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The two edicts aimed at destroying the power of the church and emphasising its illegality were promulgated by the emperor and senate in July 257 and August 258. The first usually involved exile, or condemnation to the mines,80 the second, death. The authorities had no doubt now that Christianity was a religion openly hostile to the state. On 14 September 258, Cyprian, having been sent into comfortable exile at Curubis as a result of the first edict,81 was brought before the proconsul of Africa, the ailing Galerius Maximus. It was charged that he had 'lived long an irreligious life and drawn together a number of men bound by an unlawful association, and professed (himself) an open enemy ofthe gods and the religion of Rome'.82 Cyprian refused to 'conform to the Roman rites' and was executed the same day. The grounds for persecution could not be clearer. What the first martyrs in North Africa, the Scillitans, had confessed in July 180 and what Tertullian had proclaimed was so: Christianity could not be reconciled with the religion of the Roman gods. Were they or Christ to be the guardian of the empire?

In Alexandria, where Dionysius, bishop through two persecutions, was an eyewitness, we find the same conflict but without equally tragic results. His account of his interrogation by the deputy prefect, Aemilian, is preserved by Eusebius.83 After first forbidding the holding of Christian services, Aemilian conducted a reasonably civilised discussion with Dionysius and his priestly companions. But when Dionysius refused to worship 'the gods that preserve the empire and forget those gods that are contrary to nature', he was sent into exile to Cephro, an oasis in Libya. Characteristically, he built a large church there that became a centre of worship for Egyptian Christians. In Rome, pope Sixtus ii and four of his deacons met their deaths on 6 August 258 in cimiterio, probably the catacomb of Callistus.

The persecution, perhaps more severe in the west than in the east,84 was cut short by Valerian's capture and death at the hands of the Persians in a battle near the city of Edessa in June 260. His son, Gallienus, now sole ruler (260-8 ce), hastened 'by decrees (dia programmaton)' to end the persecution.85 One of these, addressed to the bishops in Egypt, has survived, restoring 'the places of worship to them' (i.e. to the Christian bishops) and ordering that 'none

80 See Cypr. Ep. 76-9; and Davies, 'Condemnation'.

81 Acta proconsularia of St Cyprian 1 (CSEL 3.3, pp. x-xiv); English translation in Stevenson and Frend, New Eusebius, no. 222, pp. 247-9.

82 Acta proconsularia 3-4 (CSEL 3.3, pp. xii-xiii).

84 Frend, Martyrdom and persecution, 427-8.

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