Byzantine Empire 555AD
Byzantine Empire 555AD

Among the Western Arian Goths and the Jews

compiled by Lewis Loflin

My purpose here is to present the truth about what really happened to the late Roman Empire in the West and sidestep Christian propaganda as history. The Roman Empire as such never "fell" in 479 AD, it merely changed form, a process going back a few centuries. Most notable were the "barbarians" were not like what we often make of the word today.

They didn't destroy everything and in fact were Christians!. They were Arian Christians and in fact acted more civilized in many respects than Rome and the Catholic Church did. As Theodoric the Great viewed religion,

"We can not command religion, for no man can be compelled to believe anything against his will."

The rest is from other sources.

The controversy over Arianism began to rise in the late 3rd century and extended over the greater part of the 4th century and involved most church members, simple believers, priests and monks as well as bishops, emperors and members of Rome's imperial family.

Yet, such a deep controversy within the Church could not have materialized in the 3rd and 4th centuries without some significant historical influences providing the basis for the Arian doctrines. Most orthodox or mainstream (Catholic) Christian historians define and minimize the Arian conflict as the exclusive construct of Arius and a handful of rogue bishops engaging in heresy.

Of the roughly three hundred bishops in attendance at the Council of Nicaea, only three bishops did not sign the Nicene Creed. However, to minimize the extent of Arianism ignores the fact that extremely prominent Emperors such as Constantius II, and Valens were Arians, as well as prominent Gothic, Vandal, and Lombard warlords both before and after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and that none of these groups was out of the mainstream of the Roman Empire in the 4th century.

While Arianism continued to dominate for several decades even within the family of the Emperor, the Imperial nobility, and higher-ranking clergy, in the end it was Trinitarianism which prevailed in the Roman Empire at the end of the 4th century. Arianism, which had been taught by the Arian missionary to the Germanic tribes, was dominant for some centuries among several Germanic tribes in western Europe.

The Goths and Lombards (and significantly for the late Empire, the Vandals), but ceased to be the mainstream belief by the 8th century. Trinitarianism remained the dominant doctrine in all major branches of the Eastern and Western Church and later within Protestantism, although there have been several anti-Trinitarian movements, some of which acknowledge various similarities to classical Arianism.

Remnants of Arianism in the West

However, much of southeastern Europe and central Europe, including many of the Goths and Vandals respectively, had embraced Arianism (the Visigoths converted to Arian Christianity in 376), which led to Arianism being a religious factor in various wars in the Roman Empire. In the west, organized Arianism survived in North Africa, in Hispania, and parts of Italy until it was finally suppressed in the 6th and 7th centuries (in part due to the advance of Islam). Later, during the Protestant reformation, a religious sect in Poland known as the Polish Brethren were commonly referred to as Arians due to their rejection of the Trinity.

From the Jewish Encyclopedia 1903:

A heresy of the Christian Church, started by Arius, bishop of Alexandria (d. 336), who taught that the Son is not equivalent to the Father, thereby provoking a serious schism in the Christian Church, which in turn affected the fortunes of the Jews in many countries. In view of the fact that most Germanic peoples - such as the eastern and western Goths, as also the Franks, the Lombards, the Suevi, and the Vandals - were baptized into Arian Christianity, and that these tribes settled in widely spread districts of the old Roman empire, a large number of Jews, already resident in those lands, fell under Arian domination.

In contrast with the domination of the orthodox church, the Arian was distinguished by a wise tolerance and a mild treatment of the population of other faiths, conduct mainly attributable to the unsophisticated sense of justice characterizing the children of nature, but also traceable in some degree to certain points of agreement between the Arian doctrine and Judaism, points totally absent in the orthodox confession.

The very insistence upon the more subordinate relationship of the Son - that is, the Messiah - to the God - father is much nearer to the Jewish doctrine of the Messiah than to the conception of the full divinity of the Son, as enunciated at Nicaa. This, the Germanic form of Arianism, which deviates essentially from the Egyptian/Syriac, is hardly more Jewish than it is heathen. Still, Borozus of Sardica, about the year 390, was accused of "Judaizing".

To the Catholic Gregory of Tours the Arian bishop Agila replied: "Blaspheme not a doctrine which is not thine. We on our part, although we do not believe what ye believe, nevertheless do not curse it. For we do not consider it a crime to think either thus or so." "To such noble sentiment," remarks Helferich (ib. p. 50), "the Jews owed the humane treatment which they received at the hands of the West-Gothic Arians."

But the laws of the Visigoths formulated under Reccared (584) and his successors, when the tribes had become converted to Catholic Christianity, give evidence of a most bitter feeling against the Jews; and the enactments for the persecution of Israel present a striking picture, strongly contrasting with the former happy circumstances of the Jews in the empire of the Visigoths of Spain and France, while these Visigoths were still Arians.

