What a Difference a Reign Makes
Near the beginning of Book 8 of Church History, Eusebius describes the Roman Empire, under Diocletian, launching its fiercest attack on Christians:
In March of the nineteenth year of Diocletian's reign, when the festival of the Savior's passion [Easter] was approaching, an imperial edict was announced everywhere ordering that the churches be demolished and the Scriptures destroyed by fire. Any [Christians] who held high places would lose them, while those in households would be imprisoned if they continued to profess Christianity. Such was the first decree against us.
Soon, however, other edicts appeared ordering that the presidents of the churches everywhere be thrown into prison and then forced by every sort of device to offer sacrifice [to the Emperor].
Then it was that many church leaders endured terrible torments heroically, while countless others succumbed to the first assault, cowardice having numbed their souls. As to the rest, each was subjected to a series of various tortures: one was scourged mercilessly, another racked and scraped to death. People emerged from the ordeal in different ways: one man would be shoved at the loathsome, unholy sacrifices and dismissed as if he had sacrificed when he had not; another who came nowhere near any such abomination but was said to have sacrificed would leave in silence at the falsehood. Still another, half dead, would be discarded as a corpse, while a man who had sacrificed willingly was nevertheless dragged a long distance by his feet. One man would shout at the top of his voice that he had not sacrificed and never would, while yet another would proclaim that he was a Christian and glory in the Savior's name. These were silenced by a large band of soldiers, who struck them ...