Dedicated to the military history and civilization of the Eastern Roman Empire (330 to 1453)

"Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity."

- - - - Princess Anna Comnena (1083–1153) - Byzantine historian

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Roman Suppression of Paganism

The Pagans were right about the Christians
  • Once in power the Christians of the Roman Empire did everything possible to prevent freedom of religion with persecutions of their fellow Christians, Jews and Pagans of all types.

Yes, the Pagans were right.  Christianity was a threat to to the Empire.

Freedom of Religion  -  Considering 2,000 years of Christian propaganda, as strange as it may sound, the Roman Empire mostly practiced freedom of religion.

As we all know Rome ruled over an enormous Empire from Scotland to the Pillars of Hercules to Persia.  The Empire consisted of hundreds and hundreds of languages, races, tribes, ethnic groups and religions.  As long as the locals paid their taxes and did not present a political threat to the Empire their local religions and customs were pretty much ignored.

But Christians believed they were the "True Faith".  As true believers tolerating other faiths was not high on their list.  The Romans rightly felt Christians wanted to undermine the government and persecutions of Christians occurred.
Mars - the Roman god of war.
 Mars was also an agricultural guardian. He
was second in importance only to Jupiter,
and he was the most prominent of the
military gods worshipped by the
Roman legions.

With the adoption of Christianity by Constantine I, heresy had become a political issue in the late Roman empire. Adherents of unconventional Christian beliefs not covered by the Nicene Creed like Novatianism and Gnosticism were banned from holding meetings, but the Roman emperor intervened especially in the conflict between orthodox and Arian Christianity, which resulted in the burning of Arian books

The persecution of pagans by the Christian Roman Empire began late in the reign of Constantine the Great, when he ordered the pillaging and the tearing down of some temples.

The first anti-Pagan laws by the Christian state started with Constantine's son Constantius II, who was an unwavering opponent of paganism.  He ordered the closing of all pagan temples, forbade Pagan sacrifices under pain of death, and removed the traditional Altar of Victory from the Senate. Under his reign ordinary Christians started vandalizing many of the ancient Pagan temples, tombs and monuments.

From 361 till 375, Paganism was relatively tolerated, until three Emperors, Gratian, Valentinian II and Theodosius I, under Bishop of Milan Saint Ambrose's influence, reinstituted and escalated the persecution.

Under pressure from the zealous Ambrose, Theodosius issued the infamous 391 "Theodosian decrees," a declaration of war on paganism, the Altar of Victory was removed again by Gratian, the Vestal Virgins were disbanded, and access to Pagan temples was prohibited.

In 382, Emperor Gratian appropriated the income of the Pagan priests and Vestal Virgins, confiscated the possessions of the priestly colleges and ordered the Altar of Victory removed again. The colleges of Pagan priests also lost all their privileges and immunities. Gratian declared that all of the Pagan temples and shrines were to be confiscated by the government and that their revenues were to be joined to the property of the royal treasury.

In the year 391, Emperor Valentinian II issued a law that not only prohibited sacrifices but also forbade anyone from visiting the temples. This again caused turbulence in the West. Valentinian II quickly followed this law with a second one, which declared that Pagan temples were to be closed, a law that was viewed as practically outlawing Paganism.

Worship in Rome (HBO) 

Neptune - the Roman god of water and the sea.
He is the counterpart of the Greek god Poseidon. Neptune was the brother of Jupiter and Pluto, each of them presiding over one of the three realms of Heaven, Earth and the Underworld.

The Christian persecution of paganism under Theodosius I began in 381, after the first couple of years his reign in the Eastern Roman Empire. In the 380s, Theodosius I reiterated Constantine's ban on Pagan sacrifice, prohibited haruspicy on pain of death, pioneered the criminalization of Magistrates who did not enforce anti-Pagan laws, broke up some pagan associations and destroyed Pagan temples.

Between 389-391 he emanated the infamous "Theodosian decrees," which established a practical ban on paganism; visits to the temples were forbidden, remaining Pagan holidays abolished, the eternal fire in the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum extinguished, the Vestal Virgins disbanded, auspices and witchcraft punished. Theodosian refused to restore the Altar of Victory in the Senate House when asked to do so by Pagan Senators.

