Christianity’s Criminal History, 95

Below, an abridged translation from the third volume of
Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums.

 
Most of the written statements about the martyrs are false, but all of them were considered as totally valid historical documents (2 of 7)

The tolerance of the Romans in religious matters was generally great. They had it before the Jews, guaranteeing their freedom of worship, and even after the wars fought against the Jews, they were not forced to worship the gods of the state and released from the obligatory offerings to the emperors.

Until the beginning of the 3rd century, the hatred against Christians—who considered themselves exclusive; who, with all humility (!) thought of themselves as special, like the ‘God of Israel’, ‘chosen people’, ‘holy people’ who felt themselves as the ‘golden part’—came mostly from the common peoples. For a long time the emperors imagined themselves too strong before this dark sect to intervene seriously. ‘They avoided whenever possible’ the trials against Christians (Eduard Schwartz).

For two hundred years they were not subjected to any ‘persecution’. Emperor Commodus had a Christian favourite. In Nicomedia, the main Christian church was in front of Diocletian’s residence. Also his preceptor of rhetoric, the Father of the Church Lactantius, remained safe in the vicinity of the sovereign during the toughest persecutions against the Christians. Lactantius never appeared before the courts or went to jail.

Almost everyone knew Christians, but they did not like to get their hands dirty by persecuting them. When it was necessary because the adepts of the Greco-Roman culture were furious, the officials did everything possible to release the imprisoned. The Christians only had to renounce their faith—and they did it massively, it was the general rule—and nobody bothered them again.

During the most intense persecution, that of Diocletian, the state only demanded the fulfilment of the offering of sacrifices that the law imposed on all citizens. Non-compliance was punished, but in no case the practice of the Christian religion. Even during the persecution of Diocletian, the churches were able to dispose of their property.

Even with Emperor Decius, in the year 250, we cannot speak of a general and planned persecution of Christians. At that time the first Roman bishop is killed in a persecution. Fabian died in prison; there was no death sentence on him. But up to that date, the ancient Church already considered as ‘martyrs’ eleven of the seventeen Roman bishops, although none of them had been martyrs! For two hundred years Christianity had lived side by side with the emperors. And in spite of that, on the Catholic side they still lie—with ecclesiastical imprimatur (and dedication: ‘To the beloved mother of God’)—in the mid-20th century: ‘Most of the popes of that time died as martyrs’ (Rüger).

(Cornelius by Master of Meßkirch.) The ‘pope’ Cornelius, who died peacefully in 253 in Civitavecchia, appears as beheaded in the acts of the martyrs. Also falsified are those that make the Roman bishop Stephen I (254-257) victim of the persecutions of Valerian. Pope St. Eutychian (275-283) even buried ‘with his own hands’ 342 martyrs, before following them himself.

The Church tried to cover up the apostasy of several popes at the beginning of the 4th century by falsifying the documents. The Liber Pontificalis, the official list of the papacy, points out that the Roman bishop Marcellinus (296-304), who had made sacrifices to the gods and had delivered the ‘sacred’ books, soon repented and died martyred: a complete forgery.

In the Roman martyrology, one pope after another gain the crown of martyrdom—almost everything is pure deception. (Interestingly, until the end of the 3rd century the cult of the martyrs had not begun in Rome.)

______ 卐 ______

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Kriminalgeschichte, 22

Editor’s note: Lactantius’ words quoted below (‘Now those who pretended to defy God are laid prostrate on the ground, those who knocked down the Temple [of Jerusalem] were slow to fall…’) make me think once again that there were a number of cryptos among those who defined early Christianity. In other words, it is false what white nationalists say: that Christianity was only cucked in recent times.

Below, abridged translation from the first volume of Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (Criminal History of Christianity):
 

Pagan emperors viewed retrospectively

Even the pagan emperors, in spite of being considered designated ‘by God’ and maintainers of their ‘order’, were subject to the pejorative treatment from the Fathers of the Church. Those of the second century, which according to Athenagoras were still ‘clement and kind’, wise and truth-loving, peaceful and enlightened benefactors, at the beginning of the fourth century were replaced by monsters without comparable parallels.

The triumphal shrieks of the Christians began around 314, by Lactantius. His pamphlet De Mortibus Persecutorum (‘On the Deaths of the Persecutors’) is so bad by the choice of its theme, its style and its level, that for a long time it was wanted to deny the authorship to this Cicero Christianus, although today its authenticity is considered (almost) indisputable.

