The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation

By Bede | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI.
THE REIGN OF DIOCLESIAN, AND HOW HE PERSECUTED THE
CHRISTIANS.

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 286, Dioclesian, the thirty-third from Augustus, and chosen emperor by the army, reigned twenty years, and created Maximianus, surnamed Herculius, his colleague in the empire. In their time, one Carausius, of very mean birth, but an expert and able soldier, being appointed to guard the sea-coasts, then infested by the Franks and Saxons, acted more to the prejudice than to the advantage of the commonwealth; and from his not restoring the booty taken from the robbers to the owners, but keeping all to himself, it became suspected that by his neglect he suffered the enemy to infest the frontiers. Hearing, therefore, that an order was sent by Maximian that he should be put to death, he took upon him the imperial robes, and possessed himself of Britain, and having most valiantly retained it for the space of seven years, he was at length put to death by the treachery of his associate, Allectus. The usurper having thus got the island from Carausius, held it three years, and was then vanquished by Asclepiodotus, the captain of the Prætorian bands, who thus at the end of ten years restored Britain to the Roman empire. In the meantime, Dioclesian in the east, and Maximianus Herculius in the west, commanded the churches to be destroyed, and the Christians to be slain. This persecution was the tenth since the reign of Nero, and was more lasting and bloody than all the others before it; for it was carried on incessantly for the space of ten years, with burning of churches, outlawing of innocent persons, and the slaughter of martyrs. At length, it reached Britain also, and many persons, with the constancy of martyrs, died in the confession of their faith.

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