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Aurelius Augustine was born on November 13, 354 at Tagaste in the Africa diocese of the Western Roman empire. His father Patricius was a pagan until shortly before he died in 371, but his mother Monica was a devout Christian. Augustine wrote his Confessions soon after he was consecrated assistant bishop of Hippo in 396. This remarkably innovative book is a long prayer to God that confessed his faith and described his life with its human errors up to the year 387 when he was baptized during Easter.
Augustine began his Confessions by asking whether he should pray for help or praise God, whether he must know God before he can ask for aid, or whether humans can learn to know God through praying. He admits that he does not know where he came from before he was born into this life, but he is grateful for the mercy he found in the world as he was nursed. He observed that even infants without language become jealous of a foster-brother at the breast. At school Augustine was beaten if he was idle at his studies. He thanked God for what he learned, because others only aimed to satisfy the desire for poverty called wealth and infamy known as fame. He was punished for not wishing to study, but in retrospect he believed that every soul brings punishment on itself. Yet he observed, "We learn better in a free spirit of curiosity than under fear and compulsion."1 He asked patience for people who are more concerned with rules of grammar than with the eternal rules of human relations such as when we damage our own hearts by persecuting others. Augustine confessed that he stole from his parents' larder to trade for toys. Even when he was caught cheating, he would not give in.
In adolescence Augustine found difficulty in distinguishing true love from murky lust even though his mother warned him about fornication, especially with another man's wife. Yet he did not want to be less depraved than his fellows. With his peers he stole pears, only to give them to pigs, because they found pleasure in doing what was forbidden. Augustine compared human faults with the perfection of God. Pride only pretends to the superiority that is God's. Ambition is only craving for honor and glory, but only God is glorious. The powerful use cruel weapons, but God is omnipotent. The lusty crave winning love, but God's charity and love of truth are more rewarding. The inquisitive seek knowledge, but God knows all.
You are innocent even of the harm which overtakes the wicked,
for it is the result of their own actions.
Sloth poses as the love of peace:
yet what certain peace is there besides the Lord?
Extravagance masquerades as fullness and abundance:
but you are the full, unfailing store of never-dying sweetness.
The spendthrift makes a pretense of liberality;
but you are the most generous dispenser of all good.
The covetous want many possessions for themselves: you possess all.
The envious struggle for preferment:
but what is to be preferred before you?
Anger demands revenge: but what vengeance is as just as yours?2
Augustine realized he must have enjoyed the company of those committing the crime, as he was bewitched by this unfriendly friendship.
Augustine aimed to be a persuasive speaker to gratify his vanity, but he was lifted into the love of wisdom by reading Cicero, which made the scriptures seem unworthy. He fell in with sensualists and clever speakers, greedy for gain in the illusion of liberty instead of loving the greater good of all. Their willingness to explain their religion philosophically led Augustine to accept Manichaean teachings for nine years until he was 27. For money he taught the art of speaking to those who wanted to win debates. He lived with an unnamed woman as a mistress; but he was faithful to her. Later he realized that to cling to any beauty outside of God or the soul is only clinging to sorrow. Now he commands his soul to lead instead of following the flesh. Under Manichaean influence he believed that evil is a substance that leads to crimes of violence and sins of passion. Now he realizes that free will makes him responsible for his own errors that become his punishment.
Augustine studied astronomy, which helped him realize that Mani was trying to teach about scientific questions, of which he was ignorant. Because Mani claimed to know what he clearly did not, Augustine concluded that Mani lacked wisdom and was not the divine person he claimed to be. Augustine hoped that the Manichaean expert Faustus would be able to answer his questions, but he could not. While teaching rhetoric in Carthage, Augustine found that the students were too disruptive; so he moved to Rome, where he hoped they would be more disciplined. In order to leave his mother he had to deceive her about his departure. She cried and prayed for him. In Rome Augustine continued to associate with Manichaeans, who believed that an evil force, not themselves, was committing the sin. Augustine found that this made his sin incurable until he later realized that he was responsible as the sinner.
Augustine was hired to teach literature and speech in Milan, where he met Bishop Ambrose. There he was joined by his devoted mother. Now Augustine began to favor the Catholic teaching of the church that asked him to believe certain things but did not claim it could prove them. He found in the practicality of living that many things had to be taken on trust in order to accomplish anything. He lived with his close friends Alypius and Nebridus. Alypius had been seduced by gladiatorial games, and Augustine tried to free him from the "spell of this insane sport." Augustine was hoping to marry a girl, but he had to wait two years until she was old enough. This caused his mistress to leave him and go back to Africa. A slave of lust, he took another mistress out of wedlock.
Intellectually he was still trying to find the cause of evil. He repudiated the Manichaeans, because he thought they were full of evil while denying they were capable of committing it. He was trying to grasp the idea that we do evil because we choose to do so by our free will, and we suffer from it because of God's justice. He adopted the belief that all things are good and that evil is not a substance, all substances being made by God. Those who find fault with the creation he considered bereft of reason. Even vipers and worms are good although they are in the lower order of creation. Wickedness, he decided, is a perversion of the will when it turns away from God.
Augustine went to Suplicianus, a teacher of Ambrose, who told him about the dramatic conversion of the pagan rhetorician Victorinus. A man in the Emperor's household named Ponticianus told Augustine and Alypius about the Egyptian monk Antony and the monasteries; there was even one near Milan. In the past Augustine had prayed for chastity; but part of him was not ready for it and would add "but not yet." Now he experienced a struggle between two parts of himself. He thought his will wanted to dedicate himself completely to God; but another will still opposed his making the decision. He was held back by his old attachments. Finally when he read a passage from Paul's letter to the Romans (13:13-14), he decided to give himself to Christ and spend no more time on nature's appetites. Alypius applied the next passage of Paul's letter to himself about making room for a man of delicate conscience. Augustine no longer desired a wife but stood firmly now in his faith. He quietly retired from the market by completing his teaching up to the autumn holidays. After a visit to the country with Alypius, his mother and others, Augustine took his 15-year-old son Adeodatus, who was "born of my sin," back to Milan. Adeodatus died about two years later. Augustine decided to return to Africa; but just before he left, his mother Monica died.
Augustine began investigating his own mind and wrote particularly about memory, trying to explain how it works. He worked to free himself of temptations. He was more afraid of the uncleanness of gluttony than unclean meat. He believed he could not trust even his own mind based on its experience as much as God's mercy, because even those who have improved might pass from a better to a worse condition. In addition to sensual pleasures he found that his mind could be tempted by idle curiosity. In the last three books of his Confessions Augustine discussed Genesis and the problem of time. He concluded that we only are impelled to do good after being inspired by the Holy Spirit. Prior to that, he believed that the human impulse is to do wrong. Yet God is always good. He hoped to find rest in the presence of God. To understand this truth we must seek it; when we do, the door will be opened.
In 386 and 387, before he was baptized, Augustine held discussions with his mother and friends. In the evening he wrote his own thoughts in Soliloquies. In these Augustine conversed with Reason. He believed that by loving the soul he also loved his friends. Humans are worthy of being loved because they have reason, even if they sometimes make a bad use of it. Between his baptism and ordination Augustine wrote a dialog with his son Adeodatus on the teacher called The Master in which he adapted Platonic ideas by suggesting that the Christ within is the changeless power of God. Every soul can consult this wisdom. Christ is revealed according to each person's capacity depending on whether one's will is good or bad. Thus things are known by consulting this inner teacher, Christ, making knowledge depend on illumination.
During this period Augustine also started writing On Free Choice of the Will, but he did not finish it until 395. In the first book he asserted that each evil person is the cause of one's evil-doing. Otherwise it would not be just for God to punish evil deeds. Augustine believed that murder is not a sin when a soldier kills an enemy or an official executes a criminal. He also wrote that an unjust law is not a law. He believed that no one can force a soul to be a slave to lust. A spirit armed with virtue can overcome a vicious spirit. Augustine believed that happiness and sorrow result from good and bad will. Eternal law orders us to turn our love away from temporal things to the purity of the eternal. Yet loving temporal goods is not punished unless one takes them dishonestly from others. Although humans are given free will, they can turn it to sin. In the third book Augustine tries to explain how God's foreknowledge is not inconsistent with freedom of the will. Our personal experience is that nothing is so completely in our power as our own will. He argues that God foreknows our power of will; but he did not explain how God's foreknowing the results of our actions does not pre-determine them.
In 391 Augustine went to the Numidian port at Hippo and was quickly ordained by the bishop Valerius amid the acclamation of the congregation. Valerius asked him to preach on Sundays, and Augustine began giving sermons such as the one in which he condemned drunkenness as a relaxation of morals. The sermons were written down as they were delivered, and more than 400 remain. Alypius had been made bishop of Tagaste, and Valerius got Augustine appointed assistant bishop of Hippo in 396. Valerius died a year later, and Augustine became bishop. Much of his time was spent arbitrating cases to prevent Christians from bringing formal legal actions before non-believers. Augustine believed that killing was always wrong unless a soldier or public officer was acting not for himself but to defend others. He interpreted that not resisting evil does not mean we should neglect the duty of restraining people from sin. He acknowledged forgiving of sins after baptism. He decided the only unforgivable sin is remaining impenitent until death. However, his belief that only the Catholic Church possessed the Holy Spirit led to the unfortunate conclusion that not being a Catholic was an unforgivable sin too.
In writing against the Manichaean Faustus in 397 Augustine suggested that the real evils of war are the love of violence, revenge, cruelty, implacable enmity, wild resistance, the lust for power, and so on. Force may be required to inflict punishment against these in obedience to God or some lawful authority. Thus in some circumstances Augustine believed that good men undertake wars.
Augustine wrote the first three books of On Christian Doctrine in 397, but the last book was written thirty years later. In this work he held that the spiritually mature person in faith, hope, and love no longer needs the scripture except for instructing others. To correct scripture Augustine held that whatever in its literal sense is inconsistent with purity of life or correct doctrine should be interpreted figuratively, carefully meditating on it in order to find an interpretation that tends to establish the reign of love. Augustine recommended that the Christian teacher should pray before preaching. He concluded that the main aim is to help the hearer understand the truth, hear it with gladness, and practice it. He exhorted teachers to fulfill their responsibility by leading a life in harmony with the teaching, showing a good example to all. Augustine also wrote influential catechetical instructions and a long work, The Trinity. In a handbook called Faith, Hope, and Charity he was one of the first to establish the idea of purgatory, and he adamantly maintained his belief in eternal hell against the Origenist view that it would eventually end. Augustine held to the view that God's mercy is unmerited by sinful humans and is given only by the grace of Christ.
Augustine wrote works praising virginity, the good of marriage, the good of widowhood, and continence. Shortly before becoming bishop he wrote On Lying. He noted that not all false statements are lies, if the person believes it is true. Some justify telling some lies for "doing good," while others believe we must never lie, following the decalog against bearing false witness. Augustine argued that the mind should not corrupt itself for the sake of its body. He made an exception for the case when lying may be the only way of preventing someone from forcing one to do an unclean act.
Augustine described eight kinds of lies. The first five are definitely to be avoided and are
1) what concerns religion,
2) what helps no one and hurts someone,
3) what helps one but hurts another,
4) what is for the desire of lying, and
5) what pleases others in agreeable talk.
The next two are what hurts no one and helps someone as
6) when someone demands money from someone unjustly and one knows where it is, or
7) if a judge is interrogating for a capital case.
Although these are controversial, Augustine believes that brave and truthful men and women should still tell the truth.
8) is what hurts no one and does good by preserving one from corporal defilement.
The examples of the scriptures and saints are not to lie. Augustine concluded that we should follow the commandment and not lie at all; but if a person does lie, the further down the scale toward the eighth the less the sin. The Priscillianists believed it right to conceal their heresy by lying, and some Catholics wanted to pretend they were Priscillianists in order to penetrate their group; but Augustine opposed this hypocritical practice, asking, "How then by a lie shall I rightly be able to prosecute lies?"3
After the Donatist bishop Maximin rebaptized a Catholic deacon, Augustine tried to resolve this ecclesiastical conflict by mediation without the Catholics appealing to the imperial power of Rome or the Donatists using the rebellious Circumcellions. Augustine was able to get the Donatists to join his side in a debate against the Manichaean Fortunatus. Augustine affirmed that evil springs from choice of the will, while Fortunatus argued that evil is co-eternal with God. Under Gildo's leadership the Donatist church grew, and in 397 his stopping the departure of grain ships to Italy forced a confrontation with Rome. Augustine contacted Fortunius to try to arrange a conference, and they agreed not to bring up the excesses of the bad men on either side; but a larger conference Augustine proposed was never held. The Roman navy invaded and destroyed Gildo and many Donatist partisans, including their bishop Optatus of Timgad. In the coming years continuing imperial edicts would repress the Donatist sect. Augustine himself was in danger from Donatists and the Circumcellions. An attempted kidnapping failed because his guide took a wrong road. Once returning home from Calama, he was ambushed, wounding some of the men with him. To counter Donatist ideas Augustine wrote On Baptism in 401.
The Donatist bishop Petilian complained to Augustine that Catholics carried on a war against them, and the Donatists' only victories were to be killed or escape. He asked how he could justify this persecution since Jesus never persecuted anyone. Augustine replied by suggesting that Christian love meant ecclesiastical unity. Petilian angrily charged that love does not persecute nor inflame emperors to take away lives and plunder people's goods. He accused Augustine of still being Manichaean and blamed him for introducing monasteries to Africa. Augustine found Christ persecuting when Jesus expelled merchants from the temple with a whip. Vincentius, an old friend of Augustine from Carthage and a leader in the Donatist sect of Rogatists, was shocked that the Hippo bishop favored using state power to quell Donatists in order to force them into the Catholic church. Augustine argued that Paul was struck blind on the Damascus road and that Elijah killed false prophets. Many Donatists were joining the Catholic unity because they feared the imperial edicts. He also referred to the parable of the banquet in Luke 14 when later guests were compelled to come.
