and the Sirmondian
A Translation with Commentary, Glossary, and Bibliography
in Collaboration with Theresa Sherrer Davidson and Mary Brown Pharr
with an Introduction by C. Dickerman Williams
Greenwood Press, Publishers, New York
copyright 1952 by Clyde Pharr
Reprinted by permission
of Princeton University Press
First Greenwood Reprinting 1969
Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 71-91756
Printed in the United States of America
Transcription of Theodosian Code, Book 16, Title 10. 1-25 by Catherine Proppe February 3, 2014 CE
(Note: On the dates I have added “CE” in this transcription of edicts dating 321-435 CE.)
This is basically a list of decrees forbidding non-Christian (pagan) religious practices, with punishments including death, confiscation of property, banishment, and fines.
Also, decrees ordering the destruction of temples and images.
As this is the fundamental turning point in Western culture, it’s pretty interesting stuff.
Title 10: PAGANS, SACRIFICES, AND TEMPLES
I. Emperor Constantine Augustus to Maximus
If it should appear that any part of Our palace or any other public work has been struck by lightning, the observance of the ancient custom shall be retained, and inquiry shall be made of the soothsayers as to the portent thereof. Written records thereof shall be very carefully collected and referred to Our Wisdom. Permission shall be granted to all other persons also to appropriate this custom to themselves, provided only that they abstain from domestic sacrifices, which are specifically prohibited.
I. You shall know, furthermore, that We have received the official report and the interpretation thereof which was written about the striking of the amphitheater by lightning, about which you had written to Heraclianus, Tribune and Master of Offices.
Given on the sixteenth day before the kalends of January at Sofia (Serdica).—December 17, (320 CE). Received on the eighth day before the ides of March in the year of the second consulship of Crispus and Constantine Caesars.—March 8, 321 CE.
2. Emperor Constantius Augustus to Madalianus, Vice Praetorian Prefect.
Superstition shall cease; the madness of sacrifices shall be abolished. For if any man in violation of the law of the sainted Emperor, Our father, and in violation of this command of Our Clemency, should dare to perform sacrifices, he shall suffer the infliction of a suitable punishment and the effect of an immediate sentence.
Received in the year of the consulship of Marcellinus and Probinus.—341 CE.
3. The same Augustuses to Catullinus, Prefect of the City.
Although all superstitions must be completely eradicated, nevertheless, it is Our will that the buildings of the temples situated outside the walls shall remain untouched and uninjured. For since certain plays or spectacles of the circus or contests derive their origin from some of these temples, such structures shall not be torn down, since from them is provided the regular performance of long established amusements for the Roman people.
Given on the kalends of November in the year of the fourth consulship of Constantius Augustus and the third consulship of Constans Augustus.—November 1, 346 CE; 342 CE.
4. The same Augustuses to Taurus, Praetorian Prefect.
It is Our pleasure that the temples shall be immediately closed in all places and in all cities, and access to them forbidden, so as to deny to all abandoned men the opportunity to commit sin. It is also Our will that all men shall abstain from sacrifices. But if perchance any man should perpetrate any such criminality, he shall be struck down with the avenging sword. We also decree that the property of a man thus executed shall be vindicated to the fisc. The governors of the provinces shall be similarly punished if they should neglect to avenge such crimes.
Given on the kalends of December in the year of the fourth consulship of Constantius Augustus and the third consulship of Constans Augustus.—December 1, 346 CE; 354 CE; 356 CE.
5. The same Augustus to Cerealis, Prefect of the City.
Nocturnal sacrifices which were permitted by the authority of Magnentius shall be abolished, and henceforth such nefarious license shall be destroyed. (Etc.)
Given on the ninth day before the kalends of December in the year of the sixth consulship of Constantius Augustus and the second consulship of the Caesar.—November 23, 353 CE.
6. The same Augustus and Julian Caesar.
If any persons should be proved to devote their attention to sacrifices or to worship images, We command that they shall be subjected to capital punishment.
Given on the eleventh day before the kalends of March at Milan in the year of the eighth consulship of Constantius Augustus and the consulship of Julian Caesar.—February 20, 356 CE.
