Christian era.
But life did its work, and pagan society was gradually being converted to Christianity, which received a particularly great impetus in the fourth century. It was aided on the one hand by the protection of the government, and on the other by the numerous so-called “heresies,” which awakened intellectual disputes, aroused passionate discussions, and created a series of new and important questions. Meanwhile Christianity was gradually absorbing many of the elements of pagan culture, so that, according to Krumbacher, “Christian topics were being unconsciously clothed in pagan garb.”160 Christian literature of the fourth and fifth centuries was enriched by the works of great writers in the field of prose as well as that of poetry. At the same time the pagan traditions were continued and developed by representatives of pagan thought.
In the wide realm of the Roman Empire, within the boundaries which existed until the Persian and Arabian conquests of the seventh century, the Christian Orient of the fourth and fifth centuries had several distinct, well-known literary centers, whose representative writers exerted great influence far beyond the limits of their native cities and provinces. Cappadocia, in Asia Minor, had in the fourth century the three famous “Cappadocians,” Basil the Great, his friend Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa, younger brother of Basil. Important cultural centers in Syria were the cities of Antioch and Berytus (Beirut) on the seacoast; the latter was particularly famous for studies in the field of law, and the time of its brilliance lasted from about 200 to 551 A.D.161 In Palestine, Jerusalem had at this time not yet completely recovered from the destruction during the reign of Titus, and consequently it did not play a very significant part in the cultural life of the fourth and fifth centuries. But Caesarea, and toward the end of the fourth century, the southern Palestinian city of Gaza, with its flourishing school of famous rhetoricians and poets, contributed much to the treasures of thought and literature in this period. But above all these the Egyptian city of Alexandria still remained the center which exerted the widest and deepest influence upon the entire Asiatic Orient. The new city of Constantinople, destined to have a brilliant future in the time of Justinian, was only beginning to show signs of literary activity. Here the official protection of the Latin language, somewhat detached from actual life, was particularly pronounced. Of some importance to the general cultural and literary movements of this epoch were two other western centers of the eastern Empire, Thessalonica and Athens, the latter with its pagan academy, eclipsed in later years by its victorious rival, the University of Constantinople.
A comparison of the cultural developments in the eastern and the western provinces of the Byzantine Empire reveals an interesting phenomenon: in European Greece, with its old population, spiritual activity and creativeness were infinitely small in comparison with developments in the provinces of Asia and Africa, despite the fact that the greater part of these provinces, according to Krumbacher, were “discovered” and colonized only from the time of Alexander the Great. The same scholar, resorted to “our favorite modern language of numbers,” and asserted that the European group of Byzantine provinces was responsible for only ten per cent of the general cultural productivity of this period.162 In truth, the majority of writers of this epoch came from Asia and Africa, whereas after the founding of Constantinople almost all the historians were Greeks. Patristic literature had its brilliant period of development in the fourth, and the early part of the fifth, century.
The Cappadocians Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus received an admirable education in the best rhetorical schools of Athens and Alexandria. Unfortunately, no definite information exists about the early education of Basils younger brother, Gregory of Nyssa, the most profound thinker of the three. They were all well acquainted with classical literature and represented the so-called “new Alexandrian” movement. This movement, while using the acquisitions of philosophical thinking, insisting upon a place for reason in the study of religious dogma, and refusing to adopt the extremes of the mystical-allegorical movement of the so-called “Alexandrian” school, still did not discard the church tradition. In addition to the wealth of literary works on purely theological subjects wherein they ardently defend orthodoxy in its struggle with Arianism, these three writers left also a large collection of orations and letters. This collection constitutes one of the richest sources of cultural material for the period and even yet it has not been fully exhausted from a historical point of view. Gregory of Nazianzus also left a number of poems, which are chiefly theological, dogmatical, and didactic but are also somewhat historical. His long poem About His Own Life should by reason of form and content take a high place in the field of literature in general. Brilliant as they were, these three writers were the only representatives of their city. “When these three noble geniuses had passed away, Cappadocia returned into the obscurity from which they had drawn it.”163
Antioch, the Syrian center of culture, produced in opposition to the Alexandrian school its own movement, which defended the literal acceptance of the Holy Scriptures without allegorical interpretations. This movement was headed by such unusual men of action as the pupil of Libanius and favorite of Antioch, John Chrysostom. He combined thorough classical education with unusual stylistic and oratorical ability and his numerous works constitute one of the world’s great literary treasures. Later generations fell under the spell of his genius and high moral qualities, and literary movements of subsequent periods borrowed ideas, images, and expressions from his works as from an unlimited source. So great was his reputation that in the course of time many works of unknown authors have been ascribed to him; but his authentic works, sermons, and orations and more than two hundred letters, written mainly during his exile, represent an extremely valuable source regarding the internal life of the Empire.164 The attitude of posterity is well characterized by a Byzantine writer of the fourteenth century, Nicephorus Callistus, who wrote: “I have read more than a thousand sermons by him, which pour forth unspeakable sweetness. From my youth I have loved him and listened to his voice as if it were that of God. And what I know and what I am, I owe to him.”165
From the Palestinian city of Caesarea came the “father of ecclesiastical history,” Eusebius, who lived in the second half of the third century and the early part of the fourth century. He died about the year 340. He has been cited earlier as the chief authority on Constantine the Great. Eusebius lived on the threshold of two highly significant historical epochs: on one hand, he witnessed the severe persecutions of Diocletian and his successors and suffered much personally because of his Christian convictions; on the other hand, after the Edict of Galerius he lived through a period of gradual triumph of Christianity under Constantine and participated in the Arian disputes, inclining sometimes to the Arians. He later became one of the greatly trusted and intimate friends of the Emperor. Eusebius wrote many theological and historical works. The Evangelic Preparation (Εὐαγγελιή προπαρασκευή, Praeparatio evangelica), the large work in which he defends the Christians against the religious attacks of the pagans, The Evangelic Demonstration (Εὐαγγελική ἀπóδειξις, Demonstratio evangelica), in which he discusses the merely temporal significance of the Mosaic law and the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament by Jesus Christ, his writings in the field of criticism and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, as well as several other works entitle him to a high place of honor in the field of theological literature. These works also contain valuable extracts from older writings which were later lost.
For this study the historical writings of Eusebius are of greater importance. The Chronicle, written apparently before Diocletian’s persecutions, contains a brief survey of the history of the Chaldeans, Assyrians, Hebrews, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans and in its main portion gives chronological tables of the most important historical events. Unfortunately it has survived only through an Armenian translation and partly through a Latin adaptation of St. Jerome. Thus no accurate conception of the form and contents of the original exists today, especially since the translations which have survived were made not from the original Greek, but from an adaptation of The Chronicle which appeared soon after Eusebius’ death.
