Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen.: Violent Death and Triumph of George, Bishop of Alexandria. The Result of Certain Occurrences in the Temple of Mithra. Letter of Julian on this Aggravated Circumstance.Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Chapter VII.—Violent Death and Triumph of George, Bishop of Alexandria. The Result p. 331 of Certain Occurrences in the Temple of Mithra. Letter of Julian on this Aggravated Circumstance.
After Athanasius had been preserved in this wise and appeared suddenly in the church, no one knew whence he came. 1377 The people of Alexandria, however, rejoiced at his return, and restored his churches to him.
The Arians, being thus expelled from the churches, were compelled to hold their assemblies in private houses, and constituted Lucius, in the place of George, as the bishop of their heresy. George had been already slain; for when the magistrates had announced to the public the decease of Constantius, and that Julian was sole ruler, the pagans of Alexandria rose up in sedition. They attacked George with shouts and reproaches as if they would kill him at once. The repellants of this precipitate attack, then put him in prison; a little while after they rushed, early in the morning, to the prison, killed him, flung the corpse upon a camel, and after exposing it to every insult during the day, burnt it at nightfall. I am not ignorant that the Arian heretics assert that George received this cruel treatment from the followers of Athanasius; but it seems to me more probable that the perpetrators of these deeds were the pagans; for they had more cause than any other body of men to hate him, especially on account of the insults be offered their images and their temples; and having, moreover, prohibited them from sacrificing, or performing the ancestral rites. Besides, the influence he had acquired in the palaces intensified the hatred towards him; and as the people are wont to feel towards those in power, they regarded him as unendurable.
A calamity had also taken place at a spot called Mithrium; it was originally a desert, and Constantius had bestowed it on the church of Alexandria. While George was clearing the ground, in order to erect a house of prayer, an adytum was discovered. In it were found idols and certain instruments for initiation or perfection which seemed ludicrous and strange to the beholders. The Christians caused them to be publicly exhibited, and made a procession in order to nettle the pagans; but the pagans gathered a multitude together, and rushed upon and attacked the Christians, after arming themselves with swords, stones, and whatever weapon came first to hand. They slew many of the Christians, and, in derision of their religion, crucified others, and they left many wounded.
This led to the abandonment of the work that had been commenced by the Christians, while the pagans murdered George as soon as they had heard of the accession of Julian to the empire. This fact is admitted by that emperor himself, which he would not have confessed unless he had been forced by the truth; for he would rather, I think, have had the Christians, whoever they were, than the pagans to be the murderers of George; but it could not be concealed. It is apparent in the letter which he wrote on the subject to the inhabitants of Alexandria, 1378 wherein he expresses severe opinions. In this epistle he only censures and passes over the punishment; for he said that he feared Serapis, their tutelary divinity, and Alexander their founder, and Julian, his own uncle, who formerly was governor of Egypt and of Alexandria. This latter was so favorable to paganism and hated Christianity so exceedingly, that contrary to the wishes of the emperor, he persecuted the Christians unto death.
Soc. iii. 2–4. Cf. Philost. vii. 2; Am. Marcel. xxii. 11. 3–11; Athan. Ep. ad. Episc. 7; Hist. Arian. 51, 72, 75, etc.; Juliani Op. Epp. 8, 9, 10, 36, 45, 55.331:1378
Text given by Soc. iii. 3; cf. Juliani Op. Ep. 10.
Next: Concerning Theodore, the Keeper of the Sacred Vessels of Antioch. How Julian, the Uncle of the Traitor, on Account of these Vessels, falls a Prey to Worms.
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