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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

JULIAN, having determined upon undertaking a war against Persia, repaired to Antioch in Syria. The people loudly complained, that, although provisions were very abundant, the price affixed to them was very high. Accordingly the emperor, from liberality, as I believe, towards the people, reduced the price of provisions to so low a scale that the vendors fled the city. A scarcity in consequence ensued, for which the people blamed the emperor; and their resentment found vent in ridiculing the length of his beard, and the bulls which he had had stamped upon his coins; and they satirically remarked that he upset the world in the same way that his priests, when offering sacrifice, threw down the victims. At first his displeasure was excited, and he threatened to punish them, and prepared to depart for Tarsus. Afterwards, however, he suppressed his feelings of indignation, and repaid their ridicule by words alone; he composed a very elegant work under the title of “Aversion to Beards,” which he sent to them. He treated the Christians of this city precisely in the same manner as at other places, and endeavoured, as far as possible, to promote the extension of Paganism.

I shall here recount some of the details connected with the tomb of Babylas, the martyr, and certain occurrences which took place about this period in the temple of Apollo at Daphne. Daphne is a suburb of Antioch, and is planted with cypresses and other trees, beneath which all kinds of flowers flourish in their season. The branches of these trees are so thick and interlaced that they may be said to form a roof rather than merely to afford shade, and the rays of the sun can never pierce through them to the soil beneath. The purity and the softness of the air, and the great quantity of limpid streams which water the earth, render this spot one of the most delightful places in the world. The Greeks pretend that Daphne, the daughter of the river Ladon, was here changed into a tree which bears her name, while she was fleeing from Arcadia to evade the pursuit of Apollo, by whom she was beloved. The passion of Apollo was not diminished, they say, by this transformation; he embraced the tree, and made a crown of its leaves. He afterwards often fixed his residence on this spot, as being dearer to him than any other place. Men of grave temperament, however, considered it disgraceful to approach this suburb; for the air and aspect of the place seemed to excite voluptuous feelings; the fable, too, connected with the locality, appeared to add fresh fuel to the ardour of the passions of youth. The example of the gods had so debasing an influence that the young people of this place seemed incapable of being continent themselves, or of enduring the presence of those who were continent. Any one who dwelt at Daphne without a mistress was regarded as callous and ungracious, and was shunned accordingly. The Pagans likewise manifested great reverence for this place on account of a statue of Apollo which stood here, as also a magnificent temple, supposed to have been built by Seleucus, the father of Antiochus, who gave his name to the city of Antioch. Those who attach credit to fables of this kind, believe that a stream flows from the fountain Castalia, which confers the power of predicting the future, and which is similar in its effects to the fountain of Delphi. It is related that Adrian here received intimation of his future greatness when he was but a private individual; and that he dipped a leaf of the laurel in the water, and found written thereon an account of his destiny. When he became emperor, it is said, he commanded the fountain to be closed, in order that no one might be enabled to pry into the knowledge of the future. But I leave this subject to those who are more accurately acquainted with mythology than I am. When Gallus, the brother of Julian, had been declared Cæsar by Constantius, and had fixed his residence at Antioch, his zeal for the Christian religion and his veneration for the memory of the martyrs prompted him to the removal of the abominations which had arisen in Daphne. He considered that the readiest method of effecting this object would be to erect a house of prayer opposite to the temple, and to transfer thither the tomb of Babylas, the martyr, who had, with great reputation to himself, presided over the church of Antioch. It is said that from the time of this translation, the demon ceased to utter oracles. This silence was at first attributed to the neglect into which his service was allowed to fall, and to the omission of the usual sacrifices; but results proved that it was occasioned solely by the presence of the holy martyr. The silence continued unbroken even after the accession of Julian, although libations, incense, and victims were offered in abundance to the demon. The emperor himself entered the temple for the purpose of consulting the oracle, and offering up gifts and sacrifices with entreaties to grant a reply. The demon did not openly admit that the hinderance was occasioned by the tomb of Babylas, the martyr, but he stated that the place was filled with dead bodies, and that this prevented the oracle from speaking. Although many interments had taken place at Daphne, the emperor perceived that it was the presence of Babylas, the martyr, alone which had silenced the oracle; and he commanded his tomb to be removed. The Christians, therefore, assembled together and conveyed the relics to the city, which was about forty stadia distant, and deposited them in the place where they are still preserved, and to which the name of the martyr has been given. It is said that old men and maidens, young men and children, took part in the task of translating the remains; and that they sang psalms as they went along the road, apparently for the purpose of lightening their labour, but, in truth, because they were transported by zeal for their religion, which the emperor opposed. The best singers sang first, and the multitude replied in chorus, and the following was the burden of their song: “Confounded are all they who worship graven images, who boast themselves in idols.”








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