Roman Emperors Issue Law That Divination Can be Practiced Freely

Roman Emperors Issue Law That Divination Can be Practiced Freely

Emperor Gratian

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Emperors Valentinian I, Valens, and Gratian issue a new law saying that divination is not the same as magic and thus can be practiced freely as long as it isn't used to cause harm.

According to the new Roman law:

"Divination has no connection with magic, and neither this superstition, nor any other previously allowed by our elders, is any sort of crime. ...

We do not condemn divination, but We do forbid that it be practiced harmfully." [CT 9.16.9]

Using supernatural powers is contrary to the Christian worldview, but it's also very popular. Thus while Christian orthodoxy would require that all such practices be banned, on a practical level it is difficult to do. Emperor Constantine had banned soothsaying entirely and restricted the practice of magic to only non-harmful forms.

Now, however, divination is going to be treated like magic. It seems likely that the reaction to the outright ban on soothsayers has not been welcomed by the Roman public — probably including Christians.


Emperors of Rome: Gratian

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