Monday, January 11, 2010

Birthday of A Great Roman Emperor

Today is the birthday (in 347 AD) of Emperor Theodosius the Great of Rome. He was one of the greatest monarchs of the late Roman Empire, the last to rule both east and west and is known for the final abolition of paganism and making Rome an officially Christian empire. For a refresher on this great monarch, I refer you back to his Monarch Profile: Theodosius the Great.


  1. What about including more of the Roman Emperors prior to Constantine's deathbed conversion?

    I think there some good ones who have been
    overlooked by the average historian.

    Hollywood ridiculously overdid things by depicting every Roman Emperor of movies made to the point of caricature as a dissolute, mentally ill and vicious figure.

    I see a need to balance out with truth the apparent urge to justify early Christians at the expense of their perceived enemies, the Roman pagan leaders.

    In fact I believe firmly that much of that persecution of early Christians was way over-inflated to encourage adherents to the new faith to feel so important that they must be the primary targets of the imperial regime!

    To be fair, we need to weigh out facts carefully. Not to automatically agree with the propagandistic accounts of historians often incorporating their own biases, or writing from unreliable earlier sources. Anyone who would identify as a Christian was the hero and the good guy. Whereas Romans - with only one exception, Marcus Aurelius - were never anything but decadent and cruel.

    This is ridiculous: there were other conscientious and talented leaders among the Roman Emperors in other ways, too. For example, Septimius Severus [lived April 11, 145 - February 4, 211]. The rare family man among heads of empires, a good general [unlike Marcus Aurelius] and a strong leader called one of Rome's ablest by authoritative scholars of the ages.

    I feel the ancient pagans [not the kind touting themselves as that today!] were far more tolerant of Christians than they have been ever given credit for!

    It was in fact more often the Christian kingdoms, such as the Byzantine empire, which evinced sharp intolerance. For example, Roman Catholics were so blanketly hated that the sentiment in 15th c. Constantinople ran: "Better [to be ruled by] the Turkish turban than the Latin miter". [The meaning of the latter is the Pope of Rome.]

  2. I would hope to, hard for me to be too optimistic right now while I'm enduring computer-purgatory, and on the whole I would agree with you. The Romans were actually among the most tolerant of all ancient civilizations and even the Christians recognized some of the pagan Emperors as great and benevolent rulers. I wrote a piece once, probably long gone now, about the Roman Emperors, the Popes and early Christianity and many were surprised when I pointed out that, for most of his reign anyway, the usually celebrated Marcus Aurelius was very intolerant of Christianity where as his son, the hated Commodus, was not.

    The trouble with the Roman emperors is that we have so little info on them and what we do have is usually extremely biased and comes from the senatorial class that saw almost all emperors as horrible, depraved tyrants who stood in their path to greater power.

    I have also found, just in my own reading and it's only my opinion, that many of the pagan Roman Emperors were not as virulently anti-Christian as they are often portrayed simply because they didn't view the religion as terribly important or worth bothering with. In most cases, early on, they had bigger fish to fry as it were than dealing with the Christian minority.

    Some while back, inspired by my "Emperor's Library" I had planned to do at least a special series on 7 of the Roman emperors (all of them pre-Constantine) and the aforementioned Septimus Severus was one of them. Now, since all my notes & picture archive etc have gone to computer limbo I don't know if or when I will be able to get back to that, though I would still like to at some point (as with all subjects I may need reminding). I might be able to send my machine to see some experts tomorrow but I'm finding it harder to hold out much hope of recovering anything at this point.

  3. Sorry about the disaster, that was a very amusing picture with the flames though!
    [By the way, the Orthodox have an Icon of Our Lady called the Burning Bush, which I always try to put near any dangerous places like furnaces, stoves, etc. where anything can possibly burn - now I see that includes computer circuits! Maybe for your next computer... Also putting a Miraculous Medal over that annoying looking Start button helps tremendously. I drape a Blue Scapular around that and another one over the mouse port.
    If this is not enough ! - I paste stickers [from] of Archangel Michael over the unhealthy LED lights and perhaps the camera eye, which could feel spiritually invasive staring at one.

    Just now I changed that to a large Sacred Heart sticker - much more elevating and peaceful to have the flames of THAT Heart overseeing you as you type!]

    What a nightmare and a huge loss that your data got ruined!
    I didn't post comments for awhile thinking to let you get back organized.

    I'm so glad, though, that you agree about the Roman Emperors. When time permits, I believe some serious adjustment should be made of the decent ones' images! You're exactly right about the snippy Senators, like Dio, whose own point of view prejudices his history of Rome.

    I always list in my prayers the request that more true and fair sources will be dredged up due to an angel tapping the right person on the shoulder at the right time for many of these reigns.
    Yes, Commodus, though temperamental, was surprisingly agreeable to pressure from his chief concubine, Marcia, one of imperial Rome's most dramatic women, to let the Christians out of the salt mines. He didn't care one way or the other, and as you vocalized well, the Christians were about the lowest on the imperial agenda!
    Unfortunately I see that delusions of grandeur made them inflate their importance to the point that they were constantly under siege by wicked Emperors.
    Perhaps wicked rural officials DID persecute to some degree. But this would be more for personal vendetta than a concerted policy from the top.
    Plus early Christians had too much arrogance in some ways and were not really liked well.
    They could have handled their own PR a lot better, and few or no martyrdoms would have resulted. But nobody wants to admit that - one gets more attention if a victim of relentless persecution...Of course, those who suffered were very brave and deserve praise.
    But to sort out the wheat from the chaff in such distant times is very needed.

    Glad you had the very good taste to choose Septimius Severus! He didn't think much of Senators and put much more trust in the Army, so that he actually got amazing achievements accomplished.
    This Emperor was more obscure until Anthony Birley's recent book, which is only mildly interesting for the general reader.
    Greek and Roman Scholar Michael Grant wrote an excellent and readable summary of the Severan Dynasty. The bottom line is that it takes a lot of deep work to separate out gossip from truth in every earlier account, so I don't blame you for putting such a project of the 7 Emperors off. But it's fascinating to get to the real truth and get rid of those historical cobwebs.


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