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Scenting SalvationAncient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination$
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Susan Ashbrook Harvey

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780520241473

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520241473.001.0001

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The Christian Body

The Christian Body

Ritually Fashioned Experience

(p.57) 2 The Christian Body
Scenting Salvation

Susan Ashbrook Harvey

University of California Press

Although scholars rightly stress the continuity between pre- and post-Constantinian Christianity, there is no uncertainty that the fourth century marked a huge turning point for Christianity's history. Christianity signified a tiny minority of the Empire's population at the time of its legalization in 313 c.e. The legislation passed by the Emperor Theodosius during the 380s and 390s not only declared Christianity the state religion, but forbade the public practice of any religion except Judaism. Christianity enjoyed the substantial benefits of imperial favor under successive regimes and attained increasing political, social, and economic status within the Roman Empire inbetween these poles of legal identity. Much of its success in this process lay in its capacity to absorb and appropriate older traditions, or to rearticulate traditional themes and patterns within its own modes of discourse. Christianity could be publicly practiced and displayed once legalized.

Keywords:   Emperor Theodosius, Judaism, Roman Empire, pre-Constantinian Christianity, legislation

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