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Old Society, New BeliefReligious transformation of China and Rome, ca. 1st-6th Centuries$
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Mu-chou Poo, H. A. Drake, and Lisa Raphals

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190278359

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190278359.001.0001

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From Superstitio to Heresy

From Superstitio to Heresy

Law and Divine Justice (Fourth–Fifth Centuries CE)

Chapter:
(p.245) 15 From Superstitio to Heresy
Source:
Old Society, New Belief
Author(s):

Michele Renee Salzman

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190278359.003.0016

There are obvious similarities between Roman laws against superstitio—defined as excessive religious credulity, hence magic and private divination, and then paganism—and Roman laws against heresy: both sets of laws represent attempts by the state to define and prohibit religious behaviors. Yet for all their similarities, justifications for laws against heresy were significantly different from those against superstitio. Heresy laws prohibited not just behaviors but beliefs. A comparison of laws on superstitio and heresy in the early fifth-century Theodosian Code shows how heresy laws were directly tied to a Christian tradition of divine law that focused on the precepts and rules laid down by the Christian God himself—God’s law—in a way that was not the case for laws on superstitio. This chapter thus elucidates a fundamental shift in the nature of imperial authority as emperors aligned themselves with a new, unassailable source of power.

Keywords:   superstitio, heresy, Roman laws, paganism, Theodosian Code

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