The Journals of Alexander Diocletian (A Curious Human and the Trinity Unites Book 1)
He was led away under a guard of tribunes and centurions, without resistance and without insult, to the place of his execution, a spacious and level plain near the city, which was already filled with great numbers of spectators. His faithful presbyters and deacons were permitted to accompany their holy bishop. They assisted him in laying aside his upper garment, spread linen on the ground to catch the precious relics of his blood, and received his orders to bestow five-and-twenty Edition: current; Page: [ 41 ] pieces of gold on the executioner.
The martyr then covered his face with his hands, and at one blow his head was separated from his body. His corpse remained during some hours exposed to the curiosity of the Gentiles; but in the night it was removed, and transported in a triumphal procession and with a splendid illumination to the burial-place of the Christians.
The funeral of Cyprian was publicly celebrated without receiving any interruption from the Roman magistrates; and those among the faithful who had performed the last offices to his person and his memory were secure from the danger of inquiry or of punishment. It is remarkable that of so great a multitude of bishops in the province of Africa Cyprian was the first who was esteemed worthy to obtain the crown of martyrdom.
It was in the choice of Cyprian either to die a martyr or to live an apostate, but on that choice depended the alternative of honour or infamy. Could we suppose that the bishop of Carthage had employed the profession of the Christian faith only as the instrument of his avarice or ambition, it was still incumbent on him to support the character which he had assumed; 90 and, if he possessed the smallest degree of manly fortitude, rather to expose himself to the most cruel tortures than by a single act to exchange the reputation of a whole life for the abhorrence of his Christian brethren and the contempt of the Gentile world.
But, if the zeal of Cyprian was supported by the sincere conviction of the truth of those doctrines which he preached, the crown of martyrdom must have appeared to him as an object of desire rather than of terror. It is not easy to extract any distinct ideas from the Edition: current; Page: [ 42 ] vague though eloquent declamations of the Fathers or to ascertain the degree of immortal glory and happiness which they confidently promised to those who were so fortunate as to shed their blood in the cause of religion.
The assurance of a lasting reputation upon earth, a motive so congenial to the vanity of human nature, often served to animate the courage of the martyrs. The honours which Rome or Athens bestowed on those citizens who had fallen in the cause of their country were cold and unmeaning demonstrations of respect, when compared with the ardent gratitude and devotion which the primitive church expressed towards the victorious champions of the faith. The annual commemoration of their virtues and sufferings was observed as a sacred ceremony, and at length terminated in religious worship.
Among the Christians who had publicly confessed their religious principles, those who as it very frequently happened had been dismissed from the tribunal or the prisons Edition: current; Page: [ 43 ] of the Pagan magistrates obtained such honours as were justly due to their imperfect martyrdom and their generous resolution. The most pious females courted the permission of imprinting kisses on the fetters which they had worn and on the wounds which they had received.
Their persons were esteemed holy, their decisions were admitted with deference, and they too often abused, by their spiritual pride and licentious manners, the pre-eminence which their zeal and intrepidity had acquired. The sober discretion of the present age will more readily censure than admire, but can more easily admire than imitate, the fervour of the first Christians; who, according to the lively expression of Sulpicius Severus, desired martyrdom with more eagerness than his own contemporaries solicited a bishopric.
He earnestly beseeches the Romans that, when he should be exposed in the amphitheatre, they would not, by their kind but unseasonable intercession, deprive him of the crown of glory; and he declares his resolution to provoke and irritate the wild beasts which might be employed as the instruments of his death. Several examples have been preserved of a zeal impatient of those restraints which the emperors had provided for the security of the church.
The Christians sometimes supplied by their voluntary declaration the want of an accuser, rudely disturbed the public service of Paganism, 95 and, rushing in crowds round the tribunal of the magistrates, called upon them to pronounce and to inflict the sentence of the law.
The behaviour of the Christians was too remarkable to escape the notice of the ancient philosophers; but they seem to have considered it with much less admiration than astonishment. Incapable of conceiving the motives which sometimes transported the fortitude of believers beyond the bounds of prudence or reason, they treated such an eagerness to die as the strange result of obstinate despair, of stupid insensibility, or of superstitious frenzy. On these melancholy occasions, there were many among the Gentiles who pitied, who admired, and who were converted.
The generous enthusiasm was communicated from the sufferer to the spectators; and the blood of martyrs, according to a well-known observation, became the seed of the church. But, although devotion had raised, and eloquence continued to inflame, this fever of the mind, it insensibly gave way to the more natural hopes and fears of the human heart, to the love of life, the apprehension of pain, and the horror of dissolution. The more prudent rulers of the church found themselves obliged to restrain the indiscreet ardour of their followers, and to distrust a constancy which too often abandoned them in the hour of trial.
There were three methods, however, of escaping the flames of persecution, which were not attended with an equal degree of guilt: the first, indeed, was generally allowed to be innocent; the second was of a doubtful, or a least of a venial, nature; but the third implied a direct and criminal apostacy from the Christian faith.
A modern inquisitor would hear with surprise that, whenever an information was given to a Roman magistrate of any person within his jurisdiction who had embraced the sect of the Christians, the charge was communicated to the party accused, and that a convenient time was allowed him to settle his domestic concerns and to prepare an answer to the crime which was imputed to him.
A measure so consonant to reason was soon authorised by the advice and example of the most holy prelates, and seems to have been censured by few, except by the Montanists, who deviated into heresy by their strict and obstinate adherence to the rigour of ancient discipline. The provincial governors, whose zeal was less prevalent than their avarice, had countenanced the practice of selling certificates or libels, as they were called , which attested that the persons therein mentioned had complied with the laws and sacrificed to the Roman deities. By producing these false declarations, the opulent and timid Christians were enabled to silence the malice of an informer and to reconcile, in some measure, their safety with their religion.
