From N. Lewis and M. Reinhold (eds.), Roman Civilization Selected Readings: vol II The Empire


The statement of Orosius (History Against the Pagans vii. xxvi. 9), that "the Church of Christ suffered ten persecutions from Nero [see § 38] to Maximian," is unfounded. Before the middle of the third century, action against Christians was sporadic and local, undertaken as police measures in a climate of popular anti-Christian agitation and violence. But in the great crisis of the Empire, by which time the sect had developed into a powerful organization -virtually a "state within a state"- systematic Empire-wide efforts to suppress the religion as a challenge to the state were organized by imperial order.


The first systematic persecution was that conducted by the Emperor Decius in A.D. 249-251. In the course of the persecution, Decius, in an ineffective attempt to expose all Christians, issued an edict apparently requiring all inhabitants of the Empire to take a "loyalty oath" to the state cult. Local commissions were set up in all communities of the Empire to administer the loyalty test. Each individual, even priests and priestesses of pagan gods, was required to give formal evidence of religious loyalty, which was certified in writing by the commissioners. More than fifty such certificates, all from Egypt, are extant. There were many defections at this time; but considerable numbers of Christians managed to obtain certificates of loyalty (libelli) through influence or bribery or by performing pagan sacrifice with mental reservations. The question of readmitting such libellatici (certificate holders), after the persecution was over, roused vigorous discussion among Church authorities.

Michigan Papyrus No. 158; A.D. 250

To those superintending the sacrifices of the village of Theadelphia, from Aurelia Bellias, daughter of Peteres, and her daughter Capinis. We have sacrificed to the gods all along, and now in your presence according to orders I poured a libation and sacrificed and tasted of the sacred offerings, and I request you to subscribe this for us. Farewell.

[Signatures] We, Aurelius Serenus and Aurelius Hermas, saw you sacrificing. Signed by me, Hermas.

Year 1 of the Emperor Caesar Gaius Messius Quintus Trajanus Decius Pius Felix Augustus, Payni 27.


After disastrous military defeats in A.D. 257, the Emperor Valerian organized a general persecution of the Christians, seeking to destroy the Church as an organization by depriving it of its leaders and by confiscating its economic resources. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, the author of the following letter, perished in this persecution, which lasted until 270.

Cyprian, Letters lxxx

Cyprian to Successus, his brother, greeting.

The reason I did not write to you at once, dearest brother, is the fact that all the clergy have been placed under stress of peril and are unable to leave here at all: all are prepared, by virtue of the devotion of their minds, for divine and heavenly glory. You should know, however, that those have come whom I sent to the city [of Rome] for the purpose of investigating and bringing back to us the truth concerning whatsoever had been decreed concerning us. For many, various, and indefinite reports are rumored about. But the truth about them is as follows: Valerian has sent an address to the senate, to the effect that bishops, presbyters, and deacons should be immediately punished [1] but that senators, distinguished men, and Roman equites should lose their rank and be deprived of their property also; and if, when their goods have been taken away, they should persist in being Christians, that they should then also be punished capitally; but that matrons should be deprived of their property and relegated to exile. Moreover, persons of the imperial household who had either previously confessed or should now confess, should be expropriated and put in chains and assigned to Caesar's estates. The Emperor Valerian also appended to his address a copy of the letters he prepared for the governors of the provinces concerning us. We are daily expecting these letters to come, and we are, according to the firmness of our faith, awaiting the endurance of suffering and expecting from the help and mercy of the Lord the crown of eternal life. But know that Sixtus [the bishop of Rome] was executed in the cemetery on August 6, and four deacons with him. The prefects of the city, furthermore, are daily pressing this persecution; so that any who are brought before them are punished and their property assigned to the fist.

I beg that these things be made known through you to our other colleagues, so that everywhere by their exhortations the brotherhood may be able to be strengthened and prepared for the spiritual struggle, that each one of our people may not be more concerned about death than about immortality, and, dedicated to the Lord with full faith and complete courage, they may rejoice rather than be afraid in this confession, in which they know that the soldiers of God and Christ are not slain but crowned. I bid you, dearest brother, ever farewell in the Lord.

