SELECTIONS FROM EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITERS: ILLUSTRATIVE OF CHURCH HISTORY TO THE TIME OF CONSTANTINE by Henry Melvill Gwatkin, M.A. First Edition, Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1893. Reprinted with additions and corrections, 1897, 1902, 1905. Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram, 2013.
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XLXXI. LACTANTIUS, De Mort.Pers.48.


The Edict of Milan


LITTERAE LICINII.

Cum feliciter tam ego Constantinus Augustus, quam etiam ego Licinius Augustus apud Mediolanum convenissemus, atque universa, quae ad commoda et securitatem publicam pertinerent, in tractatu haberemus, haec inter caetera quae videbamus pluribus hominibus profutura, vel in primis ordinanda esse credidimus, quibus divinitatis reverentia continebatur, ut daremus et Christianis et omnibus liberam potestatem sequendi religionem, quam quisque voluisset, quo quidquid divinitatis in sede coelesti nobis atque omnibus, qui sub potestate nostra sunt con-stituti, placatum ac propitium possit existere. Itaque hoc consilium salubri ac rectissima ratione ineundum esse credidimus, ut nulli omnino facultatem abnegandam putaremus, qui vel observationi Christianorum, vel ei religioni mentem suam dederet, quam ipse sibi aptissimam esse sentiret; ut possit nobis summa divinitas, cuius religioni liberis mentibus obsequimur, in omnibus solitum favorem suum benevolentiamque praestare. Quare scire dicationem tuam convenit, placuisse nobis, ut amotis omnibus omnino conditionibus, quae prius scriptis ad officium tuum datis super Christianorum nomine videbantur, nunc libere ac simpliciter unusquisque eorum, qui eandem observandae religioni Christianorum gerunt voluntatem, citra ullam inquietudinem ac molestiam sui id ipsum observare contendant. Quae sollicitudini tuae plenissime significanda esse credidimus, quo scires, nos liberam atque absolutam colendae religionis suae facultatem iisdem Christianis dedisse. Quod cum iisdem a nobis indultum esse pervideas, intelligit dicatio tua, etiam aliis religionis suae vel observantiae potestatem similiter apertam et liberam pro quiete temporis nostri esse concessam, ao ut in colendo, quod quisque delegerit, habeat liberam facultatem, quod nobis placuit, ut neque cuiquam honori, neque cuiquam religioni aliquid a nobis detractum videatur. Atque hoc insuper in persona Christianorum statuendum esse censuimus, quod si eadem loca, ad quae antea convenire consuerant, de quibus etiam datis ad officium tuum litteris certa antehac forma fuerat comprehensa, priore tempore aliqui vel a fisco nostro, vel ab alio quocunque videntur esse mercati, eadem Christianis sine pecunia et sine ulla pretii petitione, postposita omni frustratione atque ambiguitate, restituantur. Qui etiam dono fuerunt consecuti, eadem similiter iisdem Christianis quantocius reddant. Et iam vel hi qui emerunt, vel qui dono fuerunt consecuti, si petiverint de nostra benevolentia aliquid, vicarium postulent, quo et ipsis per nostram clementiam consulatur. Quae omnia corpori Christianorum protinus per intercessionem tuam ac sine mora tradi oportebit. Et quoniam iidem Christiani non ea loca tantum, ad quae convenire consuerunt, sed alia etiam habuisse noscuntur, ad ius corporis eorum, id est ecclesiarum, non hominum singulorum, pertinentia; ea omnia lege, qua superius comprehendimus; citra ullam prorsus ambiguitatem, vel controversiam iisdem Christianis, id est, corpori et conventiculis eorum reddi iubebis: supra dicta scilicet ratione servata, ut ii, qui eadem sine pretio, sicut diximus, restituant, indemnitatem de nostra benevolentia sperent. In quibus omnibus supra dicto corpori Christianorum intercessionem tuam efficacissimam exhibere debebis, ut praeceptum nostrum quantocius compleatur; quo etiam in hoc per clementiam nostram quieti publicae consulatur. Hactenus fiet, ut sicut superius comprehensum est, divinus iuxta nos favor, quem in tantis sumus rebus experti, per omne tempus prospere successibus nostris cum beatitudine publica perseveret. Ut autem huius sanctionis et benevolentiae nostrae forma ad omnium possit pervenire notitiam, prolata programmate tuo haec scripta et ubique proponere, et ad omnium scientiam te perferre conveniet, ut huius benevolentiae nostrae sanctio latere non possit.

When we, Constantine Augustus and Licinius Augustus, had happily met together at Milan, and were holding consideration of all things which concern the advantage and security of the State, we thought that amongst other things which seemed likely to profit men generally, we ought in the very first place to set in order the conditions of the reverence paid to the Divinity, by giving to the Christians and all others full authority to follow whatever worship any man has chosen; whereby whatsoever Divinity dwells in heaven may be benevolent and propitious to us, and to all who are placed under our authority. Therefore we thought it good with sound counsel and very right reason to lay down this law, that no man whatever should be refused any legal facility, who has given up his mind either to the observance of Christianity, or to the worship which he personally feels best suited to himself; to the end that the supreme Divinity, whose worship we freely follow, may continue in all things to grant us his wonted favour and goodwill. Wherefore your Devotion should know that it is our pleasure to abolish all conditions whatever which appeared in former charters directed to your office about the Christians, that every one of those who have a common wish to observe the Christian worship may now freely and unconditionally endeavour to observe the same without any annoyance or disquiet. These things we thought good to signify in the fullest manner to your Carefulness, that you might know that we have given freely and unreservedly to the said Christians authority to practise their worship. And when you perceive that we have made this grant to the said Christians, your Devotion understands that to others also freedom for their own worship and observance is likewise left open and freely granted, as befits the quiet of our times, that every man may have freedom in the practice of whatever worship he has chosen, for it is not our will that aught be diminished from the honour of any worship. Moreover in regard to the Christians we have thought fit to ordain this also, that if any appear to have bought, whether from our exchequer or from any others, the places at which they were used formerly to assemble, concerning which definite orders have been given before now, and that by letters issued to your office – that the same be restored to the Christians, setting aside all delay and doubtfulness, without any payment or demand of price. Those also who have obtained them by gift shall restore them in like manner without delay to the said Christians ; and those moreover who have bought them, as well as those who have obtained them by gift, if they request anything of our benevolence, they shall apply to the Vicarius, that order may be taken for them too by our Clemency. All these things must be delivered over at once and without delay by your intervention to the corporation of the Christians. And since the said Christians are known to have possessed, not those places only whereto they were used to assemble, but others also belonging to their corporation, namely the churches, and not to individuals, we comprise them all under the above law, so that you will order them to be restored without any doubtfulness or dispute to the said Christians, that is to their corporation and assemblies; provided always as aforesaid, that those who restore them without price, as we said, shall expect a compensation from our benevolence. In all these things you must give the aforesaid Christians your most effective intervention, that our command may be fulfilled as soon as may be, and that in this matter, as well as others, order may be taken by our Clemency for the public quiet. So far we will ensure that, as is already said, the Divine favour which we have already experienced in so many affairs shall continue for all time to give us prosperity and successes, together with happiness for the State. But that it may be possible for this command of our benevolence to come to the knowledge of all men, it will be your duty by a proclamation of your own to publish everywhere and bring to the notice of all men this present document when it reaches you, that the command of this our benevolence may not be hidden.


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