Here follows the translation of Theodosian Code chapter 16.10 De paganis, sacrificiis et templis, about pagans, sacrifices, and temples, collecting most of laws against pagans issued in fourth and fifth centuries. The translation has been done on Theodor Mommsen's latin text: Theodosiani libri XVI cum constitutionibus sirmondianis, edidit adsumpto apparatu P. Kruegeri, Th Mommsen, Zurich, Weidmann, 1971 (quarta edizione). The present translation is just to give a corrispective of the Italian one, published on this site: since I'm not a specialist scholar of late antique nor legal latin, I suggest that readers who know English rely on The Theodosian Code and Novels and the Sirmondian Constitutions, translated by Clyde Pharr. Here, every law begins with its number in the Code, date and issuers and addressee (as reported in Mommsen's text). Of course, if you decide to use this translation, please quote the source.
On pagans, sacrifices and temples
- 16.10.1 (17th December 320 c.e.): Emperor Constantine to Maximus: should lightning strike any part of our palace or of any other public building, haruspices may be questioned about what itís going to happen according to ancient preserved customs, and the response must be the most diligently referred to our knowledge; to other people permission must be accorded to follow this custom, provided that they donít do domestic sacrifices which are above all forbidden. You then know that must be referred to us the response and interpretation written about the lightning at the amphitheatre, about which you wrote to the tribune Heraclianus and to the magister officiorum.
- 16.10.2 (341 c.e.): Emperor Constantius to Madalianus, stand-in for the praetorian prefect: Superstition shall cease, insanity of sacrifices must be abolished. Therefore, the penalty provided by the law and by the present sentence will be imposed on anyone who dares to perform sacrifices against the law of the divine prince our father and the order imposed by our benevolence.
- 16.10.3 (1st November 346 c.e.) Emperor Constantius to Catullinus, urban prefect: though we must completely eradicate every superstition, we nevertheless demand that the buildings of temples outside the city wall remain untouched and uncorrupted. In fact, since games, plays and agones, come from some of them, itís not opportune that we eradicate those celebrations that amuse the Roman people according to an ancient custom.
- 16.10.4 (1st December 354?) Emperor Constantius to Taurus, praetorian prefect: itís appropriate to immediately close all temples in every place and in every city, so that, denying access to them, all corrupted people couldnít act against the law. We also demand that everyone avoids sacrifice. So if by any chance someone made such a thing, shall the avenging sword cut him down. We also decree that the condemnedís possessions must be attributed to the state revenue and the same must happen to those governors of provinces who neglect to punish these crimes.
- 16.10.5 (23rd November 353 c.e.): Emperor Constantius to Cerealis, urban prefect: night sacrifices, allowed by Magnentius, shall be abolished and this impious promiscuity shall be repelled.
- 16.10.6 (19th February 356 c.e.): Emperor Constantius to Julian, Caesar: we decree death penalty for those who openly perform sacrifices or honour the images.
- 16.10.7 (21st December 381): Emperors Gratian, Valentinian and Theodosius to Florus, praetorian prefect: if someone, as insane and profane as he is, tries to consult future events by forbidden sacrifices by day or by night, and for this takes possession of or goes to a shrine or temple to perform such a crime, heíll know heíll be banished, because we warned, according to our legitimate faculty, that god must be honoured by chaste prayers and not insulted by evil hymns.
- 16.10.8 (30th November 382): Emperors Gratian, Valentinian and Theodosius to Palladius, chief officer in Osroene: we decree, for the authority of the public Council, that temples once used for gatherings and already for common use, can stay open, if there are statues in them more appreciable for their artistic value than for the deity depicted, and we donít allow any imperial response, obtained with excuses, to be opposed to our decree. Since they are reason for unity in the city and when itís clear that gatherings happen often, your experience can evaluate to allow the temple to be open for any festive assembly, according to our sentences, but without meaning that forbidden sacrifices can be allowed during these occasions.
- 16.10.9 (25th May 385): Emperors Gratian, Valentinian and Theodosius to Cynegius, praetorian prefect: no mortal shall dare to perform sacrifices in order to obtain, with the reading of livers and entrails, hope in a vain promise or, that is worse, the knowledge about future with a so despicable consultation. Therefore a harsh torture will be implemented for he who tries to explore the truth of present and future events in spite of our prohibition.
- 16.10.10 (24th February 391): Emperors Gratian, Valentinian and Theodosius to Albinus, praetorian prefect: nobody shall pollute himself with sacrificial victims, nobody shall kill an innocent victim, nor shall get close to sanctuaries, visit temples and look at statues made by a mortal hand, or heíll be subject to divine and human punishment. Judges shall act so that to condemn everyone who enters a temple along a road or in a city to commit worship acts for profane rites to immediately pay fifteen pounds of gold, and the office he eventually has wonít excuse him from payment in time, except in case he opposes to the judge and appeals to public witnesses. Consuls will pay for such a crime six time the prescribed sum and so their staff; censors and governors four times and so their servants.
