The Destruction of Paganism – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 28


“The ruin of Paganism, in the age of Theodosius, is perhaps the only example of the total extirpation of any ancient and popular superstition; and may therefore deserve to be considered as a singular event in the history of the human mind.” Continue reading

The Last Triumph of Theodosius – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 27 Part 6

Last triumph of theodosius

Andrew Marr pointed out recently, that in the fourth century the Roman and Chinese empires were very similar.  They had roughly the same level of technology, had much the same form of government and were about the same size.  They were vaguely aware of each other, and traded through third parties.  They also had exactly the same enemies on the steppes of Russia.  If they could have communicated with each other and co-ordinated their tactics, maybe they could have had more success in resisting them.  But I digress.

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The Triumph of Orthodoxy – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 27 Part 4

Triumph of Orthodoxy

Gregory of Nazianzus has an enviable reputation among the leading lights of church history.  But it his ideas and writings that are remembered.  His actual achievements in the real world are less impressive.  His biggest one, his appointment as bishop of Constantinople by Theodosius – probably the top job in Christianity at the time – didn’t last long.  Once again it was politics that let him down.  Some intrigues originating in Egypt (where else?) aimed to replace him. Given how hard he had worked for the cause of Orthodoxy that was at the very least ungrateful.  Gregory ostentatiously resigned, no doubt as a manoeuvre. Continue reading

Gregory of Nazianzus – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 27 Part 3

Gregory of Nazianzus

Theodosius as a new emperor wanted to bring an end to the religious in-fighting that was weakening the empire, particularly that between the Arians and the Orthodox.  Theodosius came from a part of the empire where Arianism hadn’t really penetrated, and so presumably was a believer in the orthodox form.   Whatever his personal convictions, the most straight forward way to achieve the unity he needed was to support the strongest group against all the others. This meant enforcing the orthodox position against the various heresies that challenged it. The biggest single step in this direction was to win Constantinople over from the Arians. To do so he appointed the obvious candidate, Gregory of Nazianzus as the patriarch of Constantinople. Continue reading

A Field Guide to Heresy – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 27 Part 2

Christ and moneylenders

The hot topic in the empire of the 4th Century was the nature of Christ.  This issue was resolved not by theologians like Gregory of Nazianzus but by the soldier emperor Theodosius. If you read between the lines of some of my earlier episodes on the history of the Church, you might pick up the sense that I am not particularly an admirer of Christianity. Continue reading

Theodosius in Africa – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 25 Part 6


From the fall of Carthage in 146 BC to the arrival of Christianity at the end of the 2nd Century nothing much happened in the Roman province of Africa.  But although it was uneventful it was far from unimportant. The Romans used Africa as the name for the area around Carthage, modern day Tunisia, and the southern shore of the Mediterranean to its east – the northern part of modern day Libya.   At that time it was highly productive and fertile.  The bread dole that formed part of the bread and circuses that kept the population of Rome fed and entertained was largely from this region. Continue reading

Theodosius in Britain – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 25 Part 5

The country the Pilgrim Fathers left for America from in 1620 was England.   Britain was purely a geographical expression, and not a particularly widely used one.  The United Kingdom of Great Britain came into existence in 1707 when the two states officially united.  Americans have continued to call the result  England to this day. Continue reading