Miltiades, Pope, St.
MILTIADES, POPE, ST.
Pontificate: July 2, 311 to Jan. 10, 314. After a vacancy of one or two years the Emperor Maxentius allowed the election of a new bishop of Rome as successor to eusebius. The liberian catalogue assigns him a reign of three years, six months, and eight days and says that he was consecrated on July 2, 311; while the trustworthy Depositio Episcoporum places the date of his burial on January 10. The three years (III) of the Liberian Catalogue may be a mistake for II; this would reconcile the two sources. Miltiades (also Melchiades) assumed office apparently shortly after the promulgation of the Edict of Toleration at Nicomedia on April 30, 311, which put an end to persecution, at least in the West.
His election ended a period of internal confusion and factionalism in the Roman Church. Maxentius ordered the Pretorian Prefect to restore to the deacons of the Roman Church the property confiscated by the State. What part Miltiades played in the momentous events that shaped the destiny of the Church and culminated in the imperial rescripts of 313 is not known. But during his reign Christianity received legal recognition and eventually a status equal to that of the pagan cults.
Miltiades was in Rome when constantine became emperor after his victory at the Milvian Bridge, which he attributed to the aid of the Christian God. The new emperor presented to the pope a palace on the Lateran which became the papal residence.
In the case of the Donatist controversy the initiative clearly seems to have lain with Constantine I. The African bishops opposed the election of Caecilian as bishop of Carthage on the grounds that he had been a traditor and appealed to Constantine to designate bishops from Gaul to decide between the two parties. The emperor commissioned the pope, together with the bishops of Cologne, Autun, and Arles, to adjudicate the matter in Rome after hearing both sides. Going beyond the emperor's commission, Miltiades added fifteen Italian bishops to the group, held a synod in the domus Faustae in Laterano on October 2, 313, at which both Caecilian and his rival donatus were present, pronounced in favor of Caecilian, and excommunicated Donatus. They also proposed milder measures to facilitate the reconciliation of the Donatists in accordance with the imperial will. The Donatists appealed from the Roman synod to the emperor. It seems that they never forgave Miltiades for his decision against them; and toward the end of the century they spread stories about his alleged weakness during the persecution.
It is unlikely that the measures attributed to him by the Liber pontificalis forbidding fasting on Sundays and Thursdays and providing for particles of the consecrated host (fermentum ) to be sent from the pope's Mass to the presbyteral churches are contemporary. His death is commemorated correctly in the Depositio Episcoporum and Martyrology of St. Jerome on January 10. The Roman martyrology, following the Liber pontificalis, is in error with December 10. Miltiades was buried in the cemetery of St. Callistus, the exact location of his tomb being unknown.
Bibliography: eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 10.5. Liber pontificalis, ed. l. duchesne 1:168–169; 3:76. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie (Paris 1912) 11.1:1199–1203; 13.1: 1194–96. h. u. instinsky, "Zwei Bischofsnamen konstantinischer Zeit," Römische Quartalschrift für christliche Altertumskunde und für Kirchengeschichte 55 (1960) 203–211. r. montini, Le tombe dei papi (Rome 1957) 88. j. n. d. kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986) 26–27. c. pietri Roma Christiana (Rome 1976) 160–168. m. v. anastos, "The Edict of Milan (313). A Defense of Its Traditional Authorship and Designation," Studies in Early Christianity 11 (New York & London 1993) 215–43. k. m. giradet, "Das Reichskonzil von Rom (313)—Urteil, Einspruch, Folgen," Historia 41 (1992) 104–116.