Julian, 1415 having determined upon undertaking a war against Persia, repaired to Antioch in Syria. The people loudly complained, that, although provisions were very abundant the price affixed to them was very high. Accordingly, the emperor, from liberality, as I believe, towards the people, reduced the price of provisions to so low a scale that the vendors fled the city.
A scarcity in consequence ensued, for which the people blamed the emperor; and their resentment found vent in ridiculing the length of his beard, and the bulls which he had had stamped upon his coins; and they satirically p. 341 remarked, that he upset the world in the same way that his priests, when offering sacrifice, threw down the victims.
At first his displeasure was excited, and he threatened to punish them and prepared to depart for Tarsus. Afterwards, however, he suppressed his feelings of indignation, and repaid their ridicule by words alone; he composed a very elegant work under the title of “Aversion to Beards,” which he sent to them. He treated the Christians of the city precisely in the same manner as at other places, and endeavored, as far as possible, to promote the extension of paganism.
Daphne is a suburb of Antioch, and is planted with cypresses and other trees, beneath which all kinds of flowers flourish in their season. The branches of these trees are so thick and interlaced that they may be said to form a roof rather than merely to afford shade, and the rays of the sun can never pierce through them to the soil beneath. It is made delicious and exceedingly lovely by the richness and beauty of the waters, the temperateness of the air, and the breath of friendly winds. The Greeks invent the myth that Daphne, the daughter of the river Ladon, was here changed into a tree which bears her name, while she was fleeing from Arcadia, to evade the love of Apollo. The passion of Apollo was not diminished, they say, by this transformation; he made a crown of the leaves of his beloved and embraced the tree. He afterwards often fixed his residence on this spot, as being dearer to him than any other place.
Men of grave temperament, however, considered it disgraceful to approach this suburb; for the position and nature of the place seemed to excite voluptuous feelings; and the substance of the fable itself being erotic, afforded a measurable impulse and redoubled the passions among corrupt youths. They, who furnished this myth as an excuse, were greatly inflamed and gave way without constraint to profligate deeds, incapable of being continent themselves, or of enduring the presence of those who were continent. Any one who dwelt at Daphne without a mistress was regarded as callous and ungracious, and was shunned as an abominable and abhorrent thing. The pagans likewise manifested great reverence for this place on account of a very beautiful statue of the Daphnic Apollo which stood here, as also a magnificent and costly temple, supposed to have been built by Seleucus, the father of Antiochus, who gave his name to the city of Antioch. Those who attach credit to fables of this kind believe that a stream flows from the fountain Castalia which confers the power of predicting the future, and which is similar in its name and powers to the fountain of Delphi. It is related that Adrian here received intimation of his future greatness, when he was but a private individual; and that he dipped a leaf of the laurel into the water and found written thereon an account of his destiny. When he became emperor, it is said, he commanded the fountain to be closed, in order that no one might be enabled to pry into the knowledge of the future. But I leave this subject to those who are more accurately acquainted with mythology than I am.
When Gallus, the brother of Julian, had been declared Cæsar by Constantius, and had fixed his residence at Antioch, his zeal for the Christian religion and his veneration for the memory of the martyrs determined him to purge the place of the pagan superstition and the outrages of profligates. He considered that the readiest method of effecting this object would be to erect a house of prayer in the temple and to transfer thither the tomb of Babylas, the martyr, who had, with great reputation to himself, presided over the church of Antioch, and suffered martyrdom. It is said that from the time of this translation, the demon ceased to utter oracles. This silence was at first attributed to the neglect into which his service was allowed to fall and to the omission of the former cult; but results proved that it was occasioned solely by the presence of the holy martyr. The silence continued unbroken even when Julian was the sole ruler of the Roman Empire, although libations, incense, and victims were offered in abundance to the demon; for when eventually the oracle itself spoke and indicated the cause of its previous silence, the emperor himself entered the temple for the purpose of consulting the oracle, and offering up gifts and sacrifices with entreaties to grant a reply. The demon did not openly admit that the hindrance was occasioned by the tomb of Babylas, the martyr, but he stated that the place was filled with dead bodies, and that this prevented the oracle from speaking.
Although many interments had taken place at Daphne, the emperor perceived that it was the presence of Babylas, the martyr, alone which had silenced the oracle, and he commanded his tomb to be removed. The Christians, therefore, assembled together and conveyed the coffin to the city, about forty stadia distant, and deposited it in the place where it is still preserved, and to which the name of the martyr has been given. It is said that men and women, young men and maidens, old men and children drew the casket, and encouraged one another by singing psalms as they went along the road, apparently p. 342 for the purpose of lightening their labor, but in truth because they were transported by zeal and spirit for their kindred religious belief, which the emperor had opposed. The best singers sang first, and the multitude replied in chorus, and the following was the burden of their song: “Confounded are all they who worship graven images, who boast themselves in idols.”
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