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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

AN order was issued by the emperor that the walls of Chalcedon, a city opposite to Byzantium, should be demolished: for he had sworn to do this, after he should have conquered the tyrant, because the Chalcedonians had not only sided with Procopius, but had used insulting language toward Valens, and shut their gates against him as he passed by their city. This decree therefore having been carried into execution, the stones were conveyed to Constantinople to serve for the formation of the public baths which are called Constantianæ. On one of these stones an oracle was found engraven, which had lain concealed for a long time, in which it was predicted that when the city should be supplied with abundance of water, then should the wall serve for a bath; and that innumerable hordes of barbarous nations having overrun the provinces of the Roman empire, and done a, great deal of mischief, should themselves at length be destroyed. We shall here insert this oracle for the gratification of the studious:—

“When nymphs their mystic dance with wat’ry feet

Shall tread through proud Byzantium’s stately street;

When rage the city wall shall overthrow,

Whose stones to fence a bathing-place shall go:

Then savage lands shall send forth myriad swarms,

Adorned with golden locks and burnished arms,

That having Ister’s silver streams o’erpast,

Shall Scythian fields and Mœsia’s meadows waste.

But when with conquest flushed they enter Thrace,

Fate shall assign them there a burial-place.”

Such was the prophecy. And indeed it afterwards happened, that when Valens by building an aqueduct supplied the eity with abundance of water, the barbarous nations made various irruptions, as we shall hereafter see. But from the event, some have explained the prediction otherwise. For when that aqueduct was completed, Clearchus the governor of the city built a stately bath, to which the name of the Plentiful Water was given, in that which is now called the Forum of Theodosius: on which account the people celebrated a festival with great rejoicings, whereby there was, say they, an accomplishment of those words of the oracle,—

——— “their mystic dance with wat’ry feet

Shall tread through proud Byzantium’s stately street.”

But the completion of the prophecy took place afterwards. When the walls were in the course of demolition, the Constantinopolitans besought the emperor to desist; and the inhabitants of Nicomedia and Nice sending from Bithynia to Constantinople, made the same request. Valens being exceedingly exasperated against the Chalcedonians, was with difficulty prevailed upon to listen to these petitions in their favour: but that he might perform his oath, he commanded that the walls should be pulled down, while at the same time the breaches should be repaired by being filled up with other small stones. Whence it is that in the present day one may see in certain parts of the wall, very inferior materials laid upon prodigiously large stones, forming those unsightly patches which were made on that occasion.








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