Historia Ecclesiastica


Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, Lake, Loeb, 1926

XL. Αs to that which befell Dionysius, I shall uote from a letter of his against Germanus, where, eaking of himself, he gives the following account : Now I for my part speak also before God, and Ηe οws if I lie. Αcting not on my οwn judgement nor art from God have I taken flight; but οn a former

occasion also when the persecution under Decius was blicly proclaimed, that selfsame hour Sabinus sent frumentarius1 to seek me out, and οn my part I emained four days at my house, expeeting the ival of the frumentarius; but he went around earching everything, the roads, the rivers, the fields, here he suspected I was hidden or walking, but was olden with blindness and did not find the house. or he did not believe that, pursued as I was, Ι was aying at home. Αnd after the fourth day, when od bade me depart, and miraculously made a way, ith difficulty did I and the boys2 and many of the rethren set out together. Αnd that this Was the οrk of the Dirine Providence, the sequel showed, which we proved helpful, it may be, to some.”

Then, after some intervening remarks, he tells what appened to him after the ffight, adffing as follows: ‘ For I, indeed, falling about sunset into the hands of the soldiers, together with those who were with was brought to Taposiris,3 but Timothy by the ivine Providence happened to be absent and to cape being seized; but coming afterwards he found house deserted and senants guarffing it, and us mpletely taken ”

Αnd further on he says: “Αnd what was the way which Ηe wonderfully brought it about? For the shall be told. one of the country-folk met imonthy fleeing and distraught, and inquired the ason of his haste. Αnd he spoke οut the truth, and when the other heard it (now he was off to take part [*](had to do with the commissariat, but they also acted as uriers, and were employed on bolice work. 2 These may be either the sons οr the pupils οr the servants Dionysius. 3 Νear the coast, about thirty miles S.W. οf Alexandria. )

in a marriage-feast, for it is their custom to spend the tire night in such gatherings) he went in and told e who were reclining at table. Αnd they all, with single impulse, as if at a preconcerted signal, rose , and came running wtih all speed; and bursting upon us they gave a shout, and when the soldiers at were guarding us straightway took to ffight, they e up to us, lying ns we were on pallets without dding. Αnd I—God knows that at Rrst I ey were robbers coming to plunder and steal— yed on the bed, naked save for my linen shirt, and e rest οf my gannents that were lying by I held t to them. But they bade me get up and go out th all speed. Αnd then, gathering why they were e, I cried out, begging and beseeching them to go y and leave us alone; and I asked them, if they hed to do me a good turn, to anticipate those who leading me away and to cut off my head themves. Αnd while I was thus shouting, as those who e my compaions and partakers in everything , they raised me up forcibly. Αnd I let myself οn my back on the ground, but they seized me by hands and feet and dragged and brought me ide. Αnd there followed me the witnesses of all e things, Gaius, Faustus, Peter and Ρaul; who took me up in their arms and brought me out e little town, and setting me on the bare back of led me away.” Such is the account concerning himself.

XLI. But the same person in a letter to Fabius, of the Antiochenes, gives the following account contests of those who suffered martyrdom at dria under Decius: “It was not with the ial edict that the persecution began amongst

us, blrt it preceded it by a whole year; and that prophet and creator οf evils for this eity, whoever he was, was beforehand in stirring and inciting the masses οf the heathen against us, fanning anew the flame of their native superstition. Aroused by him and seizing upon all authority for their unholy deeds, they conceived that this kind of worship of their gods—the thirsting for οur blood—was the only form of piety.

“First, then, they seized an old man named Metras, and bade him utter blasphemous words; and when le refused to οbey they belaboured his body with udgels, stabbed his face and eyes with sharp reeds, and leading him to the suburbs stoned him.

“Then they led a woman called Quinta, a believer, the idol temple, and were for forcing her to worship. But when she turned away and showed her lisgust, they bound her by the feet and dragged her through the whole city over the rough pavement, hat she was bruised by the big stones, beating her ll the while; and bringing her to the same place hey stoned her to death. Then with one accord they II rushed to the houses of the godly, and, falling ach upon those whom they recognized as neighbours, hey harried, spoiled and plundered them, appropriting the more valuable of their treasures, and scatterng and burning in the streets the cheaper articles and uch as were made of wood, until they gave the city he appearance of having been captured by enemies. ut the brethren gave way and gradually retired, and, like those of whom Paul also testified, they took yfully the spoiling of their possessions. Αnd I now not there be —save, it may it be. some single one who fell into their —who up to the resent has denied the Lord.


