THE ESTABLISHED CHURCH BECOMES PROSPEROUS

THE change-over to Christianity gave the State more popular support, but raised complicated problems. It restricted imperial authority and materialised religion. Christianity had succeeded because it had offered itself to the sinner and the slave. Henceforth, it became an established church with worldly possessions and a system of government. Christianity, after its triumph, itself became intolerant, and secured prohibition of the old pagan worship. Its truer spirit was shown when it ended the murderous gladiatorial shows. The Goths, the Franks, and, later on, the Vandal tribes were visited by intrepid missionaries and converted wholesale. If the teaching did not penetrate deeply, it yet enabled the Bishop of Rome to prevail on Alaric, the leader of the Goths, to spare the lives of the inhabitants when he sacked the city in A.D. 410. In the confused years that followed the downfall of the Empire in A.D. 476, the Christian Church upheld, however feebly, the ideal of human brotherhood, and managed to temper a little the savagery of the barbarian conquerors. In A.D. 364 the division of the Empire so long observed in practice was formally admitted when Valentinian took the West and Valens the East. In spite of a brief spell of peace under Theodosius (A.D. 376-395), the Empire was now in its death throes. Civil and foreign wars and infanticide had depleted the population. In the towns, over-taxation had ruined the prosperity of the middle classes, while in the countryside large areas were laid waste through incessant barbarian raids on every frontier. The peasant had fallen into a state of apathy, where to starve was easier than to sow for others to reap. The Vandals and the Goths, German tribes who had already settled within the Empire, now began to break it up into separate kingdoms.