Nero — In A.D. 64, fire ravaged Rome under the leadership of Emperor Nero. To direct the hatred of the people away from him, Nero blamed the fire on the Christians, thus sparking an intense, bloody persecution, probably resulting in the martyrdom of Peter and Paul.

Decius — In A.D. 250, the most violent persecution the church had yet faced was instigated by the emperor Decius (249-251). A general from the Danubian frontier, Decius was determined to have no nonsense from Christians. In his eyes, they were enemies of the empire. Their atheism was responsible for the many troubles in the realm. Thus, Decius commanded all citizens of the empire to sacrifice to the traditional Roman gods. Those who did so were given certificates (libelli) as evidence that they had obeyed the order. Those who refused to obey and were unable (or unwilling) to obtain false libelli faced death. An unknown number of Christians were executed and imprisoned and many more were tortured until death or denial of Christ. Origen was singled out for special attention. He was flung into prison, chained, and tortured. This persecution ended in 252 when Decius was killed battling the Goths.

Diocletian — Two years before the end of his reign, Emperor Diocletian ordered the most vicious of all persecutions of Christians. For eighteen years had paid no attention to Christians, but suddenly the old emperor ordered his army purged of Christians. Imperial edicts followed, commanding officials to destroy church buildings, prohibit Christian worship, and burn the Scriptures. Bishops were rounded up wholesale, imprisoned, tortured, and many put to death, while the power of the imperial throne was turned loose to wipe out the rest of the Christian community. When he abdicated in A.D. 305, he forced his fellow Augustus, Maximian, to do likewise.

Galerius — Shortly after the abdication of Dioclectian, this new Augustus in the east was more intent than ever on pushing ahead to the complete extermination of Christianity. Christians said that he was the original instigator of the purge. On his deathbed in A.D. 311, Galerius realized that his attempt to do away with the upstart religion had failed. In his last official act, Galerius issued an edict of toleration.

[tags]BlogRodent, church-history, ChurchRodent, Decius, Diocletian, Galerius, history, Nero, Origen, Persecution, Peter[/tags]


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