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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter XI

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XI.—The Events which happened at this Time to Dionysius and those in Egypt.

1. But as regards the persecution which prevailed so fiercely in his reign, and the sufferings which Dionysius with others endured on account of piety toward the God of the universe, his own words shall show, which he wrote in answer to Germanus, 2227 a contemporary bishop who was endeavoring to slander him. His statement is as follows:

2. “Truly I am in danger of falling into great folly and stupidity through being forced to relate the wonderful providence of God toward us. But since it is said 2228 that ‘it is good to keep close the secret of a king, but it is honorable to reveal the works of God,’ 2229 I will join issue with the violence of Germanus.

3. I went not alone to Æmilianus; 2230 but my fellow-presbyter, Maximus, 2231 and the deacons Faustus, 2232 Eusebius, 2233 and Chæremon, 2234 and a brother who was present from Rome, went with me.

4. But Æmilianus did not at first say to me: ‘Hold no assemblies;’ 2235 for this was superfluous to him, and the last thing to one who was seeking to accomplish the first. For he was not concerned about our assembling, but that we ourselves should not be Christians. And he commanded me to give this up; supposing if I turned from it, the others also would follow me.

5. But I answered him, neither unsuitably nor in many p. 300 words: ‘We must obey God rather than men.’ 2236 And I testified openly that I worshiped the one only God, and no other; and that I would not turn from this nor would I ever cease to be a Christian. Thereupon he commanded us to go to a village near the desert, called Cephro. 2237

6. But listen to the very words which were spoken on both sides, as they were recorded: “Dionysius, Faustus, Maximus, Marcellus, 2238 and Chæremon being arraigned, Æmilianus the prefect said:

7. ‘I have reasoned verbally with you concerning the clemency which our rulers have shown to you; for they have given you the opportunity to save yourselves, if you will turn to that which is according to nature, and worship the gods that preserve their empire, and forget those that are contrary to nature. 2239 What then do you say to this? For I do not think that you will be ungrateful for their kindness, since they would turn you to a better course.’

8. Dionysius replied: ‘Not all people worship all gods; but each one those whom he approves. We therefore reverence and worship the one God, the Maker of all; who hath given the empire to the divinely favored and august Valerian and Gallienus; and we pray to him continually for their empire that it may remain unshaken.’

9. Æmilianus, the prefect, said to them: ‘But who forbids you to worship him, if he is a god, together with those who are gods by nature. For ye have been commanded to reverence the gods, and the gods whom all know.’ Dionysius answered:

10. ‘We worship no other.’ Æmilianus, the prefect, said to them: ‘I see that you are at once ungrateful, and insensible to the kindness of our sovereigns. Wherefore ye shall not remain in this city. But ye shall be sent into the regions of Libya, to a place called Cephro. For I have chosen this place at the command of our sovereigns, and it shall by no means be permitted you or any others, either to hold assemblies, or to enter into the so called cemeteries. 2240

11. But if any one shall be seen without the place which I have commanded, or be found in any assembly, he will bring peril on himself. For suitable punishment shall not fail. Go, therefore where ye have been ordered.’

“And he hastened me away, though I was sick, not granting even a day’s respite. What opportunity then did I have, either to hold assemblies, or not to hold them?” 2241

12. Farther on he says: “But through the help of the Lord we did not give up the open assembly. But I called together the more diligently those who were in the city, as if I were with them; being, so to speak, 2242 ‘absent in body but present in spirit.’ 2243 But in Cephro a large church gathered with us of the brethren that followed us from the city, and those that joined us from Egypt; and there ‘God opened unto us a door for the Word.’ 2244

13. At first we were persecuted and stoned; but afterwards not a few of the heathen forsook the idols and turned to God. For until this time they had not heard the Word, since it was then first sown by us.

14. And as if God had brought us to them for this purpose, when we had performed this ministry he transferred us to another place. For Æmilianus, as it appeared, desired to transport us to rougher and more Libyan-like places; 2245 so he commanded them to assemble from all quarters in Mareotis, 2246 and assigned to them different villages throughout the country. But he ordered us to be placed nearer the highway that we might be seized first. 2247 For evidently he arranged and prepared matters so that whenever he wished to seize us he could take all of us without difficulty.

