I have narrated in the preceding book the occurrences which took place in the Church, during the reign of Julian. This emperor, having determined to carry on the war with Persia, made a rapid transit across the Euphrates in the beginning of spring, and, passing by Edessa from hatred to the inhabitants, who had long professed Christianity, he went on to Carræ, where there was a temple of Jupiter, in which he offered up sacrifice and prayer. He then selected twenty thousand armed men from among his troops, and sent them towards the Tigris, in order that they might guard those regions, and also be ready to join him, in case he should require their assistance. He then wrote to Arsacius, king of Armenia, one of the Roman allies, to bespeak his aid in the war. In this letter Julian manifested the most unbounded arrogance; he boasted of the high qualities which had, he said, rendered him worthy of the empire, and acceptable to the gods for whom he cared; he reviled Constantius, his predecessor, as an effeminate and impious emperor, and threatened Arsacius in a grossly insulting way; and since he understood that he was a Christian, he intensified his insults, or eagerly and largely uttered unlawful blasphemies against Christ, for he was wont to dare this in every case. He told Arsacius that unless he acted according to his directions, the God in whom he trusted would not be able to defend him from his vengeance. When he considered that all his arrangements had been duly made, he led his army through Assyria.
He took a great many towns and fortresses, either through treachery or by battle, and thoughtlessly proceeded onwards, without reflecting that he would have to return by the same route. He pillaged every place he approached, and pulled down or burnt the granaries and storehouses. As he was journeying up the Euphrates, he arrived at Ctesiphon, a very large city, whither the Persian monarchs have now transferred their residence from Babylon. The Tigris flows near this spot. As he was prevented from reaching the city with his ships, by a part of the land which separated it from the river, he judged that either he must pursue his journey by water, or quit his ships and go to Ctesiphon by land; and he interrogated the prisoners on the subject. Having ascertained from them that there was a canal which had been blocked up in the course of time, he caused it to be cleared out, and, having thus effected a communication between the Euphrates and the Tigris, he proceeded towards the city, his ships floating along by the side of his army. But the Persians appeared on the banks of the Tigris with a formidable display of horse and many armed troops, of elephants, and of horses; and Julian became conscious that his army was besieged between two great rivers, and was in danger of perishing, either by remaining in its present position, or by retreating through the cities and villages which he had so utterly devastated that no provisions were attainable; therefore he summoned the soldiers to see horse-races, and proposed rewards to the fleetest racers. In the meantime he commanded the officers of the ships to throw over the provisions and baggage of the army, so that the soldiers, seeing themselves in danger by the want of necessaries, might turn about boldly and fight their enemies more desperately. After supper he sent for the generals and tribunes and commanded the embarkation of the troops. They sailed along the Tigris during the night and came at once to the opposite banks and disembarked; but their departure was perceived by some of the Persians, who exhorted one another to oppose them, but those still asleep the Romans readily overcame.
At daybreak, the two armies engaged in battle; and after much bloodshed on both sides, the Romans returned by the river, and encamped near Ctesiphon. The emperor, being no longer desirous of proceeding further, burnt his vessels, as he considered that they required too many soldiers to guard them; and he then commenced his retreat along the Tigris, which was to his left. The prisoners, who acted as guides to the Romans, led them to a fertile country where they found abundance of provisions. Soon after, an old man who had resolved to die for the liberty of Persia, allowed himself to be taken prisoner, and was brought before the emperor. On being questioned as to the route, and seeming to speak the truth, he persuaded them to follow him as capable of transporting the army very speedily to the Roman frontiers. He observed that for the space of three or four days' journey this road would be difficult, and that it would be necessary to carry provisions during that time, as the surrounding country was sterile. The emperor was deceived by the discourse of this wise old man, and approved the march by this route. On advancing further, after the lapse of three days, they were cast upon an uncultivated region. The old prisoner was put to torture. He confessed that he had exposed himself voluntarily to death for the sake of his country, and was therefore prepared to endure any sufferings that could be inflicted on him.
The Roman troops were now worn out by the length of the journey and the scarcity of provisions, and the Persians chose this moment to attack them.
In the heat of the conflict which ensued, a violent wind arose; and the sky and the sun were totally concealed by the clouds, while the air was at the same time mixed with dust. During the darkness which was thus produced, a horseman, riding at full gallop, directed his lance against the emperor, and wounded him mortally. After throwing Julian from his horse, the unknown assailant secretly went away. Some conjectured that he was a Persian; others, that he was a Saracen. There are those who insist that he who struck the blow was a Roman soldier, who was indignant at the imprudence and temerity which the emperor had manifested in exposing his army to such peril. Libanius, the sophist, a native of Syria, the most intimate friend of Julian, expressed himself in the following terms concerning the person who had committed the deed: You desire to know by whom the emperor was slain. I know not his name. We have a proof, however, that the murderer was not one of the enemies; for no one came forward to claim the reward, although the king of Persia caused proclamation to be made, by a herald, of the honors to be awarded to him who had performed the deed. We are surely beholden to the enemy for not arrogating to themselves the glory of the action, but for leaving it to us to seek the slayer among ourselves.
Those who sought his death were those who lived in habitual transgression of the laws, and who had formerly conspired against him, and who therefore perpetrated the deed as soon as they could find an opportunity. They were impelled by the desire of obtaining a greater degree of freedom from all control than they could enjoy under his government; and they were, perhaps, mainly stimulated by their indignation at the attachment of the emperor to the service of the gods, to which they were averse.
In the document above quoted, Libanius clearly states that the emperor fell by the hand of a Christian; and this, probably, was the truth. It is not unlikely that some of the soldiers who then served in the Roman army might have conceived the idea, since Greeks and all men until this day have praised tyrannicides for exposing themselves to death in the cause of liberty, and spiritedly standing by their country, their families, and their friends. Still less is he deserving of blame, who, for the sake of God and of religion, performed so bold a deed. Beyond this I know nothing accurately concerning the men who committed this murder besides what I have narrated. All men, however, concur in receiving the account which has been handed down to us, and which evidences his death to have been the result of Divine wrath. A proof of this is the Divine vision which one of his friends had, which I will now proceed to describe. He had, it is related, traveled into Persia, with the intention of joining the emperor. While on the road, he found himself so far from any habitation that he was obliged, on one night, to sleep in a church. He saw, during that night, either in a dream or a vision, all the apostles and prophets assembled together, and complaining of the injuries which the emperor had inflicted on the Church, and consulting concerning the best measures to be adopted. After much deliberation and embarrassment two individuals arose in the midst of the assembly, desired the others to be of good cheer, and left the company hastily, as if to deprive Julian of the imperial power. He who was the spectator of this marvel did not attempt to pursue his journey, but awaited, in horrible suspense, the conclusion of this revelation. He laid himself down to sleep again, in the same place, and again, he saw the same assembly; the two individuals who had appeared to depart the preceding night to effect their purpose against Julian, suddenly returned and announced his death to the others.
On the same day a vision was sent to Didymus, an ecclesiastical philosopher, who dwelt at Alexandria; and, who, being deeply grieved at the errors of Julian and his persecution of the churches, fasted and offered up supplications to God continually on this account. From the effects of anxiety and want of food during the previous night, he fell asleep while sitting in his chair. Then being, as it were, in an ecstasy, he beheld white horses traversing the air, and heard a voice saying to those who were riding thereon,
Go and tell Didymus that Julian has been slain just at this hour; let him communicate this intelligence to Athanasius, the bishop, and let him arise and eat. I have been credibly informed that the friend of Julian and the philosopher beheld those things. Results proved that neither of them were far from having witnessed the truth. But if these instances do not suffice to prove that the death of Julian was the effect of Divine wrath on account of his persecution of the Church, let the prediction of one of the ecclesiastics be called to mind. When Julian was preparing to enter upon the war against the Persians, he threatened that on the termination of the war he would treat the Christians with severity, and boasted that the Son of the Carpenter would be unable to aid them; the ecclesiastic above mentioned thereupon rejoined, that the Son of the Carpenter was then preparing him a wooden coffin in view of his death.
Julian himself was well aware whence the mortal stroke proceeded, and what was the cause of its infliction; for, it is said, when he was wounded, he took some of the blood that flowed from the wound, and threw it up into the air, as if he had seen Jesus Christ appearing, and intended to throw it at him, in order to reproach him with his slaughter. Others say that he was angry with the sun because it had favored the Persians, and had not rescued him, although, according to the doctrine of the astronomers, it had presided at his birth; and that it was to express his indignation against this luminary that he took blood in his hand and flung it upwards in the air.
I know not whether, on the approach of death, as is wont to be the case when the soul is in the act of being separated from the body and when it is enabled to behold diviner spectacles than are allotted to men, and so Julian might have beheld Christ. Few allusions have been made to this subject, and yet I dare not reject this hypothesis as absolutely false; for God often suffers still more improbable and astonishing events to take place in order to prove that the religion named after Christ is not sustained by human energy. It is, however, very obvious that, throughout the reign of this emperor, God gave manifest tokens of His displeasure, and permitted many calamities to befall several of the provinces of the Roman Empire. He visited the earth with such fearful earthquakes, that the buildings were shaken, and no more safety could be found within the houses than in the open air. From what I have heard, I conjecture that it was during the reign of this emperor, or, at least, when he occupied the second place in the government, that a great calamity occurred near Alexandria in Egypt, when the sea receded and again passed beyond its boundaries from the reflux waves, and deluged a great deal of the land, so that on the retreat of the waters, the sea-skiffs were found lodged on the roofs of the houses. The anniversary of this inundation, which they call the birthday of an earthquake, is still commemorated at Alexandria by a yearly festival; a general illumination is made throughout the city; they offer thankful prayers to God, and celebrate the day very brilliantly and piously. An excessive drought also occurred during this reign; the plants perished and the air was corrupted; and for want of proper sustenance, men were obliged to have recourse to the food usually eaten by other animals.
The famine introduced peculiar diseases, by which many lives were lost. Such was the state of the empire during the administration of Julian.
After the decease of Julian, the government of the empire was, by the unanimous consent of the troops, tendered to Jovian. When the army was about to proclaim him emperor, he announced himself to be a Christian and refused the sovereignty, nor would he receive the symbols of empire; but when the soldiers discovered the cause of his refusal, they loudly proclaimed that they were themselves Christians.
The dangerous and disturbed condition in which affairs had been left by Julian's strategy, and the sufferings of the army from famine in an enemy's country, compelled Jovian to conclude a peace with the Persians, and to cede to them some territories which had been formerly tributary to the Romans. Having learned from experience that the impiety of his predecessor had excited the wrath of God, and given rise to public calamities, he wrote without delay to the governors of the provinces, directing that the people should assemble together without fear in the churches, that they should serve God with reverence, and that they should receive the Christian faith as the only true religion. He restored to the churches and the clergy, to the widows and the virgins, the same immunities and every former dotation for the advantage and honor of religion, which had been granted by Constantine and his sons, and afterwards withdrawn by Julian. He commanded Secundus, who was then a prætorian prefect, to constitute it a capital crime to marry any of the holy virgins, or even to regard them with unchaste desires and to carry them off.
He enacted this law on account of the wickedness which had prevailed during the reign of Julian; for many had taken wives from among the holy virgins, and, either by force or guile, had completely corrupted them; and thence had proceeded that indulgence of disgraceful lusts with impunity, which always occur when religion is abused.
The presidents of the churches now resumed the agitation of doctrinal questions and discussions. They had remained quiet during the reign of Julian when Christianity itself was endangered, and had unanimously offered up their supplications for the mercy of God. It is thus that men, when attacked by foreign enemies, remain in accord among themselves; but, when external troubles are removed, then internal dissensions creep in; this, however, is not a proper place for the citation of the numerous examples in governments and nations which history affords of this fact.
At this period Basil, bishop of Ancyra, Silvanus, bishop of Tarsus, Sophronius, bishop of Pompeiopolis, and others of their party who regarded the heresy of the Anomians, so-called, with the utmost aversion, and received the term
similar as to substance, instead of the term
consubstantial, wrote a treatise to the emperor; and after expressing their thankfulness to God for his accession to the empire, besought him to confirm the decrees issued at Ariminum and Seleucia, and to annul what had been established merely by the zeal and power of certain individuals.
They also entreated that, if division, which existed on account of the Synods, should still prevail in the churches, the bishops from every region might be convened alone in some place indicated by the emperor, and not be permitted to assemble elsewhere and issue decrees at variance with each other, as had been done during the reign of Constantius. They added that they had not gone to visit him at his camp, because they were fearful of being burdensome to him; but that if he desired to see them, they would gladly repair to him, and defray all the expenses attendant on the journey themselves. Such was the document written to the Emperor Jovian.
At this juncture a council was convened at Antioch in Syria; the form of belief established by the council of Nicæa was confirmed; and it was decided that the Son is incontrovertibly of the same substance as the Father. Meletius, who then governed the church of Antioch; Eusebius, bishop of Samosata; Pelagius, bishop of Laodicea in Syria; Acacius, bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine; Irenius, bishop of Gaza; and Athanasius, bishop of Ancyra, took part in this council.
On the termination of the council they acquainted the emperor with the transactions that had taken place, by dispatching the following letter: —
We know, O emperor, well-beloved of God, that your piety is fully intent upon maintaining peace and concord in the Church; neither are we ignorant that you have well received the impress of the chief point of such unity, viz., the true and orthodox faith.
Lest, therefore, we should be reckoned among those who assail these doctrines of truth, we attest to your piety that we receive and maintain the form of belief which was anciently set forth by the holy council of Nicæa. Now, although the term 'consubstantial' appears strange to some persons, yet it was safely interpreted by the Fathers, and signifies that the Son was begotten of the substance of the Father. This term does not convey the idea of unbroken generation; neither does it coincide with the use which the Greeks make of the word 'substance,' but it is calculated to withstand the impious and rash allegation of Arius, that the Son proceeded from what had had no previous existence. The Anomians who have just sprung up have the shameless boldness to maintain this word to the grief of the concord of the Church. We subjoin to this letter a copy of the formulary of faith adopted by the bishops assembled at Nicæa, which we also cherish.
