The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview

54 The Aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon: Zeno's Henotikon

The last decades of the fifth century were disturbed for the Roman empire in both east and west. In the west a succession of shortlived emperors, few of whom were recognized in the east, ended with all control passing into barbarian hands, first under Odoacer, then under his conqueror the Ostrogoth Theoderic. Theoderic's rule at Ravenna admirably restored order in Italy, but his independence of east Rome and positive determination to keep the Latin and Greek churches apart was resented by old Roman families and in 525 brought death to Boethius, his father-in-law Symmachus, and Pope John I. In the east the emperor Leo had trouble with Goths after he had murdered Aspar the senatorial leader and also his sons, which may presuppose that Aspar meditated making himself or a son emperor. Some anti-Arian legislation followed. Under Leo, Isokasios, philosopher and quaestor, was accused of paganism; after examination by the praetorian prefect he was forced to submit to baptism. Leo also legislated that Sunday be a day of rest undisturbed by music.


The Emperor Zeno the Isaurian 1

Leo was succeeded in 474 by a shortlived son and then by his personal favourite Zeno, an otherwise unpopular Isaurian. Zeno's power was precarious under attack from three quarters, namely Goths, a briefly successful usurper Basiliskos brother of his mother-in-law, and a fellow Isaurian named Illus, who was backing an alternative monarch.

Before becoming emperor Zeno had visited Antioch as a military commander and there discovered something of the ecclesiastical controversy. A former presbyter of Chalcedon, Peter the Fuller, came to Antioch and acquired a following of anti-Chalcedonian supporters, zealous for affirming in liturgy their faith in 'God crucified' (language painful to the ears of the emperor Marcian). Peter was the first to insert the (hitherto baptismal) creed in the eucharist (Theodorus the Reader, p. 118 Hansen). The old bishop of

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