7. Emperors Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius Augustuses to Florus, Praetorian Prefect.
If any madman or sacrilegious person, so to speak, should immerse himself in forbidden sacrifices, by day or by night, as a consulter of uncertain events, and if he should suppose that he should employ, or should think that he should approach, a shrine or temple for the commission of such a crime, he shall know that he will be subjected to proscription, since We give warning by Our just provision that God must be worshipped by chaste prayers and not be profaned by dire incantations.
Given on the twelfth day before the kalends of January at Constantinople in the year of the consulship of Eucherius and Syagrius.—December 21, 381 CE.
8. The same Augustuses to Palladius, Duke of Osrhoene.
By the authority of the public council We decree that the temple shall continually be open that was formerly dedicated to the assemblage of throngs of people and now also is for the common use of the people, and in which images are reported to have been placed which must be measured by the value of their art rather than by their divinity; We do not permit any divine imperial response that was surreptitiously obtained to prejudice this situation. In order that this temple may be seen by the assemblages of the city and by frequent crowds, Your Experience shall preserve all celebrations of festivities, and by the authority of Our divine imperial response, you shall permit the temple to be open, but in such a way that the performance of sacrifices forbidden therein may not be supposed to be permitted under the pretext of such access to the temple.
Given on the day before the kalends of December at Constantinople in the year of the consulship of Antonius and Syagrius.—November 30, 382 CE.
9. The same Augustuses to Cynegius, Praetorian Prefect.
No mortal shall assume the audacity of performing sacrifices, so that by the inspection of the liver and the presage of the entrails of the sacrificial victims, he may obtain the hope of a vain promise, or, what is worse, he may learn the future by an accursed consultation. The torture of a very bitter punishment shall threaten those persons who, in violation of Our prohibition, attempt to explore the truth of present or future events.
Given on the eight day before the kalends of June at Constantinople in the year of the first consulship of Arcadius Augustus and the consulship of the Most Noble Bauto.—May 25, 385 CE.
10. The same Augustuses to Albinus, Praetorian Prefect.
No person shall pollute himself with sacrificial animals; no person shall slaughter an innocent victim; no person shall approach the shrines, shall wander through the temples, or revere the images formed by mortal labor, lest he become guilty by divine and human laws. Judges also shall be bound by the general rule that if any of them should be devoted to profane rites and should enter a temple for the purpose of worship anywhere, either on a journey or in the city, he shall immediately be compelled to pay fifteen pounds of gold, and his office staff shall pay a like sum with similar haste, unless they resist the judge and immediately report him by a public attestation. Governors with the rank of consular shall pay six pounds of gold each, their office staffs a like amount; those with the rank of corrector or of praeses shall pay four pounds each, and their apparitors, by equal lot, a like amount.
Given on the sixth day before the kalends of March at Milan in the year of the consulship of Tatianus and Symmachus.—February 24, 391 CE.
11. The same Augustuses to Evagrius, Augustal Prefect, and Romanus, Count of Egypt.
No person shall be granted the right to perform sacrifices; no person shall go around the temples; no person shall revere the shrines. All persons shall recognize that they are excluded from profane entrance into temples by the opposition of Our law, so that if any person should attempt to do anything with reference to the gods or the sacred rites, contrary to Our prohibition, he shall learn that he will not be exempted from punishment by any special grants of imperial favor. If any judge also, during the time of his administration, should rely on the privilege of his power, and as a sacrilegious violator of the law, should enter polluted places, he shall be forced to pay into Our treasury fifteen pounds of gold, and his office staff a like sum, unless they opposed him with their combined strength.
Given on the sixteenth day before the kalends of July at Aquileia in the year of the consulship of Tatianus and Symmachus.—June 16, 391 CE.
12. Emperors Theodosius, Arcadius, and Honorius Augustuses to Rufinus, Praetorian Prefect.
No person at all, of any class or order whatsoever of men or of dignities, whether he occupies a position of power or has completed such honors, whether he is powerful by the lot of birth or is humble in lineage, legal status and fortune, shall sacrifice an innocent victim to senseless images in any place at all or in any city. He shall not, by more secret wickedness, venerate his lar with fire, his genius with wine, his penates with fragrant odors; he shall not burn lights to them, place incense before them, or suspend wreaths for them.