His outstanding historical work is the Ecclesiastical History, ten books covering the period from the time of Christ to the victory of Constantine over Licinius. According to his own statement, he did not aim to tell of wars and the trophies of generals, but rather to “record in ineffaceable letters the most peaceful wars waged in behalf of the peace of the soul, and to tell of men doing brave deeds for truth rather than country, for piety rather than dearest friends.”166 Under the pen of Eusebius, church history became the history of martyrdom and persecutions, with all the accompanying terror and atrocities. Because of its abundance of documentary data, his history must be recognized as one of the very important sources for the first three centuries of the Christian era. Besides, Eusebius was important also because he was the first to write a history of Christianity, embracing that subject from all possible aspects. His Ecclesiastical History, which brought him much fame, became the basis for the work of many later church historians and was often imitated. As early as the fourth century it became widely spread in the West through the Latin translation of Rufinus.167
The Life of Constantine, written by Eusebius at a later period—if it was written by him at all—has called forth many varied interpretations and evaluations in the scholarly world. It must be classed not so much among the purely historical types of writing as among the panegyrics. Constantine is represented as a God-chosen emperor endowed with the gift of prevision, a new Moses destined to lead God’s people to freedom. In Eusebius’ interpretation the three sons of Constantine personified the Holy Trinity, while Constantine himself was the true benefactor of the Christians, who now attained the high ideal of which they had only dreamed before. In order to keep the harmony of his work intact, Eusebius did not touch upon the darker sides of the epoch, did not reveal the sinister phenomena of his day, but rather gave full sway to the praise and glorification of his hero. Yet, by a skillful use of this work one may gain much valuable insight into the period of Constantine, especially because it contains many official documents which probably were inserted after the first version was written.168 In spite of his mediocre literary ability, Eusebius must be considered one of the greatest Christian scholars of the early Middle Ages and a writer who greatly influenced medieval Christian literature.
A whole group of historians continued what Eusebius had begun. Socrates of Constantinople carried his Ecclesiastical History up to the year 439; Sozomen, a native of the district near the Palestinian city of Gaza, was the author of another Ecclesiastical History, also up to the year 439; Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus, a native of Antioch, wrote a similar history covering the period from the Council of Nicaea until the year 428; and, finally, the Arian Philostorgius, whose works have survived only in fragments, narrated events up to the year 425 from his own Arian point of view.
The most intense and varied intellectual life during this period was to be found in Egypt, especially in its progressive center, Alexandria.
An unusual and interesting figure in the literary life of the late fourth and early fifth centuries was Synesius of Cyrene. A descendant of a very old pagan family, educated in Alexandria and later introduced to the mysteries of the neo-Platonic philosophy, he shifted his allegiance from Plato to Christ, married a Christian girl, and became bishop of Ptolemaïs during the last years of his life. In spite of all this, Synesius probably always felt more of a pagan than a Christian. His mission to Constantinople and his address “on Kingship” show his interest in politics. He was not essentially a historian, yet he left extremely important historical materials in 156 letters which reflect his brilliant philosophic and rhetorical attainments and which set the standard of style for the Byzantine Middle Ages. His hymns, written in the meter and style of classical poetry, reveal a peculiar mixture of philosophical and Christian views. This bishop-philosopher felt that the classical culture so dear to him was gradually approaching its end.169
During the long and harsh struggle with Arianism appeared the brilliant figure of the ardent Nicaean, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, who left a number of writings devoted to theological disputes in the fourth century. He also wrote the Life of St. Anthony, one of the founders of eastern monasticism, painting in it an ideal picture of ascetic life. This work greatly influenced the spread of monasticism. To the fifth century belongs also the greatest historian of Egyptian monasticism, Palladius of Helenopolis, born in Asia Minor, but well acquainted with Egyptian monastic life because of a sojourn of about ten years in the Egyptian monastic world. Under the influence of Athanasius of Alexandria, Palladius once more presented the ideals of monastic life, introducing into his history an element of legend. The ruthless enemy of Nestorius, Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, also lived during this period. During his stormy and strenuous life he wrote a large number of letters and sermons which the Greek bishops of a later period sometimes learned by heart He also left a number of dogmatic, polemical, and exegetic treatises which serve as one of the main sources on the ecclesiastical history of the fifth century. According to his own confession, his rhetorical education was insufficient and he could not pride himself upon the Attic purity of his style.
Another extremely interesting figure of this epoch is the woman philosopher, Hypatia, who was killed by the fanatical mob of Alexandria some time in the early part of the fifth century. She was a woman of exceptional beauty and unusual intellectual attainments. Through her father, a famous Alexandrian mathematician, she became acquainted with the mathematical sciences and classical philosophy. She gained wide fame through her remarkable activities as a teacher. Among her pupils were such great literary men as Synesius of Cyrene, who mentions the name of Hypatia in many of his letters. One source told how, “clothed in a mantle, she used to wander about the city and expound to willing listeners the works of Plato, Aristotle, or some other philosopher.”170
Greek literature flourished in Egypt until the year 451, when the Council of Chalcedon condemned the Monophysitic doctrine. Since this doctrine was the official Egyptian religion, the action of the council was followed by the abolition of Greek from the church and the substitution of the Coptic language in its stead. The Coptic literature which developed after this is of some importance even to Greek literature, because certain original Greek works which have been lost are preserved at present only through their Coptic translations.
This period saw the development of the literature of religious hymns. The hymn writers gradually abandoned their original practice of imitating classical meters and developed forms of their own. These forms were quite original and for some time were considered merely as prose. It is only in comparatively recent times that these meters have been even partially explained. They are marked by various types of acrostics and rhymes. Unfortunately very little is known of the religious hymns of the fourth and fifth centuries and the history of their gradual development is therefore obscure. Yet it is quite apparent that this development was vigorous. While Gregory the Theologian followed the antique meters in most of his poetical hymns, Romanus the Melode (“Hymn-writer”), whose works appeared in the early sixth century under Anastasius I, used the new forms and made use of acrostics and rhyme.
Scholars have long disputed as to whether Romanus lived in the sixth or in the early eighth century. His brief Life alludes to his arrival at Constantinople during the reign of the Emperor Anastasius, but for a long time it was impossible to determine whether this was Anastasius I (491–518) or Anastasius II (713–16). The scholarly world, however, after a long study of the works of Romanus, has definitely agreed that he referred to Anastasius I.171 Romanus the Melode is sometimes called the greatest poet of the Byzantine period. This “Pindar of rhythmical poetry,”172 “the greatest religious genius,” “the Dante of the neo-Hellenes,”173 is the author of a large number of superb hymns among which is the famous Christian hymn, “Today the Virgin Brings Forth the Supersubstantial.”174The poet was born in Syria, and it is very probable that the flowering of his genius occurred during the reign of Justinian, for according to his Life he was a young deacon when he came, during the rule of Anastasius, from Syria to Constantinople, where he miraculously acquired from heaven the gift of writing hymns. The finished work of Romanus in the sixth century seems to indicate that religious poetry in the fifth century had reached a high stage of development; unfortunately the data is inadequate on this point. It is certainly difficult to conceive the existence of this unusual poet in the sixth century without some previous development of church poetry. Unfortunately, also, he cannot be appreciated fully because most of his hymns are still unpublished.175
Lactantius, an eminent Christian writer from north Africa in the early part of the fourth century, wrote in Latin. He is particularly important as the author of De mortibus persecutorum. This work gives very interesting information on the time of Diocletian and Constantine down to the so-called rescript of Milan.176
The Christian literature of this period is represented by many remarkable authors, but pagan literature does not lag far behind. Among its representatives, too, were a number of gifted and interesting men, one of whom is Themistius of Paphlagonia, who lived in the second half of the fourth century. He was the philosophically educated director of the school of Constantinople, the court orator, and a senator highly esteemed by both pagans and Christians. He wrote a large collection of “Paraphrases of Aristotle,” in which he sought to clarify the more complicated ideas of the Greek philosopher. He is the author also of about forty orations which give abundant information about the important events of the period as well as about his own personal life. The greatest of all the pagan teachers of the fourth century was Libanius of Antioch, who influenced his contemporaries more than any other man of the period. Among his pupils were John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus, and his lectures were studied enthusiastically by the young Julian before he ascended the throne. Libanius’ sixty-five public addresses are of particular interest and provide abundant material about the internal life of the time. Of no lesser importance is the collection of his letters, which in richness of content and remarkable spirit may be compared with the letters of Synesius of Cyrene.
