Theodo'sius or Theodo'sius the Great
1. was the son of Theodosius, who restored Britain to the empire, and was beheaded at Carthage.
The family of Theodosius was Spanish, and the future emperor was born in Spain, about A. D. 346, as some say at Italica, the birth-place of Trajan, though other authorities say that he was a native of Cauca in Gallicia. His panegyrists derive his descent from Trajan, but this lofty lineage seems not to have been discovered until Theodosius was invested with the imperial purple.
Theodosius received a good education; and he learned the art of war under his own father, whom he accompanied in his British campaigns. During his father's lifetime he was raised to the rank of Duke (dux) of Moesia, where he defeated the Sarmatians (A. D. 374), and saved the province. On the death of his father (A. D. 376), he retired before court intrigues to his native country, where he cultivated his own lands, which probably lay near his native place between Segovia and Valladolid.
At this the he was already married to a Spanish woman, Aelia Flacilla or Placilla, who is sometimes called Placidia, by whom he became the father of Arcadius, Honorius, and a daughter Pulcheria. From this peaceful retirement he was called in the thirty-third year of his age to receive the imperial purple. Valens, the colleague of Gratian, had recently lost his life at Hadrianople (A. D. 378), where the Roman army was completely broken by the Goths, and Gratian, feeling himself unable to sustain the burden of the empire, invited Theodosius to fill the place of Valens. Theodosius was declared Augustus by Gratian at Sirmium in Pannonia, on the 19th of January A. D. 379.
He was intrusted with the administration of Thrace, Asia, and Egypt, which had been held by Valens, together with Dacia and Macedonia.
The new emperor of the East had the conduct of the war against the Goths.
The history of Ammianus Marcellinus ends with the death of Valens, and the authorities on which the historian of the reign of Theodosius has to rely, are greatly inferior to Ammianus. Their character is well expressed by Gibbon in a few words, and they are referred to by Tillemont (Histoire des Empereurs,
v.), with his usual diligence and accuracy.
The Romans were disheartened by the bloody defeat which they had sustained on the plains of Hadrianople, and the Goths were insolent in their victory. Theodosius was too prudent to lead dispirited troops against a successful enemy, and he formed his head quarters at Thessalonica, the capital of the diocese or division of Macedonia, from whence he could watch the movements of the Goths.
In four years' campaigns (A. D. 379-382), of which the particulars are imperfectly recorded, Theodosius revived the courage of the Roman soldiers, and while he seems to have prudently kept aloof from any general engagement, he took all opportunities of attacking his enemy in detail, and securing for his men the advantage of victory without the danger of defeat. The Goths, who were not held together by any well-constituted authority, and only by the ability of their commander Fritigern, became disorganized by his death, and were split up into numerous bands which went about seizing all that they wanted, and destroying that which they had not the prudence to reserve for another time. Jealousy arose between the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths; and Theodosius by his agents added the inducement of money to those who were discontented. Modares, a chieftain of rank, went over to the Romans, among whom he obtained the rank of mastergeneral, and he earned his reward by surprising and massacring a body of Goths, and carrying off a great number of captives with four thousand waggons (Zosimus, 4.25). In A. D. 381, Athanaric was compelled to leave his forests, and to cross the Danube; and many of those who had formerly acknowledged Fritigern as their leader, and were weary of anarchy, now yielded obedience to this Gothic judge. Tillemont conjectures that Athanaric was expelled by Fritigern, Alatheus, and Saphrax; but Gibbon's narrative seems to signify (for seems
is all the meaning that in many cases can be imputed to it) that Fritigern was already dead. However Athanaric was too old and too prudent to carry on war with the new emperor : he listened to proposals of peace, and he even went to Constantinople to visit the emperor. Theodosius left the city to meet him, and received him with the greatest respect. The Goth was struck with amazement at the magnificence of Constantinople, and exclaimed that the Roman emperor was an " earthly God." Athanaric fell ill at Constantinople, and died there. Theodosius gave him a splendid funeral, and erected a monument to his memory.
This politic behaviour gained over the whole army of Athanaric; and the adhesion of so large a body of the Visigoths was followed by the submission of the rest. " The general or rather final capitulation of the Goths may be dated four years, one month, and twenty-five days after the defeat and death of the emperor Valens." (Gibbon; comp. Tillemont, Histoire des Empereurs,
vol. v. p. 216.)