A slight penance atoned for this profane dissimulation. In every persecution there were great numbers of unworthy Christians who publicly disowned or renounced the faith which they had professed; and who confirmed the sincerity of their abjuration by the legal acts of burning incense or of offering sacrifices. Some of these apostates had yielded on the first menance or exhortation of the magistrate; whilst the patience of others had been subdued by the length and repetition of tortures. The affrighted countenances of some betrayed their inward remorse, while others advanced, with confidence and alacrity, to the altars of the gods.
As soon as the severity of the persecution was abated, the doors of the churches were assailed by the returning multitude of penitents, who detested their idolatrous submission, and who solicited, with equal ardour, but with various success, their readmission into the society of Christians. Notwithstanding the general rules established for the conviction and punishment of the Christians, the fate of those sectaries, in an extensive and arbitrary government, must still, in a great measure, have depended on their own behaviour, the circumstances of the times, and the temper of their supreme as well as subordinate rulers.
Zeal might sometimes provoke, and prudence might sometimes avert or assuage, the superstitious fury of the Pagans. A variety of motives might dispose the provincial governors either to enforce or to relax the execution of the laws; and of these motives the Edition: current; Page: [ 48 ] most forcible was their regard not only for the public edicts, but for the secret intentions of the emperor, a glance from whose eye was sufficient to kindle or to extinguish the flames of persecution. As often as any occasional severities were exercised in the different parts of the empire, the primitive Christians lamented and perhaps magnified their own sufferings; but the celebrated number of ten persecutions has been determined by the ecclesiastical writers of the fifth century, who possessed a more distinct view of the prosperous or adverse fortunes of the church, from the age of Nero to that of Diocletian.
The ingenious parallels of the ten plagues of Egypt and of the ten horns of the Apocalypse first suggested this calculation to their minds; and in their application of the faith of prophecy to the truth of history they were careful to select those reigns which were indeed the most hostile to the Christian cause. The indifference of some princes and the indulgence of others permitted the Christians to enjoy, though not perhaps a legal, yet an actual and public, toleration of their religion.
The apology of Tertullian contains two very ancient, very singular, but at the same time very suspicious, instances of Imperial clemency; the edicts published by Tiberius and by Marcus Antoninus, and designed not only to protect the innocence of the Christians, but even to proclaim those stupendous miracles which had attested the truth of their doctrine. The first of these examples is attended with some difficulties which might perplex the sceptical mind.
The edict of Marcus Antoninus is supposed to have been the effect of his devotion and gratitude for the miraculous deliverance which he had obtained in the Marcomannic war. The distress of the legions, the seasonable tempest of rain and hail, of thunder and lightning, and the dismay and defeat of the barbarians, have been celebrated by the eloquence of several Pagan writers.
The Impact of 9/11 on Religion and Philosophy
If there were any Christians in that army, it was natural that they should ascribe some merit to the fervent prayers which, in the moment of danger, they had offered up for their own and the public safety. But we are still assured by monuments of brass and marble, by the Imperial medals, and by the Antonine column, that neither the prince nor the people entertained any sense of this signal obligation, since they unanimously attribute their deliverance to the providence Edition: current; Page: [ 50 ] of Jupiter and to the interposition of Mercury.
During the whole course of his reign, Marcus despised the Christians as a philosopher, and punished them as a sovereign. By a singular fatality, the hardships which they had endured under the government of a virtuous prince immediately ceased on the accession of a tyrant, and, as none except themselves had experienced the injustice of Marcus, so they alone were protected by the lenity of Commodus. The celebrated Marcia, the most favoured of his concubines, and who at length contrived the murder of her Imperial lover, entertained a singular affection for the oppressed church; and, though it was impossible that she could reconcile the practice of vice with the precepts of the Gospel, she might hope to atone for the frailties of her sex and profession, by declaring herself the patroness of the Christians.
The emperor was persuaded that, in a dangerous sickness, he had derived some benefit, either spiritual or physical, from the holy oil with which one of his slaves had anointed him. He always treated with peculiar distinction several persons of both sexes who had embraced the new religion. The nurse as well as the preceptor of Caracalla were Christians; and, if that young prince ever betrayed a sentiment of humanity, it was occasioned by an incident which, however trifling, bore some relation to the cause of Christianity.
With the design of restraining the progress of Christianity, he published an edict which, though it was designed to affect only the new converts, could not be carried into strict execution without exposing to danger and punishment the most zealous of their teachers and missionaries. In this mitigated persecution, we may still discover the indulgent spirit of Rome and of Polytheism, which so readily admitted every excuse in favour of those who practised the religious ceremonies of their fathers. But the laws which Severus had enacted soon expired with the authority of that emperor; and the Christians, after this accidental tempest, enjoyed a calm of thirty-eight years.
They were now permitted to erect and consecrate convenient edifices for the Edition: current; Page: [ 52 ] purpose of religious worship; to purchase lands, even at Rome itself, for the use of the community; and to conduct the elections of their ecclesiastical ministers in so public, but at the same time in so exemplary, a manner as to deserve the respectful attention of the Gentiles.
The reigns of those princes who derived their extraction from the Asiatic provinces proved the most favourable to the Christians; the eminent persons of the sect, instead of being reduced to implore the protection of a slave or concubine, were admitted into the palace in the honourable characters of priests and philosophers; and their mysterious doctrines, which were already diffused among the people, insensibly attracted the curiosity of their sovereign. Origen obeyed so flattering an invitation, and, though he could not expect to succeed in the conversion of an artful and ambitious woman, she listened with pleasure to his eloquent exhortations, and honourably dismissed him to his retirement in Palestine.
In his domestic chapel he placed the statues of Abraham, of Orpheus, of Apollonius, and of Christ, as an Edition: current; Page: [ 53 ] honour justly due to those respectable sages who had instructed mankind in the various modes of addressing their homage to the supreme and universal deity. Bishops, perhaps for the first time, were seen at court; and after the death of Alexander, when the inhuman Maximin discharged his fury on the favourites and servants of his unfortunate benefactor, a great number of Christians, of every rank, and of both sexes, were involved in the promiscuous massacre, which, on their account, has improperly received the name of Persecution.
