Donatus

, bishop of Casae Nigrae in Numidia, is regarded by some as the author of the sect of the Donatists, which took its rise in the year 311, from the following circumstance. Cecilianus having been chosen to succeed Mensurius in the episcopal chair of Carthage, the election was contested by a powerful party, headed by a lady named Lucilla, and two priests, Brotus and Celestius, who had themselves been candidates for the disputed see. They caused Majorinus to be elected, under pretence that the ordination of Cecilianus was null, as having, according to them, been performed by Felix, bishop of Aptonga, whom they accused of being a traditor; that is, of having delivered to the pagans the sacred books and vessels during the persecution, and was therefore unfit to bestow consecration. The African bishops were divided, and Donatus headed the partisans of Majorinus. In the mean time, the affair being brought before the emperor, he referred the judgment to three bishops of Gaul, Maternus of Cologne, Reticius of Autun, and Marinus of Arles, r conjointly with the pope Miltiades. These prelates, in a council held at Rome in 313, composed of fifteen Italian bishops, in which Cecilianus and Donatus appeared, each with ten bishops of their party, decided in favour of Cecilianus; but the division soon being renewed, the Donatists were again condemned by the council of Aries in 3)4; and lastly by an edict of Constantine, of the month of November 316. Donatus, who was returned to Africa, there received the sentence of deposition and of excommunication pronounced against him by pope Miltiades. 2

2

Dupin.—Mosheim.—Milner’s Ch. Hist. vol. II. p. 47.