BECK index

Roman Power and Christian Conflict 285-395

Diocletian's Reforms 284-305
Constantine's Religious Revolution 306-337
Constantine's Sons 337-361
Julian's Pagan Revival 361-363
Valentinian, Valens, Gratian, and Theodosius
Antony, Arius, and Athanasius
Basil and Two Gregorys of Cappadocia
Martin, Ambrose, and Prudentius
John Chrysostom and Jerome

This chapter has been published in the book ROMAN EMPIRE 30 BC to 610. For ordering information, please click here.

Diocletian's Reforms 284-305

Diocletian rose through an army career to become a consul and governor of Moesia under Carus before becoming Emperor in 284, challenging and defeating Carinus. The reforms he implemented starting in 285 stabilized the Roman empire from foreign aggression, army take-overs, and civil wars. His court only visited Rome once briefly in the next twenty years. Diocletian first appointed Maximian as Caesar and then as Augustus to rule the Western empire. The praetorian guard was reduced to being a garrison of Rome. Diocletian kept on many Carinus officials, including Aristobulus, a principal minister of the Carus house. The military was greatly increased. Caracalla, seventy years before, had only 33 legions; but Diocletian had about sixty. Lactantius complained (and exaggerated) that each of the four Emperors had more troops than any one earlier Emperor. To smooth the succession and extend imperial power Diocletian by 293 also appointed Constantius to be Caesar in the West under Maximian and Galerius to be Caesar in the East under himself. His expanded administration and building programs required more funds; increased taxes based on land (iugum) and persons (caput) fell heavily on agriculture. Many tenant farmers had to abandon their fields.

Maximian crushed a peasant revolt in Gaul and for several years responded to attacks by Alamanni, Burgundians, and Franks. A Messapian named Carausius plundered Saxon and Frankish pirates in the English channel, claimed to rule Britain, and based his navy at Gesoriacum (Boulogne). Diocletian left his headquarters at Nicomedia in Bithynia to defeat the Sarmatians in the Danube region in 289 and 292. His army crushed another revolt of Nubian Blemmyes. In 293 Constantius took Gesoriacum away from Carausius, who was then killed by his chief minister Allectus. Two years later Constantius and praetorian prefect Asclepiodotus with two fleets regained Britain by defeating and killing Allectus. Galerius repelled Gothic invaders; he ordered land reclaimed to make room for Carpi settlers. In 296 Diocletian besieged Alexandria for eight months to end a rebellion led by Achilleus and Domitius Domitianus, killing thousands. Maximian and Constantius defeated invasions by Alamanni in Gaul, while Galerius controlled the Danube area. Maximian suppressed an uprising of Moors in Africa in 298.

Persian king Narses (r. 293-303) deposed Vahram III and expelled the Christian convert Tiridates III (r. 287-330) from the throne of Armenia. The Persians defeated the army of Galerius in the plains near Carrhae in 296. After this humiliation the next year Diocletian sent Galerius back with an army of 25,000 through Armenia. The army of Narses was destroyed, and the Persian royal family was captured. A treaty was agreed upon, and the border between the two large empires was moved east of the Tigris.

Wild inflation caused Diocletian to introduce new coins and a revised taxation system in 296. However, his expenditures on war, governmental bureaucracy, and building up his capital at Nicomedia continued to increase prices. So in 301 Diocletian issued an edict setting maximum prices and wages; infringement was enforced with capital punishment. He condemned excessive avarice that profiteered wherever the army went. Diocletian published a list of maximum prices and wages, though a picture painter could still make 150 denarii per day, and silk dyed purple cost more than gold. Diocletian separated civil and military authority and reduced the size of administrative provinces by doubling the number to more than a hundred, organized into twelve dioceses - six in the East (Orient, Pontus, Asia, Thrace, Moesia, and Pannonia) and six in the West (Britain, Gaul, Vienne, Italy, Spain, and Africa). Diocletian instituted strict penalties for tax evasion, but he also banned the sale of children.

An important contributor to the Palestinian Talmud, Jochanan, died in 279. During the reign of Diocletian Judah III was patriarch (280-300) and sent Ami, Assi, and Chiya to inspect the religious and educational institutions in Judea. In one town an armed guard appeared, but no teachers could be found. They responded by pointing out that such guardians are destroyers of the city; the true guards are the teachers. When Abbahu heard that the Torah was no longer observed in Samaria, he sent Ami and Assi, who investigated and determined that the Samaritans were heathens. While most Christians were uniting, this rupture weakened both the Jews and the Samaritans. Abbahu (d. 320) lectured on the broader interpretations (Aggadah), while others like Chiya bar Abba confined themselves to the laws (Halakhah).

For twenty years Diocletian tolerated Christianity in the East. An example of the Christian-Roman conflict over military service was the case of Maximilian, a twenty-year-old Numidian, who was called to be enrolled as a soldier in 295 CE. He declared that he was a Christian and could not fight. The proconsul Dion tried to mark him, but he refused. Dion gave him the choice of bearing arms, or he would be killed. Maximilian asserted that he was not a soldier of this world, but a soldier of God. Dion asked him who persuaded him, and he said that it was his own mind and the one who called him. Dion tried to get his father to convince him, but the father said his son knew what was best for him. Maximilian continued to refuse to bear arms. Even when he was told that other Christians are soldiers and fight, he replied that others may know what is best for them; but as a Christian it was unlawful for him to do evil. Believing that he was going to Christ, Maximilian was beheaded. Three years later the centurion Marcellus threw away his arms and refused to obey anyone but Jesus Christ; he was beheaded too.

Galerius dismissed many Christian officers from their positions. In 303 Galerius persuaded Diocletian to issue an edict to demolish all churches in the empire and make holding secret religious meetings a capital crime. Church property was confiscated, and Christian books were burned in public squares. Judges were to hear any accusation against a Christian; but Christians were not permitted to complain of any injury. When the edict was posted in Nicomedia, a Christian tore it down and was burned to death. Diocletian was opposed to bloodshed; but after two fires in his palace were blamed on Christians, this policy changed. News of revolts in Melitene and Syria led by Christians also stimulated prosecution of Christian leaders, filling the prisons. The North African bishop Felix was beheaded in Lucania. When Diocletian was ill, Galerius issued a fourth edict that required everyone to sacrifice on pain of death. The persecution may have brought on Diocletian's illness and retirement in 305.

Caesarea bishop Eusebius described how Christians were supernaturally protected from beasts incited to attack them in the arena so that the martyrs had to be butchered by the sword. At Thebes in Egypt as many as a hundred people were tortured and put to death in one day. The Christians ignored the tortures, spoke of their devotion to God in joy, laughed, and sang to their last breath. A little town in Phrygia, in which all were Christians, was surrounded by soldiers and completely massacred. Later when authorities ordered the killing to stop, orders were given to gouge out eyes and maim one leg. Eusebius recorded that bishops of Nicomedia, Tyre, Emesa, Gaza, and several in Egypt were all killed.

In 305 Maximian also was persuaded to retire in Lucania. Galerius ruled the East and Constantius the West, holding Gaul, Britain, and Spain. Since Severus controlled Italy, Africa, and Pannonia, he became Caesar along with the nephew of Galerius, Maximin Daia, who oppressively ruled Egypt and Syria. When Constantius in 293 married Helena, a step-daughter of Emperor Maximian, to become Caesar, his son Constantine went to serve Diocletian in the wars against Persia and in Egypt. In 305 Constantius requested his son's assistance in his attack on the Picts (Caledonians) in northern Britain. Constantine traveled quickly and helped his father to victory in Britain.

Constantine's Religious Revolution 306-337

When Constantius died at York the next year, Constantine was acclaimed Emperor by the army. Galerius, however, declared Severus Augustus as Western Emperor and named Constantine Caesar. In Rome the son of Maximian, Maxentius, strengthened by the disgruntled praetorian guard, was declared princeps, and he was supported by Africa and its grain. He and the Senate sent the imperial insignia to his father Maximian, who came out of retirement.

Galerius responded to this challenge by ordering Severus against them. Bribes and old loyalties won soldiers from Severus to Maximian, and Severus retreated to Ravenna, where he was imprisoned. Maximian went to Gaul and gave his daughter Fausta in marriage to Constantine. Galerius left Licinius in Illyricum and marched into Italy; but he had the same trouble as Severus and had to retreat to Pannonia, as Severus was killed. In 307 Maximian quarreled with his son Maxentius in Rome and tried to tear the imperial purple from his body. The next year Galerius conferred with Diocletian and Maximian at Carnuntum. Licinius was appointed as Augustus, and so it could be said there were six Emperors, not counting the retired Diocletian. In Rome the strict Marcellus became bishop and was opposed by those more willing to forgive lapsed Christians. Their conflicts in the streets became so bloody that Maxentius banished Marcellus. In 308 Eusebius was elected bishop of Rome; but he too was opposed and banished to Sicily. A different Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, wrote that Maxentius dishonored countless free women with his lust and that at least one Christian wife of a senator committed suicide to preserve her chastity. He also wrote that Maxentius had his guards kill many Romans.

Constantine and his army gained experience fighting off barbarians in the Rhine region. The elderly Maximian tried to take his troops away and was eventually besieged and captured at Massilia (Marseilles) before committing suicide in 310. Constantine changed his image from the Herculius of his dead father-in-law to the Invincible Sun (Sol Invictus), claiming descent from Emperor Claudius II. In Africa Domitius Alexander declared himself Emperor, but he was defeated and killed by forces of Maxentius which punished Carthage in 311. That year Galerius levied taxes to celebrate twenty years of rule; after years of persecuting them he issued an edict legally recognizing Christians as he was dying of illness. Maximin Daia marched north to claim Asia; he captured Byzantium but was stopped by Licinius at the Bosphorus and defeated at Adrianople. Daia, holding Asia, resumed the persecution. When Licinius was betrothed to Constantine's sister Constantia, Maxentius and Maximin Daia allied. Miltiades became bishop of Rome, and Christians in the West were given even greater tolerance than in the recent edict of the dying Galerius.

In 312 Constantine with an army of 40,000 marched from Gaul and took Turin and the imperial palace at Milan. Constantine prevented his men from plundering cities and was welcomed with enthusiasm in Italy. After a short siege Verona surrendered. In order to avoid the defeats by evil spirits experienced by Severus and Galerius, Constantine turned to Christianity. Two contemporary Christian writers described Constantine's vision of a cross of light with the saying "Conquer by this." Eusebius wrote that he saw this in the sky at noon and that it was followed by a dream; according to Lactantius he merely saw it in a dream. As he approached Rome, Constantine had his soldiers paint the Greek letters chi and rho on their shields as an emblem for Christ. Constantine's army defeated that of Maxentius at the Milvian bridge, and Maxentius was drowned in the Tiber. The sons of Maxentius were put to death, but Constantine stopped his men from killing his supporters. The Senate declared Constantine Augustus.

Maximin Daia had died at Tarsus, leaving the East to Licinius, who ordered killed the sons of Daia, Severus, and Galerius. Constantine met Licinius at Milan in 313, and they agreed upon religious freedom throughout the Roman empire. The next year Constantine granted ecclesiastics free transport and the use of inns, horses, and mules at public expense. Constantine nominated Bassianus, who had married his sister Anastasia, as Caesar; but a conspiracy of Bassianus and supporters of Licinius was discovered. Constantine's army of 20,000 defeated the 35,000 of Licinius at Cibalae in Pannonia; in the treaty Licinius lost all his European territory except Thrace.

The Donatist controversy arose in Africa after Diocletian had ordered Christians to give up their books. Those who obeyed (Some turned in apocryphal books.) were called traditores. In 311 two bishops were chosen in Carthage, because the Donatists believed that Felix was a traditore and could not consecrate his successor Caecilian. The next year Constantine sent Caecilian money for the "catholic church" and directed him to turn in the troublesome people to the civil authorities. In 313 a small council in Rome decided in favor of Caecilian, and the next year a larger council of Western churches at Arles confirmed that Felix was not a traditore. They also confirmed the Roman date of Easter and other doctrines already accepted in Rome. The Emperor decided against the Donatists again at Milan in 316. A persecution began, and Donatist fanatics were involved in disorders. The next year Constantine ordered authorities not to retaliate, and in 321 the useless persecution was ended when he granted toleration.

About 320 Licinius banned church councils and meetings except in the open air outside of cities; women and men were not allowed to worship together. In 323 Constantine in attacking Goths entered the territory of Licinius. At Adrianople the army of Licinius was defeated by Constantine's as 34,000 were killed. Constantine's navy, led by his son Crispus, defeated the fleet of Licinius. While Constantine was besieging Byzantium, Licinius raised another large army in Bithynia; but Constantine invaded Asia and at Chrysopolis his army slaughtered another 25,000 men. Licinius was defeated and banished to Thessalonica. Thus in 324 the era of persecuting Christians ended. Constantine began transforming the city of Byzantium. Pagan temples remained, but sacrifices were banned. 40,000 Goths constructed new buildings, and in 330 the new capital of Constantinople was officially dedicated with forty days of festivities.

Diocletian and Constantine increased the Oriental pomp of the imperial court. The Emperor's power grew, as every official was nominated by him. Even the advising sacred council had to stand up in the presence of Constantine. A master of the offices (magister officiorum) was created in 320 to oversee most of the administration. The praetorian guard was disbanded, and praetorian prefects lost their military functions as they became civil officials on judicial and financial matters. The Senate gave up its jurisdiction as the city prefect's court of law took up all civil suits and criminal cases in Rome. The chaos of the third century had increased the power of wealthy land-owners called latifundia, and they transformed their tenant farmers called coloni into hereditary serfs who could be bound by chains, while most land was still cultivated by slaves. In 321 Constantine granted women the right to control their property except in landed estate sales, and to safeguard their modesty he prohibited summoning women before tribunals. Constantine tried to get rid of concubinage; divorces required just causes; and adultery was prosecuted as a capital crime.

Constantine imposed new taxes on gold and silver for merchants and corporations and on senators based on their land. The state with its bureaucracy and large military establishment increased its control of the economy. Most occupations became hereditary. Feudal tenures developed, and sons of soldiers were required to follow their father's profession or be punished. Military levies could be escaped by paying 42 pieces of gold, and some youths lacking such funds cut off fingers on their right hands in order to avoid military service.

Constantine prevented the exposure of children by assisting poor parents. He instituted laws to protect those who could not pay their taxes from being tortured or imprisoned, not allowing working farmers to be dragged off to extraordinary burdens. However, some tax collectors, who tried to escape into the military, were to be dragged back to the municipal duty. Some thanked Constantine for remitting tax arrears for five years. Yet his laws on rape included capital punishment against consenting couples who elope without their parents' permission also as well as painful executions of slaves who assisted them. Constantine attempted to reduce unjust exactions and bribery of officials. He began prison reform, and some claimed he abolished crucifixion and branding the face; but laws against informers specified that slaves or freedmen who inform against their masters were to be crucified. Laws on slavery required owners to keep loved ones together. To protect the Emperor on cases of treason torture could still be applied.