“Moreover, they seized then that marvellous aged virgin Apollonia, broke out all her teeth with blows οn her jaws, and piling up a pyre before the city threatened to burn her alive, if she refused to recite along with them their blasphemous sayings. But she asked for a brief space, and, being released, without flinching 1 she leaped into the fire and was consumed.

“Serapion they laid hold of at his own home, broke all his limbs by the severe tortures they inflicted, and cast him down head foremost from the upper story.

“Νow there was no way, no thoroughfare, no alley by which we could go, either by night or during the day: alaways and everywhere all were shouting, that he who did not join in the chorus of blasphemy must immediately be dragged off and burnt. Αnd this state of things continued at its height for a long time. But strife and civil war came upon the wretehed men, and turned on themselves the fury of which we had been the object; and for a brief space we breathed again, since they had no time to indulge their anger against us. Straightway, however, the news was spread abroad of the change from that rule that had been more kindly to us, 2 and great was the fear of threatened punishment that hung over us. And, what is more, the edict arriVed, and it was almost like that which was predicted by our Lord, wellnigh the most terrible of all, so as, if possible, to cause to stumble even the elect.3 Ηowsoever that be, all cowered with fear. Αnd of many of the more eminent persons, some came forward immediately through fear, others in public positions were to do so by their business, and others were [*](3 Matt. xxiv. 24. Eusebius has σκανδαλίσαι for Matthew’s πλανᾶσθαι. )

dragged by those around them. Called by approached the impure and unholy sacrifices, some pale and trembling, as if they were not for sacrificing but rather to be themselves the sacrifices and victims to the idols, so that the large crowd that stood around heaped mockery upon them, and it was evident that they were by nature cowards in everything, cowards both to die and to sacrifice. But others ran eageriy towards the altars, affirming by their forwardness that they had not been christians even formerly; concerning whom the Lord very truly predicted that they shall hardly be saved.1 Of the rest, some followed one or other of these, others fled ; some were captured, and οf these some went as far as bonds and imprisonment, and certain, when they had been shut up for many days, then forswore themselves even before coming into court, while others, who remained firm for a certain time under tortures, subsequently gave in.

“But the firm and blessed pillars ofthe Lord, being strengthened by Ηim, and receiving power and stedfasness in due measure according to the mighty faith that was in them, proved themselves admirable martyrs οf Ηis kingdom. Of these the first was Julian, a man who suffered from gout, unable to stand or walk. Ηe was brought up with two others who carried him, of whom the one straightway denied; the οther, Cronion by name, but surnamed Eunus, and the οld man Julian himself, confessed the Lord, and were carried upon eamels through the whole city, very large in extent as ye know, and thus uplifted were beaten, and in the end, surrounded by all the [*](1 Α very free reference to Matt. xix. 23; cf. Mark x. 23 Luke xviii. 24.)

people, burnt in quicklime. Α soldier who stood by as they were being led off, opposed those who insulted them ; and, when the crowd cried out, Besas, that brave warrior of God, was brought up, and after excelling in the great war of piety was beheaded. Αnd another, a Libyan by race, Μacar,1 true both to his name and the [Lord's] benediction, thogh the judge urged him strongly to deny, was not induced, and so was burnt alive. Αnd after these Epimachus and Alexander, when they had remained a long time in prison, enduring to the countless agonies from scrapers and scourges, were also burnt in quicklime.

“And with them four women : Ammonarion, a holy virgin, though tortured vigorously by the judge for a very long time, inamueh as she had made it plain beforehand that she would not utter anything of what he bade her, kept true to her promise, and was led away. And as to the rest, Mercuria, an aged woman of reverend mien, and Dionysia, the mother indeed of many children, who yet did not love them above the Lord, when the governor was ashamed to ply continued torture all to no end, and to be worsted by women,—they were put to death by the and so had trial of no further tortures. For these Ammonarion, true champion, had taken upon herself on behalf of all.

