AD 381, By Charles Freeman

This was the year that a belief in the Holy Trinity was made obligatory for all subjects of the eastern Roman empire. Freeman's exploration of the "swansong of free speech" makes distant events intensely relevant.

The theological dictatorship imposed by Emperor Theodosius and accepted at the Council of Con-stantinople ended "a tradition of sophisticated debate" that would not return for another 900 years with Thomas Aquin-as.

In due course, it led to St Augustine's invention of the notion that "there are many more condemned by [divine] vengeance than are released by mercy." In other words, "the majority of humanity is destined to burn in hell".

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