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

CONSTANTINE, whom we have already mentioned as an emperor born of an emperor, the pious son of a most pious and virtuous father, and Licinius next to him, were both in great esteem for their moderation and piety. These two pious rulers had been excited by God, the universal sovereign, against the two most profane tyrants, and engaging in battle, in an extraordinary manner, Maxentius fell under Constantine. But the other (Maximinus) did not long survive him, being himself put to a most ignominious death, by Licinius, who had not yet at that time evinced his insanity. But Constantine (who was first both in dignity and imperial rank, and first took compassion upon those who were oppressed at Rome), invoking the God of heaven, and his Son and Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all, as his aid, advanced with his whole army, purporting to restore the Romans to that liberty which they had derived from their ancestors. Maxentius, however, relying more upon the arts of juggling than the affection of his subjects, did not venture to advance beyond the gates of the city, but fortified every place and region and city, with vast numbers of soldiers and innumerable bands and garrisons in all places of Rome and Italy that were enslaved by him. But the emperor (Constantine), stimulated by the divine assistance, proceeded against the tyrant, and defeating him without difficulty in the first, second, and third engagements, he advanced through the greatest part of Italy, and came almost to the very gates of Rome. Then, however, that he might not be forced to wage war with the Romans for the sake of the tyrant, God himself drew the tyrant, as if bound in fetters, to a considerable distance from the gates; and here he confirmed those miraculous events performed of old against the wicked, and which have been discredited by so many, as if belonging to fiction and fable, but which have been established in the sacred volume, as credible to the believer. He confirmed them, I say, as true, by an immediate interposition of his power, addressed alike I may say to the eyes of believers and unbelievers. As, therefore, anciently in the days of Moses, and the religious people of the Hebrews, the chariots of Pharaoh and his forces were cast into the Red Sea; and his chosen triple combatants were overwhelmed in it; thus also Maxentius, and his combatants and guards about him, sunk into the depths like a stone, when he fled before the power of God that was with Constantine, and passed through the river in his way, over which he had formed a bridge by joining boats, and thus prepared the means of his own destruction. Here one might say, “he digged a pit and opened it, and he fell into the ditch that he made. His mischief shall fall upon his own head, and his iniquity descend upon his own pate.” Thus, then, the bridge of boats over the river being broken, the crossing began to cease, and immediately the vessels with the men sunk, and were destroyed, the most impious tyrant himself first of all,—then the guards that he had around him, just as the divine oracles declare, sunk like lead in the swelling floods: so that justly might those who obtained the victory from God, if not in word, at least in deeds similar to those whom that great servant of God, Moses, led on, sing and say the same that they sang against that impious tyrant of old. “Let ussing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously. The horse and his rider he hath cast into the sea: the Lord is my helper and defender, and he is become my salvation. Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods; who is like unto thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?”

Such, and the like expressions, did Constantine sing to God, the universal sovereign and author of the victory, by his deeds, as he entered Rome in triumph. All the senate and others of illustrious rank, together with their wives and infant children, with the whole Roman people, received him as their deliverer, their saviour, and benefactor, with cheerful countenances and hearts, with blessings and unbounded joy. But he, according to the piety deeply implanted in him, neither exulting in the shouts that were raised, nor elated by the plaudits bestowed upon him, well perceiving the assistance which he had received from God, immediately commanded a trophy of the Saviour’s passion to be placed in the hand of his own statue. And when they had erected his statue, thus holding the salutary sign of the cross in his right hand, in the most public place at Rome, he commanded the following inscription to be written in the Roman tongue, as follows:

“By this salutary sign, the true ornament of bravery, I have saved your city, liberated from the yoke of the tyrant. Moreover, I have restored both the Senate and the Roman people to their ancient dignity and splendour.” After this, Constantine himself, and his imperial colleague Licinius, who had not then yet been perverted into that madness which he afterwards evinced, both celebrating and praising God, as the author of all their successes, with one consent and resolve drew up a full and most comprehensive decree respecting the Christians; and sent an account of the wonderful things done for them by God, the victory they had obtained over the tyrant, and the law itself to Maximinus, who was still sovereign of the east, and pretended friendship toward them. But he, tyrant as he was, was greatly troubled at what he learned. Then, in order not to seem disposed to yield to others, nor to suppress what was commanded, for fear of those who had commanded, as if he acted on his own authority, he of necessity addressed the following decree, first to the governors under him, respecting the Christians, falsely and fictitiously alleging against himself what had never been done by him.

