Pope Miltiades

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Pope Saint

Bishop of Rome
Pope Miltiades 2.gif
The icon of Pope Miltiades at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, Italy
Church Catholic Church
Diocese Diocese of Rome
See Rome
Papacy began2 July 311
Papacy ended10 or 11 January 314
Predecessor Eusebius
Successor Sylvester I
Personal details
Birth nameMiltiades or Melchiades
BornUnknown date
North Africa
Died10 or 11 January 314
Rome, Roman Empire
Buried Catacomb of Callixtus, Appian Way, Rome, Italy
Feast day10 January
Venerated in Catholic Church

Pope Miltiades (Greek : Μιλτιάδης, Miltiádēs; d. 10 or 11 January 314), also known as Melchiades the African (Μελχιάδης ὁ ἈφρικανόςMelkhiádēs ho Aphrikanós), was Pope of the Catholic Church from 311 to his death in 314. It was during his pontificate that Emperor Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan (313), giving Christianity legal status within the Roman Empire. The Pope also received the palace of Empress Fausta where the Lateran Palace, the papal seat and residence of the papal administration, would be built. At the Lateran Council, during the schism with the Church of Carthage, Miltiades condemned the rebaptism of apostatised bishops and priests, teaching of Donatus Magnus.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Pope leader of the Catholic Church

The pope, also known as the supreme pontiff, is the bishop of Rome and ex officio leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. Since 1929, the pope has also been head of state of Vatican City, a city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.



The year of Miltiades' birth is unknown but it is known that he was of North African [1] Berber descent [2] and, according to the Liber Pontificalis , compiled from the 5th century onwards, a Roman citizen. [3] Miltiades and his successor, Sylvester I, were part of the clergy of Pope Marcellinus. [4] It has been suggested that he was a party to the alleged apostasy of Pope Marcellinus, which was repudiated by Augustine of Hippo. This view originated from letters, dated to between 400 and 410, written by Donatist Bishop Petilianus of Constantine, who claimed that Marcellinus, along with Miltiades and Sylvester, surrendered sacred texts and offered incense to Roman deities. [5]

Berbers Ethnic group indigenous to North Africa

Berbers, or Amazighs, are an ethnic group of several nations mostly indigenous to North Africa and some northern parts of Western Africa.

<i>Liber Pontificalis</i> Book of biographies of popes

The Liber Pontificalis is a book of biographies of popes from Saint Peter until the 15th century. The original publication of the Liber Pontificalis stopped with Pope Adrian II (867–872) or Pope Stephen V (885–891), but it was later supplemented in a different style until Pope Eugene IV (1431–1447) and then Pope Pius II (1458–1464). Although quoted virtually uncritically from the 8th to 18th centuries, the Liber Pontificalis has undergone intense modern scholarly scrutiny. The work of the French priest Louis Duchesne, and of others has highlighted some of the underlying redactional motivations of different sections, though such interests are so disparate and varied as to render improbable one popularizer's claim that it is an "unofficial instrument of pontifical propaganda."

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–476 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of ancient Rome, consisting of large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean sea in Europe, North Africa and West Asia ruled by emperors. From the accession of Caesar Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, it was a principate with Italy as metropole of the provinces and its city of Rome as sole capital. The Roman Empire was then ruled by multiple emperors and divided in a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when it sent the imperial insignia to Constantinople following the capture of Ravenna by the barbarians of Odoacer and the subsequent deposition of Romulus Augustus. The fall of the Western Roman Empire to Germanic kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.


In April 311, the Edict of Toleration was issued in Serdica (modern day Sofia, Bulgaria) by the Roman emperor Galerius, officially ending the Diocletianic Persecution of Christianity. [6]

Sofia Capital and largest city of Bulgaria

Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. The city is at the foot of Vitosha Mountain in the western part of the country. Being in the centre of the Balkan peninsula, it is midway between the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea, and closest to the Aegean Sea.

