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The pretended relaxation.
edict of recantation, which has been quoted above, to that tyrant in the East,-a
most impious man, if there ever was one, and most hostile to the religion of the
God of the universe,-being by no means satisfied with its contents, instead of
sending the above-quoted decree to the governors under him, gave them verbal
commands to relax the war against us.
2. For since he
could not in any other way oppose the decision of his superiors, keeping the law
which had been already issued secret, and taking care that it might not be made
known in the district under him, he gave an unwritten order to his governors
that they should relax the persecution against us. They communicated the command
to each other in writing.
3. Sabinus, at
least, who was honored with the highest official rank among them, communicated
the will of the emperor to the provincial governors in a Latin epistle, the
translation of which is as follows:
continuous and most devoted earnestness their majesties, our most divine
masters, the emperors, formerly directed the minds of all men to follow the holy
and correct course of life, that those also who seemed to live in a manner
foreign to that of the Romans, should render the worship due to the immortal
obstinacy and most unconquerable determination of some went so far that they
could neither be turned back from their purpose by the just reason of the
command, nor be intimidated by the impending punishment.
6. Since therefore
it has come to pass that by such conduct many have brought themselves into
danger, their Majesties, our most powerful masters, the emperors, in the exalted
nobility of piety, esteeming it foreign to their Majesties' purpose to bring men
into so great danger for such a cause, have commanded their devoted servant,
myself, to write to thy wisdom.
7. That if any
Christian be found engaging in the worship of his own people, thou should
abstain from molesting and endangering him, and should not suppose it necessary
to punish any one on this pretext. For it has been proved by the experience of
so long a time that they can in no way be persuaded to abandon such obstinate
8. Therefore it
should be thy care to write to the curators and magistrates and district
overseers of every city, that they may know that it is not necessary
for them to give further attention to this matter."
9. Thereupon the
rulers of the provinces, thinking that the purpose of the things which were
written was truly made known to them, declared the imperial will to the curators
and magistrates and prefects of the various districts in writing.
But they did
not limit themselves to writing, but sought more quickly to accomplish the
supposed will of the emperor in deeds also. Those whom they had imprisoned on
account of their confession of the Deity, they set at liberty, and they released
those of them who had been sent to the mines for punishment; for they
erroneously supposed that this was the true will of the emperor.
11. And when these
things had thus been done, immediately, like a light shining forth in a dark
night, one could see in every city congregations gathered and assemblies
thronged, and meetings held according to their custom.
12. And every one
of the unbelieving heathen was not a little astonished at these things,
wondering at so marvelous a transformation, and exclaiming that the God of the
Christians was great and alone true.
13. And some of our
people, who had faithfully and bravely sustained the conflict of persecution,
again became frank and bold toward all; but as many as had been diseased in the
faith and had been shaken in their souls by the tempest, strove eagerly for
healing, beseeching and imploring the strong to stretch out to them a saving
hand, and supplicating God to be merciful unto them.
14. Then also the
noble athletes of religion who had been set free from their sufferings in the
mines returned to their own homes. Happily and joyfully they passed through
every city, full of unspeakable pleasure and of a boldness which cannot be
expressed in words.
15. Great crowds of
men pursued their journey along the highways and through the market-places,
praising God with hymns and psalms.
16. And you might
have seen those who a little while before had been driven in bonds from their
native countries under a most cruel sentence, returning with bright and joyful
faces to their own firesides; so that even they who had formerly thirsted for
our blood, when they saw the unexpected wonder, congratulated us on what had
The subsequent reverse.
1. But the tyrant
who, as we have said, ruled over the districts of the Orient, a thorough hater
of the good and an enemy of every virtuous person, as he was, could no longer
bear this; and indeed he did not permit matters to go on in this way quite six
2. Devising all
possible means of destroying the peace, he first attempted to restrain us, under
a pretext, from meeting in the cemeteries.
3. Then through
the agency of some wicked men he sent an embassy to himself against us, inciting
the citizens of Antioch to ask from him as a very great favor that he would by
no means permit any of the Christians to dwell in their country; and others were
secretly induced to do the same thing.
4. The author of
all this in Antioch was theotecnus, a violent
and wicked man, who was an impostor, and whose character was foreign to his
name. He appears to have been the curator of the city.
