In 297 AD, bolstered by his decisive victory over the Persians, Caesar Galerius overthrew Diocletian, executing the senior Emperor and his traditor wife and daughter.
Galerius overthrows DiocletianDriven by a burning desire to restore past Roman glory, his deceased predecessor had re-introduced traditional religious practices. This action had threatened the purist non-traditors, schismatic Christian sects such as the Donatists and Meletians who absolutely refused to be "handed over" to imperial authority. Consequently he had been unwilling to subdue the anti-Christian anger of the crowd, refusing to intervene with official authority to confront the popular hostility that drove the early persecutions.
Where Diocletian sought only "to correct all things according to the ancient laws and public disciplines of the Romans" Galerius however was bitterly opposed to the Christians in principle. Less than a year into his reign, an ugly scene took place in Antioch that provided him with the pretext to massively escalate the persecutions to the point of genocide.
"The servants of God are those who are hated by the world" ~ Donatist SloganWith pagan priests accusing Christians of disrupting sacrifies at the Temple, the new Emperor responded with a set of uncompromising imperial edicts that rendered the traditor position untenable. Service in the Roman Army became impossible. Christianity was driven to the brink of oblivion; places of worship were destroyed, scriptures confiscated and the offering of sacrifices was compelled on pain of death. Communities in Africa, Egypt and Palestine were wiped out.
A fiery debate about how to treat those traditors who lapsed under persecution led to a permanent split in the North African Church. The purists were later eliminated by the Muslim invasion of North Africa.