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The times of the captivity have been rendered illustrious by the predictions and deeds of the prophets, and especially by the remarkable persistency of Daniel in upholding the law, and by the deliverance of Susanna through the divine wisdom, as well as by the other things which it accomplished, and which we shall now relate in their order, Daniel was made a prisoner under King Joachim, and was brought to Babylon, while still a very little child. Afterwards, on account of the beauty of his countenance, he had a place given him among the king's servants, and along with him, Annanias, Misael, and Azarias. But, when the king had ordered them to be supplied with the finer kinds of food, and had imposed it as a duty on Asphane the eunuch to attend to that matter, Daniel, mindful of the traditions of his fathers which forbade him to partake of food from the table of a king of the Gentiles, begged of the eunuch to be allowed to use a diet of pulse only. Asphane objected that the leanness which would follow might reveal the fact that the king's commandment had been disobeyed; but Daniel, putting his trust in God, promised that he would have greater beauty of countenance from living on pulse than from the use of the king's dainties. And his words were made good, so that the faces of those who were cared for at the public expense were regarded as by no means comparable to those of Daniel and his friends. Accordingly, being promoted by the king to honor and favor, they were, in a short time, by their prudence and wise conduct, preferred to all those that stood nearest to the king. About the same time, Susanna, the wife of a certain man called Joachis, a woman of remarkable beauty, was desired by two elders, and, when she would not listen to their unchaste proposals, was assailed by a false accusation. These elders reported that a young man was found with her in a retired place, but escaped their hands by his youthful nimbleness, while they were enfeebled with age. Credit, accordingly, was given to these elders, and Susanna was condemned by the sentence of the people. And, as she was being led away to punishment according to the law, Daniel, who was then twelve years old, after having rebuked the Jews for delivering the innocent to death, demanded that she should be brought back to trial, and that her cause should be heard afresh. For the multitude of the Jews who were then present, thought that a boy of an age so little commanding respect, had not ventured to take such a bold step without a divine impulse, and, granting him the favor which was asked, returned anew to council. The trial, then, is entered upon once more; and Daniel was allowed to take his place among the elders. Upon this, he orders the two accusers to be separated from each other, and inquires of each of them in turn, under what kind of a tree he had discovered the adulteress. From the difference of answers which they gave, their falsehood was detected: Susanna was acquitted; and the elders, who had brought the innocent into danger, were condemned to death.
At that time, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream marvelous for that insight into the future which it implied. As he could not of himself bring out its interpretation, he sent for the Chaldæans who were supposed by magic arts and by the entrails of victims to know secret things, and to predict the future, in order to its interpretation. Presently becoming apprehensive lest, in the usual manner of men, they should extract from the dream not what was true, but what would be acceptable to the king, he suppresses the things he had seen, and demands of them that, if a real power of divination was in them, they should relate to him the dream itself; saying that he would then believe their interpretation, if they should first make proof of their skill by relating the dream. But they declined attempting so great a difficulty, and confessed that such a thing was not within the reach of human power. The king, enraged because, under a false profession of divination, they were mocking men with their errors, while they were compelled by the present case to acknowledge that they had no such knowledge as was pretended, made an exposure of them by means of a royal edict; and all the men professing that art were publicly put to death. When Daniel heard of that, he spoke to one of those nearest to the king, and promised to give an account of the dream, as well as supply its interpretation. The thing is reported to the king, and Daniel is sent for. The mystery had already been revealed to him by God; and so he relates the vision of the king, as well as interprets it. But this matter demands that we set forth the dream of the king and its interpretation, along with the fulfillment of his words by what followed. The king, then, had seen in his sleep an image with a head of gold, with a breast and arms of silver, with a belly and thighs of brass, with legs of iron, and which in its feet ended partly with iron, and partly with clay. But the iron and the clay when blended together could not adhere to each other. At last, a stone cut out without hands broke the image to pieces, and the whole, being reduced to dust, was carried away by the wind.
Accordingly, as the prophet interpreted the matter, the image which was seen furnished a representation of the world. The golden head is the empire of the Chaldæans; for we have understood that it was the first and wealthiest. The breast and the arms of silver represent the second kingdom; for Cyrus, after the Chaldæans and the Medes were conquered, conferred the empire on the Persians. In the brazen belly it is said that the third sovereignty was indicated; and we see that this was fulfilled, for Alexander took the empire from the Persians, and won the sovereignty for the Macedonians. The iron legs point to a fourth power, and that is understood of the Roman empire, which is more powerful than all the kingdoms which were before it. But the fact that the feet were partly of iron and partly clay, indicates that the Roman empire is to be divided, so as never to be united. This, too, has been fulfilled, for the Roman state is ruled not by one emperor but by several, and these are always quarreling among themselves, either in actual warfare or by factions. Finally, by the clay and the iron being mixed together, yet never in their substance thoroughly uniting, are shadowed forth those future mixtures of the human race which disagree among themselves, though apparently combined. For it is obvious that the Roman territory is occupied by foreign nations, or rebels, or that it has been given over to those who have surrendered themselves under an appearance of peace. And it is also evident that barbarous nations, and especially Jews, have been commingled with our armies, cities, and provinces; and we thus behold them living among us, yet by no means agreeing to adopt our customs. And the prophets declare that these are the last times. But in the stone cut out without hands, which broke to pieces the gold, silver, brass, iron, and clay, there is a figure of Christ. For he, not born under human conditions (since he was born not of the will of man, but of the will of God), will reduce to nothing that world in which exist earthly kingdoms, and will establish another kingdom, incorruptible and everlasting, that is, the future world, which is prepared for the saints. The faith of some still hesitates about this point only, while they do not believe about things yet to come, though they are convinced of the things that are past. Daniel, then, was presented with many gifts by the king, was set over Babylon and the whole empire, and was held in the highest honor. By his influence, Annanias, Azarias, and Misael were also advanced to the highest dignity and power. About the same time, the remarkable prophecies of Ezekiel came out, the mystery of future things and of the resurrection having been revealed to him. His book is one of great weight, and deserves to be read with care.
But in Judæa, over which, as we have related above, Godolia was set after the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jews taking it very ill that a ruler not of the royal race had been assigned them by the mere will of the conqueror, with a certain Ismael as their leader and instigator of the execrable conspiracy, cut off Godolia by means of treachery while he was at a banquet. Those, however, who had no part in the plot, wishing to take steps for avenging the deed, hastily take up arms against Ismael. But when he learned that destruction threatened him, leaving the army which he had collected, and with not more than eight companions he fled to the Ammonites. Fear, therefore, fell upon the whole people, lest the king of Babylon should avenge the guilt of a few by the destruction of all; for, in addition to Godolia, they had slain many of the Chaldæans along with him. They, therefore, form a plan of fleeing into Egypt, but they first go in a body to Jeremia, requesting of him divine counsel. He then exhorted them all in the words of God to remain in their native country, telling them that if they did so, they would be protected by the power of God, and that no danger would accrue from the Babylonians, but that, if they went into Egypt, they would all perish there by sword, and famine, and different kinds of death. The rabble, however, with the usual evil tendency they show, being unaccustomed to yield to useful advice and the divine power, did go into Egypt. The sacred Scriptures are silent as to their future fate; and I have not been able to discover anything regarding it.
At this period of time, Nebuchadnezzar elated with prosperity, erected a golden statue to himself of enormous size, and ordered it to be worshipped as a sacred image. And when this was zealously gone about by all, inasmuch as their minds had been corrupted by the universal flattery which prevailed, Annanias, Azarias, and Misael kept aloof from the profane observance, being well aware that that honor was due to God alone. They were therefore, according to an edict of the king, regarded as criminals, and there was set before them, as the means of punishment, a fiery furnace, in order that, by present terror, they might be compelled to worship the statue. But they preferred to be swallowed up by the flames rather than to commit such a sin. Accordingly, they were bound, and cast into the midst of the fire. But the flames laid hold of the agents in this execrable work, as they were forcing, with all eagerness, the victims into the fire; while — wonderful to say, and indeed incredible to all but eye-witnesses — the fire did not touch the Hebrews at all. They were seen by the spectators walking in the midst of the furnace, and singing a song of praise to God, while there was also beheld along with them a fourth person having the appearance of an angel, and whom Nebuchadnezzar, on obtaining a nearer view of him, acknowledged to be the Son of God. Then the king having no doubt that the divine power was present in the event which had taken place, sent proclamations throughout his whole kingdom making known the miracle which had taken place, and confessing that honor was to be paid to God alone. Not long after, being instructed by a vision which presented itself to him, and presently also by a voice which reached him from heaven, he is said to have done penance by laying aside his kingly power, retiring from all intercourse with mankind, and to have sustained life by herbs alone. However, his empire was kept for him by the will of God, until the time was fulfilled, and at length duly acknowledging God, he was, after seven years, restored to his kingdom and former position. He is related, after having conquered Sedechia (whom he carried away captive to Babylon), as we have said above, to have reigned twenty-six years, although I do not find that recorded in the sacred history. But it has perhaps happened that, while I was engaged in searching out many points, I found this remark in the work of some anonymous author which had become interpolated in course of time, and in which the dates of the Babylonish kings were contained. I did not think it right to pass the remark unnoticed, since it does in fact harmonize with the Chronicles, and thus its account agrees with us, to the effect that, through the succession of the kings, whose dates the record contained, it completed seventy years up to the first year of king Cyrus, and such in fact is the number of years which is stated in the sacred history to have elapsed from the captivity up to the time of Cyrus.
After Nebuchadnezzar, the kingdom fell to his son, whom I find called Euilmarodac in the Chronicles. He died in the twelfth year of his reign, and made room for his younger brother, who was called Balthasar. He, when in the fourteenth year he gave a public feast to his chief men and rulers, ordered the sacred vessels (which had been taken away by Nebuchadnezzar from the temple at Jerusalem, yet had not been employed for any uses of the king, but were kept laid up in the treasury) to be brought forth. And when all persons, both of the male and female sex, with his wives and concubines, were using these amid the luxury and licentiousness of a royal banquet, suddenly the king observed fingers writing upon the wall, and the letters were perceived to be formed into words. But no one could be found who was able to read the writing. The king, therefore, in perturbation called for the magi and the Chaldæans. When these simply muttered among themselves and answered nothing, the queen reminded the king that there was a certain Hebrew, Daniel by name, who had formerly revealed to Nebuchadnezzar a dream containing a secret mystery, and had then, on account of his remarkable wisdom, been promoted to the highest honors. Accordingly, he, being sent for, read and interpreted the writing, to the effect that, on account of the sin of the king, who had profaned vessels sacred to God, destruction impended over him, and that his kingdom was given to the Medes and Persians. And this presently took place. For, on the same night, Balthasar perished, and Darius, a Mede by nation, took possession of his kingdom. He again, finding that Daniel was held in the highest reputation, placed him at the head of the whole empire, in this following the judgment of the kings who had preceded him. For Nebuchadnezzar had also set him over the kingdom, and Balthasar had presented him with a purple robe and a golden chain, while he also constituted him the third ruler in the kingdom.
Those, therefore, who were possessed of power along with him, stimulated by envy, because a foreigner belonging to a captive nation had been placed on a footing of equality with them, constrain the king, who had been corrupted by flattery, to enact that divine honors should be paid to him for the next thirty days, and that it should not be lawful for any one to pray to a god except the king. Darius was easily persuaded to that, through the folly of all kings who claim for themselves divine honors. In these circumstances, Daniel being not unacquainted with what had happened, and not being ignorant that prayer ought to be addressed to God, and not to man, is accused of not having obeyed the king's commandment. And much against the will of Darius, to whom he had always been dear and acceptable, the rulers prevailed that he should be let down into a den. But no harm came to him when thus exposed to the wild beasts. And on the king discovering this, he ordered his accusers to be given over to the lions. They, however, did not pass through a similar experience, for they were instantly devoured to satisfy the hunger of the savage beasts. Daniel, who had been famous before, was now esteemed still more famous; and the king, repealing his former edict, issued a new one to the effect that, all errors and superstitions being abandoned, the God of Daniel was to be worshipped. There exists also a record of visions of Daniel, in which he revealed the order of events in coming ages, embracing in them also the number of the years, within which he announced that Christ would descend to earth (as has taken place), and clearly set forth the future coming of Antichrist. If any one is eager to inquire into these points, he will find them more fully treated of in the book of Daniel: our design is simply to present a connected statement of events. Darius is related to have reigned eighteen years; after which date Astyages began to rule over the Medes.