· The newly erected statue at Antioch
5. After this man
had carried on all kinds of war against us and had caused our people to be
diligently hunted up in their retreats, as if they were unholy thieves, and had
devised every sort of slander and accusation against us, and become the cause of
death to vast numbers, he finally erected a statue of jupiter philius with
certain juggleries and magic rites.
6. And after
inventing unholy forms of initiation and ill-omened mysteries in connection with
it, and abominable means of purification, he exhibited his jugglery, by oracles
which he pretended to utter, even to the emperor
7. And through
flattery which was pleasing to the ruler he aroused the demon against the
Christians and said that the god had given command to expel the Christians as
his enemies beyond the confines of the city and the neighboring districts.
· The memorials against us.
The fact that
this man, who took the lead in this matter, had succeeded in his purpose was an
incitement to all the other officials in the cities under the same government to
prepare a similar memorial.
9. And the
governors of the provinces perceiving that this was agreeable to the emperor
suggested to their subjects that they should do the same. And as the tyrant by a
rescript declared himself well pleased with their measures, persecution was
kindled anew against us.
10. Priests for the
images were then appointed in the cities, and besides them high priests by
Maximinus himself. The latter were taken from among those who were most
distinguished in public life and had gained celebrity in all the offices which
they had filled; and who were imbued, moreover, with great zeal for the service
of those whom they worshiped.
extraordinary superstition of the emperor, to speak in brief, led all his
subjects, both rulers and private citizens, for the sake of gratifying him, to
do everything against us, supposing that they could best show their gratitude to
him for the benefits which they had received from him, by plotting murder
against us and exhibiting toward us any new signs of malignity.
The forged acts.
therefore forged acts of Pilate and our Savior full of every kind of blasphemy
against Christ, they sent them with the emperor's approval to the whole of the
empire subject to him, with written commands that they should be openly posted
to the view of all in every place. Both in country and city, and that the
schoolmasters should give them to their scholars, instead of their customary
lessons, to be studied and learned by heart.
13. While these
things were taking place, another military commander, whom the Romans call Dux,
seized some infamous women in the market-place at Damascus in Phoenicia, and by
threatening to inflict tortures upon them compelled them to make a written
declaration that they had once been Christians.
14. And that they
were acquainted with their impious deeds,-that in their very churches they
committed licentious acts; and they uttered as many other slanders against our
religion as he wished them to.
15. Having taken
down their words in writing, he communicated them to the emperor, who commanded
that these documents also should be published in every place and city.
Those who suffered martyrdom at this time.
1. Not long
afterward, however, this military commander became his own murderer and paid the
penalty for his wickedness. But we were obliged again to endure exile and severe
persecutions, and the governors in every province were once more terribly
stirred up against us; so that even some of those illustrious in the Divine Word
were seized and had sentence of death pronounced upon them without mercy.
2. Three of them
in the city of Emesa in Phoenicia, having confessed that they were Christians,
were thrown as food to the wild beasts. Among them was a bishop Silvanus,
a very old man, who had filled his office full forty years.
3. At about the
same time Peter also, who presided most
illustriously over the parishes in Alexandria, a divine example of a bishop on
account of the excellence of his life and his study of the sacred Scriptures,
being seized for no cause and quite unexpectedly, was, as if by command of maximinus,
immediately and without explanation, beheaded. With him also many other bishops
of Egypt suffered the same fate.
4. And Lucian,
a presbyter of the parish at Antioch, and a most excellent man in every respect,
temperate in life and famed for his learning in sacred things, was brought to
the city of Nicomedia, where at that time the emperor happened to be staying,
and after delivering before the ruler an apology for the doctrine which he
professed, was committed to prison and put to death.
were brought upon us in a brief time by maximinus,
the enemy of virtue, so that this persecution which was stirred up against us
seemed far more cruel than the former.
· The decree against us which was engraved on pillars.
6. The memorials
against us and copies of the imperial edicts issued in reply to them were
engraved and set up on brazen pillars in the midst of the cities, -a course
which had never been followed elsewhere. The children in the schools had daily
in their mouths the names of Jesus and Pilate, and the Acts which had been
forged in wanton insolence.
7. It appears to
me necessary to insert here this document of maximinus
which was posted on pillars, in order that there may be made manifest at the
same time the boastful and haughty arrogance of the God-hating man.
8. And the
sleepless evil-hating divine vengeance upon the impious, which followed close
upon him, and under whose pressure he not long afterward took the opposite
course in respect to us and confirmed it by written laws.
