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Chapter XXIII.—Exaction of Tribute in Antioch, and Demolition of the Statues of the Emperor. Embassy headed by Flavian the Chief Priest.

In this time, on account of the necessities of war, it seemed best to the officials whose concern it was, to impose more than the customary taxes; for this reason the populace of Antioch in Syria revolted;15641564    Soz. is again independent. Cf. Theodoret, H. E. v. 20; Chrysost. Homiliæ, xxi., de Statuis ad populum Antiochenum habitæ. the statues of the emperor and empress were thrown down and dragged by ropes through the city, and, as is usual on such occasions, the enraged multitude uttered every insulting epithet that passion could suggest. The emperor determined to avenge this insult by the death of many of the citizens of Antioch; the people were struck dumb at the mere announcement; the rage of the citizens had subsided, and had given place to repentance; and, as if already subjected to the threatened punishment, they abandoned themselves to groans and tears, and supplicated God to turn away the anger of the emperor, and made use of some threnodic hymns for their litanies. They deputed 393Flavian, their bishop, to go on an embassy to Theodosius; but on his arrival, finding that the resentment of the emperor at what had occurred was unabated, he had recourse to the following artifice. He caused some young men accustomed to sing at the table of the emperor to utter these hymns with the litanies of the Antiochans. It is said that the humanity of the emperor was excited; he was overcome by pity at once; his wrath was subdued, and as his heart yearned over the city, he shed tears on the cup which he held in his hand. It is reported that, on the night before the sedition occurred, a spectre was seen in the form of a woman of prodigious height and terrible aspect, pacing through the streets of the city, lashing the air with an ill-sounding whip, similar to that which is used in goading on the beasts brought forward at the public theatres. It might have been inferred that the sedition was excited by the agency of some evil and malicious demon. There is no doubt but that much bloodshed would have ensued, had not the wrath of the emperor been stayed by his respect for this sacerdotal entreaty.


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