Maximinus Daia and the Christians in Lycia-Pamphylia

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The public institutions of Lycia and Pamphylia petitioned Maximinus Daia, one of the Tetrarchs, to prohibit Christianity on charges of atheism, insanity and defiance.

Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Petition
Original Location/Place: 
Arykanda
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
Museum of Istanbul (Turkey), inv. 711.
Date: 
312 CE
Physical Characteristics: 

Fragment of a stone plate, broken on the left and upper sides.

Material: 
Stone
Measurements: 
50 centimetres high, 55 centimetres wide, 12 centimetres thick. Letters are 1 centimetre tall.
Language: 
Greek
Category: 
Roman, Greek, Christian
Publications: 

I.Arykanda 12 [CIL III 12132; OGIS 2.569; TAM II,3.785]

Commentary: 
This inscription found in the small settlement of Arykanda (southern Anatolia) contains a petition (δέησις/deêsis) to the Tetrarchic rulers. It is concerned with the punishment of Christians who acted against the gods allegedly protecting Roman power. The testimony therefore relates not only to the persecution of one specific religious group but also to local disputes and the provincial reception of imperial policies in the 4th century CE.
 
The plea (ἱκεσία/hikesia) was produced by the people (ἔθνος/ethnos) of the Pamphylians and Lycians who formed a joint province after the latter were incorporated to the Roman Empire already under Claudian. The addressees – accepting the restorations of the text – are collectively referred to as lords (δεσπόται/despotai) of the earth, sea and humankind, a denomination belonging to imperial ideology which became more frequent at the end of the high imperial period (see e.g. I.Central.Pisidia 110; I.Eph. 304; TAM V,2 915; IGBulg V.5604). The name of three emperors (Aὐτοκράτορες/Autokratores) was given for Maximinus, Constantine and Licinius. This sequence corresponded to the reorganisation of the Tetrarchy after the retirement of its founders, Diocletian and Maximian, the usurpation of Maxentius and the death of Galerius (see Barnes, The New Empire, p. 3-7). Following the demise of the last, Maximianus Daia from the dioceses Oriens occupied Asia Minor so the petition must have been presented to him alone, despite the collegiate formulas recorded throughout the inscription. For instance, in line 6 the emperors are beseeched as very divine kings (βασιλεῖς/basileis), a sequence that is also attested some years before in the appendix to the Edict of Prices and the metropolis inscription of Perge. On the one hand, the gods that were kin (ὁμογενεῖς/homogeneis) and cared for them had already demonstrated generosity (φιλανθρωπία/philanthrôpia) with acts. On the other hand, the petitioners affirmed that they were devoted to the salvation (σωτηρία/sôtêria) of all-winning lords. The opening again complies with stock messages of provincial loyalty and devotion which even the Jews are known to have inscribed in Galilee. Such an allegiance and divine favour led the Lycians and Pamphylians to appeal to the immortal majesty (ἀθάνατος βασιλεία/athanatos basileia) and ask for the cessation of Christians who acted insanely. This religion is hence presented as a disease (νόσος/nosos) which continued to exist due to the tenacity of their followers.
 
Such an accusation and request needs to be understood within a wider context which placed Christianity on the spotlight of disputes and controversies at the beginning of the 4th century CE. Following the persecutions of the 250’s, Gallienus inaugurated a more lenient policy in which the Church grew with a certain degree of complacency as denounced by Eusebius (http://judaism-and-rome.cnrs.fr/eusebius-caesarea-ecclesiastical-history-viii17-22; http://judaism-and-rome.cnrs.fr/eusebius-caesarea-ecclesiastical-history-viii139-14). Once the Tetrarchy was fully established and the rulers became identified with Jupiter and Hercules, Diocletian launched what has been commonly known as the ‘Great Persecution’ on 4 February 303 (Eusebius, Church History VIII. 2. 4; Lactantius, On the Death of Persecutors 13.1). Pagan sacrifices were to be performed (http://judaism-and-rome.cnrs.fr/peter-alexandria-canonical-epistle-v-vii), even people holding prominent positions within Roman authority were affected (http://judaism-and-rome.cnrs.fr/eusebius-caesarea-ecclesiastical-history-viii96-8-and-111-2), and martyrs multiplied across the provinces of the Roman Empire (http://judaism-and-rome.cnrs.fr/inscriptiones-christianae-graecae-3621). By 306, Maximinus Daia was already ruling over the Levant and Eusebius reports how the Roman ruler conducted the persecutions with particular harshness (Eusebius, Palestinian Martyrs IV.8, IX.2). In 311, however, Maxentius from Rome declared toleration for the Christians (Eusebius, Church History VIII.14.1), and Galerius, in the East, followed with a text that is recorded by both Lactantius (On the Death of the Persecutors 33.1-35) and Eusebius (VIII.17.3-10). In the edict, the Christians appear as recently “driven by an unsound mind” and “by foolishness and wilfulness” against their ancestral religion. Moreover, they were required to ask for the welfare of the emperors and the common good (cf. http://judaism-and-rome.cnrs.fr/1-peter-212-17). These messages are deeply linked with the attacks recorded in the inscription and hence based on common accusations, such as that of godlessness (ἄθεοι/atheoi) which contemporary Christian apologists still needed to reject (http://judaism-and-rome.cnrs.fr/arnobius-against-pagans-i5).  
 
