Will the Real Innovator Please Stand Up?: Heretics, Pagans, Magicians and Theodosius I

AuthorNova Wood
PositionPhD candidate, Classics and Ancient History, University of Auckland
N W*
e development of the eld of Late Antiquity since the 1970s has yielded a
number of important changes in the way we think of the development from the
Classical period to the Middle Ages. Perhaps the greatest of these is the way we
think about religion and law. eodosius I’s edict in 380 in Codex eodosianus
(C) 16.1.2 declared Catholic Christianity to be the l egal religion of the Roman
Empire, giving it unparalleled privileges and dominance over non-Christian
groups and other Christian sects. e rapidity of Christianity’s ascension to
dominance is striking. is change in power becomes what many considered to
be the dening feature of the Middle Ages, and it greatly inuenced how power
was exercised and the legislative capacity of civil authorities. is article will
demonstrate that eodosius I’s declaration is not, however, as unexpected as
previously thought and has less to do with exclusivist Christianity than with the
legal preoccupation with enforcing uniformity. eodosius’ innovation, rather, is
in the tactic he uses to achieve this end.
e development of Late Antiquity as a eld has cast doubts on the
notion that the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and the rise of
Christianity were inexplicable inevitabilities and that modern Europe is a
direct descendent of classical antiquity, with only the “probate” Middle Ages
separating them.1 But scholarship on Late Antique Roman law and imperial
ideologies has shed light on the role of western medieval secula r and canon
1 Andrew Gil lett “Rome’s Fall and Europ e’s Rise: A View from Lat e Antiquity” (20 07)
07.10.12e Medieval Rev iew1.
* PhD candidate , Classics and Ancient Histor y, Un iversity of Auckl and. is article is base d
on a paper delivered at t he 2017 Australian a nd New Zeala nd Law and Histor y Society
Conference at the Unive rsity of Canterbury, Christc hurch, New Zealand.

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