A favorable and propitious day was sought for carrying out the affair and the Terminalia feast days, which occur seven days before the Kalends of March,3 were selected especially, so that a terminus, as it were, should be placed on this religion. "That day was the first of death and it was first the cause of evils,"4 those which befell themselves and the world.
When this day dawned—one of the old men being consul for the eighth time, the other for the seventh— suddenly, while it was still not full daylight, the pre-feet came to the church with leaders and tribunes and officers of the treasury. They tore down the door and searched for a picture or image of God. When the Scriptures were found, they were burned. The chance
3 February 23.
4 Vergil, Aeneid 4.169-70.
for booty was given to all. There was pillaging, trepidation, running about all around.
The rulers themselves in their observatory-site (because the appointed church was visible as they looked up from the palace because of its high position) for a long time argued together whether it would be necessary for fire to be applied. Diocletian won, having a cautious attitude, lest part of the city be destroyed when a great conflagration (such as the persecution would warrant) should be set. For many great houses encircled the church on all sides.
So the praetorians came in a drawn up battle line with axes and other implements, and throwing these from all sides, they leveled that most outstanding temple to the ground in a few hours.
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