Times of our lives

Highlights from chronology of fourth century prepared for Carroll College conference by Professor Barry Ferst.

311 Emperor Galerius writes in an edict: “We have thought proper in this matter to extend our clemency most gladly, so that Christians may again exist and rebuild the houses in which they used to meet, on condition that they do nothing contrary to public order. … In view of this our clemency, they are in duty bound to beseech their own god for our security.”

312 Emperor Constantine directs his soldiers, following a vision, to put the Christian Chi-rho symbol on their shields and standards before the battle of the Milvian Bridge, at which he then defeats Maxentius.

313 Edict of Milan proclaims freedom for all religions of the empire, including Christianity.

321 Basil the Great is born. In 364 he becomes bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia.

325 Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical council, condemned Arianism as heretical for not making Jesus sufficiently divine, set the date for Easter and developed the Nicene Creed.

326 Constantine has his son executed. His wife’s death is announced as a suicide. His mother Helena begins her pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

331 St. Peter’s Church in Rome is erected (in 1506 it will be pulled down to make room for a new St. Peter’s).

337 Constantine is baptized on his deathbed (though many historians think he never managed to distinguish Jesus from his previous god, the Unconquered Sun). His son Constantius becomes emperor.

354 Augustine is born at Thagaste in Numidia (now in Algeria) of Christian mother Monica and pagan father Patrick. He became a Manichean apostate for a while, converted, became bishop and a writer.

360 Basil the Great rails against Arianism.

361 Jews, still a presence, destroy churches in Phoenicia (now Lebanon) and Alexandria, Egypt.

374 Ambrose, though not yet baptized, becomes bishop of Milan on the death of Arian Bishop Auxentius.

378 Visigoth armies defeat the Roman army, a harbinger of more of the same to come.

381 Council of Constantinople condemns Arianism. Pope Damasus decides on canonical books of the Christian Bible. Theodosius makes Christianity the official religion of the Empire, outlaws traditional Roman religions, allows Judaism so long as they do not proselytize.

383 Roman legions begin leaving England, which they can no longer hold or defend.

384 Siricius is made pope but is overshadowed by Bishop Ambrose of Milan.

388 Christians burn down a synagogue in Callinicum. Theodosius orders them to pay for it but, under pressure from redoubtable Ambrose, rescinds his order.

389 Jerome begins translation of sacred scripture that will become known as the Vulgate.

398 Augustine completes Confessions.

402 Theodosius II, at age 1, is proclaimed co-emperor, but in 408 will go on to become real emperor until 450.

410 First sack of Rome, led by Alaric, an Arian Christian.