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GOTHS AT ANTIOCH
Oh! thou goddess,
Thou divine nature, how thyself thou blazon’st
In these two princely boys!—Cymbeline, iv. 2.
One day in the year 395, as Chrysostom and Philip were walking down the grand main street of Antioch, under the colonnades which sheltered them from the almost blinding sunlight, they saw an unwonted sight. No less a person than the all-powerful Rufinus had come to Antioch. Nominally sent on a mission by Arcadius, he had really come to avenge a terrific private grudge against Lucian, the Count of the East. Lucian had been a favourite of Rufinus, and had purchased his promotion by bribes; but he had used his power well, and had refused to commit an injustice to benefit Eucherius, the Emperor’s uncle. Eucherius complained to the Emperor, and as his anger endangered Rufinus’s plan for marrying Arcadius to his daughter, he was filled with fury against Lucian for his honest independence.
As his mission was aimed against so powerful an official—for Antioch ranked with Constantinople, Rome, and Alexandria, among the four first cities of the Empire—the Emperor had attached to the escort of Rufinus some of those Gothic guards whose fine presence his father, Theodosius, had regarded as the most splendid ornament of his palace. They marched around the chariot of the Minister in the splendour of their armour—their necks encircled with collars of gold, the tawny wolfskins belted over their breasts, the quivers on their backs, the huge bow carried in the left hand, and their fair locks, the admiration of all the East, flowing under their helmets adorned with pheasant’s plumes.74
They had brought with them some of their youths to witness the glories of the Eastern city, and on the morning after Rufinus had made his secret midnight entrance into the city and taken possession of the palace of the Seleucids, these Goths, laying aside their accoutrements, stalked out over the island-bridge into the streets. Barbarians of this stature and distinction were almost unknown in Antioch, and wherever they went the slim, dark Syrians and the inquisitive Greeks thronged to stare at them, much to their indignation. Their knowledge of Greek was highly imperfect, and of Syriac they knew nothing. They did not like to condescend to ask their way, for if they did the impudent boys in the crowd laughed at their pronunciation and their blunders, and had more than once hopelessly misdirected them. They had managed to get to the Forum, but with little notion where they were; and there a crowd of the loungers who infested Antioch gathered in knots about them. Treating the starers with as much indifference as they could, one of the Gothic youths had ventured to ask, in bad Greek, ‘What that building was?’ pointing to the Hall of Justice. The gamin appealed to gave some ridiculous answer, which made the crowd roar with laughter; and another tried his wit by giving the Goths the nickname of ‘cranes,’ in reference to their slow and stately gait. This amused the Antiochenes still more, and the strangers were saluted with general cries of ’Cranes! Cranes!’ till one of the younger Goths, more quick-tempered and less disdainful than his brothers, gave a buffet to one of these ill-mannered tonguesters which laid him sprawling and howling in the dust. The rest of the crowd shrank back to a more respectful distance; but, jealous of the superior size and beauty of the Goths, and not liking to see their comrade so lightly felled by a mere barbarian, the boys began to pelt them with stones. Then the Goths indiscriminately seized some of their tormentors, and so soundly boxed their ears, or beat them with the flat of their swords, that the amusement of the crowd began to be mingled with a little salutary dread.
At this moment Chrysostom entered the Forum with Philip, and the youth’s quick glance at once took in the scene.75
‘My father,’ he said—for so Chrysostom had told him to address him—’I think you are seriously wanted here,’ and in a few words he rapidly told him what was going on.
Chrysostom woke from one of the reveries in which he was often lost, and, advancing to the crowd, who all knew him, and by all of whom he was deeply reverenced, he said to them very sternly:
‘Mischievous idlers, what is this? Do you not know that these Goths have come here with Rufinus, and belong to the very Bodyguard of the Emperor? Can you be so senseless? Do you want another affair of the statues, or do you wish to undergo the fate of Thessalonica? Back to your business, if you have any, before I summon the archers.’
The crowd slank away, filled with alarm; and Philip picked up the sobbing gamin, much more frightened than hurt, whom the young Goth had knocked down. He told him to apologise, which the street-arab was only too glad to do. Meanwhile Chrysostom, speaking slowly and distinctly in the simplest Greek, expressed his regret to the Goths that they should have been thoughtlessly annoyed, and courteously offered to be their guide through the city:
The Presbyter was only of middle height, and the tall Ostrogoths looked like giants by his side; but they recognised a man when they saw him. They instantly recovered the good temper which had only been ruffled for a moment.
‘I did not know that your streets at Antioch buzzed with so many insects,’ said their chief; ‘but I would not willingly hurt them.’
‘The people are more accustomed to you in Constantinople,’ answered Chrysostom. ‘They have never seen men like you before, and are, perhaps, a little envious.’
The Goths smiled with gratified vanity at a perfectly sincere compliment, and, recognising from something indefinable in his manner that Chrysostom must be an ecclesiastic—though in those days the clergy wore the ordinary costume of the laity—he asked, ‘Are you not John, the famous presbyter?’
