Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wed, Feb 6, 2013 - Litany Lane Blog: Persecute, Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15, Psalms 103, Mark 6:1-6, Saint Dorothy of Caesarea, Kayseri Turkey, Diocletianic Persecution, Catholic Catechism Part One Section 2 The Creeds Chapter 1:1:5 Heaven and Earth

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - Litany Lane Blog:

Persecute, Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15, Psalms 103, Mark 6:1-6, Saint Dorothy of Caesarea, Kayseri Turkey, Diocletianic Persecution, Catholic Catechism Part One Section 2 The Creeds Chapter 1:1:5 Heaven and Earth

Good Day Bloggers!  Happy Mardi Gras!
Wishing everyone a Blessed Week!

Year of Faith - October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013

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

The world begins and ends everyday for someone.  We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift of knowledge and free will, make the most of these gifts. Life on earth is a stepping stone 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 Purgatory and/or 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


February 2, 2013 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:
"Dear children, love is bringing me to you - the love which I desire to teach you also - real love; the love which my Son showed you when He died on the Cross out of love for you; the love which is always ready to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. How great is your love? My motherly heart is sorrowful as it searches for love in your hearts. You are not ready to submit your will to God's will out of love. You cannot help me to have those who have not come to know God's love to come to know it, because you do not have real love. Consecrate your hearts to me and I will lead you. I will teach you to forgive, to love your enemies and to live according to my Son. Do not be afraid for yourselves. In afflictions my Son does not forget those who love. I will be beside you. I will implore the Heavenly Father for the light of eternal truth and love to illuminate you. Pray for your shepherds so that through your fasting and prayer they can lead you in love. Thank you."

January 25, 2013 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:
"Dear children! Also today I call you to prayer. May your prayer be as strong as a living stone, until with your lives you become witnesses. Witness the beauty of your faith. I am with you and intercede before my Son for each of you. Thank you for having responded to my call."


Today's Word:  persecute   per·se·cute  [pur-si-kyoot]

Origin: 1400–50; late Middle English;  back formation from persecutour  persecutorLate Latin persecūtor  orig. prosecutor, equivalent to persecū-,  variant stem of persequī  to prosecute, pursue closely (see per-, sequence) + -tor -tor
verb (used with object), per·se·cut·ed, per·se·cut·ing.
1. to pursue with harassing or oppressive treatment, especially because of religion, race, or beliefs; harass persistently.
2. to annoy or trouble persistently.


Today's Old Testament Reading -  Psalms 103:1-2, 13-14, 17-18

1 [Of David] Bless Yahweh, my soul, from the depths of my being, his holy name;
2 bless Yahweh, my soul, never forget all his acts of kindness.
13 As tenderly as a father treats his children, so Yahweh treats those who fear him;
14 he knows of what we are made, he remembers that we are dust.
17 But Yahweh's faithful love for those who fear him is from eternity and for ever; and his saving justice to their children's children;
18 as long as they keep his covenant, and carefully obey his precepts.


Today's Epistle - Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15

4 In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of bloodshed.
5 Have you forgotten that encouraging text in which you are addressed as sons? My son, do not scorn correction from the Lord, do not resent his training,
6 for the Lord trains those he loves, and chastises every son he accepts.
7 Perseverance is part of your training; God is treating you as his sons. Has there ever been any son whose father did not train him?
11 Of course, any discipline is at the time a matter for grief, not joy; but later, in those who have undergone it, it bears fruit in peace and uprightness.
12 So steady all weary hands and trembling knees
13 and make your crooked paths straight; then the injured limb will not be maimed, it will get better instead.
14 Seek peace with all people, and the holiness without which no one can ever see the Lord.
15 Be careful that no one is deprived of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness should begin to grow and make trouble; this can poison a large number.


Today's Gospel Reading - Mark 6:1-6

Jesus went to his home town, and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, 'Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?' And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is despised only in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house'; and he could work no miracle there, except that he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. He made a tour round the villages, teaching.  

• The Gospel today speaks of the visit of Jesus to Nazareth and describes the mental obstinacy of the people of Nazareth, who do not want to accept him. (Mk 6, 1-6). Tomorrow the Gospel describes the openness of Jesus toward the people of Galilee, shown through the sending out of his disciples on mission (Mk 6, 7-13).

• Mark 6, 1-2ª: Jesus returns to Nazareth. At that time Jesus went to his home town, and his disciples accompanied him. “With the coming of the Sabbath, he began teaching in the Synagogue”. It is always good to return to one’s own home town and to find the friends. After a long absence, Jesus also returns and, as usual, on Saturday, he goes to the Synagogue to participate in the meeting of the community. Jesus was not the coordinator of the community, but even if he was not he takes the floor and begins to teach. This is a sign that persons could participate and express their own opinion.

• Mark 6, 2b-3: Reaction of the people of Nazareth before Jesus. The people of Capernaum had accepted the teaching of Jesus (Mk 1, 22), but the people of Nazareth did not like the words of Jesus and were scandalized. For what reason? Jesus, the boy whom they had known since he was born, how is it that now he is so different? They do not accept God’s mystery present in Jesus, a human being, and common as they are, known by all! They think that to be able to speak of God, he should be different from them! As we can see, not everything went well for Jesus. The persons who should have been the first ones to accept the Good News were precisely those who had the greatest difficulty to accept it. The conflict was not only with foreigners, but also, and especially with his own relatives and with the people of Nazareth. They refused to believe in Jesus, because they could not understand the mystery of God embracing the person of Jesus. “From where do all these things come to him? And what wisdom is this which has been given to him? And these miracles which are worked by him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joseph and Jude and Simon? His sisters too, are they not here with us?” And they would not accept him, they do not believe in Jesus!

• The brothers and the sisters of Jesus. The expression “brothers of Jesus” causes much polemics among Catholics and Protestants. Basing themselves on this text and in others, the Protestants say that Jesus had more brothers and sisters and that Mary had more sons! The Catholics say that Mary had no other sons. What should we think about all this? In the first place, the two positions, that of Catholics and that of the Protestants, both have arguments taken from the Bible and from the tradition of their respective Churches. Therefore, it is not convenient to discuss this question with arguments drawn only from reason. This is a question of profound convictions, which have something to do with the faith and with the sentiments both of Catholics and of Protestants. An argument taken only from reason cannot succeed to change the conviction of the heart! On the other hand, it irritates and draws away! Even when I do not agree with an opinion of another, I should always respect it! And we, both Catholics and Protestants, instead of discussing on texts, we should unite to struggle in defence of life, created by God, a life which has been so disfigured by poverty and injustice, by the lack of faith. We should remember other phrases of Jesus: “I have come in order that they may have life and life in abundance” (Jn 10, 10). “That all may be one, so that the world may believe that you, Father, has sent me” (Jn 17, 21). “Who is not against us, is for us” (Mk 10, 39.40).

• Mark 6, 4-6. Reaction of Jesus before the attitude of the people of Nazareth. Jesus knows very well that “nobody is a prophet in his own country”. And he says: “A prophet is despised only in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house”. In fact, where there is no acceptance or faith, people can do nothing. The preconception prevents this. Even if Jesus wanted to do something, he cannot, and he is amazed at their lack of faith. For this reason, before the closed door of his community “he began to make a tour round the villages, teaching”. The experience of this rejection led Jesus to change his practice. He goes to the other villages and, as we shall see in tomorrow’s Gospel, he gets the disciples involved in the mission instructing them as to how they have to continue the mission. 

Personal questions 
• Jesus had problems with his relatives and with his community. From the time when you began to live the Gospel better, has something changed in your relationship with your family, with your relatives?
• Jesus cannot work many miracles in Nazareth because faith is lacking. And today, does he find faith in us, in me?

Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


Featured Item of the Day from Litany Lane


Saint of the Day:  St Dorothy of Caesarea

Feast DayFebruary 6

Patron Saint:  horticulture; brewers; brides; florists; gardeners; midwives; newlyweds; love; Pescia

Attributes: maiden carrying a basket of fruit and flowers, especially roses; also depicted wearing a crown of flowers (such as roses); depicted surrounded by stars as she kneels before the executioner; crowned with palm and flower basket, surrounded by stars; depicted in an orchard with the Christ-child in an apple tree; leading the Christ-child by the hand; veiled with flowers in her lap; depicted holding apples from heaven on a branc

Saint Dorothy (Dorothea, Dora; Italian: Santa Dorotea, Spanish: Santa Dorotea; died ca. 311) is a 4th century virgin martyr who was executed at Caesarea Mazaca. Evidence for her actual historical existence or acta is very sparse. She is called a martyr of the Diocletianic Persecution, although her death occurred after the resignation of Diocletian himself. She should not be confused with another 4th century saint, Dorothea of Alexandria.

She and Theophilus are mentioned in the Roman Martyrology as martyrs of Caesarea in Cappadocia, with a feast day on 6 February.[2] She is thus officially recognized as a saint, but because there is scarcely any non-legendary knowledge about her, she is no longer (since 1969) included in the General Roman Calendar.


The earliest record that mentions Dorothea is found in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum. This first record contains only three basic facts: the day of martyrdom, the place where it occurred, and her name and that of Theophilus.

Dorothy's cult became widespread in Europe during the Middle Ages. She was venerated in Europe from the seventh century. In late medieval Sweden she was considered as the 15th member of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and in art she occurred with Saint Barbara, Catherine of Alexandria and Margaret of Antioch, forming with them a quartet of female saints called Huvudjungfrur meaning "The Main Virgins."

Dorothy of Caesarea's life and martyrdom was the basis of Philip Massinger and Thomas Dekker's The Virgin Martyr (printed 1622).

The Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy is a convent of active nuns, occupied primarily with teaching and the cultivation of flowers and produce. The order is named for Dorothea of Caesarea.

She was born during the time of the Christian persecutions. Saint Dorothy hated worshiping idols so the count told her father, her mother, and her two sisters, Christine and Celestine, to forsake their possessions, and so they did, and fled into the realm Cappadocia, and came into the city of Caesarea where they sent Saint Dorothy to school. Soon after she was christened of the holy bishop by Saint Appollinarius, he named her Dorothy, and she was filled with the Holy Ghost, and with great beauty above all the maidens of that realm.


      • Butler, Alban. The Lives of the Saints. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, 1995. (Originally published 1878.) Nihil obstat and Imprimatur 1955.
      • Englebert, Omer. The Lives of the Saints. Christopher and Anne Fremantle, trans. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1994. Nihil obstat and Imprimatur 1951.
      • Harvey, Sir Paul, ed. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.
      • Peterson, Joseph Martin, The Dorothea Legend: Its Earliest Records, Middle English Versions, and Influence of Massinger’s "Virgin Martyr" (University of Heidelberg, 1910).
      • The Swedish Nationalecyklopedin Volume 5 p. 102
      • Medeltidens ABC edited by The Swedish national museum of history p. 93, 276.


          Featured Items Panel from Litany Lane



          Today's Snippet I:  Kayseri, Turkey

          Kayseri (pronounced [kajˈseɾi]) is a large and industrialized city in Central Anatolia, Turkey. It is the seat of Kayseri Province. The city of Kayseri, as defined by the boundaries of Kayseri Metropolitan Municipality, is structurally composed of five metropolitan districts, the two core districts of Kocasinan and Melikgazi, and since 2004, also Hacılar, İncesu and Talas. In conjunction with the addition of new districts and first stage municipalities into the metropolitan area, the city's population, which was 536,000 in 2000, was 1,050,000 in 2011. Kayseri is located at the foot of the extinct volcano Mount Erciyes that towers 3916 m over the city. Its inhabitants (Kayserili) are renowned for their alertness, entrepreneurial spirit and a strict understanding regarding the management of economies, the last point having been the subject of more than a few legends in Turkey.wealth of the city itself is a blend of modernity. The city is often cited in the first ranks among Turkey's cities that fit the definition of Anatolian Tigers.

          Renowned for its culinary specialties such as mantı, pastırma and sucuk, the city is also rich in historical monuments (dating especially from the Seljuk period). While it is generally visited en route to the international tourist attractions of Cappadocia, Kayseri has many visitor's attractions by its own right; Seljuk and Ottoman era monuments in and around the center, Mount Erciyes as trekking and alpinism center, Zamantı River as rafting center, the historic sites of Kültepe, Ağırnas, Talas and Develi to name a few. Kayseri is served by Erkilet International Airport and is home to Erciyes University.

          According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, as of 2011 the city of Kayseri had a population of 844,656 and its metropolitan municipality 977,240.


