Ancient History & Civilisation


Upholding the Legacy The Dynasty between 340–350

Friendship and Harmony?

In the midst of his time spent teaching students in Nicomedia (344–349), Libanius voluntarily added to his workload by opting to take up an invitation to deliver an imperial oration that had been issued by a high-ranking administrator in the eastern administration.1 From the rhetor’s position, it was unlikely to have been viewed as burdensome and as a keen-eyed careerist, Libanius recognised the opportunities for personal advancement that the invitation presented to him. However, this was a far from straightforward task. His brief was unusual since the oration was to have not one but two imperial addressees, namely the emperor of the eastern territories, Constantius II, and the emperor of the west, Constans.2 However, as Libanius was keen to point out, the “bond of friendship” (Or. 59.152) that united the two imperial brothers made the task in hand much easier to accomplish. Indeed, the previous times of unrest and tragedy that had characterised so many former emperorships (151) meant that the period of the joint rule between Constantius II and Constans presented a rare opportunity for all finally to appreciate a world united in harmony. This harmony, notes Libanius, had its basis in the spirit of concord shared between the two emperors – characterised by “a harmony of their soul” (150) – which, in turn, served to influence the natures of their own subjects. The empire under their authority is witness to an age where the deeds of good monarchs flourish: Envy is banished, prosperity is available to all (156), women and families are protected by laws (157–158), the rights of farmers and the land are safeguarded (159), and their clemency is enshrined in laws of appeal (160–161).3 The concord (Gk. harmonia, cf. 150) between the two emperors has contributed directly to the unification of the empire and the restoration of the original divine plan of a social contract determined by human need:

The state of the earth was as if it had been split in two. But now what was hitherto separated came together and has been joined, and what so far had been torn apart has been restored to its proper condition. There is one continent, one sea, the islands common to all, the harbours opened up and gates thrown wide. Merchant ships everywhere convey products from all parts and crowd the anchorages. A mutual community has extended through practically all the land under the sun, with some travelling for exploration and others for other reasons, some who cross oceans and others who traverse the continent. Dwellers in the West are observers of the wonders of the Nile while the inhabitants by the Nile gain knowledge of the beauties of the West. There are Phoenicians in the anchorages of Sicily, and Sicilians in turn in the harbours of Phoenicia. The city of Athens has been opened up to the traffickers in logic, and the nation of the Bithynians has become accessible to those desirous to take whatever they want. Why must I deal in minute detail with each case and not rather utter one statement to cover them all? Now the sensible nations of the world, as though pitching one harmony in chorus, are singing together as their two chorus leaders strike up the tune.

(Or. 59.169)4

Libanius’ promotion of a harmonious empire where east and west were once again united as one politically minded enterprise represents a variation of an influential political ideology or “a method of an ideology”5 – that is to say, following Ando who follows Pierre Bourdieu, a guiding concept that underpins social relations between individuals and parties6 – that echoed across imperial-era history.7 Like all political ideologies before and since, however, this particular ideology was a pale reflection of the reality that it was seeking to promote.8 It is significant that the most detailed examples in Libanius’ oration that highlight the ideology of unity relate to the legislative activities of the two emperors (157–165) since shared legislation was taken to be the clearest “sign of concord”9 when, as in the case of this speech, unity was defined first and foremost according to the administrative functioning of the empire. The essential unity of the empire during the reigns of Constantius II and Constans is not, however, regarded as one of the defining features of the 340s. Instead, it is a state of inherent fractiousness that has come to characterise evaluations of this period: The disunity of the empire seemingly enshrined in the example of bishops who, coming from either side of the empire and filled with so much bile towards one another, were unwilling to meet during the Council of Serdica, or in the example of the western emperor’s threat of armed conflict to the eastern emperor over the matter of episcopal appointments. The disparity in these two images of the empire during the reigns of Constantius and Constans, and the promotion of one impression over the other, derives to some extent from the prioritisation of one type of source over another, with the image of the empire as a dysfunctional entity offered by Christian sources – where the factionalism within the Church was projected outwards resulting in a factionalised imperial administration – tending to hold sway over other less accessible sources (codifications of constitutions) which reflect a vision of a (near-)harmonious body politic. This overreliance, however, is also a symptom of a reluctance to engage with sources of evidence other than panegyrics or Christian literature for the period between 340 and 350 (when Constantinian hegemony was finally challenged by Magnentius) presumably because these other sources – and imperial constitutions represent the dominant form of evidence in this regard – sometimes offer a nebulous impression with regard to how the empire operated during the period of the Constantinian dyarchy, to borrow the term developed by Jean-Pierre Callu to describe imperial college of Constantius and Constans. However, the conclusion that at times the empire functioned indeterminately should certainly not be shied away from.

“Emperor According to the Excellence of His Virtue”10: Reappraising Constans

With the emergence of Constans as the ruler of the empire’s central and western territories, we arrive at a crucial period in the history of the Constantinian dynasty. Alongside the many issues arising from this period which are discussed here – the co-operation of the two emperors and the limits of their concordance, the heightened factionalism of the Christian church, and the empire’s increasingly tangled foreign relations – it is important to highlight that Constans is the only Constantinian emperor in the history of the dynasty to have been successfully usurped (Constans’ removal of Constantine II was not an act of usurpation, according to the standards that define political legitimacy,11 but instead was tantamount to yet another instance of internecine aggression that seems to have characterised Constantinian familial relations). The actions of Magnentius and the coterie of high-ranking civil and military officials responsible for the plot and subsequent murder of Constans should therefore be viewed not simply as the violent overthrow of a sitting emperor but as the definitive rejection of Constantinian hegemony and the abandonment, in the west at least, of the dynasty of Constantine as a legitimate conduit for the exercise and transfer of imperium – the power to rule inherent in the office of the emperor – in the empire.12 It is important to point out that this is not simply a modern evaluation of the episode. The ancient historiography of the late antique period reveals a clear memory of Magnentius’ uprising in precisely these terms. In the early sixth century, Zosimus recounted an episode prior to the engagement between the forces of Constantius and Magnentius at Mursa in September 351 involving Flavius Philippus,13 Constantius’ Praetorian Prefect who, with no fixed locale (a Praetorian Prefect praesentales), was frequently despatched by the emperor as his representative wherever high-level intervention was required.14 On the pretext of a diplomatic mission – according to Zosimus – Philippus was sent to the usurper’s camp “to spy on Magnentius’ army and find out its attitude to the war and its intended route of march” (2.46.2). Arriving at camp, Philippus addressed Magnentius’ troops and indicated that their rebellion was not justified since they were proposing to engage in civil war (“it was not right that they as Roman subjects should make war on Romans”), the crime of which was compounded by the fact that “the emperor was a son of Constantine, under whose command they had set up many trophies for victories against the barbarians” (2.46.3). Indeed, a concern with Constantinian hegemony appears elsewhere in Zosimus’ account of the reigns of Constantine’s sons and one wonders whether it was intended to be a central theme of his second book. According to Zosimus’ portrayal of Constantius’ address to the troops of Vetranio, Constans’ former magister peditum, the emperor called on the soldiers to remember his father’s generosity and “the oaths they had sworn to remain loyal to his children”. Constantius then demanded that Magnentius be punished for his role in the murder of Constans, “the son of Constantine” (2.44.3). The justification for Magnentius’ usurpation is given a little later in Zosimus’ narrative via comments attributed to Fabius Titianus, a former loyalist of the dynasty who served as the Urban Prefect of Rome during Magnentius’ occupation of the west. Titianus arrived at Constantius’ camp on the Sava in the month before the battle of Mursa calling for the emperor’s surrender following a litany of “absurd charges against Constantine and his sons, including the destruction of the cities through Constantius’ carelessness as emperor” (2.49.1). The alignment of the fate of Constans with the fate of the Constantinian dynasty in its entirety is also a feature of the history of Peter the Patrician (b. c.500),15 a near-contemporary of Zosimus who, in one of the fragments from his lost Greek historical work, recounts the reaction of Constantius to a dual embassy sent from Magnentius and Vetranio. After being confronted with threats and an ultimatum to surrender from the ambassadors, Constantius slips into a dream where he sees the vision of his father’s katabasis from heaven. Clutching the hand of his son, Constans, Constantine addresses Constantius with the following words:

Constantius, behold Constans, the progeny of many sovereigns, my son and your brother, treacherously slain. Therefore, neither suffer to look upon a realm sundered and a constitution overturned nor continence threats, but pay heed to the glory of every enterprise that will henceforth come to be for you and do not see your brother unavenged.16

The idea that the murder of Constans represented a grave if not the gravest threat to Constantinian hegemony derived ultimately from the messaging of Constantius II himself in the aftermath of his brother’s death. An emergent theme of fraternal revenge appears early in a letter to Athanasius from Constantius, preserved by Athanasius in his Defence before Constantine (23). Constantius’ letter dates from the period following Constans’ murder and was set against the backdrop of an attempt by envoys sent to Alexandria by Magnentius to sway Athanasius’ sympathies in the direction of the usurper’s nascent administration17:

It is not unknown to your prudence, how constantly I prayed that success might attend my late brother Constans in all his undertakings, and your wisdom will easily judge how greatly I was afflicted, when I learnt that he had been cut off by the treachery of villains.18

The essential criminality of the act perpetrated by Magnentius reappears in Themistius’ Oration 3, delivered to mark Constantius’ visit to Rome in 357, although here his usurpation is characterised as a direct threat to the dynasty of Constantine which the orator viewed as synonymous with the imperial project in its entirety, hence:

When that barbarian revolt broke out and the Roman empire hung in the balance, as if in a dangerous and swelling storm wave and when the succession of Constantine was in danger of being wrecked on an avenging and implacable barbarian, it was only the benevolent genius of the city which preserved the glowing embers of the family, and sent them forth to the ancient hearth of Aeneas’ line.


If the recent reconstruction of the attic inscription on the Arch of Janus (Arcus Divi Constantini) in the Forum Boarium in Rome can be trusted – and there is no reason to doubt it in light of the exactitude underlying its reconstruction – the messaging of Constantius reappeared monumentally at around the same time (to mark Constantius’ triumphal visit to Rome in late April–May 35720) in the form of the triumphal arch that was dedicated to commemorate his victory over Magnentius (see Chapter 8). The inscription, presented in the name of the Senate and the People of Rome, utilised well-established Constantinian messages focused around victory, the emperor as a liberator of Rome (“the liberator of the city and the restorer of peace”), and the emperor’s opponent as a tyrant (“the disposer of the tyrant sovereign”) with the addition of language pertaining to Constantius’ sacred duty to avenge the death of his brother: “… and avenger of the liberty of the Roman people against the enemies who savagely murdered with great cruelty the brother of the August, Constans, and giving themselves free reign …”.21

Evidently, the portrayal of Constans as the victim of a murderous plot and the meaning ascribed to the incident as a fracture in the very nature of imperium were only intelligible as political messages when the reigns of Constans and Constantius were viewed as a collective enterprise, namely as a period of joint rule. The promotion of Constantius as a dutiful brother seeking to avenge Constans and bring the tyrant who had violated the sacredness of imperium to justice was a highly expedient message for the period of his reign as sole Augustus. However, the question arises, why was Constans unseated as the emperor in the west? As the previous chapter noted with reference to William Lewis’ argument regarding the fall-out from the conflict between Constantine II and Constans, the death of the eldest Constantinian brother in April 340 exacerbated the systemic propensity for incidents of usurpation in the western empire.

The power imbalance of the 340s with the unification of the West made fertile ground for usurpation. Before, a usurper taking over a third of the empire would be left in a perilously weak position, facing the two surviving emperors. But with an imperial college of just two, if Constans were to be deposed, a usurper would face only a single imperial rival while holding the stronger part of the empire.22

Modern perspectives that consider the structural implications of the dyarchy naturally arrive at different conclusions from the moralising explanations supplied by ancient historiography. Near-contemporary sources were clear why Constans was toppled: He was unpopular because of his numerous vices. Aurelius Victor, who wrote his brief imperial history prior to his appointment by Julian in 361 as the consular governor of Pannonia Secunda (cf. Amm. Marc. 21.10.6),23 provides the earliest explanation for Constans’ downfall. Buoyed by his victory over Constantine, Constans was filled with an arrogance that made him an incautious emperor. He indulged his vices – notably for the handsome boys taken hostage during his victories over foreign tribes – and grew greedy and contemptuous of his soldiers. As George Woudhuysen has pointed out, however, Victor’s subtleties as an author enabled him to damn Constans with faint praise: He was bad, but nowhere near as bad as Magnentius (indeed, even his sexual proclivity for young barbarian boys derived from his successes as a general).24 “For everything was so devastated by the awful, savage character of Magnentius, as is natural with a barbarian, and simultaneously by what happened afterwards, that people not without reason longed for the previous reign” (41.25–26). This portrait was repeated at various points in the historiographical record with the emperor’s catalogue of vices reiterated into the sixth century (via Zosimus, 2.42.1), and all the way up to the important notice on Constans in Zonaras’ history from the twelfth century (13.6).

However, even in the literary treatment of Constans, it is apparent that things are not quite how they first appear. Eunapius, whose historical work is the likely source for Zosimus’ hostile account of Constans and the Constantinian period in toto, offers a more complex portrayal of Constans in his Lives of Philosophers and Sophists composed towards the end of the fourth century.25 Here, we learn that Eunapius’ former teacher, the Christian sophist Prohaeresius – the successor of Julianus and his famous rhetorical school in Athens26 – was patronised by Constans and granted a series of exceptionally high honours by the emperor.27 Prior to this, Eunapius narrates that Prohaeresius had been exiled from Athens on the initiative of a rival party of sophistic contemporaries, a move supported by a corrupt Proconsul of Achaea. However, Prohaeresius’ rehabilitation began following the intervention of a new Proconsul who recalled him from exile with the support of unnamed emperor whom Edward Watts proposes was Constans (Lives 488). With his reputation building across the empire, Constans requested Prohaeresius’ attendance in Gaul (Trier) and was so overawed by his sophistic talents, in addition to his displays of physical resilience in the form of his threadbare attire and extreme abstinence in the depth of a Gallic winter, that he sent the rhetor “to mighty Rome, because [Constans] was ambitious to show them there what great men he ruled over”.28 In Rome, as Penella correctly identifies, Prohaeresius delivered an encomium for the city29 – in all likelihood honouring Constans’ decennalia (counting from his appointment as Caesar) should Barnes’ suggestion of the year 343 (the “Great Year” of renewal identified by Olbrich; see Chapter 2) as the date for Prohaeresius’ visit to Gaul be correct30 – for which he was granted the high honour of a life-size bronze statue with the remarkable dedication, “Rome the Queen of Cities to the King of Eloquence” (Lives 492). And the prizes kept on coming. Prior to his return to Athens, Constans granted Prohaeresius several islands in the Aegean that would, as a sign of Prohaeresius’ magnanimity, provide tribute as grain to Athens, along with the militaristic sounding title of Stratopedarch,31 the title reflecting his new role overseeing the distribution of the grain supply to the city. Indeed, while Constans’ association with Prohaeresius should be viewed in the context of the western emperor’s efforts to promote his ten-year anniversary, it should also be set within the even broader context of Constans’ reign as firmly Christian and with its cultural foundation in the Hellenic heritage of the empire. In this regard, Moser suggests that Constans’ direct involvement in securing a new role and title for Prohaeresius in the civic life of Athens was unusual in light of the authority of the Proconsul of Achaea.32 However, this move on the emperor’s part was likely intended to promote Constans’ links with Greece and especially Athens in order to appear as a “not so distant emperor” and to evoke Constantine I’s support for prominent Athenians, including Nicagoras33 (a member of the illustrious Kerykes family from Athens that played a prominent role in the Eleusinian mysteries) and Praxagoras,34 the author of a lost encomium of Constantine (a summary is given by Photius), who also derived from the Kerykes.35 While both men were pagans, Constantine’s involvement with them was – as Barnes’ rightly surmises – guided by “an emperor’s traditional role [as] patron of literature Greek as well as Latin”.36 Essentially, this was also the basis for Constans’ patronising of Prohaeresius, but with the added advantage for the emperor that the sophist was a prominent Christian with ties to Athens. Edward Watts neatly summarises this aspect of the appeal of Prohaeresius to Constans:

As a Greek Christian rhetorician, Prohaeresius stood out as a particularly rare breed of individual among Constans’ largely Latin-speaking subjects. This made him quite useful in the propaganda of Constans’s regime. In the mid-fourth century, when some men were still questioning the intellectual potency of Christianity, the appearance of a display piece like the Christian rhetor Prohaeresius provided an important demonstration of the intellectual credentials of the new faith.37

Constans’ sponsorship of Prohaeresius situates the western emperor on a continuum of emperors endorsing philosophers and rhetors, thereby reinforcing a characteristic of the members of the Constantinian dynasty as patrons of paideia and its intellectual exponents.38 Aspects of this feature form the meat of Eunapius’ Lives, but there are some notable omissions in his work, including Themistius, the trusted adviser of Constantius and the less trusted adviser of Julian, whom Eunapius excluded from his intellectual compendium on both ideological and genealogical grounds.39 In assembling his intellectual genealogy of prominent (Neoplatonic) philosophers, Eunapius included a portrait of the pupil of Iamblichus, Sopater of Apamea, at the court of Constantine I and his subsequent downfall at the hands of the Praetorian Prefect, Ablabius (Lives 462–464). Another student of Iamblichus was Eustathius, whom Constantius regarded so highly that he sent him on a diplomatic mission to Shapur II in 358 as part of the protracted build-up to war in 359 and the shah’s invasion of Mesopotamia (Lives 465–466; on the conflict, see Chapter 8).40 In a wonderful example of cultural sublimation, Eunapius states:

Thus Eustathius became [Shapur’s] companion at table, and by his eloquence won such influence over him that the king of Persia came within an ace of renouncing his upright tiara, laying aside his purple and bejewelled attire, and putting on instead the philosopher’s cloak of Eustathius.41

Needless to say, the shah’s religious advisors (magi) intervened before things went too far. For Eunapius, the high-point of Constantinian involvement with Greek-speaking intellectuals arrived in the guise of Julian, the emperor who was educated in Athens and who benefitted from the wisdom imparted by many of Eunapius’ philosophical heroes. The portrayal of Constans’ involvement with Prohaeresius should, therefore, not be overlooked since it offers a glimpse into an alternative vision of imperial involvement with late antique Hellenism, where Hellenic traditions of philosophy and sophistic culture were comfortably co-opted by a Christian emperor who, in his guise as the patron of the arts, utilised these twin poles to promote his imperial persona. Woudhuysen’s contribution further ramifies this impression of Constans as a dynamic emperor in the Constantinian mould, and it is worthwhile spending some time investigating its principal conclusions. One particularly important observation concerns the idea that the hostile image of the emperor in late antique historiography – as a licentious, homosexual tyrant crippled by disease – is in fact an inversion of the imperial persona of the emperor promoted during his reign.42 On the basis of a careful study of sources produced by Constans’ government and its supporters – notably the laws of the regime, Firmicus Maternus’ On the Error of the Pagan Religions, and even the dual panegyric by Libanius (Or. 59) – Woudhuysen proposes that this image of Constans is “the photographic negative” of the emperor portrayed in the epitomators, Zosimus and Zonaras (to name only a selection!).43 In the foreground of this alternative picture of Constans lies his Christianity. Constans’ infamous constitution44 (“the most, the only, famous law which Constans issued”45) from late 341 that opens in the version preserved in the Theodosian Code with the bombastic command, “Superstition shall cease; the madness of sacrifices shall be abolished” (Cesset superstitio, sacrficiorum aboleatur insania; Cod. Theod. 16.10.2), appears to offer a glimpse into the world of an uncompromising emperor and a militant Christian court. Certain features of this law reinforce this reading but also indicate that militancy is perhaps not the most suitable way of understanding Constans’ Christianity. While the name of Constans has vanished from the constitution’s heading, it is clear that the younger Constantinian was the principal agent behind the law in light of the fact that its recipient was Lucius Crepereius Madalianus,46 the Vicar (vicarius) of Italy in Constans’ territory (cf. the following law in the Code from 342 to Aconius Catullinus, the Urban Prefect, where both Augusti are identified). As the emperor’s voice indicates, this was intended as a piece of reiterative legislation (“For if any man in violation of the law of the sainted emperor, Our Father, and in violation of this command of Our Clemency …”), the purpose of which was to remind people of the need to obey the prohibition against sacrifice issued by Constantine I. The status of Constantine’s legal rulings against blood sacrifice remains moot,47 although as Scott Bradbury has pointed out regarding Constans’ law, “the allusion to a [previous] Constantinian law banning sacrifice is sufficiently clear”.48 It was published, therefore, as a reminder that a previous ruling from his father had criminalised the act of sacrifice and, in all likelihood, Constans’ reiteration extended Constantine’s original law in some form, although in what sense is unknowable in light of the evidently significant edit that was performed in the fifth century.49 Constans’ ruling was clearly intended to make sure that the cynosure of traditional cult remained moribund. Alexander Skinner has proposed that in light of the issue’s importance, a united front on the matter was crucial; in other words, the law was issued jointly by both emperors (only Constantius’ name remains) and probably also applied in the east as well as Rome, Italy and the western provinces:

