The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4

Contents:

Show Summary

The Church and the Pagan Empire

The Christians first came under the official ban of the Emperor in 64 A. D., when Nero accused them of the burning of Rome. Tacitus’s account of this is given under the Development of the Roman Constitution and Law in the third volume, the most important paragraph of the account is repeated below. From Nero’s time until 311 A. D., the policy of the Empire was steadily against Christianity, and made itself manifest by persecutions whenever the new sect raised its head too prominently. The reason was, because, while Rome was ready to receive into equal favor all religions that would be so received, and that would not interfere with the worship of the Emperor, Christianity would not admit the divinity of any religion save itself, and no Christian would deify the Emperor.

Persecution Under Nero

64 A.D.

ACCOUNT BY TACITUS

Therefore to check this rumor, those, who were called Christians by the mob and hated for their moral enormities, were substituted in his place as culprits by Nero and afflicted with the most exquisite punishments. Christ, from whom the name was given, was put to death during the reign of Tiberius, by the procurator Pontius Pilate. Although checked for the time, this pernicious superstition broke out again not only in Judea, where the evil originated, but throughout the City, in which the atrocities and shame from all parts of the world center and flourish. Therefore those who confessed were first seized, then on their information a great multitude were convicted, not so much of the crime of incendiarism, as of hatred of the human race. The victims who perished also suffered insults, for some were covered with the skins of wild beasts and torn to pieces by dogs, while others were fixed to crosses and burnt to light the night when daylight had failed. Nero had offered his gardens for the spectacle andwas giving a circus show, mingling with the people in the dress of a driver, or speeding about in a chariot. Although they were criminals who deserved the most severe punishment, yet a feeling of pity arose since they were put to death not for the public good but to satisfy the rage of an individual.—Annales XV, 44.

ACCOUNT BY SUETONIUS

In his reign many things were severely censured and suppressed and many also instituted: a limit was set to lavish expenditure; public dinners were reduced to doles; cook shops were forbidden to sell any prepared food except pulse or herbs, where as formerly all kinds of relishes had been offered; Christians, a class of men of a new and vicious superstitition, were subjected to severe punishments; the quadriga races were forbidden, because the charioteers wandered about, and by long license, assumed the right to make a jest of cheating and stealing; the partisans of the pantomimes were banished altogether with the actors themselves; to prevent forgery, means were devised by which no document was to be sealed until it had been perforated and a thread run through three times.—Vita Nerohis XVI.

Attitude of Trajan and Hadrian

ABOUT 112 A. D.

PLINY’S LETTER TO THE EMPEROR TRAJAN

It is my custom, my lord, to refer to you all things concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better guide my indecision or enlighten my ignorance?

I have never taken part in the trials of Christians: hence I do not know for what crime or to what extent it is customary to punish or investigate. I have been in no little doubt as to whether any discrimination is made for age, or whether the treatment of the weakest does not differ from that of the stronger; whether pardon is granted in case of repentance, or whether he who has ever been a Christian gains nothing by having ceased to be one; whether the name itself without the proof of crimes, or the crimes, inseparably connected with the name, are punished. Meanwhile I have followed this procedure in the case of those who have been brought before me as Christians. I asked them whether they were Christians a second and a third time and with threats of punishment, I questioned those whoconfessed, I ordered those who were obstinate to be executed. For I did not doubt that, whatever it was that they confessed, their stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy ought certainly to be punished. There were others of similar madness, who because they were Roman citizens, I have noted for sending to the City. Soon, the crime spreading, as is usual when attention is called to it, more cases arose. An anonymous accusation, containing many names, was presented. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, ought, I thought, to be dismissed since they repeated after me a prayer to the gods and made supplication with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for the purpose together with the statues of the gods, and since besides they cursed Christ, not one of which things they say, those who are really Christians can be compelled to do. Others, accused by the informer, said that they were Christians and afterwards denied it; in fact, they had been but had ceased to be, some many years ago, some even twenty years before. All both worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ. They continued to maintain that this was the amount of their fault or error that, on a fixed day, they were accustomed to come together before daylight and to sing by turns a hymn to Christ as a god, and that they bound themselves by oath, not for some crime but that they would not commit robbery, theft, or adultery, that they would not betray a trust or deny a deposit when called upon. After this it was their custom to disperse and to come together again to partake of food, of an ordinary and harmless kind, however; even this they ceased to do after the publication of my edict in which according to your command I had forbidden associations. Hence I believed it the more necessary to examine two female slaves, who were called deaconesses, in order to find out what was true, and to do it by torture. I found nothing but a vicious, extravagant superstition. Consequently I postponed the examination and make haste to consult you. For it seemed to me that the subject would justify consultation, especially on account of the number of those in peril. For many of all ages, of every rank, and even of both sexes are and will be called into danger. The infection of this superstition has not only spread to the cities but even to the villages and country districts. It seems possible to stay it and bring about a reform. It is plain enough that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented again, that the sacred rites, which had been neglected for a long time, have begun to be restored, and that fodderfor victims, for which till now there was scarcely a purchaser, is sold. From which one may readily judge what a number of men can be reclaimed if repentance is permitted.—Epistles, X. 96.

