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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:
The Life of Constantine with Orations of Constantine and Eusebius.: Chapter XXV

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXV.—Of Diocletian, who ignobly abdicated 3488 the Imperial Throne, and was terrified by the Dread of Lightning for his Persecution of the Church.

Diocletian, however, after the display of relentless cruelty as a persecutor, evinced a consciousness of his own guilt and owing to the affliction of a disordered mind, endured the confinement of a mean and separate dwelling. 3489 What then, did he gain by his active hostility against our God? Simply this I believe, that he passed the residue of his life in continual dread of the lightning’s stroke. Nicomedia attests the fact; eyewitnesses, of whom I myself am one, declare it. The palace, and the emperor’s private chamber were destroyed, consumed by lightning, devoured by the fire of heaven. Men of understanding hearts had indeed predicted the issue of such conduct; for they could not keep silence, nor conceal their grief at such unworthy deeds; but boldly and openly expressed their feeling, saying one to another: “What madness is this? and what an insolent abuse of power, that man should dare to fight against God; should deliberately insult the most holy and just of all religions; and plan, without the slightest provocation, the destruction of so great a multitude of righteous persons? O rare example of moderation to his subjects! Worthy instructor of his army in the care and protection due to their fellow-citizens! Men who had never seen the backs of a retreating army plunged their swords into the breasts of their own countrymen!” So great was the effusion of blood shed, that if shed in battle with barbarian enemies, it had been sufficient to purp. 580 chase a perpetual peace. 3490 At length, indeed, the providence of God took vengeance on these unhallowed deeds; but not without severe damage to the state. For the entire army of the emperor of whom I have just spoken, becoming subject to the authority of a worthless person, 3491 who had violently usurped the supreme authority at Rome (when the providence of God restored freedom to that great city), was destroyed in several successive battles. And when we remember the cries with which those who were oppressed, and who ardently longed for their native liberty implored the help of God; and their praise and thanksgiving to him on the removal of the evils under which they had groaned, when that liberty was regained, and free and equitable intercourse restored: do not these things every way afford convincing proofs of the providence of God, and his affectionate regard for the interests of mankind?



Cf. Prolegomena, Life.


[The derangement of Diocletian appears to have been temporary only. The causes of his abdication are not very clearly ascertained; but he seems to have meditated the step a considerable time previously. See Gibbon, ch. 13, and the note of Valesius.—Bag.]


Valesius and Hein., in his first edition, and Bag. read this transposed thus, “…severe damage to the state, and an effusion of blood; which, if shed,” etc. But Val. suggests, and Heinichen adopts in his second edition, that the whole sentence should be transposed as above.


[“He means Maxentius, as appears from what follows. How Diocletian’s army came under the command of Maxentius, it is not difficult to understand. After Diocletian’s abdication, Galerius Maximian took the command of his forces, giving part to Severus Cæsar for the defence of Italy. Shortly afterwards, Maxentius having usurped the Imperial power at Rome, Galerius sent Severus against him with his forces. Maxentius, however, fraudulently and by promises corrupted and drew to his own side Severus’s army. After this, Galerius, having marched against Maxentius with a more numerous force, was himself in like manner deserted by his troops. Thus the army of Diocletian came under the power of Maxentius” (Valesius ad loc.).—Bag.]

Next: Chapter XXVI

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