The Emperor Julian was an extremely brilliant figure in the intellectual life of the fourth century, and despite the brevity of his career he clearly demonstrated his talent in various departments of literature. His orations, reflecting his obscure philosophical and religious speculations, such as his appeal “To the King Sun”; his letters; his “Against the Christians,” which is preserved in fragments only; his satirical Misopogon (“The Beardhater”),177 written against the people of Antioch, important as a biographical source—all these reveal Julian as a gifted writer, historian, thinker, satirist, and moralist. The extent to which his writings were interwoven with the actual realities of the period should be emphasized. The early and sudden death of this young emperor prevented the full development of his unusual genius.
Pagan literature of the fourth and fifth centuries is represented also by several writers in the field of pure history. Among the most significant was the author of the very well-known collection of biographies of Roman emperors written in Latin in the fourth century and known under the title ofScriptores Historiae Augustae. The identity of its author, the time of its compilation, and its historical significance are all debatable and have produced an enormous literature.178 But in 1923 an English historian wrote: “The time and labour spent upon the Augustan history … are overwhelming and their results, so far as any practical use for history goes, are precisely nil.”179 N. Baynes recently made a very interesting attempt to prove that this collection was written under Julian the Apostate with a definite object: propaganda for Julian, his whole administration and religious policy.180This point of view has not been accepted by scholars.181
Priscus of Thrace, a historian of the fifth century and a member of the embassy to the Huns, was another who made significant contributions. His Byzantine History, which has survived in fragments, and his information on the life and customs of the Huns are both extremely interesting and valuable. In fact, Priscus was the main source on the history of Attila and the Huns for the Latin historians of the sixth century, Cassiodorus and Jordanes. Zosimus, who lived in the fifth century and early part of the sixth, wrote The New History, bringing his account down to Alaric’s siege of Rome in the year 410. As an enthusiastic believer in the old gods he explained that the fall of the Roman Empire was caused by the anger of the gods at being forsaken by the Romans and he blamed Constantine the Great above all. His opinion of Julian was very high. According to a recent writer, Zosimus is not only a historian of the “decline of Rome” but he is also a theoretician of the republic which he defends and glorifies; he is the sole “republican” of the fifth century.182
Ammianus Marcellinus, a Syrian Greek born in Antioch, wrote at the end of the fourth century his Res Gestae, a history of the Roman Empire in Latin. He intended it to be a continuation of the history of Tacitus, bringing the account through the period from Nerva to the death of Valens (96–378). Only the last eighteen books of this history have survived, covering historical events during the period 353–378. The author profited from his harsh military experience in Julian’s campaigns against the Persians and has given firsthand information about contemporary events. Although he remained a pagan to the end of his life, he showed great tolerance toward Christianity. His history is an important source for the period of Julian and Valens, as well as for Gothic and early Hunnic history. His literary genius has been very highly estimated by recent scholars. Stein called him the greatest literary genius in the world between Tacitus and Dante,183 and N. Baynes called him the last great historian of Rome.184
Athens, the city of declining classical thought, was in the fifth century the home of the last distinguished representative of neo-Platonism, Proclus of Constantinople, who taught and wrote there for a long period of years. It was also the birthplace of the wife of Theodosius II, Eudocia Athenais, who possessed some literary ability and wrote several works.
Western European literature of this period, which was brilliantly represented by the remarkable works of St. Augustine and several other gifted writers of prose and poetry, is not discussed here.
After the transfer of the capital to Constantinople, Latin still remained the official language of the Empire during the fourth and fifth centuries. It was used for all the imperial decrees collected in the Theodosian code as well as for the later decrees of the fifth and the beginning of the sixth centuries. But in the curriculum of the higher school at Constantinople in the time of Theodosius II there was a decline of the predominance of Latin and a definite preference for Greek, which was, after all, the most widely spoken language in the eastern part of the Empire. The Greek tradition was also upheld by the Athenian pagan school.
The time from the fourth to the sixth centuries is one when various elements were gradually blending into a new art which bears the name of Byzantine or East-Christian. As the science of history probes more deeply into the roots of this art, it becomes increasingly clear that the East and its traditions played the predominant part in the development of Byzantine art. By the end of the nineteenth century German scholars advanced the theory that the “art of the Roman Empire” (Römische Reichskunst), which had developed in the West during the first two centuries of the Empire, replaced the old Hellenistic culture of the East, which was in a state of decline, and, so to speak, laid the cornerstone for Christian art of the fourth and fifth centuries. At present this theory is repudiated. Since the appearance in 1900 of the famous work of D. V. Aïnalov, Hellenistic Origin of Byzantine Art, and the publication in 1901 of the remarkable work of the Austrian scholar J. Strzygowski, Orient or Rome, the problem of the origin of Byzantine art has assumed an entirely new form; it is taken for granted that the main role in the development of East-Christian art belongs to the East, and the problem is only that of determining what is to be understood by the term “East” and eastern influences. In a large number of very stimulating works the tireless Strzygowski argued the enormous influence exerted by the ancient Orient. At first he sought the center of this influence in Constantinople; later he turned to Egypt, Asia Minor, and Syria, and moving still farther to the east and north, he crossed the borders of Mesopotamia and sought the roots of the main influences in the plateau and mountains of Altaï-Iran and in Armenia. He contended, “What Hellas was to the art of antiquity, that Iran was to the art of the new Christian world.”185 He drew also upon India and Chinese Turkestan for further elucidation of the problem. While recognizing his great services in investigating the origin of Byzantine art, contemporary historical science is still very cautious with regard to his most recent hypotheses.186
The fourth century was an extremely important period in the history of Byzantine art. The new status of the Christian faith in the Roman Empire, first as a legal religion and later as the state religion, furthered the rapid growth of Christianity. Three elements—Christianity, Hellenism, and the Orient—met in the fourth century, and out of their union grew what is known as East-Christian art.
