Edict of Toleration by Galerius

The Edict of Galerius marked the real end of the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire.

It was published in the spring of 311 by Emperor Galerius in Nicomedia, the procedure initiated by Diocletian 303 Christian persecution continued initially with his reign of Emperor Maximinus Daia. The edict was issued in the name of all four reigning emperor; Lactantius reported that it was announced in Nicomedia on 30 April 311.

Galerius was previously severely ill with cancer; his disease was regarded by the Christian apologists as the trigger of his inner change towards toleration of Christianity. However, the motives were political. Galerius had to realize that the Christians had not been hit by the tracking critical and therefore had to worry about the stability of the empire; especially in the eastern part of the Christians were relatively numerous, although there is still clearly in the minority.

The decree contains no preference for the Christians, but it allowed them to restore their churches and their meetings, as far as they do not disturb the public order. Likewise, Christians are asked to pray for the welfare of the state. By the edict the persecution of Christians was ended and Christianity at the same time to religio licita (permitted religion), ie were first Christians in a way recognized by law. With the appointment of religio licita was, as with the Jews, an exemption from the Emperor victims and the victims of the Roman state gods connected what she had previously excluded from public office.

Galerius died only a short time after the publication of the edict, which prompted the ( biased against Galerius ) Christian apologist Lactantius to the sneering remark that his repentance came too late.

In 313 it came to Milan agreement, which is usually considered in the history of Christianity as the end of the persecution of Christians, but in practice much less changed than the Tolerance Edict of 311 Rather, it is to be regarded as a supplement to it.

Contents of the Edict

In addition to the rest of what we had arranged for the good and benefit of the state, we wanted so far everything according to improve the old laws and public order of the Romans and ensure that the Christians who had left the teachings of their ancestors returned to sanity. For some reason these Christians had taken such a self-will and such stupidity that they no longer followed the facilities for the elderly, who may have introduced their own ancestors, but gave themselves according to their own will and at will laws to follow them, and in different parts of different peoples brought together into a community. When we finally ordered that they should return to the facilities for the elderly, many of whom were involved in court cases, many were also sold. And since most were on their intent and we saw that they have neither the gods could get proper worship, nor the God of the Christians worshiped, so we have to forgive it in our extraordinary gentleness and constant habit of all people, considered necessary, also to grant them our most outspoken indulgence, so that they could be Christians and to build their places of assembly back again, but so that they do nothing contrary to public policy. By another letter but we will notify the court officials what they have observed. Therefore, it will be our indulgence in accordance with the duty of Christians to pray to their God for our good, for the good of the state and for their own, so that is preserved in every way from harm to the state and they can live safely in their homes. ( Lactantius, De mortibus persecutorum 34)