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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

AS the Emperor Gratian was at this period occupied with a war against the Germans, Maximus quitted Britain with the design of usurping the imperial power. Valentinian was then residing in Italy, but, as he was a minor, the affairs of state were transacted by Probus, a prætorian prefect, who had formerly been consul.

Justina, the mother of the emperor, having espoused the Arian heresy, persecuted Ambrose, bishop of Milan, and disquieted the churches by her efforts to introduce alterations in the Nicene doctrines, and to obtain the predominance of the form of belief set forth at Ariminum. She was incensed against Ambrose because he strenuously opposed her attempts at innovation; and she represented to her son that he had insulted her. Valentinian believed this calumny, and determining to avenge the supposed wrongs of his mother, he sent a party of soldiers against the church. On their reaching the edifice, they forced their way into the interior, arrested Ambrose, and were about to lead him into exile, when the people assembled in crowds, and evinced a resolution to die rather than submit to the banishment of their bishop. Justina was still further incensed at this occurrence; and with a view of enforcing her project by law, she sent for Benevolus, one of the legal secretaries, and commanded him to draw up, as quickly as possible, an edict confirmatory of the decrees of Ariminum. Benevolus, being firmly attached to the Catholic Church, refused to write the document, and the empress tried to bribe him by promises of honours and promotion. He still, however, refused compliance, and, tearing off his belt, he threw it at the feet of Justina, and declared that he would neither retain his present office, nor accept of promotion, as the reward of impiety. As he remained firm in his refusal, others were entrusted with the compilation of the document. By this law, all were prohibited from holding assemblies except those who conformed to the doctrines set forth at Ariminum, and ratified at Constantinople; and it was enacted, that death should be the punishment of those who should violate this decree.

While Justina was planning the means of carrying this cruel law into execution, intelligence was brought of the murder of Gratian, through the treachery of Andragathos, the general of Maximus. Andragathos obtained possession of the chariot of the empress, and sent word to the emperor, that his consort was travelling towards his camp. Gratian, who was but recently married, and was exceedingly attached to the empress, hastened across the river, and, in his anxiety to meet her, fell into the hands of Andragathos, and was put to death. He was in the twenty-fourth year of his age, and had reigned fifteen years. This calamity diverted the thoughts of Justina from her angry altercation with Ambrose.

Maximus in the meantime raised a large army of Britons, Gauls, Celts, and other nations, and marched into Italy. The pretext which he advanced for this measure was, that be desired to prevent the introduction of innovations in the ancient form of religion and of ecclesiastical discipline; but he was, in reality, actuated by the desire of dispelling any suspicion that might have been excited as to his aspiring to tyranny; he wished it to appear that it was not by force, but by the sanction of the laws and the consent of the people, that he had been invested with the imperial power. Valentinian, who was compelled by the exigencies of the times to recognise him as emperor, soon after fled with his mother Justina and Probus, the prætorian prefect, to Thessalonica.








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