Having been made the political center of the Empire, Constantinople gradually became also the intellectual and artistic center. This did not happen at once. “Constantinople had no established pre-existing culture to resist or to control the influx of exotic forces; she had first to balance and assimilate new influences, a task which required at least a hundred years.”187
Syria and Antioch, Egypt guided by Alexandria, and Asia Minor, reflecting in their artistic life the influences of more ancient traditions, exerted a very strong and beneficial influence on the growth of East-Christian art. Syrian architecture flourished throughout the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries. The magnificent churches of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, as well as some churches at Nazareth, were erected as early as the reign of Constantine the Great. Unusual splendor characterized the churches of Antioch and Syria. “Antioch, as the center of a brilliant civilization, naturally assumed the leadership of Christian art in Syria.”188 Unfortunately for a long time very little data was available on the art of Antioch, and it is only recently that its beauty and importance have become better known.189 The “dead cities” of central Syria uncovered in 1860 and 1861 by M. de Vogue give some conception of what Christian architecture of the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries was like. One of the most remarkable products of the end of the fifth century was the famous monastery of St. Simeon Stylites (Kalat Seman), located between Antioch and Aleppo, impressive even today in its majestic ruin.190 The well-known frieze of Mschatta, east of the Jordan, now in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum of Berlin, is apparently also a work of the fourth, fifth, or sixth centuries.191 To the beginning of the fifth century belongs a beautiful basilica in Egypt erected by the Emperor Arcadius over the grave of Menas, a renowned Egyptian saint. Its ruins have only recently been excavated and studied by C. M. Kaufmann.192 In the field of mosaics, portraiture, textiles (figured silks of early Christian times), and so forth, several interesting products of the early part of the Byzantine period exist.
The city walls which surrounded Constantinople in the fifth century have survived to the present day. The Golden Gate (Porta Aurea), through which the emperors made their official entry into Constantinople, was built at the end of the fourth century or the early part of the fifth; remarkable for its architectural splendor, it is still in existence.
With the name of Constantine is bound up the erection of the Church of St. Irene and the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople. St. Sophia, the construction of which might have begun in his time, was completed in the time of his son Constantius. These churches were reconstructed in the sixth century by Justinian. In the fifth century another church embellished the new capital, the Basilica of St. John of Studion, which is now the mosque Mir-Achor djami.
A number of monuments of early Byzantine art have been preserved in the western parts of the Empire. Among these are some churches at Thessalonica (Salonika); Diocletian’s palace at Spalato, in Dalmatia (early fourth century); some paintings in S. Maria Antiqua at Rome, dating apparently from the end of the fifth century;193 the mausoleum of Galla Placidia and the orthodox baptistery at Ravenna (fifth century); and some monuments in North Africa.
In the history of art the fourth and fifth centuries may be viewed as the preparatory period for the epoch of Justinian the Great, when “the capital had attained a full self-consciousness and had assumed to itself a directive power,” the epoch which has been justly described as the First Golden Age of Byzantine Art.194
1 See, e.g., H. Vincent and F. M. Abel, Jérusalem. Recherches de topographie, d’archéologie et d’histoire, II, 202–3.
1a For general information on what has been recently done on the problems connected with Constantine the Great, see the very useful article of A. Piganiol, “L’état actuel de la question constantinienne 1930/49,” Historia, I (1950), 82–96.
2 I, 24–25.
3 J. Burckhardt, Die Zeit Constantin’s des Grossen (3rd ed., 1898), 326, 369–70, 387, 407.
4 Trans, into English by J. Moffatt, 1904; 4th ed., enlarged and revised, in original German, 1925.
5 A. Harnack, Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten (2nd ed., 1906), II, 276–85; trans. Moffatt, 452–66.
6 Lectures on the History of the Ancient Church, III, 29.
7 Histoire des Romains, VII, 102; trans. M. M. Ripley, VII, 517.
8 Ibid., 86, 88, 519–20.
9 Ibid., VI, 602.
10 Kaiser Constantin und die Christliche Kirche, 2.
11 “Konstantin der Grosse und seine Zeit,” Gesammelte Studien, ed. F. Dölger, 2.
12 La Paix Constantinienne et le Catholicisme, 256–59 (in connection with the discussion of O. Seeck on the same subject).
13 Constantin le Grand. L’Origine de la civilisation chrétienne, 30–36.
14 G. Boissier, La Fin du paganisme; étude sur les dernières luttes religieuses en Occident au quatrième siècle, I, 28; and H. Leclercq, “Constantin,” Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, III (2), col. 2669.
15 La Fin du monde antique, 32–38.
16 Geschichte des spätrömischen Reiches, I, 146–47. On the works of Lot and Stein see an interesting comment by N. Baynes, Journal of Roman Studies, XVIII (1928), 220.
17 “La ‘conversion” de Constantin,” Revue de l’Université de Bruxelles, XXXVI (1930–31), 264.
18 L’Empereur Constantin, 75.
19 Numismatique constantinienne, II, viii, xii, xx–xlviii.
20 Grégoire, “La ‘conversion’ de Constantin,” Revue de l’Université de Bruxelles, XXXVI (1930–31), 231–32. Hans von Schoenebeck, Beiträge zur Religionspolitik des Maxentius und Constantin, 1–5, 14, 22, 27.
21 E. Trubezkoy, Religious and Social Ideals of Western Christianity in the Fifth Century, I, 2.
22 De mortibus persecutorum, 44.
23 Historia ecclesiastica, ix, 9, 2. See A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. P. Schaff, H. Wace, and others, 2nd ser., I, 363.
24 Eusebius, Vita Constantini, I, 38–40.
25 The riddle of the origin of this word has been solved at last by H. Grégoire, “L’Etymologie de ‘Labarum,’” Byzantion, IV (1929), 477–82: this is the Latin word laureum in the sense of signum or vexillum. Also see ibid., XI (1937) and XIII (1939), 583. Grégoire’s etymology of labarum was advanced by Valesius (H. Valois) in the seventeenth century.
26 The image of the labarum may be seen on the coins of the epoch of Constantine. See, e.g., Maurice, Numismatique constantinienne, I, 2, and plate IX.
27 Lactantius, De mortibus persecutorum, 34, 4–5; Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica, viii, 17, 9–10.
28 Lactantius, De mortibus persecutorum, 48, 4–8; Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica, x, 5, 6–9.
29 “Das sogenannte Edikt von Mailand,” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, XII (1891), 381–86. See also his Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt (2nd ed., 1897), 495.
30 I shall give a few examples of scholars’ comments. J. Knipfing, “Das Angebliche ‘Mailänder Edikt’ von J. 313 im Lichte der neueren Forschung,” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, XL (1922), 218: “The existence of the pretended edict of Milan is to be denied.” N. Baynes, Journal of Roman Studies, XVIII (1928), 228: “We now know that there was no ‘Edict of Milan.’” E. Caspar, Geschichte des Papsttum, I, 105, n. 3: “An ‘Edict of Milan’ must be deleted from history.” Grégoire, “La ‘conversion’ de Constantin,”Revue de l’Université de Bruxelles, XXXVI (1930–31), 263: “The edict of tolerance of March 313, issued by Constantine in Milan, is not an edict but a rescript or a letter to the governors of the provinces of Asia and the Orient,”
31 A. Lebedev, The Epoch of Christian Persecutions (3rd ed., 1904), 300–1.
32 N. Grossu, “The Edict of Milan,” Publications of the Spiritual Academy of Kiev, 1913, 29–30.
33 A. Brilliantov, Emperor Constantine the Great and the Edict of Milan, 157. Cf. M. A. Huttman, The Establishment of Christianity and the Proscription of Paganism, 123: “While we may regard Constantine as the first Christian emperor and the first to put Christianity quite on a par with paganism, he was not the first to make Christianity a legal religion, for Galerius had done that in 311.” Striking evidence of the free coexistence of Christianity and the pagan cults is given by coins. See Maurice, Numismatique constantinienne, II, iv.
34 See, for example, on Nicomedia, J. Sölch, “Historisch-geographische Studien über bithynische Siedlungen. Nikomedia, Nizäa, Prusa,” Byzantinisch-neugriechische Jahrbücher, I (1920), 267–68; on Africa, D. Gsell, Les Monuments antiques de l’Algérie, II, 239.
35 V. Barthold, in the Transactions of the Oriental College, I (1925), 463.
36 The History of the Dogmatic Movements During the Period of the Ecumenical Councils, 137.
37 Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte (4th ed., 1919), II, 187.
38 Eusebius, Vita Constantini, II, 72; ed. I. von Heikel, Eusebius Werke, 71; Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, I, 518.
39 Different figures were given by Batiffol, La Paix constantinienne (3rd ed., 1914), 321–22. See E. Honigmann, “La liste originale des Pères de Nicee,” Byzantion, XIV (1939), 17–76. Honigmann, “The Original Lists of the Members of the Council of Nicaea, the Robber-Synod and the Council of Chalcedon,” Byzantion, XVI, 1 (1944), 20–80.
40 S. A. Wilkenhauser, “Zur Frage der Existenz von Nizänischen Synodalprotocolen,” in Gesammelte Studien, ed. F. Dölger, 122–42.
41 H. Gwatkin, Studies on Arianism (2nd ed., 1900), 1–2.
42 Socratis, Historia ecclesiastica, I, 9. See Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd ser., II, 13.
43 See two very interesting articles by N. Baynes in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, “Athanasiana,” XI (1925), 58–69, and “Alexandria and Constantinople: A Study in Ecclesiastical Diplomacy,” XII (1926), 149.
44 See, e.g., Gwatkin’s attempt to explain Constantine’s new attitude towards Arianism by a reference to the conservatism of Asia, in Studies on Arianism (2nd ed., 1900), 57, 96.
45 Dogmatic Movements, 258.
46 Polybius, Historia, IV, 38, 44.
47 Sozomenis, Historia ecclesiastica, II, 3.
48 See J. Maurice, Les Origines de Constantinople, 289–92; L. Bréhier, “Constantin et la fondation de Constantinople,” Revue historique, CXIX (1915), 248; D. Lathoud, “La consécration et la dédicace de Constantinople,” Échos d’Orient, XXIII (1924), 289–94. C. Emereau, “Notes sur les origines et la fondation de Constantinople,” Revue archéologique, XXI (1925), 1–25. E. Gerland, “Byzantion und die Griindung der Stadt Konstantinopel,” Byzantinisch-Ncugriechische Jahrbücher, X (1933), 93–105. R. Janin,Constantinople Byzantine (Paris, 1950), 27–37.
49 Philostorgii, Historia ecclesiastica, II, 9: ed. J. Bidez, 20–21, and other sources.
50 N. Baynes, The Byzantine Empire, 18.
51 Stein, Geschichte des spätrömischen Reiches, I, 196. Lot, La Fin du monde antique, 81. A. Andreades is inclined to admit from 700 to 800,000: “De la population de Constantinople sous les empereurs byzantins,” Metron, I (1920), 80. See also J. B. Bury, A History of the Later Roman Empire (2nd ed., 1931), I, 88.
52 History of the Byzantine Empire, I, 60–62.
53 We sometimes notice a tendency to diminish the importance of the founding of Constantinople. See Seeck, Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt (2nd ed., 1921), III, 426–28. Stein follows him, Geschichte des spätrömischen Reiches, I, 2–3, 193 n. 6; also in Gnomon, IV (1928), 411–12; but cf. E. Stein, “Ein Kapital vom persischen und vom byzantinischen Staate,” Byzantinisch-Neugriechische Jahrbücher, I (1920), 86. Lot declares that from any point of view the founding of Constantinople is a very great historical event but calls it “an enigma,” adding that the city was born from a despot’s caprice due to intense religious exaltation; see La Fin du monde antique, 39–40, 43.
54 Caligula, 22: nec multum afuit quin statim diadema sumeret.
55 Lampridius, Antonini Heliogabali Vita, 23, 5: quo (diademate gemmato) et usus est domi.
56 L. Homo, Essai sur le règne de l’empereur Aurelien, 191–93.
57 Between 426 and 437. See J. B. Bury, “The Notitia Dignitatum,” Journal of Roman Studies, X (1920), 153; Bury, “The Provincial List of Verona,” Journal of Roman Studies, XIII (1923), 127–51.
58 On the complicated history of Illyricum at the close of the fourth century when Illyricum was sometimes united with the Praefectura praetoris Italiae et Africae, see E. Stein, “Untersuchungen zur spätröischen Verwaltungsgeschichte,” Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, N.S. LXXIV (1925), 347–54. See also the map in Stein, Geschichte des spätrömischen Reiches, I: “Imperium Romanum anno 390 P. Ch. N.” (three prefectures). See J.-R. Palanque, Essai sur la préfecture du prétoire du Bas-Empire; E. Stein’s lengthy criticism in Byzantion, IX (1934), 327–53. Palanque’s reply: “Sur la liste des préfets du prétoire du IVe siècle. Réponse à M. Ernest Stein,” Byzantion, IX (1934), 703–13.
59 Breviarium historiae Romanae, X, 8.
60 A Dictionary of Christian Biography, “Constantine I,” 644: “If we compared Constantine with any great man of modern times it would rather be with Peter of Russia than with Napoleon.” Cf. Duruy, Histoire des Romains, VII, 88; trans. Ripley, VII, 2, 519.
61 Grégoire, “La ‘conversion’ de Constantin,” Revue de l’Université de Bruxelles, XXXVI (1930–31), 270: “By a comparison which is justified on account of his military genius, Constantine was the Napoleon of the great religious revolution of the fourth century.”
62 De laudibus Constantini, XVI, 3–5; ed. Heikel, I, 249; Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd ser., I, 606.
63 Historiae \??\advcrsum paganos, VII, 36, I.
64 The silentiarii were ushers at the doors of the imperial palace.
65 Codex Theodosianus, XVI, 10, 2.
66 Ibid., 10, 3–6.
67 Hieronymi, Alercatio Luciferiani et Orthodoxi, 19; ed. J. P. Migne, Patrologia Latina, XXIII, 181.
67a This church is ascribed by some sources to Constantine the Great, by others to Constantius. G. Downey, “The Builder of the Original Church of the Apostles at Constantinople,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, VI (1951), 51–80.