… Constans was re-stating to Madalianus a principle – the bar on blood sacrifice – which had already been introduced by Constantine in the East, in 324, and which, on the balance of evidence, appears likely to have remained in place (albeit poorly enforced) until the reign of Julian.50

In the first instance, Constans’ law from late 341 repeated (and probably extended) Constantine’s previous ruling(s). As Woudhuysen notes here and elsewhere, Constans’ summoning to mind of his father’s memory was a highly significant aspect of his own imperial persona: Thus,

[t]he device is more subtle and more effective than one might expect and it leads one to unthinkingly associate the actions of the son with those of the father, to see the reigns as a continuum and thus implicitly to see Constans’ regime as a legitimate continuation of what had gone before.51

Legitimacy through paternal association was a standard tactic in the playbook of ancestrally configured emperorship. However, the law from late 341 indicates clearly that Constans also borrowed from his father’s playbook in the way that he too foregrounded religion as a legitimising feature of his reign. In this regard, Constans’ position in the period following the death of Constantine II demanded a gesture as grand as cancelling all superstition and abolishing sacrifice. Published between campaigns against the Franks in 341 and 342, the constitution outlawing sacrifice belongs to a time when Constans’ fortunes were uncertain and even his legitimacy was perhaps being called into question. Jerome records the outcome of the first campaign in 341 in the following ambiguous fashion: “Constans fights against the Franks with mixed fortune”.52 What Jerome meant here, as Woudhuysen notes, is Constans suffered a humiliating defeat. Repercussions arising from Constans’ conflict against Constantine II a year earlier were also likely, especially as the victor had reneged the tax exemptions introduced by his brother at some earlier point in time which is a feature of the ruling addressed to his Praetorian Prefect, Antonius Marcellinus,53 that branded Constantine II an infamous character and which unpicked his legacy in the western regions (Cod. Theod. 11.12.1).54 Clearly, Constans’ initiative in the footsteps of his father was intended to propitiate the divinity following an abrupt turn in the emperor’s fortunes.

Woudhuysen’s analysis has illustrated well the care and attention that went into crafting the emperor’s imperial persona. Legislation remained key in this regard. There is the law that screams Cesset superstitio!, but there was also the gladius ultor, the “Avenging Sword” of the emperor that was wielded in a constitution against homosexuals posted in Rome in December 342 (346?)55 (Cod. Theod. 9.7.3 = C. Just. 9.9.30),56 and in a ruling against tenants (coloni) on imperial estates who engaged in criminal activities addressed to Eustathius57 from 349 (Cod. Theod. 2.1.11).58 The allusion is evidently drawn from the world of the Old Testament and stands in the tradition of retributive justice enshrined in the Patristic interpretation of the lex talionis, where the failure to be obedient in the face of divine favour resulted in the harshest of all imaginable punishments (e.g. Leviticus 26.23–25: “And if these things fail to discipline you for Me, and you remain hostile to Me … I will bring a sword against you to wreak vengeance for the covenant”). Both emperors (although Constans’ government is evidently the issuing authority in both cases) are portrayed as indefatigable moral crusaders intent on curbing offences – relating to sexuality and financial corruption – that most likely infringed “decent” sensibilities. The rhetorical value of promoting an imperial monopoly over such affairs is obvious, and it is correct to conclude that the “avenging sword” became a “favourite tag” for Constans59: Indeed, two of the seven instances of the expression in the Theodosian Code derive from Constans, with three instances belonging to the later years of Constantius’ reign with Julian as his Caesar (Cod. Theod. 9.42.2 (March 356); 9.16.4 (January 357); 16.10.4 (December 356)),60 and the remaining two from the reigns of Arcadius and Honorius (397, 406).61 An awareness of the appeal that such language was likely to have beyond the confines of a constitutional pronouncement almost certainly determined its selection, and as such it was chosen to represent the “public” face of the dynasty from Constans’ side of things. Indeed, as the coin legend FEL TEMP REPARATIO (promoted first by mints in the western empire) indicates, Constans’ administration had an eye for catchy political messages (see Chapter 2). The effectiveness of Constans’ legislative sloganeering is apparent in its reverberation in the On the Error of Pagan Religions by Firmicus Maternus. Both author and work have caused consternation in the past, although recent reappraisals have highlighted their respective importance in seeking to understand the religious world of the Constantinian empire.62 Woudhuysen has argued – plausibly to my mind – that Firmicus’ Latin anti-pagan work belongs to the period 342–343 (contrary to traditional dates of 346–350) and was authored by an individual with a close connection to the regime of Constans. The near-constant vitriol against pagan gods, temples and blood sacrifices (“Call them tombs, Most Holy Emperors, not temples”: On the Error 16.3), the recapitulation of legislation (the constitution against same-sex intercourse: “… whatever is today most severely punished by the laws of Rome”: 12.2), language (“avenging swords”: 6.9) and themes (Constans’ visit to Britain in early 343: 28.6, a military mission to quell rebels?63) from recent times suggests that Firmicus was broadcasting the Christian messages of Constans’ court, with whom he is likely to have had a connection via an earlier relationship with Constans’ Urban Prefect of 342, Lollianus Mavortius.64 In addition, the author’s address throughout to the “Most Holy Emperors” suggests to Woudhuysen that On the Error represents an imperially commissioned piece, either a panegyric or, more radically, an attempt to produce an “official” Christian (re-)interpretation of Rome’s religious history:

Firmicus’ work is that classic item of Late-Roman literature: a justification of a policy (the ban on sacrifice and closure of temples) dressed up as a call for it and mixed with suggestions about how it might be taken further.65

The forecasting of an initiative already introduced is apparent in the following passage:

These practices [sc. blood sacrifices] must be eradicated, Most Holy Emperors, utterly eradicated and abolished. All must be set aright by the severest laws of your edicts, so that the ruinous error of this delusion may no longer besmirch the Roman world, so that the wickedness of this pestilential usage may no longer wax strong, and so that whatever aims at the downfall of the man of God may no longer prevail upon the earth. Some people object and resist, and passionately crave their own ruin. But rescue these poor fellows, and deliver them from perishing! The Supreme Deity entrusted to you the sovereignty precisely that through you the affliction of this wound may be healed. We know the dangerous nature of their crime, and we know what punishments are appropriate for delusion; but it is better for you to save them against their will than to let them follow their wishes into perdition.

(On the Error 16.4)66

The medical analogy employed here and in the following passage is an obvious reflection of the vague allusion to an unspecified punishment mentioned in the constitution: In other words, the constitution leaves open the possibility of the offender’s rehabilitation. However, this ambiguity is drowned out by the shrillness of Constans’ rhetoric in the constitution’s opening line. Firmicus’ idea that the emperors themselves are the agents of God implies that a metonymic concern lay behind the Constantinian appropriation of the “Avenging Sword”, which therefore situates the imperial interpretation of the phrase very much in line with the Hebrew tradition enshrined in Leviticus where the sword of vengeance is God or at least a facet of the divine persona. Thus, the “Avenging Sword” in Constans’ constitutions would appear to be the emperor himself. It is noteworthy that Constantius II in 356 (in a constitution preserved in Cod. Theod. 16.10.467) also borrowed his brother’s expression in a ruling that once again called for the closure of temples and a ban on blood sacrifice (jointly issued with his young Caesar, Julian).

However, Constans’ approach to traditional religion was perhaps more pragmatic than the uncompromising impression suggested by the motif of the “Avenging Sword”. A constitution from November 34268 preserved in the Theodosian Code (16.10.3) addressed to Aconius Catullinus,69 the Urban Prefect of Rome from July 342 to April 344, maintained the prohibition of traditional religion and associated cultic practices while seeking to protect the integrity of pagan temples situated “outside the city’s walls” (extra muros). The basis for the constitution was the link between the need to maintain the integrity of said structures and the role assigned to them as the origin of the highly prized games, circuses and contests of the city’s festival calendar. In this regard, the ruling is clear: “… such structures shall not be torn down, since from them is provided the regular performance of long established amusements for the Roman people”. At a pragmatic level, it is right to propose a relationship between the earlier constitution to Madalianus and this one to Catullinus in terms of viewing the law of 342 as correcting the behaviour of those inspired by the shrill ruling of 341 to damage the buildings where the ritual “madness” took place.70 As the editors of the PLRE suspected in their entry on Catullinus, the Urban Prefect himself very likely had a hand in lobbying Constans’ support to protect the city’s temples not just because he was a pagan, but because his role involved the close management of the games and festivals that formed an important part of the city’s civic life. In this regard, Richard Lim’s analysis of the constitution from 342 raises a number of important considerations even though his attribution of both laws to Constantius II is unfortunate. Lim is correct in seeing the constitution addressed to Catullinus as a “desacralizing” initiative on the part of the emperor according to which “public spectacles and their associated venues and apparatus had become secular in nature and hence not subject to the imperial repression of traditional cult that fell most harshly on practices such as blood sacrifice”.71 Lim notes the criticisms raised against theories of secularisation, particularly their tendency to offer simplified accounts of cultural change driven by the demands for grand historical narratives, preferring instead to view instances of secularisation and sacralisation as ongoing and “dynamic and situational”.72 Seen from this perspective, Constans’ address to Madalianus from 341 always carried the potential for a constitutional response of the kind issued to Catullinus in the following year. The consequence of demanding, “Superstition will cease; the madness of sacrifices shall be abolished”, was the dissolution of all facets of traditional religion, including the eradication of all games, circuses and contests, indeed the calendrical year of festivities in the broadest sense, together with the venues that hosted the events. In light of the complex social relations governing life in Rome and all other Roman towns and cities for that matter, this was an experiment in traumatic social change that Constans – indeed, no emperor – would blindly engineer. While Lim’s assessment of secularisation as a “neutral middleground (sic)” is not quite correct – since neutrality is frequently also an ideologically determined position – it is appropriate to regard Constans’ initiative in Rome as “a tool of resistance” aimed at advancing the Christianisation of society while simultaneously avoiding so radical an overhaul that it threatened the fabric of Roman social relations.73

The idea that Constans was a much more politically astute emperor than he has often been given credit for has been substantiated by recent work that has analysed his seemingly distant relationship with the city of Rome. Muriel Moser has traced the emperor’s dealings with the city that he never actually visited, despite Rome falling under his jurisdiction, and concluded that Constans fostered a complex series of associations with the ancient capital. Moser’s analysis runs contrary to the ideas of Jill Harries who has argued that the relationship between the emperor and the senatorial elite was quintessentially antagonistic. Thus, Constans as “an ardent and baptised Christian” disliked the overwhelmingly pagan members of the senate, and the senatorial elite resented the emperor’s seemingly non-traditional appointments of Greeks and easterners to the position of Praetorian Prefect [of Italy] and Urban Prefect (a joint role at this point in time) in the form of Ulpius Limenius (12 June 347–8 April 349),74 former Proconsul of Constantinople, and Hermogenes (19 May 349–27 February 350), previously (?) Proconsul of Achaea.75 As a result, Constans purposely side-lined the city, a political choice evident in the purposely low-key celebration of Rome’s eleven hundredth anniversary that so offended Aurelius Victor in the time of Julian.76 By contrast, Moser argues that Constans carefully managed the careers of Rome’s senators, particularly those from the city’s most aristocratic families, in the areas of the Praetorian Prefecture, the Urban Prefecture and the various companion (comites) positions associated with the imperial court. The oft-repeated claim that Constans had effectively “snubbed” the Roman senatorial base in the matter of appointments to the office of Urban Prefect towards the end of the 340s as seemingly evidenced by the selection of “easterners” such as Limenius and Hermogenes is undermined by Moser’s observation that their predecessors in the roles of Urban Prefect and also Praetorian Prefect, including Fabius Titianus and Furius Placidius, had earlier followed similar career paths by serving their time in governorships in Asia, Syria and Mesopotamia.77 On the matter of religion, Moser arrives (independently) at a similar conclusion to Lim over the rhetorical role of the constitution from 342 in shaping “the progressive de-paganization or neutralization of public space”78 while simultaneously maintaining the goodwill of the populace by preserving traditional festivities in the city. Moser speculates that the title Pontifex Maximus was not taken up by Constans as a sign of the emperor’s pragmatism and his wish to avoid the inevitable controversy that arose when a Christian emperor propitiated the demands of the traditional cult79 (as Jörg Rüpke points out, the title is actually unattested for both Constans and Constantine II80). As Moser highlights, Constans managed the Senate in Rome in such a way as to ensure that he could continue to conduct his affairs elsewhere in the empire without having to attend to business in the city.81 He did this by increasing the power of a select number of the most aristocratic senators, a fact clearly apparent in the constitution from 345 addressed to the Urban Prefect, Quintus Rusticus,82 in which Constans re-established the right of senators to appeal against the decisions of the Urban Prefect, a right that had been abolished by a previous constitution which has not been preserved (Cod. Theod. 11.30.23, from 2 July 345).83

When looked at from this position, Constans begins to look less like the image of an aggressive Christian monarch proposed by John Kent,84 and more like an emperor concerned with deepening the imperial sponsorship of the Church while at the same time building consensus across the western empire among a variety of parties for his administration and its reforms. Constans was clearly a canny operator, although the question of evaluating his canniness hinges to a large extent on assessing at the same time the contribution of Constantius II as the other partner in the college. Very many of Constans’ actions during the 340s were clearly not performed in isolation from Constantius’ administration, and so we should turn in the following section to consider the exercise of imperial authority within the context of Callu’s paradigm of the Constantinian dyarchy.

“Likeness of Actions”85: The Unity of the Dyarchy

Among the conclusions raised by Callu in his important article from 1992 on the administration of the empire during the 340s is the observation that Constantius and Constans tended to legislate on similar issues and in similar ways to the extent that a degree of coordination is discernible in their actions.86 In one sense, this should be expected in light of the fact that the areas which most frequently attracted imperial intervention in this period – namely, finance, legal-jurisdictional affairs, the army and religion – tended to generate difficulties and issues that were experienced in broadly similar ways across both halves of the empire with the result that an emperor’s pronouncements in any one of these areas tended to be recognised as having general applicability. In reference to the idea of a united legal front, Tony Honoré’s sagacious remarks are worth quoting here87:

In what did the legal unity of the empire consist? The constitutional legacy was clear. Every Augustus who had legislative power could enact laws but could do so only in the name of the whole college of Augusti and, if there were Caesars, of the Caesars too. The same was true of the praetorian prefects. They could issue edicts but only in the name of the whole college of prefects. It necessarily followed that imperial legislation, whatever its source, applied to the whole empire, east and west, unless it was intended to have a more restricted application. So far as general pronouncements by emperors about law and private rights were concerned, particularly if they were in form declaratory, there was no reason to postulate such a restricted scope. On the other hand a purely administrative measure might on its proper construction refer only to the part of the empire which was under the day-to-day tule of the emperor who issued it, or to a part of that part. Like the distinction between general laws and exceptions, that between laws for the whole empire and those for particular areas turned on the intention of the emperor who enacted them. Constitutionally speaking there were no western or eastern laws but only laws of general or local application.

The type of “legal unity” described by Honoré here does indeed convey the impression that the later empire was “severely unitarian” in the words of David Potter.88 However, the ideology that advertised this unity tended to be deployed pragmatically by both Constantinian emperors during the 340s. Therefore, the routine rhythm of business transacted across both sides of the empire envisaged by Libanius in the closing sections of his dual panegyric is not wholly fictional: The “rhythm of alternating consular nominations”,89 the joint authorship of key constitutions, the striking of landmark coins (i.e. the FEL TEMP REPARATIO series) and the mobility of civil officials across both halves of the empire are clear indications of the fundamental administrative unity of the empire under Constantine’s sons.90 However, it is also apparent that on occasions, both emperors acted independently as demanded by the events of the political climate of the 340s.

As the study of Paola Ombretta Cuneo (La legislazione di Costantino II, Costanzo II e Costante) has demonstrated (and this section leans heavily on the work of this scholar), the decade-long period of joint rule was a fertile time for the creation of dynamic new constitutional rulings, along with constitutions that consolidated or attenuated prior laws issued by Constantine I. Indeed, the reigns of both emperors witnessed a dramatic intensification of constitutions dealing with some very specific concerns. As both Chantal Vogler and later Cuneo have illustrated,91 one of the most widely legislated matters for both emperors, but particularly for Constans in the western territories, was the functioning of municipal councils (curiae) across the empire and in particular their legislative efforts to halt the evasive habits of the councillors (decurions) who formed these bodies. The servants of local government mattered to emperors, even if the contrary impression was sometimes given:

On their wealth and spirit everything depended: political leadership, religious leadership, most tasks of urban and district administration, the representing of the city to the imperial authorities, the covering of costs for spectacles and celebrations, and the care, upkeep, and amplifying of all physical facilities, from street-paving to the painting of frescoes on the walls of their own meeting-hall.”92

However, in spite of the seeming allure of such concentrated power and responsibility in the local citizen bodies of the empire, the bad habits of councillors were long-standing features of local government in the later empire, and the tendency on the part of councillors to avoid fulfilling their commitments of service to their local councils – in the form of public liturgies (munera) – appears a pressing problem for the Constantinian emperors.93 Since these liturgies had developed from a form of voluntary expenditure into a civic obligation with the resultant effect that the social capital once accruing to councillors had decreased while the financial burden grew, the appeal of curial service had sharply declined.94 Mechanisms for avoiding these obligations existed, “the avenues of exit were many and inviting”,95 all however reducible to one term, suffragium,96 a form of “purchased recommendation”97 or type of patronage that enabled councillors to buy themselves out of their commitments to councils by purchasing a rank mandated as exempt from curial service. As far as the holders of the imperial office were concerned, exemption from the responsibility of serving as a councillor was a hard-won reward for years of service to one’s local community. There were no quick-fixes or short-cuts.

