Back to Imperial Laws and Letters

AD 313-364 (Constantine – Jovian)

AD 395-431 (Arcadius and Honorius – Council of Ephesus and aftermath)

Date
Ancient
Source
C-N # Emperor(s) Summary of document
364
Feb 19
CT 9.25.2 126 Jovian Anyone who rapes or even proposes to a pledged virgin or widow in the church will suffer capital punishment.
364
Apr 17
CT 13.1.5 127 Valentinian I,
Valens
All tradesmen are required to pay the tradesmen’s tax, and this includes Christian clergy
364
Apr 17
CI 1.4.1 128 Valentinian I,
Valens
Tradesmen should use some of their excess money to aid Christians, paupers, and the needy.
364
Sept 9
CT 9.16.7 - Valentinian I,
Valens
No person shall perform divinations or sacrifices to demons during the night hours.
364
Sept 10
CT 16.2.17 129 Valentinian I,
Valens
The wealthy shall not be allowed to become clergy (literally “shall not be received by the church” ).
364
Sept 12
CT 12.1.59 130 Valentinian I,
Valen
Any member of the curial class who becomes a clergyman must give his property to either a relative or the state, so that the state will not be deprived of his wealth.
364 Sozomen H.e. 6.7 131 Valentinian I Valentinian allows a group of bishops to convene at Lampsacus, and refuses to get involved in the controversy, citing his status as a layman.
365
Jan 15
CT 9.40.8 132 Valentinian I,
Valens
A guilty Christian cannot be sentenced to the arena.
365
Sept 27
CT 14.3.11 133 Valentinian I,
Valens
No one may leave the bread-making profession to become a Christian clergyman. Anyone found to have done such must return to his profession.
365
Nov 17
CT 16.1.1 134 Valentinian I,
Valens
No Christian shall have to serve in a pagan temple; the judge who makes such an appointment will be executed and his property confiscated.
367
May 3
CT 9.38.3 135 Valentinian I,
Valens,
Gratian
Prisoners are to be released from prison to celebrate Easter. The exceptions are those who have committed treason, necromancy, poisoning, magic, adultery, rape, and murder.
367 ? Ambrose, Ep. 21 136 Valentinian I Ambrose quotes an earlier law allegedly from Valentinian I, which stated that ecclesiastics ought to judge in matters of faith and other church business. [compare to Sozomen's record of 364 above.]
367 Collectio Avellana, CSEL 35, p. 48 137 Valentinian I,
Valens,
Gratian
In Rome, Ursinus and his followers, who had been deported in 366, are allowed to return, but will be deported if they riot again.
[At the death of Liberius, Damasus was elected the new pope, but a group of Christians supported Ursinus and there were violent clashes between the two.]
367 ? Collectio Avellana, CSEL 35, p. 49 138 Valentinian I,
Valens,
Gratian
Since Ursinus has been exiled, the last remaining church of his supporters should be put under the control of Damasus, as Damasus’s supporters requested.
[Ursinus was exiled to Gaul shortly after his return to Rome. The year is approximate, and may have been 368]
368
Jan 12
Collectio Avellana, CSEL 35, p. 49 140 Valentinian I,
Valens,
Gratian
The request of the Roman prefect is granted and followers of Ursinus are expelled from Rome. But they are to be considered sojourners, not exiles, and may settle wherever they choose, practicing religion as they have in Rome.
368 Collectio Avellana, CSEL 35, p. 50-51 142-143 Valentinian I,
Valens,
Gratian
The previous law is emended, in accord with the request of the Roman prefect. The followers of Ursinus may not settle or worship within 20 miles of the city of Rome.
368 ?
Apr 21
CT 8.8.1 144 Valentinian I,
Valens,
No Christian may be summoned to court for tax purposes on a Sunday.
[The date is not given and could have been between 368 and 373.]
368
June 6
CT 9.38.4 145 Valentinian I,
Valens,
Gratian
Prisoners are to be released from prison to celebrate Easter. The exceptions are those who have committed treason, poisoning, magic, adultery, rape, and murder.
