Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter VIII
Chapter VIII.—The Misfortunes which happened in Connection with these Things, in Famine, Pestilence, and War.
1. The customary rains and showers of the winter season ceased to fall in their wonted p. 362 abundance upon the earth and an unexpected famine made its appearance, and in addition to this a pestilence, and another severe disease consisting of an ulcer, which on account of its fiery appearance was appropriately called a carbuncle. 2743 This, spreading over the whole body, greatly endangered the lives of those who suffered from it; but as it chiefly attacked the eyes, it deprived multitudes of men, women, and children of their sight.
2. In addition to this the tyrant was compelled to go to war with the Armenians, who had been from ancient times friends and allies of the Romans. As they were also Christians 2744 and zealous in their piety toward the Deity, the enemy of God had attempted to compel them to sacrifice to idols and demons, and had thus made friends foes, and allies enemies.
3. All these things suddenly took place at one and the same time, and refuted the tyrants empty vaunt against the Deity. For he had boasted that, because of his zeal for idols and his hostility against us, neither famine nor pestilence nor war had happened in his time. 2745 These things, therefore, coming upon him at once and together, furnished a prelude also of his own destruction.
4. He himself with his forces was defeated in the war with the Armenians, and the rest of the inhabitants of the cities under him were terribly afflicted with famine and pestilence, so that one measure of wheat was sold for twenty-five hundred Attic drachms. 2746
5. Those who died in the cities were innumerable, and those who died in the country and villages were still more. So that the tax lists which formerly included a great rural population were almost entirely wiped out; nearly all being speedily destroyed by famine and pestilence.
6. Some, therefore, desired to dispose of their most precious things to those who were better supplied, in return for the smallest morsel of food, and others, selling their possessions little by little, fell into the last extremity of want. Some, chewing wisps of hay and recklessly eating noxious herbs, undermined and ruined their constitutions.
7. And some of the high-born women in the cities, driven by want to shameful extremities, went forth into the market-places to beg, giving evidence of their former liberal culture by the modesty of their appearance and the decency of their apparel.
8. Some, wasted away like ghosts and at the very point of death, stumbled and tottered here and there, and too weak to stand fell down in the middle of the streets; lying stretched out at full length they begged that a small morsel of food might be given them, and with their last gasp they cried out Hunger! having strength only for this most painful cry.
9. But others, who seemed to be better supplied, astonished at the multitude of the beggars, after giving away large quantities, finally became hard and relentless, expecting that they themselves also would soon suffer the same calamities as those who begged. So that in the midst of the market-places and lanes, dead and naked bodies lay unburied for many days, presenting the most lamentable spectacle to those that beheld them.
10. Some also became food for dogs, on which account the survivors began to kill the dogs, lest they should become mad and should go to devouring men.
11. But still worse was the pestilence which consumed entire houses and families, and especially those whom the famine was not able to destroy because of their abundance of food. Thus men of wealth, rulers and governors and multitudes in office, as if left by the famine on purpose for the pestilence, suffered swift and speedy death. Every place therefore was full of lamentation; in every lane and market-place and street there was nothing else to be seen or heard than tears, with the customary instruments and the voices of the mourners. 2747
12. In this way death, waging war with these two weapons, pestilence and famine, destroyed whole families in a short time, so that one could see two or three dead bodies carried out at once.
13. Such were the rewards of the boasting of Maximinus and of the measures of the cities against us.
Then did the evidences of the universal zeal and piety of the Christians become manifest to all the heathen.
14. For they alone in the midst of such ills showed their sympathy p. 363 and humanity by their deeds. Every day some continued caring for and burying the dead, for there were multitudes who had no one to care for them; others collected in one place those who were afflicted by the famine, throughout the entire city, and gave bread to them all; so that the thing became noised abroad among all men, and they glorified the God of the Christians; and, convinced by the facts themselves, confessed that they alone were truly pious and religious.
15. After these things were thus done, God, the great and celestial defender of the Christians, having revealed in the events which have been described his anger and indignation at all men for the great evils which they had brought upon us, restored to us the bright and gracious sunlight of his providence in our behalf; so that in the deepest darkness a light of peace shone most wonderfully upon us from him, and made it manifest to all that God himself has always been the ruler of our affairs. From time to time indeed he chastens his people and corrects them by his visitations, but again after sufficient chastisement he shows mercy and favor to those who hope in him.
ἅνθραξ: “a carbuncle, malignant pustule (acc. to some, small-pox).” Liddell and Scott. Eusebius is the only writer to tell us of this famine and pestilence during Maximins reign, though Lactantius (De Mort. pers. 37) does refer in a single sentence to a famine, without giving us any particulars in regard to it, or informing us of its severity or extent.362:2744
We do not know when Christianity was first preached in Armenia, but late in the third century Gregory, “the Illuminator,” an Armenian of royal blood who had received a Christian training in Cappadocia, returned as a missionary to his native land, which was mainly heathen, and at the beginning of the fourth century succeeded in converting the king, Tiridates III., and a large number of the nobles and people, and Christianity was established as the state religion (see the articles Armenia and Gregory, the Illuminator, in the Dict. of Christ. Biog.).
The Armenians had been friends of the Romans for many generations and allies in their wars with the Persians on many occasions. The present war is mentioned, so far as I know, only by Eusebius. According to §4, below, it ended in a defeat for Maximinus. It cannot have been a war of great consequence. It was very likely little more than a temporary misunderstanding, resulting perhaps in a few skirmishes between troops on the border, and speedily settled by a treaty of some kind or another. Maximinus at any rate could not afford to quarrel long with his Eastern neighbors, in view of the struggle with Licinius which he knew must come in time. Whether the Armenians or the Romans were the aggressors in this affair, Eusebius does not tell us. It is very probable, as Mason suggests, that Maximinus tried to put down Christianity in Lesser Armenia, which was a Roman province and therefore under his sway, and that their brethren in the kingdom of Armenia took up arms against Rome to avenge their kindred and their faith.362:2745
See the previous chapter, § 8.362:2746
An Attic drachm was a silver coin, worth about eighteen or nineteen cents.362:2747
αὐλῶν τε καὶ κτύπων.
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