Throughout the Theodosian Code, up to its date of publication in A.D. 438 as well as in later constitutions, release from curial duties is promised as a most precious reward earned only by long service to one’s city or to one’s ruler through one’s militia [broadly defined as public service98]; and the prohibition against attaining this reward unearned is equally emphatic and frequently proclaimed.99

Indeed, in the period after Constantine I’s reign, the opening salvos fired in support of stemming the evasion of councillors derived from the time just prior to the death of Constantine II and were aimed – seemingly – at Africa in Constans’ territory. The constitution in question has been split up by the editors of Theodosian Code across two books and under two separate titles,100 but they belong in effect to the same initiative (“subtly different versions”101) addressed to Aconius Catullinus, the future Urban Prefect of Rome whom we met earlier, but who at the end of 338 was serving as the Vicar of Africa. The constitution to Catullinus predates by over a month the infamous ruling to Celsinus sent from Trier that looked to address the progressive emptying of the council (senatus) in Carthage (see Chapter 4). However, this early constitution may very well stand as a test-case in the matter of imperial collegiality. In addition to the three fragments traditionally viewed as forming part of the same law – namely Cod. Theod. 12.1.26 and Cod. Theod. 6.22.2 = Cod. Theod. 12.1.24 – Cuneo has proposed adding a further fragment preserved as Cod. Theod. 12.1.25. This ruling was issued in Emesa (Syria) on 28 October 338 but, as Cuneo argues, the date is not secure and a lacuna in the subscription makes it difficult to tell if the Syrian city – in Constantius II’s territory – was the place of publication or whether the constitution was simply received there on the fifth day prior to the Kalends of November. That Constantius’ presence in Antioch on 11 October is attested by Cod. Theod. 12.1.23, and again in late December (Cod. Theod. 2.6.4) points to Emesa as the place of publication. The October date for the publication of the constitution in Emesa leads Cuneo to propose that the initiative may have come originally from Constantius’ region as a ruling of general applicability in the guise of an edict ad populum or ad provinciales, which was then disseminated a few weeks later in the territory of Constans and, one assumes, also the regions under the control of Constantine II. Even if Cuneo’s proposal is incorrect, insight can be gained by reading the fragments sequentially according to which fragment one (12.1.25) defines the problem, fragment two (12.1.26) the action to be introduced, and fragment three (6.22.2 = 12.1.24) the punishment to be applied to those who fail to abide by the ruling. More significant still, however, Cuneo’s approach calls into question the suitability of simply counting the number of constitutions according to the entries in the late antique law codes as an indication of the number of times that an emperor ruled on a particular issue, as seen in the studies of Vogler and Callu,102 both of whom, on the matter of the dysfunctional nature of municipal councils, view the problem as more acute in the western empire and, therefore, judge Constans to be the more active legislator on the issue, simply on the basis of the greater number of entries from his territories in the codes. The evidence supplied by the constitution(s) on curial evasion from October to December 338 illustrates the potential extent of both the contemporary dismemberment of a single constitution by an administration – for example, the “retouching” (in the description of John Matthews) applied to Cod. Theod. 6.22.2 (=12.1.24) – and also the editorial dismemberment performed by the jurists responsible for the Theodosian Code.103

Approached according to Cuneo’s recommendation for sequencing, the details of the Emesan constitution are as follows. In the first part of the constitution from late 338, the college of emperors (which would have included Constantine II at this point) set out the problem to be resolved (Cod. Theod. 12.1.25):

Since there is no doubt that municipal councils have been emptied of decurions who offer as defence the titles that they have bought, it is Our pleasure that all persons who have obtained the insignia of rank through patronage (suffragium) shall be deprived of the splendour of undeserved honour and shall perform the customary compulsory municipal services. It is Our will, however, that the honours shall remain inviolate and undisturbed in the case of those persons who have been chosen to the office of delegate by the judgement of the provinces or who have relied upon the support of an honourable testimonial have thus obtained the privileges and insignia of such rank.104

Another part of the constitution (in Cod. Theod. 12.1.26) indicates that those former members of the imperial administration – ex comites – with “less than honourable” testimonials are to be compelled to return to their municipal councils and perform their duties, the same duties that they had sort to avoid by purchasing the rank of perfectissimi, i.e. of equestrian standing.105 And finally, a further portion of the constitution to Catullinus (Cod. Theod. 6.22.2 = 12.1.24) sets out the penalty for those who attempt to emulate these individuals:

We add that if any person should attempt to evade the duties of his municipal council and should seek to obtain the shadow and the name of high rank, he shall be compelled to pay thirty pounds of silver, and the fine of gold shall also remain, to the payment of which he is constrained by the eternal law.

With reference to a further constitution addressing the question of suffragium (“an empty pact of patronage”) published on 30 June 343 in Trier (Cod. Theod. 12.136), which is directed to Fabius Titianus as the Praetorian Prefect in Gaul, Cuneo suggests that in relation to laws seeking to remedy so grave an issue there is first little reason to distinguish between east and west, and second to operate on the principle that such rulings were intended to have general application across the whole empire. Clearly, this would have been the case in relation to constitutions addressed to a Praetorian Prefect where, as Cuneo points out, some inscriptions still preserve the collective address of the office of the Praetorian Prefect.106 A possible example of generalitas in operation can be seen in a law addressing the shortage of representation on municipal councils via the recruitment of the sons of veterans deemed unfit for military service. In a ruling from 27 August 341 to Maecilius Hilarianus107 (Cod. Theod. 12.1.32), the emperors commanded that veterans’ sons “if … unsuited for bearing arms, must immediately be delivered to the municipal councils. For it is harmful to the res publica for the municipal councils to languish because of a scarcity of men”.108 A ruling (Cod. Theod. 12.1.35) from Hierapolis in Phrygia, given on 27 June 343 and addressed to Leontius, the Praetorian Prefect attached to Constantius, reiterated the substance of a law previously issued (iterata lege sancimus) concerning the co-opting of sons of veterans onto municipal councils should they be unfit for military service. Previous opinions about the identity of this earlier law settled on the constitution from Cod. Theod. 8.1.1 which was also addressed to Leontius and issued from Hierapolis, although the consular dating (during the imperial consulship of Constantine and Licinius) that placed it in 319 was amended by Otto Seeck to 343 and supported, in turn, by Barnes.109 However, as Cuneo has pointed out, the substance of the constitution to Leontius is on a wholly different matter, the issue of career progression within the civil administration, and therefore has nothing whatsoever to do with curial evasion.110 Cuneo sensibly proposes that this cannot be the law that the emperors writing to Leontius are claiming to repeat and instead Constantius in 343 was repeating Constans’ ruling to Hilarianus from 341 (Cod. Theod. 1.12.32). This may indicate that the constitution to Hilarianus was applied only in one part of the empire (Constans’ territory?) and twenty-four months later was adopted as a general law by Constantius in the east. However, there are a number of problems with this interpretation. First, it cannot be assumed that the ruling to Hilarianus had a western context. While the evidence for Hilarianus indicates a record of service in the west – he had been the Corrector of Lucania and Bruttium in 316, Urban Prefect between 13 January 338 and 14 July 339, and much later served as Praetorian Prefect in Italy during 354 – his office for the year of 341 is unknown (even the great detective skills of André Chastagnol led nowhere to identifying in what capacity he received the constitution in August 341111). Furthermore, the place of publication and/or reception has not been preserved. Therefore, in line with the earlier interpretation, we should see both Cod. Theod. 12.1.32 and Cod. Theod. 12.1.35 as emanating from the imperial college of Constantius and Constans, with the later law a simple repetition of the earlier joint ruling.

A related concern with promoting financial privileges for Christian clergy presents further insight into the unity of the imperial college in the legislative affairs of the empire between the years 340 and 350. While a number of these constitutions on clerical privilege refer to previous rulings that have not found their way into the legal codes, it is very clear that they were building on the philosophy of privilege and exemption for clergy devised by Constantine I. One year after his defeat of Maximian’s son, Maxentius, at the Milvian Bridge, Constantine addressed a constitution (Cod. Theod. 16.2.2) that exempted clergy from “all compulsory public services” to Octavianus,112 Hilarianus’ predecessor as the Corrector of Lucania and Bruttium, on 21 October 313. This was an early initiative on the part of the western emperor, the rationale for which can be seen in a letter sent by Constantine to Anulianus,113 the Proconsul of Africa, from around the same time as the missive to southern Italy (suggestive of it being the same initiative in both instances). In the letter to Anulianus, Constantine took the scenic route to explaining the rationale for his initiative (preserved in Eusebius’ Church History 10.7.1–2).

… [When reverence for holy affairs] is legitimately taken up and maintained it brings great fortune to the Roman name and special well-being to human affairs. Since it is the divine benefactions that provide this, it has seemed good, most honored Anulinus, that those men who with necessary holiness and constant attention to this law provide their assistance to the service of the divine worship from their own [resources] gain the rewards from their toil. Therefore, it is my intention that those in the universal church within the province which you have been entrusted with, in which Caecilian presides [i.e. Universal Church=Church of Caecilian, not the Church of Majorinus and Donatus], and who supply for the service of this holy worship from their own [resources], and who are customarily called clerics, should once and for all be completely protected as being free from obligations of public services, so that they may not be drawn away from the service owed by the Divinity through some error or sacrilegious slip, but rather that they serve their own law without any encumbrance, for when they provide this great service concerning the Divine, it seems to confer great benefits to public affairs.114

Jeremy Schott’s commentary helps to “connect the dots” in this regard: Thus,

because clergy provide for the churches’ work, including the liturgical services that serve the Divine, out of their resources, they should not in addition have to contribute their own resources to public services … that members of the decurial class (the enfranchised hereditary elites of a given community) were expected to supply.115

As Rita Lizzi Testa points out, the exemption from municipal service granted by Constantine was a clear sign that clerics derived disproportionately from curial ranks in the first instance116 (indeed, Constantine recognised the issues that this could raise in the constitution preserved as Cod. Theod. 16.2.6).

Constantius II’s first recorded provision on the matter of cleric exemption from decurial service, addressed to Longinus, the Prefect of Egypt, from 26 February 342,117 protected clergy and their underage sons – to whom the wealth of their fathers had been transferred following an earlier ruling of Constantine that prohibited (wealthy) decurions from entering the clerical ranks (i.e. Cod. Theod. 16.2.3, from 329) – from threats and demands to fulfil curial responsibilities.118 A letter “to the clergy” from Constantius II given on 27 August 343 (Cod. Theod. 16.2.8) also makes reference to a sanction published previously – again not extant but likely from Constantine I119 – that exempted clergy and their slaves from new taxation payments, obligations arising from hospitium and taxation on business dealings. The rationale behind this is provided by Elliot:

There was no sense in having someone become a cleric in order to starve while working for people too poor to support him, nor in having him spend time at his business in order to pay the tax collector if the imperial policy was to have the poor supported by the churches.120

Lizzi Testa pushes the interpretation of this rescript further by arguing that the exemption from trade tax (collatio lustralis)121 reflected a change in clerical recruitment patterns: The patrimonial limits imposed on recruitment of curial members as clerics (enshrined in the law of Constantine from 329; Cod. Theod. 16.2.6) meant that “the area of recruiting [to the clergy] had to be extended to negotiatores, artisans and tradesmen, identified in a later constitution as plebei divites [‘wealthy plebeians’; Cod. Theod. 16.2.17]”.122 Cuneo proposes that the letter was the emperor’s response to an enquiry from a group of clerics, since the singular verb (dicit) in the constitution’s inscription rules out a collegiate announcement.123 However, the general applicability of the ruling was recognised and promoted by both emperors in a constitution that bears the remarkable heading “to all the Bishops throughout the various provinces” (universis episcopis per diversas provincias) from 26 May 346. This ruling extended exemption from taxation to clergy and their assistants, and provided them with immunity from compulsory public service “of a menial nature” (munera sordida; following Pharr’s translation). Exemption from trade tax was repeated from the rescript of 343 and furthermore the clerical contribution to the additional taxation (parangariarum exactio) required for the public postal service was no longer to be levied for that group. Exemption from land-tax was extended to the wives, children and servants (male and female) of clergy. Lizzi Testa views the provincial-wide constitution of 346 as the pinnacle of Constantius II’s generosity to the Church with regard to his policy of fiscal immunity for clergy: “Every time the project seemed to be realised, he conceded more and more to the Church”.124 This assessment is only partially correct when viewed in the context of the imperial college, and we would be correct in thinking that Constans was as enthusiastically generous as Constantius in promoting the immunity of clergy from taxation and municipal burdens. Indeed, the final extant constitution of the decade on this issue derives from Constans who, in a ruling to Severianus,125 the Proconsul of Achaea give in 11 April 349, reiterated the substance of Constantius’ law from February 342 by reminding Severianus of the continued exemption of clergy from munera and other compulsory duties and of the need for the sons of clergy to remain in the Church should they not be obligated to the duties of the municipal council. As Elliot points out – albeit with reference to the wrong emperor since Achaea lay in Constans’ territory – “he [Constans] was still trying to increase the numbers of the church workers”, which suggests complete agreement with the legislative initiative of his brother during the decade.126

Episcopal Factions and Imperial Fractures

Lizzi Testa makes the valuable observation that the issue of immunity as a feature of efforts to define the legal status of Christian clergy reflected the increasingly dominant influence of bishops in the affairs of imperial government.127 It is a considerable irony, therefore, that the harmonious response of the emperors in relation to legal immunity should relate to an influence that has been judged to be corrosive to the unity of the imperial college during the 340s. The belief that episcopal influence damaged relations between the imperial brothers derives ultimately from a controversial piece of evidence, a letter from 345 partially preserved in the Church History (2.22.5) of Socrates in which Constans issued a threat to Constantius over the fate of Athanasius and Paul of Constantinople, two of the highest profile eastern bishops in exile in Constans’ territory. The western emperor’s threat to restore the exiled bishops – if necessary against the will of the eastern emperor – is viewed as the point at which a simmering disagreement beginning in 342 between the emperors and prompted largely by factions in the Church finally boiled over into a near-open conflict. Signs of this fraternal animosity have been seen in a number of places. For instance, in the apparent interruption to the consensus over consular nominations for the year 344, where the name of a different consul (consul posterior) is given in epigraphic evidence from Italy compared to other sources in both the territories of Constans and Constantius, and for the year 346 where the imperial consulship proposed by Constantius seems not to have been recognised by Constans in the west where, as the evidence indicates, the year was identified according to the names of the consuls from the previous year of 345. Furthermore, the resolution of the division between the emperors over ecclesiastical matters is frequently regarded as the explanation for the emergence c. 346 of public professions of imperial unity in the guise of the joint speech of praise delivered by Libanius (Or. 59) in Nicomedia from around this time, and the optimistically themed bronze coins bearing the legend FEL TEMP REPARATIO that were introduced in Chapter 2.

However, before we leap on this fraternal rupture as evidence of yet another instance of dysfunctionality in the Constantinian family, it is worthwhile noting a couple of points. A recent paper128 on the subject of the consular nominations for 344 has shown that a “more mundane”129 explanation for the discrepancy is likely in the guise of an administrative error on the part of Constantius’ administration that led to the transmission of the name of another magister militum (Bonosus magister equitum instead of Sallustius, magister peditum) to Constans’ officials. As Benet Salway notes, however, an explanation for the post-consular dating for the year 346 is less forthcoming; indeed, the editors of the Consuls of the Later Roman Empire proclaim, “What more eloquent proof could there be of the distance between the brothers?” (CLRE, p. 227). With reference to the letter cited by Socrates, the “ground zero” of evidence for imperial disharmony during the 340s, the source may very well not be authentic, although Constans’ aggressive tone in light of the political culture of the period suggests that the letter is genuine. While Sara Parvis’ acerbic response to R.P.C. Hanson’s incredulity that Constans was prepared to push the Roman state towards civil conflict over “the restoration of a few bishops”130 is apposite (“it is far easier to believe, on the previous record of the house of Constantine, that Constans was ready to demand the restoration of a few bishops for the sake of plunging the empire into civil war”131), it is also appropriate to ask why an emperor would argue in defence of bishops in this way. What events and circumstances contributed to the involvement of Constans and Constantius in determining the fate of key episcopal figures during the decade, and why did bishops seek the support of the emperors in the course of their own internal struggles and disagreements?

In order to understand the contexts and wider significance of the fracture in imperial relations prompted by the cases of individual bishops, it is worth repeating the observation – recently amplified by Raymond Van Dam – that the twin concerns of theology, actively pursued as a task concerned with defining the parameters of thought and worship about god or gods, and emperorship, the mentality and promotion of legitimate rule, were so closely intertwined as to be virtually indistinguishable in the context of the late ancient world. Van Dam’s recent analysis of this relationship stands out as a result of his attempt to draw a line of continuity from the Tetrarchic emperors and the alignment of their imperial personae with the gods of Rome’s traditional pantheon (viz. Jupiter and Hercules) and the involvement that Constantine played in shaping debates about the natures of God and Jesus Christ as a way of formulating his own novel role as a Christian emperor in the wake of the Tetrarchy. Thus:

In the early fourth century two factors in particular influenced thinking about Christian theology. One was the lingering influence of a Tetrarchic ideology that identified emperors and gods. The other was the appearance of a Christian emperor who in his own way might likewise by identified with God. Constantine now seemed to be fulfilling roles once anticipated for a triumphant Jesus Christ, while Jesus Christ now seemed to be in competition with a Christian emperor.132

The proposal is appealing but vaguely formulated. On occasions, it is also contradictory. The “theological fractures”133 that arose as a result of competing approaches to defining the sonship of Jesus did indeed represent, among other things, “a political dispute over the representation of a Christian emperor”,134 but Constantine’s desire to avoid the fractures becoming manifest in the Christian communities of the empire in the wake of his defeat of Licinius and the subsequent unification of the empire under his rule was politically motivated and had deep roots in the religious formulation of emperorship. Time and again and in a variety of ways, Constantine had stressed the unity of the empire under his rule and the benefits that accrued to all from a unified regime.135 From an emic perspective, a unified empire promoting a united pattern of worship won the benevolence of God: From concord flowed the rewards required to ensure the success of the state. Constantine’s letter (c. 324) to the twin antagonists, Arius and bishop Alexander,136 in the early phase of the controversy over Arius’ teaching, highlights the emphasis placed by the emperor on healing the divisions within the state by the promotion of a united understanding of God and divine worship:

My first concern was that the attitude towards the Divinity of all the provinces should be united in one consistent view, and my second that I might restore and heal the body of the republic which lay severely wounded. In making provision for these objects, I began to think out the former with the hidden eye of reason, and I tried to rectify the latter by the power of the military arm. I knew that if I were to establish a general concord among the servants of God in accordance with my prayers, the course of public affairs would also enjoy the change consonant with the pious desires of all.137

Here, Constantine is alluding to the recent civil war against Licinius. Indeed, it is a remarkable feature of this letter that the emperor not so subtly equates the fracture in the Christian community caused by the doctrinal controversy emerging out of Egypt with the dissolution of the state brought about through civil war, and the repeated references to recent events (“I had destroyed the common enemy of the whole world”) make it clear that the context is the defeat of Licinius. With the benefit of hindsight, the triumphant Constantine is able to acknowledge the pernicious nature of such conflicts and it is a lesson he is keen to apply in his resolution of the dispute between Arius and Alexander over an affair “trivial and quite unworthy of so much controversy”.138

But so that I may bring to the attention of your intelligences a slight comparison, you surely know how even the philosophers themselves all agree in one set of principles, and often when they disagree in part of their statements, although they are separated by their learned skill, yet they agree together again in unity when it comes to basic principle. If this is so, surely it is far more right that we, who are the appointed servants of the great God should, in a righteous commitment of this kind, be of one mind with each other. Let us reconsider what was said with more thought and greater understanding, to see whether it is right that, through a few futile verbal quarrels between you, brothers are set against brothers and the honourable synod divided in ungodly variance through us, when we quarrel with each other over such small and utterly unimportant matters. These things are vulgar and more befitting childish follies than suitable to the intelligence of priests and informed men. Let us consciously avoid all devilish temptations.