369
July 8
CT 11.36.20 146 Valentinian I,
Valens,
Gratian
A bishop, Chronopius, had attempted to appeal an unappealable case, and for this he is to be fined, and the money given to the poor.
[This person of Chronopius and the exact situation are obscure.]
370 ?
Jan 1
CT 12.1.63 147 Valentinian I,
Valens
Members of the upper classes may not abandon their public responsibilities by becoming monks. If they are found hiding in Egypt or elsewhere in the East, they are to be brought back to their original homes. Alternatively, all their property must be given to someone who will fulfill their compulsory public services.
[The alternate date is 373.]
370
Feb 17
CT 16.2.18 148 Valentinian I,
Valens
Laws formerly enacted against Christians under Julian shall have no validity, and policies of the late Constantius are to be upheld.
370
Mar 30
CT 13.10.6 149 Valentinian I,
Valens,
Gratian
No widow or minor should be taxed the tax of the people. Women who have dedicated themselves to perpetual service of Christianity are also exempt from this tax.
[The tax of the people could have been the poll tax.]
370
July 30
CT 16.2.20 150 Valentinian I,
Valens
Clergy, former-clergy, and celibates shall not be allowed to visit widows or female wards if the women’s relatives are suspicious of them. Further, women are not allowed to give any gifts or donations to such men, either while living or in their wills, and if they attempt to do so, the gift will be instead given to their nearest kin.
370
Oct 17
CT 16.2.19 151 Valentinian I,
Valens
Men born as decurions who enter the clergy shall be exempt from being recalled to their Senatorial services after 10 years in the clergy. If they are called upon before they have been in the clergy for 10 years, they are obligated to return and carry out their duties.
370 ? Collectio Avellana, CSEL 35, p. 52-54 152 – 153 Valentinian I,
Valens,
Gratian
Eight followers of Ursinus are expelled from the city of Rome. [The date is approximate and may have been anywhere between 370 and 372.]
371
Feb 11
CT 15.7.1 154 Valentinian I,
Valens,
Gratian
If an actor or actress has been near death and was allowed to receive the sacraments, but then recovered, he or she may not be recalled to serve in the theater. Priests should make sure that actors/actresses seeking the sacraments are truly in danger of death and seeking salvation before administering the sacraments.
371
May 17
CT 16.2.21 155 Valentinian I,
Valens
Those who have continuously served the church since before the reign of the current emperors will remain exempt from service in municipal councils. Those who joined the clergy during the reign of the present emperors are not exempt.
371
May 19
CT 9.16.9 - Valentinian I,
Valens, Gratian
Divination has no connection with cases of magic. It is, therefore, allowable as long as it is not practiced “harmfully.” [Pharr suggests a date of May 19 instead of May 29.]
371
Dec 6
CT 9.16.10 - Valentinian I,
Valens, Gratian
Trials of persons of the Senatorial order for practicing magic may be entrusted to the prefect of the city; however, if a judgment cannot be ascertained, then the trial should be transferred to the imperial court.
372
Mar 2
CT 16.5.3 156 Valentinian I,
Valens
Manichaeans and similar groups may not assemble. Their teachers will be punished, their followers segregated, and their places of gathering confiscated.
372
Dec 1
CT 16.2.22 157 Valentinian I,
Valens,
Gratian
Statute 16.2.20 (from 370) applies to bishops, virgins, and others in service of the church.
373
Dec 12
CT 9.16.8 - Valentinian I,
Valens
Teaching or learning astrology is a crime worthy of death. [The year listed is 370; however, Pharr suggests 373.]
373
Feb 20
CT 16.6.1 158 Valentinian I,
Valens
All church leaders are judged unworthy of the priesthood who by usurpation repeat baptism, contaminating an act of grace by its repetition.
[This was addressed to the proconsul of Africa, and may have been an attempt to undo the favors Julian showed the Donatists, see Coleman-Norton #120 above.]