The rescript is in the following words:
of a translation of the rescript of maximinus in answer to the memorials against us, taken from the pillar in
9. "Now at
length the feeble power of the human mind has become able to shake off and to
scatter every dark mist of error, which before this besieged the senses of men,
who were more miserable than impious, and enveloped them in dark and destructive
ignorance; and to perceive that it is governed and established by the beneficent
providence of the immortal gods.
belief how grateful, how pleasing and how agreeable it is to us, that you have
given a most decided proof of your pious resolution; for even before this it was
known to every one how much regard and reverence you were paying to the immortal
gods, exhibiting not a faith of bare and empty words, but continued and
wonderful examples of illustrious deeds.
11. Wherefore your
city may justly be called a seat and dwelling of the immortal gods. At least, it
appears by many signs that it flourishes because of the presence of the
celestial gods. Behold, therefore,
your city, regardless of all private advantages, and omitting its former
petitions in its own behalf, when it perceived that the adherents of that
execrable vanity were again beginning to spread.
12. And to start
the greatest conflagration, like a neglected and extinguished funeral pile when
its brands are rekindled, immediately resorted to our piety as to a metropolis
of all religiousness, asking some remedy and aid. It is evident that the gods have given you this saving mind
on account of your faith and piety.
that supreme and mightiest Jove, who presides over your illustrious city, who
preserves your ancestral gods, your wives and children, your hearths and homes
from every destructive pest, has infused into your souls this wholesome resolve;
showing and proving how excellent and glorious and salutary it is to observe
with the becoming reverence the worship and sacred rites of the immortal gods.
14. For who can be
found so ignorant or so devoid of all understanding as not to perceive that it
is due to the kindly care of the gods that the earth does not refuse the seed
sown in it, nor disappoint the hope of the husbandmen with vain expectation;
that impious war is not inevitably fixed upon earth, and wasted bodies dragged
down to death under the influence of a corrupted atmosphere; that the sea is not
swollen and raised on high by blasts of intemperate winds; that unexpected
hurricanes do not burst forth and stir up the destructive tempest.
15. Moreover, that
the earth, the nourisher and mother of all, is not shaken from its lowest depths
with a terrible tremor, and that the mountains upon it do not sink into the
opening chasms. No one is ignorant that all these, and evils still worse than
these, have oftentimes happened hitherto.
16. And all these
misfortunes have taken place on account of the destructive error of the empty
vanity of those impious men, when it prevailed in their souls, and, we may
almost say, weighed down the whole world with shame."
17. After other
words he adds: "Let them look at the standing crops already flourishing
with waving heads in the broad fields, and at the meadows glittering with plants
and flowers, in response to abundant rains and the restored mildness and
softness of the atmosphere.
18. Finally, let
all rejoice that the might of the most powerful and terrible Mars has been
propitiated by our piety, our sacrifices, and our veneration; and let them on
this account enjoy firm and tranquil peace and quiet; and let as many as have
wholly abandoned that blind error and delusion and have returned to a right and
sound mind rejoice the more, as those who have been rescued from an unexpected
storm or severe disease and are to reap the fruits of pleasure for the rest of
19. But if they
still persist in their execrable vanity, let them, as you have desired, be
driven far away from your city and territory, that thus, in accordance with your
praiseworthy zeal in this matter, your city, being freed from every pollution
and impiety, may, according to its native disposition, attend to the sacred
rites of the immortal gods with becoming reverence.
20. But that ye may
know how acceptable to us your request respecting this matter has been, and how
ready our mind is to confer benefits voluntarily, without memorials and
petitions, we permit your devotion to ask whatever great gift ye may desire in
return for this your pious disposition.
21. And now ask
that this may be done and that ye may receive it; for ye shall obtain it without
delay. This, being granted to your city, shall furnish for all time an evidence
of reverent piety toward the immortal gods, and of the fact that you have
obtained from our benevolence merited prizes for this choice of yours; and it
shall be shown to your children and children's children."
22. This was
published against us in all the provinces, depriving us of every hope of good,
at least from men; so that, according to that divine utterance, "If it were
possible, even the elect would have stumbled" at these things.
23. And now indeed,
when the hope of most of us was almost extinct, suddenly while those who were to
execute against us the above decree had in some places scarcely finished their
journey, God, the defender of his own Church, exhibited his heavenly
interposition in our behalf, well-nigh stopping the tyrant's boasting against
The misfortunes which happened in connection with these things,
in famine, pestilence, and war.
