,the law concerning sacrifice was repealed and other traditions handed down from their forefathers neglected. Thus the Roman empire has been gradually diminished and become a home for barbarians, or has been reduced to such a depopulated state that the places where cities used to be cannot be recognised.' - Zosimus, late fifth century.'
Theodosius fell ill and died in January 395, just a few months after the victory of his army at the River Frigidus. The defeats of Eugenius and Maximus were the two great military achievements of his reign. Like Constantius before him, Theodosius was better at fighting other Romans than foreign enemies. After his early campaigns against the Goths, which resulted in at least one serious defeat, he spent little time with the army, remaining instead at one of his capitals. This may well have been because he recognised his limited talents as a soldier and perhaps also wanted to reduce his direct association with any failures. His sons were still young in 395 - Arcadius was about eighteen and Honorius just ten - and even as they grew older they would show no inclination to lead their armies in person. This would set the pattern for the future. Unlike the third and fourth centuries, it would be very rare for an emperor to go on campaign in the fifth century.
That was not the only change. Theodosius is generally acknowledged by scholars as the last man to rule the entire empire. It is true that he had colleagues - Gratian, Valentinian II and later his own sons - and that for substantial periods usurpers controlled the western provinces, but for much of his reign he was clearly dominant, even if he was not the sole emperor. More importantly, after 395 the western and eastern halves of the empire were never again reunited under the same rule and steadily the division between the two became permanent. Individuals did not transfer from the army or administration of one half to the other. A bond remained, but it was loose and more to do with shared history, ideology and culture than anything else. Both halves of the empire had the same law and legal system, although over time differences would develop. Co-operation between emperors was relatively rare and not always effective. On the other hand, direct conflict only occurred when one supported the claims of a `legitimate' emperor against a usurper. There was never any attempt to reconquer the entire empire by force. Nor were the two halves of the empire competitors in any way equivalent to modern independent states. They were sometimes rivals, but the rivalry was for limited stakes, for influence rather than control.'
The roots of the division went back well into the third century - indeed, the worst that might have happened in the `great crisis' of that age was that the empire would have fragmented into two or three `Roman' empires earlier than it actually did. Its survival in some shape or form was never in doubt. Under the tetrarchy the four emperors divided the provinces between them, but generally co-operated under the forceful guidance of Diocletian. Only Constantine was able to repeat this sort of dominance in the later years of his reign when he ruled with his sons. For the rest of the fourth century, there were usually two or more emperors controlling distinct groups of provinces. At times they cooperated and supported each other. More often they appeared indifferent to the fortunes of their imperial colleagues - as when Constantius II watched his brothers fight, or Valentinian decided not to assist Valens against Procopius. Direct conflict was not uncommon.
There was not a conscious decision for a permanent division of the empire in 395. At the time it is doubtful that it was seen as in any way different from arrangements sharing the provinces between imperial colleagues in the past. The divide was in fact the same as that between Valentinian and his brother Valens. It was only subsequent history - most notably a succession of weak and generally young emperors dominated by powerful courtiers - that ensured the split endured. No emperor in the mould of Aurelian, Diocletian or Constantine emerged with the power and will to challenge the situation. In just over eighty years - a very long lifetime, but perhaps better thought of as two or three generations - the line of the western emperors ended altogether.
A permanent split in the empire had become likely from at least the second half of the third century. Precisely when and how it occurred owed more to chance. The ever present fear of assassination and civil war had profoundly changed the way an emperor ruled. None felt secure enough to delegate as much power to their subordinates as had been enjoyed by senatorial legates in the first and second centuries. Provinces were smaller, but much more numerous. The emperors' representatives had also massively multiplied, although individually these tended to have far less power and formed part of a large, complex and often contradictory bureaucracy. Emperors had to do more in person and obviously could not be in two places at once. They needed at least one colleague, and in the long run it was always difficult for two or more emperors to live in harmony, even when they were relatives. More importantly, the slow pace of travel and communication meant that it was impractical for emperors to consult unless they were physically near each other, which rather defeated the object of having more than one in the first place. There was inevitably a tendency for each emperor to go his own way, focusing on immediate problems rather than those affecting distant parts of the empire. The instinct for self-preservation reinforced this tendency. Neglecting local problems was a very good way to encourage usurpation.
