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Chapter V.—Copies of Imperial Laws. 2915

1. Let us finally subjoin the translations from the Roman tongue of the imperial decrees of Constantine and Licinius.

p. 379 Copy of imperial decrees translated from the Roman tongue. 2916

2. “Perceiving long ago that religious liberty ought not to be denied, but that it ought to be granted to the judgment and desire of each individual to perform his religious duties according to his own choice, we had given orders that every man, Christians as well as others, should preserve the faith of his own sect and religion. 2917

3. But since in that rescript, in which such liberty was granted them, many and various conditions 2918 seemed clearly added, some of them, it may be, after a little retired from such observance.

4. When I, Constantine Augustus, and I, Licinius Augustus, came under favorable auspices to Milan and took under consideration everything which pertained to the common weal and prosperity, we resolved among other things, or rather first of all, to make such decrees as seemed in many respects for the benefit of every one; namely, such as should preserve reverence and piety toward the deity. We resolved, that is, to grant both to the Christians and to all men freedom to follow the religion which they choose, that whatever heavenly divinity exists 2919 may be propitious to us and to all that live under our government.

5. We have, therefore, determined, with sound and upright purpose, that liberty is to be denied to no one, to choose and to follow the religious observances of the Christians, but that to each one freedom is to be given to devote his mind to that religion which he may think adapted to himself, 2920 in order that the Deity may exhibit to us in all things his accustomed care and favor.

6. It was fitting that we should write that this is our pleasure, that those conditions 2921 being entirely left out which were contained in our former letter concerning the Christians which was sent to your devotedness, everything that seemed very severe and foreign to our mildness may be annulled, and that now every one who has the same desire to observe the religion of the Christians may do so without molestation.

7. We have resolved to communicate this most fully to thy care, in order that thou mayest know that we have granted to these same Christians freedom and full liberty to observe their own religion.

8. Since this has been granted freely by us to them, thy devotedness perceives that liberty is granted to others also who may wish to follow their own religious observances; it being clearly in accordance with the tranquillity of our times, that each one should have the liberty of choosing and worshiping whatever deity he pleases. This has been done by us in order that we might not seem in any way to discriminate against any rank or religion. 2922

9. And we decree still further in regard to the Christians, that their places, in which they were formerly accustomed to assemble, and concerning which in the former letter sent to thy devotedness a different command was given, 2923 if it appear that any have bought them either from our treasury or from any other person, shall be restored to the said Christians, without demanding money or any other equivalent, with no delay or hesitation.

10. If any happen to have received the said places as a gift, they shall restore them as quickly as possible to these same Christians: with the understanding that if those who have bought these places, or those who have received them as a gift, demand anything from our bounty, they may go to the judge of the district, that provision may be made for them by our clemency. All these things are to be granted to the society of Christians by your care immediately and p. 380 without any delay.

11. And since the said Christians are known to have possessed not only those places in which they were accustomed to assemble, but also other places, belonging not to individuals among them, but to the society 2924 as a whole, that is, to the society of Christians, you will command that all these, in virtue of the law which we have above stated, be restored, without any hesitation, to these same Christians; that is, to their society and congregation: the above-mentioned provision being of course observed, that those who restore them without price, as we have before said, may expect indemnification from our bounty.

12. In all these things, for the behoof of the aforesaid society of Christians, you are to use the utmost diligence, to the end that our command may be speedily fulfilled, and that in this also, by our clemency, provision may be made for the common and public tranquillity. 2925

13. For by this means, 2926 as we have said before, the divine favor toward us which we have already experienced in many matters will continue sure through all time.

14. And that the terms of this our gracious ordinance may be known to all, it is expected that this which we have written will be published everywhere by you and brought to the knowledge of all, in order that this gracious ordinance of ours may remain unknown to no one.”

Copy of another imperial decree which they issued, 2927 indicating that the grant was made to the Catholic Church alone.

15. “Greeting to thee, our most esteemed Anulinus. It is the custom of our benevolence, most esteemed Anulinus, to will that those things which belong of right to another should not only be left unmolested, but should also be restored. 2928

16. Wherefore it is our will that when thou receivest this letter, if any such things belonged to the Catholic Church of the Christians, in any city or other place, but are now held by citizens 2929 or by any others, thou shalt cause them to be restored immediately to the said churches. For we have already determined that those things which these same churches formerly possessed shall be restored to them.