TRAJAN’S REPLY

You have followed the correct procedure, my Secundus, in conducting the cases of those who were accused before you as Christians for no general rule can be laid down as a set form. They ought not to be sought out; if they are brought before you and convicted they ought to be punished; provided that he who denies that he is a Christian, and proves this by making supplication to our gods, however much lie may have been under suspicion in the past, shall secure pardon on repentance. In the case of no crime should attention be paid to anonymous charges, for they afford a bad precedent and are not worthy of our age.—Epistles, X. 97.

RESCRIPT OF HADRIAN TO MINUCIUS FUNDANUS

I have received the letter written to me by your predecessor, Serenus Granianus, a most excellent man: and it does not seem well to pass over this report in silence, lest both the innocent be confounded and an occasion for robbery be given to false accusers. Accordingly, if the inhabitants are able to sustain their accusations openly against Christians, so as to charge them with something before the tribunal, I do not forbid them to do this. But I do not permit mere tumultuous cries and acclamations to be used, for it is much more equitable that if anyone wishes to make accusation, you should know the charges. If, therefore, anyone charges and proves that the men designated have done anything contrary to the laws, you are to fix penalties in proportion to their transgressions. By Hercules, you will take especial care, that if, for the sake of calumny, anyone shall prosecute one of them, that you inflict on the accuser a more severe punishment for his villainy.—Justin Martyr, I.

Persecution Under Marcus Aurelius

177 A. D.

THE PERSECUTION AT LYONS AND VIENNA
LETTER FROM AN EYE-WITNESS

"The servants of Christ, living at Vienna and Lyons in Gaul, tothe brethren throughout Asia and Phrygia who have the same faith and hope of redemption that we have, peace, grace and glory from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord."

Then after some other preliminary remarks they begin their account in the following words: "The magnitude of the tribulation here, the great fury of the heathen against the saints, and how much the blessed martyrs endured, we cannot fully recount, nor indeed is it possible to express these in writing. For with all his might the adversary broke loose upon us, showing even now how unrestrained his future coming would be. He tried every means of training and exercising his followers against the servants of God, so that not only were we excluded from houses, baths and markets, but also forbidden, every one of us, to appear in any place whatsoever.

"But the grace of God fought against the adversary, rescued the weak, and arrayed firm pillars, able through patience to withstand every attack of the Evil One. They engaged in conflict with him, suffering every kind of shame and injury, and, counting their great trials as small, they hastened to Christ, showing that ’the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us afterward.’

