Persecution of Christianity by the Roman Empire

64 Nero's very brief, but bloody persecution,. Peter a possible victim.

67 Paul possibly martyred on outskirts of Rome due to mob violence.

111 Emperor Trajan tells Pliny not to seek out Christians for persecution.

163 Justin Martyr martyred

250 Decius (r.249-251) launched first empire-wide persecution. Magistrates were to seek out Christians and force them to sacrifice, with severe penalties for those who refused. Few martyrs, but bishops of Rome, Antioch, Jerusalem, Smyrna, Thyatira and Phygian Antioch all died.

251-253 Gallus let anti-Christian measures lapse.

257 Valerian (r.253-260) issues an edict that bans Christian meetings, with a death penalty for bishops who do not comply.

258 Valerian's 2nd persecution edict decrees summary execution of all clergy (with no possibility of recantation). Male nobility lost rank and property and had to give up either Christianity or their lives, while female nobility lost property and faced exile if they did not recant. The net had broadened from church leaders to social leaders.

258 Bishops Cyprian of Carthage and Sixtus of Rome martyred

260 Gallienus (r.260-268) issues Edict of Toleration, which makes Christianity a religio licta. He was a philosopher and Valerian's son.

297 Diocletian (r.284-305) begins persecution of the Manichaeans, probably because they came from Persia, the Empire's most dangerous enemy.

Feb. 303 The Great Persecution (of Christians) begun by Diocletian. Probably because the Christian-dominated East was in revolt. Diocletian's first persecution edict reiterated Valerian's 2nd edict, but without death penalties or measures against female nobility. It also called for the destruction of churches and Bibles, the removal of rank and property from wealthy Christians and the enslaving of Christian freemen.

Mar. 303 all clergy to be arrested.

Dec. 303 amnesty declared, but clergy were not released until they had sacrificed.

Apr. 304 Roman Senate issues edict (during Diocletian's illness) condemning all Christians to death (usually commuted to being sent to the mines).

305 Diocletian abdicates and Galerius intensifies persecution in East, while the Western persecution fizzles out as the West descends into civil war.

308 Year of Terror, the most vicious point in the persecution

311 Great persecution ends with Edict of Toleration, just before Galerius' death.

313 so-called Edict of Milan declares all religions (inc. Christianity) legal.


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