In 411 Emperor Honorius sent Marcellinus to solve the Donatist problem by holding a conference at Carthage that was attended by 286 Catholic bishops and 284 Donatist bishops. After a week of debate Marcellinus decided in favor of the Catholics. Soon an imperial edict authorized confiscating all Donatist property and fining their clergy. Any who persisted as Donatists lost their civil rights, and some were deported. Marcellinus also complained to Augustine that Christian teaching contradicted the duties of Roman citizens, especially the not resisting evil with evil when the empire was being invaded by barbarians. Augustine would eventually answer Marcellinus in his book, City of God. Augustine also appealed to Marcellinus not to use capital punishment on Donatists so they would not be martyrs. Finally about 420 Donatists led by bishop Gaudentius fortified the cathedral at Timgad and threatened to set it on fire if they were attacked. The confrontation went on for several months while Gaudentius reminded the officer that Jesus sent out fishermen, not soldiers, to spread the faith. Augustine refused to see them as martyrs and considered their threatened suicide a mad aberration. Yet he wrote it would be better for them to perish in their own fire than burn in the eternal fire of hell. No commemoration remains at this site, and what resulted is unknown.
Augustine also placed celibacy above marriage. He approved of marriage to one person only, and he opposed fornication before marriage, adultery after it, and divorce. Only death could terminate a marriage, and sexual intercourse should be limited to what was necessary to produce children. Pelagius and his friend Coelestius believed that the doctrine of original sin with its implied weakness of human nature led to moral weakness, because people believed only the grace of God could help them. They visited Africa, and Pelagius went on to Jerusalem. Coelestius was condemned by a council of bishops presided over by Augustine in 412 and then left Africa. He did not believe that Adam's sin extended to the entire human race. Pelagius believed that people are born in a neutral state without virtue or vice; Adam and his descendants sin by choice. Pelagius also ridiculed the idea that God has selected a few for salvation while condemning a majority to be lost, because it mocked the idea that God wants all to be saved. Augustine held to the conviction that baptism is essential to salvation regardless of one's age. Pelagius was accused by a Palestinian council in 415 but escaped censure, though under pressure from Africa eventually Pope Zosimus condemned both Pelagius and Coelestius.
Yet Augustine believed that love is the essential quality that distinguishes the true Christian. Whatever you do, he advised, do it with love; for who can do ill to someone one loves? If you love, you cannot but do well. Augustine traveled to the capital of Mauretania at Caesarea in order to prevent the annual civil battle between two hostile factions of families, and he was able to stop the bloodshed. Honorius also issued edicts against any bishop who would not condemn the views of Pelagius, and in 419 a bishop from Italy, Julian, was deposed and banished. Julian wrote against the views of the "Carthaginian" Augustine, and the Hippo bishop countered with his own arguments. Julian criticized Augustine for denigrating sexual desire, which Julian considered ordained by God. Julian also charged his adversary with denying free will because of his view that God predestined some for salvation and others to damnation. Julian believed that humans do good or evil by free will, assisted by God's grace or incited by the devil. He asserted that if God created humans, they cannot have evil in them; if sins are forgiven, children cannot be condemned for the sins of their parents. Augustine wrote his response in Against Julian in 421, citing scriptures and quoting Ambrose.
After Alaric pillaged Rome in 410, many blamed Christianity for having weakened the Roman empire. The pagan Volusianus complained to Marcellinus, who in turn wrote to Augustine. He began his immense work, The City of God, in 413 and did not complete it until 426. In the preface Augustine undertook to defend the glorious city of God, attempting to convince proud men of the power of humility, and he must also write of the earthly city that lusts to dominate the world by bending nations to its yoke. From the earthly city come the enemies against whom the city of God must be defended. He observed that the cruelties suffered in war may incite the corrupt to reform their lives. Providence may test with afflictions even the virtuous and exemplary. Even the barbarians spared many for Christ's sake. Instead of believing that the gods could have saved Rome from destruction, Augustine argued that Rome had kept the gods alive for a long time. Those who blamed Christ for what they deserved to suffer did not seem to realize that they were spared for the sake of Christ. Augustine showed from history that temples and statues of gods were not usually spared during war. He believed that the good also suffer in this earthly life, because they loved sweet things and did not feel compunction while others sinned.
Augustine believed that the happiness of a city springs from the same source as that of individuals, because it is many individuals associating harmoniously. Virtue governs the good life from the seat of the soul rendering the body holy by acts of will. As long as the will remains unyielding to crime, what others perpetrate on the body lays no guilt on the soul. Thus even a woman who is raped does not lose her chastity, because she has not lost her virtue. He argued against suicide as a means to protect chastity. Augustine believed that anyone who kills a human being, whether another or oneself, is guilty of murder. The reward for good Christians is not possession of earthly things. The bad and good seem to gain those. Yet Augustine found those of pure soul, who were outraged by the soldiers, to be free of guilt.
Augustine argued that the pagan fables and theatrical performances corrupted the virtues of the early Romans, and in his view those gods did not teach good laws nor the right moral code. Thus Plato banned the poets from his Republic. As Rome's morals declined, it increased its craving for world power and the enjoyment of obscene ceremonies. Augustine believed that the pagan gods were unclean and lying spirits. He compared a wealthy person with one of moderate means. The rich person suffers from excessive fear and worries because of feverish greed, while the modest person is content and has good relations, is self-restrained, morally chaste, and at peace. Augustine considered rule by the good a blessing for humanity, while the wicked inflict greater harm on themselves because of the greater wrong they can do ruling. A good person, even a slave, is free; but a wicked person, even if a king, is really a slave; for the wicked have to serve many vices. Augustine did not credit the Roman empire's expansion to its gods anymore than the military conquests of the previous Assyrian, Persian, or Alexandrian empires were due to theirs.
Cicero emphasized freedom of choice and in doing so denied foreknowledge. For Augustine this meant giving up God to make humans free; for his faith held both. He believed that God is aware of all things, including the human choices made willingly. The early Roman desire to live free or die soon developed into the love of domination as they won wars, led by ambitious men like Julius Caesar. The values of honor, glory, and power of Caesar triumphed over the virtue of Marcus Cato. Augustine advised that the love of praise should yield to the love of truth. Christian martyrs exemplified a greater humility. For virtue to serve human glory is as shameful as it is to serve bodily pleasures. Even the wars depended on God's mercy and justice. God rewarded the piety of Constantine and Theodosius with prosperity. Augustine reviewed Roman religion and found no mention of eternal life.
In turning to ethics Augustine noted that the greatest good, the goal of ethics, is sometimes supplemented with extrinsic goods like honor, glory, and wealth. For Plato the good life is virtuous and is based on the love of God. However, Augustine criticized the view of Apuleius that intermediary spirits or demons between God and humans may be rightly used for magic. Christians may revere martyrs; but they do not offer them sacrifices nor do they convert their sins into sacred rites. Augustine did not agree that demons are better beings than humans, because he accepted the popular belief that demons are evil beings. For Augustine only Christ should be the mediator between humans and God. Angels in his Christian theology Augustine placed above the demons, because their love of God makes them holy; he believed angels have higher knowledge and are never mistaken like demons.
From the divinity and sacrifice of the Christ Augustine derived his belief in the day of judgment, resurrection of the dead, eternal damnation of the wicked, and an eternal kingdom of a glorious city of God whose citizens will forever enjoy the vision of God. Yet he believed that by love of what is good a person may increase in the love of what is right and decrease love for what is evil until one's entire life is transformed and made perfect. Evil is never absolute, because it only exists as relative defects in what is good. He believed that it is good for vitiated natures to be punished by justice. No one is punished for natural defects but only for deliberate faults. Even a bad habit began in the will. Augustine believed that the whole universe is beautiful, and ugliness is only a limited perception of part of the whole. In such a case we should use faith to accept the greater master work of the Creator. All natures are good by their existence with their own beauty and peace. Changing things become better or worse depending on whether they promote the good governance of the Creator. The dissolution of mutable things in death is part of the divine process. The angels who fell turned away from God to themselves by the sin of pride. There is no efficient cause of evil will; but evil will is the efficient cause of a bad action.
Greed is a defect in a person who desires gold more than justice. Lust is not a defect in bodies but in the soul who loves corporal pleasures more than temperance. Augustine believed that shame resulted from the sin of lust. Boastfulness is loving the applause of others, and pride is loving one's own power more than another's. The evil will is its own cause because it starts the evil in mutable spirits, and it does so by deserting the way of God. Thus vices may injure. For Augustine human will is all-important, because if it is badly directed, the emotions will be perverted; but if it is well directed, they will be worthy of praise. The person who lives according to God does not hate other people but should hate the sin because of the corruption while loving the sinner. Once the vice is cured, only love remains. Augustine noted how the Stoics aim to replace desire with will, joy with contentment, and fear with caution. For Augustine fear should be replaced with love.
Augustine divided humanity into those who live according to man and those who live according to God, and so he wrote of two cities or human societies. One is destined for eternal life under God, the other for eternal punishment with the devil. The earthly city loves self in contempt of God, while the heavenly loves God in contempt of one's self. Augustine found the beginning of his city of God in the martyrdom of Abel and its opposite in Cain's murdering his brother. His city of man is full of contention and divided by wars and domestic quarrels. A city that raises its standard in war is enthralled in its wickedness; even when it conquers, its victory is spoiled by pride. Or if it considers human vicissitudes and future failure, its triumph is only momentary. The earthly city loves domination instead of being of service to others. Augustine observed that the city of man was and remains in a chronic condition of civil war. The two largest earthly empires that arose were first the Assyrian in the East and then the Roman in the West.
For Augustine the city of God places the supreme good in eternal life and the supreme evil in eternal death, and the method he recommends for finding this life is faith. Virtue, the highest of human goods, comes with education and is one unending war with evil inclinations within ourselves. Augustine affirmed the traditional virtues of temperance, prudence, justice, and courage. He interpreted justice as the soul being subordinate to God and the body being subordinate to the soul. He found conflict even in one's own house, as scripture warns. Even in a peaceful city some men sit in judgment of others, causing much grief and misery; for no human judge can read the human conscience. Thus many innocent witnesses are tortured to try to gain information. The accused may be tortured to find out if they are guilty.
Beyond the city is the world community, which has one war after another involving tremendous slaughtering of men. Developing empires have even worse conflicts within from civil wars and social uprisings that create anxieties for humans living in fear. Augustine admitted that a good ruler will only wage wars that are just, though a truly good person would be compelled to wage no wars at all. For Augustine a just war is only justified against an unjust aggressor. The end of genuine Christian virtue is the greatest peace. Yet many go to war to make their enemies their own and impose their will on them, calling it peace. Sinful people hate human equality and love to impose their sovereignty over their fellow humans. They hate the just peace of God, preferring their own unjust peace. Augustine defined peace as the ordered equilibrium of all its parts. For the irrational soul this means its appetites; for the rational soul it is the harmonious correspondence of conduct and conviction; for the soul and body together it is a well-ordered life and health; between a mortal person and the Creator it is ordered obedience guided by faith under God's law; between persons it is regulated fellowship; in the home it is authority and obedience between members of the family; in the political community it is authority and obedience among citizens; and the heavenly city has harmonious communion of those who find joy in God.
The earthly city uses temporal goods for worldly peace, but the heavenly city enjoys eternal peace. God teaches loving God and one's neighbors. The fundamental duty is to look out for one's own home. Augustine believed that God did not mean for a person to have dominion over other persons but persons over beasts. Slavery resulted from sin; but those who commit sin are slaves of sin. For Augustine being a slave of a man is not as bad as being enslaved to passion. Slaves by serving loyally with love may become free of fear until the injustice is ended. Those living in the heavenly city should also obey the civil laws of the earthly city so that the two cities may make common cause, though Augustine noted there is often religious conflict. In the ancient Roman republic he found little true justice, which should recognize the rights of all and give each one's due. For Augustine pagans, who do not worship the one God, lack religious control of soul over body and reason over appetite and therefore true justice. Thus by his religious definition any city that is not monotheistic is unjust. For Augustine there can be no true virtue without true religion.
Augustine observed that the good may be unfortunate and the wicked fortunate, a seeming injustice in this world; but God's judgments are inscrutable, and all will be made just in the divine judgment at the end of the world. Following scripture, Augustine believed that in the last judgment the Jews will believe; the antichrist will persecute the church; Christ will judge; the dead will rise; the good will be separated from the bad; and the world will suffer from fire but be renewed. Augustine countered arguments of those who believed that the punishment of hell is not everlasting. In the last book Augustine described the eternal bliss of the city of God and how its citizens will be clothed with the personal immortality the angels never lost. Augustine cited several miracles as proof of Christian teaching. Fallen humans have the two resources of law and education to learn the authority of holy doctrine. The purpose of all punishment is to dispel ignorance and control untamed desires, though Augustine did not explain how this is true for eternal punishment. Augustine concluded by describing the final beatific vision of the saints before thanking God. The City of God would be very influential for more than a thousand years, and there are more manuscript copies of it than of any book except the Bible.
In 428 a youth from Hippo named Hilary and the theologian Prosper wrote to Augustine from Gaul that people in Marseilles were disturbed by his "new theory" which they believed made preaching useless. How could the number of the elect be fixed? Does it not depend on human free will? If God already has determined salvation and damnation, would that not undermine all human effort? Augustine replied to them in The Predestination of the Saints and The Gift of Perseverance, holding to the idea that people do not believe in order to be elected but that they are elected to believe, usually quoting Paul for support. He argued that Paul believed as he does and yet continued to preach. In 430 the Vandals besieged Hippo. Augustine wrote a letter to Bishop Honoratus arguing that the priest should stay with his flock instead of fleeing to another city. In the third month of the siege Augustine became ill, and he died on August 28.
