Theodosius I

Annie Lee | Feb 23, 2024

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Theodosius I the Great (Flavius Theodosius, Latin: Flavius Theodosius, Theodosius Magnus, al. Greek Θεοδόσιος Α΄, Θεοδόσιος ὁ Μέγας, 347-395) or in (old)church King Theodosius is the last Christian king (emperor) of the "one and indivisible" Christian, Roman state (kingdom, empire). During his reign he succeeded in the decisive war against the Goths as well as in two civil wars and was instrumental in establishing the Nicene Creed as one of the most important doctrines of Christianity. He is venerated by the One and Undivided, Holy, Old Church, Catholic and Orthodox (particularly the Russian Church) in the person of the holy Orthodox kings. His name in church usage for a long time was considered "royal", and thus tabooed, and only in the 16th-17th centuries began to be more widely used in Russia, including in the popular translation as Bogdan (see Bogdan Ruzhinsky, Bogdan Khmelnitsky and others).

Born in Spain, Theodosius was the son of a high-ranking military commander under whom he rose through the ranks of the Roman army. Theodosius held an independent command position in Moesia in 374, where he achieved some success against the invading Sarmatians. Shortly thereafter he was forced to resign, and his father was executed under unclear circumstances. Theodosius soon regained his position after a series of intrigues and executions at the court of the emperor Gratian. In 379, after Emperor Valentus of the Eastern Roman Empire was killed at the battle of Adrianople fighting against the Goths, Gracian appointed Theodosius as his successor with orders to take charge of the current military situation. The new emperor's resources and exhausted armies were not enough to drive out the invaders; in 382 the Goths were allowed to settle south of the Danube as federates. In 386 Theodosius signed a treaty with the Persian empire that divided the long-contested Armenian kingdom and ensured a lasting peace between the two powers.

Theodosius was a staunch adherent of the Christian doctrine of the oneness of Christ's nature and an opponent of Arianism. He convened a council of bishops in Constantinople in 381, which confirmed the former as correct doctrine and the latter as heresy. Although Theodosius interfered little in the functioning of traditional pagan cults and appointed non-Christians to high posts, he was unable to prevent or punish Christian fanatics for destroying several Hellenistic temples of classical antiquity, although he did permit the destruction of some temples, such as the Serapeum at Alexandria. During his previous reign Theodosius ruled the eastern provinces, while the western provinces were controlled by the emperors Gratian and Valentinian II, whose sister he married. Theodosius sponsored a number of improvements to his capital and the main residence of Constantinople, most notably the expansion of the Theodosius forum, which became the largest public square known in antiquity. Theodosius went west twice, in 388 and 394, after Gratian and Valentinian had been killed, to defeat the two usurpers, Magnus Maximus and Eugenius, who had succeeded them. Theodosius' final victory in September 394 made him master of the empire; he died a few months later, and was succeeded by his two sons, Honorius in the western half of the empire and Arcadius in the east, which in modern historiography has been called Byzantium.

Theodosius was said to have been a diligent administrator, strict in his habits, a merciful and pious Christian. For centuries after his death, Theodosius was regarded as a defender of the Christian faith, who resolutely eradicated paganism. Modern scholars tend to regard this more as an interpretation of history by Christian writers than as an accurate representation of history. He is rightly credited with leading the revival of classical art, which some historians have called the "Theodosian Renaissance." Although the subduing of the Goths ensured the peace of the empire during his lifetime, their status as federates within the Roman borders created problems for subsequent emperors. Theodosius was also criticized for defending his own dynastic interests at the cost of two civil wars. His two sons proved to be weak and incapable rulers, and they presided over a period of barbarian invasions and court intrigues that greatly weakened the empires. Theodosius' descendants ruled the Roman world for the next six decades, and the division between east and west continued until the fall of the Western Empire in the late fifth century. The activity of the emperor Theodosius determined the direction of the religious development of Europe, for which he was honored by Christian writers with the epithet Great.

Flavius Theodosius was born about 346 in the province of Galicia (the modern city of Coca in Segovia). Aurelius Victor reports that Theodosius descended from the family of the illustrious emperor Trajan. His parents were Thermantia and the Roman general Theodosius the Elder, who rose to the position of cavalry commander (lat. magister equitum praesentalis) under Emperor Valentinian. Ammianus Marcellinus describes him as a man "whose prowess at that time stood out for its brilliance among others as unattainable. In his later years Theodosius the Elder suppressed a rebellion of local tribes led by Firmus II in North Africa, but in 375 he was accused of treason and executed in 376.