Him Cyrus, his grandson by his daughter, expelled from the kingdom, having used the arms of the Persians for the purpose; and hence the chief power was transferred to the Persians. The Babylonians also fell under his power and government. It happened at the beginning of his reign that, by the issue of public edicts, he gave permission to the Jews to return into their own country; and he also restored the sacred vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from the temple at Jerusalem. Accordingly, a few then returned into Judæa; as to the others, we have not been able to discover whether the desire of returning, or the power of doing so, was wanting. There was at that time among the Babylonians a brazen image of Belus, a very ancient king, whom Virgil also has mentioned. This having been deemed sacred by the superstition of the people, Cyrus also had been accustomed to worship, being deceived by the trickery of its priests. They affirmed that the image ate and drank, while they themselves secretly carried off the daily portion which was offered to the idol. Cyrus, then, being on intimate terms with Daniel, asked him why he did not worship the image, since it was a manifest symbol of the living God, as consuming those things which were offered to it. Daniel, laughing at the mistake of the man, replied that it could not possibly be the case, that that work of brass — mere insensate matter — could use either meat or drink. The king, therefore, ordered the priests to be called (they were about seventy in number); and, bringing terror to bear upon them, he reprovingly asked them who was in the way of consuming what was offered, since Daniel, a man distinguished for his wisdom, maintained that that could not be done by an insensate image. Then they, trusting in their ready-made trick, ordered the usual offering to be made, and the temple to be sealed up by the king, on the understanding that, unless on the following day the whole offering were found to have been consumed, they should suffer death, while, on the opposite being discovered, the same fate awaited Daniel. Accordingly, the temple was sealed up by the signet of the king; but Daniel had previously, without the knowledge of the priests, covered the floor of it with ashes, so that their footprints might betray the clandestine approaches of those who entered. The king, then, having entered the temple on the following day, perceived that those things had been taken away, which he had ordered to be served up to the idol. Then Daniel lays open the secret fraud by the betraying footprints, showing that the priests, with their wives and children, had entered the temple by a hole opened from below, and had devoured those things which were served up to the idol. Accordingly, all of them were put to death by the order of the king, while the temple and image were submitted to the power of Daniel, and were destroyed at his command.
In the meantime, those Jews, who, as we have said above, returned into their native land by the permission of Cyrus, attempted to restore their city and temple. But, being few and poor, they made but little progress, until, at last, after the lapse of about a hundred years, while Artaxerxes the king ruled over the Persians, they were absolutely deterred from building by those who had local authority. For, at that time, Syria and all Judæa was ruled under the empire of the Persians by magistrates and governors. Accordingly, these took counsel to write to king Artaxerxes, that it was not fitting that opportunity should be granted to the Jews of rebuilding their city, lest, in accordance with their stubborn character, and being accustomed to rule over other nations, they should, on recovering their strength, not submit to live under the sway of a foreign power. Thus, the plan of the rulers being approved of by the king, the building of the city was put a stop to, and delayed until the second year of Darius the king. But, who were kings of Persia throughout this period of time, we shall here insert, in order that the succession of the dates may be set forth in a regular and fixed order. Well, then, after Darius the Mede, who, as we have said above, reigned eighteen years, Cyrus held the supreme power for thirty-one years. While making war upon the Scythians, he fell in battle, in the second year after Tarquinius Superbus began to reign at Rome. To Cyrus succeeded his son Cambyses, and reigned eight years. He, after harassing with war Egypt and Ethiopia, and subduing these countries, returned as victor to Persia, but accidentally hurt himself, and died from that wound. After his death, two brothers, who were magi, and Medes by nation, held rule over the Persians for seven months. To slay these, seven of the most noble of the Persians formed a conspiracy, of whom the leader was Darius, the son of Hystaspes, who was a cousin of Cyrus, and by unanimous consent the kingdom was bestowed on him: he reigned thirty and six years. He, four years before his death, fought at Marathon, in a battle greatly celebrated both in Greek and Roman history. That took place about the two hundred and sixtieth year after the founding of Rome, while Macerinus and Augurinus were consuls, that is, eight hundred and eighty-eight years ago, provided the research I have made into the succession of Roman consuls does not deceive me; for I have made the entire reckoning down to the time of Stilico. After Darius came Xerxes, and he is said to have reigned twenty-one years, although I have found that the length of his rule is, in most copies, set down at twenty and five years. To him succeeded Artaxerxes, of whom we have made mention above. Since he ordered the building of the Jewish city and temple to be stopped, the work was suspended to the second year of king Darius. But that the succession of dates may be completed up to him, I have to state that Artaxerxes reigned forty-one years, Xerxes two months, and that, after him, Sucdianus ruled for seven months.
Next, Darius, under whom the temple was restored, obtained the kingdom, his name being at that time Ochus. He had three Hebrew of tried fidelity as his bodyguard, and of these had, from the proof of his prudence which he had given, attracted towards himself the admiration of the king. The choice, then, being given him of asking for anything which he had formed a desire for in his heart, groaning over the ruins of his country, he begged permission to restore the city, and obtained an order from the king to urge the lieutenants and rulers to hurry forward the building of the holy temple, and furnish the expense needful to that end. Accordingly, the temple was completed in four years; that is, in the sixth year after Darius began to reign, and that seemed, for the time, enough to the people of the Jews. For, as it was a work of great labor to restore the city, distrusting their own resources, they did not venture at the time to begin an undertaking of so great difficulty, but were content with having rebuilt the temple. At the same time, Esdras the scribe, who was skilled in the law, about twenty years after the temple had been completed (Darius being now dead who had possessed the sovereignty for nineteen years), by the permission of Artaxerxes the second (not he who had a place between the two Xerxes, but he who had succeeded to Darius Ochus), set out from Babylon with many following him, and they carried to Jerusalem the vessels of various workmanship, as well as the gifts which the king had sent for the temple of God. Along with them were but twelve Levites; for with difficulty that number of the tribe is related then to have been found. He, having found that the Jews united in marriage with the Gentiles, rebuked them severely on that account, and ordered them to renounce all connections of that kind, as well as to put away the children which had been the issue of such marriages; and all yielded obedience to his word. The people, then, being sanctified, performed the rites sanctioned by the ancient law. But I do not find that Esdras did anything with the view of restoring the city; because he thought, as I imagine, that a more urgent duty was to reform the people from the corrupt habits which they had contracted.
There was at that time at Babylon one Nehemiah, a servant of the king, a Jew by birth, and very much beloved by Artaxerxes on account of the services he had rendered. He, having inquired of his fellow-countrymen the Jews, what was the condition of their ancestral city; and having learned that his native land remained in the same fallen condition as before, is said to have been disturbed with all his heart, and to have prayed to God with groans and many tears. He also called to mind the sins of his nation, and urgently entreated the divine compassion. Accordingly, the king noticing that he, while waiting at table, seemed more sorrowful than usual, asked him to explain the reasons of his grief. Then he began to bewail the misfortunes of his nation, and the ruin of his ancestral city, which now, for almost two hundred and fifty years, being leveled with the ground, furnished a proof of the evils which had been endured, and a gazing-stock to their enemies. He therefore begged the king to grant him the liberty of going and restoring it. The king yielded to these dutiful entreaties, and immediately sent him away with a guard of cavalry, that he might the more safely accomplish his journey, giving him, at the same time, letters to the rulers requesting them to furnish him with all that was necessary. When he arrived at Jerusalem, he distributed the work connected with the city to the people, man by man; and all vied with each other in carrying out the orders which they received. And already the work of rebuilding had been half accomplished, when the jealousy of the surrounding heathen burst out, and the neighboring cities conspired to interrupt the works, and to deter the Jews from building. But Nehemiah, having stationed guards against those making assaults upon the people, was in no degree alarmed, and carried out what he had begun. And thus, after the wall was completed, and the entrances of the gates finished, he measured out the city for the construction by families of houses within it. He reckoned, also, that the people were not adequate in numbers to the size of the city; for there were not more of them than fifty thousand of both sexes and of all ranks — to such an extent had their formerly enormous numbers been reduced by frequent wars, and by the multitude kept in captivity. For, of old, those two tribes, of whom the remaining people were all that survived, had, when the ten tribes were separated from them, been able to furnish three hundred and twenty thousand armed men. But being given up by God, on account of their sin, to death and captivity, they had sunk down to the miserably small number which they now presented. This company, however, as I have said, consisted only of the two tribes: the ten which had previously been carried away being scattered among the Parthians, Medes, Indians, and Ethiopians never returned to their native country, and are to this day held under the sway of barbarous nations. But the completion of the restored city is related to have been effected in the thirty-second year of the reign of Artaxerxes. From that time to the crucifixion of Christ; that is, to the time when Fufius Geminus and Rubellius were consuls, there elapsed three hundred and ninety and eight years. But from the restoration of the temple to its destruction, which was completed by Titus under Vespasian, when Augustus was consul, there was a period of four hundred and eighty-three years. That was formerly predicted by Daniel, who announced that from the restoration of the temple to its overthrow there would elapse seventy and nine weeks. Now, from the date of the captivity of the Jews until the time of the restoration of the city, there were two hundred and sixty years.
At this period of time we think Esther and Judith lived, but I confess that I cannot easily perceive with what kings especially I should connect the actions of their lives. For, while Esther is said to have lived under King Artaxerxes, I find that there were two Persian kings of that name, and there is much hesitation in concluding to which of these her date is to be assigned. However, it has seemed preferable to me to connect the history of Esther with that Artaxerxes under whom Jerusalem was restored, because it is not likely that, if she had lived under the former Artaxerxes, whose times Esdras has given an account of, he would have made no mention of such an illustrious woman. This is all the more convincing since we know that the building of the temple was (as we have related above) prohibited by that Artaxerxes and Esther would not have allowed that had she then been united with him in marriage. But I will now repeat what things she accomplished. There was at that time a certain Vastis connected with the king in marriage, a woman of marvelous beauty. Being accustomed to extol her loveliness to all, he one day, when he was giving a public entertainment, ordered the queen to attend for the purpose of exhibiting her beauty. But she, more prudent than the foolish king, and being too modest to make a show of her person before the eyes of men, refused compliance with his orders. His savage mind was enraged by this insult, and he drove her forth, both from her condition of marriage with him and from the palace. Consequently, when a young woman was sought after to take her place as the wife of the king, Esther was found to excel all others in beauty. She being a Jewess of the tribe of Benjamin, and an orphan, without father or mother, had been brought up by her cousin-german, Mardochæus. On being espoused to the king, she, by the instructions of him who had brought her up, concealed her nation and fatherland, and was also admonished by him not to become forgetful of her ancestral traditions, nor, though as a captive she had entered into marriage with a foreigner, to take part in the food of the heathen. Thus, then, being united to the king, she, in a short time, as was to be expected, easily captivated his whole mind by the power of her beauty, so that, equalizing her with himself in the emblem of sovereign power, he presented her with a purple robe.
At this time, Mardochæus was among those nearest to the king, having entirely under his charge the affairs of the household. He had made known to the king a plot which had been formed by two eunuchs, and, on that account, had become a greater favorite, while he was presented with the highest honors. There was at that period one Haman, a very confidential friend of the king, whom he had made equal to himself and, after the manner of sovereign rulers, had ordered to be worshipped. Mardochæus being the one man among all who refused to do that, had greatly kindled the wrath of the Persian against himself. Accordingly, Haman setting his mind to work the ruin of the Hebrew, went to the king, and affirmed that there was in his kingdom a race of men of wicked superstitions, and hateful alike to God and men. He said that, as they lived according to foreign laws, they deserved to be destroyed; and that it was a righteous thing to hand over the whole of this nation to death. At the same time, he promised the king immense wealth out of their possessions. The barbarous prince was easily persuaded, and an edict was issued for the slaughter of the Jews, while men were at once sent out to publish it through the whole kingdom from India even to Ethiopia. When Mardochæus heard of this, he rent his clothes, clothed himself in sackcloth, scattered ashes upon his head, and, going to the palace, he there made the whole place resound with his wailing and complaints, crying out that it was an unworthy thing that an innocent nation should perish, while there existed no ground for its destruction. Esther's attention was attracted by the voice of lamentation, and she learned how the case really stood. But she was then at a loss what step she should take (for, according to the custom of the Persians, the queen is not permitted access to the king, unless she has been sent for, and indeed is not admitted at any time the king may please, but only at a fixed period); and it happened at the time, that by this rule, Esther was held as separated from the presence of the king for the next thirty days. However, thinking that she ought to run some risk in behalf of her fellow-countrymen, even should sure destruction await her, she was prepared to encounter death in such a noble cause, and, after having called upon God, she entered the court of the king. But the barbarian, though at first amazed at this unusual occurrence, was gradually won over by female blandishments, and at length went so far as to accompany the queen to a banquet which she had prepared. Along with him also went Haman, the favorite of the king, but a deadly enemy of the nation of the Jews. Well, when after the feasting the banquet began to become jovial through the many cups which were drank, Esther cast herself down at the knees of the king, and implored him to stay the destruction which threatened her nation. Then the king promised to refuse nothing to her entreaties, if she had any further request to make. Esther at once seized the opportunity, and demanded the death of Haman as a satisfaction to her nation, which he had desired to see destroyed. But the king could not forget his friend, and hesitating a little, he withdrew for a short time for the purpose of considering the matter. He then returned, and when he saw Haman grasping the knees of the queen, excited with rage, and, crying out that violence was being applied to the queen, he ordered him to be put to death. It then came to the knowledge of the king that a cross had been got ready by Haman on which Mardochæus was to suffer. Thus, Haman was fixed to that very cross, and all his goods were handed over to Mardochæus, while the Jews at large were set free. Artaxerxes reigned sixty and two years, and was succeeded by Ochus.
To this series of events it will be right that I should append an account of the doings of Judith; for she is related to have lived after the captivity, but the sacred history has not revealed who was king of the Persians in her day. It, however, calls the king under whom her exploits were performed by the name of Nebuchadnezzar, and that was certainly not the one who took Jerusalem. But I do not find that any one of that name reigned over the Persians after the captivity, unless it be that, on account of the wrath and like endeavors which he manifested, any king acting so was styled Nebuchadnezzar by the Jews. Most persons, however, think that it was Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, on this ground that he, as a conqueror, penetrated into Egypt and Ethiopia. But the sacred history is opposed to this opinion; for Judith is described as having lived in the twelfth year of the king in question. Now, Cambyses did not possess the supreme power for more than eight years. Wherefore, if it is allowable to make a conjecture on a point of history, I should be inclined to believe that her exploits were performed under king Ochus, who came after the second Artaxerxes. I found this conjecture on the fact that (as I have read in profane histories) he is related to have been by nature cruel and fond of war. For he both engaged in hostilities with his neighbors, and recovered by wars Egypt, which had revolted many years before. At that time, also, he is related to have ridiculed the sacred rites of the Egyptians and Apis, who was regarded by them as a god; a thing which Baguas, one of his eunuchs, an Egyptian by nation, and indignant at the king's conduct, afterwards avenged by the death of the king, considering that the king had insulted the race to which he belonged. Now, the inspired history makes mention of this Baguas; for, when Holofernes by the order of the king led an army against the Jews, it has related that Baguas was among the host. Wherefore, not without reason may I bring it forward in proof of the opinion I have expressed that that king who was named Nebuchadnezzar was really Ochus, since profane historians have related that Baguas lived in his reign. But this ought not to be felt at all remarkable by any one, that mere worldly writers have not touched on any of those points which are recorded in the sacred writings. The spirit of God thus took care that the history should be strictly confined within its own mysteries, unpolluted by any corrupt mouth, or that which mingled truth with fiction. That history being, in fact, separated from the affairs of the world, and of a kind to be expressed only in sacred words, clearly ought not to have been mixed up with other histories, as being on a footing of equality with them. For it would have been most unbecoming that this history should be commingled with others treating of other things, or pursuing different inquiries. But I will now proceed to what remains, and will narrate in as few words as I can the acts performed by Judith.
The Jews, then, having returned, as we have narrated above, to their native land, and the condition of their affairs and of their city being not yet properly settled, the king of the Persians made war on the Medes, and engaged in a successful battle against their king, who was named Arphaxad. That monarch being slain, he added the nation to his empire. He did the same to other nations, having sent before him Holofernes whom he had appointed master of his host, with a hundred and twenty thousand foot-soldiers, and twelve thousand cavalry. He, after having ravaged in war, Cilicia and Arabia, took many cities by force, or compelled them through fear to surrender. And now the army, having moved on to Damascus, had struck the Jews with great terror. But as they were unable to resist, and as, at the same time, they could not bring their minds to acquiesce in the thought of surrender, since they had previously known from experience the miseries of slavery, they betook themselves in crowds to the temple. There, with a general groaning and commingled wailing, they implored the divine assistance; saying that they had been sufficiently punished by God for their sins and offenses; and begging him to spare the remnant of them who had recently been delivered from slavery. In the meantime, Holofernes had admitted the Moabites to surrender, and joined them to himself as allies in the war against the Jews. He inquired of their chief men what was the power on which the Hebrews relied in not bringing their minds to submit to the thought of submission. In reply, a certain man called Achior stated to him the facts, viz.: that the Jews being worshipers of God, and trained by their fathers to pious observances, had formerly passed through a period of slavery in Egypt, and that, brought out from that country by the divine aid, and having passed over on foot the sea which was dried up before them, they had at last conquered all the opposing nations, and recovered the territory inhabited by their ancestors. That subsequently, with various fluctuations in their affairs, they had either prospered or the reverse, that, when they did sink into adversity, they had again escaped from their sufferings, finding that God was, in turn, either angry against them, or reconciled towards them, according to their deserts, so that, when they sinned, they were chastised by the attacks of enemies or by being sent into captivity, but were always unconquerable when they enjoyed the divine favor. So then, if at the present time they are free from guilt, they cannot possibly be subdued; but if they are otherwise situated, they will easily be conquered. Upon this, Holofernes, flushed with many victories, and thinking that everything must give way before him, was roused to wrath, because victory on his part was regarded as principally depending on the sin of the Jews, and ordered Achior to be pushed forward into the camp of the Hebrews, that he might perish in company with those who he had affirmed could not be conquered. Now, the Jews had then made for the mountains; and those to whom the business had been assigned, proceeded to the foot of the mountains, and there left Achior in chains. When the Jews perceived that, they freed him from his bonds and conducted him up the hill. On their inquiring the reason of what had happened, he explained it to them, and, being received in peace, awaited the result. I may add that, after the victory, he was circumcised and became a Jew. Well, Holofernes, perceiving the difficulty of the localities, because he could not reach the heights, surrounded the mountains with soldiers, and took the greatest pains to cut off the Hebrews from all water supplies. On that account, they felt all the sooner the misery of a siege. Being therefore overcome through want of water, they went in a company to Ozias, their leader, all inclined to make a surrender. But he replied that they should wait a little, and look for the divine assistance, so that the time of surrender was fixed for the fifth day afterwards.
When this became known to Judith (a widow woman of great wealth, and remarkable for beauty, but still more distinguished for her virtue than her beauty), who was then in the camp, she thought that, in the distressed circumstances of her people, some bold effort ought to be made by her, even though it should lead to her own destruction. She therefore decks her head and beautifies her countenance, and then, attended by a single maidservant, she enters the camp of the enemy. She was immediately conducted to Holofernes, and tells him that the affairs of her countrymen were desperate, so that she had taken precautions for her life by flight. Then she begs of the general the right of a free egress from the camp during night, for the purpose of saying her prayers. That order was accordingly given to the sentinels and keepers of the gates. But when by the practice of three days she had established for herself the habit of going out and returning, and had also in this way inspired belief in her into the barbarians, the desire took possession of Holofernes of abusing the person of his captive; for, being of surpassing beauty, she had easily impressed the Persian. Accordingly, she was conducted to the tent of the general by Baguas, the eunuch; and, commencing a banquet, the barbarian stupefied himself with a great deal of wine. Then, when the servants withdrew, before he offered violence to the woman, he fell asleep. Judith, seizing the opportunity, cut off the head of the enemy and carried it away with her. Being regarded as simply going out of the camp according to her usual custom, she returned to her own people in safety. On the following day the Hebrews held forth for show the head of Holofernes from the heights; and, making a sally, marched upon the camp of the enemy. And then the barbarians assemble in crowds at the tent of their general, waiting for the signal of battle. When his mutilated body was discovered, they turned to flight under the influence of a disgraceful panic, and fled before the enemy. The Jews, for their part, pursued the fugitives, and after slaying many thousands, took possession of the camp and the booty within it. Judith was extolled with the loftiest praises, and is said to have lived one hundred and five years. If these things took place, as we believe, under king Ochus, in the twelfth year of his reign, then from the date of the restoration of Jerusalem up to that war there elapsed two and twenty years. Now Ochus reigned in all twenty-three years. And he was beyond all others cruel, and more than of a barbarous disposition. Baguas, the eunuch, took him off by poison on an occasion of his suffering from illness. After him, Arses his son held the government for three years, and Darius for four.
Against him Alexander of Macedon engaged in war. And on his being conquered, the sovereign power was taken from the Persians, after having lasted, from the time of its establishment by Cyrus, two hundred and fifty years. Alexander, the conqueror of almost all nations, is said to have visited the temple at Jerusalem, and to have conveyed gifts into it; and he proclaimed throughout the whole territory which he had reduced under his sway that it should be free to the Jews living in it to return to their own country. At the end of the twelfth year of his reign, and seven years after he had conquered Darius, he died at Babylon. His friends who, along with him, had carried on those very important wars, divided his empire among themselves. For some time they administered the charges they had undertaken without making use of the name of king, while a certain Arridæus Philippus, the brother of Alexander, reigned, to whom, being of a very weak character, the sovereignty was nominally and in appearance given, but the real power was in the hands of those who had divided among themselves the army and the provinces. And indeed this state of things did not long continue, but all preferred that they should be called by the name of kings. In Syria Seleucus was the first king after Alexander, Persia and Babylon being also subject to his sway. At that time the Jews paid an annual tribute of three hundred talents of silver to the king; but they were governed not by foreign magistrates but by their own priests. And they lived according to the fashions of their ancestors until very many of them again corrupted by a long peace, began to mingle all things with seditions, and to create disturbances, while they aimed at the high-priesthood under the influence of lust, avarice, and the desire of power.
For, first of all, under king Seleucus, the son of Antiochus the great, a certain man called Simon accused to the king on false charges Onias the priest, a holy and uncorrupted man, and thus tried, but in vain, to overthrow him. Then, after an interval of time, Jason, the brother of Onias, went to Antiochus the king, who had succeeded his brother Seleucus, and promised him an increase of tribute, if the high-priesthood were transferred to him. And although it was an unusual, and indeed, until now, an unpermitted thing for a man to enjoy the high-priesthood year after year, still the eager mind of the king, diseased with avarice, was easily persuaded. Accordingly, Onias was driven from office, and the priesthood bestowed on Jason. He harassed his countrymen and his country in the most shameful manner. Then, as he had sent through a certain Menelaus (the brother of that Simon who has been mentioned) the money he had promised to the king, a way being once laid open to his ambition, Menelaus obtained the priesthood by the same arts which Jason had employed before. But not long after, as he had not furnished the promised amount of money, he was driven from his position, and Lysimachus substituted in his stead. Then there arose disgraceful conflicts between Jason and Menelaus, until Jason, as an exile, left the country. By examples like these, the morals of the people became corrupted to such an extent, that numbers of the natives begged permission from Antiochus to live after the fashion of the Gentiles. And when the king granted their request, all the most worthless vied with each other in their endeavors to construct temples, to sacrifice to idols, and to profane the law. In the meantime, Antiochus returned from Alexandria (for he had then made war upon the king of Egypt, which, however, he gave up by the orders of the senate and Roman people, when Paulus and Crassus were consuls), and went to Jerusalem. Finding the people at variance from the diverse superstitions they had adopted, he destroyed the law of God, and showed favor to those who followed impious courses, while he carried off all the ornaments of the temple, and wasted it with much destruction. That came to pass in the hundred and fiftieth year after the death of Alexander, Paulus and Crassus being, as we have said, consuls, about five years after Antiochus began to reign.