375 Theodoret, H.e. 4.8 159 Valentinian I,
Valens,
Gratian
Valentinian writes to bishops of eastern provinces, informing them that the Council in Illyricum ruled in favor of homoousios and the Nicene Creed. He commands that this be preached and its preachers be protected from harm (though Arians are not required to unite with or submit to its preachers). He rebukes the Arians for their behavior and treatment of the Nicenes. He appends the Creed of the recent council.
376
May 17
CT 16.2.23 161 Valens,
Gratian,
Valentinian II
Disagreements over religious matters shall be addressed by church authorities. But if a criminal allegation is made, the case shall be brought before a secular judge.
377
Mar 5
CT 16.2.24 162 Valens,
Gratian,
Valentinian II
Priests, deacons, exorcists, lectors, and other church ministers are exempt from compulsory public service of a personal character.
377
Oct 17
CT 16.6.2 163 Valens,
Gratian,
Valentinian II
Any who teaches a second baptism is to desist and be restored to the catholic Church. The uncorrupted faith of the Evangelists and Apostles must be preserved. Furthermore, properties where re-baptizers or other expelled persons gather are to be confiscated.
378 ?
Apr 22
CT 16.5.4 160 Valens,
Gratian,
Valentinian II
Altars and other secret worship places of all non-catholic religions shall be confiscated, even if gatherings there have taken place with the permission of a local judge.
[The date given is 376, but there are some problems with the date; Pharr prefers 378, and Coleman-Norton prefers 380 assuming Ambrose was behind this legislation. But sent to Rome and given the title "on the re-baptizers" this may have been directed primarily against the Donatists, and would make sense placed after the laws against them in 377. If it was given in 380, the emperors would also be wrong.]
378 - 379 Collectio Avellana, CSEL 35, p. 52-54 164 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
After giving a long list of men who had been expelled for disturbing the church, Gratian orders this governmental official (vicar) of Rome to expel those who are disturbing Damasus. In regard to the judgment of bishops, he makes the bishop of Rome the final ecclesiastical court for in the West.
379
July 5
CT 13.1.11 165 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Bishops whose profit is below a certain amount are exempt from merchants’ taxes.
379
Aug 3
CT 16.5.5 166 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
All heresies are forbidden. One may hold to heretical teachings in his own mind but is forbidden to teach them to others, especially the teaching of re-baptism. Assemblies of those who hold to re-baptism are forbidden, and none may teach this doctrine.
[A recent, non-extant rescript from Sirmium, which seems to have been more tolerant, is annulled by this decree.]
380
Feb 28
CT 16.1.2 167 Gratian,
Valentinian II, Theodosius I
This edict is sometimes referred to as “Cunctos Populos.” Everyone in the empire shall be part of the religion that believes in God as a single Deity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity, as taught by St. Peter to the Romans, and now taught by Damasus of Rome and Peter of Alexandria. Only those following this rule shall be called “catholic Christians.”
Meeting places of those who follow another religion (including heretics of a Christian variety) shall not be given the status of churches, and such people may be subject to both divine and earthly retribution.
380
Feb 28
CT 16.2.25 168 Gratian,
Valentinian II, Theodosius I
Acts against the Divine Law are considered a sacrilege [A sacrilege was not exclusively a religious crime. See Coleman-Norton, p. 356-59, for a discussion of the term.]
380
Mar 27
CT 9.35.4 169 Gratian,
Valentinian II, Theodosius I
Criminal trials are suspended during the 40 days prior to Easter.
380
Apr 24
CT 15.7.4 170 Gratian,
Valentinian II, Theodosius I
Women born to the lower class and obligated to serve the theaters must be assigned to dramatic services. However, if they become Christians, they are exempt from this rule. They will then remain free of the prejudices against those who work in the theater.
380 or 381 CS 7 171 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius In celebration of Easter, clemency is granted to the imprisoned. This does not include those who have committed treason, murder, adultery, rape, or have practiced magic.