The future emperor Theodosius, as historians believe, began military service under his father and participated with him in an expedition to Roman Britain to suppress the revolt of the Picts and Scots tribes there. In 374 he served as commander of troops in the Danubian province of Moesia (lat. dux Moesiae Primae), where he successfully fought the Sarmatians:

Dux Moesia Theodosius the Younger, then a young man with barely a beard, and later a glorious emperor, several times drove out the free Sarmatians, so called in contrast to the slaves who rebelled against them, and defeated them during their incursions into our borders on the other side. Their flocking hordes, in spite of their brave resistance, he defeated in repeated skirmishes so decisively that he satiated the wild beasts and birds of prey with the blood of many of the fallen.

According to the fifth-century historian Zosima, it was victories over the Sarmatians that brought Theodosius later imperial regalia. After the execution of his father Theodosius was forced to seek refuge, but soon - in 376 - he took up the post of commander of troops in the Balkan province of Illyricum (lat. magister militum per Illyricum), where he again had to repel the raids of the Sarmatians. From this position three years later the emperor Gratian called Theodosius to the imperial throne.

According to the medieval church chronicle George Amartol, Theodosius was exiled after his father's death to his native Spain, where he lived quietly until Emperor Valentus, before his death, asked Gratian to send him Theodosius.

The conclusion of the Gothic War. 379-382.

As a result of the Gothic rebellion in 377 the territory of Thrace and Mercia became an arena of struggle between barbarian tribes and allied forces of the western and eastern parts of the Roman Empire. On August 9, 378 at Adrianople (modern Turkish Edirne) the Goths, under the leadership of the leader Frithigernus, completely defeated the Roman army, killing Emperor Valentus in a battle. His nephew, Emperor Gratian, came to the aid of his uncle at this time, but after the death of Valentus he remained on the territory of modern Serbia, trying to prevent the barbarians from breaking through from the Balkans into Italy.

According to the established order in the empire Gracian had to appoint a co-ruler to rule the eastern part of the Roman Empire, and in view of the current situation, preferably from among people with military talents. His formal co-ruler in the western part of the empire, his minor brother Valentinianus, Gratian did not risk to entrust power over the East. According to historian David Woods, Gratian had virtually no choice, because all his commanders, judging by their names, were of barbarian origin, and only the commander of the troops in Illyrica Flavius Theodosius came from a noble Roman family.

On January 19, 379, at Syrmia (today Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia), Gracian proclaimed Theodosius emperor of the eastern part of the Roman Empire.

Theodosius near Sirmium defeated the Goths, and then the fighting continued without major general battles. Zosima told of one of the Roman victories. Theodosius' commander Modarius, who came from a "royal Scythian family" (probably a Goth), waited in ambush when the barbarians were intoxicated and weighed down by the feast. He then ordered his warriors to attack their camp lightly with only their swords. The barbarians were slaughtered in a short time, and the Romans captured 4,000 wagons and so many prisoners that they filled all the wagons with them.

Almost 2 years after his appointment as emperor Theodosius left Thessalonica, from where he led the war with the Goths, and entered his capital, Constantinople, on November 24, 380, after which he focused on church policy and diplomatic work with the Goth leaders. He recruited many barbarians into the army, allowing them to leave its ranks freely and to join back at will. Although the numbers of the troops were restored, their discipline and control declined considerably. Zosima reports that Gratian sent troops led by the Franks Baudonus and Arbogastus to Theodosius' aid, who drove the barbarian bands from Macedonia and Thessaly back into Thrace. This improved the situation of the eastern part of the Roman Empire and induced the Goths to negotiate.

In January 381 Theodosius succeeded in concluding an alliance with the Goth chief Atanarich, but the latter died in Constantinople two weeks later. Theodosius turned the funeral of the leader into a lavish ceremony, hoping to win the favor of the barbarians. On October 3, 382, Theodosius concluded a peace treaty by which the Goths settled as federates of the empire in Lower Moesia and Thrace (the territory of modern Bulgaria). This date is considered the end of the Roman-Gothic War.