In his writing, Lactantius pulls no punches on the Roman emperors, published in Gaul as he educated Crispus, son of Constantine: ‘Enemies of God’, ‘tyrants’ whom he compares to wolves and describes as ‘beasts’. The political environment had barely changed, Campenhausen said, and ‘the old ideology of martyrs and persecuted people disappears from the Church as if it had been carried away by the wind, replaced by its opposite’.

Although persecutor of the Christians, the emperor Decius (reign 249-251) had set out to govern peacefully, as he left recorded in his coins (pax provinciae), and according to historical sources was a man of excellent qualities until he fell defeated before the Gothic leader Kniva and died in Abritus, a place corresponding to the present region of the Dobruja.

Decius was for Lactantius ‘an enemy of God’, ‘an abominable monster’ that deserved to end as pasture of ‘beasts and vultures’. Of Valerian (reign 253-260), who also persecuted the Christians and who died as prisoner of the Persians, Lactantius affirms that ‘they stripped the skin, which was tanned with red tint to be exposed in the temple of the barbarian gods as a reminder of that great triumph’.

Diocletian (reign 284-305) had used Lactantius as rhetor latinus in Nicomedia when he was a poor man and then, during the persecutions and Lactantius residing in the imperial capital, Diocletian did not touch a single thread of his clothing. But he deserves the appellation of ‘great in the invention of crimes’. As for Maximian (reign 285-30), co-regent with Diocletian, according to Lactantius, ‘he was not able to refuse any satisfaction of his low passions’, ‘Wherever he went, they took the maidens from the arms of their parents, and put them at his disposal’.

But the worst ‘of the wicked who ever encouraged’ was Emperor Galerius (305-311), son-in-law of Diocletian. Lactantius considers him the true inspirer of the pogroms initiated in 303, in which he proposed to ‘mistreat the whole human race’.

When ‘the mean-spirited man wanted to amuse himself’ he called one of his bears, ‘in fierceness and corpulence comparable to himself’ and cast it human beings to eat. ‘And while he broke the limbs of the victim, he laughed, so that he never ate dinner without accompanying the outpouring of human blood’, ‘the fire, the crucifixions and the beasts were the daily bread’, and he ‘reigned with the most absolute arbitrariness’.

Taxes were so abusive that people and pets died of starvation, and only beggars survived… But behold, that so compassionate sovereign remembered them also, and wishing to put an end to their hardships had them assembled to take them out in boats to the sea and drown them there.

Christian historiography!

At the same time, Lactantius never fails to assure us in this ‘first contribution of Christianity to the philosophy and theology of history’ (Pichon), that he has compiled all these facts with the most conscientious fidelity, ‘so that the memory of them is not lost and that no future historian can disfigure the truth’.

The punishment of God reached Galerius in the form of cancer, ‘an evil sore in the lower part of the genitals’ while Eusebius, more modest, prefers to allude to those ‘unnamed’ parts. Subsequently, other ecclesiastical writers such as Rufinus and Orosius invented the legend of a suicide.

Instead, Lactantius, after establishing Galerius’ fame in historiography as a ‘barbarian savage’ (Altendorf), devotes several pages to describing with a sneer the evolution of the disease. The lexicon is similar to that used in another passage where he explains, following the example of Bishop Cyprian, the satisfactions that the elect will experience when contemplating the eternal torment of the damned:

The body is covered with worms. The stench not only invades the palace, but spreads throughout the city… The worms devour him alive and the body dissolves in a generalized rot, among unbearable pains.

Bishop Eusebius added to his account the following passage: ‘Of the doctors, those who could not resist that repugnant stench above all measure were slaughtered there, and those who afterwards could not find remedy, tried and executed without compassion’.

Christian historiography!

The case is that Galerius, whose agony was painted by the Fathers of the Church without sparing any of the old issues, although he died sick on 30 April 311 he signed the so-called Edict of tolerance of Nicomedia, by the which he ended persecutions against the Christians and proclaimed that Christianity was a lawful religion.