Galerius Roman emperor

Galerius was Roman emperor from 305 to 311. During his reign, he campaigned, aided by Diocletian, against the Sassanid Empire, sacking their capital Ctesiphon in 299. He also campaigned across the Danube against the Carpi, defeating them in 297 and 300. Although he was a staunch opponent of Christianity, Galerius ended the Diocletianic Persecution when he issued an Edict of Toleration in Serdica in 311.

Diocletianic Persecution

The Diocletianic or Great Persecution was the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. In 303, the Emperors Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius issued a series of edicts rescinding Christians' legal rights and demanding that they comply with traditional religious practices. Later edicts targeted the clergy and demanded universal sacrifice, ordering all inhabitants to sacrifice to the gods. The persecution varied in intensity across the empire—weakest in Gaul and Britain, where only the first edict was applied, and strongest in the Eastern provinces. Persecutory laws were nullified by different emperors at different times, but Constantine and Licinius's Edict of Milan (313) has traditionally marked the end of the persecution.

The election of Miltiades to the papacy on 2 July 311, according to the Liberian Catalogue, [4] marked the end of a sede vacante , the vacancy of the papacy, following the death of Pope Eusebius on 17 August 310 or 309 according to Liber Pontificalis [7] not long after his exile to Sicily by the Emperor Maxentius. [1] After his election, Church property that was confiscated during the Diocletianic Persecution was restored by Maxentius. [4] [8] This order, however, probably did not extend to all of the parts of Maxentius' jurisdiction. [9]

In compiling the history of the Early Christian Church, the Liberian Catalogue, which was part of the illuminated manuscript known as the Chronography of 354, is an essential document, for it consists of a list of the popes, designated bishops of Rome, ending with Pope Liberius, hence its name and approximate date. The list gives the lengths of their respective episcopates, the corresponding consular dates, and the names of the reigning emperors. In many cases there are other details. "The collection of tracts of which this forms a part was edited in 354" (CE). It now survives only in a copy.

Sede vacante is a term for the state of an episcopal see while without a bishop. In the canon law of the Catholic Church, the term is used to refer to the vacancy of any see of a particular church, but it comes into especially wide journalistic use when the see is that of the papacy.

Pope Eusebius

Pope Eusebius was the Bishop of Rome from 18 April 310 until his death four months later.

The Liber Pontificalis, attributed the introduction of several later customs to Miltiades, such as not fasting on Thursdays or Sundays, although subsequent scholarship now believes the customs likely pre-dated Miltiades. [1] Miltades prescribed the distribution of portions of the bread consecrated by the Pope at all of the churches around Rome, the fermentum, as a sign of unity. [4] [8]

Fermentum is a practice of the Early Christian Church whereby bishops affirmed their communion with one another, or with their own local subordinate priests.

In October 312, Constantine defeated Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge to become emperor. [10] He later presented the Pope with the palace of Empress Fausta, where the Lateran Palace, the papal residence and seat of central Church administration, would be built. [10]

Constantine the Great Roman emperor

Constantine the Great, also known as Constantine I, was a Roman Emperor who ruled between 306 and 337 AD. Born in Naissus, in Dacia Ripensis, city now known as Niš, he was the son of Flavius Valerius Constantius, a Roman Army officer of Illyrian origins. His mother Helena was Greek. His father became Caesar, the deputy emperor in the west, in 293 AD. Constantine was sent east, where he rose through the ranks to become a military tribune under Emperors Diocletian and Galerius. In 305, Constantius was raised to the rank of Augustus, senior western emperor, and Constantine was recalled west to campaign under his father in Britannia (Britain). Constantine was acclaimed as emperor by the army at Eboracum after his father's death in 306 AD. He emerged victorious in a series of civil wars against Emperors Maxentius and Licinius to become sole ruler of both west and east by 324 AD.

Battle of the Milvian Bridge battle

The Battle of the Milvian Bridge took place between the Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius on 28 October 312. It takes its name from the Milvian Bridge, an important route over the Tiber. Constantine won the battle and started on the path that led him to end the Tetrarchy and become the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Maxentius drowned in the Tiber during the battle; his body was later taken from the river and decapitated, and his head was paraded through the streets of Rome on the day following the battle.