Notwithstanding the cruel disposition of Maximin, the effects of his resentment against the Christians were of a very local and temporary nature, and the pious Origen, who had been proscribed as a devoted victim, was still reserved to convey the truths of the Gospel to the ear of monarchs. The public and even partial favour of Philip Edition: current; Page: [ 54 ] towards the sectaries of the new religion, and his constant reverence for the ministers of the church, gave some colour to the suspicion, which prevailed in his own times, that the emperor himself was become a convert to the faith; and afforded some grounds for a fable which was afterwards invented, that he had been purified by confession and penance from the guilt contracted by the murder of his innocent predecessor.
The bishops of the most considerable cities were removed by exile or death; the vigilance of the magistrates prevented the clergy of Rome during sixteen months from proceeding to a new election; and it was the opinion of the Christians that the emperor would more patiently endure a competitor for the purple than a bishop in the capital. Peter as the most formidable rivals to those of Augustus. The administration of Valerian was distinguished by a levity and inconstancy, ill-suited to the gravity of the Roman Censor.
In the first part of his reign, he surpassed in clemency those princes who had been suspected of an attachment to the Christian faith. In the last three years and a half, listening to the insinuations of a minister addicted to the superstitions of Egypt, he adopted the maxims, and imitated the severity, of his predecessor Decius.
The story of Paul of Samosata, who filled the metropolitan see of Antioch, while the East was in the hands of Odenathus and Zenobia, may serve to illustrate the condition and character of the times. The wealth of that prelate was a sufficient evidence of his guilt, since it was neither derived from the inheritance of his fathers nor acquired by the arts of honest industry.
But Paul considered the service of the church as a very lucrative profession. By his pride and luxury the Christian religion was rendered odious in the eyes of the Gentiles. His council chamber and his throne, the splendour with which he appeared in public, the suppliant crowd who solicited his attention, the multitude of letters and petitions to which he dictated his answers, and the perpetual hurry of business in which he was involved, were circumstances much better suited to the state of a civil magistrate than to the humility of a primitive bishop.
Edition: current; Page: [ 57 ] When he harangued his people from the pulpit, Paul affected the figurative style and the theatrical gestures of an Asiatic sophist, while the cathedral resounded with the loudest and most extravagant acclamations in the praise of his divine eloquence.
Against those who resisted his power, or refused to flatter his vanity, the prelate of Antioch was arrogant, rigid, and inexorable; but he relaxed the discipline, and lavished the treasures, of the church on his dependent clergy, who were permitted to imitate their master in the gratification of every sensual appetite. For Paul indulged himself very freely in the pleasures of the table, and he had received into the episcopal palace two young and beautiful women, as the constant companions of his leisure moments. Notwithstanding these scandalous vices, if Paul of Samosata had preserved the purity of the orthodox faith, his reign over the capital of Syria would have ended only with his life; and, had a seasonable persecution intervened, an effort of courage might perhaps have placed him in the rank of saints and martyrs.
Some nice and subtle errors, which he imprudently adopted and obstinately maintained, concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, excited the zeal and indignation of the Eastern churches. Several councils were held, confutations were published, excommunications Edition: current; Page: [ 58 ] were pronounced, ambiguous explanations were by turns accepted and refused, treaties were concluded and violated, and, at length, Paul of Samosata was degraded from his episcopal character, by the sentence of seventy or eighty bishops, who assembled for that purpose at Antioch, and who, without consulting the rights of the clergy or people, appointed a successor by their own authority.
The manifest irregularity of this proceeding increased the numbers of the discontented faction; and as Paul, who was no stranger to the arts of courts, had insinuated himself into the favour of Zenobia, he maintained above four years the possession of the episcopal house and office.
The victory of Aurelian changed the face of the East, and the two contending parties, who applied to each other the epithets of schism and heresy, were either commanded or permitted to plead their cause before the tribunal of the conqueror. This public and very singular trial affords a convincing proof that the existence, the property, the privileges, and the internal policy of the Christians were acknowledged, if not by the laws, at least by the magistrates, of the empire. As a Pagan and as a soldier, it could scarcely be expected that Aurelian should enter into the discussion, whether the sentiments of Paul or those of his adversaries were most agreeable to the true standard of the orthodox faith.
His determination, however, was founded on the general principles of equity and reason. He considered the bishops of Italy as the most impartial and respectable judges among the Christians, and, as soon as he was informed that they had unanimously approved the sentence of the council, he acquiesced in their opinion, and immediately gave orders that Paul should be compelled to relinquish the temporal possessions belonging to an office of which, in the judgment of his brethren, he had been regularly deprived. But, while we applaud the justice, we should not overlook the policy, of Aurelian; who was desirous of restoring and cementing the dependence of the provinces on the capital by every means Edition: current; Page: [ 59 ] which could bind the interest or prejudices of any part of his subjects.
Amidst the frequent revolutions of the empire, the Christians still flourished in peace and prosperity; and, notwithstanding a celebrated era of martyrs has been deduced from the accession of Diocletian, the new system of policy, introduced and maintained by the wisdom of that prince, continued, during more than eighteen years, to breathe the mildest and most liberal spirit of religious toleration. The mind of Diocletian himself was less adapted indeed to speculative inquiries than to the active labours of war and government.
His prudence rendered him averse to any great innovation, and, though his temper was not very susceptible of zeal or enthusiasm, he always maintained an habitual regard for the ancient deities of the empire. But the leisure of the two empresses, of his wife Prisca and of Valeria his daughter, permitted them to listen with more attention and respect to the truths of Christianity, which in every age has acknowledged its important obligations to female devotion. Their example was imitated by many of the most considerable officers of the palace, who, in their respective stations, had the Edition: current; Page: [ 60 ] care of the Imperial ornaments, of the robes, of the furniture, of the jewels, and even of the private treasury; and, though it might sometimes be incumbent on them to accompany the emperor when he sacrificed in the temple, they enjoyed, with their wives, their children, and their slaves, the free exercise of the Christian religion.
