Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IX:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Prolegomena.: Chrysostom and Eudoxia. His Second Banishment, A.D. 403.
Chapter IX.—Chrysostom and Eudoxia. His Second Banishment, a.d. 403.
The restored patriarch and the repentant empress seemed reconciled, and vied with one another in extravagant laudations for two months, when the feud broke out afresh and ended in perpetual exile and death.
Eudoxia was a beautiful, imperious, intriguing and revengeful woman, who despised her husband and indulged her passions. Not content with the virtual rule of the Roman empire, she aspired to semi-divine honors, which used to be paid to the heathen Cæsars. A column of porphyry with her silver statue for public adoration was erected in September, 403, on the forum before the church of St. Sophia, and dedicated amid boisterous and licentious revelry, which disturbed the sacred services.
Chrysostom ascended the pulpit on the commemoration day of the martyrdom of John the Baptist, and thundered his righteous indignation against all who shared in these profane amusements, the people, the prefect, and the haughty woman on the throne. In the heat of his zeal the imprudent words are said to have escaped his lips: “Again Herodias is raging, again she is dancing, again she demands the head of John on a platter.” 18 The comparison of Eudoxia with Herodias, and himself (John) with John the Baptist was even more directly personal than his former allusion to the relation of Jezebel and Elijah. Whether he really spoke these or similar words is at least doubtful, but they were reported to Eudoxia, who as a woman and an empress could never forgive such an insult. She demanded from the emperor signal redress. In the conflict of imperial and episcopal authority the former achieved a physical and temporary, the latter a moral and enduring victory.
The enemies of Chrysostom flocked like vultures down to their prey. Theophilus directed the plot from a safe distance. Arcadius was persuaded to issue an order for the removal of Chrysostom. He continued to preach and refused to leave the church over which God had placed him, but had to yield to armed force. He was dragged by imperial guards from the cathedral on the vigil of the resurrection in 404, while the sacrament of baptism was being administered to hundreds of catechumens. “The waters of regeneration,” says Palladius, “were stained with blood.” The female candidates, half dressed, were driven by licentious soldiers into the dark streets. The eucharistic elements were profaned by pagan hands. The clergy in their priestly robes were ejected and chased through the city. The horrors of that night were long afterwards remembered with a shudder. During the greater part of the Easter week the city was kept in a state of consternation. Private dwellings were invaded, and p. 15 suspected Joannites—the partisans of Chrysostom—thrown into prison, scourged and tortured. Chrysostom, who was shut up in his episcopal palace, twice narrowly escaped assassination.
At last on June 5, 404, the timid and long hesitating Arcadius signed the edict of banishment. Chrysostom received it with calm submission, and after a final prayer in the cathedral with some of his faithful bishops, and a tender farewell to his beloved Olympias and her attendant deaconesses, he surrendered himself to the guards and was conveyed at night to the Asiatic shore. He had scarcely left the city, when the cathedral was consumed by fire. The charge of incendiarism was raised against his friends, but neither threats, nor torture and mutilation could elicit a confession of guilt. He refused to acknowledge Arsacius and Atticus as his successors; and this was made a crime punishable with degradation, fine and imprisonment. The clergy who continued faithful to him were deposed and banished. Pope Innocent of Rome was appealed to, pronounced the synod which had condemned Chrysostom irregular, annulled the deposition, and wrote him a letter of sympathy, and urged upon Arcadius the convocation of a general council, but without effect.
According to the report of Socrates, VI. 18, and Sozomenus, VIII. 20. A homily which begins with this exordium: π€λιν ̔Ηρωδίας μαίνεται, π€λιν ταρ€σσεται, π€λιν ὀρχεῖται, π€λιν ἐπὶ πίνακι τὴν κεφαλὴν τοῦ 'Ιω€ννου ξητεῖ λαβεῖν (comp. Mark vi. 25), is unworthy of his pen and rejected as spurious by Tillemont, Savile and Montfaucon. But it is quite probable that Chrysostom made some allusion to Eudoxia which might be construed by his enemies in that way. See Neander, II. 177 sq.
Next: Chrysostom in Exile. His Death. A.D. 404–407.
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