1. The customary
rains and showers of the winter season ceased to fall in their usual abundance
upon the earth and an unexpected famine made its appearance, and in addition to
this a pestilence, and another severe disease consisting of an ulcer, which on
account of its fiery appearance was appropriately called a carbuncle.
2. This, spreading
over the whole body, greatly endangered the lives of those who suffered from it;
but as it chiefly attacked the eyes, it deprived multitudes of men, women, and
children of their sight.
3. In addition to
this the tyrant was compelled to go to war with the Armenians, who had been from
ancient times friends and allies of the Romans. As they were also Christians and
zealous in their piety toward the Deity, the enemy of God had attempted to
compel them to sacrifice to idols and demons, and had thus made friends foes,
and allies enemies.
4. All these
things suddenly took place at one and the same time, and refuted the tyrant's
empty vaunt against the Deity. For he had boasted that, because of his zeal for
idols and his hostility against us, neither famine nor pestilence nor war had
happened in his time. These things, therefore, coming upon him at once and
together, furnished a prelude also of his own destruction.
5. He himself with
his forces was defeated in the war with the Armenians, and the rest of the
inhabitants of the cities under him were terribly afflicted with famine and
pestilence, so that one measure of wheat was sold for twenty-five hundred Attic
Those who died
in the cities were innumerable, and those who died in the country and villages
were still more. So that the tax lists which formerly included a great rural
population were almost entirely wiped out; nearly all being speedily destroyed
by famine and pestilence.
therefore, desired to dispose of their most precious things to those who were
better supplied, in return for the smallest morsel of food, and others, selling
their possessions little by little, fell into the last extremity of want. Some,
chewing wisps of hay and recklessly eating noxious herbs, undermined and mined
8. And some of the
high-born women in the cities, driven by want to shameful extremities, went
forth into the market-places to beg, giving evidence of their former liberal
culture by the modesty of their appearance and the decency of their apparel.
away like ghosts and at the very point of death, stumbled and tottered here and
there, and too weak to stand fell down in the middle of the streets; lying
stretched out at full length they begged that a small morsel of food might be
given them, and with their last gasp they cried out Hunger! having strength only
for this most painful cry.
10. But others, who
seemed to be better supplied, astonished at the multitude of the beggars, after
giving away large quantities, finally became hard and relentless, expecting that
they themselves also would soon suffer the same calamities as those who begged.
11. So that in the
midst of the market-places and lanes, dead and naked bodies lay unburied for
many days, presenting the most lamentable spectacle to those that beheld them.
Some also became food for dogs, on which account the survivors began to
kill the dogs, lest they should become mad and should go to devouring men.
12. But still worse
was the pestilence which consumed entire houses and families, and especially
those whom the famine was not able to destroy because of their abundance of
food. Thus men of wealth, rulers and governors and multitudes in office, as if
left by the famine on purpose for the pestilence, suffered swift and speedy
13. Every place
therefore was full of lamentation; in every lane and market-place and street
there was nothing else to be seen or heard than tears, with the customary
instruments and the voices of the mourners.
In this way
death, waging war with these two weapons, pestilence and famine, destroyed whole
families in a short time, so that one could see two or three dead bodies carried
out at once. Such were the rewards
of the boasting of Maximinus and of the measures of the cities against us.
Then did the
evidences of the universal zeal and piety of the Christians become manifest to
all the heathen. For they alone in
the midst of such ills showed their sympathy and humanity by their deeds.
16. Every day some
continued caring for and burying the dead, for there were multitudes who had no
one to care for them; others collected in one place those who were afflicted by
the famine, throughout the entire city, and gave bread to them all.
17. So that the
thing became noised abroad among all men, and they glorified the God of the
Christians; and, convinced by the facts themselves, confessed that they alone
were truly pious and religious.
18. After these
things were thus done, God, the great and celestial defender of the Christians,
having revealed in the events which have been described his anger and
indignation at all men for the great evils which they had brought upon us,
restored to us the bright and gracious sunlight of his providence in our behalf.
19. So that in the
deepest darkness a light of peace shone most wonderfully upon us from him, and
made it manifest to all that God himself has always been the ruler of our
20. From time to
time indeed he chastens his people and corrects them by his visitations, but
again after sufficient chastisement he shows mercy and favor to those who hope
The victory of the God-beloved emperors.