(Eusebius, Life 2.71.2–4)

In the mind of the Constantine, therefore, both emperor and clergy are united in their responsibility to maintain a disciplined approach to religious affairs. Disagreement or specifically its public promotion was deemed ill-suited to the duties of both parties. This notion of shared responsibility is important and should be kept in mind since it explains, in part, the course of events during the reigns of Constantine’s sons. However, despite Constantine’s best efforts to keep the infighting over such “paltry” issues in-house, the Christian factionalism in the period after his death only got worse. Much of this intensification was caused by Constantine’s own management of affairs. His request to avoid public dissent over the Nicene settlement, which Richard Vaggione refers to as “enforced encounter”,139 fanned the flames of a factional rivalry that alongside the controversy involved in defining the sonship of Jesus also now included allegations about the personal conduct of key individuals. Those relating to Athanasius are well-known, and Constantine I himself was central in promoting the personalised political culture of the period as seen, for example, in his transposing of the language of criminality onto figures such as Eusebius of Nicomedia, arguably the “public face” of dissent from the Nicene settlement in the eastern empire, as a result of Eusebius’ prior relationship with Licinius and his promotion of the see of Nicomedia.140 Eusebius was exiled in the period immediately after the Council of Nicaea for taking in Christians from Alexandria who were sympathetic to Arius’ teachings (it is unlikely that Arius himself was among the party141) whom Constantine had ordered be sent to him. The rejection of an imperial order was a serious matter, and as a result Eusebius and Theognis, bishop of Nicaea and associate of Eusebius, were “to be arrested and to be banished as far away as possible [from their sees]”,142 in the words of the emperor himself in a letter to the Christian community of Nicomedia that accompanied their bishop into exile. This letter is notable for its alignment of theological error (however vaguely expressed Constantine’s ideas are in the text) with the terminology of political criminality. Thus, Eusebius instructed the church of Nicomedia “with tyrannical cruelty”, since “he has been a client of the tyrant [Licinius]” (Urkunde 27.9), a reference to Eusebius’ standing at the court of Licinius in Nicomedia from 317 to the eastern emperor’s exile in 324 in Thessalonica.143 Constantine’s letter reiterates his central concern during the entire Arian crisis:

I myself was present [at Nicaea] in a manner befitting the duty of my conscience, having no other desire than to produce unanimity for all persons and above all both to refute and dispel this trouble, which had taken beginning through the madness of Arius the Alexandrian, but was strengthened forthwith through the absurd and destructive zeal of Eusebius.

(Urkunde 27.13)

It was not the case that Constantine was not interested in theology (since he clearly was) but it is well-attested that excessive speculation leading to fractured relationships between clergy had come to infuriate him because to his mind both emperor and Christian clerics were united in their duty to ensure the divine protection of the empire. Frequently passed over by commentators on Constantine to the Nicomedians is the idea that bishops who supported individuals or parties inimical to the emperor were deemed guilty of seeking glory beyond the duties of their episcopal office. According to Constantine, Eusebius’ involvement in the political-imperial tensions of the period had “distorted” (27.12) his leadership, which had, in turn, implicated the congregation in his “crime”. This reappraisal of how imperial power spoke to episcopal authority was to become a significant charge in the hands of Constantine’s successors, specifically Constantius II, during the 340s and 350s.144

In this regard, Vaggione’s characterisation of the first phase of development following the Council of Nicaea is reductionist yet valuable: “[l]imited dialogue could not overcome an entrenched and largely unspoken cognitive dissonance. Substantive theological debate did continue, of course, but out of the public eye, within the gradually separating communities”.145 The territorial separation of the empire among Constantine’s three sons was certainly a catalyst for further division among Christian communities, and Vaggione’s observation with regard to the second phase of development that “public ecclesiastical identity” began to be formulated along the lines of loyalty to individual bishops is axiomatic, particularly given the tendency for these factional identities to be supported by overt displays of imperial patronage. In the western half of the empire, Constans took very seriously the duty outlined by his father in seeking to engender unanimity in the church. In order to fulfil this role, Constans adopted a number of core measures. First, he made it known that bishops exiled from their sees in the eastern provinces – either by synodal order or by imperial intervention – would find a welcome at his court in the west. However, we should not imagine deposed easterners simply arriving at Constans’ door unannounced. The emperor’s principal intermediaries in this regard were the bishops of the highest profile sees in the west, and foremost among them was Julius, bishop of Rome. From the year 340, Julius was the lead advocate for Athanasius and Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra, two figures instrumental in promoting the Nicene settlement in the eastern half of the empire, although Athanasius’ banishment was due more to allegations of misconduct in Egypt than his theological views, in contrast to Marcellus who had written boldly against Arian-inspired theology and the Arian lobby.146 In a letter written by Julius addressed to eastern bishops assembled in Antioch,147 and carried by the imperial companion (comes) Gabianus – a clear indication of Constans’ support – the bishop of Rome highlighted the historic one-sided trials and condemnations of both Athanasius and Marcellus and repeated an earlier request for a joint council of eastern and western bishops to review the cases of both deposed bishops. Julius had earlier incurred the censure of Eusebius of Nicomedia and other notable figures in the east for having accepted the legitimacy of Athanasius and Marcellus’ episcopacies by communing with them. In his letter dispatched following the Council of Rome in late March–early April 341148 that had confirmed its support for the exiled bishops, Julius reiterated his backing of them on the basis (repeated throughout this lengthy epistle) that investigations into the conduct and ideas of both men had been partisan. In this regard, therefore, Julius’ letter is a defence of the Constantinian principle of unanimity.

My purpose in this letter is not to defend these men but rather to convince you that we have received them in accordance with justice and canonical practice, and that there was no good reason for your contentiousness. Instead, you should quickly do everything possible to correct these violations of church law so that the churches may live in peace, and the peace of the Lord that has been granted us may endure, and the churches not be split, nor you incur censure for causing schism. As far as I can see, your actions were meant to bring not peace but schism.149

As Barnes has noted, however, the turning-point for events in the early 340s was the episode in Constantinople involving Paul, the bishop of Constantinople who had been deposed soon after his election in 337. Paul was condemned by a council and exiled “by Constantius” himself to Pontus, according to the tendentious account offered by Athanasius (although Walter Stevenson has justifiably questioned this claim recently).150 Following the death of Eusebius of Nicomedia in late 341, who had taken the episcopal throne of Constantinople following Paul’s exile,151 the deposed bishop returned to the city in an effort to reclaim his position. Supporters of Paul’s rival, a certain Macedonius identified by Socrates (Church History 2.12–13) as an Arian, sought to ordain their candidate at the same time. Civil unrest ensued and in early 342 Constantius was forced to intervene by sending his magister equitum, Hermogenes,152 to expel Paul. However, the general was killed in the rioting, and Constantius was forced to make an epic journey from Antioch to Constantinople on horseback – a feat of considerable endurance – to take personal charge of the problem. The emperor expelled Paul and the highly punitive measure of a sizeable reduction in the city’s daily corn dole was enacted, halving it from eighty thousand modii to forty thousand modii (Socrates, Church History 2.13). As Alexander Skinner has pointed out, the dole was “a form of civic privilege” that was granted upon receipt of a token issued not to the urban poor but to affluent citizens. Therefore, Constantius’ measure intentionally harmed the vested interests of influential individuals and parties in the city – likely the ones behind agitating in favour of Paul153 – by “cutting back a system of patronage by which powerful figures could channel the distribution of tokens to their preferred clients”.154

In the wake of Paul’s exile, Constans intensified his oversight of the eastern dissidents. Paul’s lobbying was crucial in this regard, and it is attested that following his expulsion from Constantinople, he had travelled to Trier where he found a sympathetic ear in the guise of the city’s bishop, Maximinus.155 High-level support for Paul was not lacking and it is to be suspected that his attempt to retake the Constantinopolitan see in 341 was the result of backing from local aristocracy and possibly even from Constans himself (which itself hints that Paul was probably from aristocratic stock).156 It is suspected that at some point in late 342, Constans held an audience with Paul in Trier, and in the wake of the meeting, the emperor became “the champion of all the eastern bishops who were in exile in the west, convinced that their deposition imperilled Christian orthodoxy”.157 Indeed, this is a crucial consideration in understanding Constans’ involvement in the affairs of Paul, Athanasius and Marcellus et al. It is a risky business attempting to identify and define the theological choices of an emperor. Trends in historic scholarship evaluating Constantius II’s religious sensibilities have highlighted the perils of labelling him an “Arian-supporting” – even a “heretic” – emperor, particularly in light of evidence that suggests his oversight of clerics was guided by a concern for social relations between factions rather than by a desire to enforce a specific theological settlement on the churches in his territory. As a number of recent studies have shown, imperial involvement in matters of episcopal conduct during the 340s was guided first by a desire to manage social relations with a view to engendering, correlatively, stable relations within the church in order to secure (according to the implicit principle of imperial theology) the success of the emperor(s) and the empire. However, this is not to exclude the possibility of more pragmatic, political concerns at play in the imperial management of these issues (as we discuss below).

Paul’s banishment to the west was the result of Constantius having directly expelled the bishop from Constantinople. The serious civil disorder arising from Paul’s presence in the city forced Constantius to resort, in the words of Walt Stevenson, “the ancient imperial right to banish subjects who posed a danger to the public peace or to government stability”.158 In contrast, the sentences of exile pronounced against Athanasius and Marcellus had derived from a number of eastern synods. Therefore, questions about the uncanonical and consequently unjust status of Paul’s banishment were likely raised by his supporters in Gaul. It is worth nothing in this regard that Constans had written to Constantius at some point in 342 (autumn?159) with the request that he send a party of bishops to him in order to explain the reasons for the deposition of Athanasius and Paul (Socrates, Church History 2.18). The conflation of the cases of Paul and Athanasius is a clear indication that in the west both depositions were deemed uncanonical, a judgement that is clearly stated by Julius in his letter to the bishops of Antioch in which he forensically dissected the partisan nature of the enquiries and trials of Athanasius. In this regard, Constans would have been approached by Maximinus to serve as the ultimate arbiter for these individuals. It is certainly correct to view retrospectively the banishment of Paul by Constantius as an error on the emperor’s part since the action unwittingly led to Paul’s case being taken up by a network of influential supporters in the western half of the empire. As Stevenson has pointed out, Constantius learnt a valuable lesson from this episode so that during the 350s his involvement in exiling clergy became more strategic, shaped by the guiding principle of ensuring the total, or near-total, isolation of troublesome bishops. However, imperial involvement in episcopal exile in the 340s was an entirely different beast and it is difficult to see “a policy” in Constantius’ involvement beyond a concern with minimising the disruptive influence of figures like Paul on the empire’s most important urban centres.

In a passage replete with obfuscation about his relations with Constans (and possibly also Constantine II), Athanasius in his Defence before Constantius noted that Constans wrote to Constantius “requesting that a council might be called” (Defence 4.4).160 During so fractious a time, Constans’ initiative to hold an ecumenical council in the imperial city of Serdica during autumn of 343 represented a genuine sea-change in the ongoing battles between the eastern and western factions of the church.161 That the council of Serdica was judged an abject failure, both then and now, overlooks the significance of the event in light of contemporary events. Julius of Rome had repeatedly sought a joint council to resolve the fates of the deposed eastern clergy only to be rebutted by eastern bishops who regarded scrutiny of their decisions about their own bishops by those in the west as (at best) interference and (at worst) a grab for power by the sees of Rome and Alexandria. In the letter written by Julius discussed above, a “riposte”162 to the abrupt and controversial letter of the eastern bishops assembled in Antioch in January 341 to dedicate the great octagonal church,163 the bishop of Rome refused to concede that the fates of Athanasius and Marcellus should rest only in the hands of the eastern synods that deposed them.

My beloved, church decisions are no longer made according to the gospel, but with a view to banishment and death. If, as you say, they actually committed some sin, a verdict should have been reached in accord with church law, not like this. You should have written us all, so that a just decision could have been rendered by all. Those under attack were bishops, and the congregations under attack were no ordinary ones, but those the apostles themselves had governed. Why were we not informed especially in the case of the church of Alexandria? Certainly, you cannot be unaware that, according to a custom, we must be informed in writing before a just verdict can be determined. If there was some such suspicion in regard to the bishops there, this church should have been contacted by letter. But those who have neglected to inform us and acted according to their own wishes now desire us to cast our vote with them against men whom we have not condemned! This is not the rule received from Paul or the practice handed down from the fathers; this follows a different pattern and a novel procedure. I beg of you, accept this patiently: what I write is for the common good. I am setting forth from you the tradition that we have received from the blessed apostle Peter.164

Julius’ formulation of the historic relationship between the sees of Alexandria and Rome as the basis for his request for ecumenical scrutiny is not exactly an assertion of Rome’s primacy,165 although his justification for Rome’s involvement in the matter of the eastern exiles was based clearly on Rome’s “special status” as the see of Peter and its association with Alexandria as the see (purportedly) established by Mark the evangelist (Eusebius, Church History 2.16). However, as Hanson notes, such ancient history had previously meant very little as “[b]etween 227 and 335 nobody had appealed to Rome”.166 The Council of Rome that took place c. March–April 341 offered an open invitation for eastern bishops to attend, but “[t]he Eusebian alliance, of course, had no intention of coming”.167 In contrast to Julius’ ecumenism – the seed of which, incidentally, may have been planted by the bewildered eastern envoys who conveyed a letter condemning Athanasius to Julius in spring 338168 – the Council of Antioch (also sometimes called the Dedication Council) was an eastern affair only called at the behest of Constantius himself and at which he was in attendance.169 It was predictably dominated by the agenda of the “party around Eusebius” as Julius styled the supporters of Eusebius of Constantinople (formerly of Nicomedia), although as Parvis has pointed out, the three creeds associated with this council indicate the diversity of views that must have been voiced during the proceedings.170

We appear to be presented, therefore, with two quite different imperially sanctioned approaches to managing the affairs of church at this point in the decade. Constantius’ reactive and localised response as seen, for example, in his expulsion of Paul of Constantinople and his oversight of the partisan Dedication Council stands in contrast to the efforts of Constans, advised by the likes of Julius and Maximinus, to seek the counsel of both western and eastern bishops over the fate of exiled clerics, the most pressing issue of the day that came with additional complications, including the issue of jurisdictional authority in ecclesial matters. It is likely correct to see in the period of correspondence between the emperors and between themselves and Athanasius – the chronology of which is ambiguously laid out by Athanasius in his Defence before Constantius – a sign that the eastern emperor was reluctant to agree with Constans’ initiative. In line with the approach we know that Constantius chose to take with regard to the eastern exiles, Constantius does appear to have dragged his heels (repeating Parvis’ words) on the matter of an ecumenical event.171 Constantius may have made minor concessions to ecumenism, for example, the embassy of four bishops sent “as if from a synod” (perhaps following the Council of Rome in around Easter of 341) that bore another creed (the so-called Fourth Creed of Antioch172 containing the anti-Marcellus clause about Christ’s kingdom “enduring indissolubly into the infinite ages”) which was sent to Constans in Trier.173 To a certain extent, Sara Parvis’ analysis of the Council of Rome of 341 has called this bifurcation into question by highlighting how the question of the status of Marcellus and Athanasius was approached as a local issue by Julius and the assembled Italian bishops in terms of whether or not the churches of Italy should maintain communion with them:

Julius’ letter [after the Council] … shows that he considers the decision of the Roman synod to be neither final nor binding on anyone outside the local Italian churches … [it] does not proclaim Athanasius or Marcellus to be officially restored to their sees, or anathematize their successors, or excommunicate their accusers. It merely denies, for the purposes of communion with the local Roman and Italian churches, that they have yet been validly condemned, without ruling out the possibility that they may be proved to be so at a later date.174

However, Julius’ initiative highlights the continued willingness of western bishops to maintain an open channel to their counterparts in Constantius’ side of the empire. The logical development of this approach therefore was the one pursued by Constans who took the decision – possibly “as early as 340”175 – to hold an ecumenical event that looked to bridge the divide between the eastern and western bishops. As such, and as Parvis correctly believes, Julius, Paul and their co-religionists may have been as much influenced into planning for a joint council by Constans as the emperor was likely to have been influenced by the bishop of Rome’s overtures to the eastern party. (Parvis views Constans as the motivating force behind numerous attempts to convince the eastern bishops to attend synods in the west and argues that he wrote to Constantius on three occasions “demanding an ecumenical synod”.176)

Constans’ support for Athanasius’ cause was revealed early in their correspondence with the emperor’s request that the bishop send him bound copies of the Bible.177 The action was no doubt intended to bring to mind the famous letter from Constantine to Eusebius of Caesarea (Life of Constantine 4.36)178 in which the emperor requested ornamental volumes of the scriptures to be produced for reading in the churches of Constantinople. Beyond the “sympathy and encouragement”179 revealed by Constans’ request, it is also a clear sign that Constans was beginning to present himself as the genuine heir to his father’s Christian-vision of the empire. If there was any doubt about this imitation of his father’s actions, the circumstances and focus for the planned ecumenical council eventually held in Serdica reveal with clarity that the ambitions of western emperor lay in amplifying the successes of his father. Situated in Constans’ territory of Illyricum, Serdica (modern-day Sofia in Bulgaria) was close enough to Constantius II’s portion of the empire so as not to give eastern bishops a ready excuse not to attend (not that it stopped them, of course). However, more symbolic and less practical considerations may have been in the mind of Constans and his choice of Serdica. The city had been strategically important for Constantine specifically during the period when he shared authority with Licinius.180 On the basis of evidence drawn from Constantine’s Oration to the Saints, Leslie Barnard has argued that Constantine’s sermon was delivered in Serdica on Good Friday 317.181 His argument, which he fails to state explicitly but is based on an earlier proposal by Barnes, derives from the reference in the Oration (ch. 22: Edwards 2003) to “the most dear city” which the emperor claims was deceived by “an unworthy protector”. Serdica is thereby suggested since the former Tetrarch, Galerius, was said to have been born near and subsequently died in the city itself, although the latter datum is now contested.182 Barnes has subsequently revised his assessment of both the date and location of the Oration (Easter 325 in Nicomedia),183 but Barnard’s broader point, based on Constantine’s associations with Serdica, highlights the importance of the city to the history of the Constantinian dynasty. In Constans’ mind, therefore, Serdica may have been more closely associated with key moments in his father’s reign than any other city in the whole empire. Additional parallels are not hard to find and one suspects that the western emperor was attempting to make history repeat itself. Both the Council of Nicaea184 and Serdica sought to resolve the issue of the dating of Easter. The timing of the celebration of Easter was a perennially thorny matter for the churches of the empire. Constantine revealed himself to be a keen student of the origin and date of Easter as seen in another letter sent to Eusebius of Caesarea (Life of Constantine 4.35) in which he commended the bishop for his scholarly work on the festival.185 Eusebius’ On Easter (§8; trans. Barnes 2011: 189, Appendix D), likely a different work from the one referred to by Constantine in his letter, reveals that the emperor himself presided over a “lively debate” at Nicaea concerned with establishing a consensus over the date of the festival. This was a pressing concern for the emperor in 325 since his defeat of Licinius had revealed divergent approaches in calculating the celebration of Easter in the churches of the eastern empire. As Barnes argues: “Since [Constantine] regarded such divergence of liturgical practice as improper and equivalent to schism, he set out to achieve uniformity of liturgical practice”.186 The ruling of Nicaea sought to detach the timing of the celebration of Easter from the Jewish Passover (14 Nisan), a traditional point of reference for churches in the eastern empire in calculating the date of Christ’s death. The anti-Semitic objections of Constantine to this association are laid out by the emperor in an imperial letter to the churches following the Council (Life of Constantine 3.17.1–20.2). However, Nicaea failed to settle the issue.187 Both western and eastern episcopal parties at Serdica showed themselves very willing to discuss the computation of Easter, an unusual instance of agreement between the two sides; although different dates for paschal celebrations continued to be proposed by the sees of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch long after the Council had ended.188 The eastern synod’s desire to demonstrate that they no longer followed the previous custom of eastern churches by celebrating Easter at the same time as Passover, thereby showing themselves in agreement with the wishes of Constantine I and the ruling of Nicaea, may be seen in the inclusion of a Passover calendar in a document brought to Serdica by the easterners that set out a thirty-year cycle of dates for Easter stretching from 328 to 357.189 The Passover calendar covers sixteen years from 328 to 343 (i.e. covering the known rather than the predicted dates for the Jewish festival190), and was likely consulted by the eastern bishops in order to highlight the divergence between themselves and the Jews in the scheduling of Easter. Sacha Stern has noted:

These Jewish Passover dates must be considered reliable on a number of accounts. They were listed in this document for the explicit purpose of demonstrating that the Eastern bishops were committed to the rule of the equinox and the decisions of the Council of Nicaea, and would not observe Easter at the same time as the Jews; their 30-year cycle differed, indeed, from the Jewish dates. The polemical credibility of this argument would have depended on the authenticity of these Jewish dates; they are unlikely, therefore, to have been merely invented or forged.191

And finally to note in passing: Personnel was another area of continuity seemingly at play in Constans’ initiative to continue his father’s heritage. The venerable Ossius, bishop of Cordoba, who had presided over Nicaea, was also presiding – with the assistance of Protogenes, the bishop of Serdica – over the Council of Serdica, according to the order of names composed by the synodal letter of the western bishops at the Council.