17. Since therefore thy devotedness perceives that this command of ours is most explicit, do thou make haste to restore to them, as quickly as possible, everything which formerly belonged to the said churches,—whether gardens or buildings or whatever they may be,—that we may learn that thou hast obeyed this decree of ours most carefully. Farewell, our most esteemed and beloved Anulinus.”

Copy of an epistle in which the Emperor commands that a synod of bishops be held at Rome in behalf of the unity and concord of the churches. 2930

p. 381 18. “Constantine Augustus to Miltiades, 2931 bishop of Rome, and to Marcus. 2932 Since many such communications have been sent to me by Anulinus, 2933 the most illustrious proconsul of Africa, in which it is said that Cæcilianus, 2934 bishop of the city of Carthage, has been accused by some of his colleagues in Africa, in many matters; 2935 and since it seems to me a very serious thing that in those provinces which Divine Providence has freely entrusted to my devotedness, and in which there is a great population, the multitude are found following the baser course, and dividing, as it were, into two parties, and the bishops are at variance,—

19. it has seemed good to me that Cæcilianus himself, with ten of the bishops that appear to accuse him, and with ten others whom he may consider necessary for his defense, should sail to Rome, that there, in the presence of yourselves and of Retecius 2936 and Maternus 2937 and Marinus, 2938 your colleagues, whom I have commanded to hasten to Rome for this purpose, 2939 he may be heard, as you may understand to be in accordance with the most holy law.

20. But in order that you may be enabled to have most perfect knowledge of all these things, I have subjoined to my letter copies of the documents sent to me by Anulinus, and have sent them to your above-mentioned colleagues. When your firmness has read these, you will consider in what way the above-mentioned case may be most accurately investigated and justly decided. For it does not escape your diligence that I have such reverence for the legitimate 2940 Catholic Church that I do not wish you to leave schism or division in any place. May the divinity of the great God preserve you, most honored sirs, for many years.”

Copy of an epistle in which the emperor commands another synod to be held for the purpose of removing all dissensions among the bishops.

21. “Constantine Augustus to Chrestus, 2941 bishop of Syracuse. When some began wickedly and perversely to disagree 2942 among themselves in regard to the holy worship and celestial power and Catholic doctrine, 2943 wishing to put an end to such disputes among them, I formerly gave command that certain bishops should be sent from Gaul, and that the opposing parties p. 382 who were contending persistently and incessantly with each other, should be summoned from Africa; that in their presence, and in the presence of the bishop of Rome, the matter which appeared to be causing the disturbance might be examined and decided with all care. 2944

22. But since, as it happens, some, forgetful both of their own salvation and of the reverence due to the most holy religion, do not even yet bring hostilities to an end, and are unwilling to conform to the judgment already passed, and assert that those who expressed their opinions and decisions were few, or that they had been too hasty and precipitate in giving judgment, before all the things which ought to have been accurately investigated had been examined,—on account of all this it has happened that those very ones who ought to hold brotherly and harmonious relations toward each other, are shamefully, or rather abominably, 2945 divided among themselves, and give occasion for ridicule to those men whose souls are aliens to this most holy religion. Wherefore it has seemed necessary to me to provide that this dissension, which ought to have ceased after the judgment had been already given by their own voluntary agreement, should now, if possible, be brought to an end by the presence of many.

23. Since, therefore, we have commanded a number of bishops from a great many different places 2946 to assemble in the city of Arles, 2947 before the kalends of August, we have thought proper to write to thee also that thou shouldst secure from the most illustrious Latronianus, 2948 corrector of Sicily, 2949 a public vehicle, and that thou shouldst take with thee two others of the second rank, 2950 whom thou thyself shalt choose, together with three servants who may serve you on the way, and betake thyself to the above-mentioned place before the appointed day; that by thy firmness, and by the wise unanimity and harmony of the others present, this dispute, which has disgracefully continued until the present time, in consequence of certain shameful strifes, after all has been heard which those have to say who are now at variance with one another, and whom we have likewise commanded to be present, may be settled in accordance with the proper faith, and that brotherly harmony, though it be but gradually, may be restored.

