The Repression Of Heathenism Und
Constantine's religious policy in respect to heathenism may have been from
the first to establish Christianity as the sole religion of the Empire and
to put down heathenism. If so, in the execution of that policy he
proceeded with great caution, especially in the period before his victory
over Licinius. It looks at times as if for a while he aimed at a parity of
religions. Certain is the fact that only as conditions became more
favorable to active measures of repression he increased the severity of
his laws against what was of doubtful legality in heathenism, though he
was statesman enough to recognize the difference in the religious
conditions between the East and the West, especially as to the hold which
Christianity had upon the mass of the people. While his measures in the
East became constantly harsher, in the West he tolerated heathenism. The
commonly received theory is that Constantine changed his policy. All the
facts can be as easily understood on the hypothesis that as a statesman he
had constant regard to the advisability of drastic execution of a policy
which he in theory accepted and would have carried out in its entirety
everywhere if he had been able.
Additional source material: Eusebius, Vita Constantini (PNF),
II. 44 f., 47 f., 54 ff.
(a) Codex Theodosianus, IX, 16, 2; A. D. 319.
Private sacrifices forbidden.
Haruspices and priests and those accustomed to serve this rite we forbid
to enter any private house, or under the pretence of friendship to cross
the threshold of another, under the penalty established against them if
they contemn the law.(96) But those of you who regard this rite, approach
the public altars and shrines and celebrate the solemnities of your
custom; for we do not indeed prohibit the duties of the old usage to be
performed in broad daylight.
(b) Codex Theodosianus, XVI, 10, 1; A. D. 320-321.
Haruspicia in certain circumstances to be observed.
If any part of our palace or other public buildings should be struck by
lightning let the custom be retained of the ancient observance as to what
it signifies, and let it be examined by the haruspices and very carefully
written down, collected, and brought to our attention; to others also the
permission of practising this custom is conceded, provided they refrain
from domestic sacrifices, which are expressly forbidden.
(c) Codex Theodosianus. XV, 1, 3; A. D. 326.
Unfinished heathen temples need not be completed.
We direct that the judges of the provinces be warned not to give orders
for any new work before they complete the buildings left incomplete by
their predecessors, the erection of temples only being excepted.
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