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To Germanus a Bishop
(Eus., H. E. vi. 40 and vii. 11)
(1) Now before God I speak and He knoweth if I lie;3939Cp. Gal. i. 20. not at all on my own judgment nor yet without Divine guidance did I take flight, but on a former occasion also as soon as ever the persecution under Decius was set up,4040i. e. in October 249. Sabinus4141The Prefect of Egypt. sent a frumentarius4242This was a kind of soldier employed on secret service by the emperors and their provincial governors. to seek me; and I awaited his arrival at my house for four days, while he went round searching everywhere, the streams, the roads and the fields, where he suspected me to hide or go, but he never lighted on my house, being held by blindness: for he did not believe 44 I should stay at home under pursuit. And hardly after the four days when God bade me remove and unexpectedly made a way for me, I and the boys4343Probably his sons, though they might be his pupils or his servants. and many of the brethren went out together. And this was ordered by the Providence of God, as after events have shown, in which perchance we have been useful to some.
Further on he proceeds—
(2) For about sunset I with my companions having fallen into the hands of the soldiers, was taken to Taposiris, but Timotheus4444One of “the boys.” by the Providence of God happened not to be present nor to be caught elsewhere. But arriving afterwards, he found the house empty and servants guarding it, and us carried off prisoners.
And further on—
(3) And what is the manner of His wonderful dispensation? for only the truth shall be spoken. One of the rustics met Timotheus as he was fleeing and troubled,4545Whether Timotheus was making off to join Dionysius or was fleeing in another direction is not clear. and inquired the reason of his haste. And he told the truth, and when the other heard it (now he was going to a marriage revel: for it is their custom to pass the whole night at such gatherings), he entered and informed those who were reclining at table. And they with one consent as if at a signal all arose and came running at great speed and fell upon us with loud cries, and when the soldiers who were guarding us straightway took to flight, they 45 came upon us just as we were reclining on the bare bedsteads. And I indeed, God wot, taking them at first to be bandits who had come for plunder and ravage, remained on the couch where I was, undressed save for my linen under-garment,4646Cp. Mark xiv. 52. and began to offer them the rest of my raiment which was at my side. But they bade me rise and go out as quickly as I could. And then I, understanding why they had come, cried out begging and praying them to depart and leave us, and if they would do us a good turn, I besought them to forestall those who had carried me off and cut off my head themselves. And while I thus cried, as they know who shared and took part in everything, they raised me by force, and when I let myself down on my back to the ground, they took and led me out, dragging me by the arms and legs. And there followed me those who had been witnesses of all this, Gaius, Faustus, Peter and Paul, and they also helped to carry me out of the township in their arms, and then putting me on a barebacked ass, led me away.
[Another extract from the same letter given by Eusebius in another part of his History, and referring to a somewhat later period in Dionysius’s life]
(4) I am really in danger of falling into much foolishness4747Dionysius’s language here recalls 2 Cor. xi. 1, 17, 21 and xii. 6, 11. and want of right feeling through being compelled of necessity to narrate God’s wondrous dispensation concerning us. But since “it is good,” it says,4848Viz. Tobit xii. 7, where the best attested reading is “to reveal gloriously,” instead of “(it is) glorious to reveal.” “to keep close the secret of a king but 46 glorious to reveal the works of God,” I will come to close quarters with our violent accuser, Germanus. I came before Æmilian4949The Prefect of Egypt at that time. not alone; for there followed with me my fellow-presbyter5050Though Dionysius was Bishop, it is noticeable that he still associates himself with the presbyterate here and elsewhere; cp. 1 Pet. v. 1, etc. Maximus, and deacons Faustus, Eusebius and Chæremon. And one of the brethren who was present from Rome came in with us. Now Æmilian did not say to me at the start, “Do not summon” (the brethren for public worship): for that was superfluous and the last thing (to insist on), since he was going back to the very beginning of the matter. For the question was not about summoning others but about not being Christians ourselves, and it was from this that he bade us desist, thinking that if I should change my mind, the others would follow me. And I answered not unsuitably nor yet very differently from the words: “We ought to obey God rather than men,”5151Acts v. 29. but I testified outright that I worship the only God and none other, nor will I ever alter nor desist from being a Christian. Upon this he bade us go away to a village on the borders of the desert named Cephro. Listen then to what was said on both sides as it was (officially) recorded: Dionysius, Faustus, Maximus, Marcellus5252Marcellus seems to be the “brother from Rome” mentioned above, and Eusebius is not now mentioned. and Chæremon being brought in, Æmilian the Prefect said: “In the course of conversation also5353The word “also” either refers to the imperial edict or suggests that some written communication had been sent. I described to you the clemency which our Sovereigns5454Viz. Valerian and his son Gallienus. have displayed towards