While the Papacy worked on securing ‘unity of the faith’, hordes of barbarians were heading swiftly and in multitudes towards the empire. For one hundred years these nations had been encroaching upon the West and breaking occasionally upon the East.
At the close of the fourth century, the tempest burst in all its fury.
As early as AD377, a million Goths had crossed the Danube, and in the next thirty years had ravaged Thessalonica to the Adriatic Sea. In AD400, a host of them entered the borders of Italy.
In AD407, a band of Burgundians, Vandals, Suevi, and Alans from the north of Germany – 400,000 strong – overran Italy as far as Florence. After their retreat, the Goths arrived and spread over Italy, pillaging the country. Three years later, the Visigoths sacked the city of Rome, and again thirty years later by the Vandals. http://www.fsmitha.com/h1/rome24.htm
The Papacy adapted itself to these barbarian invasions, reaping power and influence. Some of the barbarian tribes were already professedly Arian Christians, and (apart from the Vandals) were not so ready to persecute. They were willing to settle and make themselves homes in the territories of the lost empire.
When Clovis the Frankish king was converted to Catholicism, for the “first time the diffusion of belief in the nature of the Godhead became the avowed pretext for the invasion of a neighbouring territory.” Henry H. Milman. History of Christianity. Bk. 3.Ch 2. par 28. Two Republics p526. A.T. Jones.
In AD508, Clovis complained, “It grieves me to see that the Arians still possess the fairest portion of Gaul. Let us march against them with the aid of God; and having vanquished the heretics, we will possess and divide their fertile province.” Edward Gibbon. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Ch. xxxviii. Par 11. Two Republics p527. (It was the Visigoths who occupied Gaul. The Goths were a Germanic tribe that split into the Visigoths, north of the Danube, and the Ostrogoths, on the far east)
War was declared and the “Visigoth kingdom was wasted and subdued by the remorseless sword of the Franks.” Ibid Par 12. Ibid p258. They were not wiped out, but being in subjection, converted to Catholicism.
“Thus was the bloody course of Clovis glorified by the Catholic writers, as the triumph of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity over Arianism.” The Two Republics. A.T. Jones p528.
In AD476, the Heruli, another barbarian kingdom established itself in Italy. Their king Odoacer did not openly oppose Catholicism, but ruled the country impartially. He shielded his people from persecution inaugurated by the combined efforts of the pope and the emperor of the East. Facts of Faith p37.38.
“The barbarians who took possession of Italy were Arians, which in the sight of the bishop of Rome was worse than all other crimes put together.” History of the Popes. Bower. Felix 11. Par 1. Ibid.
The Catholic ecclesiastics of Italy began to plot the overthrow of the Heruli, and they appealed to Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, to free Rome from the Heruli. This barbarian nation was in the service of the Eastern Empire and it was the emperor who happily gave permission.
“The march of Theodoric must be considered as the emigration of an entire people: the wives and children of the Goths, their aged parents, and most precious effects, were carefully transported… and he displayed his invincible banners on the confines of Italy.” Gibbon. Decline and Fall. Ch. xxxix. Par 6.
Cardinal John Henry Newman said, “Odoacer was sinking before Theodoric, and the pope was changing one Arian master for another.” An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. Part 11. p320. 1878. Facts of Faith p39.
The Heruli were massacred in AD493, and they disappeared from history.
Yes, the Ostrogoths were Arians too. The Church of Rome, in destroying one opponent never hesitates, even if another rises in its place. It was one less, and sooner or later, the remaining one would also be destroyed.
Theodoric ruled Italy thirty three years, during which time the country enjoyed such peace and quietness and absolute security as had never been known there before. The population of the Ostrogoths was nearly one million, and their 200,000 troops, formerly wild and given to plunder, were restored to complete discipline in their new land.
Not only did civil peace reign, but there was perfect freedom of religion. The separation of Church and State was clear and distinct, not simply toleration, but a genuine recognition of the rights of conscience.
However, this peace and quietness applied to Italy itself, not to Rome. The dominions of Theodoric and his people were at peace, but in Rome there was no peace at all.
As king, Theodoric assumed some authority over the church, however, the bishops and people were free to worship according to their conscience. “The religious liberty, with its attendant blessings to the country which Theodoric had inaugurated, did not satisfy the Catholic bishops; for Rome does not want religious liberty for other churches, but sole domination for herself.” Facts of Faith p46.
Persecution soon brought suffering to the Ostrogoths. Theodoric was urged to retaliate, but he steadfastly refused.
“Theodoric deserves the highest praise; for during the thirty eight years he reigned in Italy, he brought the country to such a state of greatness, that her previous sufferings were no longer recognizable.” Fall of Rome. John G Shepherd p301.302. 1861. Facts of Faith. p45. He died in AD 526.
Justinian became emperor of the Eastern Empire in AD527.
The emperor was no admirer of Catholicism, however, to achieve his plans, he needed to employ the pope’s support.
His aim was to gain dominion over the fallen Western Empire and to achieve this, he would ‘unite all men in one faith’, whether they were Jews, Gentiles, or Christians. Those who did not embrace the Catholic faith were declared to be “infamous”, and their estates “confiscated”. The Wise Shall Understand. Charles H. Clever. p184.
A great persecution arose. “In his zeal to gather all men into one Christian doctrine he (Justinian)recklessly killed all who dissented.” Secret History of the Court of Justinian p138.139. P. Covici. 1927. Facts of Faith p41.