Diocletian and his colleagues frequently conferred the most important offices on those persons who avowed their abhorrence for the worship of the gods, but who had displayed abilities proper for the service of the state. The bishops held an honourable rank in their respective provinces, and were treated with distinction and respect, not only by the people, but by the magistrates themselves. Almost in every city, the ancient churches were found insufficient to contain the increasing multitude of proselytes; and in their place more stately and capacious edifices were erected for the public worship of the faithful.
The corruption of manners and principles, so forcibly lamented by Eusebius, may be considered, not only as a consequence, but as a proof, of the liberty which the Christians enjoyed and abused under the reign of Diocletian. Prosperity had relaxed the nerves of discipline. Fraud, envy, and malice prevailed in every congregation.
The presbyters aspired to the episcopal office, which every day became an object more worthy of their ambition. The bishops, who contended with each other for ecclesiastical pre-eminence, appeared by their conduct to claim a secular and tyrannical power in the church; and the lively faith which still distinguished the Christians from the Gentiles was shewn much less in their lives than in their controversial writings. Notwithstanding this seeming security, an attentive observer might discern some symptoms that threatened the church with a more violent persecution than any which she had yet endured.
The zeal and rapid progress of the Christians Edition: current; Page: [ 61 ] awakened the Polytheists from their supine indifference in the cause of those deities whom custom and education had taught them to revere. The mutual provocations of a religious war, which had already continued above two hundred years, exasperated the animosity of the contending parties.
The Pagans were incensed at the rashness of a recent and obscure sect which presumed to accuse their countrymen of error and to devote their ancestors to eternal misery. The habits of justifying the popular mythology against the invectives of an implacable enemy produced in their minds some sentiments of faith and reverence for a system which they had been accustomed to consider with the most careless levity.
The supernatural powers assumed by the church inspired at the same time terror and emulation. The followers of the established religion intrenched themselves behind a similar fortification of prodigies; invented new modes of sacrifice, of expiation, and of initiation; attempted to revive the credit of their expiring oracles; and listened with eager credulity to every impostor who flattered their prejudices by a tale of wonders. The groves of the academy, the gardens of Epicurus, and even the portico of the Stoics were almost deserted, as so many different schools of scepticism or impiety; and many among the Romans were desirous that the writings of Cicero should be condemned and suppressed by the authority of the senate.
These fashionable philosophers prosecuted the design of extracting allegorical wisdom from the fictions of the Greek poets; instituted mysterious rites of devotion for the use of their chosen disciples; recommended the worship of the ancient gods as the emblems or ministers of the Supreme Deity, and composed against the faith of the Gospel many elaborate treatises, which have since been committed to the flames by the prudence of orthodox emperors.
Although the policy of Diocletian and the humanity of Constantius inclined them to preserve inviolate the maxims of toleration, it was soon discovered that their two associates Maximian and Galerius entertained the most implacable aversion for the name and religion of the Christians.
The minds of those princes had never been enlightened by science; education had never softened their temper. They owed their greatness to their swords, and in their most elevated fortune they still retained their superstitious prejudices of soldiers and peasants. In the general administration of the provinces they obeyed the laws which their benefactor had established; but they frequently found occasions of exercising within their camp and palaces a secret persecution, for which the imprudent zeal of the Christians sometimes offered the most specious pretences.
A sentence of death was executed upon Maximilianus, an African youth, who had been produced by his own father before the magistrate as a sufficient and legal recruit, but who obstinately persisted in declaring that his conscience would not permit him to embrace the profession of a soldier. On the day of a public festival, that officer threw away his belt, his arms Edition: current; Page: [ 64 ] and the ensigns of his office, and exclaimed with a loud voice that he would obey none but Jesus Christ the eternal King, and that he renounced for ever the use of carnal weapons and the service of an idolatrous master.
The soldiers, as soon as they recovered from their astonishment, secured the person of Marcellus. He was examined in the city of Tingi by the president of that part of Mauritania; and, as he was convicted by his own confession, he was condemned and beheaded for the crime of desertion.
After the success of the Persian war had raised the hopes and the reputation of Galerius, he passed a winter with Diocletian in the palace of Nicomedia; and the fate of Christianity became the object of their secret consultations. Galerius at length extorted from him the permission of summoning a council, composed of a few persons the most distinguished in the civil and military departments of the state.
It may be presumed that they insisted on every topic which might interest the pride, the piety, or the fears of their sovereign in the destruction of Christianity. Perhaps they represented that the glorious work of the deliverance of the empire was left imperfect, as long as an independent people was permitted to subsist and multiply in the heart of the provinces.
The Christians it might speciously be alleged , renouncing the gods and the institutions of Rome, had constituted a distinct republic, which might yet be suppressed before it had acquired any military force; but which was already governed by its own laws and magistrates, was possessed of a public treasure, and was intimately connected in all its parts by the frequent assemblies of the bishops, to whose decrees their numerous and opulent congregations yielded an implicit obedience.
Arguments like these may seem to have determined the reluctant mind of Diocletian to embrace a new system of persecution: but, though we may suspect, it is not in our power to relate, the secret intrigues of the palace, the private views and resentments, the jealousy of women or eunuchs, and all those trifling but decisive causes which so often influence the fate of empires and the councils of the wisest monarchs.
The pleasure of the emperors was at length signified to the Christians, who, during the course of this melancholy winter, had expected, with anxiety, the result of so many secret consultations. The twenty-third of February, which coincided with the Roman festival of the Terminalia, was appointed Edition: current; Page: [ 66 ] whether from accident or design to set bounds to the progress of Christianity.
The doors were instantly broken open; they rushed into the sanctuary; and, as they searched in vain for some visible object of worship, they were obliged to content themselves with committing to the flames the volumes of holy scripture. The ministers of Diocletian were followed by a numerous body of guards and pioneers, who marched in order of battle, and were provided with all the instruments used in the destruction of fortified cities.
By their incessant labour, a sacred edifice, which towered above the Imperial palace, and had long excited the indignation and envy of the Gentiles, was in a few hours levelled with the ground. The next day the general edict of persecution was published; and, though Diocletian, still averse to the effusion of blood, had moderated the fury of Galerius, who proposed that every one refusing to offer sacrifice should immediately be burnt alive, the penalties inflicted on the obstinacy of the Christians might be deemed sufficiently rigorous and effectual.