But that the order of the dates may be correctly preserved, and that it may appear more clearly who this Antiochus was, we shall enumerate both the names and times of the kings who came after Alexander in Syria. Well, then, king Alexander having died, as we have related above, his whole empire was portioned out by his friends, and was governed for some time by them under the name of the king. Seleucus, after the lapse of nine years, was himself styled king in Syria, and reigned thirty-two years. After him came Antiochus, his son, with a reign of twenty-one years. Then came Antiochus, the son of Antiochus, who was surnamed Theus, and he reigned fifteen years. After him, his son Seleucus, surnamed Callinicus, reigned twenty-one years. Another Seleucus, the son of Callinicus, reigned three years. After his death Antiochus, the brother of Callinicus, held Asia and Syria for thirty-seven years. This is the Antiochus against whom Lucius Scipio Asiaticus made war; and he, being worsted in the war was stripped of a part of his empire. He had two sons, Seleucus and Antiochus, the latter of whom he had given as a hostage to the Romans. Thus, then, Antiochus the great having died, his younger son Seleucus obtained the kingdom, under whom, as we have said, Onias the priest had an accusation brought against him by Simon. Then Antiochus was set free by the Romans, and there was given in his place as hostage Demetrius, the son of Seleucus, who was at that time reigning. Seleucus dying in the twelfth year of his reign, his brother Antiochus, who had been a hostage at Rome, seized the kingdom. He, five years after the beginning of his reign, did, as we have shown above, lay waste Jerusalem. For, as he had to pay a heavy tribute to the Romans, he was almost of necessity compelled, in order to meet that enormous expense, to provide himself with money by rapine, and to neglect no opportunity of plundering. Then, after two years, the Jews being again visited by a similar disaster to that which they had suffered before, lest it should happen that, driven on by their numerous miseries, they should commence war, he placed a garrison in the citadel. Next, with the view of overturning the holy law, he published an edict, that all, forsaking the traditions of their ancestors, should live after the manner of the Gentiles. And there were not wanting those who readily obeyed this profane enactment. Then truly there was a horrible spectacle presented; through all the cities sacrifices were publicly offered in the streets, while the sacred volumes of the law and the prophets were consumed with fire.
At that time, Matthathias, the son of John, was high-priest. When he was being forced by the servants of the king to obey the edict, with marvelous courage he set at naught the profane enactments, and slew, in the presence of all, a Hebrew who was publicly performing profane acts. A leader having thus been found, rebellion at once took place. Matthathias left the town; and as many flocked to him, he got up the appearance of a regular army. The object of every man in that host was to defend himself by arms against a profane government, and rather even to fall in war than to take part in impious ceremonies. In the meantime, Antiochus was compelling those Jews who were found in the Greek cities in his dominions to offer sacrifice, and was visiting with unheard-of torments those who refused. At this time, there occurred that well-known and remarkable suffering of the seven brothers and their mother. All of the brothers, when they were being forced to violate the law of God, and the customs of their ancestors, preferred rather to die. At last, their mother, too, accompanied them both in their sufferings and death.
In the meantime, Matthathias dies, having appointed in his own place his son Judah, as general of the army which he had brought together. Under his leadership, several successful battles took place against the royal forces. For first of all, he destroyed, along with his whole army, Apollonius, the enemy's general, who had entered on the conflict with a large number of troops. When a certain man, named Seron, who was then the ruler of Syria, heard of this, he increased his forces, and attacked Judah with much spirit as being superior in numbers, but when a battle took place, he was routed and put to flight; and with the loss of nearly eight hundred men, he returned to Syria. On this becoming known to Antiochus, he was filled with rage and regret, inasmuch as it vexed him that his generals had been conquered, notwithstanding their large armies. He therefore gathers aid from his whole empire, and bestows a donative on the soldiers, almost to the exhaustion of his treasury. For he was then suffering in a very special manner from the want of money. The reason of this was, on the one side, that the Jews, who had been accustomed to pay him an annual tribute of more than three hundred talents of silver, were now in a state of rebellion against him; and on the other side, that many of the Greek cities and countries were unsettled by the evil of persecution. For Antiochus had not spared even the Gentiles, whom he had sought to persuade to abandon their long-established superstitions, and to draw over to one kind of religious observance. And no doubt, those of them who regarded nothing as sacred, easily were induced to give up their ancient forms of worship, but at the same time all were in a state of alarm and disaster. For these reasons, then, the taxes had ceased to be paid. Boiling with wrath on these grounds (for he who had of old been the richest of kings now deeply felt the poverty due to his own wickedness), he divided his forces with Lysias, and committed to him Syria and the war against the Jews, while he himself set out against the Persians, to collect the taxes among them. Lysias, then, selected Ptolemy, Gorgias, Doro, and Nicanor, as generals in the war; and to these he gave forty thousand infantry, and seven thousand cavalry. At the first onset these caused great alarm among the Jews. Then Judah, when all were in despair, exhorted his men to go with courageous hearts to battle — that, if they put their trust in God, everything would give way before them; for that often before then the victory had been won by a few fighting against many. A fast was proclaimed, and sacrifice was offered, after which they went down to battle. The result was that the forces of the enemy were scattered, and Judah, taking possession of their camp, found in it both much gold and Tyrian treasures. For merchants from Syria, having no doubt as to victory, had followed the king's army with the hope of purchasing prisoners, and now were themselves spoiled. When these things were reported to Lysias by messengers, he got together troops with still greater efforts, and in a year after again attacked the Jews with an enormous army; but being defeated, he retreated to Antioch.
Judah, on the defeat of the enemy, returned to Jerusalem, and bent his mind on the purification and restoration of the temple, which having been overthrown by Antiochus, and profaned by the Gentiles, presented a melancholy spectacle. But as the Syrians held the citadel, which being connected with the temple, but standing above it in position, was really impregnable, the lower parts proved inaccessible, as frequent sallies from above prevented persons from approaching them. But Judah placed against these assailants a very powerful body of his men. Thus the work of the sacred building was protected, and the temple was surrounded with a wall, while armed men were appointed to maintain a perpetual defense. And Lysias, having again returned into Judæa with increased forces, was once more defeated with a great loss both of his own army and of the auxiliaries, which being sent to him by various states had combined with him in the war. In the meantime, Antiochus, who, as we have said above, had marched into Persia, endeavored to plunder the town of Elymus, the wealthiest in the country, and a temple situated there which was filled with gold; but, as a multitude flocked together from all sides for the defense of the place, he was put to flight. Moreover, he received news of the want of success which had attended the efforts of Lysias. Thus, from distress of mind, he fell into bodily disease. But as he was then tormented with internal sufferings, he remembered the miseries which he had inflicted on the people of God, and acknowledged that these evils had deservedly been sent upon him. Then, after a few days, he died, having reigned eleven years. He left the kingdom to his son Antiochus, to whom the name of Eupator was given.
At that time Judah besieged the Syrians who were posted in the citadel. They, being sore pressed with famine and want of all things, sent messengers to the king to implore assistance. Accordingly, Eupator came to their aid with a hundred thousand infantry and twenty thousand cavalry, while elephants marched in front of his line, causing immense terror to the onlookers. Then Judah, abandoning the siege, went to meet the king, and routed the Syrians in the first battle. The king begged for peace, which, because he, with his treacherous disposition, made a bad use of, vengeance followed his treachery. For Demetrius, the son of Seleucus, who, we have said above, was handed over as a hostage to the Romans, when he heard that Antiochus had departed, begged that they would send him to take possession of the kingdom. And when this was refused to him, he secretly fled from Rome, came into Syria, and seized the supreme power, having slain the son of Antiochus, who had reigned one year and six months. It was during his reign that the Jews first begged the friendship of the Roman people, and alliance with them; and the embassy to this effect having been kindly received, they were, by a decree of the senate, styled allies and friends. In the meantime Demetrius was, by means of his generals, carrying on war against Judah. And first the army was led by a certain man named Bacchides, and by Alcimus, a Jew; Nicanor, being afterwards placed at the head of the war, fell in battle. Then Bacchides and Alcimus, recovering power, and having increased their forces, fought against Judah. The Syrians, turning out victorious in that battle, cruelly abused their victory. The Hebrews elect Jonathan, the brother of Judah, in his place. In the meantime, Alcimus, after he had fearfully desolated Jerusalem, dies; Bacchides, being thus deprived of his ally, returns to the king. Then, after an interval of two years, Bacchides again made war upon the Jews, and being beaten, he begged for peace. This was granted him certain conditions, to the effect that he should give up the deserters and prisoners, along with all that he had taken in war.
While these things are going on in Judæa, a certain young man educated at Rhodes, by name Alexander, gave himself out as being the son of Antiochus (which was false), and assisted by the power of Ptolemy, king of Alexandria, came into Syria with an army. He conquered Demetrius in war, and slew him after he had reigned twelve years. This Alexander before he made war against Demetrius, had formed an alliance with Jonathan, and had presented him with a purple robe and royal ensigns. For this reason Jonathan had assisted him with auxiliary forces; and on the defeat of Demetrius, had been the very first to meet him with congratulations. Nor did Alexander afterwards violate the faith which he had pledged. Accordingly, in the five years during which he held the chief power, the affairs of the Jews were peaceful. In these circumstances, Demetrius, the son of Demetrius, who, after the death of his father, had betaken himself to Crete, at the instigation of Lasthenes, general of the Cretans, tried by war to recover the kingdom of his, father, but finding his power unequal to the task, he implored Ptolemy Philometor, king of Egypt, the father-in-law of Alexander, but who was then on bad terms with his son-in-law, to give him assistance. But he, induced not so much by the entreaties of the suppliant as by the hope of seizing Syria, joined his forces with those of Demetrius, and gives him his daughter, who had been married to Alexander. Against these two Alexander fought a pitched battle. Ptolemy fell in the fight, but Alexander was defeated; and he was soon afterwards slain, after he had reigned five, or as I find it stated in many authors, nine years.
Demetrius, having thus obtained the kingdom, treated Jonathan with kindness, made a treaty with him, and restored the Jews to their own laws. In the meantime, Tryphon, who had belonged to the party of Alexander, was appointed governor of Syria, to keep him in check by war. Jonathan, on the other hand, descended to battle, formidable with an army of forty thousand men. Tryphon, when he saw himself unequal to the contest, pretended a desire for peace, and slew Ptolemais who had been received and invited into friendship with him. After Jonathan, the chief power was conferred on his brother Simon. He celebrated the funeral of his brother with great pomp, and built those well-known seven pyramids of most noble workmanship, in which he buried the remains both of his brothers and of his father. Then Demetrius renewed his treaty with the Jews; and in consideration of the loss caused to them by Tryphon (for after the death of Jonathan he had wasted by war their cities and territories), he remitted to them their annual tribute forever; for up to that time, they had paid tribute to the kings of Syria, except when they resisted by force of arms. That took place in the second year of king Demetrius; and we have noted that, because up to this year we have run through the times of the Asiatic kings, that the series of dates being given in order might be perfectly clear. But now we shall arrange the order of events through the times of those, who were either high-priests or kings among the Jews, up to the period of the birth of Christ.
