It was by no means insight.

On April 30, 311 an imperial edict was posted in the imperial residence Nicomedia (today's Izmit, southeast of Istanbul), which Augustus Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus (approx. 250-311) had recently issued in Serdica (Sofia).

It effectively repealed an order issued by his predecessor Diocletian in 303 - in which Galerius, as co-emperor at the time, had played a key role.

For eight years there had been severe persecution of Christians in large parts of the empire, churches had been destroyed, Bibles burned, parish property confiscated and believers punished.

That changed now.

This edict has not survived in the original, but only as a quote in the work “De mortibus persecutorum” (translated: “From the ways in which the persecutors died”) by the Christian writer (and church father) Laktanz.

Fictional representation of the emperor Galerius

Source: picture alliance / CPA Media Co.

Accordingly, Galerius proclaimed, although he continued to regard Christianity as “foolish”: “In our extraordinary mildness and constant habit of forgiving all people, we have considered it necessary to grant them our most frank indulgence so that they too may be Christians again could rebuild their meeting places - but in such a way that they do nothing against public order. "


For the emperor insisted on certain rules that had always been the prerequisite for the tolerance of the Roman state religion: “Therefore, according to our forbearance, it will be the duty of Christians to their God for our good, for the good of the state and for their own to pray so that the state is protected from harm in every respect and that they can live safely in their homes. "

There was no more rehearsal because Galerius died a little later in Serdica.

Laktanz, a sharp polemicist, commented maliciously on the edict: "Alone, he received no pardon for his sacrilege before God."

They were tied to the horse, maltreated with iron claws and killed by holding torches to various limbs.

According to the Berlin historian Alexander Demandt, the reason for the declared tolerance was “that Diocletian's attempt to lead Christians back to the faith of their fathers had failed”.

Rather, they have evaded into a state of no religion, and that would be even worse.


Comparatively little is known about Galerius.

He was born around 250 in a village 160 kilometers from Serdica, which he later expanded into a palace under the name Felix Romuliana.

He made a career as an officer and rose to the highest ranks in the Roman military.

In 293, the then emperor Diocletian elevated him to "junior emperor" with the rank of Caesar, while he himself operated as Augustus.

In the huge empire there were two Augustis with equal rights and two subordinate Ceaesares who were also candidates for the successor to the two senior emperors.

The jurisdiction of Galerius was roughly speaking the Balkans;

here he had to ensure peace and order.

Although it was built as a mausoleum for Emperor Galerius, the rotunda in Thessaloniki was never used as a tomb and was converted into a church under Theodosius

Source: picture-alliance / akg-images /

After a good 20 years in office, Diocletian resigned as Augustus (and also urged his co-Augustus Maximian to resign);

the previous Caesares Galerius and Constantius Chlorus (the father of Constantine the Great) rose to the highest dignity.

But the system of tetrarchy was unstable;

after Constantius' early death in 306, Galerius was overwhelmed.

Diocletian intervened and tried to stabilize the situation, but he had made his calculations without Constantine, who himself was striving for power over the whole empire.


In the last years of his life, Galerius defended the tetrarchy against usurpers, including the former Augustus Maximian.

But he was unsuccessful: the empire sank in civil war - edict of tolerance or not.

Do you want to hear history too?

“Assassin” is the first season of the WELT History Podcast.

You can also find “World History” on Facebook.

We look forward to a like.