"First, indeed, they endured nobly the sufferings heaped upon them by the general populace, clamors, blows, being dragged along, robberies, stonings, imprisonments, and all that an enraged mob loves to inflict on opponents and enemies. Then they were taken to the forum by the chilarch and the ordained authorities of the city and were examined in the presence of the whole multitude. Having confessed, they were imprisoned until the arrival of the governor. When they were afterwards brought before him, and he treated us with all manner of cruelty, Vettius Epagathus, one of the brethren, filled with love for God and his neighbor, interfered. His daily life was so consistent that, although young, he had a reputation like the elder Zacharias, for he ’walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless’ and was untiring in every good office for his neighbor, filled with zeal for God and fervent in spirit. Such a man could not endure the uprighteous judgment against us, but was filled with indignation and demanded that he should be permitted to testify in behalf of the brethren that there was no atheism or impiety in us. Those about the tribunal cried out against him, and with reason, for he was a man of mark, and the governor denied his just request, but asked only this one question, if he also was a Christian; and on hisconfessing this most distinctly, placed him also in the number of the martyrs. He was called the advocate of the Christians, but he had the Advocate in himself, the Spirit more fully than Zacharias. This he manifested by the fulness of his love, counting himself happy to lay down his life in defence of the brethren. For he was and is a true disciple of Christ, ’following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.’

"After that the others were divided and the proto-martyrs were known and held in readiness. They with all eagerness finished the confession of martyrdom. But some appeared unprepared and untrained and still weak, unable to endure the strain of a great contest. Of these about ten became apostates, who caused us great pain and excessive sorrow, and weakened the zeal of the others who had not yet been seized, and who, although suffering all kinds of evil, were constantly with the martyrs and did not abandon them. Then indeed all were in great fear on account of the uncertainty of the confession, not fearing the sufferings to be endured, but looking to the end and fearing lest some one should apostatize. Yet those who were worthy were seized each day, filling up their number, so that all the zealous and those through whom especially our affairs had been managed were gathered together from the two churches. And some of our servants who were heathens were seized because the governor had ordered that we should all be examined in public.

"These by the wiles of Satan, fearing the tortures which they saw the saints suffering and urged by the soldiers to do this, accused us falsely of Thyestean banquets and Oedipodean incests and of deeds which it is not lawful for us to speak of, or think of, and which we do not believe men ever committed. When these accusations were reported all raged like wild beasts against us, so that those even who had previously restrained themselves on account of kinship, then became exceedingly enraged and gnashed their teeth against us. And the saying of our Lord was fulfilled that ’the time will come when whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God’s service.’ Then finally the holy martyrs endured sufferings beyond all description and Satan strove earnestly that some blasphemies might be uttered by them also.

"But the whole rage of the people, governor and soldiers was aroused exceedingly against Sanctus, deacon from Vienna, and against Marturus, a recent convert but a noble combatant, and also against Attalus, a native, of Pergamus, who had always been a pillar and a foundation in that place, and against Blandina through whom Christ showed that what appears mean, deformed and contemptible to menis of great glory with God through love for Him, shown in power and not boasting in appearance. For while we all, together with her mistress on earth, who was herself also one of the combatants among the martyrs, feared test in the strife she should be unable to make her confession on account of her bodily weakness, Blandina was filled with such power that she was delivered and raised above those who took turns in torturing her in every manner from dawn till evening; and they confessed that they were defeated and nothing more which they could do to her. They marvelled at her endurance, for her whole body was mangled and broken; and they testified that one form of torture was sufficient to destroy life, to say nothing of so many and so great tortures. But the blessed one, like a noble athlete, renewed her strength in the confession; and her comfort, refreshment and relief from suffering was in saying, ’I am a Christian’ and ’Nothing vile is done by us."

"Sanctus also himself, marvellously and beyond all men, endured nobly all human outrages, while the wicked hoped by the duration and severity of the tortures to wring from him something which he ought not to utter, he withstood them with such firmness, that he did not even tell his own name or the nation or the city whence he came, or whether he was a bondman or free, but to all questions he replied in the Roman tongue, ’I am a Christian.’ This he confessed instead of name and city and race and everything else, and the people did not hear him utter another word. Then the governor and those who were torturing him became exceedingly obstinate against him, so that when they had nothing else that they could do to him, they at last applied red-hot brass plates to the most tender parts of his body. These indeed were burned, but he remained unsubdued and unshaken, firm in his confession, refreshed and strengthened by the celestial spring of the water of life flowing from the bowels of Christ. But his body was a witness of his sufferings, all one wound and scar, shriveled up and without human appearance externally. Christ, suffering in him, showed great wonders, defeating the adversary and exhibiting an example to the others, that there is nothing fearful where the love of the Father exists, nothing painful where the glory of Christ is. For when the lawless men tortured the martyr again after some days, and thought that as his body was swollen and inflamed, if they applied the same tortures, they would overcome him, since he could not bear the touch of a hand; or that, if he died under the tortures, it would strike the others with terror, note only no such thing happened to him,but even contrary to all human expectations, his body arose and stood up straight during the remaining tortures and took on its former appearance and recovered the use of the limbs, so that through the grace of Christ the second torture was not suffering but healing.

