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Edict of Milan

From Academic Kids

The "Edict of Milan" (313 AD) declared that the Roman Empire would be neutral with regard to religious worship, officially ending all government-sanctioned persecution especially of Christianity. The Edict was issued in the names of the Western tetrarch Constantine the Great, and Licinius, the Eastern tetrarch.

A previous edict of toleration had been recently issued from Nicomedia by the Emperor Galerius in 311. By its provisions, the Christians, who had "followed such a caprice and had fallen into such a folly that they would not obey the institutes of antiquity", were granted an indulgence.

"Wherefore, for this our indulgence, they ought to pray to their God for our safety, for that of the republic, and for their own, that the republic may continue uninjured on every side, and that they may be able to live securely in their homes." (Res publica might have better been translated "commonwealth.")

The Edict of Milan went farther. Enforcement of the Edict returned the meeting places and other properties which had been confiscated from the Christians and sold out of the government treasury: " ... the same shall be restored to the Christians without payment or any claim of recompense and without any kind of fraud or deception ... ". It gave to Christianity (and any other religion) a status of legitimacy alongside of paganism, and in effect disestablished paganism as the official religion of the Roman Empire and its armies. Also, Sunday was established as a day of worship.

The actual edicts have not been retrieved inscribed upon stone, but quoted at length in a historical work with a theme of divine retribution, by the Church Father Lactantius, De mortibus persecutionibus ("Deaths of the persecutors") in chapters 35 and 48.

In the attempt to consolidate the entire Roman Empire under one ruler, Licinius soon marched against Constantine. As part of his effort to win the loyalty of the army, Licinius exempted the army and civil service from the Edict's policy of toleration, allowing him to expel the Christians. Some Christians consequently lost property and at least a few lost their lives. A hagiographic legend survives, for example, relating how, around 320 AD, forty Christians in Sevaste refused to pour out a drink-offering in tribute to the pagan gods; as punishment, they were beaten and jailed. When they still refused to participate in the rite, they were made to stand naked on ice in mid-winter until they froze to death. A handful of them decided to renounce Christianity and joined the other soldiers by the warm fires, while an equal number decided to confess their heretofore hidden Christianity and join those on the ice. The tradition also tells of angels descending, to place crowns on the martyrs' heads.

In the end, sometime in 324 AD, Constantine gained sole possession of the Empire, and ordered Licinius executed for treason.

See also

External Links

fr:Édit de Constantin nl:Edict van Milaan pl:Edykt mediolański pt:Édito de Milão zh:米兰敕令

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