          Kayseri was originally called Mazaka or Mazaca by the Hattians and was known as such to Strabo, during whose time it was the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia, known also as Eusebia at the Argaeus (Εὐσέβεια ἡ πρὸς τῶι Ἀργαίωι in Greek), after Ariarathes V Eusebes, King of Cappadocia (163–130 BCE). The name was changed again by Archelaus (d. 17 CE), last King of Cappadocia (36 BCE–14 CE) and a Roman vassal, to "Caesarea in Cappadocia" (to distinguish it from other cities with the name Caesarea in the Roman Empire) in honour of Caesar Augustus, upon his death in 14 CE. When the Muslim Arabs arrived, they slightly modified the name into Kaisariyah, and this eventually became Kayseri when the Seljuk Turks took control of the city in circa 1080 CE, remaining as such ever since.


          Door detail from the Seljuk era Hunat Hatun Mosque and Külliye, built in 1238 by Sultana Hunat Hatun, wife of the Anatolian Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I and mother of Sultan Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev II.
          The city has been continuously lived since 3000 BCE with the establishment of the ancient trading colony at Kultepe (Ash Mountain) which is associated with the Hittites. The city has always been a vital trade centre as it is located on major trade routes, particularly along what was called the Great Silk Road. Kültepe, one of the oldest cities in Asia Minor, lies nearby.

          As Mazaca, the city served as the residence of the kings of Cappadocia. In ancient times, it was on the crossroads of the trade routes from Sinope to the Euphrates and from the Persian Royal Road that extended from Sardis to Susa. In Roman times, a similar route from Ephesus to the East also crossed the city.

          The city stood on a low spur on the north side of Mount Erciyes (Mount Argaeus in ancient times). Only a few traces of the ancient site survive in the old town. The city was the centre of a satrapy under Persian rule until it was conquered by Perdikkas, one of the generals of Alexander the Great when it became the seat of a transient satrapy by another of Alexander's former generals, Eumenes of Cardia. The city was subsequently passed to the Seleucid empire after the battle of Ipsus but became once again the centre of an autonomous Greater Cappadocian kingdom under Ariarathes III of Cappadocia at around 250BC. In the ensuing period, the city came under the sway of Hellenistic influence, and was given the Greek name of Eusebia in honor of the Cappadocian king Ariarathes V Eusebes Philopator of Cappadocia (163–130 BCE). Under the new name of Caesarea, by which it has since been known, given to it by the last Cappadocian King Archelaus or perhaps by Tiberius, the city passed under formal Roman rule in 17BCE.

          Caesarea was destroyed by the Sassanid king Shapur I after his victory over the Emperor Valerian I in 260. At the time it was recorded to have around 400,000 inhabitants. The city gradually recovered and, indeed, became a home to several early Christian saints: saints Dorothea and Theophilus the martyrs, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa and Basil of Caesarea. In the 4th century, bishop Basil established an ecclesiastical centre on the plain, about one mile to the northeast, which gradually supplanted the old town. In it Basil included a system of almshouses, an orphanage, old peoples' homes and a leprosarium, a leprosy hospital. A portion of Basil's new city was surrounded with strong walls and turned into a fortress by Justinian. Caesarea became in the 9th century a Byzantine administrative centre as the capital of the Byzantine Theme of Charsianon.

          Walls of the Seljuk era Sahabiye Medresesi, built in 1267 by the Seljuk vizier Sahip Ata Fahreddin Ali.
          The Arab general (and later the first Umayyad Caliph) Muawiyah invaded Cappadocia and took Caesarea from the Byzantines temporarily in 647. The city was called Kaisariyah by the Arabs and later Kayseri when it was captured by the Seljuk sultan Alp Arslan in 1064. It became one of the most prominent centers of initially the Danishmendids (1074–1178), and later the Anatolian Seljuk Sultanate (1178–1243), until it fell to the Mongols in 1243. Within the walls lies the greater part of Kayseri rebuilt between the 13th and 16th centuries. The city became Ottoman in the 15th century.

          Thus, there were three golden-age periods for Kayseri. The first, dating back to 2000 BCE, was when the city was a trade post between the Assyrians and the Hittites. The second golden age came during the Roman rule (1st-11th C). The third golden age was during the reign of Seljuks (1178–1243), when the city was the second capital of the state.

          Kayseri Castle walls in 2006.