The bureaucratic machine created in the late third and fourth centuries was intended to make emperors more secure and give them greater control. It supervised the complex taxation system, which was supposed to channel the resources of the empire into imperial projects. Most importantly of all, it funded, fed, equipped and provided the manpower to serve in the army. Without an effective army emperors could not win the foreign victories that were expected of them, let alone defend themselves against usurpers. The bureaucracy also provided posts with which to reward supporters. Men who entered the civil service gained a salary - modest for many junior posts, but supplemented by semi-official bribery and graft - as well as legal privileges and exemptions from taxation or military service. They were also within a system where their career was ultimately dependent on imperial favour. They were just as much the emperors' men as soldiers in the army.
Civil servants possessed delegated power. Departments and specific offices and posts were also permanent, even if the individuals holding them were not. Those at higher levels enjoyed regular contact with the emperor and could well gain influence over his decisions. At all levels they acted as the main, and sometimes the only, conduit for information passing to the emperors. From the very start of the Principate, anyone with access to the emperor - particularly day-to-day, personal interaction - was in a privileged position. More than one emperor meant more than one court. The imperial court, like the wider bureaucracy, had also steadily taken on a permanent, institutional form. Together, the courts and the civil service provided a strong measure of continuity, regardless of who the emperors actually were at any one time. They were also highly reluctant to give up their power and influence.
After Constantine's death the empire was only briefly united under the rule of one man - for short spells under Constantius II, just a few years under Julian and Jovian, and finally in the last years of Theodosius. Normally there were two active emperors and therefore two imperial courts and administrations. Most of the time the western and eastern provinces were under different rule. The bureaucracies themselves had become separate and to some extent developed their own agendas. Their main priority was to survive and preserve or even increase their own power. Individually, civil servants hoped to rise to the most important posts and gain as much wealth and influence over others as they could. The senior army officers in each region had similar ambitions. To exist and to hold power, they needed their own emperor. It would have taken a very strong, long-lived and utterly secure emperor to have reversed this trend towards separation. Few enough such men managed to hold power in the third or fourth centuries and none would do so in the fifth. Instead, for so much of the time there were child emperors, utterly dominated by powerful figures at court or - especially in the west - their senior general.
For some time emperors became figureheads. They were less active and stopped travelling. From the tetrarchy onwards a number of capitals had been employed by the emperors, chosen to be near whatever priority they had at the time. Now the court became static, remaining in a single capital almost all the time. In the east this was Constantinople. In the west first Milan, and later Ravenna. In each case the imperial court was located somewhere safe. Emperors did not go to war in the fifth century.
Divided Empire: The World at the End of the Fourth Century
The division of the empire in 395 closely mirrored the division between the Latin-speaking western provinces and the Greek-speaking east. There were many regional differences of language and culture in both areas, but this certainly gave a coherence to the two empires that emerged. In the east, Latin continued to be the language of law and some aspects of government well into the sixth century, and members of the civil service joining the relevant departments were expected to have an extremely good knowledge of it. Over time such skill became less common and eventually this requirement was dropped. Many Latin legal or military terms still survived transliterated into Greek.3
United, the empire was massively bigger, more populous and wealthier than any of its neighbours. Divided into two, the difference was less marked compared to Persia, but still huge in relation to anyone else. This remained a world of many tribes and peoples, normally mutually hostile and often riven with internal disputes between rival leaders. Along most of their frontiers, the Romans did not face concerted, organised and large-scale threats but the familiar problems of raiding. In the course of the fourth century large sections of the Rhine and Danube frontiers had been perceived to be weak, encouraging larger and more frequent attacks by bands of plunderers. At times the ferocity and power of the Roman response managed to intimidate the tribes in one area for a short spell. This was never permanent, because the army was unable to maintain a strong and effective enough presence everywhere at all times. Too often the troops were withdrawn to fight elsewhere, whether against foreign or Roman enemies. Equally, it was not uncommon for the defeated tribes to be urged on to attack the provinces again to aid one emperor in his war against another.
