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When the business at Nicæa had been transacted as above related, the priests returned home. The emperor rejoiced exceedingly at the restoration of unity of opinion in the Catholic Church, and desirous of expressing in behalf of himself, his children, and the empire, the gratitude towards God which the unanimity of the bishops inspired, he directed that a house of prayer should be erected to God at Jerusalem near the place called Calvary. At the same time his mother Helena repaired to the city for the purpose of offering up prayer, and of visiting the sacred places. Her zeal for Christianity made her anxious to find the wood which had formed the adorable cross. But it was no easy matter to discover either this relic or the Lord's sepulchre; for the Pagans, who in former times had persecuted the Church, and who, at the first promulgation of Christianity, had had recourse to every artifice to exterminate it, had concealed that spot under much heaped up earth, and elevated what before was quite depressed, as it looks now, and the more effectually to conceal them, had enclosed the entire place of the resurrection and Mount Calvary within a wall, and had, moreover, ornamented the whole locality, and paved it with stone. They also erected a temple to Aphrodite, and set up a little image, so that those who repaired there to worship Christ would appear to bow the knee to Aphrodite, and that thus the true cause of offering worship in that place would, in course of time, be forgotten; and that as Christians would not dare fearlessly to frequent the place or to point it out to others, the temple and statue would come to be regarded as exclusively appertaining to the Pagans. At length, however, the place was discovered, and the fraud about it so zealously maintained was detected; some say that the facts were first disclosed by a Hebrew who dwelt in the East, and who derived his information from some documents which had come to him by paternal inheritance; but it seems more accordant with truth to suppose that God revealed the fact by means of signs and dreams; for I do not think that human information is requisite when God thinks it best to make manifest the same. When by command of the emperor the place was excavated deeply, the cave whence our Lord arose from the dead was discovered; and at no great distance, three crosses were found and another separate piece of wood, on which were inscribed in white letters in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin, the following words:
Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. These words, as the sacred book of the gospels relates, were placed by command of Pilate, governor of Judæa, over the head of Christ. There yet, however, remained a difficulty in distinguishing the Divine cross from the others; for the inscription had been wrenched from it and thrown aside, and the cross itself had been cast aside with the others, without any distinction, when the bodies of the crucified were taken down. For according to history, the soldiers found Jesus dead upon the cross, and they took him down, and gave him up to be buried; while, in order to accelerate the death of the two thieves, who were crucified on either hand, they broke their legs, and then took down the crosses, and flung them out of the way. It was no concern of theirs to deposit the crosses in their first order; for it was growing late, and as the men were dead, they did not think it worth while to remain to attend to the crosses. A more Divine information than could be furnished by man was therefore necessary in order to distinguish the Divine cross from the others, and this revelation was given in the following manner: There was a certain lady of rank in Jerusalem who was afflicted with a most grievous and incurable disease; Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem, accompanied by the mother of the emperor and her attendants, repaired to her bedside. After engaging in prayer, Macarius signified by signs to the spectators that the Divine cross would be the one which, on being brought in contact with the invalid, should remove the disease. He approached her in turn with each of the crosses; but when two of the crosses were laid on her, it seemed but folly and mockery to her for she was at the gates of death. When, however, the third cross was in like manner brought to her, she suddenly opened her eyes, regained her strength, and immediately sprang from her bed, well. It is said that a dead person was, in the same way, restored to life. The venerated wood having been thus identified, the greater portion of it was deposited in a silver case, in which it is still preserved in Jerusalem: but the empress sent part of it to her son Constantine, together with the nails by which the body of Christ had been fastened. Of these, it is related, the emperor had a head-piece and bit made for his horse, according to the prophecy of Zechariah, who referred to this period when he said,
that which shall be upon the bit of the horse shall be holy to the Lord Almighty. Zechariah 14:20 These things, indeed, were formerly known to the sacred prophets, and predicted by them, and at length, when it seemed to God that they should be manifested, were confirmed by wonderful works. Nor does this appear so marvelous when it is remembered that, even among the Pagans, it was confessed that the Sibyl had predicted that thus it should be —
Oh most blessed tree, on which our Lord was hung.
The above incidents we have related precisely as they were delivered to us by men of great accuracy, by whom the information was derived by succession from father to son; and others have recorded the same events in writing for the benefit of posterity.
About this period, the emperor, having determined upon erecting a temple in honor of God, charged the governors to see that the work was executed in the most magnificent and costly manner possible. His mother Helena also erected two temples, the one at Bethlehem near the cave where Christ was born, the other on ridges of the Mount of Olives, whence He was taken up to heaven. Many other acts show her piety and religiousness, among which the following is not the least remarkable: During her residence at Jerusalem, it is related that she assembled the sacred virgins at a feast, ministered to them at supper, presented them with food, poured water on their hands, and performed other similar services customary to those who wait upon guests. When she visited the cities of the East, she bestowed befitting gifts on the churches in every town, enriched those individuals who had been deprived of their possessions, supplied ungrudgingly the necessities of the poor, and restored to liberty those who had been long imprisoned, or condemned to exile or the mines. It seems to me that so many holy actions demanded a recompense; and indeed, even in this life, she was raised to the summit of magnificence and splendor; she was proclaimed Augusta; her image was stamped on golden coins, and she was invested by her son with authority over the imperial treasury to give it according to her judgment. Her death, too, was glorious; for when, at the age of eighty, she quitted this life, she left her son and her descendants (like her of the race of Cæsar), masters of the Roman world. And if there be any advantage in such fame — forgetfulness did not conceal her though she was dead — the coming age has the pledge of her perpetual memory; for two cities are named after her, the one in Bithynia, and the other in Palestine. Such is the history of Helena.
The emperor, always intent on the advancement of religion, erected the most beautiful temples to God in every place, particularly in metropolises, such as Nicomedia in Bithynia, Antioch on the river Orontes, and Byzantium. He greatly improved this latter city, and constituted it the equal of Rome in power, and participation in the government; for, when he had settled the affairs of the empire according to his own mind, and had rectified foreign affairs by wars and treaties, he resolved upon founding a city which should be called by his own name, and should be equal in celebrity to Rome. With this intention, he repaired to a plain at the foot of Troy, near the Hellespont, above the tomb of Ajax, where, it is said, the Achaians had their naval stations and tents while besieging Troy; and here he laid the plan of a large and beautiful city, and built the gates on an elevated spot of ground, whence they are still visible from the sea to those sailing by. But when he had advanced thus far, God appeared to him by night, and commanded him to seek another spot. Led by the hand of God, he arrived at Byzantium in Thrace, beyond Chalcedon in Bithynia, and here he was desired to build his city and to render it worthy of the name of Constantine. In obedience to the words of God, he therefore enlarged the city formerly called Byzantium, and surrounded it with high walls. He also erected magnificent dwelling houses southward through the regions. Since he was aware that the former population was insufficient for so great a city, he peopled it with men of rank and their households, whom he summoned hither from the elder Rome and from other countries. He imposed taxes to cover the expenses of building and adorning the city, and of supplying its inhabitants with food, and providing the city with all the other requisites. He adorned it sumptuously with a hippodrome, fountains, porticos, and other structures. He named it New Rome and Constantinople, and constituted it the imperial capital for all the inhabitants of the North, the South, the East, and the shores of the Mediterranean, from the cities on the Ister and from Epidamnus and the Ionian gulf, to Cyrene and that part of Libya called Borium.
He constructed another council house which they call senate; he ordered the same honors and festal days as those customary to the other Romans, and he did not fail studiously to make the city which bore his name equal in every respect to that of Rome in Italy; nor were his wishes thwarted; for by the assistance of God, it had to be confessed as great in population and wealth. I know of no cause to account for this extraordinary aggrandizement, unless it be the piety of the builder and of the inhabitants, and their compassion and liberality towards the poor. The zeal they manifested for the Christian faith was so great that many of the Jewish inhabitants and most of the Greeks were converted. As this city became the capital of the empire during the period of religious prosperity, it was not polluted by altars, Grecian temples, nor sacrifices; and although Julian authorized the introduction of idolatry for a short space of time, it soon afterwards became extinct. Constantine further honored this newly compacted city of Christ, named after himself, by adorning it with numerous and magnificent houses of prayer. And the Deity also co-operated with the spirit of the emperor, and by Divine manifestations persuaded men that these prayer houses in the city were holy and salvatory. According to the general opinion of foreigners and citizens, the most remarkable church was that built in a place formerly called Hestiæ. This place, which is now called Michaelium, lies to the right of those who sail from Pontus to Constantinople, and is about thirty-five stadia distant from the latter city by water, but if you make the circuit of the bay, the journey between them is seventy stadia and upwards. This place obtained the name which now prevails, because it is believed that Michael, the Divine archangel, once appeared there. And I also affirm that this is true, because I myself received the greatest benefits, and the experience of really helpful deeds on the part of many others proves this to be so. For some who had fallen into fearful reverses or unavoidable dangers, others with disease and unknown sufferings, there prayed to God, and met with a change in their misfortunes. I should be prolix were I to give details of circumstance and person. But I cannot omit mentioning the case of Aquilinus, who is even at the present time residing with us, and who is an advocate in the same court of justice as that to which we belong. I shall relate what I heard from him concerning this occurrence and what I saw. Being attacked with a severe fever, arising from a yellowish bile, the physicians gave him some foreign drug to drink. This he vomited, and, by the effort of vomiting, diffused the bile, which tinged his countenance with a yellow color. Hence he had to vomit all his food and drink. For a long time he remained in this state; and since his nourishment would not be quiet in him, the skill of the physicians was at a loss for the suffering. Finding that he was already half dead, he commanded his servant to carry him to the house of prayer; for he affirmed earnestly that there he would either die or be freed from his disease. While he was lying there, a Divine Power appeared to him by night, and commanded him to dip his foot in a confection made of honey, wine, and pepper. The man did so, and was freed from his complaint, although the prescription was contrary to the professional rules of the physicians, a confection of so very hot a nature being considered adverse to a bilious disorder. I have also heard that Probianus, one of the physicians of the palace, who was suffering greatly from a disease in the feet, likewise met with deliverance from sickness at this place, and was accounted worthy of being visited with a wonderful and Divine vision. He had formerly been attached to the Pagan superstitions, but afterwards became a Christian; yet, while he admitted in one way or another the probability of the rest of our doctrines, he could not understand how, by the Divine cross, the salvation of all is effected. While his mind was in doubt on this subject, the symbol of the cross, which lay on the altar of this church, was pointed out to him in the Divine vision, and he heard a voice openly declaring that, as Christ had been crucified on the cross, the necessities of the human race or of individuals, whatsoever they might be, could not be met by the ministration of Divine angels or of pious and good men; for that there was no power to rectify apart from the venerated cross. I have only recorded a few of the incidents which I know to have taken place in this temple, because there is not time to recount them all.