Constantine tried to ameliorate past persecutions by releasing Christian martyrs from imprisonment or slave labor or by restoring their property to their living relatives. The church inherited their property when there were no heirs. He promoted Christians to high offices and forbade other governors to offer sacrifice. Constantine prayed that all would become Christians, but he did not compel anyone to do so.

Constantine became concerned about the controversy that grew from the excommunication of Arius by Alexander in Alexandria. Christians were becoming divided over verbal conflicts. The Emperor believed these disputes should have been buried in profound silence, and he called for mutual forgiveness. So many of God's people should not be divided over such insignificant issues. Constantine believed it was childish ignorance to quarrel over trivial and unessential points, and in a letter he encouraged them to resume their mutual feelings of friendship. However, the conflict was too large to be resolved by a letter, and Constantine ordered a universal council to be held at Nicaea in Bithynia in 325 to resolve such questions. According to Eusebius this was attended by 255 bishops from various nations throughout the empire, though the vast majority were from the East.

Constantine began by burning the complaints the bishops made against each other, and he told the council that he considered intestine strife within the church as more evil and dangerous than any kind of war. Eusebius, who also spoke, credited Constantine with bringing them to one mind on every disputed question. The celebration of Easter was set so as not to have it in common with the Jews, whom Constantine detested. After the conference he sent a letter to the churches urging them to adopt its decrees and indicating that they would be bound by them. He exhorted the bishops to avoid contentious disputes and jealousy of each other.

Constantine ordered a church built at the holy place of the Savior's resurrection in Jerusalem, and the temple of Aeclepius at Aegae was razed to the ground by his order. The temple of Venus at Phoenician Heliopolis was replaced by the city's first church. Constantine issued an edict against the heresies that included Novatians, Valentinians, Marcionites, Paulians, and Cataphrygians, and they were forbidden to meet in public or privately. Searches were made for their prohibited books. As more churches were built, the Greek word for church (ekklesia) meaning "assembly" was beginning to be replaced by kyriakon meaning "the Lord's house." Constantine exempted all Christian clergy from public duties, because he considered their serving God an immense contribution to the community's welfare.

Eusebius in his Life of Constantine also wrote that the Emperor tried to equalize oppressive taxes. When Scythians attacked the Sarmatians, they armed their slaves in defense. After overcoming the invaders, the slaves turned on their masters and drove them out so that the Sarmatians had to take refuge in Constantine's empire. The Emperor accepted some into the Roman army and allotted land to the others. Constantine forbade by law placing a statue of him in any temple, and he prohibited the worship of idols and every kind of sacrifice. Eusebius wrote that bloody combats of gladiators were no longer allowed to pollute cities, though actually circus games continued to be popular. An imperial decree prohibited a Christian from being a slave to a Jew. Because of Constantine's clemency, capital punishment was no longer a deterrent, and some criticized the Emperor for that. In an oration Constantine commended the view of Plato that the spirits of the good and virtuous enter the fairest mansions of heaven after separating from the body. He believed that the propensity to good or evil depended on human will and that a life of virtue comes nearest to the divine uncreated being. He believed that God is pleased with virtue and that every act of goodness is rewarded.

Constantine had by his second wife Fausta three sons, whom he had made Caesars at ten-year intervals. To celebrate the twentieth year of his reign Constantine moved his court from Nicomedia to Rome. Apparently his oldest son Crispus was suspected of a conspiracy; for Constantine had him executed after a short and private trial in 326. About this time Constantine also had Licinius and his son put to death and possibly his wife Fausta and several of his friends. After the civil wars the last dozen years of Constantine's reign were fairly peaceful. In 331 Sarmatians and Vandals were defeated by Goths and appealed to Constantine, whose son Constantine won a victory over Gothic king Araric the next year after he had invaded Moesia. A treaty gave the Goths subsidies of iron, grain, oil, and other needed items, retained Araric's son as hostage, and kept the Goths as allies of Rome. Sarmatians then attacked the Goths and encroached on the empire. Constantine allowed the Gothic king Geberic to defeat Wisumar, the Vandal king, while killing many Sarmatians. Trying to fight the Goths by arming their slaves, these Limigantes turned against their masters and drove the Sarmatians out of their territory. About 300,000 Sarmatians were given land by Constantine to settle in Pannonia and other provinces.

Near the end of his life Constantine also elevated his two nephews Dalmatius to Caesar and Hannibalianus to Nobilissimus. Only when he was dying did Constantine ask to be baptized; but then he took off his royal purple and passed on in a white Christian robe.


Arnobius taught rhetoric in Sicca on the Nubian border southwest of Carthage. He converted to Christianity as an adult and wrote Adversus Gentes (Against the Gentiles) about 303. The first two books defend Christianity, and the next five attack Roman religion. Arnobius argued that wars are diminishing because of Christ's teaching not to requite evil with evil but even shed our own blood rather than stain our hands and conscience. Savage ferocity is being softened, as some have begun to withhold hostile hands from fellow creatures. If all people capable of reason would listen to these peaceful rules, the whole world may turn the use of steel into peaceful occupations, uniting in harmony and respecting the sanctity of treaties.

Lactantius was born about the middle of the third century. He studied in the school of Arnobius at Sicca. He surpassed his teacher as a master of rhetoric and was invited to teach at Nicomedia by Emperor Diocletian. Since most people there spoke Greek while he taught Latin, Lactantius had few students and suffered poverty. He converted to Christianity during the persecution in 303. He was considered an old man about 317 when he settled in Gaul and tutored Crispus, the oldest son of Constantine. Lactantius died about ten years later, and the Emperor executed Crispus in 326.

The principal work of Lactantius, Divine Institutes, was designed to complete the Latin writings of Tertullian, Minucius Felix, and Cyprian. The work is dedicated to Constantine, whom he praised as the first Roman Prince to repudiate errors and acknowledge the one true God, restoring justice and expiating the shameful deeds of others. Lactantius aimed to direct the learned to true wisdom and the unlearned to true religion. Lactantius began by asserting it is better to investigate and know human and divine things than to be occupied in heaping up riches. Some have given up property and pleasures in order to follow the simple truth without impediments, believing that truth offers the greatest good. Lactantius believed that truth is the secret of the Highest God, creator of all, and that it cannot be attained by our own ability and perceptions. Otherwise there would be no difference between God and humans.

Lactantius admitted that bitterness is mingled with the virtues and that pleasures season the vices, causing some to be seduced by evils; but these errors can be encountered by religion. Philosophy is more valuable than rhetoric, because philosophers teach right living, which is useful to all, while speaking well is needed only by a few. Lactantius found the cause of perverseness in ignorance of oneself. He believed religion needs wisdom, and wisdom cannot be approved without religion. He observed the providence of God in the beauty and design of the universe. There must be only one God, because otherwise other gods would be lesser. He criticized the licentious behavior of the Roman and barbarian gods, and he saw the heavenly bodies, like the sun and moon, as the work of the divine creator rather than as gods.

The second book of the Divine Institutes is on the origin of error. Lactantius noticed that many people never remember God until they are in trouble. He observed that from prosperity arises luxury and other vices that lead to impiety. In the third book he criticized various philosophers. Moral philosophy is the most important, because these errors really affect one's life. Yet daily experiments can teach us what is truer and better. Philosophers disagree on what is the chief good. Lactantius discounted the goals of pleasure, living according to nature, and worldly success as ends shared by other animals. Knowing and worshipping God is what elevates humans. Ultimate happiness is found in immortality, which is gained by religion in knowing God. He criticized Stoics for approving suicide. Lactantius believed God placed us in the body, and we should not withdraw from it except by God's command. We must endure violence offered to us with equanimity, because the death of an innocent person cannot be unavenged; but taking vengeance is in the hands of the great Judge (God).

In the fourth book on true wisdom and religion Lactantius argued that the example of Jesus and the religion of the Catholic church are best. He derived the word "religion" from the Latin religare, meaning "to bind again." It is the bond of piety, because God binds humans to Himself. Christian reunion of humans with God is through reconciliation. The original unity was separated by sin but has been restored again.

The fifth book discusses justice. Lactantius noted, "Most wicked murderers have invented impious laws against the pious."1 He asked what should be done to those tyrants who inflicted tortures on the innocent and yet wish to appear just and prudent when they are clearly wrong. Yet the number of Christians has been increasing and has not been lessened by persecutions. Because they have not turned away from God, the truth has prevailed by its own power. Certainly these martyrs have demonstrated the virtue of courage. For Lactantius no one is poor in the sight of God except the unjust, and no one is rich, except those full of virtues. Greeks and Romans did not possess justice, because they had people differing by degrees from poor to rich and from humble to powerful. Without equity there is no real justice. Lactantius believed that riches do not make one illustrious unless they make one conspicuous by good works. The truly rich use their wealth for works of justice and charity; those who seem poor may be rich, because they desire nothing.

In humility the free and slaves are equal, the rich and poor, because God's sight distinguishes by virtue. The unjust and those ignorant of God may abound in riches, power, and honors, for these are the rewards of injustice; but they are not perpetual and are sought through lust and violence. The just and wise do not desire what belongs to another lest they should injure anyone and violate the laws of humanity. They even do not defend their own if it is taken by violence. To bear with injury inflicted is virtuous. Lactantius believed that God allowed the persecutions so that the people of God could be increased. Many were driven from their false gods, because they hated cruelty. They wanted to know what that good is which believers defended even to death, preferring it to everything pleasant and beloved in life so that neither loss of goods nor torture could deter them.

In the sixth book on true worship Lactantius pointed out that knowledge precedes virtue but must be united with it, because knowledge is of no avail unless it is followed by right action. Virtue restrains anger, desire, and lust in order to flee from vice, for almost all wrong and dishonest actions result from these emotions. Thus crimes and disgraceful actions can be eliminated if these emotions are calmed by virtue. Lactantius argued that it is not virtue to defend the good or be an enemy of the bad, because virtue is not subject to chance. He believed that the philosophers, though they may be naturally good, are not wise as long as they are ignorant of God, the Head of virtue and knowledge. For him the first duty of justice is to be united with God in religion, and the second, to be united with humans, is called mercy or kindness. Worshipers of God share this virtue in the common life. This brotherhood means never doing evil but always doing good. The God of Lactantius prescribes this good as aiding the oppressed and giving food to the destitute. A kind God wishes us to be a social animal, as all humans require mutual support. Thus hospitality is a principal virtue, and it is a great work of justice to protect and defend orphans and widows who need assistance. Why fear poverty when the philosophers praise it as a calm life.

Lactantius recommended examining your conscience and healing your wounds. God commands repentance, offers mercy and forgives sins. The fear of God can free one from all other fears. Lactantius questioned some traditional values. Frugality may arise from the love of possessing, and prodigality may give food to the needy out of pity. Money may lead to vice if it is spent on one's own appetites, but it is a virtue to lay it out well. Those who give way to grief and anger in doing wrong do not fulfill the duty of virtue. Whoever tries to return an injury desires to imitate the very person by whom one had been injured. How can imitating a bad person be good? The wise do not try to remove their adversaries, which cannot be done without guilt and danger; but they wish to put an end to the conflict, which may be done with justice and mutual advantage. Thus patience is the very great virtue of the just person; for patience opposes all vices. For Lactantius the three passions that drive people to crime are anger, desire, and lust. Those who know Christ may repent and be forgiven. Repentance recognizes the wisdom of God's justice. Those who do the will of God will be strengthened in their struggles with a heroic passion.

The seventh and last book of the Divine Institutes is on the happy life. Lactantius believed the chief good is the immortality that only God can grant, and virtue is rewarded not on earth but by life eternal. Thus ultimately piety is confirmed. In his Epitome of the Divine Institutes Lactantius concluded by exhorting everyone to train themselves for justice, self-restraint, and virtue so that an adversary waging war may not be able with force, terror, or torture to drive them to senseless fictions; but they may uprightly acknowledge the one true God, cast away pleasures, hold to innocence, be of service to as many as possible, and with God as their judge gain incorruptible treasures by good works and with the merits of their virtue gain the crown of faith and the reward of immortality.

Lactantius wrote "A Treatise on the Anger of God" to counter Stoic conceptions, arguing that God is angry at the impious and unjust just as God loves and is kind to the pious and just. God is moved to take vengeance against the wicked and destroys the pestilent and guilty in order to promote the interests of the good. Lactantius showed this from history in his short work "On the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died." In the era of Constantine he could argue that God raised up princes to rescind the impious and bloody edicts of tyrants in order to provide for the welfare of humanity. Past clouds have been dispelled, and peace gladdens all hearts. Lactantius noted that Nero was killed soon after he crucified Peter and executed Paul. Domitian persecuted the just and suffered due punishment. Decius afflicted the church and was quickly slain by barbarians and his own army. Valerian persecuted Christians and suffered the humiliation of being captured and killed by the Persians. Aurelian's edicts shed blood in distant provinces, and he was assassinated by his friends in Thrace.

Lactantius described in more detail the persecution started by Diocletian and carried out by Maximian and Galerius. Lactantius blamed the mother of Galerius for instigating her son to persuade Emperor Diocletian to destroy Christians. Diocletian tried to avoid bloodshed but became ill and retired. Galerius changed the milder punishments of exile, imprisonment, and slavery in the mines to the cruelty of burning, crucifying, and exposing to wild beasts; even minor offenses resulted in torture. As he began to gain power, Constantine restored the rights of Christians. Galerius tried to collect money to celebrate twenty years of rule; but before he could do so, God struck him with a horrible disease, which obliged him to acknowledge God and atone for his misdeeds before he died. Daia revoked the toleration Galerius had granted, and his idea of clemency was to mutilate ears, noses, hands, feet, and eyes rather than kill. Daia's excessive taxes caused famine, while he personally debauched countless women.

Lactantius wrote how Constantine was guided by a dream to have his soldiers use a Christian sign on their shields, and Licinius was told how to pray. Thus both Constantine won battles in the West and Licinius in the East against Daia even though their armies were usually outnumbered by their enemies. When Licinius returned to Nicomedia after meeting Constantine at Milan, he published their agreement to restore the rights and goods of Christians. According to Lactantius eventually Daia died of poisoning at Tarsus. Licinius put to death sons of Galerius, Severus, and Daia. Thus Lactantius exulted in the victory of the Christians as led by Constantine.

Constantine's Sons 337-361

When Constantine died in 337, his three sons and two nephews were ruling portions of his empire. The armies (under whose influence is not really known) decided only the three sons would rule, and all other relatives including the two nephews and their families, except the child Julian and his brother Gallus, were killed. The powerful prefect Ablavius was also eliminated. Constantine II held Gaul, Spain and Britain, and as eldest was given his father's new capital. Constantius ruled over the East and Egypt. Constans, the youngest at 17, was given the rest of Roman Europe and Africa.