380-381 Ambrose, Gesta concili Aquileiensis. 172 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius At the advice of Ambrose, Gratian cancels a large council intended to deal with two Arian bishops, and instead summons a smaller regional council at Aquileia.
381
Jan 10
CT 16.5.6 173 Gratian,
Valentinian II, Theodosius I
Heretics shall have no place of meeting. Heretics are defined as those who do not observe the Nicene faith. The Phontinians, Arians, Eunomians and others are specified, but not exclusively. Their teachings are forbidden. A definition of the Trinity and the term ousia is established. Catholic churches throughout the empire are to be returned to orthodox bishops. Heretics are to be driven out of the churches and the cities. The property rights of Manichaeans are revoked, and property inherited from a Manichaean which should have been confiscated by the state is now to be confiscated. Manichaeans are forbidden to gather.
[A brief glance at succeeding laws will show that this law, like many others, was not promptly or universally enforced.]
381
Mar 31
CT 16.2.26 174 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Guardians of churches and holy sites are tax exempt.
381
May 2
CT 16.7.1 175 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Christians who have converted to paganism shall not be allowed to make a will, and any will made by such a person is invalidated.
381
May 8
CT 16.5.7 176 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Manichaeans may not inherit property or leave it to others through wills, and any property inherited from a Manichaean is to be confiscated. The only exception is the child of a Manichaean who converts to the Catholic faith. Also, Manichaean assemblies and sacraments are prohibited.
381
May 8
CT 15.7.8 177 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Actresses are allowed to leave their vocation for religious reasons, but if they are found unchaste or unfaithful after their abandonment of theatre, they must return to the stage and will not again be allowed to leave their vocation.
381
June 29
CT 11.39.8 178 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Clergy are exempt from serving as witnesses in legal cases.
381
July 19
CT 16.5.8 179 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
It is forbidden for Arians, Eunomians, or followers of Aetius to build churches. If any such churches are built, they will be confiscated.
381
July 21
CT 9.38.6 180 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Prisoners are to be released on Easter. Exceptions include those who have committed treason, murder, adultery, rape, incest, poison-making, or counterfeiting, or repeat offenders.
381
July 30
CT 9.17.6 181 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
No one may be buried within the city of Constantinople, and violators will be fined a third of their property and wealth.
381
July 30
CT 16.1.3 182 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
All bishops and priests who do not confess the proper relations of the Trinity and therefore are not in communion with the designated bishops (Nectarius of Constantinople, Timothy of Alexandria, and 10 others) are to hand over their congregations to the local catholic bishop and to be forbidden from holding any church office.
381
Aug 28
CT 15.7.9 183 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Christian actresses may leave the theater and are free from the prejudice associated with the theater, but other actress who leave the theater must return.
381
Dec 21
CT 16.10.7 184 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Those who make pagan sacrifices or prayers will be penalized with the loss of property.
382
May 31
CT 16.5.9 185 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Upon death, Manichaeans must will their property to their Christian family members rather than to their fellow Manichaeans. Secret assemblies are also forbidden. Special courts will be provided to hear accusations against Manichaeans, Encratitans, Saccoforians, and Hydroparastantans. Anyone who does not worship in the catholic church on Easter will be suspected of these heresies.
382
Nov 30
CT 16.10.8 - Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
The temple is to remain open to the public, who may look at the art and hold festivals, but all pagan sacrifices there are forbidden. [Pharr thinks that this is the temple of Edessa.]
382
Dec 9
CT 11.16.15 186 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
The long-standing custom of granting the clergy immunity from menial public service is upheld (in addition to other classes of people).
383
Apr 18
CT 12.1.99 188 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Anyone religious leader – Jew or Christian – who is exempted from compulsory public service must find another person to fulfill the obligations in his place.
383
May 20
CT 16.7.2 189 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
A clarification of the law from May 2 of 381 above. Confirmed Christians who have turned to paganism may not issue a testament (will) to anyone. Christian catechumens may not will their possessions to anyone other than their natural heirs: children or brothers. The same applies to those receiving property under a will.
