Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Ecclesiastical History, Dialogues, and Letters of Theodoret.: The evil and daring deeds done by Georgius in Alexandria.
Chapter XI.—The evil and daring deeds done by Georgius 510 in Alexandria.
Athanasius having thus escaped the bloodstained hands of his adversaries, Georgius, who was truly another wolf, was entrusted with authority over the flock. He treated the sheep with more cruelty than wolf, or bear, or leopard could have shewn. He compelled young women who had vowed perpetual virginity, not only to disown the communion of Athanasius, but also to anathematize the faith of the fathers. The agent in his cruelty was Sebastianus, an officer in command of troops. He ordered a fire to be kindled in the centre of the city, and placed the virgins, who were stripped naked, close to it, commanding them to deny the faith. Although they formed a most sorrowful and pitiable spectacle for believers as well as for unbelievers, they considered that all these dishonours conferred the highest honour on them; and they joyfully received the blows inflicted on them on account of their faith. All these facts shall be more clearly narrated by their own pastor.
“About Lent, Georgius returned from Cappadocia, and added to the evils which he had been taught by our enemies. After the Easter week virgins were cast into prison, bishops were bound and dragged away by the soldiers, the homes of widows and of orphans were pillaged, robbery and violence went on from house to house, and the Christians during the darkness of night were seized and torn away from their dwellings. Seals were fixed on many houses. The brothers of the clergy were in peril for their brothers sake. These cruelties were very atrocious, but still more so were those which were subsequently perpetrated. In the week following the holy festival of Pentecost, the people who were keeping a fast came out to the cemetery 511 to pray, because they all renounced any communion with Georgius. This vilest of men was informed of this circumstance, and he incited Sebastianus the military commander, a Manichean 512 , to attack the people; and, accordingly, on the Lords day itself he rushed upon them with a large body of armed soldiers wielding naked swords, and bows, and arrows. He found but few Christians in the act of praying, for most of them had retired on account of the lateness of the hour. Then he did such deeds as might be expected from one who had lent his ears to such teachers. He ordered a large fire to be lighted, and the virgins to be brought close to it, and then tried to compel them to declare themselves of the Arian creed. When he perceived that they were conquering, and giving no heed to the fire, he ordered them to be stripped naked, and to be beaten until their faces for a long while were scarcely recognisable. He then seized forty men, and inflicted on them a new kind of torture. He ordered them to be scourged with branches of palm-trees, retaining their thorns; and by these their flesh was so lacerated that some because of the thorns fixed fast in them had again and again to put themselves under the surgeons hand; others were not able to bear the agony and died. All who survived, and also the virgins, were then banished to the Greater Oasis. They even refused to give up the bodies of the dead to their kinsfolk for burial, but flung them away unburied, and hid them just as they pleased, in order that it might appear that they had nothing to do with these cruel transactions, and were ignorant of them. But they were deceived in this foolish expectation: for the friends of the slain, while they rejoiced at the faithfulness of the deceased, deeply lamented the loss of the corpses, and spread abroad a full account of the cruelty that had been perpetrated.
“The following bishops were banished from Egypt and from Libya:—Ammonius, Muïus, Caius, Philo, Hermes, Plenius, Psinosiris, Nilammon, Agapius, Anagamphus, Marcus, Dracontius, Adelphius, another Ammonius, another Marcus, and Athenodorus; and also p. 76 the presbyters Hierax and Dioscorus 513 . These were all driven into exile in so cruel a manner that many died on the road, and others at the place of their banishment. The persecutors caused the death 514 of more than thirty bishops. For, like Ahab, their mind was set on rooting out the truth, had it been possible 515 .”
Athanasius also, in a letter addressed to the virgins 516 who were treated with so much barbarity, uses the following words: “Let none of you be grieved although these impious heretics grudge you burial and prevent your corpses being carried forth. The impiety of the Arians has reached such a height, that they block up the gates, and sit like so many demons around the tombs, in order to hinder the dead from being interred.”
These and many other similar atrocities were perpetrated by Georgius in Alexandria.
The holy Athanasius was well aware that there was no spot which could be considered a place of safety for him; for the emperor had promised a very large reward to whoever should bring him alive, or his head as a proof of his death.
Georgius, a fraudulent contractor of Constantinople (Ath. Hist. Ar. 75), made Arian Bishop of Alexandria on the expulsion of Athanasius, in a.d. 356, was born in a fullers shop at Epiphania in Cilicia. (Amm. Marc. xxii. 11, 3.) He was known as “the Cappadocian,” and further illustrates the old saying of “Καππάδοκες Κρήτες Κίλικες, τρία κάππα κάκιστα,” and the kindred epigram
Καππαδόκην ποτ᾽ ἔχιδνα κακὴ δάκεν· & 135·λλὰ καὶ αὐτή
κάτθανε γευσαμένη αἵματος ἱοβόλου
The crimes of the brutal “Antipope” (Prof. Bright in Dict. Christ. Biog.) are many, but he was a book-collector. (Jul. Ep. ix. 36, cf. Gibbon 1. Chap. 23.) Gibbon says “the infamous George of Cappadocia has been transformed into the renowned St. George of England;” an identity sufficiently disproved.75:511
κοιμητήριον, or sleeping-place. Cf. Chrysost. ed. Migne. ii. 394.75:512
The earliest account of the system of Manes or Mani is to be found in Euseb. H.E. vii. 31. From the end of the * century it made rapid progress.76:513
One Ammonius had been consecrated by Alexander, and was bishop of Pacnemunis (Ath. ad Drac. 210, and Hist. Ar. §72). Another was apparently consecrated by Athanasius (Hist. Ar. §72). An Ammonius was banished to the Upper Oasis (id.). Caius was the orthodox bishop of Thmuis. Philo was banished to Babylon (Hist. Ar. §72, cf. Jer. Vita Hilarionis 30). Muïus, Psinosiris, Nilammon, Plenius, Marcus (the sees of these two Marci were Zygra and Philæ), and Athenodorus, were relegated to the parts about the Libyan Ammon, nine days journey from Alexandria, only that they might perish on the road. One did die. (Hist Ar. §72.) Adelphius was bishop of Onuphis in the Delta, and was sent to the Thebaid. (Tom. ad Ant. 615.) Dracontius, to whom Athanasius addressed a letter, went to the deserts about Clysma (25 m. s.w. of Suez), and Hierax and Dioscorus to Syene (Assouan (Hist. Ar. §72), whither Trajan had banished Juvenal.76:514
Some authorities read more mildly, “drove into exile.”76:515
Ap. de fug. §7. Cf. Hist. Ar. §72.76:516
“Hæc Athanasii Epistola hodie quod sciam non extat.” Valesius.
Next: Council of Milan.
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