At this period, Athanasius, who governed the see of Alexandria, and some of his friends, deemed it requisite, as the emperor was a Christian, to repair to his court. Accordingly Athanasius went to Antioch, and laid such matters before the emperor as he deemed expedient. Others, however, say that the emperor sent for him in order to consult him concerning the affairs relative to religion and the right tenet. When the business of the Church had as far as possible been transacted, Athanasius began to think of returning.
Euzoïus, bishop of the Arian heresy in Antioch, endeavored to install Probatius, a eunuch who held the same sentiments as himself, in Alexandria. The whole party of Euzoïus conspired with him to effect this design; and Lucius, a citizen of Alexandria, who had been ordained presbyter by George, endeavored to prejudice the emperor against Athanasius, by representing that he had been accused of various crimes and had been condemned to perpetual banishment by preceding emperors, as the author of the dissensions and troubles of the Church concerning the Divine Being. Lucius likewise besought Jovian to appoint another bishop over the church of Alexandria. The emperor, since he knew the plots which had happened against Athanasius, attached no credit to the calumny, and with threatening, commanded Lucius to retire quietly; he also ordered Probatius and the other eunuchs belonging to his palace, whom he regarded as the originators of these troubles, to act more advisedly. From that period Jovian manifested the greatest friendship towards Athanasius, and sent him back to Egypt, with directions to govern the churches and people of that country as he might think fit. It is also said that he passed commendations on the virtue of the bishop, on his life, his intellectual endowments, and his eloquence.
Thus, after having been exposed to opposition for a long while, as has been narrated in the former books, was the Nicene faith fully reestablished under the present government; but further embarrassment awaited it within a very short period. For, as it appeared afterwards, the whole of the prediction of Antony the Monk was not fulfilled by the occurrences which befell the Church during the reign of Constantius; part thereof was not accomplished until the reign of Valens. It is said that before the Arians got control of the churches during the reign of Constantius, Antony had a dream in which he saw mules kicking the altar with their hoofs and overturning the holy table. On awakening, he immediately predicted that the Church would be troubled by the introduction of spurious and mixed doctrines, and by the rebellion of the heterodox. The truth of this prediction was evidenced by the events which occurred before and after the period now under review.
After Jovian had reigned about eight months, he died suddenly at Dadastana, a town of Bithynia, while on his road to Constantinople. Some say that his death was occasioned by eating too plentiful a supper; others attribute it to the dampness of the chamber in which he slept; for it had been recently plastered with unslaked lime, and quantities of coals had been burnt in it during the winter for a preventive; the walls had become damp and were exceedingly moist.
On the arrival of the troops at Nicæa in Bithynia, they proclaimed Valentinian emperor. He was a good man and capable of holding the reins of the empire. He had not long returned from banishment; for it is said that Julian, immediately on his accession to the empire, erased the name of Valentinian from the Jovian legions, as they were called, and condemned him to perpetual banishment, under the pretext that he had failed in his duty of leading out the soldiers under his command against the enemy. The true reason of his condemnation, however, was the following: When Julian was in Gaul, he went one day to a temple to offer incense. Valentinian accompanied him, according to an ancient Roman law, which still prevails, and which enacted that the leader of the Jovians and the Herculeans (that is to say, the legions of soldiers who have received this appellation in honor of Jupiter and of Hercules) should always attend the emperor as his bodyguard. When they were about to enter the temple, the priest, in accordance with the pagan custom, sprinkled water upon them with the branch of a tree. A drop fell upon the robe of Valentinian; he scarcely could restrain himself, for he was a Christian, and he rebuked his asperser; it is even said that he cut off, in view of the emperor, the portion of the garment on which the water had fallen, and flung it from him. From that moment Julian entertained inimical feelings against him, and soon after banished him to Melitine in Armenia, under the plea of misconduct in military affairs; for he would not have religion regarded as the cause of the decree, lest Valentinian should be accounted a martyr or a confessor. Julian treated other Christians, as we have already stated, in the same manner; for, as was said before, he perceived that to subject them to hazards only added to their reputation, and tended to the consolidation of their religion. As soon as Jovian succeeded to the throne, Valentinian was recalled from banishment to Nicæa; but the death of the emperor in the meantime took place, and Valentinian, by the unanimous consent of the troops and those who held the chief positions in the government, was appointed his successor. When he was invested with the symbols of imperial power, the soldiers cried out that it was necessary to elect some one to share the burden of government. To this proposition, Valentinian made the following reply:
It depended on you alone, O soldiers, to proclaim me emperor; but now that you have elected me, it depends not upon you, but upon me, to perform what you demand. Remain quiet, as subjects ought to do, and leave me to act as an emperor in attending to the public affairs.
Not long after this refusal to comply with the demand of the soldiery, he repaired to Constantinople, and proclaimed his brother emperor. He gave him the East as his share of the empire, and reserved to himself the regions along the Western Ocean, from Illyria to the furthest coasts of Libya. Both the brothers were Christians, but they differed in opinion and disposition. For Valens, when he was baptized, employed Eudoxius as his initiator, and was zealously attached to the doctrines of Arius, and would readily have compelled all mankind by force to yield to them. Valentinian, on the other hand, maintained the faith of the council of Nicæa, and favored those who upheld the same sentiments, without molesting those who entertained other opinions.
When Valentinian was journeying from Constantinople to Rome, he had to pass through Thrace; and the bishops of Hellespontus and of Bithynia, with others, who maintained that the Son is consubstantial with the Father, dispatched Hypatian, bishop of Heraclea in Perinthus, to meet him, and to request permission to assemble themselves together for deliberation on questions of doctrine.
When Hypatian had delivered the message with which he was entrusted, Valentinian made the following reply:
I am but one of the laity, and have therefore no right to interfere in these transactions; let the priests, to whom such matters appertain, assemble where they please. On receiving this answer through Hypatian, their deputy, the bishops assembled at Lampsacus.
After having conferred together for the space of two months, they annulled all that had been decreed at Constantinople, through the machinations of the partisans of Eudoxius and Acacius. They likewise declared null and void the formulary of faith which had been circulated under the false assertion that it was the compilation of the Western bishops, and to which the signatures of many bishops had been obtained, by the promise that the dogma of dissimilarity as to substance should be condemned—a promise which had never been performed.
They decreed that the doctrine of the Son being in substance like the Father, should have the ascendancy; for they said that it was necessary to resort to the use of the term
like as indicative of the hypostases of the Godhead. They agreed that the form of belief which had been confessed at Seleucia, and set forth at the dedication of the church of Antioch, should be maintained by all the churches.
They directed that all the bishops who had been deposed by those who hold that the Son is dissimilar from the Father, should immediately be reinstated in their sees, as having been unjustly ejected from their churches. They declared that if any wished to bring accusations against them, they would be permitted to do so, but under the penalty of incurring the same punishment as that due to the alleged crime, should the accusation prove to be false. The orthodox bishops of the province and of the neighboring countries were to preside as judges, and to assemble in the church, with the witnesses who were to make the depositions.
After making these decisions, the bishops summoned the partisans of Eudoxius, and exhorted them to repentance; but as they would give no heed to these remonstrances, the decrees enacted by the council were sent to all the churches. Judging that Eudoxius would be likely to endeavor to persuade the emperor to side with him, and would calumniate them, they determined to be beforehand with him, and to send an account of their proceedings in Lampsacus to the court.
Their deputies met the Emperor Valens as he was returning from Heraclea to Thrace, where he had been traveling in company with his brother, who had gone on to Old Rome.
Eudoxius, however, had previously gained over the emperor and his courtiers to his own sentiments; so that when the deputies of the council of Lampsacus presented themselves before Valens, he merely exhorted them not to be at variance with Eudoxius. The deputies replied by reminding him of the artifices to which Eudoxius had resorted at Constantinople, and of his machinations to annul the decrees of the council of Seleucia; and these representations kindled the wrath of Valens to such a pitch, that he condemned the deputies to banishment, and made over the churches to the partisans of Eudoxius. He then passed over into Syria, for he feared lest the Persians should break the truce which they had concluded with Jovian for thirty years. On finding, however, that the Persians were not disposed to insurrection, he fixed his residence at Antioch. He sent Meletius, the bishop, into banishment, but spared Paul, because he admired the sanctity of his life. Those who were not in communion with Euzoïus were either ejected from the churches, or maltreated and harassed in some other form.
It is probable that a severe persecution might have ensued at this juncture, had not Procopius commenced a civil war. As he began to play the tyrant at Constantinople, he soon collected a large army, and marched against Valens.
The latter quitted Syria, and met Procopius near Nacolia, a city of Phrygia, and captured him alive through the treachery of Agelon and Gomarius, two of his generals.
Valens put him and his betrayers to a cruel death; and although it is said that he had sworn to show favor to the two generals, he caused them to be sawn asunder.
He commanded Procopius to be fastened by the legs to two trees which had been bent to the ground, and he allowed these to spring up; when the trees were left to resume their natural position, the victim was torn in two.
On the termination of this war, Valens retired to Nicæa, and finding himself in possession of profound tranquillity, he again began to molest those who differed from him in opinion concerning the Divine nature.
While under the influence of these resentful feelings, he summoned Eleusius from Syria, and having called together a Synod of bishops who held his own sentiments, he endeavored to compel him to assent to their doctrines. Eleusius at first manfully refused compliance. But afterwards, from the dread of exile and deprivation of his property, as was threatened by the emperor, he yielded to the mandate. He soon repented of his weakness, and on his return to Cyzicus he made a public confession of his fault in the church, and urged the people to choose another bishop, for he said that he could not discharge the duties of a priesthood after having been a traitor to his own doctrine. The citizens respected his conduct and were especially well-disposed to him, so that they did not choose to have another bishop. Eudoxius, president of the Arians in Constantinople, however, ordained Eunomius as bishop of Cyzicus; for he expected that by his great powers of eloquence Eunomius would easily draw the people of Cyzicus over to his own sentiments. On his arrival at that city he expelled Eleusius, for he was furnished with an imperial edict to that effect, and took possession of the churches himself.
The followers of Eleusius built a house of prayer without the walls of the city, and here they held their assemblies. I shall soon again have occasion to revert to Eunomius and the heresy which bears his name.
They were all ultimately expelled from the city; and the churches of the Novatians were closed by order of the emperor. The other party had no churches to be closed, having been deprived of them all during the reign of Constantius.
At this period, Agelius who, from the time of Constantius, had governed the church of the Novatians at Constantinople, was condemned to banishment. It is said that he was especially remarkable for his course of life according to the ecclesiastical laws. With respect to his mode of life, he had attained to the highest degree of philosophy, namely, freedom from worldly possessions; this was evidenced by his daily conduct; he had but one tunic, and always walked barefooted. Not long after his banishment, he was recalled, received the churches under him, and boldly convened churches through the influence of Marcian, a man of extraordinary virtue and eloquence, who had formerly been enrolled among the troops of the palace, but at this period was a presbyter of the Novatian heresy, and the teacher of grammar to Anastasia and Carosa, the daughters of the emperor. There are still baths at Constantinople which bear the names of these princesses. It was for the sake of Marcian alone that the privilege above-mentioned was conceded to the Novatians.
About this period, a son was born to Valentinian in the West, to whom the emperor gave his own name. Not long after, he proclaimed his son Gratian emperor; this prince was born before his father held the government.
In the meantime, although hailstones of extraordinary magnitude fell in various places, and although many cities, particularly Nicæa in Bithynia, were shaken by earthquakes, yet Valens, the emperor, and Eudoxius, the bishop, paused not in their career, but continued to persecute all Christians who differed from them in opinion. They succeeded to the utmost of their expectations in their machinations against those who adhered to the Nicene doctrines; for throughout the greater time of Valens' rule, particularly in Thrace, Bithynia, and the Hellespont, and still further beyond, these Christians had neither churches nor priests. Valens and Eudoxius then directed their resentment against the Macedonians, who were more in number than the Christians above mentioned in that region, and persecuted them without measure.
The Macedonians, in apprehension of further sufferings, sent deputies to various cities, and finally agreed to have recourse to Valentinian and to the bishop of Rome rather than share in the faith of Eudoxius and Valens and their followers; and when this seemed favorable for execution, they selected three of their own number—Eustathius, bishop of Sebaste; Silvanus, bishop of Tarsus; and Theophilus, bishop of Castabalis,— and sent them to the Emperor Valentinian; they likewise entrusted them with a letter, addressed to Liberius, bishop of Rome, and to the other priests of the West, in which they entreated them as prelates who had adhered to the faith approved and confirmed by the apostles, and who before others ought to watch over religion, to receive their deputies with all confirmation, and to confer with them about what should be done in the interval until the affairs of the Church could be approvedly set in order.
When the deputies arrived in Italy, they found that the emperor was in Gaul, engaged in war against the barbarians. As they considered that it would be perilous to visit the seat of war in Gaul, they delivered their letter to Liberius. After having conferred with him concerning the objects of their embassy, they condemned Arius and those who held and taught his doctrines; they renounced all heresies opposed to the faith established at Nicæa; and received the term
consubstantial, as being a word that conveys the same signification as the expression
like in substance. When they had presented a confession of faith, analogous to the above, to Liberius, he received them into communion with himself, and wrote to the bishops of the East, commending the orthodoxy of their faith, and detailing what had passed in the conference he had held with them. The confession of faith made by Eustathius and his companions was as follows:—
To Liberius, our Lord and Brother, and Fellow-minister— Eustathius, Silvanus, and Theophilus send greeting in the Lord.
On account of the mad opinions of the heretics who do not cease to keep on sowing scandals for the Catholic churches, we who nullify their every attack confess the Synod which was held at Lampsacus, the one at Smyrna and the councils held in other places, by the orthodox bishops. We have furnished letters and sent on an embassy to your Goodness, as likewise to all the other bishops of Italy and of the West, to confirm and preserve the Catholic faith, which was established at the holy council of Nicæa, by the blessed Constantine and three hundred and eighteen God-fearing fathers.