It was enacted that their churches, in all the provinces of the empire, should be demolished to their foundations; and the punishment of death was denounced against all who should presume to hold any secret assemblies for the purpose of religious worship. The philosophers, who now assumed the unworthy office of directing the blind zeal of persecution, had diligently Edition: current; Page: [ 67 ] studied the nature and genius of the Christian religion; and, as they were not ignorant that the speculative doctrines of the faith were supposed to be contained in the writings of the prophets, of the evangelists, and of the apostles, they most probably suggested the order that the bishops and presbyters should deliver all their sacred books into the hands of the magistrates; who were commanded, under the severest penalties, to burn them in a public and solemn manner.
By the same edict, the property of the church was at once confiscated; and the several parts of which it might consist were either sold to the highest bidder, united to the Imperial domain, bestowed on the cities and corporations, or granted to the solicitations of rapacious courtiers. After taking such effectual measures to abolish the worship, and to dissolve the government of the Christians, it was thought necessary to subject to the most intolerable hardships the condition of those perverse individuals who should still reject the religion of Nature, of Rome, and of their ancestors.
Persons of a liberal birth were declared incapable of holding any honours or employments; slaves were for ever deprived of the hopes of freedom, and the whole body of the people were put out of the protection of the law. The judges were authorised to hear and to determine every action that was brought against a Christian. But the Christians were not permitted to complain of any injury which they themselves had suffered; and thus those unfortunate sectaries were exposed to the severity, while they were excluded from the benefits, of public justice. This new species of martyrdom, so painful and lingering, so obscure and ignominious, was, perhaps, the most proper to weary the constancy of the faithful; nor can it be doubted that the passions and interest of mankind were disposed on this occasion to second the designs of the emperors.
But the policy of a well-ordered government must sometimes have interposed in behalf of the oppressed Christians; nor was it possible for the Roman princes entirely to remove the apprehension of punishment, or to Edition: current; Page: [ 68 ] connive at every act of fraud and violence, without exposing their own authority and the rest of their subjects to the most alarming dangers. This edict was scarcely exhibited to the public view, in the most conspicuous place of Nicomedia, before it was torn down by the hands of a Christian, who expressed, at the same time, by the bitterest invectives, his contempt as well as abhorrence for such impious and tyrannical governors.
His offence, according to the mildest laws, amounted to treason, and deserved death. Both were political pawns, child-brides married to major potentates who dominated them, but both exercised a brief period of real authority and issued coinage in their own names. There he proceeded to make himself unpopular with the gentry by his intrigues. Casimir III, the last of the Piast kings of Poland, had died without surviving children and bequeathed his kingdom to his sister Elizabeth and her son, his nephew.
This was none other than Louis of Anjou, upon whose death Poland rejected the succession of Maria on account of opposition to her husband-to-be. But the next year she was married to Grand Duke Jogaila Jagiello, baptized Wladyslaw of Lithuania, who probably held most of the power thereafter. Jadwiga became renowned over the years, however, for her cultural, charitable, and even diplomatic achievements—so much so that in she was officially designated a Catholic saint the patroness of queens and of a united Europe. Each of the little Angevin queens enjoyed a brief period of rule, but these were desperate and bloody times.
Marrying Maria in , Sigismund staged a coup the next year to make himself king of Hungary, murdering the queen mother and having his bride imprisoned by rebels. Her freedom was obtained by Venetian intervention, but the couple then lived apart until she died, pregnant, under suspicious circumstances in In , Yadwiga invaded Hungary to dispute the succession there, but settled matters peacefully. Jadwiga, however, had become a legend during her lifetime, fabled for her good works.
Caterina was a descendant of one of the most illustrious Venetian families, to whom the Lusignans had been turning for aid for several generations. But by , the Venetians were able to completely take over the kingdom and depose their puppet queen she was immortalized in the eponymous lyric opera by Gaetano Donizetti.
Caterina died in in Asolo, in the Veneto, where her court in exile gained fame as a Renaissance cultural enclave. Justin Hall, a Ph. The American Museum of Natural History, with which Hall is affiliated, suggested he direct his inquiry to us. MAG Z. This issue marks a brief moment of concord between these two contentious kinsmen, brought about through the good offices of none other than the father of German Protestantism, Martin Luther, during the tumultuous period of the War of the Schmalkalden the mutual-defense alliance of the princes who were also religious reformers, formed at Schmalkald in western Thuringia.
Both of these characters are interesting and historically important figures—allies and enemies, transplanting each other as occasions and circumstances changed. In consequence, the Saxon electoral heir became devoted to the principles of the revolutionary monk, whose special protector he later became. In , Lutheranism was declared the state religion of Ernestine Saxony, with Johann I as the chief bishop of the church.
Following the second diet of Speyer , Johann Friedrich drew up a federal statute for the Lutheran Evangelicals to become the established religion, and in accompanied his father to the diet of Augsburg, where both became signatories to the famous Augsburg Confession, defining the beliefs of the Reformation Fig. Succeeding his father as imperial elector of Saxony in , Johann Friedrich assumed a major role in the theological politics of the day, strongly advocating the reforms of Martin Luther.
To Eusebius, Bishop of Nicomedia
He became a principal member of the Schmalkaldic League the alliance of the Protestant princes formed in for the protection of Protestants in opposition to the imperial government and its Catholicism in the great struggle that was developing. Many antagonisms arose among the various factions and personalities, however, in spite of efforts at concord and conciliation. In , an accord seemed to have been reached at the fourth Diet of Speyer. In , the Schmalkaldic War broke out. While Johann Friedrich was engaged in the south, his Albertine cousin Moritz invaded his territories, necessitating his return.