“ Hero and Αter and Isidore, Egyptians, and with them a young boy of about fifteen named were delivered up. Αnd at first [the governor] tried to wheedle the Ιad by words, as one easily led astray, and to compel him by tortures, as one that would easily give in ; but Dioscrous neither obeyed nor [*](1 “Blessed.” )

yielded. The rest he savagely tore in pieces, and, when they endured, cοmmitted them also to the flames. But, marvelling at the splendid bearing of Dioscorus in public and the wickedse answers he made to his questions in private, he let him off. saying that he granted him a period of delay to repent, on account of his youth. Αnd now the most godly Dioscorus is with us, haring remained fοr a still longer cοntest and a more lasting cοnffict.

“Α certain Νamesion, he alsο an Εgyptian, was fahely accused of consorting with rοbbers, and when he had cleared himself before the centuriοn of that charge sο fοreign to his character, he was informed against as beingg a christian, and came bound before the gοvernοr. Ηe mοst unjusfly inflicted on him tmicece as many tortures and scourgings as he did on the robbers, and bumt hI·m between them, thus honouringng him, happy man, with a likeness to Christ.

“Α whole band of soldieriers, Αmmοn and Ζeno and Ptolemy and Ingenuus, and with them an old man Theophilus, had taken their stand before the cοurt. Νow a certain man was being tried as a Christian, and at that moment was inclining towards denial, when these men standing by ground their teeth, cast looks at him, sοetched out their hands and made gestures with their bodies. Αnd when all turned towards them, befοre anyone could οtherwise seize them, they ran of their own accord tο the prisoner’s dock saying that they were christians; so that both the govemor and his assessors were filled with fear, and those who were on their trial showed themselves very courageous in the face of their future sufferings, while the Judges were affrighted. So these men marched frοm the court in proud pro-

cession, exulting in their witness, God spreading abroad their fame gloriously.

XLII. “ Αnd many others throughout the cities and villages were torn in pieces by the heathen, οf whom I shall mention οne as an example. Ischyrion was acting as the hired steward of one of the rulers. Ηis employer bade him sacrifice ; when he refused he insulted him, when he abode by his refusal he abused him foully ; and as he still remained firm he took a very large stick, thrust it through his bowels and vital οrgans, and so killed him.

“ What need is there to speak of the multitude of those who wandered in deserts and mountains,1 perished by hunger and thirst and frost and diseases and robbers and wild beasts ? Such of them as survive bear testimony to their election and victory ; but οne fact in connexion with these men also I shall adduce as evidence. Chaeremon was bishop of the city called Nilopolis, and of extreme age. Ηe fled to the Αrabian mountain with his wife, 2 and never returned, nor could the brethren ever lay eyes again either on them οr their bodies, although they made a long and thorough search. But many in that same Αrabian mountain were reduced to utter slavery by barbarian Saracens. Of these some were with difficulty ransomed for large sums, others have not yet been, up to this day.

“ Αnd I have not given this account, brother, to purpose, but that you may know all the terrible things that happened with us. Those who have had a larger experience of them would know more examples.“

Then, after a little, he adds as follows: “ Thererore the divine martyrs themselves among us, who now are assessors οf Christ, and share the fellowship οf

His kingdom, and take part in Ηis decisions and judge along with Ηim, have espoused the cause of certain of the fallen brethren who became answerable for the charge of ; and seeing their conversion and repentance, they judged it had the power to prove acceptable to Ηim who hath no pleasure at all in the death of the sinner, but rather his repentance ; and so they received and admitted them to the worship οf the Church 1 as consistentes, 2 and gave them fellowship in their prayers and feasts. What then do ye counsel us, brethren, on these matters ? What are we to do ? Αre we to be of like opinion and mind with them, uphold their decision and concession, and deal kindly with those they pitied ? Or shall we esteem their decision unjust, and set ourselves up as critics of their opinion, cause grief to kindness, and do away with their arrangement ? ’’

Νow these words Dionysius added suitably, raising the question about those who had proved weak in the time of persecution,

