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"A.D. 381 is a well-argued and -documented study of the rise of the monotheistic state in the late Roman Empire and its aftereffects. Of the many excellences in Freeman's book, not least are the eloquence, grace, and subtlety of argument with which he presents his case. Invaluable for all academic collections and of interest for larger public collections as well." -Library Journal
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
In more than thirty years, Charles Freeman's travels have taken him to most of the sites mentioned in The Greek Achievement, from Aphrodisias to Olympia, from Troy to Delphi. He has dug on all three continents surrounding the Mediterranean and served as academic director on summer schools on Renaissance Italy. His books include EGYPT, GREECE AND ROME; CIVILIZATIONS OF THE ANCIENT MEDITERRANEAN; and LEGACIES OF THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS.
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AD 381 refers to the year in which Emperor Theodosius I announced a new law requiring his subjects in the Roman world to believe in the Trinity. In promulgating this law, the Emperor hoped to settle a vexatious issue and restore law and order in his realms. Law and order was restored, after a fashion, but at the cost of massive persecutions not just of non-believers but also of Christians who held different views on the nature of Christ and his relationship to God and the Holy Spirit than those codified at the Council of Nicaea. This more hostile religious climate, very different from the tolerance which prevailed before Christianity became the dominant Roman religion, prevailed through the next millenium and beyond and still has an impact on us today.
Charles Freeman has done an excellent job of describing the confusing theological climate which prevailed in the centuries after Jesus' death and the beginning of Christianity. Christians agreed on little or nothing, it seemed, until their religion gained legal acceptance and then official status. Then political leaders, aided and abetted by sometimes unscrupulous bishops and priests, sought to make sense out of the confusion and come up with a single theology which all Christians were bound to accept. Freeman recreates the personalities of politicians like Constantine, Theodosius, and the many other Emperors, as well as those of Church leaders like Ambrose and Augustine, and helps us understand how they contributed to what became established Christian dogma on the Trinity. I found particularly interesting his final chapters, in which he traces the official Christian teachings through the European Middle Ages. I was intrigued, as well, by his chapters in which he traced connections between Christianity and Plato and Aristotle.Read more ›
_A.D. 381_ takes its name from the Second Ecumenical Council (the Council of Constantinople) which confirmed the Nicene Creed. It was also a major step in the consolidation of relations between the Christian church and the Roman state. Freeman convincingly argues that this council (and the Roman Emperor, Theodosius who convened it) conscienciously began to narrow not only Church dogma, but the intellectucal life of Europe as well, with profound and long-lasting consequences.
That there were wildly differing interpretations of Christianity in the late Roman Empire is hardly news to any historian worth their salt. What Freeman does is explain cogently what many of these interpretations (and their related sects) were, why they were considered "heretical" ("heresis" in Greek was not a pejorative, but rather simply meant "choice" - as in choice of philosophical school to which one subscribed), and how they were evenually snuffed out. At the root of the challenge presented to those who wished to impose orthodoxy was a legacy of 1500 years of independent, critical thought in the Mediterranean world, and a culture of lively theological discussion on matters relating to Christianity as a result. Central to these debates was the question of the trinity and, by extension, the nature of Jesus and the relationship among the trinty relative to the Godhead. (The Nicene Creed, for example, holds that God the Father and Jesus are of the same substance, yet there is no scriptural support for this. Matters are complicated further when one tries to consdier that "substance" raises the question of how can God the Father be material, and whether or not Jesus had always existed alongside God, or whether Jesus was a separate creation - and therefore a later and lesser incarnation.Read more ›
Charles Freeman's "A.D.381" is an interesting and engaging historical examination of the relatively over-looked period during which Christianity consolidated its hold over the Roman Empire. It is unfortunately marked by an ideological debt to Edward Gibbons' thesis that the Fall of Rome was the triumph of barbarism and Christianity.
"A.D. 381" is quite excellent in looking at the players and events that often remain obscure in most histories of the late Roman Empire, namely, how Christianity went from a tolerated religion under Constantine to the only lawful religion within a century. Most people with a basic familiarity of the subject can identify Constantine, the Council of Nicea and 325, but probably don't know that Council of Nicea under Constantine was only the beginning of Christian influence over the Roman Empire. But it was not until the last decades of the Fourth Century that both paganism and heretical - i.e., non-Nicene Christianity - were outlawed and one form of Christianity, which defined the persons of the Trinity as being "consubstantial," emerged as the only legal religion in the Empire. Hence, the date 381 marks the date of the Council of Constantinople which was called by the Emperor Theodosius to confirm the Nicene Creed and put an end to the dispute between followers of the Nicene Creed and those Christians who viewed Jesus Christ as a lesser, created, divinity, including the Arians and other "subordinationists."
Freeman's valid thesis - which he establishes in detail - is that theological developments can not be removed from the brute social facts in which the theology developed.Read more ›