[33]. Cyprian here summarizes the content of the second edict of Valerian, issued in A.D. 258. The first, in 257, ordered bishops and priests who refused to sacrifice to the state gods to be exiled and forbade Christians to assemble or to enter their cemeteries.


The persecution carried out by Diocletian and his colleagues was the last to which Christians were subjected on an Empire-wide basis, but it was also the severest, lasting from 303 to 311.

Lactantius, On the Deaths of the Persecutors xii-xiv

A suitable and auspicious day was sought for accomplishing this business, and the Terminalia, which takes place on February 23, was especially chosen to put an end, as it were, to this religion.... When that day dawned, in the eighth and seventh consulships of the two emperors [Diocletian and Maximian], suddenly, while it was hardly light, the prefect, together with the military commanders, tribunes, and treasury officers, came to the church [in Nicomedia], and when the doors had been broken down they sought for an image of God. Scriptures were found and burnt; spoil was given to all. Rapine, confusion, and tumult reigned. The emperors, watching from a vantage point (for the church, situated on an elevation, was visible from the palace), disputed for a long time with one another whether it should be set on fire. The opinion of Diocletian prevailed, for he feared that if such a great fire should be started some part of the city might be burned; for many large dwellings surrounded the church on all sides. Accordingly, the Praetorian Guard poured in from all sides in battle array, with axes and other iron implements, and in a few hours leveled that very lofty shrine to the ground.

On the following day an edict was published providing that men of that religion should be deprived of all honors and rank; that they should be subjected to torture, from whatever rank and station they might come; that every legal action should be pressed against them, but they themselves were not to have the right to sue for any wrong or for adultery or theft; and finally, that they should be accorded no freedom and no voice. A certain person, although it was wrong, yet with great courage ripped down this edict and tore it up, saying in derision, "These are the victories of Goths and Sarmatians." Brought to judgment at once, he was not only tortured but was burned in the legal manner, and displaying admirable endurance was finally consumed by the flames.

But Galerius was not satisfied with the terms of the edict and sought another way to influence Diocletian. For to drive him to a determination to employ an excess of cruelty in persecution, he employed private agents to set the palace on fire; and when some part of it had gone up in flames, the Christians were accused as public enemies, and tremendous prejudice flared up against the very name of Christian as the palace burned. It was said that the Christians had plotted in concert with the eunuchs to destroy the princes, and that the two emperors had almost been burned alive in their own palace. But Diocletian, who always wanted to appear shrewd and intelligent, suspected nothing of the de­ception; inflamed with anger, he began immediately to torture all his domestics. [2]

[2]. Not only servants in the imperial household but even Diocletian's own wife and daughter had by this time embraced Christianity.

This document from Middle Egypt sheds light on one of the administrative modalities of the persecution: the churches were closed and their valuables confiscated to the imperial privy purse. At that time many churches were still no more than chapels maintained in private houses.

Oxyrhynchus Papyrus No. 2,673; February 5, A.D. 304

In the 9th consulship of our lord emperor Diocletian and the 8th of our lord emperor Maximian Augusti.... [To the officials] of the glorious and most glorious city of the Oxyrhynchites from Aurelius Ammonius son of Copres, lector of the erstwhile church of the village of Chysis. Whereas you gave me orders -in accordance with the communication from Aurelius Athansius, procurator of the privy purse, vir perfectissimus -concerning surrender of all the goods in the said erstwhile church, and whereas I submitted that the said church had neither gold nor silver nor money nor vestments nor animals nor slaves nor land nor property from gifts or from testamentary bequests, excepting only the bronze material that was found and delivered to the curator to be transported down to the most glorious Alexandria in accordance with the communication from our prefect Claudius Culcianus, vir perfectissimus, I now swear by the fortune of our lords emperors Diocletian and Maximian Augusti and Constantius and Galerius the most noble Caesars, that this is so and that I have not falsified anything, or may I be liable to the imperial oath. [Date.]

[and hand] I, Aurelius Ammonius, swore the oath as above. I, Aurelius Seranus, wrote on behalf of him, who is illiterate.