The consolidation of power. 383-387.

After making peace with the Goths, Theodosius turned his attention to the East. The Saracens raided the empire's Syrian possessions, taking advantage of the situation. In 383 Theodosius' general Richomer defeated them, after which a number of Arab tribes as federates guarded the empire's borders in this direction.

The struggle for power in the Persian Empire significantly weakened the main threat to the empire in the East; in addition, Theodosius managed to maintain good relations with the changing Persian kings. To finally eliminate a potential source of discord on the border, in 387 Theodosius reached an agreement with the Persians on the division of Armenia into spheres of influence. The western part of Armenia was placed under the rule of King Arshak, while the eastern part remained in the possession of King Khosrov.

At this time there was a change of power in the Western Roman Empire. In 383 Magna Maximus, commander of the Roman army in Britain, landed in Gaul, usurping power there. The Roman emperor Gratian was assassinated in the course of the turmoil. His younger co-ruler brother Valentinian became Maximus' co-ruler, ruling Italy and provinces in Africa and the Balkans. Theodosius was forced to recognize Maximus' imperial title following Valentinian's recognition of Maximus.

The overthrow of the usurper Maximus. 387-388.

In the summer of 387 Maximus sent troops into northern Italy, forcing Emperor Valentinian to flee to Thessalonica under the protection of Theodosius. The emperors' political interest in each other was strengthened by Theodosius' marriage to Galla, Valentinian's sister, in the same year. Theodosius' first wife, Flacilla, had by this time passed away.

In 388 the war against Maximus began. The Roman viceroy in North Africa, Gildon, seized Sicily, drawing back some of Maximus' forces to the southern theater of hostilities. The combined army of Theodosius and Valentinianus defeated Maximus' army at Sistia and Poetovion (on the Sava River), then approached the eastern Alps. The Alpine passes to the north of Italy were guarded by Maximus' commander Andragacius, who erected fortifications and occupied all possible crossing points across the rivers. Andragacius decided to make a sea raid in order to attack the enemy suddenly, but Theodosius took advantage of this and crossed the Alps without resistance, left without proper protection.

Maximus was captured at Aquileia and executed there on August 28, 388. Andragacius, learning of Maximus' death, threw himself from his ship into the sea.

Before returning to Constantinople, Theodosius remained in Italy for more than three years, making his residence Mediolanus.

Theodosius and St. Ambrose. 389-391.

During his three-year sojourn in Italy, Theodosius found himself under the spiritual influence of Bishop Ambrose of Mediolanus.

In 390 there was unrest in Thessalonica, the largest city of Macedonia. The commander of the troops in the province of Illyricus Boterichus imprisoned a charioteer, popular among the people, for a domestic fault. A crowd of locals demanded his release as a man necessary for the upcoming races, and when Boterichus refused, they stoned him to death. Other members of the imperial administration were also killed. Theodosius, viewing this as a rebellion, ordered a predetermined number of townspeople to be slaughtered. According to various accounts between 7,000 and 15,000 inhabitants perished.

When after these events Theodosius wanted to pray in church, Ambrose would not let him over the threshold, accusing him of killing innocents and demanding repentance. Only eight months later did the bishop forgive the emperor, forcing him to pass a law that delayed the approval of death sentences for 30 days after the verdict.

The overthrow of the usurper Eugene. 392-394.

Theodosius returned to Constantinople on November 10, 391. After Theodosius left Italy the actual power in the Western Roman Empire was exercised not by Emperor Valentinian, but by his commander-in-chief Frank Arbogast. Valentinian's attempts to assert his authority led to a conflict, as a result of which on May 15, 392 he was killed under unclear circumstances. Without waiting for Theodosius' decision, on 22 August Arbogast elevated to the imperial throne his protégé, the head of the imperial chancellery, Eugenius.

Theodosius refused to recognize Eugene's legitimacy and in the summer of 394 moved his army into Italy. On September 6, 394, in the foothills of the eastern Alps on the river Frigid (on the border of modern Slovenia with Italy), a general battle took place. Advance detachment of army Theodosius from 10 thousand has been completely exterminated Arbogast that contemporaries have considered rather good, than loss. According to Zosima, Eugene by the end of day after the end of battle began to celebrate a victory prematurely. Arbizion, Arbogast's commander, had gone over to Theodosius' side, which may have been the decisive factor in defeating the usurper. Suddenly the soldiers of Theodosius broke through into the camp of the western Romans to the tent of the usurper emperor. Eugene was captured and immediately beheaded, his head on a pike being shown to his troops, who en masse went over to Theodosius' side. Arbogast fled into the mountains, a pursuit was sent after him, and he stabbed himself to avoid capture.

