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A History Of The Church In Six Books by Evagrius

THE transactions of the time of Theodosius have been embraced in the preceding book. Let me now introduce upon the scene Marcian, the renowned emperor of the Romans, and in so doing, first recount who and whence he was, and by what means he won the imperial power: and having done this, let me record the occurrences of his reign in the order of time. Marcian, as has been recorded by many other writers, and in particular by Priscus, the rhetorician, was by birth a Thracian, and the son of a military man. In his desire to follow his father’s mode of life, he had set out for Philippopolis, where he could lie enrolled in the legions, and on the road sees the body of a person recently slain, lying exposed upon the ground. On going up to it—for, besides the excellence of his other virtues, he was singularly compassionate—he commiserated the occurrence, and suspended his journey for some time, from a desire to discharge the due offices to the dead. Some persons, observing the circumstance, reported it to the authorities at Philippopolis, and they proceeded to apprehend Marcian, and interrogated him respecting the murder: and when, through the prevalence of conjecture and mere probability over truth and asseveration of innocence, he was upon the point of suffering the punishment of guilt, a providential interposition suddenly brings into their hands the real criminal, who, by forfeiting his own head as the penalty of the deed, procures an acquittance of the head of Marcian. After this unexpected escape, he presents himself to one of the military bodies stationed in the place, with the intention of enlistment. Struck with the singularity of his fortunes, and with reason concluding that he would arrive at power and preeminent distinction, they gladly admitted him, and that too without placing him, according to military rule, lowest on the roll; but they assigned to him the grade of a lately deceased soldier, named Augustus, by inscribing in the list, Marcian, called also Augustus. Thus did his name anticipate the style of our sovereigns, who assume the title of Augustus on attaining the purple. It was as if the name refused to abide on him without its appropriate rank, and, on the other hand, the rank was not ambitious of another name for the augmentation of its style: and thus arose an identity of his personal and titular appellations, since his dignity and his name found an expression in the same term. Another circumstance also occurred, which might serve as a prognostic of the imperial power being destined to Marcian. When serving under Aspar against the Vandals, he was one of many who fell into their hands on the total defeat of that general; and, on the demand of Genseric to see the prisoners, was dragged with the rest along the plain. When the whole body was collected, Genseric sat in an upper chamber, surveying with delight the numbers that had been taken. As the time wore on, they pursued each his own inclination, for the guard had, at the order of Genseric, released them from their bonds; and while they accordingly disposed of themselves each in his several way, Marcian laid himself down upon the ground to sleep in the sun, which was shining with unusual heat for the season of the year. An eagle, however, poising his flight above him, and directly intercepting the sun as with a cloud, thus produced a shade and its consequent refreshment, to the amazement of Genseric, who, rightly presaging the future, sent for Marcian, and liberated him, having previously bound him by solemn oaths, that on attaining the imperial power he would maintain faithfully the rights of treaty towards the Vandals, and not commence hostilities against them; and Procopius records, that Marcian observed these conditions. But let us leave this digression, and return to my subject. Marcian was pious towards God, and just towards those under his rule; regarding as wealth neither treasured stores nor the revenue of imposts, but only the means of providing relief to the needy, and to the wealthy the security of their possessions. He was dreaded, not in the infliction of punishment, but only by its anticipation. On this account he received the sovereignty not as an inheritance, but as the prize of virtue, conferred by the unanimous voice both of the senate and men of all ranks, at the suggestion of Pulcheria, whom he also espoused as his partner in the imperial dignity, though she still remained a virgin to old age. These transactions took place without a previous ratification of the choice by Valentinian, the emperor of Rome, who, however, accorded his approval to the virtues of the person elected. It was further the desire of Marcian, that an undivided service should be offered up by all to God, by uniting in pious concord the tongues which the arts of impiety had confounded, and that the Deity should be honoured by one and the same doxology.








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