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Constantine and the Ancient Cults of Rome: The Legal Evidence

John Curran

Greece & Rome, 2nd Ser., Vol. 43, No. 1. (Apr., 1996), pp. 68-80.

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Greece &Rome, Vol xlzll, ,Yo. I , Apnl1996




The relationship between Constantine and the ancient cults of Roman

civilization remains one of the most important and discussed features of
late antique history. It is a relationship which has defied those who see in
his victory over Maxentius a sudden, monolithic shift in the religious
consciousness of the ancient world, because the sources stubbornly refuse
to yield to such a tidy interpretation. In this paper I review a body of
evidence that reveals Constantine to be a flesh-and-blood emperor,
confronting the difficulties of transition and reining in his own passions,
sometimes for narrow political reasons and sometimes for what might be
taken as statesmanship. What follows is neither exhaustive nor definitive. It
is an attempt to gauge the complexity of some of Constantine's problems
and assess his skills in dealing with them.'
When he entered Rome in A.D. 312, Constantine can hardly have been
ignorant of the religious dimension of the adventus and in particular, of the
act of thanksgiving which his predecessors had customarily made at the
temple of Juppiter on the Capitol2 But there is no record in the surviving
sources that Constantine made such a visit in 3 12. Some have suggested a
deliberate refusal to sacrifice on account of the emperor's recent
conversion to Christianity, a course which may have attracted c r i t i ~ i s mIt. ~
should be noted, however, that such sacrifices were merely customary; the
procession was not a formal triumph.-light evidence also precludes too
rigid an understanding of the importance of the Capit01.~A busy emperor
with much on his mind need not have hesitated to proceed straight to rest
and preparation for business. It is even possible, though undocumented,
that Constantine did offer s a ~ r i f i c eIn
. ~ any event, Constantine's activities
in Rome in 3 12 are of greater significance for his personal inclinations than
for the legal standing of the old cults in the city. Within months, however,
he had formulated a policy on his non-Christian subjects.
Early in January 3 13 he was in Milan, offering his sister in marriage to
his imperial colleague Licinius.' The two emperors also took the
opportunity to draw up a letter which was to be circulated among the
governors of the Eastern Empire which ordered the immediate restitution

of Christian properties to the recently legitimized sect, thereby bringing

the law in the Eastern Empire into line with that operating in Constantine's
dominion^.^ The significance of this letter for the Christian community is
well known, but the same letter also declared unequivocally that the co-
authors of the regulations wanted no action to be taken against the non-
Christian cults. At two points in the document this expression of toleration
was forcefully made:
. . . among all the other things that we saw would benefit the majority of m e n . . . were those
which ensured reverence for the Divinity ( d i ~ d n i t a s ) s, o that we might grant both to
Christians and to all men freedom to follow whatever ri'lzgio each one wished, in order that
whatever divinity there is in the seat of heaven may be appeased and made propitious
towards us and towards all who have been under our power.'

The pax deomm was thus best served by the inclusion of Constantine's new
god alongside those of the state. After giving detailed instructions to the
governor regarding the restoration of Christian property, the emperors
warned him to make sure that no Christian backlash occurred:
. . . your Devotedness understands that others too have been granted a similarly open and
free permission to follow their own xligzo and worship as befits the peacefulness of our
times, so that each man may have a free opportunity to engage in whatever worship he has
chosen. This we have done to ensure that no cult or religion may seem to have been impaired
by US.^"

The so-called 'Edict of Milan' left the legal standing of the old cults
intact. A pantheon of officially sanctioned deities would continue to receive
cult on behalf of the state. That cult required the provision of a large
number of priestly intermediaries between people and gods, and the
emperors, as Chief Priests (Pontifices 'Zlaximi), continued to be the most
important of them. Temples to these deities were to continue to be the
setting for cult sacrifices and the estates and revenues held by the temples
for this purpose were to remain unmolested. The highly visible and public
ceremonies connected with these cults would continue.
On 25th July 315 Constantine held his 10th anniversary (decennalia)
celebrations in Rome." Eusebius of Caesarea is the only source to provide
any details of Constantine's actions at the thanksgiving:
On this occasion he ordered the celebration of festivals for the whole populace, and he
offered prayers of thanksgiving to God, the King of all, as sacrifices without flame or

It is not safe to conclude that the character of the decennalia/

vincennalia celebrations was diminished by the emperor's actions.13
70 C O N S T A N T I N E A N D T H E A N C I E N T C U L T S OF RO.iIE

