Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine

By Charles Norris Cochrane | Go to book overview

VIII
STATE AND CHURCH IN THE NEW REPUBLIC

WITH the accession of Valentinian, Romanitas entered upon the penultimate stage of its existence as an organized system of life. During this period the storms of religious and philosophic controversy which, under the sovereigns of the Constantinian dynasty, had blown with unremitting violence, at last subsided; and, in view of the increasing perils which encompassed the empire, the question arose whether, in their efforts to achieve a new world, the Romans were not in danger of losing all that was best of the old. In this atmosphere the native genius once more asserted itself in a characteristic effort of consolidation. Protected by nominal conformity to the demands of a Christian order, the ancient culture dug itself in; and, as the forms of secular life were fixed and hardened, the Roman world prepared for the last phase under Theodosius.

The defeat of Julian had been dramatically emphasized, not merely by his death on the plains of Mesopotamia but in the election of his successor. Attended though it was by the conventional pagan rites,1 the choice of the troops fell on a man who, by reason of his notorious adherence to the faith, was to be known in history as Christianissimus Imperator. An obscure and undistinguished figure, Jovian, for the greater part of his brief reign, appears to have governed in the name of his predecessor. Few as they were, however, his official acts suffice to indicate a sharp reaction from the principles and policy of Julian. As the readiest means of extricating the remains of the Roman grand army from a difficult, if not impossible situation, Jovian procured a safe retreat by ceding to the hereditary enemy the five provinces beyond the Tigris annexed in 297 by Diocletian together with eastern Mesopotamia, including the great fortresses of Nisibis and Singara, while, at the same time, he renounced the traditional Roman claim to a protectorate over Armenia. The judgement 'ignominious but inevitable', pronounced by Christian historians upon the hastily negotiated peace of Dura, was perhaps inspired by religious bias rather than by any serious consideration of the political and military factors involved. The verdict is nevertheless supported by the fact that

____________________
1
Amm. xxv. 6. 1: 'hostiis pro Ioviano extisque inspectis.'

-292-

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Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Part I- Reconstruction 1
  • II- Romanitas: Empire and Commonwealth 27
  • III- Roma Aeterna: the Apotheosis of Power 74
  • IV- Regnum Caesaris Regnum Diaboli 114
  • Part II 177
  • VI- Quid Athenae Hierosolymis? the Impasse Of Constantinianism 213
  • VIII- State and Church in the New Republic 292
  • Part III- Regeneration 359
  • XII- Divine Necessity and Human History 456
  • Index 517
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