I consider it necessary to detail the proceedings of Constantine in relation to what is called the oak of Mamre. This place is now called Terebinthus, and is about fifteen stadia distant from Hebron, which lies to the south, but is two hundred and fifty stadia distant from Jerusalem. It is recorded that here the Son of God appeared to Abraham, with two angels, who had been sent against Sodom, and foretold the birth of his son. Here the inhabitants of the country and of the regions round Palestine, the Phœnicians, and the Arabians, assemble annually during the summer season to keep a brilliant feast; and many others, both buyers and sellers, resort there on account of the fair. Indeed, this feast is diligently frequented by all nations: by the Jews, because they boast of their descent from the patriarch Abraham; by the Pagans, because angels there appeared to men; and by Christians, because He who for the salvation of mankind was born of a virgin, afterwards manifested Himself there to a godly man. This place was moreover honored fittingly with religious exercises. Here some prayed to the God of all; some called upon the angels, poured out wine, burnt incense, or offered an ox, or he-goat, a sheep, or a cock. Each one made some beautiful product of his labor, and after carefully husbanding it through the entire year, he offered it according to promise as provision for that feast, both for himself and his dependents. And either from honor to the place, or from fear of Divine wrath, they all abstained from coming near their wives, although during the feast these were more than ordinarily studious of their beauty and adornment. Nor, if they chanced to appear and to take part in the public processions, did they act at all licentiously. Nor did they behave imprudently in any other respect, although the tents were contiguous to each other, and they all lay promiscuously together. The place is open country, and arable, and without houses, with the exception of the buildings around Abraham's old oak and the well he prepared. No one during the time of the feast drew water from that well; for according to Pagan usage, some placed burning lamps near it; some poured out wine, or cast in cakes; and others, coins, myrrh, or incense. Hence, as I suppose, the water was rendered useless by commixture with the things cast into it. Once while these customs were being celebrated by the Pagans, after the aforesaid manner, and as was the established usage with hilarity, the mother-in-law of Constantine was present for prayer, and apprised the emperor of what was being done. On receiving this information, he rebuked the bishops of Palestine in no measured terms, because they had neglected their duty, and had permitted a holy place to be defiled by impure libations and sacrifices; and he expressed his godly censure in an epistle which he wrote on the subject to Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem, to Eusebius Pamphilus, and to the bishops of Palestine. He commanded these bishops to hold a conference on this subject with the Phœnician bishops, and issue directions for the demolition, from the foundations, of the altar formerly erected there, the destruction of the carved images by fire, and the erection of a church worthy of so ancient and so holy a place. The emperor finally enjoined, that no libations or sacrifices should be offered on the spot, but that it should be exclusively devoted to the worship of God according to the law of the Church; and that if any attempt should be made to restore the former rites, the bishops were to inform against the delinquent, in order that he might be subjected to the greatest punishment. The governors and priests of Christ strictly enforced the injunctions contained in the emperor's letter.
As many nations and cities throughout the whole realm of his subjects retained a feeling of fear and veneration towards their vain idols, which led them to disregard the doctrines of the Christians, and to have a care for their ancient customs, and the manners and feasts of their fathers, it appeared necessary to the emperor to teach the governors to suppress their superstitious rites of worship. He thought that this would be easily accomplished if he could get them to despise their temples and the images contained therein. To carry this project into execution he did not require military aid; for Christian men belonging to the palace went from city to city bearing imperial letters. The people were induced to remain passive from the fear that, if they resisted these edicts, they, their children, and their wives, would be exposed to evil. The vergers and the priests, being unsupported by the multitude, brought out their most precious treasures, and the idols called διοπετῆ, and through these servitors, the gifts were drawn forth from the shrines and the hidden recesses in the temples. The spots previously inaccessible, and known only to the priests, were made accessible to all who desired to enter. Such of the images as were constructed of precious material, and whatever else was valuable, were purified by fire, and became public property. The brazen images which were skillfully wrought were carried to the city, named after the emperor, and placed there as objects of embellishment, where they may still be seen in public places, as in the streets, the hippodrome, and the palaces. Amongst them was the statue of Apollo which was in the seat of the oracle of the Pythoness, and likewise the statues of the Muses from Helicon, the tripods from Delphos, and the much extolled Pan, which Pausanias the Lacedæmonian and the Grecian cities had devoted — after the war against the Medes.
As to the temples, some were stripped of their doors, others of their roofs, and others were neglected, allowed to fall into ruin, or destroyed. The temple of Æsculapius in Ægis, a city of Cilicia, and that of Venus at Aphaca, near Mount Lebanon and the River Adonis, were then undermined and entirely destroyed. Both of these temples were most highly honored and reverenced by the ancients; as the Ægeatæ were wont to say, that those among them who were weakened in body were delivered from diseases because the demon manifested himself by night, and healed them. And at Aphaca, it was believed that on a certain prayer being uttered on a given day, a fire like a star descended from the top of Lebanon and sunk into the neighboring river; they affirmed that this was Urania, for they call Aphrodite by this name. The efforts of the emperor succeeded to the utmost of his anticipations; for on beholding the objects of their former reverence and fear boldly cast down and stuffed with straw and hay, the people were led to despise what they had previously venerated, and to blame the erroneous opinion of their ancestors. Others, envious at the honor in which Christians were held by the emperor, deemed it necessary to imitate the acts of the ruler; others devoted themselves to an examination of Christianity, and by means of signs, of dreams, or of conferences with bishops and monks, were convinced that it was better to become Christians. From this period, nations and citizens spontaneously renounced their former opinion. At that time a port of Gaza, called Majuma, wherein superstition and ancient ceremonies had been hitherto admired, turned unitedly with all its inhabitants to Christianity. The emperor, in order to reward their piety, deemed them worthy of the greatest honor, and distinguished the place as a city, a status it had not previously enjoyed, and named it Constantia: thus honoring the spot on account of its piety, by bestowing on it the name of the dearest of his children. On the same account, also, Constantine in Phœnicia is known to have received its name from the emperor. But it would not be convenient to record every instance of this kind, for many other cities about this time went over to religion, and spontaneously, without any command of the emperor, destroyed the adjacent temples and statues, and erected houses of prayer.
The church having been in this manner spread throughout the whole Roman world, religion was introduced even among the barbarians themselves. The tribes on both sides of the Rhine were Christianized, as likewise the Celts and the Gauls who dwelt upon the most distant shores of the ocean; the Goths, too, and such tribes as were contiguous to them, who formerly dwelt on either of the high shores of the Danube, had long shared in the Christian faith, and had changed into a gentler and more rational observance. Almost all the barbarians had professed to hold the Christian doctrine in honor, from the time of the wars between the Romans and foreign tribes, under the government of Gallienus and the emperors who succeeded him. For when an unspeakable multitude of mixed nations passed over from Thrace into Asia and overran it, and when other barbarians from the various regions did the same things to the adjacent Romans, many priests of Christ who had been taken captive, dwelt among these tribes; and during their residence among them, healed the sick, and cleansed those who were possessed of demons, by the name of Christ only, and by calling on the Son of God; moreover they led a blameless life, and excited envy by their virtues. The barbarians, amazed at the conduct and wonderful works of these men, thought that it would be prudent on their part, and pleasing to the Deity, if they should imitate those whom they saw were better; and, like them, would render homage to God. When teachers as to what should be done, had been proposed to them, the people were taught and baptized, and subsequently were gathered into churches.
It is said that during this reign the Iberians, a large and warlike barbarian nation, confessed Christ. They dwelt to the north beyond Armenia. A Christian woman, who had been taken captive, induced them to renounce the religion of their fathers. She was very faithful and godly, and did not, among foreigners, remit her accustomed routine of religious duty. To fast, to pray night and day, and to praise God, constituted her delight. The barbarians inquired as to the motives of her endurance: she simply answered, that it was necessary in this way to worship the Son of God; but the name of Him who was to be worshipped, and the manner of worshiping, appeared strange to them. It happened that a boy of the country was taken ill, and his mother, according to the custom of the Iberians, took him around from house to house, in hope that some one might be found capable of curing the disease, and the change from the suffering might be easy for the afflicted. As no one capable of healing him could be found, the boy was brought to the captive, and she said,
as to medicines, I have neither experience nor knowledge, nor am I acquainted with the mode of applying ointments or plasters; but, O woman, I believe that Christ whom I worship, the true and great God, will become the Saviour of your child. Then she prayed for him immediately and freed him from the disease, although just before it was believed that he was about to die. A little while after, the wife of the governor of the nation was, by an incurable disease, brought near unto death; yet she too was saved in the same manner. And thus did this captive teach the knowledge of Christ, by introducing Him as the dispenser of health, and as the Lord of life, of empire, and of all things. The governor's wife, convinced by her own personal experience, believed the words of the captive, embraced the Christian religion, and held the woman in much honor. The king, astonished at the celerity of the cure, and the miraculousness and healing of faith, learned the cause from his wife, and commanded that the captive should be rewarded with gifts.
Of gifts, said the queen,
her estimate is very low, whatever may be their value; she makes much of the service she renders to her God only. Therefore if we wish to gratify her, or desire to do what is safe and right, let us also worship God, who is mighty and a Saviour, and who, at His will, gives continuance unto kings, casts down the high, renders the illustrious abject, and saves those in terrible straits. The queen continued to argue in this excellent manner, but the sovereign of Iberia remained in doubt and unconvinced, as he reflected on the novelty of the matters, and also respected the religion of his fathers. A little while after, he went into the woods with his attendants, on a hunting excursion; all of a sudden thick clouds arose, and a heavy air was everywhere diffused by them, so as to conceal the heavens and the sun; profound night and great darkness pervaded the wood. Since each of the hunters was alarmed for his own safety, they scattered in different directions. The king, while thus wandering alone, thought of Christ, as men are wont to do in times of danger. He determined that if he should be delivered from his present emergency, he would walk before God and worship Him. At the very instant that these thoughts were upon his mind, the darkness was dissipated, the air became serene, the rays of the sun penetrated into the wood, and the king went out in safety. He informed his wife of the event that had befallen him, sent for the captive, and commanded her to teach him in what way he ought to worship Christ. When she had given as much instruction as it was right for a woman to say and do, he called together his subjects and declared to them plainly the Divine mercies which had been vouchsafed to himself and to his wife, and although uninitiated, he declared to his people the doctrines of Christ. The whole nation was persuaded to embrace Christianity, the men being convinced by the representations of the king, and the women by those of the queen and the captive. And speedily with the general consent of the entire nation, they prepared most zealously to build a church. When the external walls were completed, machines were brought to raise up the columns, and fix them upon their pedestals. It is related, that when the first and second columns had been righted by these means, great difficulty was found in fixing the third column, neither art nor physical strength being of any avail, although many were present to assist in the pulling. When evening came on, the female captive remained alone on the spot, and she continued there throughout the night, interceding with God that the erection of the columns might be easily accomplished, especially as all the rest had taken their departure distressed at the failure; for the column was only half raised, and remained standing, and one end of it was so embedded in its foundations that it was impossible to move it downward. It was God's will that by this, as well as by the preceding miracle, the Iberians should be still further confirmed about the Deity. Early in the morning, when they were present at the church, they beheld a wonderful spectacle, which seemed to them as a dream. The column, which on the day before had been immovable, now appeared erect, and elevated a small space above its proper base. All present were struck with admiration, and confessed, with one consent, that Christ alone is the true God. Whilst they were all looking on, the column slipped quietly and spontaneously, and was adjusted as by machinery on its base. The other columns were then erected with ease, and the Iberians completed the structure with greater alacrity. The church having been thus speedily built, the Iberians, at the recommendation of the captive, sent ambassadors to the Emperor Constantine, bearing proposals for alliance and treaties, and requesting that priests might be sent to their nation. On their arrival, the ambassadors related the events that had occurred, and how the whole nation with much care worshipped Christ. The emperor of the Romans was delighted with the embassy, and after acceding to every request that was proffered, dismissed the ambassadors. Thus did the Iberians receive the knowledge of Christ, and until this day they worship him carefully.