Eusebius drew a contrast between the festivals attended by the whole city
and what Constantine himselfhad done. It was irregular, but not unknown,
for emperors to loathe blood sacrifices."+Nothing, however, inhibited the
customary sacrifices which most of the population of Rome saw as an
integral part of the celebrations.
Constantine was notably more traditional, however, on the subject of
harmful magic. In a letter addressed to the Prel'ect of Rome, Septimius
Bassus, dated 23rd May 318, the emperor attacked those who used the
'skill' (scientia) of practitioners of 'magic arts' (magicae artes). Certain
activities were specified: the use of the 'magic arts' in plotting against
men's lives; and the perversion of modest minds to lust. But if the scientia
was used for more positive purposes, like the curing of other men or the
protection of crops, then it was to be permitted:
. . .by such devices no person's safety or reputaton is injured, but by their action they bring it
about that divine gifts and the labours of men are not destroyed."

The distinction between good and harmful magic, enshrined in the Twelve
Tables, was reinforced by Constantine.lh
On 15th May the following year, the emperor addressed 'the People'. His
letter concerned the activities of hamspices and sacerdotes. Henceforth,
hamspices, sacerdotes, and those who carried out the kind of rites
associated with these men were no longer allowed to enter private homes,
nor, on the pretext of friendship, were they to cross another's threshold.
But the public exercise of their skills was permitted, at the 'altars and
public shrines' ('aras publicas adque delubra') for those who thought that
this kind of thing was of use to them:
we do not prohibit the rites of a past superceded practice from being celebrated openly."

The important phrase 'praeterita usurpatio' is difficult to translate. Pharr's

translation of the two words as 'a bygone perversion' is too perjorative;
Croke and Harries have preferred the similarly rhetorical but milder 'a
past superseded practice'. This law therefore ordered a ban on private
divination. This attitude, again, was far from new. Emperors throughout
the Principate had treated reports of illicit divination with the utmost
seriou~ness.'~ Constantine therefore upheld the fundamental distinction
between legal and illegal divination like that which existed for 'magic'.
In February 320, the Prefect of Rome received more precise instruc-
tions." The core of this new law was essentially the same as that of 15th
May 319 (CT 9. 16. 2). No hamspex was to enter the house of another
person for any reason, not even if there existed a longstanding friendship

between the two. Punishments were specified: the haruspex was to be

burned alive and the consultor was to have his property confiscated before
being exiled to an island.20As before, an imperial statement was made
making it clear that the practice could remain if performed in the open:
. . . those persons who wish to serve their own superstltzo will be able to perform their own
ceremonies p ~ b l i c l y . ~ '

Constantine's use of 'superstitio' in this context was an expression of his

distaste for the work of haruspices. But the term was being used
traditionally and derogatively as a means of identifying those who pursued
their religion with excessive The last lines of the law established that
information forthcoming on secret haruspicy would not mark the
informant as a delator; an obvious indication of the seriousness of the
emperor's intention to suppress such activity.
Constantine himself benefited from the public haruspicy which he had
carefully legitimized. On 8th March 321, following an incident at Rome,
Constantine sent a letter to the Prefect of the City, Valerius Maximus
Basilius. Constantine stated that the (public?) consultation of haruspices
was fully legal and necessary when state buildings had been struck by
lightning. The Prefect was commended for despatching a full report to the
emperor's magister officiorum. But a clause was included maintaining the
hostility towards private divination:
Permission shall be granted to all other persons also to appropriate this custom to
themselves, prol'ided only that they abstain from domestic sacrifices, which are specifically

Significantly, the practice of haruspicina was not here called a 'supersti-

tion' but a 'custom' (obsemantia).
The elevation of the Christian religion to a privileged position within
Roman life was not achieved without friction. In May or December 323,
Constantine sent a letter to Helpidius, Vican'us Rom~e.~'+Sorne 'ecclesias-
tics' and Catholic Christians had been compelled 'by men of different
religiones' to celebrate the 'lustrorum sacrificia'. Those devoted to the 'most
sacred law' ('sanctissima lex') were not to be forced 'to the ritual of an alien
superstition' ('ad ritum alienae superstitionis'). A public beating awaited
offenders of vulgar status, while members of the social elite could expect a
heavy fine. In this law, Constantine used the term superstitio to apply to the
activities of the followers of Rome's ancient cults generally; a much
broader definition than had been used previo~sly.~' Alfoldi was wholly
mistaken, however, to think that this measure banned the lustral
72 C O N S T A N T I N E AND T H E A N C I E N T C U L T S O F RO11E

