NPNF2-01 Eusebius 623
623 311 Eusebius doubtless refers here to the final council at which Paul was condemned, and which has been already mentioned in chaps. 29 and 30 (on its date, see chap. 29, note 1). That it is this particular council to which he refers is implied in the way in which it is spoken of,—as if referring to the well-known synod, of which so much has been said,—and still further by the fact that Eusebius, who had attended the first one (see (above, §5), and had then become bishop of Laodicea, was already dead.
312 Of Stephen, bishop of Laodicea, we know only what Eusebius tells us in this passage.
313 Theodotus, of whom Eusebius speaks in such high terms in this passage, was bishop of Laodicea for a great many years, and played a prominent part in the Arian controversy, being one of the most zealous supporters of the Arian cause (see (Theodoret, H. E. I. 5 and V. 7, and Athanasius de Synodis Arim. et Seleuc. I. 17). He was present at the Council of Nicaea (Labbe, Concil. II. 51), and took part in the council which deposed Eustathius of Antioch, in 330 (according to Theodoret, H. E. I. 21, whose account, though unreliable, is very likely correct so far as its list of bishops is concerned; on the council, see also p. 21, above). He was already dead in the year 341; for his successor, George, was present at the Council of Antioch (In Encaeniis), which was held in that year (see (Sozomen, H. E. III. 5, and cf. Hefele, Conciliengesch. 1P 502 sq).. We have no information that he was present at the Council of Tyre, in 335 (as is incorrectly stated by Labbe, who confounds Theodore of Heraclea with Theodotus; see Theodoret, H. E. I. 28). It is, therefore, possible that he was dead at that time, though his absence of course does not prove it. According to Socrates, H. E. II. 46, and Sozomen, H. E. VI. 25, Theodotus had trouble with the two Apolinarii, father and son, who resided at Antioch. We do not know the date of the younger Apolinarius’ birth (the approximate date, 335, given in the article in the Dict. of Christ. Biog. gross error), but we can hardly put it much earlier than 320, and therefore as he was a reader in the church, according to Socrates (Sozomen calls him only a youth) in the time of Theodotus, it seems best to put the death of the latter as late as possible, perhaps well on toward 340. The date of his accession is unknown to us; but as Eusebius says that he became bishop straightway after the fall of Stephen, we cannot well put his accession later than 311; so that he held office in all probability some thirty years. Venables’ article on Theodotus, in the Dict. of Christ. Biog. is a tissue of errors, caused by identifying Theodotus with Theodore of Heraclea (an error committed by Labbe before him) and with another Theodotus, present at the Council of Seleucia, in 359 (Athanasius, ibid. I. 12; cf. Hefele, Conciliengesch. 1P 713).
314 Qeodoto" “God-given.”
315 Of Agapius we know only what Eusebius tells us in this passage. He was the immediate predecessor of Eusebius in the church of Caesarea, and probably survived the persecution, but not for many years (see (above, p. 10 sq).. Eusebius speaks of him in the past tense, so that he was clearly already dead at the time this part of the History was written (i.e. probably in 313; see above, p. 45).
316 Pamphilus, a presbyter of Caesarea, was Eusebius’ teacher and most intimate friend, and after his death Eusebius showed his affection and respect for him by adopting his name, styling himself Eusebius Pamphili. He pursued his studies in Alexandria (according to Photius under Pierius more probably under Achillas the head of the catechetical school there; see below, notes 42 and 53), and conceived an unbounded admiration for Origen, the great light of that school, which he never lost. Pamphilus is chiefly celebrated for the library which he collected at Caesarea and to which Eusebius owes a large part of the materials of his history. Jerome also made extensive use of it. It was especially rich in copies of the Scripture, of commentaries upon it, and of Origen’s works (see (above, p. 38). He wrote very little, devoting himself chiefly to the study of Scripture, and to the transcription of mss. of it and of the works of Origen. During the last two years of his life, however, while in prison, he wrote with the assistance of Eusebius a Defense of Origen in five books, to which Eusebius afterward added a sixth (see (above, p. 36 sq).. During the persecution under Maximinus, he was thrown into prison by Urbanus, prefect of Caesarea, in 307, and after remaining two years in close confinement, cheered by the companionship of Eusebius, he was put to death by Firmilian, the successor of Urbanus, in 309, as recorded below, in the Martyrs of Palestine, chap. 11 (see (above, p. 9). The Life of Pamphilus which Eusebius wrote is no longer extant (see (above, p. 28). On Pamphilus, see Jerome, de vir. ill. chap. 75, and Photius, Cod. 118. See also the present volume, p. 5–9 passim.
