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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

THE frequent wars in which the emperor was involved, compelled him to lay fresh taxes on the cities of his empire. The citizens of Antioch were indignant at the new taxation; and, being still further irritated by the cruelty and severity of those who levied it, they rose up in sedition, and committed those excesses which are usually perpetrated by the multitude on similar occasions. Among other deeds, they threw down the bronze statue of the excellent empress Flacilla, and dragged it about the streets. The emperor was very angry when informed of this insult: he deprived the city of the privileges which it had hitherto enjoyed, and bestowed them on the neighbouring city, judging that this bestowal would give the greatest grief to the citizens of Antioch; for the city of Laodicea had long been a rival to that of Antioch. Besides this he threatened to set fire to the city, and to destroy it, and reduce it to the rank of a mere village. Several of the magistrates also had been sacrificed in the tumult before the emperor had received any intelligence of the sedition.

When the emperor had passed this severe sentence upon the city, the law obtained by the great Ambrosius prevented the decree from being carried into execution. But Elebichus, a general, and Cæsar, who was a superintendent, or what the Romans call a chamberlain of the palace, went to the city to execute the threats. All the inhabitants were seized with terror. The virtuous hermits who dwelt at the foot of the mountain, and who were then very numerous, approached these men with exhortations and entreaties. Amongst them was the divine Macedonius, who was totally ignorant of all learning whether sacred or profane, and who passed his nights and his days in offering prayers to the Saviour of all men upon the top of a mountain. Without being terrified by the wrath of the king, or by the power of those who were sent against him, Macedonius boldly seized the cloak of a soldier in the midst of the city, and desired him and his companions to descend from their horses. At first, regarding him only as a man of advanced age and of short stature, clad in rags, they were indignant at his conduct. But when they were informed by a by-stander that he was a man of extraordinary virtue, they dismounted from their horses, and, embracing his knees, implored his pardon. Then this holy man, who was filled with the wisdom of God, addressed them in the following words: “Go, my friends, to the emperor, and say to him, You are not only an emperor but a man; and you ought not only to reflect on empire but also on nature. You are a man yourself, and have to command your fellow-creatures. Man was made in the image and likeness of God. Do not, then, order the image of God to be slain. You would offend the Artificer by mutilating his image. Consider, likewise, that it is but on account of a statue of bronze that you have passed this sentence. Now it is evident to every one possessed of sense, that there is a great difference between a lifeless and a living image. Consider, also, that it is easy to us to replace a statue by making many others; whereas, of all the men who are about to be slain, we are not able to replace so much as one hair of their heads.”

The two officers, after receiving their instructions from the admirable man, went to the emperor, and repeated what they had heard. They thus calmed his anger, so that instead of executing his menaces, he wrote apologies, and explained the cause of his resentment. “It was not right,” said he, “that, on account of my transgression, a woman deserving of all praise should after her death receive insult; it was against me alone that the weapons of vengeance ought to have been directed.” He also added, that he was much grieved at the murder of some of the magistrates. I have dwelt on these circumstances, in order that the commendable boldness of the hermit may not be consigned to oblivion; and that the utility of the law obtained at the instance of the great Ambrose may be manifested.








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