Lactantius

c.240-c.320. Latin rhetorician, Christian apologist, and historian. Taught by Arnobius in North Africa, his accomplishments attracted the emperor Diocletian to appoint him as teacher of Latin oratory in Nicomedia. Having become a Christian, he felt it necessary to resign when persecution started in 303 and consequently knew real poverty. In this period he turned to writing Christian apologetics for the educated pagan and for Christians disturbed by the challenges of the accepted intellectual wisdom. Feeling that technical Christian terminology had obscured the effectiveness of previous apologists, he shunned its use whenever possible. His masterly Ciceronian style has earned him the title “the Christian Cicero.” His Divine Institutes argues that pagan religion and philosophy are absurdly inadequate. Truth lies in God's revelation, and the ethical change which the teaching of Christ brings points conclusively to its accuracy. Lactantius draws on a wide range of pagan sources at some cost to theological orthodoxy. He later became tutor of Constantine's eldest son, Crispus. He wrote The Death of the Persecutors-an account of the recent persecutions arguing passionately, though with good historical documentation, that persecuting emperors suffer and that virtuous and just emperors prosper. This has become a major primary source for the persecutions of the period.