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June 15, 2022

The Persecution of Christians Under Emperor Diocletian

By St. Justin Popovich

During the reign of Diocletian (284 to 305), four decrees were issued against Christians. 
The first was promulgated in February 303. This decree ordered the destruction of churches and the burning of sacred books; at the same time, Christians were deprived of civil rights, protection of the law and their services; Christian slaves lost the right to freedom if they got it for some reason but still remained in Christianity. 
A second decree would soon be issued, ordering that all representatives of churches and other clergy be imprisoned; they were accused of inciting the uprisings in Syria and Armenia, which, unfortunately for Christians, began immediately after the first decree was issued. 
In that same year of 303 a third decree came, which ordered: all prisoners on the basis of another decree to be forced to offer sacrifices to the gods, while the disobedient were to be tortured. 
Finally, in the year 304, the last and fourth decree would be promulgated, ordering the general persecution of Christians everywhere. Because of this decree, most of the Christian blood would be shed: it was valid for eight years, until 311, when the emperor Galerius issued a special decree declaring that Christianity was a "permitted religion". 
Diocletian's persecution was the last; in it, after three centuries of struggle, Christianity won the final victory over paganism. 

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.