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The Ten Persecutions of the Early Christians
Persecutions Raised by the Romans Against the Christian Church

The best account of the ten persecutions is the Church History of Eusebius of Caesarea. Eusebius (c AD 260-340) was an eyewitness to many martyrdoms in Caesarea (an important city in Palestine) during the tenth persecution stirred up by Diocletian. After the persecution ended in 313, Eusebius became the bishop of Caesarea

Christians have been persecuted ever since the death of Jesus Christ. The persecutions raised by the Romans against the Christian Church can be divided into ten main ones, which began during the reign of the following emperors:



1. Nero (Roman emperor AD 54-68), persecution stirred up in AD 64. In this persecution was the apostle Paul killed and the apostle Peter crucified in Rome. This first persecution ceased under Vespasian (reigned AD 6979).

2. Domitian (Roman emperor AD 81-96). John, the apostle and evangelist was exiled to Patmos during this persecution. After the death of Domitian, John was released and came to Ephesus in AD 97, where he wrote his Gospel and where he lived until the time of Trajan.

3. Trajan (Roman emperor AD 98-117). Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch suffered in this persecution.

4. Marcus Aurelius, his other name being Antoninus Verus (Roman emperor AD 161-180). Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, and the Christian martyrs of Lyons and Vienne, two cities in France, were martyred in this persecution.

5. Septimius Severus (Roman emperor AD 193-211). This persecution extended to northern Africa, which was a Roman province.

6. Maximinus, Gaius Julius Verus (Roman emperor AD 235-238).

7. Decius (Roman emperor AD 249-251). In this persecution was Fabian martyred; Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, forced into exile; and Origen imprisoned and tortured.

8. Valerian (Roman emperor AD 253-260).

9. Aurelian (Roman emperor AD 270-275).

10. Diocletian (Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus, reigned AD 284-305) and Maximian (reigned AD 285-305) governed as emperors together. Diocletian began his furious persecution against the Christians in 303. The emperor ordered the doors of the Christian church at Nicomedia, the capital, to be barred, and then burnt the edifice with 600 Christians within. Many edicts were issued by him against Christians. Churches were demolished, Christian books were seized and burnt, Christians were persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and killed. The persecution brought a considerable number of martyrs, and it continued until 313, when Emperor Constantine set Christians free and proclaimed religious freedom.

.Theatre at Caesarea

Eusebius was one of the most voluminous writers of antiquity. His most important work is the Church History, which gives an account of the history of Christianity from the time of Jesus Christ to AD 324, the time of Emperor Constantine and the defeat of Licinius. This work is very valuable, as it refers to many prominent figures of the first three centuries and contains many original sources which would otherwise be unknown to us. The following pages contain those parts of this work which deal with the ten persecutions.

See also Augustine About the Persecutions of the Early Christians.