Early Church Fathers
17 murioi d alloi. See the previous chapter, note 8.
18 i.e. those who, when freedom was offered them on condition of sacrificing, refused to accept it at that price. It was desirous that the prisons which had for so long been filled with these Christian prisoners (see chap. 6, §9) should, if possible, be cleared; and this doubtless combined with the desire to break the stubbornness of the prisoners to promote the use of torture at this time.
19 See the previous chapter, note 8.
21 In the Chron. we are told of a commander by name Veturius, who is doubtless to be identified with the one referred to here. Why Eusebius does not give his name in the History, we do not know. There seems to be contempt in the phrase, "whoever he was," and it may be that he did not consider him worth naming. In Jerome's version of the Chron. (sixteenth year of Diocletian) we read: Veturius magister militiae Christianos milites persequitur, paulatim ex illo jam tempore persecutione adversum nos incipiente; in the Armenian (fourteenth year): Veturius magister militiae eos qui in exercitu Christiani erant, clanculum opprimebat atque ex hoc inde tempore ubique locorum persecutio se extendit. Evidently the occurrence took place a few years before the outbreak of the regular persecution, but the exact date cannot be determined. It is probable, moreover, from the way in which Eusebius refers to the man in the History that he was a comparatively insignificant commander, who took the course he did on his own responsibility. At least, there is no reason to connect the act with Diocletian and to suppose it ordered by him. All that we know of his relation to the Christians forbids such a supposition. There may have been some particular occasion for such a move in the present instance, which evidently affected only a small part of the army, and resulted in only a few deaths (see the next paragraph). Perhaps some insubordination was discovered among the Christian soldiers, which led the commander to be suspicious of all of them, and hence to put the test to them,-which was always in order,-to prove their loyalty. It is plain that he did not intend to put any of them to death, but only to dismiss such as refused to evince their loyalty by offering the customary sacrifices. Some of the Christian soldiers, however, were not content with simple dismission, but in their eagerness to evince their Christianity said and did things which it was impossible for any commander to overlook (cf. the instances given by Mason, p. 41 sq.). It was such soldiers as these that suffered death; and they of course were executed, not because they were Christians, but because they were insubordinate. Their death was brought on themselves by their foolish fanaticism; and they have no claim to be honored as martyrs, although Eusebius evidently regarded them as such.
22 We should rather say "for their rash and unjustifiable fanaticism."
23 In this sentence reference is made to the general persecution, which did not begin until some time after the events recorded in the previous paragraphs.
24 Nicomedia, the capital city of Bithynia, became Diocletian's chief place of residence, and was made by him the Eastern capital of the empire.
25 The great church of Nicomedia was destroyed on Feb. 23, 303, and the First Edict was published on the following day (see above, chap. 2, note 3).
26 Lactantius relates this account in his De mort. pers. chap. 13, and expresses disapproval of the act, while admiring the spirit of the man. He, too, is silent in regard to the name of the man, though, living as he did in Nicomedia, he can hardly have been ignorant of it. We may perhaps imagine that he did not care to perpetuate the name of a man whom he considered to have acted rashly and illegally. The old martyrologies give the man's name as John. That he deserved death is clear enough. He was not a martyr to the faith, but a criminal, who was justly executed for treasonable conduct. The first edict contemplated no violence to the persons of the Christians. If they suffered death, it was solely in consequence of their own rashness, as in the present case. It is clear that such an incident as this would anger Diocletian and increase his suspicions of Christians as a class, and thus tend to precipitate a regular persecution. It must have seemed to the authorities that the man would hardly commit such a foolhardy act unless he was conscious of the support of a large body of the populace, and so the belief in the wide extension of the plot which had caused the movement on the part of the emperors must have been confirmed. See below, p. 398 sq.
27 i.e. Diocletian and Galerius.
28 On Dorotheus, see above, chap. 1, note 3.
29 i.e. in Nicomedia, before Diocletian and Galerius.
30 petroj, "a rock." It is clear from the account of Lactantius (chap. 15) that this man, and the others mentioned in this connection, suffered after the second conflagration in the palace and in consequence of it (see below, p. 400). The two conflagrations led Diocletian to resort to torture in order to ascertain the guilty parties, or to obtain information in regard to the plots of the Christians. Examination by torture was the common mode of procedure under such circumstances, and hence implies no unusual cruelty in the present case. The death even of these men, therefore, cannot be looked upon as due to persecution. Their offense was purely a civil one. They were suspected of being implicated in a treasonable plot, and of twice setting fire to the palace. Their refusal to sacrifice under such circumstances, and thus evince their loyalty at so critical a time, was naturally looked upon as practically a confession of guilt,-at any rate as insubordination on a most grave occasion, and as such fitly punishable by death. Compare Pliny's epistle to Trajan, in which he expresses the opinion that "pertinacious and inflexible obstinacy" ought at any rate to be punished, whatever might be thought of Christianity as such (see above, Bk. III. chap. 33, note 1); and at such a time as this Diocletian must have felt that the first duty of all his subjects was to place their loyalty beyond suspicion by doing readily that which was demanded. His impatience with the Christians must have been increasing under all these provocations, and thus the regular persecution was becoming ever note imminent.
31 Gorgonius has been already mentioned in chap. 1, above. See note 4 on that chapter.
32 In a fragment preserved by the Chron. Paschale, and purporting to be a part of an epistle written from prison, shortly before his death, by the presbyter Lucian of Antioch to the church of that city, Anthimus, bishop of Nicomedia, is mentioned as having just suffered martyrdom (see Routh's Rel. Sac. IV. p. 5). Lucian, however, was imprisoned and put to death during the persecution of Maximinus (a.d. 311 or 312). See below, Bk. IX. chap. 6, and Jerome's de vir. ill. chap. 77. It would seem, therefore, if the fragment given in the Chron. Paschale be genuine, and there seems no good reason to doubt it, that Anthimus suffered martyrdom not under Diocletian, but under Maximinus, in 311 or 312. In that case Eusebius is mistaken in putting his death at this early date, in connection with the members of the imperial household. Indeed, we see no reason for his execution at this time, and should find it difficult to explain if we were to accept it. In the time of Maximinus, however, it is perfectly natural, and of a piece with the execution of Peter of Alexandria and other notable prelates. Eusebius, as we have already seen, pays no attention to chronology in this Eighth Book, and hence there is no great weight to be placed upon his mention of the death of Anthimus at this particular place. Mason (p. 324) says that Hunziker (p. 281) has conclusively shown Eusebius' mistake at this point. I have not seen Hunziker, and therefore cannot judge of the validity of his arguments, but, on the grounds already stated, have no hesitation in expressing my agreement with his conclusion. Of Anthimus himself, we know nothing beyond what has been already intimated. In chap. 13, §1, below, he is mentioned again, but nothing additional is told us in regard to him.
Having observed Eusebius' mistake in regard to Anthimus, we realize that there is no reason to consider him any more accurate in respect to the other martyrdoms referred to in this paragraph. In fact, it is clear enough that, in so far as his account is not merely rhetorical, it relates to events that took place not at this early date, but during a later time after the regular religious persecution had begun. No such "multitude" suffered in consequence of the conflagration as Eusebius thinks. The martyrdoms of which he has heard belong rather to the time after the Fourth Edict (see below, Mart. Pal. chap. 3, note 2), or possibly to the still later time when Maximinus was at Nicomedia, and was in the midst of his bloody career of persecution.
33 Eusebius does not accuse Galerius of being the author of the conflagration, as Lactantius does. In fact, he seems to have known very little about the matter. He mentions only one fire, whereas Lactantius distinctly tells us there were two, fifteen days apart (chap. 14). Eusebius evidently has only the very vaguest information in regard to the progress of affairs at Nicomedia, and has no knowledge of the actual order and connection of events. In regard to the effects of the fire upon Diocletian's attitude toward the Christians, see above, note 3, and below, p. 400. Constantine (Orat. ad Sanct. Coet. XXV. 2) many years afterwards referred to the fire as caused by lightning, which is clearly only a makeshift, for, as Burckhardt remarks, there could have been no doubt in that case how the fire originated. And, moreover, such an explanation at best could account for only one of the fires. The fact that Constantine feels it necessary to invent such an explanation gives the occurrence a still more auspicious look, and one not altogether favorable to the Christians. In fact, it must be acknowledged that the case against them is pretty strong.
34 Literally, "The executioners, having bound a large number of others on boats, threw them into the depths of the sea" (dhsantej de oi dhmioi allo ti plhqoj epi skafaij, toij qalattioij enaperripton buqoij). The construction is evidently a pregnant one, for it cannot be supposed that boats and all were thrown into the depths of the sea. They seem to have bound the prisoners, and carried them out to sea on boats, and then thrown them overboard. Compare the Passion of St. Theodotus (Mason, p. 362), where we are told that the "President then bade them hang stones about their necks, and embark them on a small shallop and row them out to a spot where the lake was deeper; and so they were cast into the water at the distance of four or five hundred feet from the shore." Crusè translates, "binding another number upon planks," but skafh will hardly bear that meaning; and even if it could, we should scarcely expect men to be bound to planks if the desire was to "cast them into the depths of the sea." Lactantius (chap. 15), in speaking of these same general occurrences, says, "Servants, having millstones tied about their necks, were cast into the sea."