Charles wanted a rapid settlement, and quickly an agreement was reached whereby Wittenberg would surrender and the Ernestine Wettins would be spared, but Johann Friedrich would give up his office of elector to his cousin Moritz and remain a prisoner for life. His calm and benign behavior, unwavering faith, and steadfastness in misfortune—as shown by letters written to his intimates—revealed a man tempered in adversity. Although he was offered several opportunities to be released, he would not accept the religious compromises their acceptance would have entailed. Raised as a lax Catholic, during his early teenaged years Moritz had lived with his godfather, Albrecht, the cardinal and archbishop of Brandenburg.
He was educated as a Catholic until his father, Duke Heinrich, converted to Protestantism in In , the young man himself converted and was sent to live with his reform-minded cousin, the elector Johann Friedrich, whom he came to despise. Although a Protestant, he allied himself with the interests of the emperor Charles V Fig. Uneasily reconciled with his cousin as indicated by the thaler we have examined above , in the crafty Moritz went over to the emperor again. In , the impetuous Moritz turned on his imperial benefactor and attacked. The emperor then acceded to the Peace of Passau, whereby Lutheranism was recognized and the Schmalkaldic leaders Johann Friedrich and Philip were released.
Perhaps surprisingly, in death Moritz was respected as a diplomat and successful strategist who had enlarged and enhanced his domains and fostered peace and education. Johann Friedrich, who had returned in triumph to his reduced territories, upholding his faith and endowing education, died within two years of having been set free; he was fondly mourned as a great soul and defender of early Protestantism Figs. I have digressed into the historical background of the Saxon dukes because of their connection to significant items in the ANS cabinet.
In the process of preparing our exhibit of German Renaissance portrait medals, I sought to improve their cataloging. Some pieces relate closely to the inquiry that we had from Justin Hall, while others are simply remarkable in their own right. One of the most outstanding specimens in the cabinet is the Trinity medallion Fig. Schulman in This elaborate medal was a masterwork of the German Renaissance and is one of only fourteen specimens located by Grunthal. Duke Moritz commissioned Reinhart to make the Trinity medal in the effort to strike a note of unification among the religious contenders in Germany during the Schmalkaldic War.
Catholics and Protestants alike shared the dogma of the Athanasian Creed the Quicunque vult or Symbolum quicunque , the Christian statement of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. By emphasizing the Creed at this time, including several of its passages on the medal, Moritz hoped to show the shared understanding upon which those of differing faith could base a common rapprochement. This may not be the place for a lengthy discussion of the various aspects of the Trinity medal, astonishing in its busy detail, but its design, technique and contextual implications have earned it such acclaim that it deserves to be illustrated in color.
The thin cast planchet rises slowly toward the edge which carries the legend…. The main relief, the richly ornate throne and gorgeous dress of the Father as well as the foot rest, is not very high, hardly exceeding the height of the edge. We have had several requests for publication of images of coins of Queen Elizabeth I of England Fig. A search like this provides me with another occasion to survey an area that holds particular appeal to me, and so I return to a curious parcel of English coins in the cabinet, hammered silver pieces that came to the ANS as a donation in from Weber de Vore.
Although this group of small-denomination silver coins still remains to be fully catalogued into the collection, it has been briefly published by Michael Dolley, in , in the Numismatic Chronicle , while in the possession of the London dealer A. Inquiry established that the coins in question had always been kept together as coming from a single find, and also that there was a strong tradition to the effect that the coins were substantially the whole hoard. The exact circumstances of their discovery cannot now be evoked, but it is believed that the coins were unearthed in the early part of the last century [the early s] if not even earlier.
The salient features of this hoard ANS accession registration number Also included in the find were two contemporary forgeries of English James I shillings one each of the second and third coinages. One might wonder whether there was a contemporary tendency for the attractive machine-made coins of Mestrelle to enjoy a differential pattern of circulation or withdrawal, or whether any milled coins present had been removed from the hoard after its discovery. Their absence would seem unlikely to be completely coincidental. For the denominations on which the year is not shown, it is possible to date the Elizabethan coinage approximately by means of the mintmarks, although these, as noted, can have been subject to modification.
While visiting the Coin Room during a trip to New York City, David Sundman examined pieces from several series, including the early Massachusetts silver. Richard Kjellgren, curator of the Tumba Museum section of the Royal Numismatic Collection Museum in Sweden, paid a visit to our cabinet to become acquainted with some of the materials here. Typically, such pieces seem to have been mass produced as tourist souvenirs in the s or s—not to fool anyone, but who ever sees the genuine coins with which to compare these kinds of copies? John Kleeberg visited the Coin Room to examine pieces for several investigations.
The image of King George III that appeared on the obverse of the host coin has been all but obliterated by the counterstamp, and the seated figure of Britannia on the reverse has been likewise severely flattened, but no matter: this piece is a splendid example of very early American numismatic political memorabilia. To feature in his study of what is known of the salvage effort and its public record, Apuzzo ordered images of a contemporary issue of the kind that might have been recovered or might still remain to be found!
Several such coins are in the ANS cabinet; what is their imaginary history? Curiously, there are two dies of the reverse Figs. Believed to have been minted about , the token was probably struck by the Scovill Manufacturing Company of Waterbury, Connecticut. This peculiar coin is certainly worthy of fuller examination. The story goes that numismatic showman Farran Zerbe was able to convince the U. I would point out that it's much more the one-in-body vs one-in-purpose argument, are God the Father and God the Son the same personage?
Anyone who believes this question is settled, popularly, in the present day, is mistaken. I know of a I read this a decade ago, and I find that I recommend it to people once or twice a year. I know of at least two widely-recognized religions that proclaim the divinity of Christ and reject the mystery of the Trinity.
Yes, I belong to one of them. I learned a lot from this discussion of the historical background that resulted in a decision to define belief in Christ more narrowly than it had been. This may be a 4-star book, but I'm giving it 5 because it's an entertaining way to learn about a topic I consider very important. Oct 20, Kelly rated it it was amazing. I belong to a book group at church that reads about church history and many of the authors that are getting people all riled up these days -- Bishop Spong, Marcus Borg, etc. I affectionately refer to us as "Heretics Anonymous".