383
May 21
CT 16.7.3 190 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
A clarification of the immediately preceding law. Christians who convert to paganism, Judaism, or another religion lose the right of making a will. If a Manichaean should go underground and hold secret meetings, he is subjected to the law and must leave his goods to relatives or the government. Manichaean leaders are to receive harsher punishments. Additionally, Saccophori and Encratites are to be punished when convicted. A time limit is set in which accusations against the deceased may be placed.
383
Jun 10
CT 16.5.10 191 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Homes of the Tascodrogitae (a heretical group) are protected. However, if they attempt to convene at a church, they shall be driven away.
383
July 25
CT 16.5.11 192 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Right of assembly is denied to Arians, the Macedonians, Pneumatomachi, Manichaeans, Apotactites, Saccophori, Encratites, and the Hydroparastatae. They may not own church buildings or large clusters of homes which could serve as a church. They may not gather publically or privately. Any who break this law will be banished.
383
Nov 7
CT 12.1.104 193 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Municipal senators must surrender their property if they wish to leave their senatorial position to serve the church.
383
Dec 3
CT 16.5.12 194 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Arians, Macedonians, Apollinarians, and other groups outside the Church are not allowed to gather congregations, construct churches, or celebrate their rites in either urban or rural areas. Local officials are responsible for enforcement of this law.
383 Collectio Avellana CSEL 35,
p. 45-46
195 Theodosius I Theodosius has received a petition from persecuted Luciferians. He recognizes and approves of their devotion to the Nicene faith, but encourages them that nothing should be added to the faith, implying they need to recognize catholic Christians who were formerly Arians.
[The Luciferians were a group of Nicene Christians who refused to recognize former Arians as catholic Christians.]
384
Jan 21
CT 16.5.13 196 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Eunomian, Macedonian, Arian, and Apollinarian priests are forced out of Constantinople.
384
Feb 4
CS 3 197 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Specifically for the situation in Egypt: he reasserts that the church has jurisdiction over the members of the clergy, that they cannot be forced to appear in a secular court, and that the patriarch of Alexandria is the leader of the Egyptian church.
384
Mar 22
CT 9.38.7 198 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Prisoners are to be released from prison on Easter, excepting those who are guilty of treason, murder, poison, magic, adultery, rape, robbery, grave robbery, and counterfeiting.
384
July 25
CT 15.9.1 - Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius The gifts given at public games (i.e., the prizes given to the winners) are restricted, and smaller prizes are encouraged.
384
Sept 22
CT 3.1.5 199 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Jews are forbidden from buying or owning Christian slaves, and such must be taken away sold to Christians. If a Jewish master converts a Christian to Judaism, he will be punished.
385
Feb 24
Collectio Avellana CSEL 35
p. 47-48
200 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius A congratulatory and confirmatory letter to Bishop Siricius of Rome on his ordination. This is significant because at that time Ursinus, deacon of the earlier pope Liberius, claimed to be the true pope.
385
Feb 25
CT 9.38.8 201 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Prisoners should be released on Easter, excepting those who have committed sacrilegious activities, adultery, incest, rape, poisoning, magic, counterfeiting, grave-robbing, robbing, murder, or treason.
385
Apr 9
CT 8.5.46 202 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Clergy are not exempt from the requirements to give their property to the public post.
385
May 25
CT 16.10.9 - Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Divining the future by means of examining the livers and entrails of sacrifices is forbidden; violators will be severely punished with torture.
385 Collectio Avellana CSEL 35
p. 90-91
203 Maximus (imperial usurper in Gaul) In a letter, Maximus defends his execution of a group of Priscillian heretics, against the pope’s objection. He avows his allegiance to the catholic faith.
385
July 25
CT 11.39.10 204 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Priests are exempted from torture if they are to give testimony in court, but lower clergy are not.
