Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Death of Maximinus Daia

The other death, after that of Galerius, that seems to have given Lactantius the most delight, was that of Maximinus Daia.

Daia -- full name Gaius Valerius Galerius Maximinus -- was born circa 270. The son of Galerius's sister, he was adopted by Galerius. When Galerius became Augustus in 305, Daia became Caesar.

During the incredibly confusing series of maneuvers following the death of Constantius I Chlorus in 306, Daia vied for power against Maxentius, Severus, Licinius and Constantius' son Constantine. Since Constantine is known to history as "the Great," you may suspect that Daia did not prevail.

His end came in 313. On April 30 his army was crushed by that of Licinius near Perinthus, in what is now Thracian Turkey. Daia fled first to Nicomedia, and then to Tarsus, in Cilicia (on what is now the south-central Turkish coast). There, according to Lactantius, Daia poisoned himself, probably in July or August 313. Lactantius gleefully reports that Daia died only after suffering excruciating torment:
There [in Tarsus], being hard pressed both by sea and land, [Daia] despaired of finding any place for refuge; and in the anguish and dismay of his mind, he sought death as the only remedy of those calamities that God had heaped on him. But first he gorged himself with food, and large draughts of wine, as those are wont who believe that they eat and drink for the last time; and so he swallowed poison. However, the force of the poison, repelled by his full stomach, could not immediately operate, but it produced a grievous disease, resembling the pestilence; and his life was prolonged only that his sufferings might be more severe.

And now the poison began to rage, and to burn up everything within him, so that he was driven to distraction with the intolerable pain; and during a fit of frenzy, which lasted four days, he gathered handfuls of earth, and greedily devoured it.

Having undergone various and excruciating torments, he dashed his forehead against the wall, and his eyes started out of their sockets. And now, become blind, he imagined that he saw God, with His servants arrayed in white robes, sitting in judgment on him. He roared out as men on the rack are wont, and exclaimed that not he, but others, were guilty. In the end, as if he had been racked into confession, he acknowledged his own guilt, and lamentably implored Christ to have mercy upon him. Then, amidst groans, like those of one burnt alive, did he breathe out his guilty soul in the most horrible kind of death.


  1. Hi, I'm doing a lot of research on the Byzantine time period for a project of mine, a webcomic in fact, and I find Lactantius' works to be very informative but hard to locate and difficult to search through. Can you tell me what your sources are for his writings? Thanks!

  2. I'm sorry, I forgot to leave my email... :) ...if you have any information, it would be greatly appreciated!


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