Looking beyond the head-line features of the Council, it is clear that Serdica was a serious affair that like Nicaea was an imperially sponsored event intended to bring ecclesiastical representatives from all provinces of the empire together under one roof. The letter of western bishops (characterised as a “Synodical Letter” by Hanson (1988: 299)) to Julius (who sent representatives to the event in his absence) indicates that the emperors themselves had set the agenda, revealing again a functional unity in the face of controversial issues, and given their permission to discuss issues anew (de integro: Feder 1916: 128.5). Nothing, it seems, was “off the table”, and from the perspective of the eastern bishops this may even have meant the scrapping of the creed of Nicaea and replacing it with an alternative such as the Fourth Creed of Antioch (mentioned above).192 The letter to Julius reiterates the three main agenda items devised by both emperors albeit in a jaundiced guise from the perspective of the western bishops:

There were three things to be dealt with. The most religious emperors themselves gave leave for all points at issue to be discussed afresh and, principally, the issues relating to the holy faith and violations of the integrity of truth. Secondly, they gave leave that if those who said that they had been ejected by an unfair judgement could prove it, there should be a just condemnation of their status. The third point at issue (and the one that may be called the true point at issue) is that they had inflicted serious and grievous injuries, had heaped insufferable and wrongful insults upon the churches, by seizing bishops, presbyters, deacons and clergy generally, and exiling them, transporting them to desert places, killing them with hunger, thirst, nakedness and all manner of deprivation.

(Feder 1916: 128.4–14; trans. Wickham 1997: 49)193

Parvis (to my mind) rightly surmises that the eastern bishops’ letter (styled a decretum and the only extant document from their side) to their supporters contains their response to the three-fold imperial mandate for the council194:

It is indeed, beloved brethren, the constant prayer of us all: first, that the Lord’s holy Catholic Church should be free of all dissensions and schisms and should everywhere preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of charity through upright faith (and, indeed, all who invoke the Lord, especially we who are bishops in charge of most holy churches, ought also to hold, embrace, guard and keep spotless our life); secondly, that the rule of the Church and the sacred tradition and judgements of our forebears should remain firm and solid, and that no disturbance should at any time be caused by newly emerging sects and perverse teachings, especially in appointments and dismissals of bishops, as a result of which the Church would fail to maintain evangelical and sacred instructions, ordered by the holy and most blessed apostles and by our forebears, instructions which have been kept, and are being kept, secure by us up to the present day.

(Feder 1916: 49.8–21; trans. Wickham 1997: 20–21)

The intransigence of the two parties is clear. Both sides laid claim to being the Catholic Church and both disavowed involvement in propagating deviant ideas (= heresy) and engaging in intimidatory and violent acts. The body of correspondence deriving from the Council – the most direct, historical legacy of the event which is preserved for the most part by the Nicene Hilary of Poitiers in his historical catalogue (Against Valens and Ursacius) that claimed to document the noble struggle of the champions of Nicaea against the Arian tyranny – is replete with allegations on both sides of historic and contemporary episodes of violence. It is important to recognise that these letters were written after the collapse of the council as an ecumenical project. Indeed, the two sides never actually got to a position where they could meet together and resolve their grievances. The eastern bishops refused to meet with their western counterparts in Serdica once they were appraised of the information that the deposed bishops, prominently Athanasius and Marcellus, sat among the western synod. As a result, two separate councils, one comprising the western bishops and one of easterners, took place instead.195 The eastern bishops’ excuse for their non-participation is enshrined in their letter in the following way:

… we were convened by the emperor’s letter and arrived at Serdica. On our arrival we learned that Athanasius, Marcellus and all the villains expelled by a council’s judgement and deservedly condemned beforehand, each of for his misdeeds, were sitting together with Ossius and Protogenes in the middle of the church and (what is worse) celebrating the divine mysteries. Nor was Protogenes, bishop of Serdica, embarrassed by communion with Marcellus the heretic, whose sect and abominable views he had himself condemned in a council with his own voice four times subscribing to the bishops’ judgements. From this it is clear that he has condemned himself by his own judgement, since he has made himself a partner with him by communicating with him.

(Feder 1916: 58.4–13; trans. Wickham 1997: 28–29)

From the perspective of Acacius of Caesarea and Stephen of Antioch (the likely main authors of the easterners’ letter196), the host see and its bishop were guilty by association. It is the eastern bishops, therefore, who portray themselves as abiding by “the discipline of the church’s rule” by refusing to meet with individuals condemned previously “by fathers in the past” (Feder 1916: 58). The easterners’ letter is thus a documentary narrative that outlines historic grievances against Athanasius, Marcellus, Paul of Constantinople, Lucius of Adrianople and Asclepas of Gaza. While its tone is certainly “vitriolic”, its main concern was to contrive the promotion of real and imagined episodes of sectarian violence attributable to their opponents in order to provide a defence for their own decisions and policies, both contemporary and historic. Vignettes preserve crucial details about the proceedings of the eastern synod, including the list of bishops anathematised by the eastern party. In the eyes of the eastern bishops, the Council of Serdica as an ecumenical venture could hardly be described as a failure: As the list of anathematised bishops reveal, their collective identity as an unimpeachable body of clerics who upheld the most ancient traditions of church discipline was augmented by their experiences at Serdica. In this regard, both contemporary and recent events are recast to fit this narrative and a concentrated level of ire is directed towards those western bishops – principally Julius of Rome and Maximinus of Trier (incidentally who was not in Serdica) – whom, the letter alleges, first received the exiled bishops in the west. Furthermore, the stain of association with Paul of Constantinople was a particularly valuable charge in light of the exceptionally high-profile nature of his case:

Having the fear of God before our eyes and Christ’s true and just judgement in mind, we have shown bias to none and have not refrained from preserving Church discipline in every case. Julius of Rome, Ossius, Protogenes, Gaudentius and Maximinus of Trier, as originators of communion with Marcellus, Athanasius and the rest of the scoundrels, and as having even shared in Paul of Constantinople’s murders and bloody acts. Protogenes is anathematized along with Marcellus for subscribing frequently to the sentence brought against Marcellus or his book [Against Asterius] … Julius of Rome as chief leader of the villains and the first one to open the door to the condemned scoundrels; as the one who gave the rest access to an annulling of the divine judgements and who defended Athanasius’ presumptuously and boldly, Athanasius, neither whose witnesses nor whose accusers he knew … [and] Maximinus of Trier because he would not receive our episcopal colleagues, whom we had sent to Gaul and for his being the first to communicate with Paul of Constantinople, a nefarious man and lost soul; also because he was the cause of so much damage that Paul, owing to whom many murders were committed, was recalled to Constantinople. The cause, therefore, of so much murder, was himself the one who recalled Paul, condemned a good while before, to Constantinople.

(Feder 1916: 65.28–67.7; trans. Wickham 1997: 35–36)

The synodal letter authored by Acacius and Stephen should not, however, be taken as being theologically representative of the entire eastern Christian community. “The Easterner’s Letter, in its wording and probably its views in general, represents the most radical wing of the Eastern party”.197 The list of signatories to the letter highlights a far from representative sample of all the politically active sees in the east during the period between Nicaea and Serdica (totalling two hundred and sixty eight), and as Parvis has shown, the known attendees at Serdica represent around twenty-seven per cent of this total.198 The emperors’ invitations may have sought to limit the number of participants; however, the synod only comprised around half the number of metropolitan bishops in Constantius’ territory.199

The western synod appears to have met in a series of three smaller groups. As a result, the number of documents deriving from the western side is considerable.200 Athanasius preserves three synodical letters in his Apology against the Arians (another historical dossier like Hilary’s work that purports to preserve evidence showcasing the heroic defenders of Nicene orthodoxy), including one to the Church of Alexandria (Apology 37–40), one to the bishops of Egypt and Libya (Apology 41–43), and another to all Catholic brethren (Apology 44–49). The latter is also presented by Hilary in his Against Valens and Ursacius. The ecclesial and theological integrity vaunted by the easterners in their letter that formed the main plank of their refusal to meet with the western representatives (specifically as a response to the inclusion of Athanasius and Marcellus in this party) is unpicked by the authors of the western synodical letter. It is alleged, therefore, that their flight from Serdica was not due to their adherence to the rule of church discipline but was rather a result of their fear of being held to account for their numerous crimes – some of which, for example, the murder of Theodulus, bishop of Traianopolis (a sympathetic Nicene in Constantius’ territory), may even have occurred prior to the Council itself.201

They fled, very dear brethren, not only because of those they falsely accused, but also because of those gathering from various places to convict them of many crimes. Returned exiles displayed their irons and bands; and again men still in exile sent associates and close relatives, friends and brothers, who reported the complaints of survivors or followed up the undeserved wrong of those dead in exile. And, most importantly, there were bishops present, one of whom displayed the iron and chains he had worn on his neck through them, and others bore witness to death-threats arising from false accusations. They had reached such a pitch of desperation that they would even have killed bishops, had these not escaped their bloodstained hands. Our fellow bishop, the blessed Theodulus, died whilst fleeing their attack; as a result his death had been ordered. Others showed sword marks, blows and scars, others complained of having been tortured with hunger. And it was not people of no note who attested these things but it was picked men from all the churches, for the sake of which they had convened here, who were making known what had happened: the armed soldiers, the crowds with cudgels, the judges’ menaces, the submission of false letters (false letters composed by Theognitus against our fellow bishops Athanasius and Marcellus, designed to move the emperor against them, were read, and the proof of their falsehood was given by those who were Theognitus’ deacons at the time) and besides these, the stripping of virgins, the burnings of churches and the imprisonment of God’s ministers. All these things are due to the wicked and abominable heresy of the Ario-Maniacs. Those who refused communion with them had to endure the suffering of these things.

(Feder 1916: 109.7–112.2; trans. Wickham 1997: 42–43)

The preservation of these episodes as narratives of violence first in the synodical letter of the western council and second in the historising compendia of the Nicenes Athanasius and Hilary betrays their intended purpose. Their role was ultimately archival. Like the narratives of violence in the eastern encyclical implicating western bishops, these narratives performed the role of testifying to the cruelty, murders and treasonable acts (for example, forging letters to mislead the emperor Constantius; see Feder 1916: 111) of their opponents. Their relationship to actual events mattered little. To paraphrase a line from Brent Shaw’s study of a concurrent ecclesial-sectarian struggle in North Africa, these narrative episodes lent the participating groups a unique sense of past events that defined their present circumstances.202 Their composition and dissemination was also a clear indication that neither side believed that a resolution was likely to arise any time soon. Narratives such as these served to entrench factional disputes deeper in the psyches of all participants, including very likely the emperors themselves.

During this time, Constantius’ mind was on military rather than religious affairs. His campaign against the Sasanians, which had been announced in grandiose terms at the beginning of the decade by way of a comparison with Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia (see Chapter 3), had begun to develop into a bloody conflict of attrition. The Battle of Singara, which became infamous as a result of high number of casualties on both sides but without a clear victor, was only a year away. In the meantime, any victory no matter how meagre became the cause for celebration since it contributed towards the consolidation of the emperor’s triumphal persona.203 News of an imperially led victory over the Sasanians was announced at the Council of Serdica and was leapt on by the eastern bishops as an excuse to leave – from their point of view – the desultory synod. Constantius was in Antioch in the spring of 344 preparing to renew his campaign against Shapur II when episcopal representatives from the western synod arrived in the city with their briefing of their meeting. In addition to the synodal letter signed à la tête by Ossius was a letter addressed directly to Constantius II himself by members of the western council. Both letters were intended to present the westerners’ side of the story. The letter to Constantius certainly reads as if it was meant to counterbalance the account of the synod supplied to the emperor by the eastern bishops. The letter is remarkable in terms of its direct request to the emperor to restore those “detained in exile or deserted places – distinguished bishops (egregii sacerdotes), indeed, remarkable for their worthiness of so great a title – to return to their sees”,204 but also for the broader political request that the emperor intervene against provincial governors from showing partiality to “grave heretics”. The letter identifies the latter as Arians who, in contrast to Catholic Christians, have made it their mission to corrupt the pristine nature of the Gospel. The authors charge governors of provinces with aiding and abetting the actions of heretical clergy in persecuting genuine heroes of the Catholic communion and request the emperor’s assistance to prevent this:

If, therefore, as we have no hesitation in hoping and believing, these things move that kindness of yours which is not instilled but innate, give order that governors (rectores) show no attentiveness, no favour or partiality of situations to grave heretics.205

The wider political significance of the western council’s request that provincial governors be confined to “public business” (negotium publicum) and not to matters of religion should not, therefore, be lost on us206:

Let your clemency take thought and decree that all judges everywhere, who are entrusted with the direction of provinces and to whom ought to belong only the care and concern for public business, should refrain from attention to religion, should not hereafter take upon themselves functions not rightly theirs and expect to investigate the suits of the clergy, or to vex and harry innocent men with various pains, with threats, violence and terror.

(Feder 1916: 181.13–182.2; trans. Wickham 1997: 65)

Freedom of worship for Nicene Christians in Constantius’ territories is central to the westerners’ request and the authors are careful to associate this right with the broader ambition of the emperor for the peace and prosperity of the state. By contrast, the novelty of the Arians is a corrosive influence on the historia sacra that links together the Gospel and the empire with the birth of Jesus during the reign of Augustus as the pivotal point in the letter. The presence of the Arian heresy is emphasised as a disjuncture in the scheme. The authors highlight its novelty by identifying the principal architects of the “falsehoods”, the names of the key individuals tallying with the list of those bishops anathematised in the western synodical letter (with the exception of George of Laodicea who is not named in the imperial letter). Parvis suggests that the passage in question bears the hallmarks of Marcellus of Ancyra’s authorship: “The theology, the ecclesiology, the poetic vituperation, and especially the four hundred years all have the Marcellan stamp, and the aeris/Arriana pun is obviously originally Greek (aeriou/Areiou)”.207

Who does not see, who does not understand? After nearly 400 years since the Only-begotten Son of God saw fit to come to the aid of a perishing humanity, and as if there had been no apostles in earlier days, nor after the martyrdoms and deaths of these, any Christians, there is now shed abroad not a novel and most loathsome plague of foul air (corrupti aeris) but the Arian plague of abominable blasphemies. Did those who believed in earlier days have a vain hope of immortality? We have been informed that these falsehoods have recently been invented by the two Eusebiuses, by Narcissus, Theodore, Stephen, Acacius, Menofantus and by Ursacius and Valens, two young men, ignorant and headstrong. Their letters are published and those who listen to them yapping rather than arguing, are even convinced by suitable ‘evidences’. Those who unwisely and incautiously hold communion with them, by becoming associates in their misdeeds, will of necessity share their crimes, and, being cast out and disinherited in this age will suffer eternal punishments when the day of judgement comes.

(Feder 1916: 183.21–184.13; trans. Wickham 1997: 66–67)208

The deferential tone of the western bishops’ letter to Constantius belied the demands of the Nicene party. Although the letter failed to specify names, the eastern emperor would only have been too aware that the “distinguished bishops” in question comprised Athanasius, Marcellus, Paul, Lucius of Adrianople and Asclepas of Gaza (cf. Feder 1916: 56–57). Indeed, at this point in time, the stakes were running incredibly high for both sides. As the ecumenical venture fell apart, the departing eastern bishops left a trail of devastation in their wake, according to the jaundiced portrayal offered by Athanasius in his History of the Arians; the synodical letter of the western synod clearly identifies the leaders of this party (Feder 1916: 119).209 Notably, Lucius of Adrianople – the Nicene supporting successor of Eutropius of Adrianople who had been deposed soon after Nicaea – appears to have acted swiftly following his restoration by the western bishops and reclaimed his see in the Thracian city. Lucius was adept in “speaking truth to power” about recent events,210 in particular the conduct of his eastern opponents, and appears to have whipped up considerable popular support in opposition to the Arian clergy of his city. With the episode involving Paul and Hermogenes fresh in his mind, Constantius took a much tougher line with regard to Lucius’ antics and decided to make an example of his supporters by ordering the beheading of ten workers from the city’s arms-factory, a brutal example of capital punishment overseen by Philagrius.211 Lucius was once again seized and imprisoned by his opponents. He was returned to exile where he died (at some unspecified point in time). Athanasius attributes the violent episodes against Nicene easterners following Serdica directly to Constantius himself. The following passage demonstrates the extent of the imperial support behind the actions of the persecuting bishops.

When [the eastern bishops] saw Lucius, bishop of Adrianople, speaking out very freely against them and refuting their impiety, they had his neck and hands bound with iron chains, just as before, and sent him into exile, where he died, as they know. They removed bishop Diodorus [of Tenedos in Asia] and also slandered bishops Olympius of Aeni and Theodoulos of Trajanopolis, both good and orthodox men from Thrace, after they saw that they hated their heresy. The Eusebians had done this first, with the emperor Constantius writing in [in support], and these men [who fled the council at Serdica] now repeated it. Their letter said that not only should the orthodox bishops be expelled from their cities and churches, but they should also suffer capital punishment if they were discovered anywhere. If this seems amazing, it is no different from their usual behaviour; they learned it from the Eusebians and they are heirs of their impiety and attitude. They wanted to appear terrifying in Alexandria, as their fathers had done in Thrace, and they had orders sent that the harbours and entrances of the city were to be watched to stop Athanasius and his associates returning to their churches through the decision of the council. They also had an order sent to the officials in Alexandria, concerning Athanasius and certain named presbyters, saying that an official was authorised to behead the bishop or any of the others if they were discovered having set foot in the city or its surrounding territory.