386
Jan 23
CT 16.1.4 205 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius People who believe in the doctrines of the Council of Rimini (Ariminum) but also confirm the faith of the Council of Constantinople are granted the right of assembly. However, if they disturb the peace they may be punished.
386
Jan 23
CT 16.4.1 - Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Those from dissident sects who assemble or instigate demonstrations against the emperor, disturbing the peace of the church, are guilty of treason and face capital punishment.
386
Feb 26
CT 9.17.7 206 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius No one may transfer body parts from place to place. No one may sell or buy parts of martyrs. But if a martyr is buried somewhere, one may build a shrine as a spot for veneration.
386
Apr 22
CS 8 207 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius This year the emperor hopes to be especially clement. On Easter, all persons in prison or exile may be freed, including those working in the mines. Those who have committed the following crimes are excluded: treason, adultery, rape, poisoning, magicians, counterfeiting, astrology, and homicide.
386
June 16
CT 12.1.112 208 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Local rulers should choose high priests for the pagan temples from those who have not been converted to Christianity.
386
Nov 3
CT 2.8.18 209 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
All court actions, legal disputes, and debt collection is suspended on Sunday. Those who skip the holy ritual on Sunday are to be regarded as sacrilegious.
[posted on Nov 3, accepted Nov 24]
386
Dec 31
CT 12.1.115 210 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
If someone serving as a municipal senator wants to serve the church, he must first find a replacement, and ensure that the replacement has enough money and property to carry out the responsibilities (by giving from his own estate if necessary).
386 Collectio Avellana CSEL 35
p. 46-47
211 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Sallust, the Roman prefect, is instructed about the construction of the Basilica of St. Paul, and told to send an estimated cost to the emperor.
387
July 3
CI 7.38.2 212 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Any lands which were illegally taken from the church are to be at least restored, without cost, no matter how long ago they were taken.
388
Mar 10
CT 16.5.14 213 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Apollinarians and other heretics are barred from coming into walled cities, from joining society or holy persons. They cannot ordain clergy or convene congregations. They should dwell in the most secluded places possible. They are denied access to the emperors.
388
Mar 14
CT 3.7.2 214 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Jews and Christians are forbidden to intermarry. If they break this law, the crime will be considered adultery.
388
June 14
CT 16.5.15 215 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
This law rescinds that of Jan 23, 386, which allowed those who assented to the decrees of the council of Rimini (359) to continue functioning within the catholic church. Members of non-catholic sects are denied right of assembly, are forbidden to have even secret meetings, and may not erect altars. The emperor appoints officers to identify and prosecute such persons.
[The previous law of Jan. 23, 386, was originally instigated by Valentinian, but he now needed the support of the other emperors, and so he allowed them to rescind his law to gain their support against Maximus the usurper.]
388
June 16
CT 16.4.2 216 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius No public discussions or debates about religion may be held.
388
Aug 9
CT 16.5.16 217 Gratian,
Valentinian II,
Theodosius I
Though previous laws allowed for Arians to continue their gatherings and churches, those laws have been rescinded. Arians may not use those laws in their defense, but must cease their assemblies.
[Pharr notes that Theodosius was not at Constantinople in 388, thus the law must have been promulgated in 387.]
389
May 4
CT 16.5.17 218 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Eunomian eunuchs may not inherit or leave goods or property by means of a will. This law applies to all previous wills, and so property inherited from a Eunomian may be confiscated.
[This law is repealed 5 years later]
389
June 17
CT 16.5.18 219 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Manichaeans are to be expelled from Rome and banished from the empire. Their property is to be confiscated, and their wills are void.
389
Aug 7
CT 2.8.19 220 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Various days are designated holidays, among them being all Sundays and the 7 days before and after Easter. Other days include harvest days, days of excessive heat, January 1, founding days of Rome and Constantinople, the emperors’ birthdays and anniversaries of their reigns.
[The interpretation of the law adds Christmas and Epiphany, and explains that no legal matters can be conducted or debts collected on Sunday.]
