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Otto Seeck

Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt, vol. 5, 4th edition, Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 1921, (6 volumes in 12), pp. 228-229

Volume VI. Valentinian and his family.
Chapter 6. The last uprising of paganism.


Theodosius did not manage to stay very long in Milan. In the spring of 390, he had left the city again, when a message was brought to him that incited the most furious explosive rage in him. It was to be the cause of a gruesome mass murder that would sully his reputation for all time.

In Milan, under the influence of Ambrose, an influence which had probably been greatly heightened by the appearance of the comet, the emperor had issued another law, besides the law against heresy, according to which all the cinaedi [passive homosexuals] of Rome were to be burned [see note reproduced below]. The announcement thereof also must have entailed a more severe prosecution of the paederasts [active homosexuals]. Now in Thessalonica, a very popular circus charioteer had pursued a beautiful young boy, who served as the cupbearer to Butherich, the commander of the Illyrian troops, and he was arrested for that reason. When soon thereafter public chariot races were supposed to be held, the people called for his release so that he could take part, but the request was denied. Then the mob, whose enjoyment of the circus games was one of their greatest pleasures in life, broke out in a wild riot, and Butherich was killed. In recent years, such disturbances had become very frequent. We have seen already how in Antioch the statues of the imperial family were overturned(p. 170), then in Constantinople the house of the bishop and in the Orient Jewish synagogues and heretical houses of prayer had been set on fire, pagan temples demolished and valuable works of art destroyed (pp. 220, 222). In the beginning, Theodosius had been tolerant [of the violence] of his own accord, but then when he became impatient. Ambrose had compelled him to be tolerant. But now that the wildness of the masses had robbed him of a valued general ...

Note to page 229, line 9 (on pp. 531-32)
Collatio legum Romanorum et Mosaicorum V 3. here the law bears the inscription: prop(ositum) pr(idie) id(us) Maias Romae in atrio Minervae ["posted on the day before the ides of May (i.e. May 14) at Rome in the atrium of Minerva"] without mentioning a consul. In the fragment included in the Codex Theodosianus (IX, 7, 6), it says: p(ro)p(ositum) in foro Traiani VIII id. Aug. Valentiniano A. IIII et Neoterio conss. ["posted at Trajan's Forum on the eighth day before the ides of August (August 6) in the fourth year of the reign of Valentinian Augustus and during the consulate of Neoterius"] (390). The difference in the time and location may perhaps be explained in the following manner. The law was publicly posted first on May 14, 390 in the Atrium Minervae and those against whom it was directed were arrested. But since the number of cinaedi was surprisingly large, the officials hesitated to effect such a mass execution, removed the law and consulted with the emperor as to whether it should be enforced in its full severity. After he affirmed this, it was posted a second time on August 6 at the Forum Trajanum. But however it happened, the report given by the Collatio cannot be discarded, because it is consistently more reliable than the Codex Theodosianus. But since the date of a law is regularly several weeks, occasionally even many months, earlier than the posting, it can be assumed that it was promulgated no later than the start of April, that is, during the period when Theodosius was still in Milan. - That the cinaedi were threatened with the death penalty thereafter can be seen in Augustine, City of God VI 8: viros muliebra pati - quod in vitiosis hominum moribus vix habet inter tormenta confessionem.