          View of the castle from the main square.
          The 1500-year-old castle, built initially by the Byzantines and expanded by the Seljuks and Ottomans, is still standing in good condition in the central square of the city. The short-lived Seljuk rule left large number of historical landmarks; historical buildings such as the Hunad Hatun Mosque complex, Kilij Arslan Mosque, The Grand Mosque and Gevher Nesibe Hospital. The Grand Bazaar dates from the latter part of the 1800s, but the adjacent caravanserai (where merchant traders gathered before forming a caravan) dates from around 1500. The town's older districts (which were filled with ornate mansion-houses mostly dating from the 18th and 19th centuries) were subjected to wholesale demolitions starting in the 1970s. The city is famous for its carpet sellers, and a range of carpets and rugs can be purchased reasonably ranging from new to 50 or more years old.

          In the 4th century the city became central to early Christianity when St. Basil the Great established an ecclesiastical centre here. It is a Roman Catholic titular see and was the seat of an Armenian diocese. The building that hosts the Kayseri lyceum was arranged to host the Turkish Grand National Assembly during the Turkish War of Independence when the Greek army had advanced very close to Ankara, the base of the Turkish National Movement.


          • "Caesarea". Catholic Encyclopedia.


          Today's Snippet II:  Diocletianic Persecution

          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 religionin 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

          Head from a statue of Diocletian at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum
          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

          Saint George before Diocletian. A 14th-century mural from Ubisi, Georgia. Christian tradition places the martyrdom of St. George, formerly a Roman army officer, in the reign of Diocletian.
          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 persecution. 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.[119] 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.


          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. These traditional accounts were first questioned in the Enlightenment, when Henry Dodwell, Voltaire, and, most famously, Edward Gibbon questioned traditional accounts of the Christian martyrs.

          In the final chapter of the first volume of his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776), Gibbon claims that Christians had greatly exaggerated the scale of the persecutions they suffered.
          After the church had triumphed over all her enemies, the interest as well as vanity of the captives prompted them to magnify the merit of their respective suffering. A convenient distance of time and place gave an ample scope to the progress of fiction; and the frequent instances which might be alleged of holy martyrs, whose wounds had been instantly healed, whose strength had been renewed, and whose lost members had miraculously been restored, were extremely convenient for the purpose of removing every difficulty, and of silencing every objection. The most extravagant legends, as they conduced to the honour of the church, were applauded by the incredulous multitude, countenanced by the power of the clergy, and attested by the suspicious evidence of ecclesiastical history.
          Throughout his history, Gibbon implies that the early Church undermined traditional Roman virtues, and thereby impaired the health of civil society. Some of Gibbon's contemporaries were displeased with the irreligious tendencies in his work, and attacked it in print. The contemporary classical scholar Richard Porson mocked Gibbon, writing that his humanity never slept, "unless when women are ravished, or the Christians persecuted".

          Later historians, however, took Gibbon's emphases even further. As Marxist historian G.E.M. de Ste. Croix put it in 1954, "The so-called Great Persecution has been exaggerated in the Christian tradition to an extent which even Gibbon did not fully appreciate." In 1972, the ecclesiastical historian Hermann Dörries was embarrassed to admit to his colleagues that his sympathies lay with the Christians rather than their persecutors. W.H.C. Frend estimates that 3,000–3,500 Christians were killed in the persecution. Although the number of verifiably true martyrs' tales has fallen, and estimates of the total casualty rate have been reduced, some modern writers are less skeptical than Gibbon of the severity of the persecution. As the author Stephen Williams wrote in 1985, "even allowing a margin for invention, what remains is terrible enough. Unlike Gibbon, we live in an age which has experienced similar things, and knows how unsound is that civilised smile of incredulity at such reports. Things can be, have been, every bit as bad as our worst imaginings."