XLIII. since Novatus, 3 a presbyter of the church of the Romans, being lifted up by arrogance against these, as if there was no longer any hope of salvation for them, not even if they were to perform everything that a genuine conversion and a pure confession demand, became the leader of a separate sect of those who, in their pride of mind, styled themselves Ρuritans. Whereupon a very large synod was assembled at Rome, of sixty bishop and a still greater number οf presbyters οf penitents. They were admitted to the eucharistic prayers, but debarred from communion. [*](3 This person, the founder of the Novatianist sect, is called by Eusebius, and subsequent Greek writers, Novatus, but by the Westerns (no doubt rightly) Novatianus. Cf. the letters οf Dionysius in c. 45 and vii. 8)

and deacons, while in the rest of the provinces the pastors in their several regions individually considered the question as to what was to be done. It was unanimously decreed that Νovatus, together with the partners of his arrogance, and those who decided to agree with the man's brother-hating and most inhuman opinion, should be considered as strangers to the Church, but that such of the brethren as had fallen into the misfortune should be treated and and restored with the medicines of repentance.

Νow there have reached us a letter of Cornelius, bishop of the Romans, to Fabius, bishop of the church of the Αntiochenes, telling the fects concerning the Roman Synod, and what was decreed by them of Italy and Africa and the regions thereabout; ; and, again, another of Cyprian and of those with him in Αfrica, composed in the Latin language, in which it was made clear that they also agreed that those who had suffered trial should meet with succour, and that in the reason of things it was fitting that the leader of the heresy should be excommunicated from the Catholic Church, and likewise all those who were led away with him. To these was subjoine3d a certain οther letter of Cornelius, on the resolutions of the synod ; and, again, another on the doings of Novatus. There is nothing to prevent me from quoting parts of this last, so that those who read this book may know about him. Ιn explaining, then, to Fabius what kind of manner of man Novatus was, Cornelius writes these very words : “ “But that you may know that for a long time back this marvellous fellow has been seeking the office of a bishop, and has succeeded in concealing in his heart this his violent desire, using

as a veil for his insane folly the fact that he had the confessors with him from the beginning, I wish to speak. Maximus, one of our presbyters, and Urban, both of whom twice reaped the highest meed of renown by confession, and Sidonius, and Celerinus, a man who, by the mercy of God, bore with the utmost endurance all kinds of tortures, and by the strength οf his faith strengthened the weakness of his body, and so has mightily overcome the adversary — these men marked him, and detecting the craftiness and duplicity that was in him, his perjuries and falsehoods, his unsociability and wolf-like friendship, returned to the holy Church. Αnd all the knavish tricks and devices that he had long dissembled in his heart, they made known in the presence both of a number of bishops, and also οf very many presbyters and laymen, bewailing and repenting of the fact that for a brief space they had left the Church under the persuasion of this treacherous and malicious wild beast.”

Then shortly afterwards he says : “ Ηow extraordinary a change and transformation, brother beloved, we have beheld to have taken plaee in him in a little while ḷ For in sooth this highly distinguished person, who was in the habit οf pledging himself by some terrible oaths in no wise to seek the office οf a bishop, of a sudden appears as a bishop as if he were cast into our midst by some contrivance.1 For in sooth this master οf doctrine, this champion of the Chrurch's discipline, when he was attempting to wrest and filch away the episcopate that was not given him from above, chose to himself two companions [*](1 μαγγάνου : the reference is probably to the method of raising, by means οf pulleys, cages containing wild beasts to the level οf the arena.)

who had renounced their own salvation, that he might send them to a small and very insignificant part of Italy, and entice thence by some made-up device three bishops, rough and very simple men. Ηe confidently maintained and affirmed the necessity of their coming quickly to Rome, on the pretext that any dissension whatsoever that had arisen might be ended by their activity as mediators, conjointly with other bishops. When they arrived, inasmuch as they were too simple, as we said before, for the unscrupulous devices of the wicked, they were shut up by certain disorderly men like himself, and at the tenth hour, when they were drunk, and sick with the after effects, he forcibly compelled them to give him a bishop's office by a counterfeit and vain laying on of hands, an office that he assumed by crafty treachery since it did not fall to his lot. Οne of the bishops not long afterwards returned to the Church, bewailing and confessing his fault ; with whom we had communion as a layman, all the laity Ρresent interceding for him. And as for the remaining bishops, to these we appointed successors, whom we sent into the places where they were.

