Talk:Diocletianic Persecution

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It is really hard to believe that the ultimate cause for the persecution was a religious one, taking into account that there was no other religious persecution during 600 years of Rome history. E.g, all the persecutions against jews had a political reason, namely the dominion over Palestina, so there was no war against jews, but against a rebel province.

I don't remember where now, so I cannot be sure, I have read that the ultimate reason was an economical one, concerning taxes. Maybe somebody could clarify this or explain what religious reasons really caused the persecutions.

It is stupid to think that one day Diocletian said: "well, I don't like the colour of that limber, I will kill 3.000 christians, therefore. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 14:11, 27 March 2007 (UTC).

I think it's entirely plausible that shear hatred of Christians could have been a major cause of the persecution. The Roman Empire had exterminated the Druids of Gaul and Britain in the era before, (though one could argue this was for political reasons too, but when so many people are arbitrarily massacred, one has to ask whether this makes much difference). There are too many examples of persecution for totally irrational reasons to totally discount prejudice as a major cause. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:56, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

I think that important element was ideological background of Roman empire (the divine carather of emperor and Christian views on it).--Vojvodae 19:37, 7 June 2009 (UTC)
In case anyone else comes here with these ideas, you need to remember we're dealing with the Ancient World here - not 21st Century US or Europe! The concept of a separation between Church and State, as is currently argued in the US simply did not apply to the Ancients. The Romans did not make a distinction between religion and politics. Augustus made a great point about restoring temples, and restoring traditional religious practices, and the Roman concept that they were superior to others in terms of their piety (i.e. a correct attitude to the gods) was often held to be the reasons why the Romans were justly fitted out to be the rulers of the world. This link had become even stronger by the time of Diocletian, who had ended roughly half a century of chaos and civil war, and defeat at the hands of external enemies, and was determined to restore a fractured society and empire. Hence the fact that he, as senior emperor, was personally associated with Jupiter, the King of the gods. This was both politics and religion: politics in that it makes disobeying and plotting against the emperor an act of sacrilege, but religion in that it is evoking the power of the chief of the gods for the protection of the State. So by opposing those who do not cooperate, he is attacking disloyal citizens, and seeking favor of the gods whom it is believed protect the State from its enemies both internal and external.
There were two major reasons why the persecution was so strong on this occasion, aside from personal prejudices of the leaders. The first was that the State was under stress. The Empire had come very close to collapse in the years from 260-270, beset by a combination of internal revolt, secession and external invasion. The second was that the number of Christians had grown dramatically, particularly in the east of the empire, which was the richest part, and where Diocletian had chosen to establish his headquarters. In the 1st and 2nd Centuries, there weren't enough Christians about to interest the Imperial Government enough for specific laws against them. They also tended to be slaves, ex-slaves, and other poor people of little consequence. As pointed out in the article, by the time of Diocletian, there were considerable numbers of Christians amongst the wealthy elite, people who couldn't simply be ignored. We are talking about a world where religion and politics were not separate things; where the unalterable minimal requirement of the State was to offer sacrifices to the state cult (and the state itself), which Christians were singularly forbidden to do. The Jews were an ancient people, and had an exemption for this. Also prior to the revolt of 66, the Priests of the Temple in Jerusalem offered up daily sacrifices to God for the Emperor and the Empire. The Jews also did not, as a rule, try to convert pagan Romans to their ways. Hence they weren't seen as a threat in the same way - but the Jews WERE expelled from the city of Rome in the 40's to restore Rome to its "traditions", so there were limits to the toleration of the Jews in the Roman World. Christians were not an ancient group, and not only refused to loyally worship the state and its gods, but tried to "snare" loyal citizens away from their duties to the gods and state (in the eyes of the authorities) into their own ways. This made them a double threat. So yes, Diocletian, was one day persuaded that he needed to use the full power of the state to snuff out this threat, for reasons which were simultaneously religious and political. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:21, 24 February 2014 (UTC)


It's not that Diocletian didn't persecute Manichaeans—he did—it's just that he didn't persecute them during the period following February 24 303. In any case, mention of the persecutions of Manichaeans should probably be dropped in somewhere in the first body paragraph, beside the description of Diocletian compelling Christians in the army to sacrifice. Geuiwogbil (Talk) 09:11, 27 January 2008 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the proposal was no consensus to support move. JPG-GR (talk) 16:06, 16 September 2008 (UTC)