In 392 he became emperor of the whole empire (the last to do so). From this moment till the end of his reign in 395, while Pagans remained outspoken in their demands for toleration, he authorized or participated in the killing of pagan priests, destruction of many temples, holy sites, images and objects of reverence throughout the empire and participated in actions by Christians against major Pagan sites. He likely suppressed the Ancient Olympic Games; the last record of the Olympics being celebrated in ancient Rome is from 393.

Temple of Isis  -  Pompeii
Image from Ancientvine.com - Temple of Isis.

Persecution in the Eastern Roman Empire

Theodosius II anti-Pagan laws since 425

Theodosius II enacted two anti-Pagan laws in the year 425. The first of these stipulated that all Pagan superstition was to be rooted out. The second law barred Pagans from pleading a case in court and also disqualified them from serving as soldiers. Theodosius II then left Valentinian III to rule the west and returned to Constantinople.

The numerous laws against Pagans seems to have had only limited immediate effect in stamping out the old religion. Many people simply conformed outwardly and pretended to become Christian while secretly continuing to practice their beliefs. The numerous laws against apostasy, that had been continuously promulgated since the time of Gratian and Theodosius, is evidence that the emperors were having a hard time even keeping Christians from going astray.

Bust of Germanicus defaced by
Christians with a cross on the head.

In the year 426, Theodosius II made it illegal for Christian apostates to convert to the old religion, and against those who pretended to become Christian but continued to perform Pagan sacrifices. He found it necessary to reiterate his prohibition of Pagan rites and sacrifices in 435, this time increasing the penalty to death.

This law also ordered that all Pagan shrines, temples and sanctuaries that still existed were to be destroyed by the magistrates. Magistrates who failed to carry out this order were ordered to be punished with death. In 438 Theodosius legislated again, forbidding Pagan sacrifice once more.

Theodosius seems to admit that Pagan sacrifices were still seemingly being openly celebrated in places.

It reads:
Hence our clemency perceives the need of keeping watch over the Pagans and their heathen enormities, since by natural depravity and stubborn lawlessness, they forsake the path of true religion. They disdain in any way to perform the nefarious rites of sacrifice and the false errors of their baleful superstition by some means or other in the hidden solitudes, unless their crimes are made public by the profession of their crimes to insult divine majesty and to show scorn to our age. Not the thousand terrors of laws already promulgated nor the penalty of exile pronounced upon them deter these men, whereby, if they cannot reform, at least they might learn to abstain from their mass of their crimes and the multitude of their sacrifices. But their insane audacity transgresses continually; our patience is exhausted by their wicked behavior so that if we desired to forget them, we could not disregard them.

Anti-Pagan laws by Marcian (450-457)

The continued vitality of pagans led Marcian, who became emperor of the east in 450 upon the death of Theodosius II, to repeat earlier prohibitions against Pagan rites. Marcian decreed, in the year 451, that those who continued to perform the Pagan rites would suffer the confiscation of their property and be condemned to death.

Marcian also prohibited any attempt to re-open the temples and ordered that they were to remain closed. In addition to this, in order to encourage strict enforcement of the law a fine of fifty pounds of gold was imposed on any judge or governor, as well as the officials under him, who did not enforce this law. However, not even this act by Marcian had the desired effect, as his successor Leo I the Thracian will have to issue a new anti-Pagan law in 472.

Two more laws against Paganism, which may be from this period, are preserved in the Justinian Code. After the deposition of Avitus, who ruled as emperor of the West from 455 to 456, there seems to have been a conspiracy among the Roman nobles to place the Pagan general Marcellinus on the throne to restore Paganism; but it came to nothing.

Temple of Bacchus  -  Lebanon
The Baalbeck’s temples were built around the first millennium B.C. The enclosed court was built on the ancient tell. The more accurate history of Baalbeck first begins during the Hellenistic period (333-64 B.C.). The Greeks identified the god of Baalbeck with the sun god and enlarged the court. The temple was begun in the last quarter of the first century B.C., and was nearing completion in the last years of Nero’s reign. The Great Court Complex of the Temple of Jupiter was built in the second century A.D. The other addendum courts to the Jupiter Temple were added in the third century.
Antoninus Pius (138-161) built the Temple of Bacchus, the best preserved of the sanctuary's structures, for it was protected by the rubble of the site's ruins. It is enriched with refined reliefs and sculpture. Septimius Severus (193-211) added a pentagonal temple of Venus, who as Aphrodite had enjoyed an early Syrian role with her consort Adonis ("Lord", the Aramaic translation of "Baal."). Emperor Philip the Arab (244–249) was the last to add a monument at Heliopolis: the hexagonal forecourt. When he was finished Heliopolis and Praeneste in Italy were the two largest sanctuaries in the Western world.
     The Baalbeck temples were closed in 313 A.D. by order of the Emperor Constantine.

