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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

THE oration of Themistius had some effect in mitigating the resentment of the emperor, and the persecution became in consequence less cruel and violent than before. The priests, however, were not restored to favour, and they would have felt the full weight of the emperor’s indignation, had not the state of public affairs diverted his attention from the concerns of the church. For the Goths who inhabited the regions beyond the Danube, and held several barbarian nations under their sway, having been vanquished and driven from their country by the Huns, marched towards the Roman territories. The Huns, it is said, were unknown to the Thracians of the Danube, and the Goths before this period; for though they dwelt in a neighbouring region, a lake of vast extent formed a boundary between them, and the inhabitants on each side of the lake respectively imagined that their own country was situated at the extremity of the earth, and that there was nothing beyond them but sea and water. It so happened, however, that an ox, tormented by insects, plunged into the lake and was pursued by the herdsman, who perceiving for the first time that the opposite bank was inhabited, made known the circumstance to his countrymen. Some, however, relate that a stag pursued by hunters, showed them the way to cross the lake, by fording it at a place where the water was not deep. On arriving at the opposite bank, the hunters were struck with the beauty of the country, the abundance of its produce, and the serenity of the air, and they reported what they had seen to their king. The Huns then made an attempt to attack the Goths with a few soldiers, but they afterwards raised a powerful army, conquered the Goths, and took possession of their whole country. The vanquished nation, being pursued by their enemies, fled towards the Roman territories; they crossed the river, and despatched an embassy to the emperor, assuring him of their co-operation in any warfare in which he might engage, provided that he would assign a portion of land for them to inhabit. Ulphilas, the bishop of the nation, was the chief of the embassy. The object of his embassy was fully accomplished, and the Goths were permitted to take up their abode in Thrace. Soon after, contentions broke out among them, which led to their division into two parties, one of which was headed by Athanaric, and the other by Phritigernes. They took up arms against each other, and Phritigernes was vanquished, and implored assistance of the Romans. The emperor having commanded the troops in Thrace to assist him, a second battle was fought, and Athanaric and his party were put to flight. In acknowledgment of the timely succour afforded by Valens, and in proof of his fidelity to the Romans, Phritigernes embraced the religion of the emperor, and persuaded the barbarians over whom he ruled to follow his example. It does not, however, appear to me that this is the only reason that can be advanced to account for the Goths having retained even to the present day, the tenets of Arianism. Ulphilas, their bishop, originally held no opinions at variance with those of the Catholic church; for though he took part, as I am convinced from thoughtlessness, at the Council of Constantinople, in conjunction with Eudoxius and Acacius, yet he did not swerve from the doctrines of the Nicene Council. He afterwards, it appears, returned to Constantinople, and entered into disputations on doctrinal topics with the chiefs of the Arian faction; and they promised to lay his requests before the emperor, and forward the object of his embassy, if he would conform to their opinions. Compelled by the urgency of the occasion, or, possibly, induced by a conviction of the truth of their sentiments concerning the Divine nature, Ulphilas entered into communion with the Arians, and separated himself and his whole nation from all connection with the Catholic church. For as he had instructed the Goths in the elements of religion, and the practice of morality and gentleness, they placed the most implicit confidence in his directions, and were firmly convinced that he could neither do nor say any thing that was evil. He had, in fact, given many signal proofs of the greatness of his virtue. He had exposed himself to innumerable perils in defence of the faith, during the period that the aforesaid barbarians were abandoned to Paganism. He taught them the use of letters, and translated the sacred scriptures into their own language. It was on this account that the nations on the banks of the Danube followed the tenets of Arius. At the same period, there were many of the subjects of Phritigernes who testified to Christ, and were martyred. Athanaric also resented the change in religion that had been effected by Ulphilas; and irritated because his subjects had abandoned the superstition of their fathers, he imposed cruel punishments on many individuals; some he put to death after they had been dragged before tribunals and had nobly confessed the faith, and others were slain without being permitted to utter a single word in their own defence. It is said that the officers appointed by Athanaric to execute his cruel mandates, caused a statue to be constructed, which they placed on a chariot, and had it conveyed to the tents of those who were suspected of having embraced Christianity, and who were therefore commanded to worship the statue and offer sacrifice: if they refused to do so, they were burnt alive in their tents. But I have heard that an outrage of still greater atrocity was perpetrated at this period. Men, women and children, who were compelled to offer sacrifice, fled from their tents and sought refuge in a church, whither also they carried the infants at the breast; the Pagans set fire to the church and consumed it, with all who were therein.

The Goths were not long in making peace among themselves; and they then began to ravage Thrace and to pillage the cities and villages. Valens was soon convinced of the utter failure of his experiment; for he had calculated that the Goths would always be useful to the empire and formidable to its enemies, and had therefore neglected the reinforcement of the Roman legions. He had taken gold from the cities and villages under his dominion, instead of the usual compliment of men for the military service. On his expectation being thus frustrated, he quitted Antioch and hastened to Constantinople. Hence the persecution which he had been carrying on against Christians differing in opinion from himself, was arrested. Euzoius, bishop of the Arians died, and was succeeded by Theodore.








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