389
Aug 16
CT 9.16.11 - Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius If a man suspects someone of the crime of magic, he is to turn him over for public judgment. Carrying out sentence against such a one immediately is expressly forbidden because of the suspicion it arouses. Magic is a crime against the public, and the public has the right to try such cases.
389
Sept 6
CT 9.35.5 221 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius No corporal punishment may be given during Lent.
389
Nov 26
CT 16.5.19 222 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Leaders of heretical sects who are found to hold office in the catholic church are to be expelled from their meeting places as soon as they are detected in or around the city.
[The addressee was based in Constantinople, to which the law must be referring.]
390
Mar 2
CT 10.18.3 223 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius If anyone, led by inspiration of Divine Power, should find a treasure, he is free to keep it without taxation.
[Previously, he had to give half of what he found to the state.]
390
June 17
CT 12.1.121 224 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Any municipal senator who began service in the church before 388 may keep his patrimony, exempt from obligation, but anyone who left his position in the Senate after 388 must still fulfill his senatorial obligations by surrendering his patrimony.
390
June 21
CT 16.2.27 225 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius 1. Restrictions are set for deaconesses. They must be 60 years old. She must entrust her estate and only live off of revenue, living modestly. She does not have the right to leave her estate to any church or member of the clergy, but must leave it for her surviving relatives.
2. Nothing may be transferred from a dying woman to a member of the clergy, and if secret actions are discovered to have taken place, the property will be given to the woman’s nearest relative.
3. No woman with a shaved head may enter a church, and a priest who allows her to enter will be removed from his position.
390
Aug 23
CT 16.2.28 227 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Repeals portions of the previously mentioned law, allowing widows to leave their estates to the church or to individual clergymen.
390
Sept 2
CT 16.3.1 228 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Monks are to live in the desert or otherwise uninhabited place where they may find solitude.
[Monks were prone to exacerbate theological disputes and even cause riots. This law was repealed two years later.]
390
Sept 2
CT 12.1.122 229 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius For a curial family to leave the decurionate is considered a sin.
391
Feb 24
CT 16.10.10 - Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Pagan sacrifice, worship of pagan idols, and worship in pagan temples is forbidden. Prosecutors of rank will be fined, but higher officials will pay a smaller amount than lower ranking officials.
391
May 11 or June 9
CT 16.7.4 230 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Profaners of baptism must live in segregation and may not give testimony, grant testaments, or inherit property. They would be exiled as well, except that living among others with reduced status is considered greater punishment. They may never regain their previous status, even through repentance.
[Profaners of baptism is probably a reference to re-baptizers or those who baptize without using the correct formula.]
391
May 11 or
June 9
CT 16.7.5 231 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Persons with inherited rank or status who abandon Christianity shall loose their position and be branded with infamy.
391
May 19
CT 16.5.20 232 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Heretics are to be driven from cities, villages, and communities. They are not able to hold public meetings or secret gatherings.
391
June 16
CT 16.10.11 - Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius No person shall enter the pagan temples, perform sacrifices, or revere pagan shrines. Even judges are subject to this law; if they violate it, they will be fined. Their staff will also be fined unless they opposed him.
391
July 28
CT 12.1.123 233 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius A member of the curia who wants to change rank and take an ecclesiastical position has many restrictions. He must see to it that his public expectations are fulfilled or he cannot leave his senatorial position.
392
Mar 13
CT 9.40.15 234 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Those who have been condemned as criminals may not be assisted by the church in escaping their sentences, by either appeal or abduction. Anyone who violates this law will face a large fine.
[this and the following law are aimed to reduce judicial appeals.]
392
Apr 9
CT 11.36.31 235 Theodosius I,
Arcadius,
Honorius
No one, and clergy are singled out, is allowed to encourage a sentenced criminal to appeal or to intervene on his behalf.
