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Cults i6 p&c 00 book.indb 131 2017.09.20. 16:22 i6 p&c 00 book.indb 132 2017.09.20. 16:22 THE CULT OF SOL INVICTUS AND EARLY CHRISTIANITY IN AQUAE IASAE Branka Migotti The subject of this paper is related to Emperor Constantine’s (306–337 AD) religious policy, an issue that has recently witnessed considerable increase of scholarship related to the commemoration of the seventeen hundred years of the Edict of Milan.1 Recent academic discussion has shifted the focus of research from the emperor’s Christian belief to the framework within which his religious policies unfolded.2 Nevertheless , scholarship cannot entirely rid itself of the burden of the (essentially unanswerable) question related to the sincerity (or lack thereof) of Constantine’s Christian affiliation and his attitude towards Christianity versus pagan religions, most evidently reflected in his wavering between the Sun god, Sol, and Christ.3 Some commentators still dwell on Constantine’s hostility, or at least his lack of leniency towards pagan religions, but such interpretations seem to lack balance and objectivity.4 It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss this issue in detail, especially with regard to the vast body of scholarship. Let it suffice to recall that Constantine did remain pontifex maximus and that Constantinople , praised by some contemporary sources as a Christian city in the time of Constan1  Richard Flower, “Visions of Constantine” (review article). Journal of Roman Studies 102 (2012), 287–305 (hereafter: Flower, Visions). 2 Flower, Visions, 304. 3  Augusto Fraschetti, “Costantino e la sua famiglia.” In: Angela Donati - Giovanni Gentili (eds.), Costantino il Grande. La civiltà antica al bivio tra Occidente e Oriente. (Milano: Silvana Editoriale, 2005), pp. 16– 25 (hereafter: Donati .Gentili); Marta Sordi, „La conversione di Costantino.” In: Donati- Gentili, pp. 36–43; Marianne Bergmann, „Konstantin und der Sonnengot. Die Aussagen der Bildzeugnisse.” In: Alexander Demandt - Joseph Engemann (eds.), Konstantin der Grosse: Geschichte – Archäologie – Rezeption. (Trier: Rheinischen Landesmuseums, 2006), pp. 143–162 (hereafter: Demandt-Engemann) ; Clauss 2006; Klaus Martin Girardet, “Konstantin und das Christentum: die Jahre der Entscheidung 310 bis 314.” In: Demandt-Engemann, pp. 69– 82; Franz Alto Bauer, „Konstantinopel – Kaiserresidenz und künftige Hauptstadt.” In: Demandt-Engemann, pp. 165–172; Manfred Clauss, „Die alten Kulte in konstantinischer Zeit.” In: Demandt-Engemann, pp. 39–48; Flower, Visions, 291–292, 303. 4 Flower, Visions, 290, 294. i6 p&c 00 book.indb 133 2017.09.20. 16:22 BRANKA MIGOTTI 134 tine, and often perceived as such in scholarship, had a newly built Capitolium, and the city was embellished with a host of pagan religious sculptures. “New Rome” was not the only city where such policy prevailed.5 Constantine, then, can hardly be accused of general religious intolerance, even if his leniency in religious matters seems to have been more at work in the Western part of the Roman Empire than in the East, and not particularly evident in the Holy Land.6 Religious syncretism seems to be the guiding principle of Constantine’s religious policy throughout his reign.7 His attitude towards Sol Invictus epitomizes this phenomenon. Whatever theological and chronological nuances and uncertainties scholars detect in the emperor’s religion, it remains unquestioned that Constantinian legislation protected Christians from 313 at the latest.8 It is against this background that archaeological evidence from Aqua Iasae (present day Varaždinske Toplice in North-Western Croatia), is analysed. Examining the theology of Solar Christology and archaeological findings, this paper argues for the possibility that the spa centre of cosmopolitan Aquae Iasae simultaneously hosted the worship of Sol and Christ during the rule of Constantine. From Solar Henotheism to Solar Christology In the early third century, Emperor Elagabalus (218–222 AD) strove to impose the Syrian version of the god Sol as the head of the Roman pantheon. Elagabalus failed for two reasons: the revolutionary and premature nature of his action and his moral and political untrustworthiness.9 Aurelian’s (270–275 AD) introduction of the cult of Sol Invictus as a henotheistic God to the Roman Pantheon was more successful. The circumstances were different, thanks to the Aurelian’s respectable personality. Sol Invictus was an “occidentalised” version of Sol, closer to the Emperor Augustus’ Apollonian solar divine aspect than to the oriental and Mithraic mysteries with their ecstatic rituals. Aurelians’s religious policy favouring a henotheistic conception of Sol Invictus was con5  Marina Falla Castelfranchi, “Costantino e l’edilizia cristiana in Oriente.” In: Donati – Gentili, p. 113; Clauss 2006; Bauer 2007; Clauss 2007; Marcello Ghetta, Das Weiterleben der alten Kulte...


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