sacrifice^.^^ There is no suggestion that the non-Christian population of the

city lost anything as a result of the letter. In fact, Christians had clearly
been on hand at these ceremonies and Fraschetti has suggested that they
might have participated but stopped short of sacrificing, as Constantine
himself had at his decennalia in 315.27 The stridency of the emperor's
language may reflect concern that in the East Licinius was invoking the old
gods against his own.28Constantine therefore became more sensitive to
non-Christian activities at Rome since they might now be imbued with
treasonable significance. Certainly the measure is insufficient ground for
positing a general attack on the legal status of the old cults at Rome.
Late the following year, Constantine achieved a complete military
victory over the man with whom he had divided the Empire in 312. The
defeat and death of Valerius Licinianus Licinius demonstrated to
Constantine more clearly the favour of Heaven for his earthly enterprises
and his success brought into his power the eastern provinces of the Empire
with their sophisticated Christian infrastructure. The effect on his
personality and policies was so marked that a later hostile pagan tradition
dated his conversion to Christianity to these years.
Shortly after the victory, Constantine enacted a number of important
measures in the Empire, communicated through unsolicited letters2'
Accompanying a flood of governors for the newly captured provinces was a
'law' which forbade senior officers of the administration, including
Praetorian Prefects, offering sacrifice:30
If they were Christians [writes Eusebius], they were free to act consistently with their
profession; if otherwise, the law required them to abstain from idolatrous sacrifices."

Also among the letters was a law:

. . . which was intended to restrain the idolatrous abominations which in time past had been
practised in every city and country and it provided that no one should erect images or
practice divination and other false and foolish arts or offer sacrifice in any way."

Barnes thought these enactments to be crucial for Constantine's

establishment of Christianity as the 'official religion of the Roman
Empire'.33But in the case of the ban applying to office-holders, there are a
number of points to note. In the first place, Eusebius himself admits that
not all of the governors sent out to the East were Christians, some were
clearly n o n - C h r i ~ t i a n s .There
~~ is also an obvious parallelling of the
preparations made by Licinius before hostilities and the actions of
Constantine after victory. At VC 1. 42-4 Eusebius offered details of how
Licinius had excluded Christians from his camp because their religious

beliefs made them untrustworthy. Indeed, the impression Eusebius gives

overall is that there was a marked religious dimension to the conflict. This
need not be doubted, but there is no need to see in Constantine's actions a
policy different from that ascribed to Licinius. Politically motivated, he
asked for a gesture from those he chose to govern the new regions under
his power.
But Barnes also argued, using the evidence of Eusebius, that
Constantine did indeed issue a law banning sacrifice shortly after his
victory over L i ~ i n i u s Barnes
.~~ conceded that Eusebius did not quote the
law which initiated the ban but believed that this showed only that
Eusebius did not have a copy to hand when he was writing his Vita
C o n ~ t a n t i n iBut
. ~ ~ Libanius of Antioch, in an oration written circa 386,37
flatly contradicted Eusebius in declaring to Theodosius I that:
. . . he [Constantine] made absolutely no alteration in the traditional forms of worship, but,
although poverty reigned in the temples, one could see that all the rest of the ritual was

Eusebius himself, several chapters after his reference to the law banning
sacrifice, quoted at length a letter which Constantine sent to the provinces
just liberated from Licinius and which closed with the words:
. . . let no one use that to the detriment of another which he may himself have received on
conviction of its truth . . . For it is one thing voluntarily to undertake the conflict for
immortality, another to compel others to do so from fear of punishment.. . These are our
words . . . since we understand that there are some who say that the rites of the heathen
temples, and the power of darkness have been entirely removed."

Dorries understood this paragraph to be an expression of toleration issued

in the wake of Constantine's conquest of the East." Barnes, however,
having accepted the existence of a general Constantinian ban on sacrifice,
perceived the absence of reference to sacrifices in the letter to the eastern
provinces as 'pointed' and concluded that the latter document supported
the existence of the general ban4' But while the general trend of the letter
is to praise and flatter the Christians, it is also clearly an attempt to prevent
the persecution of those who are not Christians.
It has been argued that there was a ban on sacrifice but that the letter to
the eastern provinces, 'quietly superseded' it, when the law caused an
outcry among pagans.12 Eusebius of Caesarea did not, of course, broadcast
the fact openly as he was seeking to portray Constantine in the most
enthusiastically Christian fashion possible." But if Constantine was
reversing a policy, why should he fail to say so clearly? All the persecution-
revoking edicts of the age, from Galerius' 'palinode' of 3 11 to the so-called