68 P. Allard, Julien l’Apostat, I, 269.
69 Julian, Quae supersunt omnia, ed. F. C. Hertlein, I, 328, 335; The Works of the Emperor Julian, ed. W. C. Wright, II, 217.
70 La Fin du Paganisme, I, 98. See J. Geffcken, Kaiser Julianus, 21–22: the author had no doubt of Julian’s initiation. See G. Negri, Julian the Apostate, trans. Duchess Litta-Visconti-Arese, I, 47.
71 Allard, Julien, I, 330. On the early years of Julian, see N. H. Baynes, “The Early Life of Julian the Apostate,” Journal of Hellenic Studies, XLV (1925), 251–54.
72 Julian, Opera, II, 438; ed. Wright, II, 429.
73 Ibid., I, 361; ed. Wright, II, 273.
74 Res Gestae, XXII, 5,1–2,
75 Sozomenis, Historia ecclesiastica, V2 4; Socratis, Historia ecclesiastica, III, 2.
76 Oratio, “Etc Ίoνλιανόν αὐτoκράτoρά ὕπατoν” XII, 82; ed. R. Förster, II, 38.
77 Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, XXV, 4, 17.
78 Ibid., XXII, 5, 3–4.
79 Hieronymi Chronicon, ad olympiad, 285; ed. Migne, Patrologia Latina, XXVII, 691–92.
80 Julian, Opera, II, 544 ff., Epistola 42; ed. Wright, III, 117–23.
82 Res Gestae, XXV, 4, 20.
83 De civitate Dei, XVIII, 52.
84 History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J. B. Bury, chap, 23. See Negri, Julian, II, 411–14.
85 Res Gestae, XXII, 10, 7.
86 Julian, Opera, II, 461; ed. Wright, II, 475.
87 Julian had a long beard, which was rather unusual for an emperor, and the population often laughed at him. On the Misopogon, see Negri, Julian, II, 430–70 (most of the Misopogon is translated there).
88 Julian, Opera, II, 467; ed. Wright, II, 487–89.
89 Theodoreti, Historia ecclesiastica, III, 7; ed. L. Parmentier, 204–5, and other sources.
90 Oratio, “Έπιτάϕιoς ἐπὶ Ίoυλιανῷ,” XVIII, 272; ed. Förster, II, 355. See N. Baynes, “The Death of Julian the Apostate in a Christian Legend,” Journal of Roman Studies, XXVII (1937), 22–29.
91 Julian, Opera, I, 168–69, Oratio IV; ed. Wright, I, 353–55.
92 Julian, Opera, II, 520, Epistola 21; ed. Wright, III, 17.
93 La Fin du Paganisme, I, 142.
94 Kaiser Julianus, 126.
95 Negri, Julian, II, 632. On Julian’s financial policy see an interesting study by E. Condurachi, “La politique financière de l’Empereur Julien,” Bulletin de la section historique de l’Académie roumaine, XXII, 2 (1941), 1–59.
96 Historia ecclesiastica, VIII, 5; ed. Bidez, 106–7.
97 Codex Theodosianus, IX, 16, 9.
98 Oratio de Deitate Filii et Spiritus Sancti; ed. Migne, Patrologoia Graeca, XLVI, 557.
99 Codex Theodosianus, XVI, 1, 2.
100 N. Tcherniavsky, The Emperor Theodosius and His Religious Policy, 188–89.
101 Codex Theodosianus, XI, 16, 18.
102 Ibid., IX, 45, 1.
103 Ibid., XVI, 10, 12.
104 G. Rauschen, Jahrbücher der christlichen Kirche unter dem Kaiser Theodosius dem Grossen, 376.
105 Byzantine Empire, I, 140.
106 Getica, XXI, no; ed. T. Mommsen, 86.
107 There are three principal theories of the origin of the Hunnic races: Mongolian, Turkish, and Finnish. See K. Inostrantzev, Hunnu and Huns (2nd ed., 1926), 103–9. This is a very valuable study. The Russian historian Ilovaisky (died in 1920) throughout his scholarly career argued with incomprehensible obstinacy the Slavic origin of the Huns. A Russian writer about a hundred years ago (Weltman, in 1858) even called Attila “the autocrat of all Russia”!
108 Histoire des institutions politiques de l’ancienne France (2nd ed., 1904), 408.
109 Historia nova, IV, 25, 4; ed. L. Mendelssohn, 181.
110 Th. Nöldeke, “Ueber Moommsen’s Darstellung der römischen Herrschaft und römischen Politik im Orient,” Zeitschrift der morgenländischen Gesellschaft, XXXIX (1885), 334.
111 K. G. Bruns and E. Sachau, Syrisch-Römisches Rechtsbuch aus dem fünften Jahrhundert.
112 On the origin of the earlier Bulgarians see V. Zlatarsky, A History of the State of Bulgaria, I, 23 ff. L. Niederle, Manuel de l’antiquité slave, I, 100; J. Moravcsik, “Zur Geschichte der Onoguren,” Ungarische Jahrbücher, X (1930), 68–69.
113 Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Athen, I, 35.
114 Zosimus, V, 6; ed. Mendelssohn, 222–23.
115 Bury, Later Roman Empire, I, 127.
116 Ibid., I, 129; (1889), 83.
117 “IIερὶ Bασίλείας,” Opera, par. 14–15; ed. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, LXVII, 1092–97. See Bury, Later Roman Empire, I, 129–30. A. Fitzgerald, The Letters of Synesius of Cyrene, 23–24. Fitzgerald, The Essays and Hymns of Synesius of Cyrene, includes the address to the Emperor Arcadius and the political speeches. Trans, into English (1930), I, 134–39; notes on the address “On Kingship,” 206–9.
118 In 1926 N. Baynes wrote: “It is indeed strange that there is no worthy biography of Chrysostom.” See “Alexandria and Constantinople: A Study in Ecclesiastical Diplomacy,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, XII (1926), 150. We now have a detailed and very accurately documented biography in two volumes by a Benedictine, P. Chrysostomus Baur, Der heilige Johannes Chrysostomus und seine Zeit. I have nowhere found mention of the very detailed biography of Chrysostom, with abundant references to sources, published in Oeuvres complètes de saint Jean Chrysostome, trans, by M. Jeannin. See also N. Turchi, La civilità bizantina, 225–67. This article is not mentioned in the bibliography of Baur’s book. L. Meyer, S. Jean Chrysostome, maître de perfection chrétienne. A Crillo de Albornoz, Juan Crisostomo y su influencia social en el imperio bizantino, 187. S. Attwater, St. John Chrysostome, 113. See Histoire de l’église depuis les origines jusqu’à nos jours, ed. A. Fliche and V. Martin, IV, 129–48.