              • Arnobius. Adversus Nationes (Against the Heathen) ca. 295–300.
              • Bryce, Hamilton, and Hugh Campbell, trans. Against the Heathen. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6. 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.
              • Dessau, Hermann. Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae (Berlin: Weidmann, 1892–1916)
              • 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
              • Eusebius of Caesarea. De Martyribus Palestinae (On the Martyrs of Palestine).
              • McGiffert, Arthur Cushman, trans. Martyrs of Palestine. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. Accessed June 9, 2009.
              • Cureton, William, trans. History of the Martyrs in Palestine by Eusebius of Caesarea, Discovered in a Very Antient Syriac Manuscript. London: Williams & Norgate, 1861. Accessed September 28, 2009.
              • Eusebius of Caesarea. Vita Constantini (The Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine) ca. 336–39.
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                      Catechism of the Catholic Church

                      Part One: Profession of Faith, Sect 2 The Creeds, Chapter 1:1:5

                      CHAPTER ONE

                      I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER
                      198 Our profession of faith begins with God, for God is the First and the Last,Cf. Is 44:6 The beginning and the end of everything. the Credo begins with God the Father, for the Father is the first divine person of the Most Holy Trinity; our Creed begins with the creation of heaven and earth, for creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God's works.

                      Article 1

                      Paragraph 5. 

                      HEAVEN AND EARTH

                      325 The Apostles' Creed professes that God is "creator of heaven and earth". the Nicene Creed makes it explicit that this profession includes "all that is, seen and unseen".

                      326 The Scriptural expression "heaven and earth" means all that exists, creation in its entirety. It also indicates the bond, deep within creation, that both unites heaven and earth and distinguishes the one from the other: "the earth" is the world of men, while "heaven" or "the heavens" can designate both the firmament and God's own "place" - "our Father in heaven" and consequently the "heaven" too which is eschatological glory. Finally, "heaven" refers to the saints and the "place" of the spiritual creatures, the angels, who surround God.Pss 115:16; 19:2; Mt 5:16

                      327 The profession of faith of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) affirms that God "from the beginning of time made at once (simul) out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, that is, the angelic and the earthly, and then (deinde) the human creature, who as it were shares in both orders, being composed of spirit and body."Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800; cf. DS 3002 and Paul VI, CPG # 8

                      I. THE ANGELS

                      The existence of angels - a truth of faith

                      328 The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls "angels" is a truth of faith. the witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition. Who are they?

                      329 St. Augustine says: "'Angel' is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is 'spirit'; if you seek the name of their office, it is 'angel': from what they are, 'spirit', from what they do, 'angel.'"St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 103, 1, 15: PL 37, 1348 With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they "always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven" they are the "mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word".Mt 18:10; Ps 103:20

                      330 As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendour of their glory bears witness.Cf. Pius XII, Humani generis: DS 3891; Lk 20:36; Dan 10:9- 12

                      Christ "with all his angels"

                      331 Christ is the centre of the angelic world. They are his angels: "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him. . "Mt 25:31 They belong to him because they were created through and for him: "for in him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities - all things were created through him and for him."Col 1:16 They belong to him still more because he has made them messengers of his saving plan: "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?"Heb 1:14

                      332 Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham's hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples. Cf. Job 38:7 (where angels are called "sons of God"); Gen 3:24; 19; 21: 17; 22:11; Acts 7:53; Ex 23:20-23; Judg 13; 6:11-24; Is 6:6; 1 Kings 19:5. Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself. Lk 1:11, 26

                      333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God "brings the firstborn into the world, he says: 'Let all God's angels worship him.'"Heb 1:6 Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church's praise: "Glory to God in the highest!"Lk 2:14 They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.Mt 1:20; 2:13, 19; 4:11; 26:53; Mk 1:13; Lk 22:43; Macc 10:29-30; 11:8 Again, it is the angels who "evangelize" by proclaiming the Good News of Christ's Incarnation and Resurrection.Lk 2:8-14; Mk 16:5-7 They will be present at Christ's return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgement.Acts 1:10-11; Mt 13:41; 24:31; Lk 12:8-9. the angels in the life
                         of the Church

                      The angels in the life of the Church
                      334 In the meantime, the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels.Acts 5:18-20; 8:26-29; 10:3-8; 12:6-11; 27:23-25

                      335 In her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God. She invokes their assistance (in the Roman Canon's Supplices te rogamus. . .["Almighty God, we pray that your angel..."]; in the funeral liturgy's In Paradisum deducant te angeli. . .["May the angels lead you into Paradise. . ."]). Moreover, in the "Cherubic Hymn" of the Byzantine Liturgy, she celebrates the memory of certain angels more particularly (St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, and the guardian angels).

                      336 From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.Mt 18:10; Lk 16:22; Pss 34:7; 91:10-13; Job 33:23-24; Zech 1:12; Tob 12:12. "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life."St. Basil, Adv. Eunomium III, I: PG 29, 656B Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.

