Theodosius I, Roman Emperor

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Reigned 379 to 395, ended the Arian dispute and established Catholicism as the religion of the empire. Called from his native Spain after the Roman defeat at Adrianople in 378, he became the general and then imperial colleague of the Emperor Gratian. Through arms and diplomacy, he ended the Visigothic threat by 382. As emperor, he governed the East, intervening in the West in 388 to prevent Maximus from displacing Valentinian II. After Valentinian's death in 392, Theodosius reigned alone, with his sons arcadius and honorius as Augusti. In 394 he defeated the pagan pretender Eugenius in Italy.

Shortly after his baptism in 380, Theodosius, totally unsympathetic to arianism, ordered all Christians to profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria, i.e., the nicene creed. He deposed the Arian bishop Demophilus of Constantinople and installed gregory of nazianzus. In 381 he forbade heretics to meet within cities and ordered all church buildings returned to Catholics. He then sought ecclesiastical support for his position, summoning in 381 the Council of constantinople i, which finally abolished Arian claims. The acts of the council were ratified by Theodosius, who also published a decree establishing the orthodox Christian faith. Subsequently, Theodosius summoned the leaders of various heretical groups to colloquies, hoping to convert them. When his efforts failed, he promulgated laws in 383 and 384 renewing and strengthening measures against heretics.

Theodosius then outlawed paganism, proceeding by administrative measures as well as edicts. In 385 he renewed the prohibition of bloody sacrifices; in 391 he forbade all pagan ceremonies in Rome and extended the prohibition to Egypt; in 392, in the most comprehensive and precise terms, he outlawed every form of pagan worship, public and private, throughout the empire.

Although Theodosius acted according to the prevailing theory that the state enjoyed extensive prerogatives in regulating ecclesiastical affairs, his relations with St. ambrose of Milan show a willingness to recognize limitations. In 388 he accepted public humiliation at the hands of Ambrose and revoked an order for the Christians of Callinicum to restore Jewish property they had unjustly destroyed. Two years later, Ambrose apparently excommunicated Theodosius because of a massacre at Salonika. The Emperor resisted the bishop's claim to interfere, but finally accepted Ambrose's dictum that even in political matters the emperor was subject to the Church's moral judgments.

Bibliography: h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou (Paris 190753) 15:226571. e. stein, Histoire du Bas-Empire, tr. j. r. palanque, 2 v. in 3 (Paris 194959). n. q. king, The Emperor Theodosius and the Establishment of Christianity (Philadelphia 1960).

[r. h. schmandt]

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Theodosius I, Roman Emperor

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