The Jews were not then the downtrodden people which the harsh and exceptional laws of the Roman Christian emperor made of them. In Spain they formed a distinct nation beside Goths, Romans, Syrians, and Greeks, and as such were in the main upon exactly the same footing as all others. Indeed, the ruling Visigoths may have preferred the Jews to the Catholics, for the latter were politically Romans, and confessionally adherents of the Nicene Creed, while from the former they had to fear neither political enmity nor the fanaticism of the conversionist.

Marriages between Arian Christians and Jews were not infrequent; and it appears that the Jews exercised some sort of jurisdiction over the Catholics.


The Ostrogoths were similarly disposed, and, upon heir attainment to power in Italy, they treated the Jews there according to the laws of justice and equity. The golden words of Theodoric the Great are familiar: "We can not command religion, for no man can be compelled to believe anything against his will." As clearly appears from his decrees, the religion of the Jews was certainly no less odious to the Arian king than was the Catholic; but his duty as king demanded that he should treat his Jewish subjects as human beings.

The persecutions of the Jews by the Catholics in Milan, Genoa, and Ravenna are, however, in so far connected with the religious circumstances of the country, that the Catholics thereby designed to revenge themselves for their own oppression by the Arians.

The enmity between both Christian parties was so great that King Theodoric is said to have harbored the design, at the instigation of a Jew, to uproot Catholicism in Italy with the sword. A fanatical source calls Triva, the prapositus cubiculi (captain of the dormitory) of the emperor, "a heretic and a friend of the Jews".

The Arian creed no doubt contributed somewhat to the fact that Theodoric's successor, Theodosius, maintained a Jewish sorcerer. It is no wonder, therefore, that in 537 the Jews sided with their protectors, the Ostrogoths, in their courageous defense of Naples against the besieging armies of the Roman emperor (Justinian). A senseless story has it that the Jews fought against the Arian Christians at the Battle of Pollentia, on Easter, 403, being urged thereto by Stilicho, the opponent of Alaric.

This legend owes its origin to the fact that the general of Honorius happened to be named Saul, although he is expressly stated to have been a heathen. On the other hand, the Jews took an active part in the defense of the town of Arles in Gaul, possession of which, in 508, was disputed with the Visigoths by Clovis, king of the Franks, who had become a Catholic. They also successfully defended for the Visigoths the passes of the Pyrenees against the hostile Franks and Burgundians.

The legislation of the Arian Lombards made no distinction between Jews and non-Jews. Further than this nothing is known of the history of the Jews among them; nor is there any information concerning the life of the Jews in North Africa under the Vandals, who were likewise Arians, and who treated the Catholics with great severity (Dahn, "Westgothische Konige," i. 251). In the speech of Augustine, Jews, heathens, and Arians were equally abused; but this speech, from which some information of earlier times might have been gleaned, is, unfortunately, no longer extant.

Ref. Jewish Encyclopedia 1903

More on Theodoric the Great

King of the Ostrogoths, Theodoric (also spelled Theoderic) was persuaded by the Byzantine Emperor Zeno to invade Italy and overthrow Odoacer, who had officially put an end to the western empire and retained his independence as king of Italy. He was quickly successful in this conquest, though it took him some years to root out his foe from Ravenna. He then murdered Odoacer at a banquet after the city had surrendered.

As king, Theodoric tried to reconcile his Ostrogoths with the Italians and initiated civic works that improved living conditions and fostered agricultural growth. Though he showed great appreciation for Roman culture, he gradually distanced Italy from imperial connections and attempted to unite his subjects with Visigoths and Franks.

His secretary, Cassiodorus, wrote a flattering (and now lost) history of the Goths, and Boethius flourished as one of his advisors before Theodoric had him imprisoned and executed. An Arian himself, Theodoric also imprisoned Pope John I for failing to get Byzantine emperor Justin to withdraw an edict against Arianism.

Theodoric was succeeded by his daughter Amalasuntha. His kingdom did not stand united long after his death, and with the invasion of Italy by the Byzantines, the Ostrogoths vanished as a culture.

The long reign of Theodoric (493-526) was marked by a transient return of peace and prosperity to Italy. His domestic and foreign policy were dictated alike by wisdom and necessity. His people were settled on the land, which they held by military tenure. A series of matrimonial alliances secured him the support of the Franks, the Burgundians, the Visigoths, the Vandals and the Thuringians, and his sword preserved his territory from the incursions of rival barbarians and the two disastrous attacks (505 and 508) that envy prompted the Emperor Anastasius to attempt.

Himself an Arian, Theodoric treated with tolerance and justice his Catholic subjects. A Catholic rising against the Jews, which was immediately suppressed, and a mandate issued by the Emperor Justinian threatening the Arians by dread of punishment to come within the pale of the Church, drove Theodoric to the brink of persecution.

Boetius, the last of the Romans whom Cato could have acknowledged for a countryman, and the virtuous Symmachus were sacrificed by a monarch who was driven from his position of tolerance by his subjects; and on August 30, 526, Theodoric expired in the palace of Ravenna, full of remorse and justly alarmed by the invisible terrors of futurity.


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