"But the devil, thinking he had already consumed a certain Biblias, one of those who had recanted, wishing also to condemn her on account of blasphemy, led her to the torture to compel her, as she was already feeble and weak, to utter impious things concerning us. But she recovered herself in her suffering, and, as if aroused from a deep sleep and reminded by the present anguish of the eternal torture in hell, she contradicted the blasphemers, saying: ’How could they eat children to whom it is not even lawful to taste the blood of irrational animals?’ And after that she confessed herself a Christian and was placed in the order of the martyrs.

"But as the tyrannical tortures were deprived of effect by Christ, through the patience of the blessed, the devil invented other contrivancs, confinement in the dark and in the most loathsome place in the prison, stretching the feet in stocks extended to the fifth hole, and other torments such as attendants when enraged and filled with the devil are accustomed to inflict upon prisoners, so that very many were suffocated in prison who the Lord willed should depart thus, manifesting His glory. For some who had been tortured cruelly, so that it seemed impossible that they should live, even when every means was applied to heal them, remained in the prison, destitute of care from men, strengthened by the Lord and invigorated in body and soul, exhorting and encouraging the others. But the young and those recently arrested, whose bodies were not inured to torture, could not endure the severity of the imprisonment, but died in prison."—Eusebius, Bk. V., in University of Pennsylvania Translations and Reprints.

Persecution Under Valerian

CYPRIAN’S LETTER

The reason why I did not write to you immediately, dearest brother, was that the whole body of the clergy were detained by the stress of the conflict, and could not depart thence at all, being prepared by the devotion of their spirits for everlasting and heavenly glory. Be it known to you that those have returned whom I had sent to the City to discover and report to us as to the nature of the truth of the rescript concerning us. For many, various and uncertain were the rumorscirculated. But the truth of the matter is this: Valerian had sent a rescript to the senate, that bishops; presbyters and deacons should be punished immediately, but that senators, nobles, and Roman knights should be degraded from their dignity, and furthermore despoiled of their goods, and if, after they had been deprived of their property, they should persist in being Christians, they too should be beheaded. Matrons should be deprived of their goods and sent into exile. Those of Caesar’s household, whoever had confessed formerly or should confess now, should have their property confiscated, and should be sent in chains by assignment to Caesar’s estates. To his discourse, moreover, the emperor Valerian added a copy of the letter which he sent to the governors of the provinces concerning us. This letter we hope daily will arrive, prepared according to the strength of the faith, ready to endure martyrdom, and expecting by the might and grace of God the crown of eternal life. Be it known to you, moreover, that Xistus was executed in the cemetery on the eighth before the Ides of August, and together with him four deacons. Indeed, the prefects in the city insist daily on this persecution. If any are brought before them, they are punished and their goods confiscated to the treasury.

I beg that this may be made known through you to the rest of our associates, so that everywhere by their encouragement the brotherhood many be strengthened and prepared for the spiritual conflict, that each of us may not think more of death than of immortality, and that, consecrated to the Lord, in full faith and all virtue, they may rejoice rather than fear in this confession in which they know that, as soldiers of God and Christ, they will not be destroyed but be crowned. I hope that you, dearest brother, will be ever strong in the Lord.—University of Pennsylvania Translations and Reprints.

Persecution of Diocletian and Galerius

303 A. D.

A fit and auspicious day was sought out for the accomplishment of this undertaking; and the festival of the god Terminus, celebrated on the seventh of the kalends of March, was chosen, in preference to all others, to terminate, as it were, the Christian religion.

