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Chapter XIX.—Narrative of events at Alexandria in the time of Lucius the Arian, taken from a letter of Petrus, Bishop of Alexandria.
Palladius governor of the province, by sect a heathen,732732 ἐθνικός, “foreigner” a “gentile.” Another common term for “heathen” in ecclesiastical Greek is ῞Ελλην, but neither “Gentile” nor “Greek” expresses the required sense so well as “Heathen,” which, like the cognate “Pagan,” simply denotes a countryman and villager, and marks the age when Christianity was found to be mainly in towns. and one who habitually prostrated himself before the idols, had frequently entertained the thought of waging war against Christ. After collecting the forces already enumerated he set out against the Church, as though he were pressing forward to the subjugation of a foreign foe. Then, as is well known, the most shocking deeds were done, and at the bare thought of telling the story, its recollection fills me with anguish. I have shed floods of tears, and I 122should have long remained thus bitterly affected had I not assuaged my grief by divine meditation. The crowds intruded into the church called Theonas733733 Vide note on page 120. and there instead of holy words were uttered the praises of idols; there where the Holy Scriptures had been read might be heard unseemly clapping of hands with unmanly and indecent utterances; there outrages were offered to the Virgins of Christ which the tongue refuses to utter, for “it is a shame even to speak of them.”734734 Eph. v. 12 On only hearing of these wrongs one of the well disposed stopped his ears and prayed that he might rather become deaf than have to listen to their foul language. Would that they had been content to sin in word alone, and had not surpassed the wickedness of word by deed, for insult, however bad it be, can be borne by them in whom dwells Christ’s wisdom and His holy lessons. But these same villains, vessels of wrath fitted for destruction,735735 Romans ix. 22 screwed up their noses and poured out, if I may so say, as from a well-head, foul noises through their nostrils, and rent the raiment from Christ’s holy virgins, whose conversation gave an exact likeness of saints; they dragged them in triumph, naked as when they were born, through all the town; they made indecent sport of them at their pleasure; their deeds were barbarous and cruel. Did any one in pity interfere and urge to mercy he was dismissed with wounds. Ah! woe is me. Many a virgin underwent brutal violation; many a maid beaten on the head, with clubs lay dumb, and even their bodies were not allowed to be given up for burial, and their grief-stricken parents cannot find their corpses to this day. But why recount woes which seem small when compared with greater? Why linger over these and not hurry on to events more urgent? When you hear them I know that you will wonder and will stand with us long dumb, amazed at the kindness of the Lord in not bringing all things utterly to an end. At the very altar the impious perpetrated what, as it is written,736736 Joel i. 2 neither happened nor was heard of in the days of our fathers.
A boy who had forsworn his sex and would pass for a girl, with eyes, as it is written, smeared with antimony,737737 I adopt the reading στιβῇ for στίμμι. cf. Ez. xxiii. 40 (Sept.). ἐστίβιζον τοῦς ὀφθαλμόυς σου and face reddened with rouge like their idols, in woman’s dress, was set up to dance and wave his hands about and whirl round as though he had been at the front of some disreputable stage, on the holy altar itself where we call on the coming of the Holy Ghost, while the by-standers laughed aloud and rudely raised unseemly shouts. But as this seemed to them really rather decorous than improper, they went on to proceedings which they reckoned in accordance with their indecency; they picked out a man who was very famous for utter baseness, made him strip off at once all his clothes and all his shame, and set him up as naked as he was born on the throne of the church, and dubbed him a vile advocate against Christ. Then for divine words he uttered shameless wickedness, for awful doctrines wanton lewdness, for piety impiety, for continence fornication, adultery, foul lust, theft; teaching that gluttony and drunkenness as well as all the rest were good for man’s life.738738 cf. Greg. Naz. Orat. xxv. 12. p. 464 Ed. Migne. In this state of things when even I had withdrawn from the church739739 cf. Soc. 21.—for how could I remain where troops were coming in—where a mob was bribed to violence—where all were striving for gain—where mobs of heathen were making mighty promises?—forth, forsooth, is sent a successor in my place. It was one named Lucius, who had bought the bishopric as he might some dignity of this world, eager to maintain the bad character and conduct of a wolf.740740 Observe the pun. No synod of orthodox bishops had chosen him;741741 On the subject of episcopal election, vide Dict. Christ. Biog. iv. 335. no vote of genuine clergy; no laity had demanded him; as the laws of the church enjoin.