In AD533, another Trinitarian debate arose as to whether one of the Trinity suffered on the cross, and whether it was divinity or humanity that suffered. Two Republics p548.
Justinian became involved in the dispute, and he sent a flattering letter to the bishop of Rome. “…We cannot suffer that anything which relates to the state of the church, however manifest and unquestionable, should be moved, without the knowledge of your Holiness, who are the head of all the holy churches; for in all things we have already declared, we are anxious to increase the honor and authority of your apostolic chair.” Code of Justinian. Bk 1. Title 1. Sec 4. (Grammar ‘are the head’ in the text. Italics added) Cited in: ‘The Enactments of Justinian’, translated from the original Latin, edited and compared with all accessible systems of jurisprudence ancient and modern by S. P. Scott AM, author of ‘History of the Moorish Empire in Europe’. www.constitution.org/sps/sps12.htm
Justinian employed a lawyer named Tribonian, who, with a committee of sixteen lawyers, codified the letter, and the following year (AD534), an imperial rescript of it was issued, recognising the bishop of Rome as head of all the churches.
This made the Catholic faith official by law, “as the only orthodox religion of the empire”, uniting the two mighty forces of state and religion under the Papacy. http://dedication.www3.50megs.com/dan/1260.html (There are some who say Justinian’s code is a fraud, having been written by the Catholic Church to substantiate the pope’s authority as the head of the churches, however, copies of Justinian’s code have been translated by reputable scholars and these stand today. The Code did not deal only with the pope, but with all Roman law, gathered together by the emperor’s lawyers and placed in fifty books. It was the first time Roman law had been written down, thus preserving it for succeeding generations)
Although the Code was official, the two remaining Arian horns must be overthrown before the pope could wield his sceptre.
In Africa, Catholics were being persecuted by the Arian Vandals, a reverse of what had taken place under Catholic rule. Justinian planned a crusade to deliver the Catholic people.
Hilderic, the Arian king of the Vandals, preferred peace rather than war, and he gave all the Catholic bishops freedom of worship. The Arian clergy accused him of falling from the faith and he was removed from the throne by Gelimer, who took his place.
Hilderic had won the favour and friendship of Justinian for his actions toward Catholics, and although the emperor was anxious to rid the world of the Arians, he declined to wage a war against the Vandals.
While he lingered, a fanatical bishop of the East claimed to have seen Justinian in vision delivering the African Church. “It is the will of Heaven, O emperor! that you should not abandon your holy enterprise for the deliverance of the African church. The God of battles will march before your standard, and disperse your enemies, who are the enemies of his Son.” Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Edward Gibbon. Fall in the East. Chapter 41.
Belisarius was sent to Africa to vanquish the Vandals, and in AD534 they “disappeared from history.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1963 ed. Vol. 22. p973.
“The Arian heresy was proscribed, and the race of these remarkable conquerors was in a short time exterminated… There are few instances in history of a nation disappearing so rapidly and so completely as the Vandals of Africa.” A History of Greece under the Romans. George Finley p234 1856. Facts of Faith p44.
The armies of Justinian now turned their attention to Italy and the Arian Ostrogoths.
In AD538, under the generalship of Belisarius, Rome, Sicily and Rhegium were seized, and two years later, the Ostrogoth capital of Ravenna. Although Totila, the new Ostrogoth leader lay siege to Rome and succeeded in re-taking it twice, he was not able to set up the kingdom.
The power of the Ostrogoths had been broken in AD538, and their attempts to regain the kingdom were but a flicker of a failing lamp. It was “the annihilation and disappearance of a great and powerful people from the world’s history.” Fall of Rome. J.G. Sheppard p306. 1892. Facts of Faith p49.
The Ostrogoth kingdom “lost their king, their capital, their treasures, the provinces from Sicily to the Alps, and the military force of two hundred thousand barbarians, magnificently equipped with horses and arms.” Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Ch22. Par.23.28. Chxliii. Par.4. Edward Gibbon. (‘Mopping up’ took until AD552 [or AD555] for complete annihilation) Two Republics p552.
Prophecy had been fulfilled, and the last of the three horns were plucked up by the roots. The pope could now wield his sceptre with forcefulness, making emperors and the kings of Europe bow in reverence.
The prophet Daniel saw the final result of this long religious controversy in vision. “I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.” Daniel 7:8.
It is stated three times.
“… and the other which came up, and before whom three fell…” Daniel 7:20.
“… and another shall arise… and he shall subdue three kings.” Daniel 7:24.
History calls these three kingdoms ‘barbarians’, and our minds have generally thought of them as totally heathen, unruly and fierce. It is true the Vandals are known as a cruel nation, however, of its approximately five million people, only a small percentage were soldiers. The remainder were mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends who wanted to live in peace.
It is the same for the Heruli and the Ostrogoths. These kingdoms were heathen at one time, but eventually each accepted the Christian faith.
In their walk with God, the three barbarian nations gradually shared the view that the Papacy was wrong in its understanding of the Trinity, and made a stand against a religious power that was to become the universal Catholic Church. (In their zeal to rid them from the earth, the Roman Church did not distinguish between Arians and Semi-Arians)
Perhaps we need to rethink our attitude towards these people!
Their desire to conquer other nations is questioned, but we have not lived in their times. Perhaps they were driven from their homes. One historian said food was their urgent need.
Let us not forget that these people were destroyed because Rome regarded them as a cult, and was determined to eradicate all who did not believe in Roman dogmas, especially the Trinity.
What about today?
If the Catholic Church did an investigation into the beliefs of our pioneers, a modern Justinian would have wiped us out!