This remains, by an unmixed and immovable settlement, until now, and will remain perpetually; in which the term 'consubstantial' is fixed in all holiness and piety in testimony against the perverseness of Arius. We confess, each with his own hand, that we with the aforesaid have always held this same faith, that we still hold it, and that we shall adhere to it to the last. We condemn Arius, his impious dogmas, and his disciples. We also condemn the heresies of Patropasianus, of Photinus, of Marcellus, of Paul of Samosata, and all who maintain such doctrines themselves. We anathematize all heresies opposed to the aforesaid faith established by the saintly fathers at Nicæa. We anathematize Arius especially, and condemn all such decrees as were enacted at Ariminum, in opposition to the aforesaid faith established by the holy council of Nicæa. We were formerly deluded by the guile and perjury of certain parties, and subscribed to these decrees when they were transmitted to Constantinople from Nicæa, a city of Thrace.
After this confession they subjoined a copy of the entire formulary of Nicæa to their own creed, and, having received from Liberius a written account of all that they had transacted, they sailed to Sicily.
A council was convened at Sicily; and after the same doctrines had been confirmed as those set forth in the confession of the deputies, the assembly was dissolved.
At the same time, a council was held at Tyana; and Eusebius, bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, Athanasius, bishop of Ancyra, Pelagius, bishop of Laodicea, Zeno, bishop of Tyre, Paul, bishop of Emesa, Otreus, bishop of Melitene, and Gregory, bishop of Nazianzen, were present with many others, who, during the reign of Jovian, had assembled at Antioch, and determined to maintain the doctrine of the Son being consubstantial with the Father. The letters of Liberius and the Western bishops were read at this council. These letters afforded high satisfaction to the members of the council; and they wrote to all the churches, desiring them to peruse the decrees of the bishops in Asia, and the documents written by Liberius and the bishops of Italy, of Africa, of Gaul, and of Sicily, which had been entrusted to the deputies of the council of Lampsacus. They urged them to reflect on the great number of persons by whom these documents had been drawn up, and who were far more in number than the members of the council of Ariminum, and exhorted them to be of one mind, and to enter into communion with them, to signify the same by writing, and finally to assemble together at Tarsus in Cilicia before the end of the spring. On a fixed date which they prescribed, they urged one another to convene. On the approach of the appointed day, when the Synod was on the point of assembling at Tarsus, about thirty-four of the Asiatic bishops came together in Caria, in the province of Asia, commended the design of establishing uniformity of belief in the Church, but objected to the term
consubstantial, and insisted that the formularies of faith set forth by the councils of Antioch and Seleucia, and maintained by Lucian, the martyr, and by many of their predecessors, with dangers and tensions, ought to obtain the ascendancy over all others.
The emperor, at the instigation of Eudoxius, prevented by letter the council from being convened in Cilicia, and even prohibited it under severe penalties. He also wrote to the governors of the provinces, commanding them to eject all bishops from their churches who had been banished by Constantine and who had again taken up their priesthood under the Emperor Julian. On account of this order, those who were at the head of the government of Egypt were anxious to deprive Athanasius of his bishopric and expel him from the city; for no light punishment was inserted in the imperial letters; for unless the injunctions were fulfilled, all the magistrates equally, and the soldiers under them, and counselors were condemned to the payment of much money and also threatened with bodily maltreatment.
The majority of Christians of the city, however, assembled and besought the governor not to banish Athanasius without further consideration of the terms of the imperial letter, which merely specified all bishops who had been banished by Constantius and recalled by Julian; and it was manifest that Athanasius was not of this number, inasmuch as he had been recalled by Constantius and had resumed his bishopric; but Julian, at the very time that all the other bishops had been recalled, persecuted him, and finally Jovian recalled him. The governor was by no means convinced by these arguments; nevertheless, he restrained himself and did not give way to the use of force. The people ran together from every quarter; there was much commotion and perturbation throughout the city; an insurrection was expected; he therefore advised the emperor of the facts and allowed the bishop to remain in the city. Some days afterwards, when the popular excitement had seemingly abated, Athanasius secretly quitted the city at dusk, and concealed himself somewhere. The very same night, the governor of Egypt and the military chief took possession of the church in which Athanasius generally dwelt, and sought him in every part of the edifice, and even on the roof, but in vain; for they had calculated upon seizing the moment when the popular commotion had partially subsided, and when the whole city was wrapt in sleep, to execute the mandate of the emperor, and to transport Athanasius quietly from the city.
Not to have found Athanasius naturally excited universal astonishment. Some attributed his escape to a special revelation from above; others to the advice of some of his followers; both had the same result; but more than human prudence seems to have been requisite to foresee and to avoid such a plot. Some say, that as soon as the people gave indications of being disposed to sedition, he concealed himself among the tombs of his ancestors, being apprehensive lest he should be regarded as the cause of any disturbances that might ensue; and that he afterwards retreated to some other place of concealment.
The Emperor Valens, soon after, wrote to grant permission for him to return and hold his church. It is very doubtful, whether, in making this concession, Valens acted according to his own inclination. I rather imagine that, on reflecting on the esteem in which Athanasius was universally held, he feared to excite the displeasure of the Emperor Valentinian, who was well-known to be attached to the Nicene doctrines; or perhaps he was apprehensive of a commotion on the part of the many admirers of the bishop, lest some innovation might injure the public affairs.
I also believe that the Arian presidents did not, on this occasion, plead very vehemently against Athanasius; for they considered that, if he were ejected from the city, he would probably traduce them to the emperors and then would have an occasion for conference with respect to them, and might possibly succeed in persuading Valens to adopt his own sentiments, and in arousing the anger of the like-minded Valentinian against themselves.
They were greatly troubled by the evidences of the virtue and courage of Athanasius, which had been afforded by the events which had transpired during the reign of Constantius. He had, in fact, so skilfully evaded the plots of his enemies, that they had been constrained to consent to his reinstallation in the government of the churches of Egypt; and yet he could scarcely be induced to return from Italy, although letters had been dispatched by Constantius to that effect.
I am convinced that it was solely from these reasons that Athanasius was not expelled from his church like the other bishops, who were subjected to as cruel a persecution as ever was inflicted by pagans.
Those who would not change their doctrinal tenets were banished; their houses of prayer were taken from them, and placed in the possession of those who held opposite sentiments. Egypt alone was, during the life of Athanasius, exempted from this persecution.
About this time the Emperor Valens went to Antioch on the Orontes; while he was on his journey Eudoxius died, after having governed the churches of Constantinople during the space of eleven years. Demophilus was immediately ordained as his successor by the Arian bishops. The followers of the Nicene doctrines, believing that the course of events was in their power, elected Evagrius as their bishop. He had been ordained by Eustathius, who had formerly governed the church of Antioch in Syria, and who having been recalled from banishment by Jovian, lived in a private manner at Constantinople, and devoted himself to the instruction of those who held his sentiments, exhorting them to perseverance in their view of the Divine Being. The Arian heretics were stirred to revolt, and commenced a violent persecution against those who had participated in the ordination of Evagrius. The Emperor Valens, who was then at Nicomedia, on being apprised of the occurrences that had taken place in Constantinople since the death of Eudoxius, was fearful lest any interest of the city should suffer by sedition, and therefore sent there as many troops as he thought requisite to preserve tranquillity.
Eustathius was arrested by his command and banished to Bizya, a city of Thrace, and Evagrius was exiled to some other region. And such was the manner of this event.
These Christians being exposed to bodily injuries, and betrayed to magistrates and prisons, and finding themselves moreover gradually impoverished by the frequent fines, were at length compelled to appeal for redress to the emperor. Although exceedingly angry, the emperor did not openly manifest any wrath, but secretly commanded the prefect to seize and slay the whole deputation. But the prefect, being apprehensive that a whole popular insurrection would be excited if he were to put so many good and religious men to death without any of the forms of justice, pretended that they were to be sent into exile, and under this pretext compelled them to embark on board a ship, to which they assented with the most perfect resignation. When they had sailed to about the center of the bay, which was called Astacius, the sailors, according to the orders they had received, set fire to the vessel and leaped into the tender. A wind arising, the ship was blown along to Dacibiza, a place on the sea-coast of Bithynia; but no sooner had it neared the shore, than it was utterly consumed with all the men on board.
When Valens quitted Nicomedia, he went on to Antioch; and in passing through Cappadocia he did all in his power, according to custom, to injure the orthodox and to deliver up the churches to the Arians. He thought to accomplish his designs the more easily on account of a dispute which was then pending between Basil and Eusebius, who then governed the church of Cæsarea. This dissension had been the cause of Basil's departing from Pontus, where he lived conjointly with some monks who pursued the philosophy. The people and some of the most powerful and the wisest men in the city began to regard Eusebius with suspicion, particularly as they considered him the cause of the withdrawal of one who was equally celebrated for his piety and his eloquence; and they accordingly began to plan a secession and the holding of separate church. In the meantime Basil, fearing to be a source of further trouble to the Church, which was already rent by the dissensions of heretics, remained in retirement in the monasteries at Pontus. The emperor and the bishops of the Arian heresy, who were always attached to his suite, were more inspirited in their designs by the absence of Basil and the hatred of the people towards Eusebius. But the event was contrary to their judgment. On the first intelligence of the intention of the emperor to pass through Cappadocia, Basil quitted Pontus and returned to Cæsarea, where he effected a reconciliation with Eusebius, and by his eloquence he opportunely aided the Church. The projects of Valens were thus defeated, and he returned with his bishops without having accomplished any of his designs.
Some time after, the emperor again visited Cappadocia, and found that Basil was administering the churches there after the death of Eusebius. He thought of expelling him, but was unwillingly restrained from his intention. It is said that the night after he had formed his plans his wife was disturbed by a frightful dream, and that his only son Galates was cut off by a rapid disease. The death of this son was universally attributed to the vengeance of God as a punishment of his parents for the machinations that had been carried on against Basil. Valens himself was of this opinion, and, after the death of his son, offered no further molestation to the bishop.
When the prince was sinking under the disease, and at the point of death, the emperor sent for Basil and requested him to pray to God for his son's recovery. For as soon as Valens had arrived at Cæsarea, the prefect had sent for Basil and commanded him to embrace the religious sentiments of the emperor, menacing him with death in case of non-compliance. Basil replied that it would be great gain to him and the grant of the highest favor to be delivered as quickly as possible from the bondage of the body. The prefect gave him the rest of the day and the approaching night for deliberation, and advised him not to rush imprudently into obvious danger, but that he should come on the day after and declare his opinion.
I do not require to deliberate, replied Basil.
My determination will be the same tomorrow as it is today; for since I am a creature I can never be induced to worship that which is similar to myself and worship it as God; neither will I conform to your religion, nor to that of the emperor. Although your distinction may be great, and although you have the honor of ruling no inconsiderable portion of the empire, yet I ought not on these accounts to seek to please men, and, at the same time, belittle that Divine faith which neither loss of goods, nor exile, nor condemnation to death would ever impel me to betray. Inflictions of this nature have never excited in my mind one pang of sorrow. I possess nothing but a cloak and a few books. I dwell on the earth as a traveler. The body through its weakness would have the better of all sensation and torture after the first blow.
The prefect admired the courage evinced in this bold reply, and communicated the circumstance to the emperor. On the festival of the Epiphany, the emperor repaired to the church, with the rulers and his guards, presented gifts at the holy table, and held a conference with Basil, whose wisdom and whose order and arrangement in the conduct of the priesthood and the church elicited his praise.
Not long after, however, the calumny of his enemies prevailed, and Basil was condemned to banishment. The night for the execution of the edict was at hand; the son of the emperor suddenly fell ill with a pressing and dangerous fever. The father prostrated himself on the earth and wept over the son who was still alive, and not knowing what other measures to take towards effecting the recovery of his son, he dispatched some of his attendants to Basil to come and visit the prostrate child; because he himself feared to summon the bishop, on account of the injury just inflicted upon him. Immediately on the arrival of Basil, the boy began to rally; so that many maintain that his recovery would have been complete, had not some heretics been summoned to pray with Basil for the restoration of the boy. It is said that the prefect, likewise, fell ill; but that on his repentance, and on prayer being offered to God, he was restored to health. The instances above adduced are quite inadequate to convey an idea of the wonderful endowments of Basil; his extreme addiction to the philosophic life and astonishing powers of eloquence attracted great celebrity.
Basil and Gregory were contemporaries, and they were recognized to be equally intent, so to speak, upon the cultivation of the virtues. They had both studied in their youth at Athens, under Himerius and Proæresius, the most approved sophists of the age; and afterwards at Antioch, under Libanius, the Syrian. But as they subsequently conceived a contempt for sophistry and the study of the law, they determined to study philosophy according to the law of the Church. After having spent some time in the pursuit of the sciences, taught by pagan philosophers, they entered upon the study of the commentaries which Origen and the best approved authors who lived before and after his time, have written in explanation of the Sacred Scriptures.
They rendered great assistance to those who, like themselves, maintained the Nicene doctrines, for they manfully opposed the dogmas of the Arians, proving that these heretics did not rightly understand either the data upon which they proceeded, nor the opinions of Origen, upon which they mainly depended. These two holy men divided the perils of their undertaking, either by mutual agreement, or, as I have been informed, by lot. The cities in the neighborhood of Pontus fell to the lot of Basil; and here he founded numerous monasteries, and, by teaching the people, he persuaded them to hold like views with himself. After the death of his father, Gregory acted as bishop of the small city of Nazianzus, but resided on that account in a variety of places, and especially at Constantinople. Not long after he was appointed by the vote of many priests to act as president of the people there; for there was then neither bishop nor church in Constantinople, and the doctrines of the council of Nicæa were almost extinct.
The emperor went to Antioch, and entirely ejected from the churches of that city and of the neighboring cities all those who adhered to the Nicene doctrines; moreover, he oppressed them with manifold punishments; as some affirm, he commanded many to be put to death in various ways, and caused others to be cast into the river Orontes. Having heard that there was a magnificent oratory at Edessa, named after the Apostle Thomas, he went to see it. He beheld the members of the Catholic Church assembled for worship in the plain before the walls of the city; for there, too, they had been deprived of their houses of prayer. It is said that the emperor reproached the prefect thoroughly and struck him on the jaw with his fist for having permitted these congregations contrary to his edict. Modestus (for this was the name of the prefect), although he was himself a heretic, secretly warned the people of Edessa not to meet for prayer on the accustomed spot the next day; for he had received orders from the emperor to punish all who should be seized. He uttered such threats with the forethought that none, or at least but a few, would incur danger, and with the desire to appease the wrath of the monarch. But the people of Edessa, totally disregarding the threat, ran together with more than their customary zeal, and filled the usual place of meeting.