Thanks to a mutual respect for each other's empires, the treaties Rome made with Persia by Jovian in 363 and the one negotiated by Stilicho between Theodosius and Shapur III in 387 would last amid relative peaceful co-existence throughout the fourth century. Persians built and defended northern defenses, and Rome supplied gold to help pay for them. In 395 the Huns invaded Armenia, Cappadocia, and northern Syria, making it even more important to continue this arrangement. According to the historian Procopius, just before Arcadius died in 408, he sent a letter to Yazdgard I (r. 399-421) asking the Persian monarch to be the guardian of his young son Theodosius II. The next year Yazdgard granted Christians freedom of worship and restored their churches. Persian fears of Christians intriguing for Rome were relieved when the Christian church of Iran became independent of Constantinople. Yazdgard kept the peace with the Roman empire; but in the year before he died, a bishop destroyed a Zarathustran fire temple in Susa, stimulating the persecution of Christians. After Vahram V (r. 421-438) had won a struggle for power, a large Persian army attacked Roman territory; but neither side was victorious though many may have been killed. Bishop Acadius of Amida was credited with selling church plate to redeem 7,000 Persian captives. Anatolius negotiated a truce for a hundred years, and it lasted nearly that long until early in the sixth century.
Armenia continued to be divided with the Persian vassal Khusrau ruling over the most extensive territory in the east, while the western portion was loyal to the Roman emperor Arcadius and was ruled by Arsaces until the long Arsacid dynasty finally ended with his death about 430. Then the Roman military took control of this area. Persian king Yazdgard II (r. 438-459) studied all the religions but persecuted Jews and Christians. His attempt to convert Armenia to the Zarathustran faith led to a rebellion; but he marched an army into Armenia and carried off to Iran the leaders of the great families and clergy. Under Peroz (r. 459-484) wars against the Ephthalites or white Huns and famine devastated Persia. Jews were persecuted, and Christians were divided into the sects of the Nestorians and the Monophysites, partly because bishops from Persia and Armenia did not attend the Catholic church councils. Thus the Eastern half of the Roman empire had relative stability on that side while the Western suffered more incursions from Germans and Huns.
Theodosius had briefly reunited the Roman empire under the rule of one man for the last time; but with his death in 395 his 10-year-old son Honorius reigned in the West, and 17-year-old son Arcadius ruled the East; both were to be guided by the commander Stilicho, who was born a Vandal. He was opposed though by Rufinus, Praetorian Prefect of the East, who had accused Tatian and his son Proculus of corrupt administration as prefects of the East and Constantinople; Proculus was beheaded, and Tatian was banished. Rufinus even stigmatized their country Lycia by not allowing anyone from there to be an officer in the imperial government.
The Latin poet Claudian wrote two books against Rufinus accusing him of extorting oppressive taxes, bribery, unjust confiscations, forced and fictitious wills by which he gained inheritances of his enemies, the public sale of justice, and other corruption. Claudian exaggerated the evils of Rufinus, because he favored his patron Stilicho; but much of it was probably true. The Goths selected Alaric as their leader and ravaged Thrace and Macedonia before advancing on Constantinople. Rufinus dressed as a Goth and persuaded them to march west. Lucian used money his father Florentius had extorted from Gaul to get Rufinus to appoint him Count of the East; but when Lucian refused to favor the Emperor's uncle, Rufinus went to Antioch and had Lucian condemned and cruelly punished. Rufinus tried to marry his daughter to Arcadius, but the Emperor preferred the beautiful Eudoxia, the daughter of Bauto, a Frank general serving Rome.
The East still lacked troops that had been moved west for the war against Eugenius. Stilicho was to return with them, and he imposed the will of Theodosius, giving Honorius dominion over Thrace. Rufinus got Arcadius to call for Stilicho from the conflict with the Visigoths in that region, and the Gothic officer Gainas marched the imperial legions to Constantinople. Rufinus met the troops of Gainas but was assassinated by them, and this was blamed on Stilicho. Meanwhile Huns from the north invaded Mesopotamia and ravaged Syria. With Rufinus dead the eunuch chamberlain Eutropius dominated the government of Arcadius. By intrigue Eutropius managed to kill and appropriate the wealth of military commanders Abundantius and Timasius. Claudian also wrote two books of poetry against Eutropius, criticizing his greedy ambition and exaggerating his sale of offices. The poet wrote that the only passion the mutilated body of Eutropius could indulge was the passion for gold, and he even wondered whether the effeminate slave could blush or feel shame.
In 396 the Visigoths led by Alaric moved south into Greece, taking Boeotia, Athens, Megara, Corinth, Argos, and Sparta. Athens was spared, but the temple at Eleusis was plundered, according to Eunapius by a band of fanatical monks accompanying the Gothic army. Thus the Eleusinian mysteries, which had given Hellenic culture a mystical basis in agricultural symbolism for eighteen centuries, were no longer celebrated. About this time Claudian wrote the poem The Rape of Proserpine describing that part of the founding myth of these mysteries. The story of the underworld's king Pluto coming from underground by chariot to carry off the daughter of the barley mother Ceres (Demeter) symbolizes civilization's development of agriculture in the raping of the earth that led to wars over property. Ironically this poem marking the end of those mysteries that were founded when the Greeks were at that stage coincides with the invasion of the Goths and Huns, whose populations had increased to the point where they too must find enough land to settle down into an agricultural way of life. In Claudian's poem Jupiter compares his reign to his father's golden era.
Wealth blunts the minds of men.
I arranged that necessity, mother
of invention, would spur their lazy minds so that,
little by little, they might discover the cause
of things that are both hidden and open to view.
An age of industry replaced a golden age....
Can a life that is hidden in a forest bring
happiness to one who is more than animal?4
Stilicho led forces across from Italy and met Alaric at Elis. They made an agreement, and Alaric withdrew to Epirus being recognized as master of Illyricum. The Senate in Constantinople resented Stilicho entering Greece and declared him a public enemy, while Claudian flattered Honorius with empty praise.
In 397 the Donatist Gildo withheld grain in Africa, though Stilicho supplied Rome from Gaul and Spain. The Roman Senate unanimously declared Gildo a public enemy and sent Stilicho against him with an army of about 10,000 led by Gildo's brother Mascezel, whose children had been murdered by their uncle when Mascezel had taken refuge in Milan. Yet the senators allowed their wealthy class the option of paying 25 solidi for each recruit they had to provide. From that time and in the next fifteen years nine imperial edicts on desertion and the concealment of deserters were issued. The African forces refused to support Gildo, who was put to death or committed suicide. According to the historian Zosimus, the jealous Stilicho had his bodyguards murder Mascezel while he was crossing a bridge. Claudian celebrated Stilicho's victory in his poem The War Against Gildo in which Mascezel is barely mentioned, and the poem ends abruptly after one book. Stilicho consolidated his power in the west by marrying his daughter Maria to Emperor Honorius.
In the East in 397 Arcadius enacted a law that anyone who conspires against the emperor or an imperial official shall be punished with death or confiscation; even knowledge of a wrong intention if not revealed or soliciting to pardon a traitor could be equally criminal. The next year Eutropius seems to have led a successful campaign driving barbarians back to the Caucasus, and his elevation to consul in 399 stimulated Claudian to turn his invective poetry against the eunuch. Italians were scandalized by a eunuch consul as a violation of their traditions, and the West refused to recognize his consulship.
The German Gainas, who had been directed by Stilicho to lead the Eastern army back to Constantinople, had become Master of Soldiers. Ostrogoths in Phrygia led by Tribigild invaded Galatia, Pisidia, and Bithynia, as Arcadius was retiring to a resort at Ancyra for the summer of 399. Generals Gainas and Leo, a friend of Eutropius, were sent against the invaders. Synesius, a philosopher from Cyrene arrived in Constantinople and wrote against Germans in the state, arguing that giving arms to foreign Germans was like a shepherd trying to tame the cubs of wolves. Gainas secretly reinforced the Ostrogoths and got his own Germans to revolt, resulting in the death of Leo. While pretending to be overwhelmed by Ostrogothic power, Gainas urged Arcadius to meet Tribigild's demand of deposing Eutropius. The empress Eudoxia also turned against Eutropius, who fled for sanctuary in the church St. Sophia. There he was protected by John Chrysostom, who preached on the vanity of the world. Eutropius surrendered when offered his life and was banished to Cyprus.
Eutychian was replaced as Praetorian Prefect of the East by Aurelian as the anti-German party triumphed. Gainas openly allied with Tribigild, and they plundered the Propontis. Apparently they got Aurelian replaced by an unknown person referred to as Typhos in a literary work by Synesius called Egyptians. The Patriarch Chrysostom persuaded Gainas to banish rather than kill the three hostages Aurelian, Saturninus, and John, the lover of Empress Eudoxia. Gainas marched into Constantinople with his army and ruled there for the first half of the year 400. Then when the Goths left the capital, many were trapped in a church and killed. The one called Typhos fell, and Aurelian again became Prefect. Gainas became a declared enemy and plundered Thrace. At Abydos the Goths ran into the imperial navy commanded by the loyal Goth Fravitta. The troops of Gainas were defeated, and he was driven to the Hun king Uldin, who cut off the head of Gainas and sent it to Arcadius. Thus the East escaped the barbarian threat, and Stilicho could no longer plot against them. Stilicho became consul in Rome, venerated again by the poetry of Claudian.
In 401 Vandals led by Radagaisus invaded Noricum and Raetia. While Stilicho's army was stopping them, Alaric crossed the Italian Alps to capture Aquileia. Stilicho gathered Goth auxiliaries and returned to Italy, and on Easter in 402 at Pollentia his forces captured Alaric's camp and some of his family. Negotiations resulted in Alaric leaving Italy. The next year Alaric attacked Verona and was again defeated by Stilicho, who nonetheless allowed the Goths to occupy Dalmatia and Pannonia so that they could help him annex Eastern Illyricum. Emperor Honorius visited Rome and celebrated with games. An appeal by Christian poet Prudentius led to the prohibition of gladiatorial games after the aged monk Telemachus tried to separate two combatants in the Colosseum and was killed by the stones of angry spectators. Honorius closed the Colosseum in 405.
In the East John Chrysostom criticized rich nobles, many of whom had a dozen or more mansions and a thousand or more slaves, who were often brutally treated. He preached that the marriage rights of the wife are equal to those of the husband. John opposed granting the Arian Goths a church in the capital, but he visited the church of the orthodox Goths often. Empress Eudoxia wanted Arcadius to tear down the heathen temples in Gaza and build a church there. In 401 John Chrysostom investigated Ephesus bishop Antoninus for simony and other offenses, and Chrysostom went beyond his jurisdiction in replacing at least thirteen bishops. Chrysostom himself was accused of various offenses by his archdeacon John; but he did not appear at the Synod of the Oak, where he was condemned mostly by Egyptian bishops and deposed. Chrysostom requested a general council and withdrew from Constantinople; but the ire of the people on his behalf and an earthquake frightened Eudoxia into inviting him back. After Eudoxia celebrated a silver statue of herself erected by city prefect Simplicius near St. Sophia church, Chrysostom raged against her as a Herodias.
A council met in 404 and ordered Chrysostom to remain in his palace during the Easter celebrations. On June 20 Arcadius banished Chrysostom. That night a fire broke out in St. Sophia, beginning from the archbishop's chair and spreading to the Senate-house next door. Investigators blamed the conflagration on Chrysostom or his friends. An Italian Synod declared the condemnation of Chrysostom illegal and demanded a general council; but efforts on his behalf by Western Emperor Honorius were to no avail, and Chrysostom died in exile in 407. Eudoxia had died of a miscarriage in 404, and Arcadius died in 408. As Theodosius, the son of Arcadius, was only seven years old, in this interval Praetorian Prefect of the East Anthemius was prime minister, while much of Asia Minor was devastated by Isaurian brigands. Anthemius improved the navy on the Danube, and after a famine in 408 he re-organized the Egyptian grain supply.
In the West Germans with mostly Ostrogoths invaded northern Italy in 405. Even the Emperor's estates were not exempted from the law that penalized those refusing to supply the army by requiring them to provide four times what was due. The force led by Radagaisus attacked Florence; but the next year Stilicho recruited slaves by offering them freedom and two pieces of gold. With nearly 20,000 men he forced the Germans to retreat to Fiesole, where they were starved into surrender. The Germans who were not slaughtered were sold as slaves; even though Radagaisus capitulated, he was beheaded. However, the Rhine was left undefended, and late in 406 Germans began pouring into Gaul, and the same year King Gunderic led the Vandals into Spain. Stilicho turned to Illyricum, stimulated by the imprisonment of ecclesiastical emissaries sent by Honorius to complain about the Eastern Emperor's treatment of John Chrysostom. Stilicho closed Italian ports to ships from the East. While Alaric was holding Epirus for Honorius, Jovius was appointed Praetorian Prefect of Illyricum.
However, Alaric marched his army to Noricum and demanded 4,000 pounds of gold from Rome. Stilicho persuaded the Roman Senate to send the money. When Stilicho's daughter Empress Maria died, Honorius married her sister Thermantia. Stilicho managed to get the federated Franks to fight for the Roman empire. Invading Alans divided when their king Goar also sided with the Romans in Gaul; but after the Asding king Godeigisel was killed along with thousands of Vandals, the other Alan king Respendial defeated the Franks and plundered Mainz, massacring many inhabitants who took refuge in a church. The Alans invaded Belgica and ravaged much of Gaul. The land north of the Alps to the Rhine had been effectively taken over by the Suevi, Vandals, Alans, and the Burgundians, who would retreat behind the Rhine no more.
Honorius learned of his brother's death in 408 while returning to Ravenna. Stilicho persuaded the Western Emperor to allow him to go to Constantinople to protect young Theodosius, while Alaric was sent as a master general of imperial armies against Constantine in Gaul. The minister Olympius made Honorius suspect that Stilicho was going to kill Theodosius, causing a military revolt that killed many of the top officials attending on Honorius. Stilicho marched to Ravenna, but there he was executed by Heraclian, who was rewarded by being made Count of Africa. Stilicho's son Eucherius was killed at Rome, and Honorius repudiated his virgin wife Thermantia. Stilicho's edict against traders from the East was rescinded.
