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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

WHEN Diocletian and Maximian, surnamed Herculius, had by mutual consent laid aside the imperial dignity, and retired into private life, Maximian, surnamed Galerius, who had been a sharer with them in the government, came into Italy and appointed two Cæsars, Maximin in the eastern division of the empire, and Severus in the Italian or western. In Britain however Constantine was proclaimed emperor, instead of his father Constantius, who died in the first year of the two hundred and seventy-first Olympiad, on the 25th of July. But at Rome Maxentius, the son of Maximian Herculius, was raised by the Prætorian soldiers to be a tyrant rather than an emperor. In this state of things Herculius, impelled by an eager desire of regaining the sovereign power, attempted to destroy his son Maxentius: but this he was prevented by the soldiery from effecting, and he soon afterwards died at Tarsus in Cilicia. Severus Cæsar was sent to Rome by Galerius Maximian, in order to sieze Maxentius, but his own soldiers having betrayed him, he was slain. At length Galerius Maximian, who as senior Augustus had exercised the chief authority, also died, having previously appointed as his successor, his old friend and companion in arms, Licinius, a Dacian by birth. Meanwhile Maxentius tyrannically trampled on the rights and liberties of the Roman people, shamelessly violating the wives of the nobles, putting many innocent persons to death, and perpetrating other atrocities. The emperor Constantine being informed of these things, exerted himself to free the Romans from the slavery under which they were groaning; and began immediately to consider by what means he might overwhelm the tyrant. While his mind was occupied on this subject, and he was hesitating what divinity’s aid he should invoke for the successful conduct of the war, it occurred to him that Diocletian had profited but little by the Pagan deities, whom he had so sedulously sought to propitiate; but that his own father Constantius, who had renounced the idolatrous worship of the Greeks, had passed through life far more prosperously. In this state of uncertainty, a preternatural vision, which transcends all description, appeared to him as he was marching at the head of his troops: he saw, about that part of the day when the sun after passing the meridian begins to decline towards the west, a pillar of light in the heavens, in the form of a cross, on which were inscribed these words, BY THIS CONQUEK. Struck with amazement at the appearance of this sign, and scarcely believing his own eyes, the emperor asked those around him if they beheld the same spectacle; and they all declaring that they did, the emperor’s mind was strengthened by this divine and extraordinary apparition. In his slumbers on the following night he saw Christ, who directed him to prepare a standard according to the pattern of that which had been seen; and to use it against his enemies as an assured trophy of victory. In obedience to this divine oracle, he caused a standard in the form of a cross to be prepared, which is preserved in the palace even to the present time: and proceeding in his measures with greater confidence, he attacked the enemy and vanquished him before the gates of Rome, near the Milvian bridge, Maxentius himself being drowned in the river. This victory was achieved in the seventh year of the conqueror’s reign. After this, while Licinius, who shared the government with him, and was his brother-in-law, having married his sister Constantia, was residing in the East, the emperor Constantine offered grateful thanksgivings to God as his benefactor, for the signal blessings he had received, by such actions as these:—he relieved the Christians from persecution, recalled those who were in exile, liberated such as were, imprisoned, and caused the confiscated property of the proscribed to be restored to them; he moreover rebuilt the churches, and performed all these things with the greatest ardour. About this time Diocletian, who had abdicated the imperial authority, died at Salona in Dalmatia.








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