Then Again





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Zosimus was a pagan historian. The rites referred to here are the public services for the Roman gods which had traditionally been held at public expense. Theodosius was emperor from 375-395.

Theodosius' success having reached this point, he journeyed to Rome and declared his son Honorius emperor. At the same time he made Stilicho [an able German] commander of the legions there and left him in charge as his son's guardian. Then he convened the Senate. The Senators had remained faithful to their long-standing ancestral rites and would not be moved to agree with those who condemned the gods. Theodosius delivered a speech to them in which he exhorted them to recant their "error" (as he called it) and to embrace the Christian faith because it promised forgiveness of every sin and every kind of impiety. None was persuaded by this harangue or was willing to give up the rites which had been passed on from generation to generation since the City's founding, in favor of an absurd belief. For, the Senators said, by preserving the former rites they had inhabited a city unconquered for almost 1,200 years, while they did not know what would happen if they exchanged these rituals for something different.

In turn Theodosius said that the treasury was burdened by the expense of the rites and the sacrifices; that he wanted to abolish them; that he did not approve of them and, furthermore, that military necessities called for additional funds. The Senators replied that the ceremonies could not be performed except at public expense. Nevertheless, a law abolishing them was laid down and, as others things which had been handed down from ancestral times lay neglected, the Empire of the Romans was gradually diminished and became a domicile of barbarians.

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