Attempted Pagan revival by Anthemius

Anthemius, one of the last Roman emperors of the West who ruled from 467 to 472, seems to have planned a Pagan revival at Rome. He was a descendant of Procopius, the relative of Julian.

Anthemius gave Messius Phoebus Severus, a Pagan philosopher who was a close friend of his, the important offices of Praefectus urbi of Rome, Consul and Patrician. Anthemius placed the image of Hercules, in the act of vanquishing the Nemean lion, on his coins. The murder of Anthemius (by Ricimer) destroyed the hopes of those Pagans who believed that the traditional rites would now be restored.

Emperor Leo I
A loving "Christian", Leo ordered the
torture of Pagans and sent them to
work in the mines for life.

In 472 Leo I published a new law in 472 which imposed severe penalties for the owner of any property who was aware that Pagan rites were performed on his property. If the property owner was of high rank he was punished by the loss of his rank or office and by the confiscation of his property. If the property owner was of lower status he would be physically tortured and then condemned to labor in the mines for the rest of his life.

Shortly thereafter, in 476, the last emperor of Rome, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by Odoacer, who became the first "barbarian" king of Italy. In spite of this disaster, the Pagans made one last attempt to revive the Pagan rites.

In 484, the Magister militum per Orientem, Illus, revolted against Eastern Emperor Zeno and raised his own candidate, Leontius, to the throne. Leontius hoped to reopen the temples and restore the ancient ceremonies; as such, many Pagans joined in his revolt against Zeno. Illus and Leontius were compelled, however, to flee to a remote Isaurian fortress, where Zeno besieged them for four years. Zeno finally captured them in 488 and promptly had them executed.

Following the revolt, Zeno instituted a harsh persecution of Pagan intellectuals. With the failure of the revolt of Leontius, some Pagans became disillusioned and many became Christian, or pretended to do so, in order to avoid persecution. The subjugation of the Roman Empire to Christianity became complete when the emperor Anastasius I, who came to the throne in 491, was required to sign a written declaration of orthodoxy before his coronation.

The Suppression of Paganism under Justinian

From  -  History of the Later Roman Empire
by J. B. Bury

We saw in a former chapter how throughout the fifth century the severe laws against paganism were not very strictly enforced. So long as there was no open scandal, men could still believe in the old religions and disseminate anti-Christian doctrine.

This comparatively tolerant attitude of the State terminated with the accession of Justinian, who had firmly resolved to realise the conception of an empire in which there should be no differences of religious opinion. Paganism was already dying slowly, and it seemed no difficult task to extinguish it entirely. There were two distinct forms in which it survived. In a few outlying places, and in some wild districts where the work of conversion had been imperfectly done, the population still indulged with impunity in heathen practices. To suppress these was a matter of administration, reinforced by missionary zeal; no new laws were required.

A more serious problem was presented by the Hellenism which prevailed widely enough among the educated classes, and consequently in the State-service itself. To cope with this Justinian saw that there was need not only of new administrative rigour, but of new legislation. He saw that Hellenism was kept alive by pagan instructors of youth, especially in teaching establishments which had preserved the Greek tradition of education. If the evil thing was to be eradicated, he must strike at these.
Emperor Justinian
Showing true Christian charity, Justinian
murdered and stole the property of Jews,
Christians and Pagans alike.

Not long after his accession, he reaffirmed the penalties which previous Emperors had enacted against the pagans, and forbade all donations or legacies for the purpose of maintaining "Hellenic impiety," while in the same constitution he enjoined upon all the civil authorities and the bishops, in Constantinople and in the provinces, to inquire into cases of pagan superstition. This law was soon followed by another which made it illegal for any persons "infected with the madness of the unholy Hellenes" to teach any subject, and thereby under the pretext of education corrupt the souls of their pupils.

