In A.D. 249 the emperor Trajan Decius issued an edict requiring the inhabitants of the Roman Empire to sacrifice to the gods. With this decree, he also inaugurated the first empire-wide persecution of Christians. Previously, persecutions of Christians had always been local affairs determined by local conditions. Thereafter, persecutions were largely instigated by emperors and took place on an imperial scale. It has consequently become common to distinguish pre-Decian persecution, characterized by its local and ad hoc nature, from the centrally organized persecutions of Decius in A.D. 249–50, Valerian in A.D. 257–60, and Diocletian, Galerius, and Maximinus in A.D. 303–13. The importance of the decree as a turning point in the history of Christian persecution is thus widely recognized. Beyond this, discussions of the decree have usually focused on its precise nature and the motivations behind it; given the limited evidence, however, these discussions have tended to be inconclusive. In this paper I will return to a consideration of the decree's effects, but in the context of traditional religion rather than that of Christianity. I will argue that, seen from this perspective, the decree was a highly innovative and important step towards a radical restructuring of religious organization in the Roman world.