After taking care of his father's funeral and settling all this, Constantius had to rush off to fight the Persians, who were besieging Nisibis, which would withstand three such attacks by Shapur II. Armenia under Roman-educated Tiridates III (r. 287-330) had become Christian about 314 and had formed good relations with Constantine. Despite internal divisions Armenia held off the Persian invasions until the death of King Khosrov II (r. 331-338). Many Christians in Persia were massacred. The army of Constantius finally defeated the Persians, probably in 344, putting to death the crown prince after Shapur fled. Armenian king Tigranes V was handed over to Shapur and blinded in 350.

During the long reign of Shapur II (r. 309-379) Jews were saved from worse persecution by the sympathy of his mother Ifra-Ormuzd. Rabba died in flight from Pumbedita in 330. Shapur persecuted Christians and moved an estimated 71,000 Jews to Susiana and Ispahan. After Shapur ordered Raba punished for exercising criminal jurisdiction, Ifra sent Raba 400 golden denars. In 339 Constantius proclaimed the death penalty for marriages between Christians and Jews or for circumcision of a Christian slave. Jews were also forbidden from proselytizing heathen slaves. During the pressure of the Persian war in 351 Ursicinus made Jews in Palestine violate their Sabbath to supply the Roman army. A revolt started in Sepphoris and spread, but by the next year Sepphoris had been razed, while Tiberias and Lydda were damaged. In 357 under the influence of Eusebius, Constantius proclaimed that Christians who joined Jewish communities were to have their property confiscated, and Jews themselves were burdened with heavy taxes. Hillel II wrote down the rules for determining the Jewish calendar in 359, thus enabling communities to be more independent.

Constantine II tried to legislate for Africa, and in 339 he attempted to take Italy from his brother Constans; but he was killed in an ambush at Aquileia the next year. Constans thus acquired the Gauls, Spain, and Britain. His army drove back the Franks for two years, and in 343 he crossed over to Britain to take on the Picts and Scots. In 350 a court conspiracy organized by Marcellinus and led by Magnentius took control while Constans was off hunting. Constans fled and was murdered at the foot of the Pyrenees. In Rome Nepotianus, a cousin of Constantius, ruled for a month before he was killed by soldiers of Magnentius. In Illyricum military commander Vetranio was acclaimed Emperor and appealed to Constantius but then allied himself to Magnentius. Both then sent an embassy to Constantius, who arrived and won over the Illyricum troops with his oratory. Vetranio submitted to Constantius and was allowed to retire to Prusa on a pension. Emperor Constantius appointed his nephew Gallus Caesar and married him to his sister Constantia.

Taking Vetranio's army and his own, Constantius marched into Gaul to meet Magnentius, who used tactics to harass them. Constantius offered the provinces west of the Alps in a treaty, but Magnentius refused. In a bloody battle at Mursa the army of Constantius was double that of Magnentius; they won although they lost 30,000 men, while the army of Magnentius had 24,000 killed. This slaughter greatly weakened the imperial army and was the first victory of newly formed heavy cavalry. Constantius granted amnesty to all but the leaders; Magnentius fled and eventually committed suicide. Many others suspected of opposing Constantius were executed or banished.

Fearing powerful generals and distrusting his ministers, Constantius in Oriental fashion relied on palace eunuchs, especially his chamberlain Eusebius, to govern. Provincial complaints were disregarded, as justice and honors were sold to increase the wealth of these officials. Pro-prefect Martinus complained that the innocent in provinces he governed were being punished. Martinus threatened to resign and was accused by Paul "the Chain." Martinus tried to kill Paul, and failing, committed suicide. Paul then returned to the Emperor with many chained prisoners, who either lost their property, were banished, or executed. Constantius supported the Arian Christianity popular in the East, and he prohibited offering pagan sacrifices anywhere in the empire under penalty of death and confiscation of property.

At age 24 Gallus was made Caesar and from Antioch ruled harshly five eastern dioceses. The slightest rumors led to executions. Others had their property confiscated and were driven into exile. This Caesar did not even bother to give such victims the appearance of a trial. Gallus ordered the leading senators of Antioch executed, but this was stopped by Honoratus, count of the East. Instead of acting to alleviate a famine, Gallus turned over Syrian governor Theophilus to be murdered by a mob in Antioch. This caused Constantius to send Eastern prefect Domitian to summon Gallus to Italy. When the Caesar had Domitian arrested, palace quaestor Montius warned the guards they were essentially overthrowing the rule of Constantius. Gallus roused his soldiers against Montius, and they roughly took Domitian and Montius into the streets, where they were trampled to death. Before he died, Montius had named Epigonus and Eusebius as officials who had promised to help him. Caesar held treason trials, and the first two executed had these names, although they were not the ones Montius meant. Musonian became praetorian prefect for the East, and in these trials he gained property from the rich while condemning the innocent poor. Meanwhile Persians were invading Armenia and Mesopotamia.

In 354 Constantius went to Valentia to stop the Alamanni raids into Gaul led by brothers Gundomad and Vadomar. According to historian Ammianus Marcellinus, Constantius addressed his troops and persuaded them to accept a peace treaty with the Alamanni. To get Gallus to meet him at Milan, Constantius invited his sister Constantia, Caesar's wife, to visit him. She died along the way, and Gallus was eventually beheaded for his crimes. At Milan commander Ursecinus and the prince Julian were both accused of treason but were able to defend themselves. The patronage of Empress Eusebia allowed Julian to study at the Academy in Athens.

Julian's mother had died a few months after his birth, and he was only six when his father was murdered. He was well educated by his tutor Mardonius in Greek literature and philosophy and was raised as a Christian by the Arian Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia and later of Constantinople. Julian studied the writings of the greatest rhetorician of the era, Libanius, who promoted Hellenism and despised Christianity. The orphan was also influenced by Neo-Platonism as taught at Pergamum by Aidesios and Chrysanthius, two disciples of the occult Iamblichus, and by Maximus in Ephesus, where Julian was initiated when he adopted the ancient religion and the cult of the Invincible Sun. As rhetorical exercises Julian wrote two orations praising Emperor Constantius according to the traditional form. Since Julian likely resented the murder of his family and the "Christian" rule of the Emperor, the sincerity of these has been questioned. Julian agreed with Plato that man and especially a king should rely on God as found within the soul rather than on the actions of other men. Piety is the child of Justice, which obviously is the more divine type of soul. Julian's "Panegyric in Honor of the Empress Eusebia" shows a more sincere respect and gratitude for the woman who helped and advised him. Julian expressed his religious beliefs in prose hymns to the Sun and the Mother of the gods.

The Emperor Constantius campaigned against the Alamanni tribe Lentienses in Raetia. Silvanus was accused of plotting, and under torture Eusebius admitted being part of the conspiracy. Silvanus declared himself Emperor, and Ursecinus was sent by Constantius. Ursecinus pretended to be sympathetic to Sylvanus but arranged to have him assassinated while on his way to a Christian service after a reign of one month.

Constantius appointed Julian Caesar in 355 and assigned him to govern afflicted Gaul. After marrying Helena, sister of Constantius, Julian learned that Franks had taken Cologne, and the Alamanni had attacked Autun. Julian led his army against the Alamanni, and he recovered Cologne. Known for his self-discipline of working and studying at night and eating the food of the common soldiers, Julian was usually popular with the soldiers. He sent provincial governors to hear cases, checked on the results, and often moderated the punishments. Yet Julian punished officials and judges who abused their positions. During his government Julian reduced the taxation in Gaul from 25 gold pieces to seven. Alamanni king Chnodomar, Serapio, and other kings ravaged Gaul with an army of 35,000; but in 357 they were soundly defeated by Julian's army in a battle by the Rhine in which the Romans were said to have lost only 250 men, while 6,000 dead Alamanni were counted, and many were carried away by the river. Julian sent Chnodomar to Constantius and then persuaded his men to invade beyond the Rhine to take prisoners and burn their houses. These disasters convinced the Alamanni kings Suomar and Hortar to accept the harsh terms of Julian. In five years Julian restored security and prosperity to Gaul, recovering 20,000 prisoners.

The officials of Constantius continued to gain wealth from the provinces. Rufinus was praetorian prefect, and Arbitio was master of the cavalry. Constantius had a huge obelisk moved from Thebes in Egypt to the circus of Rome, and he pleased Christians and angered pagans by removing the altar to Victory from the Senate-house. Persians were raiding Mesopotamia for men and cattle. Shapur II sent an offer to Constantius in which he acknowledged that perfect justice rules and hoped that the Romans had learned by disasters what results from the greed to possess what belongs to others. He claimed Mesopotamia and Armenia from his grandfather and asked the Roman Emperor to hand it over. Shapur commented, "Never will I accept the principle which your overweening pride leads you to enunciate, that all is fair in war that brings success, whether it be achieved by force or fraud."2 Yet Shapur concluded by threatening to mobilize his forces to take this territory. Constantius replied by accusing Shapur of greed and noting that although Rome may lose a battle, it had never lost an entire war.

Meanwhile Constantius used his forces to despoil and burn the land of the Sarmatians and Quadi in the Danube region. However, when they surrendered, they were allowed to keep their homes if they gave up all prisoners along with hostages and promised to obey the Romans. After similar devastation Constantius forced the rebelling Limigantes to emigrate from the territory they took from their former masters. He placed the "free" Sarmatians under the rule of the pliant king Zizais. Infantry commander Barbatio and his wife were investigated by Arbitio and beheaded for plotting. Wealthy trader Antoninus became a financial official and then a staff officer under the Roman commander in Mesopotamia; financial reverses caused by greedy persons led him to transfer his debts to the imperial treasury and begin spying for the Persians. Shapur and his Persian army invaded Mesopotamia and spent 73 days losing 30,000 men besieging Amida. Ammianus and a few escaped from Amida; but most Romans were massacred or captured. The Persian king of kings then ordered Singara dismantled and Bezabde fortified while he returned to Persia.

While Constantius was wintering in Sirmium, in the Danube region the Limigantes began roaming outside of the territory assigned to them. At a meeting with Constantius, they even tried to kill the Emperor. He escaped, and his army slaughtered many of the rebels. The Persian threat led Constantius to request more than half of Julian's army for the East. At Paris Julian hesitated, because the local soldiers had volunteered to serve with the understanding that they would not be stationed beyond the Alps. Not wanting to leave their families, a force going to Emperor Constantius stopped in Paris to proclaim Julian Augustus instead. Julian tried to dissuade them; but failing to do so, he accepted the position of Emperor, promising each man five gold pieces and a pound of silver. Julian sent a letter of explanation to Constantius, who chose to deal first with the Persian threat. Julian's army campaigned for three months against the Attuarii Franks on the lower Rhine before wintering more to the east in Vienne. Constantius confirmed his diplomatic relationship with Armenian king Arsaces but failed to recapture Bezabde. In the spring of 361 Julian managed to remove the threat of an Alamanni invasion when he captured Vadomar by treachery.

Julian publicly announced that he entrusted his safety to the immortal gods, thus renouncing the religion and friendship of Constantius, who increased his cavalry and reinforced the imperial legions in preparation for civil war. Julian replaced the prefect of Gaul nominated by Constantius and sent cavalry commanded by Jovius and Jovinus into Italy. The Roman Senate accepted Julian's claims but advised him to respect the author of his own fortune.

Julian sent letters explaining his position to Rome, Sparta, Corinth, and Athens; but only the one to Athens is extant. In that he praised Athens for its glorious history and then described his life. When Constantius and his two brothers first became Emperors, Julian, their cousin, had experienced six cousins, his father, and two uncles put to death without a trial. He and his brother Gallus were sent into exile. For six years they were imprisoned on a farm in Cappadocia. Their property had been inherited by Constantius. After Constantius had Gallus made Caesar and then murdered, Julian was protected at Milan by Empress Eusebia. Julian believed that the wisdom of the gods sees the whole and may direct one to bring about what is best. Constantius sent Julian into Gaul with only 360 soldiers but gave him command of all the forces there in 357, and Julian was able to drive out the barbarians in three years. He claimed he captured 10,000 prisoners in one siege across the Rhine. Julian complained that the Emperor hired the notorious sycophants Paul and Gaudentius to attack him and replaced his friend Sallust. When the soldiers proclaimed Julian Emperor, he persuaded them not to punish the friends of Constantius. Julian referred to the cruelty Constantius practiced everywhere but did not describe it.

Julian marched east to be welcomed at Sirmium, where he pleased the people by celebrating with chariot races. Two legions from Sirmium led by Nigrinus mutinied in favor of Constantius and held out in the fortress at Aquileia, where they were besieged by Jovinus. Fortunately a civil war was avoided when Constantius became ill and died on November 3, 361. It was reported that he named Julian as his successor, and this was accepted by the army. Constantius had mistrusted military heroes and kept them from gaining political power by using eunuchs and administrators to crush any suspicion of treason. Yet he appointed only experienced veterans to command troops. The many civil and foreign wars demanded excessive taxation, and greedy tax collectors were greatly hated. Constantius oversaw and in some ways promoted much dissension among the Christians; Ammianus commented that bishops traveling to synods hamstrung the postal service.

Julian's Pagan Revival 361-363

Julian was informed that he was undisputed Emperor by the officers Theolaifus and Aligildus, while the eunuch Eusebius and the court party were forced to give up their plan to appoint someone else. Agilo was sent to Aquileia and was able to persuade the resistance to surrender. Nigrinus and two other leaders were put to death, but the rest were pardoned. Julian stopped in Dacia before triumphantly entering Constantinople. He appointed Secundus Salutius praetorian prefect and ordered Mamertinus, Arbitio, Agilo, and Nevitta to assist in the treason trials. Paul "the chain" and Apodemius, who had conducted treason trials for Constantius, were executed along with Eusebius and Gaul treasurer Ursulus, whose only crime seems to have been that troops hated him.

Julian on February 4, 362 ordered the temples opened and public sacrifices. He proclaimed tolerance of all Christian worship and allowed the bishops banished by Constantius to return. Ammianus argued that by permitting Christians to practice their varying beliefs boldly Julian hoped the new religion would weaken itself by its divisions. Churches lost their state privileges and subsidies such as public transport, and Christian clergy were no longer exempt from taxes. Julian decreed that pagans should be preferred to Christians for public offices, and Ammianus criticized him for prohibiting Christians from teaching rhetoric or literature. Temples of the old religion were to be returned to their former owners. After seeing an elegantly dressed barber, the new Emperor greatly reduced the number of servants in the palace. He tried to relieve the people's distress by reducing taxes. The spies, agents, and informers, who had repressed many to protect Constantius, were dismissed. Julian proclaimed the senate at Constantinople equal to that of the revered Roman Senate. Julian knew that he had a temper, and so he encouraged those around him to criticize him when necessary. He once even fined himself for violating a court procedure.