Emperor Honorius excluded from office those who were not Catholic, rejecting many skilled pagans and Arian barbarians. This policy led Roman troops to massacre families of barbarian auxiliaries, causing 30,000 foreign soldiers to join Alaric in Noricum. Alaric offered to withdraw into Pannonia for more money and an exchange of hostages; but Honorius, guided by his minister Olympius, declined. So in 408 Alaric entered Italy for the third time and besieged Rome. The Senate reacted by having Stilicho's widow Serena strangled. As Romans suffered hunger and plague, Alaric demanded all their goods, leaving them only their lives. Honorius agreed to send the treasure of Rome, and Alaric withdrew to Etruria, as barbarian slaves from Rome swelled his army to 40,000. A garrison of 6,000 sent from Dalmatia to protect Rome were almost all killed or captured by Alaric's army. Olympius sent some troops against a force of Goths and Huns led by Athaulf, Alaric's brother-in-law. This dangerous alliance stimulated the enemies of Olympius to replace him with Jovius as Praetorian Prefect of Italy. Jovius was a friend of Alaric and negotiated with him, but Honorius refused to grant lands for the Goths to settle and put slaves in the army by promising them emancipation.
Alaric blockaded Rome again and appointed city prefect Attalus the new emperor with himself as military leader and Athaulf as Chief of the Domestics. To protect the grain they sent Constans with Roman soldiers against African count Heraclian, who was loyal to Honorius; but Constans was killed. Jovius joined the side of Alaric. Alaric besieged Ravenna, but Honorius was reinforced by the East. In 410 Alaric deposed Athaulf and met with Honorius; but negotiations were broken off when the Visigoth Sarus attacked Alaric's camp. Alaric marched on Rome for the third time and allowed his troops to sack the city, though as an Arian Christian he had the churches spared; he died before the end of 410. To succeed him, the Ostrogoth Athaulf was elected king of the Visigoths.
The Emperor required provincial governors to return to Rome guildsmen who had fled. Men were not allowed to marry out of their guild; if a woman did so, her husband had to follow her father's occupation. The imperial administration often had difficulty doling out in Rome bread, pork, wine, and oil, instead of merely the wheat that had been supplied in previous eras. In the provinces assemblies no longer elected their municipal magistrates. The curia were now landholders who owned more than 25 jugera. Their duties of collecting taxes or paying the costs themselves had become so onerous that curiales had to be compelled to remain in their positions, as the class became weaker. Such pressures and the failure of coloni farmers to pay their taxes resulted in wealthy landowners increasing their holdings, while they often avoided paying taxes themselves. The increase of dependent tenant farmers under rich landlords and the making of most occupations hereditary gradually would develop into the feudal system.
In Britain Marcus had been proclaimed emperor; but in 407 he was killed and replaced by Gratian. Four months later a soldier named Constantine replaced Gratian and crossed with his army over to Gaul, leaving Britain open to invasion by Saxons, who took over the country about 410 when Honorius wrote to the British the empire could no longer defend them. Gaining Gallic legions, Constantine took control of the eastern strip of Gaul, while the Vandals, Suevians, and Alans ravaged the rest of Gaul. The next year an imperial army led by Sarus crossed the Alps and defeated Constantine but then returned to Italy. Constantine sent his Caesar Constans to invade Spain and later made him Augustus (emperor) too. In 409 the beleaguered Honorius recognized Constantine as a legitimate emperor. Constans left his general Gerontius in charge of Spain and returned to Gaul. Asdings led by King Gunderic, Silings, Sueves, and Alans crossed the Pyrenees and invaded Spain. Gerontius negotiated with them and appointed a new emperor named Maximus. The influence of Rome's Bishop Innocent may have stimulated the 409 law expelling the mathematici (diviners and sorcerers) from Rome and all Italian cities.
In 410 the Roman empire had six emperors: Honorius and his nephew Theodosius, Attalus at Rome, Constantine and Constans at Arles, and Maximus at Tarragona. Honorius sent generals Constantius and Ulfila to regain Gaul. The army of Gerontius fled, and Gerontius returned to Spain; there his troops turned against him, and he was killed. Constantine was besieged at Arles; reinforcements from the Alamanni and Franks were defeated, and his general Edobich was treacherously killed. Constantine and his son were sent to Honorius, who put both of them to death in 411.
In Gaul Burgundian king Gundahar and Alan king Goar proclaimed the Gallic Roman Jovinus emperor. In 412 King Athaulf led the Visigoths across the Alps with the captives Placidia and Attalus. Sarus with only twenty men was captured by Athaulf's army and put to death. When Jovinus appointed his brother Sebastian Augustus also, Athaulf sent envoys to Honorius in Ravenna and soon sent him the heads of both Jovinus and Sebastian. Such upstart tyrants also stimulated Count Heraclian of Africa, who tried to attack Italy, was defeated, and beheaded in 413 after fleeing back to Carthage. He had stopped the grain supply though, causing hunger in the Gothic camp.
Athaulf tried to take Marseilles, but he was repulsed and wounded by Boniface. However, Athaulf was able to capture Narbonne, Bordeaux, and Toulouse, and he married the sister of Honorius, Placidia, who apparently shifted his ambitions in the Roman direction. Yet when Honorius did not respond, Athaulf proclaimed Attalus. Deprived of provisions by Constantius, Athaulf wasted Aquitane, burned Bordeaux, and went to Barcelona in 415. Attalus was abandoned and captured by Constantius. Athaulf and Placidia had a son named Theodosius, but he soon died. Athaulf himself was murdered by a follower of Sarus in revenge. So many poor men had lost everything and in desperation joined marauding bandits that in 416 the Emperor proclaimed a general amnesty for such crimes.
Singeric, a friend of Sarus, claimed the kingship and had Athaulf's other sons killed. This usurper was slain after only seven days, and Wallia was duly elected king of the Visigoths. He got 600,000 measures of grain for his people in exchange for returning Placidia and fighting for the empire against barbarians in Spain. Constantius had long been in love with Placidia, and he married her on the first day of 417. Wallia attacked the Silings in Baetica, capturing their king. He also subjugated the Alans, while the Asdings and Suevians were accepted as Federates by Honorius. The resisting Silings were practically exterminated, and escaping Alans joined the Asding Vandals, making Gunderic "King of the Vandals and Alans." Wallia's Goths were rewarded with the Gallic province of Aquitania Secunda, gaining two-thirds of the land while Romans only retained one-third. The other Teutonic kingdom in Gaul was the Burgundians on the Rhine. When Wallia died in 418, Theodoric I, grandson of Alaric, was elected Visigoth king. That year Honorius established an assembly to meet annually at Arles to represent seven governors in southern Gaul. In Spain Vandals led by King Gunderic blockaded the Suevians; but an imperial force led by Asterius forced them to abandon the blockade, and the Vandals migrated to Baetica.
In the East in 413 regent and praetorian prefect Anthemius had a wall with numerous towers erected around Constantinople that would make it very difficult to attack the city. Later city prefect Cyrus had walls constructed along the seashore too. 16-year-old Pulcheria became Augusta in 414, and Aurelian succeeded Anthemius as Prefect of the East. Pulcheria took control of her younger brother's education and removed the eunuch Antiochus. Theodosius was gentle and reluctant to inflict capital punishment.
In troubled Alexandria in 412 the patriarch Theophilus was succeeded by his nephew Cyril, who coveted power in order to extirpate paganism and persecute Jews. The distinguished mathematician and Neo-Platonic philosopher Hypatia was in her forties and was much admired for her beauty and wisdom, lecturing to large crowds. Cyril hated her because she was the friend of the pagan prefect of Egypt, Orestes. Cyril menaced the Jews so much that they reacted by massacring some Christians. Cyril then banished all Hebrews and allowed Christians to plunder their property. 500 monks publicly insulted Orestes, and one who hit him with a stone was executed; he was treated as a martyr by Cyril. In 415 another mob of monks called parabalani, who were supposed to tend the sick, seized Hypatia, because they believed she hindered a reconciliation between Orestes and Cyril. They dragged her to a church, tore off her garments, and dismembered her body. The ecclesiastical historian Socrates held Cyril morally responsible for this atrocity.
In 421 Theodosius married Athenian-educated Eudocia, and two
years later she was declared Augusta. Also in 421 Honorius allowed
Constantius to be crowned Augustus and his wife Placidia Augusta;
but in Constantinople they were not recognized by young Theodosius
and his sister Pulcheria. Constantius died seven months later,
and Placidia took refuge with her family in Constantinople. After
reigning 28 years Honorius died in 423. A usurper named John was
proclaimed emperor at Ravenna, but Theodosius and Pulcheria supported
Placidia and her 4-year-old son Valentinian, Placidia agreeing
to return Dalmatia and part of Pannonia to the East. Theodosius
exiled John's envoys and sent a large army commanded by Ardaburius
and his son Aspar, accompanied by Placidia and Valentinian. The
fleet was scattered in a storm, and Ardaburius was captured and
taken to Ravenna. Aspar attacked the city; John was captured and
publicly executed before Aetius arrived with 60,000 Huns. Aetius
as a boy had been a hostage with Alaric and with the Huns. Aetius
agreed to support Placidia, and the Huns were bought off with
money and returned to their homes. At Rome Valentinian III was
named Augustus in 425.
Like the 4th century, the 5th century had little noteworthy literature that was not of a religious nature. Claudian's panegyric poetry and his Rape of Proserpine were already mentioned. Later Sidonius would also use poetry to praise the emperors Avitus, Majorian, and Anthemius. One anonymous comedy called Querolus survives from the early 5th century. It is the only Roman comedy extant after Terence and the only Roman play extant after Seneca. The play is dedicated to the poet Rutilius Namatianus. It satirizes many current religious and philosophical ideas indirectly.
Querolus asks the household god why the wicked prosper and the good suffer; but the god shows him that since he has committed thefts, lies, and adultery according to the times, his woes are his own fault. The god advises him to know the character and vices of people and avoid parties, wine, and crowds. When asked what he wants, Querolus asks for moderate wealth and military honors. Since he has no military skill, the god offers him money and tells him to put his trust in a deceiver, to help those who plot against him, and to welcome thieves into his house. Querolus does so, as Mandrogerus poses as a fortune teller and brings Swindler and Sardanapallus in to get an urn of gold the late father of Querolus told Mandrogerus he could share with his son Querolus if he used no fraud. They remove a chest with the urn but find only ashes. So they throw the urn back into the house; it breaks, and Querolus discovers the gold. Then Mandrogerus returns to show the letter from the father and get his share even though he tried to cheat. Finally Querolus adopts him into his house, because Mandrogerus can recite the latest decree concerning parasites.
Not much is known about the life of the Neo-Platonist philosopher Macrobius. He may have been a prefect in Spain in 399, proconsul in Africa in 410, and grand chamberlain in 422. Macrobius in his Saturnalia portrayed several prominent pagan aristocrats in a discussion held during the three days of that festival. Praetextatus, in whose house they talk, had been proconsul of Achaea under Julian (361-363), was praetorian prefect under Theodosius I, and was consul in 385; he had been initiated into many cults of Syria and Egypt and was known for his priestly lore. Flavianus also rose to power under Julian and retired during the reign of Valentinian I; but when Gratian ruled, he joined the circle of the poet Ausonius and as proconsul of Africa tolerated heretics. Flavianus became prefect of Italy in 393 and supported the rebellion of Eugenius, restoring the altar to Victory in the Senate-house. When Eugenius was defeated by Theodosius in the battle on the Frigidus in 394, Flavianus took his own life. They are joined by the rhetorician Eustathius and the critic Servius.
These men were also friends of the most prominent pagan of this era, Symmachus, whose letters describe the lives of wealthy pagans. He was best known for his speech which failed to persuade Emperor Gratian to restore the statue to Victory in the Roman Senate in 382. His letters indicate that women had gained greater social prestige in this era, and that often pagan men had sympathetic Christian wives. Symmachus wrote that Furiola founded a hospital, and Gratian's widow Laeta fed the starving people in Rome during the siege by Alaric.
The guests in the Saturnalia claim that their society has less luxury and dissipation than earlier ones, and they disdain to associate with actors. When Euangelus mocks the idea that God cares about slaves, Praetextatus responds that he values people not by their status but by their character. He suggests they treat their slaves with gentle goodness and admit them into their intimate conversations. He says that their ancestors removed the pride of the master and the shame of the slave by making them part of their families. Everyone is a slave of God or Fortune. Even the greatest bear the yoke. A slave is really a fellow servant subject to the same chances and changes. The real slave is the person in bondage to passions. No servitude is more shameful than that which is self-imposed. Treat your slave as a friend, for it is better to be loved and respected than feared. Of course Praetextatus referred to household slaves; it is difficult to imagine a rich landowner having close friendships with hundreds of workers.
Macrobius' Commentary on Cicero's "Dream of Scipio" preserved that portion of Cicero's Republic for posterity and described a mystical cosmology using Pythagorean ideas. He saw the universe as a hierarchy of God filled with the divine presence in a great chain of being from the highest stars to the lowest animals. Mind in contact with matter becomes a soul. All below the moon is mortal except the higher principle in humans. The soul descends through the seven spheres. The planets represent the harmony of the spheres with Saturn standing for human intellect, Jupiter for practical morality, Mars for spirited emotions, and Venus for sensuality. He also observed that Venus and Mercury orbit the sun.
Macrobius emphasized the cardinal Hellenic virtues, held out
the prospect of reward after death, and believed in the divine
origin and destiny of the human soul. Being in a body is a kind
of death until one dies to sin and corporeal passion. However,
one must not terminate one's imprisonment by suicide, because
such an act rebels from the Great Master. One must continue to
work for improvement during this probation in order to win a better
reward. Degraded souls who cling to the mortal elements after
death do not ascend into the divine world but return to be born
again in a body. The only way to achieve eternal happiness is
by virtue. Although civic virtue may control the passions, Macrobius
recommended cleansing virtues to eradicate them by turning from
glory to conscience.