'Edict of Milan' and Constantine's own suspension of the persecution of

Donatists (5th February 330), unequivocally declared that a change of
direction was taking place.l"n fact, as Barnes observed, the fundamental
question concerns the trustworthiness of Eusebius as against Libanius on
the question of the alleged law." But the controversial passage in Eusebius'
Vita referring to the law banning sacrifices is not a quotation. Barnes was
wrong to suggest that Eusebius' failure to quote was insigificant.
The Vita Constantini reflected the circumstances of the time when it was
composed." It was the last of Eusebius' works. It arose out of a panegyric
delivered to an emperor whose Christian enthusiasms had increased
perceptibly as his life progressed." Eusebius promised moral improvement
to those who read his catalogue of Constantine's good deed^.'^ As Lane Fox
points out:
It was not a biography or a straightforward work of history. It was a stylized work of praise
and its general remarks about the emperor and his habits have to be read with this purpose
in mind."'

In the year before Constantine's death, Eusebius felt confident in drawing

a picture of the emperor as implacably opposed to the folly and error of
idolatry. Constantine, for his part, may have been content to be so
portrayed before his Christian court. Eusebius therefore reported events
from earlier in the emperor's reign, but he misrepresented their scope and
significance. And by the time the work was finally published, Constantine's
successors were quickly preoccupied with political affairs and unable or
unwilling to quibble with details in the elderly bishop's biography.
The victory in the East had enlarged the dominions and enhanced the
stature of Constantine. Among the immediate results of his success,
Constantine decided to build a vast new Christian city from which he could
rule the Eastern Empire. This new eastern orientation of Constantine's
world-view made a notable impact on him and on some of his chroniclers,
not all of them favourable. In 326 he visited Rome to celebrate a version of
his vicennalia there.50 Zosimus has preserved an unflattering tradition
from Eunapius of Sardis which records that as a result of Constantine's
refusal to ascend the Capitol at a state festival, an acrimonious breach
occurred between the emperor and the city.ji It may be that Constantine's
aversion to sacrifice manifested itself more strongly in 326 than it had in
315; he may have refused to participate in the ceremonies in the way he
had at his decennalia. Less inclined to respect the protocols of Rome, he
gave offence. Constantine never returned to the city and the work on
Constantinople proceeded apace.j2

Constantine returned east and within four years the new Rome was
completed. The Chronicle of Eusebius, rendered into Latin by Jerome,
placed the event in 330 and noted the wider effect of the emergence of the
new city:
Constantinople was dedicated to the denudation of almost all [other] cities."

A year later, according to the same source, an edict of the emperor 'ruined'
the temples:
The temples of the pagans were overthrown by an edict of C ~ n s t a n t i n e . ' ~

Did Constantine order a general destruction of temples at the beginning of

the 330's? In his Vita Constantini, Eusebius recorded the transportation of
certain sacred objects from the pagan temples to the new capital." This is
supported by a statement of Libanius:
. . . he employed the sacred treasures on the building of the city upon which his heart was

Both the Vita Constantini and Eusebius' oration at the tn'cennalia record
that a small number of the emperor's associates travelled to shrines and
carefully removed what was precious from them. Before Constantine
himself, Eusebius recalled:
The melting of their [the pagan gods'] inanimate images in the flames and their conversion
from worthless forms into necessary uses.'-

Though Eusebius was happy to see in the activities of this small force of the
emperor's 'friends' a desire to ridicule the old cults, and Constantine was
doubtless flattered to have such an interpretation placed on his actions, it is
clear that a particular need was served by the mission. This was either the
acquisition of precious materials to adorn Constantinople, or it was a
response to some financial ~ r i s i s . 'Though
~ Eusebius emphasizes the
apparent informality of the policy, saying that it was achieved without
force, on the 'nod' of the emperor, by his 'friends' (comites?), it is not
impossible that some imperial communication accompanied the visits of
these officials. Thus the edictum of 33 1, in connection with some aesthetic
or fiscal end, became the agent of the 'ruin' of an unknown number of
temples, most probably in the eastern portions of the Empire, a ruin gladly
exaggerated by Eusebius and accepted by his translator. As Nothlichs
points out, the confiscations had some kind of religious background."
After all, no Christian churches were treated in this way, but it is more
significant that no general closure or destruction of temples was ordered,
76 C O S S T A N T I N E A N D T H E A N C I E N T C U L T S O F RO11E

despite the rubric added by a later editor to Eusebius' Vita Constantini 3.

