This paper discusses how the concepts of divine wrath and divine favour were used in Late Antiquity. In the fourth- and fifth-century disputes over the fate of the Roman Empire, arguments of divine anger and favour were amply utilized by both Christian and non-Christian writings. In this paper I will examine how the concepts were both transformed and continued. Furthermore, it will be argued that a number of Christian and non-Christian authors alike shared the mental framework in which the welfare of the community and the entire Roman Empire was thought to be based on divine favour. According to this view, the incorrect practice of religion by individuals or deviant groups was argued to bring down divine anger upon not only the individuals or groups themselves, but also their community and the entire Empire. The concepts of divine wrath and favour will be set in the context of the (ab)use of history as well as the anthropological discussion on pollution.
This paper contributes to the theme of the workshop “Protean Rome. Exploring the multiformity of a cultural icon in late antiquity”, by exploring how, in changing circumstances, the ideas of a divine protection or wrath are used and how they reshape the image of Rome.