Year (A.D.) Source English translation

Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 10.6

Diocletian was somewhat paranoid, and so he often sought to know the future from fortune tellers. Once during his stay in the East he began to slay animals, so that he could learn the future from the livers. While he sacrificed, some attendants of his, who were Christians, stood by and put the sign of the cross on their foreheads. At this the demons were chased away, and the holy rites interrupted. The soothsayers trembled, unable to investigate the wonted marks on the entrails of the victims. They frequently repeated the sacrifices, as if the former had been unpropitious; but when the victims were slain they gave no tokens for divination. Finally Tages, the chief of the soothsayers, either from guess or from his own observation, said, There are profane persons here, who obstruct the rites. Then Diocletian, in furious passion, ordered not only all who were assisting at the holy ceremonies, but also all who resided within the palace, to sacrifice, and they refused he ordered them to be scourged. And further, by letters to the commanding officers, he enjoined that all soldiers should be forced to perform similar impieties, or else be dismissed the service. Thus far his rage proceeded; but at that time he did nothing more against the law and religion of God.
Eusebius, Historica Ecclesiasica 8 appendix The author of the edict [Diocletian] very shortly after this confession was released from his pains and died. He is reported to have been the original author of the misery of the persecution, having endeavored, long before the movement of the other emperors, to turn from the faith the Christians in the army, and first of all those in his own house, degrading some from the military rank, and abusing others most shamefully, and threatening still others with death, and finally inciting his partners in the empire to the general persecution.
Autumn 302 Eusebius, De Martyribus Palestinae 2 What occurred to Romanus…at Antioch, is also worthy of record. For he was a native of Palestine, a deacon and exorcist in the parish of Caesarea. He was present at the destruction of the churches and beheld many men, with women and children, going up in crowds to the idols and sacrificing. But, through his great zeal for religion, he could not endure the sight, and rebuked them with a loud voice. He was arrested for his boldness and proved a most noble witness of the truth, if there ever was one. For when the judge informed him that he was to die by fire, he received the sentence with cheerful countenance and most ready mind, and was led away. When he was bound to the stake, and the wood piled up around him, as they were awaiting the arrival of the emperor before lighting the fire, he cried, “Where is the fire for me?” Having said this, he was summoned before Galerius and subjected to the unusual torture of having his tongue cut out. But he endured this with fortitude and showed to all by his deeds that the Divine Power is present with those who endure any hardship whatever for the sake of religion, lightening their sufferings and strengthening their zeal. When he learned of this strange mode of punishment, the noble man was not terrified, but put out his tongue readily, and offered it with the greatest alacrity to those who cut it off. After this punishment he was thrown into prison, and suffered there a very long time. At last the twentieth anniversary of the emperor being near, when, according to tan established gracious custom, liberty was proclaimed everywhere to all who were in bonds, he alone had both his feet stretched over five holes in the stocks, and while he lay there was strangled, and was thus honored with martyrdom, as he desired.
23 Feb. 303 Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 8.4 It was in the nineteenth year of the reign of Diocletian, (302-303) in the month of March, when the feast of the Savior’s passion was near at hand, that royal edicts were published everywhere, commanding that the churches be leveled to the ground and the Scriptures be destroyed by fire, and ordering that those who held places of honor be degraded, and that the household servants, if the persisted in the profession of Christianity, be made slaves.
Spring/Summer 303 Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 8.2.5 Such was not the first edict against us. But not long after, other decrees were issued, commanding that all the rulers of the churches in every place be first thrown into prison, and afterwards be compelled to sacrifice by whatever means necessary.
Fall 303 Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 8.6.10 Other decrees followed the first, directing that those in prison should be permitted to depart in freedom if they would sacrifice, but that those who refused should be harassed with many tortures. How could any one number the multitude of martyrs in every province, and especially of those in Africa, and Mauritania, and Thebais, and Egypt? From this last country many went into other cities and provinces, and became illustrious through martyrdom.
Early 304 Eusebius, De Martyribus Palestinae 3.1 In the course of the second year, the persecution against us increased greatly. When Urbanus was governor of the province, imperial edicts were first issued to him, commanding by a general decree that all the people should sacrifice at once in the various cities, and offer libations to the idols.
