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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

SUCH is the information which I have been enabled to collect concerning the ecclesiastical philosophers. As to the Pagan philosophers, they were nearly all exterminated about the period to which we have been referring. Some among them who were reputed to excel in philosophy, and who viewed with extreme displeasure the progress of the Christian religion, were desirous of ascertaining who would be the successor of Valens on the throne of the Roman Empire, and resorted to magical arts for the purpose of attaining this insight into futurity. After various incantations, they constructed a tripod of laurel wood, and uttered certain magical words over it, so that the letters of the alphabet might appear upon the tripod, and indicate the name of the future emperor. Theodore, who held a distinguished appointment at Court, and who was a Pagan, was the individual whom they most desired to see on the imperial throne; and the first letters of his name, so far as the letter d, appeared on the tripod, and deceived the philosophers. They hence expected that Theodore, would be the future emperor; but their hopes were utterly frustrated, for their proceedings were detected by Valens, and he was as deeply incensed as if a conspiracy had been formed against himself. He ordered all the parties concerned in the construction of the tripod to be arrested; commanded them to be burned alive, and caused Theodore himself to be beheaded. The indignation of the emperor was, in fact, so unbounded, that the most famous philosophers of the time were slain in consequence of what had occurred; and even those who were not philosophers, but who wore garments similar to those of the philosophers, were sacrificed to his resentment; hence these garments were disused, lest they should lead to the imputation of magic and sorcery. I believe that all sensible persons will not blame the cruelty and impetuosity of the emperor more than the rashness of the philosophers in entering upon so unphilosophical an undertaking. The emperor, absurdly supposing that he could put his successor to death, spared neither those who had performed the incantations, nor those who bore the name that had been indicated, for he sacrificed even those whose names commenced with nearly the same letters as those that had appeared on the tripod. The philosophers, on the other hand, acted as if the deposition and restoration of emperors had depended solely on them; for if the imperial succession was to be considered dependent on the arrangement of the stars, what was requisite but to await the accession of the future emperor, whoever he might be? or if the succession was regarded as dependent on the will of God, what right had man to interfere with His decrees? Can man penetrate the secret counsels of God? or can man, whatever may be his wisdom, make a better choice than God? If it were merely from rash curiosity to discern the things of futurity, that these philosophers were induced to violate the laws of the Roman Empire, that had subsisted ever since the legislation of the Pagan sacrifices, their motives and conduct differed widely from those of Socrates; for when unjustly condemned to drink poison, he refused to save himself by violating the laws of his country, nor would he escape from prison, although it was in his power to do so.








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