The persecution instituted by the emperor Valerian (AD. 253–260) long has presented modern scholars with several important problems. One of the most pressing questions concerns the reasons behind Valerian's sudden shift in religious policy in 257. Prior to that time the church was largely undisturbed, but the years 257–258 witnessed a series of increasingly severe imperial edicts directed against Christianity. What prompted this sudden reversal of imperial religious policy in 257? Moreover, given the change in the official position, what was the nature of this revised religious policy? The overall picture that emerges out of an attempt to answer these questions indicates that the primary motives behind this persecution were, in fact, religious. Further, the government's religious outlook also encompassed certain related social aims. In order to deal with these issues effectively, however, one first must compare Valerian's religious policy to those of his predecessors from 249 to 253.