Christian persecution of paganism under Theodosius I  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Christian persecution of paganism under Theodosius I began in 381, after the first couple of years of his reign as co-emperor in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. In the 380s, Theodosius I reiterated Constantine's ban on pagan sacrifice, prohibited haruspicy on pain of death, pioneered the criminalization of magistrates who did not enforce anti-pagan laws, broke up some pagan associations and destroyed pagan temples.

Between 389 and 391 he issued the "Theodosian decrees," which established a practical ban on paganism; visits to the temples were forbidden, remaining pagan holidays abolished, the sacred fire in the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum extinguished, the Vestal Virgins disbanded, auspices and witchcraft punished. Theodosius refused to restore the Altar of Victory in the Senate House, as requested by pagan Senators.

In 392 he became emperor of the whole empire (the last one to be so). From this moment until the end of his reign in 395, while pagans remained outspoken in their demands for toleration, he authorized or participated in the destruction of many temples, holy sites, images and objects of piety throughout the empire in actions by Christians against major pagan sites. He issued a comprehensive law that prohibited any public pagan ritual, and was particularly oppressive of Manicheans. He is likely to have suppressed the Ancient Olympic Games, whose last record of celebration is from 393.

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