Persecution of Christians in Thessalonica

Earlier we posted information about the Arch of Galerius. Galerius was the Roman Emperor from 305 to 311 A.D. The arch was erected in Thessalonica to commemorate his victory over the Persians in 297 A.D. The reliefs on the arch are about this victory.

The most interesting portion of the relief to me is the one showing Galerius offering a sacrifice. The relief has been somewhat defaced, but it appears to me that he is pouring a libation on the altar. To the left, as we view the scene, is the Emperor Diocletian, the father in law of Galerius. The lady on the right is the wife of Galerius, daughter of Diocletian. Note the animal, awaiting his turn to be offered on a larger altar. The altar scene reminds us of the Emperor worship which was prevalent from the close of the first century onward.

Sacrifice scene on the Arch of Galerius in Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sacrifice scene on the Arch of Galerius in Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Diocletian is noted for his decree in 303 A.D. that ordered the burning of all Bibles and church records. This is one reason we have so few manuscripts before the fourth century A.D. Some credit Galerius as the brain back of this decision. He was responsible for considerable persecution of Christians during his reign. This persecution would be that spoken of in the Book of Revelation that we associate with Emperor worship.

The Danish archaeologist Dyggve excavated a Palace, Hippodrome, and Mausoleum belonging to Galerius. He also was able to show that the Arch was part of the complex of buildings (Blue Guide Greece).

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