The Ostrogoths, who had retired from the provinces of the Danube about four years ago, returned (A. D. 386) to the lower course of that river recruited by an army of Scythians, whom none of the inhabitants on the banks of the Danube had ever seen before (Zosimus, 4.38). Promotus, the general on the Thracian frontier, who knew that he was a match for the invaders, thought it prudent to draw them over to the south bank, without letting them wait for their opportunity in the winter; and by his spies he encouraged them to hope that by secretly crossing the river, they might destroy the Roman army.
The passage was made on a dark night in numerous canoes; but the Ostrogoths discovered their mistake when they found the south bank of the Danube guarded by a triple row of vessels through which they could not penetrate.
At the same time the Roman galleys descending the river, swept before them the frail boats of the Ostrogoths, and Alatheus the king, and his bravest troops, were either drowned in the Danube or destroyed by the sword.
Those who escaped sued for mercy to the Romans.
It is uncertain whether Theodosius had personally any share in this victory. Zosimus says that after the victory Promotus sent for Theodosius, who was at no great distance. If the historian Zosimus unjustly deprives Theodosius of all merit, the poet Claudian made amends for it by flattery and exaggeration.
A treaty was made with the Goths, the precise date and terms of which do not appear to be known; but they were settled within the limits of the empire, in tracts which were neglected or unoccupied.
A colony of Visigoths was established in Thrace, and the remains of the Ostrogoths were planted in Phrygia and Lydia. They were not scattered among the population of Thrace or Asia Minor, but they obtained whole districts in which they still lived as a Gothic people, acknowledging the emperor as their sovereign. but probably retaining jurisdiction in all disputes among themselves The chieftains still governed their followers, lowers, but there was no kingly dignity. Forty thousand Goths were kept in the service of the Eastern empire, under the title of Foederati, and were distinguished from the other troops by golden collars, better pay. and more licence.
But though the Goths were thus converted from enemies into dubious allies. their settlement within the limits of the empire is justly viewed as the immediate cause of the downfal of the western division.
In the civil war against Maximus (A. D. 388), some of those barbarians who were in his army listened to the proposals of Maximus. but their treachery being discovered, they fled into the marshes and forests of Macedonia, where they were pursued by Theodosius and cut to pieces.
Maximus, a native of Spain, like Theodosius, was living in Britain in retirement or in exile. When this province revolted against Gratian. Maxims was chosen their leader. and he invaded Gaul with a powerful army. Gratian fled from Paris to Lyon, where he was overtaken by Andragathius, the commander of the cavalry of Maximus and put to death (A. D. 383). Maximus sent an envoy to Theodosius to explain and justify his conduct, to excuse the assassination of Gratian as having been accomplished without his orders. and to offer to the emperor of the East peace or war.
A war with the fierce soldiers of the north would perhaps have been an unequal contest for Theodosius, whose dominions had recently suffered from the ravages of the Goths; and reluctantly, as we may conclude, he made a treaty with Maximus, whom he acknowledged emperor of the countries north of the Aips, but he secured to Valentinian the brother of Gratian, Italy, Africa, and western Illyricum Thus the empire was divided into three parts; one of which, an empire won by usurpation, consisted of three rich countries, -- Spain, Gaul, and Britain.
Theodosius was the son of a Christian father, whose ancestors acknowledged the creed of Nicaea ; and next to Constantine he became the great glory of the Christian church.
The merits of Gratian secured him from the orthodox Christians a rank equivalent to that of a saint; and after his death they found a worthy successor to his orthodoxy in the more vigorous emperor of the East. Theodosius was not baptized until the end of the first year of his reign, when he was admonished by a serious illness no longer to delay this ceremony. In A. D. 380, before he commenced operations tions against the Goths, he was baptized at Thessalonica salonica by the archbishop Ascolius, in the orthodox faith of the Trinity; and his baptism was immeddiately followed by a solemn edict which fixed the faith of his subjects (Tillemont, Histoire des Empereurs,
vol. v. p. 198; Cod. Theod. 16. tit. 1. s. 2), and branded with the name of heretics all who dissented front the imperial creed.