Subsequently the Christian religion became known to the neighboring tribes and was very greatly disseminated. The Armenians, I have understood, were the first to embrace Christianity. It is said that Tiridates, then the sovereign of that nation, became a Christian by means of a marvelous Divine sign which was wrought in his own house; and that he issued commands to all the subjects, by a herald, to adopt the same religion. I think that the beginning of the conversion of the Persians was owing to their intercourse with the Osroenians and Armenians; for it is likely that they would converse with such Divine men and make experience of their virtue.
When, in course of time, the Christians increased in number, and began to form churches, and appointed priests and deacons, the Magi, who as a priestly tribe had from the beginning in successive generations acted as the guardians of the Persian religion, became deeply incensed against them. The Jews, who through envy are in some way naturally opposed to the Christian religion, were likewise offended. They therefore brought accusations before Sapor, the reigning sovereign, against Symeon, who was then archbishop of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, royal cities of Persia, and charged him with being a friend of the Cæsar of the Romans, and with communicating the affairs of the Persians to him. Sapor believed these accusations, and at first, ground the Christians with excessive taxes, although he knew that the generality of them had voluntarily embraced poverty. He entrusted the exaction to cruel men, hoping that, by the want of necessaries, and the atrocity of the exactors, they might be compelled to abjure their religion; for this was his aim. Afterwards, however, he commanded that the priests and conductors of the worship of God should be slain with the sword. The churches were demolished, their vessels were deposited in the treasury, and Symeon was arrested as a traitor to the kingdom and the religion of the Persians. Thus the Magi, with the co-operation of the Jews, quickly destroyed the houses of prayer. Symeon, on his apprehension, was bound with chains, and brought before the king. There the man evinced his excellence and courage; for when Sapor commanded that he should be led away to the torture, he did not fear, and would not prostrate himself. The king, greatly exasperated, demanded why he did not prostrate himself as he had done formerly. Symeon replied,
Formerly I was not led away bound in order that I might abjure the truth of God, and therefore I did not then object to pay the customary respect to royalty; but now it would not be proper for me to do so; for I stand here in defense of godliness and of our opinion. When he ceased speaking, the king commanded him to worship the sun, promising, as an inducement, to bestow gifts upon him, and to hold him in honor; but on the other hand, threatening, in case of non-compliance, to visit him and the whole body of Christians with destruction. When the king found that he neither frightened him by menaces, nor caused him to relax by promises, and that Symeon remained firm and refused to worship the sun, or to betray his religion, he commanded him to be put in bonds for a while, probably imagining that he would change his mind.
When Symeon was being conducted to prison, Usthazanes, an aged eunuch, the foster-father of Sapor and superintendent of the palace, who happened to be sitting at the gates of the palace, arose to do him reverence. Symeon reproachfully forbade him in a loud and haughty voice, averted his countenance, and passed by; for the eunuch had been formerly a Christian, but had recently yielded to authority, and had worshipped the sun. This conduct so affected the eunuch that he wept aloud, laid aside the white garment with which he was robed, and clothed himself, as a mourner, in black. He then seated himself in front of the palace, crying and groaning, and saying,
Woe is me! What must not await me since I have denied God; and on this account Symeon, formerly my familiar friend, does not think me worthy of being spoken to, but turns away and hastens from me. When Sapor heard of what had occurred, he called the eunuch to him, and inquired into the cause of his grief, and asked him whether any calamity had befallen his family. Usthazanes replied and said,
O king, nothing has occurred to my family; but I would rather have suffered any other affliction whatsoever than that which has befallen me, and it would have been easy to bear. Now I mourn because I am alive, and ought to have been dead long ago; yet I still see the sun which, not voluntarily, but to please you, I professed to worship. Therefore, on both accounts, it is just that I should die, for I have been a betrayer of Christ, and a deceiver of you. He then swore by the Maker of heaven and earth, that he would never swerve from his convictions. Sapor, astonished at the wonderful conversion of the eunuch, was still more enraged against the Christians, as if they had effected it by enchantments. Still, he spared the old man, and strove with all his strength, by alternate gentleness and harshness, to bring him over to his own sentiments. But finding that his efforts were useless, and that Usthazanes persisted in declaring that he would never be so foolish as to worship the creature instead of the creator, he became inflamed with passion, and commanded that the eunuch's head should be struck off with a sword. When the executioners came forward to perform their office, Usthazanes requested them to wait a little, that he might communicate something to the king. He then called one of the most faithful eunuchs, and bade him say to Sapor,
From my youth until now I have been well affected, O king, to your house, and have ministered with fitting diligence to your father and yourself. I need no witnesses to corroborate my statements; these facts are well established. For all the matters wherein at various times I have gladly served you, grant me this reward; let it not be imagined by those who are ignorant of the circumstances, that I have incurred this punishment by acts of unfaithfulness against the kingdom, or by the commission of any other crime; but let it be published and proclaimed abroad by a herald, that Usthazanes loses his head for no knavery that he has ever committed in the palaces, but for being a Christian, and for refusing to obey the king in denying his own God. The eunuch delivered this message, and Sapor, according to the request of Usthazanes, commanded a herald to make the desired proclamation; for the king imagined that others would be easily deterred from embracing Christianity, by reflecting that he who sacrificed his aged foster-father and esteemed household servant, would assuredly spare no other Christian. Usthazanes, however, believed that as by his timidity in consenting to worship the sun, he had caused many Christians to fear, so now, by the diligent proclamation of the cause of his sufferings, many might be edified by learning that he died for the sake of religion, and so became imitators of his fortitude.
In this manner the honorable life of Usthazanes was terminated, and when the intelligence was brought to Symeon in the prison, he offered thanksgiving to God on his account. The following day, which happened to be the sixth day of the week, and likewise the day on which, as immediately preceding the festival of the resurrection, the annual memorial of the passion of the Saviour is celebrated, the king issued orders for the decapitation of Symeon; for he had again been conducted to the palace from the prison, had reasoned most nobly with Sapor on points of doctrine, and had expressed a determination never to worship either the king or the sun. On the same day a hundred other prisoners were ordered to be slain. Symeon beheld their execution, and last of all he was put to death. Amongst these victims were bishops, presbyters, and other clergy of different grades. As they were being led out to execution, the chief of the Magi approached them, and asked them whether they would preserve their lives by conforming to the religion of the king and by worshiping the sun. As none of them would comply with this condition, they were conducted to the place of execution, and the executioners applied themselves to the task of slaying these martyrs. Symeon, standing by those who were to be slain, exhorted them to constancy, and reasoned concerning death, and the resurrection, and piety, and showed them from the sacred Scriptures that a death like theirs is true life; whereas to live, and through fear to deny God, is as truly death. He told them, too, that even if no one were to slay them, death would inevitably overtake them; for our death is a natural consequence of our birth. The things after those of this life are perpetual, and do not happen alike to all men; but as if measured by some rule, they must give an accurate account of the course of life here. Each one who did well, will receive immortal rewards and will escape the punishments of those who did the opposite. He likewise told them that the greatest and happiest of all good actions is to die for the cause of God. While Symeon was pursuing such themes, and like a household attendant, was exhorting them about the manner in which they were to go into the conflicts, each one listened and spiritedly went to the slaughter. After the executioner had dispatched a hundred, Symeon himself was slain; and Abedechalaas and Anannias, two aged presbyters of his own church, who had been his fellow-prisoners, suffered with him.
Pusices, the superintendent of the king's artisans, was present at the execution; perceiving that Anannias trembled as the necessary preparations for his death were being made, he said to him,
O old man, close your eyes for a little while and be of good courage, for you will soon behold the light of Christ. No sooner had he uttered these words than he was arrested and conducted before the king; and as he frankly avowed himself a Christian, and spoke with great freedom to the king concerning his opinion and the martyrs, he was condemned to an extraordinary and most cruel death, because it was not lawful to address the king with such boldness. The executioners pierced the muscles of his neck in such a manner as to extract his tongue. On the charge of some persons, his daughter, who had devoted herself to a life of holy virginity, was arraigned and executed at the same time. The following year, on the day on which the passion of Christ was commemorated, and when preparations were being made for the celebration of the festival commemorative of his resurrection from the dead, Sapor issued a most cruel edict throughout Persia, condemning to death all those who should confess themselves to be Christians. It is said that a greater number of Christians suffered by the sword; for the Magi sought diligently in the cities and villages for those who had concealed themselves; and many voluntarily surrendered themselves, lest they should appear, by their silence, to deny Christ. Of the Christians who were thus unsparingly sacrificed, many who were attached to the palace were slain, and among these was Azades, a eunuch, who was especially beloved by the king. On hearing of his death, Sapor was overwhelmed with grief, and put a stop to the general slaughter of the Christians; and he directed that the teachers of religion should alone be slain.
About the same period, the queen was attacked with a disease, and Tarbula, the sister of Symeon the bishop, a holy virgin, was arrested with her servant, who shared in the same mode of life, as likewise a sister of Tarbula, who, after the death of her husband, abjured marriage, and led a similar career. The cause of their arrest was the charge of the Jews, who reported that they had injured the queen by their enchantments, on account of their rage at the death of Symeon. As invalids easily give credit to the most repulsive representations, the queen believed the charge, and especially because it emanated from the Jews, since she had embraced their sentiments, and lived in the observance of the Jewish rites, for she had great confidence in their veracity and in their attachment to herself. The Magi having seized Tarbula and her companions, condemned them to death; and after having sawn them asunder, they fastened them up to poles and made the queen pass through the midst of the poles as a medium for turning away the disease. It is said that this Tarbula was beautiful and very stately in form, and that one of the Magi, having become deeply enamored with her, secretly sent a proposal for intercourse, and promised as a reward to save her and her companions if she would consent. But she would give no ear to his licentiousness, and treated the Magi with scorn, and rebuked his lust. She would rather prefer courageously to die than to betray her virginity.
As it was ordained by the edict of Sapor, which we mentioned above, that the Christians should not be slaughtered indiscriminately, but that the priests and teachers of the opinions should be slain, the Magi and Arch-Magi traversed the whole country of Persia, studiously maltreating the bishops and presbyters. They sought them especially in the country of Adiabene, a part of the Persian dominions, because it was wholly Christianized.