Closs remarks that drowning was looked upon in ancient times as the most disgraceful punishment, because it implied that the criminals were not worthy to receive burial.
35 Compare Bk. IV. chap. 15, §41, above, and Lactantius, Div. Inst. V. 11. That in the present case the suspicion that the Christians would worship the remains of these so-called martyrs was not founded merely upon knowledge of the conduct of Christians in general in relation to the relics of their martyrs, but upon actual experience of their conduct in connection with these particular martyrs, is shown by the fact that the emperor first buried them, and afterward had them dug up. Evidently Christians showed them such honor, and collected in such numbers about their tombs, that he believed it was necessary to take some such step in order to prevent the growth of a spirit of rebellion, which was constantly fostered by such demonstrations. Compare the remarks of Mason on p. 135.
36 Part of the events mentioned in this chapter occurred at the beginning; others, a considerable time later. See note 5, above.
37 Melitene was the name of a district and a city in Eastern Cappadocia. Upon the outbreak there we know only what can be gathered from this passage, although Mason (p. 126 sq.) connects it with a rebellion, of which an account is given in Simeon Metaphras-tes. It is possible that the account of the Metaphrast is authentic, and that the uprising referred to here is to be identified with it, but more than that cannot be said. There can be no doubt that the outbreak was one of the causes of the promulgation of the Second Edict, in which case of course it is clear that the Christians. whether rightly or wrongly, were held responsible for it. See above, chap. 2, note 7.
38 Valesius identifies this usurpation in Syria with that of Eugenius in Antioch, of which we are told by Libanius (in his Oratio ad Theodosium post reconciliationem, and in his Oratio ad Theod. de seditione Antioch., according to Valesius). The latter was but a small affair, involving only a band of some five hundred soldiers, who compelled their commander Eugenius, to assume the purple, but were entirely destroyed by the people of the city within twenty-four hours. See the note of Valesius ad locum, Tillemont's Hist. des Emp. IX. 73 sq., and Mason, p. 124 sq. This rebellion took place in the time of Diocletian, but there is no reason for connecting it with the uprising mentioned here by Eusebius. The words of Eusebius would seem to imply that he was thinking, not of a single rebellion, but of a number which took place in various parts of Syria. In that case, the Antiochian affair may have been one of them.
39 touj pantaxose twn ekklhsiwn proestwtaj. Upon this second edict, see above, chap. 2, note 7.
40 It is evident enough from this clause alone that the word proestwtaj, "rulers," is to be taken in a broad sense. See the note just referred to.
41 The Third Edict of Diocletian. Eusebius evidently looks upon the edict as a sharpening of the persecution, but is mistaken in his view. The idea was not that those who refused to sacrifice should be punished by torture for not sacrificing, but that torture should be applied in order to induce them to sacrifice, and thus render it possible to release them. The end sought was their release, not their punishment. Upon the date and interpretation of this edict, see chap. 2, note 8.
42 Eusebius is probably again in error, as so often in this book, in connecting a "multitude of martyrs in every province" with this Third Edict. Wholesale persecution and persecution as such-aimed directly at the destruction of all Christians-did not begin until the issue of the Fourth Edict (see below, Mart. Pal. chap. 3, note 2). These numerous martyrdoms referred to here doubtless belong to the period after the issue of that edict, although in Africa and Mauritania, which were under Maximian, considerable blood was probably shed even before that time. For it was possible, of course, for a cruel and irresponsible ruler like Maximian to fix the death penalty for refusal to deliver up the Christian books, or for other acts of obstinacy which the Christian would quite commonly commit. These cases, however, must be looked upon as exceptional at this stage of affairs, and certainly rare.
43 From the Martyrs of Palestine, chap. 8 sq. (more fully in the Syriac; Cureton's English translation p. 26 sq.), we learn that in the sixth and following years of the persecution, many Egyptian Christians were sent to Palestine to labor in the mines there, and that they underwent the severest tortures in that country. No mention is made of such persons in the Martyrs of Palestine previous to the sixth year. Those in Tyre to whom Eusebius refers very likely suffered during the same period; not under Diocletian, but under Maximinus, when the persecution was at its height. Since in his Martyrs of Palestine Eusebius confines himself to those who suffered in that country (or were natives of it), he has nothing to say about those referred to in this chapter, who seem, from the opening of the next chapter, to have suffered, all of them, in Tyre.
44 No part of Christendom suffered more severely during these years than the territory of the tyrant Maximinus, who became a Caesar in 305, and who ruled in Egypt and Syria.
