Around the middle of the 3rd century, the Roman Empire was in a state of disintegration. On the Balkans and in the Orient, attempts to usurp the Roman government were common. The provinces on the Rhine and on the Danube could hardly reject the constant raids of foreign peoples. Domestically, Rome was in bad position too. Inflation and the intense cost of warfare had led to an economic crisis; large parts of the population had fallen into poverty. In this tense situation Traianus Decius (249-251) ascended to the Roman throne.
As a start, the new emperor tried to recover the favor of the gods through heightened religiousness. He ordered that every Roman citizen had to sacrifice for the genius of the emperor and for the Goddess Roma. Each sacrifice was acknowledged by receipt. Refusal was penalized. This particularly affected the Christians who rejected sacrifices for foreign deities. Thus Traianus Decius became the first persecutors of Christians among the Roman emperors.