The final division of the empire. 395

For a few months Theodosius became the de facto ruler of the united Roman empire. In Rome he proclaimed his son Honorius an emperor, abolished a number of ancient pagan ceremonies through the senate, and was about to return to Constantinople, where he left his eldest son Arcadius to rule during his absence.

On January 17, 395 Theodosius the Great died of dropsy at Mediolana (modern Milan). His embalmed body was taken the same year to Constantinople for burial.

Before his death Theodosius had time to carry out a peaceful division of the heritage of the Roman Empire between his sons. Senior Arcadius has got an east part with capital in Constantinople which in modern historiography has received the name Byzantium. Younger Honorius the Western part of Roman Empire has departed. 10-years emperor Honorius Theodosius has placed under trusteeship of the trusted commander Stilichon which 8 years prior to that married his niece Serena.

Since 395, the Greek eastern and Latin western halves of the empire were never again united under a single administration. The western half of the empire collapsed under the barbarian onslaught 80 years later, but Byzantium maintained the continuity of the traditions of the Roman Empire for more than a millennium.

When Theodosius became emperor, he tried to follow the religious system established earlier by Constantine the Great and his other Christian predecessors, which in general preserved the neutrality of the state with respect to the various cults and confessions of the empire's citizens. Theodosius, however, had a tendency toward a gradual official Christianization of the life of the empire.

Emperor Theodosius is canonized as a blessed ruler, the day of his memory in the Orthodox Church is celebrated on January 17 (30).

The beginning of the Christianization of the empire

The Arian dispute over the nature of the divine Trinity, and its attendant struggle for political influence, began in Alexandria before the reign of Constantine the Great between the heresiarch Arius and the bishop of Alexandria, Alexander. When Alexander died, his successor, Athanasius the Great, continued his cause.

Arius claimed that God the Father created the Son. This meant that the Son, though still considered divine, was not equal to the Father because he had a beginning and was not eternal. Thus the Father and the Son were similar, but not of the same essence. This Christology quickly spread throughout Egypt, Libya, and other Roman provinces:33 The bishops engaged in a war of words, and the people were divided into parties, sometimes marching in the streets in support of one side or the other:5 Their opponents said that "the Holy Trinity is one in the Trinity.

Constantine tried to settle these issues at the Council of Nicaea, but as Arnold Hugh Martin Jones states, "The rules established by the Nicene Creed were not universally accepted. After the Nicene Creed was formulated in 325, many in the church reacted strongly to the word "homoousios" (one essence) in the Nicene Creed, and so the Councils at Ariminum (Rimini), Nike (southeast of Adrianople) and Constantinople, held in 359-60 by Emperor Constantius II, formulated creeds to replace or revise the Nicene Creed; particularly to find an alternative for "homoousios." These councils are no longer considered Ecumenical Councils in the tradition of the Church because their creeds contradict the Nicene Creed, for they are now known as Arian creeds.

During this time Athanasius the Great was at the center of the controversy and became a champion of orthodoxy:28-29, 31. According to Athanasius, Arius' interpretation of the nature of Christ, that the Father and the Son are alike but not identical in substance, could not explain how Christ could accomplish the redemption of mankind, which is the foundational principle of Christianity. "According to Athanasius, God had to become man so that men could become divine...This led him to conclude that the divine nature in Christ was identical to that of the Father, and that the Father and the Son have the same essence" (homoousios). Athanasius' teaching was quite strong and had a powerful influence on Theodosius I:20.

On February 27, 380, a year after his proclamation as emperor, Theodosius at Thessalonica (during the war with the Goths) issued the fundamental edict of the Latin de fide catholica ("about the universal faith"). It declared as permissible for the subjects of the empire the Christian faith exclusively in the form recorded at the Council of Nicaea:

According to Our decree, all the peoples under Our Grace must adhere to the faith handed down to the Romans by the Apostle Peter, for it purifies to this day. This is the faith followed by the pontiff Damasius, as well as by the bishop of Alexandria, Peter, a man of apostolic holiness. Following apostolic holiness, in other words, in accordance with the teachings of the apostles and the Gospel, we must believe in the one God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, holding that they are equal in greatness, as well as the dogma of the Holy Spirit.

