should molest them'.86 In Rome, the Christians had not waited. As soon as the news of Valerian's capture had arrived, a new bishop, Dionysius (260-9 ce), was elected. 87
The vigour and self-assurance of this response were not confined to Rome. Forthe next forty-three years the church enjoyedpeace. There were occasional, isolated persecutions, but 'churches everywhere were at peace'.88 Though the historian lacks the close-knit documentation provided, for instance, by Cyprian's letters, literary and material evidence combine to show that this was aperiod of Christian advance through the empire, to a level that would frustrate Diocletian's hopes of destroying Christianity through the Great Persecution of 303-12.
In Rome itself, the catacombs tell the story. At the catacomb 'Aux deux lauriers', by 300 ce there were 11,000 burials over a two-kilometre area on the site, the majority of whom had been laid to rest in the previous fifty years.89 Other catacombs, such as those of Maximus, Pamphilius and Thrason, were newly constructed. That of Novatian (died c.258 ce) has yielded inscriptions dating from 266 and 270.90 In this period, pope Dionysius made regulations for the cemeteries under his jurisdiction, and it would seem that by the end of the century every titulus (parish) had its own cemetery.
Other sites, not least in Asia Minor, also provide evidence for the growth of Christianity. At Nicomedia, Diocletian's capital, an imposing church stood in full view of the imperial palace by 300. When Maximin entered the city in 311, he found that 'nearly all the inhabitants were Christians'.91 In Phrygia, cities such as Orcistus and Eumeneia were strongly Christian, and one unnamed town in the province was the scene of a massacre involving the entire population during the Great Persecution.92 Elsewhere, the city of Cirta in Numidia provides an example of the popular change of attitude towards the Christians. Whereas in 259 the confessors Marianus and Jacobus were hounded before the magistrates,93 fifty years later, Victor the fuller was prepared to offer 20 folles to become a presbyter.94
87 Before 20 July 260. See Marichal, 'Date des graffiti', 119.
89 Guyon, Cimitiere, 101.
90 See Stevenson, Catacombs, 33-4; for the 'vast development of catacombs', see 250-300.
93 M. Mar. 1, 2 and 5, 'blind madness of the pagans', and 'the blind and bloodthirsty prefect caused persecution'. The anti-pagan emphasis ofthis passio is exceptional.
94 Optatus, De schismate Donatistarum (see Optatus, Against the Donatists, Edwards (ed. and trans.), appendix, p. 194 (top)).
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