Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Introduction.
p. 211 Book V.
1. Soter, 1345 bishop of the church of Rome, died after an episcopate of eight years, and was succeeded by Eleutherus, 1346 the twelfth from the apostles. In the seventeenth year of the Emperor Antoninus Verus, 1347 the persecution of our people was rekindled more fiercely in certain districts on account of an insurrection of the masses in the cities; and judging by the number in a single nation, myriads suffered martyrdom throughout the world. A record of this was written for posterity, and in truth it is worthy of perpetual remembrance.
2. A full account, containing the most reliable information on the subject, is given in our Collection of Martyrdoms, 1348 which constitutes a narrative instructive as well as historical. I will repeat here such portions of this account as may be needful for the present purpose.
3. Other writers of history record the victories of war and trophies won from enemies, the skill of generals, and the manly bravery of soldiers, defiled with blood and with innumerable slaughters for the sake of children and country and other possessions.
4. But our narrative of the government of God 1349 will record in ineffaceable letters the most peaceful wars waged in behalf of the peace of the soul, and will tell of men doing brave deeds for truth rather than country, and for piety rather than dearest friends. It will hand down to imperishable remembrance the discipline and the much-tried fortitude of the athletes of religion, the trophies won from demons, the victories over invisible enemies, and the crowns placed upon all their heads.
On Soter, see above, Bk. IV. chap. 19, note 2.211:1346
Eusebius in his Chronicle gives the date of Eleutherus accession as the seventeenth year of Marcus Aurelius (177 a.d.), and puts his death into the reign of Pertinax (192), while in chap. 22 of the present book he places his death in the tenth year of Commodus (189). Most of our authorities agree in assigning fifteen years to his episcopate, and this may be accepted as undoubtedly correct. Most of them, moreover, agree with chap. 22 of this book, in assigning his death to the tenth year of Commodus, and this too may be accepted as accurate. But with these two data we are obliged to push his accession back into the year 174 (or 175), which is accepted by Lipsius (see his Chron. der röm. Bischöfe, p. 184 sq.). We must therefore suppose that he became bishop some two years before the outbreak of the persecution referred to just below, in the fourteenth or fifteenth year of Marcus Aurelius. In the Armenian version of the Chron. Eleutherus is called the thirteenth bishop of Rome (see above, Bk. IV. chap. 19, note 5), but this is a mistake, as pointed out in the note referred to. Eleutherus is mentioned in Bk. IV, chap. 11, in connection with Hegesippus, and also in Bk. IV. chap. 22, by Hegesippus himself. He is chiefly interesting because of his connection with Irenæus and the Gallican martyrs (see chap. 4, below), and his relation to the Montanistic controversy (see chap. 3). Bede, in his Hist. Eccles., chap. 4, connects Eleutherus with the origin of British Christianity, but the tradition is quite groundless. One of the decretals and a spurious epistle are falsely ascribed to him.211:1347
i.e., the seventeenth year of the reign of Marcus Aurelius, a.d. 177 (upon Eusebius confusion of Marcus Aurelius with Lucius Verus, see below, p. 390, note). In the Chron. the persecution at Lyons and Vienne is associated with the seventh year of Marcus Aurelius (167), and consequently some (e.g. Blondellus, Stroth, and Jachmann), have maintained that the notice in the present passage is incorrect, and Jachmann has attacked Eusebius very severely for the supposed error. The truth is, however, that the notice in the Chron. (in the Armenian, which represents the original form more closely than Jenners version does) is not placed opposite the seventh year of Marcus Aurelius (as the notices in the Chron. commonly are), but is placed after it, and grouped with the notice of Polycarps martyrdom, which occurred, not in 167, but in 155 or 156 (see above, Bk. IV. chap. 15, note 2). It would seem, as remarked by Lightfoot (Ignatius, I. p. 630), that Eusebius simply connected together the martyrdoms which he supposed occurred about this time, without intending to imply that they all took place in the same year. Similar groupings of kindred events which occurred at various times during the reign of an emperor are quite common in the Chron. (cf. the notices of martyrdoms under Trajan and of apologies and rescripts under Hadrian). Over against the distinct statement of the history, therefore, in the present instance, the notice in the Chron. is of no weight. Moreover, it is clear from the present passage that Eusebius had strong grounds for putting the persecution into the time of Eleutherus, and the letter sent by the confessors to Eleutherus (as recorded below in chap. 4) gives us also good reason for putting the persecution into the time of his episcopate. But Eleutherus cannot have become bishop before 174 (see Lipsius Chron. der röm. Bischöfe, p. 184 sq., and note 2, above). There is no reason, therefore, for doubting the date given here by Eusebius.211:1348
All the mss. read μαρτύρων, but I have followed Valesius (in his notes) and Heinichen in reading μαρτυρίων, which is supported by the version of Rufinus (de singulorum martyriis), and which is the word used by Eusebius in all his other references to the work (Bk. IV. chap. 15 and Bk. V. chaps. 4 and 21), and is in fact the proper word to be employed after συναγωγή, “collection.” We speak correctly of a “collection of martyrdoms,” not of a “collection of martyrs,” and I cannot believe that Eusebius, in referring to a work of his own, used the wrong word in the present case. Upon the work itself, see the Prolegomena, p. 30, of this volume.211:1349
τοῦ κατὰ θεὸν πολιτεύματος, with the majority of the mss. supported by Rufinus. Some mss., followed by Stroth, Burton, and Schwegler, read καθ᾽ ἡμᾶς instead of κατὰ θεὸν (see Heinichens note in loco). Christophorsonus translates divinam vivendi rationem, which is approved by Heinichen. But the contrast drawn seems to be rather between earthly kingdoms, or governments, and the kingdom, or government, of God; and I have, therefore, preferred to give πολίτευμα its ordinary meaning, as is done by Valesius (divinæ reipublicæ), Stroth (Republik Gottes), and Closs (Staates Gottes).
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