A year later, in January 381, a new edict was issued clarifying the Thessalonian decree. The victory of the Nicaeans was consolidated ideologically at the Council of Constantinople (Second Ecumenical Council) in July 381, and then supported administratively by the ban on bishops of the Nicaean confession as heads of churches.

Recent studies tend to reject previous views that the Edict was a key step in establishing Christianity as the one obligatory religion for all inhabitants of the empire, because it was not binding on persons of other faiths and it concerned mainly the Christian population, which at the time was diverse and held different, sometimes conflicting, Christian doctrines and directions, establishing a single doctrine for all Christians in the empire. For example, the German ancient historian Carl Leo Netlichs writes that the Edict of Thessalonica was neither anti-Semitic nor antisemitic; it did not declare Christianity the official religion of the empire; and it did not give Christians any advantages over other denominations. It is clear from the edicts issued in the years after 380 that Theodosius did not require Gentiles or Jews to convert to Christianity. Nevertheless, the edict is the first known secular Roman law that positively defines Christian religious doctrine for the empire.

Arianism and other currents in Christianity that differed from the Nicene Creed were declared heresies, and were to be persecuted by the state. Although Arian beliefs continued to be held by many in the empire, they were forbidden to have their own churches and to assemble in populated areas. The repression was directed chiefly against certain members of the clergy of heretical movements. In 388, taking advantage of Theodosius' departure for the war with Magnus Maximus, the Aryans rioted in Constantinople, but Theodosius limited himself to warning them.

According to Robinson Thornton, Theodosius began taking steps to suppress Arianism immediately after his baptism in 380:39 On November 26, 380, two days after he arrived in Constantinople, Theodosius expelled Bishop Demophilus of Constantinople and appointed Meletius Archbishop of Antioch and Gregory the Theologian, one of the Great Cappadocians, Archbishop of Constantinople. Theodosius came from a Christian family, but, according to Socrates Scholasticus, was not baptized during his illness by Bishop Ascholicus of Thessalonica until 380.

In May 381 Theodosius convened the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople to eliminate the schism in the Church on the basis of the Nicene Creed. The Council further defined the doctrine of the Christian Church, including the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, as equal to and proceeding from the Father, the Council also condemned the Apollonian and Macedonian heresies, specified the jurisdiction of bishops according to the civil boundaries of dioceses, and decreed that Constantinople was second in seniority after Rome.

The Nicene Creed, upheld by Theodosius, was officially called catholic. But the religious question was not finally resolved; the theological disputes about the nature of Christ and the essence of faith continued with renewed vigor in the first half of the fifth century.

Fighting Paganism

Theodosius seems to have had a cautious policy toward traditional non-Christian cults, repeating his Christian predecessors' prohibitions on animal sacrifice, divination, and apostasy, while at the same time allowing other pagan rites to be performed in public and temples to remain open. He also spoke out in favor of preserving temple buildings, but nevertheless failed to prevent damage to many temples, images, and objects of worship by Christian zealots, some of whom included even his own officials. Theodosius also turned pagan festivals into working festivals, but the related festivals continued in force. Toward the end of his reign, in 391 and 392, a number of laws against paganism were issued, but historians tend to downplay their practical implications and even the emperor's direct role in them. Modern scholars believe that there is little, if any, evidence that Theodosius had an active and consistent policy against traditional cults.

There is evidence that Theodosius made sure that the still significant pagan population of the empire did not dislike him. After the death in 388 of his Praetorian prefect, Cynegius, who had destroyed a number of pagan temples in the eastern provinces, Theodosius replaced him with a moderate pagan who subsequently began to defend the temple buildings. During his first official tour of Italy in 389-391, the emperor gained an influential pagan lobby in the Roman Senate, appointing its prominent members to important administrative posts. Theodosius also appointed the last pair of pagan consuls in Roman history (Tatian and Simmachus) in 391.