- 16.10.11 (16th June 391): Emperors Gratian, Valentinian and Theodosius to Evagrius, augustalis prefect, and to Romanus, comes in Egypt: nobody shall be allowed to perform sacrifices, nobody shall go around temples, nobody shall venerate sanctuaries. Everybody shall know that profane access to them is forbidden, according to the obstacle our law poses, so that, if anyone dares to commit something for the gods and sacred things that contravenes the prohibition, heíll get no indulgence. If any magistrate, as a impious disruptor, enters the corrupted places during his office, relying on the privilege of his role, heíll pay fifteen pounds of gold to our revenue, and so his staff if they didnít oppose as hard as possibile.
- 16.10.12 (8th November 392): Emperors Theodosius, Arcadius and Honorius to Rufinus, praetorian prefect: nobody, of whatsoever condition and class, who was appointed for an office or some privilege, should he be powerful for his origin or born in humble conditions, absolutely nowhere, in no city, shall offer an innocent victim to the meaningless idols, nor, as a worse sacrilege, worship the Lares with fire, the Genius with wine, the Penates with perfumes, nor shall light lamps or put incense after them, nor hang wreaths. If someone dares to sacrifice a victim or consult its still warm intrails, heíll be charged for high treason and subject to the prescribed penalty, even though he didnít try to divine anything in favour or against the princeís health. For the crime to be grave itís enough the will of going against the laws of nature, to investigate illicit things, to discover the hidden, to try the forbidden, to want to put an end to everyone elseís health, to hope in someoneís death. If someone adores, by putting incense after them, images made by human hands and therefore suffering the passing of time, or suddenly fears in a ridicule manner what himself made, or, after putting ribbons on a tree or constructing an altar out of clumps, tries to honor the vane idols with an even modest gift, but completely despising religion, he will be charged of religion violation and will be punished with confiscation of the house or land in which the superstition of gentiles will be proven to have survived. Therefore, all places in which will be proven that the smoke of incense raised, if theyíre property of the person who burnt the incense, will be attributed to the imperial revenue. If the guilty tries some form of sacrifice in a public temple or sanctuary or in a place belonging to another person and if this latter is recognized unaware of what happened, the guilty will pay 25 pounds of gold and the same amount will be paid by every accomplice. We wish judges, defender and curial officers in every city to implement what we said, so that on one hand they refer violations to the court, on the other they punish the referred facts. But if they conceal something for benevolence or let it unpunished for negligence, theyíll underwent the trial; if they have been warned of the crime but omitted to implement the provided punishment, they would pay a fine of 30 pounds and so their staff.
- 16.10.13 (7th August 395): Emperors Arcadius and Honorius to Rufinus, praetorian prefect: we decided that nobody shall have the permission to enter any sanctuary or temple, nor to perform execrable sacrifices, in any time or place. So everyone who tends to deviate from dogmas of catholic religion must make the effort to conform to what we recently decreed and mustnít dare to infringe what in the past has been established about heretics and pagans, being aware that anything our divine fatherís laws decided against him, as penalty or fine, will now more strictly implemented. The governors of our provinces and their staff, the primates of the cities, the defensores and the curials and attorneys of our possession, must instead be aware that, if heretic illegal assemblies happen in our lands and they have no fear of losing possessions because these already pertain to the state revenue, nevertheless the action against the law must be punished and if they donít act immediately, theyíll undergo every penalty and fine implemented in previous decrees. We especially decree this more strict measure against magistrates: those who donít do their whole duty with commitment and carefulness, will pay not only the fine provided for them, but also what is provided for verified culprits, and they wonít get any absolution because they are punished for their negligence. So officers who neglected what established by the laws are worthy of capital sentence.
- 16.10.14 (7th December 396): Emperors Arcadius and Honorius to Cesarius, praetorian prefect: all privileges granted by any ancient law to priests, ministers, prefects or hierophants of sacred things or whatever they are called, must be abolished so that those people whose office has been condemned by the laws may no more benefit of them.
- 16.10.15 (29th January 399): Emperors Arcadius and Honorius to Macrobius, vicarius of Spain, and to Proclianus, vicarius of five provinces: as we forbid to perform sacrifices, so we want to preserve ornaments of public building. Nobody shall be tempted for his own authority to take them away, even with the pretext of any rescript or law. These documents shall be torn off his hands and brought to our knowledge; weíll establish if they can prove illicit permissions on his or otherís behalf. A two pounds of gold fine shall be paid by those who presented the documents.
- 16.10.16 (10th July 399): Emperors Arcadius and Honorius to Eutychianus, praetorian prefect: if there are still temples in the countryside, they shall be destroyed without disorders and riots. Once they are destroyed, superstition wonít have a place anymore.