Gaudentius and another Julian, who had been sent by Constantius to oppose Julian in Africa, were arrested and executed. Artemius, the army commander in Egypt, who had committed outrageous crimes, was also put to death. When Alexandrians murdered their repressive bishop, George of Cappadocia, the Emperor merely admonished them. Julian prepared his troops for a war with the Persians. Bloody sacrifices of numerous bulls, white birds, and other animals provided large quantities of meat for his troops. Julian revoked the special taxes on Jews and appointed Alypius of Antioch to restore the great temple at Jerusalem so that they could sacrifice; but calamities from fires or earthquake caused the project to be abandoned.

Julian wrote "To the Uneducated Cynics," contrasting contemporaries, who imitated Diogenes in only the easiest and least burdensome ways rather than seeing the noble side of him, Antisthenes, and Crates. Julian urged the philosophical pursuit of making oneself like God by acquiring knowledge of the essential nature of things, arguing the gods know all things. In another oration to a Cynic Julian complained that Heracleios treated the gods irreverently in expounding a myth, and he argued that only ethical philosophers and theologians should be allowed to interpret myths. In "The Caesars" Julian satirized the Roman Emperors from Julius Caesar to Constantius. A contest between Julius Caesar, Octavian, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, and Constantine was won by Marcus Aurelius.

Julian and his army spent some time in the metropolis of Antioch, where a poor harvest and greedy monopolists sent the price of bread so high that many went hungry. Julian had the wealthy senators put in prison for a while, and during the licentious Saturnalia festival the Emperor was greatly satirized. He responded with his own sarcastic writing called Beard-hater in which he satirized his own person and austere practices. His own self-restraint is contrasted to the indulgent independence of the Antiochians. Julian asked if he had wronged them in any way. He let them elect their richest men to the Senate; but when their greed raised prices on scarce grain, he set a fair price and imported 400,000 measures of wheat. Was their ingratitude because he fed them from his own purse? Yet Julian concluded by taking responsibility for wrongs done to him, because he had transformed them to ungracious ways. Julian was upset that Antioch, which was strongly Christian, did not support his animal sacrifices. When a fire broke out in the temple at Daphne, Christians were suspected. Julian closed the main church in Antioch and sacrilegiously robbed its treasures.

Julian wanted the ancient religion to adopt many of the innovations of Christianity, such as its hierarchical organization and its charity. He wrote to a pagan priest urging him to practice philanthropy, because it gains the good will of the gods. Julian asked who had ever become poor by helping one's neighbors. Julian found that giving lavishly to the poor brought blessings from the gods. Money, he wrote, should be shared with all men, but more generously with the good, though he noted that we give to the humanity of the poor, not to their moral character. Julian believed humans are social animals. Along with reverence towards the gods and benevolence toward humans, he recommended personal chastity. He wrote that if a priest proves to be wicked, he should have his office taken from him. He warned the priest against the discourses of Epicurus and the skeptical Pyrrho. He urged prayer both in private and in public. Priests should avoid licentious theatrical shows and hunting spectacles with dogs. Julian admitted that the Galileans had gained ascendancy by their philanthropic deeds. Julian also wrote a book against the Galileans, which only survived in quotations from the Christian Cyril of Alexandria. Most of these are from the first of three books and discuss Moses and the Jews.

Julian sent Procopius with an army along the Tigris; but they were not able to join the forces of the Armenian king Arsaces, because Persian king Narses had already seized Armenia. The Christian Arsaces resented the way Julian treated him as an enemy of the gods. Julian's army of 65,000 crossed the Euphrates and invaded Mesopotamia. Food and supplies were provided by 1100 ships in the Euphrates River. The Romans besieged and took Porisabora, where 2500 surrendered before the city was set on fire. A Persian force led by the Surena captured a Roman standard, causing Julian to dismiss the officers of the patrol and put to death every tenth soldier who ran away. Then he praised his army for their victory at Porisabora and promised each soldier one hundred pieces of silver. As they invaded Assyria, Julian's army took what they wanted and then burned the crops and huts. The Assyrians reacted by flooding the fields from the canals. Julian encouraged his men by offering the riches of the Persians as spoils. They stormed and sacked the city of Maiozamalcha, reducing it to ruins. Julian rejected peace offers from the Persians and advice from his generals to abandon Persia. Instead he had all the ships burned but twelve small ones put on wagons.

The Persians deserted their villages, drove away their cattle, and burned their fields so that Julian's army soon had to retreat toward the Roman territory of Corduene while repulsing Persian attacks. During a sudden rearguard action Julian neglected to put on his breastplate, and a spear pierced his ribs and entered his liver. The Emperor was carried into a tent; unable to fight anymore, he discoursed on how the soul is superior to the body and on how death is a blessing, before finding out for himself June 26, 363. There were no relatives to succeed him, and he refrained from trying to name the best man.

Valentinian, Valens, Gratian, and Theodosius

A senior staff officer, Jovian, was elected Emperor, and he negotiated a peace with the Surena that conceded to the Persians the five provinces east of the Tigris and the towns of Nisibis and Singara without their inhabitants. The Romans agreed not to interfere on behalf of Armenia, much of which was seized by Parthians. The treaty was intended to last thirty years. Jovian was a Christian and reversed many of Julian's pagan policies. Devoted to the Nicene Creed, Jovian proclaimed religious toleration and allowed sacrifices at pagan temples, though he ordered sacrilegious rites of magic severely punished. The Roman army marched west, and in 364 on the way through Bithynia and Galatia Jovian was found dead in his bed.

Valentinian, an impressive Pannonian officer, was elected Emperor by the traveling court and the army. He was encouraged to select a co-Emperor and chose his brother Valens to rule the East. Valentinian I (r. 364-375) also followed the Nicene Creed and restored the clergy's privileges granted by Constantine I, tolerating paganism and diverse beliefs. Valens (r. 364-378), however, declared himself an Arian and persecuted heretics. Non-Arian monks, who abandoned society for the desert, were forced to do civic duties and even serve in the imperial army. About 370 Arian priests accompanied 3,000 soldiers marching from Alexandria; of the 5,000 monks in the desert of Nitria apparently many refused to cooperate and were slaughtered.

The frontiers of the empire were being challenged by the Alamanni in Gaul and Raetia, by the Sarmatians and Quadi in Pannonia, by the Picts, Saxons, Scots, and Attacotti in Britain, by the Austoriani and Moors in Africa, by the Goths in Thrace and Moesia, and by the Persians, who had invaded Armenia. Valentinian set up court at Milan, leaving Constantinople to Valens. Procopius was from a noble Cilician family and claimed the imperial power by inheritance. He used this argument and monetary rewards to win over Goths sent to Constantinople and war-like tribes in Thrace, but he alienated Arbitio by burning his house when he did not rush to his defense. Procopius took over Bithynia and the Hellespont but was defeated by the army of Valens in Phrygia and beheaded. Valens spent three years fighting the rebelling Goths until he and Athanaric, meeting on the Danube River, agreed to a treaty in 369.

Valentinian himself led a large army across the Rhine in 368 and defeated the Alamanni at Solicinium. Smaller campaigns in the Rhine region were carried out in 371 and 374. When Valentinian became ill, he appointed his son Gratian to succeed him. Valentinian could be quite cruel, ordering Illyricum treasurer Diocles burned at the stake and local senators executed in Pannonia. The historian Ammianus lamented that such power frightened the Emperor's enemies into silence so that wrong actions were not corrected. He also criticized Valentinian for allowing military leaders to harm the state while punishing the offenses of common soldiers.

Persia's Shapur II invited Armenian king Arsaces to a banquet, then had his eyes put out before having him tortured and killed some years later. This and other incursions stimulated the Romans to break the treaty by sending help to the Armenians. Valentinian empowered Maximin as pro-prefect of Rome and appointed Leo to help him prosecute many people for treason, sorcery, fornication, and adultery, re-instituting torture and resulting in many executions. Former urban prefect Praetextatus and others complained that punishments were out of proportion to the offenses and argued that no senator should be subjected to torture for anything. Emperor Valentinian denied that he made such a decree, and so Praetextatus was able to get the cruel edict repealed.

Theodosius crossed to Britain with an army to defeat the plundering Picts and Scots, winning popularity by restoring most of it to the owners. Theodosius brought about reforms in Britain, rebuilding cities and garrison towns. He dismissed secret service agents, who were convicted of taking bribes for passing on information. In Germany Valentinian and his army were able to keep back the barbarians, although an attempt to capture Alamanni king Macrianus failed. Valentinian sent Palladius to investigate the government of Africa; but the corrupt commander Romanus managed to inveigle him into silence by getting officers to relinquish their donatives to Palladius. The Moorish prince Firmus collected persecuted Donatists, frustrated soldiers, and urged provincials to claim the imperial crown. Valentinian sent Theodosius, who spent two years fighting the Moors before they were defeated and Firmius killed himself. After Valentinian died in 375, Theodosius was beheaded by intriguing enemies in Carthage. While Theodosius was campaigning in Mauretania and Africa, the Quadi and Sarmatians invaded Pannonia after Maximin invited Quadi king Gabinius to dinner and had him treacherously killed. Eventually an army in Moesia led by the younger Theodosius defeated the Free Sarmatians.

In the East many conspiracies had formed against the intolerant Valens, and in Antioch the jails overflowed with suspects on trial. After an attempt on his life by targeteer Sallustius, Valens had some condemned to death even before they knew they were suspected. Suspects and witnesses were tortured for information. Because of obscure prophecies regarding the syllables "Theo," the innocent Theodorus and the rest of the accused were all beheaded. The philosopher Maximus, who had taught Julian, had predicted that those who heard the oracle would be executed, and he was taken to his native Ephesus and beheaded too. Throughout the East anyone whom an informer accused of treason or magic was liable to be executed. Valens was persuaded by praetorian prefect Modestus to pay less attention to civil suits, allowing corrupt judges and advocates to enrich themselves and win high positions by selling out the interests of the poor to military commanders and those with influence in the palace.

Valens had given refuge to the young Armenian king Pap; but some corrupt men in the government charged Pap, who escaped with 300 men from Tarsus. The Emperor Valens sent an army after them, but Pap was welcomed safely back to his kingdom. The Armenian king remained loyal in spite of false accusations but was also treacherously slain at a banquet. Shapur was upset by Pap's death and sent the Surena to take over Armenian territories that had been grabbed by the Roman commander in Mesopotamia Urbicius and his cavalry leader Victor. Because the Goths were overrunning Thrace, the Romans could not stop this.

Meanwhile in 374 Valentinian made peace with Macrianus on the Rhine. After battling the Quadi Valentinian became so angry at their envoys that he died of a busted blood vessel in 375. Because of the expensive Persian campaign and the construction of elaborate defenses in the north to stop frontier incursions, Valentinian had had to impose high taxes to pay troops. Ammianus believed that although he disciplined soldiers for trivial offenses, Valentinian let serious offenses by superiors go unchecked, resulting in disturbances in Britain and devastation in Africa and Illyricum. He did ban the exposing of infants and subsidized fourteen physicians in the fourteen districts of Rome. Valentinian also promoted educational academies in Rome and Constantinople that taught both Latin and Greek. He was succeeded in the West by his 16-year-old son Gratian.


Christianity began spreading among the Goths in Asia in the third century, and their bishop Theophilus represented them at the ecumenical council in Nicaea in 325. During the fourth century Ulfila taught Arian doctrine and translated the Gospels, using a Gothic alphabet he invented. Hermanric ruled over a Gothic empire that extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea. However, many of his vassals joined the invading Huns instead of resisting them. After Hermanric had the wife of the chief Roxolani torn apart by horses, her brothers wounded the Gothic king. Hermanric died in despair and was succeeded by Withimer; but he was slain in a decisive battle against the Huns and Alani. Thus the eastern Ostrogoths ("bright Goths") succumbed to the Huns, though Alatheus and Saphrax took the infant king Witheric, leading a western migration toward the Dniester. The banks of that river were defended by the western Visigoths ("Wise Goths") led by King Athanaric, who tried to remain firm; but most of the Goths abandoned him.

Fritigern and Alavivus led the Visigoth Thervingi to spread along the bank of the Danube, sending agents to Valens for permission to cross the Danube into Roman territory. Fritigern and his followers in conflict with Athanaric at this time adopted Arian Christianity. The Emperor did allow about 200,000 men and their families to settle in Thrace; but Greuthungi king Videric's similar request was rejected. Athanaric, fearing rejection also, retired with his people to Caucalanda, driving away the Sarmatians. The Thervingi suffered from inadequate supplies because of corrupt government by Lupicinus and Maximus, who imposed heavy taxes on the hungry immigrants. Food was sold for high prices, and soon the Visigoths were selling their children into slavery for dog-meat to survive. Such abuses by Roman soldiers stimulated the Goths to roam around Thrace. When Lupicinus brought troops against the Visigoth rebellion led by Fritigern and Alavivus, the Ostrogoth Greuthungi led by Alatheus and Saphrax began sneaking across the Danube. The desperate Ostrogoths accepted the military leadership of Fritigern and attacked the troops of Lupicinus, killing many and taking their weapons.

In 377 Valens sent legions from the Armenia conflict; these forces were outnumbered and suffered losses, while Gratian sent general Frigeridus with Pannonian and Transalpine troops. Both sides had heavy casualties in the battle at Salices. A threatened alliance of the Goths with the Alans and Huns caused Saturninus to pull his imperial troops away from the river, and soon Goths were devastating all of Thrace, though the army of Frigeridus defeated the Goths and Taifali under Gothic chief Farnobius.

The next year Gratian's forces defeated the Alammanic tribe of Lentienses, who had been raiding across the border of Raetia. According to Ammianus only 5,000 of 40,000 armed men escaped slaughter by the Roman troops. In 378 Valens decided to fight the Goths without waiting for reinforcements from Gratian, and he was defeated and killed at Adrianople. Only a third of the Roman army escaped, and Ammianus called it the second worst massacre of Roman troops ever. The Goths besieged Adrianople, and in reckless attacks many on both sides were killed. Goths with some Huns and Alans that Fritigern had recruited moved against Constantinople; but a group of Saracens helped the Romans save their capital. Ammianus Marcellinus concluded his history with an account of how Taurus commander Julius ordered all the Romans in charge of Goths in Asia to round them up by promising to pay their wages; then they were all put to death. Ammianus credited this "wise plan" with saving the East from serious danger.


Five months after Valens died, Emperor Gratian presented the 32-year-old general Theodosius as Augustus to rule over Thrace, Asia, Egypt, and because of the Goth crisis over Dacia and Macedonia as well. In 380 Theodosius became dangerously ill and was baptized by the Catholic bishop of Thessalonica, Acholius, before campaigning against the Goths. The next year after Gregory of Nazianzus was made bishop of Constantinople, Theodosius expelled from churches in his dominions all clergy not accepting the Nicene creed. During his reign Emperor Theodosius issued fifteen edicts against heretics, mostly against those who rejected the doctrine of the Trinity.