24. May the Almighty God preserve thee in health for many years.”



Heinichen gives ᾽Αντίγραφα βασιλικῶν νόμων περὶ τῶν χριστιανοῖς προσηκόντων as the title of this chapter. All but three of the mss., however, agree in limiting the title to the first three words, the last four being given by the majority of them as the title of chap. 6. The words are quite out of place at the head of that chapter, which in two important mss., followed by Stroth, is made a part of chap. 5. Heinichen inserts the words at this point because they are out of place in the position in which they commonly occur; but the truth is, they are no better adapted to the present chapter than to that one, for only one of the edicts quoted in this chapter has reference to the property of Christians. It seems to me much more likely that the words were originally written in the margin of some codex opposite that particular rescript, and thence by an error slipped into the text at the head of a later one, which was then made a separate chapter. In view of the uncertainty, however, as to the original position of the words, I have followed Laemmer, Schwegler, Stroth, Closs, and Stigloher, in omitting them altogether.


This is the famous Edict of Milan, issued by Constantine and Licinius late in the year 312, after the former’s victory over Maxentius (see above, Bk. IX. chap. 9, note 7). The edict has a claim to be remembered as the first announcement of the great doctrine of complete freedom of conscience, and that not for one religion only, but for all religions. In this respect it was a great advance upon the edict of Galerius, which had granted conditional liberty to a single faith. The greater part of the edict (beginning with § 4) is extant in its original Latin form in Lactantius’ De mort. pers. chap. 48. The Greek translation is still less accurate than the translation of the edict of Galerius given in Bk. VIII. chap. 17, above, but the variations from the original are none of them of great importance. The most marked ones will be mentioned in the notes.


The reference in this sentence is not, as was formerly supposed, to a lost edict of Constantine and Licinius, but to the edict of Galerius, as is proved by Mason (p. 327 sq.), who has completely exploded the old belief in three edicts of toleration, and has shown that there were only two; viz. that of Galerius, Constantine, and Licinius, published in 311, and the present one, issued by Constantine and Licinius in 312.


The Greek word is αἱρέσεις, which has been commonly translated “sects,” and the reference has been supposed to be to various schismatic bodies included in the former edict, but, as Mason remarks, such an interpretation is preposterous, and introduces an idea in direct contradiction to the entire tenor of the present document. The fact is that, although “sects” is the natural translation of the word αἱρέσεις, we find the same word in § 6, below, used to translate conditiones, and it may be reasonably assumed—in fact, it may be regarded as certain in view of the context—that in the present case the same word stood in the Latin original. I have no hesitation, therefore, in adopting the rendering which I have given in the text. These “conditions,” then, to which the edict refers were enumerated, not in the former edict itself, but in the rescript which accompanied it (see above, Bk. VIII. chap. 17, note 9). What these conditions were may be conjectured, as remarked in that note, from the provisions of the present edict (cf. Mason, p. 330 sq.).


ὅτί ποτέ ἐστι θειότης καὶ οὐρανίου πρ€γματος. Latin: quo quidem divinitas in sede cœlesti. The Greek is by no means a reproduction of the sense of the Latin, and indeed, as it stands, is quite untranslatable. I have contented myself with a paraphrase, which does not express what the Greek translator says, but perhaps is not entirely at variance with what he meant to say.


In this sentence it is stated distinctly, not simply that Christians may remain Christians, but that anybody that pleases may become a Christian; that is, that the fullest liberty is granted to every man either to observe his ancestral religion or to choose another.


Greek, αἱρέσεων; Latin, conditionibus (see note 4, above).


μηδεμιŽ τιμῇ μηδὲ θρησκεία τινί. Latin, honori, neque cuiquam religioni. Mason concludes from this clause that in the rescript which accompanied the previous edict Christians had been excluded from certain official positions.


That there was some condition attached in the last rescript to the restoration of their property to the Christians is clear from these words. We may gather from what follows that the Christians were obliged to pay something for the restored property, either to the occupants or to the government. Constantine states that henceforth the imperial treasury will freely bear all the expense involved in the transfer.


