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St Patrick

6 7 romanoBrItIsh BegInnIngs amongst the gentry My father was Calpornius, a deacon, son of Potitus, a presbyter. I was captured at the village of Bannavem Taberniae, or Bannaventa Berniae where he had a little villa. They were rural landed gentry and local town councillors, decurions, with a villa staffed by slaves, presumably in western Britain. The family was not religious, Patrick tells us, although his father and grandfather were priests. Constantine had exempted Christian clergy from tax obligations, and though aspirant clergy members had to give away their property Patricks family had used this tax dodge without losing their villula. Christianity in Western Europe at this time was basically the religion of Roman cities, officialdom, magnates and slaves. The word pagan from paganus, rural, well illustrates the social divides. Earlier beliefs, culminating with Neoplatonism, had devised a spiritual hierarchy which mirrored the Roman imperial system and were the model for the Christian heaven the gods were satellites or emanations of a supreme deity personified as Sol Invictus or Helios, the sun, much like the relationship of Christian angels, saints and devils to the Trinity. Emperor Julian promoted the older heliocentric beliefs again in the 360s but its geocentric Christian counterpart triumphed. Goddess Victorys statue left the senate in 381, and pagan worship was a crime after 395, though the old beliefs hung on. Revolts and barbarian invasions intensified. Alaric sacked inviolable Rome in 410, and a year later the emperor told the British to fend for themselves, though Britain still thought itself Roman for decades, and Patrick considered Roman citizenship a Christian norm. Above Early 6th Century mosaic of the Emperor Justinian and entourage, from San Vitale, Ravenna Below 4th century mosaic from Hinton St Mary, Dorset.
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