chapter  4
33 Pages


One pursuit in the next several chapters will be to delve more deeply into the sociological and cultural changes of fourth and fifth centuries CE that went hand in hand with the rise of Christianity. The religion had found a new champion in the emperor, but that did not mean its travails were ended. As the history of synods and ecumenical councils of the period demonstrate, arguments over the definition of orthodox Christianity often erupted into violence between various partisan factions. Nor were their disagreements limited to violence against their fellow Christians. Their anger was often focused against pagans and Jews, who saw their rights and protections under the law slowly vanish.1 Not even the emperor, who usually understood the need for civil peace, could offer effective physical protection to their property and their persons.2 If persecution had been a modus vivendi of polytheistic Roman society in the third century, many of the new religion’s proponents saw violence as an equally effective means of dealing with enemies. Augustine tried to put the best face on such violence in his De civitate Dei: ‘ut autem etiam inimici diligantur, exercent eius benevolentiam aut etiam benificientam, sive suadibili doctrina cum eius sive terribili disciplina.’3