1 May 305 Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 19.1 Matters having been thus concerted, Diocletian and Galerius went in procession to publish the nomination of Caesars. Every one looked expectantly at Constantine; for there was no doubt that the choice would fall on him. The troops present, as well as the chief soldiers of the other legions, who had been summoned to the solemn ceremony, fixed their eyes on Constantine, overjoyed in the hope of his approaching appointment, and occupied themselves in prayers for his prosperity. Near three miles from Nicomedia there is an eminence, on the summit of which Galerius formerly received the purple; and there a pillar, with the statue of Jupiter, was placed. There went the procession. An assembly of the soldiers was called. Diocletian, with tears, harangued them, and said that he had become infirm, that he needed rest after his hard life, and that he would resign the empire into hands more vigorous and able, and at the same time appoint new Caesars. The spectators, with the utmost earnestness, waited for the nomination. Suddenly he declared that the Caesars were Severus and Maximinus. Everyone was amazed. Constantine stood near in public view, and men began to question amongst themselves whether his name too had not been changed into Maximinus; when, in the sight of all, Galerius, stretching back his hand, put Constantine aside, and drew Maximinus forward, and, having divested him of the garb of a private person, set him in the most conspicuous place. All men wondered who he was and where he came from, but no one ventured to interpose or move objections, so confounded were their minds at the strange and unlooked-for event. Diocletian took off his purple robe, put it on Maximinus, and resumed his own original name of Diocles. He descended from the tribunal, and passed through Nicomedia in a chariot; and then this old emperor, like a veteran soldier freed from military service, was dismissed into his own country; while Maximinus, lately taken from the tending of cattle in forests to serve as a common soldier, immediately made one of the life-guard, presently a tribune, and next day Caesar, obtained authority to trample under foot and oppress the empire of the East; a person ignorant alike of war and of civil affairs, who became a leader of armies shortly after being a shepherd.
Socrates, Historia Ecclesiastica 1.2 When Diocletian and Maximian, surnamed Herculius, had by mutual consent laid aside the imperial dignity, and retired into private life, Maximian, surnamed Galerius, who had been a sharer with them in the government, came into Italy and appointed two Caesars, Maximinus in the eastern division of the empire, and Severus in the Italian.
25 July 306 Eusebius, Vita Constantine 1.21 Then, taking a final leave of the circle of sons and daughters by whom he was surrounded, in his own palace, and on the imperial couch, he bequeathed the empire, according to the law of nature, to his eldest son, and breathed his last.
Socrates, Historia Ecclesiastica 1.2.1 In Britain, however, Constantine was proclaimed emperor, instead of his father Constantius, who died in the first year of the two hundred and seventy-first Olympiad, on the 25th of July.
28 October 306 Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 26.1 Things seemed to be arranged in some measure to the satisfaction of Galerius, when more alarming news arrived, that his son-in-law Maxentius had been declared emperor at Rome. The cause was this: Galerius had resolved by permanent taxes to devour the empire, and foolishly soared to such extravagance that he did not allow an exemption from that servitude even to the Roman people. Tax-gatherers were therefore appointed to go to Rome, and make out lists of the citizens. Much about the same time Galerius had reduced the Praetorian Guards. There remained at Rome a few soldiers of that body, who, profiting of the opportunity, put some magistrates to death, and, with the acquiescence of the impetuous populace, clothed Maxentius in the imperial purple.
307 Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 26.1 Galerius, on receiving this news, was disturbed at the strangeness of the event, but not much dismayed. He hated Maxentius, and he could not bestow on him the dignity of Caesar already enjoyed by two (Maximinus and Constantine); besides, he thought it enough for him to have once bestowed that dignity against his inclination. So he sent for Severus, exhorted him to regain his dominion and sovereignty, and he put under his command that army which Maximian Herculius had formerly commanded, that he might attack Maxentius at Rome. There the soldiers of Maximian had been oftentimes received with every sort of luxurious accommodation, so that they were not only interested to preserve the city, but they also longed to fix their residence in it…Presently the soldiers raised up their ensigns, abandoned Severus, and yielded themselves to Maxentius, against whom they had come. What remained but flight for Severus, thus deserted? He was encountered by Maximian, who had resumed the imperial dignity. On this he took refuge in Ravenna, and shut himself up there with a few soldiers. But perceiving that he was about to be delivered up, he voluntarily surrendered himself, and restored the purple to him from whom he had received it; and after this he obtained no other grace but that of an easy death, for he was compelled to open his veins, and in that gentle manner expired.
11 November 308 Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 29.1 Diocles [Diocletian] was at the court of Galerius when Maximian arrived; for Galerius, meaning now to invest Licinius with the ensigns of supreme power in the room of Severus, had lately sent for Diocles to be present at the solemnity. So it was performed in presence both of him and of Maximian; and thus there were six who ruled the empire at one and the same time.
30 April 311 Eusebius, Vita Constantine 1.57 Having, therefore, to struggle against such sufferings, at length, though late, he came to a realization of his past crimes against the Church; and, confessing his sins before God, he put a stop to the persecution of the Christians, and hastened to issue imperial edicts and prescripts for the rebuilding of their churches, at the same time requesting them to perform their customary worship, and to offer up prayers on his behalf. [The full text of the Edict of Toleration of Gelarius can be accessed here.]
Fall 311 Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 36.1