Well, then, after Jonathan, his brother Simon, as has been said above, ruled over the Hebrews with the power of high-priest. For that honor was then bestowed upon him both by his own countrymen and by the Roman people. He began to rule over his countrymen in the second year of king Demetrius, but eight years afterwards, being deceived by a plot of Ptolemy, he met his death. He was succeeded by his son John. And he, on the ground that he had fought with distinction against the Hyrcani, a very powerful nation, received the surname of Hyrcanus. He died, after having held the supreme power for twenty-six years. After him, Aristobulus being appointed high-priest, was the first of all living after the captivity to assume the name of king, and to have a crown placed upon his head. At the close of a year, he died. Then Alexander, his son, who was both king and high-priest, reigned twenty-seven years; but I have found nothing in his doings worthy of mention, except his cruelty. He having left two young sons named Aristobulus and Hyrcanus, Salina or Alexandra, his wife, held the sovereignty for three years. After his decease, frightful conflicts about the supreme power arose between the two brothers. And first of all, Hyrcanus held the government; but being by and by defeated by his brother Aristobulus, he fled to Pompey. That Roman general, having finished the war with Mithridates, and settled Armenia and Pontus, being, in fact, the conqueror of all the nations which he had visited, desired to march inwards, and to add all the neighboring regions to the Roman empire. He therefore inquired into the causes of the war, and the means of obtaining the mastery. Accordingly he readily received Hyrcanus, and, under his guidance, attacked the Jews; but when the city was taken and destroyed, he spared the temple. He sent Aristobulus in chains to Rome, and restored the right of the high-priesthood to Hyrcanus. Settling the tribute to be paid by the Jews, he placed over them as governor a certain Antipater of Askelon. Hyrcanus held the chief power for thirty-four years; but while he carried on war against the Parthians, he was taken prisoner.
Then Herod, a foreigner, the son of Antipater of Askelon, asked and received the sovereignty of Judæa from the senate and people of Rome. Under him, the Jews began for the first time to have a foreigner as king. For as now the advent of Christ was at hand, it was necessary, according to the predictions of the prophets, that they should be deprived of their own rulers, that they might not look for anything beyond Christ. Under this Herod, in the thirty-third year of his reign, Christ was born on the twenty-fifth of December in the consulship of Sabinus and Rufinus. But we do not venture to touch on these things which are contained in the Gospels, and subsequently in the Acts of the Apostles, lest the character of our condensed work should, in any measure, detract from the dignity of the events; and I shall proceed to what remains. Herod reigned four years after the birth of the Lord; for the whole period of his reign comprised thirty-seven years. After him, came Archelaus the tetrarch, for eight years, and Herod for twenty-four years. Under him, in the eighteenth year of his reign, the Lord was crucified, Fufius Geminus and Rubellius Geminus being consuls; from which date up to the consulship of Stilico, there have elapsed three hundred and seventy-two years.
Luke made known the doings of the apostles up to the time when Paul was brought to Rome under the emperor Nero. As to Nero, I shall not say that he was the worst of kings, but that he was worthily held the basest of all men, and even of wild beasts. It was he who first began a persecution; and I am not sure but he will be the last also to carry it on, if, indeed, we admit, as many are inclined to believe, that he will yet appear immediately before the coming of Antichrist. Our subject would induce me to set forth his vices at some length, if it were not inconsistent with the purpose of this work to enter upon so vast a topic. I content myself with the remark, that he showed himself in every way most abominable and cruel, and at length even went so far as to be the murderer of his own mother. After this, he also married a certain Pythagoras in the style of solemn alliances, the bridal veil being put upon the emperor, while the usual dowry, and the marriage couch, and wedding torches, and, in short, all the other observances were forthcoming — things which even in the case of women, are not looked upon without some feeling of modesty. But as to his other actions, I doubt whether the description of them would excite greater shame or sorrow. He first attempted to abolish the name of Christian, in accordance with the fact that vices are always inimical to virtues, and that all good men are ever regarded by the wicked as casting reproach upon them. For, at that time, our divine religion had obtained a wide prevalence in the city. Peter was there executing the office of bishop, and Paul, too, after he had been brought to Rome, on appealing to Cæsar from the unjust judgment of the governor. Multitudes then came together to hear Paul, and these, influenced by the truth which they were given to know, and by the miracles of the apostles, which they then so frequently performed, turned to the worship of God. For then took place the well-known and celebrated encounter of Peter and Paul with Simon. He, after he had flown up into the air by his magical arts, and supported by two demons (with the view of proving that he was a god), the demons being put to flight by the prayers of the apostles, fell to the earth in the sight of all the people, and was dashed to pieces.
In the meantime, the number of the Christians being now very large, it happened that Rome was destroyed by fire, while Nero was stationed at Antium. But the opinion of all cast the odium of causing the fire upon the emperor, and he was believed in this way to have sought for the glory of building a new city. And in fact, Nero could not by any means he tried escape from the charge that the fire had been caused by his orders. He therefore turned the accusation against the Christians, and the most cruel tortures were accordingly inflicted upon the innocent. Nay, even new kinds of death were invented, so that, being covered in the skins of wild beasts, they perished by being devoured by dogs, while many were crucified or slain by fire, and not a few were set apart for this purpose, that, when the day came to a close, they should be consumed to serve for light during the night. In this way, cruelty first began to be manifested against the Christians. Afterwards, too, their religion was prohibited by laws which were enacted; and by edicts openly set forth it was proclaimed unlawful to be a Christian. At that time Paul and Peter were condemned to death, the former being beheaded with a sword, while Peter suffered crucifixion. And while these things went on at Rome, the Jews, not able to endure the injuries they suffered under the rule of Festus Florus, began to rebel. Vespasian, being sent by Nero against them, with proconsular power, defeated them in numerous important battles, and compelled them to flee within the walls of Jerusalem. In the meanwhile Nero, now hateful even to himself from a consciousness of his crimes, disappears from among men, leaving it uncertain whether or not he had laid violent hands upon himself: certainly his body was never found. It was accordingly believed that, even if he did put an end to himself with a sword, his wound was cured, and his life preserved, according to that which was written regarding him —
And his mortal Revelation 13:3 wound was healed,— to be sent forth again near the end of the world, in order that he may practice the mystery of iniquity.
So then, after the departure of Nero, Galba seized the government; and ere long, on Galba being slain, Otho secured it. Then Vitellius from Gaul, trusting to the armies which he commanded, entered the city, and having killed Otho, assumed the sovereignty. This afterwards passed to Vespasian, and although that was accomplished by evil means, yet it had the good effect of rescuing the state from the hands of the wicked. While Vespasian was besieging Jerusalem, he took possession of the imperial power; and as the fashion is, he was saluted as emperor by the army, with a diadem placed upon his head. He made his son Titus, Cæsar; and assigned him a portion of the forces, along with the task of continuing the siege of Jerusalem. Vespasian set out for Rome, and was received with the greatest favor by the senate and people; and Vitellius having killed himself, his hold of the sovereign power was fully confirmed. The Jews, meanwhile, being closely besieged, as no chance either of peace or surrender was allowed them, were at length perishing from famine, and the streets began everywhere to be filled with dead bodies, for the duty of burying them could no longer be performed. Moreover, they ventured on eating all things of the most abominable nature, and did not even abstain from human bodies, except those which putrefaction had already laid hold of and thus excluded from use as food. The Romans, accordingly, rushed in upon the exhausted defenders of the city. And it so happened that the whole multitude from the country, and from other towns of Judæa, had then assembled for the day of the Passover: doubtless, because it pleased God that the impious race should be given over to destruction at the very time of the year at which they had crucified the Lord. The Pharisees for a time maintained their ground most boldly in defense of the temple, and at length, with minds obstinately bent on death, they, of their own accord, committed themselves to the flames. The number of those who suffered death is related to have been eleven hundred thousand, and one hundred thousand were taken captive and sold. Titus is said, after calling a council, to have first deliberated whether he should destroy the temple, a structure of such extraordinary work. For it seemed good to some that a sacred edifice, distinguished above all human achievements, ought not to be destroyed, inasmuch as, if preserved, it would furnish an evidence of Roman moderation, but, if destroyed, would serve for a perpetual proof of Roman cruelty. But on the opposite side, others and Titus himself thought that the temple ought specially to be overthrown, in order that the religion of the Jews and of the Christians might more thoroughly be subverted; for that these religions, although contrary to each other, had nevertheless proceeded from the same authors; that the Christians had sprung up from among the Jews; and that, if the root were extirpated, the offshoot would speedily perish. Thus, according to the divine will, the minds of all being inflamed, the temple was destroyed, three hundred and thirty-one years ago. And this last overthrow of the temple, and final captivity of the Jews, by which, being exiles from their native land, they are beheld scattered through the whole world, furnish a daily demonstration to the world, that they have been punished on no other account than for the impious hands which they laid upon Christ. For though on other occasions they were often given over to captivity on account of their sins, yet they never paid the penalty of slavery beyond a period of seventy years.
Then, after an interval, Domitian, the son of Vespasian, persecuted the Christians. At this date, he banished John the Apostle and Evangelist to the island of Patmos. There he, secret mysteries having been revealed to him, wrote and published his book of the holy Revelation, which indeed is either foolishly or impiously not accepted by many. And with no great interval there then occurred the third persecution under Trajan. But he, when after torture and racking he found nothing in the Christians worthy of death or punishment, forbade any further cruelty to be put forth against them. Then under Adrian the Jews attempted to rebel, and endeavored to plunder both Syria and Palestine; but on an army being sent against them, they were subdued. At this time Adrian, thinking that he would destroy the Christian faith by inflicting an injury upon the place, set up the images of demons both in the temple and in the place where the Lord suffered. And because the Christians were thought principally to consist of Jews (for the church at Jerusalem did not then have a priest except of the circumcision), he ordered a cohort of soldiers to keep constant guard in order to prevent all Jews from approaching to Jerusalem. This, however, rather benefited the Christian faith, because almost all then believed in Christ as God while continuing in the observance of the law. Undoubtedly that was arranged by the over-ruling care of the Lord, in order that the slavery of the law might be taken away from the liberty of the faith and of the church. In this way, Mark from among the Gentiles was then, first of all, bishop at Jerusalem. A fourth persecution is reckoned as having taken place under Adrian, which, however, he afterwards forbade to be carried on, declaring it to be unjust that any one should be put on his trial without a charge being specified against him.
After Adrian, the churches had peace under the rule of Antoninus Pius. Then the fifth persecution began under Aurelius, the son of Antoninus. And then, for the first time, martyrdoms were seen taking place in Gaul, for the religion of God had been accepted somewhat late beyond the Alps. Then the sixth persecution of the Christians took place under the emperor Severus. At this time Leonida, the father of Origen, poured forth his sacred blood in martyrdom. Then, during an interval of thirty-eight years, the Christians enjoyed peace, except that at the middle of that time Maximinus persecuted the clerics of some churches. Before long, under Decius as emperor, the seventh bloody persecution broke out against the Christians. Next, Valerian proved himself the eighth enemy of the saints. After him, with an interval of about fifty years, there arose, under the emperors Diocletian and Maximian, a most bitter persecution which, for ten continuous years, wasted the people of God. At this period, almost the whole world was stained with the sacred blood of the martyrs. In fact, they vied with each other in rushing upon these glorious struggles, and martyrdom by glorious deaths was then much more keenly sought after than bishoprics are now attempted to be got by wicked ambition. Never more than at that time was the world exhausted by wars, nor did we ever achieve victory with a greater triumph than when we showed that we could not be conquered by the slaughters of ten long years. There survive also accounts of the sufferings of the martyrs at that time which were committed to writing; but I do not think it suitable to subjoin these lest I should exceed the limits prescribed to this work.