Fausta Roman Empress, daughter of the Roman Emperor Maximianus

Flavia Maxima Fausta (289–326) was a Roman Empress, daughter of the Roman Emperor Maximianus. To seal the alliance between them for control of the Tetrarchy, in 307 Maximianus married her to Constantine I, who set aside his wife Minervina in her favour. Constantine and Fausta had been betrothed since 293.

Being the first Pope under Constantine, his pontificate coincided with the peace Constantine gave to the Church. [4] In February 313, Constantine and Licinius, emperor of the eastern part of the Roman Empire, agreed to extend tolerance of Christianity to Licinius' territory, proclaimed by the Edict of Milan. Consequently, Christians not only attained the freedom of worship, but also all places of Christian worship were restored and all confiscated property returned. [11]

Lateran Council

During Miltiades' tenure as pontiff, a schism over the election of Bishop Caecilianus split the Church of Carthage. The opposing parties were those of Caecilianus, who was supported by Rome, and of Donatus, mainly clergymen from North Africa who demanded that schismatics, and heretics, be re-baptised and re-ordained before taking office, [12] the central issue dividing Donatists and Catholics. [13] The supporters of Donatus appealed to Constantine and requested that judges from Gaul be assigned to adjudicate. [14] Constantine agreed and commissioned Miltiades together with three Gallic bishops to resolve the dispute, the first time an emperor had interfered in church affairs. [10] Miltiades, unwilling to jeopardise his relationship with the Emperor, but also unwilling to preside over a council with an uncertain outcome, [14] changed the proceedings into a regular church synod and appointed an additional 15 Italian bishops. [10]

The Lateran Council was held for three days from 2–4 October 313. [4] The process was modeled on Roman civil proceedings, with Miltiades insisting on strict rules of evidence and argument. This frustrated the Donatists who left the council without presenting their case, which led Miltiades to rule in favour of Caecilianus by default. [14] The council thus ended after only three sessions. The Pope retained Caecilianus as Bishop of Carthage and condemned Donatus' teachings of rebaptism of bishops and priests. [4] [15] The adverse rulings failed to stop the continuing spread of Donatism across North Africa. [15]

The Donatists again appealed to the Emperor, who responded by convening the Council of Arles in 314 but it too ruled against the Donatists. [16] By the time the council was convened, Miltiades had died on 10 or 11 January 314. [1] He had been succeeded by Sylvester I. [10] He was buried in the Catacomb of Callixtus at the Appian Way and venerated as a saint. [1] Licinius, who promulgated the Edict of Milan, violated the edict in 320 by persecuting Christians, sacking them from public offices, forbidding synods and condoning executions. A civil war broke out between him and Constantine, with Constantine eventually defeating him in 324. [17]


The feast of Miltiades in the 4th century, according to the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, was celebrated on 10 January. [1] In the 13th century, the feast of Saint Melchiades (as he was then called) was included, with the mistaken qualification of "martyr", in the General Roman Calendar for celebration on 10 December. In 1969, the celebration was removed from that calendar of obligatory liturgical celebrations, [18] and moved to the day of his death, 10 January, with his name given in the form "Miltiades" but without the indication "martyr". [19]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Kirsch 1913, p. 318.
  2. Serralda & Huard 1984, p. 68.
  3. McBrien 2000, p. 56.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Levillain 2002, p. 993.
  5. Kirsch 1912, p. 638.
  6. Gibbon 2008, p. 132.
  7. Kirsch 1909, p. 615.
  8. 1 2 Green 2010, p. 219.
  9. De Clerq 1954, p. 143.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 O'Malley 2009, p. 31.
  11. White 2007, pp. 5556.
  12. Burris 2012, pp. 7477.
  13. Finn 2004, p. 112.
  14. 1 2 3 Burris 2012, p. 78.
  15. 1 2 Malveaux 2015, p. 115.
  16. Burris 2012, p. 79.
  17. Lenski 2012, p. 75.
  18. Calendarium Romanum 1969, p. 148.
  19. Martyrologium Romanum 2001.

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Titles of the Great Christian Church
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Sylvester I