Persia had always been different. It was bigger, wealthier and more sophisticated, as well as politically united and able to field large and effective armies. Jovian's peace treaty had ceded strategically important border areas to Shapur I I as well as declaring thirty years' peace - treaties stipulating a specific number of years of peace had a long tradition in the Greek world. They had never been that common in Rome's history, in the main because of the Roman tendency to fight on until they had achieved an outright victory. In this case, the treaty was quickly violated. Perhaps from the beginning both sides understood its clauses differently, or maybe attitudes changed later - especially for Valens and Theodosius, who were not in such a precarious position as Jovian had been when the peace was negotiated. The dispute focused particularly on Armenia and neighbouring regions such as Iberia. Shapur II felt that he had been granted sole right to intervene in Armenian affairs. The Romans resisted this and although neither side launched a full-scale invasion of the other's territory, there was still some heavy fighting.
Shapur forcibly removed King Arsaces of Armenia and placed his own man on the throne. The Romans in turn drove this king out and replaced him with Arsaces' son Pap. Shapur ravaged Armenia with his army and then began to make diplomatic overtures to persuade Pap to join him. Learning of this, the Roman commander invited Pap to dinner - the familiar environment for Roman diplomacy and treachery - and murdered him. The intensity of the struggle lessened somewhat when the elderly King Shapur II died in 379 after a reign of some seventy years. Persia had no fewer than three kings in the next decade, as rival family members struggled for power. Equally, the Romans had enough problems of their own and this led to an agreement to partition Armenia in 387 (or possibly 384, as there is some doubt over the date). Persia got the lion's share, with Rome taking around one-fifth of the land. In each case the regions continued to be governed by local satraps and retained considerable local autonomy.4
In 421 there was a short-lived conflict between the Eastern Empire and the Persians, when the Romans tried and failed to recapture Nisibis, the great frontier city ceded in Jovian's treaty. Apart from this, there was no major war throughout the fifth century. However, the peace was not quite unblemished. Each side retained well-manned and provisioned fortresses facing each other along the frontier. There was also sporadic raiding by tribes allied to the great powers and sometimes with their tacit backing. Although it took time for this to show itself in imperial pronouncements and propaganda, the Roman attitude towards Persia had shifted significantly. The old dreams of following Alexander to conquer the Persians and absorb them into the empire seem to have died along with Julian. Instead, and at first grudgingly, the Romans began to speak and think of Persia as something like an equal.
It was a realistic assessment. The frontiers between the two were now heavily defended and fortified, making major invasions difficult. Roman power was also weaker than it had once been, and after 395 the eastern half of the empire on its own certainly had nothing like the capacity to drive down and take Ctesiphon in the manner of earlier Roman armies. Conversely, the Persians would find it much harder to raid as deep into the Roman provinces as they had managed in the third century. As importantly, their kings did not have the political need to secure themselves on the throne by leading such spectacular expeditions. Since Galerius' campaigns, Persian ambitions had focused almost exclusively on regaining the lands they had lost, and restoring a frontier that they felt to be both stronger and more proper. In the treaties with Jovian and Theodosius they effectively achieved this aim. For generations to come, both sides were content with the balance of power and realistic enough to understand that they lacked the capacity to change it. Each of them also usually had enough problems to deal with on other fronts.5
On other frontiers the ongoing struggle for dominance continued. The Romans relied on the usual mixture of force and diplomacy, which included paying subsidies (or bribes or tribute, depending on how you wish to see these) to tribal leaders to keep the peace. There were now well-established patterns of educating the sons of barbarian kings and chieftains, and then helping to install them in power within their tribes in the expectation that they would prove loyal allies. It did not always work. Some refused to be controlled, while others were expelled by rivals. Such leaders - who may well have brought with them the warriors of their own household - were often then employed as senior officers in the Roman army. King Vadomarius of the Alamanni fought against Constantius II, but eventually made peace and was later used by the emperor to attack Julian in the civil war. Julian captured him - once again the method was to seize him at a banquet organised by a Roman officer - and he was subsequently one of Valens' senior commanders during the fighting with the Persians. His son was also made a king amongst the tribes, but was murdered on the orders of Gratian after his loyalty became suspect.'