Well, the end of the persecutions was reached eighty-eight years ago, at which date the emperors began to be Christians. For Constantine then obtained the sovereignty, and he was the first Christian of all the Roman rulers. At that time, it is true, Licinius, who was a rival of Constantine for the empire, had commanded his soldiers to sacrifice, and was expelling from the service those who refused to do so. But that is not reckoned among the persecutions; it was an affair of too little moment to be able to inflict any wound upon the churches. From that time, we have continued to enjoy tranquillity; nor do I believe that there will be any further persecutions, except that which Antichrist will carry on just before the end of the world. For it has been proclaimed in divine words, that the world was to be visited by ten afflictions; and since nine of these have already been endured, the one which remains must be the last. During this period of time, it is marvelous how the Christian religion has prevailed. For Jerusalem which had presented a horrible mass of ruins was then adorned with most numerous and magnificent churches. And Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine (who reigned along with her son as Augusta), having a strong desire to behold Jerusalem, cast down the idols and the temples which were found there; and in course of time, through the exercise of her royal powers, she erected churches on the site of the Lord's passion, resurrection, and ascension. It is a remarkable fact that the spot on which the divine footprints had last been left when the Lord was carried up in a cloud to heaven, could not be joined by a pavement with the remaining part of the street. For the earth, unaccustomed to mere human contact, rejected all the appliances laid upon it, and often threw back the blocks of marble in the faces of those who were seeking to place them. Moreover, it is an enduring proof of the soil of that place having been trodden by God, that the footprints are still to be seen; and although the faith of those who daily flock to that place, leads them to vie with each other in seeking to carry away what had been trodden by the feet of the Lord, yet the sand of the place suffers no injury; and the earth still preserves the same appearance which it presented of old, as if it had been sealed by the footprints impressed upon it.
Through the kind efforts of the same queen, the cross of the Lord was then found. It could not, of course, be consecrated at the beginning, owing to the opposition of the Jews, and afterwards it had been covered over by the rubbish of the ruined city. And now, it would never have been revealed except to one seeking for it in such a believing spirit. Accordingly, Helena having first got information about the place of our Lord's passion, caused a band of soldiers to be brought to it, while the whole multitude of the inhabitants of the locality vied with each other in seeking to gratify the desires of the queen, and ordered the earth to be dug up, and all the adjacent most extensive ruins to be cleared out. Ere long, as the reward of her faith and labor, three crosses (as of old they had been fixed for the Lord and the two robbers) were discovered. But upon this, the greater difficulty of distinguishing the gibbet on which the Lord had hung, disturbed the minds and thoughts of all, lest by a mistake, likely enough to be committed by mere mortals, they might perhaps consecrate as the cross of the Lord, that which belonged to one of the robbers. They form then the plan of placing one who had recently died in contact with the crosses. Nor is there any delay in carrying out this purpose; for just as if by the appointment of God, the funeral of a dead man was then being conducted with the usual ceremonies, and all rushing up took the body from the bier. It was applied in vain to the first two crosses, but when it touched that of Christ, wonderful to tell, while all stood trembling, the dead body was shaken off, and stood up in the midst of those looking at it. The cross was thus discovered, and was consecrated with all due ceremony.
Such were the things accomplished by Helena, while, under a Christian prince, the world had both attained to liberty, and possessed in him an exemplar of faith. But a far more dreadful danger than all that had preceded fell upon all the churches from that state of tranquillity. For then the Arian heresy burst forth, and disturbed the whole world by the error which it instilled. For by means of the two Ariuses, who were the most active originators of this unfaithfulness, the emperor himself was led astray; and while he seemed to himself to fulfill a religious duty, he proceeded to a violent exercise of persecution. The bishops were driven into exile: cruelty was exerted against the clerics; and even the laity were punished, who had separated from the communion of the Arians. Now, the doctrines which the Arians proclaimed were of the following nature, — that God the Father had begotten his Son for the purpose of creating the world; and that, by his power, he had made out of nothing into a new and second substance, a new and second God; and that there was a time when the Son had no existence. To meet this evil, a synod was convened from the whole world to meet at Nicæa. Three hundred and eighteen bishops were there assembled: the faith was fully set forth in writing; the Arian heresy was condemned; and the emperor confirmed the whole by an imperial decree. The Arians, then, not daring to make any further attempt against the orthodox faith, mixed themselves among the churches, as if they acquiesced in the conclusions which had been reached, and did not hold any different opinions. There remained, however, in their hearts, a deep-seated hatred against the Catholics, and they assailed, with suborned accusers and trumped-up charges, those with whom they could not contend in argument on matters of faith.
Accordingly, they first attack and condemn in his absence Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, a holy man, who had been present as deacon at the Synod of Nicæa. For they added to the charges which false witnesses had heaped up against him, this one, that, with wicked intentions, he had received Marcellus and Photinus, heretical priests who had been condemned by a sentence of the Synod. Now, it was not doubtful as to Photinus that he had been justly condemned. But in the case of Marcellus, it seemed that nothing had then been found worthy of condemnation, and a belief in his innocence was above all strengthened by the animus of that party, inasmuch as no one doubted that those same judges were heretical by whom he had been condemned. But the Arians did not so much desire to get these persons out of the way as Athanasius himself. Accordingly, they constrain the emperor to go so far as this, that Athanasius should be sent as an exile into Gaul. But ere long, eighty bishops, assembling together in Egypt, declare that Athanasius had been unjustly condemned. The matter is referred to Constantine: he orders bishops from the whole world to assemble at Sardes, and that the entire process by which Athanasius had been condemned, should be reconsidered by the council. In the meantime, Constantine dies, but the Synod, called together while he was yet emperor, acquits Athanasius. Marcellus, too, is restored to his bishopric, but the sentence on Photinus, bishop of Sirmion, was not rescinded; for even in the judgment of our friends, he is regarded as a heretic. However, even this result chagrined Marcellus, because Photinus was known to have been his disciple in his youth. But this, too, tended to secure an acquittal for Athanasius, that Ursatius and Valens, leading men among the Arians, when they were openly separated from the communion of the Church after the Synod at Sardes, entering into the presence of Julius, bishop of Rome, asked pardon of him for having condemned the innocent, and publicly declared that he had been justly acquitted by the decree of the Council of Sardes.
When, after an interval of some time had elapsed, Athanasius, finding that Marcellus was by no means sound in the faith, suspended him from communion. And he had this degree of modesty, that, being censured by the judgment of so great a man, he voluntarily gave way. But though at a former period innocent, yet confessedly afterwards becoming heretical, it may be allowed to conclude that he was really then guilty when judgment was pronounced regarding him. The Arians, then, finding an opportunity of that kind, conspire to subvert altogether the decrees of the Synod of Sardes. For a certain coloring of right seemed to be furnished them in this fact, that a favorable judgment had as unjustly been formed on the side of Athanasius, as Marcellus had been improperly acquitted, since now, even in the opinion of Athanasius himself, he was deemed a heretic. For Marcellus had stood forward as an upholder of the Sabellian heresy. But Photinus had already brought forward a new heresy, differing indeed from Sabellius with respect to the union of the divine persons, but proclaiming that Christ had his beginning in Mary. The Arians, therefore, with cunning design, mix up what was harmless with what was blameworthy, and embrace, under the same judgment, the condemnation of Photinus, and Marcellus, and Athanasius. They undoubtedly did this with the view of leading the minds of the ignorant to conclude, that those had not judged incorrectly regarding Athanasius, who, it was admitted, had expressed a well-based opinion respecting Marcellus and Photinus. At that time, however, the Arians concealed their treachery; and not daring openly to proclaim their erroneous doctrines, they professed themselves Catholics. They thought that their first great object should be to get Athanasius turned out of the church, who had always presented a wall of opposition to their endeavors, and they hoped that, if he were removed, the rest would pass over to their evil opinion. Now, that part of the bishops which followed the Arians accepted the condemnation of Athanasius with delight. Another part, constrained by fear and faction, yielded to the wish of the Arian party; and only a few, to whom the true faith was dearer than any other consideration, refused to accept their unjust judgment. Among these was Paulinus, the bishop of Treves. It is related that he, when a letter on the subject was placed before him, thus wrote, that he gave his consent to the condemnation of Photinus and Marcellus, but did not approve that of Athanasius.
But then the Arians, seeing that stratagem did not succeed, determined to proceed by force. For it was easy for those to attempt and carry out anything who were supported by the favor of the monarch, whom they had thoroughly won over to themselves by wicked flatteries. Moreover, they were by the consent of all unconquerable; for almost all the bishops of the two Pannonias, and many of the Eastern bishops, and those throughout all Asia, had joined in their unfaithfulness. But the chief men in that evil company were Ursatius of Singidunum, Valens of Mursa, Theodorus of Heraclia, Stephanus of Antioch, Acatius of Cæsarea, Menofantus of Ephesus, Georgius of Laodicia, and Narcissus of Neronopolis. These had got possession of the palace to such an extent that the emperor did nothing without their concurrence. He was indeed at the beck of all of them, but was especially under the influence of Valens. For at that time, when a battle was fought at Mursa against Magnentius, Constantius had not the courage to go down to witness for himself the conflict, but took up his abode in a church of the martyrs which stood outside the town, Valens who was then the bishop of the place being with him to keep up his courage. But Valens had cunningly arranged, through means of his agents, that he should be the first to be made acquainted with the result of the battle. He did this either to gain the favor of the king, if he should be the first to convey to him good news, or with a view to saving his own life, since he would obtain time for flight, should the issue prove unfortunate. Accordingly, the few persons who were with the king being in a state of alarm, and the emperor himself being a prey to anxiety, Valens was the first to announce to them the flight of the enemy. When Constantius requested that the person who had brought the news should be introduced to his presence, Valens, to increase the reverence felt for himself, said that an angel was the messenger who had come to him. The emperor, who was easy of belief, was accustomed afterwards openly to declare that he had won the victory through the merits of Valens, and not by the valor of his army.
From this first proof that the prince had been won over to their side, the Arians plucked up their courage, knowing that they could make use of the power of the king, when they could make little impression by their own authority. Accordingly, when our friends did not accept of the judgment which they had pronounced in regard to Athanasius, an edict was issued by the emperor to the effect that those who did not subscribe to the condemnation of Athanasius should be sent into banishment. But, at that time, councils of bishops were held by our friends at Arles and Bitteræ, towns situated in Gaul. They requested that before any were compelled to subscribe against Athanasius, they should rather enter on a discussion as to the true faith; and maintained that only then was a decision to be come to respecting the point in question, when they had agreed as to the person of the judges. But Valens and his confederates not venturing on a discussion respecting the faith, first desired to secure by force the condemnation of Athanasius. Owing to this conflict of parties, Paulinus was driven into banishment. In the meantime, an assembly was held at Milan, where the emperor then was; but the same controversy was there continued without any relaxation of its bitterness. Then Eusebius, bishop of the Vercellenses, and Lucifer, bishop of Caralis in Sardinia, were exiled. Dionysius, however, priest of Milan, subscribed to the condemnation of Athanasius, on the condition that there should be an investigation among the bishops as to the true faith. But Valens and Ursatius, with the rest of that party, through fear of the people, who maintained the Catholic faith with extraordinary enthusiasm, did not venture to set forth in public their monstrous doctrines, but assembled within the palace. From that place, and under the name of the emperor, they issued a letter full of all sorts of wickedness, with this purpose, no doubt, that, if the people gave it a favorable hearing, they should then bring forward, under public authority, the things which they desired; but if it should be received otherwise, that all the ill feeling might be directed against the king, while his mistake might be regarded as excusable, because being then only a catechumen, he might readily be supposed to have erred concerning the mysteries of the faith. Well, when the letter was read in the church, the people expressed their aversion to it. And Dionysius, because he did not concur with them, was banished from the city, while Auxentius was immediately chosen as bishop in his place. Liberius, too, bishop of the city of Rome, and Hilarius, bishop of Poictiers, were driven into exile. Rhodanius, also, bishop of Toulouse (who, being by nature of a softer disposition, had resisted the Arians, not so much from his own powers as from his fellowship with Hilarius) was involved in the same punishment. All these persons, however, were prepared to suspend Athanasius from communion, only in order that an inquiry might be instituted among the bishops as to the true faith. But it seemed best to the Arians to withdraw the most celebrated men from the controversy. Accordingly, those whom we have mentioned above were driven into exile, forty-five years ago, when Arbitio and Lollianus were consuls. Liberius, however, was, a little afterwards, restored to the city, in consequence of the disturbances at Rome. But it is well known that the persons exiled were celebrated by the admiration of the whole world, and that abundant supplies of money were collected to meet their wants, while they were visited by deputies of the Catholic people from almost all the provinces.