This is our latest choice. It's really a gripping story of the Christian church in the 4th century and how the Council of Nicea came to be, which led to the Nicene Creed, which "settled" the question of who Jesus was, his relationship to God and the Holy Spirit , and that I belong to a book group at church that reads about church history and many of the authors that are getting people all riled up these days -- Bishop Spong, Marcus Borg, etc.
It's really a gripping story of the Christian church in the 4th century and how the Council of Nicea came to be, which led to the Nicene Creed, which "settled" the question of who Jesus was, his relationship to God and the Holy Spirit , and that whole messy bit about the nature of his divinity. It's written almost like a murder mystery with body counts from the riots sparked by the bishops , it keeps you going that way. Vibrant characters, dramatic developments, historical significance, pathos, it's all there. I couldn't put it down. Though I'll never be able to recite the Nicene Creed with a clear conscience again.
Aug 04, Jim Razinha rated it really liked it. Quite interesting look at the Council of Nicea, the opposing factions of early Christianity and the political maneuvering that resulted in the doctrine of Jesus' divinity as opposed to him being just the son of God. Not for light reading, this is a dry read for a casual historian, but it portrays the story behind the events that kept apologists employed trying to explain the trinity. Mar 14, Marie rated it it was ok. It wasn't as good as other books I've read covering the same historic period. The author seemed to scatter his telling, making it hard to follow, and was perhaps too reverent to his subject.
Oct 23, Dominic Foo rated it really liked it. First details upon the form of the book itself before going into its contents. This book is by a non-specialist academician writing outside of his area of expertise. It is however a well researched book and highly readable with an easy flowing narrative of the events of the Arian controversy, from the Christian persecutions preceding Constantine to its conclusion with the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of While not exactly a scholarly work, it however organises in a succint and clear manne First details upon the form of the book itself before going into its contents.
While not exactly a scholarly work, it however organises in a succint and clear manner the timeline of events and the major players in the controversy and gives one a basic feel and orientation of the developments of the controversy. There is a lot which I've already known before I opened the book, how the fortunes of the theological parties were more or less tied to their ability to manipulate polities and secure the favour of the reigning emperor, etc. All the worse excesses of skullduggery are here, rabble rousing, assasinations, trumped up charges, even an amusing story of how an Arian bishop got two of his priests to hire a prostitute to sneak into a Nicene bishop's room to ruin his reputation.
But of course, all for the greater glory of God for whom no means are too underhanded to secure the defeat of those hell bound heretics and agents of the devil. The author however has two overarching theses which I think is worth mentioning. First is that the triumph of Nicene Orthodoxy effectively meant the severance of the Christian faith from all other religions in the world. Both Jews and pagans acknowledged one supreme God but differed on how he has acted on or relates to this world. Christianity used to be part of this civil dispute and discourse with the others as to where and how God has acted and related to us.
Original Documents from the Council of Nicea
However with Nicene Orthodoxy, this "common ground" in singular supreme God was lost, it is not so much that Jesus became God but that God became Jesus, with the meaning and person of God necessarily bound to the Trinity, any commonality that we occupy a world of one common supreme God, was irrevocably lost as the Trinity became a part of the essence of God, without which God was no God at all.
From a civil and political point of view, this effectively meant the death of any form of tolerant civil religion. It is either the Trinitarian God, or thorough-going secularism and the abandonment of God completely from the civil sphere. The unfortunate intolerance of the new Nicene Orthodoxy can be seen in this passage: "Not long after the emperor outlawed Arian religious worship, a violent and revealing incident occurred in Callinicum, a Roman frontier town in Mesopotamia.
A Christian mob led by monks burned both a Jewish synagogue and a chapel used by the Valentinians, a tiny sect of heretical Christians. It is not clear whether there were worshipers in these buiildings at the time; such "details" were seldom reported. Theodosius responded as one would expect a responsible ruler to respond: he ordered the local bishop to make restitution to the injured parties and to punish the mob's ringleaders.
But before the order could be carried out, Ambrose of Milian, the self-appointed guardian of Western orthodoxy, objected strongly. Why should Christians be penalized for attacking Jews and heretics? Ambrose complained. Had the pagan emperor, Julian, punished his people when Christians were attacked? Theodosisu's intervention against Christ's faithful servants was nothing less than sacrilegious. The fact that imperial officials in Mesopotamia were calling for the protection of Jews and heretics was irrelevant. Unless the emperor repented, Ambrose warned, he could hardly offer him Holy Communion in good conscience The threat of possible excommunication struck home.
Theodosius revoked his command. This is of course not forgetting the fact that Theodosius had by then actively persecuted and outlawed Arianism from the empire through a combination of inquisitions, dispossession of church property and offices and criminalisation of advocacy of Arianism.
It would take the bloody conflicts of the Protestant Reformation, and the exhaustion of perpetual religious conflict before tired Christians formulated deism as an attempt to both retain civic public religiousity and to prevent doctrinal squabbles over minute theological points from causing civic disruption. This is encapsulated perfectly in Locke's Letter concerning Tolerantion based firmly upon the Protestant doctirine of the Two Kingdoms and that civic power is distinct from ecclesiastical power while still adamant that atheism are not to be tolerated in the commonwealth.
His second overarching thesis is his account for the decline of Arianism. According to the author it has fundamentally to do with two different types of Christ which suited different socio-political conditions. The "Arian" Christ, who is by definition more "human", was more optimistic about humanity and the human capacity. Christ is the perfect human, even divinised, he is an inspirational example for our imitation.
Not being infallibly God by nature, he is holy by his will and actions and thereby provides the hope of our own sanctification and reformation through fath and good works. Also being fully human or at least a fellow creature, he is a friend, an intimate companion who truly understands us, with no divine glory blasting out of his outworldly eyes. The "Nicene" Christ, who is unambiguously the Almighty God, was a god fit for a civil religion. He is not a mere creature amongst creatures or a finite delimited entity, but he as vast and boundless as the Almighty God himself, having power over mysterious macro-forces beyond our control.