you. For they gave you 47 opportunity of being liberated if you would adopt a natural line of conduct and worship the gods who protect the Empire and give up those who are contrary to nature. What say ye then to this? for I do not expect you will be ungrateful for their clemency when they invite you to a better course.” Dionysius answered: “It is not a fact that all men worship all gods, for each worships certain whom he believes in. So with us, we worship and adore the One God, the Creator of all things, who has entrusted the Empire also to the most religious Emperors, Valerian and Gallienus; and to Him we pray5555Cp. 1 Tim. ii. 2; this laudable custom is often referred to in early Christian writings. without ceasing for their Empire that it may abide unshaken.” Æmilian the Prefect said, “But who prevents you from worshipping him also, if he be god, with the natural gods? for you were ordered to worship gods and those which all know.” Dionysius answered: “We worship none other but Him.” Æmilian the Prefect said to them: “I observe that you together are both ungrateful and insensible of the leniency of our Emperors. Wherefore ye shall not be in this city but shall be dismissed to the parts of Libya and stay in a place called Cephro, which I have chosen at the bidding of our Emperors. And both you and others will be absolutely forbidden either to hold meetings or to enter the cemeteries so-called.5656This restriction was constantly enforced by persecuting emperors, because the graves of martyrs were a favourite resort for prayer and worship. The word cemetery (=sleeping-place) was introduced by Christians for graveyards. And if any one were to appear not to have arrived at the place I have ordered or were found at any assembly, he will do so at his own risk. For the necessary penalty will not be wanting. Be off therefore where 48 ye were bidden.” So he hurried me away even though I was sick, granting me not a day’s respite. What leisure, then, had I to call assemblies or not?5757This is an indignant protest against Germanus’s charges.
Further on he says—
(5) But we did not abstain even from the visible assembling of ourselves together in the Lord’s presence, but those who were in the city (Alexandria) I the more earnestly urged to assemble, as if I were still with them, being absent in the body, as it says, but present in the spirit.58581 Cor. xv. 3. And at Cephro also a large number of the Church were sojourning with us, consisting of the brethren who had followed us from the city or were present from other parts of Egypt. There, too, the Lord opened us a door for the word.5959Col. iv. 3. And at first we were pursued and stoned, but later not a few of the Gentiles left their idols and turned to God. Thus the word was first sown through us in their hearts who had not previously received it. And as it were for this cause God having led us to them, led us away again when we had fulfilled this ministry.6060Cp. Acts xii. 25. For Æmilian wished, as it seemed, to transfer us to rougher and more Libyan-like parts, and bade those who were scattered in every direction to draw together to the Mareotis, assigning to each party one of the villages of the district, but us he put more on the road so that we should be the first to be arrested. For he evidently managed and arranged so that he might have us easy of capture whenever he wished to seize us. And as for me, when I was ordered to depart to Cephro, I did not even know in what direction the place lay, hardly having heard 49 so much as the name before; and yet I went off willingly and without trouble. But when it was told me that they would remove me to the parts of Colluthion, all who were present know how I was affected. For here I will accuse myself. At first I was vexed and took it very ill. For though the place happened to be better known and more familiar to us, yet people said it was devoid of brethren and respectable folk, being exposed to the annoyances of wayfarers and the attacks of robbers. But I found consolation when the brethren reminded me that it is nearer to the city, and that, while Cephro gave much opportunity of intercourse with brethren from Egypt in general, so that one could draw congregations from a wider area, yet at Colluthion we should more constantly enjoy the sight of those who were really loved and most intimate and dear. For they would be able to come and stay the night and there would be district-meetings as is the case with outlying suburbs.6161The brethren who lived on the outskirts of a city like Alexandria were not bound to attend the mother church, but had as it were chapels of ease in their own vicinities. And so it turned out.
And lower down again he writes this about what had happened to him—
(6) Many indeed are the confessions of faith over which Germanus prides himself: many are the things which he has to mention as having happened to him. Can he reckon up as many in his own case as I can in mine—condemnations, confiscations, sales by public auction, spoiling of one’s possessions, loss of dignities, despisings of worldly honour, contempt of commendations by Prefects and Councils and of opponents’ threats, endurance of clamourings and dangers and 50 persecutions and wanderings and tribulations and much affliction, such as are the things which have happened unto me under Decius and Sabinus and up to the present time under Æmilian? But where did Germanus appear? What talk was there of him? However, I withdraw from the much foolishness into which I am falling through Germanus; wherefore I refrain from giving a detailed account of events to the brethren who know all.
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