Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus.: In what Manner the Iberians were converted to Christianity.Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
p. 24 Chapter XX.—In what Manner the Iberians were converted to Christianity.
It is now proper to relate how the Iberians 223 about the same time became proselytes to the faith. A certain woman leading a devout and chaste life, was, in the providential ordering of God, taken captive by the Iberians. Now these Iberians dwell near the Euxine Sea, and are a colony of the Iberians of Spain. Accordingly the woman in her captivity exercised 224 herself among the barbarians in the practice of virtue: for she not only maintained the most rigid continence, but spent much time in fastings and prayers. The barbarians observing this were astonished at the strangeness of her conduct. It happened then that the kings son, then a mere babe, was attacked with disease; the queen, according to the custom of the country, sent the child to other women to be cured, in the hope that their experience would supply a remedy. After the infant had been carried around by its nurse without obtaining relief from any of the women, he was at length brought to this captive. She had no knowledge of the medical art, and applied no material remedy; but taking the child and laying it on her bed which was made of horsecloth, in the presence of other females, she simply said, Christ, who healed many, will heal this child also; then having prayed in addition to this expression of faith, and called upon God, the boy was immediately restored, and continued well from that period. The report of this miracle spread itself far and wide among the barbarian women, and soon reached the queen, so that the captive became very celebrated. Not long afterwards the queen herself having fallen sick sent for the captive woman. Inasmuch as she being a person of modest and retiring manners excused herself from going, the queen was conveyed to her. The captive did the same to her as she had done to her son before; and immediately the disease was removed. And the queen thanked the stranger; but she replied, this work is not mine, but Christs, who is the Son of God that made the world; she therefore exhorted her to call upon him, and acknowledge the true God. Amazed at his wifes sudden restoration to health, the king of the Iberians wished to requite with gifts her whom he had understood to be the means of effecting these cures; she however said that she needed not riches, inasmuch as she possessed as riches the consolations of religion; but that she would regard as the greatest present he could offer her, his recognition of the God whom she worshiped and declared. With this she sent back the gifts. This answer the king treasured up in his mind, and going forth to the chase the next day, the following circumstance occurred: a mist and thick darkness covered the mountain tops and forests where he was hunting, so that their sport was embarrassed, and their path became inextricable. In this perplexity the prince earnestly invoked the gods whom he worshiped; and as it availed nothing, he at last determined to implore the assistance of the captives God; when scarcely had he begun to pray, ere the darkness arising from the mist was completely dissipated. Wondering at that which was done, he returned to his palace rejoicing, and related to his wife what had happened; he also immediately sent for the captive stranger, and begged her to inform him who that God was whom she adored. The woman on her arrival caused the king of the Iberians to become a preacher of Christ: for having believed in Christ through this devoted woman, he convened all the Iberians who were under his authority; and when he had declared to them what had taken place in reference to the cure of his wife and child not only, but also the circumstances connected with the chase, he exhorted them to worship the God of the captive. Thus, therefore, both the king and the queen were made preachers of Christ, the one addressing their male, and the other their female subjects. Moreover, the king having ascertained from his prisoner the plan on which churches were constructed among the Romans, ordered a church to be built, and immediately provided all things necessary for its erection; and the edifice was accordingly commenced. But when they came to set up the pillars, Divine Providence interposed for the confirmation of the inhabitants in the faith; for one of the columns remained immovable, and no means were found capable of moving it; but their ropes broke and their machinery fell to pieces; at length the workmen gave up all further effort and departed. Then was proved the reality of the captives faith in the following manner: going to the place at night without the knowledge of any one, she spent the whole time in prayer; and by the power of God the pillar was raised, and stood erect in the air above its base, yet so as not to touch it. At daybreak the king, who was an intelligent person, came himself to inspect the work, and seeing the pillar suspended in this position p. 25 without support, both he and his attendants were amazed. Shortly after, in fact before their very eyes, the pillar descended on its own pedestal, and there remained fixed. Upon this the people shouted, attesting the truth of the kings faith, and hymning the praise of the God of the captive. They believed thenceforth, and with eagerness raised the rest of the columns, and the whole building was soon completed. An embassy was afterwards sent to the Emperor Constantine, requesting that henceforth they might be in alliance with the Romans, and receive from them a bishop and consecrated clergy, since they sincerely believed in Christ. Rufinus says that he learned these facts from Bacurius, 225 who was formerly one of the petty princes 226 of the Iberians, but subsequently went over to the Romans, and was made a captain of the military force in Palestine; being at length entrusted with the supreme command in the war against the tyrant Maximus, he assisted the Emperor Theodosius. In this way then, during the days of Constantine, were the Iberians also converted to Christianity.
These Iberians dwelt on the east shore of the Black Sea in the present region of Georgia. What their relation to the Spanish Iberians was, or why both the peoples had the same name it is not possible to know at present. It was probably not the one suggested by Socrates. For a similar identity of name in peoples living widely apart, compare the Gauls of Europe and the Galatæ of Asia.24:224
ἐφιλοσόφει : the ethical sense here attached to the word became very common after the time of the Stoics and their attempt to make ethics the basis and starting-point of philosophy.25:225
Rufinus, H. E. I. 10, gives their story and adds that Bacurius was a faithful and religious person and rendered service to Theodosius in his war with Eugenius.25:226
βασιλίσκος : lit. little king.
Next: Of Anthony the Monk.
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