τῷ σωματί& 251·. Latin, corpori. The use of this word (which we might almost translate “body corporate”) is a distinct recognition of the full legal status of the Christian Church, and of their right as a corporation in the eyes of the law to hold property. The right did not on this occasion receive recognition for the first time, but more distinctly and in broader terms than ever before. Upon the right of the Church to hold property before the publication of this edict, see especially Hatch’s Constitution of the Early Christian Churches, p. 152, note 25.


Greek, τῆς κοινῆς καὶ δημοσίας ἡσυχίας. Latin, more simply, quieti publicæ.


τούτῳ γὰρ τῷ λογισμῷ. Latin, hactenus.


It would seem that this communication was sent to Anulinus soon after the issue of the Edict of Milan; for it gives directions for the carrying out of some of the provisions made in that edict, and is very likely but a sample of special letters sent in connection with that document to the governors of the various provinces. We know from the next chapter that Anulinus was proconsul of the Roman province of Africa, of which Carthage was the capital city, and which was very thickly populated with Christians. Of Anulinus himself we know only what we can learn from this and the next two chapters. The title of the rescript as given by Eusebius is somewhat misleading. There is no indication in the document itself that it was written with the distinct purpose of distinguishing the Catholic Church from schismatic bodies, and granting it privileges denied to them. If such had been its aim, it would certainly have stated it more clearly. The term “Catholic Church” (in § 16) seems in fact to be used in a general sense to indicate the Christian Church as a whole. It is, to be sure, possible that Constantine may already have had some knowledge of the schismatics whom he refers to in another epistle, quoted in the next chapter; but his omission of all reference to them in the present case shows that he did not intend at this time to draw lines between parties, or to pass judgment upon any society calling itself a Christian church.


i.e. that if they have been molested, or taken from their owners, they should be restored.


πολιτῶν. Valesius conjectures that πολιτευτῶν should be read instead of πολιτῶν, and therefore translates a decurionibus. Crusè, following him, reads “by the decurions.” The correction, however, though an improvement, is not necessary, and I have not felt justified in adopting it.


This and the next epistle were occasioned by the Donatist schism. This great schism arose after the close of the Diocletian persecution, and divided the church of North Africa for more than a century. Like the Novatian schism, it was due to the conflict of the more rigid and the more indulgent theories of discipline. In Novatianism, however, the burning question was the readmission of the lapsed; in Donatism, the validity of clerical functions performed by unholy or unfaithful clergymen. In the latter, therefore, the question was one of clerical, not lay discipline, and there was involved in it a very important theological principle. The Donatists maintained that the validity of clerical functions depended upon the character of the administering clergyman; the Catholic party maintained that the validity of those functions depended solely upon Christ, and was quite independent of the character of the officiating clergyman, provided he had been duly qualified by the Church for the performance of such functions. Augustine, nearly a century after the rise of the sect, found it necessary to oppose it, and it was in the controversy with it that he developed his doctrine of the Church and the Sacraments. The immediate occasion of the schism was the election of Cæcilianus, who favored the milder principles of church discipline, to the bishopric of Carthage, in 311. His election was opposed by the entire rigoristic party in Carthage and throughout North Africa. It was claimed that the Bishop Felix of Aptunga, by whom he was ordained, had been a traditor during the persecution, and that therefore Cæcilian’s ordination was not valid. As a consequence the bishops of Numidia, who had not been invited to assist in the choice and ordination of Cæcilian, held a synod in Carthage, and elected a counter-bishop, Majorinus. Thus the schism was definitely launched. The party called itself for a time by the name of its first bishop, but in 315 he was succeeded by Donatus, called the Great, to distinguish him from Donatus, bishop of Casæ Nigræ, who had been one of the original leaders of the movement. From him the sect took the name by which it was thenceforth known. Doubtless personal jealousies and enmities had considerable to do with the origin of the schism, but it is quite inaccurate to ascribe it wholly to such causes. The fundamental ground lay in the deep-seated difference in principles between the two parties in the Church, and it was inevitable that that difference should make itself felt in some such rupture, even had personal reasons not co-operated to such an extent as they did. Our chief sources for a knowledge of Donatism are the anti-Donatistic works of Augustine (see The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, first series, Vol. IV. p. 369 sq.), together with a number of his epistles, and Optatus’ De Schismate Donatistarum. The literature on the subject is very extensive. See especially Valesius’ essay, De Schismate Donat., appended to his edition of Eusebius (Reading’s edition, p. 775 sq.); Ribbeck, Donatus and Augustinus, 1858; the articles Cæcilianus and Donatism in the Dict. of Christ. Biog.; Neander’s Church History, Torrey’s translation, II. p. 182 sq.; Hefele’s Conciliengesch. 2d ed., I. p. 293 sq.; and Schaff’s Church History, III. p. 360 sq. Constantine did not voluntarily meddle in the Donatistic controversy. He was first appealed to by the Donatists themselves, through the proconsul Anulinus, early in the year 313 (see Augustine, Epistle 88, for a copy of the letter in which Anulinus communicates their request to the emperor). In response to their appeal Constantine (in the present epistle) summoned the two parties to appear before a Roman synod, which was held in October, 313. The Donatists were unable to prove their charges, and the synod gave decision against them. Again, at their own request, their case was heard at a council held in Gaul the following year (the synod of Arles; see the next epistle of Constantine quoted in this chapter). This council also decided against them, and the Donatists appealed once more to the judgment of the emperor himself. He heard their case in Milan in 316, and confirmed the decisions of the councils, and soon afterward issued laws against them, threatening them with the banishment of their bishops and the confiscation of their property. He soon, however, withdrew his persecuting measures, and adopted a policy of toleration. During subsequent reigns their condition grew worse, and they were often obliged to undergo severe hardships; but they clung rigidly to their principles until the invasion of the Vandals in 428, when the entire North African Church was devastated.