15. When I was first ordered to go to Cephro I did not know where the place was, and had scarcely ever heard the name; yet I went readily and cheerfully. But when I was told that I was to remove to the district of Colluthion, 2248 those p. 301 who were present know how I was affected.

16. For here I will accuse myself. At first I was grieved and greatly disturbed; for though these places were better known and more familiar to us, yet the country was said to be destitute of brethren and of men of character, and to be exposed to the annoyances of travelers and incursions of robbers.

17. But I was comforted when the brethren reminded me that it was nearer the city, and that while Cephro afforded us much intercourse with the brethren from Egypt, so that we were able to extend the Church more widely, as this place was nearer the city we should enjoy more frequently the sight of those who were truly beloved and most closely related and dearest to us. For they would come and remain, and special meetings 2249 could be held, as in the more remote suburbs. And thus it turned out.” After other matters he writes again as follows of the things which happened to him:

18. “Germanus indeed boasts of many confessions. He can speak forsooth of many adversities which he himself has endured. But is he able to reckon up as many as we can, of sentences, confiscations, proscriptions, plundering of goods, loss of dignities, contempt of worldly glory, disregard for the flatteries of governors and of councilors, and patient endurance of the threats of opponents, of outcries, of perils and persecutions, and wandering and distress, and all kinds of tribulation, such as came upon me under Decius and Sabinus, 2250 and such as continue even now under Æmilianus? But where has Germanus been seen? And what account is there of him?

19. But I turn from this great folly into which I am falling on account of Germanus. And for the same reason I desist from giving to the brethren who know it an account of everything which took place.”

20. The same writer also in the epistle to Domitius and Didymus 2251 mentions some particulars of the persecution as follows: “As our people are many and unknown to you, it would be superfluous to give their names; but understand that men and women, young and old, maidens and matrons, soldiers and civilians, of every race and age, some by scourging and fire, others by the sword, have conquered in the strife and received their crowns.

21. But in the case of some a very long time was not sufficient to make them appear acceptable to the Lord; as, indeed, it seems also in my own case, that sufficient time has not yet elapsed. Wherefore he has retained me for the time which he knows to be fitting, saying, ‘In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee.’ 2252

22. For as you have inquired of our affairs and desire us to tell you how we are situated, you have heard fully that when we—that is, myself and Gaius and Faustus and Peter and Paul 2253 —were led away as prisoners by a centurion and magistrates, with their soldiers and servants, certain persons from Mareotis came and dragged us away by force, as we were unwilling to follow them. 2254

23. But now I and Gaius and Peter are alone, deprived of the other brethren, and shut up in a desert and dry place in Libya, three days’ journey from Parætonium.” 2255

24. He says farther on: “The presbyters, Maximus, 2256 Dioscorus, 2257 Demetrius, and Lucius 2258 concealed themselves in the city, and visited the brethren secretly; for Faustinus and Aquila, 2259 who are more prominent in the world, are wandering in Egypt. But the deacons, Faustus, Eusebius, and Chæremon, 2260 have survived those who died in the pestilence. Eusebius is one whom God has strengthened and endowed from the first to fulfill energetically the ministrations for the imprisoned confessors, and to attend to the dangerous task of preparing for burial the bodies of the perfected and blessed martyrs.

25. For as I have said bep. 302 fore, unto the present time the governor continues to put to death in a cruel manner those who are brought to trial. And he destroys some with tortures, and wastes others away with imprisonment and bonds; and he suffers no one to go near them, and investigates whether any one does so. Nevertheless God gives relief to the afflicted through the zeal and persistence of the brethren.”

26. Thus far Dionysius. But it should be known that Eusebius, whom he calls a deacon, shortly afterward became bishop of the church of Laodicea in Syria; 2261 and Maximus, of whom he speaks as being then a presbyter, succeeded Dionysius himself as bishop of Alexandria. 2262 But the Faustus who was with him, and who at that time was distinguished for his confession, was preserved until the persecution in our day, 2263 when being very old and full of days, he closed his life by martyrdom, being beheaded. But such are the things which happened at that time 2264 to Dionysius.



