On 30 April 311, Roman Emperor Galerius issued an edict aimed to terminate centuries long persecution of Christians. He did so in Serdica (the forerunner of the City of Sofia). This was a remarkable civilization act, a unique document formulating for the first time the idea of religious toleration.
A coin with the portrait of Emperor Faius Galerius Valerius Maximus Augustus
Its content has been fully preserved in both Greek and Latin. Its release has been acknowledged as a turning point that created the background of making Christian faith official in Europe and across the world.
In modern culture the document is known as the Edict of Toleration. Marking the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Serdica that started last year continues in 2012 too. On 27 and 28 April, the Sofia City Hall, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Ministry of Culture and Tangra TanNakRa Foundation have organized an International interdisciplinary scientific conference with the subject, “The Edict of Serdica: interpretation and implementation of the idea of religious toleration.” Scholars from Bulgaria, Italy, USA, Romania, Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Croatia and Malta have been invited to join the forum. More about the Edict of Serdica from Dr Todor Chobanov, Sofia Deputy Mayor:
“We know that in 311 a noteworthy event took place here that changed the course of European and world history. Though leading scholars are fully aware of its relevance and scale, it is still little known to wider audiences. For this reason we have decided to organize the conference about the Edict of Serdica. Let me remind you what happened during the Great Persecution of Christians that started during the time of Emperor Galerius. It became clear that the Christian communities in the Roman Empire would not surrender their faith. Besides not everybody in the Roman administration approved of the persecution; some even sabotaged it. Even Galerius himself, became opposed to such practices at the end of his life. The Edict of Serdica includes wording that sounds quite topical in the 21 c. It has to do with the right of people to profess their faith openly and peacefully. We often revisit the question why Sofia is a city where toleration has been given priority; where various religions have co-existed peacefully for centuries. The explanation lies in the facts of the city’s history – we have here a strong tradition of religious tolerance and respect. The conference with attendance of leading Bulgarian and world scholars, will discuss these issues, the personalities in these events, and I hope that it will contribute to the promotion of our city as a future European Capital of Culture in 2019.”
“Most of the work for the popularization of the edict was actually done last year”, Associate Prof. Veselina Vachkova said. “All foreign guests will accentuate the importance of the edict as a legal, administrative Christian document and as a turning point where from history took a rather different course. Another topic that we will be discussing is about what the Roman Empire was like during that time when Serdica was temporarily its capital and what was the mechanism that made it so important given that it was a small city. Still it was for some time the place where from the Empire was ruled.”
Here is some more from renowned Thracian scholar, Prof. Valeria Fol:
“It is high time to make the Edict of Toleration part of scientific discussions and I am glad that the topic has been in the spotlight for two years now. After all we are lucky to live in a city with millennial history – and mind you, there are only few cities in the world with such a remarkable record. The time when the edict was issued and the period before that were very interesting and dynamic. It was a time of great religious diversity and dynamism across Europe, and especially in Southeast Europe. There was myriad of gods and deities in what is now Bulgaria, including the Thracian gods. It is worth mentioning however that there was a trend of monotheism in the Thracian religious system back then”, concludes Thracian scholar, Prof. Valeria Fol.”
Translated by Daniela Konstantinova