"That day, the harbinger of death, arose,
First cause of all, and long enduring woes;"

of woes which befell not only the Christians, but the whole earth. When that day dawned, in the eighth consulship of Diocletian and seventh of Maximian, suddenly, while it was yet hardly light, the prefect, together with chief commanders, tribunes, and officers of the treasury, came to the church in Nicodemia, and the gates having been forced open, they searched everywhere for an image of the Divinity. The books of the Holy Scriptures were found, and they were committed to the flames; the utensils and furniture of the church were abandoned to pillage: all was rapine, confusion, tumult. That church, situated on rising ground, was within view of the palace; and Diocletian and Galerius stood, as if on a watch-tower, disputing long whether it ought to be set on fire. The sentiment of Diocletian prevailed, who dreaded lest, so great a fire being once kindled, some part of the city might be burned; for there were many and large buildings that surrounded the church. Then the Pretorian Guards came in battle array, with axes and other iron instruments, and having been let loose everywhere, they in a few hours levelled that very lofty edifice with the ground.

Next day an edict was published, depriving the Christians of all honours and dignities; ordaining also that, without any distinction of rank or degree, they should be subjected to tortures, and that every suit at law should be received against them; while, on the other hand, they were debarred from being plaintiffs in questions of wrong, adultery, or theft; and, finally, that they should neither be capable of freedom, nor have right of suffrage. A certain person tore down this edict, and cut it in pieces, improperly indeed, but with high spirit, saying in scorn, "These are the triumphs of Goths and Sarmatians." Having been instantly seized and brought to judgment, he was not only tortured, but burnt alive, in the forms of law; and having displayed admirable patience under sufferings, he was consumed to ashes.

CHAP. XIV.

But Galerius, not satisfied with the tenor of the edict, sought in another way to gain on the emperor. That he might urge him to excess of cruelty in persecution, he employed private emissaries to set the palace on fire; and some part of it having been burnt, the blame was laid on the Christians as public enemies; and the very appellation of Christian grew odious on account of that fire. It was said that the Christians, in concert with the eunuchs, had plotted to destroy the princes: and that both of the princes had well-nigh been burntalive in their own palace. Diocletian, shrewd and intelligent, as he always chose to appear, suspected nothing of the contrivance, but, inflamed with anger, immediately commanded that all his own domestics should be tortured to force a confession of the plot. He sat on his tribunal, and saw innocent men tormented by fire to make discovery. All magistrates, and all who had superintendency in the imperial palace, obtained special commissions to administer the torture; and they strove with each other who should be first in bringing to light the conspiracy. No circumstances, however, of the fact were detected anywhere; for no one applied the torture to any domestics of Galerius. He himself was ever with Diocletian, constantly urging him, and never allowing the passions of the inconsiderate old man to cool. Then, after an interval of fifteen days, he attempted a second fire; but that was perceived quickly, and extinguished. Still, however, its author remained unknown. On that very day, Galerius, who in the middle of winter had prepared for his departure, suddenly hurried out of the city, protesting that he fled to escape being burnt alive.

CHAP. XV.

And now Diocletian raged, not only against his own domestics, but indiscriminately against all; and he began by forcing his daughter Valeria and his wife Prisca to be polluted by sacrificing. Eunuchs, once the most powerful, and who had chief authority at court and with the emperor, were slain. Presbyters and other officers of the Church were seized, without evidence by witnesses or confession, condemned, and together with their families led to execution. In burning alive, no distinction of, sex or age was retarded; and because of their great multitude, they were not burnt one after another, but a herd of them were encircled with the same fire; and servants, having millstones tied about their necks, were cast into the sea. Nor was the persecution less grievous on the rest of the people of God; for the judges, dispersed through all the temples, sought to compel every one to sacrifice. The prisons were crowded; tortures, hitherto unheard of, were invented; and lest justice should be inadvertently administered to a Christian, altars were placed in the courts of justice, hard by the tribunal, that every litigant might offer incense before his cause could be heard. Thus judges were no otherwise approached than divinities. Mandates had also gone to Maximian Herculius and Constantius, requiring their concurrence in the execution of edicts; for in matters even of such mighty importance their opinion was never once asked. Herculius, aperson of no merciful temper, yielded ready obedience, and enforced the edicts throughout his dominions of Italy. Constantius, on the other hand, lest he should have seemed to dissent from the injunctions of his superiors, permitted the demolition of churches,—mere walls, and capable of being built up again,—but he preserved entire that true, temple of God, which is the human body.—Lactantius, How the Persecutors Died, XII.–XV.

