(Lucius Dominius Aurelianus).
Roman Emperor, 270-275, born of humble parents, near Sirmium in Pannonia, 9 September, 214; died 275.
At the age of twenty he entered the military service, in which, because of exceptional ability and remarkable bodily strength his advancement was rapid. On the death of Claudius he was proclaimed Emperor by the army at Sirmium, and became sole master of the Roman dominions on the suicide of his rival Quintillus, the candidate of the Senate. When Aurelian assumed the reins government the Roman world was divided three sections: the Gallo-Roman Empire, established by Postumus, comprising Gaul and Britain; the Kingdom of Palmyra, which held sway over the entire Orient, including Egypt and the greater part of Asia Minor, and the Roman Empire, restricted to Italy, Africa, the Danubian Provinces of Africa, convoked and presided at the Greece, and Bithynia. On the upper Danube, Rhaetia and Northern Italy were overrun by the Juthungi, while the Vandals were preparing to invade Pannonia. The internal affairs of Rome mere equally deplorable. The anarchy of the legions and the frequent revolutions in preceding reigns had shattered the imperial authority; the treasury was empty and the monetary system ruined. With no support but that afforded by the army of the Danube, Aurelian undertook to restore the material and moral unity of the Empire; and to introduce whatever reforms were necessary to give it stability. Enormous as this project was, in the face of so many obstacles, he succeeded in accomplishing it in less than five years. When he died, the frontiers were all restored and strongly defended, the unity of the Empire was established, the administration was reorganized, the finances of the Empire placed on a sound footing, and the monetary system thoughly revised.
His scheme for the complete unification of the Empire led him to attempt to establish the worship of the sun as the supreme god of Rome. During the early rears of his reign Aurelian exhibited remarkable justice and tolerance towards the Christians. In 272, when he had gained possession of Antioch, after defeating Zenobia in several battles, he was appealed to by the Christians to decide whether the "Church building" in Antioch belonged to the orthodox bishop Domnus, or to the party represented by the favourite of Zenobia, Paul of Samosata , who had been deposed for heresy by a synod held three or four years before. His decision, based probably on the Edict of Gallienus, was that the property belonged to those who were in union with the bishops of Italy and of the city of Rome (Eus., Hist. Eccl. VII, xxvii-xxx). As this act was based on political motives, it cannot be construed into one of friendliness for the Christians. As soon as he was at liberty to carry out his schemes for internal reform Aurelian revived the polity of his predecessor Valerian, threatened to rescind the Edict of Gallienus, and commenced a systematic persecution of the followers of Christ. The exact date of the inauguration of this policy is not known. It is summer of 275 and despatched to the governors of the provinces, but Aurelian was slain before he could put it into execution. Tradition refers to his reign a large number of Acta Martyrum , none of which is considered to be authentic (Dom Butler, "Journal of Theological Studies", 1906, VII, 306). His biographer Vopiscus, says (c. xx) that he once reproached the Roman Senate for neglecting to consult the Sibylline Books in an hour of imminent peril. "It would seem", he said, "as if you were holding your meetings in a church of the Christians instead of in a temple of all the gods"; from which statement it has been rightly inferred that "the decline of the old faith was caused by the progress of the new, and that the buildings then used for the worship of the Christians were becoming more and more conspicuous".
More Catholic Encyclopedia
Browse Encyclopedia by Alphabet
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Browse the Catholic Encyclopedia by Topic
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online