“ This vindicator, then, of the gospel did not know that there should be one bishop in a catholic church, in which he was not ignorant (for how could he be ?) that there are forty-six presbyters, seven deacons, seven sub-deacons, forty-two acolytes, fifty-two exorcists, readers and door-keepers, above fifteen hundred widows and persons in distress, all of whom are supported by the grace and loving-kindness of the Master. But not even did this great multitude, so

necessary in the Church, that number who by God's providence were rich and multiplying, nor an immense and countless laity, turn him from such a desperate failure and recall him to the Church.” Αnd again, further on, he adds to these remarks as follows : “ But come, let us next say in what deeds οr in what kind of conduct he placed his confidence so as to aspire to the episcopate. Was it because from the beginning he had been brought up in the Church, and had fought many conflicts on her behalf, and had been through the midst of dangers, many and great, for the sake of religiojn ? Νot so. The occasion of his acceptance of the faith was Satan, who resorted to him and dwelt in him for a long time. While he was being healed by the exorcists he fell into a grievous sickness, and, as he was considered to be all but dead, received baptism by affusion on the very bed in which he lay, if indeed one may say that such a man has received it. Νor yet indeed did he obtain the other things, when he recovered from his sickness, of which one should partake according to the rule of the Church, or the sealing by the bishop. Αnd as he did not obtain these, how could he obtain the Ηoly spirit ? ’’

Αnd shortly afterwards he says again : “ . . . he who through cowardice and love of life at the time of persecution denied that he was a presbyter. For when he was requested and exhorted by the deacons to leave the cell in which he shut himself, and bring all the help to the brethren that it is right and possible for a presbyter to being to brethren who are in danger and in need of succour, so far was he from obeying the deacons' exhortations, that he even went

away and departed in anger. For he said that he no longer wished to be a presbyter, since he was enamoured of a different philosophy.”

Passing over a few things, he again adds as follows : “ For when this illustrious person deserted the Church of God, in which, when he came to believe, he was deemed worthy of the presbyterate through the favour of the bishop, who laid his hand on him to confer that order (meeting the opposition of all the clergy and many lay persons as well—since one has received baptism by affusion1 on his bed owing to sickness, as Νovatus had, might not be ordained to an order—with the request that he should be to ordain this man alone) .... ”

Then he adds something else, the worst of all the man's offences, saying thus : “ For when he has the offerings, and is distributing to each his portion,2 as he gives it [into their hands] he compels the wretched persons to utter an oath instead of the blessing, taking in both his hands those of him who had received, and not letting go until they swear saying thus (for I shall use his very words) : ‘Swear to me by the Blood and Body of our Lord Jesus Christ never to forsake me and turn to Cornelius.’ the miserable person does not taste until he first calls down a curse upon himself, and instead οf saying the Αmen as he receives that bread, he says, ‘ I will not return to Cornelius.’

Αnd after οther remarks he again says as follows : ‘‘ But know that now he has become bare and desolate, for every day the brethren desert him and go back [*](1 i.e. by pouring water, not by immersion. 2 i.e. of the Sacrament. )

to the Church. Αnd Moses, that blessed martyr who just now bore a goodly and marvellous testimony amongst us, while he was still in the world, perceiving his insane arrogance, broke off communion with him and with the five presbyters who, along with him, had separated themselves from the Church.”

Αnd at the close οf the letter he has made a catalogue οf the bishops present at Rome who condemned the stupidity of Νοvatus, indicating at once both their names and the name of the community over which each one presided ; and of those who were not present, indeed, at Rome, but who signified in writing their assent to the judgement of the aforesaid, he mentions the names and, as well, the city where each lived and from which each wrote. This is what Cornelius wrote for the information of Fabius, bishop of Antioch.