About this period they arrested Acepsimas the bishop, and many of his clergy. After having taken counsel together, they satisfied themselves with the hunt after the leader only; they dismissed the rest after they had taken away their property. James, however, who was one of the presbyters, voluntarily followed Acepsimas, obtained permission from the Magi to share his prison, and spiritedly ministered to the old man, lightened his misfortunes as far as he was able, and dressed his wounds; for not long after his apprehension, the Magi had injuriously tortured him with raw thongs in forcing him to worship the sun; and on his refusal to do so had retained him again in bonds. Two presbyters named Aithalas and James, and two deacons, by name Azadanes and Abdiesus, after being scourged most injuriously by the Magi, were compelled to live in prison, on account of their opinions. After a long time had elapsed, the great Arch-Magi communicated to the king the facts about them to be punished; and having received permission to deal with them as he pleased, unless they would consent to worship the sun, he made known this decision of Sapor's to the prisoners. They replied openly, that they would never betray the cause of Christ nor worship the sun; he tortured them unsparingly. Acepsimas persevered in the manly confession of his faith, till death put an end to his torments. Certain Armenians, whom the Persians retained as hostages, secretly carried away his body and buried it. The other prisoners, although not less scourged, lived as by a miracle, and as they would not change their judgment, were again put in bonds. Among these was Aithalas, who was stretched out while thus beaten, and his arms were torn out of his shoulders by the very great wrench; and he carried his hands about as dead and swinging loosely, so that others had to convey food to his mouth. Under this rule, an innumerable multitude of presbyters, deacons, monks, holy virgins, and others who served the churches and were set apart for its dogma, terminated their lives by martyrdom. The following are the names of the bishops, so far as I have been able to ascertain: Barbasymes, Paulus, Gaddiabes, Sabinus, Mareas, Mocius, John, Hormisdas, Papas, James, Romas, Maares, Agas, Bochres, Abdas, Abdiesus, John, Abramins, Agdelas, Sapores, Isaac, and Dausas. The latter had been made prisoner by the Persians, and brought from a place named Zabdæus. He died about this time in defense of the dogma; and Mareabdes, a chorepiscopus, and about two hundred and fifty of his clergy, who had also been captured by the Persians, suffered with him.
About this period Milles suffered martyrdom. He originally served the Persians in a military capacity, but afterwards abandoned that vocation, in order to embrace the apostolic mode of life. It is related that he was ordained bishop over a Persian city, and he underwent a variety of sufferings, and endured wounds and drawings; and that, failing in his efforts to convert the inhabitants to Christianity, he uttered imprecations against the city, and departed. Not long after, some of the principal citizens offended the king, and an army with three hundred elephants was sent against them; the city was utterly demolished and its land was ploughed and sown. Milles, taking with him only his wallet, in which was the holy Book of the Gospels, repaired to Jerusalem in prayer; thence he proceeded to Egypt in order to see the monks. The extraordinary and admirable works which we have heard that he accomplished, are attested by the Syrians, who have written an account of his actions and life. For my own part, I think that I have said enough of him and of the other martyrs who suffered in Persia during the reign of Sapor; for it would be difficult to relate in detail every circumstance respecting them, such as their names, their country, the mode of completing their martyrdom, and the species of torture to which they were subjected; for they are innumerable, since such methods are jealously affected by the Persians, even to the extreme of cruelty. I shall briefly state that the number of men and women whose names have been ascertained, and who were martyred at this period, have been computed to be sixteen thousand; while the multitude outside of these is beyond enumeration, and on this account to reckon off their names appeared difficult to the Persians and Syrians and to the inhabitants of Edessa, who have devoted much care to this matter.
Constantine the Roman emperor was angry, and bore it ill when he heard of the sufferings to which the Christians were exposed in Persia. He desired most anxiously to render them assistance, yet knew not in what way to effect this object. About this time some ambassadors from the Persian king arrived at his court, and after granting their requests and dismissing them, he thought it would be a favorable opportunity to address Sapor in behalf of the Christians in Persia, and wrote to him, confessing that it would be a very great and forever indescribable favor, if he would be humane to those who admired the teaching of the Christians under him.
There is nothing in their religion, said he,
of a reprehensible nature; by bloodless prayers alone do they offer supplication to God, for he delights not in the outpouring of blood, but takes pleasure only in a pure soul devoted to virtue and to religion; so that they who believe these things are worthy of commendation. The emperor then assured Sapor that God would be propitious to him if he treated the Christians with lenity, and adduced the example of Valerian and of himself in proof thereof. He had himself, by faith in Christ, and by the aid of Divine inclination, come forth from the shores of the Western ocean, and reduced to obedience the whole of the Roman world, and had terminated many wars against foreigners and usurpers; and yet had never had recourse to sacrifices or divinations, but had for victory used only the symbol of the Cross at the head of his own armies, and prayer pure from blood and defilement. The reign of Valerian was prosperous so long as he refrained from persecuting the Church; but he afterwards commenced a persecution against the Christians, and was delivered by Divine vengeance into the hands of the Persians, who took him prisoner and put him to a cruel death.
It was in this strain that Constantine wrote to Sapor, urging him to be well-disposed to this religion; for the emperor extended his watchful care over all the Christians of every region, whether Roman or foreign.
Not long after the council of Nice, Arius was recalled from exile; but the prohibition to enter Alexandria was unrevoked. It shall be related in the proper place how he strove to obtain permission to return to Egypt. Not long after, Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, and Theognis, bishop of Nicæa, regained possession of their churches after expelling Amphion and Chrestos who had been ordained in their stead. They owed their restoration to a document which they had presented to the bishops, containing a retractation:
Although we have been condemned without a trial by your piety, we deemed it right to remain silent concerning the judgment passed by your piety. But as it would be absurd to remain longer silent, when silence is regarded as a proof of the truth of the calumniators, we now declare to you that we too agree in this faith, and after a diligent examination of the thought in the word 'consubstantial,' we are wholly intent upon preserving peace, and that we never pursued any heresy. Having proposed for the safety of the churches such argument as occurred to us, and having been fully convinced, and fully convincing those who ought to have been persuaded by us, we undersigned the creed; but we did not subscribe to the anathema, not because we impugned the creed, but because we did not believe the accused to be what he was represented to us; the letters we had received from him, and the arguments he had delivered in our presence, fully satisfying us that he was not such an one. Would that the holy Synod were convinced that we are not bent on opposing, but are accordant with the points accurately defined by you, and by this document, we do attest our assent thereto: and this is not because we are wearied of exile, but because we wish to avert all suspicion of heresy; for if you will condescend to admit us now into your presence, you will find us in all points of the same sentiments as yourselves, and obedient to your decisions, and then it shall seem good to your piety to be merciful to him who was accused on these points and to have him recalled. If the party amenable to justice has been recalled and has defended himself from the charge made, it would be absurd, were we by our silence to confirm the reports that calumny had spread against us. We beseech you then, as befits your piety, dear to Christ, that you memorialize our emperor, most beloved of God, and that you hand over our petition, and that you counsel quickly, what is agreeable to you concerning us. It was by these means that Eusebius and Theognis, after their change of sentiment, were reinstated in their churches.
About this period Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, when about to depart this life, left Athanasius as his successor, in accordance, I am convinced, with the Divine will directing the vote upon him. It is said that Athanasius at first sought to avoid the honor by flight, but that he, although unwilling, was afterwards constrained by Alexander to accept the bishopric. This is testified by Apolinarius, the Syrian, in the following terms:
In all these matters much disturbance was excited by impiety, but its first effects were felt by the blessed teacher of this man, who was at hand as an assistant, and behaved as a son would to his father. Afterwards this holy man himself underwent the same experience, for when appointed to the episcopal succession he fled to escape the honor; but he was discovered in his place of concealment by the help of God, who had forecast by Divine manifestations to his blessed predecessor, that the succession was to devolve upon him. For when Alexander was on the point of death, he called upon Athanasius, who was then absent. One who bore the same name, and who happened to be present, on hearing him call this way, answered him; but to him Alexander was silent, since he was not summoning this man. Again he called, and as it often happens, the one present kept still, and so the absent one was disclosed. Moreover, the blessed Alexander prophetically exclaimed, 'O Athanasius, you think to escape, but you will not escape'; meaning that Athanasius would be called to the conflict. Such is the account given by Apolinarius respecting Athanasius.
The Arians assert that after the death of Alexander, the respective followers of that bishop and of Melitius held communion together, and fifty-four bishops from Thebes, and other parts of Egypt, assembled together, and agreed by oath to choose by a common vote, the man who could advantageously administer the Church of Alexandria; but that seven of the bishops, in violation of their oath, and contrary to the opinion of all, secretly ordained Athanasius; and that on this account many of the people and of the Egyptian clergy seceded from communion with him. For my part, I am convinced that it was by Divine appointment that Athanasius succeeded to the high-priesthood; for he was eloquent and intelligent, and capable of opposing plots, and of such a man the times had the greatest need. He displayed great aptitude in the exercise of the ecclesiastical functions and fitness for the priesthood, and was, so to speak, from his earliest years, self-taught. It is said that the following incident occurred to him in his youth. It was the custom of the Alexandrians to celebrate with great pomp an annual festival in honor of one of their bishops named Peter, who had suffered martyrdom. Alexander, who then conducted the church, engaged in the celebration of this festival, and after having completed the worship, he remained on the spot, awaiting the arrival of some guests whom he expected to breakfast. In the meantime he chanced to cast his eyes towards the sea, and perceived some children playing on the shore, and amusing themselves by imitating the bishop and the ceremonies of the Church. At first he considered the mimicry as innocent, and took pleasure in witnessing it; but when they touched upon the unutterable, he was troubled, and communicated the matter to the chief of the clergy. The children were called together and questioned as to the game at which they were playing, and as to what they did and said when engaged in this amusement. At first they through fear denied; but when Alexander threatened them with torture, they confessed that Athanasius was their bishop and leader, and that many children who had not been initiated had been baptized by him. Alexander carefully inquired what the priest of their play was in the habit of saying or doing, and what they answered or were taught. On finding that the exact routine of the Church had been accurately observed by them, he consulted the priests around him on the subject, and decided that it would he unnecessary to rebaptize those who, in their simplicity, had been judged worthy of the Divine grace. He therefore merely performed for them such offices as it is lawful only for those who are consecrated to initiating the mysteries. He then took Athanasius and the other children, who had playfully acted as presbyters and deacons, to their own relations under God as a witness that they might be brought up for the Church, and for leadership in what they had imitated. Not long after, he took Athanasius as his table companion and secretary. He had been well educated, was versed in grammar and rhetoric, and already when he came to man's estate, and before he attained the bishopric, he gave proof to those conversing with him of his being a man of wisdom and intellectuality. But when, on the death of Alexander, the succession devolved upon him, his reputation was greatly increased, and was sustained by his own private virtues and by the testimony of the monk, Antony the Great. This monk repaired to him when he requested his presence, visited the cities, accompanied him to the churches, and agreed with him in opinion concerning the Godhead. He evinced unlimited friendship towards him, and avoided the society of his enemies and opponents.
Consubstantial; Eusebius Pamphilus and Eustathius, Bishop of Antioch, create Tumults above all the rest.
The reputation of Athanasius was, however, especially increased by the Arians and Melitians; although always plotting, they never appeared rightly to catch and make him a prisoner. In the first place, Eusebius wrote to urge him to receive the Arians into communion, and threatened, without writing it, to ill-treat him should he refuse to do so. But as Athanasius would not yield to his representation, but maintained that those who had devised a heresy in innovating upon the truth, and who had been condemned by the council of Nice, ought not to be received into the Church, Eusebius contrived to interest the emperor in favor of Arius, and so procured his return. I shall state a little further on how all these events came to pass.