The persecution began with an inquisition at Constantinople. Many persons of the highest position were accused and condemned. Their property was confiscated, and some may have been put to death; one committed suicide. Among those who were involved were Thomas the Quaestor and Phocas, son of Craterus. But Phocas, a patrician of whose estimable character we have a portrait drawn by a contemporary, was speedily pardoned, for, as we saw, he was appointed Praetorian Prefect of the East after the Nika riot.

Some of the accused escaped by pretending to embrace the Christian faith, but we are told that "not long afterwards they were convicted of offering libations and sacrifices and other unholy practices." There was, in fact, a second inquisition in A.D. 546. On this occasion a heretic was set to catch the pagan. Through the zeal of John of Ephesus, a Monophysite, who was head of a Syrian monastery in the suburb of Sycae, a large number of senators, "with a crowd of grammarians, sophists, lawyers, and physicians," were denounced, not without the use of torture, and suffered whippings and imprisonment.

Then "they were given to the churches to be instructed in the Christian faith." One name is mentioned: Phocas, a rich and powerful patrician, who, knowing that he had been denounced, took poison. The Emperor ordered that he should be buried like an ass without any rites. We may suspect that this was the same Phocas, son of Craterus, who had been involved in the earlier inquest and knew that death would be the penalty of his relapse. There was yet another pagan scandal in the capital in A.D. 559; the condemned were exposed to popular derision in a mock procession and their books publicly burned.

It may be considered certain that in all cases the condemned were found guilty of actual heathen practices, for instance of sacrificing or pouring libations in their private houses, on the altars of pagan deities. Men could still cling to pagan beliefs, provided they did not express their faith in any overt act. There were many distinguished people of this kind in the highest circles at Constantinople, many lawyers and literary men, whose infidelity was well known and tolerated.

The Pagan Athenian University
The edicts of Justinian sounded the doom of the Athenian schools, which had a continuous tradition since the days of Plato and Aristotle.   The property of the schools was confiscated and their means of livelihood withdrawn.  Seeking protection from persecution, the teachers fled to the Persian Empire.  

The great jurist Tribonian, who was in high favour with the Emperor, was an eminent example. He seems to have made no pretence at disguising his opinions, but others feigned to conform to the State religion. We are told that John the Cappadocian used sometimes to go to church at night, but he went dressed in a rough cloak like an old pagan priest, and instead of behaving as a Christian worshipper he used to mumble impious words the whole night.

It can hardly be doubted that by making the profession of orthodoxy a necessary condition for public teaching Justinian accelerated the extinction of "Hellenism." Pagan traditions and a pagan atmosphere were still maintained, not only in the schools of philosophy, but in the schools of law, not only at Athens, but at Alexandria, Gaza, and elsewhere. The suppression of all law schools, except those of Constantinople and Berytus, though not intended for this purpose, must have affected the interests of paganism.

But philosophical teaching was the great danger, and Athens was the most notorious home of uncompromising Hellenists. After the death of Proclus (A.D. 485) the Athenian university declined, but there were teachers of considerable metaphysical ability, such as Simplicius and Damascius, the last scholarch, whose attainments can still be judged by their works.

The edicts of Justinian sounded the doom of the Athenian schools, which had a continuous tradition since the days of Plato and Aristotle. We do not know exactly what happened in A.D.

Temple of Zeus Ammon  -  Egypt
Justinian ended Pagan worship at the Temple by force and
built a church at the site.
Alexander the Great traveled through the desert of Egypt to the
oracle at the temple of Zeus Ammon.  While traveling, there was a
lot of rain and Alexander took this as a good sign. He was also
led to the temple by ravens. Once at the temple, the oracles told
Alexander that he was in fact the son of Zeus and that he
was destined to rule the world.

We may suppose that the teachers were warned that unless they were baptized and publicly embraced Christianity, they would no longer be permitted to teach; and that when they refused, the property of the schools was confiscated and their means of livelihood withdrawn.

This event had a curious sequel. Some of the philosophers whose occupation was gone resolved to cast the dust of the Christian Empire from their feet and migrate to Persia. Of these the most illustrious were Damascius, the last scholarch of the Academy, Simplicius, and Priscian. The names of four others are mentioned, but we do not know whether they had taught at Athens or at some other seat of learning.