1. Thus when
Constantine, whom we have already mentioned as an emperor, born of an emperor, a
pious son of a most pious and prudent father, and Licinius, second to him, two
God-beloved emperors, honored alike for their intelligence and their
piety,-being stirred up against the two most impious tyrants by God.
2. The absolute
Ruler and Savior of all, engaged in formal war against them, with God as their
ally, maxentius was defeated at Rome by
Constantine in a remarkable manner, and the tyrant of the East did not long
survive him, but met a most shameful death at the hand of Licinius, who had not
yet become insane.
who was the superior both in dignity and imperial rank, first took compassion
upon those who were oppressed at Rome, and having invoked in prayer the God of
heaven, and his Word, and Jesus Christ himself, the Savior of all, as his aid,
advanced with his Whole army, proposing to restore to the Romans their ancestral
4. But maxentius,
putting confidence rather in the arts of sorcery than in the devotion of his
subjects, did not dare to go forth beyond the gates of the city, but fortified
every place and district and town which was enslaved by him, in the neighborhood
of Rome and in all Italy, with an immense multitude of troops and with
innumerable bands of soldiers.
emperor, relying upon the assistance of God, attacked the first, second, and
third army of the tyrant, and conquered them all; and having advanced through
the greater part of Italy, was already very near Rome.
6. Then, that he
might not be compelled to wage war with the Romans for the sake of the tyrant,
God himself drew the latter, as if bound in chains, some distance without the
gates, and confirmed those threats against the impious which had been anciently
inscribed in sacred books,-disbelieved, indeed, by most as a myth, but believed
by the faithful,-confirmed them, in a word, by the deed itself to all, both
believers and unbelievers, that saw the wonder with their eyes.
7. Thus, as in the
time of Moses himself and of the ancient God-beloved race of Hebrews, "He
cast Pharaoh's chariots and host into the sea, and overwhelmed his chosen
charioteers in the Red Sea, and covered them with the flood,"
8. In the same way
maxentius also with his soldiers and
body-guards "went down into the depths like a stone," when he fled
before the power of God which was with Constantine, and passed through the river
which lay in his way, over which he had formed a bridge with boats, and thus
prepared the means of his own destruction.
9. In regard to
him one might say, "he dug a pit and opened it and fell into the hole which
he had made; his labor shall turn upon his own head, and his unrighteousness
shall fall upon his own crown."
10. Thus, then, the
bridge over the river being broken, the passageway settled down, and immediately
the boats with the men disappeared in the depths, and that most impious one
himself first of all, then the shield-bearers who were with him, as the divine
oracles foretold, "sank like lead in the mighty waters";
11. So that those
who obtained the victory from God, if not in words, at least in deeds, like
Moses, the great servant of God, and those who were with him, fittingly sang as
they had sung against the impious tyrant of old, saying, "Let us sing unto
the Lord, for he hath gloriously glorified himself; horse and rider hath he
thrown into the sea; a helper and a protector hath he become for my
12. And "Who
is like unto thee, O Lord; among the gods, who is like unto thee glorious in
holiness, marvelous in glory, doing wonders." These and the like praises Constantine, by his very deeds,
sang to God, the universal Ruler, and Author of his victory, as he entered Rome
13. Immediately all
the members of the senate and the other most celebrated men, with the whole
Roman people, together with children and women, received him as their deliverer,
their savior, and their benefactor, with shining eyes and with their whole
souls, with shouts of gladness and unbounded joy.
14. But he, as one
possessed of inborn piety toward God, did not exult in the shouts, nor was he
elated by the praises; but perceiving that his aid was from God, he immediately
commanded that a trophy of the Savior's passion be put in the hand of his own
15. And when he had
placed it, with the saving sign of the cross in its right hand, in the most
public place in Rome, he commanded that the following inscription should be
engraved upon it in the Roman tongue:
16. "By this
salutary sign, the true proof of bravery, I have saved and freed your city from
the yoke of the tyrant and moreover, having set at liberty both the senate and
the people of Rome, I have restored them to their ancient distinction and
17. And after this
both Constantine himself and with him the Emperor Licinius, who had not yet been
seized by that madness into which he later fell, praising God as the author of
all their blessings, with one will and mind drew up a full and most complete
decree in behalf of the Christians.