119 The authenticity of some of these sermons is questioned. See Seeck, Geschichte des Untergangs der antigen Welt, V, 365, 583. Baur, Der heilige Chrysostomus, II, 144–45, 196, 237. Bury, Later Roman Empire, I, 155.
120 John Chrysostom, Epistola 234; ed. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, LII, 739.
121 The authenticity is sometimes questioned of a fascinating contemporary source depicting the relations between Chrysostom and the Empress and giving a general picture of court life under Arcadius, the Vita Porphyrii, bishop of Gaza by Marcus the Deacon, his companion and friend. But without doubt the document has a very reliable historical foundation. See H. Grégoire and M. A. Kugener, “La vie de Porphyre, évêque de Gaza, est-elle authentique?” Revue de l’Université de Bruxelles, XXXV (1929–30), 53–60. See also a remarkable introduction to their edition and translation of the life of Porphyrius: Marc le Diacre, Vie de Porphyre évêque de Gaza, ix–cix. Lengthy extracts from the Vita in Bury, Later Roman Empire, I, 142–48. Baur considers the Vita a very reliable source (I, xvi; but cf. II, 157–60). The problem deserves further investigation.
122 Bury, Later Roman Empire, II, 2 and n. I.
123 See J. Labourt, Le Christianisme dans l’Empire Perse sous la dynastie Sassanide (2nd ed., 1904), 93; W. A. Wigram, An Introduction to the History of the Assyrian Church, 89.
124 Synodicon Orientale, ou Recueil de Synodes Nestoriens, ed. J. B. Chabot, in Notices et extraits des Manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Nationale, XXXVII (1902), 258.
125 See L. Bréhier, “Les empereurs byzantins dans leur vie privée,” Revue historique, CLXXXVIII (1940), 203–4.
126 For a free English translation of Priscus’ account, see Bury, Later Roman Empire, I, 279–88. See also W. Ennslin, “Maximinus und sein Begleiter, der Historiker Priskos,” Byzantinisch-Neugriechische Jahrbücher, V (1926), 1–9.
127 Socratis, Historia ecclesiastica, VII, 29J in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, II, 169.
128 Chronicon; ed. Migne, Patrologia Latina, XXVII, 680–90. See H. Usener, “Vier Lateinische Grammatiker,” Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, XXIII (1868), 492.
129 See F. Fuchs, Die Höheren Schulen von Konstantinopel im Mittelalter, 2.
130 Codex Theodosianus, XIV, 9, 3.
131 O. Seeck, “Die Quellen des Codex Theodosianus,” Regesten der Kaiser und Päpste für die Jahre 311 bis 476 n. Chr., 1–18.
132 Histoire des institutions politiques (2nd ed., 1904), 513.
133 V. Bogišič, Pisani Zakoni na slovenskom jugu. U Zagrebu, 11–13; S. Bobtchev, History of the Ancient Bulgarian Law, 117–20.
134 There is a complete English translation of the Code by Clyde Pharr, in collaboration with T. S. Davidson and M. B. Pharr. Princeton University Press, 1951. See also Adolph Berger and A. Arthur Schiller, Bibliography of Anglo-American Studies in Roman, Greek, and Greco-Egyptian Law and Related Sciences, 75–94. A very useful publication. Many items deal with Byzantine times.
135 See Chronicon Paschale, I, 588. On the constructive activities of Cyrus and Constantine, see Bury, Later Roman Empire, I, 70, 72 and n. 2. Cf. A. Van Millingen, Byzantine Constantinople, the Walls of the City and Adjoining Historical Sites, 48; B. Meyer-Plath and A. M. Schneider, Die Landmauer von Konstantinopel (Berlin, 1943). Some new information on the biography of Cyrus which has not been used by Bury is given in “Life of St. Daniel the Stylite,” ed. H. Delehaye, Analecta Bollandiana, XXXII (1913), 150. Delehaye, Les Saints Stylites, 30–31. See also N. Baynes, ‘The Vita S. Danielis,” English Historical Review, XL (1925), 397.
136 The Byzantine Empire, 27.
137 Byzantine Empire, I, 330,
138 J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio (1762), VII, 445.
139 Byzantine Empire, I, 276.
140 Evagrii, Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 14; ed. J. Bidez and L. Parmentier, 113. The Syriac Chronicle, known as the Chronicle of Zachariah of Mitylene, V, 8; trans. F. J. Hamilton and E. W. Brooks, 123.
141 See S. Salaville, “L’Affaire de l’Hénotique ou le premier schisme byzantin au Ve siècle,” Échos d’Orient, XVIII (1916), 225–65, 389–97; XIX (1920), 49–68, 415–33. Anastasius’ reign is included in the discussion.
142 The silentiarii were the ushers who kept guard at the doors during meetings of the imperial council and imperial audiences.
143 Historiae, III, 4, 7; ed. C. de Boor, 116; see Bury, Later Roman Empire, I, 434–36.
144 Comitis Marcellini Chronicon, ad annum 5/7; ed. T. Mommsen, II, 100.
145 The Slavic Occupation of the Balkan Peninsula. At present in Soviet Russia very great interest is exhibited in the early penetration of the Slavs in the Balkan peninsula. Many articles have been published on the subject, and Drinov’s theory is being favorably reconsidered. Drinov’s book has been reprinted in a new edition of his works, edited by V. Zlatarsky, I, 139–364.
146 Evagrii, Historia ecclesiastica, III, 38; ed, Bidez and Parmentier, 136.
147 Anonymous Valesianus, par. 57; ed. V. Gardhausen, 295; ed. T. Mommsen, Chronica Minora, I, 322.
148 See J. Sundwell, Abhandlungen zur Geschichte des ausgehenden Römertums, 190–229.
149 Gregorii Turonensis Episcopi Historia Francorum, II, 38 (XXVIII); ed. H. Omont and G. Collon, 72.
150 Byzantine Empire, I, 352.
151 O. Seeck, “Collatio lustralis,” Real-Encyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschajt, ed. A. F. Pauly, G. Wissowa, and others, IV, 370–76.
152 Evagrii, Historia ecclesiastica, III, 39; ed. Bidez and Parmentier, 137. E. W. Brooks, Cambridge Medieval History, I, 484, calls the chrysargyron “a tax on all kinds of stock and plant in trade” and Bury, Later Roman Empire, I, 441, “the tax on receipts.”
153 The Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite, trans. W. Wright, chap. XXXI, 22.
154 Bury, Later Roman Empire, I, 442 n.
155 E. W. Brooks, “The Eastern Provinces from Arcadius to Anastasius,” Cambridge Medieval History, I, 484; E. Stein, Studien zur Geschichte des byzantinischen Reiches, 146.
156 On the epibole, in addition to the study of H. Monnier, “Études du droit byzantin,” Nouvelle Revue historique de droit, XVI (1892), 497–542, 637–72, see F. Dölger, Beiträge zur Geschichte der byzantinischen Finanzverwaltung besonders des 10. und 11. Jahrhunderts, 128–33; G. Ostrogorsky, “A Byzantine Treatise on Taxation,” Recueil d’études dédiées à N. P. Kondakov, 114–15; Ostrogorsky, “Die ländliche Steuergemeinde des byzantinischen Reiches im X. Jahrhundert,” Vierteljahrschrift für sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, XX (1927), 25–27. These three studies furnish a good bibliography.