Constantine's horror of sacrifices affected his attitudes towards his own
imperial cult. An inscription from Hispellum, less than 100 miles north of
Rome and just off the Via Flaminia, records the arrangements which the
emperor made for the cult there.60Between 25th December 333 and 18th
September 335 Constantine responded to a request from the Umbrian
town to build a temple to the Gens F l a ~ i a . The
~ ' erection of a temple in
honour of members of the imperial family, alive and dead, was allowed.
Theatrical and gladiatorial games were instituted, despite an earlier ban on
them.h2The city even received a new name in recognition of its outstanding
loyalty 'Flavia Constans'. Attached to the cult here and in Rome was a
newly created priesthood, the Pontifices Gentis F l a ~ i a eBut
. ~ ~these priests
were apparently to have a role only in the administration of the festivities
attached to the cult, because Constantine stated:
... a temple dedicated to our name may not be defiled by the evils of any contagious

Some kind of practice was forbidden. Contagio was a term used widely for
heresy, Judaism or paganism, and Firmicus Maternus isolated the most
distasteful practices of non-Christians by it.6' But it is 'superstitio' which
must provide the meaning of the inscription. We have seen that
Constantine used it to denote what he considered to be the bizarre rituals
(especially animal sacrifice) associated with the old cults. It would seem
that this form of sacrifice was the contagio and, as one of the most
objectionable acts which the pagans practised, Constantine could not
sanction it in connection with the imperial cult. There is no reason to think,
however, that the letter from Hispellum referred to anything other than
the imperial cult.


Although the evidence of Constantine's laws cannot provide a complete

picture of his outlook, they do in themselves point to several important
conclusions. Constantine's views are seen to evolve. His hasty and poorly-
recorded entry into Rome in 312 was followed by an unequivocal
expression of toleration towards the old cults. At the same time, however,
he seems consistently to have maintained a personal hostility towards blood
sacrifice. Similarly consistent was an antipathy towards magic, tradition-
C O N S T A N T I N E AND T H E A N C I E N T C C L T S O F RO,\lE 77

ally viewed as a threat to social and political authority, particularly when

practised in private. As a significant expression of that authority, however,
Constantine expressly permitted the activities of hamspices when they had
a contribution to make to the public welfare. And we need not see, as
Constantine did not see, any contradiction between the persistence of
haruspicy and the protection of Christians. Indeed, addressing the latter
problem, Constantine provided a striking description of the teachings of
the Christian cults as the 'sanctissima lex'.
The conquest of the eastern portions of the Empire, however, seems to
have had a huge impact on Constantine's personality. The conflict and
successes of 323-4 encouraged the emperor to use a strident and polemical
language when referring to the followers of the ancient cults. But if
Constantine could be said to have exhibited greatness, it is surely in his
refusal to descend into persecution. His haughty language was not backed
up by general repressive legislation. The divergence of the emperor's
personal views and the practices of a large number of his subjects would
lead inevitably to conflict, but when it came, Constantine was dead and the
burden had devolved onto the slenderer shoulders of his sons.


' I am grateful to my colleague Brian Campbell and to Jill Harries for comments on an earlier draft of
this paper.
Abbreviations used:

Barnes, CE = T. D. Barnes, Constunrznc and Ezisehius (Cambridge. Alass., 198 1)

Nothlichs, Ltlassnuhmcn= K.-L. Nothlichs, Die gese~zgehmschen.Ciussnuhmcn dcr chnsllzchcn Ka~serdzs

~~1ertenJahrhundercs gegen Haretzker. Heiden und Juden (Diss Koln, 1971)

