Edict of Thessalonica
The Edict of Thessalonica, also known as Cunctos populos, was delivered on 27 February 380 by Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

, Gratian
Gratian was Roman Emperor from 375 to 383.The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian's brother Valentinian II was declared emperor by his father's soldiers...

, and Valentinian II
Valentinian II
Flavius Valentinianus , commonly known as Valentinian II, was Roman Emperor from 375 to 392.-Early Life and Accession :...

 in order that all their subjects should profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria. The edict was issued shortly after Theodosius had suffered a severe illness in Thessalonica and was baptized by Acholius of Thessalonica, the bishop of that city. It is commonly asserted that this edict made Christianity the State church of the Roman Empire
State church of the Roman Empire
The state church of the Roman Empire was a Christian institution organized within the Roman Empire during the 4th century that came to represent the Empire's sole authorized religion. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches claim to be the historical continuation of this...

. Critics claim its aim was not to force pagans into the Christian Church
Christian Church
The Christian Church is the assembly or association of followers of Jesus Christ. The Greek term ἐκκλησία that in its appearances in the New Testament is usually translated as "church" basically means "assembly"...

, but to make all Christians accept Nicene Christianity. They further claim that to say that Christianity was now the state religion
State religion
A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state...

 is meaningless, since pagans were not discriminated against; as late as the early 390s pagans still provided half of the high-ranking state officials and provincial governors in the eastern provinces, under the rule of Theodosius. For details see Christian persecution of paganism under Theodosius I
Christian persecution of paganism under Theodosius I
The Christian persecution of paganism under Theodosius I began in 381, after the first couple of years his reign in the Eastern Roman Empire. In the 380s, Theodosius I reiterated Constantine's ban on Pagan sacrifice, prohibited haruspicy on pain of death, pioneered the criminalization of...



The emperor Constantine I
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

 converted to Christianity in 312. By 325 Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

, a type of christology
Christology is the field of study within Christian theology which is primarily concerned with the nature and person of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament. Primary considerations include the relationship of Jesus' nature and person with the nature...

 which denied the Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

, had created enough problems in Early Christianity
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

 that Constantine (who had little patience for the finer points of theology) called the Council of Nicaea
First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325...

 in an attempt to establish an empire-wide orthodoxy
The word orthodox, from Greek orthos + doxa , is generally used to mean the adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion...

 and end the controversy. The council produced the original Nicene Creed, which rejected Arianism and upheld the Trinity.

However, the strife within the Church did not end with Nicaea. Constantine, while urging tolerance, began to think that he had come down on the wrong side, and that the trinitarians—with their fervent persecution of Arians—were actually perpetuating strife within the Church. Constantine was not baptized until he was near death (c.327), and then he chose an Arian bishop, Eusebius of Nicomedia
Eusebius of Nicomedia
Eusebius of Nicomedia was the man who baptised Constantine. He was a bishop of Berytus in Phoenicia, then of Nicomedia where the imperial court resided in Bithynia, and finally of Constantinople from 338 up to his death....

, to perform the baptism.

Constantine's son and successor in the east, Constantius II
Constantius II
Constantius II , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. The second son of Constantine I and Fausta, he ascended to the throne with his brothers Constantine II and Constans upon their father's death....

 was sympathetic to the Arians, and even exiled Nicene bishops. Constantius' successor Julian the Apostate
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

 was a pagan
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 and encouraged the various Christian sects in their disagreements by declaring toleration for all of them. Julian's successor in turn, Jovian, while Christian, only reigned for 8 months and never entered Constantinople. He was then succeeded in the east by Valens
Valens was the Eastern Roman Emperor from 364 to 378. He was given the eastern half of the empire by his brother Valentinian I after the latter's accession to the throne...

 who was an Arian.

By 379, when Valens was succeeded by Theodosius, Arianism was widespread in the eastern part of the empire, while the west had remained staunchly orthodox (i.e. Nicene). Theodosius, who had been born in Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

 was himself orthodox and very devout. In August, his counterpart in the west Gratian
Gratian was Roman Emperor from 375 to 383.The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian's brother Valentinian II was declared emperor by his father's soldiers...

 took steps toward legal persecution of heretics in the west. This was followed shortly by the jointly issued Edict of Thessalonica.



The Edict was issued under the influence of Acholius, and thus of Pope Damasus I who had appointed him. It made "Catholic Christianity" the only religion legally tolerated in the empire. After the Edict, Theodosius spent a great deal of energy suppressing Arianism and other heretical sects, and in establishing Nicene orthodoxy throughout his realm.

The Edict was followed in 381 by the First Council of Constantinople
First Council of Constantinople
The First Council of Constantinople is recognized as the Second Ecumenical Council by the Assyrian Church of the East, the Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, the Old Catholics, and a number of other Western Christian groups. It was the first Ecumenical Council held in...

, which produced the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. In 383 the Emperor ordered the various non-Nicene sects (Arians, Anomoeans, Macedonians
Macedonians (religious group)
The Macedonians were a Christian sect of the 4th century, named after Bishop Macedonius I of Constantinople. They professed a belief similar to that of Arianism, but apparently denying the divinity of the Holy Spirit, and regarding the substance of Jesus Christ as being the same in kind as that of...

, and Novatians
The Novatianists were early Christians following Antipope Novatian, held a strict view that refused readmission to communion of Lapsi, those baptized Christians who had denied their faith or performed the formalities of a ritual sacrifice to the pagan gods, under the pressures of the persecution...

) to submit written creeds to him, which he prayerfully reviewed and then burned, save for that of the Novatians. The other sects lost the right to meet, ordain priests, or spread their beliefs. Theodosius prohibited the residence of heretics within Constantinople, and in 392 and 394 confiscated their places of worship.
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