Galerius was not a monster as painted by the pens of Lactantius and other Fathers of the Church, but as described by more reliable sources, a just and well-intentioned sovereign, though certainly uneducated. Lactantius is the one who then states that the sovereigns of the gentiles were ‘criminals before God’, and he celebrates that they have been ‘exterminated from the root with all their type’. ‘Now those who pretended to defy God are laid prostrate on the ground; those who knocked down the Temple were slow to fall, but they fell much lower and had the end they deserved’.

In contrast, the Father of the Church only finds praise for the massacres perpetrated by Constantine with the Frankish prisoners in the amphitheatre of Trier. ‘The Lord has annihilated them and wiped them out from the face of the earth; let us sing, then, the triumph of the Lord, let us celebrate the victory of the Lord with hymns of praise…’

Published in: on October 20, 2017 at 2:02 pm  Comments Off on Kriminalgeschichte, 22  
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Who We Are, 17

The following is my abridgement of chapter 17 of William Pierce’s history of the white race, Who We Are:

Migrating Germans, Invading Huns,
Expanding Slavs Destroyed Roman Order
Hun Horde Routed Goths, Burst into Central Europe
Attila Yields to Gothic Valor; Germans Drive Asiatics from Europe

 

The Gothic nation, as was mentioned in the previous installment, had established itself on the southern shore of the Baltic, around the mouth of the Vistula, before 300 B.C. Prior to that the Goths had lived in southern Sweden.

Like the other Germans of their time, the Goths were tall, sturdily built, and Nordic in coloration, with blue or grey eyes and hair colors ranging from red to almost white. Roman reports describe them as the tallest of the Germans, with especially large hands and feet—perhaps a trait resulting from the local mixture of Indo-European and Cro-Magnon races in Sweden.

Soon they were also the richest of the Germans. In direct contact with the amber-gathering Baltic tribes to the east, the Goths monopolized the amber trade. For centuries Gothic caravans loaded with furs and amber pushed southward to sell their goods in the trading centers of the Roman Empire.

Gothic Migration. Then, in the third quarter of the second century of the present era, during the reign of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the Goths began a general movement to the southeast. Hundreds of thousands of them, taking their families, their cattle, and all their household goods, marched back toward the ancient Indo-European homeland their ancestors had left thousands of years earlier.

The Goths west of the Dniester—the Visigoths—moved down into the Danubian lands west of the Black Sea, where they inevitably came into conflict with the Romans. They conquered the Roman province of Dacia for themselves, after defeating a Roman army and killing a Roman emperor (Decius) in the year 251.

Toward the end of the third century, during the reign of Diocletian, the Empire was divided into eastern and western halves, for administrative and military purposes. The progressive breakdown of communications led eventually to separate de facto powers, one centered in Rome and the other in Byzantium (later renamed Constantinople).

During the first three-quarters of the fourth century, despite occasional raids, a state of relatively peaceful coexistence between Goths and Romans pervaded. Especially in the eastern half of the Empire, diplomacy and bribery were used to hold the Goths at bay. During the reign of Constantine (306-337) 40,000 Goths were recruited into the Roman army, and they thenceforth were the bulwark of the Eastern Empire.

It was in the reign of Emperor Valens, in the year 372, that the greatest menace to the White race, both Germans and Romans, since the beginning of recorded history suddenly appeared on the eastern horizon. From the depths of Central Asia a vast horde of brown-skinned, flat-nosed, slant-eyed little horsemen—fast, fierce, hardy, bloodthirsty, and apparently inexhaustible in numbers—came swarming across the steppe around the north end of the Caspian Sea. They were the Huns.

The first to feel their impact were the Alans, living south of the Don between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The Hunnic horde utterly crushed the Alans, some of whose remnants retreated southward into the Caucasus Mountains, while others fled westward in confusion, seeking refuge among the Goths. In the Caucasus today traces of the Nordic Alans are found in the Ossetes, whose language is Indo-European and who are taller and lighter than the Caucasic-speaking peoples around them.

End of the Ostrogoths. Next the Huns fell upon the Ostrogoths and routed them. The aged Ostrogothic king, Hermanric, slew himself in despair, and his successor, Vitimer, was killed in a vain effort to hold back the Brown flood. The Ostrogothic kingdom disintegrated, and its people streamed westward in terror, with the Huns at their heels.

Athanaric, king of the Visigoths, posted himself at the Dniester with a large army, but the Huns crossed the river and defeated him, inflicting great slaughter on his army.