(History of the Arians 19.1–4; trans. Flower 2016: 54–55)

Decrees ordering executions and orders interrupting the business of an imperial port could only derive from the holder of the imperial office. Furthermore, the emperor’s hand is alleged by Athanasius to be behind the exile of a number of Nicene clergy, including the bishops Arius of Petra and Asterius of Arabia,212 two individuals who had changed allegiances in support of the Nicene settlement during the Council of Serdica. Elsewhere, Athanasius adds further details to the character of these orders: The bishop notes that letters ordering the executions of Olympius and his associates, and Athanasius and his supporters, had been handed to two of the highest-ranking imperial officials in the eastern empire, namely Donatus (the Proconsul of Constantinople)213 and Philagrius.214 The febrile atmosphere of the east at this point in time is neatly summarised by Skinner: “In 343, the limits of clemency had also become clear. Troublesome clerics in the East began to face their doom”.215

The turning-point for the fortunes of the exiled Nicenes arose from Constantius’ reaction to an incident engineered by the “Arians” in the aftermath of the Council, at least according to version of the post-Serdican period supplied by Athanasius’ History. Here, the incident is described as something “which had not been heard of before, and will perhaps never happen again, not even among the most shameless of the Hellenes, let alone among Christians”.216 Despite the claim of novelty, the incident in question comprised a tried and tested means of discrediting a political opponent, namely a sex scandal: Indeed, the episode involving Stephen, the bishop of Antioch, and his machinations against a party of western bishops is uncannily reminiscent of the scandal concocted by the first generation of Arians that resulted in the deposition of Eustathius, the Nicene bishop of Antioch of the 320s.217 The details of the scandal of the 340s are as follows. The western synod sent from Serdica sent a delegation to Antioch in the spring months of 344 with copies of their synodical letter and the personal letter addressed to Constantius. The party was headed by Vincentius, bishop of Capua and Euphrates, bishop of Agrippina (Cologne). The Theodosian-era writer, Theodoret of Cyrus, includes many details about the incident which are not conveyed by Athanasius, including about the delegation. (Despite having written his History over a century after the episode, it is correct to surmise that Theodoret’s account (Hist. Eccl. 2.7–8) contains “authentic local tradition” about the episode.218) Theodoret reveals that the episcopal envoys were accompanied by Flavius Salia (Salianus), Constans’ magister equitum.219 These envoys also carried a letter from Constans to Constantius, although not it should be noted the infamous threatening letter preserved by the historians of the fifth century as Theodoret suggests. When the episcopal envoys arrived in the city, Stephen, the bishop of Antioch and one of the lead figures in the eastern synod at Serdica, hired a prostitute (pornē) to visit the bedroom of Euphrates. Athanasius’ narrates what happened next:

At first the prostitute, thinking that a young man had called for her, went along readily. After they had brought her to the room, however, she saw that the man was asleep and unaware of what was happening, and then she saw and recognised the features of an old man and the appearance of a bishop. She immediately called out and complained about this outrageous treatment. They had expected her to keep quiet and then make a false allegation against the bishop.

(History 20.4; trans. Flower 2016: 56)

Unfortunately for Stephen, the very opposite happened. The woman broadcast the scandal and very quickly the entire city became aware of their bishop’s machinations. Athanasius adds some important further details: The imperial court was so troubled and amazed by the episode that an investigation was launched which resulted in Stephen being deposed and Leontius being installed as his replacement. This is an important detail inasmuch as it indicates either Constantius’ actual distance from the incident or – adopting a cynical stance – an attempt to distance the emperor from the affairs of a bishop who had for the most part being acting according to his wishes. Athanasius adds:

Then the emperor Constantius felt his conscience to be pricked a little, and he came to himself and, on the basis of what they did to Euphrates, decided that these men’s attacks against the others were also of the same sort. He gave orders for the immediate release of the presbyters and deacons who were exiled from Alexandria to Armenia and also wrote a public letter to Alexandria to say that the Athanasian clerics and laity were not to be persecuted any longer. Then after Gregory died about ten months later, he summoned Athanasius with great honour, and wrote to him in a friendly manner not once or twice, but three times, urging him to take heart and come to him.

(History 21.1–1; trans. Flower 2016: 56–57)

Athanasius has preserved, perhaps unwittingly, the “official” response of the imperial court to the scandal surrounding Stephen. The moral outrage experienced across Antioch over the treatment of the elderly Euphrates would have been considerable (revealed by Athanasius’ claim that “the whole city gathered together” (kai pasa ē polis sunetrechen) to protest) which suggests the potential for another episode of civil unrest of the kind seen earlier in Constantinople and Adrianople. However, it presented Constantius with a further opportunity to consolidate his imperial persona as a philanthropic emperor who delivered a just and unbloody verdict swiftly, namely the removal of Stephen, and exercised clemency by restoring the exiled clergy of Alexandria.220

Theodoret’s version of the episode adds considerable local colour to the Athanasian account by shedding light on the murky world of urban politics of the period. In the narrative of Theodoret, the plot was executed by a criminal with the Brandoesque nickname “Wild Ass” (Onagros). He was the “Muscle-for-Hire” in Antioch and together with his gang of fifteen, he engaged the services of the prostitute and then lay in wait to catch the bishop in flagrante delicto. When the plot collapsed, Wild Ass fled and the woman was arrested. Flavius Salia and the bishops rushed to the imperial palace and in an angry confrontation involving Constantius, the western delegation demanded that Stephen be prosecuted by a civil rather than a synodal court. The prosecution took place in the palace itself; even before the cross-examination, one captured gang member confessed the whole plot and identified Stephen as its architect. Theodoret then adds: “The guilt of Stephen being thus demonstrated, the bishops then present were charged to depose him, and expel him from the Church” (Hist. eccl. 2.8).221 It is unclear whether the bishops in question were the westerners, in which case the deposition of Stephen of Antioch was enacted by Vincentius and Euphrates (highly unlikely), or whether Theodoret is relaying details of a synodal deposition enacted in the Antiochene palace (more likely). By way of a footnote to the episode, Euphrates himself was condemned by a council in his own city of Cologne in 346 on the grounds that he subscribed to a monarchian theology by denying that Christ is God and is only a mere man.222

However, the circumstances underlying the eventual reconciliation of the two imperial courts over the fate of the deposed bishops were more lengthy and complicated than portrayed by Athanasius’ narrative. How much influence the shifting theological allegiances in the period after Serdica played in Constantius’ eventual acquiescence to Constans is moot, but it is to be suspected that it played some role. Stephen’s deposition and Leontius’ election took place at a council of Antioch that met in the summer of 344. As Joseph T. Lienhard has noted, this event marked the point when “the eastern bishops took the initiative, encouraged perhaps by increasing imperial favor toward Athanasius, and attempted some reconciliation with the westerners”.223 The council endorsed a creed that was identical to the Fourth Creed of Antioch to which was appended a series statement that is part anathema and part theological commentary that aimed to promote the Antiochene council’s “middle ground” with regard to some of the more contentious issues and personalities of the day (known as the Ekthesis makrostichos, “Creed of the Long Lines” as a result of its length). Ideas linked to the teachings of Marcellus of Ancyra and his associate, Photinus of Sirmium, are isolated and substantially condemned (as preserved by Athanasius in his On the Synods 26.5)224:

We abhor besides and anathematise those who make a pretence of saying that he is but the mere word of God and unexisting, having his being in another – now as if pronounced (as some speak), now as mental – holding that He was not Christ or Son of God or mediator or image of God before ages; but that he first became Christ and Son of God when he took our flesh from the Virgin, not quite four hundred years since. For they will have it that then Christ began his kingdom, and that it will have an end after the consummation of all and the final judgement. Such are the disciples of Marcellus and Scotinus of Galatian Ancyra, who equally with the Jews, negate Christ’s existence before the ages, and his Godhead, and unending kingdom, upon pretence of supporting the divine monarchy.

The disciples of Marcellus and Photinus – here, as Barnes notes, the latter’s name is transformed from the one who brings light to the who shrouds in darkness and obscurity – are condemned on the basis of the eastern bishops’ parody of Marcellus’ and Photinus’ theology. Both individuals were taken to espouse what has come to be referred to as Monarchianism in its adoptionist guise and the statement from the Antiochene synod offers the most rudimentary précis of that position.225 As Parvis points out:

Photinus, like many other theologians before and after him, was accused of teaching that Jesus was a mere man, though it is highly unlikely that he did. Rather, he probably taught a formal doctrine of two hypostases – one of God (in the Marcellan tradition) and one of the man Jesus.226

In this regard, Photinus scored the notorious achievement of winning the approval of Julian “the Apostate” for teaching that God could in no way be constrained in a womb.227 While the theology was not immaterial at this point in time, it was backstairs influencing that resulted in a major shift of allegiances. The declaration of faith endorsed in Antioch was conveyed to Italy by an embassy of four bishops, Eudoxius of Germanicia, Demophilus of Beroe, Martyrius and Macedonius of Cilicia, and presented to a synod gathered in Milan during the early months of 345. Although the embassy failed to impress upon the Milanese synod the suitability of the “Creed of the Long Lines”, the western bishops took the significant step of acting in unison with their eastern counterparts by condemning Photinus, the newly appointed bishop of the metropolitan see of Sirimium,228 for heresy.229 This initiative was closely associated with the rehabilitation of Ursacius and Valens, the prominent middle Danubian area bishops whose sees lay in Singidunum and Mursa, respectively. As Hilary of Poitiers records, the two Arian-leaning bishops took advantage of Photinus’ condemnation at Milan, “to approach the bishop of Rome and begged to be received back into the Church, asking to be pardoned and admitted to communion”.230 It is no surprise to discover that the figure of influence behind these changes in allegiance was Athanasius who, according to Hilary, had withdrawn his support from Marcellus before the censure of Photinus at Milan. Hilary lets slip that the bishops at Milan had decided to take a much tougher approach towards anyone engaged in making false accusations against Athanasius or “communing with the Arian heresy” – the two charges now synonymous with one another – with their heightened anxieties translating into a sentence of excommunication from the (Catholic) Church.231 The flip-flopping antics of Ursacius and Valens represented a considerable setback for Constantius and his infiltration of Constans’ territory with bishops who were sympathetic to his hostile stance towards Athanasius. Ursacius’ and Valens’ transfer of allegiance to the Athanasian camp is an insight – albeit a rather clouded one – into the complex nature of episcopal allegiances in the Pannonian heartlands of the empire. Photinus was eventually deposed at the Council of Sirmium in 351, although as Daniel Williams has highlighted, the appeal of the Monarchian theology associated with Photinus persisted for many years to come.232

The eventual restoration of the Nicene exiles to their eastern sees was a similarly prolonged affair. Amidst the theological negotiations initiated by the council of Antioch, Paul had made an attempt to regain his position in Constantinople during the autumn of 344 which nevertheless ended in failure following the subterfuge of the Praetorian Prefect, Flavius Philippus, who entrapped the bishop in the city’s public bath house of Zeuxippus233 (Socrates, Hist. eccl. 2.16, but following the cautions of Barnes 1993: 214). Following a short period of time in Thessalonica, Paul joined up with Athanasius at Constans’ court in Aquileia from where the emperor dispatched his infamous letter to Constantius.234 Constantius may very well have been ready to cede to the overtures coming from both sides of the confessional divide, but Constantinople was a politically sensitive city for the eastern emperor and the regime was clearly concerned about the level of popular support that the aristocratic Paul could muster. The tipping point for the eventual recall of Athanasius to Alexandria may not have been the pressure from Constans, but the death of the incumbent, Gregory of Cappadocia, in June 345. As Barnes suggests: “Since the normal procedure of an episcopal election in Alexandria would have produced no result other than the re-election of Athanasius, the emperor bowed to necessity”.235 Athanasius’ return to Egypt occurred around twelve months after Constantius had initially written to the bishop requesting his return (the letter is quoted by Athanasius in his Defence before Constantius 4.5) in 345.

“The Tyrannical House of King Constans”

The first half of the 340s represented a tumultuous period of time for the Constantinian dynasty. Walter Stevenson has drawn attention to the considerable “political capital” expended by Constantius II in his management of those bishops relocated in the western empire, the use of this term referring first and foremost to the evident deterioration in relations between the two emperors arising from Constantius’ management of these episcopal individuals.

If [Constantius’] goal had been to dump them on his younger brother Constans, he had failed, and the exiled bishops had pushed his fraternal colleague to threats of civil war – hardly a peaceful outcome. In short, he had expended a good deal of political capital and personal effort in order to remove divisive bishops from his realm, but the resulting situation loomed more divisive than riots in major cities or whatever his worst fears were.236

However, the same charge of expending political capital may also be levelled against Constans who gambled on the success of his ecumenical venture at Serdica. The western emperor partially achieved one of his ambitions, namely the restoration of displaced bishops to their eastern sees, but this came at the expense of the public façade of unity with his co-Augustus following the fall-out from Serdica which fanned the flames of internecine strife to the point that individuals lost their lives in its immediate aftermath.

As we have seen in both this chapter and in Chapter 2, numerous pieces of evidence – for example, the FEL TEMP REPARATIO coin series, consular fasti and imperial orations – may all be marshalled to indicate a hiatus in collegial relations during the 340s. As we have also seen, however, the evidence can be interpreted in a variety of ways that reveal competing ideas about both the timing and the severity of the fracture. Nevertheless, the administrative business of empire continued relatively unabated. Constitutions continued to be issued in the names of both emperors, a number of which were undoubtedly devised with the principle of generalitas in mind (e.g. on curial evasion from 28 May 344 as Cod. Theod. 12.1.37).237 Moreover, the careers of those charged with running the business of government appear to have been largely unaffected. As Muriel Moser’s study of senatorial appointments in the empire of Constantius and Constans has shown, officials continued to enjoy highly mobile careers across the putative east-west divide. The numerous examples discussed by Moser indicate clearly “that Roman senators continued to hold high office in the East under Constantius, and that these posts were an important step towards higher honours in the West, as urban prefects in Rome or praetorian prefects under Constans”.238 Moser correctly proposes that this level of oversight was a sign that Constantius upheld the established principle of the imperial college, that of jurisdictional oversight over the appointments of the junior partner.239 All of this makes it much harder to regard the fracture in relations between the two brothers over the issue of ecclesial-theological factionalism as a straightforward break between the two regimes. Ultimately, the theme of fraternal disagreement during the 340s is best understood as a useful heuristic that when employed responsibly, for example by Vaggione and his typology of stages,240 enables us to understand with greater lucidity the countless and depressing instances of intercommunal violence and slander as belonging to a macropolitical climate of profound religious and social change heralded by the wide-scale, institutional adoption of Christianity in the empire.

Constans continued to expend “political capital” over Christianity long after Serdica. With the success of the return of the Nicene dissidents to their eastern sees still fresh in the memory, Constans continued to push for the unified church envisioned by his father but this time in Africa, a region of the empire that Constantine I had effectively abandoned to its fate of ecclesiastical disharmony in 321 albeit under the guise of an imperial order of toleration.241 The presence of polarised Christian communities in the towns and cities of North Africa derived from the response of some Christians to the coercive demands of the Tetrarchic persecution of churches during the first decade of the fourth century. These Christians stood condemned by some of their co-religionists who regarded the former’s behaviour as unduly compromised in their dealings with the imperial government, most symbolically in the act of surrendering when requested the Holy Scriptures to the secular authorities. In the eyes of the dissident Christians who refused to acquiesce, Christians who surrendered church property were regarded as traitors (traditores).242 As one of the most sympathetic commentators of the so-called Donatist schism remarked about the act of betraying the Christian scriptures to state actors:

The books were not merely paper and ink, wood and vellum and parchment. They were the very Word of God. Handing over the Bible and handing over the martyrs were faces of the same coin, the coin of treasure to the Church.243

Dissident Christians stood in judgement over their compromised co-religionists, refusing communion with them and refusing to recognise clergy appointed by bishops judged to be traditores. The dissident party – commonly referred to by the pejorative term, Donatist244 – then fell foul of Constantine I as he moved to align the interests of the empire with those of the Christian church. Constantine repeatedly upheld conciliar decisions which ratified the episcopal appointment of Caecilian of Carthage in the Catholic communion despite Donatist objections that he was a severely compromised individual. In 317, the emperor issued “an order of union” which mandated the confiscation of Donatist property and the exile of dissident clergy.245 According to the memorialisation of this imperial initiative – presented in a dissident sermon from a later period – the government offered a financial reward to Donatist Christians to change allegiance to the Catholic side. A very crude but potentially effective measure! However, the initiative failed, ending in serious sectarian unrest in Sicilibba close to Carthage.246 In the aftermath, Constantine’s approach was to encourage Catholics to coalesce with their opponents. In a letter from February 330, a response to a petition from the Catholic bishops of Numidia following the Donatist seizure of the Catholic basilica in Constantina (Cirta), Constantine explained his approach to the Donatists: As schismatics, they are to be condemned; however, their presence, as the emperor expostulated, is to be endured as an act of charitable patience: “But since it is patent that they remain in their evil ways and wish to die in their misdeeds, sufficient for them are our admonition and the foregoing assiduous exhortation”.247

It is likely that the same sense of wishing to bring to fruition his father’s initiatives that appear evident in the arrangements for the Council of Serdica in 343 as the New Nicaea also seem to have determined Constans’ decision in 347 to establish a united church in North Africa. Indeed, the canons of the Council of Serdica reveal that problems in the African church had been simmering in the early part of the decade and certainly did not appear out of nowhere. The canons (8–12) which sought to limit the frequency and opportunities for bishops to petition the imperial court derived directly from the issues caused by dissident African bishops who, as outlined by Ossius in canon 8, tended to ignore the counsel of Gratus, Catholic bishop of Carthage, and proceed directly to the emperor; predictably, Ossius judges these petitioners to be motivated by entirely selfish concerns (“they ask for secular honours and services for certain persons, and therefore this evil raises murmuring not without scandal”).248 The catalyst for Constans’ decision to intervene directly in 347 may have been his contrary response to an initiative allegedly ascribed to the dissident Donatus of Carthage who sought recognition as sole bishop of the city following the death of the Catholic incumbent,249 although the historical veracity of this argument has lately been called into question.250 Irrespective of motivation, it is apparent that Constans’ response mirrored more or less Constantine’s actions in 317. According to the account of Optatus, the Catholic bishop of Milevis in Numidia, Constans sent two senior figures as emissaries, Paulus and Macarius (“in all likelihood as tribuni et notarii251), in order “to relieve the poor in every place and exhort individuals to unity”: In other words, members of the imperial government arrived with financial inducements to influence dissident Christians to turn towards the Catholic communion with the aim of calling time on the schismatic church. While Optatus’ account portrays the initiative as a wholly charitable affair, this was the real face of the striving for imperial unity in a fractured Christian empire. Constans was evidently operating in imitation of Constantine’s earlier approach. However, the western emperor and his advisers had misjudged the strength of the dissident cause and the many local features of the schism. They had failed to learn from very recent events, specifically the incident narrated by Optatus that had occurred “a little while before” the arrival of the emissaries, ergo in the early 340s, when social conventions, including the relationship between creditors and debtors, had been upended by a group identified as the Circumcellions led by two figures named Axido and Fasir. The dissident cause was furthered, and at times frustrated, by the Circumcellions, who as seasonal labourers tended to gather at local markets looking for employment252; although as Shaw has noted in his analysis of Optatus’ account, the agitators in this instance were not representative of the Circumcellions en masse but instead styled themselves as “Holy Fighters”.253 In recounting this earlier episode, Optatus looked to draw attention to the fact that the Donatists themselves had, after the Circumcellions had turned against the dissident bishops, called on the Roman government for assistance; as Optatus noted, this contradicted the Donatist claim that the Catholics were the agents of imperial power. The Count of Africa, Taurinus, had responded to the dissidents’ petition by deploying soldiers against the Circumcellions which led predictably to scenes of slaughter in a market called the Locus Octaviensis.254 Optatus notes that the Circumcellions killed in the riot were subsequently buried and honoured, despite objections from local Catholic clergy. As a result, the numbers of such people grew, according to Optatus. Rebels and martyrs for the dissident cause had been made.

Therefore, evidence of serious civil unrest was apparent earlier in the decade. This should have provided Constans with a clear signal about how best to proceed with his plans for unity. However, it seems that no lessons had been learnt. The appearance in the summer months of 347255 of the imperial emissaries in the Numidian town of Bagai prompted a response orchestrated by the dissident bishop of Bagai named Donatus, who gathered together a party of Circumcellions, “also called by the name of agonistici [the Holy Fighters]”, to resist the imperial initiative. According to Optatus’ version of events, the hostile reception experienced by the officials charged with distributing relief to the poor of Bagai from the dissidents prompted the deployment of an armed military guard led by Silvester, Comes. The surveyors who went ahead of the soldiers were then attacked by the dissidents. When news of this reached the soldiers, a brutal retaliation took place in which the bishop of the dissident community, Donatus, died.256 The events in Bagai were not unique. Other episodes of social disorder precipitated by imperial efforts to undermine Donatist communities throughout Numidia also occurred during 347, all underpinned by the attempts of Paulus and Macarius to enforce an edict of unity deriving from the stylus of Constans, published in Carthage at some point before mid-August257 of that year under the Catholic bishop, Gratus.258 A sense of the brutality of that time is captured in the sermons and martyr narratives composed by the Donatists themselves. These accounts portray dissident Christians as the victims of stylised violence, their purpose being to memorialise the suffering and subsequent martyr status of the victim and to situate their suffering in a continuum of state-sponsored tyranny whose origins lay in the period of the Tetrarchic persecutions.259 For the authors of these texts, there was nothing to separate Constans from Diocletian; the former’s Christian credentials were deemed irrelevant in light of his adherence to the cause of the traitors, namely the Catholic Church.

