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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

PAULINUS, bishop of Antioch, died about this period, and those who had assembled with him, persisted in their aversion to Flavian, although his religious sentiments were precisely the same as their own, because he had violated the oath he had formerly made to Meletius. They, therefore, elected Evagrius as their bishop. Evagrius did not long survive this appointment, and although Flavian prevented the election of another bishop, those who had seceded from communion with him, still continued to hold their assemblies apart.

About this period, the bishop of Alexandria to whom the Temple of Bacchus had, at his own request, been granted by the emperor, converted the edifice into a Christian church. The statues were removed, the most secret recesses of the temple explored, and in order to cast contumely on the Pagan mysteries, the most absurd and indecorous objects appertaining thereto, that had been concealed within the temple, were exposed to the public gaze. The Pagans, amazed at so unexpected an exhibition, could not suffer it in silence, but conspired together to attack the Christians. They slew many of the Christians, wounded others, and seized the temple of Serapis, a large and beautiful structure seated on an eminence. This they converted into a temporary citadel, and here they conveyed their prisoners, put them to the torture, and compelled them to offer sacrifice. Those who refused compliance were crucified, had their legs broken, or were, put to death in some cruel manner. When the sedition had lasted some time, and had attained a fearful height, the rulers, with Romanus the general of the Egyptian troops, and Evagrius, the Alexandrian prefect, hastened to the spot, and urged the people to obey the laws, to lay down their arms, and to give up the temple of Serapis. As their efforts, however, to reduce the people to submission were utterly in vain, they made known what had transpired to the emperor. Those who had shut themselves up in the temple of Serapis were averse to yield from fear of the punishment that they knew would await their audacious proceedings, and they were further instigated to revolt by the inflammatory discourses of a man named Olympius, attired in the garments of a philosopher, who told them that they ought to die rather than neglect the gods of their fathers. Perceiving that they were greatly intimidated by the destruction of the idolatrous statues, he assured them that such a circumstance did not warrant their renouncing their religion; for that the statues were composed of corruptible materials, subject to decay; whereas, the powers which had dwelt within them, had flown to heaven. By such representations as these, he retained the multitude with him in the temple of Serapis.

When the emperor was informed of these occurrences, he declared that the Christians who had been slain were blessed, inasmuch as they had been admitted to the honour of martyrdom, and had suffered in defence of the faith. He offered free pardon to those who had slain them, hoping that by this act of clemency they would be the more readily induced to embrace Christianity; and he commanded the demolition of the temples which had been the cause of the sedition. It is said that, when this edict was read in public, the Christians uttered loud shouts of joy, because the emperor laid the odium of what had occurred upon the Pagans. The people who were guarding the temple of Serapis were so terrified at hearing these shouts, that they took to flight, and the Christians immediately obtained possession of the spot which they have retained ever since. I have been informed that, on the night preceding this occurrence, Olympius heard the voice of one singing Hallelujah in the temple of Serapis. The doors were shut, and as he could see no one, but could only hear the voice of the singer, he at once understood what the sign signified; and unknown to any one he quitted the temple and embarked for Italy. It is said that when the temple was being demolished, some stones were found on which were hieroglyphic characters in the form of a cross, which, on being submitted to the inspection of the learned, were interpreted as signifying the life to come. These characters led to the conversion of several of the Pagans, as did likewise other inscriptions found in the same place, and which contained predictions of the destruction of the temple. It was thus that the temple of Serapis was converted into a church; it received the name of the emperor Arcadius.

There were still Pagans in many cities, who contended zealously in behalf of their temples; as, for instance, the inhabitants of Petræa and of Areopolis, in Arabia; of Raphi and Gaza, in Palestine; of Hieropolis, in Phœnicia; and of Apamea, on the river Axius, in Syria. I have been informed that the inhabitants of the last-named city often armed the men of Galilee, and the peasants of Lebanon, in defence of their temples; and that they even carried their audacity to such a height, as to slay a bishop, named Marcellus. This bishop had commanded the demolition of all the temples in the city and neighbouring villages, under the supposition that more efficient means of deterring the people from the observance of their ancient superstitions could not be devised. Having heard that there was a very spacious temple at Aulone, a district of Apamea, he repaired thither with a body of soldiers and gladiators. He stationed himself at a distance from the scene of conflict; beyond the reach of the arrows; for he was afflicted with the gout, and was unable either to fight, or to effect an escape in case of defeat. Whilst the soldiers and gladiators were engaged in the assault against the temple, some Pagans, discovering that he was alone, hastened to the place where he was awaiting the issue of the combat, seized him, and burnt him alive. The perpetrators of this deed were not then known, but in course of time, they were detected, and the sons of Marcellus determined upon avenging his death. The Council of the province, however, prohibited them from executing this design, and declared that it was not just that the relatives or friends of Marcellus should seek to avenge his death; when they should rather return thanks to God, for having accounted him worthy to die in such a cause.








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