Modern archaeology has established that the area with the greatest destruction of temples by Christians occurred in the area around Constantinople in the Diocese of Orientis (Orient) under Theodosius' prefect Materna Synegius, where archaeological excavations have revealed several ruined temples. Theodosius officially supported the preservation of the temples, but Garth Fowden says that Synegius did not limit himself to Theodosius' official policy, but instead ordered the destruction of the temples on a large scale, even hiring a military under his command for this purpose. Christopher Haas also says that Synegius oversaw the closure of temples, the prohibition of sacrifices, and the destruction of temples in Osroene, Carrhae, and Beroea, while Marcellus of Apamea took advantage of the situation to destroy the temple of Zeus in his own city:160-162.

Earlier scholars believed that Sinegius' actions were only part of the wave of violence against the temples that continued throughout the 390s. However, recent archaeological discoveries have refuted this view. Archaeological evidence for the violent destruction of temples in the fourth and early fifth centuries throughout the Mediterranean is limited to a few locations. Temple destruction is attested in 43 cases in written sources, but only 4 of them have been confirmed by archaeological evidence. Trombley and McMullen say that part of this discrepancy is due to details in historical sources that are usually ambiguous and unclear. For example, Malalas argued that as noted in the Easter Chronicle: "The illustrious Constantine, having reigned, only locked up the shrines and temples of the Hellenes, while this Theodosius destroyed Nowhere in Theodosius' Codex is there any evidence of any desire by the emperor to begin the systematic destruction of temples, and there is no evidence in the archaeological record that there ever was extensive destruction of temples.

Theodosius forbade the study and teaching of mathematics (astrology) because, prior to his decree, people made no distinction between mathematics and numerology or astronomy and astrology, as these sciences and practices were interrelated. In spite of this, during the next 200 years Neoplatonist philosophers, such as Hierocles of Alexandria, John Philoponus, Simplicius and Olympiodorus the Younger, quietly continued to make astronomical observations, teach mathematics and write lengthy commentaries on the works of Plato and Aristotle.

In the year 391 in Alexandria, when Bishop Theophilus attempted to convert one of the abandoned pagan temples into a church, there was a serious attack by pagans against Christians, who were outraged at the encroachment on their former temple, resulting in a riot, after which the attackers were forced to lock themselves in Serapeum, the most magnificent pagan temple of the city, led by one philosopher Olympius, taking many hostages, whom they then killed through sacrifice. The temple was surrounded by the soldiers of the garrison of the city, whose head, Romanus, together with representatives of the city authorities tried to negotiate the surrender of the rebels, but having been refused, the authorities decided to appeal to the emperor, Bishop Theophilus, asking for mercy for the rebels, but in return he asked permission to destroy all the pagan temples in the city, including Serapeum, to which he was given a positive response and Serapeum was destroyed. In the same year the emperor issued an edict that severely restricted pagan cults.

The Edict of 391 dealt a heavy blow to paganism by imposing severe penalties for the worship of the old gods:

No one has the right to perform sacrifices, no one should make the rounds of the temples, no one should venerate the shrines. Everyone should know that Our law forbids entry into pagan temples, and if anyone tries, in spite of Our prohibition, to perform some cultic acts in relation to the gods, let him know that he will not escape punishment, even by taking advantage of the special signs of imperial favor. The judge must compel the impious transgressor, who has entered the desecrated place, to pay into Our treasury a fine of fifteen pounds in gold.

Theodosius also did not abolish the ancient Olympic Games, which had been the main sporting festival in ancient Greece for more than 11 centuries, although the last recorded one was held in 393. The literature sometimes associates the cessation of the games with Theodosius' decree, but his last known edict against paganism dates back to 392, and there is no mention of banning the Olympics. Theodosius did not forbid competitions at all (Socrates Scholasticus noted that Theodosius died on the day the horse races were held). Archaeological evidence suggests that the games were still held after this date, and there are several reasons to conclude that the Olympic Games continued after Theodosius and ended under Theodosius II. There are two surviving scholia about Lucian that connect the end of the games with the fire that burned down the temple of Zeus at Olympia during the reign of Theodosius II:49.

The view of Theodosius as "the most pious emperor" who led the eradication of paganism through the aggressive application of laws and repressive measures, a view which, according to Professor R. Malcolm Errington, "dominates the European historical tradition almost to this day" - was first written by Theodoret, who, according to Errington, was in the habit of ignoring facts and embellishing events. In the centuries following his death Theodosius acquired a reputation as a defender of Christianity and a conqueror of paganism, but modern historians view this as a later interpretation of history by Christian writers rather than reality.

