Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Ecclesiastical History, Dialogues, and Letters of Theodoret.: Of the events which happened on account of Chrysostom.
Chapter XXXIV.—Of the events which happened on account of Chrysostom.
At this part of my history I know not what sentiments to entertain; wishful as I am to relate the wrong inflicted on Chrysostom, I yet regard in other respects the high character of those who wronged him. I shall therefore do my best to conceal even their names. 924 These persons had different reasons for their hostility, and were unwilling to contemplate his brilliant virtue. They found certain wretches who accused him, and, perceiving the openness of the calumny, held a meeting at a distance from the city and pronounced their sentence. 925
The emperor, who had confidence in the clergy, ordered him to be banished. So Chrysostom, without having heard the charges brought against him, or brought forward his p. 154 defence, was forced as though convicted on the accusations advanced against him to quit Constantinople, 926 and departed to Hieron at the mouth of the Euxine, for so the naval station is named.
In the night there was a great earthquake and the empress 927 was struck with terror. Envoys were accordingly sent at daybreak to the banished bishop beseeching him to return without delay to Constantinople, and avert the peril from the town. After these another party was sent and yet again others after them and the Bosphorus was crowded with the couriers. When the faithful people learned what was going on they covered the mouth of the Propontis with their boats, and the whole population lighted up waxen torches and came forth to meet him. For the time indeed his banded foes were scattered. 928
But after the interval of a few months they endeavoured to enact punishment, not for the forged indictment, but for his taking part in divine service after his deposition. The bishop represented that he had not pleaded, that he had not heard the indictment, that he had made no defence, that he had been condemned in his absence, that he had been exiled by the emperor, and by the emperor again recalled. Then another Synod met, and his opponents did not ask for a trial, but persuaded the emperor that the sentence was lawful and right. Chrysostom was then not merely banished, but relegated to a petty and lonely town in Armenia of the name of Cucusus. Even from thence he was removed and deported to Pityus, a place at the extremity of the Euxine and on the marches of the Roman Empire, in the near neighbourhood of the wildest savages. But the loving Lord did not suffer the victorious athlete to be carried off to this islet, for when he had reached Comana he was removed to the life that knows nor age nor pain. 929
The body that had struggled so bravely was buried by the side of the coffin of the martyred Basiliscus, for so the martyr had ordained in a dream.
I think it needless to prolong my narrative by relating how many bishops were expelled from the church on Chrysostoms account, and sent to live in the ends of the earth, or how many ascetic philosophers were involved in the same calamities, and all the more because I think it needful to curtail these hideous details, and to throw a veil over the ill deeds of men of the same faith as our own. Punishment however did fall on most of the guilty, and their sufferings were a means of good to the rest. This great wrong was regarded with special detestation by the bishops of Europe, who separated themselves from communion with the guilty parties. In this action they were joined by all the bishops of Illyria. In the East most of the cities shrank from participation in the wrong, but did not make a rent in the body of the church.
On the death of the great teacher of the world, the bishops of the West refused to embrace the communion of the bishops of Egypt, of the East, of the Bosphorus, and in Thrace, until the name of that holy man had been inserted among those of deceased bishops. Arsacius his immediate successor they declined to acknowledge, but Atticus the successor of Arsacius, after he had frequently solicited the boon of peace, was after a time received when he had inserted the name in the roll. 930
The foes of Chrysostom were
(i) The empress Eudoxia, jealous of his power;
(ii) The great ladies on whose toilettes of artifice and extravagant licentiousness he had poured his scorn; among them being Marsa, Castricia, and Eugraphia;
(iii) The baser clergy whom his simplicity of life shamed, notably Acacius of Berœa, whose hostility is traced by Palladius to the meagre hospitality of the archiepiscopal palace at Constantinople, when the hungry guest exclaimed “ἐγὼ αὐτῷ ἀρτύω χυτραν”—“Ill pepper a pot for him!” (Pall. 49.) and Theophilus of Alexandria, who had never forgiven his elevation to the see, and Gerontius of Nicomedia whom he had deposed.153:925
i.e. at the suburb of Chalcedon known as “the Oak.” The charges included his calling the Empress Jezebel, and eating a lozenge after the Holy Communion. Pallad. 66.154:926
For three days the people withstood his removal. At last he slipped out by a postern, and, when a nod would have roused rebellion, submitted to exile. But he was only deported a very little way.154:927
Eudoxia was the daughter of Banto, a Frankish general. Philostorgius (xi. 6), says that she “οὐ κατὰ τὴν τοῦ ἀνδρὸς διέκειτο νωθείαν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐνῆν αὐτῇ τοῦ βαρβαρικοῦ θράσους οὐκ ὀλίγον.”154:928
The proceedings of “the Oak” were declared null and void, and the bishop was formally reinstated. 403.154:929
Theodoret omits the second offence to Eudoxia—his invectives on the dedication of her silver statue in front of St. Sophia in Sept. 403. (Soc. vi. 18. Soz. viii. 20) “Once again Herodias runs wild; once again she dances; once again she is in a hurry to get the head of John on a charger.” Or does the description of Herodias, and not Salome, as dancing, indicate that the calumnious sentence was not really uttered by Chrysostom, but said to have been uttered by informers whose knowledge of the Gospels was incomplete?
The discourse “in decollationem Baptistæ Joannis” is in Migne Vol. viii. 485, but it is generally rejected as spurious.
The circumstances of the deposition will be found in Palladius, and in Chrysostoms Ep. ad Innocent. The edict was issued June 5, 404. Cucusus (cf. p. ii. 4) is on the borders of Cilicia and Armenia Minor. Gibbon says the three years spent here were the “most glorious of his life,” so great was the influence he wielded.
In the winter of 405 he was driven with other fugitives from Cucusus through fear of Isaurian banditti, and fled some 60 miles to Arabissus. Early in 406 he returned. Eudoxia was dead (†Oct. 4, 404) but other enemies were impatient at the old mans resistance to hardship. An Edict was procured transferring the exile to Pityus, in the N.E. corner of the Black Sea (now Soukoum in Transcaucasia) but Chrysostoms strength was unequal to the cruel hardships of the journey. Some five miles from Comana in Pontus (Tokat), clothed in white robes, he expired in the chapel of the martyred bishop Basiliskus, Sept. 14, 407. Basiliskus was martyred in 312.154:930
Atticus (Bp. of Constantinople 405–426) was forced by fear alike of the mob and the Emperor to consent to the restitution. His letters to Peter and Ædesius, deacon of Cyril of Alexandria, and Cyrils reply, (Niceph. xiv. 26–27) are interesting. Cyril “would as soon put the name of Judas on the rolls as that of Chrysostom.” Dict. Christ. Biog. i. 209.
Next: Of Alexander, bishop of Antioch.
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