In the meantime, the Arians, not secretly, as before, but openly and publicly proclaimed their monstrous heretical doctrines. Moreover, they interpreted after their own views the Synod of Nicæa, and by the addition of one letter to its finding, threw a sort of obscurity over the truth. For where the expression Homoousion had been written, which denotes
of one substance, they maintained that it was written Homoiousion, which simply means
of like substance. They thus granted a likeness, but took away unity; for likeness is very different from unity; just as, for illustration's sake, a picture of a human body might be like a man, and yet possess nothing of the reality of a man. But some of them went even farther, and maintained Anomoiousia, that is, an unlike substance. And to such a pitch did these controversies extend, that the wide world was involved in these monstrous errors. For Valens and Ursatius, with their supporters, whose names we have stated, infected Italy, Illyria, and the East with these opinions. Saturninus, bishop of Arles, a violent and factious man, harassed our country of Gaul in like manner. There was also a prevalent belief that Osius from Spain had gone over to the same unfaithful party, which appears all the more wonderful and incredible on this account, that he had been, almost during his whole life, the most determined upholder of our views, and the Synod of Nice was regarded as having been held at his instigation. If he did go over, the reason may have been that in his extreme old age (for he was then more than a centenarian, as St. Hilarius relates in his epistles) he had fallen into dotage. While the world was disturbed by these things, and the churches were languishing as if from a sort of disease, an anxiety, less exciting indeed, but no less serious, pressed upon the emperor, that although the Arians, whom he favored, appeared the stronger, yet there was still no agreement among the bishops concerning the faith.
Accordingly, the emperor orders a Synod to assemble at Ariminum, a city of Italy, and instructs Taurus the prefect, not to let them separate, after they were once assembled, until they should agree as to one faith, at the same time promising him the consulship, if he carried the affair to a successful termination. Imperial officers, therefore, being sent through Illyria, Italy, Africa, and the two Gauls, four hundred and rather more Western bishops were summoned or compelled to assemble at Ariminum; and for all of these the emperor had ordered provisions and lodgings to be provided. But that appeared unseemly to the men of our part of the world, that is, to the Aquitanians, the Gauls, and Britons, so that refusing the public supplies, they preferred to live at their own expense. Three only of those from Britain, through want of means of their own, made use of the public bounty, after having refused contributions offered by the rest; for they thought it more dutiful to burden the public treasury than individuals. I have heard that Gavidius, our bishop, was accustomed to refer to this conduct in a censuring sort of way, but I would be inclined to judge far otherwise; and I hold it matter of admiration that the bishops had nothing of their own, while they did not accept assistance from others rather than from the public treasury, so that they burdened nobody. In both points, they thus furnished us with noble example. Nothing worthy of mention is recorded of the others; but I return to the subject in hand. After all the bishops had been collected together, as we have said, a separation of parties took place. Our friends take possession of the church, while the Arians select, as a place for prayer, a temple which was then intentionally standing empty. But these did not amount to more than eighty persons: the rest belonged to our party. Well, after frequent meetings had been held, nothing was really accomplished, our friends continuing in the faith, and the others not abandoning their unfaithfulness. At length it was resolved to send ten deputies to the emperor, that he might learn what was the faith or opinion of the parties, and might know that there could be no peace with heretics. The Arians do the same thing, and send a like number of deputies, who should contend with our friends in the presence of the emperor. But on the part of our people, young men of but little learning and little prudence had been selected; while, on the side of the Arians, old men were sent, skillful and abounding in talent, thoroughly imbued, too, with their old unfaithful doctrines; and these easily got the upper hand with the prince. But our friends had been specially charged not to enter into any kind of communion with the Arians, and to reserve every point, in its entirety, for discussion in a Synod.
In the meantime in the East, after the example of the West, the emperor ordered almost all the bishops to assemble at Seleucia, a town of Isauria. At that time, Hilarius, who was now spending the fourth year of his exile in Phrygia, is compelled to be present among the other bishops, the means of a public conveyance being furnished to him by the lieutenant and governor. As, however, the emperor had given no special orders regarding him, the judges, simply following the general order by which they were commanded to gather all bishops to the council, sent him also among the rest who were willing to go. This was done, as I imagine, by the special ordination of God, in order that a man who was most deeply instructed in divine things, might be present when a discussion was to be carried on respecting the faith. He, on arriving at Seleucia, was received with great favor, and drew the minds and affections of all towards himself. His first inquiry was as to the real faith of the Gauls, because at that time the Arians had spread evil reports regarding us, and we were held suspected by the Easterns as having embraced the belief of Sabellius, to the effect that the unity of the one God was simply distinguished by a threefold name. But after he had set forth his faith in harmony with those conclusions which had been reached by the fathers at Nicæa, he bore his testimony in favor of the Westerns. Thus the minds of all having been satisfied, he was admitted to communion, and being also received into alliance, was added to the council. They then proceeded to actual work, and the originators of the wicked heresy being discovered, were separated from the body of the Church. In that number were Georgius of Alexandria, Acacius, Eudoxius, Vranius, Leontius, Theodosius, Evagrius, Theodulus. But when the Synod was over, an embassy was appointed to go to the emperor and make him acquainted with what had been done. Those who had been condemned also went to the prince, relying upon the power of their confederates, and a common cause with the monarch.
In the meantime, the emperor compels those deputies of our party who had been sent from the council at Ariminum to join in communion with the heretics. At the same time, he hands them a confession of faith which had been drawn up by these wicked men, and which, being expressed in deceptive terms, seemed to exhibit the Catholic faith, while unfaithfulness secretly lay hid in it. For under an appearance of false reasoning, it abolished the use of the word Ousia as being ambiguous, and as having been too hastily adopted by the fathers, while it rested upon no Scriptural authority. The object of this was that the Son might not be believed to be of one substance with the Father. The same confession of faith acknowledged that the Son was like the Father. But deception was carefully prepared within the words, in order that he might be like, but not equal. Thus, the deputies being sent away, orders were given to the prefect that he should not dissolve the Synod, until all professed by their subscriptions their agreement to the declaration of faith which had been drawn up; and if any should hold back with excessive obstinacy, they should be driven into banishment, provided their number did not amount to fifteen. But when the deputies returned, they were refused communion, although they pleaded the force which had been brought to bear upon them by the king. For when it was discovered what had been decreed, greater disturbance arose in their affairs and purposes. Then by degrees numbers of our people, partly overcome through the weakness of their character, and partly influenced by the thought of a weary journeying into foreign lands, surrendered to the opposite party. These were now, on the return of the deputies, the stronger of the two bodies, and had taken possession of the church, our friends being driven out of it. And when the minds of our people once began to incline in that direction, they rushed in flocks over to the other side, until the number of our friends was diminished down to twenty.
But these, the fewer they became, showed themselves all the more powerful; as the most steadfast among them was to be reckoned our friend Fœgadius, and Servatio, bishop of the Tungri. As these had not yielded to threats and terrors, Taurus assails them with entreaties, and beseeches them with tears to adopt milder counsels. He argued that the bishops were now in the seventh month since they had been shut up within one city — that no hope of returning home presented itself to them, worn out by the inclemency of winter and positive want; and what then would be the end? He urged them to follow the example of the majority, and to derive authority for so doing at least from the numbers who had preceded them. For Fœgadius openly declared that he was prepared for banishment, and for every kind of punishment that might be assigned him, but would not accept that confession of faith which had been drawn up by the Arians. Thus several days passed in this sort of discussion. And when they made little progress towards a pacification, by degrees Fœgadius began to yield, and at the last was overcome by a proposal which was made to him. For Valens and Ursatius affirmed that the present confession of faith was drawn up on the lines of Catholic doctrine, and having been brought forward by the Easterns at the instigation of the emperor, could not be rejected without impiety; and what possible end of strife could there be if a confession which satisfied the Easterns was rejected by those of the West? Finally, if there appeared anything less fully stated in the present confession than was desirable, they themselves should add what they thought ought to be added, and that they, for their part, would acquiesce in those things which might be added. This friendly profession was received with favorable minds by all. Nor did our people venture any longer to make opposition, desiring as they did in some way or other now to put an end to the business. Then confessions drawn up by Fœgadius and Servatio began to be published; and in these first Arius and his whole unfaithful scheme was condemned, while the Son of God also was pronounced equal to the Father, and without beginning, [that is] without any commencement in time. Then Valens, as if assisting our friends, subjoined the statement (in which there lurked a secret guile) that the Son of God was not a creature like the other creatures; and the deceit involved in this declaration escaped the notice of the hearers. For in these words, in which the Son was denied to be like the other creatures, he was nevertheless pronounced a creature, only superior to the rest. Thus neither party could hold that it had wholly conquered or had wholly been conquered, since the confession itself was in favor of the Arians, but the declarations afterwards added were in favor of our friends. That one, however, must be excepted which Valens had subjoined, and which, not being at the time understood, was at length comprehended when it was too late. In this way, at any rate, the council was brought to an end, a council which had a good beginning but a disgraceful conclusion.
Thus, then, the Arians, with their affairs in a very flourishing condition, and everything turning out according to their wishes, go in a body to Constantinople where the emperor was. There they found the deputies from the Synod of Seleucia, and compel them by an exercise of the royal power to follow the example of the Westerns, and accept that heretical confession of faith. Numbers who refused were tortured with painful imprisonment and hunger, so that at length they yielded their conscience captive. But many who resisted more courageously, being deprived of their bishoprics, were driven into exile, and others substituted in their place. Thus, the best priests being either terrified by threats, or driven into exile, all gave way before the unfaithfulness of a few. Hilarius was there at the time, having followed the deputies from Seleucia; and as no certain orders had been given regarding him, he was waiting on the will of the emperor to see whether perchance he should be ordered to return into banishment. When he perceived the extreme danger into which the faith had been brought, inasmuch as the Westerns had been beguiled, and the Easterns were being overcome by means of wickedness, he, in three papers publicly presented, begged an audience of the king, in order that he might debate on points of faith in the presence of his adversaries. But the Arians opposed that to the utmost extent of their ability. Finally, Hilarius was ordered to return to Gaul, as being a sower of discord, and a troubler of the East, while the sentence of exile against him remained uncanceled. But when he had wandered over almost the whole earth which was infected with the evil of unfaithfulness, his mind was full of doubt and deeply agitated with the mighty burden of cares which pressed upon it. Perceiving that it seemed good to many not to enter into communion with those who had acknowledged the Synod of Ariminum, he thought the best thing he could do was to bring back all to repentance and reformation. In frequent councils within Gaul, and while almost all the bishops publicly owned the error that had been committed, he condemns the proceedings at Ariminum, and frames anew the faith of the churches after its pristine form. Saturninus, however, bishop of Arles, who was, in truth, a very bad man, of an evil and corrupt character, resisted these sound measures. He was, in fact, a man who, besides the infamy of being a heretic, was convicted of many unspeakable crimes, and cast out of the Church. Thus, having lost its leader, the strength of the party opposed to Hilarius was broken. Paternus also of Petrocorii, equally infatuated, and not shrinking from openly professing unfaithfulness, was expelled from the priesthood: pardon was extended to the others. This fact is admitted by all, that our regions of Gaul were set free from the guilt of heresy through the kind efforts of Hilarius alone. But Lucifer, who was then at Antioch held a very different opinion. For he condemned those who assembled at Ariminum to such an extent, that he even separated himself from the communion of those who had received them as friends, after they had made satisfaction or exhibited penitence. Whether this resolution of his was right or wrong, I will not take upon me to say. Paulinus and Rhodanius died in Phrygia; Hilarius died in his native country in the sixth year after his return.
