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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

DURING the short stay of the emperor Theodosius in Italy, he conferred the greatest benefit on the city of Rome, by grants on the one hand, and abrogations on the other. His largesses were very munificent; and he removed two most infamous abuses which existed in that mighty city. There were buildings of immense magnitude, erected in former times, in which bread was made for distribution among the people. Those who had the charge of these edifices, whom the Romans in their language term Mancipes, in process of time converted them into receptacles for thieves. Now the bake-houses in these structures being placed underneath, they built taverns at the side of each, where prostitutes were kept; by which means they entrapped many of those who went thither either for the sake of refreshment, or to gratify their lusts, for by a certain mechanical contrivance they precipitated them from the tavern into the bake-house below. This was practised chiefly upon strangers; and such as were in this way trepanned, were compelled to work in the bake-houses, where they were immured until old age, their friends concluding that they were dead. It happened that one of the soldiers of the emperor Theodosius fell into this snare; who being shut up in the bake-house, and hindered from going out, drew a dagger which he wore and killed those who stood in his way: the rest being terrified, suffered him to escape. When the emperor was made acquainted with the circumstance he punished the Mancipes, and ordered these haunts of lawless and abandoned characters to be pulled down. This was one of the disgraceful nuisances of which the emperor purged the imperial city: the other was of this nature. When a woman was detected in adultery, they punished the delinquent in a way that rather aggravated her offence, than tended to reform her. For shutting her up in a narrow brothel, they obliged her to prostitute herself in a most disgusting manner; causing little bells to be rung at the time, that those who passed by might not be ignorant of what was doing within. This was doubtless intended to brand the crime with greater ignominy in public opinion. As soon as the emperor was apprised of this indecent usage, he would by no means tolerate it; but having ordered the Sistra (for so these places of penal prostitution were denominated) to be pulled down, he appointed other laws for the punishment of adulteresses. Thus did the emperor Theodosius free the city from two of its most discreditable abuses: and when he had arranged all other affairs to his satisfaction, leaving the young emperor Valentinian at Rome, he returned with his son Honorius to Constantinople, and entered that city on the 10th of November, in the consulate of Tatian and Symmachus.








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