Diocletianic PersecutionGreat Persecution

  1. Almost everyone Everyone calls it this: Check the CAH XII p.647, or Williams, p.173, or Corcoran, Empire of the Tetrarchs, p.6, Barnes' Sossianus Hierocles and the Antecedents of the "Great Persecution" or Rees' Diocletian and the Tetrarchy; even when people disapprove of whatever implicit suggestions they see in the term, they still use it. They just put "scare quotes" around it (see Rees, Corcoran, Barnes). There is no other generally-accepted term for this concept; "Diocletianic Persecution" is a neologism.
  2. The persecution was not Diocletian's alone. The traditional (Lactantian) narrative has it that Galerius pressured D into the persecution. Furthermore, when treating with Diocletian's persecution, one usually also treats with Licinius' persecution, which would, again, make these persecutions not solely "Diocletianic". Also: Diocletian persecuted the Manichees, but that's usually considered separately, or simply as an antecedent of this, the "Great" persecution.


  1. Almost no one No one uses the term "Diocletianic Persecution" to define the matter for study.
  2. Not all of Diocletian's persecutions are covered by the subject matter of the "Great Persecution" as traditionally defined.
  3. Not all persecutions covered by the subject matter of the "Great Persecution" as traditionally defined are strictly 'Diocletianic'.


4. I'd like to move the page. I'd do it by fiat but the content (read: redirect) on "Great Persecution" prevents me from doing so. — Geuiwogbil (Talk) 16:15, 3 September 2008 (UTC)


Feel free to state your position on the renaming proposal by beginning a new line in this section with *'''Support''' or *'''Oppose''', then sign your comment with ~~~~. Since polling is not a substitute for discussion, please explain your reasons, taking into account Wikipedia's naming conventions.


Any additional comments:

Not a neologism; see here for "Veturius" and the Beginnings of the Diocletianic Persecution. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 19:11, 3 September 2008 (UTC)

Aye, I was about to correct myself here. You notice, though, that the term "Great Persecution" is still far more common. Compare: Diocletianic persecution (87) and "Great Persecution" Diocletian (429). Geuiwogbil (Talk) 20:06, 3 September 2008 (UTC)
Even Woods himself uses the term elsewhere: [1] and [2].Geuiwogbil (Talk) 20:13, 3 September 2008 (UTC)
I'm not unsympathetic, and I note that Peter Brown, doctor clarissimus, uses the term. The questions are whether Great Persecution is POV, which is probably quibbling, and whether it is genuinely ambiguous. Some of the 1010 uses of "Great Persecution" without Dicletian mean something else, most obviously the Restoration persecution of Presbyterianism. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 22:15, 3 September 2008 (UTC)
If it were the case (and I'm willing to accept it if it is, although it would surprise me), then shouldn't "Great Persecution" be a disambiguation, and not a redirect? We obviously don't have an article on Presbyterianism/Dissenters/Puritanism in England (1660–1688) or Restoration persecution of Presbyterians/Dissenters/Puritans, which would be suitable targets for that disambiguation, though. (Are we in the habit of making disambiguation pages for not-yet-existent pages? Also interesting to note: Although Restoration is a disambiguation page, The Restoration redirects to English Restoration, and not, you know, Bourbon Restoration) Hmm. I'm less sure on this than I was before. It's still not an entirely Diocletianic Persecution, whatever other "Great" Persecutions there might be. Geuiwogbil (Talk) 23:51, 3 September 2008 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Some foreign language (or otherwise inaccessible) sources[edit]

If anyone is fluent in these languages, has access to these sources, and is interested in this topic, the following sources may contribute some new information to this article (from Annemarie Luijendijk's "Papyri from the Great Persecution: Roman and Christian Perspectives," Journal of Early Christian Studies 16:3 (2008): 342f):

