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Chapter XIX.—Of the sedition of Antioch.881881 Flacilla died as has been said, in Sept. 385. The revolt at Thessalonica was in 390, and the disturbances at Antioch in 387. The chapters of Theodoret do not follow chronological order.
In consequence of his continual wars the emperor was compelled to impose heavy taxes on the cities of the empire.882882 More probably the money was wanted to defray the expenses of magnificent fêtes in honour of the young Arcadius, including a liberal donation to the army. On the whole incident see Chrysostom’s famous Homilies on the Statues.
The city of Antioch refused to put up with the new tax, and when the people saw the victims of its exaction subjected to torture and indignity, then, in addition to the usual deeds which a mob is wont to do when it is seizing an opportunity for disorder, they pulled down the bronze statue of the illustrious Placilla, for so was the empress named, and dragged it over a great part of the town.883883 The mob looted the baths, smashed the hanging lamps, attacked the prætorium, insulted the imperial portrait, and tore down the bronze statues of Theodosius and his deceased wife from their pedestals, and dragged them through the streets. A “whiff” of arrows from the guard calmed the oriental Paris of the 4th century. On being informed of these events the emperor, as was to be expected, was indignant. He then deprived the city of her privileges, and gave her dignity to her neighbour, with the idea that thus he could inflict on her the greatest indignity, for Antioch from the earliest times had had a rival in Laodicea.884884 i.e. the Laodicea on the Syrian coast, so called after the mother of Seleucus Nicator, and now Latakia. He further threatened to burn and destroy the town and reduce it to the rank of a village. The magistrates however had arrested some men in the very act, and had put them to death before the tragedy came to the emperor’s ears. All these orders had been given by the Emperor, but had not been carried out because of the restriction imposed by the edict which had been made by the advice of the great Ambrosius.885885 Theodoret apparently refers to the advice given by Ambrosius after the massacre of Thessalonica, which, as we have said, took place three years after the insurrection at Antioch. On the arrival of the commissioners who 146brought the emperor’s threats, Elebichus, then a military commander, and Cæsarius prefect of the palace, styled by the Romans magister officiorum,886886 i.e. master of the household. the whole population shuddered in consternation. But the athletes of virtue,887887 i.e. the ascetic monks. dwelling at the foot of the hill, of whom at that time there were many of the best, made many supplications and entreaties to the imperial officers. The most holy Macedonius, who was quite unversed in the things of this life, and altogether ignorant of the sacred oracles, living on the tops of the mountains, and night and day offering up pure prayers to the Saviour of all, was not in the least dismayed at the imperial violence, nor at all affected by the power of the commissioners. As they rode into the middle of the town he caught hold of one of them by the cloak and bade both of them dismount. At the sight of a little old man, clad in common rags, they were at first indignant, but some of those who were conducting them informed them of the high character of Macedonius, and then they sprang from their horses, caught hold of his knees, and asked his pardon. The old man, urged on by divine wisdom, spoke to them in the following terms: “Say, dear sirs, to the emperor; you are not only an emperor, you are also a man. Bethink you, therefore, not only of your sovereignty, but also of your nature. You are a man, and you reign over your fellow men. Now the nature of man is formed after the image and likeness of God. Do not, therefore, thus savagely and cruelly order the massacre of God’s image, for by punishing His image you will anger the Maker. Think how you are acting thus in your wrath for the sake of a brazen image. Now all who are endued with reason know how far a lifeless image is inferior to one alive and gifted with soul and sense. Take into account, too, that for one image of bronze we can easily make many more. Even you yourself cannot make one single hair of the slain.”
After the good men had heard
these words they reported them to the emperor, and quenched the flame
of his rage. Instead of his threats he wrote a defence, and explained
the cause of his anger. “It was not right,” said he,
“because I was in error, that indignity should be inflicted after
her death on a woman so worthy of the highest praise. They that were
aggrieved ought to have armed their anger against me.” The
emperor further added that he was grieved and distressed when he heard
that some had been executed by the magistrates. In relating these
events I have had a twofold object. I did not think it right to leave
in oblivion the boldness of the illustrious monk, and I wished to point
out the advantage of the edict which was put out by the advice of the
great Ambrosius.888888 cf. note on page 145.
Valesius remarks “Longe hic fallitur Theodoretus quasi seditio Antiochena post Thessalonicensem cladem contigerit.”
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