                      II. THE VISIBLE WORLD

                      337 God himself created the visible world in all its richness, diversity and order. Scripture presents the work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine "work", concluded by the "rest" of the seventh day.Gen 1:l - 2:4 On the subject of creation, the sacred text teaches the truths revealed by God for our salvation,Cf. DV 11 permitting us to "recognize the inner nature, the value and the ordering of the whole of creation to the praise of God."LG 36 # 2

                      338 Nothing exists that does not owe its existence to God the Creator. the world began when God's word drew it out of nothingness; all existent beings, all of nature, and all human history are rooted in this primordial event, the very genesis by which the world was constituted and time begun.Cf. St. Augustine, De Genesi adv. Man 1, 2, 4: PL 34, 175

                      339 Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. For each one of the works of the "six days" it is said: "and God saw that it was good." "By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws."GS 36 # 1 Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God's infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment.

                      340 God wills the interdependence of creatures. the sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other.

                      341 The beauty of the universe: the order and harmony of the created world results from the diversity of beings and from the relationships which exist among them. Man discovers them progressively as the laws of nature. They call forth the admiration of scholars. the beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man's intellect and will.

                      342 The hierarchy of creatures is expressed by the order of the "six days", from the less perfect to the more perfect. God loves all his creaturesCf. Ps 145:9. and takes care of each one, even the sparrow. Nevertheless, Jesus said: "You are of more value than many sparrows", or again: "of how much more value is a man than a sheep!"Lk 12:6-7; Mt 12:12

                      343 Man is the summit of the Creator's work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.Gen 1-26

                      344 There is a solidarity among all creatures arising from the fact that all have the same Creator and are all ordered to his glory: May you be praised, O Lord, in all your creatures, especially brother sun, by whom you give us light for the day; he is beautiful, radiating great splendour, and offering us a symbol of you, the Most High. . .
                      May you be praised, my Lord, for sister water, who is very useful and humble, precious and chaste.
                      May you be praised, my Lord, for sister earth, our mother, who bears and feeds us, and produces the variety of fruits and dappled flowers and grasses. . .
                      Praise and bless my Lord, give thanks and serve him in all humility.St. Francis of Assisi, Canticle of the Creatures

                      345 The sabbath - the end of the work of the six days. the sacred text says that "on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done", that the "heavens and the earth were finished", and that God "rested" on this day and sanctified and blessed it.Gen 2:1-3 These inspired words are rich in profitable instruction:

                      346 In creation God laid a foundation and established laws that remain firm, on which the believer can rely with confidence, for they are the sign and pledge of the unshakeable faithfulness of God's covenant.Heb 4:3-4; Jer 31:35-37; 33:19-26 For his part man must remain faithful to this foundation, and respect the laws which the Creator has written into it.

                      347 Creation was fashioned with a view to the sabbath and therefore for the worship and adoration of God. Worship is inscribed in the order of creation.Gen 1:14 As the rule of St. Benedict says, nothing should take precedence over "the work of God", that is, solemn worship.St. Benedict, Regula 43, 3: PL 66, 675-676 This indicates the right order of human concerns.

                      348 The sabbath is at the heart of Israel's law. To keep the commandments is to correspond to the wisdom and the will of God as expressed in his work of creation.

                      349 The eighth day. But for us a new day has dawned: the day of Christ's Resurrection. the seventh day completes the first creation. the eighth day begins the new creation. Thus, the work of creation culminates in the greater work of redemption. the first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation in Christ, the splendour of which surpasses that of the first creation.Roman Missal, Easter Vigil 24, prayer after the first reading

                      IN BRIEF

                      350 Angels are spiritual creatures who glorify God without ceasing and who serve his saving plans for other creatures: "The angels work together for the benefit of us all" (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I, 114, 3, ad 3).

                      351 The angels surround Christ their Lord. They serve him especially in the accomplishment of his saving mission to men.

                      352 The Church venerates the angels who help her on her earthly pilgrimage and protect every human being.

                      353 God willed the diversity of his creatures and their own particular goodness, their interdependence and their order. He destined all material creatures for the good of the human race. Man, and through him all creation, is destined for the glory of God.

                      354 Respect for laws inscribed in creation and the relations which derive from the nature of things is a principle of wisdom and a foundation for morality