The edict declared " according to the discipline of the apostles, and the doctrine of the gospel, let us believe the sole deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, under an equal Majesty and a pious Trinity : we authorise the followers of this doctrine to assume the title of Catholic Christians; and as we judge that all others are extravagant madmen. we brand them with the name of heretics, and declare that their conventicles shall no longer usurp the respectable appellation of churches : besides the condemnation of divine justice, they must expect to suffer the severe penalties which our authority, guided by heavenly wisdom, shall think proper to inflict on them" (Gibbon, vol. 5.100.27).
The faith which Theodosius so ardently embraced can hardly be supposed to be the result of a subtle inquiry into the metaphysical distinction between the sameness of substance or strict homoousian doctrine of Athanasius, and the similarity of substance in the Father and the Son, or the homoiousian doctrine it which some of the Arians sought refuge.
A singular anecdote is told of Amphilochius, bishop of Iconium and afterwards a saint, who administered to Theodosius a practical lesson on the homoousian doctrine.
It was in A. D. 383, just after Theodosius had raised his son Arcadius to the rank of Augustus, and the two emperors were seated on a throne to receive the homage of their subjects. Amphilochius saluted Theodosius with reverence; his son he addressed with the familiarity of an equal.
The emperor, indignant at this rudeness, ordered the bishop to be dragged from his presence, when he exclaimed. " Such is the treatment, O emperor, which the King of heaven has prepared for those impious men who affect to worship the Father, but who refuse to acknowledge the equal majesty of his divine Son." Theodosius embraced the bishop, and never forgot the lesson. Arcadius was at this time about six years of age.
Constantinople was the head-quarters of Arianism at the time of the accession of Theodosius ; but his baptism in the orthodox faith and his edict gave the Catholics hopes of their supremacy being re-established.
The emperor entered Constantinople with his army, and offered Damophilus the Arian prelate the alternative of subscribing to the creed of Nicaea or of resignation. Damophilus resigned his dignities, and retired into exile and poverty. Gregory of Nazianzus, who had laboured hard to restore the Catholic faith at Constantinople, was placed on the archiepiscopal throne which Damophilus had left vacant. Early in A. D. 381, Theodosius declared his intention to expel from all the churches both bishops and clergy who should refuse to profess the creed of Nicaea; and Sapor, his lieutenant, was armed with full powers to effect a change, which was accomplished without disturbance in all the Eastern empire.
In the month of May (A. D. 381) a meeting of one hundred and fifty bishops who formed the first general council of Constantinople, and the second of the oecumenical general councils, was assembled to confirm and complete the creed that had been established by the council of Nicaea.
The council had to explain some things which were ambiguous, and to dispose of the sect of the Macedonians, who, to the heresy of homoiousianism, added that of a belief that the Holy Ghost was created (κτιστόν
The council declared the equal divinity of the Holy Ghost, the third person in the Trinity, which dootrine has prevailed in the Eastern church without interruption to the present time.
After the death of Meletius, Gregory of Nazianzus presided in this council, and he has left a picture of the turbulent and disorderly proceedings which characterised its close.
Theodosius, after establishing the supremacy of the Catholic faith by the council of Constantinople, proceeded to give it effect.
In the course of fifteen years (A. D. 380-394) he published fifteen decrees against heretics, or those who were not of his own creed.
The penalties were most particularly directed against those who rejected the doctrine of the Trinity; and they extended to ministers, assemblies, and the persons of heretics.
It was about the time that the council was sitting that he deprived all persons who apostatised from Christianity to Paganism of the right which every Roman citizen had enjoyed at least from the time of the Twelve Tables, of disposing of his property by testament. In July (A. D. 381) he forbade the Arians and Eunomians to build any church ; and the law appears to mean that every place of worship which they already possessed should be taken from then.
The various enactments against heretics are contained in the Code of Theodosius (16. tit. 5. s. 6-23; and the commentary of Gothofredus) : the Eunomians, whose guilt consisted in denying any resemblance between the two substances, stances, and who were accordingly Anomoeans, were also deprived of the power of testamentary disposition, and of taking by testamentary gift : they seem, in fact, to have been deprived of all the rights of citizens. The Manichaean heresy was punishable with death; and the same penalty threatened the Audians or the Quartodecimans, who celebrated the festival of Easter on the wrong day. To the reign of Theodosius belonged the glory or the infamy of establishing Inquisitors of Faith, who seem to have been specially enjoined to look after the crime of the Quartodecimans. Though Theodosius thus established the principle of persecution, it is said that his rival Maximus was the first Christian prince " who shed the blood of his Christian subjects on account of their religious opinions."