317 On Eusebius’ Life of Pamphilus, see above p. 28 sq.
318 According to Jerome (de vir. ill. 76) Pierius was a presbyter and a teacher in Alexandria under the emperors Carus and Diocletian, while Theonas was bishop there (see (note 51, below), on account of the elegance of his writings was called “the younger Origen,” was skilled, moreover, in dialectics and rhetoric, lived an ascetic life, and passed his later years, after the persecution, in Rome. According to Photius, Cod. 118, he was at the head of the catechetical school of Alexandria, was the teacher of Pamphilus, and finally suffered martyrdom. Photius may be correct in the former statements. The last statement is at variance with Jerome’s distinct report which in the present instance at least is to be decidedly preferred to that of Photius. The first statement also is subject to grave doubt, for according to Eusebius (§30, below), Achillas, who was made presbyter at the same time as Pierius, and who lived until after the persecution (when he became bishop), was principal of the school. Eusebius’ statement must be accepted as correct, and in that case it is difficult to believe the report of Photius, both on account of Eusebius’ silence in regard to Pierius’ connection with the school, and also because if Pierius was principal of the school, he must apparently have given it up while he was still in Alexandria, or must have left the city earlier than Jerome says.It is more probable that Photius’ report is false and rests upon acombination of the accounts of Eusebius and Jerome. If both thefirst and third statements of Photius are incorrect, little faith can be placed on the second, which may be true, or which may be simply a combination of the known fact that Pamphilus studied in Alexandria with the supposed fact that Pierius was the principal of the catechetical school while he was there. It is quite as probable that Pamphilus studied with Achillas. Jerome tells us that a number of works (tractatuum)by Pierius were extant in his day, among them a long homily on Hosea (cf. also Jerome’s Comment. in Osee, prologus). In his second epistle to Pammachius (Migne, No. 49) Jerome refers also to Pierius’ commentary on First Corinthians, and quotes from it the words, “In saying this Paul openly preaches celibacy.” Photius, Cod. 119, mentions a work in twelve books, whose title he does not name, but in which he tells us Pierius had uttered some dangerous sentiments in regard to the Spirit, pronouncing him inferior to the Father and the Son. This work contained, according to Photius, a book on Luke’s Gospel, and another on the passover, and on Hosea. Pierius’ writings are no longer extant. The passages from Jerome’s epistle to Pammachius and from Photius, Cod. 119, are given, with notes, by Routh, Rel. Sac. 2d ed. III. 429 sq., and an English translation in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, VI. p. 157. Pierius was evidently a “younger Origen” in his theology as well as in his literary character, as we can gather from Photius’ account of him (cf. Harnack’s Dogmengesch. 1P 640).
319 A Meletius bishop of Sabastopolis, is mentioned by Philostorgius (H. E. I. 8) as in attendance upon the Council of Nicaea, and it is commonly assumed that this is the same one referred to here by Eusebius. But Eusebius’ words seem to me to imply clearly that the Meletius of whom he speaks was already dead at the time he wrote; and, therefore, if we suppose that Philostorgius is referring to the same man, we must conclude that he was mistaken in his statement, possibly confounding him with the later Meletius of Sebaste, afterwards of Antioch. Our Meletius is, however, doubtless to be identified with the orthodox Meletius mentioned in terms of praise by Athanasius, in his Ep. ad Episc.Aeg. §8, and by Basil in his De Spir. Sanct. chap. 29, §74. It is suggested by Stroth that Eusebius was a pupil of Meletius during the time that the latter was in Palestine, but this is not implied in Eusebius’ words (see (above, p. 5).
320 to meli th" Attikh", in allusion to Meletius’ name.
321 The majority of the mss. and editors read Zambda". A few mss. followed by Laemmer read Zabada", and a few others with Rufinus, both versions of the Chron. and Nicephorus Zabda". We know nothing about this bishop, except what is told us here and in the Chron., where he is called the thirty-eighth bishop (Jerome calls him the thirty-seventh, but incorrectly according to his own list), and is said to have entered upon his office in the fifteenth year of Diocletian (Armen. fourteenth), i.e. in 298. Hermon succeeded him three years later, according to Jerome; two years later, according to the Armenian version.