Lucius could not make his entrance into the city without parade, and so he was appropriately escorted not by bishops, not by presbyters, not by deacons, not by multitudes of the laity; no monks preceded him chanting psalms from the Scriptures; but there was Euzoius, once a deacon of our city of Alexandria, and long since degraded along with Arius in the great and holy synod of Nicæa, and more recently raised to rule and ravage the see of Antioch, and there, too, was Magnus the treasurer,742742 ὀ τῶν κομητατησίων δὲ λαργιτιόνων κόμης. Valesius says, “thesauri principis, qui vulgo sacræ largitiones dicebantur, alii erant per singulas diœceses quibus prœerant comites. Alii erant in comitatu una cum principe, qui comitatenses largitiones dicebantur. His præerat comes largitionum comitatensium.” notorious for every kind of impiety, leading a vast body of troops. In the reign of Julian this Magnus had burnt the church at Berytus,743743 Beyrout, between the ancient Byblus and Sidon. Near here St. George killed the dragon, according to the legend. Our patron saint’s dragon does not seem to have been, as may possibly have been the case in some similar stories, a surviving Saurian, but simply a materialization of some picture of George vanquishing the old dragon, the Devil. 123the famous city of Phœnicia; and, in the reign of Jovian of blessed memory, after barely escaping decapitation by numerous appeals to the imperial compassion, had been compelled to build it up again at his own expense.
Now I invoke your zeal to rise in our vindication. From what I write you ought to be able to calculate the character and extent of the wrongs committed against the Church of God by the starting up of this Lucius to oppose us. Often rejected by your piety and by the orthodox bishops of every region, he seized on a city which had just and righteous cause to regard and treat him as a foe. For he does not merely say like the blasphemous fool in the psalms “Christ is not true God.”744744 Ps. xiv. 1. The Sept. reads Εἶπεν ἄφρων ἐν καρδία αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔστι Θεός, which admits of the translation “He is not God.” But, corrupt himself, he corrupted others, rejoicing in the blasphemies uttered continually against the Saviour by them who worshipped the creature instead of the Creator. The scoundrel’s opinions being quite on a par with those of a heathen, why should he not venture to worship a new-made God, for these were the phrases with which he was publicly greeted “Welcome, bishop, because thou deniest the Son. Serapis loves thee and has brought thee to us.” So they named their native idol. Then without an interval of delay the afore-named Magnus, inseparable associate in the villainy of Lucius, cruel body-guard, savage lieutenant, collected together all the multitudes committed to his care, and arrested presbyters and deacons to the number of nineteen, some of whom were eighty years of age, on the charge of being concerned in some foul violation of Roman law. He constituted a public tribunal, and, in ignorance of the laws of Christians in defence of virtue, endeavoured to compel them to give up the faith of their fathers which had been handed down from the apostles through the fathers to us. He even went so far as to maintain that this would be gratifying to the most merciful and clement Valens Augustus. “Wretched man” he shouted “accept, accept the doctrine of the Arians; God will pardon you even though you worship with a true worship, if you do this not of your own accord but because you are compelled. There is always a defence for irresponsible compulsion, while free action is responsible and much followed by accusation. Consider well these arguments; come willingly; away with all delay; subscribe the doctrine of Arius preached now by Lucius,” (so he introduced him by name) “being well assured that if you obey you will have wealth and honour from your prince, while if you refuse you will be punished by chains, rack, torture, scourge and cruel torments; you will be deprived of your property and possessions; you will be driven into exile and condemned to dwell in savage regions.”
Thus this noble character mixed intimidation with deceit and so endeavoured to persuade and compel the people to apostatise from true religion. They however knew full well how true it is that the pain of treachery to right religion is sharper than any torment; they refused to lower their virtue and noble spirit to his trickery and threats, and were thus constrained to answer him. “Cease, cease trying to frighten us with these words, utter no more vain words. We worship no God of late arrival or of new invention. Foam at us if you will in the vain tempest of your fury and dash yourselves against us like a furious wind. We abide by the doctrines of true religion even unto death; we have never regarded God as impotent, or as unwise, or untrue, as at one time a Father and at another not a Father, as this impious Arian teaches, making the Son a being of time and transitory. For if, as the Ariomaniacs say, the Son is a creature, not being naturally of one substance with the Father, the Father too will be reduced to non-existence by the nonexistence of the Son, not being as they assert at one period a Father. But if He is ever a Father, his offspring being truly of Him, and not by derivation, for God is impassible, how is not he mad and foolish who says of the Son through whom all things came by grace into existence, “there was a time when he was not.”
