Episode 8 – Theodosius
March 9, 2018
Episode 10 – Crushing The Pagans
March 31, 2018

Episode 9 – The Whipped Dog

* Theodosius appointed his young children as his co-emperors, but he’s the sole emperor

* He died a few months later, leaving the empire in the hands of his two young children.
* Before we get on to what happened next, we need to talk about “Cunctos populos”
* the so-called “Edict of Thessalonica”
* On 27 February 380, together with Gratian and Valentinian II, Theodosius had issues the edict which declared Nicene Trinitarian Christianity to be the only legitimate imperial religion and the only one entitled to call itself Catholic, which means universal.
* All other Christians were declared to be “foolish madmen” and `insane and demented heretics’.
* When he first entered Constantinople in November 380, Theodosius summoned the bishop there, Demphilus, and demanded he renounce his “homoian” beliefs and accept the Nicene creed.
* This is how silly it’s become.
* Homoian mean Jesus was “similar” to God, but said nothing about substance.
* And even that was a heresy now.
* So Demophilus refuses, Theodosius fires him, and appoints his own Nicene bishop.
* Even though the Nicene contingent in the city was quite small.
* To ensure his safety from the Homoian masses, troops had to line the streets and even take up guard inside the Church of the Holy Apostles where his enthronement took place.
* A year later, in 381, Theodosius begun his persecutions of the pagans.
* He also declares that only Nicenes can become bishops.
* Everyone else is locked out of the church.
* They had to surrender their churches to those clergy who came within Theodosius’ definition, lose any tax exemptions they had and they could not build replacement churches within the city walls.
* Not surprisingly disorder broke out as the new laws were enforced.
* The church had built up so much wealth and enjoyed so many privileges that expelling the `Arians’ from their churches was explosive.
* One pro-Nicene historian, writing in the next century, talks of ` [Arian] wolves harrying the flocks up and down the glades, daring to hold rival assemblies, stirring sedition among the people, and shrinking from nothing which can do damage to the churches’.
* It’s worth stopping and wondering why Theodosius might have favoured the Nicene version.
* The problem for anyone, emperor, senior administrator or aristocratic landowner, who was concerned with upholding the hierarchical structure of the empire, was that the Jesus of the gospels was a rebel against the empire and had been executed by one of its provincial governors.
* He had preached the immediate coming of the kingdom in which the poor would inherit the earth, hardly what the elite wished to hear at a time of intense danger.
* There was an incentive to shift the emphasis from the gospels to the divine Jesus, as pre-existent to the Incarnation and of high status `at the right hand of the Father’.
* Less talk about how Jesus was executed by Romans and is coming to take his revenge.
* More talk about how one day, if you’re nice and obedient and don’t cause trouble, you might get to heaven.
* He reiterated Constantine’s ban on pagan sacrifice, prohibited haruspicy on pain of death, pioneered the criminalization of magistrates who did not enforce anti-pagan laws, broke up some pagan associations and destroyed pagan temples.
* In 388 he sent a prefect to Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor with the aim of breaking up pagan associations and the destruction of their temples.
* The Serapeum at Alexandria, an ancient Greek temple built by Ptolemy III Euergetes 600 years earlier, was destroyed during this campaign, probably around 391.
* the Serapeum was the largest and most magnificent of all temples in the Greek quarter of Alexandria.
* It may have also housed the last remains of the collection of the great Library of Alexandria.
* It was closed in July of 325 AD, likely on the orders of Constantine.
* The Christian leader of Alexandria in 391 was Theophilus.
* In 391, Theophilus discovered a hidden pagan temple.
* He and his followers mockingly displayed the pagan artifacts to the public which offended the pagans enough to provoke an attack on the Christians.
* The Christian faction counter-attacked, forcing the pagans to retreat to the Serapeum.
* A letter was sent by the emperor that Theophilus should grant the offending pagans pardon, but destroy the temple;
* according to Socrates Scholasticus, a contemporary of his, the latter aspect (the destruction of the temple) was added as a result of heavy solicitation for it by Theophilus.
* Scholasticus goes on to state that:
* “Seizing this opportunity, Theophilus exerted himself to the utmost … he caused the Mithraeum to be cleaned out… Then he destroyed the Serapeum… and he had the phalli of Priapus carried through the midst of the forum. … the heathen temples… were therefore razed to the ground, and the images of their gods molten into pots and other convenient utensils for the use of the Alexandrian church”
* Between 389 and 391 Theodosius issued the “Theodosian decrees,” which established a practical ban on paganism; visits to the temples were forbidden, remaining pagan holidays abolished, the sacred fire in the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum extinguished, the Vestal Virgins disbanded, auspices and witchcraft punished.
* And modern scholars think Ambrose was behind it.
* In 388 news reached the emperor that a Christian mob led by its bishop had sacked a Jewish synagogue in Callinicum, a city on the Euphrates.
* Theodosius had ordered the bishop to restore the building.
* Ambrose was having none of it.
* He declared that there must be no building where Christ was denied and that it was unjustified to ask a bishop to betray his conscience by restoring a synagogue.
* He even said that he would be prepared to assume responsibility for the burning of the building himself.
* Theodosius quietly backed down.
* So he’s already a whipped dog.
* The initiation of such violence against Jewish and pagan shrines was not new.
* Many of the `miracles’ accredited to the bishop Martin of Tours (tewch) in the 370s in Gaul involved the destruction of pagan shrines.
* Oh a good story about Martin of Tours.