Despite the promulgation of the Edict of Toleration and the "Edict of Milan" (see § 173), persecution continued in various parts of the Empire until A.D. 324, especially in the East. The following inscriptions from Asia Minor are connected with renewed persecution by Maximinus Daia.

Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae, no. S69 [Arycanda, A.D. 311/312]

To the saviors of the entire human race, the divine Augustus- Caesar Galerius Valerius MAXIMINUS, the divine Augustus Caesar Flavius Vallerius CONSTANTINE, and the divine Augustus Caesar Valerius Licinianus LICINIUS. Supplication and petition from the loyal province of Lycia and Pamphylia.

Whereas the gods, of the same family as you, have ever by deeds displayed benevolence to all, O Most Illustrious Emperors who have been seriously concerned with the divine worship on behalf of the eternal safety of yourselves, our lords, conquerors of all, we have decided that it would be well to seek refuge in your immortal majesty, and to request that the Christians, who of old have been seditious and still persist in the same disease, should finally desist and not, by introducing some new mischief, neglect the honor owed to the gods. This would easily be realized if by your divine and eternal will it were ordained to all that the wickedness of the hateful practice of the atheists be forbidden and prohibited, and if injunctions were given for all to devote themselves steadfastly to the worship of the gods, of the same family as you, on behalf of your eternal and indestructible majesty, the extent of whose benefits to all your people is manifest.

Journal of Roman Studies (1988), 78:105-124 [Inscription from Calbasa, A.D. 312]

[The beginning is lost.] Let them rejoice through the quiet that has finally been granted to them. And let those rejoice especially who have been freed from those blind and deviant obscurities and have returned to upright and good thinking. And as if preserved from a sudden storm or snatched from a great illness, let them henceforth feel a more pleasant enjoyment of life. But those who have persisted in the abominable superstition are to be separated and removed from your city and territory, as you request, so that in conformity with the laudable zeal of your petition your city, separated from the stain of all impiety, may respond as has been your tradition to the rites of the immortal gods with due veneration. Moreover, so that you may know how much your petition has been welcome to us, without any decree and any requests on your part, with spontaneous favor and our just and benevolent spirit, we grant, in response to your declaration, that you request whatever benefaction you wish, in return for your religious devotion of this kind. And you may act and request this now, for you will surely obtain the same without any delay, which granted to your city for all time may both attest to our religious devotion to the immortal gods and demonstrate to your sons and grandsons that you have received rewards from our Clemency worthy of your traditions. Farewell. Given in the second consulship of the Emperors Constantine and Licinius, April 6, at Sardis to the people of Colbasa.


On April 30, A.D. 311, the Emperor Galerius, stricken with a serious illness from which he died shortly after, promulgated at Nicomedia the famous Edict of Toleration. This marked a turning point in the history of Christianity, which, by this enactment, became a fully legal religion, though sporadic persecutions continued for some time after.

Lactantius, On the Deaths of the Persecutors xxxiv and Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History vii. xvii. 6-10

Among other measures which we are constantly formulating for the advantage and benefit of the state, we had formerly desired to set all things right in accordance with the ancient laws and public order of the Romans, and to provide that the Christians, too, who had abandoned the doctrines of their own fathers, should return to a sound mind. For somehow such obstinacy had taken possession of the said Christians and such folly had seized them that, abandoning the institutions of the ancients, which their own fathers perhaps had previously established, they made laws for themselves to observe at their own will and as it pleased the said persons, and assembled various persons in sundry places. Accordingly, when our command had gone forth to the effect that they should return to the institutions of the ancients, many indeed were subjected to danger, and many also were struck down. But since very many persevered in their determination, and we saw that the said persons were neither paying worship and reverence to the gods nor worshiping the god of the Christians, in view of our most gentle Clemency and considering our consistent practice whereby we are wont to grant pardon to all men, we have thought fit in this case, too, to extend immediate indulgence, to wit: that they may be Christians once more and that they may reconstitute their places of assembly, on condition that they do nothing contrary to public order. In another letter, moreover, we shall indicate to governors of provinces what rules they are to observe. Wherefore, in accordance with this indulgence of ours, they are bound to implore their own god for our safety, for that of the state, and for their own, so that on every side the state may be rendered secure and they may be able to live tranquilly in their own homes.