These men have truly become fatherless by falling away from our fathers throughout the world who assembled at Nicæa, and anathematized the false doctrine of Arius, now defended by this later champion. They laid down that the Son was not as you are now compelling us to say, of a different substance from the Father, but of one and the same. This their pious intelligence clearly perceived, and so from an adequate collation of divine terms they owned Him to be consubstantial.
Advancing these and other similar arguments, they were imprisoned for many days in the hope that they might be induced to fall away from their right mind, but the rather, like the noblest of the athletes in a Stadium, they crushed all fear, and from time to time as it were anointing themselves 124with the thought of the bold deeds done by their fathers, through the help of holy thoughts maintained a nobler constancy in piety, and treated the rack as a training place for virtue. While they were thus struggling, and had become, as writes the blessed Paul, a spectacle to angels and to men,745745 1 Cor. iv. 9 the whole city ran up to gaze at Christ’s athletes, vanquishing by stout endurance the scourges of the judge who was torturing them, winning by patience trophies against impiety, and exhibiting triumphs against Arians. So their savage enemy thought that by threats and torments he could subdue and deliver them to the enemies of Christ. Thus therefore the savage and inhuman tyrant evilly entreated them by inflicting on them the tortures that his cruel ingenuity devised, while all the people stood wailing and shewing their sorrow in various ways. Then he once more mustered his troops, who were disciplined in disorder, and summoned the martyrs to trial, or as it might rather be called, to a foregone condemnation, by the seaport, while after their fashion hired cries were raised against them by the idolaters and the Jews. On their refusal to yield to the manifest heresy of the Ariomaniacs they were sentenced, while all the people stood in tears before the tribunal, to be deported from Alexandria to the Phœnician Heliopolis,746746 In Cœle-Syria, near the sources of the Orontes, where the ruins of the temple of the sun built by Antoninus Pius are known by the modern equivalent of the older title—Baal-Bek, “the city of the sun.” a place where none of the inhabitants, who are all given over to idols, can endure so much as to hear the name of Christ.
After giving them the order to embark, Magnus stationed himself at the port, for he had delivered his sentence against them in the neighbourhood of the public baths. He showed them his sword unsheathed, thinking that he could thus strike terror into men who had again and again smitten hostile demons to the ground with their two-edged blade. So he bade them put out to sea, though they had got no provisions on board, and were starting without one single comfort for their exile. Strange and almost incredible to relate, the sea was all afoam; grieved, I think, and unwilling, if I may so say, to receive the good men upon its surface, and so have part or lot in an unrighteous sentence. Now even to the ignorant was made manifest the savage purpose of the judge and it may truly be said “at this, the heavens stood astonished.”747747 Jer. ii. 12. A.V. “Be astonished, O ye heavens.” But in Sept. as in text ἐξέστη ὁ οὐρανὸς ἐπὶ τούτῳ
The whole city groaned, and is lamenting to this day. Some men beating on their breast with one hand after another raised a mighty noise; others lifted up at once their hands and eyes to heaven in testimony of the wrong inflicted on them, and so saying in all but words, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth,”748748 Isaiah i. 2 what unlawful deeds are being done. Now all was weeping and wailing; singing and sighing sounded through all the town, and from every eye flowed a river of tears which threatened to overwhelm the very sea with its tide. There was the aforesaid Magnus on the port ordering the rowers to hoist the sails, and up went a mingled cry of maids and matrons, old men and young, all sobbing and lamenting together, and the noise of the multitude overwhelmed the roar raised by the waves on the foaming sea. So the martyrs sailed off for Heliopolis, where every man is given over to superstition,749749 Here the obvious sense of δεισιδαιμονῶν matches the “superstitious” of A.V. in Acts xvii. 22 where flourish the devil’s ways of pleasure, and where the situation of the city, surrounded on all sides by mountains that approach the sky, is fitted for the terrifying lairs of wild beasts. All the friends they left behind now alike in public in the middle of the town and each in private apart groaned and uttered words of grief, and were even forbidden to weep, at the order of Palladius, prefect of the city, who happened himself to be a man quite given over to superstition. Many of the mourners were first arrested and thrown into prison, and then scourged, torn with carding combs, tortured, and, champions as they were of the church in their holy enthusiasm, were despatched to the mines of Phennesus750750 Valesius identifies Phennesus with Phynon in Arabia Petræa, now Tafileh. and Proconnesus.751751 The island of Marmara in the sea of that name.
Most of them were monks, devoted
to a life of ascetic solitude, and were about twenty-three in number.