1 For the difficulties of determ~ningthe extent to which the laws were enforced, see S. Bradbury.
'Constantine and the Problem of Anti-Pagan Legislation in the Fourth Century'. O'P 89 (1994). 120-
39. esp. 133ff; cf D. Hunt. 'Christianising the Roman Empire: the evidence ofthe Code' in J. Harries, I.
X'ood (edd). The Theodoslun Code (London, 1993). 143-58.
2. Two panegyrics delivered before him had made explicit reference to the importance of the gods
as part of the udz,cntus: Pun.Lat. 6 17). 8, 6-9 (A.D. 310): T e primo ingressu tuo tanta laetitia. tanta
frequentia populus Romanus excepit, ut, cum te ad Capitolini lovis gremium vel oculis, ferre gestiret,
stipatione sui vix ad portas urbis admitteret. The Roman people at your first entrance [to the city]
welcomed you in such large numbers and with such great joy that, although they yearned to carry you
with their very eyes to the lap of Capltoline Juppiter, they could barely offer you access to the gates of
the city through their thronging crowds. Cf. 8 (5). 8, 4 (A.D. 312). See S. ,hlacCormack, Art und
O'er~.monq'In I,atc .intiquicq' (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 198 1). 22-33.
3. J. Straub. 'Konstantins I'erzicht auf den Gang zum Kapitol'. H E S I O ~4I(1955).
U 297ff
4. See the discussion of A. Fraschett~.'Costantino e I'abbandono del Campidoglio' in A Giardina
(ed.). Soc~eraromuna e lmpero rardoantico (Rome and Bari, 1981), vol. 11, 71-80 with n. 51 for further
5. Josephus. BJ 7. 4. 1 (68-71) sho~vsthat I'espasian went straight to the Palatine and offered his
thanks there to the lures, not Jupp~ter.C f the admittedly dubious S H A 'Heliogabalus' 15. 7 for a
refusal by the emperor to attend ceremonies on the Capitol. The duties Lvere performed by the Crban
78 C O N S T A N T I N E A N D T H E A S C I E N T C U L T S O F ROXlE

6. See A. Alfoldi, Constanrlne and the Conzvrsion of Pagan Rorne (Oxford. 1948), 61-2.Also F.
Paschoud, Cinq Etudes surzosime (Paris, 1975). 24-62.
7. Lactantius, I1:MP 45. 1.
8. Idem, 18.212,the so-called 'Edict of hlilan'. C f Eusebius, HE 10.5.2-14.S ee F. Xlillar, E R W ,
582-4; R. Lane-Fox. Pagans and Christians (Harmonds~vorth.1986). 621 denies Constantine's role in
the choice of words; also S. Alitchell, 'Xlaximinus and the Christians in A.D. 312',J R S 78 (1988),105-
24,here 116.
9. Lactantius, D.CIP 48. 2 ( C S E L 22. 228-9): . . . haec inter cetera quae videbamus pluribus
hominibus profitura . . . q u ~ b u sd ~ v i n ~ t a t ireverentia
s contlnebatur, ut daremus et Christianis et
omnibus liberam potestatem sequendi religionem quam quisque voluisset, quo quicquid est divinitatis
In sede caelesti, nobls atque omnibus qui sub potestate nostra sunt constituti placatum ac propitium
possit existere (Trans. J. L. Creed). Cf. for a similar expression of God-fearing, letter of Constantine to
Aelafius, I'icarius ,Aj?cae in 3 14.CSEL 26 204-6.
10 Lactantius, D.MP 48.6 (CSEI, 22.2301):.. . intellegit dicatio tua etlam aliis rel~gionissuae vel
observantiae potestatem similiter apertam et liberam pro quiete temporis nostri esse concessam, ut in
colendo quod quisque delegerit, habeat liberam facultatem. Quod a nobis factum est, ut neque cuiquam
honori neque cuiquam religion1 detractum aliquid in nobis videatur. Cf. guarantees of toleration in the
edict of April 311 published by Galerius, Constantine, and Licinius: Lactantius. D,11P 33. 11-35. 1;
Eus. HE 8.17.3-10. See Alitchell, art. cit. (n. 8), 112-13.
11. 0 . Seeck, Regerren de Kaiser und Papsre furdteJahre 311 bis 1 7 6 n. Ch. (Stuttgart, 1919). 163.
12. Eusebius. I%' 1. 48.
13.J. Geffcken, The Last Days of Graeco-Roman Paganlsm (revised and translated by S.
XlacCormack, Amsterdam. 1978). 119 thought that the passage quoted in the text above showed the
prohibition of sacrifices at Rome during the official games.
14. \'C 4 10.See also 3. 15 (\'~cennalza) and idem, Laus Constanttni 2.5-6. Philip 'the Arab' had
also abhorred sacrifice: Orosius 7.20.3.For Christian attitudes towards blood sacrifice, see Bradbury,
art. cit. (n. 1). 129ff.,although he does not make the connection with magic and divination.
15. C T 9. 16.3: . . . quibus non cuiusque salus aut existimatio laederetur, sed quorum proficerent
actus, ne dlvina munera et labores hominum sternerentur (trans. C. Pharr).
16. See J. Alaurice, 'La terreur de la magie au IVeme siecle', Revue htstonque de drottfran$azs er
irranger 4eme series vol. 6 (1927). 108-20, here, 109;A. Chastagnol. La Prifecture urbaine a Rorne sous
le bas-ernpire (Paris, 1960), 144 calls the legislation a 'tentative d'epuration' and points out the lack of
evidence for a specifically Christian policy at work. See A. Barb, 'The Survival of the Alagic Arts' in A.
Alomigliano (ed.). 7'he Conflzct between Paganzsm and Chnstlanlty dui~ngrhe Fourth Centuql (Oxford,
1963),102-3.Also J. H. G. W. Liebeschuetz, Continuttjand Change tn Roman Religion (Oxford, 1979),
127 with references and R. AlacRlullen. Enemtes ofthe Roman Order (Harvard, 1966). ch. 3 'Xlagi-
17. C T 9.16.2: . . nec enim prohibemus praeteritae usurpationis officia libera luce tractari.
18. Dio 56.25.5(A.D. 11):'. . . the seers were forbidden to prophesy to anyone alone or to prophesy
regarding death even if others should be present.' Suetonius, Ttberius 68:' . . he lived a life of extreme
fear and was even exposed to ~nsult.He forbade anyone to consult soothsayers secretly and without
witnesses.' See F. Cramer, Asrrology zn Roman Polirics and Law (Philadelphia, 1954), Part 11; also
Liebeschuetz. op. cit. (n. 16), 120ff.,Lvith the apposite quotation from Ulpian, De Officio Proconsuhs 7:
'. . . those ~ v h oconsult about the health of the emperor are punishable by death or some still heavier
punishment; and about their own or relative's affairs by. a lighter - sentence.' See R. AlacRlullen, op. cit.
(n. 16). 129f
19. C T 9 . 16.1. Date from Seeck, op. cit. (n 1 l), 169.For the Prefect Yalerius Xlaximus Basillus, see
P L R E 1 590.
20. See R. Xlac.\lullen, 'Judicial Savagery in the Roman Empire'. Chiron 16 (1986),147-66, here