Life was dangerous for the tribes living next to either Roman Empire. Yet they were never just passive victims of a more powerful neighbour. Raiding continued to be a problem whenever the frontier defences were seen as vulnerable. Mostly it was conducted over fairly short distances and the effects were restricted to certain vulnerable regions. As well as raids there were attempts to migrate and settle within the empire. These seem to have become more frequent at the very end of the fourth century, mainly as the direct or indirect consequences of the growing and aggressive power of the Huns. Raiding and migration were of deep concern to the Roman authorities. Far more common was peaceful interaction. Trade in both directions across the frontiers continued, especially in periods of relative peace and stability. Many of the barbarians who entered the empire did so as individual volunteers for the Roman army which was very eager to enlist their services.
Any consideration of the scale of trade and the economy in general at the end of the fourth century is subject to the usual lack of any meaningful statistics. Some goods certainly continued to be transported over considerable distances. Trade with the far east revived to some extent in the later fourth and fifth centuries. In India the focus moved largely to ports in what is now Sri Lanka. Yet there are signs that there was more competition from Persian and other traders, even if much of the produce eventually made its way into the empire. The port of Aila (modern Aqaba) seems to have been bustling from early in the fourth century, when a detachment of Legio X Fretensis was moved there from its old base in Jerusalem. Considerable quantities of incense came through this route. Although later in the fourth century there may have been a brief decline in the demand for incense as pagan rituals were banned, it was not long before the Christians began to adopt it for their own ceremonies.
In 408 or 409 the Roman and Persian authorities acted jointly to regulate cross-border trade, trying to ensure that the states controlled this and that no commerce could occur other than in the appointed places. This suggests that there were plenty of merchants willing to operate independently and that trade between Romans and Persians was common.7
It was not only expensive luxury items that were transported over great distances, but also at times products such as grain and wine. The city of Rome had shrunk somewhat in the size of its population - perhaps to between 500,000-750,000 - but still required massive shipments from Africa and Sicily to supply its food. In this case, it remained the duty of emperors to ensure that food was provided - similar provision had also to be made for Constantinople - and was not simply the operation of the market. Yet there is enough evidence for manufacture and farming to show that there was considerable commercial exchange. There was also innovation. A late fourth-century poem mentions water-powered saws for cutting marble in use in the Rhineland. Again, it is always important to remember how different the Roman empire and empires were from the lands outside. The quantity and range of objects available and in wide circulation amongst many levels of the population remained massively greater than all the lands outside - even including Persia, although in this case the difference was less. The division of the empire into two did not do much to restrict trade within the area of the old united empire. The two Roman empires together still represented a massive trading unit and market operating under the same laws and with the same currency, which had stabilised to some extent during the fourth century.8
As with the economy, we have no reliable statistics for population of the empire before or after it was divided. Some areas certainly seem to have been booming. There is evidence for a thriving rural population in a number of regions - most notably around the great city of Antioch, but also in parts of North Africa and Greece - for the next few centuries, far larger and more prosperous than in earlier periods. Yet we need to be very cautious about extending this to infer similar conditions throughout the eastern provinces in general, let alone the rest of the Roman world. Archaeological evidence is simply not available in sufficient quantity to permit confident generalisations, and there is always the danger that we will see in it what we expect to see. We know a good deal about some specific sites - and the communities in these variously were founded or abandoned, and grew, declined or remained much the same. Such variety is unsurprising at any period, but should make us reluctant to generalise. The ability of central government to provide land for migrating barbarian groups suggests that some areas were under-populated. However, similar settlements had occurred in earlier periods so this need not in itself be a sign of a new and serious problem.'