Modestus, on being apprised of their proceedings, was undecided as to what measures ought to be adopted, and repaired in embarrassment to the plain with the throng. A woman, leading a child by the hand, and trailing her mantle in a way unbefitting the decency of women, forced her way through the files of the soldiers who were conducted by the prefect, as if bent upon some affair of importance. Modestus remarked her conduct, ordered her to be arrested, and summoned her into his presence, to inquire the cause of her running. She replied that she was hastening to the plain where the members of the Catholic Church were assembled.
Know you not, replied Modestus,
that the prefect is on his way there for the purpose of condemning to death all who are found on the spot?
I have heard so, replied she,
and this is the very reason of my haste; for I am fearful of arriving too late, and thus losing the honor of martyrdom for God. The governor having asked her why she took her child with her, she replied,
In order that he may share in the common suffering, and participate in the same reward. Modestus, struck with astonishment at the courage of this woman, went to the emperor, and, acquainting him with what had occurred, persuaded him not to carry out a design which he showed to be disgraceful and disastrous. Thus was the Christian faith confessed by the whole city of Edessa.
Athanasius, bishop of the church of Alexandria, died about this period, after having completed his high-priesthood in about forty-six years. The Arians having received early intelligence of his death, Euzoïus, president of the Arians at Antioch, and Magnus, the chief treasurer, were sent by the emperor, and lost no time in seizing and imprisoning Peter, whom Athanasius had appointed to succeed him in the bishopric; and they immediately transferred the government of the church to Lucius.
Hence those in Egypt suffered more grievously than those in other places, and misfortunes piled upon misfortunes oppressed the members of the Catholic Church; for as soon as Lucius settled in Alexandria, he attempted to take possession of the churches; he met with opposition from the people, and the clergy and holy virgins were accused as originators of the sedition. Some made their escape as if the city had fallen into the hands of an enemy; others were seized and imprisoned. Some of the prisoners were afterwards dragged from the dungeons to be torn with hooks and thongs, while others were burned by means of flaming torches. It seemed wonderful how they could possibly survive the tortures to which they were subjected. Banishment or even death itself would have been preferable to such sufferings. Peter, the bishop, made his escape from prison; and embarking on board a ship, proceeded to Rome, the bishop of which church held the same sentiments as himself. Thus the Arians, although not many in number, remained in possession of the churches. At the same time, an edict was issued by the emperor, enacting that as many of the followers of the Nicene doctrines should be ejected from Alexandria and the rest of Egypt, as might be directed by Lucius. Euzoïus, having thus accomplished all his designs, returned to Antioch.
Lucius went with the general of the soldiers in Egypt, against the monks in the desert; for he imagined that if he could overcome their opposition by interrupting the tranquillity which they loved, he would meet with fewer obstacles in drawing over to his party the Christians who inhabited the cities. The monasteries of this country were governed by several individuals of eminent sanctity, who were strenuously opposed to the heresy of Arius. The people, who were neither willing nor competent to enter upon the investigation of doctrinal questions, received their opinions from them, and thought with them; for they were persuaded that men whose virtue was manifested by their deeds were in possession of truth. We have heard that the leaders of these Egyptian ascetics were two men of the name of Macarius, of whom mention has already been made, Pambo and Heraclides, and other disciples of Antony.
On reflecting that the Arians could never succeed in establishing an ascendency over the Catholic Church, unless the monks could be drawn over to their party, Lucius determined to have recourse to force to compel the monks to side with him, since he was unable to persuade them. But here again his scheme failed; for the monks were prepared to subject their necks to the sword rather than to swerve from the Nicene doctrines. It is related that, at the very time that the soldiers were about to attack them, a man whose limbs were withered and who was unable to stand on his feet was carried to them; and that when they had anointed him with oil, and commanded him in the name of Christ, whom Lucius persecuted, to arise and go to his house, he suddenly became whole. This miraculous cure openly manifested the necessity of adopting the sentiments of those to whom God himself had testified as possessing the truth, while Lucius was condemned, in that God heard their prayers and had healed the sick.
But the plotters against the monks were not led to repentance by this miracle; on the contrary, they arrested these holy men by night, and conveyed them to an island of Egypt, concealed in the swamps. The inhabitants of this island had never heard of the Christian faith, and were devoted to the service of demons: the island contained a temple of great antiquity which was held in great reverence. It is said that when the monks landed on the island, the daughter of the priest, who was possessed of a devil, went to them. The girl ran screaming towards them; and the people of the island, astonished at her sudden and strange conduct, followed. When she drew near the ship in which were the holy messengers, she flung herself pleadingly upon the ground, and exclaimed supplicatingly in a loud voice,
Wherefore are you come to us, O servants of the great God? For we have long dwelt in this island as our residence; we have troubled no one. Unknown to men, we have concealed ourselves here, and are everywhere surrounded by these marshes. If, however, it please you, accept our possessions, and fix your abode here; we will quit the island.
Such were her utterances. Macarius and his companions rebuked the demon, and the girl became sane. Her father and all her house, with the inhabitants of the island, immediately embraced Christianity, and after demolishing their temple, they transformed it into a church. On these occurrences being reported at Alexandria, Lucius was overcome with immoderate grief; and, fearing lest he should incur the hatred of his own partisans, and be accused of warring against God, and not against man, he sent secret orders for Macarius and his companions to be re-conveyed to their own dwellings in the wilderness. Thus did Lucius occasion troubles and commotions in Egypt.
About the same period, Didymus the philosopher and several other illustrious men acquired great renown. Struck by their virtue, and by that of the monks, the people followed their doctrines and opposed those of the partisans of Lucius.
Arianism met with similar opposition at the same period in Osröene; but in the Cappadocias, Providence allotted such a divine and most educated pair of men—Basil, the bishop of Cæsarea in that country, and Gregory, bishop of Nazianzen. Syria and the neighboring provinces, and more especially the city of Antioch, were plunged into confusion and disorder; for the Arians were very numerous in these parts, and had possession of the churches. The members of the Catholic Church were not, however, few in number. They were called Eustathians and Paulinists, and were under the guidance of Paulinus and Meletius, as has been before stated. It was through their instrumentality that the church of Antioch was preserved from the encroachments of the Arians, and enabled to resist the zeal of the emperor and of those in power about him. Indeed, it appears that in all the churches which were governed by brave men, the people did not deviate from their former opinions.
It is said that this was the cause of the firmness with which the Scythians adhered to their faith. There are in this country a great number of cities, villages, and fortresses. The metropolis is called Tomi; it is a large and populous city, and lies on the sea-shore to the left of one sailing to the sea, called the Euxine.
According to an ancient custom which still prevails, all the churches of the whole country are under the sway of one bishop.
Vetranio ruled over these churches at the period that the emperor visited Tomi. Valens repaired to the church, and strove, according to his usual custom, to gain over the bishop to the heresy of Arius; but this latter manfully opposed his arguments, and after a courageous defense of the Nicene doctrines, quitted the emperor and proceeded to another church, whither he was followed by the people. Almost the entire city had crowded to see the emperor, for they expected that something extraordinary would result from this interview with the bishop.
Valens was extremely offended at being left alone in the church with his attendants, and in resentment, condemned Vetranio to banishment. Not long after, however, he recalled him, because, I believe, he apprehended an insurrection; for the Scythians were offended at the absence of their bishop.
He well knew that the Scythians were a courageous nation, and that their country, by the position of its places, possessed many natural advantages which rendered it necessary to the Roman Empire, for it served as a barrier to ward off the barbarians.
The resentment of the emperor was visited upon all the clergy except those of the Western churches; for Valentinian, who reigned over the Western regions, was an admirer of the Nicene doctrines, and was imbued with so much reverence for religion, that he never imposed any commands upon the priests, nor ever attempted to introduce any alteration for better or for worse in ecclesiastical regulations. Although he had become one of the best of emperors, and had shown his capacity to rule affairs, he considered that ecclesiastical matters were beyond the range of his jurisdiction.
A question was renewed at this juncture which had previously excited much inquiry and now more; namely, whether the Holy Ghost is or is not to be considered consubstantial with the Father and the Son.
Many contentions and debates ensued on this subject, similar to those which had been held concerning the nature of God the Word. Those who asserted that the Son is dissimilar from the Father, and those who insisted that He is similar in substance to the Father, came to one common opinion concerning the Holy Ghost; for both parties maintained that the Holy Ghost differs in substance, and that He is but the Minister and the third in point of order, honor, and substance. Those, on the contrary, who believed that the Son is consubstantial with the Father, held also the same view about the Spirit. This doctrine was nobly maintained in Syria by Apolinarius, bishop of Laodicea; in Egypt by Athanasius, the bishop; and in Cappadocia and in the churches of Pontus by Basil and Gregory. The bishop of Rome, on learning that this question was agitated with great acrimony, and that it of course was augmented daily by controversies, wrote to the churches of the East and urged them to receive the doctrine upheld by the Western clergy; namely, that the three Persons of the Trinity are of the same substance and of equal dignity. The question having been thus decided by the Roman churches, peace was restored, and the inquiry appeared to have an end.
About this period Liberius died, and Damasus succeeded to the see of Rome. A deacon named Ursicius, who had obtained some votes in his favor, but could not endure the defeat, therefore caused himself to be clandestinely ordained by some bishops of little note, and endeavored to create a division among the people and to hold a separate church. He succeeded in effecting this division, and some of the people respected him as bishop, while the rest adhered to Damasus. This gave rise to much contention and revolt among the people, which at length proceeded to the evil of wounds and murder. The prefect of Rome was obliged to interfere, and to punish many of the people and of the clergy; and he put an end to the attempt of Ursicius.
With respect to doctrine, however, no dissension arose either at Rome or in any other of the Western churches. The people unanimously adhered to the form of belief established at Nicæa, and regarded the three persons of the Trinity as equal in dignity and in power.
Auxentius and his followers differed from the others in opinion; he was then president of the church in Milan, and, in conjunction with a few partisans, was intent upon the introduction of innovations, and the maintenance of the Arian dogma of the dissimilarity of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, according to the inquiry which had last sprung up, in opposition to the unanimous agreement of the Western priests. The bishops of Gaul and of Venetia having reported that similar attempts to disturb the peace of the Church were being made by others among them, the bishops of several provinces assembled not long after at Rome, and decreed that Auxentius and those who held his sentiments should be aliens from their communion. They confirmed the traditional faith established by the council of Nicæa, and annulled all the decrees that had been issued at Ariminum contrary to that faith, under the plea that these decrees had not received the assent of the bishop of Rome, nor of other bishops who agreed with them, and that many who had been present at the Synod, had disapproved of the enactments there made by them. That such was the decision really formed by the Synod is testified by the epistle addressed by Damasus, the Roman bishop, and the rest of the assembly, to the bishops of Illyria. It is as follows: —
We believe that you uphold and teach to the people our holy faith, which is founded on the doctrine of the apostles. This faith differs in no respect from that defined by the Fathers; neither is it allowable for the priests of God, whose right it is to instruct the wise, to have any other thought. We have, however, been informed by some of our brethren of Gaul and of Venice, that certain individuals are bent upon the introduction of heresy.
Those who devise strange doctrines ought not to be followed; but the opinions of our fathers ought to be retained, whatever may be the diversity of judgment around us.
Hence Auxentius, bishop of Milan, has been publicly declared to be condemned pre-eminently in this matter. It is right, therefore, that all the teachers of the Roman world should be of one mind, and not pollute the faith by various conflicting doctrines.
For when the malice of the heretics first began to mature itself, as the blasphemy of the Arians has even now done—may it be far from us—our fathers to the number of three hundred and eighteen elect, after making an investigation in Nicæa, erected the wall against the weapons of the devil, and repelled the deadly poison by this antidote.
This antidote consists in the belief, that the Father and the Son have one Godhead, one virtue, and one substance (χρῆμα). It is also requisite to believe that the Holy Ghost is of the same hypostasis. We have decreed that those who hold any other doctrines are to be aliens from our communion.
Some have decreed to discolor this saving definition and adorable view; but in the very beginning, some of the persons who made the innovation at the council of Ariminum, or who were compelled to vote for the change, have since, in some measure, made amends by confessing that they were deceived by certain specious arguments, which did not appear to them to be contrary to the principles laid down by our fathers at Nicæa. The number of individuals congregated at the council of Ariminum proves nothing in prejudice of orthodox doctrines; for the council was held without the sanction of the bishops at Rome, whose opinion, before that of all others, ought to have been received, and without the assent either of Vincentius, who during a very long series of years guarded the episcopate without spot, or of many other bishops who agreed with those last mentioned.
Besides, as has been before stated, those very persons who seemed inclined to something illusory, testified their disapprobation of their own proceedings as soon as they made use of a better judgment. Therefore your purity must see that this alone is the faith which was established at Nicæa upon the authority of the apostles, and which must ever be retained inviolate, and that all bishops, whether of the East, or of the West, who profess the Catholic religion, ought to consider it an honor to be in communion with us. We believe that it will not be long before those who maintain other sentiments will be excluded from communion, and deprived of the name and dignity of bishop; so that the people who are now oppressed by the yoke of those pernicious and deceitful principles, may have liberty to breathe. For it is not in the power of these bishops to rectify the error of the people, inasmuch as they are themselves held by error. Let, therefore, the opinion of your honor also be in accord with all the priests of God, in which we believe you to be holy and firm. That we ought so to believe along with you will be proved by the exchange of letters with your love.
The clergy of the West having thus anticipated the designs of those who sought to introduce innovations among them, carefully continued to preserve the inviolability of the faith which had from the beginning been handed down to them. With the solitary exception of Auxentius and his partisans, there were no individuals among them who entertained heterodox opinions. Auxentius, however, did not live long after this period. At his death a sedition arose among the people concerning the choice of a bishop for the church of Milan, and the city was in danger. Those who had aspired to the bishopric, and been defeated in their expectations, were loud in their menaces, as is usual in such commotions.