On Germanus, and Dionysius’ epistle to him, see above, Bk. VI. chap. 40, note 2.


Literally “it says” (φησί), a common formula in quoting from Scripture.


Tob. xii. 7.


This Æmilianus, prefect of Egypt, under whom the persecution was carried on in Alexandria during Valerian’s reign, later, during the reign of Gallienus, was induced (or compelled) by the troops of Alexandria to revolt against Gallienus, and assume the purple himself. He was defeated, however, by Theodotus, Gallienus’ general, and was put to death in prison, in what year we do not know. Cf. Tillemont’s Hist. des Emp. III. p. 342 sq.


Maximus is mentioned a number of times in this chapter in connection with the persecution. After the death of Dionysius he succeeded him as bishop of Alexandria, and as such is referred to below, in chaps. 28, 30, and 32. For the dates of his episcopate, see chap. 28, note 10.


On Faustus, see above, Bk. VI. chap. 40, note 10.


In regard to this deacon Eusebius, who later became bishop of Laodicea, see chap. 32, note 12.


Chæremon is mentioned three times in the present chapter, but we have no other reliable information in regard to him.


We may gather from §11, below, that Germanus had accused Dionysius of neglecting to hold the customary assemblies, and of seeking safety by flight. Valesius, in his note ad locum, remarks, “Dionysius was accused by Germanus of neglecting to hold the assemblies of the brethren before the beginning of the persecution, and of providing for his own safety by flight. For as often as persecution arose the bishops were accustomed first to convene the people, that they might exhort them to hold fast to their faith in Christ. Then they baptized infants and catechumens, that they might not depart this life without baptism, and they gave the eucharist to the faithful, because they did not know how long the persecution might last.” Valesius refers for confirmation of his statements to an epistle sent to Pope Hormisdas, by Germanus and others, in regard to Dorotheus, bishop of Thessalonica (circa a.d. 519). I have not been able to verify the reference. The custom mentioned by Valesius is certainly a most natural one, and therefore Valesius’ statements are very likely quite true, though there seems to be little direct testimony upon which to rest them.


Acts v. 29.


We learn from §10, below, that Cephro was in Libya. Beyond this nothing is known of the place so far as I am aware.


This Marcellus, the only one not mentioned in §3, above, is an otherwise unknown person.


τῶν παρὰ φύσιν. That the τῶν refers to “gods” (viz. the gods of the Christians, Æmilianus thinking of them as plural) seems clear, both on account of the θεοὺς just preceding, and also in view of the fact that in §9 we have the phrase τῶν κατὰ φύσιν θεῶν. A contrast, therefore, is drawn in the present case between the gods of the heathen and those of the Christians.


κοιμητήρια; literally, “sleeping-places.” The word was used only in this sense in classic Greek; but the Christians, looking upon death only as a sleep, early applied the name to their burial places; hence Æmilian speaks of them as the “so-called (καλούμενα) cemeteries.”


See above, note 9.


ς εἰπεῖν, a reading approved by Valesius in his notes, and adopted by Schwegler and Heinichen. This and the readings ς εἶπεν, “as he said” (adopted by Stroth, Zimmermann, and Laemmer), and ς εἶπον, “as I said” (adopted by Stephanus, Valesius in his text, and Burton), are about equally supported by ms. authority, while some mss. read ς εἶπεν ὁ ἀπόστολος, “as the apostle said.” It is impossible to decide with any degree of assurance between the first three readings.


1 Cor. v. 3.


Col. iv. 3.


Λιβυκωτέρους τόπους. Libya was an indefinite term among the ancients for that part of Africa which included the Great Desert and all the unexplored country lying west and south of it. Almost nothing was known about the country, and the desert and the regions beyond were peopled by the fancy with all sorts of terrible monsters, and were looked upon as the theater of the most dire forces, natural and supernatural. As a consequence, the term “Libyan” became a synonym for all that was most disagreeable and dreadful in nature.


Mareotis, or Mareia, or Maria, was one of the land districts into which Egypt was divided. A lake, a town situated on the shore of the lake, and the district in which they lay, all bore the same name. The district Mareotis lay just south of Alexandria, but did not include it, for Alexandria and Ptolemais formed an independent sphere of administration sharply separated from the thirty-six land districts of the country. Cf. Bk. II. chap. 17, notes 10 and 12, above. Mommsen (Roman Provinces, Scribner’s ed. Vol. II. p. 255) remarks that these land districts, like the cities, became the basis of episcopal dioceses. This we should expect to be the case, but I am not aware that we can prove it to have been regularly so, at any rate not during the earlier centuries. Cf. e.g. Wiltsch’s Geography and Statistics of the Church, London ed., I. p. 192 sq.


μᾶς δὲ μᾶλλον ἐν ὁδῷ καὶ πρώτους καταληφθησομένους žταξεν.


τὰ Κολλουθίωνος (sc. μέρη), i.e. the parts or regions of Colluthion. Of Colluthion, so far as I am aware, nothing is known. It seems to have been a town, possibly a section of country in the district of Mareotis. Nicephorus spells the word with a single l, which Valesius contends is more correct because the word is derived from Colutho, which was not an uncommon name in Egypt (see Valesius’ note ad locum).


κατὰ μέρος συναγωγαί, literally, “partial meetings.” It is plain enough from this that persons living in the suburbs were allowed to hold special services in their homes or elsewhere, and were not compelled always to attend the city church, which might be a number of miles distant. It seems to me doubtful whether this passage is sufficient to warrant Valesius’ conclusion, that in the time of Dionysius there was but one church in Alexandria, where the brethren met for worship. It may have been so, but the words do not appear to indicate, as Valesius thinks they do, that matters were in a different state then from that which existed in the time of Athanasius, who, in his Apology to Constantius, §14 sq., expressly speaks of a number of church buildings in Alexandria.


Sabinus has been already mentioned in Bk. VI. chap. 40, §2, from which passage we may gather that he held the same position under Decius which Æmilianus held under Valerian (see note 3 on the chapter referred to).


We learn from chap. 20, below, that this epistle to Domitius and Didymus was one of Dionysius’ regular festal epistles (for there is no ground for assuming that a different epistle is referred to in that chapter). Domitius and Didymus are otherwise unknown personages. Eusebius evidently (as we can see both from this chapter and from chapter 20) supposes this epistle to refer to the persecution, of which Dionysius has been speaking in that portion of his epistle to Germanus quoted in this chapter; namely, to the persecution of Valerian. But he is clearly mistaken in this supposition; for, as we can see from a comparison of §22, below, with Bk. VI. chap. 40, §6 sq., Dionysius is referring in this epistle to the same persecution to which he referred in that chapter; namely, to the persecution of Decius. But the present epistle was written (as we learn from §23) while this same persecution was still going on, and, therefore, some years before the time of Valerian’s persecution, and before the writing of the epistle to Germanus (see Bk. VI. chap. 40, note 2), with which Eusebius here associates it. Cf. Valesius’ note ad locum and Dittrich’s Dionysius der Grosse, p. 40 sq.


Isa. xlix. 8.


See above, Bk. VI. chap. 40, note 10.


See ibid. §6 sq.


Parætonium was an important town and harbor on the Mediterranean, about 150 miles west of Alexandria. A day’s journey among the ancients commonly denoted about 180 to 200 stadia (22 to 25 miles), so that Dionysius retreat must have lain some 60 to 70 miles from Parætonium, probably to the south of it.


On Maximus, see above, note 5.


Of Dioscorus we know only what is told us here. He is not to be identified with the lad mentioned in Bk. VI. chap. 41, §19 (see note 17 on that chapter).


Of Demetrius and Lucius we know only what is recorded here.


Faustinus and Aquila are known to us only from this passage.


On these three deacons, see above, notes 6–8.


See below, chap. 32, §5.


See chap. 28, note 8.


That is, until the persecution of Diocletian, a.d. 303 sq.


That is, according to Eusebius, in the time of Valerian, but only the events related in the first part of the chapter took place at that time; those recorded in the epistle to Domitius and Didymus in the time of Decius. See above, note 25.

Next: Chapter XII

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