In this chapter the chronological account continues through the Late Empire, but we have to go back in time to look at the background to some different groups of people who become important in the story of astrology in the later period. Here we encounter various Christian sects, but also Jews and other religious groups who came to be seen as heretics by the Church.
It was in 312 CE that the emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity. Thus began the process of Christianising the Roman Empire. While he made the Church his ally and diverted resources to it from the traditional religion, the continuing vitality of paganism is attested by the appearance of the pagan emperor Julian in 361, though his rule lasted only till 363.
The legal situation is revealed to us by the codification made under Theodosius in the late fourth century. The anti-pagan legislation of which the laws on divination were part was only sporadically enforced, and it was not until 407 CE that those simply practising pagan religion were pronounced to be breaking the law. However, the laws concerning divination were tougher than any previously in force. In 358 the long-standing connection of magic and divination apparent in earlier trials was formalised. Seen as essentially the same activity, they were one of the five major crimes, and therefore punishable by death. 1 Constantius was particularly concerned about those involved in his own entourage, and warned, in 358, that high rank would not save them from due punishment: