Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: Hypocrisy, Psalm 33, Luke 7:31-35, St. Januarius, Diocletianic Persecution,M Naples Italy

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: 
Hypocrisy, Psalm 33, Luke 7:31-35, St. Januarius, Diocletianic Persecution, Naples Italy

Good Day Bloggers! 
Wishing everyone a Blessed Week! 

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7.

We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift knowledge and free will as well, make the most of it. Life on earth is a stepping to our eternal home in Heaven. Its your choice whether to rise towards eternal light or lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to Heaven is our Soul, our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012


Today's Word:  hypocrisy  hy·poc·ri·cy  [hi-pok-ruh-see]

Origin:  1175–1225; Middle English ipocrisie  < Old French  < Late Latin hypocrisis  < Greek hypókrisis  play acting, equivalent to hypokrī́ ( nesthai ) to play a part, explain ( hypo- hypo-  + krī́nein  to distinguish, separate) + -sis -sis; h-  (reintroduced in 16th century) < Latin  and Greek

noun, plural hy·poc·ri·sies.
1. a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess.
2. a pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude.
3. an act or instance of hypocrisy.


Today's Old Testament Reading -  Psalms 33:2-5, 12, 22

2 Give thanks to Yahweh on the lyre, play for him on the ten-stringed lyre.
3 Sing to him a new song, make sweet music for your cry of victory.
4 The word of Yahweh is straightforward, all he does springs from his constancy.
5 He loves uprightness and justice; the faithful love of Yahweh fills the earth.
12 How blessed the nation whose God is Yahweh, the people he has chosen as his heritage.
22 Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us, as our hope has rested in you.


Today's Gospel Reading Luke 7:31-35

Jesus said: ‘What comparison, then, can I find for the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market place: We played the pipes for you, and you wouldn’t dance; we sang dirges, and you wouldn’t cry. ‘For John the Baptist has come, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.” The Son of man has come, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.’

In today’s Gospel we see the novelty of the Good News which opens its way and thus persons who are attached to ancient forms of faith feel lost and do not understand anything more of God’s action. In order to hide their lack of openness and of understanding they defend and seek childish pretexts to justify their attitude of lack of acceptance. Jesus reacts with a parable to denounce the incoherence of his enemies: “You are similar to children who do not know what they want”.

Luke 7, 31: To whom, then, shall I compare you? Jesus is struck by the reaction of the people and say: “What comparison, then, can I find for the people of this generation? What are they like?” When something is evident and the persons, out of ignorance or because of bad will, do not perceive things and do not want to perceive them, it is good to find an evident comparison which will reveal their incoherence and the ill will. And Jesus is a Master in finding comparisons which speak for themselves.

Luke 7, 32: Like children without judgment. The comparison which Jesus finds is this one. You are like “those children, shouting to one another while they sit in the market place: we played the pipes for you, and you would not dance; we sang dirges and you would not cry!” Spoiled children, all over the world, have the same reaction. They complain when others do not do and act as they say. The reason for Jesus’ complaint is the arbitrary way with which people in the past reacted before John the Baptist and how they react now before Jesus.

Luke 7, 33-34: Their opinion on John and on Jesus. “For John the Baptist has come, not eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say: he is possessed. The Son of man has come eating and drinking, and you say: look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners”. Jesus was a disciple of John the Baptist; he believed in him and was baptized by him. On the occasion of this Baptism in the Jordan, he had the revelation of the Father regarding his mission as Messiah-Servant (Mk 1, 10). At the same time, Jesus stressed the difference between him and John. John was more severe, more ascetical, did not eat nor drink. He remained in the desert and threatened the people with the punishment of the Last Judgment (Lk 3, 7-9). Because of this, people said that he was possessed. Jesus was more welcoming; he ate and drank like everybody else. He went through the towns and entered the houses of the people; he accepted the tax collectors and the prostitutes. This is why they said that he was a glutton and a drunkard. Even considering his words regarding “the men of this generation” (Lk 7, 31), in a general way, probably, Jesus had in mind the opinion of the religious authority who did not believe in Jesus (Mk 11,29-33).

Luke 7, 35: The obvious conclusion to which Jesus arrives. And Jesus ends drawing this conclusion: “Yet, wisdom is justified by all her children”. The lack of seriousness and of coherence is clearly seen in the opinion given on Jesus and on John. The bad will is so evident that it needs no proof. That recalls the response of Job to his friends who believe that they are wise: “Will no one teach you to be quiet! - the only wisdom that becomes you!” (Job 13, 5).

Personal questions
When I express my opinion on others, am I like the Pharisees and the Scribes who gave their opinion on Jesus and John? They expressed only their preconceptions and said nothing on the persons whom they judged.
Do you know any groups in the Church who would merit the parable of Jesus?

Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


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Saint of the Day:  St. Januarius

Feast Day: September 19
Patron Saint: blood banks; Naples; volcanic eruptions

St Januarius, Bishop of Naples
Saint Januarius, Bishop of Naples, is a martyr saint of the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. While no contemporary sources on his life are preserved, later sources and legends claim that he died during the Diocletianic Persecution which ended with Diocletian's retirement in 305.

Januarius is the patron saint of Naples, where the faithful gather three times a year in Naples Cathedral to witness the alleged liquefaction of what is claimed to be a sample of his blood kept in a sealed glass ampoule.


Little is known of the life of Januarius, and what follows is mostly derived from later Christian sources, such as the Acta Bononensia (BHL 4132, not earlier than 6th century) and the Acta Vaticana (BHL 4115, 9th century), and from later-developing folk tradition. Now we know that he was born in Benevento. The earliest extant mention of him is contained in a 432 letter by Uranius, bishop of Nola, on the death of his mentor Saint Paulinus of Nola, where it is stated that the ghosts of Januarius and Saint Martin appeared to Paulinus three days before the latter's death in 431. About Januarius, the account says only that he was "bishop as well as martyr, an illustrious member of the Neapolitan church"  The Acta Bononensia says that "At Pozzuoli in Campania [is honored the memory] of the holy martyrs Januarius, Bishop of Beneventum, Festus his deacon, and Desiderius lector, together with Sossius deacon of the church of Misenum, Proculus, deacon of Pozzuoli, Eutyches and Acutius, who after chains and imprisonment were beheaded under the Emperor Diocletian".

Legends about his life and death

According to various Christian legends, Januarius was allegedly born in Benevento to a rich patrician family that traced its descent to the Caudini tribe of the Samnites. At a young age of 15, he became local priest of his parish in Benevento, which at the time was relatively pagan. When Januarius was 20, he became Bishop of Naples and befriended Juliana of Nicomedia and Saint Sossius whom he met during his priestly studies. During the 1 12-year-long persecution of Christians by Emperor Diocletian, he hid his fellow Christians and prevented them from being caught. Unfortunately, while visiting Sossius in jail, he too was arrested. He and his colleagues were condemned to be thrown to wild bears in the Flavian Amphitheater at Pozzuoli, but the sentence was changed due to fear of public disturbances, and they were instead beheaded at the Solfatara crater near Pozzuoli. Other legends state either that the wild beasts refused to eat them, or that he was thrown into a furnace but came out unscathed.


According to an early hagiography,[ his relics were transferred by order of Saint Severus, Bishop of Naples, to the Neapolitan catacombs "extra moenia," "outside the walls" In the early tenth century the body was moved to Beneventum by Sico, prince of Benevento, with the head remaining in Naples. Subsequently, during the turmoil at the time of Frederick Barbarossa, his body was moved again, this time to the Territorial Abbey of Montevergine where it was rediscovered in 1480. At the instigation of Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, his body was finally transferred in 1497 to Naples, where he is the city's patron saint. Carafa commissioned a richly decorated crypt, the Succorpo, beneath the cathedral to house the reunited body and head properly. The "Succorpo" was finished in 1506 and is considered one of the prominent monuments of the High Renaissance in the city.


Saint Januarius' feast day is celebrated on September 19th in the calendar of the Catholic Church. In the Eastern Church it is celebrated on April 21. The city of Naples has more than fifty official patron saints, although its principal patron is Saint Januarius. For the Italian population of Little Italy, Manhattan, and other New Yorkers, the Feast of San Gennaro is a highlight of the year, when the saint's polychrome statue is carried through the streets and a blocks-long street fair ensues.

The Blood Miracle

Saint Januarius is famous for the reputed miracle of the annual liquefaction of his blood, which, according to legend, was saved by a woman called Eusebia just after the saint's death. Thousands of people assemble to witness this event in Naples Cathedral three times a year: on September 19 (Saint Januarius day, to commemorate his martyrdom), on December 16 (to celebrate his patronage of both Naples and of the archdiocese), and on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May (to commemorate the reunification of his relics).

Although the city of Naples became known as urbs sanguinum, the miracle is not a unique phenomenon. Other examples include Saint Patricia, blood said to belong to Saint John the Baptist in the monastery of San Gregorio Armeno, and that of Saint Pantaleon which liquifies in nearby Ravello. The liquefication of coagulated blood is therefore peculiar to the region of Campania and virtually unheard of elsewhere. The veneration of many of the blood cults have died out since the sixteenth century, but it may have been the Christian development of an earlier, local pagan ritual to protect the population from unexpected lava bursts flowing from Vesuvius. Disbelievers credit its invention to a medieval Neapolitan alchemist.

Description of the ritual

The dried blood is stored in two hermetically sealed small ampoules, held since the 17th century in a silver reliquary between two round glass plates about 12 cm wide. The smaller ampoule, of cylindrical shape, contains only a few reddish spots on its walls (the bulk having allegedly been removed and taken to Spain by Charles III). The larger ampoule, with capacity of about 60 ml and almond-shaped, is about 60% filled with a dark reddish substance. Separate reliquaries hold bone fragments believed to be of Saint Januarius.

For most of the time, the ampoules are kept in a bank vault, whose keys are held by a commission of local notables, including the Mayor of Naples; while the bones are kept in a crypt under the main altar of Naples Cathedral. On feast days, all these relics are taken in procession from the cathedral to the Monastery of Santa Chiara, where the archbishop holds the reliquary up and tilts it to show that the contents are solid, and places it on the high altar next to the saint's other relics. After intense prayers by the faithful, including the so-called "relatives of Saint Januarius" (parenti di San Gennaro), the content of the larger vial typically liquefies. The archbishop then holds up the vial and tilts it again to demonstrate that liquefaction has taken place. The announcement of the liquefaction is greeted with a 21-gun salute at the 13th-century Castel Nuovo. The ampoules remain exposed on the altar for eight days, while the priests move or turn them periodically to show that the contents remain liquid. The liquefaction sometimes takes place almost immediately, but can take hours or even days. A chronicle of Naples written in 1382 describes the cult of Saint Januarius in detail, but mentions neither the relic nor the miracle. The first recorded reference to the 'miracle of the blood' was in 1389.

Catholic Church's position

While the Catholic Church has always supported the celebrations, it has never formulated an official statement on the phenomenon, and maintains a neutral stance about scientific investigations. Saint Alphonsus Liguori wrote regarding Saint Januarius:
"The Neapolitans honor this saint as the principal patron of their city and nation, and the Lord himself has continued to honor him, by allowing many miracles to be wrought through his intercession, particularly when the frightful eruptions of Mount Vesuvius have threatened the city of Naples with utter destruction. While the relics of St. Januarius were being brought in procession towards this terrific volcano, the torrents of lava and liquid fire which it emitted have ceased, or turned their course from the city. But the most stupendous miracle, and that which is greatly celebrated in the church, is the liquefying and boiling up of this blessed martyr's blood whenever the vials are brought in sight of his head. This miracle is renewed many times in the year, in presence of all who desire to witness it; yet some heretics have endeavored to throw a doubt upon its genuineness, by frivolous and incoherent explanations; but no one can deny the effect to be miraculous, unless he be prepared to question the evidence of his senses."
John Henry Cardinal Newman also attested to the veracity of the miracle of liquefaction:
"I think it impossible to withstand the evidence which is brought for the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius at Naples and for the motion of the eyes in the pictures of the Madonna in the Papal States."

Scientific studies and other theories

Believers continue to insist on the reality of the phenomenon based on their faith, insisting that the annual event is a miraculous one. Scientists however have proposed hypotheses to explain the liquification using contemporary scientific knowledge of how matter and the universe work.

The Catholic Church does not permit the vials to be opened, for fear that doing so may cause irreparable damage. This makes close analysis difficult. Nevertheless, a spectroscopic analysis performed in 1902 by Gennaro Sperindeo and Raffaele Januario claimed that the spectrum was consistent with hemoglobin. A later analysis, with similar conclusions, was carried out in 1989. However, the reliability of these observations has been questioned. While clotted blood can be liquefied by mechanical stirring, the resulting suspension cannot solidify again. Measurements made in 1900 and 1904 claimed that the ampoules' weight increased by up to 28 grams during liquefaction. However, later measurements with a precision balance, performed over five years, failed to detect any variation.

Various suggestions for the content's composition have been advanced, such as a material that is photosensitive, hygroscopic, or has a low melting point. However, these explanations run into technical difficulties, such as the variability of the phenomenon and its being unrelated to ambient temperature. A recent hypothesis by Garlaschelli, Ramaccini, and Della Sala is that the vial contains a thixotropic gel, he also explained on the Blood Miracle of Riddles of the Dead series on National Geographic Channel.  In such a substance viscosity increases if left unstirred and decreases if stirred or moved. Researchers have proposed specifically a suspension of hydrated iron oxide, FeO(OH), which reproduces the color and behavior of the 'blood' in the ampoule. The suspension can be prepared from simple chemicals that would have been easily available locally since antiquity.

Museum of the Treasure of St. Januarius

The Treasure of San Gennaro is composed of magnificent works and donations collected in seven centuries of Popes, Kings, Emperors, famous and ordinary people. According to studies done by a pool of experts who have analyzed all the pieces of the collection, the Treasure of St. Gennaro would be even richer than the crown of England's Queen Elizabeth II and the Czars of Russia. The Treasure is a unique collection of art masterpieces, kept untouched thanks to the Deputation of the Chapel of San Gennaro, an ancient secular institution founded in 1527 by a vote of the city of Naples, still existing. Today, the Treasure is exhibited in the Museum of the Treasure of San Gennaro, whose entrance is located on the right side of the Dome of Naples, under the arcades. By visiting the Museum, you can access the Chapel of St. Gennaro even during the closing hours of the Cathedral. Official Website of the Museum.


  • Thurston, Herbert (1910) "Saint Januarius" entry in The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. Online version accessed on 2012-09-19.
  • Hagiographic sources are compiled in "Acta Sanctorum Septembris, Tomus Sextis," new ed. J. Carnandet, ed. (Paris 1867:761-892); a condensed account of the removals of the relics is given by Diana Norman, "The Succorpo in the Cathedral of Naples: 'Empress of All Chapels'", Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 49.3 (1986:323-355).
  • "Martyrologium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7); in the 1498 Roman martyrology, his martyrdom took place on the thirteenth kalend of October or September 19th. (J. O'Connell, "The Roman Martyrology" [London 1962] s.v. September 19). 
  • Christopher, Kevin (2000-09-22). "The Miracle Blood of Saint Januarius". Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Archived from the original on 2007-02-06. Retrieved 2007-03-02.;
  • National Geographic Channel - Riddles of the Dead - Blood Miracle


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Today's Snippet I:  Diocletianic Persecution

The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, Gérôme (1883)
The Diocletianic Persecution (or Great Persecution) was the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman empire. In 303, the Emperors Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius and Constantius issued a series of edicts rescinding the legal rights of Christians and demanding that they comply with traditional Roman religious practices. Later edicts targeted the clergy and demanded universal sacrifice, ordering all inhabitants to sacrifice to the gods. The persecution varied in intensity across the empire—weakest in Gaul and Britain, where only the first edict was applied, and strongest in the Eastern provinces. Persecutory laws were nullified by different emperors at different times, but Constantine and Licinius's Edict of Milan (313) has traditionally marked the end of the persecution.

Christians had always been subject to local discrimination in the empire, but early emperors were reluctant to issue general laws against them. It was not until the 250s, under the reigns of Decius and Valerian, that such laws were passed. Under this legislation, Christians were compelled to sacrifice to Roman gods or face imprisonment and execution. After Gallienus's accession in 260, these laws went into abeyance. Diocletian's accession in 284 did not mark an immediate reversal of disregard to Christianity, but it did herald a gradual shift in official attitudes toward religious minorities. In the first fifteen years of his rule, Diocletian purged the army of Christians, condemned Manicheans to death, and surrounded himself with public opponents of Christianity. Diocletian's preference for activist government, combined with his self-image as a restorer of past Roman glory, presaged the most pervasive persecution in Roman history. In the winter of 302, Galerius urged Diocletian to begin a general persecution of the Christians. Diocletian was wary, and asked the oracle of Apollo for guidance. The oracle's reply was read as an endorsement of Galerius's position, and a general persecution was called on February 24, 303.

Persecutory policies varied in intensity across the empire. Where Galerius and Diocletian were avid persecutors, Constantius was unenthusiastic. Later persecutory edicts, including the calls for universal sacrifice, were not applied in his domain. His son, Constantine, on taking the imperial office in 306, restored Christians to full legal equality and returned property that had been confiscated during the persecution. In Italy in 306, the usurper Maxentius ousted Maximian's successor Severus, promising full religious toleration. Galerius ended the persecution in the East in 311, but it was resumed in Egypt, Palestine, and Asia Minor by his successor, Maximinus. Constantine and Licinius, Severus's successor, signed the "Edict of Milan" in 313, which offered a more comprehensive acceptance of Christianity than Galerius's edict had provided. Licinius ousted Maximinus in 313, bringing an end to persecution in the East.

The persecution failed to check the rise of the church. By 324, Constantine was sole ruler of the empire, and Christianity had become his favored religion. Although the persecution resulted in the deaths of—according to one modern estimate—3,000 to 3,500 Christians, and the torture, imprisonment, or dislocation of many more, most Christians avoided punishment. The persecution did, however, cause many churches to split between those who had complied with imperial authority (the traditores), and those who had remained "pure". Certain schisms, like those of the Donatists in North Africa and the Meletians in Egypt, persisted long after the persecutions. The Donatists would not be reconciled to the Catholic Church until after 411. In the centuries that followed, some Christians created a "cult of the martyrs", and exaggerated the barbarity of the persecutory era. These accounts were criticized during the Enlightenment and after, most notably by Edward Gibbon. Modern historians like G. E. M. de Ste. Croix have attempted to determine whether Christian sources exaggerated the scope of the Diocletianic persecution.

Prior persecutions

From its first appearance to its legalization under Constantine, Christianity was an illegal religion in the eyes of the Roman state. For the first two centuries of its existence, Christianity and its practitioners were unpopular with the people at large. Christians were always suspect, members of a "secret society" whose members communicated with a private code and who shied away from the public sphere. It was popular hostility—the anger of the crowd—which drove the earliest persecutions, not official action. In Lyon in 177, it was only the intervention of civil authorities that stopped a pagan mob from dragging Christians from their houses and beating them to death. The governor of Bithynia–Pontus, Pliny, was sent long lists of denunciations by anonymous citizens, which Emperor Trajan advised him to ignore.

To the followers of the traditional cults, Christians were odd creatures: not quite Roman, but not quite barbarian either. Their practices were deeply threatening to traditional mores. Christians rejected public festivals, refused to take part in the imperial cult, avoided public office, and publicly criticized ancient traditions. Conversions tore families apart: Justin Martyr tells of a pagan husband who denounced his Christian wife, Tertullian of children disinherited for becoming Christians. Traditional Roman religion was inextricably interwoven into the fabric of Roman society and state, but Christians refused to observe its practices. In the words of Tacitus, Christians showed "hatred of the human race" (odium generis humani). Among the more credulous, Christians were thought to use black magic in pursuit of revolutionary aims, and to practice incest and cannibalism.

Nonetheless, for the first two centuries of the Christian era, no emperor issued general laws against the faith or its Church. Persecutions, such as they were, were carried out under the authority of local government officials. At Bithynia–Pontus in 111, it was the imperial governor, Pliny; at Smyrna (İzmir) in 156 and Scilli near Carthage in 180, it was the proconsul; at Lyon in 177, it was the provincial governor. When Emperor Nero executed Christians for their alleged involvement in the fire of 64, it was a purely local affair; it did not spread beyond the city limits of Rome. These early persecutions were certainly violent, but they were sporadic, brief and limited in extent. They were of limited threat to Christianity as a whole. The very capriciousness of official action, however, made the threat of state coercion loom large in the Christian imagination.

In the 3rd century, the pattern changed. Emperors became more active and government officials began to actively pursue Christians, rather than merely to respond to the will of the crowd. Christianity, too, changed. No longer were its practitioners merely "the lower orders fomenting discontent"; some Christians were now rich, or from the upper classes. Origen, writing at about 248, tells of "the multitude of people coming in to the faith, even rich men and persons in positions of honour, and ladies of high refinement and birth." Official reaction grew firmer. In 202, according to the Historia Augusta, a 4th century history of dubious reliability, Septimius Severus (r. 193–211) issued a general rescript forbidding conversion to either Judaism or Christianity. Maximin (r. 235–38) targeted Christian leaders. Decius (r. 249–51), demanding a show of support for the faith, proclaimed that all inhabitants of the empire must sacrifice to the gods, eat sacrificial meat, and testify to these acts.[29] Christians were obstinate in their non-compliance. Church leaders, like Fabian, bishop of Rome, and Babylas, bishop of Antioch, were arrested, tried and executed, as were certain members of the Christian laity, like Pionius of Smyrna. The Christian theologian Origen was tortured during the persecution and died about a year after from the resulting injuries.

The Decian persecution was a grave blow to the Church. At Carthage, there was mass apostasy (renunciation of the faith). At Smyrna, the bishop, Euctemon, sacrificed and encouraged others to do the same. Because the Church was largely urban, it should have been easy to identify, isolate and destroy the Church hierarchy. This did not happen. In June 251, Decius died in battle, leaving his persecution incomplete. His persecutions were not followed up for another six years, allowing some Church functions to resume. Valerian, Decius's friend, took up the imperial mantle in 253. Though he was at first thought of as "exceptionally friendly" towards the Christians, his actions soon showed otherwise. In July 257, he issued a new persecutory edict. As punishment for following the Christian faith, Christians were to face exile or condemnation to the mines. In August 258, he issued a second edict, making the punishment death. This persecution also stalled in June 260, when Valerian was captured in battle and executed. His son, Gallienus (r. 260–68), ended the persecution and inaugurated a "little peace of the Church." The peace would be undisturbed, save for occasional, isolated persecutions, until Diocletian became emperor.

Persecution and Tetrarchic ideology

Diocletian, acclaimed emperor on November 20, 284, was a religious conservative, faithful to the traditional Roman cult. Unlike Aurelian (r. 270–75), Diocletian did not foster any new cult of his own. He preferred older gods, Olympian gods. Nonetheless, Diocletian did wish to inspire a general religious revival. As the panegyrist to Maximian declared: "You have heaped the gods with altars and statues, temples and offerings, which you dedicated with your own name and your own image, whose sanctity is increased by the example you set, of veneration for the gods. Surely, men will now understand what power resides in the gods, when you worship them so fervently." As part of his plans for revival, Diocletian invested in religious construction. One quarter of all inscriptions referring to temple repairs in North Africa between 276 and 295 date to Diocletian's reign. Diocletian associated himself with the head of the Roman pantheon, Jupiter; his co-emperor, Maximian, associated himself with Hercules. This connection between god and emperor helped to legitimize the emperors' claims to power and tied imperial government closer to the traditional cult.

Diocletian did not favor Jupiter and Hercules, which would have been a drastic change in the pagan tradition. For example, Elagabalus had tried fostering his own god and no others, and had failed dramatically. He built temples for Isis and Sarapis at Rome and a temple to Sol in Italy. Diocletian, though, favored gods who provided for the safety of the whole empire, instead of the local deities of the provinces. In Africa, Diocletian's revival focused on Jupiter, Hercules, Mercury, Apollo and the Imperial Cult. The cult of Saturn, the Romanized Baal-hamon, was neglected. In imperial iconography, too, Jupiter and Hercules were pervasive. The same pattern of favoritism affected Egypt as well. Native Egyptian deities saw no revival, nor was the sacred hieroglyphic script used. Unity in worship was central to Diocletian's religious policies.

Diocletian, like Augustus and Trajan before him, styled himself a "restorer". He urged the public to see his reign and his governing system, the Tetrarchy (rule by four emperors), as a renewal of traditional Roman values and, after the anarchic third century, a return to the "Golden Age of Rome". As such, he reinforced the long-standing Roman preference for ancient customs and Imperial opposition to independent societies. The Diocletianic regime's activist stance, however, and Diocletian's belief in the power of central government to effect major change in morals and society made him unusual. Most earlier emperors tended to be quite cautious in their administrative policies, preferring to work within existing structures rather than overhauling them. Diocletian, by contrast, was willing to reform every aspect of public life to satisfy his goals. Under his rule, coinage, taxation, architecture, law and history were all radically reconstructed to reflect his authoritarian and traditionalist ideology. The reformation of the empire's "moral fabric"—and the elimination of religious minorities—was simply one step in that process.

The unique position of the Christians and Jews of the empire became increasingly apparent. The Jews had earned imperial toleration on account of the great antiquity of their faith. They had been exempted from Decius's persecution and continued to enjoy freedom from persecution under Tetrarchic government. Because their faith was new and unfamiliar and not typically identified with Judaism by this time, Christians had no such excuse. Moreover, Christians had been distancing themselves from their Jewish heritage for their entire history.

Persecution was not the only outlet of the Tetrarchy's moral fervor. In 295, either Diocletian or his Caesar (subordinate emperor), Galerius, issued an edict from Damascus proscribing incestuous marriages and affirming the supremacy of Roman law over local law. Its preamble insists that it is every emperor's duty to enforce the sacred precepts of Roman law, for "the immortal gods themselves will favour and be at peace with the Roman name...if we have seen to it that all subject to our rule entirely lead a pious, religious, peaceable and chaste life in every respect". These principles, if given their full extension, would logically require Roman emperors to enforce conformity in religion.

Public support

Christian communities grew quickly in many parts of the empire (and especially in the East) after 260, when Gallienus brought peace to the Church. The data to calculate the figures are nearly non-existent, but the historian and sociologist Keith Hopkins has given crude and tentative estimates for Christian population in the 3rd century. Hopkins estimates that the Christian community grew from a population of 1.1 million in 250 to a population of 6 million by 300, about 10% of the empire's total population. Christians even expanded into the countryside, where they had never been numerous before. Churches in the later 3rd century were no longer as inconspicuous as they had been in the first and second. Large churches were prominent in certain major cities throughout the empire. The church in Nicomedia even sat on a hill overlooking the imperial palace. These new churches probably represented not only absolute growth in Christian population, but also the increasing affluence of the Christian community. In some areas where Christians were influential, such as North Africa and Egypt, traditional deities were losing credibility.

It is unknown how much support there was for persecution within the aristocracy. After Gallienus's peace, Christians reached high ranks in Roman government. Diocletian appointed several Christians to those positions himself, and his wife and daughter may have been sympathetic to the church. There were many individuals willing to be martyrs, and many provincials willing to ignore any persecutory edicts from the emperors as well. Even Constantius was known to have disapproved of persecutory policies. The lower classes demonstrated little of the enthusiasm they had shown for earlier persecutions. They no longer believed the slanderous accusations that were popular in the 1st and 2nd centuries. Perhaps, as the historian Timothy Barnes has suggested, the long-established Church had become another accepted part of their lives.

Within the highest ranks of the imperial administration, however, there were men who were ideologically opposed to the toleration of Christians, like the philosopher Porphyry of Tyre, and Sossianus Hierocles, governor of Bithynia. To E.R. Dodds, the works of these men demonstrated "the alliance of pagan intellectuals with the Establishment". Hierocles thought Christian beliefs absurd. If Christians applied their principles consistently, he argued, they would pray to Apollonius of Tyana instead of Jesus. Apollonius's miracles had been far more impressive and Apollonius never had the temerity to call himself "God". The scriptures were full of "lies and contradictions"; Peter and Paul had peddled falsehoods. In the early 4th century, an unidentified philosopher published a pamphlet attacking the Christians. This philosopher, who might have been a pupil of the Neoplatonist Iamblichus, dined repeatedly at the imperial court. Diocletian himself was surrounded by an anti-Christian clique.

Porphyry was somewhat restrained in his criticism of Christianity, at least in his early works, On the Return of the Soul and Philosophy from Oracles. He had few complaints about Jesus, whom he praised as a saintly individual, a "humble" man. Christ's followers, however, he damned as "arrogant". Around 290, Porphyry wrote a fifteen-volume work entitled Against the Christians. In the work, Porphyry expressed his shock at the rapid expansion of Christianity. He also revised his earlier opinions of Jesus, questioning Jesus' exclusion of the rich from the Kingdom of Heaven, and his permissiveness in regards to the demons residing in pigs' bodies. Like Hierocles, he unfavorably compared Jesus to Apollonius of Tyana. Porphyry held that Christians blasphemed by worshiping a human being rather than the Supreme God, and behaved treasonably in forsaking the traditional Roman cult. "To what sort of penalties might we not justly subject people," Porphyry asked, "who are fugitives from their fathers' customs?"

Pagan priests, too, were interested in suppressing any threat to traditional religion. The Christian Arnobius, writing during Diocletian's reign, attributes financial concerns to provisioners of pagan services:
The augurs, the dream interpreters, the soothsayers, the prophets, and the priestlings, ever vain...fearing that their own arts be brought to nought, and that they may extort but scanty contributions from the devotees, now few and infrequent, cry aloud, 'The gods are neglected, and in the temples there is now a very thin attendance. Former ceremonies are exposed to derision, and the time-honoured rites of institutions once sacred have sunk before the superstitions of new religions.'
They believed their ceremonies were hindered by the presence of Christians, who were thought to cloud the sight of oracles and stall the gods' recognition of their sacrifices.

Early Persecutions

Christians in the army

At the conclusion of the Persian wars in 299, co-emperors Diocletian and Galerius traveled from Persia to Syrian Antioch (Antakya). The Christian rhetor Lactantius records that, at Antioch some time in 299, the emperors were engaged in sacrifice and divination in an attempt to predict the future. The haruspices, diviners of omens from sacrificed animals, were unable to read the sacrificed animals and failed to do so after repeated trials. The master haruspex eventually declared that this failure was the result of interruptions in the process caused by profane men. Certain Christians in the imperial household had been observed making the sign of the cross during the ceremonies and were alleged to have disrupted the haruspices' divination. Diocletian, enraged by this turn of events, declared that all members of the court must make a sacrifice themselves. Diocletian and Galerius also sent letters to the military command, demanding that the entire army perform the sacrifices or else face discharge. Since there are no reports of bloodshed in Lactantius's narrative, Christians in the imperial household must have survived the event.

Eusebius of Caesarea, a contemporary ecclesiastical historian, tells a similar story: commanders were told to give their troops the choice of sacrifice or loss of rank. These terms were strong—a soldier would lose his career in the military, his state pension and his personal savings—but not fatal. According to Eusebius, the purge was broadly successful, but Eusebius is confused about the technicalities of the event and his characterization of the overall size of the apostasy is ambiguous. Eusebius also attributes the initiative for the purge to Galerius, rather than Diocletian.

Modern scholar Peter Davies surmises that Eusebius is referring to the same event as Lactantius, but that he heard of the event through public rumors and knew nothing of the privileged discussion at the emperor's private religion ceremony that Lactantius had access to. Since it was Galerius's army that would have been purged—Diocletian had left his in Egypt to quell continuing unrest—Antiochenes would understandably have believed Galerius to be its instigator. The historian David Woods argues instead that Eusebius and Lactantius are referring to completely different events. Eusebius, according to Woods, describes the beginnings of the army purge in Palestine, while Lactantius describes events at court. Woods asserts that the relevant passage in Eusebius's Chronicon was corrupted in the translation to Latin and that Eusebius's text originally located the beginnings of the army persecution at a fort in Betthorus (El-Lejjun, Jordan).

Eusebius, Lactantius, and Constantine each allege that Galerius was the prime impetus for the military purge, and its prime beneficiary. Diocletian, for all his religious conservatism, still had tendencies towards religious tolerance. Galerius, by contrast, was a devoted and passionate pagan. According to Christian sources, he was consistently the main advocate of such persecutio. He was also eager to exploit this position to his own political advantage. As the lowest-ranking emperor, Galerius was always listed last in imperial documents. Until the end of the Persian war in 299, he had not even had a major palace. Lactantius states that Galerius hungered for a higher position in the imperial hierarchy. Galerius's mother, Romula, was bitterly anti-Christian, for she had been a pagan priestess in Dacia, and loathed the Christians for avoiding her festivals. Newly prestigious and influential after his victories in the Persian war, Galerius might have wished to compensate for a previous humiliation at Antioch, when Diocletian had forced him to walk at the front of the imperial caravan, rather than inside it. His resentment fed his discontent with official policies of tolerance; from 302 on, he probably urged Diocletian to enact a general law against the Christians. Since Diocletian was already surrounded by an anti-Christian clique of counsellors, these suggestions must have carried great force.

Manichean persecution

Affairs quieted after the initial persecution. Diocletian remained in Antioch for the following three years. He visited Egypt once, over the winter of 301–302, where he began the grain dole in Alexandria. In Egypt, some Manicheans, followers of the prophet Mani, were denounced in the presence of the proconsul of Africa. On March 31, 302, in a rescript from Alexandria, Diocletian, after consultation with the proconsul for Egypt, ordered that the leading Manicheans be burnt alive along with their scriptures. This was the first time an Imperial persecution ever called for the destruction of sacred literature. Low-status Manicheans were to be executed; high-status Manicheans were to be sent to work in the quarries of Proconnesus (Marmara Island) or the mines of Phaeno. All Manichean property was to be seized and deposited in the imperial treasury.

Diocletian found much to be offended by in Manichean religion. His championing of traditional Roman cults impelled him to use the language of religious fervor. The proconsul of Africa forwarded Diocletian an anxious inquiry on the Manichees. In late March 302, Diocletian responded: the Manicheans "have set up new and hitherto unheard of sects in opposition to the older creeds so that they might cast out the doctrines vouchsafed to us in the past by divine favour, for the benefit of their own depraved doctrine". He continued: "..our fear is that with the passage of time, they will infect...our whole with the poison of a malignant serpent". "Ancient religion ought not to be criticized by a new-fangled one", he wrote. The Christians of the empire were vulnerable to the same line of thinking.

Diocletian and Galerius, 302–303

Diocletian was in Antioch in the autumn of 302, when the next instance of persecution occurred. The deacon Romanus visited a court while preliminary sacrifices were taking place and interrupted the ceremonies, denouncing the act in a loud voice. He was arrested and sentenced to be set aflame, but Diocletian overruled the decision, and decided that Romanus should have his tongue removed instead. Romanus would be executed on November 17, 303. The boldness of this Christian displeased Diocletian, and he left the city and made for Nicomedia to spend the winter, accompanied by Galerius.

Throughout these years the moral and religious didacticism of the emperors was reaching a fevered pitch; now, at the behest of an oracle, it was to hit its peak. According to Lactantius, Diocletian and Galerius entered into an argument over what imperial policy towards Christians should be while at Nicomedia in 302. Diocletian argued that forbidding Christians from the bureaucracy and military would be sufficient to appease the gods, while Galerius pushed for their extermination. The two men sought to resolve their dispute by sending a messenger to consult the oracle of Apollo at Didyma. Porphyry may also have been present at this meeting. Upon returning, the messenger told the court that "the just on earth" hindered Apollo's ability to speak. These "just", Diocletian was informed by members of the court, could only refer to the Christians of the empire. At the behest of his court, Diocletian acceded to demands for a universal persecution.

Great Persecution

First edict

On February 23, 303, Diocletian ordered that the newly built Christian church at Nicomedia be razed, its scriptures burned, and its treasures seized. February 23 was the feast of the Terminalia, for Terminus, the god of boundaries. It was the day they would terminate Christianity. The next day, Diocletian's first "Edict against the Christians" was published. The key targets of this piece of legislation were, as they had been during Valerian's persecution, Christian property and senior clerics. The edict ordered the destruction of Christian scriptures, liturgical books, and places of worship across the empire, and prohibited Christians from assembling for worship. Christians were also deprived of the right to petition the courts, making them potential subjects for judicial torture; Christians could not respond to actions brought against them in court; Christian senators, equestrians, decurions, veterans, and soldiers were deprived of their ranks; and imperial freedmen were re-enslaved.

Diocletian requested that the edict be pursued "without bloodshed", against Galerius's demands that all those refusing to sacrifice be burned alive. In spite of Diocletian's request, local judges often enforced executions during the persecution, as capital punishment was among their discretionary powers. Galerius's recommendation—burning alive—became a common method of executing Christians in the East. After the edict was posted in Nicomedia, a man named Eutius tore it down and ripped it up, shouting "Here are your Gothic and Sarmatian triumphs!" He was arrested for treason, tortured, and burned alive soon after, becoming the edict's first martyr. The provisions of the edict were known and enforced in Palestine by March or April (just before Easter), and was in use by local officials in North Africa by May or June. The earliest martyr at Caesarea was executed on June 7; the edict was in force at Cirta from May 19. The first edict was the sole legally binding edict in the West. In the East, however, progressively harsher legislation was devised.

Second, third, and fourth edicts

In the summer of 303, following a series of rebellions in Melitene (Malatya, Turkey) and Syria, a second edict was published, ordering the arrest and imprisonment of all bishops and priests. In the judgment of historian Roger Rees, there was no logical necessity for this second edict; that Diocletian issued one indicates that he was either unaware the first edict was being carried out, or that he felt it was not working as quickly as he needed it to. Following the publication of the second edict, prisons began to fill—the underdeveloped prison system of the time could not handle the deacons, lectors, priests, bishops, and exorcists forced upon them. Eusebius writes that the edict netted so many priests that ordinary criminals were crowded out, and had to be released.

In anticipation of the upcoming twentieth anniversary of his reign on November 20, 303, Diocletian declared a general amnesty in a third edict. Any imprisoned clergyman could now be freed, so long as he agreed to make a sacrifice to the gods. Diocletian may have been searching for some good publicity with this legislation. He may also have sought to fracture the Christian community by publicizing the fact that its clergy had apostatized. The demand to sacrifice was unacceptable to many of the imprisoned, but wardens often managed to obtain at least nominal compliance. Some of the clergy sacrificed willingly; others did so on pain of torture. Wardens were eager to be rid of the clergy in their midst. Eusebius, in his Martyrs of Palestine, records the case of one man who, after being brought to an altar, had his hands seized and made to complete a sacrificial offering. The clergyman was told that his act of sacrifice had been recognized and was summarily dismissed. Others were told they had sacrificed even when they had done nothing.

In 304, the fourth edict ordered all persons, men, women, and children, to gather in a public space and offer a collective sacrifice. If they refused, they were to be executed. The precise date of the edict is unknown, but it was probably issued in either January or February 304, and was being applied in the Balkans in March. The edict was in use in Thessalonica (Thessaloniki, Greece) in April 304, and in Palestine soon after. This last edict was not enforced at all in the domains of Maximian and Constantius. In the East, it remained applicable until the issue of the Edict of Milan by Constantine and Licinius in 313.

Abdications, instability, and renewed toleration, 305–311

Diocletian and Maximian resigned on May 1, 305. Constantius and Galerius became Augusti (senior emperors), while two new emperors, Severus and Maximinus, became Caesars (junior emperors). According to Lactantius, Galerius had forced Diocletian's hand in the matter, and secured the appointment of loyal friends to the imperial office. In this "Second Tetrarchy", it seems that only the Eastern emperors, Galerius and Maximinus, continued with the persecution. As they left office, Diocletian and Maximian probably imagined Christianity to be in its last throes. Churches had been destroyed, the Church leadership and hierarchy had been snapped, and the army and civil service had been purged. Eusebius declares that apostates from the faith were "countless" (μυρίοι) in number. At first, the new Tetrarchy seemed even more vigorous than the first. Maximinus in particular was eager to persecute. In 306 and 309, he published his own edicts demanding universal sacrifice. Eusebius accuses Galerius of pressing on with the persecution as well.

In the West, however, the loose ends of the Diocletianic settlement were about to bring the whole Tetrarchic tapestry down. Constantine, son of Constantius, and Maxentius, son of Maximian, had been overlooked in the Diocletianic succession, offending the parents and angering the sons. Constantine, against Galerius's will, succeeded his father on July 25, 306. He immediately ended any ongoing persecutions and offered Christians full restitution of what they had lost under the persecution. This declaration gave Constantine the opportunity to portray himself as a possible liberator of oppressed Christians everywhere. Maxentius, meanwhile, had seized power in Rome on October 28, 306, and soon brought toleration to all Christians within his realm. Galerius made two attempts to unseat Maxentius, but failed both times. During the first campaign against Maxentius, Severus was captured, imprisoned, and executed.

The Peace of Galerius and the Edict of Milan, 311–313

In the East, the persecution was officially discontinued on April 30, 311, although martyrdoms in Gaza continued until May 4. Galerius, now on his deathbed, issued a proclamation to end hostilities, and give Christians the rights to exist freely under the law, and to peaceable assembly. Persecution was everywhere at an end. Lactantius preserves the Latin text of this pronouncement, describing it as an edict. Eusebius provides a Greek translation of the pronouncement. His version includes imperial titles and an address to provincials, suggesting that the proclamation is, in fact, an imperial letter. The document seems only to have been promulgated in Galerius's provinces.
Among all the other arrangements that we are always making for the benefit and utility of the state, we have heretofore wished to repair all things in accordance with the laws and public discipline of the Romans, and to ensure that even the Christians, who abandoned the practice of their ancestors, should return to good sense. Indeed, for some reason or other, such self-indulgence assailed and idiocy possessed those Christians, that they did not follow the practices of the ancients, which their own ancestors had, perhaps, instituted, but according to their own will and as it pleased them, they made laws for themselves that they observed, and gathered various peoples in diverse areas. Then when our order was issued stating that they should return themselves to the practices of the ancients, many were subjected to peril, and many were even killed. Many more persevered in their way of life, and we saw that they neither offered proper worship and cult to the gods, or to the god of the Christians. Considering the observation of our own mild clemency and eternal custom, by which we are accustomed to grant clemency to all people, we have decided to extend our most speedy indulgence to these people as well, so that Christians may once more establish their own meeting places, so long as they do not act in a disorderly way. We are about to send another letter to our officials detailing the conditions they ought to observe. Consequently, in accord with our indulgence, they ought to pray to their god for our health and the safety of the state, so that the state may be kept safe on all sides, and they may be able to live safely and securely in their own homes.
Galerius's words reinforce the Tetrarchy's theological basis for the persecution; the acts did nothing more than attempt to enforce traditional civic and religious practices, even if the edicts themselves were thoroughly nontraditional. Galerius does nothing to violate the spirit of the persecution—Christians are still admonished for their nonconformity and foolish practices—Galerius never admits that he did anything wrong. The admission that the Christians' god might exist is made only grudgingly. Certain early 20th-century historians have declared that Galerius's edict definitively nullified the old "legal formula" non licet esse Christianos, made Christianity a religio licita, "on a par with Judaism", and secured Christians' property, among other things.

Not all have been so enthusiastic. The 17th-century ecclesiastical historian Tillemont called the edict "insignificant"; likewise, the late 20th-century historian Timothy Barnes cautioned that the "novelty or importance of [Galerius'] measure should not be overestimated". Barnes notes that Galerius's legislation only brought to the East rights Christians already possessed in Italy and Africa. In Gaul, Spain, and Britain, moreover, Christians already had far more than Galerius was offering to Eastern Christians. Other late 20th-century historians, like Graeme Clark and David S. Potter, assert that, for all its hedging, Galerius's issuance of the edict was a landmark event in the histories of Christianity and the Roman empire.

Galerius's law was not effective for long in Maximinus's district. Within seven months of Galerius's proclamation, Maximinus resumed persecution. Persecution would continue in Maximinus's district until 313, soon before his death. At a meeting between Licinius and Constantine in Milan in February 313, the two emperors drafted the terms of a universal peace. The terms of this peace were posted by the victorious Licinius at Nicomedia on June 13, 313. Later ages have taken to calling the document the "Edict of Milan".
We thought it fit to commend these things most fully to your care that you may know that we have given to those Christians free and unrestricted opportunity of religious worship. When you see that this has been granted to them by us, your Worship will know that we have also conceded to other religions the right of open and free observance of their worship for the sake of the peace of our times, that each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases; this regulation is made that we may not seem to detract from any dignity or any religion.


Regional Variation

Martyrdoms in the East (Dubious)

Asia Minor Oriens Danube
Diocletian's provinces (303–305)

Galerius's provinces (303–305)

Galerius's provinces (undatable)

Galerius's provinces (305–311)

After Davies, 68–69.
The enforcement of the persecutory edicts was inconsistent. Since the Tetrarchs were more or less sovereign in their own realms, they had a good deal of control over persecutory policy. In Constantius's realm (Britain and Gaul) the persecution was, at most, only lightly enforced; in Maximian's realm (Italy, Spain, and Africa), it was firmly enforced; and in the East, under Diocletian (Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine and Egypt) and Galerius (Greece and the Balkans), its provisions were pursued with more fervor than anywhere else. For the Eastern provinces, Peter Davies tabulated the total number of martyrdoms for an article in the Journal of Theological Studies. Davies argued that the figures, although reliant on collections of acta that are incomplete and only partially reliable, point to a heavier persecution under Diocletian than under Galerius. The historian Simon Corcoran, in a passage on the origins of the early persecution edicts, criticized Davies' over-reliance on these "dubious martyr acts" and dismissed his conclusions.

Britain and Gaul

The sources are inconsistent regarding the extent of the persecution in Constantius's domain, though all portray it as quite limited. Lactantius states that the destruction of church buildings was the worst thing that came to pass. Eusebius explicitly denies that any churches were destroyed in both his Ecclesiastical History and his Life of Constantine, but lists Gaul as an area suffering from the effects of the persecution in his Martyrs of Palestine. A group of bishops declared that "Gaul was immune" (immunis est Gallia) from the persecutions under Constantius. The death of Saint Alban, the first British Christian martyr, was once dated to this era, but most now assign it to the reign of Septimius Severus. The second, third and fourth edicts seem not to have been enforced in the West at all. It is possible that Constantius's relatively tolerant policies were the result of Tetrarchic jealousies; the persecution, after all, had been the project of the Eastern emperors, not the Western ones. After Constantine succeeded his father in 306, he urged the recovery of Church property lost in the persecution, and legislated full freedom for all Christians in his domain.


While the persecution under Constantius was relatively light, there is no doubt about the force of the persecution in Maximian's domain. Its effects are recorded at Rome, Sicily, Spain, and in Africa—indeed, Maximian encouraged particularly strict enforcement of the edict in Africa. Africa's political elite were insistent that the persecution be fulfilled, and Africa's Christians, especially in Numidia, were equally insistent on resisting them. For the Numidians, to hand over scriptures was an act of terrible apostasy. Africa had long been home to the "Church of the martyrs"—in Africa, martyrs held more religious authority than the clergy—and harbored a particularly intransigent, fanatical, and legalistic variety of Christianity. It was Africa that gave the West most of its martyrdoms.

Africa had produced martyrs even in the years immediately prior to the Great Persecution. In 298, Maximilian, a soldier in Tebessa, had been tried for refusing to follow military discipline; in Mauretania, again in 298, the soldier Marcellus refused his army bonus and took off his uniform in public. Once persecutions began, public authorities were eager to assert their authority. Anullinus, proconsul of Africa, expanded on the edict, deciding that, in addition to the destruction the Christians' scriptures and churches, the government should compel Christians to sacrifice to the gods. Governor Valerius Florus enforced the same policy in Numidia during the summer or autumn of 303, when he called for "days of incense burning"; Christians would sacrifice or they would lose their lives In addition to those already listed, African martyrs also include Saturninus and the Martyrs of Abitina, another group martyred on February 12, 304 in Carthage, and the martyrs of Milevis (Mila, Algeria).

The persecution in Africa also encouraged the development of Donatism, a schismatic movement that forbade any compromise with Roman government or traditor bishops (those who had handed scriptures over to secular authorities). One of the key moments in the break with the mainline Church occurred in Carthage in 304. The Christians from Abitinae had been brought to the city and imprisoned. Friends and relatives of the prisoners came to visit, but encountered resistance from a local mob. The group was harassed, beaten, and whipped; the food they had brought for their imprisoned friends was scattered on the ground. The mob had been sent by Mensurius, the bishop of the city, and Caecilian, his deacon, for reasons that remain obscure. In 311, Caecilian was elected bishop of Carthage. His opponents charged that his traditio made him unworthy of the office, and declared itself for another candidate, Majorinus. Many others in Africa, including the Abitinians, also supported Majorinus against Caecilian. Majorinus's successor Donatus would give the dissident movement its name. By the time Constantine took over the province, the African church was deeply divided. The Donatists would not be reconciled to the Catholic Church until after 411.

Italy and Spain

Maximian probably seized the Christian property in Rome quite easily—Roman cemeteries were noticeable, and Christian meeting places could have been easily found out. Senior churchmen would have been similarly prominent. The bishop of the city, Marcellinus, seems not to have ever been imprisoned, however, a fact which has led some to believe Maximian did not enforce the order to arrest clergy in the city. Others assert that Marcellinus was a traditor. Marcellinus appears in the 4th-century Church's depositio episcoporum but not its feriale, or calendar of feasts, where all Marcellinus's predecessors from Fabian had been listed—a "glaring" absence, in the opinion of historian John Curran. Within forty years, Donatists began spreading rumors that Marcellinus had been a traditor, and that he had even sacrificed to the pagan gods. The tale was soon embroidered in the 5th-century forgery, the 'Council of Sinuessa', and the vita Marcelli of the Liber Pontificalis. The latter work states that the bishop had indeed apostatized, but redeemed himself through martyrdom a few days afterward.

What followed Marcellinus's act of traditio, if it ever actually happened, is unclear. There appears to have been a break in the episcopal succession, however. Marcellinus seems to have died on October 25, 304, and (if he had apostatized) was probably expelled from the church in early 303, but his successor, Marcellus, was not consecrated until either November or December 306. In the meantime, two factions diverged in the Roman church, separating the lapsed, Christians who had complied with the edicts to ensure their own safety, and the rigorists, those who would brook no compromise with secular authority. These two groups clashed in street fights and riots, eventually leading to murders. Marcellus, a rigorist, purged all mention of Marcellinus from church records, and removed his name from the official list of bishops.  Marcellus himself was banished from the city, and died in exile on January 16, 308.

Maxentius, meanwhile, took advantage of Galerius's unpopularity in Italy (Galerius had introduced taxation for the city and countryside of Rome for the first time in the history of the empire) to declare himself emperor. On October 28, 306, Maxentius convinced the praetorian guard to support him, mutiny, and invest him with the purple robes of the emperor. Soon after his acclamation, Maxentius declared an end to persecution, and toleration for all Christians in his realm. The news traveled to Africa, where in later years a Christian of Cirta could still recall the precise date when "peace" was ushered in. Maxentius did not permit the restitution of confiscated property, however.

On April 18, 308, Maxentius allowed the Christians to hold another election for the city's bishop, which Eusebius won. Eusebius was a moderate, however, in a still-divided church. Heraclius, head of the rigorist faction, opposed readmission of the lapsed. Rioting followed, and Maxentius exiled the combative pair from the city, leaving Eusebius to die in Sicily on October 21. The office was vacant for almost three years, until Maxentius permitted another election. Miltiades was elected on July 2, 311, as Maxentius prepared to face Constantine in battle. Maxentius, facing increasingly strong domestic opposition to his rule, now agreed to the restitution of Christian property. Miltiades sent two deacons with letters from Maxentius to the prefect of Rome, the head of the city, responsible for publishing imperial edicts within the city, to ensure compliance. African Christians were still recovering lost property as late as 312.

Outside Rome, there are fewer sure details of the progress and effects of the persecution in Italy; there are not many deaths securely attested for the region. The Acta Eulpi records the martyrdom of Euplus in Catania, Sicily, a Christian who dared to carry the holy gospels around, refusing to surrender them. Euplus was arrested on April 29, 304, tried, and martyred on August 12, 304. In Spain the bishop Ossius of Corduba would later declare himself a confessor. After 305, the year when Diocletian and Maximian abdicated and Constantius became Augustus, there were no more active persecutions in the West. Eusebius declares that the persecution lasted "less than two years".

After a brief military standoff, Constantine confronted and defeated Maxentius, killing him at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge outside Rome on October 28, 312. He entered the city the next day, but declined to take part in the traditional ascent up the Capitoline Hill to the Temple of Jupiter. Constantine's army had advanced on Rome under a Christian sign. It had become, officially at least, a Christian army. Constantine's apparent conversion was visible elsewhere, too. Bishops dined at Constantine's table, and many Christian building projects began soon after his victory. On November 9, 312, the old headquarters of the Imperial Horse Guard were razed to make way for the Lateran Basilica. Under Constantine's rule, Christianity became the prime focus of official patronage.


Before the end of February 303, a fire destroyed part of the imperial palace. Galerius convinced Diocletian that the culprits were Christian conspirators who had plotted with palace eunuchs. An investigation into the act was commissioned, but no responsible party was found. Executions followed. The palace eunuchs Dorotheus and Gorgonius were eliminated. One individual, a Peter, was stripped, raised high, and scourged. Salt and vinegar were poured in his wounds, and he was slowly boiled over an open flame. The executions continued until at least April 24, 303, when six individuals, including the bishop Anthimus, were decapitated.[ The persecution intensified. Now presbyters and other clergymen could be arrested without having even been accused of a crime, and condemned to death. A second fire appeared sixteen days after the first. Galerius left the city, declaring it unsafe. Diocletian would soon follow. Lactantius blamed Galerius's allies for setting the fire; Constantine, in a later reminiscence, would attribute the fire to "lightning from heaven".

Lactantius, still living in Nicomedia, saw the beginnings of the apocalypse in Diocletian's persecution. Lactantius's writings during the persecution exhibit both bitterness and Christian triumphalism. His eschatology runs directly counter to Tetrarchic claims to "renewal". Diocletian asserted that he had instituted a new era of security and peace; Lactantius saw the beginning of a cosmic revolution.

Palestine and Syria

Before Galerius's edict of toleration

Date Deaths
Palestinian martyrs recorded
in the Martyrs of Palestine.
After Clarke, 657–58.
Palestine is the only region for which an extended local perspective of the persecution exists, in the form of Eusebius's Martyrs of Palestine. Eusebius was resident in Caesarea, the capital of Roman Palestine, for the duration of the persecution, although he also traveled to Phoenicia and Egypt, and perhaps Arabia as well. Eusebius's account is imperfect. It focuses on martyrs that were his personal friends before the persecutions began, and includes martyrdoms that took place outside of Palestine. His coverage is uneven. He provides only bare generalities at the bloody end of the persecutions, for example. Eusebius recognizes some of his faults. At the outset of his account of the general persecution in the Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius laments the incompleteness of his reportage: "how could one number the multitude of martyrs in each province, and especially those in Africa and Mauretania, and in Thebaid and Egypt?"

Since no one below the status of governor held the legal power to enforce capital punishment, most recalcitrant Christians would have been sent to Caesarea to await punishment. The first martyr, Procopius, was sent to Caesarea from Scythopolis (Beit She'an, Israel), where he had been a reader and an exorcist. He was brought before the governor on June 7, 303, and asked to sacrifice to the gods, and to pour a libation for the emperors. Procopius responded by quoting Homer: "the lordship of many is not a good thing; let there be one ruler, one king". The governor beheaded the man at once.

Further martyrdoms followed in the months thereafter, increasing in the next spring, when the new governor, Urbanus, published the fourth edict. Eusebius probably does not list a complete account of all those executed under the fourth edict—he alludes in passing to others imprisoned with Thecla, for example, though he does not name them.

Maximinus, Caesar of Palestine, Syria, and Egypt from 305 to 312
The bulk of Eusebius's account deals with Maximinus. Maximinus took up the office of emperor in Nicomedia on May 1, 305, and immediately thereafter left the city for Caesarea, hurrying, Lactantius alleges, so as to oppress and trample the diocese of Oriens. Initially, Maximinus governed only Egypt and the Levant. He issued his own persecutory edict in the spring of 306, ordering general sacrifice. The edict of 304 had been difficult to enforce, since the Imperial government had no record of city-dwelling subjects who held no agricultural land. Galerius solved this problem in 306 by running another census. This contained the names of all urban heads of household and the number of their dependents (past censuses had only listed persons paying tax on land, such as landowners and tenants). Using lists drawn up by the civil service, Maximinus ordered his heralds to call all men, women, and children down to the temples. There, after tribunes called everyone by name, everyone sacrificed.

At some point after the publication of Maximinus's first edict, perhaps in 307, Maximinus changed the penalty for transgressions. Instead of receiving the death penalty, Christians would now be mutilated and condemned to labor in state-owned mines. Since Egyptian mines were overstaffed, mostly due to the influx of Christian prisoners, Egyptian penitents were increasingly sent to the copper mines at Phaeno in Palestine and Cilicia in Asia Minor. At Diocaesarea (Tzippori, Israel) in the spring of 308, 97 Christian confessors were received by Firmilianus from the porphyry mines in the Thebaid. Firmilianus cut the tendons on their left feet, blinded their right eyes, and sent them to the mines of Palestine. On another occasion, 130 others received the same punishment. Some were sent to Phaeno, and some to Cilicia.

Eusebius characterizes Urbanus as a man who enjoyed some variety in his punishments. One day, shortly after Easter 307, he ordered the virgin Theodosia from Tyre (Ṣūr, Lebanon) thrown to the sea for conversing with Christians attending trial and refusing sacrifice; the Christians in court, meanwhile, he sent to Phaeno. On a single day, November 2, 307, Urbanus sentenced a man named Domninus to be burned alive, three youths to fight as gladiators, and a priest to be exposed to a beast. On the same day, he ordered some young men to be castrated, sent three virgins to brothels, and imprisoned a number of others, including Pamphilus of Caesarea, a priest, scholar, and defender of the theologian Origen. Soon after, and for unknown reasons, Urbanus was stripped of his rank, imprisoned, tried, and executed, all in one day of expedited proceedings. His replacement, Firmilianus, was a veteran soldier and one of Maximinus's trusted confidants.

Eusebius notes that this event marked the beginning of a temporary respite from persecution. Although the precise dating of this respite is not specifically noted by Eusebius, the text of the Martyrs records no Palestinian martyrs between July 25, 308 and November 13, 309. The political climate probably impinged on persecutory policy here: This was the period of the conference of Carnuntum, which met in November 308. Maximinus probably spent the next few months in discussion with Galerius over his role in the imperial government, and did not have the time to deal with the Christians.
In the autumn of 309, Maximinus resumed persecution by issuing letters to provincial governors and his praetorian prefect, the highest authority in judicial proceedings after the emperor, demanding that Christians conform to pagan customs. His new legislation called for another general sacrifice, coupled with a general offering of libations. It was even more systematic than the first, allowing no exceptions for infants or servants. Logistai (curatores), strategoi, duumviri, and tabularii, who kept the records, saw to it that there were no evasions. Maximinus introduced some innovations to the process, making him the only known persecuting emperor to have done so. This edict now required food sold in the marketplaces to be covered in libation. Maximinus sent sentries to stand guard at bathhouses and city gates to ensure that all customers sacrificed. He issued copies of the fictitious Acts of Pilate to encourage popular hatred of Christ. Prostitutes confessed, under judicial torture, to having engaged in debaucheries with Christians. Bishops were reassigned to work as stable boys for the Imperial horse guard or keepers of the Imperial camels.

Maximinus also worked for a revival of pagan religion. He appointed high priests for each province, men who were to wear white robes and supervise daily worship of the gods. Maximinus also demanded that vigorous restoration work be done on decaying temples within his domain.

The next few months saw the worst extremes of the persecution. On December 13, 309, Firmilianus condemned some Egyptians arrested at Ascalon (Ashkelon, Israel) on their way to visit the confessors in Cilicia. Three were beheaded; the rest lost their left feet and right eyes. On January 10, 310, Peter and the bishop Asclepius from the dualist Christian sect Marcionism, both from Anaia, near (Eleutheropolis, Israel), were burned alive. On February 16, Pamphilus and his six companions were executed. In the aftermath, four more members of Pamphilus's household were martyred for their displays of sympathy for the condemned. The last martyrs before Galerius's edict of toleration were executed on March 5 and 7. Then the executions stopped. Eusebius does not explain this sudden halt, but it coincides with the replacement of Firmilianus with Valentinianus, a man appointed at some time before Galerius's death. The replacement is only attested to via epigraphic remains, like stone inscriptions; Eusebius does not mention Valentinianus anywhere in his writings.

After Galerius's edict of toleration

After Galerius's death, Maximinus seized Asia Minor. Even after Galerius's edict of toleration in 311, Maximinus continued to persecute. His name is absent from the list of emperors publishing Galerius's edict of toleration, perhaps through later suppression. Eusebius states that Maximinus complied with its provisions only reluctantly. Maximinus told his praetorian prefect Sabinus to write to provincial governors, requesting that they and their subordinates ignore "that letter" (Galerius's edict). Christians were to be free from molestation, and their mere Christianity would not leave them open to criminal charges. Unlike Galerius's edict, however, Maximinus's letter made no provisions for Christian assembly, nor did he suggest that Christians build more churches.

Maximinus issued orders in Autumn 311 forbidding Christians to congregate in cemeteries. After issuing these orders, he was approached by embassies from cities within his domain, demanding he begin a general persecution. Lactantius and Eusebius state that these petitions were not voluntary, but had been made at Maximinus's behest. Maximinus began persecuting Church leaders before the end of 311. Peter of Alexandria was beheaded on November 26, 311. Lucian of Antioch was executed in Nicomedia on January 7, 312. According to Eusebius, many Egyptian bishops suffered the same fate. According to Lactantius, Maximinus ordered confessors to have "their eyes gouged out, their hands cut off, their feet amputated, their noses or ears severed". Antioch asked Maximinus if it could forbid Christians from living in the city. In response, Maximinus issued a rescript encouraging every city to expel its Christians. This rescript was published in Sardis on April 6, 312, and in Tyre by May or June. There are three surviving copies of Maximinus's rescript, in Tyre, Arycanda (Aykiriçay, Turkey), and Colbasa. They are all essentially identical. To address a complaint from Lycia and Pamphylia about the "detestable pursuits of the atheists [Christians]", Maximinus promised the provincials whatever they wanted—perhaps an exemption from the poll tax.

When Maximinus received notice that Constantine had succeeded in his campaign against Maxentius, he issued a new letter restoring Christians their former liberties. The text of this letter, which is preserved in Eusebius's Historia Ecclesiastica, however, suggests that the initiative was Maximinus's alone, and not that of Constantine or Licinius. It is also the only passage in the ancient sources providing Maximinus's rationale for his actions, without the hostility of Lactantius and Eusebius. Maximinus states that he supported Diocletian and Galerius's early legislation but, upon being made Caesar, came to realize the drain such policies would have on his labor force, and began to employ persuasion without coercion. He goes on to assert that he resisted petitions from Nicomedians to forbid Christians from their city (an event Eusebius does not otherwise record), and that when he accepted the demands of deputations from other cities he was only following imperial custom. Maximinus concludes his letter by referencing the letter he wrote after Galerius's edict, asking that his subordinates be lenient. He does not refer to his early letters, which encouraged avid persecution.

In the early spring of 313, as Licinius advanced against Maximinus, the latter resorted to savagery in his dealings with his own citizens, and his Christians in particular. In May 313, Maximinus issued one more edict of toleration, hoping to persuade Licinius to stop advancing, and win more public support. For the first time, Maximinus issued a law which offered comprehensive toleration and the means to effectively secure it. As in his earlier letter, Maximinus is apologetic but one-sided. Maximinus absolves himself for all the failings of his policy, locating fault with local judges and enforcers instead. He frames the new universal toleration as a means of removing all ambiguity and extortion. Maximinus then declares full freedom of religious practice, encourages Christians to rebuild their churches, and pledges to restore Christian property lost in the persecution. The edict changed little: Licinius defeated Maximinus at the Battle of Adrianople on April 30, 313; the now-powerless Maximinus committed suicide at Tarsus in the summer of 313. On June 13, Licinius published the Edict of Milan in Nicomedia.


In Eusebius' Martyrs of Palestine, Egypt is covered only in passing. When Eusebius remarks on the region, however, he writes of tens, twenties, even hundreds of Christians put to death on a single day, which would seem to make Egypt the region that suffered the most during the persecutions. According to one report that Barnes calls "plausible, if unverifiable", 660 Christians were killed in Alexandria alone between 303 and 311. In Egypt, Peter of Alexandria fled his namesake city early on in the persecution, leaving the Church leaderless. Meletius, bishop of Lycopolis (Asyut), took up the job in his place. Meletius performed ordinations without Peter's permission, which caused some bishops to complain to Peter. Meletius soon refused to treat Peter as any kind of authority, and expanded his operations into Alexandria. According to Epiphanius of Salamis, the Church split into two sections: the "Catholic Church", under Peter, and, after Peter's execution, Alexander; and the "Church of the Martyrs" under Meletius. When the two groups found themselves imprisoned together in Alexandria during the persecution, Peter of Alexandria drew up a curtain in the middle of their cell. He then said: "There are some who are of my view, let them come over on my side, and those of Melitius's view, stay with Melitius." Thus divided, the two sects went on with their affairs, purposely ignoring each other's existence. The schism continued to grow throughout the persecution, even with its leaders in jail, and would persist long after the deaths of both Peter and Meletius. Fifty-one bishoprics are attested for Egypt in 325; fifteen are only known otherwise as seats of the schismatic Church.


The Diocletianic persecution was ultimately unsuccessful. As one modern historian has put it, it was simply "too little and too late". Christians were never purged systematically in any part of the empire, and Christian evasion continually undermined the edicts' enforcement. Some bribed their way to freedom. The Christian Copres escaped on a technicality: To avoid sacrificing in court, he gave his brother power of attorney, and had him do it instead. Many simply fled. Eusebius, in his Vita Constantini, declared that "once more the fields and woods received the worshippers of God". To contemporary theologians, there was no sin in this behavior. Lactantius held that Christ himself had encouraged it, and Bishop Peter of Alexandria quoted Matthew 10:23 ("when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another") in support of the tactic.

The pagan crowd was more sympathetic to the Christians' sufferings than they had been in the past. Lactantius, Eusebius and Constantine write of revulsion at the excesses of the persecutors—Constantine of executioners "wearied out, and disgusted at the cruelties" they had committed. The fortitude of the martyrs in the face of death had earned the faith respectability in the past, though it may have won few converts. The thought of martyrdom, however, sustained Christians under trial and in prison, hardening their faith. Packaged with the promise of eternal life, martyrdom proved attractive for the growing segment of the pagan population which was, to quote Dodds, "in love with death". To use Tertullian's famous phrase, the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church.

By 324, Constantine, the Christian convert, ruled the entire empire alone. Christianity became the greatest beneficiary of imperial largesse. The persecutors had been routed. As the historian J. Liebeschuetz has written: "The final result of the Great Persecution provided a testimonial to the truth of Christianity which it could have won in no other way." After Constantine, the Christianization of the Roman empire would continue apace. Under Theodosius I (r. 378–95), Christianity became the state religion. By the 5th century, Christianity was the empire's predominant faith, and filled the same role paganism had at the end of the 3rd century. Because of the persecution, however, a number of Christian communities were riven between those who had complied with imperial authorities (traditores) and those who had refused. In Africa, the Donatists, who protested the election of the alleged traditor Caecilian to the bishopric of Carthage, continued to resist the authority of the central Church until after 411. The Melitians in Egypt left the Egyptian Church similarly divided.

In future generations, both Christians and pagans would look back on Diocletian as, in the words of theologian Henry Chadwick, "the embodiment of irrational ferocity". To medieval Christians, Diocletian was the most loathsome of all Roman emperors. From the 4th century on, Christians would describe the "Great" persecution of Diocletian's reign as a bloodbath. The Liber Pontificalis, a collection of biographies of the popes, alleges 17,000 martyrs within a single thirty-day period. In the 4th century, Christians created a "cult of martyrs" in homage to the fallen. Hagiographers portrayed a persecution far more extensive than the real one had been, and the Christians responsible for this cult were loose with the facts. Their "heroic age" of martyrs, or "Era of Martyrs", was held to begin with Diocletian's accession to the emperorship in 284, rather than 303, when persecutions actually began; they fabricated a large number of martyrs' tales (indeed, most surviving martyrs' tales are forgeries), exaggerated the facts in others, and embroidered true accounts with miraculous details. Of the surviving martyrs' acts, only those of Agnes, Sebastian, Felix and Adauctus, and Marcellinus and Peter are even remotely historical.


  • Eusebius of Caesarea. Historia Ecclesiastica (Church History) first seven books ca. 300, eighth and ninth book ca. 313, tenth book ca. 315, epilogue ca. 325. Books Eight and Nine.
  • Williamson, G.A., trans. The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine. London: Penguin, 1989. ISBN 0-14-044535-8
  • Lactantius. Divinae Institutiones (The Divine Institutes) ca. 303–311.
  • Fletcher, William, trans. The Divine Institutes. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. Accessed June 9, 2009.
  • Fletcher, William, trans. Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. Accessed June 9, 2009.
  • Barnes, Timothy D. Constantine and Eusebius. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981. ISBN 978-0-674-16531-1
  • Barnes, Timothy D. The New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982. ISBN 0-7837-2221-4
  • Clarke, Graeme. "Third-Century Christianity." In The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XII: The Crisis of Empire, edited by Alan Bowman, Averil Cameron, and Peter Garnsey, 589–671. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-521-30199-8
  • Corcoran, Simon. The Empire of the Tetrarchs, Imperial Pronouncements and Government AD 284–324. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. ISBN 0-19-814984-0
  • Corcoran, Simon. "Before Constantine." In The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine, edited by Noel Lenski, 35–58. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Hardcover ISBN 0-521-81838-9 Paperback ISBN 0-521-52157-2
  • Curran, John. Pagan City and Christian Capital: Rome in the Fourth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000. ISBN 0-19-815278-7
  • Davies, P.S. "The Origin and Purpose of the Persecution of AD 303." Journal of Theological Studies 40:1 (1989): 66–94.
  • Digeser, Elizabeth DePalma. The Making of a Christian Empire: Lactantius and Rome. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-8014-3594-
  • Leadbetter, William. "From Constantine to Theodosius (and Beyond)." In The Early Christian World, ed. Philip Francis Esler, 258–292. London: Routledge, 2004. ISBN 978-0-415-16496-2
  • Liebeschuetz, J. H. W. G. Continuity and Change in Roman Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979. ISBN 0-19-814822-4
  • Millar, Fergus. The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.–A.D. 337. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993. Hardcover ISBN 0-674-77885-5 Paperback ISBN 0-674-77886-3
  • Odahl, Charles Matson. Constantine and the Christian Empire. New York: Routledge, 2004. Hardcover ISBN 0-415-17485-6 Paperback ISBN 0-415-38655-1
  • Potter, David S. The Roman Empire at Bay: AD 180–395. New York: Routledge, 2005. Hardcover ISBN 0-415-10057-7 Paperback ISBN 0-415-10058-5
  • Rees, Roger. Diocletian and the Tetrarchy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-7486-1661-6


Today's Snippet II:  Naples, Italy

Naples (Italian: Napoli  , Neapolitan: Napule; Latin: Neapolis; Ancient Greek: Νεάπολις, meaning "new city") is the capital of Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy, after Rome and Milan. As of 2012, around 960,000 people live within the city's administrative limits. The Naples urban area, covering 1,023 km2 (395 sq mi), has a population of between 3 million and 3.7 million, and is the 8th-most populous urban area in the European Union. Between 4.1 and 4.4 million people live in the Naples metropolitan area, one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea.

Naples is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world. Bronze Age Greek settlements were established in the region in the 2nd millennium BC, with a larger mainland colony – initially known as Parthenope – developing around the 9th–8th centuries BC, at the end of the Greek Dark Ages. The city was refounded as Neápolis in the 6th century BC, and became a lynchpin of Magna Graecia, playing a key role in the merging of Greek culture into Roman society and eventually becoming a cultural centre of the Roman Republic. Naples remained influential after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples between 1282 and 1816. Thereafter, in union with Sicily, it became the capital of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861. During the Neapolitan War of 1815, Naples strongly promoted Italian unification.

Naples' historic city centre is the largest in Europe, covering 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres), and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Over the course of its long history, Naples has been the capital of duchies, kingdoms, and one Empire, and has consistently been a major cultural centre with a global sphere of influence, particularly during the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras. In the immediate vicinity of Naples are numerous sites of great cultural and historical significance, including the Palace of Caserta and the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Naples has the fourth-largest urban economy in Italy, after Milan, Rome and Turin. It is the world's 103rd-richest city by purchasing power, with an estimated 2008 GDP of $51 billion, surpassing the economies of Prague and Copenhagen. The port of Naples is one of the most important in Europe, and has the world's second-highest level of passenger flow, after the port of Hong Kong. The city has experienced significant economic growth in recent decades, and unemployment levels in the city and surrounding Campania have decreased since 1999. However, Naples is still characterized by political and economic corruption and a thriving black market, and unemployment levels remain very high.

Numerous major Italian companies, such as MSC Cruises Italy S.p.A, are headquartered in Naples. The city hosts NATO's Allied Joint Force Command Naples, the SRM Institution for Economic Research and the OPE Company and Study Centre. Naples is a full member of the Eurocities network of European cities. The city was selected to become the headquarters of the European institution Acp/Ue and as a City of Literature by UNESCO's Creative Cities Network. The Villa Rosebery, one of three official residences of the President of Italy, can be found in the city's Posillipo district.

Naples was the most-bombed Italian city during World War II. Much of the city's 20th-century periphery was constructed under Benito Mussolini's fascist government, and during reconstruction efforts after World War II. In recent decades, Naples has constructed a large business district, the Centro Direzionale, and has developed an advanced transport infrastructure, including an Alta Velocità high-speed rail link to Rome, and an expanded subway network, which is planned to eventually cover half of the region.

Culinarily, the city is synonymous with pizza, which originated in the city. Neapolitan music has furthermore been highly influential, credited with the invention of the romantic guitar and the mandolin, as well as notable contributions to opera and folk standards. Popular characters and historical figures who have come to symbolise the city include Januarius, the patron saint of Naples, the comic figure Pulcinella, and the Sirens from the Greek epic poem the Odyssey.


The city is situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples, in Southern Italy. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Campi Flegrei

The Gulf of Naples (Italian: Golfo di Napoli, also called the Bay of Naples) is a c.15-kilometre-wide (9.3 mi) gulf located along the south-western coast of Italy (province of Naples, Campania region). It opens to the west into the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered on the north by the cities of Naples and Pozzuoli, on the east by Mount Vesuvius, and on the south by the Sorrentine Peninsula and the main town of the peninsula, Sorrento. The Peninsula separates the Gulf of Naples from the Gulf of Salerno, which includes the Almalfi coast.

The islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida are located in the Gulf of Naples. The area is a tourist destination, with the seaside Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum at the at the foot of Mount Vesuvius (destroyed in the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius), along the north coast.

Mount Vesuvius (Italian: Monte Vesuvio, Latin: Mons Vesuvius) is a stratovolcano in the Gulf of Naples, Italy, about 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. It is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years, although it is not currently erupting. The two other major active volcanoes in Italy, Etna and Stromboli, are located on the islands of Sicily and Stromboli respectively.

Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the burying and destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. They were never rebuilt, although surviving townspeople and probably looters did undertake extensive salvage work after the destructions. The towns' locations were eventually forgotten until their accidental rediscovery in the 18th century.

The eruption also changed the course of the Sarno River and raised the sea beach, so that Pompeii was now neither on the river nor adjacent to the coast. Vesuvius itself underwent major changes – its slopes were denuded of vegetation and its summit changed considerably due to the force of the eruption. Vesuvius has erupted many times since and is today regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living nearby and its tendency towards explosive (Plinian) eruptions. It is the most densely populated volcanic region in the world.

The Phlegraean Fields, also known as Campi Flegrei, (from Greek φλέγος, burning), is a large 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) wide caldera situated to the west of Naples, Italy. It was declared a regional park in 2003. Lying mostly underwater, the area comprises 24 craters and volcanic edifices. Hydrothermal activity can be observed at Lucrino, Agnano and the town of Pozzuoli. There are also effusive gaseous manifestations in the Solfatara crater, which is known as the mythological home of the Roman god of fire, Vulcan. The area also features bradyseismic phenomena, which are most evident at the Macellum of Pozzuoli which in the 18th century was mis-identified as a Temple of Serapis, as geologists puzzled over bands of boreholes (Gastrochaenolites) left by marine Lithophaga molluscs on three standing marble columns, showing that the level of the site in relation to sea level had varied. This area is monitored by the Vesuvius Observatory.


Eruption of Mount Vesuvius
The Naples area has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. The earliest Greek settlements were established in the Naples region in the 2nd millennium BC. Sailors from the Greek island of Rhodes established a small commercial port on the island of Megaride in the 9th century BC. In the 8th century BC, a larger settlement called Parthenope (Παρθενόπη) was founded by settlers from Cumae as part of Italy's Magna Graecia region of Greek colonisation. In the 6th century BC, after the decline of Parthenope, the new urban zone of Neápolis (Νεάπολις) was founded, eventually becoming one of the foremost cities of Magna Graecia.

The new city grew rapidly due to the influence of the powerful Greek city-state of Syracuse, and became an ally of the Roman Republic against Carthage; the strong walls surrounding Neápolis stopped the invading forces of the Carthaginian general Hannibal from entering. During the Samnite Wars, the city, now a bustling centre of trade, was captured by the Samnites; however, the Romans soon captured the city from them and made it a Roman colony.

Naples was greatly respected by the Romans as a paragon of Hellenistic culture. During the Roman era, the people of Naples maintained their Greek language and customs, while the city was expanded with elegant Roman villas, aqueducts, and public baths. Landmarks such as the Temple of Dioscures were built, and many powerful emperors chose to holiday in the city, including Claudius and Tiberius. Naples became a major Roman cultural centre; Virgil, the author of Rome's national epic, the Aeneid, received part of his education in the city, and later resided in its environs.

It was during this period that Christianity first arrived in Naples; the apostles Peter and Paul are said to have preached in the city. St. Januarius, who would become Naples' patron saint, was martyred there in the 4th century AD. The last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Romulus Augustulus, was exiled to Naples by the Germanic king Odoacer in the 5th century AD.

Duchy of Naples

Following the decline of the Western Roman Empire, Naples was captured by the Ostrogoths, a Germanic people, and incorporated into the Ostrogothic Kingdom. However, Belisarius of the Byzantine Empire recaptured Naples in 536, after entering the city via the aqueduct.

As the Gothic Wars of the mid-6th century wore on, Totila briefly took the city for the Ostrogoths in 543, before, finally, the Battle of Mons Lactarius on the slopes of Vesuvius left the Byzantines in control of the area. Naples was expected to keep in contact with the Exarchate of Ravenna, which was the centre of Byzantine power on the Italian peninsula.

After the exarchate fell, a Duchy of Naples was created. Although Naples' Greco-Roman culture endured, it eventually switched allegiance from Constantinople to Rome under Duke Stephen II, putting it under papal suzerainty by 763.

The years between 818 and 832 were tumultuous in regard to Naples' relations with the Byzantine Emperor, with numerous local pretenders feuding for possession of the ducal throne. Theoctistus was appointed without imperial approval; this was later revoked and Theodore II took his place. However, the disgruntled general populace chased him from the city, and instead elected Stephen III, a man who minted coins with his own initials, rather than those of the Byzantine Emperor. Naples gained complete independence by the early 9th century.

The duchy was under the direct control of the Lombards for a brief period, after the capture by Pandulf IV of the Principality of Capua, a long-term rival of Naples; however, this regime lasted only three years before the Greco-Roman-influenced dukes were reinstated. By the 11th century, Naples had begun to hire Norman merecenaries, the Christian descendants of the Vikings, to battle their rivals; Duke Sergius IV hired Rainulf Drengot to wage war on Capua for him.

By 1137, the Normans had attained great influence in Italy, controlling previously independent principalities and duchies such as Capua, Benevento, Salerno, Amalfi, Sorrento and Gaeta; it was in this year that Naples, the last independent duchy in the southern part of the peninsula, came under Norman control. The last ruling duke of the duchy, Sergius VII, was forced to surrender to Roger II, who had proclaimed himself King of Sicily seven years earlier; Naples thus joined the Kingdom of Sicily, where Palermo was the capital.

Kingdom of Naples

Norman to Angevin

After a period of Norman rule, the Kingdom of Sicily went to the Hohenstaufens, a German royal house. The University of Naples Federico II, the oldest state university in the world, was founded by Frederick II, making Naples the intellectual centre of the kingdom. Conflict between the Hohenstaufens and the Papacy led in 1266 to Pope Innocent IV crowning the Angevin duke Charles I King of Sicily: Charles officially moved the capital from Palermo to Naples, where he resided at the Castel Nuovo. During this period, many examples of Gothic architecture sprang up around Naples, including the Naples Cathedral, which remains the city's main church.

In 1282, after the Sicilian Vespers, the Kingdom of Sicily was split in half. The Angevin Kingdom of Naples included the southern part of the Italian peninsula, while the island of Sicily became the Aragonese Kingdom of Sicily. Wars between the competing dynasties continued until the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302, which saw Frederick III recognized as king of Sicily, while Charles II was recognised as king of Naples by Pope Boniface VIII. Despite the split, Naples grew in importance, attracting Pisan and Genoese merchants, Tuscan bankers, and some of the most prominent Renaissance artists of the time, such as Boccaccio, Petrarch and Giotto. During the 14th century, the Hungarian Angevin king Louis the Great captured the city several times. In 1442, Alfonso I conquered Naples after his victory against the last Angevin king, René, and Naples was unified with Sicily again for a brief period.

Sicily and Naples were separated in 1458, but remained dependencies of Aragon under Ferrante. The new dynasty enhanced Naples' commercial standing by establishing relations with the Iberian peninsula. Naples also became a centre of the Renaissance, with artists such as Laurana, da Messina, Sannazzaro and Poliziano arriving in the city. In 1501, Naples came under direct rule from France under Louis XII, with the Neapolitan king Frederick being taken as a prisoner to France; however, this state of affairs did not last long, as Spain won Naples from the French at the Battle of Garigliano in 1503.

Following the Spanish victory, Naples became part of the Spanish Empire, and remained so throughout the Spanish Habsburg period. The Spanish sent viceroys to Naples to directly deal with local issues: the most important of these viceroys was Pedro Álvarez de Toledo, who was responsible for considerable social, economic and urban reforms in the city; he also supported the activities of the Inquisition.

By the 17th century, Naples had become Europe's second-largest city – second only to London – and the largest European Mediterranean city, with around 250,000 inhabitants. The city was a major cultural centre during the Baroque era, being home to artists such as Caravaggio, Salvator Rosa and Bernini, philosophers such as Bernardino Telesio, Giordano Bruno, Tommaso Campanella and Giambattista Vico, and writers such as Giambattista Marino. A revolution led by the local fisherman Masaniello saw the creation of a brief independent Neapolitan Republic in 1647, though this lasted only a few months before Spanish rule was reasserted. In 1656, an outbreak of bubonic plague killed about half of Naples' 300,000 inhabitants.
In 1714, Spanish rule over Naples came to an end as a result of the War of the Spanish Succession; the Austrian Charles VI ruled the city from Vienna through viceroys of his own. However, the War of the Polish Succession saw the Spanish regain Sicily and Naples as part of a personal union, with the 1738 Treaty of Vienna recognising the two polities as independent under a cadet branch of the Spanish Bourbons.
During the time of Ferdinand IV, the effects of the French Revolution were felt in Naples: Horatio Nelson, an ally of the Bourbons, even arrived in the city in 1798 to warn against the French republicans. Ferdinand was forced to retreat and fled to Palermo, where he was protected by a British fleet. However, Naples' lower class lazzaroni were strongly pious and royalist, favouring the Bourbons; in the mêlée that followed, they fought the Neapolitan pro-Republican aristocracy, causing a civil war.

Eventually, the Republicans conquered Castel Sant'Elmo and proclaimed a Parthenopaean Republic, secured by the French Army. A counter-revolutionary religious army of lazzaroni known as the sanfedisti under Fabrizio Ruffo was raised; they met with great success, and the French were forced to surrender the Neapolitan castles, with their fleet sailing back to Toulon.
Ferdinand IV was restored as king; however, after only seven years Napoleon conquered the kingdom and installed Bonapartist kings, including his brother Joseph Bonaparte. With the help of the Austrian Empire and its allies, the Bonapartists were defeated in the Neapolitan War, and Ferdinand IV once again regained the throne and the kingdom. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 saw the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily combined to form the Two Sicilies, with Naples as the capital city. In 1839, Naples became the first city on the Italian peninsula to have a railway, with the construction of the Naples–Portici line.

Italian unification and the present day

Map of Napoli, 1572
After the Expedition of the Thousand led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, which culminated in the controversial Siege of Gaeta, Naples became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 as part of the Italian unification, ending the era of Bourbon rule. The kingdom of the Two Sicilies had been wealthy, and as many as 443.2 million ducats were taken from the old kingdom's banks as a contribution to the new Italian treasury. The economy of the area formerly known as the Two Sicilies collapsed, leading to an unprecedented wave of emigration with an estimated 4 million people emigrating from the Naples area between 1876 and 1913.

In 1884, Naples fell victim to a major cholera epidemic, caused largely by the city's poor sewerage infrastructure. Government measures to improve sanitary conditions in the Neapolitan slums in 1885 proved largely ineffective. During the early 20th century, efforts to industrialise the city were likewise hampered by administrative corruption and a lack of infrastructure. Facing a slumping economy, many poorer Neapolitans emigrated northwards, or headed overseas to the United States and Argentina.
Naples was the most-bombed Italian city of World War II. Though Neapolitans did not rebel under Italian Fascism, Naples was the first Italian city to rise up against German military occupation; the city was completely freed by October 1, 1943, when British and American forces entered the city. The symbol of the rebirth of Naples was the rebuilding of the church of Santa Chiara, which had been destroyed in a United States Army Air Corps bombing raid.
Special funding from the Italian government's Fund for the South was provided from 1950 to 1984, helping the Neapolitan economy to improve somewhat, with city landmarks such as the Piazza del Plebiscito being renovated. However, high unemployment and waste management problems continue to affect Naples; Italian media have attributed the city's waste disposal issues to the activity of the Camorra organised crime network.

In 2007, Silvio Berlusconi's government held senior meetings in Naples to demonstrate their intention to solve these problems. However, the late-2000s recession had a severe impact on the city, intensifying its waste-management and unemployment problems.

By August 2011, the number of unemployed in the Naples area had risen to 250,000, sparking public protests against the economic situation. In June 2012, allegations of blackmail, extortion and illicit contract tendering emerged in relation to Naples' waste-management issues.
Naples will host the 63rd International Astronautical Congress in October 2012, and will also be the host of the 2013 Universal Forum of Cultures. The city will additionally host the 6th World Urban Forum in September 2012.


Naples' 2,800-year-history has left it with a wealth of historical buildings and monuments, from medieval castles to classical ruins. The most prominent forms of architecture visible in present-day Naples are the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque styles. The historic centre of Naples is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Naples has a total of 448 historical churches, making it one of the most Catholic cities in the world in terms of the number of places of worship.

Piazzas, palaces and castles

The main city square or piazza of the city is the Piazza del Plebiscito. Its construction was begun by the Bonapartist king Joachim Murat and finished by the Bourbon king Ferdinand IV. The piazza bounded on the east by the Royal Palace and on the west by the church of San Francesco di Paola, with the colonnades extending on both sides. Nearby is the Teatro di San Carlo, which is the oldest and largest opera house in Italy. Directly across from San Carlo is Galleria Umberto, a shopping centre and social hub.

Naples is well known for its historic castles: the ancient Castel Nuovo, also known as Maschio Angioino, is one of the city's foremost landmarks; it was built during the time of Charles I, the first king of Naples. Castel Nuovo has seen many notable historical events: for example, in 1294, Pope Celestine V resigned as pope in a hall of the castle, and following this Pope Boniface VIII was elected pope by the cardinal collegium, before moving to Rome. The castle which Nuovo replaced in importance was the Norman-founded Castel dell'Ovo ("Egg Castle"), which was built on the tiny islet of Megarides, where the original Cumaean colonists had founded the city. The third Neapolitan castle of note is Sant'Elmo, which was completed in 1329 and is built in the shape of a star. During the uprising of Masaniello in 1647, the Spanish took refuge in Sant'Elmo to escape the revolutionaries.


Naples National Archaeological Museum
Naples is widely known for its wealth of historical museums. The Naples National Archaeological Museum is one of the city's main museums, with one of the most extensive collections of artifacts of the Roman Empire in the world. It also houses many of the antiques unearthed at Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as some artifacts from the Greek and Renaissance periods. The museum hosts extensive collections of Greek and Roman antiquities. Their core is from the Farnese Collection, which includes a collection of engraved gems (including the Farnese Cup, a Ptolemaic bowl made of sardonyx agate and the most famous piece in the "Treasure of the Magnificent", and is founded upon gems collected by Cosimo de' Medici and Lorenzo il Magnifico in the 15th century) and the Farnese Marbles. Among the notable works found in the museum are the Herculaneum papyri, carbonized by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, found after 1752 in Villa of the Papyri.

Previously a Bourbon palace, now a museum and art gallery, the Museo di Capodimonte is another museum of note. The gallery features paintings from the 13th to the 18th centuries, including major works by Simone Martini, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, El Greco and many others, Neapolitan School painters Jusepe de Ribera and Luca Giordano. The royal apartments are furnished with antique 18th-century furniture and a collection of porcelain and majolica from the various royal residences: the famous Capodimonte Porcelain Factory once stood just adjacent to the palace.

In front of the Royal Palace of Naples stands the Galleria Umberto I, which contains the Coral Jewellery Museum. Occupying a 19th-century palazzo renovated by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza, the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina (MADRE) features an enfilade procession of permanent installations by artists such as Francesco Clemente, Richard Serra, and Rebecca Horn.

Churches and religious structures

Naples is the seat of the Archdiocese of Naples, and the Catholicism is highly important to the populace; there are hundreds of churches in the city. The Cathedral of Naples is the city's premier place of worship; each year on September 19, it hosts the longstanding Miracle of Saint Januarius, the city's patron saint.During the miracle, which thousands of Neapolitans flock to witness, the dried blood of Januarius is said to turn to liquid when brought close to holy relics said to be of his body.

Naples Cathedral (Italian: Duomo di Napoli, Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta or Cattedrale di San Gennaro) is a Roman Catholic cathedral, the main church of Naples, southern Italy, and the seat of the Archbishop of Naples. It is widely known as the Cattedrale di San Gennaro, in honour of Saint Januarius, the city's patron saint, but is actually dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The present cathedral was commissioned by King Charles I of Anjou. Construction continued during the reign of his successor, Charles II (1285-1309) and was completed in the early 14th century under Robert of Anjou. It was built on the foundations of two palaeo-Christian basilicas, whose traces can still be clearly seen. Underneath the building excavations have revealed Greek and Roman artifacts. The Archbishop's Palace adjoins the cathedral.

The main attraction of the interior is the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, with frescoes by Domenichino and Giovanni Lanfranco, altarpieces by Domenichino, Massimo Stanzione and Jusepe Ribera, the rich high altar by Francesco Solimena, the bronze railing by Cosimo Fanzago and other artworks, including a reliquary by 14th century French masters. Other artworks include an Assumption by Pietro Perugino, canvasses by Luca Giordano and the palaeo-Christian baptistery, with mosaics from the 4th century. The main chapel is a restoration of the 18th century, with a Baroque relief by Pietro Bracci. The Minutolo Chapel, mentioned in Boccaccio's Decameron, has 14th century frescoes. The crypt is by the Lombard Tommaso Malvito. The façade was reworked by Enrico Alvino in the late 19th century, but retains the 15th century portal, including some sculptures by Tino da Camaino.

Miracle of the Blood

The church houses a vial of the blood of Saint Januarius which is brought out twice a year, on the first Saturday in May and on 19 September, when the dried blood usually liquefies. If the blood fails to liquefy, then legend has it that disaster will befall Naples. A recent hypothesis by Garlaschelli, Ramaccini, and Della Sala is that the vial contains a thixotropic gel, he also explained on the Blood Miracle of Riddles of the Dead series on National Geographic Channel. In such a substance viscosity increases if left unstirred and decreases if stirred or moved. Researchers have proposed specifically a suspension of hydrated iron oxide, FeO(OH), which reproduces the color and behavior of the 'blood' in the ampoule. The suspension can be prepared from simple chemicals that would have been easily available locally since antiquity.

Subterranean Naples

Underneath Naples lies a series of caves and structures created by centuries of mining, and the city rests atop a major geothermal zone. There are also a number of ancient Greco-Roman reservoirs dug out from the soft tufo stone on which, and from which, much of the city is built. Approximately one kilometer of the many kilometers of tunnels under the city can be visited from the Napoli Sotteranea, situated in the historic centre of the city in Via dei Tribunali. There are also large catacombs in and around the city, and other landmarks such as the Piscina Mirabilis, the main cistern serving the Bay of Naples during Roman times. This system of tunnels and cisterns covers most of the city and lies approximately thirty metres below ground level. Moisture levels are around 70%. During World War II, these tunnels were used as air-raid shelters, and there are inscriptions in the walls depicting the suffering endured by the refugees of that era.

Parks, gardens and villas

Of the various public parks in Naples, the most prominent are the Villa Comunale, which was built by the Bourbon king Ferdinand IV in the 1780s, and the Bosco di Capodimonte, the city's largest verdant space. Another important park is the Parco Virgiliano, which looks towards the tiny volcanic islet of Nisida; beyond Nisida lie Procida and Ischia. Parco Virgiliano was named after Virgil, the classical Roman poet who is thought to be entombed nearby. Naples is noted for its numerous stately villas, such as the Neoclassical Villa Floridiana, built in 1816.


The islands of Procida (which was used as the set for much of the film Il Postino), Capri and Ischia can all be reached from Naples by hydrofoils and ferries. Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast are situated south of the city, while the Roman ruins of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae, which were destroyed in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, are also visible nearby. Naples lies near the volcanic area known as the Campi Flegrei and the port towns of Pozzuoli and Baia, which were part of a vast Roman naval facility, Portus Julius.

UNESCO status

In 1995, the historic centre of Naples was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, a United Nations programme which aims to catalogue and conserve sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of mankind. The UNESCO evaluation committee described Naples' centre as being "of exceptional value", and went on to say that Naples' setting on the Bay of Naples "gives it an outstanding universal value which has had a profound influence".


  1. Colletta, Pietro (13 October 2009), The History of the Kingdom of Naples: From the Accession of Charles of Bourbon to the Death of Ferdinand I, I. B. Tauris, ISBN 978-1-84511-881-5.
  2. "Naples". Red Travel. 8 January 2008.
  3.  Jerome Jordan Pollitt, Art in the Hellenistic Age (Cambridge University Press, 1986)
  4. Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (English)