Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department


First Advisor

Stephen Sargent

Second Advisor

Tomasso Gazzarri




Rome, Religious persecution


My thesis focuses on the fourth century of the Roman Empire, a time when legal and religious interests merged and produced a Catholic Revolution, breaking away from the pagan past. This work argues that two power-hungry emperors, Constantine and Theodosius, brought this revolution into existence by utilizing religion as a unifier and measure of administrative reform to squash all doctrinal dissentions threatening their political goal of controlling a unified empire. Constantine initiated this Catholic Revolution in 325 when he summoned the Council of Nicaea, and Theodosius completed it in 381 when he convoked the Council of Constantinople and declared Nicene Christianity the orthodox religion of the empire and demanded orthopraxy from all citizens. Constantine and Theodosius urged bishops to end doctrinal arguments and produce uniform statements of faith at these councils, not out of religious piety, in order to promote their own goals of producing administrative reform and to stabilize their governments. Completing the Catholic Revolution by declaring Nicene Christianity the orthodox religion of the empire resulted in the proliferation of legislation, all of which is compiled into Book Sixteen of the Theodosian Code, incentivizing conversion the Nicene Faith with privileges and condemning all other religions in order to encourage citizens to convert to the approved of religion. This thesis argues that Heretics were punished the most severely because of their extreme competition with the now orthodox religion; next, it claims that pagans were punished with the second highest force not because they were threat to the orthodox religion but because their polytheistic doctrine is incompatible with Christian beliefs; and lastly, Jews were punished with minimal severity because they were not as threatening as the heretics and more in line with the new orthodox line of teaching than the other two groups.