624 322 In chap. 14. See note 11 on that chapter.
323 According to Jerome’s version of the Chron., Hermon became bishop in the eighteenth year of Diocletian, a.d. 301; according to the Armenian, in the sixteenth year. The accession of his successor Macharius is put by Jerome in the eighth year of Constantine, a.d. 312. Eusebius’ words seem to imply that Hermon was still bishop at the time he was writing, though it is not certain that he means to say that. Jerome’s date may be incorrect, but is probably not far out of the way. Of Hermon himself we know nothing more.
324 See above, chap. 19.
325 On Maximus, see chap. 28, note 10.
326 On Dionysius the Great, see especially Bk. VI. chap. 40, note 1.
327 According to Jerome’s Chron., Theonas became bishop in the sixth year of Probus (281 a.d.); according to the Armenian, in the first year of Numerian and Carinus, i.e. a year later. Both agree with the Historyin assigning nineteen years to his episcopate. An interesting and admirable epistle is extant addressed to Lucian, the chief chamberlain of the emperor, and containing advice in regard to the duties of his position, which is commonly and without doubt correctly ascribed to Theonas. The name of the emperor is not given, but all of the circumstances point to Diocletian, who had a number of Christians in influential positions in his household during the earlier years of his reign. The epistle, which is in Latin (according to some a translation of a Greek original), is given by Routh, Rel. Sac. III. 439–445, and an English translation is contained in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, VI. p. 158–161.
328 The character given to Achillas by Eusebius is confirmed by Athanasius, who calls him “the great Achillas” (in his Epistle to the Bishops of Egypt, §23). He succeeded Peter as bishop of Alexandria (Epiphanius makes him the successor of Alexander, but wrongly, for the testimony of Athanasius, to say nothing of Jerome, Socrates, and other writers, is decisive on this point; see Athanasius’ Apology against the Arians, §§11 and 59, and Epist. to the Bishops of Egypt, §23), but our authorities differ as to the date of his accession and the length of his episcopate. Eusebius, in this chapter, §31, puts the death of Peter in the ninth year of the persecution 311–312), and with this Jerome agrees in his Chron., and there can be no doubt as to the correctness of the report. But afterwards, quite inconsistently (unless it be supposed that Achillas became bishop before Peter’s death, which, in the face of Eusebius’ silence on the subject, is very improbable), Jerome puts the accession of Achillas into the fifth year of Constantine, a.d. 309. Jerome commits another error in putting the accession of his successor, Alexander, in the sixteenth year of Constantine (a.d. 320); for Alexander’s controversy with Arius (see (above, p. 11 sq). can hardly have broken out later than 318 or 319, and it would appear that Alexander had been bishop already some time when that took place. Theodoret (H. E. I. 2) states that Achillas ruled the church but a short time, and with him agrees Epiphanius (Haer. LXIX. 11), who says that he held office but three months. The casual way in which Achillas is spoken of in all our sources, most of which mention him only in passing from Peter to Alexander, would seem to confirm Theodoret’s report, and Alexander’s accession may, therefore, be put not long after 311.
329 th" iera" pistew" to didaskaleion. Eusebius refers here to the famous catechetical school of Alexandria (upon which, see above, Bk. V. chap. 10, note 2). The appointment of Achillas to the principalship of this school would seem to exclude Pierius, who is said by Photius to have been at the head of it (see (above, note 42).