These men had heard that king Chosroes was interested in philosophy, and they hoped, protected by his favour and supported by his generosity, to end their days in a more enlightened country than their own. But they were disappointed. Chosroes was flattered by their arrival and begged them to remain. But they soon found the strange conditions of life intolerable. They fell homesick, and felt that they would prefer death on Roman soil to the highest honours the Persian could confer. And so they returned.

But the king did them a great service. In his treaty with Justinian in A.D. 532 he stipulated that they should not be molested or forced to embrace the Christian faith. We are told that they lived comfortably for the rest of their lives, and we know that Simplicius was still writing philosophical works in the later years of Justinian.

In western Asia Minor, in the provinces of Asia, Phrygia, Lydia, and Caria, there was still a considerable survival of pagan cults, not only in the country regions, but in some of the towns, for instance in Tralles. In A.D. 542 John of Ephesus, the Monophysite whose activity in hunting down the Hellenes at Constantinople has already been noticed, was sent as a missionary to these provinces to convert the heathen and to put an end to idolatrous practices.

He tells us in his Ecclesiastical History that he converted 70,000 souls. The temples were destroyed; 96 churches and 12 monasteries were founded. Justinian paid for the baptismal vestments of the converts and gave each a small sum of money (about 4s.).

In Egypt, in the oasis of Augila, the temple dedicated to Zeus Ammon and Alexander the Great still stood, and sacrifices were still offered. Justinian put an end to this worship and built a church to the Mother of God. At Philae the cult of Osiris and Isis had been permitted to continue undisturbed. This toleration was chiefly due to the fact that the Blemyes and Nobadae, the southern neighbours of Egypt, had a vested interest in the temples by virtue of a treaty which they had made with Diocletian.

Every year they came down the river to worship Isis in the island of Elephantine; and at fixed times the image of the goddess was brought back to the temple. Justinian would tolerate this indulgence no longer. Early in his reign he sent Narses the Persarmenian to destroy the sanctuaries. The priests were arrested and the divine images sent to Constantinople. Much about the same time the Christian conversion of the Nobadae and Blemyes began.

Justinian was undoubtedly successful in hastening the disappearance of open heathen practices and in suppressing anti-Christian philosophy. Although in some places, like Heliopolis, paganism may have survived for another generation, and although there were inquisitions under his immediate successors, it may be said that by the close of the sixth century the old faiths were virtually extinct throughout the Empire.

(History of the Later Roman Empire by J.B. Bury)        (Religion in ancient Rome)

(Persecution of pagans by the Christian Roman Empire)

(History of persecutions by Christians)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hippo Regius - From Carthage & Rome to Islam

Birthplace of Augustine: the site of Hippo Regius in north-east Algeria.

Hippo Regius  -  North Africa
  • City of the Roman Empire from 146 BC to 431 AD.
  • City of the Eastern Roman Empire from 534 AD to 700 AD.

Hippo Regius (Hippone) is the ancient name of the modern city of Annaba, in Algeria. Under this name, it was a major city in Roman Africa, hosting several early Christian councils, and was the home of the philosopher and theologian Augustine of Hippo. In even earlier days, the city was a royal residence for Numidian kings.

Hippo was a Tyrian colony on the west coast of the bay to which it gave its name: Hipponensis Sinus, first settled by the Phoenicians probably in the 12th century BC; the surname Regius 'of the King' was bestowed on it as one of the places where the Numidian kings resided.

Hippo Regius was part of the Roman province of Africa which was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War about 146BC.

The land acquired for the province of Africa was the site of the ancient city of Carthage. Other large cities in the region included Hadrumetum, capital of Byzacena, Hippo Regius.

Rome established its first African colony, Africa Proconsularis or Africa Vetus (Old Africa), governed by a proconsul, in the most fertile part of what was formerly Carthaginian territory. Utica was formed as the administrative capital.

A maritime city near the mouth of the river Ubus, it became a Roman colonia which prospered and became a major city in Roman Africa. It is perhaps most famous as the bishopric of Saint Augustine of Hippo in his later years.

Modern Annaba in Algeria was called Hippo Regius during Roman and Byzantine times.  The city was probably founded by the Phoenicians in the 12th century BC. It was a center of early Western Christianity and was the site of many Christian synods.

