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A History Of The Church In Six Books by Evagrius

THOU sayest, O evil and malignant demon, that Constantine, wishing to raise a city equal to Rome, first made a commencement of so vast a place by laying strong foundations and erecting a lofty wall between Troas and Ilium; but when he had discovered in Byzantium a more suitable site, he in such fashion encircled the place with walls, so far extended the former city, and embellished it with buildings so splendid, as hardly to be surpassed by Rome itself, which had received gradual increase through so long a course of years. Thou sayest also that he made a distribution of provisions at the public cost to the people of Byzantium, and bestowed a very large sum of gold upon those who had accompanied him thither, for the erection of private houses. Again, thou writest to the following effect: that on the decease of Constantine, the imperial power came into the hands of Constantius, his only surviving son after the death of his two brothers; and that when Magnentius and Vetranio had assumed the sovereignty, he wrought upon the latter by persuasives: and when both armies had been mustered, Constantius, addressing them first, reminded the soldiers of the generosity of his father, with whom they had served through many wars, and by whom they had been distinguished with the most liberal gifts; and that the soldiers, on hearing this, stripped vetranio of his imperial robe, and made him descend from the tribunal into a private station; and that he suffered no unkindness at the hands of Constantius: who has shared with his father in so much of thy calumny. How thou canst then maintain that the same person could be so liberal, so munificent, and at the same time so paltry and sordid as to impose so accursed a tax, I am utterly unable to comprehend.

In proof that Constantine did not destroy Fausta or Crispus, nor was on that account initiated by an Egyptian into our mysteries, listen to the history of Eusebius Pamphili, who was contemporary with Constantine and Crispus, and had intercourse with them. For what thou writest, so far from being truth, was not even contemporary hearsay, since thou livedst long after, in the time of Arcadius and Honorius—to which period thou hast brought down thy history—or even after their time. Eusebius, in the eighth book of his ecclesiastical history, has the following words: “After no very long interval, the emperor Constantine, having maintained a disposition remarkable for gentleness in respect to his whole life, kindliness towards his subjects, and favour towards the divine word, closes his life by the common laws of nature, leaving behind him, as emperor and Augustus in his own room, a legitimate son, Constantius.” And farther on he says: “His son Constantius, having at the very commencement of his reign been proclaimed supreme emperor and Augustus by the armies, and long before by God himself, the universal Sovereign, shewed himself an imitator of his father’s piety as respects our faith.” And at the end of the history he expresses himself in the following terms: “The mighty, victorious Constantine, distinguished by every religious excellence, in conjunction with his son Crispus, a sovereign highly beloved of God, and resembling his father in all things, obtained his rightful possession of the East.” Eusebius, who survived Constantine, would never have praised Crispus in these terms, if he had been destroyed by his father. Theodoret, in his history, says that Constantine partook in the saving baptism at Nicomedia, near the close of his life, and that he had deferred the rite till this period, from a desire that it should be performed in the river Jordan.

Thou sayest, O most detestable and polluted one, that the Roman empire from the time of the appearance of Christianity, fell away and was altogether ruined: either because thou hast not read any of the older writings, or because thou art a traitor to the truth. For, on the contrary, it clearly appears that the Roman power increased together with the spread of our faith. Consider, for instance, how, at the very time of the sojourn of Christ our God among mankind, the greater part of the Macedonians were crushed by the Romans, and Albania, Iberia, the Colchians, and Arabians were subjugated. Caius Cæsar also, in the hundred and eighty-first Olympiad, subdued in great battles the Gauls, Germans, and Britons, and thereby added to the Roman empire the inhabitants of five hundred cities; as has been recorded by historians. He also was the first who attained to sole sovereignty since the establishment of consuls, thereby preparing a way for the previous introduction of a reverence for monarchy, after the prevalence of polytheism and popular rule, on account of the monarchy of Christ which was immediately to appear. A further acquisition was also forthwith made of the whole of Judæa and the neighbouring territories: so that it was at this time that the first registration took place; in which Christ also was enrolled, in order that Bethlehem might fulfil the prophecy relating to it; for thus had the prophet Micah spoken respecting that place: “And thou, Bethlehem, territory of Judah, art by no means least among the princes of Judah, for from thee shall come forth a governor who shall feed my people Israel.” Also after the nativity of Christ our God, Egypt was added to the Roman dominion; Augustus Cæsar, in whose time Christ was born, having completely overthrown Antony and Cleopatra; who also killed themselves. Upon which Cornelius Gallus is appointed by Augustus governor of Egypt, being the first who ruled that country after the Ptolemies: as has been recorded by historians. To what extent the territories of the Persians were curtailed by ventidius, Corbulo the general of Nero, Severus, Trajan, Carus, Cassius, Odenatus of Palmyra, Apollonius, and others; and how often Seleucia and Ctesiphon were taken, and Nisibis changed sides; and how Armenia and the neighbouring countries were added to the Roman empire; these matters have been narrated by thyself, as well as by others.

I had, however, nearly forgotten to notice what thou thyself writest respecting the achievements of Constantine, how nobly and courageously he swayed the Roman empire, while professing our religion, and what befell Julian, thy hero and the votary of thy orgies, who bequeathed to the commonwealth injuries so serious. Whether, however, he has either already received a foretaste of the things which have been foretold concerning the end of the world, or will even receive their full measure, is a question relating to an economy too high for thy comprehension.

Let us, at all events, consider under what circumstances heathen and Christian emperors have respectively closed their reigns. Did not Caius Julius Cæsar, the first sole sovereign, close his life by assassination? In the next place, did not some of his own officers despatch with their swords Caius, the grandson of Tiberius? Was not Nero slain by one of his domestics? Did not Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, who reigned in all only sixteen months, suffer a similar fate? Was not Titus, on his attaining the empire, taken off by poison by his own brother Domitian? was not Domitian himself miserably despatched by Stephanus? What too dost thou say about Commodus? Was not he killed by Narcissus? Pertinax and Julian, did they not meet with the same treatment? Antoninus, the son of Severus, did he not murder his brother Geta, and was himself murdered by Martial? Macrinus too, was he not dragged about Byzantium, like a captive, and then butchered by his own soldiers? And Aurelius Antoninus, the Emesene, was he not slaughtered together with his mother? And his successor Alexander, was he not, together with his mother, involved in a similar catastrophe? What should I say, too, concerning Maximin, who was slain by his own troops? or Gordian, brought to a similar end by the designs of Philip? Tell me whether Philip and his successor Decius did not perish by the hands of their enemies? And Gallus and Volusian by their own armies? Æmilian, was he not involved in the same fate? And Valerian, was he not made prisoner and carried about as a show by the Persians? After the assassination of Gallienus and the murder of Carinus, the sovereignty came into the hands of Diocletian and those whom he chose as his partners in the empire. Of these, Herculius, Maximian, and Maxentius his son, and Licinius utterly perished. But from the time that the renowned Constantine succeeded to the empire, and had dedicated to Christ the city which bears his name, mark me, whether any of those who have reigned there, except Julian thy hierophant and monarch, have perished by the hands of either domestic or foreign foes, and whether a rival has overthrown any of them; except that Basiliscus expelled Zeno, by whom, however, he was afterwards overthrown and killed. I also agree with thee in what thou sayest about Valens, who had inflicted so many evils upon the Christians: for of any other case not even thou thyself makest mention.

Let no one think that these matters are foreign to an ecclesiastical history; since they are, in fact, altogether useful, and essential, on account of wilful desertion of the cause of truth on the part of heathen writers. Let me now proceed to the rest of the acts of Anastasius.








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