chapter  XI
12 Pages

Christian society

Compel them to come in On 1 June 411, during the summer following the first sack of Rome by Alaric the Goth, 570 African bishops met in conference (collatio) at the Garglian bath-house in Carthage under the presidency of count Marcellinus, a court official sent for the purpose from Ravenna by the western emperor Honorius (imp. 395-423; the City of God was to be addressed to Marcellinus). Two hundred and eighty-four of the bishops were Donatist, 286 Catholic, Augustine a ‘spokesman’ among them. Marcellinus’ instructions were to suppress the Donatist ‘superstition’ and enforce all previous edicts against it (Codex Theodosianus 16.11.3). On 26 June, after listening to nearly four weeks of episcopal debate, he pronounced his sentence. The Donatists appealed to Ravenna. On 30 January 412 Honorius promulgated a fresh edict:

Donatism struggled on. Indeed according to Frend (ibid.:229) its church ‘had at least a century and a half of existence after Augustine died’ in 430. But to the Catholic protagonists in these events, especially bishop Augustine of Hippo and the metropolitan bishop Aurelius of Carthage, the battle must have seemed to be won. Why had they fought it to such a bitter ending?