Maximinus Daia did not subscribe to the Edict of Toleration, so official embassies from the territory under his control soon reached him asking to punish the Christians. Whilst the provincials were most likely aware of the anti-Christian stance of the emperor, Eusebius (Church History IX. 2)and Lactantius (On the Death of the Persecutors 36.3) denounced that the petitions were orchestrated. The inscription from Arykanda is the only example of the grounds and requests that may have been presented by the local population. In addition to putting an end to their madness, the representatives of Lycia and Pamphylia wanted to be sure that the cult of the gods was not trespassed (παραβαίνειν/parabainein) by any form of wickedness and suggested the empowered rulers to regulate the prohibition of this “hateful devotion” (ἀπεχθής ἐπιτήδευσις/apechthês epitêdeusis). Instead, the Christians were to practice the religion (θρησκεία/thrêskeia) of the same gods that contributed to the imperishable majesty of the emperors as this was beneficial for his subjects. The petitioners were successful and the Latin decree of Maximinus responding to such requests was also inscribed on the upper part of the stone which is not included in our edition. Only the last lines are preserved, but the content can be satisfactorily restored by virtue of a longer fragment found in the nearby city of Olbasa and previously delivered in Sardis on 6 April 312 (see Mitchel, “Maximinus”), and also the Greek version that Eusebius claimed to have translated from the copy of Tyre (Eusebius, Church History IX.7.3-14; cf. Feissel, “Les constitutions,” p. 36, no. 10) Textual similarities therefore certify the authenticity of an imperial response which went even further than what the ambassadors of Lycia and Pamphylia likely requested while the emperor and his army were fighting against Anatolian brigands (see I.Stratonikeia 310). Most importantly, Maximinus Daia authorised to expel Christians from cities, a right which, even if absent from the petition of Arykanda, was allegedly demanded by the people of Antioch through Theotecnus (see Eusebius, Church History IX.2-3). The effectiveness of Maximinus’ persecution can likewise be confirmed by the deaths of martyrs such as the aforementioned Peter in Alexandria, Lucian in Nicomedia (Eusebius, Church History VII.32.31, IX. 6.3), and probably, Methodius from Olympos in Lycia (Jerome, On Illustrious Men 83). This situation continued until the winter of 312 CE. Constantine defeated Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge of Rome on 24th October, and the victor together with Licinius took a clear pro-Christian stance that soon reached Maximianus by letter (Lactantius, On the Death of the Persecutors 37.I, cf. 44. 10-12; Eusebius, Church History IX.9.12). The so-called ‘Edict of Milan’ followed and the ruler of the East was subsequently forced to repent and produced an apologetic change of policy soon before he died in Tarsus in the summer of 313 (see Eusebius, Church History IX. 9a. 4-9). This petition is therefore illustrative of the immediately preceding period of complex religious transition between the pagan preponderance of Roman power and the beginning of the Christian Empire.   
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Maximinus Daia and the Christians in Lycia-Pamphylia
Author(s) of this publication: Aitor Blanco Pérez
Publishing date: Sat, 03/24/2018 - 21:32
URL: http://www.judaism-and-rome.org/maximinus-daia-and-christians-lycia-pamphylia
Visited: Mon, 06/24/2019 - 10:57

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