Thus, the Visigoths too were forced to retreat westward. Athanaric petitioned Valens for permission for his people to cross the Danube and settle in Roman lands to the south. Valens consented, but he attached very hard conditions, which the Goths, in their desperation, were forced to accept: they were required to surrender all their weapons and to give up their women and children as hostages to the Romans.

The Goths crossed the Danube in 376 and settled in the Roman province of Lower Moesia, which corresponds roughly to modern Bulgaria. There the Romans took shameful advantage of them. Roman-Jewish merchants, in return for grain and other staples, took the hostage children of the Goths as slaves.

The Goths secretly rearmed themselves and rose up. For two years they waged a war of revenge, ravaging Thrace, Macedonia, and Thessaly. Finally, on August 9, 378, in the great battle of Hadrianople, the Gothic cavalry, commanded now by Fritigern, annihilated Valens’ infantry (most of whom were also Goths), and the emperor himself was killed. This was the worst defeat Rome had suffered since the Goths defeated and killed Decius 127 years earlier, and the battle decisively changed the conduct of future wars. Heretofore, Roman infantry tactics had been considered unbeatable, but Fritigern’s Goths had shown what heavy cavalry could do to infantry unprotected by its own cavalry.

The emperor of the eastern half of the Empire who succeeded Valens took a much more conciliatory stance toward the Goths, and they were confirmed in their possession of much of the territory south of the Danube which they had seized between 376 and 378. The Huns, meanwhile, had occupied Gothic Dacia (presentday Romania), as well as all the lands to the east.

Loss of a Homeland. The ancient homeland of the Nordic race was now in the hands of non-Whites.

For more than four millennia wave after wave of White warriors had come out of the eastern steppe to conquer and colonize Europe: Achaeans, Dorians, Latins, Celts, Germans, Balts, Slavs, Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, and uncounted and unnamed peoples before all these. But the Sarmatians were the last; after the Huns drove them and the Goths out, no other White barbarians were to come riding out of the east.

For the next thousand years the eastern steppe which had been the breeding ground of the Nordic race became the invasion route into Europe for periodic waves of non-White hordes from Asia: Huns, Avars, Turks, Magyars, Mongols.

The Huns contented themselves, for the time being, with that portion of Europe between the Carpathians and the Danube, leaving the Romans and the Germans elsewhere to their own devices. Rome, a hollow shelf peopled largely by Levantines and ruled in effect by a gaggle of filthy-rich Middle Eastern moneylenders, speculators, and merchants, depended for her continued existence upon cleverness and money rather than real strength. Germans menaced her and Germans defended her, and the Romans concentrated their energies on playing German off against German.

The game succeeded in the Eastern Empire, more or less, but not in the Western Empire. A Frank, Arbogast, was the chief adviser—and effective master—of Western Emperor Eugenius in the year 394, having assassinated Eugenius’ predecessor. The emperor of the East, Theodosius, sent his Gothic army against Arbogast, and Arbogast called on his fellow Franks for support. The two German armies fought at Aquileia, near modern Venice, and the Goths defeated the Franks.

Alaric the Bold. Two of the leaders of Theodosius’ army were Alaric the Bold, a Gothic prince, and Stilicho, a Vandal. After the battle of Aquileia Stilicho, nominally subordinate to Theodosius, became the effective master of the Western Empire. Alaric was chosen king of the Visigoths by his tribe and decided to challenge Stilicho, but as long as Stilicho lived he was able to hold Alaric at bay.

The emasculated and Levantinized Romans, unable to face the Germans man to man, bitterly resented their German allies as much as they did their German enemies. This resentment, born of weakness and cowardice, finally got the better of the Romans in 408, and they conspired to have their protector, Stilicho, murdered. Then the Romans in all the Italian cities butchered the wives and children of their German allies—60,000 of them.

This foolish and brutal move sent Stilicho’s German soldiers into Alaric’s arms, and Italy was then at the Goth’s mercy. Alaric’s army ravaged large areas of the peninsula for two years in revenge for the massacre of the German families. Alaric demanded a large ransom from the Romans and forced them to release some 40,000 German slaves.