The increasing diversity and abundance of sources has led to a rethinking of the religion of this era. According to Salzmann: "Although the debate over the death of paganism continues, scholars ... generally agree that the once dominant view of an explicit pagan-Christian religious conflict cannot fully explain the texts and artifacts or social, religious, and political realities of Late Antique Rome. "2

Scholars agree that Theodosius collected many legislative acts on religious topics and that he continued the practice of his predecessors by prohibiting sacrifices for the purpose of predicting the future in December 380, issuing a decree against heretics on January 10, 381, and a decree against Manichaeism in May of the same year:xxiv. Theodosius convened the First Council of Constantinople, the second ecumenical council after Constantine's First Council of Nicaea in 325. What is important, according to Errington, is the extent to which the abundant legislation of the empire was applied and used, which would show how reliably it reflected real history.

Brown argues that Christians were still a minority of the total population of about 15-20% of the empire in the early 300s, and local authorities were still largely pagan and reluctant to enact anti-Nazi laws; even Christian bishops often discouraged their application. Harris and Wood state: "The content of Theodosius' codex provides details from the canvas, but is itself an unreliable guide to the character of the picture as a whole":5-16, 95. Underestimated similarities in language, society, religion, and art, as well as modern archaeological research, show that paganism itself was slowly declining and that it was not forcibly overthrown by Theodosius in the fourth century:xv.

Mayastina Kalos writes that there was a great diversity of religions, cults, sects, beliefs and practices in the fourth-century Roman Empire, all of which tended to coexist without incident. Coexistence occasionally led to violence, but such outbreaks were relatively rare and localized. Jan N. Bremmer argues that "religious violence in late antiquity was largely limited to violent rhetoric: 'not all religious violence in antiquity was so religious, and not all religious violence was so violent.'"9

The famous philosophical school in Athens continued to exist. In Alexandria, Christians studied classical ancient philosophy with interest, without sacrificing their religious sensibilities. The noble senators in Rome continued to hold traditionally pagan views, though without the opportunity to perform the former ceremonies in public.

Lavan says that Christian writers gave great weight to the narrative of victory over paganism, but this does not necessarily correlate with the factual record. There are many indications that paganism existed in the fifth century, and in some places in the sixth century and even longer:41, 156. Archaeology proves that in most regions distant from the capital the end of paganism was quiet and gradual:156, 221. The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity states that "torture and murder were not an inevitable result of the spread of Christianity":861. Instead, the boundaries between communities were shaky and coexisted in a spirit of rivalry:7 causing celebrations of pagan cults to sometimes intertwine with Christian rites and customs, opening the way to a new syncretism. Brown says that "in most areas the polytheists were not molested, and with the exception of a few heinous cases of local violence, the Jewish communities also enjoyed a stable, even privileged existence.

Recognizing that Theodosius' reign may have been a watershed moment in the decline of the old religions, Cameron downplays the role of the emperor's lavish legislation as limited in force, and writes that Theodosius certainly did not forbid paganism. Although non-Christian authors of the era attributed the abolition of sacrifices and other pagan ceremonies to the soon to follow decline of the Roman Empire, their claims are not supported by archaeological evidence. In his 2020 biography of Theodosius, Mark Hebblewhite concludes that Theodosius never saw or advertised himself as a destroyer of old cults; rather, the emperor's efforts to promote Christianity were careful, "deliberate, tactical and nuanced" and intended to prevent political instability and religious discord.

Appearance and Character

The most detailed account of Theodosius' appearance and personality was given by the Roman historian Sextus Aurelius Victor:

Theodosius - as far as it is visible from ancient descriptions and images - was similar in physique and character to Trajan: the same tall stature, the same figure and luxuriant hair and the same face Theodosius was gentle, merciful, sociable, he considered that he differed from other people only by his clothes; and was benevolent to all, especially to good people. He had the same love for simple-minded people as he had admiration for scholars, but also honest ones; he was generous and generous. With regard to sciences, if you look at the most successful in them, his education was mediocre, but he was very shrewd and loved to learn about the deeds of his ancestors.