Edict of Toleration By Galerius

311 A. D.

And now, when Galerius was in the eighteenth year of his reign, God struck him with an incurable plague. A malignant ulcer formed itself low down on his trunk, and spread itself by degrees. The physicians attempted to eradicate it, and healed up the place affected. But the sore, having been skinned over, broke out again; a vein burst, and the blood flowed in such quantity as to endanger his life. The blood, however, was stopped, although with difficulty. The physicians had to undertake their, operations anew, and at length they cicatrized the wound. In consequence of some slight motion of his body, Galerius received a hurt, and the blood streamed more abundantly than before. He grew emaciated, pallid, and feeble, and the bleeding then stanched. The ulcer began to be insensible to the remedies applied, and a gangrene seized all the neighboring parts. It diffused itself the wider the more the corrupted flesh was cut away, and everything employed as the means of cure served but to aggravate the disease.

"The masters of the healing art withdrew."

Then famous physicians were brought in from all quarters; but no human means had any success. Apollo and Æsculapius were besought importunately for remedies. Apollo did prescribe, and the distemper augmented. Already approaching to its deadly crisis, it had occupied the lower regions of his body: his bowels came out, and the whole place putrefied. The luckless physicians, although without hope of overcoming the malady, ceased not to apply fomentations and administer medicines. The humours having been repelled, the distemper attacked his intestines, and worms were generated in his body. The stench was so foul as to pervade not only the palace, but even thewhole city; and no wonder, for by that time the passages from his bladder and bowels, having been devoured by the worms, became indiscriminate, and his body, with intolerable anguish, was dissolved into one mass of corruption.

Stung to the soul, he bellowed with the pain,
So roars the wounded bull."—PITT.

They applied warm flesh of animals to the chief seat of the disease, that the warmth might draw out those minute worms; and accordingly, when the dressings were removed, there issued forth an innumenble swarm: nevertheless the prolific disease had hatched swarms much more abundant to prey upon and consume his intestines. Already, through a complication of distempers, the different parts of his body had lost their natural form: the superior part was dry, meagre, and haggard, and his ghastly-looking skin had settled itself deep amongst his bones; while the inferior, distended like bladders, retained no appearance of joints. These things happened in the course of a complete year; and at length, overcome by calamities, he was obliged to acknowledge God, and he cried aloud, in the intervals of raging pain, that he would re-edify the Church which he had demolished, and make atonement for his misdeeds; and when he was near his end, he published an edict of the tenor following :—

CHAP. XXXIV.

"Amongst our other regulations for the permanent advantage of the commonweal, we have hitherto studied to reduce all things to a conformity with the ancient laws and public discipline of the Romans.

"It has been our aim in an especial manner, that the Christians also, who had abandoned the religion of their forefathers, should return to right opinions. For such wilfulness and folly had, we know not how, taken possession of them, that instead of observing those ancient institutions, which possibly their own forefathers had established, they, through caprice, made laws to themselves, and drew together into different societies many men of widely different persuasions.

"After the publication of our edict, ordaining the Christians to betake themselves to the observance of the ancient institutions, many of them were subdued through the fear of danger, and moreover many of them were exposed to jeopardy; nevertheless, because great numbers still persist in their opinions, and because we have perceived that at present they neither pay reverence and due adoration to the gods, noryet worship their own God, therefore we, from our wonted clemency in bestowing pardon on all, have judged it fit to extend our indulgence to those men, and to permit them again to be Christians, and to establish the places of their religious assemblies; yet so as that they offend not against good order.

"By another mandate we purpose to signify unto magistrates how they ought herein to demean themselves.

"Wherefore it will be the duty of the Christians, in consequence of this our toleration, to pray to their God for our welfare, and for that of the public, and for their own; that the commonweal may continue safe in every quarter, and that they themselves may live securely in their habitations.—Death of the Persecutors, XXXIII, XXXIV.