  • Karl-Heinz Schwarte, "Diokletians Christengesetz," in E fontibus haurire. Beiträge zur römischen Geschichte und zu ihren Hilfswissenschaften, ed. Rosmarie Günther and Stefan Rebenich, Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur des Altertums 8 (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1994), 203–40.
  • Werner Portmann, "Zu den Motiven der diokletianischen Christenverfolgung," Historia 39 (1990): 212–48.
  • Frank Kolb, "Chronologie und Ideologie der Tetrarchie," Antiquité tardive 3 (1995): 21–31.
  • Hippolyte Delehaye, "Les Martyrs d’Égypte," AB 40 (1922): 5–154 and 299–364.
  • "The Coptic Martyr Cult," in Martyrium in multidisciplinary perspective. Memorial Louis Reekmans, ed. M. Lamberigts and P. van Deun, BETL 117 (Leuven: Leuven University Press/Peeters, 1995), 377–95.
  • Arietta Papaconstantinou, Le culte des saints en Égypte des Byzantins aux Abbassides. L’apport des inscriptions et des papyrus grecs et coptes, Le monde byzantin (Paris: CNRS, 2001).
  • Hans Hauben, "The Melitian 'Church of the Martyrs,'" in Ancient History in a Modern University 2: Early Christianity, Late Antiquity and Beyond. Proceedings of a Conference held at Macquarie University, 8–13 July 1993, ed. T. W. Hillard, R. A. Kearsley, C. E. V. Nixon, and A. M. Nobbs, Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, Macquarie University, N. S. W., Australia (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 329–49. Geuiwogbil (Talk) 22:41, 15 June 2009 (UTC)
  • AnneMarie Luijendijk, Greetings in the Lord: Early Christians and the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Harvard Theological Studies 60. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Divinity School, 2008, via BMCR. G.W. (Talk) 09:22, 4 April 2010 (UTC)

Thanks! Geuiwogbil (Talk) 22:41, 15 June 2009 (UTC)

Lede and Legacy[edit]

Please revert if you dont like the change, but I thought it would be good if the opening sentance advises the dates that span the persectution - one of the first things a reader will likely be looking for. Cambridge professor Owen Chadwick unambiguously states this was 303 - 311 on p287 of his book, where he also says it ended in 305 in the West - both of these facts are supported by later statements in your article. He also says on p287 that they were more intense in the East from 305 -311. I still think the lede should explicity state the pov that the persecution resulted in schism , not just division. Division is pretty much as inevitable result of perseuction and can later be followed with reconciliation, much less likely to happen with Schism , which is why Schism is far more significant for the legacy. (I accept some readers might consider schism just a more intense form of division.) . One last thing I think would be nice, is if you mentioned the very pleasing fact that the administrative sub divisions created by Diocletian, known as Diocese , began to be rightfully taken over by Bishops within a few decades of the persecution :-)

On p35 of the Owen Chadwick book he says intense persecution invariably leads to schism, but he doesnt specifically link the Diocletian persecution to any particular schism. Hopefully some other reference will come up for this, assuming you wont use the web link. For the christian, two classic sources treating martyrs as martyrs are Foxes "Book of Martyrs" and Butlers "Lives of the Saints" , they both address Diocletian, maybe you could find something useful on google books? . Yesterday I changed the "ultimatly a failiure" line to "failed to check the rise of the church". I think that fits in with the paragraph quite well, but maybe later on you could empathsise a little more strongly that Diocletian's purpose wasnt so much to eliminate christianity as to try and get them to make at least token obesiances to the official faith, which just about every other group did except the Jews. FeydHuxtable (talk) 13:00, 17 June 2009 (UTC)

See Donatists for the schism. That Feyd has missed the reference suggests a mention in the lead may be helpful. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 18:55, 21 June 2009 (UTC)
I've added a reference in the lead. To address Feyd's concern, they are called "schisms". Feyd, I took your phrasing on the "failure" sentence, but object to most of your other changes of the lead, which ignore the diversity of the persecution's application. Maximinus' persecution continued (on a large scale) after 311, and was not halted until Licinius ousted him. Diocletian's divisions of the Empire didn't result in any lasting division between East and West; they were assignments of convenience only, and would be moved, fractured, or broken down further as the Tetrarchy shifted form. I hope you aren't trying to give anyone the impression that the Diocletianic Persecutions resulted in the East-West Schism of 1054. Your happy little fact is pleasantly ironic, but I don't think I have a good place to put it. It doesn't connect all that closely with any facts of the persecution, and could easily be replaced by any other fact of Christianization. My choice was Constantine's demolition of the Imperial Horse Guard barracks to make way for the Lateran Basilica.
I'm not really searching for more content to add, so I don't think Foxe and Butler would help me much. They possess neither the immediacy and vitality of the earliest sources, nor the sobriety and even-handedness of the most recent. They could only add coloring at the moment, and I believe their colorings are quite out of fashion. Chadwick, on the other hand, would be quite useful. If he dates the end of the "Great Persecution" (whatever that is) to 311, it might be the "Consensus Date" or whatever. Most of my sources don't speak of the "Great Persecution", just of "persecution".
I think that language changes might help in re: "token obeisances". Perhaps I should also add a small aside to the effect that pagan religion was all about concrete acts, while Christians emphasized orthodoxy. I will check my sources to see if they can give me something useful. Geuiwogbil (Talk) 02:09, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