The non-Christian historian of the fifth century, Zosimus, following his source Eunapius, was critical of the pagan opponent Theodosius. According to him, the emperor adored luxury, surrounded himself with a large retinue, and spent his treasury thoughtlessly. To improve his finances, he sold his provincial government to the highest bidder.

Family and descendants

Theodosius had a sister and a brother, Honorius, who died early. Theodosius took their children into his care; he married his brother's daughters, Hermantia and Serena, to his warlords. Serena in 387 became the wife of Stilichon, the future commander-in-chief of the armies of the Western Roman Empire; the Senate of Rome executed her in 408 on suspicion of conspiring with the leader of the Goths, Alarich.


  1. Theodosius I
  2. Феодосий I Великий
  3. Год рождения вычисляется исходя из того, что согласно Авр. Вик. (Извлечения …, 48.19, 47) Феодосий был провозглашён императором в 32 года, а скончался на 50-м году жизни. Более поздний церковный историк Сократ Схоластик (5.26) сообщил, что Феодосий скончался в 60 лет, что противоречит свидетельству Амм. Марцеллина о юности Феодосия в пору его войны с сарматами.
  4. Авр. Вик. (48.1) назвал имя отца Феодосия как Гонорий, однако Павел Диакон (Hist. Rom, 12.1), копирующий Авр. Вик., и Иероним (Chron. s.a. 376) назвали имя отца как Феодосий.
  5. Амвр. Мед. (Слово на смерть Феодосия Великого): «Носил тяжкое ярмо и Феодосий от юности своей, когда убийцы отца его замышляли против его жизни.»
  6. Pan. Lat. 2(12).10.2-3 (Панегирик Латина Дрепания); Themist. Or. 14.182c, 15.198a. (Речи Фемистия). Так, Фемистий в речи 14 (14.182c), произнесённой в 379 году, говорит, что римляне призвали Феодосия на царство в момент, когда тот воевал с сарматами. В обзорно-исторической литературе, ссылаясь на Авр. Виктора («Извлечения …», гл. XLVII) и Орозия, обычно считают, что Грациан вызвал Феодосия из Испании, что противоречит более ранним свидетельствам.
  7. Дата указана в «Консульских списках» (Consularia Constantinopolitana) как «V non. Oct.»
  8. Sozomenus, Historia Ecclesiastica VII 4.
  9. Vergelijk in verband met dit probleem H. Sivan, Was Theodosius I a usurper?, in Klio 78 (1996), blz. 198 e.v.
  10. Alicia M. Canto recupera la tradición historiográfica europea desde el siglo XVI hasta el XIX en favor del origen italicense, realizando una crítica textual de los dos únicos textos que mencionan Cauca (Zósimo e Hidacio) y añadiendo otros argumentos y autores antiguos, singularmente el escritor áulico de los teodosios, Claudio Claudiano.
  11. Texto original en latín: Imppp(eratores) Gratianus, Valentinianus et Theodosius AAA(ugusti). Edictum ad populum Urbis Constantinopolitanae. Cunctos populos, quos clementiae nostrae regit temperamentum, in tali volumus religione versari, quam divinum Petrum apostolum tradidisse Romanis religio usque ad nunc ab ipso insinuata declarat, quamque pontificem Damasum sequi claret et Petrum Alexandriae episcopum, virum apostolicae sanctitatis; hoc est ut secundum apostolicam disciplinam evangelicamque doctrinam Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti unam deitatem sub parili maiestate et sub pia Trinitate credamus. § 1. Hanc legem sequentes Christianorum Catholicorum nomen iubemus amplecti, reliquos vero dementes vesanosque iudicantes haeretici dogmatis infamiam sustinere, nec conciliabula eorum ecclesiarum nomen accipere, divina primum vindicta, post etiam motus nostri, quem ex coelesti arbitrio sumpserimus, ultione plectendos. Dat(um) (die) III (ante) Kal(endas) Mart)ias), Thessalonica, Gratiano A(ugusto) V (quinto), et Theodosio A(ugusto) I (primo) Co(n)s(ulibu)s («Decreta selecta de religione. Theodosius I», en Patrologia Latina, París 1845, vol. 13, LIB. XVI. TIT. I. DE FIDE CATHOLICA, col. 530B-530C), [1] aquí.

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