John Cassian was born about 365 and grew up in a wooded area of Europe with no monks; but he was well educated and while young he renounced the world and joined a monastery in Bethlehem with his friend Germanus. The two gained permission to visit the monasteries in Egypt and stayed there seven years. They were welcomed by Pinufius, abbot of a famous monastery, who had previously fled that responsibility to go as an unknown monk to Bethlehem, where he had been assigned to Cassian's cell until his identity was discovered and he was sent back. Cassian and Germanus were inspired by Abbot Piamun to seek the Anchorite life of isolation; but after visiting Abbot Paul's monastery with more than two hundred monks they were influenced by Abbot John to learn obedience from the community life of the Cenobites. Yet another abbot named Theonas drew them back to Anchorite asceticism by giving them his cell and building another for himself. After returning to their brothers in Bethlehem, Cassian and Germanus went back again to Egypt to explore more monasteries in the valley of Nitria, where as many as 5,000 monks lived. In 399 the Abbot Paphnutius allowed the letters of Alexandrian bishop Theophilus against the Anthropomorphite heresy to be read, and their view of the Godhead became less materialistic.
About 400 Cassian and Germanus went to Constantinople, were ordained deacons and put in charge of the treasury. When John Chrysostom was banished in 404, Germanus and Cassian were sent with letters to Bishop Innocent in Rome, where Cassian was probably ordained a priest. Eventually Cassian went to Gaul and in 415 he founded a nunnery and the monastery of St. Victor at Marseilles, where he served as abbot until his death some time after 432. About 420 Cassian wrote The Institutes of the Cenobites and the Remedies for the Eight Principal Faults as instructions for establishing other monasteries in the area. He first described the simple dress of the monks and then the canonical system of nocturnal and daily prayers and psalms which he adopted from Egypt. The fourth book is on renunciation and includes the story of Pinuficius leaving his monastery. The last eight books are on the spirit of the eight principal faults, which are gluttony, fornication, covetousness, anger, dejection, laziness, ambition, and pride. Cassian described the discipline of the monks as being athletes and soldiers of Christ who, when they have conquered the flesh, still must fight against principalities, powers, and world-rulers. In writing on dejection he emphasized patience and learning how to get along with everyone.
In a long work entitled Conferences completed by 428 Cassian described what he and his friend Germanus learned from their meetings with various Egyptian monks. In the first conference Moses discussed the monk's goal, which Cassian and Germanus believed is the sovereignty of God. Moses said that to achieve that one must have a clean heart, and the reward of that sanctification is eternal life. For this purpose monks take on loneliness, fasting, vigils, work, reading scriptures, and virtuous activities in order to rise to higher levels of love. Anything that could trouble the purity and peace of the heart must be avoided as dangerous even if it may seem useful or necessary. Because of temptations on all sides the mind cannot be free of turbulent thoughts; but zeal and diligence can decide which thoughts to cultivate. Moses said that all thoughts come from God, the devil, and ourselves, and we must discern their origin. In the second conference Moses continued to discuss discernment, which is necessary for one to reach the heights and perfection. He told of how Hero was deluded that he was free of danger and died after falling into a well. Moses recommended humility first and obeying the scrutiny of elders. Discernment keeps one free of the two excesses, which are too much self-denial and carelessness.
In the third conference Paphnutius described the three renunciations. The first relates to the body and involves giving up riches and worldly goods. The second renunciation repels vices and passions, and the third draws one away from the visible world to the unseen spirit. In the 4th book with Abbot Daniel on lust, they found the third factor in the conflict between flesh and spirit is the human will. In the 5th book the ascetic Serapion told them of the eight principal faults. In the 6th book Theodore reminded them that evil cannot be forced on anyone against one's will. In encountering an inconstant mind and spiritual evils in the 7th and 8th books, Serenus suggested the answer is relying both on help from God and on the power of free will.
Isaac discussed prayer in the 9th and 10th conferences. First one must remove all cares of bodily things, worries, memories, and feelings of anger, sadness, and desire. Next comes building virtue. Thus before praying one must act as one would wish one to act while praying. The purified soul will be lifted up by its natural goodness. Isaac listed four types of prayer as supplicating or petitioning, offering or promising, pleading for others, and giving thanks. The three ways to direct a wandering mind are vigils, meditation, and prayer. In the 11th conference Chaeremon observed that the three things that keep people from sin are fear of hell or earthly laws, hope and desire for heaven, and goodness itself and the love of virtue. Fear and hope for reward are imperfect, but Chaeremon saw these as stages toward the perfection of revering love. In the 12th and 13th books Chaeremon discussed chastity and emphasized that the grace of God is more important than human effort.
Nestoros discussed spiritual knowledge in the 14th conference. First one must know one's sins and how to cure them. Second one must discern the order of virtues in order to shape one's spirit by their perfection. The practical side of knowledge has many professions and disciplines. Nestoros divided the contemplative side of knowledge into historical or empirical interpretation and three levels of spiritual insight he called allegory, anagoge, and tropology. History is the past, and the empirical is the perceptible. Allegory finds another meaning by symbolism. Anagoge includes prophecy of the future or the invisible. Tropology is the ethical teaching designed for amending one's life. Nestoros reminded his listeners of the importance of humility and that it is impossible to acquire spiritual knowledge with an unclean heart. As the prophet Hosea wrote, to attain spiritual knowledge you must first sow integrity for yourselves. In the 15th conference Nestoros said that spiritual gifts, such as healing and prophecy, may be caused by the merit earned by holiness or may be for the edification of the church or may even be a trick worked by demons. Saints do not make selfish use of their ability to work miracles. Nestoros argued that it is a greater miracle to root out luxury, restrain anger, and exclude depression than it is to cast out unclean spirits or sickness from someone else.
In the 16th book on friendship Joseph emphasized that love not only belongs to God but is God, and in the next book Joseph warned against making absolute promises and discussed in what circumstances lying might be justified. Three kinds of monks are defined by Piamun in the 18th conference. First are the cenobites who live together in community; they began with the apostolic preaching. Second are the anchorites who are first trained in monasteries and then choose solitude; they started when Paulus and Antony fled persecution into the desert of Egypt. Piamun deplored the third group he called sarabites. These include anyone who tries to be a hermit without first being trained in a community or who does not receive the sacrament on feast days of the church or who keeps no rules or who makes up one's own rules without consulting the experience and judgment of earlier fathers. He wished the sarabites made better use of the money they got with bad objectives. Piamun also believed that envy is the hardest vice to cure.
In the 19th book John debated the merits of cenobite community living versus being an anchorite hermit. Pinufius in the 20th book on penitence indicated the value of forgetting past sins. In the next three books Theonas discussed different levels of goodness, explored nocturnal illusions, and reminded Cassian that no one is completely free of sin. In the 24th and last book of the Conferences Abraham discussed the practice of asceticism.
In 428 Emperor Theodosius II appointed a monk from Antioch named Nestorius as patriarch of Constantinople, and he began persecuting Arians, Novatians, Quartodecimanians, and Macedonians, getting Theodosius to enact strict laws against heresy. Yet Nestorius sympathized with the free will doctrine of the Pelagians, and he welcomed and interceded on behalf of Julian, Coelestius, and others in exile. Nestorius objected to describing Mary as the "mother of God" and the use of images. In 430 his adversary in Alexandria, Bishop Cyril, accused Nestorius of twelve anathemas and threatened to depose him if he did not recant in ten days. The next year at the council of Ephesus Cyril and his Egyptian bishops deposed Nestorius before Antioch patriarch John even arrived. Then both Nestorius and Cyril were deposed by the Emperor's council. The Roman legates attended the assembly of Cyril and signed the decree against Nestorius. Nestorius did not attend, and his house had to be protected by soldiers from armed mobs. Public sentiment and Pulcheria urged the Emperor to let Cyril resume his position; Nestorius, complaining that Cyril had used bribery, was declared sacrilegious; he was sent into exile, and his books were ordered burned.
During this controversy Leo, the Archdeacon at Rome, asked his friend Cassian to refute the new heresy, and Cassian wrote seven books against Nestorius. In this work Cassian opposed the Nestorian and Pelagian heresies that were condemned at Ephesus. He is considered a Semi-Pelagian because he took a moderate view between the Pelagian doctrine that humans are not inherently sinful and the view of the prominent Augustine that divine grace has pre-destined by election some to be saved. Cassian believed that human freedom was only weakened by the fall, that humans are sick but can be saved by cooperating with the grace of the divine physician. In many cases human will initiates, and in others, such as with Matthew and Paul, God overcomes a resisting will. About the time Cassian died, Prosper of Aquitane wrote a book defending Augustine's views on grace and free will against the Pelagianism of Cassian. About 450 Prosper wrote The Call of All Nations in which he held that God wills all to be saved; but some are not saved, because they do not cooperate. Yet he still held Augustine's view that God foreknows who will be elected.
While Valentinian III was a child, Empress Placidia ruled the West. When King Theodoric led the Goths to besiege Arles in 427, her supreme commander Felix sent Aetius to relieve the city. The peace of 430 kept the Goths in the territories granted to Wallia. In Lower Belgica Salian Franks led by Merovingian king Chlodio invaded Artois. Imperial forces led by Aetius defeated them at Vicus Helenae. Using many Huns in his army, Aetius now had the power to replace Felix in 429.
In Britain Vortigern came to power about 425 and ruled there for about thirty years. The first known king of the Picts was Drust, son of Erp, who was said to have reigned from 414 to 458. According to the chronicler Nennius, the Picts invaded Britain in the fourth year of Vortigern's reign. The Dane Hengest and his brother Hors, who had been exiled in Germany, arrived and were made commanders by Vortigern. With Saxon help the British were able to counter-attack and drive away the Picts. In 429 the Catholic church sent Auxerre bishop Germanus to Britain in order to retrieve Christians from their Pelagian heresy. In the 430s Vortigern was challenged by Ambrosius, who was said to have made war on him in 437.
In Africa Count Boniface seemed to be more interested in enhancing his own power than in repelling incursions by the Moors. Placidia recalled him; but he refused to go, and three commanders sent against him were killed in 427. The next year an army headed by a new count, Sigisvult, seized Hippo and Carthage. Boniface called in the Vandals from Spain. Castinus had led an army of Romans and Goths against the Vandals in Baetica; but they were defeated, and Castinus fled to Tarragona. Vandal king Gunderic died in 428 and was succeeded by his brother Gaiseric.
In 429 about 80,000 Vandals crossed over to Mauretania. To counter this threat, Placidia sent Darius to reconcile Boniface, and he made a truce with Gaiseric; but Boniface's proposals were not accepted, and Gaiseric plundered eastern Africa, invaded Numidia, defeated Boniface, and besieged Hippo in 430. Aspar sailed with an army from Constantinople to relieve the siege; but the next year he and Boniface were defeated, as Hippo was taken. Placidia tried to replace Aetius with Boniface; but Aetius would not submit, causing a civil war. Boniface won a battle near Ariminum but then died of a wound. Aetius escaped to Dalmatia and the court of Hun king Rugila. Somehow Aetius regained his position as Patrician at Ravenna in 434. In Africa Valentinian's ambassador Trygetius made a treaty with Gaiseric allowing the Vandals to retain the Mauretanias and part of Numidia, but they had to pay an annual tribute to Rome.
The regency of Placidia was waning, and Aetius as Master of Soldiers sent Huns against the Burgundians, killing perhaps as many as 20,000 of them in 436 and ending the first Burgundian kingdom at Worms. The peasant revolt of the Bagaudae was also quelled after their leader Tibatto was captured. Visigothic king Theodoric besieged Narbonne. Aetius sent Litorius to subdue the rebels in Armorica, and Litorius also relieved the siege of Narbonne. Avitus negotiated a truce; but the Goths soon attacked Roman territory again. Litorius drove the Goths back to their capital at Toulouse but was defeated and fatally wounded near there. These Goths had become independent of Rome. Valentinian III married Licinia Eudoxia in 437 at Constantinople; but even though his wife was beautiful, he engaged in affairs with other men's wives. The Alans and Burgundians were settled as federates. Some Alans were in Valence, and others under King Goar settled near Orleans in 442. The next year the Burgundians found a permanent home in Savoy. However, Aetius pushed the Ripuarian Franks back across the Rhine. Reduced income from Gaul led to new taxes on sales and the senatorial class in 444.
About 442 the Saxons led by Hengest took control of Britain. The British appealed to Aetius, but he was busy with the Huns. About 446 Roman troops made their final departure from Britain, and Armoricans and Celts though federates were essentially independent. Germanus returned and was more successful at persuading the Pelagians. After ten years of Saxon rule the British were victorious at Richborough. However, at a diplomatic conference about 458 Hengest and the Saxons massacred about 300 of Vortigern's elders and imprisoned the king, who had to relinquish the districts of Essex and Sussex. In the next year many Britons migrated to Brittany. English resistance to the Saxons in the 460s was led by Ambrosius Aurelianus, a Roman, whose parents had worn the purple before they were killed. Ambrosius would die about 475 and be succeeded by Arthur, and the war would go on for about thirty years.
Gaiseric soon violated the treaty; by the time he captured Carthage in 439 revenue was no longer coming from Africa. In 440 to maintain their armies Theodosius II and Valentinian III made concealing deserters a capital crime. Gaiseric attacked Sicily, and in 442 a new treaty with Rome was more favorable to the Vandals. Gaiseric strengthened his alliance with Rome by marrying his son Huneric to Valentinian's daughter Eudocia; but to do so Huneric renounced his wife, the daughter of Theodoric. He accused her of attempting to poison him and had her face mutilated, which resulted in enmity between the Vandals and Visigoths. The Vandals made Carthage their new capital; its senators were deported; all the churches were made Arian, and Catholics were persecuted. The Vandals were the first Teutonic people to develop a Mediterranean navy. Gaiseric seems to have abolished the assembly of the Vandal people, and he made his kingship hereditary. In Spain Suevian king Rechiar married another daughter of Theodoric in 449 and devastated the province of Tarraconensis.
A new university was founded in Constantinople in 425 that endowed ten Latin and ten Greek grammarians, five Latin and three Greek rhetors, two chairs in jurisprudence and one in philosophy. In 429 Theodosius II established a commission of nine men to collect all the Roman constitutions, and a code was jointly issued by him and Valentinian III nine years later. After Rugila died about 433, Attila and his brother Bleda ruled the Hun empire that stretched from the Baltic and the Alps in the west to the Caspian Sea in the east. Theodosius agreed to pay 700 pounds of gold annually to the Huns and surrender any deserters. In 441 while imperial armies were fighting both Vandals and Persians, the Huns besieged Ratiaria, captured and plundered it, continuing up the Danube. Approaching Constantinople, Attila took Philippopolis, Arcadiopolis, and the fort at Athyras. After imperial troops returned from battling Vandals and Persians, a treaty was negotiated by Anatolius in 443 in which the Emperor agreed to triple the annual gold tribute and pay 6,000 pounds at once. Attila now had his brother Bleda killed and became sole ruler of the united Huns.