There follow the times of our own day, both difficult and dangerous. In these the churches have been defiled with no ordinary evil, and all things thrown into confusion. For then, for the first time, the infamous heresy of the Gnostics was detected in Spain— a deadly superstition which concealed itself under mystic rites. The birthplace of that mischief was the East, and specially Egypt, but from what beginnings it there sprang up and increased is not easy to explain. Marcus was the first to introduce it into Spain, having set out from Egypt, his birthplace being Memphis. His pupils were a certain Agape, a woman of no mean origin, and a rhetorician named Helpidius. By these again Priscillian was instructed, a man of noble birth, of great riches, bold, restless, eloquent, learned through much reading, very ready at debate and discussion — in fact, altogether a happy man, if he had not ruined an excellent intellect by wicked studies. Undoubtedly, there were to be seen in him many admirable qualities both of mind and body. He was able to spend much time in watchfulness, and to endure both hunger and thirst; he had little desire for amassing wealth, and he was most economical in the use of it. But at the same time he was a very vain man, and was much more puffed up than he ought to have been with the knowledge of mere earthly things: moreover, it was believed that he had practised magical arts from his boyhood. He, after having himself adopted the pernicious system referred to, drew into its acceptance many persons of noble rank and multitudes of the common people by the arts of persuasion and flattery which he possessed. Besides this, women who were fond of novelties and of unstable faith, as well as of a prurient curiosity in all things, flocked to him in crowds. It increased this tendency that he exhibited, a kind of humility in his countenance and manner, and thus excited in all a greater honor and respect for himself. And now by degrees the wasting disorder of that heresy had pervaded the most of Spain, and even some of the bishops came under its depraving influence. Among these, Instantius and Salvianus had taken up the cause of Priscillian, not only by expressing their concurrence in his views, but even by binding themselves to him with a kind of oath. This went on until Hyginus, bishop of Cordova, who dwelt in the vicinity, found out how matters stood, and reported the whole to Ydacius, priest of Emerita. But he, by harassing Instantius and his confederates without measure, and beyond what the occasion called for, applied, as it were, a torch to the growing conflagration, so that he rather exasperated than suppressed these evil men.
So, then, after many controversies among them, which are not worthy of mention, a Synod was assembled at Saragossa, at which even the Aquitanian bishops were present. But the heretics did not venture to submit themselves to the judgment of the council; sentence, however, was passed against them in their absence, and Instantius and Salvianus, bishops, with Helpidius and Priscillian, laymen, were condemned. It was also added that if any one should admit the condemned persons to communion, he should understand that the same sentence would be pronounced against himself. And the duty was entrusted to Ithacius, bishop of Sossuba, of seeing that the decree of the bishops was brought to the knowledge of all, and that Hyginus especially should be excluded from communion, who, though he had been the first to commence open proceedings against the heretics, had afterwards fallen away shamefully and admitted them to communion. In the meantime, Instantius and Salvianus, having been condemned by the judgment of the priests, appoint as bishop in the town of Arles, Priscillian, a layman indeed, but the leader in all these troubles, and who had been condemned along with themselves in the Synod at Saragossa. This they did with the view of adding to their strength, doubtless imagining that, if they armed with sacerdotal authority a man of bold and subtle character, they would find themselves in a safer position. But then Ydacius and Ithacius pressed forward their measures more ardently, in the belief that the mischief might be suppressed at its beginning. With unwise counsels, however, they applied to secular judges, that by their decrees and prosecutions the heretics might be expelled from the cities. Accordingly, after many disgraceful squabbles, a rescript was, on the entreaty of Ydacius, obtained from Gratianus, who was then emperor, in virtue of which all heretics were enjoined not only to leave churches or cities, but to be driven forth beyond all the territory under his jurisdiction. When this edict became known, the Gnostics, distrusting their own affairs, did not venture to oppose the judgment, but those of them who bore the name of bishops gave way of their own accord, while fear scattered the rest.
And then Instantius, Salvianus, and Priscillian set out for Rome, in order that before Damasus who was at that time the bishop of the city, they might clear themselves of the charges brought against them. Well, their journey led them through the heart of Aquitania, and being there received with great pomp by such as knew no better, they spread the seeds of their heresy. Above all, they perverted by their evil teachings the people of Elusa, who were then of a good and religious disposition. They were driven forth from Bordeaux by Delfinus, yet lingering for a little while in the territory of Euchrotia, they infected some with their errors. They then pursued the journey on which they had entered, attended by a base and shameful company, among whom were their wives and even strange women. In the number of these was Euchrotia and her daughter Procula, of the latter of whom there was a common report that, when pregnant through adultery with Priscillian, she procured abortion by the use of certain plants. When they reached Rome with the wish of clearing themselves before Damasus, they were not even admitted to his presence. Returning to Milan, they found that Ambrose was equally opposed to them. Then they changed their plans, with the view that, as they had not got the better of the two bishops, who were at that time possessed of the highest authority, they might, by bribery and flattery, obtain what they desired from the emperor. Accordingly, having won over Macedonius, who was the master of public services, they procured a rescript, by which, those decrees which had formerly been made being trampled under foot, they were ordered to be restored to their churches. Relying upon this, Instantius and Priscillian made their wayback to Spain (for Salvianus had died in the city); and they then, without any struggle, recovered the churches over which they had ruled.
But the power, not the will, to resist, failed Ithacius; for the heretics had won over by bribes Voluentius, the proconsul, and thus consolidated their own power. Moreover, Ithacius was put on his trial, by these men as being a disturber of the churches, and he having been ordered as the result of a fierce prosecution, to be carried off as a prisoner, fled in terror into Gaul, where he betook himself to Gregory the prefect. He, after he learned what had taken place, orders the authors of these tumults to be brought before himself, and makes a report on all that had occurred to the emperor, in order that he might close against the heretics every means of flattery or bribery. But that was done in vain; because, through the licentiousness and power of a few, all things were there to be purchased. Accordingly, the heretics by their artifices, having presented Macedonius with a large sum of money, secure that, by the imperial authority, the hearing of the trial was taken from the prefect, and transferred to the lieutenant in Spain. By that time, the Spaniards had ceased to have a proconsul as ruler, and officials were sent by the Master to bring back to Spain Ithacius who was then living at Treves. He, however, craftily escaped them, and being subsequently defended by the bishop Pritannius, he set them at defiance. Then, too, a faint rumor had spread that Maximus had assumed imperial power in Britain, and would, in a short time, make an incursion into Gaul. Accordingly, Ithacius then resolved, although his affairs were in a ticklish state, to wait the arrival of the new emperor; and that, in the meantime, no step should on his part be taken. When therefore Maximus, as victor, entered the town of the Treveri, he poured forth entreaties full of ill-will and accusations against Priscillian and his confederates. The emperor influenced by these statements sent letters to the prefect of Gaul and to the lieutenant in Spain, ordering that all whom that disgraceful heresy had affected should be brought to a Synod at Bordeaux. Accordingly, Instantius and Priscillian were escorted there and, of these, Instantius was enjoined to plead his cause; and after he was found unable to clear himself, he was pronounced unworthy of the office of a bishop. But Priscillian, in order that he might avoid being heard by the bishops, appealed to the emperor. And that was permitted to be done through the want of resolution on the part of our friends, who ought either to have passed a sentence even against one who resisted it, or, if they were regarded as themselves suspicious persons, should have reserved the hearing for other bishops, and should not have transferred to the emperor a cause involving such manifest offenses.
Thus, then, all whom the process embraced were brought before the king. The bishops Ydacius and Ithacius followed as accusers; and I would by no means blame their zeal in overthrowing heretics, if they had not contended for victory with greater keenness than was fitting. And my feeling indeed is, that the accusers were as distasteful to me as the accused. I certainly hold that Ithacius had no worth or holiness about him. For he was a bold, loquacious, impudent, and extravagant man; excessively devoted to the pleasures of sensuality. He proceeded even to such a pitch of folly as to charge all those men, however holy, who either took delight in reading, or made it their object to vie with each other in the practice of fasting, with being friends or disciples of Priscillian. The miserable wretch even ventured publicly to bring forward a disgraceful charge of heresy against Martin, who was at that time a bishop, and a man clearly worthy of being compared to the Apostles. For Martin, being then settled at Treves, did not cease to importune Ithacius, that he should give up his accusations, or to implore Maximus that he should not shed the blood of the unhappy persons in question. He maintained that it was quite sufficient punishment that, having been declared heretics by a sentence of the bishops, they should have been expelled from the churches; and that it was, besides, a foul and unheard-of indignity, that a secular ruler should be judge in an ecclesiastical cause. And, in fact, as long as Martin survived, the trial was put off; while, when he was about to leave this world, he, by his remarkable influence, obtained a promise from Maximus, that no cruel measure would be resolved on with respect to the guilty persons. But subsequently, the emperor being led astray by Magnus and Rufus, and turned from the milder course which Martin had counseled, entrusted the case to the prefect Evodius, a man of stern and severe character. He tried Priscillian in two assemblies, and convicted him of evil conduct. In fact, Priscillian did not deny that he had given himself up to lewd doctrines; had been accustomed to hold, by night, gatherings of vile women, and to pray in a state of nudity. Accordingly, Evodius pronounced him guilty, and sent him back to prison, until he had time to consult the emperor. The matter, then, in all its details, was reported to the palace, and the emperor decreed that Priscillian and his friends should be put to death.
But Ithacius, seeing how much ill-will it would excite against him among the bishops, if he should stand forth as accuser also at the last trial on a capital charge (for it was requisite that the trial should be repeated), withdrew from the prosecution. His cunning, however, in thus acting was in vain, as the mischief was already accomplished. Well, a certain Patricius, an advocate connected with the treasury, was then appointed accuser by Maximus. Accordingly, under him as prosecutor, Priscillian was condemned to death, and along with him, Felicissimus and Armenius, who, when they were clerics, had lately adopted the cause of Priscillian, and revolted from the Catholics. Latronianus, too, and Euchrotia were beheaded. Instantius, who, as we have said above, had been condemned by the bishops, was transported to the island of Sylina which lies beyond Britain. A process was then instituted against the others in trials which followed, and Asarivus, and Aurelius the deacon, were condemned to be beheaded, while Tiberianus was deprived of his goods, and banished to the island of Sylina. Tertullus, Potamius, and Joannes, as being persons of less consideration, and worthy of some merciful treatment, inasmuch as before the trial they had made a confession, both as to themselves and their confederates, were sentenced to a temporary banishment into Gaul. In this sort of way, men who were most unworthy of the light of day, were, in order that they might serve as a terrible example to others, either put to death or punished with exile. That conduct which he had at first defended by his right of appeal to the tribunals, and by regard to the public good, Ithacius, harassed with invectives, and at last overcome, threw the blame of upon those, by whose direction and counsels he had effected his object. Yet he was the only one of all of them who was thrust out of the episcopate. For Ydacius, although less guilty, had voluntarily resigned his bishopric: that was wisely and respectfully done, had he not afterward spoiled the credit of such a step by endeavoring to recover the position which had been lost. Well, after the death of Priscillian, not only was the heresy not suppressed, which, under him, as its author, had burst forth, but acquiring strength, it became more widely spread. For his followers who had previously honored him as a saint, subsequently began to reverence him as a martyr. The bodies of those who had been put to death were conveyed to Spain, and their funerals were celebrated with great pomp. Nay, it came to be thought the highest exercise of religion to swear by Priscillian. But between them and our friends, a perpetual war of quarreling has been kept up. And that conflict, after being sustained for fifteen years with horrible dissension, could not by any means be set at rest. And now all things were seen to be disturbed and confused by the discord, especially of the bishops, while everything was corrupted by them through their hatred, partiality, fear, faithlessness, envy, factiousness, lust, avarice, pride, sleepiness, and inactivity. In a word, a large number were striving with insane plans and obstinate inclinations against a few giving wise counsel: while, in the meantime, the people of God, and all the excellent of the earth were exposed to mockery and insult.
Source. Translated by Alexander Roberts. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 11. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/35052.htm>.
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