330 Peter is mentioned again in Bk. VIII. chap. 13, and in Bk. IX. chap. 6, and both times in the highest terms. In the latter passage his death is said to have taken place by order of Maximinus, quite unexpectedly and without any reason. This was in the ninth year of the persecution, as we learn from the present passage (i.e. Feb. 311 to Feb. 312, or according to Eusebius own reckoning, Mar. or Apr. 311 to Mar. or Apr. 312; see below Bk. VII. chap. 2, note o), and evidently after the publication of the toleration edict of Galerius, when the Christians were not looking for any further molestation (see (below, Bk. VIII. chap. 14, note 2). According to this passage, Peter was bishop less than three years before the outbreak of the persecution, and hence he cannot have become bishop before the spring of 300. On the other hand since he died as early as the spring of 312, and was bishop twelve years he must have become bishop not later than the spring of 300, and he must have died not long before the spring of 312, and even then, if Eusebius’ other statements are exact, it is impossible to make his episcopate fully twelve years in length. The date thus obtained for his accession is in accord with the dates given for the episcopate of his predecessor Theonas (see above, note 51). Jerome puts his accession in the nineteenth year of Diocletian (a.d. 302), but this is at variance with his own figures in connection with Theonas, and is plainly incorrect.Fourteen Canons, containing detailed directions in regard to the lapsed were drawn up by Peter in 306 (see (the opening sentence of the first canon), and are still extant. They are published in all collections of canons and also in numerous other works. See especially Routh’s Rel. Sac. IV. p. 23 sq. An English translation is given in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, VI. p. 269–278. Brief fragments of other works—On the Passover, On the Godhead, On the Advent of the Saviour, On the Soul, and the beginning of an epistle addressed to the Alexandrians—are given by Routh, ibid. p. 45 sq. These fragments, together with a few others of doubtful origin, given by Gallandius and Mai, are translated in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, ibid. p. 280–283. In the same volume (p. 261–268) are given The Genuine Ac of Peter, containing an account of his life and martyrdom. These, however, are spurious and historically quite worthless.Peter seems, to judge from the extant fragments, to have been in the main an Origenist, but to have departed in some important respects from the teachings of Origen, especially on the subject of anthropology (cf. Harnack’s Dogmengesch. 1P 644). The famous Meletian schism took its rise during the episcopate of Peter (see (Athanasius, Apology against the Arians, §59).
331 Diocletian’s edict decreeing the demolition of the churches was published in February, 303. See Bk. VIII. chap. 2, note 3).
1 Literally, “the succession of the apostles” (thn twn apostolwn diadochn).
625 2 ta" twn eqnwn hgemonia".
3 gametai". Prisca, the wife, and Valeria, the daughter, of Diocletian, and the wife of Galerius, were very friendly to the Christians, and indeed there can be little doubt that they were themselves Christians, or at least catechumens, though they kept the fact secret and sacrificed to the gods (Lactantius, De mort. pers. 15) when all of Diocletian’s household were required to do so, after the second conflagration in the palace (see (Mason’s Persecution of Diocletian, p. 40, 121 sq).. It is probable in the present case that Eusebius is thinking not simply of the wives of Diocletian and Galerius, but also of all the women and children connected in any way with the imperial household.
4 Of this Dorotheus we know only what is told us here and in chap. 6, below, where it is reported that he was put to death by strangling. It might be thought at first sight that he is to be identified with the Dorotheus mentioned above in Bk. VII. chap. 32, for both lived at the same time, and the fact that the Dorotheus mentoned there was a eunuch would fit him for a prominent station in the emperor’s household. At the same time he is said by Eusebius to have been made superintendent of the purple dye house at Tyre, and nothing is said either as to his connection with the household of the emperor or as to his martyrdom; nor is the Dorotheus mentioned in this chapter said to have been a presbyter. In fact, inasmuch as Eusebius gives no hint of the identity of the two men, we must conclude that they were different persons in spite of the similarity of their circumstances.
5 Of Gorgonius, who is mentioned also in chap. 6, we know only that he was one of the imperial household, and that he was strangled, in company with Dorotheus and others, in consequence of the fires in the Nicomedian palace. See chap. 6, note 3.
6 apodoch". A few mss., followed by Stephanus, Valesius, Stroth, Burton, and most translators, add the words kai qerapeia" kai dexiwsew" ou th" tucoush", but the weight of ms. authority is against them, and they are omitted by the majority of editors).
7 (Lm 2,1, Lm 2,2 Lm 2,
8 (Ps lxxxix. 39–45.
9 (Ps 107,40 Ps 107,
10 Gibbon uses this passage as the basis for his severe attack upon the honesty of Eusebius (Decline and Fall, chap. 16), but he has certainly done our author injustice (cf. the remarks made on p. 49, above).
