The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Circumcelliones
CIRCUMCELLIONES, fanatics who, about the year 317, in the war of the Donatists in Africa, occasioned by the election of the Carthaginian bishop Cæcilianus, espoused the cause of the Numidians or Donatists, and went about as marauders to intimidate the Carthaginian party, and to commit excesses in which the Donatists rejoiced, but for which they were unwilling to be responsible. They had a strong desire for the honor of martyrdom, and sought it at the hands of the dominant party by violence upon the prevalent social institutions and the civil rights of the citizens. Thus they threw themselves between the debtor and creditor, and demanded the discharge of the claim by the creditor on pain of death. Whenever they met a master and a slave, they manumitted the slave, and compelled the master to take his place. Constantine treated these excesses with forbearance; but Constans, his successor, deprived the Donatists of their churches, and attempted to bring them to peace. This kindled the fanaticism of the Circumcelliones anew. Headed by Fasir and Axid, they committed new depredations, styling themselves Agonistici, and their leaders, “leaders of the sons of the Holy One.” Their frenzy increased so furiously that they committed suicide in great numbers, and the Donatist bishops were obliged to apply to the civil power to restrain them.