At this period, the bishops had another tumultuous dispute among themselves, concerning the precise meaning of the term
consubstantial. Some thought that this term could not be admitted without blasphemy; that it implied the non-existence of the Son of God; and that it involved the error of Montanus and Sabellius. Those, on the other hand, who defended the term, regarded their opponents as Greeks (or pagans), and considered that their sentiments led to polytheism. Eusebius, surnamed Pamphilus, and Eustathius, bishop of Antioch, took the lead in this dispute. They both confessed the Son of God to exist hypostatically, and yet they contended together as if they had misunderstood each other. Eustathius accused Eusebius of altering the doctrines ratified by the council of Nicæa, while the latter declared that he approved of all the Nicæan doctrines, and reproached Eustathius for cleaving to the heresy of Sabellius.
A synod having been convened at Antioch, Eustathius was deprived of the church of that city. It was most generally believed that he was deposed merely on account of his adherence to the faith of the council of Nicæa, and on account of his having accused Eusebius, Paulinus, bishop of Tyre, and Patrophilus, bishop of Scythopolis (whose sentiments were adopted by the Eastern priests), of favoring the heresy of Arius. The pretext resorted to for his deposition, however, was, that he had defiled the priesthood by unholy deeds. His deposition excited so great a sedition at Antioch, that the people were on the point of taking up arms, and the whole city was in a state of commotion. This greatly injured him in the opinion of the emperor; for when he understood what had happened, and that the people of that church were divided into two parties, he was much enraged, and regarded him with suspicion as the author of the tumult. The emperor, however, sent an illustrious officer of his palace, invested with full authority, to calm the populace, and put an end to the disturbance, without having recourse to violence or injury.
Those who had deposed Eustathius, and who on this account were assembled in Antioch, imagining that their sentiments would be universally received, if they could succeed in placing over the Church of Antioch one of their own opinion, who was known to the emperor, and held in repute for learning and eloquence, and that they could obtain the obedience of the rest, fixed their thoughts upon Eusebius Pamphilus for that see. They wrote to the emperor upon this subject, and stated that this course would be highly acceptable to the people. He had, in fact, been sought by all the clergy and laity who were inimical to Eustathius. Eusebius, however, wrote to the emperor refusing the dignity. The emperor approved of his refusal with praise; for there was an ecclesiastical law prohibiting the removal of a bishop from one bishopric to another. He wrote to the people and to Eusebius, adopting his judgment and calling him happy, because he was worthy to hold the bishopric not only of one single city, but of the world. The emperor also wrote to the people of the Church of Antioch concerning like-mindedness, and told them that they ought not to desire the bishops of other regions, even as they ought not to covet the possessions of others. In addition to these, he dispatched another epistle to the Synod, in private session, and similarly commended Eusebius as in the letter to him for having refused the bishopric; and being convinced that Euphronius, a presbyter of Cappadocia, and George of Arethusa were men approved in creed, he commanded the bishops to decide for one or other of them, or for whomsoever might appear worthy of the honor, and to ordain a president for the Church of Antioch. On the receipt of these letters from the emperor, Euphronius was ordained; and I have heard that Eustathius bore this unjust calumny calmly, judging it to be better, as he was a man who, besides his virtues and excellent qualities, was justly admired on account of his fine eloquence, as is evidenced by his transmitted works, which are highly approved for their choice of words, flavor of expression, temperateness of sentiments, elegance and grace of narration.
About this time Mark, who had succeeded Silvester, and who had held the episcopal sway during a short period, died, and Julius was raised to the see of Rome. Maximus succeeded Macarius in the bishopric of Jerusalem. It is said that Macarius had ordained him bishop over the church of Diospolis, but that the members of the church of Jerusalem insisted upon his remaining among them. For since he was a confessor, and otherwise excellent, he was secretly chosen beforehand in the approbation of the people for their bishopric, after that Macarius should die. The dread of offending the people and exciting an insurrection led to the election of another bishop over Diospolis, and Maximus remained in Jerusalem, and exercised the priestly functions conjointly with Macarius; and after the death of this latter, he governed that church. It is, however, well known to those who are accurately acquainted with these circumstances, that Macarius concurred with the people in their desire to retain Maximus; for it is said that he regretted the ordination of Maximus, and thought that he ought necessarily to have been reserved for his own succession on account of his holding right views concerning God and his confession, which had so endeared him to the people. He likewise feared that, at his death, the adherents of Eusebius and Patrophilus, who had embraced Arianism, would take that opportunity to place one of their own views in his see; for even while Macarius was living, they had attempted to introduce some innovations, but since they were to be separated from him, they on this account kept quiet.
In the meantime the contention which had been stirred in the beginning among the Egyptians, could not be quelled. The Arian heresy had been positively condemned by the council of Nice, while the followers of Melitius had been admitted into communion under the stipulations above stated. When Alexander returned to Egypt, Melitius delivered up to him the churches whose government he had unlawfully usurped, and returned to Lycus. Not long after, finding his end approaching, he nominated John, one of his most intimate friends, as his successor, contrary to the decree of the Nicæan Council, and thus fresh cause of discord in the churches was produced. When the Arians perceived that the Melitians were introducing innovations, they also harassed the churches. For, as frequently occurs in similar disturbances, some applauded the opinion of Arius, while others contended that those who had been ordained by Melitius ought to govern the churches. These two bodies of sectarians had hitherto been opposed to each other, but on perceiving that the priests of the Catholic Church were followed by the multitude, they became jealous and formed an alliance together, and manifested a common enmity to the clergy of Alexandria. Their measures of attack and defense were so long carried on in concert, that in process of time the Melitians were generally called Arians in Egypt, although they only dissent on questions of the presidency of the churches, while the Arians hold the same opinions concerning God as Arius. Although they individually denied one another's tenets, yet they dissimulated in contradiction of their own view, in order to attain an underhanded agreement in the fellowship of their enmity; at the same time each one expected to prevail easily in what he desired. From this period, however, the Melitians after the discussion on those topics, received the Arian doctrines, and held the same opinion as Arius concerning God. This revived the original controversy concerning Arius, and some of the laity and clergy seceded from communion with the others. The dispute concerning the doctrines of Arius was rekindled once more in other cities, and particularly in Bithynia and Hellespontus, and in the city of Constantinople. In short, it is said that Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, and Theognis, bishop of Nicæa, bribed the notary to whom the emperor had entrusted the custody of the documents of the Nicæan Council, effaced their signatures, and attempted openly to teach that the Son is not to be considered consubstantial with the Father. Eusebius was accused of these irregularities before the emperor, and he replied with great boldness as he showed part of his clothing.
If this robe, said he,
had been cut asunder in my presence, I could not affirm the fragments to be all of the same substance. The emperor was much grieved at these disputes, for he had believed that questions of this nature had been finally decided by the council of Nicæa, but contrary to his hopes he saw them again agitated. He more especially regretted that Eusebius and Theognis had received certain Alexandrians into communion, although the Synod had recommended them to repent on account of their heterodox opinions, and although he had himself condemned them to banishment from their native land, as being the exciters of sedition. It is asserted by some, that it was for the above reasons that the emperor in anger exiled Eusebius and Theognis; but as I have already stated, I have derived my information from those who are intimately acquainted with these matters.
The various calamities which befell Athanasius were primarily occasioned by Eusebius and Theognis. As they possessed great freedom of speech and influence with the emperor, they strove for the recall of Arius, with whom they were on terms of concord and friendship, to Alexandria, and at the same time the expulsion from the Church of him who was opposed to them. They accused him before Constantine of being the author of all the seditions and troubles that agitated the Church, and of excluding those who were desirous of joining the Church; and alleged that unanimity would be restored were he alone to be removed. The accusations against him were substantiated by many bishops and clergy who were with John, and who sedulously obtained access to the emperor; they pretended to great orthodoxy, and imputed to Athanasius and the bishops of his party all the bloodshed, bonds, unjust blows, wounds, and conflagrations of churches. But when Athanasius demonstrated to the emperor the illegality of the ordination of John's adherents, their innovations of the decrees of the Nicæan Council, and the unsoundness of their faith, and the insults offered to those who held right opinions about God, Constantine was at a loss to know whom to believe. Since there were such mutual allegations, and many accusations were frequently stirred up by each party, and since he was earnestly anxious to restore the like-mindedness of the people, he wrote to Athanasius that no one should be shut out. If this should be betrayed to the last, he would send regardless of consequences, one who should expel him from the city of Alexandria. If any one should desire to see this letter of the emperor's, he will here find the portion of it relating to this affair:
As you are now acquainted with my will, which is, that to all who desire to enter the Church you should offer an unhindered entrance. For should I hear that any who are willing to join the Church, have been debarred or hindered therefrom by you, I shall send at once an officer who shall remove you, according to my command, and shall transfer you to some other place. Athanasius, however, wrote to the emperor and convinced him that the Arians ought not to be received into communion by the Catholic Church; and Eusebius perceiving that his schemes could never be carried into execution while Athanasius strove in opposition, determined to resort to any means in order to get rid of him. But as he could not find a sufficient pretext for effecting this design, he promised the Melitians to interest the emperor and those in power in their favor, if they would bring an accusation against Athanasius. Accordingly, came the first indictment that he had imposed upon the Egyptians a tax on linen tunics, and that such a tribute had been exacted from the accusers. Apis and Macarius, presbyters of the Church of Athanasius, who then happened to be at court, clearly proved the persistent accusation to be false. On being summoned to answer for the offense, Athanasius was further accused of having conspired against the emperor, and of having sent, for this purpose, a casket of gold to one Philumen. The emperor detected the calumny of his accusers, sent Athanasius home, and wrote to the people of Alexandria to testify that their bishop possessed great moderation and a correct faith; that he had gladly met him, and recognized him to be a man of God; and that, as envy had been the sole cause of his indictment, he had appeared to better advantage than his accusers; and having heard that the Arian and Melitian sectarians had excited dissensions in Egypt, the emperor, in the same epistle, exhorted the multitude to look to God, to take heed unto his judgments, to be well disposed toward one another, to prosecute with all their might those who plotted against their like-mindedness; thus the emperor wrote to the people, exhorting them all to like-mindedness, and striving to prevent divisions in the Church.
