Καὶ δὴ τοσούτοις παλαίων κακοῖς συναίσθησιν τῶν κατὰ τῶν θεοσεβῶν αὐτῷ τετολμημένων ἴσχει, συναγαγὼν δ̓ οὖν εἰς ἑαυτὸν τὴν διάνοιαν, πρῶτα μὲν ἀνθομολογεῖται τῷ τῶν ὅλων θεῷ, εἶτα τοὺς ἀμφ̓ αὐτὸν ἀνακαλέσας, μηδὲν ὑπερθεμένους τὸν κατὰ Χριστιανῶν ἀποπαῦσαι διωγμὸν νόμῳ τε καὶ δόγματι βασιλικῷ τὰς ἐκκλησίας αὐτῶν οἰκοδομεῖν ἐπισπέρχειν καὶ τὰ συνήθη διαπράττεσθαι, εὐχὰς ὑπὲρ τοῦ βασιλείου ποιουμένους, προστάττει. αὐτίκα γοῦν ἔργου τῷ λόγῳ παρηκολουθηκότος, ἥπλωτο κατὰ πόλεις βασιλικὰ διατάγματα, τὴν παλινῳδίαν τῶν καθ̓ ἡμᾶς τοῦτον περιέχοντα τὸν τρόπον: “αὐτοκράτωρ Καῖσαρ Γαλέριος Οὐαλέριος Μαξιμιανὸς ἀνίκητος Σεβαστός, ἀρχιερεὺς μέγιστος, Γερμανικὸς μέγιστος, Αἰγυπτιακὸς μέγιστος, Θηβαϊκὸς μέγιστος, Σαρματικὸς μέγιστος πεντάκις, Περσῶν μέγιστος δίς, Κάρπων μέγιστος ἑξάκις, Ἀρμενίων μέγιστος, Μήδων μέγιστος, Ἀδιαβηνῶν μέγιστος, δημαρχικῆς ἐξουσίας τὸ εἰκοστόν, αὐτοκράτωρ τὸ ἐννεακαιδέκατον, ὕπατος τὸ ὄγδοον, πατὴρ πατρίδος, ἀνθύπατος· καὶ αὐτοκράτωρ Καῖσαρ Φλαύιος Οὐαλέριος Κωνσταντῖνος εὐσεβὴς εὐτυχὴς ἀνίκητος Σεβαστός, ἀρχιερεὺς μέγιστος, δημαρχικῆς ἐξουσίας, αὐτοκράτωρ τὸ πέμπτον, ὕπατος, πατὴρ πατρίδος, ἀνθύπατος. [καὶ αὐτοκράτωρ Καῖσαρ Οὐαλέριος Λικιννιανὸς Λικίννιος εὐσεβὴς εὐτυχὴς ἀνίκητος Σεβαστός, ἀρχιερεὺς μέγιστος, δημαρχικῆς ἐξουσίας τὸ τέταρτον, αὐτοκράτωρ τὸ τρίτον, ὕπατος, πατὴρ πατρίδος, ἀνθύπατος, ἐπαρχιώταις ἰδίοις χαίρειν.] μεταξὺ τῶν λοιπῶν, ἅπερ ὑπὲρ τοῦ χρησίμου καὶ λυσιτελοῦς τοῖς δημοσίοις διατυπούμεθα, ἡμεῖς μὲν βεβουλήμεθα πρότερον κατὰ τοὺς ἀρχαίους νόμους καὶ τὴν δημοσίαν ἐπιστήμην τὴν τῶν Ῥωμαίων ἅπαντα ἐπανορθώσασθαι καὶ τούτου πρόνοιαν ποιήσασθαι ἵνα καὶ οἱ Χριστιανοί, οἵτινες τῶν γονέων τῶν ἑαυτῶν καταλελοίπασιν τὴν αἵρεσιν, εἰς ἀγαθὴν πρόθεσιν ἐπανέλθοιεν· ἐπείπερ τινὶ λογισμῷ τοσαύτη αὐτοὺς πλεονεξία κατεσχήκει καὶ ἄνοια κατειλήφει ὡς μὴ ἕπεσθαι τοῖς ὑπὸ τῶν πάλαι καταδειχθεῖσιν, ἅπερ ἴσως πρότερον καὶ οἱ γονεῖς αὐτῶν ᾖσαν καταστήσαντες, ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν αὐτῶν πρόθεσιν καὶ ὡς ἕκαστος ἐβούλετο, οὕτως ἑαυτοῖς καὶ νόμους ποιῆσαι καὶ τούτους παραφυλάσσειν καὶ ἐν διαφόροις διάφορα πλήθη συνάγειν. τοιγαροῦν τοιούτου ὑφ’ ἡμῶν προστάγματος παρακολουθήσαντος ὥστε ἐπὶ τὰ ὑπὸ τῶν ἀρχαίων κατασταθέντα ἑαυτοὺς μεταστήσαιεν, πλεῖστοι μὲν κινδύνῳ ὑποβληθέντες, πλεῖστοι δὲ ταραχθέντες παντοίους θανάτους ὑπέφερον· καὶ ἐπειδὴ τῶν πολλῶν τῇ αὐτῇ ἀπονοίᾳ διαμενόντων ἑωρῶμεν μήτε τοῖς θεοῖς τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις τὴν ὀφειλομένην θρῃσκείαν προσάγειν αὐτοὺς μήτε τῷ τῶν Χριστιανῶν προσέχειν, ἀφορῶντες εἰς τὴν ἡμετέραν φιλανθρωπίαν καὶ τὴν διηνεκῆ συνήθειαν δἰ ἧς εἰώθαμεν ἅπασιν ἀνθρώποις συγγνώμην ἀπονέμειν, προθυμότατα καὶ ἐν τούτῳ τὴν συγχώρησιν τὴν ἡμετέραν ἐπεκτεῖναι δεῖν ἐνομίσαμεν, ἵνα αὖθις ὦσιν Χριστιανοὶ καὶ τοὺς οἴκους ἐν οἷς συνήγοντο, συνθῶσιν οὕτως ὥστε μηδὲν ὑπεναντίον τῆς ἐπιστήμης αὐτοὺς πράττειν. δι’ ἑτέρας δὲ ἐπιστολῆς τοῖς δικασταῖς δηλώσομεν τί αὐτοὺς παραφυλάξασθαι δεήσει· ὅθεν κατὰ ταύτην τὴν συγχώρησιν τὴν ἡμετέραν ὀφείλουσιν τὸν ἑαυτῶν θεὸν ἱκετεύειν περὶ τῆς σωτηρίας τῆς ἡμετέρας καὶ τῶν δημοσίων καὶ τῆς ἑαυτῶν, ἵνα κατὰ πάντα τρόπον καὶ τὰ δημόσια παρασχεθῇ ὑγιῆ καὶ ἀμέριμνοι ζῆν ἐν τῇ ἑαυτῶν ἑστίᾳ δυνηθῶσι. ταῦτα κατὰ τὴν Ῥωμαίων φωνήν, ἐπὶ τὴν Ἑλλάδα γλῶτταν κατὰ τὸ δυνατὸν μεταληφθέντα, τοῦτον εἶχεν τὸν τρόπον. τί δὴ οὖν ἐπὶ τούτοις γίνεται, ἐπιθεωρῆσαι καιρός.
(Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 8.17)