It is fortunate for the fame of Theodosius that there is not the same evidence of his giving effect to his own laws as there is for the severity of Maximus, under whose reign Priscillianus and others suffered death for heresy at Treves, A. D. 385.
In A. D. 387 Maximus, not content with the possession of Spain, Gaul, and Britain, aspired to wrest Italy from the feeble hands of Valentinian II., who as an Arian was disliked by his Catholic subjects of Italy, and was opposed in his heretical projects by the zeal of Ambrose, the Catholic archbishop of Milan. Maximus was in sight of Milan, before Valentinian and his mother Justina, who directed the administration, were aware of his hostile intentions; and he entered the city without resistance. Justina and her son embarked from one of the harbours in the north part of the Hadriatic and arrived in safety at Thessalonica. No resistonce was made to Maximus, except by the small town of Aemona, on the border of Italy. Theodosius visited Justina and her son at Thessalonica, and reminded Valentinian that his opposition to the faith of Nicaea was the cause of his own ruin and of the success of Maximus. Valentinian, it is said, acknowledged his errors, and returned to the true faith; and the orthodox emperor promised to restore him to his throne : but perhaps he was influenced by other motives than gratitude to Gratian, and zeal in support of the Catholic faith. Theodosius was a widower; and Valentinian had a sister Galla, young and beautiful. Tillemont would fix the marriage of Theodosius and Galla a year before the visit to Thessalonica at the close of A. D. 886; or he would make a compromise by admitting that Theodosius asked her in marriage in A. D. 386, but did not actually marry her till A. D. 387 (Histoire, &c.
vol. v. p. 740): his desire was to protect the piety of Theodosius from the scandal of a sensual motive. But Zosimus (4.44) states that Justina, a woman of influence, fluence, who knew the amorous propensities of Theodosius, prevailed over the irresolution of the emperor by her daughter's tears and beauty. Theodosius saw her and was captivated : he asked her of her mother for his wife, but he only obtained tained her on condition of restoring Valentinian. Though Gibbon has preferred the authority of Zosimus, there is some evidence opposed to it; and yet the narrative of Zosimus is so precise and circumstantial that it is difficult not to give credit to it.
There is nothing improbable in the fact of a passion for a woman determining a political question.
After Theodosius had decided on his course, his operations were rapid and vigorous.
He found Maximus encamped near Siscia, in Pannonia, a city situated on the great river Save. Maximus had not talent equal to his ambition, and Theodosius had a force which confounded the soldiers of the usurper by a mode of attack to which they were unaccustomed. His Huns, Alans, and his Goths were mounted archers, who annoyed the heavy troops of Gaul and Germany by the irregularity of a Parthian attack. Maximus, after sustaining one defeat on the banks of the Save, and probably a second, fled across the Alps, and shut himself up in Aquileia, just before Theodosius reached the gates.
But in spite of his Moorish guard, he was given up to Theodosius by his own soldiers and the people of Aquileia, with his hands tied behind him. Theodosius, according to his panegyrist Pacatus, was not indisposed to pardon but his soldiers , saved him the difficulty of a decision, by dragging Maximus from his presence and beheading him. Maximus had left his son Victor in Gaul, with the title of Caesar, or perhaps of Augustus. Arbogastes, the active general of Theodosius, seized the youth, and put him to death a short time after his father. Theodosius spent the winter at Milan, and in the following year (June 13th, 389) he entered Rome in triumph, accompanied by Valentinian and his own son Holnorius.
Two events in the life of Theodosius may be brought into juxtaposition as evidence of his uncertain character and his savage temper. In A. D. 387, the city of Antioch complained of increased taxation, the necessary consequence of the wars in which the emperor had been engaged; and Antioch, as it had not suffered from an enemy whose ravages had been confined to Europe, was unwilling to bear its share of the expense of the Gothic campaigns.
The complaints of the citizens were soon changed into active riot (February) : the states of the emperor, of his father, and of his wife Placilla, were thrown down; but these idle demonstrations were quickly suppressed by an armed force.