- 16.10.17 (20th August 399): Emperors Arcadius and Honorius to Apollodorus, proconsul of Africa: since we have already abolished the profane rites with a salubrious law, we donít allow the abolition of festive gatherings of citizens and of common festivals. Therefore we decree that amusements and gatherings can be performed according to ancient customs, as requested by public will, but without sacrifices o exhibition of any condemned superstition.
- 16.10.18 (20th August 399): Emperors Arcadius and Honorius to Apollodorus, proconsul of Africa: nobody shall try to destroy a temple pretending our approval, if the temple is already empty of illicit things. We want the building to remain intact. But if someone is caught performing a sacrifice, heíll be punished according to the laws and, after the magistrateís investigation, the idols will be destroyed, since it still happens that the devotion of a vain superstition is offered to them.
- 16.10.19 (15th November 407/8): Emperors Arcadius, Honorius and Theodosius to Curtius, praetorian prefect: the annonae shall be taken away from temples and devolved to military expenses. The simulacra, if still there are any in temples and sanctuaries, that received or still receive the worship of pagans, must be removed from their seats; we know that we have implemented repeated penalties for these actions. The buildings of temples, inside or outside cities, inside or outside the walls, must be reemployed for public use. Altars in every place shall be destroyed and all temples within our possessions must be employed for more suitable use; landowners shall commit to destroy the temples in their lands. In this very evil places no gathering shall happen for a profane rite or whatsoever celebration. Moreover, we confer on bishops the faculty of prevent access to these places by exerting their ecclesiastic power; magistrates shall undergo a fine of twenty pounds of gold, and so their staff, if they will neglect to implement these laws with bad faith.
- 16.10.20 (30th August 415): Emperors Honorius and Theodosius: We decree that all the priest of the pagan superstitionís imperial cult will undergo the implemented penalty if they donít leave Carthage before the Calends of November and go back to their native cities, and the same for priests in the whole province of Africa if they donít leave metropolitan cities to go back to their native ones. Moreover, we decree that all places sacred to the ancient error, according to what Gratian decided, shall be claimed to imperial revenue, so that the usurpers will be required to pay the incomes due from the day in which public financing for most harmful superstition has been forbidden; they will preserve of those incomes only what has been donated to them for largess of our predecessors or by our majesty. This we establish not only for Africa but also for every region under our rule. What we attributed to the venerable church with many decrees, will be justly claimed to christian religion, so that all expenses used to be made long time ago for superstition, now condemned by the law, and all places that fredians, dendrophori and all other heathen profession and colleges, whatever are they called, had and used for feasts and expenses, since their mistake has been condemned, can increase our revenues. Finally, if something consecrated with sacrifices deceives people, it must be removed from public baths or places, so that it canít give an excuse for mistake. We establish that above all the chiliarchs, the centenaries and all those who want to usurp distributions for the population, must be removed, and will undergo the death penalty everyone who, because of presumption and malevolence, will call himself or will be called by these names.
- 16.10.21 (7th December 416): Emperors Honorius and Theodosius to Aurelian, praetorian prefect: people who contaminated with a profane mistake or the guilt of a pagan rite, that means the gentiles, wonít be allowed to enlist for military service, nor can receive the charge of judge or administrator.
- 16.10.22 (9th April 423): Emperors Honorius and Theodosius to Asclepiodotus, praetorian prefect: pagans that still remain, though we believe there are none, [text missing], must renounce to accomplish what has been forbidden long time ago.
- 16.10.23 (8th June 423): Emperors Honorius and Theodosius to Asclepiodotus, praetorian prefect: pagans that still remain, if they are caught in performing abhorrent sacrifices to demons, though they should undergo death penalty, will instead punished with requisition of properties and exile.
- 16.10.24 (8th June 423): Emperors Honorius and Theodosius to Asclepiodotus, praetorian prefect: those Manicheans that are called Pepizites, together with all those who are the worst of the heretics, since they dissent from all others in the venerable day of Easter, if they continue in their insanity, they will undergo the same penalty, that is the requisition of properties and exile. But above all we demand this to Christian people, whether theyíre really Christian or just call themselves so: that they donít dare, abusing of religious authority, lift their hand on Jews or Pagans that live in peace and donít attempt anything for insurrection or against the laws. In facts, if they are violent against the quiet ones or damage their possession, they will return what they took not once, but three or four times. Provincial governors and officials too must be aware that, if they allowed what happened, they will be punished.
- 16.10.25 (14th November 435): Emperor Theodosius and Valentinian to Isidore, praetorian prefect: we forbid to all wicked pagan mind to perform abhorrent immolation of victims and condemned sacrifices and all other practices that has been forbidden for the authority of past sentences, and we demand that all their sanctuaries, temples and sacred places, if still there are any standing, are destroyed under the siege of magistrates and purified by putting in them the sign of christian religion. If in front of the magistrate in charge with adequate proofs someone will be ascertained to have infringed upon this law, heíll undergo the death penalty.
Translated by Manuela Simeoni