Miltiades (called also Melchiades) was bishop of Rome from July 2, 310, to Jan. 10 or 11, 314. See Lipsius, Chron. der röm. Bischöfe, p. 257 sq.


Marcus is an otherwise unknown personage, unless Valesius’ not improbable conjecture be accepted, that he was at this time a presbyter of Rome, and is to be identified with the Marcus who was bishop of Rome for some eight months in 336.


χ€ρται. The reference, as remarked by Valesius, seems to be not to epistles of Anulinus, but to the communications of the Donatists forwarded to the emperor by Anulinus. In his epistle to the emperor, which was written April 15, 313 (see Augustine, Ep. 88), Anulinus speaks of two communications handed to him by the Donatists, which he forwards to the emperor with his own letter. The former of them, which is no longer extant, bore the title Libellus ecclesiæ Catholicæ criminum Cæciliani. The other, which is preserved by Optatus (Du Pin’s edition, p. 22, and Routh, Rel. Sac. IV. 280) contained the request that the emperor would appoint some Gallic bishops to hear the case, because the church of that country had not been subjected to the same temptation as themselves during the persecution, and could therefore render an impartial decision. It was in consequence of this request that the Gallic bishops mentioned below were directed by the emperor to proceed to Rome to join with Miltiades in the adjudication of the case. Constantine speaks of receiving many such communications, but no others are preserved to us.


Cæcilianus had been arch-deacon of the church of Carthage under the bishop Mensurius, and had been a diligent supporter of the latter in his opposition to the fanatical conduct and the extreme rigor of the stricter party during the persecution. In 311 he became bishop, and lived until about 345. We know nothing about his life after the first few years of the conflict. His title to the bishopric was universally acknowledged outside of North Africa, and by all there except the Donatists themselves.


The chief charge brought against Cæcilian was that he had been ordained by a traditor, Felix of Aptunga, and that his ordination was therefore invalid. The charge against Felix was carefully investigated at the Council of Arles, and pronounced quite groundless. Many personal charges, such as cruelty to the martyrs in prison (which had its ground, doubtless, in his condemnation of the foolish fanaticism which was so common during the persecution in Africa), tyranny, bloodthirstiness, &c., were brought against Cæcilian, but were dismissed in every case as quite groundless.


Retecius was bishop of Autun in Gaul (see Optatus, I. 22, and the references given below). An extended account of him, largely legendary, is given by Gregory of Tours (De gloria Conf. 75, according to the Dict. of Christ. Biog.). The dates of his accession and death are unknown to us. He attended the Council of Arles in 313 (see the list of those present, in Routh, IV. p. 312), and is spoken of in high terms by Augustine (Contra Jul. I. 7; Opus imperf. cont. Jul. I. 55), and also by Jerome, who informs us that he wrote a commentary on the Song of Songs and a work against Novatian (see his de vir. ill. 82, Ep. ad Florentium, and ad Marcellam, Migne, Nos. 5 and 37).