I. But if any man should dare to immolate a victim for the purpose of sacrifice, or to consult the quivering entrails, according to the example of a person guilty of high treason he shall be reported by an accusation which is permitted to all persons, and he shall receive the appropriate sentence, even though he has inquired nothing contrary to, or with reference to, the welfare of the Emperors. For it is sufficient to constitute an enormous crime that any person should wish to break down the very laws of nature, to investigate forbidden matters, to disclose hidden secrets, to attempt interdicted practices, to seek to know the end of another’s life, to promise the hope of another person’s death.
2. But if any person should venerate, by placing incense before them, images made by the work of mortals and destined to suffer the ravages of time, and if, in a ridiculous manner, he should suddenly fear the effigies which he himself has formed, or should bind a tree with fillets, or should erect an altar of turf that he has dug up, or should attempt to honor vain images with the offering of a gift, which even though it is humble, still is a complete outrage against religion, such person, as one guilty of the violation of religion, shall be punished by the forfeiture of that house or landholding in which it is proved that they have reeked with the vapor of incense, provided, however, that such places are proved to have belonged to such incense burners.
3. But if any person should attempt to perform any such kind of sacrifice in public temples or shrines, or in the buildings or fields of others, and if it is proved that such places were usurped without the knowledge of the owner, the offender shall be compelled to pay twenty-five pounds of gold as a fine. If any person should connive at such a crime, he shall be held subject to the same penalty as that of the person who performed the sacrifice.
4. It is Our will that this regulation shall be so enforced by the judges, as well as by the defenders and decurions of the several cities, that the information learned by the defenders and the decurions shall be immediately reported to the courts, and the crimes so reported shall be punished by the judges. Moreover, if the defenders and decurions should suppose that any such crime should be concealed through favoritism or overlooked through carelessness, they shall be subjected to judicial indignation. If the judges should be advised of such crimes and should defer punishment through connivance, they shall be fined thirty pounds of gold; their office staffs also shall be subjected to an equal penalty.
Given on the sixth day before the ides of November at Constantinople in the year of the second consulship of Arcadius Agustus and the consulship of Rufinus.—November 8, 392 CE.
13..Emperors Arcadius and Honorius Agustuses to Rufinus, Praetorian Prefect.
We decree that no person shall have the right to approach any shrine or temple whatever, or to perform abominable sacrifices at any place or time whatever. All persons, therefore, who strive to deviate from the dogma of the Catholic religion shall hasten to observe those regulations which We have recently decreed, and they shall not dare to disregard former decrees with reference either to heretics or to pagans. They shall know that whatever was decreed against them by the laws of Our sainted father, by way of punishment or fine, shall now be executed more vigorously. Moreover, the governors of Our provinces and the apparitors who serve them, the chief decurions also and the defenders of the municipalities, as well as the decurions, and the procurators of Our possessions, in which We learn that illicit heretical assemblies come together without fear of loss, because these possessions cannot be annexed to the fisc, since they already belong to its dominion: all the foregoing persons shall know that if any such offense has been attempted contrary to Our statutes, and if it has not been avenged immediately and punished in its very inception, they shall be subjected to all the losses and punishments that were established by the ancient decrees.
I. But specifically, by this law, We sanction and decree more severe penalties against the governors. For if the aforesaid provisions are not enforced with all diligence and precaution, the governors shall be subject not only to that fine which was decreed against them, but also to the fine which was established against those persons who appear to be the authors of the crime. However, such fines shall not be remitted in the case of those persons on whom, because of their contumacy, they were justly inflicted.
2. In addition, We judge that the office staffs shall suffer capital punishment if they disregard Our statutes.
Given on the seventh day before the ides of August at Constantinople in the year of the consulship of Olybrius and Probinus.—August 7, 395 CE.
14. The same Augustuses to Caesarius, Praetorian Prefect.
If any privileges have been granted by ancient law to civil priests, ministers, prefects, or hierophants of the sacred mysteries, whether known by these names or called by any other, such privileges shall be completely abolished. Such persons shall not congratulate themselves that they are protected by any privilege, since their profession is known to be condemned by law.