Fall of Rome. Then, on the night of August 24, 410, Alaric’s Goths took Rome and sacked the city. This date marked, for all practical purposes, the end of the capital of the world. Rome had endured for 1,163 years and had ruled for a large portion of that time, but it would never again be a seat of power. For a few more decades the moribund Empire of the West issued its commands from the fortress city of Ravenna, 200 miles north of Rome, until the whole charade was finally ended in 476. The Empire of the East, on the other hand, would last another thousand years.

The Huns, meanwhile, had not long contented themselves with Dacia, but had begun expanding westward again, wreaking such havoc that whole nations uprooted themselves and fled as the Huns advanced. The Vandals, a German people closely related to the Goths; the Alans who had been driven westward from the Transcaucasian steppe; and the Suebians poured across the Rhine into Gaul in 406, setting still other German nations, such as the Franks, Burgundians, and Alamanni, into motion.

Attila, King of the Huns. The Huns halted their westward push for more than 40 years while they consolidated their hold on all of central and eastern Europe, and on much of northern Europe as well. In 433 they gained a new king, whose name was Attila. In 445, when Attila established his new capital at Buda, in what is now Hungary, the empire of the Huns stretched from the Caspian Sea to the North Sea.

In 451 Attila began moving west again, with the intention of seizing Gaul and then the rest of the Western Empire. His army consisted not only of Huns but also of contingents from all the conquered peoples of Europe: Ostrogoths, Gepids, Rugians, Scirians, Heruls, Thuringians, and others, including Slavs.

One contingent was made up of Burgundians, half of whom the Huns had subjugated (and nearly annihilated) in 436. The struggle between the Burgundians and the Huns forms the background for the German heroic epic, the Nibelungenlied.

Attila’s mixed army threw western Europe into a state of terror as it advanced. So great was the devastation wrought on the countryside that Attila was given the nickname “the Scourge of God,” and it was said that grass never again grew where his horse had trod.

Two armies, one commanded by Aetius, the last of the Western Empire’s Roman generals, and the other by Theodoric, King of the Visigoths, rode against Attila. Aetius and Theodoric united their armies south of the Loire, in central Gaul, and compelled Attila to withdraw to the north-east.

Attila carefully chose the spot to halt his horde and make his stand. It was in a vast, open, and nearly level expanse of ground in northeastern France between the Marne and the Seine, where his cavalry would have ideal conditions for maneuvering. The region was known as the Catalaunian Plains, after the Catalauni, a Celtic people.

In a furious, day-long battle frightful losses were inflicted on both sides, but the Visigoths, Franks, free Burgundians, and Alans of Aetius and Theodoric had gained a decisive advantage over the Huns and their allies by nightfall. Attila retreated behind his wagons and in despair ordered a huge funeral pyre built for himself. He intended neither to be taken alive by his foes nor to have his corpse fall into their hands.

King Theodoric had fallen during the day’s fighting, and the command of the Visigothic army had passed to his son, Thorismund. The latter was eager to press his advantage and avenge his father’s death by annihilating the Hunnic horde.

The wily Roman Actius, however, putting the interests of his dying Empire first, persuaded Thorismund to allow Attila to withdraw his horde from Gaul. Aetius was afraid that if Thorismund completely destroyed the power of the Huns, then the Visigoths would again be a menace to the Empire; he preferred that the Huns and the Visigoths keep one another in check.

Attila and his army ravaged the countryside again, as they made their way back to Hungary. The following year they invaded northern Italy and razed the city of Aquileia to the ground; those of its inhabitants who were not killed fled into the nearby marshes, later to found the city of Venice.

But in 453 Attila died. The 60-year-old Hun burst a blood vessel during his wedding-night exertions, following his marriage to a blonde German maiden, Hildico (called Kriernhild in the Nibelungenlied). The Huns had already been stripped of their aura of invincibility by Theodoric, and the death of their leader diminished them still further in the eyes of their German vassals.

The latter, under the leadership of Ardaric the Gepid, rose up in 454. At the battle of the Nedao River in that year it was strictly German against Hun, and the Germans won a total victory, completely destroying the power of the Huns in Europe.

The vanquished Huns fled eastward, settling finally around the shores of the Sea of Azov in a vastly diminished realm. They left behind them only their name, in Hungary. Unfortunately, they also left some of their genes in those parts of Europe they had overrun. But in eighty years they had turned Europe upside down. Entire regions were depopulated, and the old status quo had vanished.

