Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Encyclical Letter. (Epistola Encyclica.): Outrages which took place at the time of Gregory's arrival.
§3. Outrages which took place at the time of Gregorys arrival.
Thus was this notable appointment of Gregory brought about by the Arians, and such was the beginning of it. And what outrages he committed on his entry into Alexandria, and of what great evils that event has been the cause, you may learn both from our letters, and by enquiry of those who are sojourning among you. While the people were offended at such an unusual proceeding, and in consequence assembled in the churches, in order to prevent the impiety of the Arians from mingling itself with the faith of the Church, Philagrius, who has long been a persecutor of the Church and her virgins, and is now Prefect 454 of Egypt, an apostate already, and a fellow-countryman of Gregory, a man too of no respectable character, and moreover supported by Eusebius and his fellows, and p. 94 therefore full of zeal against the Church; this person, by means of promises which he afterwards fulfilled, succeeded in gaining over the heathen multitude, with the Jews and disorderly persons, and having excited their passions, sent them in a body with swords and clubs into the churches to attack the people.
What followed upon this 455 it is by no means easy to describe: indeed it is not possible to set before you a just representation of the circumstances, nor even could one recount a small part of them without tears and lamentations. Have such deeds as these ever been made the subjects of tragedy among the ancients? or has the like ever happened before in time of persecution or of war? The church and the holy Baptistery were set on fire, and straightway groans, shrieks, and lamentations, were heard through the city; while the citizens in their indignation at these enormities, cried shame upon the governor, and protested against the violence used to them. For holy and undefiled virgins 456 were being stripped naked, and suffering treatment which is not to be named and if they resisted, they were in danger of their lives. Monks were being trampled under foot and perishing; some were being hurled headlong; others were being destroyed with swords and clubs; others were being wounded and beaten. And oh! what deeds of impiety and iniquity have been committed upon the Holy Table! They were offering birds and pine cones 457 in sacrifice, singing the praises of their idols, and blaspheming even in the very churches our Lord and Saviour Jesus-Christ, the Son of the living God. They were burning the books of Holy Scripture which they found in the church; and the Jews, the murderers of our Lord, and the godless heathen entering irreverently (O strange boldness!) the holy Baptistery, were stripping themselves naked, and acting such a disgraceful part, both by word and deed, as one is ashamed even to relate. Certain impious men also, following the examples set them in the bitterest persecutions, were seizing upon the virgins and ascetics by the hands and dragging them along, and as they were haling them, endeavoured to make them blaspheme and deny the Lord; and when they refused to do so, were beating them violently and trampling them under foot.
The Prefect of Egypt was called [after 367, see Sievers, p. 119, and Prolegg. ch. v. Appendix, yet see Apol. Ar. §83] Augustalis as having been first appointed by Augustus, after his victories over Antony. He was of the Equestrian, not, as other Prefects, of the Senatorian order. He was the imperial officer, as answering to Proprætors in the Imperial Provinces. vid. Hofman. in voc. [on Philagrius, see Apol. c. Ari. §72, Prolegg. ch. ii. §5 (1) note].94:455
Cf. Hist. Ar. §9 and 10. Apparently the great Church of Theonas is meant, see Fest. Index xi.94:456
The sister of S. Antony was one of the earliest known inmates of a nunnery, vit. Ant. §2. 3. They were called by the Catholic Church by the title, “Spouse of Christ.” Apol. ad Const. §33.94:457
The θύος or suffitus of Grecian sacrifices generally consisted of portions of odoriferous trees. vid. Potter. Antiqu. ii. 4. Some translate the word here used (στροβίλους), “shell-fish.”
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