Ambrosius, who was then the governor of the province, being fearful of the movement of the people, went to the church, and exhorted the people to cease from contention, to remember the laws, and to re-establish concord and the prosperity which springs from peace. Before he had ceased speaking, all his auditors at once suppressed the angry feelings by which they had been mutually agitated against each other, and directed the vote of the bishopric upon him, as a fulfillment of his counsel to harmony. They exhorted him to be baptized, for he was still uninitiated, and begged him to receive the priesthood. After he had refused and declined, and unfeignedly fled the business, the people still insisted, and declared that the contention would never be appeased unless he would accede to their wishes; and at length intelligence of these transactions was conveyed to the court. It is said that the Emperor Valentinian prayed, and returned thanks to God that the very man whom he had appointed governor had been chosen to fill a priestly office. When he was informed of the earnest desires of the people and the refusal of Ambrosius, he inferred that events had been so ordered by God for the purpose of restoring peace to the church of Milan, and commanded that Ambrosius should be ordained as quickly as possible. He was initiated and ordained at the same time, and immediately proceeded to bring the church under his sway to unanimity of opinion concerning the Divine nature; for, while under the guidance of Auxentius, it had long been rent by dissensions on this subject. We shall hereafter have occasion to speak of the conduct of Ambrosius after his ordination, and of the courageous and holy manner in which he discharged the functions of the priesthood.
About this period, the Novatians of Phrygia, contrary to their ancient custom, began to celebrate the festival of the Passover on the same day as the Jews. Novatius, the originator of their heresy, refused to receive those who repented of their sins into communion, and it was in this respect alone that he innovated upon the established doctrine. But he and those who succeeded him celebrated the feast of the Passover after the vernal equinox, according to the custom of the Roman church. Some Novatian bishops, however, assembled about this time at Pazi, a town of Phrygia, near the source of the river Sangarus, and agreeing not to follow, in this point of discipline, the practice of those who differed in doctrine from them, established a new law; they determined upon keeping the feast of unleavened bread, and upon celebrating the Passover on the same days as the Jews. Agelius, the bishop of the Novatians at Constantinople, and the bishops of the Novatians at Nicæa, Nicomedia, and Cotyæum, a noted city of Phrygia, did not take part in this Synod, although the Novatians consider them to be lords and colophons, so to speak, of the transactions affecting their heresy and their churches. How for this reason, these innovators advanced into divergence, and having cut themselves off, formed a separate church, I will speak of at the right time.
About this period, Apolinarius openly devised a heresy, to which his name has since been given. He induced many persons to secede from the Church, and formed separate assemblies. Vitalius, a presbyter of Antioch, and one of the priests of Meletius, concurred with him in the confirmation of his peculiar opinion. In other respects, Vitalius was conspicuous in life and conduct, and was zealous in watching over those committed to his pastoral superintendence; hence he was greatly revered by the people. He seceded from communion with Meletius, joined Apolinarius and presided over those at Antioch who had embraced the same opinions; by the sanctity of his life he attracted a great number of followers, who are still called Vitalians by the citizens of Antioch. It is said he was led to secede from the Church from resentment at the contempt that was manifested towards him by Flavian, then one of his fellow presbyters, but who was afterwards raised to the bishopric of Antioch. Flavian having prevented him from holding his customary interview with the bishop, he fancied himself despised and entered into communion with Apolinarius, and held him as his friend. From that period the members of this sect have formed separate churches in various cities, under their own bishops, and have established laws differing from those of the Catholic Church. Besides the customary sacred order, they sang some metrical songs composed by Apolinarius; for, in addition to his other learning he was a poet, and skilled in a great variety of meters, and by their sweetness he induced many to cleave to him. Men sang his strains at convivial meetings and at their daily labor, and women sang them while engaged at the loom. But, whether his tender poems were adapted for holidays, festivals, or other occasions, they were all alike to the praise and glory of God. Damasus, bishop of Rome, and Peter, bishop of Alexandria, were the first to learn that the heresy was creeping among the people, and at a council held at Rome they voted it to be foreign to the Catholic Church. It is said that it was as much from narrowness of mind as from any other cause that Apolinarius made an innovation in doctrine. For when Athanasius, who administered the church of Alexandria, was on his road back to Egypt from the place whither he had been banished by Constantine, he had to pass through Laodicea, and that while in that city he formed an intimacy with Apolinarius, which terminated in the strictest friendship. As, however, the heterodox considered it disgraceful to hold communion with Athanasius, George, the bishop of the Arians in that city, ejected Apolinarius in a very insulting manner from the church, under the plea that he had received Athanasius contrary to the canons and holy laws. The bishop did not rest here, but reproached him with crimes which he had committed and repented of at a remote period. For when Theodotus, the predecessor of George, regulated the church of Laodicea, Epiphanius, the sophist, recited a hymn which he had composed in honor of Dionysus. Apolinarius, who was then a youth and a pupil of Epiphanius, went to hear the recitation, accompanied by his father, whose name also was Apolinarius, and who was a noted grammarian. After the exordium, Epiphanius, according to the custom always observed at the public recitation of hymns, directed the uninitiated and the profane to go out of doors. But neither Apolinarius the younger nor the elder, nor, indeed, any of the Christians who were present, left the audience. When Theodotus, the bishop, heard that they had been present during the recitation, he was exceedingly displeased; he, however, pardoned the laymen who had committed this error, after they had received a moderate reproof. With respect to Apolinarius, father and son, he convicted them both publicly of their sin, and ejected them from the church; for they both belonged to the clergy, the father being a presbyter, and the son a reader of the Holy Scriptures. After some time had elapsed, and when the father and son had evinced by tears and fasting a degree of repentance adequate to their transgression, Theodotus restored them to their offices in the church. When George received the same bishopric, he excommunicated Apolinarius, and treated him as alien to the Church on account of his having, as before stated, received Athanasius into communion. It is said that Apolinarius besought him repeatedly to restore him to communion, but that he was inexorable. Apolinarius, overcome with grief, disturbed the Church, and by innovations in doctrines introduced the aforesaid heresy; and he thought by means of his eloquence to revenge himself on his enemy by proving that George had deposed one who was more deeply acquainted with the Sacred Scriptures than himself. Thus do the private animosities of the clergy from time to time greatly injure the Church, and divide religion into many heresies. And this is a proof; for had George, like Theodotus, received Apolinarius on his repentance into communion, I believe that we should never have heard of the heresy that bears his name. Men are prone, when loaded with opprobrium and contempt, to resort to rivalries and innovations; whereas when treated with justice, they become moderate, and remain in the same position.
About this time, Eunomius, who had held the church in Cyzicus in place of Eleusius, and who presided over the Arian heresy, devised another heresy besides this, which some have called by his name, but which is sometimes denominated the Anomian heresy. Some assert that Eunomius was the first who ventured to maintain that divine baptism ought to be performed by one immersion, and to corrupt, in this manner, the tradition which has been carefully handed down to the present day. He invented, it is said, a mode of discipline contrary to that of the Church, and disguised the innovation under gravity and greater severity. He was an artist in words and contentions, and delighted in arguments. The generality of those who entertain his sentiments have the same predilections. They do not applaud a good course of life or manner, or mercy towards the needy, unless exhibited by persons of their own sect, so much as skill in disputation and the power of triumphing in debates. Persons possessed of these accomplishments are accounted pious above all others among them. Others assert, I believe more truthfully, that Theophronius, a native of Cappadocia, and Eutychius, both zealous propagators of this heresy, seceded from communion with Eunomius during the succeeding reign, and innovated about the other doctrines of Eunomius and about the divine baptism. They asserted that baptism ought not to be administered in the name of the Trinity, but in the name of the death of Christ. It appears that Eunomius broached no new opinion on the subject, but was from the beginning firmly attached to the sentiments of Arius, and remained so. After his elevation to the bishopric of Cyzicus, he was accused by his own clergy of introducing innovations in doctrine. Eudoxius, ruler of the Arian heresy at Constantinople, summoned him and obliged him to give an account of his doctrines to the people; finding, however, no fault in him, Eudoxius exhorted him to return to Cyzicus. Eunomius, however, replied, that he could not remain with people who regarded him with suspicion; and, it is said, seized the opportunity for secession, although it seems that, in taking this step he was really actuated by the resentment he felt at the refusal which Aëtius, his teacher, had met with, of being received into communion. Eunomius, it is added, dwelt with Aëtius, and never deviated from his original sentiments. Such are the conflicting accounts of various individuals; some narrate the circumstances in one way, and some in another. But whether it was Eunomius, or any other person, who first made these innovations upon the tradition of baptism, it seems to me that such innovators, whoever they may have been, were alone in danger, according to their own representation, of quitting this life without having received the divine baptism; for if, after they had been baptized according to the mode recommended from the beginning, they found it impossible to rebaptize themselves, it must be admitted that they introduced a practice to which they had not themselves submitted, and thus undertook to administer to others what had never been administered to them by themselves nor by others. Thus, after having laid down the dogma by some non-existent principle and private assumption, they proceeded to bestow upon others what they had not themselves received. The absurdity of this assumption is manifest from their own confession; for they admit that the uninitiated have not the power to baptize others. Now, according to their opinion, he who has not been baptized in conformity with their tradition is unbaptized as one not properly initiated, and they confirm this opinion by their practice, inasmuch as they rebaptize all those who join their sect, although previously initiated according to the tradition of the Catholic Church. These varying dogmas are the sources of innumerable troubles to religion; and many are deterred from embracing Christianity by the diversity of opinion which prevails in matters of doctrine.
The disputes daily became stronger, and, as in the beginning of heresies, they grew; for they had leaders who were not deficient in zeal or power of words; indeed, it appears that the greater part of the Catholic Church would have been subverted by this heresy, had it not found opponents in Basil and Gregory, the Cappadocians. The reign of Theodosius began a little while after; he banished the founders of heretical sects from the populous parts of the empire to the more desert regions.
But, lest those who read my history should be ignorant of the precise nature of the two heresies to which I have more especially alluded, I think it necessary to state that Aëtius, the Syrian, was the originator of the heresy usually attributed to Eunomius; and that, like Arius, he maintained that the Son is dissimilar from the Father, that He is a created being, and was created out of what had no previous existence. Those who held these views were formerly called Aëtians; but afterwards, during the reign of Constantius, when, as we have stated, some parties maintained that the Son is consubstantial with the Father, and others that He is like in substance to the Father, and when the council of Ariminum had decreed that the Son is only to be considered like the Father, Aëtius was condemned to banishment, as guilty of impiety and blasphemy against God. For some time subsequently his heresy seemed to have been suppressed; for neither any other man of note, nor even Eunomius, ventured openly upon undertaking its defense. But when Eunomius was raised to the church of Cyzicus in place of Eleusius, he could no longer quietly restrain himself, and in open debate he brought forward again the tenets of Aëtius. Hence, as it often happens that the names of the original founders of heretical sects pass into oblivion, the followers of Eunomius were designated by his own name, although he merely renewed the heresy of Aëtius, and promulgated it with greater boldness than was done by him who first handed it down.
It is obvious that Eunomius and Aëtius held the same opinions. In several passages of his writings, Eunomius boasts and frequently testifies that Aëtius was his instructor. Gregory, bishop of Nazianzen, speaks in the following terms of Apolinarius in a letter addressed to Nectarius, the leader of the church in Constantinople:
Eunomius, who is a constant source of trouble among us, is not content with being a burden to us himself, but would consider himself to blame if he did not strive to drag every one with him to the destruction whither he is hastening. Such conduct, however, may be tolerated in some degree. The most grievous calamity against which the Church has now to struggle arises from the audacity of the Apolinarians. I know not how your Holiness could have agreed that they should be as free to hold meetings as we ourselves. You have been fully instructed by the grace of God, in the Divine mysteries, and not only understand the defense of the Word of God, but also whatever innovations have been made by heretics against the sound faith; yet it may not be amiss for your revered Excellency to hear from our narrowness, that a book written by Apolinarius has fallen into my hands, in which the proposition surpasses all forms of heretical pravity. He affirms that the flesh assumed for the transformation of our nature, under the dispensation of the only begotten Son of God was not acquired for this end; but that this carnal nature existed in the Son from the beginning. He substantiates this evil hypothesis by a misapplication of the following words of Scripture: 'No man has ascended up into heaven.' John 3:13 He alleges from this text, that Christ was the Son of man before He descended from heaven, and that when He did descend, He brought with Him His own flesh which He had already possessed in heaven which was before the ages and essentially united. He also states another apostolic saying: 'The second man is from heaven.' 1 Corinthians 15:47 He, moreover, maintains that the man who came down from heaven was destitute of intellect (νοῦς), but that the Deity of the only begotten Son fulfilled the nature of intellect, and constituted the third part of the human compound. The body and soul (ψυχὴ) formed two parts, as in other men, but there was no intellect, but the Word of God filled the place of intellect. Nor does this end the awful spectacle; for the most grievous point of the heresy is, that he asserts that the only-begotten God, the Judge of all men, the Giver of life, and the Destroyer of death, is Himself subject to death; that He suffered in His own Godhead, and that in the resurrection of the body in the third day, the Godhead also was raised from the dead with the body; and that it was raised again from the dead by the Father. It would take too long to recount all the other extravagant doctrines propounded by these heretics. What I have said may, I think, suffice to show the nature of the sentiments maintained by Apolinarius and Eunomius. If any one desire more detailed information, I can only refer him to the works on the subject written either by them or by others concerning these men. I do not profess easily to understand or to expound these matters, as it seems to me the fact that these dogmas did not prevail and make further advance is to be attributed, in addition to the causes mentioned, especially to the monks of that period; for all those philosophers in Syria, Cappadocia, and the neighboring provinces, were sincerely attached to the Nicene faith. The eastern regions, however, from Cilicia to Phœnicia, were endangered by the heresy of Apolinarius. The heresy of Eunomius was spread from Cilicia and the mountains of Taurus as far as the Hellespont and Constantinople. These two heretics found it easy to attract to their respective parties the persons among whom they dwelt, and those of the neighborhood. But the same fate awaited them that had been experienced by the Arians; for the people admired the monks who manifested their virtue by works and believed that they held right opinions, while they turned away from those who held other opinions, as impious and as holding spurious doctrines. In the same way the Egyptians were led by the monks to oppose the Arians.