11 Diocletian began to reign Sept. 17, 284, and therefore his nineteenth year extended from Sept. 17, 302, to Sept. 16, 303. Eusebius is in agreement with all our authorities in assigning this year for the beginning of the persecution, and is certainly correct. In regard to the month, however, he is not so accurate. Lactantius, who was in Nicomedia at the time of the beginning of the persecution, and certainly much better informed than Eusebius in regard to the details, states distinctly (in his De mort. pers. chap. 12) that the festival of the god Terminus, the seventh day before the Kalends of March (i.e. Feb. 23), was chosen by the emperors for the opening of the persecution, and there is no reason for doubting his exact statement. At the beginning of the Martyrs of Palestine (p. 342, below) the month Xanthicus (April) is given as the date, but this is still further out of the way. It was probably March or even April before the edicts were published in many parts of the empire, and Eusebius may have been misled by that fact, not knowing the exact date of their publication in Nicomedia itself. We learn from Lactantius that on February 23d the great church of Nicomedia, together with the copies of Scripture found in it, was destroyed by order of the emperors, but that the edict of which Eusebius speaks just below was not issued until the following day. For a discussion of the causes which led to the persecution of Diocletian see below, p. 397.
12 Dustro", the seventh month of the Macedonian year, corresponding to our March. See the table on p. 403, below.
626 13 Valesius (ad locum) states, on the authority of Scaliger and Petavius, that Easter fell on April 18th in the year 303. I have not attempted to verify the statement.
14 This is the famous First Edict of Diocletian, which is no longer extant, and the terms of which therefore have to be gathered from the accounts of Eusebius and Lactantius. The interpretation of the edict has caused a vast deal of trouble. It is discussed very fully by Mason in his important work, The Persecution of Diocletian, p. 105 sq. and p. 343 sq. As he remarks, Lactantius simply describes the edict in a general way, while Eusebius gives an accurate statement of its substance, even reproducing its language in part. The first provision (that the churches be leveled to the ground) is simply a carrying out of the old principle, that it was unlawful for the Christians to hold assemblies, under a new form. The second provision, directed against the sacred books, was entirely new, and was a very shrewd move, revealing at the same time an appreciation on the part of the authors of the persecution of the important part which the Scriptures occupied in the Christian Church. The third provision, as Mason has pointed out, is a substantial reproduction of a part of the edict of Valerian, and was evidently consciously based upon that edict. (Upon the variations from the earlier edict, see Mason, p. 115 sq). It is noticeable that not torture nor death is decreed, but only civil degradation. This degradation, as can be seen from a comparison with the description of Lactantius (ibid. chap. 13) and with the edict of Valerian (given in Cyprian’s Epistle to Successus, Ep. No. 81, al. 80), consisted, in the case of those who held public office (timh" epeilhmmenou"), in the loss of rank and also of citizenship; that is, they fell through two grades, as is pointed out by Mason. In the interpretation of the fourth provision, however, Mason does not seem to me to have been so successful. The last clause runs tou" de en oiketiai", ei epimenoien th tou cristianismou proqesei eleuqeria" stereisqai. The difficult point is the interpretation of the tou" en oiketiai". The words usually mean “household slaves,” and are commonly so translated in this passage. But, as Valesius remarks, there is certainly no sense then in depriving them of freedom (eleuqeria) which they do not possess. Valesius consequently translates plebeii, “common people,” and Mason argues at length for a similar interpretation (p. 344 sq)., looking upon these persons as common people, or individuals in private life, as contrasted with the officials mentioned in the previous clause. The only objection, but in my opinion a fatal objection, to this attractive interpretation is that it gives the phrase oi en oiketiai" a wider meaning than can legitimately be applied to it. Mason remarks: “The word oiketia means, and is here a translation of, familia; oi en oiketiai" means ii qui in familiis sunt,—not graceful Latin certainly, but plainly signifying ‘those who live in private households.0’ Now in private households there lived not only slaves, thank goodness, but free men too, both as masters and as servants; therefore in the phrase tou" en oiketiai" itself there is nothing which forbids the paraphrase ‘private persons.0’” But I submit that to use so clumsy a phrase, so unnecessary a circumlocution, to designate simply private people in general—oi polloi—would be the height of absurdity. The interpretation of Stroth (which is approved by Heinichen) seems to me much more satisfactory. He remarks: “Das Edict war zunächst nur gegen zwei Klassen von Leuten gerichtet, einmal gegen die, welche in kaiserlichen Aemtern standen, und dann gegen die freien oder freigelassenen Christen, welche bei den Kaisern oder ihren Hofleuten und Statthaltern in Diensten standen, und zu ihrem Hausgesinde gehörten.” This seems to me more satisfactory, both on verbal and historical grounds. The words oi en oiketiai" certainly cannot, in the present case, mean “household slaves,” but they can mean servants, attendants, or other persons at court, or in the households of provincial officials, who did not hold rank as officials, but at the same time were freemen born, or freedmen, and thus in a different condition from slaves. Such persons would naturally be reduced to slavery if degraded at all, and it is easier to think of their reduction to slavery than of that of the entire mass of Christians not in public office. Still further, this proposition finds support in the edict of Valerian, in which this class of people is especially mentioned. And finally, it is, in my opinion, much more natural to suppose that this edict (whose purpose I shall discuss on p. 399) was confined to persons who were in some way connected with official life,—either as chiefs or assistants or servants,—and therefore in a position peculiarly fitted for the formation of plots against the government, than that it was directed against Christians indiscriminately. The grouping together of the two classes seems to me very natural; and the omission of any specific reference to bishops and other church officers, who are mentioned in the second edict, is thus fully explained, as it cannot be adequately explained, in my opinion, on any other ground.