unsupportable statement or OR?[edit]

If the following statement is true, then to state the contrary is "original research" in the sense that it does not conform to modern scholarly consensus:

"Modern historians have tended to downplay the scale and depth of the Diocletianic persecution."

You see the logical problem: if you present an account of this persecution that enlarges its scale in relation to the standard modern interpretation, that is clearly an "original" interpretation, or at the least not the dominant scholarly interpretation. Unless of course the statement isn't true. One reason modern scholars "downplay" the "scale and depth" of persecutions against Christians is that you don't see many active Temples of Athena on your average street corner, but lots of Christian churches, so it's pretty evident who stamped out whom. Cynwolfe (talk) 04:20, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Well, indeed. But I am presenting the dominant scholarly interpretation, not a new one. I am accepting the narrative that goes like "it was a lot smaller than the Coptic churches say it was". What I am doing in this last sentence is contrasting the modern historiography with the ancient and medieval hagiography, not the modern historiography with the ancient truth, or what have you. Geuiwogbil (Talk) 04:28, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
It's the word "downplay" in company with the fudging "have tended." If the sentence said something like "Modern historians have attempted to determine whether Christian sources exaggerated the scope of the Diocletianic persecution," that would sound neutral to me, framing the issue as a matter of scholarly method in handling sources, and poses the implicit question that the article goes on to explore. Forgive me, it's a long detailed piece, and I see more clearly now what you did. But this sentence really set me off on the wrong foot and caused me to expect the kind of pro-Christian POV that characterizes a number of articles on similar topics. Cynwolfe (talk) 06:19, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
My own and necessarily much briefer summary elsewhere fudged the issue of number-fudging entirely with "unknown number": I have to agree with Cynwolfe that the conclusion balances the scholarship (and hagiography) better than that one introductory line. Geuiwogbil's ..."contrasting the modern historiography with the ancient and medieval hagiography, not the modern historiography with the ancient truth, or what have you" (above) also puts it well and (re-expressed, of course) would avoid a potential battleground for visiting predators of either persuasion. Haploidavey (talk) 10:45, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
Hmmm. Alright, I've made the change. An administrator to make the changes to the WP:TFA summary. Geuiwogbil (Talk) 11:12, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
For the record, I'm not of either persuasion. It's just that having been reared in a completely Christian environment (as a United Methodist in the U.S.), it took me years and years of conscious effort to try to view Greek and especially Roman religion outside the frame of "history as written by the victors." Even my classics professors treated Roman religion(s) as not "real" religion. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Celtic deities are often treated on Wikipedia as "mythology" (which is properly the study of narratives), and the existence of pre-Christian theology is denied even by many scholars at the top of the field (no theology in Plato? nothing theological about Cicero writing De natura deorum?). Bizarrely, it's the scholars who specialize in magic that have altered much of this; in their efforts to distinguish between magic and religion (the point of which is often that the distinction fails), they've produced fascinating work that illuminates ancient religious "belief" as well as practice, and also the extent to which early Christianity was not so out of the mainstream as is usually asserted. Leading again to the question of why (or whether) Christians were uniquely (?) persecuted. Cynwolfe (talk) 12:49, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
And I sincerely hope that my post did not imply Cynwolfe as one of those predators! I know he's not. Haploidavey (talk) 12:55, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, that summary should definitely be changed. Now it just pulls the ol' bait-and-switch. I read it and thought 'wow! what an incredibly POV statement for a WP:TFA...' Then I started reading the article and found it very well balanced (and incredibly well-researched). Folks who can wade through and summarize all the 'he said/she said' historical analyses and documents impress me. -K10wnsta (talk) 17:09, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Some questions[edit]

Excellent featured article. I learned a lot from reading it.

