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Religious Dissent in Late Antiquity, 350-450$
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Maijastina Kahlos

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190067250

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190067250.001.0001

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The realities of legislation

The realities of legislation

Chapter:
(p.27) 2 The realities of legislation
Source:
Religious Dissent in Late Antiquity, 350-450
Author(s):

Maijastina Kahlos

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190067250.003.0003

This chapter explores the development of the legal status of religious dissidents. The imperial rhetoric of alienation and aggression is counterbalanced by a discussion of the limits of power, such as the realities of making laws. Late antique legislation was articulated in uncompromising and moralizing language. Religious groups were condemned with harsh, insulting terms. The morally charged language of the legislation implies severe imperial authority. However, the authoritative language of legislation was used not only to manifest imperial power, but also to reinforce it. Furthermore, there was no imperial programme of efficient and organized coercive legislation from Constantine until Theodosius II and beyond. Instead, there was a great deal of incoherence and ambivalence. Moreover, the existence of harsh legislation does not necessarily imply that laws were widely obeyed. The prohibitions were renewed again and again, and punishments became more severe. Enforcement of laws often depended on regional circumstances and the initiatives of local leaders such as bishops.

Keywords:   imperial power, rhetoric, legislation, religious dissidents, coercive legislation, enforcement of laws, alienation

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