AD 326-337 )

( Johnson, Coleman-Norton & Bourne, Ancient Roman Statutes, Austin, 1961, pp. 241-242, n. 306


   Although Constantine recognized Christianity as one of the religions of the State in 313 A.D. and perhaps embraced it himself at that time, probably for reasons of policy he continued to serve as pontifex maximus of the old Roman State religion. It is the opinion of Alföldi that he took this course to propitiate the conservative elements in the Empire and particularly the nobility, which was still predominantly pagan.
   In the inscription translated here the town of Hispellum in Umbria, Italy, where the marble tablet containing the rescript was found in 1733, had requested the right to build a temple to the Gens Flavia, to which Constantine's family belonged, to celebrate games there instead of at Volsinii, as had previously been the custom, and to rename the town in honor of the emperor's family. All there requests were granted with the proviso, however, that the celebrations at Volsinii must also continue to be held.


   Copy of the sacred rescript.
   Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine Maximus Germanicus Sarmaticus Maximus Gothicus Victor Triumphator Augustus and Flavius Constantine and Flavius julius Constantius and Flavius Constans.
   We encompass with our untiring attention and care everything, indeed, that benefits human society ; but this is the greatest task for our forethought : that all the cities whose splendid appearance and beauty distinguish them in the eyes of all provinces and of all regions not only shall keep their former dignity, but also shall be promoted to a still greater esteem by the grant of our Beneficence.
   Since, indeed, you aver that you have been annexed to Tuscia in such a way that by the established practice of ancient custom priests are created every other year in turn by you and by the aforesaid people of Tuscia, who exhibit stage plays and a gladiatorial show at Volsinii, a City of Tuscia ; but that, because of the steepness of the mountains and the difficulties of the paths through the forests thither, you most earnestly request that permission shall be granted to your priest to abandon the necessity of going to Volsinii to celebrate the exhibition ; and that we shall give a name from our cognomen to the community, which now has the name Hispellum and which you state is contiguous to and lying along the Flaminian Way and in which a temple of the Flavian Family is being built, of truly magnificent workmanship worthy of the greatness of its name ; and that there that priest, whom Umbria selects annually, shall exhibit a festival of both stage plays and gladiatorial shows ; and that this custom shall remain as regards Tuscia : that the priest created at Volsinii shall celebrate, as has been his wont, the observation of the aforesaid exhibitions at that place : our assent is gladly granted to your prayer and desire.
   For from our own name we vouchsafe to the community of Hispellum an eternal designation, an appellation to be venerated, so that hereafter the aforesaid city shall be called Flavia Constans ; and in its center we wish, as you desire, the temple of our Flavian Family to be completed of magnificent workmanship, but with this regulation added : that no temple dedicated in our name shall be defiled by the deceptions of any contagious and unreasonable religious belief ; and so we also permit you to stage exhibitions in the aforesaid community, although in such manner that, as has been said, the celebration of Volsinii also shall not fall into disuse through the ages, but that there the aforesaid celebration also must be staged by priests chosen from Tuscia.
   Thus, indeed, it will not appear that our actions especially derogate anything from old customs ; and you, who are suppliants to us for the aforesaid causes, will rejoice that you have gained those things for which you have earnestly asked.