There are some points I would like clarified or improved:

1. Were Christians the only victims of the persecution? Diocletian's first edict seems narrowly targeted against Christians, but there is also mention of Manicheans being burned with their texts in 302, and it is not clear whether this continued during the persecution of Christians. Also, I couldn't tell if Galerius and Maximinus preserved the Jews' traditional exemption from the mandatory sacrifices; Maximinus' method of listing everybody in a census, making everybody do a sacrifice, and then persecuting whoever didn't show up would seem likely to net everybody who refused to do sacrifice, not just Christians.

2. The only explanation given for why Diocletian targeted Christians more than Jews is that the Jewish faith was older. I don't see why the antiquity of the Jewish faith would make it seem less of a threat to Diocletian, especially given that the Jews had in the past rebelled against the Roman state. Is it possible that Diocletian feared Christianity more because the Christians emphasized converting as many people as possible, while the Jews did relatively little proselytizing?

3. If Diocletian patronized many different cults - i.e. Isis, Jupiter, Mercury, the imperial cult, and so on - then what exactly is meant by the statement, "Uniformity in worship was central to Diocletian's religious policies"? Surely these different cults promoted by Diocletian didn't all have the same worship rituals?

4. I don't really like the description of Diocletian as "conservative" in this passage: "Diocletian, by contrast, was willing to reform every aspect of public life to satisfy his goals. Under his rule, coinage, taxation, architecture, law, and history were all radically reconstructed to reflect his authoritarian and conservative ideology." But having society "radically reconstructed" and "reform" of "every aspect of public life" doesn't fit very well with the status-quo-preserving implications of the term "conservative." Maybe "reactionary" would be more accurate? Pirate Dan (talk) 15:24, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

And one last thing:

5. Does the picture in the lede depict an actual incident during the Diocletianic Persecution, and if so, what and when and where? Pirate Dan (talk) 15:30, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for the compliment! I might not be able to help you as much as you might think. My sources are not always as explicit as I would like them to be. Okay, on to your points:
1. Depends on what you mean by "the persecution". This article has the unfortunate title "Diocletianic Persecution", which has an ambiguous meaning. If it means all Diocletianic persecutions, then the answer is "no" (because that would cover the Manichaeans); if it means what is traditionally called "the Great Persecution", the answer is "depends on if they were willing to offer sacrifice, and if they were not Jews". The Jews' exemption continued, yes. We have the Palestinian Talmud recording a Diocletianic decree stating "sacrifices should be offered by all the people except the Jews". Had the Tetrarchs actually persecuted Jews, I expect it would have been preserved somewhere. I am not sure how we rationalize the Eusebian account of Maximinus' persecutionary census given that exemption. Perhaps the officials' documents contained notice of whether an individual was Jewish or not; perhaps they avoided Jewish settlements and only enforced the edict in Gentile communities. I don't quite know. I assume that Eusebius did not much care what happened to the Jews, in any case. Here's the NPNF translation of his Martyrs of Palestine 9.2.

But by some new impulse, I know not what, he who held the power to persecute was again aroused against the Christians. Immediately letters from Maximinus against us were published everywhere in every province. The governors and the military prefect urged by edicts and letters and public ordinances the magistrates and generals and notaries in all the cities to carry out the imperial decree, which ordered that the altars of the idols should with all speed be rebuilt; and that all men, women, and children, even infants at the breast, should sacrifice and offer oblations; and that with diligence and care they should cause them to taste of the execrable offerings; and that the things for sale in the market should be polluted with libations from the sacrifices; and that guards should be stationed before the baths in order to defile with the abominable sacrifices those who went to wash in them.

