Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter IX
1. After such noble acts of the distinguished martyrs of Christ, the flame of persecution lessened, and was quenched, as it were by their sacred blood, and relief and liberty were granted to those who, for Christs sake, were laboring in the mines of Thebais, and for a little time we were beginning to breath pure air.
2. But by some new impulse, I know not what, he who held the power to persecute was again aroused against the Christians. Immediately letters from Maximinus against us were published everywhere in every province. 2666 The governors and the military prefect 2667 urged by edicts and letters and public ordinances the magistrates and generals and notaries 2668 in all the cities to carry out the imperial decree, which ordered that the altars of the idols should with all speed be rebuilt; and that all men, women, and children, even infants at the breast, should sacrifice and offer oblations; and that with diligence and care they should cause them to taste of the execrable offerings; and that the things for sale in the market should be polluted with libations from the sacrifices; and that guards should be stationed before the baths in order to defile with the abominable sacrifices those who went to wash in them.
3. When these orders were being carried out, our people, as was natural, were at the beginning greatly distressed in mind; and even the unbelieving heathen blamed the severity and the exceeding absurdity of what was done. For these things appeared to them extreme and burdensome.
4. As the heaviest storm impended over all in every quarter, the divine power of our Saviour again infused such boldness into his athletes, 2669 that without being drawn on or dragged forward by any one, they spurned the threats. Three of the faithful joining together, rushed on the governor as he was sacrificing to the idols, and cried out to him to cease from his delusion, there being no other God than the Maker and Creator of the universe. When he asked who they were, they confessed boldly that they were Christians.
5. Thereupon Firmilianus, being greatly enraged, sentenced them to capital punishment without inflicting tortures upon them. The name of the eldest of these was Antoninus; of the next, Zebinas, who was a native of Eleutheropolis; and of the third, Germanus. This took place on the thirteenth of the month Dius, the Ides of November. 2670
6. There was associated with them on the same day Ennathas, a woman from Scythopolis, who was adorned with the chaplet of virginity. She did not indeed do as they had done, but was dragged by force and brought before the judge.
7. She endured scourgings and cruel insults, which Maxys, a tribune of a neighboring district, without the knowledge of the superior authority, dared to inflict upon her. He was a man worse than his name, 2671 sanguinary in other respects, exceedingly harsh, and altogether cruel, and censured by all who knew him. This man stripped the blessed woman of p. 351 all her clothing, so that she was covered only from her loins to her feet and the rest of her body was bare. And he led her through the entire city of Cæsarea, and regarded it as a great thing to beat her with thongs while she was dragged through all the market-places.
8. After such treatment she manifested the noblest constancy at the judgment seat of the governor himself; and the judge condemned her to be burned alive. He also carried his rage against the pious to a most inhuman length and transgressed the laws of nature, not being ashamed even to deny burial to the lifeless bodies of the sacred men.
9. Thus he ordered the dead to be exposed in the open air as food for wild beasts and to be watched carefully by night and day. For many days a large number of men attended to this savage and barbarous decree. And they looked out from their post of observation, as if it were a matter worthy of care, to see that the dead bodies should not be stolen. And wild beasts and dogs and birds of prey scattered the human limbs here and there, and the whole city was strewed with the entrails and bones of men,
10. so that nothing had ever appeared more dreadful and horrible, even to those who formerly hated us; though they bewailed not so much the calamity of those against whom these things were done, as the outrage against themselves and the common nature of man.
11. For there was to be seen near the gates a spectacle beyond all description and tragic recital; for not only was human flesh devoured in one place, but it was scattered in every place; so that some said that limbs and masses of flesh and parts of entrails were to be seen even within the gates.
12. After these things had continued for many days, a wonderful event occurred. The air was clear and bright and the appearance of the sky most serene. When suddenly throughout the city from the pillars which supported the public porches many drops fell like tears; and the market places and streets, though there was no mist in the air, were moistened with sprinkled water, whence I know not. Then immediately it was reported everywhere that the earth, unable to endure the abomination of these things, had shed tears in a mysterious manner; and that as a rebuke to the relentless and unfeeling nature of men, stones and lifeless wood had wept for what had happened. I know well that this account may perhaps appear idle and fabulous to those who come after us, but not to those to whom the truth was confirmed at the time. 2672
This is the so-called Fifth Edict, and was issued (according to the Passio S. Theodori) by Galerius and Maximinus, but was evidently inspired by Maximinus himself. Mason speaks of it as follows: “It would be inaccurate to say that this Fifth Edict (if so we may call it) was worse than any of the foregoing. But there is in it a thin bitterness, a venomous spitefulness, which may be noticed as characteristic of all the later part of the persecution. This spitefulness is due to two main facts. The first was that Paganism was becoming conscious of defeat; the Church had not yielded a single point. The second fact was that the Church had no longer to deal with the sensible, statesmanlike hostility of Diocletian,—not even with the bluff bloodiness of Maximian. Galerius himself was now, except in name, no longer persecutor-in-chief. He was content to follow the lead of a man who was in all ways even worse than himself. Galerius was indeed an Evil Beast; his nephew was more like the Crooked Serpent. The artful sour spirit of Maximin employed itself to invent, not larger measures of solid policy against his feared and hated foes, but petty tricks to annoy and sting them.” For a fuller discussion of the edict, see Mason, p. 284 sq. It must have been published in the autumn of the year 308, for the martyrdom of Paul, recorded in the previous chapter, took place in July of that year, and some little time seems to have elapsed between that event and the present. On the other hand, the martyrdoms mentioned below, in §5, took place in November of this same year, so that we can fix the date of the edict within narrow limits.350:2667
ὁ τοῦ τῶν στρατοπέδων ἄρχειν ἐπιτεταγμένος. Many regard this officer as the prætorian prefect. But we should naturally expect so high an official to be mentioned before the governors (ἡγεμόνες). It seems probable, in fact, that the commander in charge of the military forces of Palestine, or possibly of Syria, is referred to in the present case. See Valesius note, ad locum.350:2668
Or “town clerks,” ταβουλ€ριοι350:2669
Literally, “its athletes” (αὐτῆς), the antecedent of the pronoun being “the divine power.”350:2670
i.e. Nov. 13, 308.350:2671
Μ€ξυς is not a Greek word. Ruinart, Acta Martt., p. 327, remarks, An a Syris repetenda, apud quos mochos est pulicanus a casas increpare? But the derivation is, to say the least, very doubtful. Cureton throws no light on the matter. The word in the Syriac version seems to be simply a reproduction of the form found in the Greek original.351:2672
This is a glaring instance of uncritical credulity on Eusebius part, and yet even Crusè can say: “Perhaps some might smile at the supposed credulity of our author, but the miracle in this account was not greater than the malignity, and if man can perform miracles of vice, we can scarcely wonder if Providence should present, at least, miracles of admonition.” Cureton more sensibly remarks: “This, which doubtless was produced by natural causes, seemed miraculous to Eusebius, more especially if he looked upon it as fulfilling a prophecy of our Lord—Luke xix. 40: I tell you, that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. See also Hab. ii. 11.”
Next: Chapter X
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