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LIBELLUS

Certificate of sacrifice, testifying that a person during the Roman persecutions had offered sacrifice to the pagan gods. The officials were requited to superintend the sacrifices on a fixed day, receive in writing a statement from the person, and countersign the testimony in the name of the emperor. Many Christians apostatized; others bought certificates or had them procured by pagan friends. There seems to have been wholesale connivance by the officials. Those who refused to sacrifice were sentenced to prison or even death. A papyrus copy of a libellus, dating from A.D. 250, was discovered at Fayoum, Egypt. Its first part reads: "To the Commissioners for sacrifices in the village of Alexander's island, from Aurelius Diogenes, son of Satabus, of the village of Alexander's island, aged 72; scar on right eyebrow." The receipt of the presiding official reads: "I certify that I witnessed his sacrifice, Aurelius Syrus. Dated this first year of the Emperor Caesar Gaius Messius Quintus Trajanus Decius, Pius, Felix, Augustus, the 2nd of Epiph. (26 Jun 250)."

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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