Given on the seventh day before the ides of December at Constantinople in the year of the fourth consulship of Arcadius Augustus and the third consulship of Honorius Augustus.—December 7, 396
15. The same Augustuses to Macrobius, Vicar of Spain, and Proclianus, Vicar of the Five Provinces.
Just as We forbid sacrifices, so it is Our will that the ornaments of public works shall be preserved. If any person should attempt to destroy such works, he shall not have the right to flatter himself as relying on any authority, if perchance he should produce any rescript or any law as his defense. Such documents shall be torn from his hands and referred to Our Wisdom.
If any person should be able to show illicit post warrants, either in his own name or that of another, We decree that such post warrants shall be delivered and sent to Us. Those persons who have granted the right to the public post to such persons shall be forced to pay two pounds of gold each.
Given on the fourth day before the kalends of February at Ravenna in the year of the consulship of the Most Noble Theodorus.—January (August) 29, 399 CE.
16. The same Augustuses to Eutychianus, Praetorian Prefect.
If there should be any temples in the country districts, they shall be torn down without disturbance or tumult. For when they are torn down and removed, the material basis for all superstition will be destroyed.
Given on the sixth day before the ides of July.—July 10. Posted at Damascus in the year of the consulship of the Most Noble Theodorus.—399 CE.
17. The same Augustuses to Apollodorus, Proconsul of Africa.
Just as We have already abolished profane rites by a salutary law, so We do not allow the festal assemblies of citizens and the common pleasure of all to be abolished. Hence We decree that, according to ancient custom, amusements shall be furnished to the people, but without any sacrifice or any accursed superstition, and they shall be allowed to attend festal banquets, whenever public desires so demand.
Given on the thirteenth day before the kalends of September at Padua in the year of the consulship of the Most Noble Theodorus.—August 20, 399 CE.
18. The same Augustuses to Apollodorus, Proconsul of Africa.
No man by the benefit of Our sanctions shall attempt to destroy temples which are empty of illicit things. For We decree that the condition of the buildings shall remain unimpaired; but if any person should be apprehended while performing a sacrifice, he shall be punished according to the laws. Idols shall be taken down under the direction of the office staff after an investigation has been held, since it is evident that even now worship of a vain superstition is being paid to idols.
Given on the thirteenth day before the kalends of September at Padua in the year of the sonsulship of the Most Noble Theodorus.—August 20, 399 CE.
19. Emperors Arcadius, Honorius, and Theodosius Augustuses to Curtius, Praetorian Prefect.
(After other matters.) Their income from taxes in kind shall be taken away from the temples and shall assist the annonarian account for the benefit of the expenses of Our most devoted soldiers.
I. If any images stand even now in the temples and shrines, and if they have received, or do now receive, the worship of the pagans anywhere, they shall be torn from their foundations, since We recognize that this regulation has been very often decreed by repeated sanctions.
2. The buildings themselves of the temples which are situated in cities or towns or outside the towns shall be vindicated to public use. Altars shall be destroyed in all places, and all temples situated on Our landholdings shall be transferred to suitable uses. The proprietors shall be compelled to destroy them.
3. It shall not be permitted at all to hold convivial banquets in honor of sacrilegious rites in such funereal places or to celebrate any solemn ceremony. We grant to bishops also of such places the right to use ecclesiastical power to prohibit such practices. Moreover, We constrain the judges by a penalty of twenty pounds of gold, and their office staffs by an equal sum, if they should neglect the enforcement of these regulations by their connivance.
Given on the seventeenth day before the kalends of December at Rome in the year of the consulship of Bassus and Philippus.—November 15, 408 CE; 407 CE.
20. Emperors Honorius and Theodosius Augustuses.
We command that priests of the pagan superstition shall be subject to the proper punishment, unless before the kalends of November, they depart from Carthage and return to their ancestral municipalities. Thus such priests throughout all Africa shall be held liable to a similar punishment unless they depart from the metropolitan cities and return to their own municipalities.
I. Also, in accordance with the constitution of the sainted Gratian, We command that all places that were assigned by the false doctrine of the ancients to their sacred rituals shall be joined to the property of Our privy purse. Thus, from the time when public expenditure was prohibited to be furnished to the worst superstition, the fruits from such places shall be exacted from the unlawful possessors thereof. But if the bounty of previous Emperors or if Our Majesty wished any of the aforesaid property anywhere to be granted to any persons, such property shall remain in their patrimony with eternal validity. We decree that this regulation shall be observed not only throughout Africa, but throughout all regions situated in Our world.
