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Epistle XIII.—To Hierax, a Bishop in Egypt.917917    Eusebius, Hist. Eccles., vii. 21. The preface to this extract in Eusebius is as follows: “After this he (Dionysius) wrote also another Paschal epistle to Hierax, a bishop in Egypt, in which he makes the following statement about the sedition then prevailing at Alexandria.”

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1. But what wonder should there be if I find it difficult to communicate by letter with those who are settled in remote districts, when it seems beyond my power even to reason with myself, and to take counsel with918918    Or, for. my own soul? For surely epistolary communications are very requisite for me with those who are, as it were, my own bowels, my closest associates, and my brethren—one in soul with myself, and members, too, of the same Church. And yet no way opens up by which I can transmit such addresses. Easier, indeed, would it be for one, I do not say merely to pass beyond the limits of the province, but to cross from east to west, than to travel from this same Alexandria to Alexandria. For the most central pathway in this city919919    μεσαιτάτη τῆς πόλεως. Codex Regius gives τῶν πόλεων. The sedition referred to as thus dividing Alexandria is probably that which broke out when Æmilianus seized the sovereignty in Alexandria. See Pollio’s Thirty Tyrants. is vaster920920    ἄπειρος. But Codices Fuk. and Savil. give ἄπορος, “impracticable.” and more impassable even than that extensive and untrodden desert which Israel only traversed in two generations; and our smooth and waveless harbours have become an image of that sea through which the people drove, at the time when it divided itself and stood up like walls on either side, and in whose thoroughfare the Egyptians were drowned. For often they have appeared like the Red Sea, in consequence of the slaughter perpetrated in them. The river, too, which flows by the city, has sometimes appeared drier than the waterless desert, and more parched than that wilderness in which Israel was so overcome with thirst on their journey, that they kept crying out against Moses, and the water was made to stream for them from the precipitous921921    ἀκροτόμου. It may perhaps mean “smitten” here. rock by the power of Him who alone doeth wondrous things. And sometimes, again, it has risen in such flood-tide, that it has overflowed all the country round about, and the roads, and the fields, as if it threatened to bring upon us once more that deluge of waters which occurred in the days of Noah.

2. But now it always flows onward, polluted with blood and slaughters and the drowning struggles of men, just as it did of old, when on Pharaoh’s account it was changed by Moses into blood, and made putrid. And what other liquid could cleanse water, which itself cleanses all things? How could that ocean, so vast and impassable for men, though poured out on it, ever purge this bitter sea? Or how could even that great river which streams forth from Eden,922922    ᾽Εδέμ. though it were to discharge the four hearts into which it is divided into the one channel of the Gihon,923923    Written Γηών in Codex Alexandrinus, but Γεών in Codex Vaticanus. wash away these pollutions? Or when will this air, befouled as it is by noxious exhalations which rise in every direction, become pure again? For there are such vapours sent forth from the earth, and such blasts from the sea, and breezes from the rivers, and reeking mists from the harbours, that for dew we might suppose ourselves to have the impure fluids924924    ιχῶρας. of the corpses which are rotting in all the underlying elements. And yet, after all this, men are amazed, and are at a loss to understand whence 110come these constant pestilences, whence these terrible diseases, whence these many kinds of fatal inflictions, whence all that large and multiform destruction of human life, and what reason there is why this mighty city no longer contains within it as great a number of inhabitants, taking all parties into account, from tender children up to those far advanced in old age, as once it maintained of those alone whom it called hale old men.925925    ὡμογέροντας. But those from forty years of age up to seventy were so much more numerous then, that their number cannot be made up now even when those from fourteen to eighty years of age have been added to the roll and register of persons who are recipients of the public allowances of grain. And those who are youngest in appearance have now become, as it were, equals in age with those who of old were the most aged. And yet, although they thus see the human race constantly diminishing and wasting away upon the earth, they have no trepidation in the midst of this increasing and advancing consumption and annihilation of their own number.


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