Empress Eudocia, visited Egypt and Jerusalem, and on her return to Constantinople she formed a close friendship with the pagan Cyrus of Panopolis, who was prefect of the East and of the city. An intriguing eunuch named Chrysaphius Zstommas got Pulcheria to retire to another palace and made Theodosius II suspect that his wife Eudocia was having an affair with Paulinus, whom the Emperor put to death in 444. The alienated Eudocia had gone to Jerusalem the year before; but the jealous Theodosius sent Saturninus to investigate, and he slew her confidants, the priest Severus and the deacon John. In revenge Saturninus was assassinated. Illyrian provinces were suffering from Hun plundering, and the imperial government went broke buying off the invaders while Chrysaphius controlled the policy. In 447 the Huns devastated Lower Moesia and Scythia. Constantinople was threatened, and many people fled. Another treaty in 448 left a stretch along the Danube uninhabited. Chrysaphius tried to have Attila assassinated; but the plot was discovered by Attila, who let the eunuch live and agreed not to cross the Danube. Theodosius died in 450.
Before he died, Theodosius II chose the officer Marcian as his successor, and Pulcheria agreed to be his nominal wife to preserve the dynasty. Marcian began by executing Chrysaphius, and he stopped paying tribute to the Huns and ended the practice of selling administrative offices. He also changed the law to recognize marriages to women of low social status. Marcian called the fourth ecumenical council at Chalcedon, and by his death in 457 the treasury had been replenished. Pulcheria died in 453 and left all her possessions to the poor.
In 448 the historian Priscus accompanied the ambassador Maximin to the court of Attila and described what he saw. A Scythian, who had been captured and made a slave before winning his freedom by fighting against the Romans, was critical of the Roman system of justice.
But the condition of the subjects in time of peace
is far more grievous than the evils of war,
for the exaction of the taxes is very severe,
and unprincipled men inflict injuries on others,
because the laws are practically not valid against all classes.
A transgressor who belongs to the wealthy classes
is not punished for his injustice,
while a poor man, who does not understand business,
undergoes the legal penalty,
that is if he does not depart this life before the trial,
so long is the course of lawsuits protracted,
and so much money is expended on them.
The climax of the misery is to have to pay in order to obtain justice.
For no one will give a court to the injured man
unless he pay a sum of money to the judge and the judge's clerks.5
In response Priscus argued that lawsuits take a long time because of the concern for justice. He added that Romans treat their servants better than the Scythian king treats his subjects, admonishing them, as they do their children, to abstain from evil. Romans were not allowed to inflict death on their servants as Scythians did.
In 449 Valentinian's sister Justa Grata Honoria intrigued against her brother with her lover Eugenius, who was caught and put to death. She was forced to marry the rich senator Flavius Bassus Herculanus. To get out of the hated marriage, Honoria sent a eunuch with her ring, asking for help from Attila, who claimed her as his bride and wrote to Theodosius II demanding half of Valentinian's territory. Theodosius advised his fellow emperor to hand over Honoria; but when he died and Marcian stopped the tribute to the Huns, Attila decided to invade Gaul, writing to the Goths that he was against the Romans and to Ravenna that he aimed at Rome's enemies.
In 451 Attila led a large army of his own Huns along with Gepids led by King Ardaric, Ostrogoths led by chiefs Walamir, Theodemir, and Widimir, Scirians, Heruls, Thuringians, Alans, and others. At the Rhine they were joined by Burgundians and Ripuarian Franks. Aetius called up the federated Salian Franks and Burgundians of Savoy along with the Celts of Armorica; King Theodoric's Visigoths were neutral but were persuaded by senator Avitus to join the Romans when Attila invaded the Loire. Together the Roman army led by Aetius and the Goths were able to keep the Huns out of Orleans. A bloody battle at Mauriac killed tens of thousands, including Theodoric. Aetius refrained from destroying his old allies, the Huns, and he persuaded Theodoric's son Thorismud to return to the Visigoth capital at Tolosa (Toulouse). Attila still claimed Honoria as a bride and invaded Italy the next year, taking Aquileia and razing it to the ground. In Rome Emperor Valentinian sent Pope Leo and senators Avienus and Trygetius to negotiate with Attila, who, faced with plague, hunger, and reinforcements sent from the East by Marcian, decided to retreat. Attila died in 453, and the German vassals led by the Gepid Ardaric, who had been Attila's chief advisor, revolted against the Huns and defeated them at a battle near the Nedao River in Pannonia, breaking up the short-lived Hun empire.
Marcian allied with the Gepids, assigned the Ostrogoths a federate in northern Pannonia and the Rugians one north of the Danube, while some tribes settled in depopulated Illyricum and Thrace. The senator Petronius Maximus persuaded Valentinian III that he should kill Aetius before that man had him murdered. On September 21, 454 in court the Emperor himself attacked Aetius with his sword, slaying him with the assistance of his eunuch chamberlain Heraclius. Praetorian Prefect Boethius was killed at the same time, and important friends of Aetius were summoned to the palace and dispatched too. When Heraclius persuaded Valentinian not to give the position of Aetius to Maximus, the latter sent two barbarians to assassinate Emperor Valentinian and his chamberlain six months later. All this allowed Salian Franks led by Chlodio to take Cambrai and proceed to the Somme, while Ripuarian Franks and Alamanni crossed the Rhine again.
The wealth of Petronius Maximus enabled his faction to win the purple over the faction of Maximian, who had been steward of Aetius. Maximus wanted to marry Empress Eudoxia; but she was so repelled by the idea that it was said she appealed to the Vandal Gaiseric. As Gaiseric's forces approached Rome, people scattered, and the abandoned Maximus was killed by a mob while fleeing. Three days later Rome's Bishop Leo met Gaiseric at the gates to prevent a massacre and conflagration while the Vandals plundered the city for two weeks in June 455. The Vandals then returned to Africa loaded with booty and thousands of captives, including Empress Eudoxia and her two daughters, Eudocia and Placidia. Placidia was already married to the Roman Olybrius, and Huneric married Eudocia. Carthage bishop Deogratias sold church gold and silver to purchase the freedom of some captives, and two churches were converted into hospitals to treat the sick.
In 453 Visigothic king Thorismud had been assassinated by his brothers Theodoric and Frederic after threatening them. Avitus, master of the imperial military in Gaul, was visiting the new king Theodoric II at Tolosa when he learned that Petronius Maximus was dead. Avitus was proclaimed emperor by the Goths. Avitus, accompanied by his son-in-law poet Apollinaris Sidonius, crossed the Alps; but neither the senators nor the soldiers made him welcome at Rome, and Marcian would not recognize him. Theodoric II resumed federate status and quelled an anti-imperialist uprising in Spain, inducing his brother-in-law Rechiar to restore Carthaginiensia to the empire in 454. Gaiseric had taken over more of Africa and now invaded again with sixty ships. Avitus sent general Ricimer, son of a Sueve and a Visigothic princess, to Sicily with an army, and he defeated the Vandals in Corsican waters in 456. Hunger in Rome caused Avitus to dismiss his federate troops, and he had bronze statues melted down to buy food. Allied with the Romans, Visigothic king Theodoric II marched an army to Spain, where he defeated the rebellious Suevians near Astorga. Meanwhile Ricimer and Eudoxia's friend Majorian rebelled against Avitus, who fled to Arles and was captured at Placentia. Avitus was made bishop of Placentia but died on the way to Auvergne. For six months there was no emperor in the West.
After Marcian died, Eastern Emperor Leo nominated Majorian, and he was proclaimed Western Emperor in April 457 as Ricimer was declared Patrician. Majorian granted universal amnesty on back tribute and debt to the government, and he restored provincial jurisdiction over the collection of taxes. He encouraged the people to meet in local assemblies in order to elect a representative to protect the poor from the tyranny of the rich and to inform the Emperor of any imperial abuses. Majorian took an army of Germans into Gaul, forced the Burgundians at Lugdunensis (Lyons) to surrender; as punishment he imposed heavier taxes, though they were later remitted. Aegidius with imperial reinforcements drove the Goths back from Arles. Majorian was content with Theodoric accepting again federate status. Sidonius contributed a panegyric to Emperor Majorian, portraying Rome as the warrior queen of the earth with Africa at her feet pleading for help against the Vandals. An imperial expedition of 300 ships organized in Spain by Majorian was defeated by the Vandal navy in 460, and Gaiseric made Majorian accept a humiliating treaty. After visiting Arles, Majorian returned to Italy without an army and was beheaded by officers of Ricimer at Tortona in 461.
Two army masters threw off their allegiance - Marcellinus and Aegidius. Marcellinus had to leave Sicily after Ricimer bribed his Hun soldiers to abandon him. Marcellinus went to Dalmatia, where he ruled under the Eastern Emperor Leo. The Vandals and Moors ravaged Sicily, and diplomats from Ricimer could do nothing; but Leo got Gaiseric to return some Theodosian women, though Eudocia stayed with her husband Huneric with a dowry of territory in Africa. Ricimer then asked Leo to mediate between Marcellinus and Gaiseric, and Marcellinus was persuaded not to war against the Romans. Aegidius in Gaul was kept from invading Italy by allowing Burgundian king Gundioc to occupy Lyons. Goths extended their territories in Spain; but Frederic's Goths were kept from crossing the Loire when they were defeated by Aegidius near Orleans in 463 with the aid of King Childeric of the Salian Franks. Ricimer ruled in the West, though Libius Severus was proclaimed emperor a few months later; after the death of Severus in 465, no successor was appointed for seventeen months.
Marcian had died in 457 without choosing a successor for the East. The Alan Aspar was disqualified as an Arian, but he chose the orthodox Christian Leo, a Dacian who had served in the army directly under him. Aspar's son Ardaburius was made Master of the Soldiers in the East. To counter the many Germans who had joined the imperial army, Leo recruited Isaurian mountaineers, and he married his daughter Ariadne to their chieftain Tarasicodissa, who changed his name to Zeno. In 467 Leo had the patrician Anthemius proclaimed Emperor of the West. An expedition against the Vandals said to have involved 1113 ships in 468 commanded by Basiliscus scattered the Vandal fleet near Sicily; but Gaiseric gathered a new fleet and destroyed the navy of Basiliscus so badly that the general was suspected of having been bribed by Aspar, who had opposed the campaign. Marcellinus had briefly recovered Sardinia for the West; but he was assassinated in Sicily, and Gaiseric soon regained Sardinia and later Sicily. The costly armaments had bankrupted Constantinople's treasury of its 100,000 pounds of gold. The next year Zeno led the campaign against the Hun invasion of Thrace. Aspar tried to have Zeno assassinated, but he escaped to Sardica, returned to Constantinople, and then suppressed the Isaurian brigand Indacus. Leo made Aspar's son Patricius Caesar, announcing that Patricius was renouncing Arianism for the Catholic faith.
Poet Sidonius lauded Emperor Anthemius, hailed Constantinople in verse, and was appointed Prefect of Rome; but his friend Arvandus, Praetorian Prefect of Gaul, was prosecuted by the Council of the Seven Provinces before the Roman Senate for malversation and treason, and he was condemned. Euric had followed his brother Theodoric II's example by murdering him to become king of the Visigoths in 466. Euric defeated the Breton king Riothamus on the Indre and took Bourges and northern Aquitanica Prima; but he was kept south of the Loire by Count Paulus and, after Paulus died in 470, by Syagrius, son of Aegidius, and King Childeric's Franks. Euric's Visigoths besieged Arles and defeated an imperial army led by Anthemiolus, the son of Athemius, and three other generals, who were all slain. Then the Visigoths marched through the Rhone valley burning crops and taking towns. Euric then took command of the Gothic war against the Suevians in Spain and conquered most of the peninsula except for the Suevians' home in the northwest.
This Gothic aggression gave Anthemius so many problems that the West was practically divided between the Emperor at Rome and Patrician Ricimer at Mediolanum (Milan). Ticinum bishop Epiphanius tried to reconcile them. Gaiseric urged his son-in-law Olybrius to aspire to the imperial throne, and Olybrius visited Constantinople. In 472 Leo sent Olybrius to Rome ostensibly to reconcile Anthemius and Ricimer but with a messenger telling Anthemius to put Olybrius to death. However, Ricimer intercepted the letter, made Olybrius emperor, and besieged Rome with his army. Anthemius was found hiding in a church and was beheaded. Ricimer himself died six weeks later and was replaced as Master of Soldiers by the Burgundian Gundobad.
In the East when Ardaburius planned a rebellion in 471, he and his father Aspar were killed in the palace by eunuchs; Caesar Patricius was wounded but recovered. Emperor Leo was named the Butcher; but after the troops of Count Ostrys entered the palace and were defeated by the Isaurian guards, the Isaurians had quelled the attempted take-over by the German faction. Because of Isaurian brigands, many rich people had hired guards and armed their slaves; but Emperor Leo outlawed the practice. Leo maintained the orthodoxy of the Chalcedon council. He died in 474, leaving his six-year-old grandson Leo as his successor. The Isaurian Zeno served as Leo II's regent and replaced him nine months later when the boy died.
Olybrius ruled the West for a year and a half but was not recognized by the East, nor was Glycerius, who reigned for three months in 473 after being proclaimed at Ravenna by Gundobad's soldiers. Glycerius did manage to keep the Ostrogoths out of Italy; so Widemir led them into Gaul. Eastern Emperor Leo chose Julius Nepos as his Western counterpart. Nepos arrived in Italy with Eastern troops. Gundobad retired to Burgundy, soon to become their king, while the deposed Glycerius was ordained bishop of Salona in Dalmatia. In 475 Nepos made a peace with Euric recognizing the Gothic conquests made in Spain and Gaul. Sidonius had become bishop of Clermont and resented the surrender of Auvergne to the Goths; but he was imprisoned in a fort at Livia. Sidonius complained in a letter to the bishop of Marseilles, "Our slavery is the price paid for the security of others."6 The next year Euric broke the treaty by invading Provence, seizing Arles and Marseilles, and Emperor Zeno conceded southern Provence to the Goths. Euric's legal code of 475 made the segregation of Germans and Romans state policy.