As this period was distinguished by many holy men, who devoted themselves to a life of philosophy, it seems requisite to give some account of them, for in that time there flourished a very great abundance of men beloved of God. There was not, it appears, a more celebrated man in Egypt than John. He had received from God the power of discerning the future and the most hidden things as clearly as the ancient prophets, and he had, moreover, the gift of healing those who suffered with incurable afflictions and diseases. Or was another eminent man of this period; he had lived in solitude from his earliest youth, occupying himself continually in singing the praises of God. He subsisted on herbs and roots, and his drink was water, when he could find it. In his old age he went, by the command of God, to Thebaïs, where he presided over several monasteries, nor was he without part in divine works. By means of prayer alone he expelled diseases and devils. He knew nothing of letters, nor did he need books to support his memory; for whatever he received into his mind was never afterwards forgotten.
Ammon, the leader of the monks called Tabennesiotians, dwelt in the same region, and was followed by about three thousand disciples. Benus and Theonas likewise presided over monastic orders, and possessed the gift of foreknowledge and of prophecy. It is said that though Theonas was versed in all the learning of the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, he practiced silence for the space of thirty years. Benus was never seen to manifest any signs of anger, and never heard to swear, or to utter a false, a vain, a rash, or a useless word.
Copres, Helles, and Elias also flourished at this period. It is said that Copres had received from God the power of healing sickness and various diseases, and of overcoming demons. Helles had from his youth upwards been trained in the monastic life, and he wrought many wonderful works. He could carry fire in his bosom without burning his clothes. He excited his fellow monks to the practice of virtue by representing that with a good conduct, the display of miracles would follow. Elias, who practiced philosophy near the city of Antinoüs, was at this period about a hundred and ten years of age; before this he said he had passed seventy years alone in the desert. Notwithstanding his advanced age, he was unremitting in the practice of fasting and courageous discipline.
Apelles flourished at the same period, and performed numerous miracles in the Egyptian monasteries, near the city of Acoris. He at one time worked as a smith, for this was his trade; and one night the devil undertook to tempt him to incontinence, by appearing before him in the form of a beautiful woman; Apelles, however, seized the iron which was heating in the furnace, and burnt the face of the devil, who screamed like a wild bird and ran away.
Isidore, Serapion, and Dioscorus, at this period, were among the most celebrated fathers of the monks. Isidore caused his monastery to be closed, so that no one could obtain egress or ingress, and supplied the wants of those within the walls. Serapion lived in the neighborhood of Arsenoites, and had about a thousand monks under his guidance. He taught all to earn their provisions by their labors and to provide for others who were poor. During harvest-time they busied themselves in reaping for pay; they set aside sufficient grain for their own use, and shared it with the rest of the monks. Dioscorus had not more than a hundred disciples; he was a presbyter, and applied himself with great exactness to the duties of his priesthood; he examined and carefully questioned those who presented themselves as candidates for participation in the holy mysteries, so that they might purify their minds and not be without a consciousness of any evil they might have committed. The presbyter Eulogius was still more scrupulous in the dispensation of the Divine mysteries. It is said that, when he was officiating in the priestly office, he could discern what was in the minds of those who came to him, so that he could clearly detect sin, and the secret thoughts of each one of his audience. He excluded from the altar all who had perpetrated crime or formed evil resolutions, and publicly convicted them of sin; but, on their purifying themselves by repentance, he again received them into communion.
Apollos flourished about the same period in Thebaïs. He early devoted himself to a life of philosophy; and after having passed forty years in the desert, he shut himself up, by the command of God, in a cave formed at the foot of a mountain, near a very populous district. By the multitude of his miracles, he soon became distinguished, and was the head of many monks; for he directed them profitably by his instructions. Timothy, who conducted the church of Alexandria, has given us a history of his method of discipline and of what divine and marvelous deeds he was a worker; he also narrates the lives of other approved monks, many of whom I have mentioned.
In that time many good monks, to the number of about two thousand, preached philosophy in the neighborhood of Alexandria; some in a district called the Hermitage, and others more towards Mareotis and Libya. Dorotheus, a native of Thebes, was among the most celebrated of these monks. He spent the day in collecting stones upon the seashore, which he used in erecting cells to be given to those who were unable to build them. During the night, he employed himself in weaving baskets of palm leaves; and these he sold, to obtain the means of subsistence. He ate six ounces of bread with a few vegetables daily, and drank nothing but water. Having accustomed himself to this extreme abstinence from his youth, he continued to observe it in old age. He was never seen to recline on a mat or a bed, nor even to place his limbs in an easy attitude, or willingly to surrender himself to sleep. Sometimes, from natural lassitude, his eyes would involuntarily close when he was at his daily labor or his meals; and when nodding during his eating, the food would fall from his mouth. One day, being utterly overcome by drowsiness, he fell down on the mat; he was displeased at finding himself in this position, and said, in an undertone of voice, demon who had become an impediment to his zealous exercises. He was once asked by a person who came to him while he was exhausting himself, why he destroyed his body.
Because it destroys me, was his reply.
Piammon and John presided over two celebrated Egyptian monasteries near Diolcus. They were presbyters who discharged their priesthood very carefully and reverently. It is said that one day, when Piammon was officiating as priest, he beheld an angel standing near the holy table and writing down in a book the names of the monks who were present, while he erased the names of those who were absent. John had received from God such power over sufferings and diseases, that he healed the gouty and restored the paralytic.
A very old man, named Benjamin, was practicing philosophy very brilliantly about this period, in the desert near Scetis. God had bestowed upon him the power of relieving the sick of every disease without medicine, by the touch only of his hand, or by means of a little oil consecrated by prayer. The story is, that he was attacked by a dropsy, and his body was swollen to such a size that it became necessary, in order to carry him from his cell, to enlarge the door. As his malady would not admit of his lying in a recumbent posture, he remained, during eight months, seated on a very large skin, and continued to heal the sick, without regretting that his own recovery was not effected. He comforted those who came to visit him, and requested them to pray for his soul; adding that he cared little for his body, for it had been of no service to him when in health, and could not, now that it was diseased, be of any injury to him.
About the same time the celebrated Mark, Marcarius the younger, Apollonius, and Moses, an Egyptian, dwelt at Scetis. It is said that Mark was, from his youth upwards, distinguished by extreme mildness and prudence; he committed the Sacred Scriptures to memory, and manifested such eminent piety that Macarius himself, the presbyter of Celliæ, declared that he had never given to him what priests present to the initiated at the holy table, but that an angel administered it to him whose hand up to the forearm he declares himself to have seen.
Macarius had received from God the power of dispelling demons. A murder which he had unintentionally committed was the original cause of his embracing a life of philosophy. He was a shepherd, and led his flock to graze on the banks of Lake Mareotis, when in sport he slew one of his companions. Fearful of being delivered up to justice, he fled to the desert. Here he concealed himself during three years, and afterwards erected a small dwelling on the spot, in which he dwelt twenty-five years. He was accustomed to say that he owed much to the calamity that had befallen him in early life, and even called the unintentional murder he had committed a salutary deed, inasmuch as it had been the cause of his embracing philosophy and a blessed mode of life.
Apollonius, after passing his life in the pursuits of commerce, retired in his old age to Scetis. On reflecting that he was too old to learn writing or any other art, he purchased with his own money a supply of every kind of drug, and of food suited for the sick, some of which he carried until the ninth hour to the door of every monastery, for the relief of those who were suffering from disease. Finding this practice advantageous to himself, he adopted this mode of life; and when he felt death approaching he delivered his drugs to one whom he exhorted to go and do as he had done.
Moses was originally a slave, but was driven from his master's house on account of his immorality. He joined some robbers, and became leader of the band. After having perpetrated many evil deeds and dared some murders, by some sudden conversion he embraced the monastic life, and attained the highest point of philosophy. As the healthful and vigorous habit of body which had been induced by his former avocations acted as a stimulus to his imagination and excited a desire for pleasure, he resorted to every possible means of macerating his body; thus, he subsisted on a little bread without cooked food, subjected himself to severe labor, and prayed fifty times daily; he prayed standing, without bending his knees or closing his eyes in sleep. He sometimes went during the night to the cells of the monks and secretly filled their pitchers with water, and this was very laborious, for he had sometimes to go ten, sometimes twenty, and sometimes thirty and more, stadia in quest of water. Notwithstanding all his efforts to macerate his body, it was long before he could subdue his natural vigor of constitution. It is reported that robbers once broke into the dwelling where he was practicing philosophy; he seized and bound them, threw the four men across his shoulders, and bore them to the church, that the monks who were there assembled might deal with them as they thought fit, for he did not consider himself authorized to punish any one. For they say so sudden a conversion from vice to virtue was never before witnessed, nor such rapid attainments in monastical philosophy. Hence God rendered him an object of dread to the demons, and he was ordained presbyter over the monks at Scetis. After a life spent in this manner, he died at the age of seventy-five, leaving behind him numerous eminent disciples.
Paul, Pachon, Stephen, and Moses, of whom the two latter were Libyans, and Pior, who was an Egyptian, flourished during this reign. Paul dwelt at Ferme, a mountain of Scetis, and presided over five hundred ascetics. He did not labor with his hands, neither did he receive alms of any one, except such food as was necessary for his subsistence. He did nothing but pray, and daily offered up to God three hundred prayers. He placed three hundred pebbles in his bosom, for fear of omitting any of these prayers; and, at the conclusion of each, he took away one of the pebbles. When there were no pebbles remaining, he knew that he had gone through the whole course of his prescribed prayers.
Pachon also flourished during this period at Scetis. He followed this career from youth to extreme old age, without ever being found unmanly in self-control by the appetites of the body, the passions of the soul, or a demon—in short, in all those things which the philosopher should conquer.
Stephen dwelt at Mareotis near Marmarica. During sixty years, through exactness, he attained the perfection of asceticism, became very noted as a monk, and was intimate with Antony the Great. He was very mild and prudent, and his usual style of conversation was sweet and profitable, and well calculated to comfort the souls of the afflicted, to transform them into good spirits, if even they had previously been depressed by griefs which seemed necessary. He behaved similarly about his own afflictions. He was troubled with a severe and incurable ulcer, and surgeons were employed to operate upon the diseased members. During the operation Stephen employed himself in weaving palm leaves, and exhorted those who were around him not to concern themselves about his sufferings. He told them to have no other thought than that God does nothing but for our good, and that his affliction would tend to his real welfare, inasmuch as it would perhaps atone for his sins, it being better to be judged in this life than in the life to come.
Moses was celebrated for his meekness, his love, and his power of healing of sufferings by prayer. Pior determined, from his youth, to devote himself to a life of philosophy; and, with this view, quitted his father's house after having made a vow that he would never again look upon any of his relations. After fifty years had expired, one of his sisters heard that he was still alive, and she was so transported with joy at this unexpected intelligence, that she could not rest till she had seen him. The bishop of the place where she resided was so affected by the groans and tears of the aged woman, that he wrote to the leaders of the monks in the desert of Scetis, desiring them to send Pior to him. The superiors accordingly directed him to repair to the city of his birth, and he could not say nay, for disobedience was regarded as unlawful by the monks of Egypt, and I think also by other monks. He went with another monk to the door of his father's house, and caused himself to be announced. When he heard the door being opened, he closed his eyes, and calling his sister by name, he said to her,
I am Pior, your brother; look at me as much as you please. His sister was delighted beyond measure at again beholding him, and returned thanks to God. He prayed at the door where he stood, and then returned to the place where he lived; there he dug a well, and found that the water was bitter, but he persevered in the use of it till his death. Then the height to which he had carried his self-denial was known; for after he died, several attempted to practice philosophy in the place where he had dwelt, but found it impossible to remain there. I am convinced that, had it not been for the principles of philosophy which he had espoused, he could easily have changed the water to a sweet taste by prayer; for he caused water to flow in a spot where none had existed previously. It is said that some monks, under the guidance of Moses, undertook to dig a well, but the expected vein did not appear, nor did any depth yield the water, and they were about to abandon the task, when, about midday, Pior joined them; he first embraced them, and then rebuked their want of faith and littleness of soul; he then descended into the pit they had excavated; and, after engaging in prayer, struck the ground thrice with a rod. A spring of water soon after rose to the surface, and filled the whole excavation. After prayer, Pior departed; and though the monks urged him to break his fast with them, he refused, alleging that he had not been sent to them for that purpose, but merely in order to perform the act he had effected.
At this period, Origen, one of the disciples of Antony the Great, was still living at a great age, in the monasteries of Scetis. Also, Didymus, and Cronion, who was about one hundred and ten years of age, Arsisius the Great, Putubatus, Arsion, and Serapion, all of whom had been contemporary with Antony the Great. They had grown old in the exercise of philosophy, and were at this period presiding over the monasteries. There were some holy men among them who were young and middle aged, but who were celebrated for their excellent and good qualities. Among these were Ammonius, Eusebius, and Dioscorus. They were brothers, but on account of their height of stature were called the
Long Brothers. It is said that Ammon attained the summit of philosophy, and consequently overcame the love of ease and pleasure. He was very studious, and had read the works of Origen, of Didymus, and of other ecclesiastical writers. From his youth to the day of his death he never tasted anything, with the exception of bread, that had been prepared by means of fire. He was once chosen to be ordained bishop; and after urging every argument that could be devised in rejection of the honor, but in vain, he cut off one of his ears, and said to those who had come for him,
Go away. Henceforward the priestly law forbids my ordination, for the person of a priest should be perfect. Those who had been sent for him accordingly departed; but, on ascertaining that the Church does not observe the Jewish law in requiring a priest to be perfect in all his members, but merely requires him to be irreprehensible in point of morals, they returned to Ammon, and endeavored to take him by force. He protested to them that, if they attempted any violence against him, he would cut out his tongue; and, terrified at this menace, they immediately took their departure. Ammon was ever after surnamed Parotes. Some time afterwards, during the ensuing reign, the wise Evagrius formed an intimacy with him. Evagrius was a wise man, powerful in thought and in word, and skillful in discerning the arguments which led to virtue and to vice, and capable in urging others to imitate the one, and to eschew the other. His eloquence is fully attested by the works he has left behind him. With respect to his moral character, it is said that he was totally free from all pride or superciliousness, so that he was not elated when just commendations were awarded him, nor displeased when unjust reproaches were brought against him. He was a citizen of Iberia, near the Euxine. He had philosophized and studied the Sacred Scriptures under Gregory, bishop of Nazianzen, and had filled the office of archdeacon when Gregory administered the church in Constantinople. He was handsome in person, and careful in his mode of attire; and hence an acquaintanceship he had formed with a certain lady excited the jealousy of her husband, who plotted his death. While the plot was about being carried forward into deed, God sent him while sleeping, a fearful and saving vision in a dream. It appeared to him that he had been arrested in the act of committing some crime, and that he was bound hand and foot in irons. As he was being led before the magistrates to receive the sentence of condemnation, a man who held in his hand the book of the Holy Gospels addressed him, and promised to deliver him from his bonds, and confirmed this with an oath, provided he would quit the city. Evagrius touched the book, and made oath that he would do so. Immediately his chains appeared to fall off, and he awoke. He was convinced by this divine dream, and fled the danger. He resolved upon devoting himself to a life of asceticism, and proceeded from Constantinople to Jerusalem. Some time after he went to visit the philosophers of Scetis, and gladly determined to live there.