* When he was young and a soldier in the Roman army and stationed in Gaul, he supposedly had a dream where he was walked down the street and met a beggar who was naked, so Martin tore his military cloak in half and gave one half to the begger.
* That night he dreams Jesus was wearing the half he gave the beggar and when he woke up the next morning, the cloak was miraculously repaired.
* The cloak was treated as a relic by the Merovingian kings.
* During the Middle Ages, they would carry it into battle for good luck.
* It was called St. Martin’s miraculous cloak, (cappa Sancti Martini).
* The priest who cared for the cloak in its reliquary was called a cappellanu, and ultimately all priests who served the military were called cappellani.
* The French translation is chapelains, from which the English word chaplain is derived.
* A similar linguistic development took place for the term referring to the small temporary churches built for the relic.
* People called them a “capella”, the word for a little cloak.
* Eventually, such small churches lost their association with the cloak, and all small churches began to be referred to as “chapels”.
* Anyway, back to destroying pagan temples.
* Several of Theodosius’ senior officials in his eastern administration had come with him from the west and brought their own fanatical impulses with them.
* Another Spanish Christian, Maternus Cynegius, appointed prefect of the east by Theodosius, is associated with the destruction of the great temple complex at Edessa among with other famous temples, like the temple of Zeus Belos in Apamea, which had included a famed oracle, which Septimius Severus, among others, had consulted and the Temple of Allat in Palmyra.
* These officials were supported by roving bands of monks.
* The pagan orator Libanius complained in an oration of 386 of `the black-robed tribe who hasten to attack the temples with sticks and stone and bars of iron … utter desolation follows, with the stripping of roofs, demolition of walls, the tearing down of statues’.
* The archaeological evidence of destruction is extensive.
* Christians were the original ISIS.
* But it’s after what is commonly known as the “massacre” of Thessalonica (in 390) was Ambrose able to gain total influence with Theodosius.
* The Massacre of Thessalonica was an atrocity carried out by Gothic troops under Theodosius against the inhabitants of Thessalonica, who had risen in revolt against the Gothic troops.
* In April 390, Butheric, a Gothic magister militum in command of Illyricum (which included Thessalonica), had a popular charioteer arrested for a homosexual offence (he tried to rape a male cupbearer).
* The populace demanded the charioteer’s release and, as Butheric refused, a general revolt ensued which cost Butheric and several other Roman authorities their lives.
* As soon as Theodosius heard of the uprising, he was enraged and ordered an immediate retaliation.
* The army units sent to Thessalonica acted as if they had captured a hostile city and massacred several thousands of its inhabitants.
* Church historian Theodoretus puts the figure at about 7,000, saying:
* The anger of the Emperor rose to the highest pitch, and he gratified his vindictive desire for vengeance by unsheathing the sword most unjustly and tyrannically against all, slaying the innocent and guilty alike. It is said seven thousand perished without any forms of law, and without even having judicial sentence passed upon them; but that, like ears of wheat in the time of harvest, they were alike cut down.
* Ambrose heard about the massacre, and left Milan (which was the residence of Theodosius at that time) and refused to celebrate a mass in the Emperor’s presence, until Theodosius repented.
* Now Milan is a long fucking way from Thessalonica.
* It’s not Ambrose’s domain.
* He’s not even the Pope, who maybe could claim some kind of universal authority.
* He’s just the bishop of Milan.
* but this show you the kind of power he had.
* In a letter to the emperor, Ambrose explained his position and gave reasons for his resolution:
* What could I do? Should I not hear? But I could not clog my ears with wax, as old fables tell. Should I then speak about what I heard? But I was obliged to avoid precisely what I feared could be brought about by your orders, that is, a bloodshed. Should I remain silent? But then the worst thing would happen as my conscience would be bound and my words taken away. And where would they be then? When a priest does not talk to a sinner, then the sinner will die in his sin, and the priest will be guilty because he failed to correct him.
* When the emperor tried to enter a Milanese church, where Ambrose was about to celebrate a mass, Ambrose stopped him and rebuked him for what he had done.
* And because the emperor “had been brought up according to divine words and understood well that some affairs are handled by priests, others by emperors”, he could do nothing but return “weeping and sighing” to the palace.
* Eight months had passed and Theodosius still sat in the palace, moaning and sobbing.
* His magister officiorum Flavinus Rufinus, who “used great freedom of speech due to the familiarity with the emperor”, noticed this behaviour, approached and asked him why he was weeping.
* Having been told, he volunteered to see the bishop and ask him to reconsider.
* Theodosius hesitantly agreed and even chose to follow Rufinus from a distance.
* Ambrose was not restrained at all when negotiating with Rufinus, scolding him and even accusing him of complicity in the massacre: “Rufinus, you are as impudent as a dog, because it was you who advised the emperor such a bloodshed.”
* When the emperor showed up, Ambrose at first remained stubborn and changed his mind only after Theodosius promised to promulgate a law, which in cases of death sentences would introduce a thirty-day lag before the execution.
* Theodosius’ penance apparently included his promise to adopt a new role as the champion of the Christian faith.
* This is when Theodosius does all out against the pagans.
* But just stop and think about this situation.
* The SOLE emperor of the Roman Empire is allowing a Christian bishop to punish him.
* And instead of having the bishop arrested or exiled or executed, he just sits around and cries because he might die and go to hell.
* How fucking pathetic.
* Can you imagine how Julius Caesar or Augustus would have handled that situation?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *