Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter IV
1. Maximinus Cæsar 2642 having come at that time into the government, as if to manifest to all the evidences of his reborn enmity against God, and of his impiety, armed himself for persecution against us more vigorously than his predecessors.
2. In consequence, no little confusion arose among all, and they scattered here and there, endeavoring in some way to escape the danger; and there was great commotion everywhere. But what words would suffice for a suitable description of the Divine love and boldness, in confessing God, of the blessed and truly innocent lamb,—I refer to the martyr Apphianus, 2643 —who presented in the sight of all, before the gates of Cæsarea, a wonderful example of piety toward the only God?
3. He was at that time not twenty years old. He had first spent a long time at Berytus, 2644 for the sake of a secular Grecian education, as he belonged to a very wealthy family. It is wonderful to relate how, in such a city, he was superior to youthful passions, and clung to virtue, uncorrupted neither by his bodily vigor nor his young companions; living discreetly, soberly and piously, in accordance with his profession of the Christian doctrine and the life of his teachers.
4. If it is needful to mention his native country, and give honor to it as producing this noble athlete of piety, we will do so with pleasure.
5. The young man came from Pagæ, 2645 —if any one is acquainted with the place,—a city in Lycia of no mean importance. After his return from his course of study in Berytus, though his father held the first place in his country, he could not bear to live with him and his relatives, as it did not please them to live according to the rules of religion. Therefore, as if he were led by the Divine Spirit, and in accordance with a natural, or rather an inspired and true philosophy, regarding this preferable to what is considered the glory of life, and despising bodily comforts, he secretly left his family. And because of his faith and hope in God, paying no attention to his daily needs, he was led by the Divine Spirit to the city of Cæsarea, where was prepared for him the crown of martyrdom for piety.
6. Abiding with us there, and conferring with us in the Divine Scriptures diligently for a short time, and fitting himself zealously by suitable exercises, he exhibited such an end as would astonish any one should it be seen again.
7. Who, that hears of it, would not justly admire his courage, boldness, constancy, and even more than these p. 346 the daring deed itself, which evidenced a zeal for religion and a spirit truly superhuman?
8. For in the second attack upon us under Maximinus, in the third year of the persecution, edicts of the tyrant were issued for the first time, commanding that the rulers of the cities should diligently and speedily see to it that all the people offered sacrifices. 2646 Throughout the city of Cæsarea, by command of the governor, the heralds were summoning men, women, and children to the temples of the idols, and besides this, the chiliarchs were calling out each one by name from a roll, and an immense crowd of the wicked were rushing together from all quarters. Then this youth fearlessly, while no one was aware of his intentions, eluded both us who lived in the house with him and the whole band of soldiers that surrounded the governor, and rushed up to Urbanus as he was offering libations, and fearlessly seizing him by the right hand, straightway put a stop to his sacrificing, and skillfully and persuasively, with a certain divine inspiration, exhorted him to abandon his delusion, because it was not well to forsake the one and only true God, and sacrifice to idols and demons.
9. It is probable that this was done by the youth through a divine power which led him forward, and which all but cried aloud in his act, that Christians, who were truly such, were so far from abandoning the religion of the God of the universe which they had once espoused, that they were not only superior to threats and the punishments which followed, but yet bolder to speak with noble and untrammeled tongue, and, if possible, to summon even their persecutors to turn from their ignorance and acknowledge the only true God.
10. Thereupon, he of whom we are speaking, and that instantly, as might have been expected after so bold a deed, was torn by the governor and those who were with him as if by wild beasts. And having endured manfully innumerable blows over his entire body, he was straightway cast into prison.
11. There he was stretched by the tormentor with both his feet in the stocks for a night and a day; and the next day he was brought before the judge. As they endeavored to force him to surrender, he exhibited all constancy under suffering and terrible tortures. His sides were torn, not once, or twice, but many times, to the bones and the very bowels; and he received so many blows on his face and neck that those who for a long time had been well acquainted with him could not recognize his swollen face.
12. But as he would not yield under this treatment, the torturers, as commanded, covered his feet with linen cloths soaked in oil and set them on fire. No word can describe the agonies which the blessed one endured from this. For the fire consumed his flesh and penetrated to his bones, so that the humors of his body were melted and oozed out and dropped down like wax.
13. But as he was not subdued by this, his adversaries being defeated and unable to comprehend his superhuman constancy, cast him again into prison. A third time he was brought before the judge; and having witnessed the same profession, being half dead, he was finally thrown into the depths of the sea.
14. But what happened immediately after this will scarcely be believed by those who did not see it. Although we realize this, yet we must record the event, of which to speak plainly, all the inhabitants of Cæsarea were witnesses. For truly there was no age but beheld this marvelous sight.
15. For as soon as they had cast this truly sacred and thrice-blessed youth into the fathomless depths of the sea, an uncommon commotion and disturbance agitated the sea and all the shore about it, so that the land and the entire city were shaken by it. And at the same time with this wonderful and sudden perturbation, the sea threw out before the gates of the city the body of the divine martyr, as if unable to endure it. 2647
Such was the death of the wonderful Apphianus. It occurred on the second day of the month Xanthicus, 2648 which is the fourth day before the Nones of April, on the day of preparation. 2649
On Maximinus and his attitude toward the Christians, see above, Bk. VIII. chap. 14, note 2. He was made a Cæsar at the time of the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian, May 1, 305, and Egypt and Syria were placed under his supervision.345:2643
Apphianus is called, in the Syriac version, Epiphanius. We know him only from this account of Eusebius. For some remarks upon his martyrdom, see above, p. 8 sq.345:2644
The modern Beirût. A celebrated school of literature and law flourished there for a number of centuries.345:2645
The mss., according to Valesius, are somewhat at variance in the spelling of this name, and the place is perhaps to be identified with Araxa, a city of some importance in northwestern Lycia.346:2646
This was simply a republication in its fullness of Maximians fourth edict, which was referred to in chap. 3 (see note 2 on that chapter). Eusebius does not mean to say that this was the first time that such an edict was published, but that this was the first edict of Maximinus, the newly appointed Cæsar.346:2647
It is perhaps not necessary to doubt that an earthquake took place at this particular time. Nor is it surprising that under the circumstances the Christians saw a miracle in a natural phenomenon.346:2648
Xanthicus was the eighth month of the Macedonian year, and corresponded to our April (see table on p. 403, below). The martyrdom of Apphianus must have taken place in 306, not 305; for according to the direct testimony of Lactantius (de Mort. pers. chap. 19; the statement is unaccountably omitted in the English translation given in the Ante-Nicene Fathers), Maximinus did not become Cæsar until May 1, 305; while, according to the present chapter, Apphianus suffered martyrdom after Maximinus had been raised to that position. Eusebius himself puts the abdication of the old emperors and the appointment of the new Cæsars early in April or late in March (see above, chap. 3, §5, and the Syriac version of the Martyrs, p. 12), and with him agree other early authorities. But it is more difficult to doubt the accuracy of Lactantius dates than to suppose the others mistaken, and hence May 1st is commonly accepted by historians as the day of abdication. About the year there can be no question; for Lactantius account of Diocletians movements during the previous year exhibits a very exact knowledge of the course of events, and its accuracy cannot be doubted. (For a fuller discussion of the date of the abdication, see Tillemonts Hist. des Emp., 2d ed., IV. p. 609.) But even if it were admitted that the abdication took place four or five weeks earlier (according to Eusebius own statement, it did not at any rate occur before the twenty-fourth of March: see chap. 3, above, and the Syriac version, p. 12), it would be impossible to put Apphianus death on the second of April, for this would not give time for all that must intervene between the day of his appointment and the republication and execution of the persecuting edicts. In fact, it is plain enough from the present chapter that Apphianus did not suffer until some time after the accession of Maximinus, and therefore not until the following year. Eusebius, as can be seen from the first paragraph of this work on the martyrs, reckoned the beginning of the persecution in Palestine not with the issue of the first edict in Nicomedia on Feb. 24, 303, but with the month of April of that same year. Apphianus death therefore took place at the very close of the third year of the persecution, according to this reckoning.346:2649
i.e. Friday, the old Jewish term being still retained and widely used, although with the change of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week it had entirely lost its meaning. Upon the prevalence of the word among the Fathers as a designation of Friday, see Suicers Thesaurus, s.v. παρασκευή and νηστεῖα. The day of Christs crucifixion was called μεγ€λη παρασκευή, the “great preparation.”
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