Not long afterwards the deacon who had been sent by our beloved
Damasus, bishop of Rome, to bring us letters of consolation and
communion, was led publicly through the town by executioners, with his
hands tied behind his back like some notorious criminal. After sharing
the tortures inflicted on murderers, he was terribly scourged with
stones and bits of lead about his very neck.752752 The
Roman “Flagellum” was a frightful instrument of torture,
and is distinguished from the “scutica,” or whip, and
“virga,” or rod. It was knotted with bones and bits of
metal, and sometimes ended in a hook. Horace (Sat. I. iii. 119) calls
it “horribile.” He
went on board ship to sail, like the rest, with the 125mark of the sacred cross upon
his brow; with none to aid and none to tempt him he was despatched to
the copper mines of Phennesus. During the tortures inflicted by the
magistrate on the tender bodies of little boys, some have been left
lying on the spot deprived of holy rites of burial, though parents and
brothers and kinsfolk, and indeed the whole city, begged that this one
consolation might be given them. But alas for the inhumanity of the
judge, if indeed he can be called judge who only condemns! They who had
contended nobly for the true religion were assigned a worse fate than a
murderer’s, their bodies lying, as they did, unburied. The
glorious champions were thrown to be devoured by beasts and birds of
Soph. Ant. 30, Where the corpse of Polyneikes is described as
A prize full rich for birds.” (Plumptre.)
Christian sentiment is still affected by the horror felt by the Greeks at deprivation of the rites of burial which finds striking expression in the dispute between Teucer and Menelaos about the burial of Ajax. Those who were anxious for conscience’ sake to express sympathy with the parents were punished by decapitation, as though they had broken some law. What Roman law, nay what foreign sentiment, ever inflicted punishment for the expression of sympathy with parents? What instance is there of the perpetration of so illegal a deed by any one of the ancients? The male children of the Hebrews were indeed once ordered to be slain by Pharaoh, but his edict was suggested by envy and by fear. How far greater the inhumanity of our day than of his. How preferable, if there be a choice in unrighteousness, their wrongs to ours. How much better; if what is illegal can be called good or bad, though in truth iniquity is always iniquity.
I am writing what is incredible, inhuman, awful, savage, barbarous, pitiless, cruel. But in all this the votaries of the Arian madness pranced, as it were, with proud exultation, while the whole city was lamenting; for, as it is written in Exodus, “there was not a house in which there was not one dead.”754754 Ex. xii. 30
The men whose appetite for iniquity was never satisfied planned new agitation. Ever wreaking their evil will in evil deeds, they darted the peculiar venom of their iniquity at the bishops of the province, using the aforesaid treasurer Magnus as the instrument of their unrighteousness.
Some they delivered to the Senate, some they trapped at their good pleasure, leaving no stone unturned in their anxiety to hunt in all from every quarter to impiety, going about in all directions, and like the devil, the proper father of heresy, they sought whom they might devour.755755 1 Peter v. 8
In all, after many fruitless efforts, they drove into exile to Dio-Cæsarea,756756 Now Sefurieh, anciently Sepphoris; an unimportant place till erected by Herod Antipas into the capital of Galilee. a city inhabited by Jews, murderers of the Lord, eleven of the bishops of Egypt, all of them men who from childhood to old age had lived an ascetic life in the desert, had subdued their inclinations to pleasure by reason and by discipline, had fearlessly preached the true faith of piety, had imbibed the pious doctrines, had again and again won victory against demons, were ever putting the adversary out of countenance by their virtue, and publicly posting the Arian heresy by wisest argument. Yet like Hell,757757 Proverbs xxvii. 20 not satisfied with the death of their brethren, fools and madmen as they were, eager to win a reputation by their evil deeds, they tried to leave memorials in all the world of their own cruelty. For lo now they roused the imperial attention against certain clerics of the catholic church who were living at Antioch, together with some excellent monks who came forward to testify against their evil deeds. They got these men banished to Neocæsarea758758 Now Niksar, on the river Lykus, the scene of two councils; (i.) a.d. 315, when the first canon ordered every priest to forfeit his orders on marriage (Mansi ii. 539) (ii.) a.d. 350, when Eustathius of Sebaste was condemned (Mansi, iii. 291). in Pontus, where they were soon deprived of life in consequence of the sterility of the country. Such tragedies were enacted at this period, fit indeed to be consigned to silence and oblivion, but given a place in history for the condemnation of the men who wag their tongues against the Only begotten, and infected as they were with the raving madness of blasphemy, strive not only to aim their shafts at the Master of the universe, but further waged a truceless war against His faithful servants.
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