The Melitians, on the failure of their first attempt, secretly concocted other indictments against Athanasius. On the one hand they charged him with breaking a sacred chalice, and on the other with having slain one Arsenius, and with having cut off his arm and retained it for magical purposes. It is said that this Arsenius was one of the clergy, but that, having committed some crime, he fled to a place of concealment for fear of being convicted and punished by his bishop. The enemies of Athanasius devised the most serious attack for this occurrence. They sought Arsenius with great diligence, and found him; they showed him great kindness, promised to secure for him every goodwill and safety, and conducted him secretly to Patrines, a presbyter of a monastery, who was one of their confederates, and of the same interest as themselves. After having thus carefully concealed him, they diligently spread the report in the market-places and public assemblies that he had been slain by Athanasius. They also bribed John, a monk, to corroborate the accusation. As this evil report was universally circulated, and had even reached the ears of the emperor, Athanasius, being apprehensive that it would be difficult to defend his cause before judges whose minds were prejudiced by such false rumors, resorted to stratagems akin to those of his adversaries. He did everything in his power to prevent truth from being obscured by their attacks; but the multitude could not be convinced, on account of the non-appearance of Arsenius. Reflecting, therefore, that the suspicion which rested upon him could not be removed except by proving that Arsenius, who was said to be dead, was still alive, he sent a most trustworthy deacon in quest of him. The deacon went to Thebes, and ascertained from the declaration of some monks where he was living. And when he came to Patrines, with whom he had been concealed, he found that Arsenius was not there; for on the first intelligence of the arrival of the deacon he had been conveyed to Lower Egypt. The deacon arrested Patrines, and conducted him to Alexandria, as also Elias, one of his associates, who was said to have been the person who conveyed Arsenius elsewhere. He delivered them both to the commander of the Egyptian forces, and they confessed that Arsenius was still alive, that he had been secretly concealed in their house, and that he was now living in Egypt. Athanasius took care that all these facts should be reported to Constantine. The emperor wrote back to him, desiring him to attend to the due performance of the priestly functions, and the maintenance of order and piety among the people, and not to be disquieted by the machinations of the Melitians, it being evident that envy alone was the cause of the false indictments which were circulated against him and the disturbance in the churches. The emperor added that, for the future, he should not give place to such reports; and that, unless the calumniators preserved the peace, he should certainly subject them to the rigor of the state laws, and let justice have its course, as they had not only unjustly plotted against the innocent, but had also shamefully abused the good order and piety of the Church. Such was the strain of the emperor's letter to Athanasius; and he further commanded that it should be read aloud before the public, in order that they might all be made acquainted with his intentions. The Melitians were alarmed at these menaces, and became more quiet for a while, because they viewed with anxiety the threat of the ruler. The churches throughout Egypt enjoyed profound peace, and, directed by the presidency of this great priest, it daily increased in numbers by the conversion of multitudes of pagans and other heretics.
We have heard that about this period some of the most distant of the nations that we call Indians, to whom the preaching of Bartholomew was unknown, shared in our doctrine, through Frumentius, who became a priest and teacher of the sacred learning among them. But in order that we may know, even by the marvel of what happened in India, that the doctrine of the Christians ought to be received as a system not from man, as it seems a tissue of miracles to some, it is necessary to relate the reason for the ordination of Frumentius. It was as follows: The most celebrated philosophers among the Greeks explored unknown cities and regions. Plato, the friend of Socrates, dwelt for a time among the Egyptians, in order to acquaint himself with their manners and customs. He likewise sailed to Sicily for the sight of its craters, whence, as from a fountain, spontaneously issued streams of fire, which frequently overflowing, rushed like a river and consumed the neighboring regions, so that even yet many fields appear burnt and cannot be sown or planted with trees, just as they narrate about the land of Sodom. These craters were likewise explored by Empedocles, a man highly celebrated for philosophy among the Greeks, and who has expounded his knowledge in heroic verse. He set out to investigate this fiery eruption, when either because he thought such a mode of death preferable to any other, or because, to speak more truthfully, he perhaps knew not wherefore he should seek to terminate his life in this manner, he leaped into the fire and perished. Democritus of Coös explored many cities and climates and nations, and he says concerning himself that eighty years of his life were spent in traveling through foreign lands. Besides these philosophers, thousands of wise men among the Greeks, ancient and modern, devoted themselves to this travel. In emulation, Meropius, a philosopher of Tyre in Phœnicia, journeyed as far as India. They say he was accompanied by two youths, named Frumentius and Edesius; they were his relatives; he conducted their rhetorical training, and educated them liberally. After exploring India as much as possible, he set out for home, and embarked in a vessel which was on the point of sailing for Egypt. It happened that, from want of water or some other necessary, the vessel was obliged to stop at some port, and the Indians rushed upon it and murdered all, Meropius included. These Indians had just thrown off their alliance with the Romans; they took the boys as living captives, because they pitied their youth, and conducted them to their king. He appointed the younger one his cup-bearer; the older, Frumentius, he put over his house and made him administrator of his treasures; for he perceived that he was intelligent and very capable in business. These youths served the king usefully and faithfully during a long course of years, and when he felt his end approaching, his son and wife surviving, he rewarded the good-will of the servants with liberty, and permitted them to go where they pleased. They were anxious to return to Tyre, where their relatives resided; but the king's son being a minor, his mother besought them to remain for a little while and take charge of public affairs, until her son reached the years of manhood. They yielded to her entreaties, and directed the affairs of the kingdom and of the government of the Indies. Frumentius, by some Divine impulse, perhaps because God moved him spontaneously, inquired whether there were any Christians in India, or Romans among the merchants, who had sailed there. Having succeeded in finding the objects of his inquiry, he summoned them into his presence, treated them with love and friendliness, and convened them for prayer, and the assembly was conducted after the Roman usage; and when he had built houses of prayer, he encouraged them to honor God continually.
When the king's son attained the age of manhood, Frumentius and Edesius besought him and the queen, and not without difficulty persuaded the rulers to be separated from themselves, and having parted as friends, they went back as Roman subjects. Edesius went to Tyre to see his relatives, and was soon after advanced to the dignity of presbyter. Frumentius, however, instead of returning to Phœnicia, repaired to Alexandria; for with him patriotism and filial piety were subordinate to religious zeal. He conferred with Athanasius, the head of the Alexandrian Church, described to him the state of affairs in India, and the necessity of appointing a bishop over the Christians located in that country. Athanasius assembled the endemic priests, and consulted with them on the subject; and he ordained Frumentius bishop of India, since he was peculiarly qualified and apt to do much service among those among whom he was the first to manifest the name of Christian, and the seed of the participation in the doctrine was sown. Frumentius, therefore, returned to India, and, it is said, discharged the priestly functions so admirably that he became an object of universal admiration, and was revered as no less than an apostle. God highly honored him, enabling him to perform many wonderful cures, and to work signs and wonders. Such was the origin of the Indian priesthood.
The plots of the enemies of Athanasius involved him in fresh troubles, excited the hatred of the emperor against him, and stirred up a multitude of accusers. Wearied by their importunity, the emperor convened a council at Cæsarea in Palestine. Athanasius was summoned there; but fearing the artifices of Eusebius, bishop of the city, of Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, and of their party, he refused to attend, and for thirty months, although pressed to attend, persisted in his refusal. At the end of that period, however, he was forced more urgently and repaired to Tyre, where a great number of the bishops of the East were assembled, who commanded him to undergo the charges of those who accused him. Of John's party, Callinicus, a bishop, and a certain Ischurias, accused him of breaking a mystical chalice and of throwing down an episcopal chair; and of often causing Ischurias, although he was a presbyter, to be loaded with chains; and by falsely informing Hyginus, governor of Egypt, that he had cast stones at the statues of the emperor of occasioning his being thrown into prison; of deposing Callinicus, bishop of the Catholic Church at Pelusium, and of saying that he would debar him from fellowship unless he could remove certain suspicions concerning his having broken a mystical chalice; of committing the Church of Pelusium to Mark, a deposed presbyter; and of placing Callinicus under a military guard, and of putting him under judicial tortures. Euplus, Pachomius, Isaac, Achillas, and Hermæon, bishops of John's party, accused him of inflicting blows. They all concurred in maintaining that he obtained the episcopal dignity by means of the perjury of certain individuals, it having been decreed that no one should receive ordination, who could not clear himself of any crime laid to his charge. They further alleged, that having been deceived by him, they had separated themselves from communion with him, and that, so far from satisfying their scruples, he had treated them with violence and thrown them into prison.
Further, the affair of Arsenius was again agitated; and as generally happens in such a studiously concocted plot, many even of those considered his friends loomed up unexpectedly as accusers. A document was then read, containing popular complaints that the people of Alexandria could not continue their attendance at church on his account. Athanasius, having been urged to justify himself, presented himself repeatedly before the tribunal; successfully repelled some of the allegations, and requested delay for investigation as to the others. He was exceedingly perplexed when he reflected on the favor in which his accusers were held by his judges, on the number of witnesses belonging to the sects of Arius and Melitius who appeared against him, and on the indulgence that was manifested towards the informers, whose allegations had been overcome. And especially in the indictment concerning Arsenius, whose arm he was charged with having cut off for purposes of magic, and in the indictment concerning a certain woman to whom he was charged with having given gifts for uncleanness, and with having corrupted her by night, although she was unwilling. Both these indictments were proved to be ridiculous and full of false espionage. When this female made the deposition before the bishops, Timothy, a presbyter of Alexandria, who stood by Athanasius, approached her according to a plan he had secretly concerted, and said to her,
But did you not? and mentioned the place and the attendant circumstances, in which she had been forced. He likewise led Arsenius into the midst of them, showed both his hands to the judges, and requested them to make the accusers account for the arm which they had exhibited. For it happened that Arsenius, either driven by a Divine influence, or, as it is said, having been concealed by the plans of Athanasius, when the danger to that bishop on his account was announced, escaped by night, and arrived at Tyre the day before the trial. But these allegations having been thus summarily dismissed, so that no defense was necessary, no mention of the first was made in the transactions; most probably, I think, because the whole affair was considered too indecorous and absurd for insertion. As to the second, the accusers strove to justify themselves by saying that a bishop under the jurisdiction of Athanasius, named Plusian, had, at the command of his chief, burnt the house of Arsenius, fastened him to a column, and maltreated him with thongs, and then chained him in a cell. They further stated that Arsenius escaped from the cell through a window, and while he was sought for remained a while in concealment; that as he did not appear, they naturally supposed him to be dead; that the reputation he had acquired as a man and confessor, had endeared him to the bishops of John's party; and that they sought for him, and applied on his behalf to the magistrates.
Athanasius was filled with apprehension when he reflected on these subjects, and began to suspect that his enemies were secretly scheming to effect his ruin. After several sessions, when the Synod was filled with tumult and confusion, and the accusers and a multitude of persons around the tribunal were crying aloud that Athanasius ought to be deposed as a sorcerer and a ruffian, and as being utterly unworthy the priesthood, the officers, who had been appointed by the emperor to be present at the Synod for the maintenance of order, compelled the accused to quit the judgment hall secretly; for they feared lest they might become his murderers, as is apt to be the case in the rush of a tumult. On finding that he could not remain in Tyre without peril of his life, and that there was no hope of obtaining justice against his numerous accusers, from judges who were inimical to him, he fled to Constantinople. The Synod condemned him during his absence, deposed him from the bishopric, and prohibited his residing at Alexandria, lest, said they, he should excite disturbances and seditions. John and all his adherents were restored to communion, as if they had been unjustly suffering wrongs, and each was reinstated in his own clerical rank. The bishops then gave an account of their proceedings to the emperor, and wrote to the bishops of all regions, enjoining them not to receive Athanasius into fellowship, and not to write to him or receive letters from him, as one who had been convicted of the crimes which they had investigated, and on account of his flight, as also guilty in those indictments which had not been tried. They likewise declared, in this epistle, that they had been obliged to pass such condemnation upon him, because, when commanded by the emperor the preceding year to repair to the bishops of the East, who were assembled at Cæsarea, he disobeyed the injunction, kept the bishops waiting for him, and set at naught the commands of the ruler. They also deposed that when the bishops had assembled at Tyre, he went to that city, attended by a large retinue, for the purpose of exciting disturbances and tumults in the Synod; that when there, he sometimes refused to reply to the charges preferred against him; sometimes insulted the bishops individually; when summoned by them, sometimes not obeying, at others not deigning to be judged. They specified in the same letter, that he was manifestly guilty of having broken a mystical chalice, and that this fact was attested by Theognis, bishop of Nicæa; by Maris, bishop of Chalcedonia; by Theodore, bishop of Heraclea; by Valentinus and Ursacius; and by Macedonius, who had been sent to the village in Egypt, where the chalice was said to have been broken, in order to ascertain the truth. Thus did the bishops detail successively each of the allegations against Athanasius, with the same art to which sophists resort when they desire to heighten the effect of their calumnies. Many of the priests, however, who were present at the trial, perceived the injustice of the accusation. It is related that Paphnutius, the confessor, who was present at the Synod, arose, and took the hand of Maximus, the bishop of Jerusalem, to lead him away, as if those who were confessors, and had their eyes dug out for the sake of piety, ought not to participate in an assembly of wicked men.