Αnd wrestling with such terrible misfortunes he was conscience-stricken for the cruel deeds he had perpetrated agninst the godly. Collecting, therefore, his thoughts, he first openly confessed to the God οf the universe; then he called those around him, and commanded them without delay to cause the persecution against Christians to cease, and by an imperial law and decree to urge them to build their churches and to perform their accustomed rites, offering prayers on the Εmperor’s behalf. Action immediately followed his word, and imperial ordinances were promulgated in each city, containing the recantation οf the [persecution edicts] of οur time, after this manner: “The Emperor Caesar Galerius Valerius Maximianus Invictus Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, Germanicus Maximus, Aegyptiacus Maximus, Thebaicus Maximus, Sarmaticus Maximus five times, Persicus Maximus twice, Carpicus Maximus six times, Armeniacus Maximus, Medicus Maximus, Adiabenicus Maximus, holding the Tribunician Power for the twentieth time, Emperor for the nineteenth time*, Consul for the eighth, Father of his country, Proconsul:* . . . Αnd the Emperor Caesar Flavius Valerius Constantinus Pius Felix Invictus Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, holding the Tribunician Power, Εmperοr for the fifth time, Consul, Father οf his country, Proconsul: [And the Εmperor Caesar Valerius Licinianus Licinius Pius Felix Invictus Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, holding the Tribunician Ρower for the fourth time, Emperor for the third time, Consul, Father of his country, Proconsul: to the people of their provinces, greeting.] Among the other measures that we frame for the use and profit of the state, it had been our own wish formerly that all things should be set to rights in accordance with the ancient laws and public order of the Romans; and to make provision for this, namely, that the Christians also, such as had abandoned the persuasion of their own ancestors, should return to a sound mind; seeing that through some reasoning they had been possessed of such self-will and seized with such folly that, instead of following the institutions of the ancients, which perchance their own forefathers had formerly established, they made for themselves, and were observing, laws merely in accordance with their own disposition and as each one wished, and were assembing various multitudes in divers places: Therefore when a command of ours soon followed to the intent that they should betake themselves to the institutions of the ancients, very many indeed were subjected to peril, while very many were harassed and endured all kinds of death; Αnd since the majority held to the same folly, and we perceived that they were neither paying the worship due to the gods of heaven nor honouring the god of the Christians; having regard to our clemency and the invariable custom by which we are wont to accord pardon to all men, we thought it right in this case also to extend most willingly our indulgence: That Christians may exist again and build the houses in which they used to assemble, always provided that they do nothing contrary to order. In another letter we shall indicate to the judges how they should proceed. Wherefore, in accordance with this our indulgence, they will be bound to beseech their οwn god for our welfare, and that of the state, and their own; that in every way both the well being of the state may be secured, and they may be enabled to live free from care in their own homes.”
Such is the character of this edict in the Latin tongue, translated into Greek as well as may be. Now it is time to consider carefully what happened subsequently.
* Lactantius states that the edict was issued in the names of all four emperos (cf. also 16.1), so that Maximin’s names and titles, here omitted, must have appeared in the original where the lacuna is indicated. Similarly, some MSS. omit the reference to Licinius, which is here placed in brackets. Both Maximin and Licinius persecuted the Christians subsequently, and this fact may have led to the omission of their names.
(tr. J.E.L. Oulton, with one of his notes)