Algeria in HD - Roman ruins المدينة الاثرية بتيبازة 5 

Hippo Regius Roman Ruins and the sea

Hippo Regius

Basicallia, Hippo Regius

Advancing eastwards along the North African coast, the Vandals laid siege to the walled city of Hippo Regius in 430.

Inside, Saint Augustine and his priests prayed for relief from the invaders, knowing full well that the fall of the city would spell conversion or death for many Roman Christians. On 28 August 430, three months into the siege, St. Augustine (who was 75 years old) died, perhaps from starvation or stress, as the wheat fields outside the city lay dormant and unharvested. Augustine died 28 August, 430.

After 14 months, hunger and the inevitable diseases were ravaging both the city inhabitants and the Vandals outside the city walls. The city fell to the Vandals and King Geiseric made it the capital of the Vandal kingdom until the capture of Carthage in 439.

In the Vandalic War (533 - 534) North Africa was re-conquered from the Vandal Kingdom by the Roman Army of Belisarius sent by Emperor Justinian. Once the Vandals were defeated, Roman troops moved across North Africa taking control of old Roman cities such as Hippo Regius.

6th Century
Eastern Roman Infantry Officer

In April 534, the old Roman provincial system along with the full apparatus of Roman administration was restored, under a praetorian prefect.

During the following years, under Solomon, who combined the offices of both magister militum and praetorian prefect of Africa, Roman rule in Africa was strengthened, but fighting continued against the Moorish tribes (Mauri) of the interior.

It was conquered by the Eastern Roman Empire in 534 and was kept under Byzantine rule until 698, when it fell to the Muslims; the Arabs rebuilt the town in the eighth century. The city's later history was under its modern name.

Northwestern Africa, along with Sardinia, Corsica and the Balearics were reorganized as the Praetorian prefecture of Africa by Justinian I. It included the provinces of Africa Proconsularis, Byzacena, Tripolitania, Numidia, Mauretania Caesariensis and Mauretania Sitifensis, and was centered at Carthage.

In the 560s, a Roman expedition succeeded in regaining parts of southern Spain, which were administrated as the new province of Spania. After the death of Justinian, the Empire came into increasing attacks on all fronts, and the remoter provinces were often left to themselves to cope as best as they could, with Constantinople unable to provide assistance.

The Visigothic kingdom in Spain was a continuous threat. The African exarch was in possession of Mauretania II, which was little more than a tiny outpost in southern Spain. The conflict continued until the final conquest of the last Spanish strongholds in c. 624 by the Visigoths. The Byzantines retained only the fort of Septum (modern Ceuta), across Gibraltar.

The Romans continued to rule Hippo Regius and the other Roman cities that dotted the North African coast from Morocco to Libya.

In 647 Muslim armies made their first attack into Roman Tripolitania.  The Roman armies hotly resisted the Muslim advances over the next 50+ years.  But slowly ground was permanently lost.

With the final fall of Carthage in 698 the Arabs captured all the remaining Roman cities on their march into Morocco.  Hippo Regius was no more.  It was re-founded as the Arab city of Annaba.

Carthage  -  After multiple battles between Romans and Arabs, Carthage permanently fell to Islam.  Arab troops then moved along the coast capturing Hippo Regius and all the other Roman towns in North Africa.

St. Augustine

Ecclesiastical History

Hippo was an ancient bishopric and still is the name of a Catholic titular see in the former Roman province of Numidia, since French colonial rule a part of the residential see of Constantine. It contains some ancient ruins, a hospital built by the Little Sisters of the Poor, and a fine basilica dedicated to St. Augustine.

We know seven bishops of Hippo, among them Saints Theogenes and Fidentius, martyrs, St. Leontius Valerius, who ordained St. Augustine, and the great "Doctor of Grace", Augustine himself (354-28 August, 430). Under St. Augustine there were at least three monasteries in the diocese besides the episcopal monastery.

Three councils were held at Hippo (393, 394, 426) and more synods - also in 397 (two sessions), June and September and 401, all under Aurelius.

The synods of the Ancient (North) African church were held, with but few exceptions (e.g. Hippo, 393; Milevum, 402) at Carthage. We know from the letters of St. Cyprian that, except in time of persecution, the African bishops met at least once a year, in the springtime, and sometimes again in the autumn. Six or seven synods, for instance, were held under St. Cyprian's presidency during the decade of his administration (249-258), and more than fifteen under Aurelius (391-429).