Theodosius gave Athanaric refuge in Constantinople. When the Visigoth king died in 382, he was honored with a funeral. Many Visigoths became loyal to the Roman empire, as Theodosius made a treaty with Fritigern, allowing them to settle as allies in Lower Moesia. The Goths became divided, some following the liberal peace and justice of Fravitta and many supporting the aggressive independence of Eriwulf. After a bitter argument at a banquet with Theodosius, Fravitta, afraid of civil war breaking out, killed Eriwulf with his sword. The imperial palace-guards restrained the Goths from taking revenge. After roaming around northern Europe for a few years the Ostrogoths led by Alatheus returned to the Danube. The army of Theodosius defeated them, and they agreed to settle in Phrygia and Lydia.

While Emperor Gratian diverted himself slaying wild beasts, an army rival of Theodosius in Britain named Maximus defeated the Picts and Scots and was acclaimed Augustus by his army. His revolt gathered strength as he and his followers invaded Gaul in 383. After some fighting even his own troops abandoned Gratian, as he fled Paris toward Lyons with only 300 horses. The governor of that province turned Gratian over to Andragathius, the cavalry general of Maximus, and he was put to death. Theodosius negotiated an agreement with the usurping Maximus, giving him territory beyond the Alps as long as Gratian's young brother Valentinian II could rule Italy, Africa, and Western Illyricum. In 385 Priscillian, bishop of Avila in Spain, and six others were tortured and executed for heresy by a prefect of Maximus. The Arian Justina was able to get her young son Valentinian II to grant religious toleration to the dioceses ruled by him from Milan.

In 387 Maximus invaded Italy, murdered the general Merobaudes, and entered Milan in triumph as Valentinian and his mother fled to Thessalonica, where they were joined by Theodosius, who had recently married Valentinian's sister Galla. Theodosius raised a large army with support from Goths, Huns, and Alans, and the next year advanced against Maximus, who was defeated and surrendered at Aquileia, where he and a few in his guard were executed. The fleet of Maximus was defeated off Sicily, and his son Victor, who had been ruling Gaul, was killed by general Arbogast. A general pardon quieted Italy, and Theodosius spent three years in Milan, taking one trip to Rome. The West was restored to Valentinian II, now 17, and the death of his mother facilitated his conversion by Ambrose to the orthodox faith. During the civil war against Maximus some Goths deserted to Macedonia and ravaged its neighbors. In 387 Theodosius made a treaty with Persian king Shapur III (r. 383-388), giving the Persians four-fifths of Armenia and the Roman empire one-fifth.

Franks crossed the Rhine and raided so effectively, defeating Roman forces, that Theodosius sent general Arbogast to help the West; but he began by putting to death the infant son of Maximus. The Frankish general turned against his former tribe, demanding the Franks restore booty and turn over those who instigated the war. They refused, but in 389 Arbogast negotiated a treaty with the Marcomir and Sunno. The next year Visigoths led by the young Alaric invaded Thrace. Theodosius issued an edict allowing inhabitants in the region to carry arms and attack marauders. In 391 Theodosius was ambushed and defeated on the Maritza, but the Emperor was rescued by general Promotus. After Promotus was killed in the war, Theodosius appointed the Vandal Stilicho commander in Thrace. He was able to surround the rebellious Goths on the Maritza, and the Emperor let them go free under a treaty in 392.

Costs of the civil war against Maximus and his decennalia celebrations led Theodosius to impose extra taxes on Antioch. After their riots threw down his statues, Antiochians awaited his displeasure; but he was forgiving. However, in 390 at Thessalonica general Botheric imprisoned a popular chariot driver for seducing his male lover. The angry racing fans murdered Botheric and several of his officers, dragging their bodies through the streets. Theodosius ordered a treacherous revenge. The Thessalonicans were invited to attend games in the circus, and then soldiers surrounded and massacred about 7,000. Because of this, Milan bishop Ambrose would not give communion to the Emperor until he performed public penance on December 25.

In 391 and 392 Theodosius issued edicts against paganism. Sacrifices and divination were prohibited as treason, and a commission was established in the East to shut the temples, seize idols, abolish priestly privileges, and confiscate pagan property for the Emperor, his army, or the church. In Egypt the temple of Serapis was demolished in 391, and the great library of Alexandria was destroyed. That year Theodosius freed children who had been sold as slaves by their poor fathers. War captives were still enslaved. After Stilicho defeated Rhadagaisus, 200,000 Goths and Germans were put up for sale, lowering the price of a slave from 25 gold pieces to one. Gladiator shows continued. In 391 the consul Symmachus complained that 29 Saxon prisoners chose suicide rather than public exhibition. The last celebration of the ancient Olympic games was in 393. Libanius, the great rhetorican of Antioch and advocate of paganism, who had tried to get Theodosius to punish those who destroyed temples, was nearly 80 when he died in 393.

In 392 the Frankish general Arbogast had Valentinian II murdered (Some said it was suicide.) at Vienne and set up the rhetorician Eugenius as Emperor in order to restore paganism. To prepare for the approaching civil war Arbogast's army devastated the territories of the Bructeri and Chamavi, recruiting Alamanni and Franks to join their forces. Theodosius marched against them using many Goths. Arbitio changed sides to the East, and a hurricane seemed to show divine favor for the army of Theodosius. The troops of the usurpers ran away in panic, and Eugenius was killed in 394 as Arbogast fled and committed suicide. Theodosius granted a general pardon, but his health deteriorated. His son Honorius was summoned from Constantinople and arrived in Milan to see his father die on January 17, 395. Perhaps the diplomacy of Theodosius had contributed to making the Goths better allies than the Alamanni and Franks in the West. He eased penalties that affected the sons of criminals. Because of brigands in Macedonia, he allowed victims to slay those who robbed them. Theodosius was succeeded by his sons Arcadius, 18, in the East, and Honorius, only 11, in the West.

Roman Empire Invaded 395-425

Antony, Arius, and Athanasius

Origen's higher morality of voluntary celibacy and poverty prepared the way for the asceticism that developed into monasticism. The examples of the Essenes and the Therapeutae may also have influenced its first appearing in Egypt. During the Decian persecution of 250 21-year-old Paul of Thebes retired into a distant cave, and according to Jerome's short life of him he lived there for ninety years, finally meeting Antony just before he died. Antony was born about 251 into a Christian family near Thebes. About 270 his parents died, leaving him a considerable estate and the care of his sister. Six months later he took the advice of Jesus and gave his 300 acres to local inhabitants, sold his property to benefit the poor, and entrusted his sister to some pious virgins. He studied the local Christian ascetics in order to learn virtues such as graciousness, continual prayer, gentleness, charity, watching, steadfastness, fasting, mildness, patience, and love. When he was about 35, he withdrew into seclusion and thus founded the anchorite tradition. At first he lived in a sepulcher. He spent twenty years in the ruins of a castle and his last years on Mount Colzim, where he died after a very long life in 356.

Believing he should work, Antony wove baskets while he prayed as constantly as he could. He ate one meal a day after sunset of bread, salt, and water and sometimes dates. In this Egyptian climate, bread could keep for six months; so Antony might only see visitors who brought bread twice a year. He slept on the ground or on straw. A hair shirt, sheepskin, and loin-cloth were his only clothes. He was often tempted by devils but always believed that Christ had broken their power to do him any real harm. He argued that the mind itself is superior to learning, and his only books were his memories and the natural world. When he learned that the Emperor had become a Christian, he advised him to think of the future judgment and so practice justice, love people, and care for the poor. Athanasius wrote in his biography of Antony of the desert that he healed many people and encouraged them to take up a solitary life, inducing numerous monks to go forth into the deserts and the mountains. Antony asked why possess things one cannot take away. Rather it is better to possess prudence, justice, temperance, courage, understanding, faith, charity, love of the poor, gentleness, and hospitality, which can be taken into the next life. He noted that Greeks go abroad to study letters, but he found heaven and virtue where he was.

Virtue, therefore, needs only our will,
since it is within us and grows from us.
For virtue grows
when the soul keeps the understanding according to nature.
It is according to nature when it remains as it was made.
Now it was made beautiful and perfectly straight.3

For Antony the soul becomes evil when it bends and gets twisted away from nature. So the task is to remain as God made us. If we give our minds to evil, we become wicked. The task would be difficult if what we seek is outside of ourselves; but it is easy, because it is within us. By keeping our soul as we received it from God, we may recognize His work as it was made. Antony urged fighting not to be mastered by anger nor to be enslaved by desires. He had ways of distinguishing between good and evil visions. He counseled others not to fear Satan, because the devil can do nothing.

In his "First Letter" Antony described three kinds of souls. The first, like Abraham, are called by the Spirit of God. The second, like David, respond to the written law. The third kind have hard hearts and persist in sin; but God sends them afflictions so they may repent. Repentance works first from a call by the Spirit, which teaches one how to return to God and makes rules for the mind and body. The guiding Spirit opens the eyes of the soul and teaches the mind how to discriminate and how to purify the soul and body, leading them back to their original condition. Antony also described three movements of the body: the soul consents to the first, which are natural; the second results from gluttony and excessive drinking; and in the third evil spirits tempt us out of envy. The latter result when the mind spurns the testimonies of the Spirit. When the mind prays to the Spirit, then it can expel the afflictions that come from greed. The mind may learn how to discipline the eyes, ears, tongue, hands, belly, genitals, and feet. The soul may also be tempted apart from the body by pride, insolence, hatred, envy, anger, cowardice, impatience, and so on. If one gives oneself to God wholeheartedly, the Spirit of repentance using prolonged fasts, vigils, study of scripture, many prayers, and by renouncing the world may bring help by God's mercy.

The other six letters of Antony emphasis self-knowledge and preparing for the presence of Jesus. For Antony those who know themselves know God, the dispensations of the Creator, their time, and the essential unity that is immortal. Antony believed that unless one hates all earthly possessions and renounces them, stretching out one's heart to God, one cannot be saved. Because of unity, to do wrong to one's neighbor is to do wrong to oneself, and to do good to one's neighbor is to do good to oneself. He wrote, "You should not regard your progress and entry into the service of God as your own work; rather a divine power supports you always."4

During the persecution under Maximinus in 311 Antony followed the martyrs to Alexandria, and he ministered to the confessors in the mines and prisons. He zealously appeared with them before the tribunal, and he mourned when he was not selected for martyrdom. After the persecution ended, he went back to his monastery. Miracles were attributed to his prayers and urging of others to pray. According to Athanasius he opposed the Arians and taught people not to defile themselves by associating with them. Antony persuaded many soldiers and wealthy people to put aside their burdens and become monks. Athanasius called him a "healer given to Egypt by God."5 When banished in 340 Athanasius took two of Antony's monks to Rome, introducing the ascetic way of monks. When Athanasius returned six years later, he was greeted by Antony. Until the very end of his centenarian life Antony maintained a good disposition and better health than those with rich diets, baths, and many clothes; he had all his teeth although they were worn nearly to the gums. Antony opposed mummification and requested that his body be buried in a secret place.


Hilarion was born near Gaza; but as a youth he studied in Alexandria, where he became a Christian and spent two months with Antony. When his parents died in 306, he was only 15; but Hilarion gave his inheritance to his brothers and the poor, becoming a hermit on a road near Gaza while weaving baskets for his subsistence. He fasted, chanted the Old Testament, and sang psalms. His cell was only five feet high; he slept on the ground, only changed his garment after it turned to rags, and cut his hair each Easter. According to Jerome's biography he healed many, expelled demons, and converted Saracens. His reputation for holiness was said to have attracted as many as ten thousand visitors. Hilarion established a Palestinian monastery in 329 and then traveled to Thebes in Egypt, North Africa, Sicily, Dalmatia, and finally to Cyprus in order to find solitude. He was credited with prophesying the religious revolution decreed by Emperor Julian, and he died in 371.

Pachomius was born to Egyptian parents and served in the army under the tyrannical Maximin when he was campaigning against Constantine and Licinius. Pachomius was won over by the kind treatment he received from Christians in Thebes. After his discharge from the army, he was baptized and in 313 began to study with the aged hermit Palemon, who ate only bread and salt, spending half the night singing psalms and meditating. In 325 Pachomius believed he was directed by an angel to found a monastery on the island of Tabenne in the Nile, which by his death in 348 had grown to nine cloisters with several thousand monks. A century later it had 50,000 members. His rules, thought to have been communicated by an angel, were translated into Latin by Jerome. Rigid vows were not required until after three years of probation. In addition to weaving, monks worked at ship-building and farming so they could support the poor and the sick. Monks were graded for their piety into 24 classes represented by the letters of the Greek alphabet. Monks lived three per cell and kept silence and their faces covered during common meals. Pachomius also established a cloister for nuns, but he refused to see his sister. Other female cloisters developed around the sister of Antony and the wife of Ammon. After Pachomius fifty monasteries sprang up on the Nitrian mountain with seven bakeries to supply anchorites.

Eustathius founded monasteries in Armenia, Pontus, and Paphlagonia; but his sect believed that marriage prevented salvation, was condemned for this by a council at Gangra about 341, and eventually died out. Audians founded monasteries in Scythia that lasted about a century, and Euchites called Enthusiasts roamed around Mesopotamia and Syria praying continually while despising labor. They were persecuted near the end of the 4th century by ecclesiastical and civil authorities but managed to survive. In Rome Jovinian wrote in opposition to monasticism, criticizing its asceticism. He believed eating with thanksgiving was as good as fasting and that being married was of equal merit with celibacy although he himself never married. About 390 Jovinian was excommunicated by the bishop of Rome, Siricius, who opposed the marriage of priests.


Athanasius was born about 298 and so was a child during the Diocletian persecution. In 313 Alexandrian bishop Alexander saw the young Athanasius playing a bishop with his friends, took the youth into his care, appointing him his secretary and later archdeacon. Athanasius probably wrote The Incarnation of the Word of God before the Arian controversy began. In this work he emphasized the moral necessity of the divine incarnation because of the increase of adulteries, thefts, murder, rape, corruption, injustice, and various iniquities perpetrated by individuals and groups. Cities warred against cities, and nations rose against nations, dividing the whole earth into factions and battles as they strove to outdo each other in their wickedness. Christ assumed a body in order to show the way to salvation and overcome death by surrendering his own temple to destruction by sinful people, demonstrating life by resurrection after an undeniable public execution. Athanasius argued his case to Jews and Greeks and concluded, "One cannot possibly understand the teaching of the saints unless one has a pure mind and is trying to imitate their life."6

About 319 an Alexandrian priest named Arius began teaching a Neo-Platonist doctrine that emphasized the oneness of God but making Christ as the word of God a secondary deity substantially different than the uncreated Father and subordinate to his will. The ideas of Arius were published in his poem Thalia. Arius taught that although Christ created the world, he was created by the one God and was thus not as divine. At a council of one hundred bishops called in 321 by bishop Alexander 98 condemned Arius; his two supporters and other clerics were deposed. Arius went to bishop Eusebius in Caesarea, and the famous church historian helped by sending to others such as the Nicomedia bishop also named Eusebius, who summoned a council of bishops that reinstated Arius. He then returned to Alexandria, where the conflict raged.