The temple, called the
Great Martyrium, which was built in the place of the skull at Jerusalem, was completed about the thirtieth year of the reign of Constantine; and Marianus, an official, who was a short-hand writer of the emperor, came to Tyre and delivered a letter from the emperor to the council, commanding them to repair quickly to Jerusalem, in order to consecrate the temple. Although this had been previously determined upon, yet the emperor deemed it necessary that the disputes which prevailed among the bishops who had been convened at Tyre should be first adjusted, and that they should be purged of all discord and grief before going to the consecration of the temple. For it is fitting to such a festival for the priests to be like-minded. When the bishops arrived at Jerusalem, the temple was therefore consecrated, as likewise numerous ornaments and gifts, which were sent by the emperor and are still preserved in the sacred edifice; their costliness and magnificence is such that they cannot be looked upon without exciting wonder. Since that period the anniversary of the consecration has been celebrated with great pomp by the church of Jerusalem; the festival continues eight days, initiation by baptism is administered, and people from every region under the sun resort to Jerusalem during this festival, and visit the sacred places.
The bishops who had embraced the sentiments of Arius found a favorable opportunity of restoring him and Euzoïus to communion, by zealously striving to have a council in the city of Jerusalem. They effected their design in the following manner :—
A certain presbyter who was a great admirer of the Arian doctrines, was on terms of intimacy with the emperor's sister. At first he concealed his sentiments; but as he frequently visited and became by degrees more familiar with Constantia, for such was the name of the sister of Constantine, he took courage to represent to her that Arius was unjustly exiled from his country, and cast out from the Church, through the jealousy and personal enmity of Alexander bishop of the Alexandrian Church. He said that his jealousy had been excited by the esteem which the people manifested towards Arius.
Constantia believed these representations to be true, yet took no steps in her lifetime to innovate upon the decrees of Nicæa. Being attacked with a disease which threatened to terminate in death, she besought her brother, who went to visit her, to grant what she was about to ask, as a last favor; this request was, to receive the above mentioned presbyter on terms of intimacy, and to rely upon him as a man who had correct opinions about the Divinity.
For my part, she added,
I am drawing near to death, and am no longer interested in the concerns of this life; the only apprehension I now feel, arises from dread lest you should incur the wrath of God and suffer any calamity, or the loss of your empire, since you have been induced to condemn just and good men wrongfully to perpetual banishment. From that period the emperor received the presbyter into favor, and after permitting him to speak freely with him and to commune on the same topics concerning which his sister had given her command, deemed necessary to subject the case of Arius to a fresh examination; it is probable that, in forming this decision, the emperor was either influenced by a belief in the credibility of the attacks, or by the desire of gratifying his sister. It was not long before he recalled Arius from exile, and demanded of him a written exposition of his faith concerning the Godhead. Arius avoided making use of the new terms which he had previously devised, and constructed another exposition by using simple terms, and such as were recognized by the sacred Scriptures; he declared upon oath, that he held the doctrines set forth in this exposition, that he both felt these statements ex animo and had no other thought than these. It was as follows: Arius and Euzoïus, presbyters, to Constantine, our most pious emperor and most beloved of God.
According as your piety, beloved of God, commanded, O sovereign emperor, we here furnish a written statement of our own faith, and we protest before God that we, and all those who are with us, believe what is here set forth.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, and in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, who was begotten from Him before all ages, God the Word, by whom all things were made, whether things in heaven or things on earth; He came and took upon Him flesh, suffered and rose again, and ascended into heaven, whence He will again come to judge the quick and the dead.
We believe in the Holy Ghost, in the resurrection of the body, in the life to come, in the kingdom of heaven, and in one Catholic Church of God, established throughout the earth. We have received this faith from the Holy Gospels, in which the Lord says to His disciples, 'Go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.' If we do not so believe this, and if we do not truly receive the doctrines concerning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, as they are taught by the whole Catholic Church and by the sacred Scriptures, as we believe in every point, let God be our judge, both now and in the day which is to come. Wherefore we appeal to your piety, O our emperor most beloved of God, that, as we are enrolled among the members of the clergy, and as we hold the faith and thought of the Church and of the sacred Scriptures, we may be openly reconciled to our mother, the Church, through your peacemaking and pious piety; so that useless questions and disputes may be cast aside, and that we and the Church may dwell together in peace, and we all in common may offer the customary prayer for your peaceful and pious empire and for your entire family.
Many considered this declaration of faith as an artful compilation, and as bearing the appearance of difference in expression, while, in reality, it supported the doctrine of Arius; the terms in which it was couched being so vague that it was susceptible of diverse interpretations. The emperor imagined that Arius and Euzoïus were of the same sentiments as the bishops of the council of Nicæa, and was delighted over the affair. He did not, however, attempt to restore them to communion without the judgment and approval of those who are, by the law of the Church, masters in these matters. He, therefore, sends them to the bishops who were then assembled at Jerusalem, and wrote, desiring them to examine the declaration of faith submitted by Arius and Euzoïus, and so to influence the Synod that, whether they found that their doctrine was orthodox, and that the jealousy of their enemies had been the sole cause of their condemnation, or that, without having reason to blame those who had condemned them, they had changed their minds, a humane decision might, in either case, be accorded them. Those who had long been zealous for this, seized the opportunity under cover of the emperor's letter, and received him into fellowship. They wrote immediately to the emperor himself, to the Church of Alexandria, and to the bishops and clergy of Egypt, of Thebes, and of Libya, earnestly exhorting them to receive Arius and Euzoïus into communion, since the emperor bore witness to the correctness of their faith, in one of his own epistles, and since the judgment of the emperor had been confirmed by the vote of the Synod.
These were the subjects which were zealously discussed by the Synod of Jerusalem.
Athanasius, after having fled from Tyre, repaired to Constantinople, and on coming to the emperor Constantine, complained of what he had suffered, in presence of the bishops who had condemned him, and besought him to permit the decrees of the council of Tyre to be submitted for examination before the emperor. Constantine regarded this request as reasonable, and wrote in the following terms to the bishops assembled at Tyre:—
I know not what has been enacted in confusion and vehemence by your Synod; but it appears that, from some disturbing disorder, decrees which are not in conformity with truth have been enacted, and that your constant irritation of one another evidently prevented you from considering what is pleasing to God. But it will be the work of Divine Providence to scatter the evils which have been drawn out of this contentiousness, and to manifest to us clearly whether you have not been misled in your judgment by motives of private friendship or aversion. I therefore command that you all come here to my piety without delay, in order that we may receive an exact account of your transactions. I will explain to you the cause of my writing to you in this strain, and you will know from what follows, why I summon you before myself through this document. As I was returning on horseback to that city which bears my name, and which I regard as my much prospered country, Athanasius, the bishop, presented himself so unexpectedly in the middle of the highway, with certain individuals who accompanied him, that I felt exceedingly surprised at beholding him. God, who sees all things, is my witness, that at first I did not know who he was, but that some of my attendants having ascertained this point, and the injustice which he had suffered, gave me the necessary information. I did not on this occasion grant him an interview. He, however, persevered in requesting an audience; and although I refused him, and was on the point of commanding that he should be removed from my presence, he told me with more boldness, that he sought no other favor of me than that I should summon you hither, in order that he might in your presence complain of what he had suffered unnecessarily. As this request appears reasonable and timely, I deemed it right to address you in this strain, and to command all of you who were convened at the Synod of Tyre to hasten to the court of our clemency, so that you may demonstrate by your works, the purity and inflexibility of your decisions before me, whom you cannot refuse to acknowledge as a genuine servant of God. By my zeal in His service, peace has been established throughout the world, and the name of God is genuinely praised among the barbarians, who till now were in ignorance of the truth; and it is evident that whoever is ignorant of the truth knows not God. Notwithstanding, as is above stated, the barbarians have, through my instrumentality, learned to know genuinely and to worship God; for they perceived that everywhere, and on all occasions, his protection rested on me; and they reverence God the more deeply because they fear my power. But we who have to announce the mysteries of forbearance (for I will not say that we keep them), we, I say, ought not to do anything that can tend to dissension or hatred, or, to speak plainly, to the destruction of the human race. Come, then, to us, as I have said, with all diligence, and be assured that I shall do everything in my power to preserve all the particularly infallible parts of the law of God in a way that no fault or heterodoxy can be fabricated; while those enemies of the law who, under the guise of the Holy Name, endeavor to introduce variant and differing blasphemies, have been openly scattered, utterly crushed, and wholly suppressed.
This letter of the emperor so excited the fears of some of the bishops that they set off on their journey homewards. But Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, and his partisans, went to the emperor, and represented that the Synod of Tyre had enacted no decrees against Athanasius but what were founded on justice. They brought forward as witnesses Theognis, Maris, Theodore, Valens, and Ursacius, and deposed that he had broken the mystical cup, and after uttering many other calumnies, they prevailed with their accusations. The emperor, either believing their statements to be true, or imagining that unanimity would be restored among the bishops if Athanasius were removed, exiled him to Treves, in Western Gaul; and there, therefore, he was conducted.
