Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter IX
Chapter IX.—Those in Thebais. 2536
1. It would be impossible to describe the outrages and tortures which the martyrs in Thebais endured. They were scraped over the entire body with shells instead of hooks until they died. Women were bound by one foot and raised aloft in the air by machines, and with their bodies altogether bare and uncovered, presented to all beholders this most shameful, cruel, and inhuman spectacle.
2. Others being bound to the branches and trunks of trees perished. For they drew the stoutest branches p. 330 together with machines, and bound the limbs of the martyrs to them; and then, allowing the branches to assume their natural position, they tore asunder instantly the limbs of those for whom they contrived this.
3. All these things were done, not for a few days or a short time, but for a long series of years. Sometimes more than ten, at other times above twenty were put to death. Again not less than thirty, then about sixty, and yet again a hundred men with young children and women, were slain in one day, being condemned to various and diverse torments.
4. We, also being on the spot ourselves, have observed large crowds in one day; some suffering decapitation, others torture by fire; so that the murderous sword was blunted, and becoming weak, was broken, and the very executioners grew weary and relieved each other.
5. And we beheld the most wonderful ardor, and the truly divine energy and zeal of those who believed in the Christ of God. For as soon as sentence was pronounced against the first, one after another rushed to the judgment seat, and confessed themselves Christians. And regarding with indifference the terrible things and the multiform tortures, they declared themselves boldly and undauntedly for the religion of the God of the universe. And they received the final sentence of death with joy and laughter and cheerfulness; so that they sang and offered up hymns and thanksgivings to the God of the universe till their very last breath.
6. These indeed were wonderful; but yet more wonderful were those who, being distinguished for wealth, noble birth, and honor, and for learning and philosophy, held everything secondary to the true religion and to faith in our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.
7. Such an one was Philoromus, who held a high office under the imperial government at Alexandria, 2537 and who administered justice every day, attended by a military guard corresponding to his rank and Roman dignity. Such also was Phileas, 2538 bishop of the church of Thmuis, a man eminent on account of his patriotism and the services rendered by him to his country, and also on account of his philosophical learning.
8. These persons, although a multitude of relatives and other friends besought them, and many in high position, and even the judge himself entreated them, that they would have compassion on themselves and show mercy to their children and wives, yet were not in the least induced by these things to choose the love of life, and to despise the ordinances of our Saviour concerning confession and denial. But with manly and philosophic minds, or rather with pious and God-loving souls, they persevered against all the threats and insults of the judge; and both of them were beheaded.
Thebais, or the territory of Thebes, was one of the three great divisions of Egypt, lying between lower Egypt on the north and Æthiopia on the south. From §4, below, we learn that Eusebius was himself an eye-witness of at least some of the martyrdoms to which he refers in the present chapter. Reasons have been given on p. 10, above, for supposing that he did not visit Egypt until the later years of the persecution, indeed not until toward the very end of it; and it is therefore to this period that the events described in this chapter are to be ascribed.330:2537
ἀρχήν τινα οὐ τὴν τυχοῦσαν τῆς κατ᾽ ᾽Αλεξ€νδρειαν βασιλικῆς διοικήσεως ἐγκεχειρισμένος. Valesius says that Philoromus was the Rationalis, seu procurator summarum Ægypti, i.e. the general finance minister of Egypt (see above, Bk. VII. chap. 10, note 8). But the truth is, that the use of the τινα implies that Eusebius is not intending to state the particular office which he held, but simply to indicate that he held some high office, and this is all that we can claim for Philoromus. We know no more of him than is told us here, though Acts of St. Phileas and St. Philoromus are extant, which contain an account of his martyrdom, and are printed by the Bollandists and by Ruinart (interesting extracts given by Tillemont, H. E. V. p. 486 sq., and by Mason, p. 290 sq.). Tillemont (ibid. p. 777) and others defend their genuineness, but Lardner doubts it (Credibility, chap. 60). I have examined only the extracts printed by Tillemont and Mason, and am not prepared to express an opinion in the matter.330:2538
Phileas, bishop of Thmuis (an important town in lower Egypt, situated between the Tanite and Mendeaian branches of the Nile), occupies an important place among the Diocletian martyrs. The extant Acts of his martyrdom have been referred to in the previous note. He is mentioned again by Eusebius in chaps. 10 and 13, and in the former a considerable part of his epistle to the people of his diocese is quoted. Jerome mentions him in his de vir. ill. chap. 78, where he says: elegantissimum librum de martyrum laude composuit, et disputatione actorum habita adversum judicem, qui eum sacrificare cogebat, pro Christo capite truncatur. The book referred to by Jerome seems to be identical with the epistle quoted by Eusebius in the next chapter, for we have no record of another work on this subject written by him. There is extant, however, the Latin version of an epistle purporting to have been written by the imprisoned bishops Hesychius, Pachymius, Theodorus, and Phileas, to Meletius, author of the Meletian schism. There seems to be nothing in the epistle to disprove its genuineness, and it is accepted by Routh and others. The authorship of the epistle is commonly ascribed to Phileas, both because he is known to us as a writer, and also because his name stands last in the opening of the epistle. Eusebius says nothing of such an epistle (though the names of all four of the bishops are mentioned in chap. 13, below). Jeromes silence in regard to it signifies nothing, for he only follows Eusebius. This epistle, and also the fragment of the one quoted in the next chapter by Eusebius, are given by Routh, Rel. Sac. IV. p. 87 sq., and an English translation in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, VI. p. 161 sq.
Phileas learning is praised very highly by Eusebius and Jerome, and his scholarly character is emphasized in his Acts. The date of his death cannot be determined with exactness, but we may be confident that it did not, at any rate, take place before 306, and very likely not before 307. The epistle quoted in the next chapter was written shortly before his martyrdom, as we learn from §11 of that chapter.
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