18. And he sent an
account of the wonderful things done for them by God, and of the victory over
the tyrant, together with a copy of the decree itself, to maximinus,
who still ruled over the nations of the East and pretended friendship toward
But he, like a
tyrant, was greatly pained by what he learned; but not wishing to seem to yield
to others, nor, on the other hand, to suppress that which was commanded, for
fear of those who enjoined it, as if on his own authority, he addressed, under
compulsion, to the governors under him this first communication in behalf of the
Christians, falsely inventing things against himself which had never been done
of a translation of the epistle of the tyrant maximinus.
maximinus augustus to Sabinus. am confident that it is manifest both to
thy firmness and to all men that our masters Diocletian and Maximianus, our
fathers, when they saw almost all men abandoning the worship of the gods and
attaching themselves to the party of the Christians, rightly decreed that all
who gave up the worship of those same immortal gods should be recalled by open
chastisement and punishment to the worship of the gods.
when I first came to the East under favorable auspices and learned that in some
places a great many men who were able to render public service had been banished
by the judges for the above-mentioned cause, I gave command to each of the
judges that henceforth none of them should treat the provincials with severity,
but that they should rather recall them to the worship of the gods by flattery
22. Then when, in
accordance with my command, these orders were obeyed by the judges, it came to
pass that none of those who lived in the districts of the East were banished or
insulted, but that they were rather brought back to the worship of the gods by
the fact that no severity was employed toward them.
23. But afterwards,
when I went up last year under good auspices to Nicomedia and sojourned there,
citizens of the same city came to me with the images of the gods, earnestly
entreating that such a people should by no means be permitted to dwell in their
But when I
learned that many men of the same religion dwelt in those regions, I replied
that I gladly thanked them for their request, but that I perceived that it was
not proffered by all, and that if, therefore, there were any that persevered in
the same superstition, each one had the privilege of doing as he pleased, even
if he wished to recognize the worship of the gods.
25. Nevertheless, I
considered it necessary to give a friendly answer to the inhabitants of
Nicomedia and to the other cities which had so earnestly presented to me the
same petition, namely, that no Christians should dwell in their cities.
26. Both because
this same course had been pursued by all the ancient emperors, and also because
it was pleasing to the gods, through whom all men and the government of the
state itself endure,-and to confirm the request which they presented in behalf
of the worship of their deity.
although before this time, special letters have been sent to thy devotedness,
and commands have likewise been given that no harsh measures should be taken
against those provincials who desire to follow such a course, but that they
should be treated mildly and moderately.
in order that they may not suffer insults or extortions from the beneficiaries,
or from any others, I have thought meet to remind thy firmness in this epistle
also that thou should lead our provincials rather by flatteries and exhortations
to recognize the care of the gods.
29. Hence, if any
one of his own choice should decide to adopt the worship of the gods, it is
fitting that he should be welcomed, but if any should wish to follow their own
religion, do thou leave it in their power.
30. Wherefore it
behooves thy devotedness to observe that which is committed to thee, and to see
that power is given to no one to oppress our provincials with insults and
extortions, since, as already written, it is fitting to recall our provincials
to the worship of the gods rather by exhortations and flatteries. But, in order
that this command of ours may come to the knowledge of all our provincials, it
is incumbent upon thee to proclaim that which has been enjoined, in an edict
issued by thyself."
Since he was
forced to do this by necessity and did not give the command by his own will, he
was not regarded by any one as sincere or trustworthy, because he had already
shown his unstable and deceitful disposition after his former similar
32. None of our
people, therefore, ventured to hold meetings or even to appear in public,
because his communication did not cover this, but only commanded to guard
against doing us any injury, and did not give orders that we should hold
meetings or build churches or perform any of our customary acts.
33. And yet
Constantine and Licinius, the advocates of peace and piety, had written him to
permit this, and had granted it to all their subjects by edicts and ordinances.
But this most impious man did not choose to yield in this matter until, being
driven by the divine judgment, he was at last compelled to do it against his
The overthrow of the tyrants and the words, which they uttered
before their death.
circumstances which drove him to this course were the following. Being no longer
able to sustain the magnitude of the government which had been undeservedly
committed to him, in consequence of his want of prudence and imperial
understanding, he managed affairs in a base manner.
2. And with his
mind unreasonably exalted in all things with boastful pride, even toward his
colleagues in the empire who were in every respect his superiors, in birth, in
training, in education, in worth and intelligence, and, greatest of all, in
temperance and piety toward the true God, he began to venture to act audaciously
and to arrogate to himself the first rank.
3. Becoming mad in
his folly, he broke the treaties which he had made with Licinius and undertook
an implacable war. Then in a brief time he threw all things into confusion, and
stirred up every city, and having collected his entire force, comprising an
immense number of soldiers, he went forth to battle with him, elated by his
hopes in demons, whom he supposed to be gods, and by the number of his soldiers.
4. And when he
joined battle he was deprived of the oversight of God, and the victory was given
to Licinius, who was then ruling, by the one and only God of all.
5. First, the army
in which he trusted was destroyed, and as all his guards abandoned him and left
him alone, and fled to the victor, he secretly divested himself as quickly as
possible of the imperial garments, which did not fitly belong to him, and in a
cowardly and ignoble and unmanly way mingled with the crowd.
6. Then he fled,
concealing himself in fields and villages. But though he was so careful for his
safety, he scarcely escaped the hands of his enemies, revealing by his deeds
that the divine oracles are faithful and true in which it is said,
7. "A king is
not saved by a great force, and a giant shall not be saved by the greatness of
his strength; a horse is a vain thing for safety, nor shall he be delivered by
the greatness of his power. Behold,
the eyes of the Lord are upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his
mercy, to deliver their souls from death."
8. Thus the
tyrant, covered with shame, went to his own country. And first, in frantic rage,
he slew many priests and prophets of the gods whom he had formerly admired, and
whose oracles had incited him to undertake the war, as sorcerers and impostors,
and besides all as betrayers of his safety.
9. Then having
given glory to the God of the Christians and enacted a most full and complete
ordinance in behalf of their liberty, he was immediately seized with a mortal
disease, and no respite being granted him, departed this life. The law enacted
by him was as follows:
Copy of the edict of the tyrant in behalf of the Christians,
translated from the Roman tongue.
10. "The emperor
caesar caius valerius maximinus, germanicus, sarmaticus, plus, felix, invictus,
augustus. We believe it manifest that no one is ignorant, but that every
man who looks back over the past knows and is conscious that in every way we
care continually for the good of our provincials, and wish to furnish them with
those things which are of especial advantage to all, and for the common benefit
and profit, and whatever contributes to the public welfare and is agreeable to
the views of each.
therefore, before this, it became clear to our mind that under pretext of the
command of our parents, the most divine diocletian and
maximianus, which enjoined that the meetings of the Christians should be
abolished, many extortions and spoliations had been practiced by officials; and
that those evils were continually increasing, to the detriment of our
provincials toward whom we are especially anxious to exercise proper care, and
that their possessions were in consequence perishing.
sent last year to the governors of each province, in which we decreed that, if
any one wished to follow such a practice or to observe this same religion, he
should be permitted without hindrance to pursue his purpose and should be
impeded and prevented by no one, and that all should have liberty to do without
any fear or suspicion that which each preferred.
But even now we
cannot help perceiving that some of the judges have mistaken our commands, and
have given our people reason to doubt the meaning of our ordinances, and have
caused them to proceed too reluctantly to the observance of those religious
rites which are pleasing to them.
therefore, that in the future every suspicion of fearful doubt may be taken
away, we have commanded that this decree be published, so that it may be clear
to all that whoever wishes to embrace this sect and religion is permitted to do
so by virtue of this grant of ours; and that each one, as he wishes or as is
pleasing to him, is permitted to practice this religion which he has chosen to
observe according to his custom. It is also granted them to build Lord's houses.
But that this
grant of ours may be the greater, we have thought good to decree also that if
any houses and lands before this time rightfully belonged to the Christians, and
by the command of our parents fell into the treasury, or were confiscated by any
city,-whether they have been sold or presented to any one as a gift,-that all
these should be restored to their original possessors, the Christians, in order
that in this also every one may have knowledge of our piety and care."
16. These are the
words of the tyrant which were published not quite a year after the decrees
against the Christians engraved by him on pillars. And by him to whom a little
before we seemed impious wretches and atheists and destroyers of all life, so
that we were not permitted to dwell in any city nor even in the country or
By him decrees
and ordinances were issued in behalf of the Christians, and they who recently
had been destroyed by fire and sword, by wild beasts and birds of prey, in the
presence of the tyrant himself, and had suffered every species of torture and
punishment, and most miserable deaths as atheists and impious wretches, were now
acknowledged by him as possessors of religion and were permitted to build
churches and the tyrant himself bore witness and confessed that they had some
18. And having made
such confessions, as if he had received some benefit on account of them, he
suffered perhaps less than he ought to have suffered, and being smitten by a
sudden scourge of God, he perished in the second campaign of the war.
19. But his end was
not like that of military chieftains who, while fighting bravely in battle for
virtue and friends, often boldly encounter a glorious death; for like an impious
enemy of God, while his army was still drawn up in the field, remaining at home
and concealing himself, he suffered the punishment which he deserved.
20. For he was
smitten with a sudden scourge of God in his whole body, and harassed by terrible
pains and torments, he fell prostrate on the ground, wasted by hunger, while all
his flesh was dissolved by an invisible and God-sent fire, so that the whole
appearance of his frame was changed.
21. And there was
left only a kind of image wasted away by length of time to a skeleton of dry
bones; so that those who were present could think of his body as nothing else
than the tomb of his soul, which was buried in a body already dead and
completely melted away.
22. And as the heat
still more violently consumed him in the depths of his marrow, his eyes burst
forth, and falling from their sockets left him blind.
23. Thereupon still
breathing and making free confession to the Lord, he invoked death, and at last,
after acknowledging that he justly suffered these things on account of his
violence against Christ, he gave up the ghost.
The final destruction of the enemies of religion.
1. Thus when maximinus,
who alone had remained of the enemies of religion and had appeared the worst of
them all, was put out of the way, the renovation of the churches from their
foundations was begun by the grace of God the Ruler of all, and the word of
Christ. shining unto the glory of the God of the universe, obtained greater
freedom than before, while the impious enemies of religion were covered with
extreme shame and dishonor.
himself, being first pronounced by the emperors a common enemy, was declared by
public proclamations to be a most impious, execrable, and God-hating tyrant. And
of the portraits which had been set up in every city in honor of him or of his
children, some were thrown down from their places to the ground, and torn in
pieces; while the faces of others were obliterated by daubing them with black
3. And the statues
which had been erected to his honor were likewise overthrown and broken, and lay
exposed to the laughter and sport of those who wished to insult and abuse them.
Then also all the honors of the other enemies of religion were taken
away, and all those who sided with maximinus
were slain, especially those who had been honored by him with high offices in
reward for their flattery, and had behaved insolently toward our doctrine.
4. Such an one was
peucetius, the dearest of his companions, who
had been honored and rewarded by him above all, who had been consul a second and
third time, and had been appointed by him chief minister; and culcianus,
who had likewise advanced through every grade of office, and was also celebrated
for his numberless executions of Christians in Egypt; and besides these not a
few others, by whose agency especially the tyranny of Maximinus had been
confirmed and extended.
5. And theotecnus
also was summoned by justice which by no means overlooked his deeds against the
Christians. For when the statue had been set up by him at Antioch, he appeared
to be in the happiest state, and was already made a governor by maximinus.
coming down to the city of Antioch, made a search for impostors, and tortured
the prophets and priests of the newly erected statue, asking them for what
reason they practiced their deception. They, under the stress of torture, were
unable longer to conceal the matter, and declared that the whole deceptive
mystery had been devised by the art of theotecnus.
after meting out to all of them just judgment, he first put theotecnus
himself to death, and then his confederates in the imposture, with the severest
To all these
were added also the children of maximinus, whom
he had already made sharers in the imperial dignity, by placing their names on
tablets and statues. And the relatives of the tyrant, who before had been
boastful and had in their pride oppressed all men, suffered the same punishments
with those who have been already mentioned, as well as the extreme disgrace.
9. For they had
not received instruction, neither did they know and understand the exhortation
given in the Holy Word: "Put
not your trust in princes, nor in the sons of men, in whom there is no
salvation; his spirit shall go forth and return to his earth; in that day all
their thoughts perish."
10. The impious
ones having been thus removed, the government was preserved firm and undisputed
for Constantine and Licinius, to whom it fittingly belonged.
11. They, having
first of all cleansed the world of hostility to the Divine Being, conscious of
the benefits which he had conferred upon them, showed their love of virtue and
of God, and their piety and gratitude to the Deity, by their ordinance in behalf
of the Christians.