Following Valens’s defeat at the hands of the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople in August 378 and immediately before Alaric’s sack of Rome in August 410, both Gratian and Honorius issued temporary forbearance measures that relaxed the otherwise coercive religious policies against Donatists in North Africa. The present article analyzes these episodes as case studies in how the late Roman government reacted to disasters and crises in the religious sphere. These episodes are particularly puzzling because they go against the tendency of increasing coercion against schismatics and heretics expressed in late Roman laws and imperial propaganda. The article argues that late Roman religious policy that attempted to enforce theological orthodoxy was mainly the product of episcopal lobbying and petitions, and therefore it could be suspended when more pressing concerns, such as the loyalty of a crucial province for the food supply of the city of Rome, hung in the balance.

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