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.
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’.
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…’