Maximinus, on receiving this news, hurried with relays of horses from the East, to seize the dominions of Galerius, and, while Licinius lingered in Europe, to arrogate to himself all the country as far as the narrow seas of Chalcedon. On his entry into Bithynia, he, with the view of acquiring immediate popularity, abolished Galerius tax, to the great joy of all. Dissension arose between the two emperors, and almost an open war. They stood on the opposite shores with their armies. Peace, however, and friendship were established under certain conditions. Licinius and Maximinus met on the narrow sees, concluded a treaty, and in token of friendship joined hands. Then Maximinus, believing all things to be in security, returned (to Nicomedia), and was in his new dominions what he had been in Syria and Egypt. First of all, he took away the toleration and general protection granted by Galerius to the Christians, and, for this end, he secretly procured addresses from different cities, requesting that no Christian church might be built within their walls; and thus he meant to make that which was his own choice appear as if extorted from him by importunity. In compliance with those addresses, he introduced a new mode of government in things respecting religion, and for each city he created a high priest, chosen from among the persons of most distinction. The office of those men was to make daily sacrifices to all their gods, and, with the aid of the former priests, to prevent the Christians from erecting churches, or from worshipping God either publicly or in private; and he authorized them to compel the Christians to sacrifice to idols, and, on their refusal, to bring them before the civil magistrate; and, as if this had not been enough, in every province he established a superintendent priest, one of chief eminence in the state; and he commanded that all those priests newly instituted should appear in white habits, that being the most honorable distinction of dress. And as to the Christians, he purposed to follow the course that he had followed in the East, and, affecting the show of clemency, he forbade the slaying of God’s servants, but he gave command that they should be mutilated. So the confessors for the faith had their ears and nostrils slit, their hands and feet lopped off, and their eyes dug out of the sockets.

26 November 311 Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 7.32, 9.6.2 After Theonas had held the office for nineteen years, Peter received the episcopate in Alexandria, and was very eminent among them for twelve entire years. Of these he governed the church less than three years before the persecution, and for the remainder of his life he subjected himself to a more rigid discipline and cared in no secret manner for the general interest of the churches. On this account he was beheaded in the ninth year of the persecution, and was adorned with the crown of martyrdom.
Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 9.6.2 At about the same time Peter also, who presided most illustriously over the parishes in Alexandria, a divine example of a bishop on account of the excellence of his life and his study of the sacred Scriptures, being seized for no cause and quite unexpectedly, was, as if by command of Maximinus, immediately and without explanation, beheaded.
7 January 312 Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica , 9.6.3 And Lucian, a presbyter of the parish at Antioch, and a most excellent man in every respect, temperate in life and famed for his learning in sacred things, was brought to the city of Nicomedia, where at that time the emperor happened to be staying, and after delivering before the ruler an apology for the doctrine which he professed, was committed to prison and put to death.
312 Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 37.1 While occupied in this plan, he received letters from Constantine which deterred him from proceeding in its execution, so for a time he dissembled his purpose; nevertheless any Christian that fell within his power was privily thrown into the sea.
28 October 312 Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 44.9

