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Part II.—Containing Epistles, or Fragments of Epistles.
1. But it would be a superfluous task for me to mention by name our (martyr) friends, who are numerous and at the same time unknown to you. Only understand that they include men and women, both young men and old, both maidens and aged matrons, both soldiers and private citizens,—every class and every age, of whom some have suffered by stripes and fire, and some by the sword, and have won the victory and received their crowns. In the case of others, however, even a very long lifetime has not proved sufficient to secure their appearance as men acceptable to the Lord; as indeed in my own case too, that sufficient time has not shown itself up to the present. Wherefore He has preserved me for another convenient season, of which He knows Himself, as He says: “In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee.”778778 Isa. xlix. 8.
2. Since, however, you have been inquiring779779 Reading ἐπειδὴ πυνθάνεσθε, for which some codices give ἐπεὶ πυνθάνεσθαι. about what has befallen us, and wish to be informed as to how we have fared, you have got a full report of our fortunes; how when we—that is to say, Gains, and myself, and Faustus, and Peter, and Paul—were led off as prisoners by the centurion and the magistrates,780780 στρατηγῶν. Christophorsonus would read στρατηγοῦ in the sense of commander. But the word is used here of the duumviri, or magistrates of Alexandria. And that the word στρατηγός was used in this civil acceptation as well as in the common military application, we see by many examples in Athanasius, Ammianus Marcellinus, and others. Thus, as Valesius remarks, the soldiers (στρατιωτῶν) here will be the band with the centurion, and the attendants (ὑπηρετῶν) will be the civil followers of the magistrates. and the sol97diers and other attendants accompanying them, there came upon us certain parties from Mareotis, who dragged us with them against our will, and though we were disinclined to follow them, and carried us away by force;781781 This happened in the first persecution under Decius, when Dionysius was carried off by the decision of the prefect Sabinus to Taposiris, as he informs us in his epistle to Germanus. Certainly any one who compares that epistle of Dionysius to Germanus with this one to Domitius, will have no doubt that he speaks of one and the same event in both. Hence Eusebius is in error in thinking that in this epistle of Dionysius to Domitius we have a narrative of the events relating to the persecution of Valerian,—a position which may easily be refuted from Dionysius himself. For in the persecution under Valerian, Dionysius was not carried off into exile under military custody, nor were there any men from Mareotis, who came and drove off the soldiers, and bore him away unwillingly, and set him at liberty again; nor had Dionysius on that occasion the presbyters Gaius and Faustus, and Peter and Paul, with him. All these things happened to Dionysius in that persecution which began a little before Decius obtained the empire, as he testifies himself in his epistle to Germanus. But in the persecution under Valerian, Dionysius was accompanied in exile by the presbyter Maximus, and the deacons Faustus, and Eusebius, and Chæremon, and a certain Roman cleric, as he tells us in the epistle to Germanus.—Valesius. and how Gaius and Peter and myself have been separated from our other brethren, and shut up alone in a desert and sterile place in Libya, at a distance of three days’ journey from Parætonium.
3. And a little further on, he proceeds thus:—And they concealed themselves in the city, and secretly visited the brethren. I refer to the presbyters Maximus, Dioscorus, Demetrius, and Lucius. For Faustinus and Aquila, who are persons of greater prominence in the world, are wandering about in Egypt. I specify also the deacons who survived those who died in the sickness,782782 ἐν τῇ νόσῳ. Rufinus reads νήσῳ, and renders it, “But of the deacons, some died in the island after the pains of confession.” But Dionysius refers to the pestilence which traversed the whole Roman world in the times of Gallus and Volusianus, as Eusebius in his Chroniconand others record. See Aurelius Victor. Dionysius makes mention of this sickness again in the paschal epistle to the Alexandrians, where he also speaks of the deacons who were cut off by that plague.—Vales. viz., Faustus, Eusebius, and Chæremon. And of Eusebius I speak as one whom the Lord strengthened from the beginning, and qualified for the task of discharging energetically the services due to the confessors who are in prison, and of executing the perilous office of dressing out and burying783783 περιστολὰς ἐκτελεῖν. Christophorsonus renders it: “to prepare the linen cloths in which the bodies of the blessed martyrs who departed this life might be wrapped.” In this Valesius thinks he errs by looking at the modern method of burial, whereas among the ancient Christians the custom was somewhat different, the bodies being dressed out in full attire, and that often at great cost, as Eusebius shows us in the case of Astyrius, in the Hist. Eccles., vii. 16. Yet Athanasius, in his Life of Antonius, has this sentence: “The Egyptians are accustomed to attend piously to the funerals of the bodies of the dead, and especially those of the holy martyrs, and to wrap them in linen cloths: they are not wont, however, to consign them to the earth, but to place them on couches, and keep them in private apartments.” the bodies of those perfected and blessed martyrs. For even up to the present day the governor does not cease to put to death, in a cruel manner, as I have already said, some of those who are brought before him; while he wears others out by torture, and wastes others away with imprisonment and bonds, commanding also that no one shall approach them and making strict scrutiny lest any one should be seen to do so. And nevertheless God imparts relief to the oppressed by the tender kindness and earnestness of the brethren.
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