45 Thebais, or the territory of Thebes, was one of the three great divisions of Egypt, lying between lower Egypt on the north and Aethiopia on the south. From §4, below, we learn that Eusebius was himself an eye-witness of at least some of the martyrdoms to which he refers in the present chapter. Reasons have been given on p. 10, above, for supposing that he did not visit Egypt until the later years of the persecution, indeed not until toward the very end of it; and it is therefore to this period that the events described in this chapter are to be ascribed.
46 arxhn tina ou thn tuxousan thj kat Alecandreian basilikhj dioikhsewj egkexeirismenoj. Valesius says that Philoromus was the Rationalis, seu procurator summarum Aegypti, i.e. the general finance minister of Egypt (see above, Bk. VII. chap. 10, note 8). But the truth is, that the use of the tina implies that Eusebius is not intending to state the particular office which he held, but simply to indicate that he held some high office, and this is all that we can claim for Philoromus. We know no more of him than is told us here, though Acts of St. Phileas and St. Philoromus are extant, which contain an account of his martyrdom, and are printed by the Bollandists and by Ruinart (interesting extracts given by Tillemont, H. E. V. p. 486 sq., and by Mason, p. 290 sq.). Tillemont (ibid. p. 777) and others defend their genuineness, but Lardner doubts it (Credibility, chap. 60). I have examined only the extracts printed by Tillemont and Mason, and am not prepared to express an opinion in the matter.
47 Phileas, bishop of Thmuis (an important town in lower Egypt, situated between the Tanite and Mendeaian branches of the Nile), occupies an important place among the Diocletian martyrs. The extant Acts of his martyrdom have been referred to in the previous note. He is mentioned again by Eusebius in chaps. 10 and 13, and in the former a considerable part of his epistle to the people of his diocese is quoted. Jerome mentions him in his de vir. ill. chap. 78, where he says: elegantissimum iibrum de martyrum laude composuit, et disputatione actorum habita adversum judicem, qui eum sacrificare cogebat, pro Christo capite truncatur. The book referred to by Jerome seems to be identical with the epistle quoted by Eusebius in the next chapter, for we have no record of another work on this subject written by him. There is extant, however, the Latin version of an epistle purporting to have been written by the imprisoned bishops Hesychius, Pachymius, Theodorus, and Phileas, to Meletius, author of the Meletian schism. There seems to be nothing in the epistle to disprove its genuineness, and it is accepted by Routh and others. The authorship of the epistle is commonly ascribed to Phileas, both because he is known to us as a writer, and also because his name stands last in the opening of the epistle. Eusebius says nothing of such an epistle (though the names of all four of the bishops are mentioned in chap. 13, below). Jerome's silence in regard to it signifies nothing, for he only follows Eusebius. This epistle, and also the fragment of the one quoted in the next chapter by Eusebius, are given by Routh, Rel. Sac. IV. p. 87 sq., and an English translation in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, VI. p. 161 sq.
Phileas' learning is praised very highly by Eusebius and Jerome, and his scholarly character is emphasized in his Acts. The date of his death cannot be determined with exactness, but we may be confident that it did not, at any rate, take place before 306, and very likely not before 307. The epistle quoted in the next chapter was written shortly before his martyrdom, as we learn from §11 of that chapter.
48 On this epistle, see the previous chapter, note 3.
49 Phil. ii. 6-8.
50 1 John iv. 18.
51 toij amunthrioij. The word amunthrion means literally a weapon of defense, but the word seems to indicate in the present case some kind of a sharp instrument with claws or hooks. Rufinus translates ungulae, the technical term for an instrument of torture of the kind just described. Valesius remarks, however, that these amunthria seem to have been something more than ungulae, for Hesychius interprets amunthrion as cifoj distomon, i.e. a "two-edged sword."
52 The majority of the mss., followed by Laemmer and Heinichen, omit tessarwn, "four." The word, however, is found in a few good mss., and is adopted by all the other editors and translators, and seems necessary in the present case. Upon the instrument referred to here, see above, Bk. IV. chap. 16, note 9. It would seem that "four holes" constituted in ordinary cases the extreme limit. But in two cases (Bk. V. chap. 1, §27, and Mart. Pal. chap. 2) we are told of a "fifth hole." It is possible that the instruments varied in respect to the number of the holes, for the way in which the "four" is used here and elsewhere seems to indicate that the extreme of torture is thought of.
53 fhsi: "He says," or "the Scripture saith."
54 Ex. xxii. 20.
55 Ex. xx. 3.
56 I read polixnhn with the majority of mss. and editors. A number of mss. read polin, which is supported by Rufinus (urbem quandam) and Nicephorus, and is adopted by Laemmer and Heinichen; but it would certainty be more natural for a copyist to exaggerate than to understate his original.