Two martyr narratives, the Passion of Maximian and Isaac and the Passion of Marculus, set during 347 are extant.260 Both works were intended to be read liturgically, as one of the narratives declares that Passiones “provide great benefit for the people who listen each time they are recited as an incentive to virtue and as praise for the Church” (Passion of Marculus 1.1). In the history of the dissident church, Constans’ quest for unity was recalled as an especially intrusive and bloody episode in the long history of state-backed violence against their community. In the Passion of Marculus, a work commemorating the martyrdom of the eponymous dissident bishop, the author narrates the rapid appearance of the imperial authorities in the region:

But then suddenly, vicious rumblings of the Macarian persecution thundered forth from the tyrannical home of king Constans and from the pinnacle of his palace. Two beasts were sent to Africa … Macarius and Paul. In short, an accursed and detestable war was declared against the Church, so that the Christian people would be forced into unity with the traitors, a unity effected by the unsheathed swords of soldiers, by signals given by the standard bearers and by the shouts of the crowd.

(trans. Tilley 1996: 79)

The judgement of this author that Constans’ concern to unify the churches in North Africa was an unwelcome, intrusive and brutal initiative is clear and the influence of the episode on the historical memory of the dissident community is also apparent. The period was recalled via its own unique title, the “Macarian persecution”, after the name of the imperial agent regarded as the lead figure involved in brutalising dissidents. The executive, “top-down” nature of the affair is a theme across both narratives and in this sense the memory of the “Macarian persecution” replicates the typology of all previous persecutions against Christians. However, the complicity of the “traitors”, namely the Catholics, is a frequent feature of both narratives, where they are judged to have enabled the ambitions of the imperial government.

The theological interpretation of the persecution of 347 proposed by the author of the Passion of Maximian and Isaac depicts a situation whereby the terrorising of the dissidents was in abeyance for a period of time until the devil turned his hand to reigniting the flames of persecution:

At that time the devil, enraged for a second time, kindled the dying embers of fury into torture and aroused the insane arms of his own violence. But I think he had postponed these activities for quite a while because he had thought that the entire army of Christ had been delivered to him. But when he realised that the Church of the Lord was healthy because of daily exercise, and was growing stronger, right away he felt that he was being made a laughing stock by the errors of his own hope. Stirred up by more horrible incitements, he sought out and chose the heart of a judge suited to himself. Without delay, he made himself subordinate to a proconsul who was his equal in desire. Augmenting the legislation of the traitors with his plan of a beastly edict, he immediately ordered a treaty of sacrilegious unity to be solemnly enacted with tortures as sanctions so that those whom Christ commanded to be received for his sake should be perpetually banished and should not struggled against the treaties of so-called ‘unity’.

(trans. Tilley 1996: 64)

Here is an excellent example of theological polemic as trenchant political criticism. The author establishes an explicit association between the “Great Persecution” of the Tetrarchs that gave birth to the dissident cause and the events of the second persecution under Constans. The devil is the prime mover in both events. A savage rejection of the settlement of Constantine is evident in the claim that the devil’s complacency was the result of his belief that he had won the loyalty of “the entire army of Christ”; in other words, the church in the age of the Constantinian emperors was not the genuine Christian church. As Shaw has noted, both narratives adhere to the style of martyr acts “developed out of a long African tradition”, exemplified by the martyr narrative of Perpetua of Carthage in 203. In this regard, a dream or vision experienced by the victim was central in the emergent elevation of the martyr to a position of holiness as the experience represented their removal from the crass vicissitudes of earth-bound iustitia. The repudiation of Constans’ edict of unity is a central theme in the Passion of Maximian and Isaac. Maximian, a lay dissident, is arrested for tearing down the edict, in conscious imitation of a certain Euetius who tore down and ripped up the first edict against the Christians posted by the Tetrarchic government in Nicomedia in 303.261 In the same Passion, Isaac during a deep slumber experiences a vision of himself in the midst of a physical battle with the government of Constans, first with the emperor’s advisors and then with the emperor himself:

For when he was held just a little by deep sleep, it seemed to him that he had a battle with the assistants of the emperor, not for any reason, of course, except that for which he endured his passion. And clearly it was nothing but proof of his devotion that what he considered his ardent desire while he was awake, he would suffer even in his sleep. Thus he brought to fulfilment what the prophet testified concerning him: he says, ‘I sleep and my heart keeps watch’ (Song 5.2). His devotion then kept watch, engaged in the struggles of virtue, and he boldly beat back the assistants of wickedness who were fighting him under orders from the king. When he had overcome them in a long battle, suddenly he caught sight of the emperor himself also approaching: while he was being urged by the emperor to follow his order, he denied the authority of the sacrilegious order and of the fierce torture threatening him. With repeated threats, the dreadful man also promised that he would pluck out his eyes too. Since they had fought each other savagely for a long time in these battles, Isaac would not countenance simply being declared the winner, but laying hold of the emperor aggressively, he ended the delay to his threats. Violently jerking up the eye, he emptied the socket, leaving behind a face bereft of its eye.

(trans. Tilley 1996: 69)

Here, the Passion portrays the dissident cause as retributive reflected by the evocation of Exodus 21.24 and the loss of the emperor’s eye to the combative martyr. The customary outcome of state-sponsored violence is upended! Following his blinding of the emperor, Isaac is presented with a radiate crown: In this sense, his victory proposes an unequivocal rejection of the Roman government’s modus operandi – from the dissidents’ perspective – of torture since it is presented effectively as a “zero sum” game. However, this is not to say that physical suffering was valueless to the dissident church: It was after all the endurance of the victim in the face of torture that made the martyr, but also the willingness of both the government and the “traitors” to demonstrate easy recourse to torture that was regarded as a sign of their collective wickedness. In this regard, it is the figure of Macarius who is remembered in the dissident narratives as the very worst offender. It was Macarius’ name that was used to demarcate the period as a distinctive phase in the persecution of the dissident church, and it is Macarius who is identified as the person presiding over the implementation of Constans’ “sacrilegious unity”.

As these narratives demonstrate in at times uncomfortable detail, the intensification of the dissident church’s identity as righteously enduring persecution highlights the ultimate failure of Constans’ initiative in spite of the premature crowning of the success of Paulus and Macarius’ mission at the Council of Carthage in 348.262 Brent Shaw offers a clear-eyed assessment of the imperial intervention in the African church in 347: “… the decree of the emperor Constans that called for the forced merger of the two churches in Africa under the Catholic aegis, and his use of harsh compulsion after his attempts to use enticements failed miserably”.263

The Removal of Constans

As the 340s receded into view, the slogan, “The Restoration of Happy Times”, turned out to be rather premature so far as Constans’ reign was concerned. The emperor’s failed emulation of prior Constantinian efforts to establish unity in Africa unwittingly complicated the region’s factionalism by creating a new array of martyrs whose virtuousness was defined by their stand against government oppression. As a Christian monarch, Constans suffered the unhappy fate of being recalled as a tyrant by a section of the Christian church, a fate his brother would soon come to share in the following decade (see Chapter 6). Events in Africa, however, had little bearing on the security of Constans’ position in the empire. Other actors and events were conspiring to unsettle his position in the west. Convincing reasons for the Autun-based coup of January 350 which ended Constans’ reign are few and far between, although Jill Harries has marshalled a number of likely causes for Constans’ fall in an attempt to understand the impetus for the coup led by Marcellinus – Constans’ comes rei privatae, the official charged with oversight of the imperial estates and one of the two chief financial positions in the empire264 – and Magnentius, a military Count in the emperor’s retinue (on the basis of the testimony of Zosimus and Zonaras, Ilkka Syvänne suggests that Magnentius was Comes (comes domesticorum peditum?) and Protector, the commander of both the Ioviani and Herculiani – the senior imperial guard units – at the time of the usurpation265). As Harries points out, the fullest account of the actual coup and the subsequent murder of Constans is given in the thirteenth book of the historical work by the twelfth-century author, John Zonaras. Although his account conflates details of the episode supplied by earlier accounts, notably by Zosimus (2.42.2–5), and contains a number of errors – e.g. Augustulum for Augustodunum – it remains important for both the details of the coup itself and those of Constans’ death.

After he had pretended to celebrate his birthday ceremonies in the city of Augustulum, he called together the leading men of the city to participate in his symposium, some who knew along with him of the plan and others who had no part of his scheme. He extended the drinking until evening. After he had risen suddenly from the symposium, he ran into his bedroom and emerged from it after a brief moment in a sovereign’s attire with many guardsmen, which threw into confusion those who did not share with him knowledge of the business. After he had addressed those present, he convinced some to join him, but others, indeed, he also compelled. He took them with him, set out immediately for the palace, made distributions of money and set guards for the gates of the city with instructions to admit those entering but to permit no one to exit, lest the enterprise be proclaimed too soon. He immediately sent men to kill Constans before he learned of the enterprise. He was occupied with a hunt. For he was mad about the chase though fighting constant arthritis, which he suffered as a result of an excess of pleasures, living intemperately. On the pretext of a hunt he was even accustomed to go deep into the woods with the boys and young men who accompanied him, who were collected and brought into proximity with him on account of their beauty, were made up with special care and were a hotbed of licentiousness for lustful eyes, and were for him, so it is said, catamites. At least he used to pass an excessive amount of time in the woods, shunning intercourse with decent men. So then, by the Rhone River men who had been dispatched by Magnentius murdered Constans, who was sleeping after the hunt, and also killed some of the few who were with him. Some say that his death did not happen in this fashion, but that, after he had learned of the rebellion against him and had been abandoned, since those about him had deserted him, he fled to a shrine. And they say that there he stripped off the regalia of his sovereignty and, after he had been expelled from there, was killed, having completed his seventeenth year in office and already having passed thirty years of age. It is said that at the moment he was born his father had entrusted astrologers to cast a horoscope about his birth, and that they, in addition to other things which they predicted about him, said this, too, that he would be killed in the embrace of his grandmother. When she died, Constans made fun of this. But the matter proved in actuality to be so and the prediction of the astrologers did not miss the mark, even if it was oblique. For it was in a small hamlet called Helena after the name of the empress that Constans was killed.

(Zonaras 13.6; trans. Banchich and Lane 2009: 160–161)

The author’s focus on Constans’ sexuality is stylised and clearly overplayed: The alignment of the emperor’s sexual inclinations with his passion for hunting evokes earlier associations, for example, Hadrian and Antinous, where imperial participation in hunts implied “pederastic desire” on the part of the individuals concerned.266 As Harries has noted, the importance of Zonaras’ synoptic account lies in its details about the coup’s earliest stages. It was a small-scale affair, “opportunistic, the result of a private grudge”,267 engineered by a coterie of senior civil and military staff; bribes were given to convince others to join and the gates of Autun were locked to prevent news of the affair from reaching the wider world. Constans’ murder was an assassination likely conducted by a hand-picked team (Zosimus (2.42.5) identifies the killer as a certain Gaiso).

What then was the basis for Magnentius’ usurpation? One of Harries’ more plausible suggestions concerns financial problems in Gaul, likely a shortfall in taxation revenue, based on the initiative attributed to Magnentius by Julian (Or. 1.34a–b) that involved levying property tax at fifty per cent, together with evidence for the debasement of gold and silver coins in the region.268 In his description of the failed usurpation of Silvanus in Cologne during 355, Ammianus refers to the long period of neglect endured by Gaul (diuturna indicating long-term neglect stretching back to the previous decade) which resulted in “bitter massacres, pillage, and the ravages of fire, as the barbarians plundered at will and no one helped”.269 However, how this evidence connects to the actions of the conspiratorial clique of Magnentius and Marcellinus is moot. Episodes of corruption during Constans’ reign are also attested, the most high-profile of which involved Eugenius,270 the magister officiorum in the western empire, whose appropriation of the property of his relative Aristophanes in Corinth was highlighted by Libanius (Or. 14) in his appeal on behalf of the victim to Julian in 362.271 Again, how this example from Achaea connects to the machinations of Constans’ government is Gaul is difficult to establish. As we have seen in our survey of the dyarchy’s legislation, Constans’ reign was characterised to a large degree by administrative probity. To reiterate, both Augusti sought to improve the position of provincial curiae by tackling the evasive strategies adopted by those mandated for curial service, their responses during the 340s suggestive of united action on the part of both emperors (an argument first established by Cuneo in her study from 1997). These efforts were not out of the ordinary since as also noted above Constantine I had issued similar constitutions during his reign.

One constitution as Cod. Theod. 12.1.38, however, from 23 May 346 stands out.272 Addressed to Anatolius, Praetorian Prefect of Illyricum and the official whom Eunapius described as “devout in offering sacrifices to the gods and peculiarly fond of Greek studies”,273 this law of Constans (issued from Cesena) targeted decurions who had evaded their full terms of service on councils by joining the army and/or the palatine ministries.274 The constitution specifically identifies the protectores domestici, the elite troops in attendance upon the emperor and his court.275

Whereas, some men have abandoned the municipal councils and have joined themselves to the group of household troops or imperial bodyguards, and some have even given their names to the imperial service of the scholarians or have associated themselves with the palatine office staff, We order that all frustrative devices shall be barred and all such persons shall be recalled to the municipal councils.

In all prior constitutions dealing with decurions, it was the decurial class itself onto whom the legal might of imperial moralising had been poured. By contrast, this constitution singles out those senior officials (magister equitum et peditum,276 comes domesticorum, comes sacrarum largitionum, magister officiorum, etc.) with oversight for those ranks as the enablers of these evasive practices, and impresses on them the need to police this abuse:

We believe that the Master of the Horse and Foot, the Most Noble Count of the Domestici, also the Count of the Sacred Largesses, the Master of Offices, and the palace steward, under whose authority all the aforesaid members of the imperial service are known to be, should be admonished about this matter, and Your Prudence shall insist and shall write about the names of each of these persons, so that each one of them shall be returned to his own status.

This final statement can be read as the emperor simply reminding the relevant parties of the need to enforce “disciplinary control” – specifically, the magister officiorum (occupied at the time by the infamous Eugenius)277 the identification of lax oversight within the emperor’s immediate circle highlighting Constans’ exactitude in matters relating to decurions. The initiative offers a hint (and it is no more than that) that Constans was prepared to move beyond legalese and correct abuses and mismanagement within his own circle of officials and advisers. One can imagine a groundswell of resentment building among officials should a similar level oversight been paid to the appearance of fast practices in Gaul.

However, we should be mindful that this interpretation yields to the idea that corruption was an intrinsic quality of a usurper’s character, a feature of their tyrannical nature hardwired into their rebellious DNA as promoted by regimes that opposed and triumphed over them. In Magnentius’ case, this is a mistake. While the exact circumstances underlying the murder of Constans and the displacement of Constantinian hegemony in the western empire will continue to elude us, the self-representation of Magnentius’ imperial persona and by extension his government was one of legitimacy conferred, according to the dominant ideology of his reign, as a result of his liberation of the body politic from a tyrannous government. Magnentius and his government were adept at appropriating and blending both historic and contemporary political messages in order to promote an image of his rulership he wanted armies and civilians to consume. This represented a political disruption unprecedented in recent memory, the closest instance being the creative disassembling and reimaging of Tetrarchic ideology undertaken by Constantine I himself following the death of Maximian, his auctor imperii, outside Marseilles in July 310.278 Like Constantine, Magnentius was a new pretender in a new decade whose reign heralded a series of major changes to the political configuration of the empire.


1. On the genesis and proposer of Or. 59, see Lieu and Montserrat 1996: 153–159; Malosse 2002, 2003: 7–11; Greenlee 2017: 57–60, 2020: 143–150.

2. See esp. the analysis by Ross 2016b.

3. As Malosse 2003: 213–214 indicates, while some of these examples are drawn from the model of the good monarch according to encomiastic tradition (e.g. Menander Rhetor 376), they also allude to recent legislative initiatives on the part of the two emperors.

4. Translations from Or. 59 are by Lieu and Montserrat 1996.

5. Ando 2000: 24.

6. Ando 2000: 23.

7. Cf. Potter 2010.

8. See the comments by Ando 2000: 24.

9. Greenlee 2020: 149.

10. Libanius, Or. 59.149.

11. See Omissi 2018: 21–34.

12. See esp. Richardson 1991.

13. PLRE I: 696–697 (Flavius Philippus 7), with Barnes 1992a: 254–255.

14. Cf. Davenport 2020: 229–232; Barnes 1992a: 254–255.

15. See Treadgold 2007: 264–269.

16. Peter the Patrician, FHG frg. 16 = frg. 213 Banchich 2015. Cf. Zonaras 13.7.

17. For the chronology and the personalities involved, see Barnes 1993: 102–105; Baker-Brian 2020: 363–366.

18. Translations from the Defence before Constantius are by Robertson 1892.

19. Translations from Or. 3 are by Heather and Moncur 2001. On the alleged barbarian origins of Magnentius, see esp. Drinkwater 2000.

20. See Mateos, Pizzo and Ventura 2017: 265–266.

21. Mateos, Pizzo and Ventura 2017: 263.

22. Lewis 2020: 91.

23. PLRE 1: 960 (Victor 13); Bird 1984: 5–15.

24. Woudhuysen 2018: 161.

25. See esp. Penella 1990: 9–19.

26. See Penella 1990: 79–83. Cf. PLRE 1: 731, with Penella 1990: 89, nt. 21. Also, Goulet 2014: 182–188.

27. See the overview of Prohaeresius in Eunapius in Goulet 2014: 188–194.

28. Eunapius, Lives of the Philosophers and Sophists 492 (Translations from Lives are by Wright 1921: 507); Penella 1990: 88.

29. Penella 1990: 89.

30. Barnes 1987: 208.

31. Equivalent to the Latin title, Dux, according to Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 9.5.2; Penella 1990: 89, nt. 21 in contrast to the description of the role in PLRE 1: 731, where the title is referred to as “the honorary title of PPO” [Praetorian Prefect].

32. Moser 2018: 116–117.

33. See Barnes 2011: 192–194.

34. Moser 2018: 116–117, nt. 144.

35. See esp. Barnes 2011: 195–197.

36. Barnes 2011: 193.

37. Watts 2006: 59.

38. Notably, see Penella 1990; Henck 2001b; Tougher 2020b.

39. Brilliantly evaluated by Penella 1990: 134–141.

40. Amm. Marc. 17.5.15; Penella 1990: 53.

41. Eunapius, Lives 466; trans. Wright 1921: 297.

42. Woudhuysen 2018: 179–180.

43. Woudhuysen 2018: 179.

44. Moser 2017: 47 judges the constitution to be a response to a request from Madalianus himself.

45. Woudhuysen 2018: 165.

46. PLRE 1: 530. Madalianus was formerly the Supervisor of Sacred Buildings(consularis aedium sacrarum)in Rome, so was probably very familiar with the venues and practices of traditional cult. Cf. Moser 2017: 47.