When his emissaries failed to mediate the conflict, Emperor Constantine called the first ecumenical meeting. Athanasius accompanied his bishop to the council at Nicaea in 325 and distinguished himself by his arguments refuting the doctrines of Arius that he believed denied the deity of Christ. About twenty Arian bishops were led by Eusebius of Nicomedia; but their proposed creed was defeated, and all but two of them abandoned it. Eusebius of Caesarea offered a creed without the word homoousios, but a majority insisted the word be added to what became the Nicene creed. Under Constantine's leadership the council decided in favor of a divine trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in which the Son (Christ and the Word of God) is considered to be of the same essence (homoousios) as the Father (God). Arius and two Egyptian bishops refused to sign the formula and were declared heretics. In the first civil punishment of heresy the books of Arius were ordered burned. This council also settled the Meletian controversy that previously had disturbed Alexandria, and it established the Roman rather than the Jewish dating of Easter. Twenty canons helped to resolve problems concerning those who had fallen away during the persecutions, enabled schismatics to return, prohibited ordination of eunuchs and recent converts, and established the jurisdictions under the bishops of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

Three years later in 328 Athanasius was made bishop of Alexandria even though he was not quite old enough. Constantine was persuaded by Eusebius of Caesarea to recall Arius from exile. At an Arian church council led by the historian Eusebius at Tyre in 335 Athanasius was condemned and deposed for making false accusations against Arius, and the next year he was banished to Gaul by the Emperor for disturbing the peace of the church and threatening to disrupt the grain supply from Egypt. Arius had been acquitted of heresy by a council at Jerusalem the year before, but he died in his eighties of cholera at Constantinople in 336. Emperor Constantine II recalled Athanasius from exile in 338; but under Constantius Arianism prevailed in the East, and Athanasius was banished again. Constantius and his brother Constans, who was ruling the West, called a council at Sardica in 343 to resolve the conflict; but when the Arian bishops stayed away because Athanasius was admitted, the Nicene doctrine was confirmed. Instead the Eastern bishops met at nearby Philippopolis and confirmed the Antioch council held two years earlier.

Athanasius was restored in 346; but after Constans died in 350, Constantius called four councils within seven years to promote a moderated Arianism that taught a similarity (homoiousios) of essence rather than a difference. Yet this resulted in the banning of bishops Liberius of Rome, Hosius of Cordova, Hilary of Poitiers, Lucifer of Calaris, and again Athanasius, who in 356 was driven out of his cathedral by 5,000 soldiers and was replaced by the avaricious Arian George of Cappadocia. Then in 359 Eastern bishops met at Seleucia in Isauria while Western bishops conferred at Rimini in Italy. As Jerome put it, everyone seemed to wake up one day to lament and marvel at finding themselves Arian. After Constantius died in 361, George was murdered, enabling Athanasius to return again, only to be sent into exile the next year by Julian until the pagan Emperor died in 363. Athanasius was banished a final fifth time in 365 by Emperor Valens but was reinstated the next year and was able to spend the rest of his life in peace corresponding with Basil, who founded monasteries in Cappadocia.

In writing to Epictetus, bishop of Corinth, Athanasius defended the humanity of Christ, and in a letter to Dracontius he urged the monk to leave the desert to serve the episcopate. Athanasius remains controversial to this day as scholars are divided; some criticize him for using Mafia-like tactics, while others claim that in his battles against the world he only used spiritual weapons and never favored the use of force. He suffered frequent persecution, but his supporters say he never practiced it against others, following the maxim that orthodoxy should persuade faith, not force it. Athanasius died in 373, and for a time Arians were able to oppress their opponents in Alexandria.

Cyril became bishop of Jerusalem about 350; but he was deposed by a local council of bishops in 357. One of the charges was selling church property to relieve the poor during a famine. His deposition was confirmed by an Arian council in 360. After Constantius died in 361, Cyril was restored when Emperor Julian allowed all exiled prelates to return. He was deposed again by Emperor Valens in 367 and allowed to return to his position at Jerusalem by Theodosius in 379. He died in 386. His Catachetical Lectures were written forty years earlier. In these Cyril emphasized that faith and works are equally important. He believed that faith involved subscribing to a creed and trusting in God. Works depend on one's free will, not heredity or environmental factors. For Cyril good works did not exclude the moderate use of wealth, the body, sex, marriage, clothes, wine, and food, because he believed the body is beautiful and merits tender treatment. He believed in confession and taught that salvation depends on baptism or martyrdom.

Basil and Two Gregorys of Cappadocia

Basil was born about 329 in the Cappadocia capital at Caesarea, which is along the military road between Antioch and Constantinople. His paternal grandmother Macrina was a devout Christian and had been a disciple of Gregory Thaumaturgos, and his maternal grandfather died a Christian martyr. Basil's father was a prominent lawyer and teacher of rhetoric. His younger brother was known as Gregory of Nyssa. Basil, Gregory, and their brother Peter became bishops; Basil, Gregory, and their sister Macrina were canonized as saints. Basil studied at Constantinople, perhaps with Libanius, and while learning at Athens from 351 to 356 he met his best friend, Gregory of Nazianzus. Basil began a secular career at Caesarea, but the piety of his sister Macrina influenced him to take up an ascetic life. Basil and some friends established a monastic community on his family estate at Annesi in Pontus. He retreated from the city as a source of many evils, but still he found that even in solitude he could not forsake himself. Tormented by restlessness, the next year Basil toured the monasteries of Egypt. He adopted and adapted the cenobite (community) monasticism practiced by Pachomius. He eventually found that seclusion from the world's business, celibacy, solitude, study of the scriptures, living with Godly men, prayer, contemplation, and ascetic severity could help train the wild passions in order to attain quietness of soul.

Basil disagreed with his Arian bishop Dianius, who died in 362. His successor, Eusebius, disliked the asceticism of Basil, who withdrew to Annesi. Basil was ordained a priest in 364. About this time Basil wrote a treatise against the Arian Eunomius, who was so extreme in his views he had even been banished by Constantius. When the church was threatened by the Arian Emperor Valens in 365, Basil returned to Caesarea and tried to unite the semi-Arians and supporters of the Nicene doctrine under the formula of "three persons in one substance." Basil studied with his friend Gregory, and together they made extracts from the works of Origen in the Philocalia. When Eusebius died in 370, Basil became archbishop of Caesarea. He founded charitable institutions to help the poor, travelers, and the sick, notably the hospital Basilias for the many lepers in the area. When Emperor Valens visited Caesarea in 371, Basil refused to submit to him. The next year Valens divided the province; but Basil appointed Gregory of Nazianzus at Sasima and his own brother Gregory at Nyssa. However, Gregory of Nazianzus resented Basil using their friendship in this political way and probably never took up the post at Sasima.

Basil wrote influential Longer Rules and Shorter Rules for monasteries. He set reasonable standards for austerity to avoid the rivalries in ascetic rigor he saw in Egypt. Private fasts could not be undertaken without the superior's permission. Basil insisted on obedience to the superior, although elder brothers could admonish the superior when necessary. He found silence to be a useful discipline for novices. Basil preferred the community monastery that could express love of God and neighbors as they cooperated together in their efforts toward perfection. Seclusion did not offer the opportunity to practice humility, obedience, charity, and other social virtues. Basil is credited with systematizing if not founding the common house, the common table, and prayer in common. By living near secular brothers and sisters the monks could offer a model of Christian living and could undertake external works to love their neighbors. Yet both philanthropic works and communal living were only means to the greater end of union with God.

In his Address to Young Men Basil defended the study of pagan literature. In addition to the 365 extant letters, Basil wrote homilies and moral essays. In an early letter he wrote of the perfection of solitary life. A Christian should not be doubtful nor swear, lie, speak evil, fight, or be angry. He should be patient, moderate, avoid slander, and be subject to God's will. A monk should work without complaining and should not offend with glances, words, or deeds nor be envious or hold grudges. He should not seek the riches of the world but rejoice in poverty. In an exhortation to renounce the world Basil wrote that the soul is an image of heaven because the Lord dwells in it, while the flesh is of earth wherein live mortal humans and irrational beasts. The needs of the body should be regulated in conformity with the hours of prayer. He began "A Discourse on Ascetical Discipline" by stating that foremost the monk should own nothing in this world but should possess solitude, modesty, a modulated tone of voice, and well-ordered speech.

In The Morals Basil listed eighty rules for Christians, supporting them with quotations from the scriptures. Some of these include not lying, imitating the equal relations observed by children, and being compassionate and generous. His longest discourse is on Rule 70 regarding appointing blameless deacons and priests whose past life has been investigated and found worthy. The last rule calls on Christians to conform to the pattern of what they see and hear in Christ.

Like Antony, Basil in "Give Heed to Thyself" recommended paying attention to oneself and to the purity in the ruling part of the soul. He noted that we are easily prone to sins of thought and believed that the impulse received from the intention is the major element in sin. When the thoughts of a person run off to sin, the imagination may see objects of desire and draw pictures of sensual pleasures. The sins of intention can occur with the swiftness of thought. One should pay attention to oneself instead of to possessions and the objects around one. Despise the flesh which passes away, and be solicitous of the soul that never dies. Acquire an exact understanding of yourself so that you may know how to regulate the two sides of your nature, providing for the needs of both body and soul. Be soberly vigilant and watch yourself. Basil distinguished the rational part of the soul from the non-rational emotions; the former should have authority, and the latter should submit. Never allow the mind to become the slave of the passions nor permit the emotions to rise up against reason and usurp the power of the soul. By yielding to carnal passions the soul destroys its proper beauty; but the practice of virtue purifies one from such shame.

In a homily Basil warned against anger. Just as medical precepts are learned by the test of experience, so the wisdom of spiritual counsel can be demonstrated by the results produced. When anger usurps dominion over the soul, it makes the person bestial in a temporary madness. He advised against trying to cure one evil with another by trying to outdo another in inflicting harm. Do not make your enemy your model by imitating what you hate. Basil wrote, "If you remain unruffled, you silence your insolent assailant by giving him a practical illustration of self-control."7 Anger may be used constructively when the soul becomes enervated by pleasure in order to restore it from its weak and flaccid condition to rigor. How does one keep one's passions from being aroused against improper objects? Basil recommends the humility which Jesus taught in words and illustrated in his life.

Basil also warned against envy, which he wrote is a pain caused by our neighbor's prosperity. Its cure is in not regarding the goods of this world as admirable. If you desire glory, he suggested you turn your aspirations toward acquiring virtue and free yourself from the desire for earthly riches. In "On Detachment" Basil wrote that a person with one's best interests at heart will be concerned with the soul and will spare no pains to keep it stainless and true to itself.


After Basil died on January 1, 379 Gregory of Nazianzus composed a funeral oration praising his friend. He recounted how during a famine Basil sold possessions to buy food and got the rich to open their storehouses to give bread to the poor; he set out caldrons of pea soup for the hungry. Gregory also told how when a widow was violently importuned by an assessor to marry her, she fled for sanctuary to the altar of a church. Basil refused to give her up and was summoned before the judge, ready to undergo the lash. However, people heard and came with torches and clubs, hurling stones. Then Basil protected the judge from these irate men and women. Gregory noted that Basil had no wealth but the cross, which alone was his life and which he deemed more precious than the greatest riches. Gregory observed that Basil could cherish virtue with a smile of commendation or repress vice with the reproach of silence.

The elder Gregory of Nazianzus was converted from a monotheistic sect by his wife Nonna, who was later canonized along with her children Gregory, Caesarius, and Gorgonia. She consecrated her son Gregory to serve God even before he was born. The younger Gregory shared the Athenian education of his friend Basil and excelled at oratory, delivering funeral eulogies of his father, brother, sister, and Basil. He commended his mother's self-sacrificing love for the poor and sick, but he noted that she was intolerant toward "heathen women." This Gregory, guided by his mother and a dream, chose celibacy although his father was one of the few married bishops. Caesarius was a renowned physician and served Emperor Constantius in that position. Gregory of Nazianzus criticized Emperor Julian and was said to have prophesied the evil he would cause the empire when he knew Julian at school in Athens. When he was about 30, Gregory adopted an ascetic life, though his love of his parents kept him from seclusion. Gregory, like Basil and later Augustine, was ordained a presbyter (priest) against his will in 362. When his father died in 374, Gregory became bishop of Nazianzus; but he retired again the next year to Seleucia in Isauria.

Gregory of Nazianzus wrote that to praise Athanasius was to praise virtue, because he embraced virtue in its entirety. This Gregory from 379 worked at Constantinople to promote what soon became the orthodox doctrine. The next year Emperor Theodosius made Gregory the capital's patriarch and began issuing edicts condemning the Arians. He called the second ecumenical council at Constantinople in 381. After Antioch bishop Meletius died, Gregory of Nazianzus presided, and the patriarch of Constantinople as the "new Rome" was ranked second after the bishop of Rome. There 36 semi-Arians walked out, and 150 bishops, none of whom were from the Latin church, established a revised Nicene Creed without the filioque (and the son) later added by the Latin church. When bishops from Egypt and Macedonia disputed Gregory's election, he resigned in disgust over the party strife, offering to sacrifice himself like Jonah in order to save the ship of the church. Gregory left Constantinople and spent his remaining years in solitude on his paternal estate in Nazianzum. Called the theologian, Gregory in his Five Theological Orations emphasized the qualities of purity and integrity. He criticized the Eunomians for degrading the divinity of Christ and the Macedonians for lessening the Holy Spirit.


Basil's younger brother Gregory of Nyssa was also influenced by Origen, and he too retired into a quiet life in Pontus. Though he married, Gregory commended virginity as the perfect freedom of true philosophy. The purpose of asceticism for Gregory was not to afflict the body but to facilitate the spiritual functions. Basil appointed him bishop of Nyssa in 372. He also supported the Nicene faith, and in 375 during Arianizing pressure from Emperor Valens a provincial governor accused Gregory of maladministration. The next year he was deposed by a synod and driven into exile. After Emperor Valens died two years later, Gratian allowed Gregory to recover his bishopric at Nyssa. Gregory was influential in the ecumenical council at Constantinople in 381. The council sent him on a tour of Arabia and Palestine, where he found hatred toward brothers he believed only should be expressed against the devil and sin.