392
Apr 17
CT 2.8.20 236 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Contests in the circuses may not occur on Sunday, so as not to cause a distraction. An exception is made if the emperor’s birthday falls on a Sunday.
392
Apr 17
CT 16.3.2 237 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Monks who have left towns shall be allowed to return. Repeals a prior law of Sept. 2, 380.
392
Apr 17
CT 16.8.8 - Theodosius I,
Arcadius,
Honorius
Certain Jews have been excluded by their own leaders but have been returned to the Jewish community by secular judges. The law commands judges to end this practice. No Jew who has been expelled from the community can be forced back in. Jewish leaders can administrate their religious law.
392
May 20
CT 15.5.2 243 Theodosius I,
Arcadius,
Honorius
Governors are forbidden to hold theatrical plays or races or hunts in the circus except on their birthday and the anniversary of their succession. They may not give golden awards to the winners. These events should not take place on Sunday and should not disturb divine worship. [Rufinus was in the position mentioned from 392-395, so the date given in the Code, 386, has been emended. Otherwise the addressee would need to be emended.]
392
May 27
CT 2.8.21 238 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Part of the law from Aug. 7, 389 is repeated, that no legal transactions, public or private, may take place in the 1 week before or 1 week after, or on Easter.
392
June 15
CT 16.5.21 239 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius If heretical clergy are ordained, the property where the ordination occurred is to be seized by the government if the ordination occurred with the owner’s permission. If it was done without his knowledge, he may be fined or beaten and deported, depending on his income. If it occurred in a public place, the procurator is to be fined.
[This is the first in a series of similar enactments which continue for a generation. It is directed against owners of large rural estates, and aimed at preventing them from appointing their own heretical clergy.]
392
July 18
CT 16.4.3 240 Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius Anyone who “should disturb the catholic faith” is to be deported.
392
Oct 18
CT 9.45.1 241 Theodosius I,
Arcadius,
Honorius
If a debtor to the state takes refuge in a church, he must be dragged from the church building or else the priest must pay his debt. Clergy should not try to protect debtors from their debts.
392
Nov 8
CT 16.10.12 242 Theodosius I,
Arcadius,
Honorius
No person of any class may sacrifice to an image. Even a sacrifice that does not reference the Emperor is not exempt; sacrifices that seek to know about life, death, or other forbidden matters violate natural law. Veneration of images with incense is banned. Judges must enforce this law, if not, they will be fined.
393
Sept 29
CT 16.8.9 244 Theodosius I,
Arcadius,
Honorius
The Jewish sect is protected by law. No synagogues shall be despoiled, and no regulation may be passed to ban Judaism, even in the name of Christianity.
394
Apr 15
CT 16.5.22 245 Theodosius I,
Arcadius,
Honorius
Heretics shall not be allowed to appoint or confirm bishops.
394
June 20
CT 16.5.23 246 Theodosius I,
Arcadius,
Honorius
Eunomians shall be allowed to write wills and likewise receive through wills.
[This repeals a previous law of May 4 389. This law will again be enacted, then again repealed, then again enacted.]
394
June 29
CT 15.7.12 247 Theodosius I,
Arcadius,
Honorius
This law is primarily dealing with actors, but a section of it forbids Christian women and children from association with actors, and forbids actresses to dress as dedicated Christian virgins or widows.
394
July 19
CT 16.5.24 248 Theodosius I,
Arcadius,
Honorius
Heretics are forbidden to teach their doctrines or appoint priests or other clergy. Judges and other officials must enforce this law.

Back to Imperial Laws and Letters

AD 313-364 (Constantine-Jovian)

AD 395-431 (Arcadius and Honorius – Council of Ephesus and aftermath)

H. Drobner (The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction, trans. S. Schatzmann, updated by W. Harmless and H. Drobner [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007] , pp. 187-89) makes a strong case for placing the end of the the “fourth-century” period of church history at the year 430, and we have followed his suggestion, with a few exceptions. For the interested reader, Coleman-Norton lists 174 more laws and letters up to the year 534.

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