157 See W. Wroth, Catalogue of the Imperial Byzantine Coins in the British Museum, I, xiii–xiv, lxxvii. Bury, Later Roman Empire, I, 446–47. The most recent study is by R. P. Blake, “The Monetary Reform of Anastasius I and Its Economic Implications,”Studies in the History of Culture, 84–97. Blake wrote: “The inflational prices of the early fourth century have vanished and a reasonable stable level appears to have been attained; how much Anastasius’ reform actually helped in this matter must remain uncertain in the absence of further data” (p. 97).
158 Historia quae dicitur Arcana, 19, 7–8; ed. J. Haury, 121. Delehaye, “Life of Daniel the Stylite,” Analecta Bollandiana, XXXII (1913), 206; French ed., 86. See Baynes, “Vita S. Danielis,” English Historical Review, XL (1925), 402.
159 Stromata, I, 5; ed. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, VIII, 717–20.
160 Die griechische Literature des Mittelalters. Die Kultur des Gegenwart: ihre Entwicklung und ihre Ziele (3rd ed., 1912), 337.
161 See P. Collinet, Histoire de l’École de droit de Beyrouth, 305.
162 Die griechische Literature des Mittelaters, 330.
163 E. Fialon, Étude historique et littéraire sur Saint Basile (2nd e d., 1869), 284.
164 See J. M. Vance, Beiträge zur byzantinische Kulturgeschichte am Ausgange des IV. Jahrhunderts aus den Schriften des Johannes Chrysostomos.
165 Historia ecclesiastica, XIII, 2; ed. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, CXLVI, 933. With this beautiful passage P. Baur opens his biography of Chrysostom, I, vii.
166 Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica, intro. to book V, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, I, 211.
167 Among many other writings on Eusebius’ History, see R. Laqeur, Eusebius als Historiker seiner Zeit. The author has shown the historical importance of Eusebius’ last three books, VIII–X.
168 In 1938 Grégoire convincingly proved, I believe, that Eusebius was not die author of the Life of Constantine in the form in which it has come down to us: Byzantion, XIII (1938), 568–83; XIV (1939), 318–19.
169 Fitzgerald, Letters of Synesius, 11–69. Fitzgerald, Essays and Hymns of Synesius, 1–102 (an ample introduction); 103–7 (excellent bibliography). Also C. H. Coster, “Synesius, a Curialis of the Time of the Emperor Arcadius,” Byzantion, XV (1940–41), 10–38, Good documentation.
170 Suidae, Lexicon, s. v. ϒπατία. The very well-known novel of Charles Kingsley, Hypatia, or New Foes with an Old Face, may be read with great interest and profit.
171 See A. A. Vasiliev, “The Lifetime of Romanus the Melode,” Vizantiysky Vremennik, VIII (1901), 435–78. P. Maas, “Die Chronologie der Hymnen des Romanos,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift, XV (1906), 1–44. More recent studies: M. Carpenter, “The Paper that Romanos Swallowed,”Speculum, VII (1932), 3–22; “Romanos and the Mystery Play of the East,” The University of Missouri Studies, XI, 3 (1936); E. Mioni, Romano il Melode. Saggio critico e died inni inediti, VI, 230 (he does not know Vasiliev’s study); G. Cammelli, Romano il Melode.
172 K. Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur, 663.
173 H. Gelzer, Die Genesis der byzantinischen Themenverfassung, 76. Gelzer thought that Romanus lived in the eighth century. Cf. E. Stein in Gnomon, IV (1928), 413: “The church poet Romanus appears to me merely dull [langweilig].”
174 See G. Cammelli, “L’inno per la natività de Romano il Melode,” Studi Bizantini (1925), 45–48. Cammelli, Romano il Melode, 88.
175 A critical edition of Romanus’ works has been prepared by P. Maas. See Byzantinische Zeitschrijt, XXIV (1924), 284.
176 See M. Schanz, Geschichte der römischen Litteratur (3rd ed., 1922), III, 413–37; on the De mortibus persecutorum, 462–67; (3rd ed.), 427 if. The best work on Lactantius is R. Pichon, Lactance. Étude sur le movement philosophique et religieux sous le règne de Constantin. The most recent bibliography on Lactantius is in K. Roller, Die Kaisergcschichte in Lakyanz De mortibus persecutorum, 41. English trans. W. Fletcher, Ante-Nicene Christian Library, XXI-XXII.
177 The people of Antioch ridiculed Julian’s beard.
178 See for example, Schanz, Geschichte der römischen Litteratur (2nd ed., 1905), III, 83–90. A Gercke and E. Norden, Einleitung in die Altertumswissenschaft (2nd ed., 1914), III, 255–56. A. Rosenberg, Einleitung und Quellenkunde zur römischen Geschichte,231–41.
179 B. Henderson, The Life and Principate of the Emperor Hadrian, 275.
180 The Historia Augusta: Its Date and Purpose, 57–58, a very good bibliography, 7–16, The author begins his book with the passage quoted from Henderson.
181 N. Baynes, “The Historia Augusta: its date and purpose. A Reply to Criticism,” The Classical Quarterly, XXII (1928), 166. The author himself remarks that his suggestion had, on the whole, “a bad press.”
182 E. Condurachi, “Les Idées politiques de Zozime,” Revista Clasică, XIII–XIV (1941–42), 125, 127.
183 Geschichte der spätrömischen Reiches, I, 331.
184 Journal of Roman Studies, XVIII, 2 (1928), 224.
185 Ursprung der christlichen Kirchenkunst, 18; English trans. O. Dalton and H. Braunholtz, Origin of Christian Church Art, 21; a list of Strzygowski’s works, 253–59.
186 See, for example, C. Diehl, Manuel d’art byzantin (2nd e d., 1925–26), I, 16–21; O. Dalton, East Christian Art, 10–23, and especially 366–76
187 O. Dalton, Byzantine Art and Archaeology, 10.
188 Diehl, Manuel d’art byzantin, I, 26.
189 See C. R. Morey, The Mosaics of Antioch, and three beautiful volumes, Antioch-on-the-Orontes.
190 See the plan and pictures in Diehl, Manuel d’art byzantin, I, 36–37, 45–47. J. Mattern, “A travers les villes mortes de Haute-Syrie,” Mélanges de l’Université Saint-Joseph, XVII, 1 (1933) 175 on the sanctuary of St. Simeon, 87–104; many illustrations. A new edition of this book, Villes mortes de Haute-Syrie (1944), 115–38.
191 On the chronological discrepancy see Diehl, Manuel d’art byzantin, I, 53; Dalton, East Christian Art, 109, n. 1.
192 Die Menasstadt, I.
193 Dalton, East Christian Art, 249. Cf. Diehl, Manuel d’art byzantin, I, 352.
194 Dalton, Byzantine Art and Archaeology, 10.