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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

SAPOR, king of Persia, having declared war against the Romans, Constantius raised troops and marched to Antioch. He defeated the enemy, yet not by the Roman army, but by the God of the pious individuals who dwelt in the Roman empire. I shall here relate the manner in which he gained the victory. Nisibis, by some called Antioch of Mygdonia, lies between the frontiers of the Persian and Roman empires. James, whom I have already mentioned, was the bishop, the guardian, and the leader of this city: all the gifts of the apostles were united in him. I have already narrated his extraordinary and celebrated miracles in a work entitled “Philotheus,” I therefore think it unnecessary again to record them here. I shall, however, mention one which has immediate connection with our present narrative. As this city was under the government of the Romans, the Persian army blockaded it. During seventy days they surrounded it, they planted battering rams against the walls, constructed many other warlike machines, and made ramparts and trenches around the city; yet they could not force it to surrender. At length, they determined to stop the course of the river Mygdonius, which flows through the city; they formed ramparts on each side of the stream to prevent its overflowing, and so much of the water was thus collected that it began to flow over the embankment; then they hurled it like a battering ram against the walls, which, not being able to withstand the shock, were thrown down. The river also caused a similar catastrophe when it rushed out on the opposite side of the city, for the walls in that part were likewise unable to resist the impetuosity of the stream, and were consequently overthrown. On perceiving the walls thus battered down, Sapor expected to take possession of the city without any trouble. He remained at rest during that day with the intention of waiting till the ground had become dry and the river navigable, before he took any further steps. At length he called together all his troops, in the confident expectation of effecting an entrance into the city through the breaches which had been made in the walls; he then perceived that the walls had been rebuilt, and that all his labour had been in vain. For the holy bishop, after having by means of prayer raised the courage of the soldiers and of the other inhabitants, rebuilt the wall, and placed the warlike machines within the city in order to assault the enemy. In effecting this he did not even approach the walls, but remained within the church, praying to God. Sapor was not only terrified by the speedy re-erection of the walls, but also by a vision. He saw on the wall a man decorated with the imperial ornaments, and was surprised at the splendid radiance of his purple robes and of his diadem. He at first conjectured him to be the Roman emperor; and he threatened to punish with death those who had reported him to be at a distance. But on their protesting that what they had said was true, and on their proving that Constantius was at Antioch, Sapor perceived the signification of the vision, and exclaimed, “God is fighting for the Romans!” Filled with indignation, he shot up an arrow toward heaven, although he well knew the impossibility of wounding Him who is incorporeal. Then Ephraim, who was a most excellent man and the best of the Syrian writers, besought the holy James to mount upon the walls, and looking upon the barbarians to pronounce imprecations against them. James acceded to this request, and accordingly ascended one of the towers. Thence he perceived the multitudes of men, but he uttered no imprecations against them. He prayed that flies and gnats might be sent against them, that so they might learn from these small insects the great power of Him who protected the Romans. His prayer was scarcely concluded, when swarms of flies and of gnats appeared like clouds. The trunks of the elephants, which are hollow like tubes, were filled with them, as also the ears and the nostrils of the horses and of the other beasts of burden. These animals, not being able with all their strength to get rid of the insects, became furious, threw their riders, broke the ranks, left the army, and fled away with the utmost speed. The wretched king, learning by means of this slight and gentle punishment the power of that God who protects the pious, returned with shame at having met with defeat where he had confidently expected victory.








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