Chapter XIX. 220 —In what Manner the Nations in the Interior of India were Christianized in the Times of Constantine.
We must now mention in what manner Christianity was spread in this emperors reign: for it was in his time that the nations both of the Indians in the interior, and of the Iberians first embraced the Christian faith. But I shall briefly explain why I have used the appended expression in the interior. When the apostles went forth by lot among the nations, Thomas received the apostleship of the Parthians; Matthew was allotted Ethiopia; and Bartholomew the part of India contiguous to that country: but the interior India, in which many barbarous nations using different languages lived, was not enlightened by Christian doctrine before the times of Constantine. I now come to speak of the cause which led them to become converts to Christianity. A certain philosopher, Meropius, a Tyrian by race, determined to acquaint himself with the country of the Indians, being stimulated to this by the example of the philosopher Metrodorus, who had previously traveled through the region of India. Having taken with him therefore two youths to whom he was related, who were by no means ignorant of the Greek language, Meropius reached the country by ship; and when he had inspected whatever he wished, he touched at a certain place which had a safe harbor, for the purpose of procuring some necessaries. It so happened that a little before that time the treaty between the Romans and Indians had been violated. The Indians, therefore, having seized the philosopher and those who sailed with him, killed them all except his two youthful kinsmen; but sparing them from compassion for their tender age, they sent them as a gift to the king of the Indians. He being pleased with the personal appearance of the youths, constituted one of them, whose name was Edesius, cup-bearer at his table; the other, named Frumentius, he entrusted with the care of the royal records. The king dying soon after, left them free, the government devolving on his wife and infant son. Now the queen seeing her son thus left in his minority, begged the young men to undertake the charge of him, until he should become of adult age. Accordingly, the youths accepted the task, and entered on the administration of the kingdom. Thus Frumentius controlled all things and made it a task to enquire whether among the Roman merchants trafficking with that country, there were any Christians to be found: and having discovered some, he informed them who he was, and exhorted them to select and occupy some appropriate places for the celebration of Christian worship. In the course of a little while he built a house of prayer; and having instructed some of the Indians in the principles of Christianity, they fitted them for participation in the worship. On the young kings reaching maturity, Frumentius and his associates resigned to him the administration of public affairs, in the management of which they had honorably acquitted themselves, and besought permission to return to their own country. Both the king and his mother entreated them to remain; but being desirous of revisiting their native place, they could not be prevailed on, and consequently departed. Edesius for his part hastened to Tyre to see his parents and kindred; but Frumentius arriving at Alexandria, reported the affair to Athanasius the bishop, who had but recently been invested with that dignity; and acquainting him both with the particulars of his wanderings and the hopes Indians had of receiving Christianity. 221 He also begged him to send a bishop and clergy there, and by no means to neglect those who might thus be brought to salvation. Athanasius having considered how this could be most profitably effected, requested Frumentius himself to accept the bishopric, declaring that he could appoint no one more suitable than he was. Accordingly this was done; Frumentius invested with episcopal authority, returned to India and became there a preacher of the Gospel, and built several churches, being aided also by divine grace, he performed various miracles, healing with the souls also the bodily diseases of many. Rufinus assures us that he heard these facts from Edesius, who was afterwards ordained to the priesthood at Tyre. 222
In this chapter Socrates has translated Rufinus (H. E. I. 9) almost word for word; and calls those τόπους ἰδιάζοντας , which Rufinus has termed conventicula. Now conventicula are properly private places wherein collects or short prayers are made; and from these places churches are distinguished, which belong to the right of the public, and are not in the power of any private person. It is to be observed that there are reasons for thinking that this conversion of the Indians by Frumentius happened in the reign of Constantius and not of Constantine (Valesius). See also Euseb. H. E. V. 10, attributing an earlier work to the apostles Matthew and Bartholomew; and Cave, Lives of the Apostles. The Indians mentioned in this chapter are no other than the Abyssinians. The name India is used as an equivalent of Ethiopia. The christianization of Ethiopia is attributed by the Ethiopians in their own records to Fremonatos and Sydracos. See Ludolf Hist. Eth. III. 2.23:221 23:222