The governor sent to the emperor at Constantinople an account of these riots, and the citizens of Antioch, in great alarm, despatched Flavian their bishop, and the senator Hilarius, to acknowledge their guilt and to pray for forgiveness. In March the judgment of the emperor was brought by Hellebicus and Caesarius, two of his officers, who declared that Antioch was degraded from the rank of a city, was stripped of its possessions and privileges, and reduced to the condition of a village dependent on Laodicea.
The places of public amusement were shut up, and the usual distribution of corn was stopped, which was equivalent to a sentence of starvation against those who were accustomed to receive this pauper's allowance.
A severe investigation was made into the circumstances of the riot, and those who were convicted by the extraordinary commissioners of the emperor peror lost their property, and were reduced to beggary. Some of the rioters, or of the accused, were put to death.
The commissioners, however, suspended the complete execution of the emperor's sentence against the city, and Caesarius went to Constantinople to obtain a final answer from the emperor to the petition of the people and the prayers of the monks and hermits, who left their solitudes, and crowded to Antioch, to intercede for the metropolis of the East.
The emperor had already relented at the entreaty of the bishop and the eloquent address of the senator; the senate of Constantinople had interceded for Antioch, and Theodosius pardoned the city, and all who had taken part in the riot.
The property of those who had been convicted was restored, the poor got their allowance again, and Antioch resumed its former dignity and jurisdiction. Tillemont has collected all the circumstances of this affair of Antioch (Histoire, &c.,
vol. v. p. 261, &c.), at great length.
In A. D. 390, Thessalonica, the metropolis of the Illyrian provinces, was disturbed by a riot during the emperor's residence at Milan. Botheric. who commanded the soldiers there, had imprisoned one of the charioteers of the Circus, who had solicited a youth to a shameless intercourse.
The populace in vain called for their favourite charioteer during the celebration of the games : the general kept him in the prison which his crime had merited.
It seems that the populace was ready for insurrection ; a trifling cause was enough to set them in motion, and the garrison was weak. Botheric and his officers were overpowered and assassinated by the people, and their bodies were dragged about the streets.
An inquiry into the riot, and the punishment of the guilty, was necessary and just; but Theodosius punished a whole city, guilty and innocent together.
It is said that his minister Rufmus prompted the emperor to issue his savage orders, notwithstanding the intercession of the bishops.
An army of barbarians was sent to Thessalonica instead of a civil commission supported by a sufficient force.
The people were invited to the games of the Circus, and they came without suspicion; but as soon as the place was full, the soldiers received the signal for a massacre. For three hours the spectators were indiscriminately exposed to the fury of the soldiers, and seven thousand of them, or, as some accounts say, more than twice that number, paid the penalty of the insurrection.
The soldiers, it is said, were ordered to produce a certain number of heads, an order which aggravates the guilt of Theodosius, who, if not softened by the usual feelings of humanity, might have remembered the city in which he had so often resided.
This massacre, unparalleled in history, is a stain on the name of Theodosius, an eternal brand of infamy. Tillemont, who has so minutely recorded the clemency of Theodosius in the affair of Antioch, observes, " that this year (A. D. 390) is celebrated for the cruelties which the order of Theodosius caused to be committed at Thessalonica, and still more celebrated for the penance which Theodosius performed to expiate so great a crime. We only touch, in a few words, on an event so illustrious and important, because we reserve it for the his tory of St. Ambrosius."
The illustrious and important event was the penance, more illustrious and important in the eyes of the pious historian than the unpardonable crime of massacring thousands.
It is singular, as Gibbon remarks, that Zosimus, who is certainly not partial to Theodosius, perhaps hardly just, and exposes his faults, dots not mention the massacre of Thessalonica; and yet the fact is not doubtful.
Ambrosius, the archbishop of Milan, thought that the civil administration was an affair in which the clergy had an interest; and a riot at Callinicum on the Persian frontier, in which the fanatics of the place, at the instigation of their bishop, had burnt a place of worship of the Valentinians, and the synagogue of the Jews, found an apologist in the archbishop of Milan.
The provincial magistrate had condemned the bishop to rebuild the synagogue, or to make good the damage, and the rioters to be punished; and the emperor confirmed this equitable and moderate sentence.
