Key Facts:

Date October 2, 313
Location Rome
Summoned by Constantine
Chaired by Miltiades, bishop of Rome
Number of Participants 19
Key Participants Miltiades, Donatus, Caecilian
Purpose To address the Donatist accusations against Caecilian
Key Events The council cleared Caecilian of all charges and confirmed his ordination
Primary Source Descriptions Eusebius, Church History, 10.5.18-20,

Optatus, Against the Donatists 1.22-24,

Augustine’s letters 43.5 and 88.2


Once Constantine became ruler of Italy and Africa in October 312, he extended complete toleration and restoration of property to the Christians in those areas. The Donatists immediately began applying to their new ruler for a judgment against Caecilian, the catholic bishop of Carthage. Their letter was preserved by Optatus. As a result, Constantine decided to organize a judicial hearing on the subject to be chaired by Bishop Miltiades of Rome. Eusebius incorporated Constantine’s summons to the hearing into his Church History and Optatus provides details of its planning and participants—three Gallic bishops selected by Constantine, and 15 Italian bishops invited by Miltiades.  The hearing, which had thus become a regional church council, met on  October 2, 313. Caecilian was cleared of all charges, a verdict that Optatus recorded. He was to retain his bishopric and fellowship with the greater catholic church.

The Greek texts of the cited sources, together with English translations, can be accessed via the links below:

Letter of the Donatist Bishops to Constantine

Constantine’s Summons to a Hearing

Plans for the hearing and its participants

The Council’s Verdict



Werner Eck, “Eine Historische Zeitenwende: Kaiser Constantins Hinwendung Zum Christentum Und Die Gallischen Bischöfe.” In Konstantin Der Große – Kaiser Einer Epochenwende, F. Schuller and H. Wolff eds. (Lindenberg, 2007), 69–94.

U. Dionisi, “Rome” in The Encyclopedia of the Early Church (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).


Last updated: 1-5-2024

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