Copy of the translated epistle of the tyrant Maximinus

“JOVIUS MAXIMINUS AUGUSTUS, to Sabinus: I trust that it is obvious to your gravity and to all men, that our sovereigns and parents, Diocletian and Maximian, when they saw almost all men abandoning the worship of the gods, and attaching themselves to the people of the Christians, rightly ordained that all men that swerved from the worship of the same immortal gods should be reclaimed, by the infliction of punishment and pain, to the worship of the gods. At the time, however, when I first came to the east, under favourable auspices, and ascertained that great numbers of men, capable of rendering service to the republic, were banished by the judges for the said reason, I issued orders to each of the judges, that in future none of these should behave with severity to the provincials, but rather reclaim them to the worship of the gods by exhortation and flattery. Then, therefore, whilst, agreeably to my orders, the injunctions were observed by the judges, it happened that no one of the countries in the east was either banished or insulted, but rather that they were reclaimed to the worship of the gods, from the fact that nothing severe was done against them. After this, however, when a year had passed away, and I arrived in fortunate circumstances at Nicomedia, and made my stay there, the citizens of that place came to me with the statues of the gods, greatly entreating me, that by all means this people should not be suffered to dwell in their country. But when I ascertained that many men of the same religion dwelt in these parts, I gave them this answer: That, indeed, I cheerfully thanked them for this petition, but perceived this was not alike requested by all. If, however, there were some that persevered in this superstition, each one had the option to live as he pleased; even if they wished to adopt the worship of the gods. Nevertheless I deemed it necessary to give a friendly answer both to the inhabitants of Nicomedia and the other cities, which had so earnestly and zealously presented the same petition, viz., that not one of the Christians should be permitted to dwell in their cities, because this same course was observed by all the ancient emperors, and was acceptable to the immortal gods, by whom all men and the whole administration of the republic subsists, and also, that I would confirm this same petition which they had presented for the worship of the immortal gods. Wherefore, although there have been, before this, letters sent to your devotedness, and it has in like manner been ordered that the rulers should attempt nothing harsh against those provincials that are desirous of observing this course, but that they should deal mildly and moderately with them, nevertheless that they may suffer neither blows nor injuries from the beneficiaries or the other common soldiers, I deemed it consistent to remind your gravity by these letters, that you should cause our provincials to cultivate their regard for the gods, rather by exhortations and mild measures. Whence if any one should determine to adopt the worship of the gods, of his own accord, it is proper that these should be readily received; but if any wish to follow their own worship, you may leave these to have their liberty. Wherefore, it is incumbent on your devoted zeal to observe what is committed to you, and that liberty be granted to no one, to oppress our provincial subjects with violence and insult; whereas, as I wrote before, it is more becoming to reclaim our provincials, by encouraging and inviting measures, to the worship of the gods. But that this our will may come to the knowledge of all our subjects, it is incumbent on you to communicate the mandate by a proclamation issued by you.” When he had thus commanded these matters, he was neither sincere nor credited by any, but was evidently forced by necessity, and did not act according to his real sentiments, as was obvious from his duplicity and perfidy, after the former similar grant. No one therefore of our brethren, ventured to hold meetings, nor even to appear in public, because neither was this the import of the writing, only enjoining to beware of harassing us; but not commanding that we might hold meetings, or build houses of worship, or perform any of those things customary with us. And with all this, those advocates of peace and piety, Constantine and Licinius, had written to him to permit this, and had granted it to all those under them in their edicts and ordinances. But this most impious ruler did not choose yielding to this course; until, driven by the justice of God, he was at last compelled, though unwillingly, to adopt it.








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