Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen.: Efforts of Julian to establish Paganism and to abolish our Usages. The Epistle which he sent to the Pagan High-Priests.Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Chapter XVI.—Efforts of Julian to establish Paganism and to abolish our Usages. The Epistle which he sent to the Pagan High-Priests.
The emperor 1402 was deeply grieved at finding that all his efforts to secure the predominance of paganism were utterly ineffectual, and at seeing Christianity excelling in repute; for although the gates of the temples were kept open, although sacrifices were offered, and the observance of ancient festivals restored in all the cities, yet he was far from being satisfied; for he could plainly foresee that, on the withdrawal of his influence, a change in the whole aspect of affairs would speedily take place. He was particularly chagrined on discovering that the wives, children, and servants of many of the pagan priests had been converted to Christianity. On reflecting that one main support of the Christian religion was the life and behavior of its professors, he determined to introduce into the pagan temples the order and discipline of Christianity, to instip. 338 tute various orders and degrees of ministry, to appoint teachers and readers to give instruction in pagan doctrines and exhortations, and to command that prayers should be offered on certain days at stated hours. He moreover resolved to found monasteries for the accommodation of men and women who desired to live in philosophical retirement, as likewise hospitals for the relief of strangers and of the poor and for other philanthropical purposes. He wished to introduce among the pagans the Christian system of penance for voluntary and involuntary transgressions; but the point of ecclesiastical discipline which he chiefly admired, and desired to establish among the pagans, was the custom among the bishops to give letters of recommendation to those who traveled to foreign lands, wherein they commended them to the hospitality and kindness of other bishops, in all places, and under all contingencies. In this way did Julian strive to ingraft the customs of Christianity upon paganism. But if what I have stated appears to be incredible, I need not go far in search of proofs to corroborate my assertions; for I can produce a letter written by the emperor himself on the subject. He writes as follows: 1403 —
“To Arsacius, High-Priest of Galatia. Paganism has not yet reached the degree of prosperity that might be desired, owing to the conduct of its votaries. The worship of the gods, however, is conducted on the grandest and most magnificent scale, so far exceeding our very prayer and hope; let our Adrastea be propitious to these words, for no one could have dared to look for so extensive and so surprising a change as that which we have witnessed within a very short space of time. But are we to rest satisfied with what has been already effected? Ought we not rather to consider that the progress of Atheism has been principally owing to the humanity evinced by Christians towards strangers, to the reverence they have manifested towards the dead, and to the delusive gravity which they have assumed in their life? It is requisite that each of us should be diligent in the discharge of duty: I do not refer to you alone, as that would not suffice, but to all the priests of Galatia.
“You must either put them to shame, or try the power of persuasion, or else deprive them of their sacerdotal offices, if they do not with their wives, their children, and their servants join in the service of the gods, or if they support the servants, sons, or wives of the Galileans in treating the gods impiously and in preferring Atheism to piety. Then exhort the priests not to frequent theaters, not to drink at taverns, and not to engage in any trade, or practice any nefarious art.
“Honor those who yield to your remonstrances, and expel those who disregard them. Establish hostelries in every city, so that strangers from neighboring and foreign countries may reap the benefit of our philanthropy, according to their respective need.
“I have provided means to meet the necessary expenditure, and have issued directions throughout the whole of Galatia, that you should be furnished annually with thirty thousand bushels of corn and sixty thousand measures of wine, of which the fifth part is to be devoted to the support of the poor who attend upon the priests; and the rest to be distributed among strangers and our own poor. For, while there are no persons in need among the Jews, and while even the impious Galileans provide not only for those of their own party who are in want, but also for those who hold with us, it would indeed be disgraceful if we were to allow our own people to suffer from poverty.
“Teach the pagans to co-operate in this work of benevolence, and let the first-fruits of the pagan towns be offered to the gods.
“Habituate the pagans to the exercise of this liberality, by showing them how such conduct is sanctioned by the practice of remote antiquity; for Homer 1404 represents Eumæus as saying,—
My guest! I should offend, treating with scorn
The stranger, though a poorer should arrive
Than even thyself; for all the poor that are,
And all the strangers are the care of Jove.”
“Let us not permit others to excel us in good deeds; let us not dishonor ourselves by violence, but rather let us be foremost in piety towards the gods. If I hear that you act according to my directions, I shall be full of joy. Do not often visit the governors at their own houses, but write to them frequently. When they enter the city, let no priest go to meet them; and let not the priest accompany them further than the vestibule when they repair to the temple of the gods; neither let any soldiers march before them on such occasions; but let those follow them who will. For as soon as they have entered within the sacred bounds, they are but private individuals; for there it is your duty, as you well know, to preside, according to the divine decree. Those who humbly conform to this law manifest that they possess true religion; whereas those who contemn it are proud and vainglorious.
“I am ready to render assistance to the inhabitants of Pessinus, provided that they will propitiate the mother of the gods; but if they neglect this duty, they will incur my utmost displeasure.
p. 339 I should myself transgress,
Receiving here, and giving conduct hence
To one detested by the gods as these.” 1405
“Convince them, therefore, that if they desire my assistance, they must offer up supplications to the mother of the gods.”
Independent with Soz.338:1403
Juliani Op. Ep. xlix.338:1404
Next: In Order that he might not be thought Tyrannical, Julian proceeds artfully against the Christians. Abolition of the Sign of the Cross. He makes the Soldiery sacrifice, although they were Unwilling.
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