The Synod of Hippo of 393 ordered a general meeting yearly, but this was found too onerous for the bishops, and in the Synod of Carthage (407) it was decided to hold a general synod only when necessary for the needs of all Africa, and it was to be held at a place most convenient for the purpose.

Hippo Regius St. Augustus Basilica Floor Inscription


(humweb.ucsc.edu)        (georgetown.edu)        (sacred-destinations.com/algeria/annaba)

(mmdtkw.org - Christian Carthage)        (Hippo Regius)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Column of Justinian

The Column of Justinian was a Roman triumphal column erected in Constantinople by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in honour of his victories in 543. It stood in the western side of the great square of the Augustaeum, between the Hagia Sophia and the Great Palace, and survived until the early 16th century, when it was demolished by the Ottomans.

The column of Justinian stood on the south-west of Hagia Sophia and was nearly as high as its dome. The column was built of brick and covered with a bronze sheating. On its top there was a statue of Emperor Justinian (527-565) on horseback, the left hand holding a globe, the right hand raised and pointing to the east.

The column was made of brick, and covered with brass plaques. The column stood on a marble pedestal of seven steps, and was topped by a colossal bronze equestrian statue of the emperor in triumphal attire (the "dress of Achilles" as Procopius calls it), wearing an antique-style muscle cuirass, a plumed helmet of peacock feathers (the toupha), holding a globus cruciger on his left hand and stretching his right hand to the East. There is some evidence from the inscriptions on the statue that it may actually have been a reused earlier statue of Theodosius I or Theodosius II.

Contemporary drawing of the equestrian
statue of Justinian (1430).

The column survived intact until late Byzantine times, when it was described by Nicephorus Gregoras, as well as by several Russian pilgrims to the city. The latter also mentioned the existence, before the column, of a group of three bronze statues of "pagan (or Saracen) emperors", placed on shorter columns or pedestals, who kneeled in submission before it. These apparently survived until the late 1420s, but were removed sometime before 1433.

The column itself is described as being of great height, 70 meters according to Cristoforo Buondelmonti. It was visible from the sea, and once, according to Gregoras, when the toupha fell off, its restoration required the services of an acrobat, who used a rope slung from the roof of the Hagia Sophia.

By the 15th century, the statue, by virtue of its prominent position, was actually believed to be that of the city's founder, Constantine the Great. Other associations were also current: the Italian antiquarian Cyriacus of Ancona was told that it represented Heraclius.

It was therefore widely held that the column, and in particular the large globus cruciger, or "apple", as it was popularly known, represented the city's genius loci. Consequently, its fall from the statue's hand, sometime between 1422 and 1427, was seen as a sign of the city's impending doom. Shortly after their conquest of the city in 1453, the Ottomans removed and dismantled the statue completely as a symbol of their dominion, while the column itself was destroyed around 1515. Pierre Gilles, a French scholar living in the city in the 1540s, gave an account of the statue's remaining fragments, which lay in the Topkapi Palace, before being melted to make cannons:

Among the fragments were the leg of Justinian, which exceeded my height, and his nose, which was over nine inches long. I dared not measure the horse's legs [...] but privately measured one of the hoofs and found it to be nine inches in height.

The appearance of the statue itself with its inscriptions is preserved, however, in a 1430s drawing (see left) made at the behest of Cyriacus of Ancona.

It was probably the only monumental statue of an emperor that survived until the late Byzantine times.

Computer recreation of the Column of Justinian
This image used under FAIR USE from Byzantium1200.
Review for comment, criticism and scholarship as allowed under FAIR USE section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
Those who have not done so should visit the article and images published by the website Byzantium 1200 and view their article on the Column of Justinian in Constantinople.  The artists have done an exceptional and stunningly beautiful job in recreating the column as this sample image can attest.
We have drawings and eyewitness accounts of the Column making it a lot easier for us to reconstruct this monument and put in its proper place in the city.  But even so Byzantium 1200 mess up by not showing the carvings on the Column as drawn by eyewitnesses. 
With this information Byzantium 1200 has beautifully incorporated images of the Column into several different articles on building in Constantinople.
(Column of Justinian)