2. Moreover, if it was Our will, as expressed in repeated constitutions, that nay such property should belong to the venerable Church, this property shall rightfully be vindicated by the Christian religion to itself. Thus all outlay belonging at that time to the superstition that has been rightfully condemned, and all places that were possessed by the Frediani, by the Dendrophori, or by various names and pagan professions, and that were assigned to their feasts and expenditures, shall be able to assist the income of Our household, after the aforesaid false doctrine has been abolished.
3. Of course, if anything has ever been consecrated to sacrifices and thus served as a means of deception for men, it shall be removed from use in the baths and from the favorite haunts of the public, in order that it may not furnish allurement to the erring.
4. In addition, We order the removal of Chiliarchs and the Centenarii or any other persons who are said to appropriate themselves the distribution of the common people. Thus, no man shall evade capital punishment if he should willingly assume such title, or if even against his will he should permit himself to be assigned to such presumption and odium
Given on the third day before the kalends of September at Ravenna in the year of the tenth consulship of Honorius Augustus and the sixth consulship of Theodosius Augustus.—August 30, 415 CE.
21. The same Augustuses to Aurelianus, Praetorian Prefect for the second time.
(After other matters.) Those persons who are polluted by the profane false doctrine or crime of pagan rites, that is, the pagans, shall not be admitted to the imperial service, and they shall not be honored with the rank of administrator or judge.
Given on the seventh day before the ides of December in the year of the seventh consulship of Our Lord Theodosius Augustus and the consulship of Palladius.—December 7, 416 CE; 415 CE.
22. The same Augustuses to Asclepiodotus, Praetorian Prefect.
(After other matters.) The regulations of constitutions formerly promulgated shall suppress any pagans who survive, although We now believe that there are none. (Etc.)
Given on the fifth day before the ides of April at Constantinople in the year of the consulship of Asclepiodotus and Mairinianus.—April 9, 423 CE.
23. The same Augustuses to Asclepiodotus, Praetorian Prefect.
(After other matters.) Proscription of their goods and exile shall restrain the pagans who survive, if ever they should be apprehended in the performance of accursed sacrifices to demons, although they ought to be subjected to capital punishment.
Given on the sixth day before the ides of June at Constantinople in the year of the consulship of Asclepiodotus and Marinianus.—June 8, 423 CE.
24. The same Augustuses to Asclepiodotus, Praetorian Prefect.
(After other matters.) We punish with proscription of their goods and exile, Manichaeans and those persons who are called Pepyzites. Likewise, those persons who are worse than all other heretics in this one belief, namely, that they disagree with all others as to the venerable day of Easter, shall be punished with the same penalty if they persist in their aforesaid madness.
I. But We especially command those persons who are truly Christians or who are said to be, that they shall not abuse the authority of religion and dare to lay violent hands on Jews and pagans who are living quietly and attempting nothing disorderly or contrary to law. For if such Christians should be violent against persons living in security or should plunder their goods, they shall be compelled to restore not only that property which they took away, but after suit they shall also be compelled to restore triple or quadruple the same amount which they robbed. Also the governors of the provinces and their office staffs and the provincials shall know that if they permit such a crime to be committed, they too will be punished in the same way as the perpetrators of the crime.
Given on the sixth day before the ides of June at Constantinople in the year of the consulship of Asclepiodotus and Marinianus.—June 8, 423 CE.
25. Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian Augustuses to Isidorus, Praetorian Prefect.
We interdict al persons of criminal pagan mind from the accursed immolation of victims, from damnable sacrifices, and form all other such practices that are prohibited by the authority of the more ancient sanctions. We command that all their fanes, temples, and shrines, if even now any remain entire, shall be destroyed by the command of the magistrates, and shall be purified by the erection of the sign of the venerable Christian religion. all men shall know that if it should appear, by suitable proof before a competent judge, that any person mocked this law, he shall be punished with death.
Given on the eighteenth day before the kalends of December at Constantinople in the year of the fifteenth consulship of Theodosius Augustus and the fourth consulship of Valentinian Augustus.—November 14, 435 CE.