In his extensive writing Gregory of Nyssa used Origen's allegorical interpretation and agreed with him that punishment is medicinal and educative in preparation for the universal salvation of all souls and the ultimate abolition of evil as negative and thus non-existent in God. In his major theological work, The Great Catechism, written in 385, Gregory attempted to synthesize Jewish monotheism and Hellenic polytheism into the unique Christian doctrine of the trinity. He emphasized free will and the human ability to choose, and he applied the Platonic doctrine of virtue's wholeness to his analysis of redemption. His Life of Moses treated the great law-giver as a pattern for the progress of the soul from the temptations of the world to a vision of God.

Martin, Ambrose, and Prudentius

Hilary of Poitiers of southwestern Gaul was converted to Christianity along with his wife and daughter. He was made bishop of his town about 350, but five years later he was banished to Phrygia by Emperor Constantius for refusing to sign the condemnation of Athanasius. Hilary wrote to Constantius, pleading for peace within the church. During his four years in Phrygia Hilary wrote a long work in twelve books On the Trinity. After the council at Seleucia, Hilary appealed again to the Emperor, at least that he be allowed to debate the Arian issue. To avoid this in 360 the Arians got Constantius to send Hilary back to Gaul, where he was welcomed as the "Athanasius of the West." In 364 Hilary went to Milan to debate the Arian bishop Auxentius, who had taken control of that see. Hilary died a few years later.

Martin was born about 330 to pagan parents in Pannonia (Hungary). Since his father was a tribune in the army, by Roman law Martin was required to serve in the military also. At age ten against the wishes of his parents he became a Christian catechumen. Among the soldiers he lived like a monk. Once in winter he tore his only cloak in half to clothe a beggar that others with extra clothes had ignored, and in a dream he saw Jesus with that cloak he gave away. This stimulated Martin to be baptized. He remained a soldier for two more years until Emperor Julian was offering them a bonus. Martin refused to accept it, saying he could not fight anymore, because he was Christ's soldier. When Julian called him a coward, Martin volunteered to face the enemy unarmed with only the sign of the cross. He was arrested; but envoys made peace the next day, and Martin was soon released from the army.

Martin went to Poitiers bishop Hilary and was made a deacon. In the Alps Martin got lost and was set upon by brigands; but his faith in danger converted one of the robbers. When Hilary was banished in 355, Martin became a hermit at Milan, where he was persecuted and driven out by Bishop Auxentius. Martin went to Rome to greet the returning Hilary. Martin was said to have revived from death a catechumen, who said that while he was out of his body, two angels told the Judge that Martin was praying for him; then the two angels brought him back. In 360 Hilary provided land at Ligugé, where Martin established the first monastery in Gaul. About 371 the reluctant Martin was elected bishop at Tours. When a pagan of consular rank named Tetradius promised to become a Christian if Martin expelled the demon from his serf, Martin healed the boy. As bishop, Martin continued to live like a monk and even moved away from the city.

Martin tore down pagan temples and preached as a missionary as far away as Vienne. He was credited with curing the eyes of Paulinus of Nola. During a synod at Bordeaux in 384 Martin appealed to Emperor Maximus on behalf of the Gnostic and Manichaean Priscillian and his followers; but Ossanova bishop Itacius urged they be put to death. Although Maximus promised Martin not to spill their blood, his prefect Evodius had Priscillian and others beheaded. Martin continued to intervene in order to prevent a bloody persecution of Spanish Priscillianists. Martin would not join in communion with the bishops who were persecuting the heretics to death, and for a while this conflict seemed to diminish his spiritual powers. Martin died in 397, and his funeral was attended by two thousand monks. He was one of the first non-martyrs to be canonized, and he became the patron saint of France.


Ambrose was born in 339 at Trier in the palace of his father, who governed Gaul. His father died when Ambrose was a child, and he was educated at Rome, living with his mother and sister Marcellina, who had taken a vow of virginity. Ambrose was a successful lawyer and was appointed praetorian prefect for Upper Italy at Milan. When the Arian Auxentius died in 374, so much disturbance was expected over the election of a new bishop that Ambrose went to prevent a riot. A child cried out, "Ambrose for bishop," and he was unanimously elected. In eight days he was baptized and passed through the grades of the church's ministry. Ambrose sold his estates and used his gold and silver to help the poor, leaving an allowance for Marcellina. He began studying the scriptures and the works of Origen and Basil. Any member of his congregation could speak with Ambrose at any time. He preached so persuasively for virginity that mothers kept their daughters away from his sermons. When he was accused of trying to depopulate the empire, he replied that wars, not maidens, were destroying the human race. Ambrose was grieved by the avarice of those in positions of authority, because business with them was troublesome as they retailed everything for a price.

Before Emperor Gratian went east to fight the Goths with the Arian Emperor Valens in 378, he asked Ambrose for instruction against heresy; the bishop responded by writing his work On Faith. After Valens was defeated and killed at Adrianople, Ambrose argued this was a divine judgment against Arianism. When Maximus usurped the place of Gratian in 383, Ambrose helped Justina prevent her young son Valentinian II from being sent to Trier. He also went to recover the body of Gratian, asking Maximus to do penance for the murder of Gratian. He cautioned the usurping Emperor not to attack Valentinian II. In 384 Ambrose persuaded Valentinian to reject a request by Symmachus to restore the statue of Victory in the senate at Rome. After the Priscillian heretics were beheaded, Ambrose excommunicated Maximus. Ambrose managed to consecrate Anemius bishop at Sirmium in spite of efforts by Empress Justina to place an Arian in that cathedral.

Ambrose was summoned to the court of Valentinian II to debate the Arian views of the younger Auxentius. Ambrose wrote a letter to the Emperor refusing, because in questions of faith bishops usually judge Emperors, not the reverse. He invited Auxentius to come to his church for a discussion before the people. If there is to be a conference about the faith, it should be of bishops, as it was under Constantine. Ambrose advised the Emperor to obey his own laws. While in a church Ambrose and his congregation were surrounded by imperial troops during holy week of 386. Under siege for several days they sang hymns composed by Ambrose that eventually influenced the soldiers. In a sermon against Auxentius Ambrose said he would not depart willingly, though he would not resist force. His only weapons were his tears. He cried out to the Emperor as a free priest; only by taking his life could he take away his faith. Ambrose criticized Auxentius for trying to substitute laws for faith. The Church belongs to God, not to Caesar. The Emperor is within the Church, not above it, and a good Emperor aims to help the Church, not oppose it.

While Emperor Theodosius was residing at Milan after defeating Maximus, Bishop Ambrose had two confrontations with him. After Christians pulled down a synagogue at Kallinikum in Mesopotamia, Theodosius ordered the bishop to rebuild it. Ambrose protested that a bishop should not be required to erect a structure for another religion and refused to sing mass until the Emperor revoked his order. After the massacre ordered by Theodosius at Thessalonica in 390, Ambrose made the Emperor do public penance before he would receive his offering at the altar. He did not give Theodosius absolution until he issued a law delaying capital punishment until thirty days after its pronouncement. When Arbogast took control of the West and made Eugenius Emperor, Ambrose departed from Milan before Eugenius arrived, sending him a letter appealing to his conscience. Ambrose strengthened the people against the invaders, and the forces of Theodosius soon defeated those of Arbogast. A few months later in 395 at Milan Theodosius died in the arms of Ambrose, who delivered his funeral oration. Ambrose himself died a day or two before Easter in 397.

Ambrose wrote a book on Christian ethics called On the Duties of Ministers. Modeled on Cicero's On Duties, Ambrose aimed to show that Christian ethics are superior to pagan ideas and, deriving from the Old Testament, much older too. The first book is on virtue. Ambrose took seriously the advice of Jesus to sell all our goods and give to the poor in order to enter life and be perfect. The young should fear God, obey their parents, honor elders, and preserve their purity. One should not despise humility but love patience and modesty. Anger must be guarded. Language should be mild, kind, courteous, and free of insults. Ambrose recommended three principles: controlling passions with reason, proportioning efforts to the importance of the goal, and maintaining the correct order and timing of one's actions.

Ambrose also emphasized the four classic virtues of wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance. Wisdom is the source of all virtues, because it comes from the author of our being, whom we must seek in order to learn how God rules and judges the world. Ambrose's order of right goes from God to country to parents and then to others. Society is held together by justice and also kindness, which consists of good will and liberality. Courage enables us to train the mind and reduce the flesh so that one listens to the commands of reason. This means loving what is best and having contempt for the world. Temperance means being peaceful, gentle, moderate, and attentive to what is virtuous.

The second book is on what is useful. Ambrose found scriptures taught that eternal life comes from the knowledge of God and the fruits of good works. Riches do not help one live in a holy way and may be a hindrance, while poverty may help. For Ambrose what is useful is what brings one closer to God; thus the virtuous is most useful. Nothing is more useful than being loved; therefore one should be kind to others and serve them. Giving impartial and prudent advice may also help. Liberality may also win friends, but one should not be sparing to the needy. Yet beggars can be greedy, and so one must be prudent if one is to sustain the poor. Company with the good and wise is useful, while defending the weak and offering hospitality enhance one's reputation. Being too mild may present a false virtue. One should act mercifully. Ambrose was hated by some for melting down sacred vessels to redeem captives; but he argued that the Church's gold should be spent on those in need, preferring to preserve living vessels rather than gold ones.

In the third book of On the Duties of Ministers Ambrose agreed with Cicero that one should not increase one's own advantage to the disadvantage of others. Humans live in community; if one is injured, the whole is wounded. The Church rises in one body bound together in the oneness of faith and love. Because of human unity the advantage of the individual is the same as that of everyone, and so nothing should be considered advantageous that is not for the common good. Ambrose believed we should never do evil even if one would not be discovered. He wrote that we should exclude the love of money from our hearts, because it leads to shrewdness and tricks to profit from the misfortune of others. We are obligated to avoid fraud, deceit, and false promises. Saints by seeking virtue have achieved what is useful. Ambrose found friendship to be the most beautiful thing in the world, and no one is more hateful than the person who violates it. Yet he cautioned that friendship should not be placed above religion, patriotism, or justice. We should reproach an erring friend but without harshness, bitterness, or arrogance, and an innocent friend should never be forsaken. Most precious is friendship with God, who promises to be our friend if we do what God commands us.


Prudentius was born in 348 at Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza) in Spain. He became a lawyer and governed two provinces. He retired to write Christian poetry in 392 and published his works in 405. Prudentius wrote hymns for different parts of the day and for Christian festivals. A hymn on the Trinity describes the divinity of Christ, and in "The Origin of Sin" he argued against the Gnostic dualism of Marcion. Two books replied to the request by Symmachus to restore the altar to Victory in the Roman senate.

Psychomachia (Soul Battle) starts with Biblical heroes but soon turns to the allegorical portrayal of abstract qualities in conflict with each other. Faith takes the field and is countered by Worship-of-the-Old-Gods. Chastity is attacked by Lust. Prudentius argued that Christ has made us humans divine too. Patience withstands Anger and is protected by Virtue, who overcomes Vice. Fury is its own enemy, and Anger dies by her own weapons. Pride gallops forth to look down on Humility, who turns to Hope. The War-Queen cannot rouse Brotherly Love, Justice, Honesty, Sobriety, Fasting, Purity, and unarmed Simplicity. Deceit lays a trap; but Pride, not Humility, falls into it. Vices like Luxury, Desire, Pomp, Strife, and Pleasure are overcome by Sobriety. Greed, accompanied by Care, Hunger, Fear, Anguish, Perjury, Pallor, Corruption, Treachery, Falsehood, Insomnia, and Meanness, seems to conquer the world; but powerful Reason defends the virtues and is reinforced by Good Works. Invincible Virtue strikes Avarice like a thunderbolt, and the teachings of the Christ drive away Fear, Suffering, Violence, Crime, and Fraud.

Kind Peace banishes war, and happy Concord signals the victors to return to their tents. However, Discord enters their ranks disguised as a friend. Yet the Virtues surround her and expose her as Heresy, who is killed by Faith and torn to pieces. Peaceful Sentiments and Concord swear to love Christ. Faith and Concord build a temple, and Spirit encircles private Soul. Wisdom is enthroned and sets in order all the government with laws to protect humanity. Prudentius concluded that a savage war rages in the two-sided human nature until Christ comes to our aid and orders the virtues so that Wisdom can reign forever. This allegorical method would become popular in Medieval and Renaissance literature.

Prudentius composed hymns to honor those who died for Christianity in his Crowns of Martyrdom. Two men in Spain were killed for refusing to serve in the Roman army. In 258 the bishop of Rome, Sixtus II, and others were killed because of an edict by Valerian. Lawrence was ordered to bring the gold concealed by the church. Lawrence asked for three days to produce the treasures of the church and then came back with beggars. Lawrence was tortured by the prefect and prophesied that Rome would become a city of Christian worship and that the ancient statues would be cleansed from blood and become guiltless. In Lawrence's martyrdom Prudentius saw his victory over the ancient temples. In Lusitania the courageous Eulalia presented herself voluntarily to the seat of authority to challenge their madness, asking why Maximian prostituted himself to his gods and persecuted noble hearts. Finally Eulalia breathed in the torturing fire and released her soul like the whitest dove from her mouth.

Vincent was among eighteen martyrs who were killed in Caesaraugusta. Vincent bravely said to Governor Datianus that his tortures were mere sport to Christians. His speech was ordered imprisoned with a cruel rack and strokes; but Vincent became even more cheerful and radiant, pointing out that within the body is another who is unconfined, undisturbed, unharmed, and exempt from the grievous pains. Tarraco bishop Fructuosus and two deacons were burned to death in 259 because of an order by Caesar Gallienus. Quirinus was drowned in a river of Illyricum during persecution by Galerius. The longest account of a martyrdom by Prudentius was of Romanus, a Christian leader, who was tortured as he preached before he was killed at Antioch, also during the cruel government of Galerius. Prudentius also described the martyrdoms of Peter, Paul, and Cyprian.

John Chrysostom and Jerome

John became known as Chrysostom (meaning "golden-mouthed" for his eloquence) in the 6th century. He was born at Antioch in Syria in 347 and was raised by his Christian mother Anthusa. His father had been a military officer but died soon after John was born. John studied with Libanius, a stalwart pagan and the foremost rhetorician of this century. Before he died in 393, Libanius said that he would have liked to name John as his successor, but the Christians had carried him away. John became a successful lawyer and enjoyed the theater; but after he was instructed for three years by Antioch bishop Meletius, he was baptized. He wanted to become a monk; but he agreed to stay with his mother, and Meletius made him a reader.

