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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

ISDIGERDES king of the Persians, who had always favoured the Christians in his dominions, having died, was succeeded by Vararanes his son. This prince at the instigation of the magi, persecuted the Christians there with so much rigour, by inflicting on them a variety of punishments and tortures, that they were obliged to desert their country and seek refuge among the Romans, whom they entreated not to suffer them to be completely extirpated. Atticus the bishop received these suppliants with great benignity, and besought the emperor to take them under his protection. It happened at the same time that another subject of difference arose between the Romans and Persians, both because the latter would not send back the labourers in the gold mines who had been hired from among the former; and also on account of their having plundered the Roman merchants. The bad feeling which these things produced was greatly increased by the flight of the Persian Christians into the Roman territories. For the Persian king immediately sent an embassy to demand the fugitives, whom the Romans were by no means disposed to deliver up; not only as desirous of defending their suppliants, but also because they were ready to do anything for the sake of the Christian religion. They chose rather therefore to renew the war with the Persians, than to suffer the Christians to be miserably destroyed: the league was accordingly broken, and the fierce war that followed thereupon, I must now give some brief account of. The Roman emperor first sent a body of troops under the command of Ardaburius; who making an irruption through Armenia into Persia, ravaged one of its provinces called Azazene. Narsæus the Persian general marched against him, but on coming to an engagement was defeated, and obliged to retreat. Afterwards he judged it advantageous to make a sudden irruption through Mesopotamia into the Roman territories there unguarded, thinking by this means to be revenged on the enemy. But Ardaburius being apprized of his design, hastened the spoliation of Azazene, and then himself also inarched into Mesopotamia. Wherefore Narsæus although furnished with a large army, was prevented from invading the Roman provinces; but arriving at Nisibis, a city in the possession of the Persians situated on the frontiers of both empires, he sent to Ardaburius desiring that they might make mutual arrangements about carrying on the war, and appoint a time and place for an engagement. But Ardaburius said to his messengers, “Tell Narsæus that the Roman emperors will not fight when it pleases him.” The emperor perceiving that the Persian was mustering his whole force, made additional levies to his army, and put his trust in God for the victory: nor was he without immediate benefit from this pious confidence, as the following circumstance proves. As the Constantinopolitans were in great consternation, and apprehensive respecting the issue of the war, a vision of angels appeared to some persons in Bithynia who were travelling to that city on their own affairs, and bade them tell the people not to be alarmed, but pray to God in the assurance that the Romans would be conquerors, for that they themselves were appointed to defend them. Thus were not only the inhabitants comforted, but the soldiers also received fresh courage. The seat of war being transferred, as we have said, from Armenia to Mesopotamia, the Romans shut up the Persians in the city of Nisibis, which they besieged; and having constructed wooden towers which they advanced by means of machines to the walls, they slew great numbers of those who defended them, as well as of those who ran to their assistance. When Vararanes the Persian monarch learnt that his province of Azazene had been desolated, and that his army was closely besieged in the city of Nisibis, he resolved to march in person with all his forces against the Romans: but dreading the Roman valour, he implored the aid of the Saracens, who were then governed by a warlike chief named Alamundarus. This prince accordingly brought with him a large reinforcement of Saracen auxiliaries, and exhorted the king of the Persians to fear nothing, for that he would soon reduce the Romans under his power, and deliver Antioch in Syria into his hands. But the event nullified these promises: for God infused into the minds of the Saracens a terrible panic, as if the Roman army was falling upon them; and finding no other way of escape, they precipitated themselves, armed as they were, into the river Euphrates, wherein nearly one hundred thousand of them were drowned. After this multitude had thus perished, the Romans understanding that the king of Persia was bringing with him a great number of elephants, became alarmed in their turn; they therefore burnt all the machines they had used in carrying on the siege, and retired into their own country. What engagements afterwards took place, and how Areobindus another Roman general killed the bravest of the Persians in single combat, and by what means Ardaburius destroyed seven Persian commanders in an ambuscade, and Vitian another Roman general vanquished the remnant of the Saracen forces, I believe I ought to pass by, lest I should digress too far from my subject.








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