But to tolerate difference of opinion was, in the archbishop's judgment, the same as to persecute the orthodox ; and Theodosius was compelled, by the archbishop's monitions and lectures, to let the bishop and his turbulent flock go unpunished. " St. Ambrosius," says Tillemont, " thought that a prince who pardoned so many other similar acts, ought not to expose the Christian religion to the insults of its enemies by so rigorous an order."
The massacre of Thessalonica was a trial for the firmness of Ambrosius : he who thought that the burning of a Jew synagogue ought not to be punished could hardly overlook the massacre of a Christian city.
He retired from the emperor's presence, but he represented his crime to him in a letter, and he told him that penitence alone could efface his guilt.
But the archbishop was prudent in his remonstrances, and to protect himself, he called in the aid of a vision, in which he said that he had been warned not to offer the oblation in the name of Theodosius, nor in his presence. When the emperor proceeded to perform his devotions in the usual manner in the great church of Milan, the archbishop stopped him at the door, and demanded a further acknowledgment of his guilt.
The conscience-struck Theodosius humbled himself before the church, which has recorded his penance as one of its greatest victories.
He laid aside the insignia of imperial power, and in the posture of a suppliant in the-church of Milan, entreated pardon for his great sin before all the congregation.
After eight months, the emperor was restored to communion with the church, at Christmas, A. D. 390.
Theodosius spent three years in Italy, during which he established Valentinian on the throne of the West, a measure for which his historians may claim the merit of generosity; for he probably would have had no difficulty in keeping the western empire, which he had wrested from the usurpation of Maximus. Theodosius returned to Constantinople early in November A. D. 391.
Valentinian II. did not long maintain his power, Arbogastes, who had served Gratian with fidelity, and had contributed under Theodosius to the overthrow of Maximus, was appointed master-general of the forces in Gaul.
But he aspired to govern a master who had not vigour enough to command obedience, and the emperor's authority gradually declined. In A. D. 392 Valentinian made a last effort to resume his power, and he personally announced to Arbogastes that he was dismissed from all his employments.
The general received the announcement with contempt; and in a few days after Valentinian was found dead.
It was believed that he had been strangled by order of Arbogastes.
The barbarian, who did not think it prudent to assume the imperial purple, set up Eugenius, a rhetorician, and formerly his secretary, as emperor of the West. Theodosius received the ambassadors of Eugenius, who announced his elevation, with dissembled indignation, for he was ill disposed to renew a war in the west, which he had only just ended.
But his own pride, and the tears of his wife Galla, the sister of Valentinian, urged him to punish the usurper. Two years were spent in the preparation for this war; but the emperor, with prudent precaution, imitating the example of those who consulted the god of Delphi in the times of heathenism, sent a favourite eunuch to ask the advice of John of Lycopolis, an Egyptian anchorite, whether he should make war on Eugenius, or wait till Eugenius attacked him. John declared that Theodosius would be victorious, but yet not without loss and bloodshed, as in the war with Maximus ; that he would die in Italy after his victory, and leave to his son the empire of the west. " Thus Theodosius did not engage in this war any more than in the other, except by the order which God gave to him by his prophet." (Tillemont).
Theodosius prepared himself to fulfil the prophecy by recruiting his legions, with the aid of his two master-generals Stilicho and Timasius. Arbogastes, who commanded for Eugenius, posted himself on the border of Italy, but allowed Theodosius to pass the Julian Alps, and enter the plains which extend to Aquileia. Here he found the formidable army of Arbogastes, consisting of hardy Gauls and Germans. Theodosius attacked the enemy, but he was compelled to retire with great loss, particularly of his Gothic allies. Arbogastes now occupied the passes in his rear, and the emperor's position was most critical.
But he was saved by the treachery of the generals of Eugenius, who sent to express their readiness to desert, if the rewards which they asked were granted. Theodosius accepted their conditions, and led his troops to a fresh attack on the camp of the enemy.
A tempest, that rose during the battle, and blew full in the face of the troops of Eugenius, contributed to their discomfiture and the victory of Theodosius.
The head of Eugenius was separated from his body, while he was suing for mercy at the feet of his conqueror; and Arbogastes, after wandering in the mountains, terminated his fortunes by his own sword. Theodosius received the submission of the west, and, at the intercession of Ambrosius, used his victory with moderation.
Theodosius died on the seventeenth of January A. D. 395, four months after the defeat of Eugenius, whether, as some say, in consequence of the fatigues of war, or, as others, in consequence of intemperate habits, it is not possible to decide.