Considerable regional variation is likely. Areas that were the scene of prolonged warfare can only have paid a price for this in the deaths of people, the destruction of farms and villages, and the loss of crops and animals. Given time and peace, they would recover, but in the short term the impact of conflict could be very great indeed. Whatever the size of the overall population, there is sufficient evidence to show that the authorities struggled to ensure that there were enough people in the right places and doing the right things. The frequency of legislation making it compulsory for sons to follow their fathers' occupations suggests that this was often evaded, and certainly failed to provide sufficient craftsmen and other specialists. The rural labour force was seen as insufficient and again, legislation restricting the movements of peasants and labourers was common. Similarly, it was believed that recruitment to the army was at best barely adequate - so much so that the desire to secure more recruits could influence imperial policy and encourage Valens to admit the Goths. Shortages of manpower were seen as serious problems. That neither agricultural production nor the army collapsed altogether demonstrate that neither had reached a critical stage. This does not mean that the authorities' concerns were not real.
The fortunes of cities also varied from region to region, depending on the local situation. Constantinople grew steadily, its population reaching several hundred thousand by the middle of the fourth century. It would grow even more once it became the permanent residence of the eastern emperors instead of one of several capitals. From Constantine onwards the city acquired a growing number of large and magnificent churches, paid for by successive emperors. Churches were built in cities throughout the empire, sometimes with imperial patronage, but more often through the generosity of local aristocrats. Building a church was one of the most common gifts to a community, replacing the older preference for baths and theatres. The number, and in some cases substantial size, of churches built throughout the empire in the later fourth century makes it clear that at least some of the wealthy were still able and willing to make conspicuous donations to cities. Yet there continues to be evidence that in some communities there were not enough local aristocrats who were rich enough or even willing to serve as local magistrates. Some went into the Church, for senior priests and bishops were exempt from civic duties. Others gained similar exemptions by joining the imperial bureaucracy. In each case a proportion wished only for some sinecure, a nominal post sought only because it removed any responsibility to their home community. Successive laws tried to weed out such men and force them to fulfil their obligations, but it is doubtful that the problem was ever properly solved."
The fourth-century empire possessed considerable resources. The essential truth of the Roman Empire remained its sheer size in comparison to all its competitors. No rival had the capacity to destroy it. Yet for all the centralised bureaucracy of this era, there were clearly problems in marshalling and directing its resources of money, manpower and material. It should not have taken six years for the empire's massive superiority in men and wealth to overcome the Goths in Thrace. The division of the empire in 395 did nothing to improve this situation. It had long been the case that the army and administration in one area displayed scant concern for difficulties in distant parts of the empire. Local problems were always their greatest concern. After 395 this only became more marked and, in time, formally acknowledged. Divided empire inevitably meant divided resources. Only rarely would men, money or material from one half be used to assist the other. From the beginning the Eastern Empire was probably wealthier. It faced the major potential threat of Persia, although as it turned out there would be several generations of peace. The Western Empire faced tribal enemies along a much more extensive frontier. None was remotely as powerful as Persia, but they were numerous and there was always a strong chance of conflict somewhere. From the beginning, its resources were more stretched by this very different military problem.