After the Synod of Jerusalem, Arius went to Egypt, but as he could not obtain permission to hold communion with the Church of Alexandria, he returned to Constantinople. As all those who had embraced his sentiments, and those who were attached to Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, had assembled cunningly in that city for the purpose of holding a council, Alexander, who was then ordering the see of Constantinople, used every effort to dissolve the council. But as his endeavors were frustrated, he openly refused all covenant with Arius, affirming that it was neither just nor according to ecclesiastical canons, to make powerless their own vote, and that of those bishops who had been assembled at Nicæa, from nearly every region under the sun. When the partisans of Eusebius perceived that their arguments produced no effect on Alexander, they had recourse to contumely, and threatened that unless he would receive Arius into communion on a stated day, he should be expelled from the church, and that another should be elected in his place who would be willing to hold communion with Arius. They then separated, the partisans of Eusebius, to await the time they had fixed for carrying their menaces into execution, and Alexander to pray that the words of Eusebius might be prevented from being carried into deed. His chief source of fear arose from the fact that the emperor had been persuaded to give way. On the day before the appointed day he prostrated himself before the altar, and continued all the night in prayer to God, that his enemies might be prevented from carrying their schemes into execution against him. Late in the afternoon, Arius, being seized suddenly with pain in the stomach, was compelled to repair to the public place set apart for emergencies of this nature. As some time passed away without his coming out, some persons, who were waiting for him outside, entered, and found him dead and still sitting upon the seat. When his death became known, all people did not view the occurrence under the same aspect. Some believed that he died at that very hour, seized by a sudden disease of the heart, or suffering weakness from his joy over the fact that his matters were falling out according to his mind; others imagined that this mode of death was inflicted on him in judgment, on account of his impiety. Those who held his sentiments were of opinion that his death was brought about by magical arts. It will not be out of place to quote what Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, stated on the subject. The following is his narrative:—
Arius, the author of the heresy and the associate of Eusebius, having been summoned before the most blessed Constantine Augustus, at the solicitation of the partisans of Eusebius, was desired to give in writing an exposition of his faith. He drew up this document with great artfulness, and like the devil, concealed his impious assertions beneath the simple words of Scripture. The most blessed Constantine said to him, 'If you have no other points in mind than these, render testimony to the truth; for if you perjure yourself, the Lord will punish you'; and the wretched man swore that he neither held nor conceived any sentiments except those now specified in the document, even if he had ever affirmed otherwise; soon after he went out, and judgment was visited upon him; for he bent forwards and burst in the middle. With all men the common end of life is death. We must not blame a man, even if he be an enemy, merely because he died, for it is uncertain whether we shall live to the evening. But the end of Arius was so singular that it seems worthy of some remark. The partisans of Eusebius threatened to reinstate him in the church, and Alexander, bishop of Constantinople, opposed their intention; Arius placed his confidence in the power and menaces of Eusebius; for it was the Sabbath, and he expected the next day to be readmitted. The dispute ran high; the partisans of Eusebius were loud in their menaces, while Alexander had recourse to prayer. The Lord was the judge, and declared himself against the unjust. A little before sunset Arius was compelled by a want of nature to enter the place appointed for such emergencies, and here he lost at once both restoration to communion and his life. The most blessed Constantine was amazed when he heard of this occurrence, and regarded it as the proof of perjury. It then became evident to every one that the menaces of Eusebius were absolutely futile, and that the expectations of Arius were vain. It also became manifest that the Arian madness could not be fellowshipped by the Saviour both here and in the church of the Firstborn. Is it not then astonishing that some are still found who seek to exculpate him whom the Lord condemned, and to defend that heresy which the Lord proved to be unworthy of fellowship, by not permitting its author to enter the church? We have been duly informed that this was the mode of the death of Arius. It is said that for a long period subsequently no one would make use of the seat on which he died. Those who were compelled by necessities of nature, as is wont to be the case in a crowd, to visit the public place, when they entered, spoke to one another to avoid the seat, and the place was shunned afterwards, because Arius had there received the punishment of his impiety. At a later time a certain rich and powerful man, who had embraced the Arian tenets, bought the place of the public, and built a house on the spot, in order that the occurrence might fall into oblivion, and that there might be no perpetual memorial of the death of Arius.
The death of Arius did not terminate the doctrinal dispute which he had originated. Those who adhered to his sentiments did not cease from plotting against those who maintained opposite opinions. The people of Alexandria loudly complained of the exile of Athanasius, and offered up supplications for his return; and Antony, the celebrated monk, wrote frequently to the emperor to entreat him to attach no credit to the insinuations of the Melitians, but to reject their accusations as calumnies; yet the emperor was not convinced by these arguments, and wrote to the Alexandrians, accusing them of folly and of disorderly conduct. He commanded the clergy and the holy virgins to remain quiet, and declared that he would not change his mind nor recall Athanasius, whom, he said, he regarded as an exciter of sedition, justly condemned by the judgment of the Church. He replied to Antony, by stating that he ought not to overlook the decree of the Synod; for even if some few of the bishops, he said, were actuated by ill-will or the desire to oblige others, it scarcely seems credible that so many prudent and excellent bishops could have been impelled by such motives; and, he added, that Athanasius was contumelious and arrogant, and the cause of dissension and sedition. The enemies of Athanasius accused him the more especially of these crimes, because they knew that the emperor regarded them with peculiar aversion. When he heard that the Church was split into two factions, of which one supported Athanasius and the other John, he was transported with indignation, and exiled John himself. This John had succeeded Melitius, and had, with those who held the same sentiments as himself, been restored to communion and reestablished in the clerical functions by the Synod of Tyre. His banishment was contrary to the wishes of the enemies of Athanasius, yet it was done, and the decrees of the Synod of Tyre did not benefit John, for the emperor was beyond supplication or petition of any kind with respect to any one who was suspected of stirring up Christian people to sedition or dissension.
Although the doctrine of Arius was zealously supported by many persons in disputations, a party had not as yet been formed to whom the name of Arians could be applied as a distinctive appellation; for all assembled together as a church and held communion with each other, with the exception of the Novatians, those called Phrygians, the Valentinians, the Marcionites, the Paulianians, and some few others who adhered to already invented heresies. The emperor, however, enacted a law that their own houses of prayer should be abolished; and that they should meet in the churches, and not hold church in private houses, or in public places. He deemed it better to hold fellowship in the Catholic Church, and he advised them to assemble in her walls. By means of this law, almost all the heresies, I believe, disappeared. During the reign of preceding emperors, all who worshipped Christ, however they might have differed from each other in opinion, received the same treatment from the pagans, and were persecuted with equal cruelty. These common calamities, to which they were all equally liable, prevented them from prosecuting any close inquiries as to the differences of opinion which existed among themselves; it was therefore easy for the members of each party to hold church by themselves, and by continually conferring with one another, however few they might have been in number, they were not disrupted. But after this law was passed they could not assemble in public, because it was forbidden; nor could they hold their assemblies in secret, for they were watched by the bishops and clergy of their city. Hence the greater number of these sectarians were led, by fear of consequences, to join themselves to the Catholic Church. Those who adhered to their original sentiments did not, at their death, leave any disciples to propagate their heresy, for they could neither come together into the same place, nor were they able to teach in security those of the same opinions. On account either of the absurdity of the heretical dogmas, or of the utter ignorance of those who devised and taught them, the respective followers of each heresy were, from the beginning, very few in number. The Novatians alone, who had obtained good leaders, and who entertained the same opinions respecting the Divinity as the Catholic Church, were numerous, from the beginning, and remained so, not being much injured by this law; the emperor, I believe, willingly relaxed in their favor the rigor of the enactment, for he only desired to strike terror into the minds of his subjects, and had no intention of persecuting them. Acesius, who was then the bishop of this heresy in Constantinople, was much esteemed by the emperor on account of his virtuous life; and it is probable that it was for his sake that the church which he governed met with protection. The Phrygians suffered the same treatment as the other heretics in all the Roman provinces except Phrygia and the neighboring regions, for here they had, since the time of Montanus, existed in great numbers and do so to the present day.
About this time the partisans of Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, and of Theognis, bishop of Nicæa, began to make innovations in writing upon the confession set forth by the Nicæan Council. They did not venture to reject openly the assertion that the Son is consubstantial with the Father, because this assertion was maintained by the emperor; but they propounded another document, and signified to the Eastern bishops that they received the terms of the Nicæan doctrine with verbal interpretations. From this declaration and reflection, the former dispute lapsed into fresh discussion, and what seemed to have been put at rest was again set in motion.
At the same period, Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra, in Galatia, was deposed and cast out of the Church by the bishops assembled at Constantinople, because he had introduced some new doctrines, whereby he taught that the existence of the Son of God commenced when He was born of Mary, and that His kingdom would have an end; he had, moreover, drawn up a written document wherein these views were propounded. Basil, a man of great eloquence and learning, was invested with the bishopric of the parish of Galatia. They also wrote to the churches in the neighboring regions, to desire them to search for the copies of the book written by Marcellus, and to destroy them, and to lead back any whom they might find to have embraced his sentiments. They stated that the work was too voluminous to admit of their transcribing the whole in their epistle, but that they inserted quotations of certain passages in order to prove that the doctrines which they had condemned were there advocated. Some persons, however, maintained that Marcellus had merely propounded a few questions which had been misconstrued by the adherents of Eusebius, and represented to the emperor as actual confessions. Eusebius and his partisans were much irritated against Marcellus, because he had not consented to the definitions propounded by the Synod in Phœnicia, nor to the regulations which had been made in favor of Arius at Jerusalem; and had likewise refused to attend at the consecration of the Great Martyrium, in order to avoid communion with them. In their letter to the emperor, they dwelt largely upon this latter circumstance, and brought it forward as a charge, alleging that it was a personal insult to him to refuse attendance at the consecration of the temple which he had constructed at Jerusalem. The motive by which Marcellus was induced to write this work was that Asterius, who was a sophist and a native of Cappadocia, had written a treatise in defense of the Arian doctrines, and had read it in various cities, and to the bishops, and likewise at several Synods where he had attended. Marcellus undertook to refute his arguments, and while thus engaged, he, either deliberately or unintentionally, fell into the opinions of Paul of Samosata. He was afterwards, however, reinstated in his bishopric by the Synod of Sardis, after having proved that he did not hold such sentiments.
The emperor had already divided the empire among his sons, who were styled Cæsars. To Constantine and Constans he awarded the western regions; and to Constantius, the eastern; and as he was indisposed, and required to have recourse to bathing, he repaired for that purpose to Helenopolis, a city of Bithynia. His malady, however, increased, and he went to Nicomedia, and was initiated into holy baptism in one of the suburbs of that city. After the ceremony he was filled with joy, and returned thanks to God. He then confirmed the division of the empire among his sons, according to his former allotment, and bestowed certain privileges on old Rome and on the city named after himself. He placed his testament in the hands of the presbyter who constantly extolled Arius, and who had been recommended to him as a man of virtuous life by his sister Constantia in her last moments, and commanded him with an added oath to deliver it to Constantius on his return, for neither Constantius nor the other Cæsars were with their dying father. After making these arrangements, Constantine survived but a few days; he died in the sixty-fifth year of his age, and the thirty-first of his reign. He was a powerful protector of the Christian religion, and was the first of the emperors who began to be zealous for the Church, and to bestow upon her high benefactions. He was more successful than any other sovereign in all his undertakings; for he formed no design, I am convinced, without God. He was victorious in his wars against the Goths and Sarmatians, and, indeed, in all his military enterprises; and he changed the form of government according to his own mind with so much ease, that he created another senate and another imperial city, to which he gave his own name. He assailed the pagan religion, and in a little while subverted it, although it had prevailed for ages among the princes and the people.
After the death of Constantine, his body was placed in a golden coffin, conveyed to Constantinople, and deposited on a certain platform in the palace; the same honor and ceremonial were observed, by those who were in the palace, as were accorded to him while living. On hearing of his father's death, Constantius, who was then in the East, hastened to Constantinople, and interred the royal remains with the utmost magnificence, and deposited them in the tomb which had been constructed by order of the deceased in the Church of the Apostles. From this period it became the custom to deposit the remains of subsequent Christian emperors in the same place of interment; and here bishops, likewise, were buried, for the hierarchical dignity is not only equal in honor to imperial power, but, in sacred places, even takes the ascendancy.
Source. Translated by Chester D. Hartranft. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 2. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/26022.htm>.
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