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From The Lives of the Popes from the Time of our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Accession of Gregory VII. Written Originally in Latin by B. Platina, Native of Cremona, and translated into English (from an anonymous translation, first printed in 1685 by Sir Paul Rycaut), Edited by William Benham, Volume I, London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, [1888, undated in text]; pp. 67-68.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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A.D. 311-314.

MELCHIADES, an African, was co-temporary with Maxentius, Maximin, and Licinius a Dacian, who for his being an excellent soldier, was admitted by Galerius to a partnership in the empire.

These being sensible that Constantine was well beloved and highly esteemed by all men, did for that reason seem less enraged against the Christians. Yet Maxentius sent his soldiers about with private instructions to massacre all they could secretly meet with; and taking delight in magic, at the performance of the hellish rites belonging to that black art, he would send for great-bellied women, especially Christians, and rip them up for the sake of their unborn infants, whose ashes he made use of in his sorceries, thereby showing that tyranny might be supported and kept up even by villany. Maximin also exercised the like rage and cruelty in the East, giving rewards and preferments to the professors and teachers of witchcraft and sorcery; and being himself very much inclined to give credit to auguries and divinations, became the more bitterly incensed against the Christians, because they despised such superstitions. He commanded likewise, that the decayed idolatrous temples should be repaired, and sacrifices offered to the gods in them after the ancient manner. Against them Constantine advancing with his army, gained so perfect a victory over Maxentius at Pons Milvius, that his grief at being so shamefully defeated, caused him to forget the snares which himself had laid, and so passing over a bridge which he had deceitfully contrived to entrap his enemies, he himself with the greatest part of his guards was drowned in the river. Constantine having both by sea and land overcome his sister’s husband Licinius, forced him at Nicomedia to yield himself, and to live privately at Thessalonica; a confinement which he justly deserved, because having apostatized from the faith merely through envy, he had been a grievous persecutor of the Christians for the good-will they bare to Constantine. As for Maximin, he became manifestly the object of Divine vengeance; his bowels and entrails being on a sudden so swollen and putrified, that there appeared no difference between him and a putrid carcase; worms in great abundance breeding 68 in his flesh, and rottenness with intolerable stench overspreading his body. This dreadful punishment had been long called for by his wicked practices; for he had forbidden the Christians to assemble at the sepulchres of the martyrs, and had given out that at Antioch an image had spoke and proclaimed aloud, that the Christians must be banished out of the cities, when indeed they were certain knavish priests whom himself had suborned, who from their adjoining private recesses had uttered these words; and moreover, he had distributed rewards through the several provinces to the idol-priests who were active against the Christians. But at length the physician plainly telling him the danger of his condition, the tyrant began to relent, and by a public edict forbade all persons to molest or injure the Christians, and suffered them to enjoy their liberty. But this forced repentance stood him in no stead; for having been a long time afflicted with grievous pain and disease, at last died this cruel and inconstant man, who had been sometimes an encourager, sometimes a persecutor of the Christians. During these calamities, multitudes of Christians were put death, and particularly Dorothea, a most virtuous and beautiful virgin, who chose rather to die than to yield to the tyrant’s lust. Sophronia also having been oftentimes solicited by Maxentius, like the noble Lucretia, slew herself to avoid the danger her chastity was in from him.

Melchiades ordained, that no Christian should keep a fast upon a Sunday or a Thursday, because those days were so observed and kept by the pagans; and the Manichæan heresy being at that time very prevalent in the city of Rome, he made several constitutions concerning oblations. These things being settled, he was by Maximin’s order crowned with martyrdom; as were also Peter, bishop of Alexandria; Lucianus, a presbyter of Antioch, a man eminent for piety and learning; Timothy, a presbyter of Rome, and divers others both bishops and priests. Melchiades was buried in the cemetery of Calistus, in the Via Appia, December the 10th. During his pontificate, he did at one ordination make seven presbyters, six deacons, twelve bishops. He sat in the chair four years, seven months, nine days; and by his death the see was vacant seventeen days.

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Previous Pope:  32. St. Eusebius. 33. St. Melchiades. Next Pope: 34. St. Sylvester.

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