Early in A.D. 313 Constantine and Licinius at a conference at Milan agreed upon an Empire-wide religious policy. As a compromise between Licinius' pagan position and Constantine's pro-Christian views, the Roman state adopted a position of neutrality and enunciated a policy of complete religious freedom. No general edict was issued at Milan, but in all probability detailed instructions were drawn up for provincial governors to implement the new policy, already in force in the West under Constantine's rule. The famous "Edict of Milan" was probably a directive of Licinius despatched several months later from Nicomedia to governors of the Eastern provinces.

Lactantius, On the Deaths of the Persecutors xlviii, and Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History
x. v. 2-14

Observing that freedom of worship should not be denied, but that each one should be given the right in accordance with his conviction and will to adhere to the religion that suits his preference, we had already long since given orders that both to the Christians [3] ... to maintain the faith of their own sect and worship. But since many and various sects seem clearly to have been appended to that rescript in which such right was granted to the said persons, it may be perchance that some of them after a short time were driven away from such observance.

When I, Constantine Augustus, and I, Licinius Augustus, met under happy auspices in Milan and had under discussion all matters that concerned the public advantage and security, among other measures that we saw would benefit most men we considered that first of all regulations should be drawn up to secure respect for divinity, to wit: to grant both to the Christians and to all men unrestricted right to follow the form of worship each desired, to the end that whatever divinity there be on the heavenly seat may be favorably disposed and propitious to us and all those placed under our authority. Accordingly, with salutary and most upright reasoning, we resolved on adopting this policy, namely that we should consider that no one whatsoever should be denied freedom to devote himself either to the cult of the Christians or to such religion as he deems best suited for himself, so that the highest divinity, to whose worship we pay allegiance with free minds, may grant us in all things his wonted favor and benevolence. Wherefore, it is fitting that Your Devotion should know that it is our will that the conditions which were contained in our previous letter sent to your office with respect to the Christians be entirely removed, and that now each one of those who possess the same desire, namely to observe the form of worship of the Christians, should proceed freely to observe the same freely and unconditionally, without any interference or molestation to himself. These matters we decided to explain very fully to Your Solicitude, so that you may know that we have granted to the said Christians free and absolute power to observe their religion. And while you perceive that this indulgence has been granted to the said persons by us, Your Devotion will understand that free and untrammeled freedom in their religion or cult has similarly been granted to others also, in keeping with the peace of our times, so that each person may have unrestricted freedom to practice the cult he has chosen. This has been done by us so that we should not appear to have detracted anything from any form of worship or religion.

And, moreover, with special regard to the Christians we have decided that the following regulation should be set down: That, as for the said places in which they were wont to assemble previously, concerning which a definite regulation was previously contained also in the letter sent to your office, if any person should appear to have purchased them in prior times either from our fist or from any other sources, they shall restore the said places to the Christians without payment or any demand for compensation, setting aside all fraud and ambiguity; and if any persons have obtained them as gifts, they shall similarly restore the same as quickly as possible to the said Christians; and in addition, if either those who have purchased the said places or those who have obtained them as gifts make some request of our benevolence, let them make the demands of the deputy prefect ... so that we may take thought for them too through our clemency. All these things must be transferred to the organization of the Christians by your intervention at once and without delay.

And since the said Christians not only possessed those places in which they were wont to assemble but are also known to have had others belonging not to individual men but to their corporate body, that is the churches, all these, under the provisions of the law we have set forth above, you will give orders to have restored without any uncertainty at all or controversy to the said Christians, that is to the organization and to their places of assembly, observing, of course, the aforesaid regulation, that those persons who restore the same without compensation, as we have stated, may look for compensation from our benevolence.

In all these matters you shall employ your most effective intervention for the aforesaid organization of the Christians, that this directive of ours may be fulfilled with all speed, so that in this also thought may be taken for the public peace through our clemency. To this extent it will come about, as set forth above, that the divine favor toward us, which we have already enjoyed in many matters, will continue for all time with good fortune for our successes together with the public happiness.

