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the adherents of a religious movement in Roman North Africa in the fourth and fifth centuries. The Donatist movement originated in 311, when some members of the African church refused to recognize the recently elected Carthaginian bishop Cecilian. This initiated the split of the African Christian church into Cecilianists, or Catholics, and the opponents of Cecilian, who were later called Donatists, after their leader, Bishop Donatus. The orthodox Catholic Church, which had become an active proponent of the existing social and political structure under the protection of the Roman emperor Constantine I and his successors, was supported in North Africa primarily by representatives of the ruling class. The Donatists were joined chiefly by the toiling and exploited strata of North Africa— the coloni, slaves, and the urban poor. Glorifying “martyrs for the faith,” the preaching of the Donatists called for no reconciliation with the Christians who had abandoned their faith in the early fourth century during the period of persecution by the Roman authorities. From the mid-fourth century, the Donatist movement clearly showed signs of opposition to the Roman authorities. The Donatist church supported the anti-Roman uprisings headed by leaders of Moorish tribes— the brothers Firmus (371-73) and Gildo (397-98). However, the actions taken by rank-and-file Donatists against large landowning and exploitation (the Circumcellion uprising) filled the Donatist bishops with fear, and they even summoned Roman troops against the insurgents. Toward the end of the fourth century the Donatists were joined by representatives of anti-Roman elements of the ruling class. After the Council of Carthage, which was held jointly by the orthodox Catholic and Donatist churches in 411, the Roman authorities officially banned Donatism and organized the persecution of the Donatists, who nonetheless survived in Africa as late as the sixth century.
REFERENCEDiligenskii, G. G. Severnaia Afrika v IV-V vv. Moscow, 1961. (With a bibliography in footnotes.)
G. G. DILIGENSKII