15 As we learn from chap. 6, §8, the edict commanding the church officers to be seized and thrown into prison followed popular uprisings in Melitene and Syria, and if Eusebius is correct, was caused by those outbreaks. Evidently the Christians were held in some way responsible for those rebellious outbursts (possibly they were a direct consequence of the first edict), and the natural result of them must have been to make Diocletian realize, as he had not realized before, that the existence of such a society as the Christian Church within the empire—demanding as it did supreme allegiance from its members—was a menace to the state. It was therefore not strange that what began as a purely political thing, as an attempt to break up a supposed treasonable plot formed by certain Christian officials, should speedily develop into a religious persecution. The first step in such a persecution would naturally be the seizure of all church officers (see (below, p. 397 sq)..The decrees of which Eusebius speaks in this paragraph are evidently to be identified with the one mentioned in chap. 6, §8. This being so, it is clear that Eusebius’ account can lay no claims to chronological order. This must be remembered, or we shall fall into repeated difficulties in reading this eighth book. We are obliged to arrange the order of events for ourselves, for his account is quite desultory, and devoid both of logical and chronological sequence. The decrees or writings (grammata) mentioned in this paragraph constituted really but one edict (cf. chap. 6, §8), which is known to us as the Second Edict of Diocletian. Its date cannot be determined with exactness, for, as Mason remarks, it may have been issued at any time between February and November; but it was probably published not many months after the first, inasmuch as it was a result of disturbances which arose in consequence of the first. Mason is inclined to place it in March, within a month after the issue of the first, but that seems to me a little too early. In issuing the edict Diocletian followed the example of Valerian in part, and yet only in part; for instead of commanding that the church officers be slain, he commanded only that they be seized. He evidently believed that he could accomplish his purpose best by getting the leading men of the church into his hands and holding them as hostages, while denying them the glory of martyrdom (cf. Mason, p. 132 sq).. The persons affected by the edict, according to Eusebius, were “all the rulers of the churches” (tou" twn ekklhsiwn proedrou" panta"; cf. also Mart. Pal. Introd., §2). In chap. 6, §8, he says tou" pantacose twn ekklhsiwn proestwta". These words would seem to imply that only the bishops were intended, but we learn from Lactantius (De mort. pers. 15) that presbyters and other officers (presbyteri ac ministri) were included, and this is confirmed, as Mason remarks (p. 133, note), by the sequel. We must therefore take the words used by Eusebius in the general sense of “church officers.” According to Lactantius, their families suffered with them (cum omnibus suis deducebantur), but Eusebius says nothing of that.
