AD 381
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AD 381 : Heretics, Pagans and the Christian State

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In AD 381, Theodosius, emperor of the eastern Roman empire, issued a decree in which all his subjects were required to subscribe to a belief in the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This edict defined Christian orthodoxy and brought to an end a lively and wide-ranging debate about the nature of the Godhead; all other interpretations were now declared heretical.

Moreover, for the first time in a thousand years of Greco-Roman civilization free thought was unambiguously suppressed. Yet surprisingly this political revolution, intended to bring inner cohesion to an empire under threat from the outside, has been airbrushed from the historical record. Instead, it has been claimed that the Christian Church had reached a consensus on the Trinity which was promulgated at the Council of Constantinople in AD 381.

In this groundbreaking new book, Freeman argues that Theodosius's edict and the subsequent suppression of paganism not only brought an end to the diversity of religious and philosophical beliefs throughout the empire but created numerous theological problems for the Church, which have remained unsolved. The year AD 381, Freeman concludes, marked 'a turning point which time forgot'.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 272 pages
  • 152 x 232 x 22mm | 358.34g
  • PIMLICO
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • map
  • 1845950070
  • 9781845950071
  • 228,185

Back cover copy

'Charles Freeman's extraordinary facility in addressing with aplomb all facets, periods and places of the ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian worlds is astonishing enough. That he is also able equally potently to focus on special aspects - here, a peculiarly poignant moment in the closing of the Western mind - is scarcely less breathtaking. One chapter title, 'The Swansong of Free Speech', speaks worlds. The sad history of heresy-hunting starts right here.' Paul Cartledge

In AD 381, Theodosius, emperor of the eastern Roman empire, issued a decree in which all of his subjects were required to subscribe to a belief in the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This edict defined Christian orthodoxy and brought to an end a lively and wide ranging debate about the nature of the Godhead; all other interpretations were now declared heretical. Moreover, for the first time in a thousand years of Greco-Roman civilization, free thought was unambiguously suppressed. Not since the attempt of the pharaoh Akhenaten to impose his god Aten on his Egyptian subjects in the fourteenth century BC had there been such a wide sweeping programme of religious coercion. Yet surprisingly this political revolution, intended to bring inner cohesion to an empire under threat from the outside, has been airbrushed from the historical record. Instead, it has been claimed that the Christian Church had reached a consensus on the Trinity which was promulgated at the Council of Constantinople in 381.

In his groundbreaking new book, acclaimed historian Charles Freeman shows that the council was a shambolic affair which only took place after Theodosius' decree had become law. In short, the Church was acquiescing in the overwhelming power of the emperor. Freeman argues that Theodosius' edict and the subsequent suppression of paganism not only bought an end to the diversity of religious and philosophical beliefs throughout the empire but create numerous theological problems for the Church, which have remained unsolved. The year AD 381, Freeman concludes, marked 'a turning point that time forgot'.

Praise for The Closing of the Western Mind:

'An excellent and readable account of the development of Christian doctrine.' New York Times Book Review

'An elegant story, engagingly told. Freeman has a talent for narrative history and for encapsulating the more arcane disputes of ancient historians and theologians.' Mary Beard, Independent

'A panoramic view that Freeman handles with graces, erudition and lucidity.' Washington Times
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Review Text

"Even if theology and ancient history are subjects you avoid, you should not miss this book. It's lucidity and critical challenge are a feast for the mind"
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Review quote

"Even if theology and ancient history are subjects you avoid, you should not miss this book. It's lucidity and critical challenge are a feast for the mind" -- John Carey * Sunday Times * "Astonishing... Breathtaking... The sad history of heresy-hunting starts here" -- Paul Cartledge "Freeman has a talent for narrative history and for encapsulating the more arcane disputes of ancient historians and theologians" -- Mary Beard * Independent *
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About Charles Freeman

Charles Freeman is a freelance academic and the author of more than five books, including The Closing of the Western Mind (2003), also published by Pimlico, and The Horses of St Mark's (2004). He lives in Suffolk.
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Rating details

237 ratings
3.84 out of 5 stars
5 25% (60)
4 44% (105)
3 22% (52)
2 6% (15)
1 2% (5)
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