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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus.: The Emperor Valens, appeased by the Oration of Themistius the Philosopher, abates his Persecution of the Christians.

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p. 115 Chapter XXXII.—The Emperor Valens, appeased by the Oration of Themistius the Philosopher, abates his Persecution of the Christians.

In the meanwhile Valens, making his residence at Antioch, was wholly undisturbed by foreign wars; for the barbarians on every side restrained themselves within their own boundaries. Nevertheless, he himself waged a most cruel war against those who maintained the ‘homoousian’ doctrine, inflicting on them more grievous punishments every day; until the philosopher Themistius by his Appealing Oration 668 somewhat moderated his severity. In this speech he tells the emperor, ‘That he ought not to be surprised at the difference of judgment on religious questions existing among Christians; inasmuch as that discrepancy was trifling when compared with the multitude of conflicting opinions current among the heathen; for these amount to above three hundred; that dissension indeed was an inevitable consequence of this disagreement; but that God would be the more glorified by a diversity of sentiment, and the greatness of his majesty be more venerated, from the fact of its not being easy to have a knowledge of Him.’ The philosopher having said these and similar things, the emperor became milder, but did not completely give up his wrath; for although he ceased to put ecclesiastics to death, he continued to send them into exile, until this fury of his also was repressed by the following event.



This oration of Themistius is extant in a Latin translation by Dudithius appended to G. Remo’s Themisttii Phil. orationes sex augustales, and entitled, ad Valentem, pro Libertate relligionis. The passage alluded to by Socrates is found in Dudithius as follows: ‘Wherefore, in regard God has removed himself at the greatest distance from our knowledge, and does not humble to the capacity of our understanding; it is a sufficient argument that he does not require one and the same law and rule of religion from all persons, but leaves every man a license and faculty concerning himself, according to his own, not another man’s, liberty and choice. Whence it also happens that a greater admiration of the Deity, and a more religious veneration of his eternal majesty, is engendered in the minds of men. For it usually comes to pass that we loathe and disregard those things which are readily apparent and prostrated to every understanding.’

Next: The Goths, under the Reign of Valens, embrace Christianity.

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