Theodosius I: Christians Who Convert to Paganism Can't Make Wills Hot

Theodosius I: Christians Who Convert to Paganism Can't Make Wills

Emperor Theodosius I

Roman emperor Theodosius I issues a decree that any Christians who convert to paganism will not be permitted to make a will; any will they do create will be invalid.

The new law says:

"Any Christians who have become pagans will not have the right to make testaments. Every testament of such deceased pagans, if one exists, will be annulled." [CTh 16.7.1]

Emperor Theodosius is the most zealous Christian emperor thus far. He does more to suppress paganism in favor of Christianity than any other Roman emperor until now — and more than most other emperors after him, as well.

This new law is directed primarily at the wealthy and aristocratic. The poor don't have enough property to worry about wills, whereas the wealthy have so much that if the state seizes an inheritance instead of letting it pass to family, a huge legacy might be destroyed.

This law is thus designed to ensure that if a rich aristocrat converts to Christianity, they won't give in to second thoughts and convert back. It also ensures that for someone who converts and raises their children as Christians, those children won't later decide to adopt the religion of their grandparents and earlier ancestors.

This is a time when the power of traditional paganism is still strong in Rome and the pagan religion remains attractive. The power of the state needs to be brought down on the side of Christianity in order to ensure that Christianity is more attractive to the richest and most powerful Roman families.


Imperium Romanum: Theodosius I

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