Published in: on December 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm  Comments Off on Who We Are, 17  

Porphyry

The following excerpts are taken from the introduction and epilogue of Joseph Hoffman’s book, Porphyry’s Against the Christians. Ellipsis omitted between unquoted passages:


wanderer
Persecution is a slippery term in the annals of the early church. An older generation of church historians, using the martyrologies and writings of the church fathers as their sources, believed that the era from Nero to Constantine was one of almost unremitting slaughter of professing Christians. Their opinion was enfeebled somewhat by the certainty that the Romans could have tried a “final solution” to the Christian problem much earlier, if they had wanted, and the fact that along with boasting of their many martyrs, church writers like Origen also bragged that rich folk, high officials, elegant ladies, and illuminati were entering the church in great numbers. The pagan writers tried to counter this trend in their insistence that Christianity was really a religion for the lazy, the ignorant and superstitious, and the lowborn—“women, yokels and children,” Celsus had sneered. But the ploy was ineffective. Diocletian’s persecutions revealed that Christianity had crept into the emperor’s bedroom: his wife, his daughter, their servants, the treasury official Audactus, the eunuch Dorotheus, even the director of the purple dye factory in Tyre, were Christians or Christian sympathizers. Insulting the new converts did not stop the process of conversion. The political solution of the third century, therefore, was an attempt to scare people off—to make being a Christian an expensive proposition. Persecution was the strong-arm alternative to failed polemical tactics by the likes of Celsus, Porphyry and Hierocles.

In 250 Decius decreed simply that Christians would be required to sacrifice to the gods of Rome by offering wine and eating sacrificial meat. Those who refused would be sentenced to death. To avoid this punishment, well-to-do Christians seem to have given up this new religion in substantial numbers, becoming in the eyes of the faithful “apostates,” a new designation derived from the Greek word revolt. The apostates also numbered many bishops, including the bishop of the important region of Smyrna, as well as Jewish Christians who rejoined the synagogue, as Judaism was not encompassed in the Decian order.

In the reign of Valerian (253-260) the focus shifted from the practice of the Christian faith to the church’s ownership of property. In August 257, Valerian targeted the wealth of the clergy and in 258 the riches of prominent Christian lay persons. The tactic was obviously intended to make upper-crust Romans think twice before throwing their wealth in the direction of the “beggar priests” as Porphyry called them.

On 31 March 297, under the emperor Diocletian, the Manichean religion was outlawed. Like Christianity it was an “import” of dubious vintage. More particularly, it was Persian, and Rome was at war with Persia. Holy books and priests were seized and burned without much ado. Professing members of the cult were put to death without trial. The most prominent Roman Manicheans (the so-called honestiores) were spared, but their property was confiscated and they were sent to work in the mines. The process against the Manicheans boded worse things to come for the Christians.

Diocletian published his first decree against the Christians in February 303. The edict to stamp out (“terminate”) the Christian religion was issued. Diocletian had hoped to cripple the movement. Termination would have meant extermination. But the survival tactics of the movement made police work difficult. Christians had become sly. The enthusiasm of martyrdom was now paralleled by accomplished doubletalk.

Executions increased, especially after rumors reached Galerius that plots against the throne were being fomented in Christian circles. New edicts were issued with regularity, each a little more severe than the one before. The fourth edict (304) required that all the people of a city must sacrifice and offer libations to the gods “as a body,” Christians included. Diocletian abdicated, in declining health. Galerius issued an edict of toleration.

Maximinus Daia, who had an active retaining program in place, designed to reeducate lapsed Christians in their pagan heritage. But the life was going out of the movement to repress Christianity. The pagan critics had not succeeded in stemming the popularity of the movement, and the “persecuting” emperors (except perhaps Diocletian himself) had miscalculated both the numbers and the determination of the faithful. The movement was Rome’s Vietnam, a slow war of attrition which had been fought to stop a multiform enemy. Even at their worst under Diocletian, the persecutions had been selective and, in their intense form, short-lived. And (as has been known since the seventeenth century) the number of martyrs was not great.

The goal of the fourth edict against the Christians in 304, in fact, had been to compel loyalty to unpopular rulers, and in 308 the greatly detested Maximinus tried the same tactic, “to offer sacrifices and wine-offerings.” The tactic was ineffectual, Eusebius says, because even the enforcers had lost their heart to impose the penalties and to support the machinery required for the “sacrifice factories” Maximinus tried to set up.

