and there was no order yet for a general sacrifice.108 That was reserved for the spring of the following year with the fourth edict of persecution, which was the work of Diocletian's Caesar, Galerius.

In the meantime, a second and third edict had been promulgated, the second ordering the imprisonment of clergy, the third, coinciding with the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of Diocletian's reign (his vicennalia) in Rome in the summer of 303, releasing those who were prepared to sacrifice. Force was used to break the will of the reluctant.109 At first, matters seemed to be going well for the authorities. As Eusebius points out,110 the initial measures were aimed at bishops (and clergy) only. In North Africa, we hear of bishops either apostatising, such as Repostus of Abitina, prevaricating, like Paul of Cirta, or handing over heretical (Manichaean?) or spurious works, as did the primate, Mensurius of Carthage. In some towns such as Apthungi, in Byzacena, the bishops and local leaders of the city council were on friendly terms. In the spring of 304, however, the fourth edict, which demanded a general sacrifice by all, changed this and brought about what proved to be the final battle between the old and the new.

North Africa and Egypt, followed by Palestine, saw the most savage of the persecutions. In North Africa, lay Christians were willing to defy the authorities and court martyrdom. The most celebrated of these was Crispina, an upper class woman from Thagora in western Tunisia who was brought before the proconsul Annius Anulinus at Theveste. Despite every argument by the latter, not discourteously expressed, Crispina held firm to her faith, refused to sacrifice to the gods, and was beheaded with five supporters on 22 December 304.111 Her resting place became a centre of pilgrimage throughout the fourth century. In Carthage, forty-eight Christians caught celebrating the liturgy at Abitina after the apostasy of their bishop were imprisoned and had to contend with the hostility of the Carthaginian clergy as well as that of the authorities. In a step of the utmost significance for the future of the church in North Africa, these prisoners held a council in February 304, at which they decreed that none of those who collaborated with the authorities would have peace with the holy martyrs and participate in the joys of paradise with

108 Mort. 11; cf. Moreau's commentary (SC), vol. ii, 273. For death-dealing reprisals after a fire in the imperial palace allegedly started by Galerius, see Mort. 14.

109 Lactant. Div. inst. 5.9 and 11 (an eyewitness account of what he saw in Bithynia).

111 M. Crisp. The contrast between the relative patience of the administrators and the obstinate fervour ofthe confessors is highlighted in the martyrologies ofthis period.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment