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An Ecclesiastical History To The 20th Year Of The Reign Of Constantine by Eusebius

RAINS and showers, which usually fell in the winter season, now withheld their accustomed contribution upon the earth. An unexpected famine came on, and pestilence after this. Another kind of sickness also followed, which was a species of ulcer called by the name of carbuncle, on account of its inflammatory appearance. This spreading over the whole body, greatly endangered the lives of those afflicted with it, and as it prevailed mostly about the eyes, it deprived great numbers of men, women, and children of their sight. In addition to these calamities, the war with the Armenians threatened the tyrant. These men had been the friends and allies of the Romans from ancient times, and as they were Christians, and greatly valued piety toward the Deity, and as the profane and impious tyrant had attempted to force them to sacrifice to idols and demons, he made them enemies instead of friends, and belligerent foes instead of allies. And all these troubles suddenly concurring at one and the same time, refuted the tyrant’s boasting and blustering audacity against God; when, indeed, in his great zeal for idols, and his hostility to us, he boasted that neither famine nor pestilence nor war had happened in his times. All these coming upon him at once, presented the preludes to his own death.

He, together with his army, was defeated in the war with the Armenians; and the rest of the inhabitants of cities under him were dreadfully afflicted both by famine and pestilence, so that a single measure of wheat was sold for two thousand five hundred Attic drachms. Immense numbers were dying in the cities, still more in the country and villages, so that now the vast population in the interior was almost entirely swept away; nearly all being suddenly destroyed by want of food and by pestilential disease. Many were anxious to sell their most valuable effects to those better supplied, for the smallest quantity of food. Others, gradually spending all their possessions, were reduced to the last extreme of want. And some even chewing remnants of hay, and others eating without distinction certain noxious herbs, miserably destroyed the constitution of the body. Also, some of the more honourable females throughout the cities, constrained by want to throw aside all shame, went into the public markets to beg, indicating the evidences of their former liberal education, by the modesty of their countenances and the decency of their apparel. Some indeed, wasted away to mere skeletons, stumbled hither and thither like dead shadows, trembling and tottering, from excessive weakness and inability to stand; they fell down in the midst of the streets, where they lay stretched out, and only earnestly begged some one to hand them a little morsel of bread, then drawing in their breath, with the last gasp they cried out, Hunger! having only strength sufficient for this most painful cry. Some, however, of those that appeared better supplied, astonished at the great multitude of those begging, after giving vast quantities away, afterwards yielded to a harsh and inflexible disposition, expecting that they would soon suffer the same things with those begging of them. So that now in the midst of the streets and lanes, the dead and naked bodies, cast out and lying for many days, presented a most painful spectacle to the beholders. Some, indeed, were already the food of dogs, on which account, the survivors began to slay the dogs, lest growing mad they should devour men. The pestilence, in the mean time, did not the less prey upon every house and family, particularly those whom the famine from their abundance of food could not destroy; the wealthy, the rulers, generals, and vast numbers in office, who, as if they had been designedly left by the famine to the pestilence, were overtaken by a sudden, violent, and rapid death. All places, therefore, were filled with lamentation, in all streets, lanes, market places, and highways. Nothing was to be seen but tears, with the accustomed flutes, and funeral dirge. In this manner death waged a desolating war with these two weapons, famine and pestilence, destroying whole families in a short time, so that one now could see two or three dead bodies carried out at once. Such were the rewards of the pompous boasting of Maximinus, and of his edicts throughout the city against us. Then, also, the evidences of the zeal and piety of the Christians became manifest and obvious to all, for they were the only persons in the midst of such distressing circumstances, that exhibited sympathy and humanity in their conduct. They continued the whole day, some in the care and burial of the dead, for numberless were they for whom there was none to care; others collecting the multitude of those wasted by the famine throughout the city, distributing bread among all; so that the fact was cried abroad, and men glorified the God of the Christians, constrained as they were, by the facts, to acknowledge that these were the only really pious and the only real worshippers of God. Whilst these things were being done, God, the great and celestial defender of the Christians, who exhibited his indignation and anger against men by these calamities, on account of the excesses committed against us, restored the benign and smiling brightness of his providence towards us, so that by a most wonderful concurrence of events, the light of his peace again began to shine upon us as from the midst of the densest darkness; showing plainly to all that God himself had been the ruler of our affairs at all times; who sometimes, indeed, chastens and visits his people by various trials, from time to time, but after he has sufficiently chastened, again exhibits his mercy and kindness to those that trust in him.








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