Editors’ note: To contextualise these translations of Karlheinz Deschner’s encyclopaedic history of the Church in 10-volumes, Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums, read the abridged translation of Volume I.
Christendom liked to contemplate the heads of defeated enemies; the rulers found pleasure in it and also the governed. It was customary to send throughout the Empire the heads of the notable men who had been punished, as trophies of war. As Mark Twain said in The Mysterious Stranger, ‘They all did their best—to kill being the chiefest ambition of the human race and the earliest incident in its history—but only the Christian civilization has scored a triumph to be proud of. Two or three centuries from now it will be recognized that all the competent killers are Christians…’
Already Constantine, the first Christian ruler, made that in the year 312, after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, his troops took the head of the emperor Maxentius in the triumphal procession, throwing stones and excrement, and then sent to Africa. Also the head of the usurper Julius Nepotianus, who rebelled probably at the behest of Constantinople, was paraded in the year 350 in Rome, the 28th day of his government.
Three years later, in many provinces of the Empire they could contemplate the head of the usurper Magnentius; as a sign of Christian victory, the heads of Procopius, a relative of Emperor Julian, in 366; of Magnus Maximus in 388, and of Eugene in 394. At the end of the 4th century or the beginning of the 5th century, the heads of Rufinus, Constantine III, Jovin, Sebastian and even, at times, the relatives of fallen persons in disgrace were exposed.
In addition to their hostile policy to the Goths, the governments of Arcadius and Honorius were characterised for persecuting so-called ‘pagans’ and ‘heretics’, and for taking even more stringent measures than those of their father, who in 388 still greeted the priests of classical culture in Emona, belonging at that time to Italy.