‘Not famous,’ said Chrysostom; ‘but I am John.’
‘Ah!’ said the Amal, ‘you have spoken kindly to me, and let me tell you a story. I once went to visit the 76 Frank Arbogast, and asked him if he knew the Bishop Ambrose, at Milan. “Yes,” said Arbogast, “and have often sat at his table.” “Ah, chief!” answered one of his guests, “that is why you are so victorious, because you are a friend of the man who can make the sun stand still.”’
‘I cannot compare my insignificance to the greatness of Ambrose,’ said Chrysostom.
‘I don’t know,’ said the Goth, ‘but you, more than any man, saved Antioch from the fate of Thessalonica, and our Fravitta and our Gaïnas, whose sons these two boys are, have heard of you and honour you.’
‘Would that you, noble Goths, were not Arians,’ said Chrysostom, whom no consideration could ever prevent from saying what he thought was right.
‘Oh!’ said the Goth, laughing, ‘it is not possible for us Northern soldiers to enter into your theological niceties, about which Constantinople idly chatters, and lives like Gomorrah all the same. We follow the doctrine of our great bishop and teacher—Wulfila, “the little wolf,” so we called him out of love for him. He translated our Bible for us, and never meant to be otherwise than orthodox.’
Chrysostom saw that it would be useless to pursue the subject, but he did his utmost to interest the Amals and their boys. He showed them the flowering banks of the Orontes; he pointed out to them the best statues; he walked with them to the huge Charonium, which amazed them above everything; he gave them a glimpse of the ravine of Parthenius, and took them to the Golden Gate to show them the colossal Cherubim, the spoils of the Temple of Jerusalem, which Titus had placed over its arch. Philip, meanwhile, with Greek grace and versatility, had made himself perfectly at home with the younger Goths, and Chrysostom gave them a little banquet at his own house.
‘Tell me your name, Greek,’ said one of the young brothers to Philip. ‘We like you. You have been courteous to us.’
‘My name is Philip. And yours?’
‘I am Thorismund, the son of Gaïnas.’
‘And I,’ said the younger, ‘am Walamir, the son of 77 Gaïnas. We are both Amalings—that is, of noblest birth—and I hope we shall meet you again, Philip.’
‘It is not likely,’ said Philip, ‘for I shall never leave the Presbyter, and Constantinople is far away. But if you ever return to Antioch, come and see us, and I hope that the street riff-raff will behave better.’
‘Oh! never mind them,’ said Thorismund; ‘and if the young scamp who went down under my buffet was hurt, give him this,’ and he put a broad silver piece in Philip’s hand.
‘I will give it to him,’ said Philip, ‘but you must not think, Thorismund, that we shall all of us fall down at the mere wind of a blow.’
‘Would you like to try a friendly wrestling bout?’
‘I am quite willing,’ said Philip, laughing, ‘if the Presbyter doesn’t object. We might wrestle here on this grass-plat in the garden, and your chief and the Presbyter shall be umpires.’
Chrysostom was a little scandalised by the suggestion, but he good-humouredly acquiesced, if the trial of strength was to be quite friendly and for fun.
The two youths rose, and smilingly locked each other in a firm grasp. They were of about the same age, and fine specimens of Greek and Teutonic beauty. It soon appeared that Thorismund was the stronger, and Philip the more skilful, having long been trained in the boyish games of the palæstra. In the first trial Thorismund had some trouble to hold his own, but at last by sheer strength lifted Philip and threw him; but at the second trial Philip with his heel struck the hollow of Thorismund’s knee, and down he fell, with Philip uppermost. They were about to try a third bout, when both Chrysostom and the chief Amal interfered.
‘Enough,’ they said; ‘you have both done well. So part and be friends.’
‘That we shall be,’ said Thorismund, ‘and in sign of it I will ask Philip to accept this.’ He took from the purse at his girdle a silver fibula, and said, ‘This will do to fasten your toga.’
‘Well, but,’ said Philip, ‘we must be like the Homeric heroes, and if I take your gift you must take mine.’ He 78 fetched from his room an armlet of his father’s workmanship, and Thorismund welcomed the gift.
‘Do you know what those runes on your fibula mean, Philip?’ asked Walamir.
‘They are the two words, “Chaste, Faithful,” and you may remember our names by them; for of our ancestors young Thorismund was called “the Chaste,” and Walamir “the Faithful.”’
So they said farewell to each other with mutual friendship and esteem.
Philip gazed after them as they strode down Singon Street. ‘What noble fellows!’ he exclaimed. ‘How they tower over the sly, slim, swarthy Antiochenes! Those two youths with the sunlight turning their short curls into gold might be young Apollos. If the Lystrenians saw them they would say, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men.”’
‘Yes,’ said Chrysostom. ‘They seem to belong to a nobler, stronger, purer race than ours. We cannot stand against them. Surely the future must belong to them! We have to go to them alike for our soldiers and our generals. Oh that they were not Arians!’
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