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The Two Republics, or Rome and the United States of America

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    AURELIAN,

    who became emperor in A. D. 270. His persecution, like that of some of the others in the list, is a myth. So far from Aurelian’s being a persecutor or an enemy of the Christians, or one whom they dreaded, the bishops themselves appealed to him in one of their intestine controversies.TTR 134.4

    Paul of Samosata was Bishop of Antioch, and like many other bishops of his day, he assumed a style and an arrogance becoming an emperor of Rome rather than a servant of Christ. He was accused of heresy and tried by a council of bishops, who pronounced him deposed, and named another to be seated in his place. But, although they could easily enough pronounce him deposed, it was another thing to unseat him in fact. Paul held his bishopric in spite of them. The council then appealed to Aurelian to enforce their decree and compel Paul to vacate the bishopric. Aurelian refused to decide the question himself, but referred them to the Bishop of Rome, saying that whoever the bishops of Rome and Italy should decide to be the proper person, should have the office. They decided against Paul, and Aurelian compelled him to relinquish his seat. Afterward, however, in the last year of his reign, as it proved to be, Eusebius says that Aurelian was persuaded to raise persecution against the Christians, and the rumor was spread abroad everywhere; yet before any decree was issued, death overtook him. This is the history of Aurelian as one of the “Persecutors,” and this is the history of “the ninth persecution.”TTR 134.5

    The tenth persecution, that of Diocletian, was a persecution indeed. We shall not dwell upon it here, because it will have to be noticed fully in another place.TTR 135.1

    The evidence here presented, however, is sufficient to show that the story of the Ten Persecutions is a fable. That both events and names have been forced into service to make up the list of ten persecutions and to find among the Roman emperors ten persecutors, the history plainly shows.TTR 135.2

    The history shows that only five of the so-called ten persecutors can by any fair construction be counted such. These five were Nero, Marcus Aurelius, Valerian, Decius, and Diocletian. Of the other five Trajan not only added nothing to the laws already existing, but gave very mild directions for the enforcement of these, which abated rather than intensified the troubles of the Christians. It would be difficult to see how any directions could have been more mild without abrogating the laws altogether, which to Trajan would have been only equivalent to subverting the empire itself. Domitian was not a persecutor of the Christians as such, but was cruel to all people; and in common with others, some Christians suffered, and suffered only as did others who were not Christians. Septimius Severus only forbade any more people to become Christians without particularly interfering with such as were already Christians. The cruelty of Maximin, more bitter even than that of Domitian, involved all classes, and where it overtook Christians, that which befell them was but the common lot of thousands and thousands of people who were not Christians. Aurelian was not in any sense a persecutor of the Christians in fact. At the utmost stretch, he only contemplated it. Had he lived longer, he might have been a persecutor; but it is not honest to count a man a persecutor who at the most only intended to persecute. It is not fair in such a case to turn an intention into a fact.TTR 135.3

    Looking again at the record of the five who really were persecutors, it is found that from Nero to Marcus Aurelius was ninety-three years; that from Marcus Aurelius to Decius was eighty years; that from Decius to Valerian’s edict was six years; and that from the edict of Gallienus to Diocletian’s edict of persecution was forty-three years. From the record of this period, on the other hand, it is found that between Nero and Marcus Aurelius, Domitian and Vitellius raged; that between Marcus and Decius, the savage Commodus and Caracalla, and Elagabalus and Maximin, all ravaged the empire like wild boars a forest; and that next after Valerian came Gallienus.TTR 136.1

    From these facts it must be admitted that if the persecution of the Christians by Pagan Rome depended upon the action of the emperors, and if it is to be attributed to them, Christians had not much more to bear than had the generality of people throughout the empire. In short, the story of the “Ten Persecutions” is a myth.TTR 136.2

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