By the end of the fourth century there was no doubt that the Roman Empire - or empires as it effectively became after 395 - was Christian. Eugenius was the last contender for imperial power to appeal explicitly for pagan support. Bishop Ambrose of Milan was told that the usurper boasted of turning his cathedral into a stable when he returned in victory. We need to be cautious - almost all our sources are Christian and inclined to celebrate the victory of Theodosius as the triumph of the true faith over old superstition. Theodosius' army - like that of all the successors of Constantine apart from Julian - had marched under the labarum standard. Whether Eugenius' troops carried symbols of Jupiter is harder to say. Very soon after the battle stories circulated that the victory had been miraculous. An immensely powerful wind - a fairly common phenomenon in the region - had blown into the faces of the usurper's soldiers, robbing their missiles of force while making those of the enemy more powerful."
By the end of the fourth century there were still substantial numbers of pagans, although Christians may already have made up a clear majority of the population. Yet the Christians themselves remained divided into many different groups. In North Africa the Donatists were still strong, maintaining a full church organisation with bishops and other leaders that paralleled that of the state-supported Catholic Church. Theodosius made sure that the official Church would support only the creed and doctrine approved at Constantine's conference in Nicaea. In 38o he declared that:
We desire that all the peoples who are ruled by the guidance of our clemency should be versed in that religion which it is evident that the divine [divine in the sense of holy or saintly - the same expression was used for the emperors themselves] apostle Peter handed down to the Romans, and which the pope Damasus and Peter, bishop of Alexandria ... adhere to ... We command that those persons who follow this rule shall have the name of catholic Christians. The rest, however, whom we judge to be demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas ...IZ
Constantius II and Valens had both been inclined towards forms of Arianism, rejecting the Nicene Creed in favour of one in which Jesus was not absolutely identical to God the Father. Such views were always more popular in the Greek-speaking east. Theodosius was a Spaniard from the Latin west raised to accept the Nicene view of a homoousian trinity - Father, Son and Holy Ghost all being `of the same substance'. He was also an extremely determined man who felt it was right to impose this view. In 381 bishops who advocated Arian views were sacked throughout the empire. They were no longer to be considered priests, while meeting places of groups other than orthodox Catholics were not even to be counted as churches. Bishops recognised as Catholic were listed for each diocese in the empire. They in turn would grant legitimacy to more junior priests. In addition a number of heretical groups were outlawed.13
The structure of the Church mirrored that of the state. There were bishops in all cities. There were also rural bishops, but from very early on these were considered subordinate to their urban counterparts. The diocese of a bishop was defined by administrative divisions of the state. The bishop of the major centre of an administrative diocese - the group of provinces under the charge of one vicar who was in turn under the control of a praetorian prefect - was acknowledged as superior to the bishops of lesser cities. The importance of the bishop of Rome - already sometimes referred to as the pope - was at first a consequence of the real and symbolic importance of that city. Similarly, from the beginning the bishops of Alexandria and Antioch, and in time Carthage, wielded great influence because they were the head of the Church in these massive and prestigious communities. As the fourth century progressed the bishop of Constantinople was eager to join, even to surpass these others. One result was a much more public emphasis by the bishop of Rome on his succession from Peter. The pope remained an important figure, even if emperors rarely visited his city, but for the moment he was still one of a number of senior bishops.14
Imperial support for the Church gave its leaders privileged access to the emperor, something that had always brought influence. Cities and provinces would now frequently turn to bishops to make their case for them at the imperial court. Bishops were important men locally. Many came from the ranks of the regional aristocracies and so had a good deal in common with local magistrates and senior men in imperial service. They were also granted the authority to act as magistrates in certain cases. The degree to which any bishop wielded influence at court, or came to dominate his city and the surrounding area, depended much on personality and family connections.
