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Chapter V.—What Licinius, while sacrificing in a Grove, said concerning Idols, and concerning Christ.

And when he was now ready to engage, he desired the most approved of his body-guard31653165    Literally, “shield-bearers,” but here relates to a chosen body of guards, as in the Macedonian army. Compare Liddell and Scott, Lex. s.v. ὑπασπιστής and his most valued friends to meet him in one of the places which they consider sacred. It was a well-watered and shady grove, and in it were several marble statues of those whom he accounted to be gods. After lighting tapers and performing the usual sacrifices in honor of these, he is said to have delivered the following speech:

“Friends and fellow-soldiers! These are our country’s gods, and these we honor with a worship derived from our remotest ancestors. But he who leads the army now opposed to us has proved false to the religion of his forefathers, and adopted atheistic sentiments, honoring in his infatuation some strange and unheard-of Deity, with whose despicable standard he now disgraces his army, and confiding in whose aid he has taken up arms, and is now advancing, not so much against us as against those very gods whom he has forsaken. However, the present occasion shall prove which of us is mistaken in his judgment, and shall decide between our gods and those whom our adversaries profess to honor. For either it will declare the victory to be ours, and so most justly evince that our gods are the true saviours and helpers; or else, if this God of Constantine’s, who comes we know not whence, shall prove superior to our deities (who are many, and in point of numbers, at least, have the advantage), let no one henceforth doubt which god he ought to worship, but attach himself at once to the superior power, and ascribe to him the honors of the victory. Suppose, then, this strange God, whom we now regard with ridicule, should really prove victorious; then indeed we must acknowledge and give him honor, and so bid a long farewell to those for whom we light our tapers in vain. But if our own gods triumph (as they undoubtedly will), then, as soon as we have secured the present victory, let us prosecute the war without delay against these despisers of the gods.”

Such were the words he addressed to those then present, as reported not long after to the writer of this history by some who heard them spoken.31663166    The whole passage seems altogether too appropriate to receive ready credence; but it is worth noting here how Eusebius “quotes his authors,” and seems to give the thing for what it is worth, keeping perhaps the same modicum of reservation for the hearers’ relative imagination and memory, when relating after the events, that the modern reader does. And as soon as he had concluded his speech, he gave orders to his forces to commence the attack.

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