Page 1055

1055 BARBARIAN ASCENDENCY-KINGDOMS IN ITALY

was marked with a spirit of tolerance and

moderation. The old theory of the Roman

law that every citizen might choose his own

religion was adopted as best suited to the condition of the people.

It would, however, be far from the truth

to suppose that the government of Theodoric

was above reproach or his times without their

vices. In the beginning of his reign the Heruli were unjustly oppressed with taxation,

and several of the economic projects of the

king would, but for the opposition of Boethius,

have greatly injured the industrial interests

of the kingdom. The nobles and friends of

the monarch were in some instances permitted

to wrest estates from others and to hold their

unjust acquisitions. Nor was it possible that

the two hundred thousand Gothic warriors, by

whose barbaric valor Theodoric had conquered

an empire, could be, even in the midst of

peaceful surroundings, converted at once from

savagery to civilization.

It appears that the religious toleration introduced into the state by Theodoric, though

outwardly accepted by the Catholics, was

exceedingly distasteful to their orthodoxy.

Without the power to reverse or resent the

policy of the king, the Italian zealots turned

their animosity upon the Jews and made that

persecuted race the object of their scorn and

persecution. Many rich but defenseless Israelites-traders and merchants living at Rome,

Naples, Ravenna, Milan, and Genoa-were

deprived of their property and turned adrift

as so many paupers. Their synagogues were

despoiled and then burned, their homes pillaged, and their persons outraged. To the

credit of Theodoric, he set himself against

these manifestations of rapacious bigotry, and

some of the chief leaders of the tumult Were

obliged to make restitution to their victims,

and were then condemned to be publicly

whipped in the streets by the executioner.

Then it was that the Italian Catholics set

up a cry against the persecution of the Church.

The clemency and good deeds of the king

were forgotten by those who were opposed to

martyrdom when themselves were the martyrs.

The later years of the king's life were clouded

with these religious disturbances in his kingdom. Nor did the conduct of his Italian

subjects fail to excite in the mind of the sovereign the small vices of jealousy and bitterness. It is alleged that he secured the services

of informers against the malcontent but noble

bigots of the kingdom, whom he suspected,

not without cause, of a secret and treasonable

correspondence with the Emperor of the East.

Certain it is that Justinian, who had now

succeeded to power at Constantinople, resolved to purge the Church of heresy as well

in the West as in his paternal dominions.

An edict was issued from Constantinople

against the Arian Christians in all the Mediterranean states. Those who refused to accept the established creed of the Church were

to suffer the penalty of excommunication.

This course was indignantly resented by Theodoric, who justly reasoned that the same toleration shown by himself to his Catholic

subjects in the West should of right be extended to the Arian Christians in the Empire

of the Greeks. Theodoric accordingly ordered

the Roman pontiff and four distinguished

senators to go on an embassy to Constantinople, and there demand of Justinian the rights

of religious freedom. They were commanded

in their instructions to urge upon that monarch

that any pretense to a dominion over the conscience of man is a usurpation of the divine

prerogative, that the power of the earthly

sovereign is limited to earthly things, and

that the most dangerous heresy in a state is

that of a ruler who puts from himself and

his protection a part of his subjects on account of their religious faith. The rejection

by Justinian of this appeal furnished, so far

as any act could furnish, to Theodoric good

ground for issuing an edict that, after a certain day, the orthodox religion should be

prohibited throughout Italy.

It was in the midst of the bitterness excited by this schismatic broil that the virtuous

and philosophic Boethius, who had so long

been the greatest and best of the king's counselors, was accused of treason, imprisoned in

the tower of Pavia, and then subjected to an

ignominious execution. As Theodoric became

more gloomy in his old age, Boethius soared

into a clearer atmosphere. In the practical