Bishop Ambrose of Milan certainly did not lack a formidable personality. When Justina, the mother of Valentinian II, wanted to provide a meeting place for Arians in the emperor's bodyguard - many may have been Goths - at Milan, Ambrose protested so strongly that she backed down. In 388 a synagogue at Callinicum on the Euphrates was destroyed by a Christian mob, along with a number of pagan shrines. A bishop and his monks were held responsible and Theodosius ordered that the bishop should pay for the synagogue to be rebuilt. In spite of occasional rhetoric, Jewish communities faced little official hostility. Synagogues were respected - many were in prominent places in city centres - and rabbis enjoyed similar legal privileges to Christian priests. Ambrose wrote to Theodosius in immediate protest, and continued to condemn the emperor even after he modified his decision so that the entire community would pay for the costs. In the end he backed down altogether."
More spectacular was their second confrontation. In 39o an army officer was lynched at Thessalonica by a mob outraged at his arrest of a famous charioteer. As punishment Theodosius ordered the garrison to attack the crowd at the circus on a set day. It was not a subtle way of handling the matter and rather suggested that the authorities were not in full control. Whatever the emperor had actually intended, the result was an indiscriminate massacre. Some 7,000 people were alleged to have died, although this is most likely a huge exaggeration. Ambrose wrote to Theodosius telling him that he would boycott the formal ceremony when the emperor was to enter Milan soon afterwards. He demanded that the emperor perform penance before being permitted to receive the sacrament. Theodosius seems already to have regretted his angry order and perhaps wanted to disassociate himself from its dreadful consequences. Therefore, he obeyed Ambrose's demand, and for some time regularly appeared without his imperial robes and regalia, weeping and prostrating himself in penitence in the cathedral at Milan."
The emperor could not fully control the Church, but it would be wrong to see him as controlled by it. Fourth-century emperors were often represented as being persuaded by advisers away from taking especially severe action. Ambrose of Milan was a shrewd politician and may well have judged that the emperor wanted to be convinced. Alternatively, he may have understood Theodosius' emotional character well enough to gauge his moods. Most importantly, we need to remember that this was an exceptional event. Bishops could not tell emperors what to do. They had influence according to their own reputation, personality and importance, but no more than that.'7
As yet, there was also no single leader to speak with the authority of the entire Church. Of course, there was not really a single Church, for Christians continued to fragment into many different groups. Arianism did not die out immediately just because Theodosius actively supported the Nicene Creed. Even groups he ordered to be prosecuted as heretics proved very hard to eradicate. New disputes continued to occur and led to fresh schisms. One bishop claimed that in Constantinople:
If you ask anyone for change, he will discuss with you whether the Son is begotten or unbegotten. If you ask about the quality of bread, you will receive the answer that `The Father is greater, the Son is less.' If you suggest that you require a bath, you will be told that `There was nothing before the Son was created."8
This was part of a published sermon arguing for a particular view, so should not be taken as evidence that the majority of the population was genuinely preoccupied with doctrinal disputes. Enough people were deeply committed to particular views - and doubtless also to well-liked individual leaders and local traditions - to make possible the splits in the Church that continued to occur. Even so, we need to be aware that such things figure disproportionately strongly in the surviving sources. The ultimate success of orthodox Catholicism also at times makes it difficult to understand accurately the position of its opponents."
The will of the emperor could not make everyone orthodox, nor could it have made everyone Christian in the first place. Early on in his reign Theodosius outlawed Manichaeism, but was otherwise more concerned with suppressing Christian heretics. His mood hardened as his reign went on. More than one law extended the ban on sacrifice. How rigorously this was enforced depended mainly on the local authorities, and animals were still killed to be served up in the banquets celebrating traditional festivals in many communities, something hard to distinguish from formal sacrifice. Yet on the whole, public expressions of clearly pagan ritual became rare. There was little concerted or organised resistance to imperial policy. Rioting did occur between rival mobs, usually when Christian groups - almost always allegedly monks in the service of a local bishop - tried to destroy a pagan shrine. There were spectacular instances of such violence. The great Temple of Serapis at Alexandria was destroyed by such a mob in 391, as was part of the great library in that city, the latter especially disturbing to modern scholars, although how many of the texts lost in this way would have still survived the centuries is impossible to say.