In 370 John avoided appointment as a bishop by arranging for a friend named Basil to be elected. His dialog On the Priesthood describes the white lie he told, because he believed he was not qualified to be a priest. In this era talented men were often consecrated as bishops by the elders almost without their consent. Mistrusting his own inexperience and ambition, Chrysostom believed Basil would be better. So he deceived his friend into thinking he would accept the position so that Basil would not try to avoid it. Basil was in fact seized and ordained. John described the qualifications for a priest and advised against accepting the vocation without adequate preparation and valid motives. John was afraid he would be selected for his wealth. Chrysostom believed that divine law excluded women from the priesthood, and he complained that they use their power to select and reject priests. A priest must cast out the lust of domination, be wise and patient, and control his anger. Chrysostom believed (and later demonstrated himself) that a good priest has great speaking ability and skill in argument. He should be indifferent to praise and take no notice of slander. He warned against the doctrines of Jews and Manichaeans. It is much easier for a monk to save his own soul than for a priest to save the souls of others. Ultimately priests are entrusted with the government of the world and should shine like a light.

After his mother died in 374, John spent six years as a monk in the hills south of Antioch. Chrysostom's early writings praised the monastic life and celibacy. In two long letters to his friend Theodore (later bishop of Mopsuestia), who wanted to give up his monastic vow in order to marry, Chrysostom warned him that to sin is human, but to persist in sin is devilish, and to fall may not ruin the soul, but to remain on the ground may. To challenge a 373 decree by Emperor Valens compelling monks to serve the state in the military or civil service, Chrysostom wrote three books against the opponents of monasticism. Health required John to return to Antioch, where Meletius ordained him a deacon. Meletius died while presiding at the ecumenical council at Constantinople in 381, and he was succeeded by Flavius, who in 386 ordained Chrysostom a presbyter.

When the people of Antioch, provoked by excessive taxation for the war against Maximus and imperial celebrations, rioted and destroyed the statues of Emperor Theodosius and his late wife Flacilla, Bishop Flavius went to Constantinople to ask pardon for the city. During Lent in 387 Chrysostom preached a series of sermons later collected as Twenty-one Homilies on the Statues in order to help resolve the disturbance. Although he said it was more a time for prayer than for preaching, he pointed out that he had warned them to chastise those who resort to violence; but they had not paid attention to him. He criticized the "high-minded" rich who put wealth before virtue. He consoled them in their fear of punishment, urged them to correct their vices, and reminded them that those who suffer unjustly gain spiritually. He repeatedly warned them against taking oaths and careless speech. Fasting is not useful unless one also abstains from vice. Humans are gentle animals and are not furnished with horns, tusks, or claws. Humans minister with the rational soul, and God has provided us with a conscience by natural law so that we can act rationally according to God's will. Flavius returned with a full pardon from Emperor Theodosius just in time for the Easter sermon. Chrysostom then led the people in giving thanks for their preservation.

In 398 Eutropius, the prime minister of Emperor Arcadius, chose Chrysostom to succeed Nectarius as archbishop of Constantinople. A military escort was sent to bring the reluctant Chrysostom to the capital, where he was consecrated by his rival patriarch of Alexandria, Theophilus. John sold the expensive plate and furniture of the episcopal palace to benefit the poor and hospitals, while he lived simply himself. He disciplined the clergy and opposed the traditional custom of allowing priests to live with "spiritual sisters." His eloquence helped him to gain a large following among the people; but his castigating the misuse of riches antagonized the wealthy.

The eunuch Eutropius was born a slave, but in the imperial palace he rose to be the most powerful person in the Eastern empire. As a eunuch he was not supposed to hold a state office, but he became consul in 399. When the Goths threatened, Eutropius offered their commander Tribigild a donative; but he refused, ravaged the country, and demanded Eutropius be deposed. Although Eutropius had enacted a law abolishing the right of sanctuary in churches, he himself fled into Chrysostom's church. The archbishop gave him refuge and refused to give him up to authorities, using him as an object lesson in his sermons. Eutropius was the first to break his own law. Church-goers could see a rich man fallen from the pinnacle of power. Yet Chrysostom urged mercy not judgment and asked his congregation to pray for the captive fugitive. When Eutropius did leave the church, he was captured and eventually beheaded. Chrysostom pointed out that the church did not leave him, but he left the church. All of this showed the vanity and insignificance of human affairs.

In 401 Chrysostom held a synod at Ephesus and deposed six bishops for simony. When he returned, he found a cabal led by Empress Eudoxia formed against him. Chrysostom exacerbated the conflict by calling her a Jezebel from the pulpit. Fifty Origenists were banished from Alexandria by Bishop Theophilus; four "tall brothers" fled to Constantinople and appealed to Chrysostom. Although he did not agree with their views, John opposed their persecution.

Epiphanius was said to have been from a poor Jewish family in Palestine but was educated by a rich Jewish lawyer. He was the first Jewish convert since Paul to become a prominent Christian father. In 367 he was unanimously elected bishop of Salamis on Cyprus. He wrote lengthy books against heresy, naming 80 different heresies. He particularly aimed his venom at anchorite followers of Origen he had seen while a monk in Egypt. In 402 Epiphanius went to Constantinople to challenge its bishop Chrysostom for defending Origenists expelled from Alexandria. However, Epiphanius was persuaded that Alexandria bishop Theophilus had made false charges in order to depose John. Epiphanius died on the return voyage to Cyprus the next year.

After Epiphanius failed to achieve his purpose, Theophilus went to Constantinople himself and accused Chrysostom before a secret council of 36 bishops, 29 of whom were from Egypt. This synod of the Oak deposed and banished Chrysostom for immorality and treason in 403. Chrysostom refused to appear before this tribunal and appealed for a general council. The people were indignant they might lose their popular preacher; but to avoid a riot Chrysostom surrendered himself to imperial officers. Nonetheless Constantinople was on the verge of insurrection, and on the following night the city was convulsed with an earthquake, which frightened Eudoxia so much she begged Emperor Arcadius to recall Chrysostom. He returned in triumph, and Theophilus sailed for Alexandria.

Later that year a silver statue of Empress Eudoxia was erected for public adoration. Chrysostom's sermon on Herodias raging for the head of John the Baptist again aroused her ire. Arcadius was persuaded to remove Chrysostom. This time John refused to leave his church and was dragged away by imperial guards, disrupting the resurrection vigil of 404 as John's partisans were imprisoned and tortured. Chrysostom was held in the episcopal palace until Arcadius signed the banishment several weeks later. John submitted calmly and was sent to a harsh climate in Armenia. He appealed to the bishop of Rome, Innocent I, and to the Western Emperor Honorius, who sent a delegation of five bishops to Constantinople; but on the way their dispatches were stolen, and they accomplished nothing. In exile Chrysostom wrote 242 letters and a short treatise on the Platonic theme that no one can harm a person who does not injure oneself by sin. Depriving one of wealth is not an evil, because riches can be a source of evils, and the poor often enjoy better health. Adversity does not injure a good person just as advantages do not really benefit a bad person. After being forced to make an exhausting journey to Pontus, Chrysostom died in 407.

Chrysostom hated sin more than error, and he placed charity above being orthodox. More than seven hundred homilies by Chrysostom still exist. In one of his homilies he wrote that nothing could be more chilling than to see a Christian making no effort to save others. There is no excuse for not meeting the obligation of this great duty. To pretend to be too weak to do so is to insult God. In a homily on humility John noted that sin with humility is not as bad as being right but proud. Humility is the basis of the love of wisdom and all the virtues. Consider then, he asked, into how deep a hell sin with pride can drag one, and how being just and humble can take one into heaven. Love casts out all inequality and knows no superiority.

Chrysostom argued that demons do not govern the world and that no one is controlled by the devil except through indolence; virtue can always be attained by being diligent. He listed five ways of repentance as condemning sins, forgiving others, praying, giving charity, and being humble. Chrysostom reprimanded his congregation for their apathy and also disapproved of their applauding his eloquence. He urged conquering enemies by kindness and suggested that reconciliation with enemies in this world will save us from judgment in the next. Even if we are unjustly treated, we should pardon those who wrong us.


Jerome was born about 347 near Aquileia. His parents were wealthy Christians, and the family moved to Rome when Jerome was about 12. As a boy he played in the underground catacombs. He was well educated, studying Latin grammar under the pagan Donatus and rhetoric with the Christian convert Victorinus. Jerome lost his chastity in the corrupt city, which he later painfully confessed. He is believed to have been baptized by Pope Liberius in 366. He traveled to Treves in Gaul with his friend Bonosius. For three years he studied scriptures in Aquileia with a group of ascetics that included Rufinus and several future bishops. In 373 the group broke up, and Jerome traveled to Antioch. There during a nearly fatal fever Jerome dreamed he was brought before a Judge in dazzling light, who accused him of being a Ciceronian and not a Christian. In the dream he was flogged, and he vowed not to own or read profane books. Jerome spent about five years living ascetically in the desert of Chalcis, and his early writings praised the monastic life. In 378 he was ordained a presbyter by Antioch bishop Paulinus with the understanding that priestly functions would not be forced on him. He next studied under Gregory of Nazianzus in Constantinople.

In 382 Jerome returned to Rome and served as a secretary to Pope Damasus for three years. At the request of the Pope he began revising the old Latin translation of the scriptures, starting with the Gospels. Jerome's classes were attended by several widows and virgins, and he urged noble Roman families to donate charity. Jerome assisted Marcella in transforming her Aventine palace, founding the first convent in Rome. He wrote that Mary remained a virgin, arguing that references to the brothers and sisters of Jesus could mean cousins or children of Joseph by a previous marriage. Jerome held up Mary as the ideal for virgins to follow. He satirized Roman virgins who continued luxurious lives, being carried in litters and entertaining flatterers at lavish feasts. His criticism of lax monks, priests, and hypocritical virgins led to charges being brought against him after Damasus died. Although Jerome was acquitted by an ecclesiastical court, he was forced to leave Rome to go to his diocese in Antioch. There he was joined by the widow Paula and her daughter Eustochium.

In 386 Jerome settled in Bethlehem, where he would live the rest of his life. By 389 Paula had completed a monastery for men headed by Jerome with three cloisters for women under her supervision. Jerome had been studying Greek and Hebrew, and his knowledge of the latter was now greatly aided by secret study sessions with Rabbi Bar-Anina. He also learned Chaldean. While writing commentaries on various scriptures Jerome worked on his Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible that was completed in 406 and which would dominate Christian culture for a millennium.

Jerome wrote an account of how the Theban Paul became the first hermit in Egypt during the Decian persecution in 250 before Antony, who was born the next year. So reclusive were Paul and Antony that they did not meet until some ninety years later just before Paul died. In the longer Life of Hilarion Jerome described many wondrous deeds of that monk, and he also wrote how a Syrian monk named Malchus was forced to marry but lived in chastity with his wife, who was actually already married. Jerome's On Illustrious Men has short biographies of 135 literary men, all Christians except Philo, Josephus, and Seneca from Peter to his own contemporaries. He included unorthodox writers such as Tatian, Novatian, Donatus, Photinus, Eunomius, and Priscillian.

Jerome also wrote letters, of which 120 survived. He praised the monastic life of celibacy and asceticism. He warned his friend Heliodorus that coveting is a form of idolatry. He wrote a long letter to Paula's daughter Eustochium in defense of virginity and warning her not to be tempted by frivolous thoughts. Jerome also responded to false rumors about his relations with his lady friends. He advised Rusticus to learn cooperation by living with other monks before attempting to face a solitary life, and he warned him not even to look upon women. Jerome also engaged in several controversies. His Dialog Against the Luciferians challenged the view of Lucifer that anyone who had compromised with Arianism should be barred from ecclesiastical office. A Roman monk named Jovinian had taken monastic vows but refused to join a monastery. Jovinian also published his views that virginity, marriage and widowhood are equal in God's eyes if one is pious, and that it does not matter whether one fasts or not if one gives thanks. These views were condemned by Pope Siricius, Ambrose, and Augustine. Jerome wrote so vehemently against Jovinian that he was accused of showing contempt for marriage.

Although he did not agree with all his views, Jerome promoted the writings of Origen by translating them from Greek into Latin, including On Principles. Later he opposed the Origenists, translated the encyclicals of Theophilus against them, and even was able to get Origen condemned in the West through his friends Pammachius, Marcella, and Eusebius. In the Origen controversy Jerome sided with Epiphanius against John of Jerusalem. To prevent the monks of Bethlehem from being deprived of clerical ministration by Bishop John, Epiphanius ordained Jerome's younger brother Paulinian against his will, using force to gag him. John appealed to Rome, Theophilus in Alexandria, and to Rufinus, praetorian prefect in Constantinople. This controversy was resolved, and Jerome's condemnation of John was never published.

Jerome had studied Origen with his friend Rufinus; but after a council condemned his ideas in 400, Rufinus remained loyal to Origen while Jerome followed the council. Vigilantius had accused Jerome of Origenism. Supported by the bishop of Toulouse, Vigilantius criticized the reverence people paid to relics, late vigils, sending alms to Jerusalem instead of to local poor, and the exaggerated admiration of virginity. Jerome abused the views of Vigilantius, as did many other church authorities of the time, and such practices would persist throughout the middle ages.

Jerome corresponded with Augustine, and for a time they were at odds because a letter by Augustine critical of Jerome had circulated in the West but had not been delivered to Jerome for nine years. Later, however, their friendship was confirmed, and Jerome greatly praised Augustine. When Pelagius and his followers, who believed that a person could be without sin by will, were favorably received in Palestine in 416, Augustine appealed to Jerome, who wrote a dialog condemning Pelagius as a heretic. In reaction some Pelagian monks attacked the Bethlehem monasteries, destroyed buildings, and killed a deacon, though Jerome survived in a tower. The violence was stopped by a strong letter from Pope Innocent to Bishop John. The health of Jerome declined, and he died in 419.


1. Lactantius, Divine Institutes 5:11 tr. William Fletcher in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, volume 7, p. 147.
2. Ammianus Marcelllinus 5:4 tr. Walter Hamilton, p. 124.
3. Athanasius, St. Antony of the Desert tr. J. B. McLaughlin, p. 27.
4. The Letters of St. Antony 6:82 tr. Samuel Rubenson, p. 221-222.
5. Athanasius, St. Antony of the Desert, p. 99.
6. Athanasius, On the Incarnation tr. a religious of C. S. M. V., chapter 57, p. 96.
7. Saint Basil, "Against Anger" in Ascetical Works tr. M. Monica Wagner, p. 454.

Copyright © 1999-2004 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book ROMAN EMPIRE 30 BC to 610. For ordering information, please click here.


Empire of Augustus and Tiberius
Jesus and His Apostles
Roman Decadence 37-96
Rome Under Better Emperors 96-180
Roman Empire In Turmoil 180-285
Roman Power and Christian Conflict 285-395
Augustine and the Fall of Rome 395-476
Goths, Franks, and Justinian's Empire 476-610
Summary and Evaluation


World Chronology 30 BC to 750 CE
Chronology of Europe to 1400

BECK index