They call this place Nitria. It is inhabited by a great number of persons devoted to a life of philosophy, and derives its name from its vicinity to a village in which nitre is gathered. It contains about fifty monasteries, built tolerably near to each other, some of which are inhabited by monks who live together in society, and others by monks who have adopted a solitary mode of existence. More in the interior of the desert, about seventy stadia from this locality, is another place called Cellia, throughout which numerous little dwellings are dispersed hither and there, and hence its name; but at such a distance that those who dwell in them can neither see nor hear each other. They assemble together on the first and last days of each week; and if any monk happen to be absent, it is evident that he has been left behind involuntarily, having been hindered by suffering some disease; they do not all go immediately to see and nurse him, but each one in turn at different times, and bearing whatever each has suitable for disease. Except for such a cause, they seldom converse together, unless, indeed, there be one among them capable of communicating further knowledge concerning God and the salvation of the soul. Those who dwell in the cells are those who have attained the summit of philosophy, and who are therefore able to regulate their own conduct, to live alone, and are separated from the others for the sake of quietude. This is what I had briefly to state concerning Scetis and its philosophers. Some one would probably censure my writing as prolix, were I to enter into further details concerning their mode of life; for they have established individual courses of life, labors, customs, exercises, abstinence, and time, divided naturally according to the age of the individual.
Rhinocorura was also celebrated at this period, on account of the holy men, not from abroad, but who were natives of the place. I have heard that the most eminent philosophers among them were Melas, who then administered the church of the country; Dionysius, who presided over a monastery situated to the north of the city; and Solon, the brother and successor to the bishopric of Melas. It is said that when the decree for the ejection of all priests opposed to Arianism was issued, the officers appointed to apprehend Melas found him engaged as the lowest servant, in trimming the lights of the church, with a girdle soiled with oil on his cloak, and carrying the wicks. When they asked him for the bishop, he replied that he was within, and that he would conduct them to him. As they were fatigued with their journey, he led them to the episcopal dwelling, made them sit down at table, and gave them to eat of such things as he had. After the repast, he supplied them with water to wash their hands; for he served the guests, and then told them who he was. Amazed at his conduct, they confessed the mission on which they had arrived; but from respect to him, gave him full liberty to go whereever he would. He, however, replied that he would not shrink from the sufferings to which the other bishops who maintained the same sentiments as himself were exposed, and that he was willing to go into exile. Having philosophized from his youth, he had exercised himself in all the monastic virtues.
Solon quitted the pursuits of commerce to embrace a monastic life, a measure which tended greatly to his welfare; for under the instruction of his brother and other ascetics, he progressed rapidly in piety towards God, and in goodness towards his neighbor. The church of Rhinocorura having been thus, from the beginning, under the guidance of such exemplary bishops, never afterwards swerved from their precepts, and produced good men. The clergy of this church dwell in one house, sit at the same table, and have everything in common.
Many monastical institutions flourished in Palestine. Many of those whom I enumerated under the reign of Constantius were still cultivating the science. They and their associates attained the summit of philosophical perfection, and added still greater reputation to their monasteries; and among them Hesycas, a companion of Hilarion, and Epiphanius, afterwards bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, deserve to be particularly noticed. Hesycas devoted himself to a life of philosophy in the same locality where his master had formerly resided; and Epiphanius fixed his abode near the village of Besauduc, which was his birthplace, in the government of Eleutheropolis. Having been instructed from his youth by the most celebrated ascetics, and having on this account passed the most of his time in Egypt, Epiphanius became most celebrated in Egypt and Palestine by his attainments in monastic philosophy, and was chosen by the inhabitants of Cyprus to act as bishop of the metropolis of their island. Hence he is, I think, the most revered man under the whole heaven, so to speak; for he fulfilled his priesthood in the concourse of a large city and in a seaport; and when he threw himself into civil affairs, he conducted them with so much virtue that he became known in a little while to all citizens and every variety of foreigner; to some, because they had seen the man himself, and had experience of his manner of living; and to others, who had learned it from these spectators. Before he went to Cyprus, he resided for some time, during the present reign, in Palestine.
At the same period in the monasteries, Salamines, Phuscon, Malachion, and Crispion, four brethren, were highly distinguished: they practiced philosophy near Bethelia, a village of Gaza; they were of a resident noble family, and had been instructed in philosophy by Hilarion. It is related that the brothers were once journeying homewards, when Malachion was suddenly snatched away and became invisible; soon afterwards, however, he reappeared and continued the journey with his brothers. He did not long survive this occurrence, but died in the flower of his youth. He was not behind men of advanced age in the philosophy of virtuous life and of piety.
Ammonius lived at a distance of ten stadia from those last mentioned; he dwelt near Capharcobra, the place of his birth, a town of Gaza. He was very exact and courageous in carrying through asceticism. I think that Silvanus, a native of Palestine, to whom, on account of his high virtue, an angel was once seen to minister, practiced philosophy about the same time in Egypt. Then he lived at Mount Sinai, and afterwards founded at Gerari, in the wady, a very extensive and most noted cœnobium for many good men, over which the excellent Zacharias subsequently presided.
Let us pass thence to Syria and Persia, the parts adjacent to Syria. We shall find that the monks of these countries emulated those of Egypt in the practice of philosophy. Battheus, Eusebius, Barges, Halas, Abbos, Lazarus, who attained the episcopal dignity, Abdaleus, Zeno, and Heliodorus, flourished in Nisibis, near the mountain called Sigoron. When they first entered upon the philosophic career, they were denominated shepherds, because they had no houses, ate neither bread nor meat, and drank no wine; but dwelt constantly on the mountains, and passed their time in praising God by prayers and hymns, according to the law of the Church. At the usual hours of meals, they each took a sickle, and went to the mountain to cut some grass on the mountains, as though they were flocks in pasture; and this served for their repast. Such was their course of philosophy. Eusebius voluntarily shut himself up in a cell to philosophize, near Carræ. Protogenes dwelt in the same locality, and ruled the church there after Vitus who was then bishop. This is the celebrated Vitus of whom they say that when the Emperor Constantine first saw him, he confessed that God had frequently shown this man in appearances to him and enjoined him to obey implicitly what he should say. Aones had a monastery in Phadana; this was the spot where Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, on his journey from Palestine, met the damsel whom he afterwards married, and where he rolled away the stone, that her flock might drink of the water of the well. It is said that Aones was the first who introduced the life apart from all men, and the severe philosophy into Syria, just as it was first introduced by Antony into Egypt.
Gaddanas and Azizus dwelt with Aones, and emulated his virtues. Ephraim the Syrian, who was an historian, and has been noticed in our own recital of events under the reign of Constantius, was the most renowned philosopher in this time, together with Julian, in the neighborhood of Edessa and its adjacent regions. Barses and Eulogius were both, at a later period than that to which we are referring, ordained bishops, but not of any city; for the title was merely an honorary one, conferred on them as a compensation for their excellent conduct; and they were ordained in their own monasteries. Lazarus, to whom we have already alluded, was ordained bishop in the same manner. Such were the most celebrated philosophers of asceticism who flourished in Syria, Persia, and the neighboring countries, so far, at least, as I have been able to ascertain. The course common to all, so to speak, consisted in diligent attention to the state of the soul, which by means of fasting, prayer, and hymns to God, they kept in constant preparation to quit the things of this world. They devoted the greater part of their time to these holy exercises, and they wholly despised worldly possessions, temporal affairs, and the ease and adornment of the body. Some of the monks carried their self-denial to an extraordinary height. Battheus, for instance, by excessive abstinence and fasting, had worms crawl from his teeth; Halas, again, had not tasted bread for eighty years; and Heliodorus passed many nights without yielding to sleep, and added thereto seven days of fasting.
Although Cœle-Syria and Upper Syria, with the exception of the city of Antioch, was slowly converted to Christianity, it was not lacking in ecclesiastical philosophers, whose conduct appeared the more heroic from their having to encounter the enmity and hatred of the inhabitants of the place. And they nobly refrained from resistance, or resorting to the law, but spiritedly endured the insults and blows inflicted by the pagans. Such, I found, was the course pursued by Valentian, who, according to some accounts, was born at Emesa, but according to others, at Arethusa. Another individual of the same name distinguished himself by similar conduct, as likewise Theodore. Both were from Titti, which is of the nome of the Apameans; not less distinguished were Marosas, a native of Nechilis, Bassus, Bassones, and Paul. This latter was from the village of Telmison. He rounded many communities in many places, and introduced the method essential to the knowledge of philosophy, and finally established the greatest and most distinguished community of monks in a place called Jugatum. Here, after a long and honorable life, he died, and was interred. Some of the monks who have practiced philosophy in a distinguished and divine way have survived to our own days; indeed, most of those to whom allusion has been made enjoyed a very long term of existence; and I am convinced that God added to the length of their days for the express purpose of furthering the interests of religion. They were instrumental in leading nearly the whole Syrian nation, and most of the Persians and Saracens, to the proper religion, and caused them to cease from paganism. After beginning the monastic philosophy there, they brought forward many like themselves.
I suppose that Galatia, Cappadocia, and the neighboring provinces contained many other ecclesiastical philosophers at that time, for these regions formerly had zealously embraced our doctrine. These monks, for the most part, dwelt in communities in cities and villages, for they did not habituate themselves to the tradition of their predecessors. The severity of the winter, which is always a natural feature of that country, would probably make a hermit life impracticable. Leontius and Prapidius were, I understand, the most celebrated of these monks. The former afterwards administered the church of Ancyra, and the latter, a man of very advanced age, performed the episcopal functions in several villages. He also presided over the Basileias, the most celebrated hospice for the poor. It was established by Basil, bishop of Cæsarea, from whom it received its name in the beginning, and retains it until today.
Such is the information which I have been enabled to collect concerning the ecclesiastical philosophers of that time. As to the pagans, they were nearly all exterminated about the period to which we have been referring. Some among them, who were reputed to excel in philosophy, and who viewed with extreme displeasure the progress of the Christian religion, were devising who would be the successor of Valens on the throne of the Roman Empire, and resorted to every variety of mantic art for the purpose of attaining this insight into futurity. After various incantations, they constructed a tripod of laurel wood, and they wound up with the invocations and words to which they are accustomed; so that the name of the emperor might be shown by the collection of letters which were indicated, letter by letter, through the machinery of the tripod and the prophecy. They were gaping with open mouth for Theodore, a man who held a distinguished military appointment in the palace. He was a pagan and a learned man. The disposition of the letters, coming as far as the delta of his name, deceived the philosophers. They hence expected that Theodore would very soon be the emperor. When their undertaking was informed upon, Valens was as unbearably incensed, as if a conspiracy had been formed against his safety. Therefore all were arrested; Theodore and the constructors of the tripod were commanded to be put to death, some with fire, others with the sword. Likewise for the same reason the most brilliant philosophers of the empire were slain; since the wrath of the emperor was unchecked, the death penalty advanced even to those who were not philosophers, but who wore garments similar to theirs; hence those who applied themselves to other pursuits would not clothe themselves with the crocotium or tribonium, on account of the suspicion and fear of danger, so that they might not seem to be pursuing magic and sorcery. I do not in the least think that the emperor will be more blamed by right-thinking people for such wrath and cruelty than the philosophers, for their rashness and their unphilosophical undertaking. The emperor, absurdly supposing that he could put his successor to death, spared neither those who had prophesied nor the subject of their prophecy, as they say he did not spare those who bore the same name of Theodore,— and some were men of distinction—whether they were precisely the same or similar in beginning with θ and ending with δ . The philosophers, on the other hand, acted as if the deposition and restoration of emperors had depended solely on them; for if the imperial succession was to be considered dependent on the arrangement of the stars, what was requisite but to await the accession of the future emperor, whoever he might be? Or if the succession was regarded as dependent on the will of God, what right had man to meddle? For it is not the function of human foreknowledge or zeal to understand God's thought; nor if it were right, would it be well for men, even if they be the wisest of all, to think that they can plan better than God. If it were merely from rash curiosity to discern the things of futurity that they showed such lack of judgment as to be ready to be caught in danger, and to despise the laws anciently established among the Romans, and at a time when it was not dangerous to conduct pagan worship and to sacrifice; in this they thought differently from Socrates; for when unjustly condemned to drink poison, he refused to save himself by violating the laws in which he had been born and educated, nor would he escape from prison, although it was in his power to do so.
Such subjects as the above, however, are best left to the examination and decision of individual judgment.
