Chapter V.—Those in Nicomedia. 2515
1. Immediately on the publication of the decree against the churches in Nicomedia, 2516 a certain man, not obscure but very highly honored with distinguished temporal dignities, moved with zeal toward God, and incited with ardent faith, seized the edict as it was posted openly and publicly, and tore it to pieces as a profane and impious thing; 2517 and this was done p. 327 while two of the sovereigns were in the same city,—the oldest of all, and the one who held the fourth place in the government after him. 2518
2. But this man, first in that place, after distinguishing himself in such a manner suffered those things which were likely to follow such daring, and kept his spirit cheerful and undisturbed till death.
Lactantius relates this account in his De mort. pers. chap. 13, and expresses disapproval of the act, while admiring the spirit of the man. He, too, is silent in regard to the name of the man, though, living as he did in Nicomedia, he can hardly have been ignorant of it. We may perhaps imagine that he did not care to perpetuate the name of a man whom he considered to have acted rashly and illegally. The old martyrologies give the mans name as John. That he deserved death is clear enough. He was not a martyr to the faith, but a criminal, who was justly executed for treasonable conduct. The first edict contemplated no violence to the persons of the Christians. If they suffered death, it was solely in consequence of their own rashness, as in the present case. It is clear that such an incident as this would anger Diocletian and increase his suspicions of Christians as a class, and thus tend to precipitate a regular persecution. It must have seemed to the authorities that the man would hardly commit such a foolhardy act unless he was conscious of the support of a large body of the populace, and so the belief in the wide extension of the plot which had caused the movement on the part of the emperors must have been confirmed. See below, p. 398 sq.327:2518