21. C T 9. 16. 1: . . . superstitioni enim suae servire cupientes poterunt publice rltum proprium
22. On the fluidity of the term in the fourth century, see AI. R. Salzman, 'Supersrttio in the Codex
Theodoszanus and the Persecution of Pagans', I'zgiltae Christtanae 41 (1987), 172-88. Also R. L.
Wilken. The Chrisrians as the Romans Saw 7'hem (New Haven, 1984), Ch. 3 'The Piety of the
23. C T 16. 10. 1: . . . ceteris etiam usurpandae huius consuetudinis licentia tribuenda. dummodo
sacrificiis domesticis abstineant, quae specialiter prohibita sunt.

24. C T 16. 2. 5.
25. See Salzman. art. cit. (n. 22). 177.
26. Op. cit. (n. 6), 85-6.
27. See A. Fraschetti, 'Costantino e l'abandono del Campidoglio' in A. Giardina (ed.), Soclera ronlana
e lnlpero rardoant~coI1 (Rome and Bari, 1986). 85.
28. Cf., e.g., Eusebius, HE 10. 8. 10; 16; 1%' 1. 52; 54: 56. Nothlichs, .Ilassnahmen, 25-6: 30
29. For what follows, see Bradbury, art. cit (n 1) and the items in nn 34 and 35 below
30. 1% 2. 44.
31. 1% 2. 44.
32. 1% 2. 45. C f Socrates. H E 1. 3.
33. C E . 97,224.269.
34. The phrase was 'mostly such as were devoted to the saving faith'.
35. C E . 210 and n. 11. Re-stated in his art~cle,'Constantine's Proh~bitionof Pagan Sacrifice', .4JIJh
105 (1984), 69-72. His repost was to the important review by H. A. Drake, w h 103 (1982), 462-6.
See also the review by Aver11 Cameron. J R S 73 (1983), 189.
36. C E , 269. Also art. cit. (n 35). 72. Conrra, see H. A. Drake. In Prazse of Constanrzne: a Hzsroncal
Srudy and .Yes(' Translation of Euseblus' Tricennial Oratlon (Berkeley, 1976), 150 n. 17.
37. For a d~scussionsee A F. Norman. Lzbanlus. Selected Il'brks vol. 2 (Cambridge. .\lass., 1977).
96-7 following the article of P. Petit, 'Sur la Date du "Pro Templis"'. Byzantion 21 (1946), 293ff.
38. Oratzo 30.6. Cf. 30.37: [Constantine was punished for being a desecrator] 'leaving aside the fact
that he did not proceed against the sacrifices.' Bradbury. art. cit. (n. 1). 128 makes well-judged remarks
on L~banius'capacity for protreptic rhetoric, but I interpret the circumstantial evidence differently.
39. I'C 2 60.
40. See, e.g., H. Dorries, Das Selbsrzeugnis Kazser Konsranrlns. Abhandlungen der Akademie der
\\'~ssenschaften in Gottingen. Philologisch-historische Klasse 34 (Gottingen, 1954), 5 1-4.
41. C E . 210: 'An emperor with these convictions could not be expected to tolerate pagan practices
tvh~chall Christ~ansfound morally offensive.'
42. H. A. Drake, 'Constantine and the Pagans', G R R S 29 (1988). 309-18, here 315.
43. Ib~dem:.[Eusebius] knowingly creating a false impression of his [Constantine's] actual practice
and long-term policy in the central field of the suppression of paganism.'
44. Galerius: Eusebius. H E 8. 17 1 and Lactantius. L1,IlP 34. Edict of Alilan: see n. 8 above.
Donat~sts:Optatus, Ile Schismate Donarisra~~rrnApp. 9 (CSEL 26. 212-13). Gallienus' edict of
toleration: Eusebius. H E 7. 13. Bradbury, art, cit. (n. 1). 125-6 is also sceptical of the 'quiet super-
session' but I differ in the interpretation of Liban~usand C T 16. 10. 2.
45. Art. cit. (n. 35). 72.
46. Barnes. C E 265-71. here 267.
47. Ibidem. 266.
48. 1'C 1. 3. 4.
49. Op. cit. (n. 8). 627.