And that, moreover, the form which this decree and benevolence of ours takes may be brought to the knowledge of all, it will be proper for you to issue your proclamation and publish this document everywhere and bring it to the knowledge of all, to the end that the decreeing of this benevolence of ours may not remain unknown.

[3]. There is a lacuna in the text. Perhaps the text read: "and to all others freedom should be given."


Before his conversion to Christianity in A.D. 312, Constantine had been an adherent of the syncretic solar cult. Constantine's Christianity, whether genuine or inspired by political expediency, was expressed by a series of administrative and legal acts in favor of the Christian Church. As a Christian emperor ruling a predominantly pagan world, he was compelled to move slowly; until 324, when he became sole emperor after the defeat of Licinius, he strove by his legislation to give Christianity the same privileges the pagan cults enjoyed, thus maintaining a balance between Christianity and paganism (cf. § 173). But after 324 his negative attitude toward paganism took sharper form, though there is no trustworthy evidence that he took measures for the general abolition of pagan worship and the destruction of pagan temples. This final step was taken by the Emperor Theodosius in 395.


Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History x. vii

Greeting, our most esteemed Anulinus [proconsul of Africa in A.D. 313]. Since it appears from many things that the setting at naught of divine worship, through which the highest reverence for the most holy power of heaven is preserved, has brought great dangers to the state, and that the lawful restoration and maintenance of this have bestowed good fortune on the Roman name and extraordinary prosperity on all the affairs of mankind (for it is divine Providence which bestows these blessings), it is our decision that those men who, with due holiness and devotion to this ordinance, offer their services in the performance of divine worship, should receive rewards for their labors, most esteemed Anulinus. Wherefore it is my will that those persons in the Catholic Church presided over by Caecilianus in the province entrusted to you who devote their service to this holy worship -those who are customarily named clerics -shall once and for all be kept completely exempt from all compulsory public services. They shall not be dragged away from the worship due the Divinity through any mistake or irreverent error, nor shall they be disturbed in any way from devoting themselves completely to serving their own law. For when they render supreme service to the Deity, it seems that they confer the greatest possible benefits upon the state. Farewell, our most esteemed and dearest Anulinus.

Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History x. vi

Constantine Augustus to Caecilianus, bishop of Carthage [the date of this letter is also A.D. 313]. Whereas we have resolved that throughout all provinces, namely the African, Numidian, and Mauretanian, some additional assistance be given to certain specified ministers of the lawful and most holy Catholic religion for expenses, I have sent a letter to Ursus, the most eminent procurator of Africa, and have notified him to see to the payment of 3,000 folles to Your Steadfastness. Accordingly, when you obtain delivery of the aforesaid sum of money, give orders that this money be distributed among all the aforementioned persons in accordance with the schedule sent to you by Hosius. But if, nevertheless, you should find that the sum is insufficient for the fulfillment of this purpose of mine with respect to all of them, you should request without hesitation whatever you find to be necessary from Heraclides, the procurator of our estate. For indeed I gave him instructions in person that if Your Steadfastness should request any money from him, he should see to the payment of it without any hesitation. And since I have learned that certain men of unstable conviction are desirous of turning aside the laity of the most Holy and Catholic Church by some miserable seduction, know that I have personally given orders to Anulinus, the proconsul, and moreover to Patricius, prefect's deputy, to the effect that they should give due attention to all other matters and especially to this, and not permit such an occurrence to be overlooked. Therefore if you observe any such persons continuing in this madness, do not hesitate to go to the aforementioned governors and bring this said matter before them, so that they, as I personally ordered them, may bring these persons back to the right path. May the divinity of the great God preserve you for many years.

Theodosian Code viii. xvi. 1; A.D. 320

Those persons who were considered celibates under the old law shall be freed from the threatening terrors of the statutes [4] and shall live just as if supported by the bond of matrimony in the number of married men, and all men shall have equal status with respect to accepting what each is entitled to. [5] Nor indeed shall any person be considered childless, and the disabilities attached to that term shall not harm him. We apply this provision also with respect to women, and we release all of them indis­criminately from the legal compulsions imposed like yokes on their necks.