16 We learn from Lactantius (l.c.)that the officers of the church,under the terms of the second edict, were thrown into prison without any option being given them in the matter of sacrificing. They were not asked to sacrifice, but were imprisoned unconditionally. This was so far in agreement with Valerian’s edict, which had decreed the instant death of all church officers without the option of sacrificing. But as Eusebius tells us here, they were afterwards called upon to sacrifice, and as he tells us in the first paragraph of the next chapter, multitudes yielded, and that of course meant their release, as indeed we are directly told in chap. 6, §10. We may gather from the present passage and from the other passages referred to, taken in connection with the second chapter of the Martyrs of Palestine, that this decree, ordaining their release on condition of sacrificing, was issued on the occasion of Diocletian’s Vicennalia, which were celebrated in December, 303, on the twentieth anniversary of the death of Carus, which Diocletian reckoned as the beginning of his reign, though he was not in reality emperor until the following September. A considerable time, therefore, elapsed between the edict ordaining the imprisonment of church officers and the edict commanding their release upon condition of sacrificing. This latter is commonly known as Diocletian’s Third Edict, and is usually spoken of as still harsher than any that preceded it. It is true that it did result in the torture of a great many,—for those who did not sacrifice readily were to be compelled to do so, if possible,—but their death was not aimed at. If they would not sacrifice, they were simply to remain in prison, as before. Those who did die at this time seem to have died under torture that was intended, not to kill them, but to bring about their release. As Mason shows, then, this third edict was of the nature of an amnesty; was rather a step toward toleration than a sharpening of the persecution. The prisons were to be emptied, as was customary on such great occasions, and the church officers were to be permitted to return to their homes, on condition that they should sacrifice. Inasmuch as they had not been allowed to leave prison on any condition before, this was clearly a mark of favor (see (Mason, p. 206 sq).. Many were released even without sacrificing, and in their desire to empty the prisons, the governors devised various expedients for freeing at least a part of those who would not yield (cf. the instances mentioned in the next chapter). At the same time, some governors got rid of their prisoners by putting them to death, sometimes simply by increasing the severity of the tortures intended to try them, sometimes as a penalty for rash or daring words uttered by the prisoners, which were interpreted as treasonable, and which, perhaps, the officials had employed their ingenuity, when necessary, to elicit. Thus many might suffer death, under various legal pretenses, although the terms of the edict did not legally permit death to be inflicted as a punishment for Christianity. The death penalty was not decreed until the issue of the Fourth Edict (see (below, Mart. Pal. chap.3, note 2).
17 murioi d alloi. See the previous chapter, note 8.
18 i.e. those who, when freedom was offered them on condition of sacrificing, refused to accept it at that price. It was desirous that the prisons which had for so long been filled with these Christian prisoners (see (chap. 6, §9) should, if possible, be cleared; and this doubtless combined with the desire to break the stubbornness of the prisoners to promote the use of torture at this time.
19 See the previous chapter, note 8).
21 In the Chron. we are told of a commander by name Veturius, who is doubtless to be identified with the one referred to here. Why Eusebius does not give his name in the History, we do not know. There seems to be contempt in the phrase, “whoever he was,” and it may be that he did not consider him worth naming. In Jerome’s version of the Chron. (sixteenth year of Diocletian) we read: Veturius magister militiae Christianos milites persequitur, paulatim ex illo jam tempore persecutione adversum nos incipiente; in the Armenian (fourteenth year): Veturius magister militiae eos qui in exercitu Christiani erant, clanculum opprimebat atque ex hoc inde tempore ubique locorum persecutio se extendit. Evidently the occurrence took place a few years before the outbreak of the regular persecution, but the exact date cannot be determined. It is probable, moreover, from the way in which Eusebius refers to the man in the History that he was a comparatively insignificant commander, who took the course he did on his own responsibility. At least, there is no reason to connect the act with Diocletian and to suppose it ordered by him. All that we know of his relation to the Christians forbids such a supposition. There may have been some particular occasion for such a move in the present instance, which evidently affected only a small part of the army, and resulted in only a few deaths (see (the next paragraph). Perhaps some insubordination was discovered among the Christian soldiers, which led the commander to be suspicious of all of them, and hence to put the test to them,—which was always in order,—to prove their loyalty. It is plain that he did not intend to put any of them to death, but only to dismiss such as refused to evince their loyalty by offering the customary sacrifices. Some of the Christian soldiers, however, were not content with simple dismission, but in their eagerness to evince their Christianity said and did things which it was impossible for any commander to overlook (cf. the instances given by Mason, p. 41 sq).. It was such soldiers as these that suffered death; and they of course were executed, not because they were Christians, but because they were insubordinate. Their death was brought on themselves by their foolish fanaticism; and they have no claim to be honored as martyrs, although Eusebius evidently regarded them as such.
22 We should rather say “for their rash and unjustifiable fanaticism.”
23 In this sentence reference is made to the general persecution, which did not begin until some time after the events recorded in the previous paragraphs.
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