When Decius had reigned not quite two years, 2161 he was slain with his children, and Gallus succeeded him. At this time Origen died, being sixty-nine years of age. 2162 Dionysius, writing to Hermammon, 2163 speaks as follows of Gallus: 2164
“Gallus neither recognized the wickedness of Decius, nor considered what had destroyed him; but stumbled on the same stone, though it lay before his eyes. For when his reign was prosperous and affairs were proceeding according to his mind, he attacked the holy men who were interceding with God for his peace and welfare. Therefore with them he persecuted also their prayers in his behalf.” So much concerning him.
Decius reigned about thirty months, from the summer of 249 until almost the close of the year 251 (see Tillemont, Hist. des Emp. III. p. 285). His son Herennius Etruscus was slain with his father in a battle fought against the Goths in Thrace; another son, Hostilianus, was associated in the purple with Decius successor, Gallus, but died soon afterwards, probably by the plague, which was at that time raging; possibly, as was suspected, by the treachery of Gallus. There has been some controversy as to whether Hostilianus was a son, or only a nephew, or a son-in-law of Decius. Eusebius in speaking of more than one son becomes an independent witness to the former alternative, and there is really little reason to doubt it, for Zosimus statements are explicit (see Zosimus, I. 25, and cf. Tillemont, ibid. p. 506). Two other sons are mentioned in one inscription but its genuineness is doubtful. Eusebius, however, may be urged as a witness that he had more than two (cf. Tillemont, ibid.).293:2162 293:2163
Of this Hermammon we know nothing. The words of Eusebius at the close of chap. 22, below, lead us to think that he was probably a bishop of some church in Egypt. Fragments of the epistle addressed to him are preserved in this chapter and in chapters 10 and 23, below. It is possible that Dionysius wrote more than one epistle to Hermammon and that the fragments which we have are from different letters. This, however, is not probable, for Eusebius gives no hint that he is quoting from more than one epistle, and, moreover, the three extracts which we have correspond excellently with one another, seeming to be drawn from a single epistle which contained a description of the conduct of successive emperors toward the Christians. The date of the epistle is given at the close of chap. 23; namely, the ninth year of the Emperor Gallienus (i.e. August, 261–August, 262), reckoning from the time of his association with his father Valerian in the purple.293:2164
Gallus succeeded Decius toward the close of the year 251 and reigned until the summer of 253 (some with less ground say 254), when he was slain, with his son, by his own soldiers. His persecution of the Christians (under him, for instance, Cornelius, bishop of Rome, was banished, see above, Bk. VI. chap. 39, note 3), seems to have been less the result of a deeply rooted religious conviction and a fixed political principle (such as Decius possessed) than of the terrible plague which had begun during the reign of Decius and was ravaging the empire during the early part of Gallus reign (see Tillemonts Hist. des Emp. III. p. 288). He persecuted, therefore, not so much as a matter of principle as because he desired either to appease the populace or to propitiate the Gods, whom he superstitiously believed, as the people did, to be the authors of the terrible scourge.