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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

I SHALL now refer to some memorable circumstances that occurred at that period, in which it will be seen how Divine Providence interposed by extraordinary agencies for the preservation of the city and Roman empire from the utmost peril. Gaïnas was a barbarian by extraction, who after becoming a Roman subject, had engaged in military service, and risen by degrees from one rank to another, until he was at length appointed generalissimo both of the Roman horse and foot. When he had attained this lofty position, his ambition knew no bounds short of rendering himself master of the Roman empire. To accomplish this he sent for the Goths out of their own country, and gave the principal commissions in the army to his relations. Then when Tribigildus, one of his kinsmen who had the command of the forces in Phrygia, had at the instigation of Gaïnas broken out into open revolt, and was filling that country with confusion and dismay, he took care that the emperor Arcadius, who had not the slightest suspicion of his treasonable designs, should depute him to settle matters in the disturbed province. Gaïnas therefore immediately set out at the head of an immense number of the barbarous Goths, on this pretended expedition against Tribigildus, but with the real intention of establishing his own unjust domination. On reaching Phrygia he began to subvert every thing; so that the Romans were suddenly thrown into great consternation, not only on account of the vast barbarian force which Gaïnas had at his command, but also lest the most fertile and opulent regions of the East should be laid desolate. In this emergency the emperor acted with much prudence, seeking to arrest the course of the traitor by address: he accordingly sent him an embassy with instructions to appease him for the present by every kind of concession. Gaïnas having demanded that Saturninus and Aurelian, two of the most distinguished of the senatorial order, and men of consular dignity, whom he knew to be unfavourable to his pretensions, should be delivered up to him as hostages, the emperor most unwillingly yielded to the exigency of the crisis; and these two magnanimous personages, prepared to die for the public good, nobly submitted themselves to the emperor’s disposal. They therefore proceeded towards the barbarian, to a place called the Hippodrome, some distance from Chalcedon, resolved to endure whatever he might be disposed to inflict; but however they suffered no harm. The tyrant simulating dissatisfaction, advanced to Chalcedon, whither the emperor Arcadius also went to meet him. Both then entered the church where the body of the martyr Euphemius is deposited, and there entered into a mutual pledge on oath that neither would plot against the other. The emperor indeed kept his engagement, having a religious regard to an oath, and being on that account beloved of God. But Gaïnas soon violated it, and instead of abandoning his purpose, was intent on carnage, plunder, and conflagration, not only at Constantinople, but also throughout the whole extent of the Roman empire, if he could by any means carry it into, effect. The city was quite inundated by the barbarians, and the citizens were reduced to a condition almost like that of captives. Moreover a comet of prodigious magnitude, reaching from heaven even to the earth, such as was never before seen, presaged the danger that impended over it. Gaïnas first most shamelessly attempted to make a seizure of the silver publicly exposed for sale in the shops: but when the proprietors forewarned by report of his intention, abstained from exposing it on their counters, his thoughts were diverted to another object, which was to send an immense body of barbarians at night to burn down the palace. Then indeed God distinctly manifested his providential care over the city: for a multitude of angels appeared to the rebels, in the form of armed men of gigantic stature, whom the barbarians imagining to be a large army of brave troops, turned away from with terror and amazement. When this was reported to Gaïnas, it seemed to him quite incredible; for he knew that the greatest part of the Roman army was at a distance, dispersed as a garrison over the Eastern cities. He sent therefore others for several successive nights, who constantly returned with the same statement, for the angels always presented themselves in the same manner; whereupon he determined to be himself a spectator of this prodigy. Then supposing what he saw to be really a body of soldiers, who concealed themselves by day, and baffled his designs by night, he desisted from his attempt, and took another resolution which he conceived would be detrimental to the Romans; but the event proved it to be greatly to their advantage. Pretending to be under demoniacal possession, he went forth as if for prayer to the church of St. John the Apostle, which is seven miles distant from the city. The barbarians who accompanied him carried out arms with them, concealed in casks and other specious coverings; which when the soldiers who guarded the city gates detected, and would not suffer to pass, the barbarians put them to the sword. A fearful tumult thence arose in the city, and death seemed to threaten every one; nevertheless the city continued secure at that time, its gates being every where well defended. The emperor instantly proclaimed Gaïnas a public enemy, and ordered that all the Goths who remained shut up in Constantinople should be slain. Accordingly the day after the guards of the gates had been killed, the Romans attacked the barbarians within the walls near the church of the Goths, for thither such of them as had been left in the city had betaken themselves; and after destroying a great number of them, they set the church on fire, and burnt it to the ground. Gaïnas being informed of the slaughter of those of his party who were unable to get out of the city, and perceiving the failure of all his artifices, left St. John’s church, and advanced rapidly towards Thrace. On reaching the Chersonnese he endeavoured to pass over from thence and take Lampsacus, in order that from that place he might make himself master of the Eastern parts. As the emperor had immediately despatched forces in pursuit both by land and by sea, another miraculous interposition of Divine Providence occurred. For while the barbarians destitute of ships, were attempting to cross on rafts, and in vessels hastily put together, suddenly the Roman fleet appeared, and the west wind began to blow hard. This afforded an easy passage to the Romans; but the barbarians with their horses, tossed up and down in their frail barks by the violence of the gale, were at length overwhelmed by the waves, and many of them also were destroyed by the Romans. In this passage an incredible number of barbarians perished; but Gaïnas escaped thence and fled into Thrace, where he fell in with another body of the Roman forces by whom he was slain, together with the Goths that attended him. Let this cursory notice of Gaïnas suffice here. Those who may desire more minute details of the circumstances of that war, should read “The Gaïnea” of Eusebius Scholasticus, who was at that time an auditor of Troilus the sophist; and having been a spectator of the war, related the events of it in an heroic poem consisting of four books, which acquired for him great celebrity while the recollection of these things was fresh. The poet Ammonias also has recently composed another description in verse of the same transactions, which he recited before the emperor in the sixteenth consulate of Theodosius junior, which he bore with Faustus. This war was terminated under the consulate of Stilicho and Aurelian. In the year following, Fravitus a Goth by extraction, was honoured with the dignity of consul, to reward the fidelity and attachment he had evinced toward the Romans, and the important services he had rendered them in this very war. On the 10th of April in that year there was a son born to the emperor Arcadius, Theodosius the Good. But while the affairs of the state were thus troubled, the dignitaries of the church refrained not in the least from their disgraceful cabals against each other, to the great reproach of the Christian religion; for they were incited to tumult and reciprocal abuse by a source of mischief which originated in Egypt in the following manner.








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