Zeno was hated in Constantinople as an Isaurian. When he fled to Isauria in 475, the ministers and Senate proclaimed Basiliscus emperor; but his greed and favoring Monophysitism, issuing a decree against the Council of Chalcedon, made him very unpopular. Basiliscus sent an expedition against Zeno; but encouraged by the angry ministers, the general Illus changed sides and joined forces with Zeno. Basiliscus tried to recall his ecclesiastical edicts, but it was too late. His Master of Soldiers Armatus avoided Zeno's forces, who entered Constantinople without resistance in 476. Basiliscus and his family were beheaded.
The Pannonian Orestes had been Attila's secretary; but he did not follow Attila's sons north to Scythia, and he refused to accept the Ostrogoth's usurpation of Pannonia. Orestes was appointed patrician and master general of the army by Western Emperor Nepos. When his troops rebelled against Nepos, Orestes had his son Augustus Romulus (Augustulus) proclaimed emperor in 475. Nepos was driven out of Rome but lived in Salona for five years still recognized in the East and in Gaul. Orestes ruled Italy for one year in the name of his son; but his eastern German Herul, Rugian, and Scirian troops demanded settlement in Italy with one-third of the land. Orestes rejected their demand; so one of his chief officers, the Scirian Odovacar, had Orestes killed at Ticinum and deposed his son Augustulus, granting him a pension in Campania. In 476 Odovacar was proclaimed king of Italy by the soldiers. He had Augustulus formally abdicate his authority to the Eastern emperor Zeno, and Roman senators were sent to Constantinople to declare that a Western emperor was no longer needed. Zeno recognized Odovacar and made him a patrician.
Orosius was born probably in the 380s at Bracara in western Spain. He was apparently well educated and became a presbyter, writing about current Priscillianist and Origenist controversies. Because of the invasions by the Alans and Vandals, Orosius departed from Bracara in 414. Providentially his ship was driven by a storm to the African coast near Hippo, where he spent several years under the influence of Augustine. The Hippo bishop was impressed by the young Orosius, and the following spring he sent him to Bethlehem to consult with Jerome on the Pelagian controversy. Orosius presented the views of Augustine and Jerome on Pelagianism to a council of bishops at Jerusalem, arguing against the presiding bishop John, and he wrote a book defending their position against Pelagian. Early in 416 Orosius brought a letter and a treatise from Jerome back to Augustine. At this time Augustine had written the first eleven books of his City of God, and he asked Orosius to discover from histories and annals how pagan cultures had suffered calamities from war, disease, famine, earthquakes, floods, fires, storms, and crimes in order to answer critics that Christianity was responsible for the deterioration of the Roman empire. By 418 Orosius had completed his Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, and no more is known about him after that.
Orosius dedicated his work to Augustine and his request. At the beginning he stated his basic belief.
IIn the first place, we hold that if the world and man
are directed by a Divine Providence that is as good as it is just,
and if man is both weak and stubborn
on account of the changeableness of his nature and his freedom of choice,
then it is necessary for man to be guided in the spirit of filial affection
when he has need of help;
but when he abuses his freedom,
he must be reproved in a spirit of strict justice.
Everyone who sees mankind reflected through himself and in himself
perceives that this world has been disciplined since the creation of man
by alternating periods of good and bad times.7
He noted that even his opponents have described history as "nothing but wars and calamities." Orosius took the Christian view that sin and its punishment began with the first man. After describing the geography of his known world which extended only to India in the east, Orosius jumped from the punishment of the Biblical flood to Assyrian king Ninus about 2000 BC. He only mentioned Egypt in connection with the story of Joseph in Genesis and of Moses in Exodus, emphasizing again God's punishment of the Egyptians. However, Orosius did not go into the history of Israel much at all after that but turned instead to the legends of early Greek history and especially their wars. He mentioned the Assyrian Sardanapalus and the brief empire of the Medes that was overthrown by the Persians. He contrasted the ancient tyrants' torturing of the innocent to the later Christian Roman emperors, who did not punish tyrants whose overthrow benefited the republic.
Orosius believed that all power and government come from God and that it is better for one kingdom to be supreme. Probably because of Daniel's prophecy of four great beasts, Orosius summarized his history as four main kingdoms from the cardinal points as the Babylonian in the east, the Carthaginian in the south, the Macedonian in the north, and the Roman in the west. Even though he had hardly mentioned the Babylonians, he included with them the Assyrians, Medes, and Persians. Because Orosius based most of history on epitomes (especially 4th-century Eutropius) of earlier histories, his facts are often not too accurate. From the founding of Rome in 754 BC Orosius mostly described Roman history and some Greek history involving their wars with Persia, the Peloponnesian War, and the Macedonian wars. He wrote that Alexander was punished for his "wicked appetite" by being poisoned after oppressing the world for twelve years. Then his generals tore the world apart for another fourteen years.
In his preface to the fourth book Orosius observed that present miseries always seem worse than what is past or future possibilities, because they cause so much more trouble. In describing the Punic wars he judged that because of their basic discord the Carthaginians never enjoyed prosperity or peace, and he argued that their human sacrifices did more to cause pestilence than prevent it. Orosius took a larger perspective on Roman victories; by taking the whole world into consideration he noted that when Romans might be happy, the conquered world was unhappy. For two centuries (3rd and 2nd BC) Spanish fields were drenched with their own blood. Orosius believed the Numantines exemplified the virtues of justice, faith, courage, and mercy more than the Romans. In his view in the past Rome extorted from people by the sword for luxuries, but now she contributes to maintaining government. Orosius did not mind having to leave Spain, because he argued that he could take refuge anywhere and still find the same law and his religion. There was a large area he could visit as a Roman and a Christian and still find Romans and Christians. Orosius contrasted the present wars in which Italy was being attacked by foreigners to the past wars begun by herself and directed against herself in cruel civil strife.
Orosius believed it was providential that Augustus
had established the imperial Pax Romana as a preparation for the
birth of Jesus. The Christian religion, he wrote, could not be
stamped out in spite of generations of "fury from nations,
kings, laws, slaughter, crucifixion, and death."8 Orosius
found that Christian times were an improvement on the past, and
he challenged the reader to find any time in history more fortunate
than the present era. Orosius contended that countless wars had
been stilled, usurpers destroyed, and savage tribes checked, confined,
incorporated, or annihilated with little loss. (Apparently he
meant little loss among Romans, since most of the imperial soldiers
in this era were Germans.) Thus he presented his Christian philosophy
of history, and the work of Orosius became the most influential
history book of the medieval period. At least some knowledge of
history was being passed on, although the earlier original histories
would have offered much more complete and detailed accounts. Also
his emphasis on the calamities and wars in order to prove his
thesis gave the middle ages a rather negative view of pagan culture.
Salvian was born in Gaul about 400, and he probably witnessed the destruction of Trier by the Germans in 406. When the young Salvian married Palladia, her parents were pagans. They had a daughter; but after a long discussion he entered the monastery of Lerins, and she went into a convent. Salvian taught rhetoric and became well known as a teacher and preacher. He must have had a long life, because he was still alive late in the 5th century. His extant works consist of nine letters, eight books On the Present Judgment later retitled The Governance of God, and four books To the Church also called Against Avarice.
On the Present Judgment was written between 440 and 450, and it has often been compared to Augustine's City of God. Salvian turned a more critical eye to the Roman Christians in this century of crisis and strongly suggested that Christians should be practicing the higher ethics Jesus taught in his sermon on the mount. He criticized the rich for impoverishing the state, whereas the ancient magistrates were poor and made the state rich. He observed that ascetics may weaken their bodies, but this sharpens mental vigor when desires no longer unbalance the mind. Salvian as a Christian believed along with Pythagoreans, Platonists, and Stoics that God created and regulates the universe, and that this is a model for human governance to regulate its lesser parts and members. Salvian aimed to prove that God is present, governs, and judges, and he used the three methods of reason, examples, and authority, often referring to Judeo-Christian scriptures. Jeremiah as the closest parallel to his times was quoted more than any other. In trying to get at the root of hostility, he noted that anger is the mother of hatred. He observed that Christians are so far from following the precepts of Jesus and Paul that instead of acting for others they first consider their own affairs regardless of whether that disturbs others.
Salvian asked Christians to examine their consciences in relation to the many crimes he described. He saw men of business engaging in fraud and perjury, land-owners being unjust, officials slandering, and the army plundering. How can one be called a Christian if one does not perform the work of a Christian? Salvian made his accusations in the first person.
We wish to sin, but not to be punished.
Herein we have the same attitude as our slaves....
We are most harsh to others, most lenient with ourselves.
We punish others, but forgive ourselves for the same crime-
an act of intolerable arrogance and presumption.
We are unwilling to acknowledge guilt in ourselves,
but we dare to arrogate to ourselves the right to judge others.
What can be more unjust and what more perverse?
The very crime we think justifiable in us
we condemn most severely in others.9
The tyranny of the rich oppressed not only the poor but most of humanity. Political position was used for plundering, and poor states were pillaged by those in power. He observed that the Roman state was drawing its last breath, strangled by taxation imposed by the rich on the poor. Salvian admitted that the barbarians were also unjust, avaricious, unfaithful, greedy, lewd, and vicious; but so were the Romans, who should know better. The Huns might be lewd, the Franks perfidious, the Alamanni drunkards, the Alans rapacious, Huns or Gepids cheats, and Franks liars; but Romans were no better. Because the Christians have been taught spiritual laws, Salvian argued that their behavior is morally worse. They do not practice what they preach. We are like the sick who get worse because of our vices but blame the doctor for being incompetent.
Salvian observed that barbarians of the same tribe love one another, while most Romans persecute each other. Where are there widows and orphans not devoured by the leading men of the cities? Many of the poor found more Roman dignity with the barbarians, because they could not bear the barbarous indignity of the Romans. Many migrated to the Goths or joined the Bagaudae, who were peasants organized after being victimized by tax-gatherers. They found the enemy more lenient to them than the tax collectors, who extorted tribute from the poor for the rich, making the weaker carry the burden for the stronger.
Many people were loaded with debt, while the rich, who made them debtors, were themselves free of debt. When taxes were mitigated, the poor were the last to be relieved, because the rich held the political power. Salvian was not surprised that the Goths conquered much of the population since many Romans preferred to live among them. Many in the middle class were driven to give themselves to the upper classes as captives of the rich. When they lost their land because of taxes, they became dependents as tenant farmers (coloni) or serfs. They not only lost their property and goods but their rights of citizenship as well. So many had been oppressed and captured in this way that it was no wonder that barbarians captured people too. Salvian lamented that not being merciful to exiles and wanderers, they were becoming wanderers to be cheated too.
Salvian condemned the crimes and vices found at the games, and he excoriated their cruelty. By gladly watching them the spectators were approving and sharing in the crimes. Yet the misery and poverty had become so great that they could no longer lavish expenses on unprofitable games. He believed that cities like Trier and Mainz had been destroyed because of their avarice and drunkenness. He described the gruesome disasters that befell the conquered cities after their ruin. Yet a few nobles who survived asked the emperors for circuses. For Salvian the city of Aquitane was like a brothel of sordid vices as husbands violated their marriages with household maids. Yet fornication was not lawful among the Goths, and Salvian believed that the chaste Vandals subjugated the Spaniards because of their impurity. In the last war the Romans put their hope in the Huns against the Goths; but the Goths turned to God. The Visigothic force led by Romans Boniface and Castinus were defeated by the Vandals, because the Roman leaders out of pride could not cooperate. Events showed the judgment of God. The Goths and Vandals were increasing, while the Romans decreased.
Salvian noted that every nation had bad habits. The Goths lied but were chaste. The Alans lied less but were unchaste. The Franks lied but were generous. The Saxons were cruel but chaste. The Roman Africans he criticized mainly for lust, and yet the orphans, widows, and the poor suffered too. The Romans had many vices and much hypocrisy, because they outlawed theft yet robbed or embezzled. He who punished rapine plundered; he who punished an assassin was a swordsman; he who punished a breaker of doors destroyed towns; he who punished burglars of houses ravaged provinces. When the Vandals took over Africa, they removed prostitution by marrying the prostitutes, and they made ordinances against unchastity. Salvian asked the Romans to be ashamed of their lives, because it was the vices of their bad lives that alone conquered them. No one was more cruel to them than themselves. They were being punished by God; but it was because they went against the will of God that they were tortured.
In his four books To the Church Salvian warned about the problem of avarice and urged Christians to give charity not only to expiate sin but as a virtue. The covetous bring their own suffering upon themselves. Good works are necessary for both saints and sinners. Christ exemplified universal poverty. One can benefit oneself most in gaining eternal life by giving all one's possessions to the saints, the maimed, the blind, and the weak. If your wealth nourishes the wretched, you will be filled with all you need. Make Christ your heir and follow God. Anyone who has begun to be good cannot help but love the law of God, because the essence of that law is what holy people have in their ethics.
About three years after the Ephesus council Vincent, a monk
of Lerins, wrote A Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality
of the Catholic Faith Against the Profane Novelties of All Heresies
to argue for orthodox Christianity and against any changes in
doctrine. Vincent argued for the principle that the church should
accept and hold to the faith that has been believed everywhere,
always, and by all. Thus he felt Christians should follow the
divine law of the scriptures and Catholic tradition. The opinions
of the whole church should take precedent over a dissenting part;
antiquity should prevail over new views; and a council's pronouncements
were to be accepted over the ideas of a few individuals. These
three criteria he called universality, antiquity, and consent.
He argued that if these principles were applied, Donatism and
Arianism never would have spread, and the views of Nestorius,
Photinus, and Apollinaris would be dismissed. Vincent held that
heretical views of eminent teachers, such as Tertullian
and Origen, were
allowed by God in order to test the faithful. For Vincent the
genuine Catholic loves the truth of God, the church, the body
of Christ, and the Catholic faith above every authority, genius,
eloquence, and philosophy of every person.