47. See Bradbury 1994; cf. Barnes 2011: 109–111; Lenski 2016a: 231–234.

48. Bradbury 1994: 127.

49. Cf. Bradbury 1994: 127.

50. Skinner 2015: 247.

51. Woudhuysen 2018: 164.

52. Jerome, Chron. 235b: vario eventu adversum Francos a Constante pugnatur.

53. Barnes 1992a: 255.

54. See esp. Lewis 2020: 74–75.

55. On the dating issues of this constitution, see Cuneo 1997: 105–106; and McGinn in Frier 2016: 2311, nt. 60.

56. See Cuneo 1997: 105–106; McGinn in Frier 2016 (p. 2311) notes:

This constitution is clearly directed against passive homosexuality, but its diction and meaning are very obscure. ‘Marry’ is usually taken to mean ‘have (anal) sex with.’ Its unusual language and possible problems with the text make translation of this constitution especially challenging.

57. Acting Praetorian Prefect and Urban Prefect between April and May 349 following the brief interregnum in the position noted by the Codex Calendar of 354, noted by Barnes 1992a: 258; also, Davenport 2020: 244.

58. Twinned with Cod. Theod. 11.7.6.

59. Woudhuysen 2018: 173.

60. Cuneo 1997: 308–311 proposes 9.16.4 and 16.10.4 (and 9.16.5) as belonging to one constitution that outlawed haruspicy, divination and reiterated the closure of temples and the ban on blood sacrifices.

61. Den Boeft, Drijvers, den Hengst and Teitler 2008: 145–146.

62. See esp. Lössl 2013. Edwards 2015 also offers some important insights into the De errore (pp. 122–128).

63. See Amm. Marc. 28.3.8. Here, Ammianus notes an earlier reference to Constans (in the lost books) in relation to rebellious Areani, whom Mattingly 2006: 234–235 identifies as frontier scouts serving north of Hadrian’s Wall.

64. PLRE 1: 512–514 (Lollianus 5).

65. Woudhuysen 2018: 174.

66. Translations from On the Error are by Forbes: 1970: 77–78.

67. See Cuneo 1997: 308–309.

68. See Cuneo 1997: 104.

69. PLRE 1: 187–188 (Catullinus 3); Chastagnol 1962: 121–123.

70. Cf. Woudhuysen 2018: 166.

71. Lim 2012: 73.

72. Lim 2012: 78.

73. Lim 2012: 78.

74. Chastagnol 1962: 128–130.

75. PLRE 1: 423, Hermogenes 2 and Hermogenes 9; Moser 2017: 45; Cf. Harries 2012: 190–191.

76. Harries 2012: 191.

77. Fabius Titianus (PLRE 1: 918, Titianus 6) as Proconsul of Asia; Furius Placidus (PLRE 1: 705–706, Placidus 2) as Comes Orientis; Vulcacius Rufinus (PLRE 1: 782–783. Rufinus 25), as PPO in Italy between 344/345 and 347 (see Barnes 1992a: 257).

78. Moser 2017: 47.

79. Moser 2017: 48.

80. Harries 2012: 191. Cf. Rüpke 2008: 406–409; 689. See also Maraval 2013: 50.

81. Moser 2017: 51–52.

82. PLRE 1: 787 (Rusticus 2).

83. See esp. Cuneo 1997: 133–135.

84. See RIC 8: 9, re. Kent’s reference to Constans’ measures against “Jews, pagans, and violator of morality”. The status and attribution of the law prohibiting Jewish proselytising collected in Cod. Theod. 16.8.6 and 19.9.2 from August 339 are moot. Part of the problem presented by this constitution is the uncertainty surrounding the identity of its recipient, a certain Evagrius (cf. PLRE 1: 284–285 (Evagrius 2)). Vogler 1979: 18, nt. 17 makes the argument for seeing it as issued by the administration of Constans, but this looks far from certain. See the detailed discussion by Cuneo 1997: 50–53.

85. Libanius, Oration 59.124.

86. Callu 1992: 40–50.

87. Honoré 1986: 177.

88. Potter 2010: 31.

89. Salway 2008: 309.

90. Cf. Cuneo 1997: lxxxi–lxxxvii.

91. Vogler 1979: 244–252; Cuneo 1997: 21–24.

92. MacMullen 1988: 44.

93. See Jones 1964: 724–725; 759–761; MacMullen 1988: 44–48, 148–167; Harries 2012: 13–16.

94. See Harries 2012: 14.

95. MacMullen 1988: 47.

96. Jones 1964: 391–396; MacMullen 1988: 150–151; Kelly 2004: 211–212.

97. MacMullen 1988: 150.

98. MacMullen 1988: 148.

99. MacMullen 1988: 164.

100. See Cuneo 1997: 21–24; Matthews 2000: 245–247.

101. Matthews 2000: 245.

102. Vogler 1979: 246–247; Callu 1992: 42–46.

103. Matthews 2000: 245–247.

104. Translations from the Cod. Theod. are by Pharr 1952: translation modified.

105. Cf. Davenport 2019: 554–557:

The various equestrian dignitates provided exemption from their burdens, and so the government sought to limit their acquisition by men from these groups. Curiales were the most privileged of these, but even they could only acquire high equestrian status after completing their civic obligations. It is understandable why they would be driven to pay for codicils of the egregiatus or perfectissimatus in order to gain immunity from these burdens.

(p. 557)

106. Cuneo 1997: 116.

107. PLRE 1: 433 (Hilarianus 5); Chastagnol 1962: 103–105.

108. Trans. Pharr 1952: translation modified.

109. Barnes 1993: 220.

110. See the discussion, Cuneo 1997: 111–114.

111. Chastagnol 1962: 104 (“Puis c’est la prefecture urbaine en 338–339, sous Constantin II ou Constant, suivie d’une function imprecise attestée par une loi du 17 août 341”).

112. PLRE 1: 638 (Octavianus 5 = (?) Octavianus 1); Elliot 1978: 327–328.

113. PLRE 1: 78–79 (Anullinus 2), which dates the letter to Oct. 313 (the same period as Cod. Theod. 12.1.2) in contrast to Elliot 1978: 327, which proposes the spring months of 313.

114. Translation by Schott 2019: 485–486.

115. Schott 2019: 486, nt. 109.

116. Lizzi Testa 2001: 137.

117. Elliot 1978: 328–329; Cuneo 1997: 92.

118. Cf. Jones 1964: 119.

119. Elliot 1978: 329.

120. Elliot 1978: 329.

121. On the collatio lustralis,see Jones 1964: 431–432; Lizzi Testa 2001: 136–137.

122. Lizzi Testa 2001: 137.

123. Cuneo 1997: 123.

124. Lizzi Testa 2001: 136.

125. PLRE 1: 828 (Severianus 3).

126. Elliot 1978: 330.

127. Lizzi Testa 2001: 126.

128. Salway 2008. Cf. Woods 2012.

129. Salway 2008: 306.

130. Hanson 1988: 307.

131. Parvis 2006: 200.

132. Van Dam 2007: 268.

133. Van Dam 2007: 257.

134. Van Dam 2007: 256.

135. See esp. Bardill 2012: 290–302.

136. See the reappraisal of the circumstances of Constantine’s letter in Parvis 2006: 77.

137. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 2.65.1–2. Translation by Cameron and Hall 1999.

138. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 2.68.2.

139. Vaggione 2000: 150.

140. On this see esp. the analysis of Barnes 1981: 70–71.

141. See the comments in Hanson 1988: 173, n. 74.

142. In Athanasius, De Decretis Nicaenae Synodi 41, and identified in Opitz 1935 as Urkunde 27 (the quotation is from 27.17). Trans. Coleman-Norton 1966: 139.

143. Discussed by Van Dam 2007: 273–275.

144. For more on this, see Baker-Brian 2020.

145. Vaggione 2000: 150–151.

146. A distinction highlighted by Julius in his letter (from the translation by Thompson 2015: 27–81) to the bishops assembled in Antioch

We have heard testimony rendered in support of Marcellus for speaking out against the partisans of Arius at the Council of Nicaea, and in support of Athanasius, who was not found guilty at Tyre, nor was even present in the Mareotis, where minutes prejudicial to him were recorded.

Marcellus’ thoughts and actions are greatly illuminated by the thoughtful study of Parvis 2006, esp. 96–133.

147. Preserved in Athanasius’ Apology against the Arians 21.1–35.5, a work that went through various stages of composition towards the end of the 340s to early 350s, as argued by Barnes 1993: 192–195.

148. See esp. Parvis 2006: 192–199 on the date and significance of the Council of Rome in 341.

149. Julius’ letter in Athanasius, Apology against the Arians 32.4.1–5. Trans. Thompson 2015: 71, 73 (= Letter II).

150. Athanasius, History of the Arians 7.3; see the suggested emendation of the details of Paul’s first exile in Athanasius’ History by Barnes 1993: 213, which I follow here. Cf. the analysis by Stevenson 2014: 15–16.

151. Socrates, Hist. eccl. 2.7.

152. PLRE 1: 422–423 (Hermogenes 1).

153. On the question of Paul’s support in Constantinople, see Parvis 2006: 204.

154. Skinner 2015: 235.

155. Decree of the Eastern Synod at Serdica 27 (CSEL 65 = Feder 1916: 66.30–65.3; Trans. Wickham 1997: 36).

156. See the comments by Parvis 2006: 204.

157. Barnes 1993: 69.

158. Stevenson 2014: 11.

159. See Barnes 1993: 69.

160. See esp. Barnes 1993: 63–70.

161. On the controversy regarding the dating of the Council of Serdica, see the summary of positions and arguments in Parvis 2006: 210–217.

162. Barnes 1993: 59 in contrast to Hanson 1988: 270–272 who places Julius’ letter before the “Dedication Council”. Barnes’ chronology is adopted by Thompson 2015 (28–30) in his edition and translation of Julius’ letter.

163. Parvis 2006: 165–167 reconstructs the letter from the bishops in Antioch (the signatories are included in the address line of Julius’ reply, namely Dianius [of Cappadocian Caesarea], Flacillus [of Antioch], Narcissus [of Neronias], Eusebius [of Constantinople], Maris [of Chalcedon], Macedonius [of Mopsuestia], Theodore [of Heraclea] “and those with them”) on the basis of Julius’ reply from the summer months of 341.

164. Julius’ letter in Athanasius, Apology against the Arians 35.3.28–5.13. Trans. Thompson 2015: 79, 81.

165. Cf. the overview of this matter in Parvis 2006: 194–195, esp. n. 71.

166. Hanson 1988: 272.

167. Parvis 2006: 193.

168. Julius’ letter in Athanasius, Apology against the Arians 22.1.3–4.

169. As related by Athanasius, De Synodis 25.1; see Barnes 1993: 57; Parvis 2006: 162–164.

170. Parvis 2006: 164.

171. Parvis 2006: 216.

172. See Hanson 1988: 291–292.

173. Athanasius, De Synodis 25.1 (Trans. Robertson 1892):

Having thus conducted matters at Antioch at the Dedication [Council], thinking that their composition was deficient still, and fluctuating moreover in their own opinions, again they drew up afresh another formulary, after a few months, professedly concerning the faith, and despatch Narcissus [of Neronias], Maris [of Chalcedon], Theodore [of Heraclea], and Mark [of Arethusa] into Gaul. And they, as being sent from the Council, deliver the following document to Constans Augustus of blessed memory ….

174. Parvis 2006: 196.

175. Parvis 2006: 202.

176. Parvis 2006: 206.

177. Athanasius, Defence before Constantius 4.2; see Barnes 1993: 39–40; Parvis 2006: 201. Barnes implies that Codex Vaticanus could have been one of the codices commissioned by Constans. In contrast, Parker 2010: 22 suggests that Codex Sinaiticus may have been one of the codices commissioned by Constans. As it is, Parker’s study proceeds as if Codex Sinaiticus was produced in the 350s.

178. See the comments by Parker 2010: 19–22.

179. Barnes 1993: 40.

180. See the informative overview by De Sena 2014.

181. Barnard 1983: 43.

182. See esp. Leadbetter 2009: 241–242.

183. See Barnes 2011: 113–120.

184. Barnes 2011: 122–126.

185. Cf. the comments by Barnes 2011: 185–186.

186. Barnes 2011: 123.

187. Barnard 1983: 93.

188. See the useful discussion by Barnard 1983: 93–96.

189. On the eastern synod’s computation documents, see Barnard 1983: 94–96.

190. See Stern 2001: 75.

191. Stern 2001: 75.

192. The creed appended to the letter by the eastern bishops (Feder 1916: 69–73).

193. Trans. Wickham 1997: 49.

194. Parvis 2006: 229.

195. See esp. Barnard 1983: 63–70 for a reconstruction of events leading up to and during the council.

196. Cf. Parvis 2006: 222–223.

197. Parvis 2006: 230.

198. Parvis 2006: 239.

199. For details, see Parvis 2006: 219–220.

200. Hanson 1988: 299; Parvis 2006: 238, nt. 266.

201. Cf. Barnes 1993: 84.

202. Shaw 2011: 146.

203. Cf. Wienand 2015b.

204. Feder 1916: 183. Trans. Wickham 1997: 66.

205. Feder 1916: 182–183. Trans. Wickham 1997: 66.

206. Also to be seen in the western synod’s letter to the Alexandrian church in Athanasius, Apology against the Arians 39.1–2:

Accordingly we have written to beseech our most religious and most divinely favoured emperors that their kindness would give orders for the release of those who are still suffering from affliction and oppression, and would command that none of the magistrates, whose duty it is to attend only to civil causes, give judgement upon clergy, nor in any way on the pretence of acting in the interests of the churches, attempt anything against the brethren; but that everyone may live, as he prays and desires to do, free from persecution, from violence and fraud, and in quietness and peace, may follow the Catholic and apostolic faith.

Trans. Robertson 1892: 121 (adapted by the present author)

207. Parvis 2006: 245.

208. Trans. adapted by this author.

209. The analysis of Barnes 1993: 82–86 remains invaluable for making sense of this tumultuous period.

210. Athanasius, History of the Arians 19.1; Barnes 1993: 82–83.

211. PLRE 1: 694 (Philagrius 5).

212. On the identity of these two figures and their respective sees, cf. Barnes 1993: 263–264, nt. 8.

213. PLRE 1: 268 (Donatus 1).

214. Athanasius, Apology for his Flight 3.5–6.

215. Skinner 2015: 248.

216. Athanasius, History of the Arians 20.2; Barnes 1993.

217. For example, Theodoret, Hist. Eccl. 1.21. See esp. Cartwright 2015: 20–31.

218. Barnes 1993: 87.

219. PLRE 1: 796 (Salia 2); Barnes 1993: 87.

220. Cf. Skinner 2015 on the circumstances underlying the portrayal of the emperor in Themistius’ Or. 1.

221. Translation by Blomfield Jackson, NPNF 2nd Series, Vol. 3, 1892: 73.

222. See Williams 2006: 197–199.

223. Lienhard 1999: 176.

224. Trans. Robertson 1892.

225. On Photinus’ theology, see esp. Williams 2006.

226. Parvis 2006: 248. Cf. Hanson 1988: 235–238.

227. Julian, Letter 55, Wright 1923: 187–191: a Latin fragment of Julian’s letter to Photinus preserved in the Pro defensione trium capitulorum of Facundus of Hermiane. See Hanson 1988: 237; also Hunt 2012.

228. See Parvis 2006: 136.

229. Feder 1916: 142; Wickham 1997: 54.

230. Feder 1916: 142. Trans. Wickham 1997: 54.

231. Feder 1916: 142. Trans. Wickham 1997: 54.

232. Williams 2006: 199–204.

233. For details of the Constantinian-era complex, see Bassett 2004: 25–33.

234. Barnes 1993: 214; Stevenson 2021: 49–50.

235. Barnes 1993: 90.

236. Stevenson 2021: 50.

237. See the comments by Cuneo 1997: 124.

238. Moser 2018: 110.

239. Moser 2018: 110.

240. Vaggione 2000: 150–151.

241. See Whitehouse 2016: 24; Lenski 2016b: 206–207; Shaw 2011: 186.

242. Cf. Tilley 1996: ix.

243. Tilley 1996: ix.

244. See Shaw 2011: 5–6 for a considered approach to naming the body of Christians who chose to separate themselves from the Catholic party; although as Shaw points out, both sides laid claim to the name of Catholic.

245. Following here the analysis of Lenski 2016b.

246. As retold in the Passio Donati, see Shaw 2011: 187–192.

247. Constantine to the Numidian Bishops in Optatus, Against the Donatists Appendix Ten; trans. Edwards 1997: 201.

248. Notably Canons 8–12 in Hess 2002: 216–221. See Barnes 1993: 79; also, Barnes 1991.

249. Frend 1970: 177–178.

250. Shaw 2011: 187.

251. See Shaw 2011: 163.

252. Shaw 2011: 167; also, Lenski 2016b: 176.

253. Shaw 2011: 165.

254. See the commentary by Shaw 2011: 170.

255. For considerations around the dating of the events of the mission of Paulus and Macarius, see Appendix E in Shaw 2011: 825–827.

256. On the fate of Donatus of Bagai, see Shaw 2011: 179–180.

257. See Shaw 2011: 827.

258. Not extant although Lenski 2016b: 207 has helpfully collated references to the law.

259. See esp. Shaw 2011: 173–178.

260. As Dearn 2016: 80 points out, other martyr narratives were produced to commemorate the persecution by Constans’ government, including a lost passio which celebrated the heroism of Donatus of Bagai.

261. Lactantius, On the Deaths 13; Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 8.5; see Barnes 1981: 22; the correspondence is noted and discussed by Shaw 2011: 176.

262. See Frend 1970: 182–183. As Shaw 2011: 616 highlights, the agenda of Catholic council of 348 was largely dominated by the need to respond to the cultural transformation of the Donatist cause brought about by the events of 347, in particular the introduction of sanctions to counter the rising ecclesial status of those dissidents killed during the persecution who were now revered as martyrs for the dissident cause.

263. Shaw 2011: 187.

264. The other being the Count of the Sacred Largesses; Kelly 2004: 29.

265. Zosimus 2.42.2; Zonaras 13.6. Syvänne 2015: 311.

266. Vout 2007: 59–60. It is to be suspected that Constans’ passion for hunting was a coded way of referring to his sexuality (as seen arguably in the Epitome de Caesaribus).

267. Harries 2012: 196.

268. RIC 8: 55–67; cf. Banaji 2001: 39–88.

269. Amm. Marc. 15.5.2; trans. Rolfe 1935 (amended).

270. PLRE 1: 292 (Eugenius 5).

271. See Harries 2012: 288–290.

272. I follow Cuneo 1997: 140–142 in ascribing Cod. Theod. 12.1.38 to 346, rather than following Seeck’s (1919: 41; 204) long-standing emendation of the law to 357 which was made as a result of conflating Anatolius, Praetorian Prefect of Illyricum from 344 to 346, with Anatolius, Praetorian Prefect of the same region from 357 to 360, who is known primarily through the corpus of letters exchanged with Libanius. N.b. PLRE 1: 59–60, Anatolius 3, follows Seeck’s conflation of the two individuals, and thereby incorrectly dates the law in Cod. Theod. 12.1.38 to 357. Better is Norman 1957; Barnes 1992a: 258–259; Barnes 1993: 316, nt. 52; Bradbury 2000: 183–186.

273. Eunapius, Lives 490 (Wright 1921), who, as Barnes 1992a: 258 notes, is “to be carefully distinguished from the Anatolius, a native of Berytus, who was prefect of Illyricum from 357 to 360”. See esp. Penella 1990: 88–91.

274. Cf.Cod. Theod. 12.1.5 (Constantine I to the Bithynians); Cod. Theod. 12.1.22 (Constantine I to Evagrius); Cod. Theod. 12.1.31 (Constans to Aconius Catullinus).

275. See esp. the comments by Syvänne 2015: 233.

276. See Syvänne 2015: 308.

277. Jones 1964: 368.

278. And beginning only a month or so later by the author of Pan. Lat. 6(7) from 310; see Omissi 2018: 111–116.

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