No particular restrictions. "everywhere in the provinces"; "all the cities"; "all men, women, and children". But we do not have to take these words at face value. Assume, for a moment, that Jewish regions, cities and persons were exempted. Would Eusebius still have written the above account? Certainly: To his audience, his words would still have rang true. Interestingly enough, the miracle in MP 9.12 is also recorded in a slightly different form in contemporary Jewish writings. I once cited that bit, but cut it out while I was reducing the size of the article. (The Palestine section was particularly bloated.)
In RE: Manichaeans. Their persecution would have continued, yes, to the extent that the programme had not already died of its own initiative. The law was still on the books (well, not for an especially long time: note that it is kept in the MRLC, and not the CTh or CJ), but it was imperial interest that determined how effective any persecution would be; Manichaeans survived (as most groups did) because they were not often targets of that interest. Most governors and proconsuls had better things to do than satisfy an edict dictated in a fit of pique by a busybody emperor, and later emperors were too busy with Arians and pagans to concern themselves with a powerless minority sect. Geuiwogbil (Talk) 16:28, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
2. Jews were special not only because of their great antiquity, but precisely because they had already caused such a hassle when the Romans offended their dignity before. The great revolts in Palestine in 66–73 and 132–35 cost Rome a great amount of blood and treasure; they were not anything a sensible Roman commander would want to see happen again. The Bar Khokhba revolt required (Wikipedia tells me) 60–120,000 men. I imagine most regional commanders would be too shy to ask Diocletian for a fifth of the empire's standing army to police Palestine. (This is probably part of the reason why the persecutions did not take place before the Persian Wars had ended in 299.) By the fourth century, Jews had reached a modus vivendi with Roman authorities; Christians had not.
3. This is more of an emphasis than an explicit policy. Diocletian preferred Olympian gods, and would patronize them before, say, Sol Invictus or Osiris, but it was not a exclusive or prohibitive tendency. The wording might be a bit off, since I seem to have given the wrong impression. Perhaps just "Uniformity was central", so that we don't assume a standard liturgy.
4. I've always seen "reactionary" as something of a loaded word, along the lines of "fascist", so I am not comfortable using it. The thing is, there are always two competing but not mutually exclusive readings of any major "reformer" or "revolutionary". I have attempted to state them both simultaneously. What you might want to see here is that Diocletian radically reconstructed the inessential (bureaucracy, governance structure, currency, prices) to conserve what was essential (imperial monarchy, classical tradition, frontiers, the pax deorum).
5. Nope. Gérôme is painting a generic scene. This sort of thing—Christians being fed to the beasts in the ampitheatre—did happen on occasion, but it was not especially common. We have at least one example in the article: "On a single day, November 2, 307, Urbanus sentenced...a priest to be exposed to a beast." Admittedly, only one man, but still an attested instance. Geuiwogbil (Talk) 15:55, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
Thanks very much for your time and effort in responding.
1. Given what you have written, do you think the lede would be improved by an addition like this, "Manichaeans and other religious minorities were also persecuted during this time, but Christians bore the brunt of imperial hostility"? Making clear that other sects were persecuted, without giving them undue weight?
2. Thanks; I can't see any improvements to be made on what is in the article here.
3. OK, Diocletian prefers certain Olympian gods and spends massive amounts on them, relegates other gods (Saturn, Osiris, Sol Invictus) to lower but approved status, and excludes certain sects (Christians, Manichaeans) from any recognition at all. What Diocletian wanted most was to have the final say about which gods were the foundation of Roman strength, and then support those gods, neglect other gods that weren't important, and eliminate any sects that posed a threat to the favored gods. Is that the main idea?
4. We don't have to say reactionary, but "conservative" still seems very jarring, especially given that Diocletian's cautious predecessors seem to fit the word "conservative" so much better. How about "traditionalist," or just leaving "authoritarian" as the sole adjective?
5. Given that fact, I wouldn't propose any changes.
Pirate Dan (talk) 17:27, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
1. I have written this article as though it were primarily about the "Great Persecution", but again I am hampered by the ambiguity of that nowhere-word, so I cover all persecutions. I currently treat the Manichaean persecutions as a prelude to the Christian persecutions. From the lede: "In the first fifteen years of his rule, Diocletian purged the army of Christians, condemned Manicheans to death, and surrounded himself with public opponents of Christianity." There is no easy way to add more content on the Ms to the lede; I would have to restructure this sentence and those surrounding it.
As far as I am aware, Manichaean histories and martyrologies do not survive in such amounts as would allow much more to be written about their persecution under Diocletian. Proportionately, they receive about as much coverage in this article as they do in the secondary literature. It must also be recognized that, even if the Manichaeans were persecuted during the GP, it was either incidentally, as an artifact of their refusal to sacrifice; or concurrently, in compliance with previously-established codes. It was not really a major aim of the GP. I'm also pretty sure the Manichaeans were the only non-Christian sect persecuted, so they'd be the only guys we're talking about.
3. Yes, that sounds like a good summary to me.
4. I like traditionalist. Traditionalist would be good. Geuiwogbil (Talk) 17:42, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
1. All right, you're well ahead of me on the subject, and I defer to your judgment on the lede.
3. Then, if I grasped the subject correctly, what Diocletian wanted is better described as imperial control rather than uniformity. It wasn't uniformity, because he was relying on several different deities and their cults to strengthen, guide and protect the Empire, but he did want to control which gods Rome was to recognize and support, which could be safely ignored, and ultimately, which had to be stamped out as dangerous to the state. So I think we need a phrase more like "imperial control of religion" than "religious uniformity." Pirate Dan (talk) 19:49, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
Many thanks to Pirate Dan for asking intensely good questions. I urge the word "traditionalist" too, because it's more in keeping with Roman ideology, especially the concept of mos maiorum. Could I suggest another way to look at "imperial control"? This gets into issues covered by the Imperial cult (ancient Rome) article as well as this one. Is it possible that "unity" or "stability" is the issue rather than "uniformity" or "control" per se? Public religion helped hold together a diverse empire; Christianity threatened that in a way that Judaism did not. The "antiquity" of Judaism as grounds for Roman accommodation is part of Roman regard for tradition; they could understand that Judaism had a concept of "the Law," and had an intellectual, text-based tradition. Jews had a political history; Christians did not.
The issues with military service (not that they need to be explored in the article, but they're pertinent) are real: Roman soldiers had always entered service by taking a sacramentum, a sacred oath of loyalty, which was a religious ritual involving sacrifices. The stories of soldier-saints are often quite dodgy; they say Christians were punished for their faith, but from the Roman point of view, they were punished for insubordination, for in effect going AWOL, or even treason against the emperor, because they wouldn't do what soldiers were required to do, and they knew when they joined up what those requirements were. One may feel sympathy for those who experienced a religious conversion that compelled them to, in effect, mutiny; less, perhaps, for Christians who knowingly joined the military and then made a show of their faith. And the punishments for any soldier who violated this oath, not just Christians, were extremely harsh. If the Christians were persecuted to a unique degree, the reason for persecuting them would have to be unique. Interesting that the Manicheans are also dualists; is it the "us vs. them" mentality that the Romans don't know how to deal with? Cynwolfe (talk) 00:09, 12 September 2009 (UTC)
Yes, unity is probably the better word. It is probably the word I was looking for when I wrote "uniformity". Geuiwogbil (Talk) 01:51, 12 September 2009 (UTC)

anonymous edit changed[edit]

Because I know this to be a carefully edited article, I changed the following additions by an anonymous editor:

"Although the persecution resulted in the deaths of—according to one modern estimate—3,000 Christians (However, the number of matyres according to the Orthodox churches are significantly higher), and the torture, imprisonment, or dislocation of many more, some Christians avoided punishment. "

The statement about martyrs in the Orthodox Church is unclear; does the church offer different numbers for the Diocletianic Persecution in particular? What does 'significantly' higher mean? This is a meaningless statement without an actual comparison. And what supports the change from 'most' to 'some'? This is a long article that achieved featured status; does the article support the view that the majority of Christians were victims of persecution at this time? Cynwolfe (talk) 16:14, 23 December 2009 (UTC)

Thank you for the revert, Cynwolfe. I was too wary to do it myself. Geuiwogbil (Talk) 05:50, 24 December 2009 (UTC)

Edicts on sacrifice[edit]

I might make a small change here, and remove the reference to gods (see Cynwolfe's de-linking of "Roman Gods"). Some sleight of hand (or of ideology) seems to have been involved in the edicts, which as far as I can recall name no particular deity or deities; of course, sacrifice has to be to someone or something but the Decian edict gives something like "traditional gods", which could mean any gods at all. And as the sacrifice must be witnessed by a magistrate, its legality required the presence of the ubiquitous Imperial image. There's a story (probably apocryphal) in the Historia Augusta, or maybe one of the Church Fathers, where the emperor tries to persuade a Christian to perform a "theologicaly neutral" sacrifice (sort of, "Oh come on, what harm can it do to pour a little wine and burn a biscuit?") then casually sneaks a couple of little statues into the proceedings. No deal, of course. Christian doctrine forbade sacrifice, full stop. Haploidavey (talk) 13:46, 2 November 2010 (UTC)


This wikipedia article says that Licinius persecuted Chrisitans a whole lot, and that the civil war that led to Licinius' ouster was caused by Licinius' evilness. And that may be fine.