Maternus was bishop of Cologne, the first one of that see known to us, but the date of his accession and death are unknown. He is mentioned by Optatus (ibid.), and was present at the Council of Arles (Routh, ibid.).


Marinus, whose dates are likewise unknown, was bishop of Arles (see Optatus, ibid.), and was present at the Council in that city in 314 (see Routh, ibid. p. 313).


This Roman Council convened in the house of Fausta, in the Lateran, on the second day of October, 313, and was attended by nineteen bishops,—the three from Gaul just mentioned, Miltiades himself, and fifteen Italian bishops (see Optatus, ibid.). The synod resulted in the complete victory of the party of Cæcilian, as remarked above (note 15).




The name of Chrestus appears first in the list of those present at the Council of Arles (see Routh, IV. 312), and in consequence it has been thought that he presided at the Council, a conclusion which some have regarded as confirmed by Constantine’s own words in § 24, below. But on the other hand, in the epistle of the synod addressed to Sylvester of Rome, and containing the canons of the Council, it is distinctly stated that Marinus, bishop of Arles, presided; and this in itself seems more probable, although the document in which the statement is found may not perhaps be genuine (see, for instance, Ffoulke’s article Marinus in the Dict. of Christ. Biog., which needs, however, to be taken with allowance, for the case against the genuineness of the extant canons of the Council is by no means so strong as he implies). Of Chrestus himself we know nothing more than can be gathered from this epistle.




τῆς αἱρέσεως τῆς καθολικῆς


See the previous epistle.


αἰσχρῶς, μᾶλλον δὲ μυσερῶς.


ἐκ διαφόρων καὶ ἀμυθήτων τόπων. Some old accounts give the number of bishops present at the Council as six hundred, but this is wild. Baronius gave the number as two hundred, and he has been followed by many others, but this rests upon a false reading in a passage in Augustine’s works. The truth seems to be that there were not more than thirty-three bishops present, the number given in the only lists of the members of the synod which we have (see Routh, ibid., and see also Hefele, Conciliengesch. I. p. 201).


Arles (Latin Arelate), a city of Southern France, situated not far from the mouth of the Rhone. It was at this time one of the most prominent episcopal sees of Gaul, and was the seat of more than one important council, of which the present is the first known to us. The one summoned by Constantine convened, as we may gather from this passage, on the first of August, 314. We do not know how long its sessions continued, nor indeed any particulars in regard to it, though twenty-two canons are extant in an epistle addressed to Sylvester of Rome, which purport to be the genuine canons of the Council, and are commonly so regarded. Their genuineness, however, is by no means universally admitted (cf. e.g. the article in the Dict. of Christ. Biog. referred to in note 27). If the canons are genuine, we see that the Council busied itself with many other maters besides the Donatistic schism, especially with the Easter question and with various matters of church discipline. See Hefele, Conciliengesch. I. p. 201 sq. (2d ed.).


According to Valesius the name of Latronianus is found (teste Gualthero) in an ancient Palermo inscription (in tabulis Siculis, numero 164). He is an otherwise unknown personage.


The Greek τοῦ κοῤ& 191·ήκτορος is evidently simply a transliteration of the original Latin correctoris. Corrector, in the time of the emperors, was “the title of a kind of land bailiff, a governor” (Andrews’ Lexicon).


τῶν ἐκ τοῦ δευτέρου θρόνου; i.e. presbyters. Valesius remarks ad locum that presbyters were commonly called “priests of the second order,” as may be gathered from various authors. He refers among others to Jerome, who says in his Epitaph on the blessed Paula, “There were present the bishops of Jerusalem and other cities, and an innumerable company of priests and Levites of the lower order (inferioris gradus)”; and to Gregory Nazianzen (Carm. iambic. de vita sua, p. 6), who says, “the bishops in the church sat on a higher throne, the presbyters on lower seats on either side, while the deacons stood by in white garments.” Compare also Eusebius’ description of the arrangement of the seats in the church of Tyre (chap. 4, § 67, above), and for other references see Valesius’ note. Possibly the Latin phrase used by Constantine was similar to that employed by Jerome: secundi gradus.

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