[4]. The Papian-Poppaean laws of Augustus. The present enactment of Constantine was not a general repealer but affected only the clergy.

[5]. That is, legacies and gifts, which unmarried and childless persons were permitted under the Augustan legislation to receive only in limited amount

Theodosian Code ii. viii. 1; A.D. 321

Just as it appeared most unseemly for the day of the Sun [i.e., Sunday], solemn in its veneration, to be occupied with the altercations of the law courts and the noxious controversies of contending parties, so it is gratifying and pleasing for those acts which are especially longed for to be accomplished on that day. Therefore all men shall have freedom to emancipate and manumit on a festive day, and the legal formalities concerning such matters shall not be forbidden.

Theodosian Code iv. vii. 1; A.D. 321

Any persons who with pious intention grant deserved freedom to their favorite slaves in the bosom of the Church shall be deemed to have bestowed it with the same legality as Roman citizenship has been customarily conferred under the usual formalities. But it is our pleasure that this indulgence be allowed only to persons who make such grant in the presence of the bishops. To clerics, moreover, we further grant that when they bestow freedom on their own slaves, not only shall they be said to have granted full enjoyment of such freedom [when they manumit] in the presence of the Church and the religious congregation, but also when they confer freedom in a last will or give instructions in any words whatsoever that it be conferred. Accordingly, such grant of freedom takes immediate effect on the day of the publication of the expressed intent without any witness or intermediary required by law.[6]

[6]. For the usual procedures employed in manumitting slaves, see § 49.

Theodosian Code xvi. ii. 5; A.D. 323

Since we have learned that certain ecclesiastics and others who serve the Catholic sect are compelled by men of different religions to perform lustral sacrifices, we ordain by this sanction that if any person believes that those who serve the most holy law are to be compelled to [perform] the ritual of an alien superstition, he shall be publicly beaten with clubs if his legal status so permits; or, if the consideration of honorable rank protects him from such outrage, he shall sustain the penalty of a very heavy fine, which shall be claimed by the municipalities.

Theodosian Code xvi. v. i; A.D. 326

The privileges which have been granted in consideration of religion must benefit only the adherents of the Catholic faith. It is our will, moreover, that heretics and schismatics shall not only be excluded from these privileges but shall also be bound and subjected to the various compulsory public services.


Theodosian Code ix. xvi. 2; A.D. 319

We forbid soothsayers and priests and persons accustomed to serve that rite to approach a private home or under pretext of friendship to cross the threshold of another; and punishment will threaten them if they disregard the statute. You, however, who think this profits you, go to the public altars and shrines and celebrate the ceremonies of your custom; for we do not forbid the services of a bygone usage to be conducted in open view.

Theodosian Code xvi. x. i; A.D. 320/321

If it is established that any part of our palace or of other public works has been touched by lightning, the custom of the ancient religion shall be maintained: inquiry shall be made of the soothsayers as to the portent thereof, and the written record thereof shall be very carefully collected and referred to our wisdom. Others are also to be granted freedom to practice this custom, provided they abstain from domestic sacrifices, which are specifically prohibited.


As a Christian, Constantine prohibited all forms of worship of himself. He did not, however, take measures to suppress the imperial cult as an institution, for it was by this time largely secularized and offered, moreover, distinct social and political advantages. A striking illustration of what has been called "his half-Christian, half-pagan state of mind" is afforded by the following reply to a petition from the town of Hispellum, in Umbria.

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, vol. XI, no. 5,265 (=Dessau, no. 705); A.D. 333-337
Copy of Sacred Rescript

The Emperor Caesar Flavius CONSTANTINE Maximus Germanicus Sarmaticus Gothicus, victorious, triumphant Augustus, and Flavius CONSTANTINE, and Flavius Julius CONSTANTIUS, and Flavius CONSTANS. [7] All things which protect human society we embrace in the deliberation of our ever-watchful administration; but it is especially incumbent upon our providential care to see to it that all cities, which are distinguished among the ornaments of all the provinces and regions for their splendor and beauty, should not only retain their former distinction but should also be elevated to a better state by virtue of our beneficence.

