Valerian, Roman Emperor
VALERIAN, ROMAN EMPEROR
Reigned 253 to 260; b. Publius Licinius Valerianus, before 200. He was a suffect consul in 238, and later held important posts under decius and Trebonius Gallus. Valerian, hailed as emperor by his troops in Raetia, was accepted by the senate when Aemilianus was slain by his own soldiers; he appointed his son, Gallienus, as Augustus and coregent. While Gallienus undertook the defense of the West, Valerian set out to repel a Persian invasion in the East. After an initial success, his army was struck by a plague, and Valerian was himself captured by the Persian King Sapor, apparently in 259. He seems to have died in captivity the following year.
Under Decius, Valerian may have had charge of implementing the persecution of the Christians at Rome. During the first years of his own reign he proved to be tolerant, but after the empire had suffered a number of military reverses, he issued an edict in 257 ordering the Christians to observe the ceremonies of the state cult. At the same time he forbade their assembling or entering the cemeteries, which he confiscated along with other Christian properties. In 258 he issued another edict ordering "bishops, priests, and deacons to be executed at once; senators, high officials, and Roman knights to be deprived of their honors and possessions, and if after losing their position they continued to be Christians, to be executed; Christian women to be dispossessed of their property and banished; and the Caesariani (members of the imperial household) who earlier confessed, or who now confess themselves to be Christians, to be deprived of their goods and sent in chains to the imperial estates" (Cyprian, Epist. 80.1). Among the most celebrated martyrs of this era are sixtus ii (put to death with four of his deacons in the cemetery of Calixtus), cyprian of carthage, and fructuosus of tarragona.
Bibliography: p. j. healy, The Valerian Persecution (Boston 1905). u. wickert, Paulys Realencyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa et al. 13.1 (1926) 488–495.
[m. j. costelloe]