Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Eusebius, EH.10.6-7: Constantine's Largess to Christians of Africa


This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryBook 10, chapter 6-7.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters present two more imperial letters (one each respectively) relating to privileges being granted to Christians following the end of persecution against them.

Chapter 6 provides a copy of a letter from Constantine to Caecilian bishop of Carthage, in which he informs the bishop that he has ordered three thousand folles be given to the churches. Oulton notes: “The follis was originally a small bag of coins, but afterwards came to denote a coin itself, the double denarius” (461, n. 2). He also tells Caecilian that if he has any trouble from any in his government who oppose the Christians he should go to Anulinus, the proconsul, and Patricius, the “Vicar of the Prefects,” to report this.

Chapter 7 is a letter from the emperor to Anulinus, proconsul of Africa, in which he orders Anulinus, that the “presidents of the church” (“clerics”) “be kept absolutely free from public offices” so that they can devote their time to performing the worship services of God, in which “they confer incalculable benefit on the affairs of the State.”


These chapters continue to show the benefits and privileges that came to Christians during the rule of Constantine. We might paraphrase a line from song in the musical Hamilton, “It must be nice to have Constantine on your side.” In the long run, this will prove to be something of a mixed blessing for Christians. They were freed from persecution, but we see their affairs becoming entangled with the state.


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