You declare that you [Umbrians] are administratively joined to Tuscia, and that by an established ancient custom you and the aforesaid [Tuscians] in alternate years appoint the priests who present theatrical shows and gladiatorial games at Vulsinii, a municipality of Tuscia. But because the journey lies over steep and wooded mountains you earnestly request that relief be granted to your priest, so that it will not be necessary for him to proceed to Vulsinii to celebrate the spectacles. Your request is that to the municipality which is now called Hispellum and which, you state, adjoins and connects with the Flaminian Way, we grant a name from our family name; that a temple of the Flavian family may be constructed there in magnificent style truly in keeping with the splendor of the name; and that the priest whom Umbria has provided every other year may there present an exhibition of both theatrical shows and gladiatorial games -the said custom to continue in Tuscia, where a priest chosen from that region shall celebrate the aforementioned exhibitions at Vulsinii as in the past.

To your petition and desire we have acceded with ready assent. For to the municipality of Hispellum we have granted an eternal title and revered name from our appellation, so that in the future the aforesaid city shall be called Flavia Constans; and in its midst, as you wish, we desire a temple of the Flavian family, that is, our family, to be constructed in magnificent style, with this restriction, that a temple dedicated to our name be not defiled by the evils of any contagious superstition. Accordingly, we have also given you permission to exhibit spectacles in the aforementioned city, with the understanding that, as has been stated, the periodic celebration of the spectacles shall not cease at Vulsinii, where the aforementioned celebration is to be conducted by priests to be chosen from Tuscia. Thus not very much will seem to have been detracted from old institutions, and you, who for the aforesaid reasons have appeared as suppliants before us, will rejoice to have obtained what you earnestly requested.

[7]. Constantine, Constantius, and Constans, the sons of Constantine the Great, held the rank of Caesar under their father and divided the empire among them after his death.


"Constantine sitting amongst the Christian bishops at the oecumenical council of Nicaea is in his own person the beginning of Europe's Middle Age" (Cambridge Ancient History, 12:699).

Eusebius, Life of Constantine iii . vi-x (abridged)

Constantine summoned a general synod, inviting the bishops in all parts with honorary letters to be present as soon as possible.... At that time there were to be seen congregated in one place persons widely different from one another not only in spirit but also in physical appearance, and in the regions, places, and provinces from which they came.... From all the churches which had filled all Europe, Africa, and Asia, those who held the chief place among the servants of God assembled at the same time; and one sacred hall, extended as it were by the will of God, embraced in its compass Cilicians, Phoenicians, Arabs, Palestinians, Egyptians, Thebans, Libyans, and some coming from Mesopotamia. A bishop from Persia also participated in the synod, nor was Scythia absent from this body. Pontus, likewise Galatia, Pamphylia, and Cappadocia, Asia, too, and Phrygia provided their most carefully chosen persons. Thracians also, Macedonians, Achaeans, and Epirotes, and those who are situated at a very long distance beyond these were nonetheless present. . . . Present among the body were more than 250 bishops....

But on the day fixed for the council which was to put an end to the controversies, when the various persons who composed the synod were at hand, in the very middle of the hall of the palace which seemed to surpass all the rest in size, there were many seats arranged in rows on both sides; and all who had been summoned entered and each sat down in his place. After the entire synod had seated itself with seeming modesty, all at first fell silent, awaiting the coming of the emperor. Soon one of those closest to the emperor, then a second and a third entered. Others, too, preceded -not, as customary, from among the soldiers and bodyguard, but only those of his advisers who professed the faith of Christ. And when the signal was given which announced the entry of the emperor, all rose, and finally he himself approached proceeding down the center ... dazzling the eyes of all with the splendor of his purple robe and sparkling with fiery rays, as it were, adorned for the occasion as he was with an extraordinary splendor of gold and jewels. ... As for his soul, it was sufficiently apparent that he was adorned with the fear of God and religion.