The Sarmatians having invaded the western parts of the empire, Valentinian levied an army to oppose them. As soon, however, as they heard of the number and strength of the troops raised against them, they sent an embassy to solicit peace. When the ambassadors were ushered into the presence of Valentinian, he asked them whether all the Sarmatians were similar to them. On their replying that the principal men of the nation had been selected to form the embassy, the emperor exclaimed, in great fury,
A terrible thing do our subjects endure, and a calamity is surrounding the Roman government, if the Sarmatians, a barbarous race, of whom these are your best men, do not love to abide by themselves, but are emboldened to invade my government, and presume to make war at all against the Romans. He spoke in this strain for some time in a very high pitch of voice, and his rage was so violent and so unbounded, that at length he burst simultaneously a blood-vessel and an artery. He lost, in consequence, a great quantity of blood, and expired soon after in a fortress of Gaul. He was about fifty-four years of age, and had, during thirteen years, guided the reins of government with good results and much distinction. Six days after his death his youngest son, who bore the same name as himself, was proclaimed emperor by the soldiers; and soon afterwards Valens and Gratian, his brother, formally assented to this election, although they were at first irritated at the soldiers having transferred the symbols of government to him without their previous consent.
During this period Valens had fixed his residence at Antioch in Syria, and became more hostile to those who differed from him in opinion concerning the divine nature, and he vexed them more severely and persecuted them. The philosopher Themistius pronounced an oration in his presence, in which he admonished him that he ought not to wonder at the dissension concerning ecclesiastical doctrines, for it was more moderate and less than among the pagans, for the opinions among them are multiform; and that, in the number of dogmas leading to perpetual disputes, necessarily the difference about them makes more contentions and discussions; and accordingly it might probably be pleasing to God not to be so easily known, and to have a divergence of opinion, so that each might fear Him the rather, since an accurate knowledge of Him is so unattainable. And in the attempt to summarize this vastness, one would tend to conclude how great He is and how good He is.
This remarkable oration of Themistius disposed the emperor to be somewhat more humane, and the punishments became in consequence less severe than before. He would not have wholly withdrawn his wrath from the priests unless the anxieties of public affairs had supervened, and not permitted him to pursue them further. For the Goths, who inhabited the regions beyond the Ister, and had conquered other barbarians, having been vanquished and driven from their country by the Huns, had passed over into the Roman boundaries. The Huns, it is said, were unknown to the Thracians of the Ister and the Goths before this period; for though they were dwelling secretly near to one another, a lake of vast extent was between them, and the inhabitants on each side of the lake respectively imagined that their own country was situated at the extremity of the earth, and that there was nothing beyond them but the sea and water. It so happened, however, that an ox, tormented by insects, plunged into the lake, and was pursued by the herdsman; who, perceiving for the first time that the opposite bank was inhabited, made known the circumstance to his fellow-tribesmen. Some, however, relate that a stag was fleeing, and showed some of the hunters who were of the race of the Huns the way which was concealed superficially by the water. On arriving at the opposite bank, the hunters were struck with the beauty of the country, the serenity of the air, and the adaptedness for cultivation; and they reported what they had seen to their king. The Huns then made an attempt to attack the Goths with a few soldiers; but they afterwards raised a powerful army, conquered the Goths in battle, and took possession of their whole country. The vanquished nation, being pursued by their enemies, crossed over into the Roman territories. They passed over the river, and dispatched an embassy to the emperor, assuring him of their co-operation in any warfare in which he might engage, provided that he would assign a portion of land for them to inhabit. Ulphilas, the bishop of the nation, was the chief of the embassy. The object of his embassy was fully accomplished, and the Goths were permitted to take up their abode in Thrace. Soon after contentions broke out among them, which led to their division into two parts, one of which was headed by Athanaric, and the other by Phritigernes. They took up arms against each other, and Phritigernes was vanquished, and implored the assistance of the Romans. The emperor having commanded the troops in Thrace to assist and to ally with him, a second battle was fought, and Athanaric and his party were put to flight. In acknowledgment of the timely succor afforded by Valens, and in proof of his fidelity to the Romans, Phritigernes embraced the religion of the emperor, and persuaded the barbarians over whom he ruled to follow his example. It does not, however, appear to me that this is the only reason that can be advanced to account for the Goths having retained, even to the present day, the tenets of Arianism. For Ulphilas, their bishop, originally held no opinions at variance with those of the Catholic Church; for during the reign of Constantius, though he took part, as I am convinced, from thoughtlessness, at the council of Constantinople, in conjunction with Eudoxius and Acacius, yet he did not swerve from the doctrines of the Nicæan council. He afterwards, it appears, returned to Constantinople, and, it is said, entered into disputations on doctrinal topics with the chiefs of the Arian faction; and they promised to lay his requests before the emperor, and forward the object of his embassy, if he would conform to their opinions. Compelled by the urgency of the occasion, or, possibly, thinking that it was better to hold such views concerning the Divine nature, Ulphilas entered into communion with the Arians, and separated himself and his whole nation from all connection with the Catholic Church. For as he had instructed the Goths in the elements of religion, and through him they shared in a gentler mode of life, they placed the most implicit confidence in his directions, and were firmly convinced that he could neither do nor say anything that was evil. He had, in fact, given many signal proofs of the greatness of his virtue. He had exposed himself to innumerable perils in defense of the faith, during the period that the aforesaid barbarians were given to pagan worship. He taught them the use of letters, and translated the Sacred Scriptures into their own language. It was on this account, that the barbarians on the banks of the Ister followed the tenets of Arius. At the same period, there were many of the subjects of Phritigernes who testified to Christ, and were martyred. Athanaric resented that his subjects had become Christian under the persuasion of Ulphilas; and because they had abandoned the cult of their fathers, he subjected many individuals to many punishments; some he put to death after they had been dragged before tribunals and had nobly confessed the doctrine, and others were slain without being permitted to utter a single word in their own defense. It is said that the officers appointed by Athanaric to execute his cruel mandates, caused a statue to be constructed, which they placed on a chariot, and had it conveyed to the tents of those who were suspected of having embraced Christianity, and who were therefore commanded to worship the statue and offer sacrifice; if they refused to do so, the men and the tents were burnt together. But I have heard that an outrage of still greater atrocity was perpetrated at this period. Many refused to obey those who were compelling them by force to sacrifice. Among them were men and women; of the latter some were leading their little children, others were nourishing their new-born infants at the breast; they fled to their church, which was a tent. The pagans set fire to it, and all were destroyed.
The Goths were not long in making peace among themselves; and in unreasonable excitement, they then began to ravage Thrace and to pillage the cities and villages. Valens, on inquiry, learned by experiment how great a mistake he had made; for he had calculated that the Goths would always be useful to the empire and formidable to its enemies, and had therefore neglected the reinforcement of the Roman ranks. He had taken gold from the cities and villages under the Romans, instead of the usual complement of men for the military service. On his expectation being thus frustrated, he quitted Antioch and hastened to Constantinople. Hence the persecution which he had been carrying on against Christians differing in opinion from himself, had a truce. Euzoïus, president of the Arians, died, and Dorotheus was proposed for his government.
About this period the king of the Saracens died, and the peace which had previously existed between that nation and the Romans was dissolved. Mania, the widow of the late monarch, after attaining to the government of her race, led her troops into Phœnicia and Palestine, as far as the regions of Egypt lying to the left of those who sail towards the source of the Nile, and which are generally denominated Arabia. This war was by no means a contemptible one, although conducted by a woman. The Romans, it is said, considered it so arduous and so perilous, that the general of the Phœnician troops applied for assistance to the general of the entire cavalry and infantry of the East. This latter ridiculed the summons, and undertook to give battle alone. He accordingly attacked Mania, who commanded her own troops in person; and he was rescued with difficulty by the general of the troops of Palestine and Phœnicia. Perceiving the extremity of the danger, this general deemed it unnecessary to obey the orders he had received to keep aloof from the combat; he therefore rushed upon the barbarians, and furnished his superior an opportunity for safe retreat, while he himself yielded ground and shot at those who fled, and beat off with his arrows the enemies who were pressing upon him. This occurrence is still held in remembrance among the people of the country, and is celebrated in songs by the Saracens.
As the war was still pursued with vigor, the Romans found it necessary to send an embassy to Mania to solicit peace. It is said that she refused to comply with the request of the embassy, unless consent were given for the ordination of a certain man named Moses, who practiced philosophy in a neighboring desert, as bishop over her subjects. This Moses was a man of virtuous life, and noted for performing the divine and miraculous signs. On these conditions being announced to the emperor, the chiefs of the army were commanded to seize Moses, and conduct him to Lucius. The monk exclaimed, in the presence of the rulers and the assembled people,
I am not worthy of the honor of bearing the name and dignity of chief priest; but if, notwithstanding my unworthiness God destines me to this office, I take Him to witness who created the heavens and the earth, that I will not be ordained by the imposition of the hands of Lucius, which are defiled with the blood of holy men. Lucius immediately rejoined,
If you are unacquainted with the nature of my creed, you do wrong in judging me before you are in possession of all the circumstances of the case. If you have been prejudiced by the calumnies that have been circulated against me, at least allow me to declare to you what are my sentiments; and do you be the judge of them.
Your creed is already well known to me, replied Moses;
and its nature is testified by bishops, presbyters, and deacons, who are suffering grievously in exile, and the mines. It is clear that your sentiments are opposed to the faith of Christ, and to all orthodox doctrines concerning the Godhead. Having again protested, upon oath, that he would not receive ordination from them, he went to the Saracens. He reconciled them to the Romans, and converted many to Christianity, and passed his life among them as a priest, although he found few who shared in his belief.
This is the tribe which took its origin and had its name from Ishmael, the son of Abraham; and the ancients called them Ishmaelites after their progenitor. As their mother Hagar was a slave, they afterwards, to conceal the opprobrium of their origin, assumed the name of Saracens, as if they were descended from Sara, the wife of Abraham. Such being their origin, they practice circumcision like the Jews, refrain from the use of pork, and observe many other Jewish rites and customs. If, indeed, they deviate in any respect from the observances of that nation, it must be ascribed to the lapse of time, and to their intercourse with the neighboring nations. Moses, who lived many centuries after Abraham, only legislated for those whom he led out of Egypt. The inhabitants of the neighboring countries, being strongly addicted to superstition, probably soon corrupted the laws imposed upon them by their forefather Ishmael. The ancient Hebrews had their community life under this law only, using therefore unwritten customs, before the Mosaic legislation. These people certainly served the same gods as the neighboring nations, honoring and naming them similarly, so that by this likeness with their forefathers in religion, there is evidenced their departure from the laws of their forefathers. As is usual, in the lapse of time, their ancient customs fell into oblivion, and other practices gradually got the precedence among them. Some of their tribe afterwards happening to come in contact with the Jews, gathered from them the facts of their true origin, returned to their kinsmen, and inclined to the Hebrew customs and laws. From that time on, until now, many of them regulate their lives according to the Jewish precepts. Some of the Saracens were converted to Christianity not long before the present reign. They shared in the faith of Christ by intercourse with the priests and monks who dwelt near them, and practiced philosophy in the neighboring deserts, and who were distinguished by the excellence of their life, and by their miraculous works. It is said that a whole tribe, and Zocomus, their chief, were converted to Christianity and baptized about this period, under the following circumstances: Zocomus was childless, and went to a certain monk of great celebrity to complain to him of this calamity; for among the Saracens, and I believe other barbarian nations, it was accounted of great importance to have children. The monk desired Zocomus to be of good cheer, engaged in prayer on his behalf, and sent him away with the promise that if he would believe in Christ, he would have a son. When this promise was confirmed by God, and when a son was born to him, Zocomus was initiated, and all his subjects with him. From that period this tribe was peculiarly fortunate, and became strong in point of number, and formidable to the Persians as well as to the other Saracens. Such are the details that I have been enabled to collect concerning the conversion of the Saracens and their first bishop.
Those in every city who maintained the Nicene doctrine now began to take courage, and more particularly the inhabitants of Alexandria in Egypt. Peter had returned there from Rome with a letter from Damasus, confirmatory of the tenets of Nicæa and of his own ordination; and he was installed in the government of the churches in the place of Lucius, who sailed away to Constantinople after his eviction. The Emperor Valens very naturally was so distracted by other affairs, that he had no leisure to attend to these transactions. He had no sooner arrived at Constantinople than he incurred the suspicion and hatred of the people. The barbarians were pillaging Thrace, and were even advancing to the very suburbs, and attempted to make an assault on the very walls, with no one to hinder them. The city was indignant at this inertness; and the people even charged the emperor with being a party to their attack, because he did not sally forth, but delayed offering battle. At length, when he was present at the sports of the Hippodrome, the people openly and loudly accused him of neglecting the affairs of the state, and demanded arms that they might fight in their own defense. Valens, offended at these reproaches, immediately undertook an expedition against the barbarians; but he threatened to punish the insolence of the people on his return, and also to take vengeance on them for having formerly supported the tyrant Procopius.
When Valens was on the point of departing from Constantinople, Isaac, a monk of great virtue, who feared no danger in the cause of God, presented himself before him, and addressed him in the following words:
Give back, O emperor, to the orthodox, and to those who maintain the Nicene doctrines, the churches of which you have deprived them, and the victory will be yours. The emperor was offended at this act of boldness, and commanded that Isaac should be arrested and kept in chains until his return, when he meant to bring him to justice for his temerity. Isaac, however, replied,
You will not return unless you restore the churches. And so in fact it came to pass. For when Valens marched out with his army, the Goths retreated while pursued. In his advances he passed by Thrace, and came to Adrianople. When at not great distance from the barbarians, he found them encamped in a secure position; and yet he had the rashness to attack them before he had arranged his own legions in proper order. His cavalry was dispersed, his infantry compelled to retreat; and, pursued by the enemy, he dismounted from his horse, and with a few attendants entered into a small house or tower, where he secreted himself. The barbarians were in full pursuit, and went beyond the tower, not suspecting that he had selected it for his place of concealment. As the last detachment of the barbarians was passing by the tower, the attendants of the emperor let fly a volley of arrows from their covert, which immediately led to the exclamation that Valens was concealed within the building. Those who were a little in advance heard this exclamation, and made known the news with a shout to those companions who were in advance of them; and thus the news was conveyed till it reached the detachments which were foremost in the pursuit. They returned, and encompassed the tower. They collected vast quantities of wood from the country around, which they piled up against the tower, and finally set fire to the mass. A wind which had happened to arise favored the progress of the conflagration; and in a short period the tower, with all that it contained, including the emperor and his attendants, was utterly destroyed. Valens was fifty years of age. He had reigned thirteen years conjointly with his brother, and three by himself.
Source. Translated by Chester D. Hartranft. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 2. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/26026.htm>.
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