History Of Country Region
I. First period. Born ca. 270 at Casae Nigrae, in S Numidia some 100 km 62 mi S of Tebessa, he may have been bishop at the time of the great persecution 303305. He firmly opposed any collaboration with the pagan authorities and later, on 5 October 313, was declared guilty by a council and by Pope Miltiades of having rebaptized lapsi among the clergy Opt., De schismate donat. I, 24. In Augustine’s time he was considered responsible for the schism at the time of Bishop Mensurius of Carthage before 30331112 Brev. Collationis cum Donatistis III, 12,24. When Caecilian was elected to succeed Mensurius, Donatus seems to have worked to coordinate the opposition, but became its leader only after the death of Caecilian’s main rival, Lucilla’s chaplain Maiorinus Gesta apud Zenophilum: Opt., De schismate, app. I: CSEL 26,185. Tulsa Metro Map Conflict with Caecilian.
Caecilian’s opponents appealed to Constantine to arbitrate between Caecilian and themselves April 313. Constantine delegated the case to Pope Miltiades 311314, whose council of 19 Italian and Gallic bishops pronounced against Donatus and in favor of Caecilian 5 October 313. On 1 August 314, a larger council meeting at Arles and representing the prefectures of Gaul cleared Caecilian of all charges. Tulsa Metro Map Moreover, in February 315 the proconsular tribunal acquitted Bishop Felix of Aptunga, one of Caecilian’s consecrators, of the charge of being a traditor during the persecution. Some N African Christians were not prepared to accept the beginning of a new era in relations between church and empire and aligned themselves with Donatus, seeing him as representing the ideal of a complete separation between the church and the world. Donatus, imprisoned in Italy, Tulsa Metro Map received from Constantine another opportunity to confront Caecilian Opt., De schismate, app. VI, but took advantage of the occasion to escape from prison and return to N Africa Opt., I, 26. Despite Constantine’s final verdict in favor of Caecilian 10 November 316; Aug., C. Cresc. III, 71,82, and Ad Donatistas post collationem 33,56, and a direct persecution of the adherents to Donatism at Carthage in spring 317 Aug., Ep. 105,9, severissima lex, from then on Donatus was accepted as bishop of Carthage by the majority of N African Christians Jerome, De vir. ill. 93: paene totam Africam decepit.
III. Donatus’s government, 317347. The details of Donatus’s long government are scarce and reach us only through the writings of his opponents. He spared no effort to ensure recognition and acceptance of his cause throughout N Africa Opt., III, 3. His personal prestige among his followers was immense. Like Cyprian before him, he united the priestly and prophetic functions ibid., and Aug., In Joannis Ev. tract. XIII, 17. People swore on his white hair, as they might today on the beard of the Prophet Aug., In Ps. 10,5. During his lifetime he was known simply as Donatus of Carthage Opt., III, 3: CSEL 26,76. More prosaic admirers at the end of the century saw in him the man who purified the church of Carthage of error Aug., C. Cresc. III, 56,62. In 336 he successfully defied the efforts of Gregory, Constantine’s praefectus praetorio in Africa, to remove him Opt., III, 3; indeed, during the same period he gathered a council at Carthage of not less than 270 bishops Aug., Ep. 93,43. On this occasion he showed sufficient flexibility over ecclesiastical problems in distant Mauretania, and allowed some exceptions to the rule that baptism given by a minister not in communion with his church had to be repeated when an individual or a community became Donatists.
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