Edict of Milan

313 A. D.

Not many days after the victory, Licinius, having received part of the soldiers of Daia into his service, and properly distributed them, transported his army into Bithynia, and having made his entry into Nicomedia, he returned thanks to God, through whose aid he had overcome; and on the ides of June, while he and Constantine were consuls for the third time, he commanded the following edict for the restoration of the Church, directed to the president of the province, to be promulgated:—

"When we, Constantine and Licinius, emperors, had an interview at Milan, and conferred together with respect to the good and security of the commonweal, it seemed to us that, amongst those things that are profitable to mankind in general, the reverence paid to the Divinity merited our first and chief attention, and that it was proper that the Christians and all others should have liberty to follow that mode of religion which to each of them appeared best; so that that God, who is seated in heaven, might be benign and propitious to us, and to every one under our government. And therefore we judged it a salutary measure, and one highly consonant to right reason, that no man should be denied leave of attaching himself to the rites of the Christians, or to whatever other religion his mind directed him, that thus the supreme Divinity, to whose worship we freely devote ourselves, might continue to vouchsafe His favour and beneficence to us. And accordingly we give you to know that, without regard to any provisos in our formerorders to you concerning the Christians, all who choose that religion are to be permitted, freely and absolutely, to remain in it, and not to be disturbed any ways, or molested. And we thought fit to be thus special in the things committed to your charge, that you might understand that the indulgence which we have granted in matters of religion to the Christians is ample and unconditional; and perceive at the same time that the open and free exercise of their respective religions is granted to all others, as well as to the Christians. For it befits the well-ordered state and the tranquillity of our times that each individual be allowed, according to his own choice, to worship the Divinity; and we mean not to derogate aught from the honour due to any religion or its votaries. Moreover, with respect to the Christians, we formerly gave certain orders concerning the places appropriated for their religious assemblies; but now we will that all persons who have purchased such places, either from our exchequer or from any one else, do restore them to the Christians, without money demanded or price claimed, and that this be performed peremptorily and unambiguously; and we will also, that they who have obtained any right to such places by form of gift do forthwith restore them to the Christians; reserving always to such persons, who have either purchased for a price, or gratuitously acquired them, to make application to the judge of the district, if they look on themselves as entitled to any equivalent from our beneficence.

"All those places are, by your intervention, to be immediately restored to the Christians. And because it appears that, besides the places appropriated to religious worship, the Christians did possess other places, which belonged not to individuals, but to their society ingeneral, that is, to their churches, we comprehend all such within the regulation aforesaid, and we will that you cause them all to be restored to the society or churches, and that without hesitation or controversy: Provided always, that the person making restitution without a price paid shall be at liberty to seek indemnification from our bounty. In furthering all which things for the behoof of the Christians, you are to use your utmost diligence, to the end that our orders be speedily obeyed, and our gracious purpose in securing the public tranquility promoted. So shall that divine favour which, in affairs of the mightiest importance, we have already experienced, continue to give success to us, and in our successes make the commonweal happy. And that the tenor of this our gracious ordinance may be made known unto all, we will that you cause it by your authority to be published everywhere."

Licinius having issued this ordinance, made an harangue, in which he exhorted the Christians to rebuild their religious edifices.

And thus, from the overthrow of the Church until its restoration, there was a space of ten years and about four months.—Lactantius, Death of the Persecutors, XLVIII.

Contents:

Related Resources

Key Events 300–1000

Download Options


Title: The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options


Title: The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: "The Church and the Pagan Empire," The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4 in The Library of Original Sources, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: University Research Extension Co., 1907), 7–21. Original Sources, accessed November 29, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=APJ9DJFSWSRQ2TZ.

MLA: . "The Church and the Pagan Empire." The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4, in The Library of Original Sources, edited by Oliver J. Thatcher, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, University Research Extension Co., 1907, pp. 7–21. Original Sources. 29 Nov. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=APJ9DJFSWSRQ2TZ.

Harvard: , 'The Church and the Pagan Empire' in The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4. cited in 1907, The Library of Original Sources, ed. , University Research Extension Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pp.7–21. Original Sources, retrieved 29 November 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=APJ9DJFSWSRQ2TZ.