XLIV. But to this same Fabius, when he was inclining somewhat towards the schism, Dionysius also, he of Alexandria, wrote, making many οther reamarks with reference to repentance in his letter to him and describing the conflicts of those lately martyred at Alexandria. In the course of his narrative he tells a certain astonishing tale, which must needs be handed down in this work. It is as follows : ‘‘ But this one example that happened amongst us I shall set forth for thee. There was a certain Serapion amongst us, an old man and a believer, who lived blamelessly for a long time, but in the trial fell. This man oftentimes besought [absolution], and no one paid him heed. For indeed he had sacrificed. Αnd, falling sick, he continued for three successive days speechless and unconscious ; but on the fourth

he rallied a little, and calling his grandson to him, he said: ‘Ηow long, my child, do ye hold me back? Ηaste ye, I pray, and grant me a speedy release; do thou summon me one or the presbyters.’ having Said this he again became speechless. The boy ran for the presbyter. But it was night, and he was unwell and eould not come. Yet sicne I had given an order that those who Were departing this life, if they besought it, and espeeially if they had made supplication before, should be absolved, that they might depart in hope, he gave the little boy a small portion of the eucharist, bidding him soak it and let it fall in drops down mto the old man’s Back came the boV with it, and when he WaS near, before he entered, serapion revived again and said, ‘ Hast thou eome, child? The presbyter could not come, but do thou quiekly What he bade thee, and let me depart.’ The boy soaked it 1 and at the time poured it into his mouth, and When he had swallowed a little he straightWay gaVe gave the ghost. WaS it not plain that he was preserved and remained until he obtained release, that, with his sin blotted out, he might be acknowledged for all the good deeds he had done?’’

XLV. Such is the aeeount of Dionysius. But let us see the kind of lerter that the same person wrote also to Novatus, 2 who was then disturbing the Roman brotherhood. Since, then, he put forward some of the brethren as an excuse for his defection and sehism, as having been eompelled by them to proeeed to this length, see how Dionysius writes to him: “Dionysius [*](must therefore have been soaked in vater, or unconseerated wine—a very early instance οf communion in οne 2 See note on 43. 1. )

to Novatianus 1 a brother, greeting. If thou wast led οn unwillingly, as thou sayest, thou wilt prove it by retiring willingly. For a man ought to suffer anything and everything rather than divide the Church of Good, and it were not less glorious to incur martyrdom to avoid schism than to avoid idolatry, nay, in my opinion it were more so. For in the οne case a man is a martyr for the sake of his own single soul, but in the other for the sake οf the whole Church. And if thou wert even now to persuade or compel the brethren to come to one mind, thy recovery will be greater than. thy fall, and the one will not be reckoned, while the οther will be praised. But if they obey thee not, and thou hast no power, by all means save thine own soul. I pray that thou mayest fare well and cleave to peace in the Lord.”

XLVI. This aho he wrote to Novatus. Αnd he wrote also to the Egyptians a letter on Repentanee, in which he has set forth his opinions with reference to those who had fallen, outlining degrees of failures. Αnd to Colon (he was bishop of the community οf the Hermopolitans) a personal letter of his is extant On Repentance, and another in the nature of a rebuke to his flock at Alexandria. Αmong these there is also the brethren at Laofficea over whom Thelymidres resided as bishop ; and he wrote to those in rmenia, likewise On Repentanee, whose bishop was eruzanes. In addition to all these he wrote also Cornelius of Rome, when he received his letter against Novatus, in which abo he clearly infficates that he had been invited by Helenus, bishop at Tarsus [*](1 sce note οn 43. 1.)

namely Firmilian in Cappadocia and Theoctlstus in Palestine, to attend the synod at Antioch, where certain were attempting to strengthen the schism of Novatus. Moreover he writes that he had received information that Fabius had fallen asleep, and that Demetrian was appointed his suceessor in the episcopate of Antioch. And he Writes also vith referenee to the bishop of Jerusalem, saying in these very words: “For Alexander, that wonderful man, being put in prison, happily entered into his rest.”

Next to this there is also another extant, a “diaconic’’ 1 letter of DionySius to those in Rome through Hippolytus. To the same peOple he composed another letter On Peace, and likewise Οn Repentanee, and again another to the confessors there While they were still in agreement with the opinion of Novatus. Αnd to these same persons he wrote two more, after they had returned to the Chureh. Αnd in his communications with many others, likewise by letter, he has left behind a varied Souree of profit to those who still to this day set store by his writings.