Thus, the Nicene Christ was more fitted to a less secure empire under constant threat from political and natural disasters. When your survival is at stake, whether from hording barbarians, civic disorder and chaos or famine and starvation, what you need is an Almighty Christ, armed to the teeth with divine substance and power, not some inspirational example of a mere holy man who is morally perfect but gets crucified in the end. This is why towards the end of the Arian controversy, after the empire was threatened by the Huns and after having suffered breaking losses from the Visgoth invasions and destructions, Arianism as a way of life and theological system, even if the imperial persecutions did not happen, lost its appeal throughout the empire from its sheer inability to serve as the civil religion of the land.
The Arian Christ was simply not Almighty enough for us to pray to to defend the empire from the barbarian hoarde for the secure the peace of the land. However, the need for the Arian Christ still lingered on in that while a personal relatable Christ was not suited to be the defender of the realm, religious life has advanced such that the old esoteric pagan gods could not longer meet the humanistic spiritual needs which such a compassionate loving, and most of all, really human Christ provides. Even as Nicene Orthodoxy triumphed and Christ ascended to divinity, the church adapted to the spiritual vacuum left behind by the ascended Christ by elevating the Virgin Mary to fill the gap left behind by the compassionate and relatable human Christ.
Now the Mother of God is the one who lovingly comforts us, and along with her pantheon of other human saints, they provide the existential human needs and sympathy which a fuilly divine Christ could no longer provide. Whether or not you agree with his overarching theses, I would still recommend this book to read for its sheer accessibiltiy and organisation of the developments of the Arian controversy.
It is a very good introduction to the issues and a springboard for further reading. Mar 09, Mike Lund rated it really liked it. An excellent history of the evolution of Christian philosophy, especially the concept of the Trinity God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost being a single entity and Jesus as God Incarnate, versus Jesus as part man, born of woman and becoming god Arian heresy. I had thought the issue of a Trinity Godhead was settled in AD, with the Council of Nicaea and although it was further discussed as a fringe issue in later councils, it was more or less a settled issue.
The truth is, both sides had strong support within the church and the issue was hotly debated, with one side then the other gaining acceptance. I gave it 4 stars because I usually find Roman Empire history with all the similar names and all the shifting of power a little tedious to read. If you are interested in the history of Jesus, and early Christianity, this will be an enormously useful book. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the author went so deeply into the roots of the Arian Conspiracy and explained how the events that would later change the face of the West as we know it now occurred.
This is a very detailed account of the happenings after the death of Jesus and how the ideals of the individual sects of Christians eventually became melded together to form the doctri If you are interested in the history of Jesus, and early Christianity, this will be an enormously useful book.
List of book-burning incidents
This is a very detailed account of the happenings after the death of Jesus and how the ideals of the individual sects of Christians eventually became melded together to form the doctrine we have today. I thought the author did a good job of remaining impartial and reporting the facts as they have come down to us, making this a relatively non-biased account based on historical accuracy rather than theological idealism. That seems to be increasingly difficult to find these days. I definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting to know more about this fascinating period of upheaval.
A very thorough treatment of the final transformation I've always been fascinated by the Church's early history, especially how a relatively minor, apocalyptic preacher from a backwater like Galilee ended up becoming "God". This fantastic book provides some of the details on this final transformation. By the time the book begins, Constantine is being converted to Christianity, heralding the ascension of the once persecuted religion into the official State Religion of the Roman Empire.
The only im A very thorough treatment of the final transformation I've always been fascinated by the Church's early history, especially how a relatively minor, apocalyptic preacher from a backwater like Galilee ended up becoming "God". The only improvement possible to this book would have been to start the tale earlier, immediately after the crucifixion.
I think showing us how Jesus became a god would have been a better start, and not skipping ahead to when he became God. But that's a minor quibble. Ehrman has done a great job showing the initial transformation from man to godling in his books. I'd recommend reading one of those first. May 03, Sarah Corriher rated it it was amazing. I found this book to be magnificent. It casts light on a topic that is oft-ignored by the modern church, and one that most Christians know little about.
Most Christians either believe that Christ is God, or that he is the son of God. Few ever consider the other side's arguments, or realize that this debate was silenced by violence. It should be read by all. I have been interested in this particular time period, especially, the birth and growth of the Christian movement ; what influenced and shaped its growth. I found what I had been looking for in an entertaining and well written book.
Rubenstein is an exceptional author. Sep 04, Matt Hale rated it did not like it.
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- Decoding Nicea: The Appendices.
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- Calling New Delhi for Free: and other ephemeral truths of the 21st century.
- Keans Edge.
It was well written and provided much of the basic narrative, but it also had some easily avoidable factual errors. Moreover, there was very little insight on the nature and origin of religious conflict, which was promised at the beginning of the book. Solid, entertaining factual When last have i enjoyed a book like this one. To the point, well indexed, well documented, soberly objective. A must read for every person who has a bible.
May 27, Shelley Alongi rated it really liked it. Action packed definitely reads like a college textbook that holds the interest. I found it interesting they were arguing that divinity rather than the purpose of his death and resurrection. I would keep this book for reference especially because of that.
Table of contents
Reading list to a bibliography. Jul 30, Maryann Corbett rated it it was amazing. A very useful look at late antiquity and at how close we came to defining dogmas in a very different way--and at how very violent people were in their feelings on both sides. Jul 18, Bonnie Jean rated it really liked it Shelves: churchish , nonfiction , history.
This book has a more provocative title than it really needs to, but otherwise was an actually pretty interesting read about a period of Roman and Christian history I didn't know a ton about. Jan 23, Mike Carpenter rated it it was amazing. Gripping and highly informative narration. Shelves: new-testament. I thought it might be interesting to see how a Jewish writer would portray the divinity of Jesus so I bought this book. Since I am a Christian writer and teacher I also need to stay aware of other works in this field. I was surprised to hear his portrayal of early church history.
It is sometimes difficult to separate history from the author's opinion and that was true in this case. Fortunately, I am well read on this subject and felt that he cheated his readers out of a fair analysis of the subj I thought it might be interesting to see how a Jewish writer would portray the divinity of Jesus so I bought this book.