Christianity

The Milan Edict. June 13, 313.

Ever since the fall of the Severan dynasty in 235 AD, rivals for the imperial throne had bid for support by either favouring or persecuting Christians. The previous Edict of Toleration by Galerius had been recently issued by the emperor Galerius from Serdica and was posted at Nicomedia on 30 April 311. By its provisions, the Christians, who had “followed such a caprice and had fallen into such a folly that they would not obey the institutes of antiquity”, were granted an indulgence. Wherefore, for this our indulgence, they ought to pray to their God for our safety, for that of the republic, and for their own, that the commonwealth may continue uninjured on every side, and that they may be able to live securely in their homes. Their confiscated property, however, was not restore...

The Dome Collapses. May 7, 558.

On 23 February 532, only a few weeks after the destruction of the second basilica, Emperor Justinian I decided to build a third and entirely different basilica, larger and more majestic than its predecessors, built by Constantius II and Theodosius II. Justinian chose physicist Isidore of Miletus and mathematician Anthemius of Tralles as architects; Anthemius, however, died within the first year of the endeavor. The construction is described in the Byzantine historian Procopius’ On Buildings (Peri ktismatōn, Latin: De aedificiis). Columns and other marbles were brought from all over the empire, throughout the Mediterranean. Even though they were made specifically for Hagia Sophia, the columns show variations in size. More than ten thousand people were employed. This new church was con...

The University of Constantinople. February 27, 425 AD.

Byzantine society was generally a quite educated one. Primary education was widely available, sometimes even at village level and uniquely in that era for both sexes. Female participation in culture was high and scholarship was fostered not only in Constantinople but also in institutions operated in such major cities as Antioch and Alexandria. Aelia Eudocia, Theodosius´ wife, had been raised and educated in traditional and classical sophist education from Athens, but her goal was to blend classical pagan education with Christianity. This was her way of using her power as Empress to honor teachers and education, something that was very important to her in her life. The original school was founded in 425 by Emperor Theodosius II at the urging of his wife Eudocia, with 31 chairs for law, phil...

Emperor Diocletian and the Tetrarchy. November 20, 284 AD.

After his rise through the ranks of military until he became the Roman Cavalry Commander to Emperor Carus, when Carus and his son Numerian died on campaign in Persia, Diocletian became emperor on November 20, 284. Of course, Carus surviving son, Carinus also claimed the title, but was defeated in the battle of Margus.  Diocletian´s rule put an end to the Crisis of the Third Century. Diocletian named his fellow officer Maximian co-emperor,  Augustus, in 286. Afterwards, in 293, he named caesars Galerius and Constantius, or heirs of the augustus title. This new regime was called the Tetrarchy, or “government of four”, and it meant the geographical division of the empire into four parts. Diocletian lead military campaigns against Sarmatians, Carpi, Alemanii, and the usurpers in Egypt, securin...

The Battle of the Milvian Brigde. October 28, 312 AD.

The Battle of the Milvian Bridge took place between the Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius on October 28, 312. It takes its name from the Milvian Bridge, an important route over the Tiber river. Constantine won the battle and started on the path that led him to end the Tetrarchy and become the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Maxentius drowned in the Tiber during the battle; his body was later taken from the river and decapitated, and his head was paraded through the streets of Rome on the day following the battle. According to chroniclers, the battle marked the beginning of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. Eusebius of Caesarea recounts that Constantine and his soldiers had a vision sent by the Christian God.

Christian Persecution – February 23, 303 AD

February 23, 303, saw the celebration of Terminalia in the Roman Empire – the day pagans boasted they would put an end to Christianity. During this festival, because of the encouragement of Galerius Caesar, the emperor Diocletian issued an edict ordering the destruction of the newly built Christian church in Nicomedia. The city prefect went to the church with many officers and assistants and forced open the doors, removed all of the sacred books and burned them, confiscated the treasury, then leveled the building itself, all while Diocletian and Galerius observed. Following this, a general edict was issued for the entire empire, commanding the destruction of all Christian churches and texts, along with naming all Christians as outlaws. In Nicomedia, all Christians were being rounded up and...

Io Saturnalia – December 17-23

Although initially, the feast of Saturnalia began on December 17 in ancient Roman times, it was later expanded run to December 23. The Roman god, Saturn, presided over several aspects of life, including agriculture, wealth, liberation and time. As such, his festival period was a time to exchange gifts and engage in social activities otherwise not acceptable. Slaves were allowed to reverse roles with their masters during feasting and were allowed free speech. The traditional Roman toga was replaced with brightly-colored Greek synthesis, or cenatoria (dinner wear). Citizens and slaves alike were allowed to wear the pileus, as opposed to the bare-headed norm. During the festivities, gambling and playing dice was permitted by everyone. It was a time of over-eating and over-drinking. Horace wro...

Jovian Elevated – October 22, 363 AD

Upon the death of Julian II, in battle near Phrygia against the Persians around June 26, 363, the position of ruling the Roman Empire suddenly became available. The armies offered to elevate Saturninus Secundus Salutius, a praetorian prefect, but he declined because of his age. Next in line was Flavius Jovianus, the militarily accomplished son of General Varronianus. Jovian accepted and shortly thereafter signed an unfavorable treaty of peace with the Sassanian King, Shapur II, to get the beleaguered and starving Roman army back into friendly territory. This retreat cost the Romans all of their territory east of the Tigris River, part of Armenia, and the cities of Nisibis and Singara in Mesopotamia – all territories won under Septimius Severus and Galerius. Julian II is often referred to a...

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