The two sons, Arcadius and Honorius, had already been elevated to the rank of Augusti, and it was arranged that the empire should be divided between them. Honorius was not in the war against Eugenius, but he came to Milan before his father died, and received from him the gift of the empire of the west.
The arrival of Honorius was celebrated by the games of the Circus, at which the dying emperor assisted.
The formal destruction of paganism marks the reign of this orthodox emperor. " The ruin of paganism, in the age of Theodosius," says Gibbon, "is perhaps the only example of the total extirpation of any ancient and popular superstition, and may therefore deserve to be considered as a singular event in the history of the human mind." Without admitting the truth of this remark as to the total extirpation of paganism, we must assign to Theodosius the design to extirpate it. His rigorous steps to wards the overthrow of the ancient religion are traced by Tillemont with minute diligence (vol. v. p. 229, &c.). In December 381 he prohibited sacrifices, either by day or by night, in the temples or out of the temples; and also he forbade the curious inquisition into futurity by the examination of the viscera of animals. Libanius, in his oration in defence of the temples, written probably about A. D. 384, says, that the laws of Theodosius at that time had not closed the temples, nor prohibited persons from going there, nor the burning of incense, but only the sacrifice of animals.
But so long as the temples existed, the old religion would subsist ; and therefore to destroy it the temples must be destroyed. Libanius complains that people, clothed in black (no doubt he means monks,) ran in bodies to the temples,overthrew the altars, pulled down the roofs and the walls, and sometimes killed the priests who resisted.
He says, however, that soldiers were also employed in this work of demolition, and that in fact no temples were destroyed without the order of the emperor. Some few temples were converted into Christian churches, and thus preserved ; " but in almost every province of the Roman world, an army of fanatics, without authority and without discipline, invaded the peaceful inhabitants; and the ruin of the fairest structures of antiquity still displays the ravages of those barbarians, who alone had time and inclination to execute such laborious destruction."' (Gibbon.)
The lands of the temples were probably given to the Christian churches as a general rule. (Tillemont.) Cynegius, the praetorian prefect of the East, was sent by Theodosius in 386 into Egypt, the seat of all monstrous superstitions, with a commission to prohibit idolatry, and to close the temples.
It does not appear that he had any power to destroy them.
It was probably not till 389 that the Christians obtained their great triumph over the idolatry of Egypt, by the destruction of the magnificent temple of Serapis at Alexandria.
The fall of this great idol shook the popular belief of Egypt to its foundation.
The emperor had given his orders to destroy the statue of Serapis; but the heathens believed that the deity would resent the slightest affront to his majesty.
A soldier, bolder than the rest, encouraged by the archbishop Theophilus, dealt a blow against the cheek of Serapis with a ponderous axe, and the face of the idol fell to the ground.
The deity silently submitted to his fate; the idol was broken in pieces, and dragged through the streets of Alexandria.
The overthrow of the old religion, which was still practised, was accomplished by the last edict of Theodosius in 390 (Cod. Theod. 16. tit. 10. s. 12), which in harsh and intolerant terms, censured by a modern Christian writer, forbade, under severe penalties, in some cases extending to death, " the worship of an inanimate idol by the sacrifice of a guiltless victim."
The spirit of the Theodosian edicts was that of the most bitter persecution; and while we commend his wishes to purge society of gross and debasing superstitions, we cannot reconcile the laws of the emperor with the religion which he professed, nor admit that persecution would have been so efficient a cure of idolatry as the inculcation of the doctrines of Christ, and the example of a practice conformable to them.
But he who could order the massacre of Thessalonica was ill adapted to teach a faith which was contradicted by his practice.
The reign of Theodosius is one of the most important periods of the later empire. Gibbon has sketched it in a masterly manner, but too favourably for the character of Theodosius; who was probably a voluptuary, a sensualist, certainly a persecutor, cruel and vindictive.
That he possessed some great qualities cannot be denied; and his natural temper may have been mild, but it was unequal and uncertain ; it wanted sufficient consistency to entitle him to the name of a truly great and good man. Tillemont has, with unwearied industry which allows nothing to escape it, collected, in his dry, annalistic fashion, all the materials for the reign of Theodosius; and Gibbon has largely availed himself of the labours of the learned ecclesiastic.