Whilst the four horsemen have been portraying the story of over two centuries of well verified Roman history, meanwhile, thousands and thousands of honest, peace loving, Christ serving saints have been intermittently persecuted in every conceivable manner. From exile and confiscation of property to all out brutal torture and murder, men, women and children have been hunted and dispatched by the imperial Roman beast. I’ve used the date above in recognition of ‘The Edict of Serdica’, which came at the end of two and a half centuries of troubles culminating in the Diocletian persecutions. These were by all accounts the worse and most intolerable years of existence for Christians living in the Roman empire.
I will not cite any of the stomach churning accounts that endure from this age but just as we remember those who died in the wars of the past century let us never forget our beloved brothers and sisters who, along with their little ones, endured all and who loved not their lives unto the death. Their cry for justice is met with comfort but also a statement of the bleak outlook for the future… they must wait until the others who will be similarly fated will join them. The number of this first wave of martyrs under the imperial form of the Roman beast would be massively multiplied when this beast develops into its subsequent papal form. We shall meet their and our other brothers and sisters further along our path.
The first persecution of Christians organised by the Roman government took place under the emperor Nero in 64 AD after the Great Fire of Rome. The Edict of Serdica was issued in 311 by the Roman emperor Galerius, officially ending the Diocletianic persecution of Christianity in the East.
A further edict of toleration (the Edict of Milan) was made two years later under Constantine. Presumably the Edict of Serdica did not bring a full and final relief for all Christians in the empire.
The Diocletian persecution (aka the Great Persecution) was the last and generally considered most severe persecution of Christians under the Roman empire. Diocletian reigned 284 – 305. Going back to the letters to the seven churches it is notable that Smyrna was warned especially of ten “days” of coming tribulation. It is generally understood that there were ten successive persecutions under the Roman empire and also some say that the ultimate pinnacle of persecution was a period of ten years (303 – 313), initiated by Diocletian. This lends some weight to the thinking that the messages to the seven churches speak prophetically of the eras ahead of them.