Unhappy with this failure, he sponsored a literary attack, circulating forged gospels and memoirs containing the stock slanders against Jesus. These were posted in public gathering-places and schoolteachers were required to assign portions of them to children as lessons. To substantiate charges against the moral habits of the Christians, Maximinus then hired agents (duces) to round up prostitutes from the marketplace in Damascus. Tortured until they confessed to being Christians, they then signed statements to the effect that the churches routinely practiced ritual prostitution and required members to participate in sexually depraved acts. These statements were also distributed to the towns and cities for public display.

Desperate times, desperate men, desperate measures.

By the time Galerius issued his edict of toleration in favor of the Christians on 30 April 311 three waves of attack had failed: the erratic policies of emperors Nero and Marcus Aurelius; the literary and philosophical attacks, carried on in collusion with imperial sponsors; and the more sustained persecutions of the third century, ending in 311. Paganism was dying. Maximinus’ plan for “reeducating” Christians in the religion of their ancestors had failed.

After Constantine’s conversion—whatever it may have been—only Julian (332-363), his nephew, remained to pick up the baton for the pagan cause. Julian did his best to reestablish the old order. He reorganized the shrines and temples; outlawed the teachings of Christian doctrine in the schools, retracted the legal and financial privileges which the Christians had been accumulating since the early fourth century; wrote polemical treaties against the Christians himself, and—in a clever political maneuver—permitted exiled bishops to return to their sees to encourage power-struggles and dissention within the church. Naturally, the Christians despised him. The distinguished theologian Gregory of Nazianzus had been Julian’s schoolmate in Athens, where both learned a love for the classical writers (but where Julian had been converted to Greek humanism). Cyril of Alexandria wrote a long refutation of Julian’s Adversus Christianos (Against the Christians), parts of which hark back to Porphyry and Hierocles. All in all, this pagan interlude—never really a renaissance—lasted only three years, until Julian’s death in June 363.

In the middle of this period we have just described stands Porphyry of Tyre. Born in 232, Porphyry was eighteen when the persecution broke out under emperor Decius. Twelve years later, his dislike for Christianity was firmly established. Porphyry had heard Origen preach, studied the Hebrew scripture, especially the prophets, and the Christian gospels, and found them lacking in literary quality and philosophical sophistication. He had joined a “school” in Rome (ca. 262) run by the famous neoplatonic teacher, Plotinus, where he remained until about 270. In Sicily, following Plotinus’ death, and back again to Rome, Porphyry developed an intense dislike of popular religion—or superstition, as the Roman intellectuals of his circle preferred to call it, regarding Christianity as the most pernicious form of a disease infecting the empire. In a work titled Pros Anebo he pointed out the defects in the cults. Then he tackled Christian teaching in a work. Popular under the rescript of Galerius in 311, the work was targeted for destruction by the imperial church, which in 448 condemned all existing copies to be burned.

The first thing to say about Porphyry’s fifteen books against the Christians is that they are lost. The exact title is not known, and its popular title, Kata Christianon, can be dated securely only from the Middle Ages. Opinions radically differ over the question whether the books can be substantially restored. A few facts can be stated succinctly, however. First, the church was unusually successful in its efforts to eradicate all traces of Kata Christianon from at least 448. Not only were Porphyry’s books destroyed, but many of the works of Christian writers incorporating sections of Porphyry’s polemic were burned in order to eliminate what one critic, the bishop Apollinarius, called “poison of his thought.”

Second, the ninety-seven fragments gathered by Harnack, half of which were taken from the fourth-century writer Macarius Magnes, are enough—if barely enough—to give us shape of Porphyry’s critique. That Macarius does not name his opponent and sometimes seems to characterize rather than quote his opinions could easily be explained as a strategic decision by a Christian teacher who wished his defense to survive. Naming his adversary—or quoting him too precisely—would have almost certainly guaranteed the burning of Macarius’ defense. Put appositely, anyone wishing to write a defense of the faith in the fourth or fifth century would have been foolhardy to identify the enemy as Porphyry.

[Third], I think we owe it to Porphyry and his “interpreters” to permit them speak to us directly. Having been buried—more or less successfully—since 448, the words should be permitted to breathe their own air.