Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Aurelian

Aurelian, A.D. 270‒275. The few facts which connect the name of this emperor with the history of the Christian church are as follows:—(1) he is said (Vopiscus, c. 20) to have reproached the Roman senate for not consulting the Sibylline books, as their fathers would have done, at a time of danger and perplexity. "It would seem," he said, "as if you were holding your meetings in a church of the Christians instead of in the temple of all the gods." The words clearly imply a half-formed suspicion that the decline of the old faith was caused by the progress of the new. The decree of Gallienus recognising Christianity as a religio licita had apparently stimulated church building. (2) Startled by the rapid progress of Christianity, Aurelian is said to have resolved towards the close of his reign on active measures for its repression. The edict of Gallienus was to be rescinded. A thrill of fear pervaded the Christian population of the empire. The emperor was surrounded by counsellors who urged on him a policy of persecution, but his death hindered the execution of his plans. (3) In the interval we find him connected, singularly enough, with the action of the church in a case of heresy. Paul of Samosata had been chosen as bp. of Antioch in A.D. 260. A synod of bishops including Firmilianus of the Cappadocian Caesarea, Gregory Thaumaturgus, and others, had condemned his teaching; but on receiving promises of amendment had left him in possession of the see. Another (A.D. 270) deposed him, and Domnus was appointed in his place. Paul refused to submit and kept possession of the episcopal residence. Such was the position of affairs at Antioch when Aurelian, having conquered Zenobia, became master of the city. The orthodox bishops appealed to the emperor to settle whose the property was, and he adjudged it to belong to those to whom the bishops in Italy and in Rome had addressed their epistles (Eus. H. E. viii. 27‒30).