Constantine was directed in a dream to cause the heavenly sign to be delineated on the shields of his soldiers, and so to proceed to battle. He did as he had been commanded, and he marked on their shields the letter Χ, with a perpendicular line drawn through it and turned round thus at the top, being the cipher of Christ. Having this sign (ΧР ), his troops stood to arms. The enemies advanced, but without their emperor, and they crossed the bridge. The armies met, and fought with the utmost exertions of valor, and firmly maintained their ground. In the meantime a sedition arose at Rome, and Maxentius was reviled as one who had abandoned all concern for the safety of the commonweal; and suddenly, while he exhibited the Circensian games on the anniversary of his reign, the people cried with one voice, Constantine cannot be overcome! Dismayed at this, Maxentius burst from the assembly, and having called some senators together, ordered the Sibylline books to be searched. In them it was found that: “On the same day the enemy of the Romans shall perish.” Led by this response to the hopes of victory, he went to the field. The bridge in his rear was broken down. At sight of that the battle grew hotter. The hand of the Lord prevailed, and the forces of Maxentius were routed. He fled towards the broken bridge; but the multitude pressing on him, he was driven headlong into the Tiber.

Late 312 Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 9.9.12 And after this both Constantine himself and with him the Emperor Licinius, who had not yet been seized by the madness into which he later fell, praising God as the author of all their blessings, with one will and mind drew up a full and most complete decree in behalf of the Christians, and sent an account of the wonderful things done for them by God, and of the victory over the tyrant, together with a copy of the decree itself, to Maximinus, who still ruled over the nations of the East and pretended friendship toward them.
30 April 313 Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 47.1 So the two armies drew nigh; the trumpets gave the signal; the military ensigns advanced; the troops of Licinius charged. But the enemies, panic-struck, could neither draw their swords nor yet throw their javelins. Maximinus went about, and, alternately by entreaties and promises, attempted to seduce the soldiers of Licinius. But he was not hearkened to in any quarter, and they drove him back. Then were the troops of Maximinus slaughtered, none making resistance; and such numerous legions, and forces so mighty, were mowed down by an inferior enemy. No one called to mind his reputation, or former valor, or the honorable rewards which had been conferred on him. The Supreme God did so place their necks under the sword of their foes, that they seemed to have entered the field, not as combatants, but as men devoted to death. After great numbers had fallen, Maximinus perceived that everything went contrary to his hopes; and therefore he threw aside the purple, and having put on the habit of a slave, hasted across the Thracian Bosphorus.
May 313 Eusebius, Vita Constantine 1.59 At length, however, surviving even these sufferings, he too implored pardon of the God of the Christians, and confessed his impious fighting against God: he too recanted, as the former persecutor had done; and by laws and ordinances explicitly acknowledged his error in worshiping those whom he had accounted gods, declaring that he now knew, by positive experience, that the God of the Christians was the only true God.
July 313 Concerning Licinius: Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 48.2 When we, Constantine and Licinius, emperors, had an interview at Milan, and conferred together with respect to the good and security of the commonwealth, it seemed to us that, amongst those things that are profitable to mankind in general, the reverence paid to the Divinity merited our first and chief attention, and that it was proper that the Christians and all others should have liberty to follow that mode of religion which to each of them appeared best; so that that God, who is seated in heaven, might be benign and propitious to us, and to every one under our government.”
Eusebius Historica Ecclesiastica 10.5.4 [copy of imperial law] When I, Constantine Augustus, and I, Licinius Augustus, came under favorable auspices to Milan and took under consideration everything which pertained to the common weal and prosperity, we resolved among other things, or rather first of all, to make such decrees as seemed in many respects for the benefit of every one; namely, such as should preserve reverence and piety toward the deity. We resolved, that is, to grant both to the Christians and to all men freedom to follow the religion which they choose, that whatever heavenly divinity exists may be propitious to us and to all that live under our government. [The full text of the Edict of Milan can be accessed here.]