Leo served as archdeacon under Rome's bishops Celestine (423-432) and Sixtus III (432-440). Leo was visiting Gaul when he was elected bishop of Rome in 440. Leo claimed primacy as the legacy of Peter, and this assertion of authority after several centuries would result in only the bishop of Rome being called the Pope. In 443 he banished Manichaeans and Pelagians from Italy, threatening bishops with his wrath if they did not purge the heretics from their churches. Leo also refuted the heresies of the Spanish Priscillianists with eighteen anathemas.
Eutyches was charged with heresy for believing that the human nature of Christ was absorbed into the divine nature after the incarnation. He was condemned by a local synod in 448 presided over by Constantinople patriarch Flavian. Eutyches appealed to Rome's bishop Leo. Theodosius II called a council at Ephesus in 449 to settle the issue. Preoccupied with the threat of Attila, Leo sent three representatives with his dogmatic letter to Flavian or Tome pronouncing his view that Eutyches was heretical. Leo affirmed as orthodox doctrine that Jesus Christ has both a divine and a human nature united in one person as the word of God incarnate. Leo noted that Eutyches denied the human reality of Jesus' redemptive passion and implied that the divine nature endured these. Alexandria's Bishop Dioscorus presided over the council, and favoring Eutyches, he did not allow Leo's letter to be read. Dioscorus wanted Flavian and others deposed; Flavian was imprisoned and died, and the others were deposed.
Leo called a synod at Rome to annul the decisions of what he called the "robber council." Leo refused to acknowledge Anatolius, the successor of Flavian, and sent four legates to Constantinople. Theodosius died, and his sister Pulcheria and Marcian supported Leo and confined Eutyches to his monastery. In 451 the fourth ecumenical council met at Chalcedon and deposed Dioscorus. Although only six of the 350 participants were from the West, Leo's influence was felt. A commission affirmed the creeds of Nicaea and Constantinople, the 431 council at Ephesus, the synodal letter of Cyril, and the Tome of Leo. Leo in Rome accepted all the decisions of the council except Canon 28, which gave the See of Constantinople precedence over the Apostolic Sees of Antioch and Alexandria. Leo argued that its imperial status was not as important as the latters' apostolic authority. In Egypt and Syria many Monophysites continued to believe that Christ has only one nature.
Leo was given credit for persuading Attila not to attack Rome in 452 after he had destroyed Aquileia, and in 455 he boldly met Vandal king Gaiseric at the gate of Rome and managed to keep them from burning the city and killing people, although the imperial capital was pillaged for fourteen days. Egyptian bishops refused to accept the Tome of Leo, and with Dioscorus in exile his friend Proterius was designated his successor in Alexandria. In 457 anti-Chalcedonians ordained Timothy Aelurus as bishop. He was arrested, but dissenters murdered Bishop Proterius during a liturgy and made Timothy Aelurus bishop. Emperor Marcian punished the assassins but accepted Timothy as bishop. Riots also occurred in Palestine led by a monk named Theodosius, who criticized Jerusalem patriarch Juvenal for betraying Cyril's theology, and some bishops were murdered. In 460 Timothy Aelurus was replaced in Alexandria by a lawfully elected successor, Timothy Salophacialus.
Leo wrote letters to influential religious and political leaders
throughout the Roman empire, and of these 143 remain along with
96 sermons. He wrote that deacons and high clergy should not cohabit
with their wives. He organized ecclesiastical government hierarchically
under his authority and held that only large cities should have
bishops. Any controversial questions should be submitted to Rome.
He believed that penance involves confessing to priests, and those
under penitential discipline must avoid the temptations of business,
legal issues, and military service. Leo claimed that obedience
is imperative, even for the popular Hilary in Gaul. Leo asked
Emperor Valentinian III to take away the political rights of Manichaeans.
In his sermons Leo also asserted his Petrine authority, and he
urged his congregation to pray and give charity. He said that
prayer propitiates, fasting purifies, and charity redeems. All
must involve the serious purpose of amendment. Leo held that usury
is incompatible with charity. Leo died in 461.
Patrick was born about 385 in Britain; his father was a decurion official and wealthy enough to have servants. Patrick's grandfather had been a priest in the era when they still married. Roman Britain was often invaded by pirates in the late 4th century. At the turn of the century larger attacks were led by the high king Niall of the Nine Hostages. They devastated the country and carried off slaves. In the last of these raids in 401 young Patrick was captured and sold into slavery in Ireland. While tending flocks in the mountains and swine in the woods, Patrick began to pray more and more; he also learned the Gaelic language. After six years as a slave Patrick was guided to run away to the shore, where a ship would take him to his fatherland. At first refused, after praying, Patrick was taken aboard. They went to Gaul and spent 28 days marching through country that had been ravaged by Vandals and Alans. Then Patrick was able to return to his family home in Britain.
To prepare himself to be a missionary to the Irish, Patrick traveled to monasteries in Gaul. He spent perhaps about three years at Lerins under the guidance of abbot Honoratus before staying for fifteen years at the Auxerre monastery founded and supervised by Germanus. During the mission of Germanus to Britain in 429 a conference was held to discuss evangelizing the Irish, because many Christian Britons were enslaved there. Patrick was present at a meeting with a similar purpose held the next year at Auxerre. During a discussion of whether to make Patrick a bishop, his friend revealed a grave sin that Patrick had committed when he was fifteen and had confessed. Instead Palladius was made a bishop by Rome's Celestine and was sent to Ireland in 431. Patrick was ordained a priest and sent by Germanus with an elderly priest Segitius to assist Palladius; but a report that Palladius died caused them to turn back. Germanus then made Patrick a bishop, and in 432 he sailed to Ireland.
On the east coast of Ireland Patrick converted a local king named Dichu, who contributed some land and a barn for his first church. Patrick made many conversions in eastern Ireland, and in 439 bishops Secundinus, Auxilius, and Iserninus arrived to assist him. Soon after Leo was ordained bishop of Rome, he formally approved of Patrick's mission. Patrick's main bishopric Armagh was founded in 444. He visited many of Ireland's kings. The high king Laoghaire (r. 428-463) gave Patrick permission to preach and convert. When Laoghaire appointed a commission of nine men to study, revise, and write down Ireland's laws (that by an oral tradition went back to the high king Ollamh Fodhla in the 8th century BC), the three Christians selected included Patrick. The commission's work took three years. The 7th-century biography of Patrick by Muirchu Moccu Machteni of Armagh claimed that Patrick converted Laoghaire, but in the same century biographer Tirechan wrote that he did not. Patrick had to contend with Druids and their powerful oral tradition of occult practices. In the Brehon laws Patrick tried to have their magical rituals prohibited. Like the Druids, Patrick might fast to urge others toward justice. Near the end of his life Patrick resigned as bishop of Armagh and was succeeded by his disciple Benignus. Patrick died on March 17, 461.
Two writings of Patrick remain - his Confession and a Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. He confessed that his captivity was deserved because he had turned away from God and did not keep the commandments. While a slave he might say as many as a hundred prayers in one day and nearly as many at night. His long training in the monasteries of Gaul enabled him to quote the scriptures easily. In addition to the Irish he also took pleasure in converting the sons and daughters of the Scots to become monks and virgins of Christ. Patrick believed, "The flesh, our enemy, is always dragging us unto death, that is, to the allurements which end in evil."10 Patrick worked to watch over himself and his Christian brothers and the virgins in Christ. When devout women gave him little gifts, he would return them. He baptized many thousands and received no money for doing so. He occasionally gave presents to kings, and sometimes he was seized because they wanted to kill him. He was once bound in irons for two weeks; but his time had not yet come. He daily expected to be murdered, robbed, or enslaved; but he did not fear them because of his faith in God. His only motive was to spread the good message in the nation from which he had escaped.
In the Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus Patrick admitted
that he was not learned, though he had been established as a bishop
in Ireland among the heathens for the love of God. He wrote not
to his fellow citizens and the holy Romans but to the fellows
of demons, allies of the Scots and the Picts, who shed the innocent
blood of Christians. These marauders slaughter with swords for
booty and to take captives. He protested against the tyranny of
Coroticus and their guilty murdering. Patrick admitted he sold
his nobility for the profit of others, and he became of slave
of Christ to a foreign nation. He saw his flock torn apart and
accused those who betrayed Christians into the hands of the Scots
and Picts. They live by plunder and fill their houses with the
spoil of dead Christians and then entertain their friends. Freemen
are put for sale, and Christians are made slaves to the apostate
Picts. Patrick beseeched them to repent of these murders and to
liberate the baptized women captives.
Early in the 6th century the abbot Eugippius of Lucullanum wrote a biography of the saintly Severin. It is not known when or where Severin was born; but some time after Attila died in 453, he was called from the east to Noricum in the eastern Alps. He founded monasteries at Favianis and other places in Noricum. Severin died in 482. According to Eugippius he was blessed with extraordinary psychic and healing abilities. Severin helped the town of Comagenis stave off the barbarians by urging them to fast and pray, and Eugippius credited his prayers with relieving Favianis of famine. Severin warned Rugi king Flaccitheus of an ambush, and he prophesied that young Odovacar would be king. Eugippius described many miraculous healings performed by Severin, and he even occasionally brought the dead back to life, though one said he wanted to return to his heavenly rest. Severin was often able to warn people because of his vision into the future. Those who disregarded his advice often suffered. He felt the cold of the poor and made sure they had ample clothes.
Severin persuaded Alamanni king Gibuld to restore captives. His letters urged Noricum to strengthen themselves by fasting and giving charity so that enemy raids would not harm them. When King Feva of the Rugi arrived with an army at Lauriacum, Severin persuaded him to protect the people by moving them further down the Danube River. A monk who asked for better eyesight was given an inner gift instead. Severin wore only one cloak and did not eat until sunset except on feast days. During Lent he ate only one meal per week. Severin encouraged tithing for charitable purposes.
The Palestinian Talmud was written down in the late 4th century. The longer Babylonian Talmud was compiled by Rabbana Ashi (352-427) during the reign (400-420) of Sassanian king Yazdgard I. Ashi was head of the academy at Mata Machasia for nearly sixty years. Yazdgard invited Ashi, Mar Zutra of Pumbedita, and Amemar of Nehardea to his court, and he honored the exilarch Rav Huna bar Nathan.
In the Roman empire hatred of Jews had been increased by such influential Christians as Ambrose, John Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustine. In 415 Alexandria bishop Cyril handed over Jewish property to a Christian mob. Edicts by Theodosius II prohibited Jews from building synagogues, from serving as judges in cases involving Christians, and from owning Christian slaves. Under this emperor the physician Gamaliel VI was the last of the Jewish patriarchs. Theodosius II revoked his powers in 415, leaving him with only his title until his death in 426. In 429 the primates were ordered to hand over Jewish taxes directly to the imperial treasury.
In that year Persia regained control of Armenia, and under Yazdgard II (r. 438-459) Jews were forbidden to celebrate the Sabbath in 456. Yazdgard II persecuted Christians, Manichaeans, and Jews. Persian king Peroz (r. 459-484) had half the Jewish population of Ispahan put to death and ordered the Jewish children to be raised in the Persian religion. The Jewish exilarch and two teachers were martyred in 470. A few years later increasing persecution by the magi eventually destroyed the Jewish intellectual centers at Sura, Pumbedita, and Nehardea. The Babylonian Talmud was completed the year of Rabina's death in 499.
The Halakhah laws often implied a deeper ethics. If those authorities passing judgment did not act with temperance and mercy, their behavior could bring about destruction. Another name for the Avot tractate called the "Ethics of the Fathers" is the mishnat hassidim, meaning inside the law. Examples were often given to show that a person who could afford a loss should go beyond the law to fulfill a higher duty. Even though a person may be exempt by human law, one may take moral responsibility because of divine law. For example, if a person went back on an oral promise, a court may not be able to enforce it; yet the teaching would consider such a person cursed.
Here is a sampling of wisdom from the Talmud, also called the Gemara. All Israelites are responsible for each other. It is worse to cheat a Gentile than a Jew, because in addition to violating moral law it brings the religion into contempt. Kindness is the highest wisdom. Charity is independent of race and creed. Rabbi Hanina found that he learned much from his teachers, more from his colleagues, and most from his students. Judah ben Ilai said that a man who does not teach his son a trade, teaches robbery. Raba suggested that an assistant should be appointed if there are more than 25 elementary students, and fifty children in a class require two instructors. The right of a worker takes precedence over the employer. More people die from over-eating than from malnutrition.
As fish die out of water, so people perish without law and order. The community should first be consulted before a ruler is appointed. An absent person cannot be declared guilty. Judgment delayed is judgment denied. An evil impulse may be sweet in the beginning, but it is bitter in the end. Johanan ben Torta said that the first Temple was destroyed because of idolatry, lewdness, and murder; but the second Temple was destroyed because the people hated each other. This shows that hatred of fellow humans is as serious as idolatry, lewdness, and murder. Many rabbis disapproved of self-imposed asceticism. Isaac asked if the things prohibited in the law were not enough. The penalty for liars is that when they tell the truth, no one believes them.
1. Augustine, Confessions 1:14 tr. R. S. Pine-Coffin,
2. Ibid., 2:6, p. 50.
3. Augustine, To Consentius: Against Lying 1 tr. H. Browne in Moral Treatises in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, volume 3, p. 481.
4. Claudius Claudianus, The Rape of Proserpine III tr. Harold Isbell in The Last Poets of Imperial Rome, p. 95.
5. Priscus quoted in Bury, J. B, History of the Later Roman Empire, p. 284.
6. Sidonius, Epistles 7:7.
7. Orosius, Seven Books of History Against the Pagans 1:1 tr. Irving Woodworth Raymond, p. 33.
8. Ibid., 6:1, p. 266.
9. Salvian, The Governance of God tr. Jeremiah F. O'Sullivan, p. 94.
10. Confession of St. Patrick tr. Martin P. Harney in The Legacy of Saint Patrick, p. 113.
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