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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus.: Athanasius' Account of the Deeds of Violence committed at Alexandria by George the Arian.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXVIII.—Athanasius’ Account of the Deeds of Violence committed at Alexandria by George the Arian.

What cruelties George perpetrated at Alexandria at the same time may be learned from the narration of Athanasius, who both suffered in and witnessed the occurrences. In his ‘Apology for his flight,’ 346 speaking of these transactions, he thus expresses himself:

‘Moreover, they came to Alexandria, again seeking to destroy me: and on this occasion their proceedings were worse than before; for the soldiery having suddenly surrounded the church, there arose the din of war, instead of the voice of prayer. Afterwards, on his arrival during Lent, 347 George, sent from Cappadocia, added to the evil which he was instructed to p. 55 work. When Easter-week 348 was passed, the virgins were cast into prison, the bishops were led in chains by the military, and the dwellings even of orphans and widows were forcibly entered and their provisions pillaged. Christians were assassinated by night; houses were sealed; 349 and the relatives of the clergy were endangered on their account. Even these outrages were dreadful; but those that followed were still more so. For in the week after the holy Pentecost, the people, having fasted, went forth to the cemetery to pray, because all were averse to communion with George: that wickedest of men being informed of this, instigated against them Sebastian, an officer who was a Manichæan. He, accordingly, at the head of a body of troops armed with drawn swords, bows, and darts, marched out to attack the people, although it was the Lord’s day: finding but few at prayers,—as the most part had retired because of the lateness of the hour,—he performed such exploits as might be expected from them. Having kindled a fire, he set the virgins near it, in order to compel them to say that they were of the Arian faith: but seeing they stood their ground and despised the fire, he then stripped them, and so beat them on the face, that for a long time afterwards they could scarcely be recognized. Seizing also about forty men, he flogged them in an extraordinary manner: for he so lacerated their backs with rods fresh cut from the palm-tree, which still had their thorns on, that some were obliged to resort repeatedly to surgical aid in order to have the thorns extracted from their flesh, and others, unable to bear the agony, died under its infliction. All the survivors with one virgin they banished to the Great Oasis. 350 The bodies of the dead they did not so much as give up to their relatives, but denying them the rites of sepulture they concealed them as they thought fit, that the evidences of their cruelty might not appear. They did this acting as madmen. For while the friends of the deceased rejoiced on account of their confession, but mourned because their bodies were uninterred, the impious inhumanity of these acts was sounded abroad the more conspicuously. For soon after this they sent into exile out of Egypt and the two Libyas the following bishops: Ammonius, Thmuïs, Caïus, Philo, Hermes, Pliny, Psenosiris, Nilammon, Agatho, Anagamphus, Mark, Ammonius, another Mark, Dracontius, Adelphius, and Athenodorus; and the presbyters Hierax and Discorus. And so harshly did they treat them in conducting them, that some expired while on their journey, and others in the place of banishment. In this way they got rid of more than thirty bishops, for the anxious desire of the Arians, like Ahab’s, was to exterminate the truth if possible.’

Such are the words of Athanasius in regard to the atrocities perpetrated by George at Alexandria. The emperor meanwhile led his army into Illyricum. For there the urgency of public affairs demanded his presence; and especially the proclamation of Vetranio 351 as emperor by the military. On arriving at Sirmium, he came to a conference with Vetranio during a truce; and so managed, that the soldiers who had previously declared for him changed sides, and saluted Constantius alone as Augustus and sovereign autocrat. In the acclamations, therefore, no notice was taken of Vetranio. Vetranio, perceiving himself to be abandoned, immediately threw himself at the feet of the emperor; Constantius, taking from him his imperial crown and purple, treated him with great clemency, and recommended him to pass the rest of his days tranquilly in the condition of a private citizen: observing that a life of repose at his advanced age was far more suitable than a dignity which entailed anxieties and care. Vetranio’s affairs came to this issue; and the emperor ordered that a liberal provision out of the public revenue should be given him. Often afterwards writing to the emperor during his residence at Prusa in Bithynia, Vetranio assured him that he had conferred the greatest blessing on him, by liberating him from the disquietudes which are the inseparable concomitants of sovereign power. Adding that he himself did not act wisely in depriving himself of that happiness in retirement, which he had bestowed upon him. Let this suffice on this point. After these things, the Emperor Constantius having created Gallus his kinsman Cæsar, and given him his own name, 352 sent him to Antioch in Syria, providing thus for the guarding of the eastern parts. When Gallus was entering this city, the Savior’s sign appeared in the East: 353 for a pillar in the form of a cross seen in the heavens gave occasion of great amazement to the spectators. His other generals the emperor p. 56 despatched against Magnentius with considerable forces, and he himself remained at Sirmium, awaiting the course of events.


Footnotes

54:346

Athan. Apol. de Fuga, 6.

54:347

Τεσσαρακοστή , lit. = ‘forty days’ fast,’ formed by mistaken analogy to πεντηκοστή

55:348

Suspending, i.e., all violence during the period of festivity attending the observance of Easter.

55:349

Houses are often sealed by state and municipal officials in the East, even at the present time, when their contents are to be confiscated, or for any other reason an inventory is to be made by the authorities. The sealing consists in fastening and securing the locks and bolts and attaching the impression of the official seal to some sealing-wax which is put over them. In this case the object of the sealing was apparently the confiscation of the contents.

55:350

The modern El-Onah or El-Kharjeh, situated west of the Nile, seven days’ journey from Thebes, contains several small streams, and abounds in vegetation, including palm-trees, orange and citron groves, olive orchards, &c. See Smith, Dict. of Geogr.

55:351

Sozomen (IV. 4) calls him Οὐετερανίων ; cf. also Zosimus, II. 44, on the way in which he was elevated and soon afterwards reduced.

55:352

See I. 1, and note on the name of Eusebius Pamphilus; cf. Smith and Cheetham, Dict. of Christ. Ant. Names.

55:353

Similar to the appearance mentioned in I. 2. See note on that passage.


Next: Of the Heresiarch Photinus.

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