50 Seeck. op. cit. (n. 11). 177. He entered the city on 18thJuly and the main festival was celebrated

on the 25th. He had held a celebration the previous year at Sicomedia: ed. Helm. 231.
5 1 Zosimus. H.Y 2. 29, 1-5.
52. For a full discussion of the incident, see F. Paschoud, Clnq Etudes surZosirne (Paris. 1975). 24-
53. Dedicatur Constantinopolis omnium paene urbium nuditate: ed. Helm, 232.
54. Edicto Constantini gentilium templa subversa sunt: ed. Helm. 233.
55. Eusebius. 1'C 3. 54. C f VC 3. 62. 1 and De Rebus B e l l ~ c ~2.s 1.
56. Orario 30. 6.
57. Laus Cozsranrinl 9. 6. For my views on the religious ambivalence of statues, see J. Curran.
'.\loving Staues in Late Antique Rome: Problems of Perspective'. .Art History 17 (1994). 46-58.
58. Probably the shortage of coins: A. Piganiol. L'Enlpereur Constanrin (Paris. 1932). 183-6; idem.
L'I??nplre chrirlen (Paris, 1972). 57-8: R. .\lac2!lullen. Constantine (London, 1969), 201. Ammianus
refers to this period at 32. 4. 3.
59, Nothlichs. Massnahr~len.3 1.
60. I12S 705. See I. Karayannopulos. 'Konstantin der Grosse und der Kaiserkult' Hisrona 5 (1956),
341-57. here 345ff: J . Gascou, 'Le Rescrit d'Hispellum'. .1JI?FR 79 (1967), 609-59; Nothlichs,
.\lassnahmen. 29-30: S. R. F. Price. 'Between Alan and God: Sacrifice in the Roman Imperial Cult'.
80 C O N S T A S T I N E AND T H E A S C I E N T C U L T S O F R02!IE

J R S 70 (1980). 40; G. L. Bowersock. 'The Imperial Cult: Perceptions and Persistence' in B. F. Rleyer,
E. P. Sanders (edd.), Jewish and Christian Se/fIIccfiniri vol. 3 (1982), 7 6 K
61. For the date see the discussion of Gascou, art. cit. (n. 60). 618-23.
62. CT 15. 12. 1 (October 325).
63. C. ,\latrinius Aurelius is a local example: CII. XI. 5283. At Rome. see L. Aradius Yalerius
Proculus: CIL \.'I. 1690, 1691.
64. 11.5' 705. 11. 45-7: . . . ne aedis nostro nomini dedicata cuiusquam contagione superstitionis
fraudibus polluatur (trans. Lewis and Reinhold).
65. A. Androtti. Contribute alla discussione del' rescritto Costantiniano di Hispellum'. .Atti del I
Conz'egnodl Stud1 l h b t i (1964), 278ff. Firmicus Xlaternus, De Ewore 12. 1: 20. 7; 26. 2.