Concerning the death of Maximinus: Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 49 2.Maximinus at length fled to Tarsus. There, being hard pressed both by sea and land, he despaired of finding any place for refuge; and in the anguish and dismay of his mind, he sought death as the only remedy of those calamities that God had heaped on him. But first he gorged himself with food, and large draughts of wine, as those are wont who believe that they eat and drink for the last time; and so he swallowed poison. However, the force of the poison, repelled by his full stomach, could not immediately operate, but it produced a grievous disease, resembling the pestilence; and his life was prolonged only that his sufferings might be more severe. And now the poison began to rage, and to burn up everything within him, so that he was driven to distraction with the intolerable pain; and during a fit of frenzy, which lasted four days, he gathered handfuls of earth, and greedily devoured it. Having undergone various and excruciating torments, he dashed his forehead against the wall, and his eyes started out of their sockets. And now, become blind, he imagined that he saw God, with His servants arrayed in white robes, sitting in judgment on him. He roared out as men on the rack are wont, and exclaimed that not he, but others, were guilty. In the end, as if he had been racked into confession, he acknowledged his own guilt, and lamentably implored Christ to have mercy upon him. Then, amidst groans, like those of one burnt alive, did he breathe out his guilty soul in the most horrible kind of death.
2a. Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 9.10.14-15 2a. But his end was not like that of military chieftains who, while fighting bravely in battle for virtue and friends, often boldly encounter a glorious death; for like an impious enemy of God, while his army was still drawn up in the field, remaining at home and concealing himself, he suffered the punishment which he deserved. For he was smitten with a sudden scourge of God in his whole body, and harassed by terrible pains and torments, he fell prostrate on the ground, wasted by hunger, while all his flesh was dissolved by an invisible and God-sent fire, so that the whole appearance of his frame was changed, and there was left only a kind of image wasted away by length of time to a skeleton of dry bones; so that those who were present could think of his body as nothing else than the tomb of his soul, which was buried in a body already dead and completely melted away. And as the heat still more violently consumed him in the depths of his marrow, his eyes burst forth, and falling from their sockets left him blind. Thereupon still breathing and making free confession to the Lord, he invoked death, and at last, after acknowledging that he justly suffered these things on account of his violence against Christ, he gave up the ghost.
c. late 316 Eusebius, Vita Constantine 1.52 …this enemy of God, in a spirit the very reverse of his [Constantine’s], expelled thence all Christians subject to his authority. He banished those who had proved themselves his most faithful and devoted servants, and compelled others, on whom he had himself conferred honor and distinction as a reward for their former eminent services, to the performance of menial offices as slaves to others; and at length, being bent on seizing the property of all as a windfall for himself, he even threatened with death those who professed the Savior’s name.
317-c. 320 Eusebius, Vita Constantine 1.51-2.2 …he next enacted a law, to the effect that the bishops should never on any account hold communication with each other, nor should any one of them absent himself on a visit to a neighboring church; nor, lastly, should the holding of synods, or councils for the consideration of affairs of common interest, be permitted…Accordingly he passed a second law, which enjoined that men should not appear in company with women in the houses of prayer, and forbade women to attend the sacred schools of virtue, or to receive instruction from the bishops, directing the appointment of women to be teachers of their own sex…He ordered that the usual congregations of the people should be held in the open country outside the gates, alleging that the open air without the city was far more suitable for a multitude than the houses of prayer within the walls…These servile governors then, feeling assured that such a course would be pleasing to the impious tyrant, subjected the most distinguished prelates of the churches to capital punishment.
late 323 Eusebius, Vita Constantine 2.1 …[Licinius] endeavored by secret and limited measures to compass the death of the bishops, the most eminent of whom he found means to remove, through charges laid against them by the governors of the several provinces. And the manner in which they suffered had in it something strange, and hitherto unheard of. At all events, the barbarities perpetrated at Amasia of Pontus surpassed every known excess of cruelty.
25 December 323 Theodosian Code, 16.2.5 Whereas we have learned that certain ecclesiastics and others devoting their services to the Church have been compelled by men of different religions to the performance of lustral sacrifices, we decree by this sanction that, if any person should suppose that those who devote their services to the most sacred law may be forced to the ritual of an alien superstition, he shall be beaten publicly with clubs, provided that his legal status so permits. If, however, the consideration of his honorable rank protects him from such an outrage, he shall sustain the penalty of a very heavy fine, which shall be vindicated to the municipalities.
spring 324 Zosimus, New History 2.22 …and then came to Thessalonica, where having constructed a harbor (this city not possessing one before), he made new preparations for war against Licinius. For this purpose, he fitted out two hundred galleys of war; each with thirty oars, besides two thousand transport vessels, and raised a force of a hundred and twenty thousand foot, and ten thousand horsemen and sailors.
19 September 324

Translations revised from the Nicene/Post Nicene Father Series

Compiled and added by JRZ

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