Such conflict was spectacular, but rare. In the main the various religions, and indeed the different branches of Christianity, managed to live side by side in peace, if not necessarily warmth or harmony. There were still many pagans, and indeed Arian Christians, in senior posts in the imperial service. The Senate in Rome still seems to have contained a strongly pagan - or perhaps rather, strongly traditional - element. Constantius II had ordered the removal of the Altar of Victory in the Senate House. For many centuries senators had made offerings of incense on this (or at least a facsimile, as the building itself had burnt down many times over the years) before beginning their debates. Julian allowed the altar to be reinstalled. Gratian took it again and resisted several formal requests from the Senate to restore it. Eugenius reversed this decision, but after his defeat Theodosius once again had it removed and refused all pleas for its return.2O
Christians trumpeted the failure of pagan deities to protect their own temples and statues from destruction. Valens' death at Adrianople, and especially the story that he might have been burned alive, was similarly seen as punishment for his promotion of Arian doctrine. A common theme in much literature is the greater power of Christian priests and holy men over the followers of false gods or philosophers. Since Constantine, the success of the empire was also due to its worship of the Christian God. Quite quickly the Persians had come to see Christianity as a sign of probable sympathy for Rome.2'
Others felt the same way. Remarkable accounts survive of Christians living amongst the Goths before they entered the empire. The first were captives from the great raids of the third century, who retained a clear sense of their own distinct identity, as well as their faith. These, like their famous first bishop Ulfilas (literally, `Little Wolf' - the name is Gothic even if he and his family remained aware of their real origin) were mostly Arians. Ulfilas was sent as an ambassador to Constantius II, presumably under the assumption that the Romans were more likely to pay attention to a fellow Christian. While he was at Constantinople he was ordained as bishop to all the Christians amongst the tribes. Later, the Gothic chieftains evidently decided that Ulfilas and his flock were too closely associated with the Romans for comfort and they were driven by persecution to take refuge within the empire. Ulfilas spent much of the rest of his life translating the Bible into Gothic - something that required the creation of an alphabet, since it was not a written language.
There were also other Christians amongst the tribes who seem to have been converted by missionaries, for they were certainly more orthodox in their beliefs. What is notable is that during periods of tension with their Roman neighbours, Gothic kings instituted several persecutions. We have a detailed account of one of the resulting martyrdoms, that of Saint Saba, who seems to have been especially determined to be killed. It is interesting that on several occasions his fellow villagers tried to protect him, even if in each case he thwarted this by publicly confronting the authorities. On the whole, the picture suggests that the persecution was essentially political. When the Goths were settled within the empire, they willingly became Arian. Their descendants would stick to this doctrine for generations after it had been denounced as heretical by Theodosius and his successors."
The united empire in the later years of the fourth century was large and powerful. It is doubtful whether it was quite as large and powerful or prosperous as it had been in 300. Certainly, it was weaker than it had been in the first and second centuries. Divided into two, each of the separate halves was less strong than when they had been joined together. Nor were the two halves equal in power, while the problems they were to face would prove very different. Internal instability had continued to plague the empire throughout the fourth century. Apart from the times of direct conflict, or usurpation and civil war, this could only have a continual wearing effect on the bureaucracy and army. It also steadily reinforced a culture where self-preservation and personal success were the main, almost sole objectives. Both the emperors themselves and their administrations thought less of the wider good of the empire than of their own survival. It was not a recipe for efficiency. What remained to be seen was whether dividing the empire would encourage greater political stability.
One other consequence of the division of the Roman Empire into two is that it inevitably becomes more difficult to follow the story of its demise. Although it would seem simplest to deal with the Eastern and Western Empires separately, this would be misleading. The two empires were neighbours, still closely connected politically, and the problems and decisions of one very often had an impact on the fortunes of the other. Therefore, it is better as far as possible to keep to a chronological approach, even if at times this makes the telling more complex.