What isn't fine is that the Licinius page called Licinius a defender of Chrisitans and claimed that the civil war against Constantine was due to Constantine's own ambitions, and that further, Constantine made up stories of Christian persecution.

I don't really care what version of events is finally "accepted"; I do however want both wikipedia articles to come with the same conclusion. It's ridicilous to have two different pages present two different, conflicting views over the same exact person! This is not NPOV.-- (talk) 20:36, 21 March 2011 (UTC)

List of Christians killed during the Diocletianic Persecution[edit]

Diligent editors turned Diocletianic Persecution into a neutral, well-balanced FA. Input is now needed at Talk:List of Christians killed during the Diocletianic Persecution, which I thought was an article-naming dispute and which may be turning into a question of POV forking. I may not be understanding or representing the issues accurately, so I hope others will give their views. Cynwolfe (talk) 12:35, 3 August 2011 (UTC)

This appears to be more or less resolved: the list has been moved to List of Christians killed during the reign of Diocletian. The Cardiff Chestnut (talk) 01:40, 8 August 2011 (UTC)


ordered that the leading Manicheans be burnt alive along with their scriptures.[118] This was the first time an Imperial persecution ever called for the destruction of sacred literature.[119] Low-status Manicheans were to be executed; high-status Manicheans were to be sent to work in the quarries of Proconnesus (Marmara Island) or the mines of Phaeno.

so, were it leading i.e. high-status manicheans to be executed or the second sentence is correct and it was low-status manicheans to be executed and high status ones to be forced to labor. it makes little sense to execute the most and to send few high status ones to work in the quarries/mines and it contradicts the previous sentence too217.118.64.49 (talk) 07:53, 9 December 2014 (UTC)

What is this phrase actually saying?[edit]

"... Tertullian of children disinherited for becoming Christians.[12]"

I don't know what happened to this phrase or if this is just me, but can someone rephrase this so I can understand what this is actually saying? Thanks. --1990'sguy (talk) 19:26, 17 March 2016 (UTC)

It might or might not be "just you" but have rephrased for clarity's sake. Haploidavey (talk) 19:38, 17 March 2016 (UTC)


There's somewhat of a contradiction between the first and third paragraphs in the "prior persecutions" section. See especially the parts in bold.

"It was popular hostility—the anger of the crowd—which drove the earliest persecutions, not official action.[6] In Lyon in 177, it was only the intervention of civil authorities that stopped a pagan mob from dragging Christians from their houses and beating them to death. The governor of Bithynia–Pontus, Pliny, was sent long lists of denunciations by anonymous citizens, which Emperor Trajan advised him to ignore.[9]

"These persecutions were carried out under the authority of local government officials.[18] At Bithynia–Pontus in 111, it was the imperial governor, Pliny;[19] at Smyrna (İzmir) in 156 and Scilli near Carthage in 180, it was the proconsul;[20] at Lyon in 177, it was the provincial governor.[21]"

So was it popular hostility or official action? It would be great if someone could clear this up! Lesgles (talk) 18:28, 19 March 2016 (UTC)

Lesgles In the earlier years, about the 2nd century, the empire had little to no involvement in the persecution of Christians. It was the mostly people, the pagans, who hated them and persecuted them. But local persecutions, for example, the destruction of a church by a local authority, were not uncommon. The Diocletianic persecution was the first empire-wide and official persecution of Christians where edicts were issued ordering to destroy Christian artifacts, scriptures, imprison officials, perform sacrifices, etc. NikolaiHo☎️ 05:10, 29 November 2016 (UTC)

Perhaps this should be made clearer in the article. Dimadick (talk) 21:24, 30 November 2016 (UTC)

Diocletianic or Diocletian[edit]

I have always heard of this as the Diocletian persecution. A Google search for Diocletian persecution brings up 'about 272,000 results', a Google search for Diocletianic persecution brings up 'around 19,100'. Is there a reason for Diocletianic rather than Diocletian? --Richardson mcphillips (talk) 12:04, 6 February 2017 (UTC)

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