Orations of Gregory of Nazianzus
by Gregory of Nazianzus
translated by C.W. King
Oration 4: First invective against Julian the Emperor
From Julian the Emperor: Containing Gregory of Nazianzen's Two Invectives and Libanius' Monody, with Julian's Extant Theosophical Works, published 1888
"Hear me all ye nations, give ear unto me all ye dwellers upon earth," for I am calling on you all, as it were, from a conspicuous and lofty watch-tower, with a cry both high and loud. Hear ye nations, tribes, tongues, every kind of men, and every age, as many as now are, and as many as shall be; and in order that my proclamation may be greater, every Power of heaven, all ye Angels, whose deed was the putting down of the tyrant, who have overthrown not Sihon, king of the Amorites, nor Og, king of Bashan----insignificant princes, and injuring but a small part the land of Israel----but the Dragon, the Apostate, the Great Mind, the Assyrian, the public and private enemy of all in common, him that has madly raged and threatened much upon earth, and that has spoken and meditated much unrighteousness against Heaven!
"Hear, O heaven! and give ear, O earth;" for it is the fitting season for me to exclaim the same things with that loudest-voiced of all the prophets, Isaiah; save that he calls out and testifies thus to disobedient Israel; but I, over a tyrant who also was disobedient, and has fallen a fitting victim of his own impiety.
Hear this, thou Soul of the great Constantius!----if thou art sensible of things below,----and ye souls of all the emperors before him that were lovers of Christ; but of him (Constantius) above all the rest, inasmuch as he had grown up together with the inheritance of Christ, had augmented it to the utmost of his power, had made it strong through duration, so that he became on that account the most celebrated of all the sovereigns that had gone before. Alas for the contumely done him! He committed a mistake highly unworthy of his hereditary piety; he perceived not that he was bringing up for the Christians the enemy of Christ, and this one alone of all he did not well in showing kindness, &c., in saving and crowning him that was saved and was crowned for evil. And very greatly will he rejoice, as much at the overthrow of impiety and the restoration of the affairs of the Christians to their first condition, as at this speech of mine: for I am about to offer unto the Lord a sermon of thanksgiving----one more holy and more pure than any sacrifice of heart; not after the fashion of that man's criminal and idle speeches, and his yet more criminal sacrifices, of which the superfluity and the effect was the power of impiety, and the wisdom, to give it the right name, foolishness: because all the power and learning of this world is but "walking in darkness, and falling away far from the light;" but that of his was of such sort, lying in such things, and bearing such fruits, that it was "like grass quickly withered up, and as the herbs of grass quickly falling off," and clinging unto rocks tumbling down in ruin with a crash, and more conspicuous for its fall than even for its impiety.
But as to me, sacrificing the sacrifice of praise to-day, and kindling the bloodless offering of words, who will furnish me with a stage commensurate with my thankfulness; or what tongue will sound it forth to such a distance as I desire; what audience will be equally eager with my speech? For not merely are thanksgivings in words most suitable unto that "Word," Who, of all the names whereby He is called, especially delights in this appellation, and in such a sense of the title, but also a fitting judgment is it for that man to be punished by means of words for his transgressions against words, which, though the common property of all rational beings, he begrudged to the Christians, as though they were his own exclusively; devising as he did a most irrational thing with respect to words; although, in his own opinion, the most rational of men.
In the first place, because he wrongfully transferred the appellation to a pretence, as though the Greek speech belonged to religious worship exclusively, and not to the tongue; and for this reason he debarred us from the use of words as though we were stealing other people's goods----just as if he would have excluded us from the practice of the arts that are found in use amongst Greeks, and thought it made any difference to him on account of the identity of name ; and in the next place, because he fancied he should escape our notice, not in his attempt to rob us of a benefit of the first class----we who so utterly despise these mere words----but in his apprehensions of our refutation of his impious doctrine, just as though our force lay in the elegance of diction, and not in the knowledge of the truth, and in arguments or syllogisms, from which it is more impossible to preclude us than to hinder us from acknowledging God as long as we have a tongue. For we offer in sacrifice this thing along with the rest, that is to say, our speech, in the same way as we do our bodies, whensoever it may be necessary to contend for the Truth's sake: so that when he issued this order, he did indeed prevent us from talking Celtic, but did not stop our speaking Truth, and he exposed his own rottenness, but did not escape our refutations; because he did not perceive that he was laying himself so much the more open to them.
For it was not acting like one who had full confidence in the grounds of his religion, or in the arguments themselves, to put a check upon our words: exactly as though a man should consider himself the best of the athletes, and demand to be proclaimed victor over them all, through ordering that none of those distinguished in that line should take part in the contest, or descend into the arena; or else should first maim his competitors in some limbs, which conduct would be a proof of cowardice and not of strength, for the crowns belong to those that contend, not to those that sit above, and to those that put forth the whole of their strength, not to those that have been deprived of part of their force; but if thou art altogether afraid to engage and to come to blows, by this very fact thou hast proclaimed thy defeat, and the victory belongs to me, though I have not contended at all, and he whom thou hast contended with should not contend. Thus then acted our wise Sovereign and Lawgiver, as though wishing that nothing should be beyond the scope of his tyranny, and enjoined speechlessness over all the extent of his empire, exerting his tyranny over words first and foremost. But it is well-fitting for us to return thanks to God in behalf of words themselves, which have now recovered their liberty; and especially to honour Him with other offerings, sparing nothing, neither money nor estates, which though at the mercy of the times, and of his tyranny, the goodness of God hath preserved to us: and before all other things to honour Him with words---- that well-deserved and united return of all whosoever have had their share in the benefit. But thus much suffices for my words concerning Words: for fear lest by stretching the theme too far we exceed the limits of our time, and be thought to attend to other matters than the one on account of which we are here met together.
Already does my speech leap, and exult; and grows joyous along with those who hasten onward, and summons unto the spiritual dance all who were giving themselves over to fastings, to weeping, and to prayer; by day and night beseeching for deliverance out of the troubles that beset them; and making their fitting remedy in their ills that "Hope which bringeth no shame;" all who, having gone through great conflicts and struggles, and been beaten by the many and hard assaults of the times, have become "a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men," according to the saying of the Apostle, and though wearied in their bodies, yet continuing unconquered in their souls, being strong for everything in the Christ who gave them strength; all who, having put off the worldly Matter and dominion of Evil, or who have submitted with joy to the robbery of their possessions, or banished unjustly, as the saying is, from their own country, severed, for a brief space, from husbands, or wives, or parents, or children, or by whatever other names of kindred less close we are bound; and who, for the blood of Christ, have despised their sufferings for the sake of Christ----all these may now seasonably repeat, and sing the words: "Thou hadst set men upon our heads, we passed through fire and water, and thou didst lead us forth into a cool place."
I also summon the other side to the rejoicing, as many as while they acknowledge the God of all, and so far are sound in their doctrines, but yet stick fast in their questions touching Providence, and out of the opposite have often chosen the better part, "through the goodness that exhorteth unto reformation"----but who nevertheless, through their meanness of spirit, and their levity, in the "proudness of the ungodly," are kindled and set on fire, neither do bear "the peace of sinners," as the Psalm says, "nor endure the counsel of God, neither do they wait patiently unto the end," being ever slaves of things present, and of things visible, by wonders like these are made strong for the reception of truth.
I call also to the souls that stand amazed around the scene and great theatre of this world, and I call unto them in the words of Isaiah: "Ye women returning from the show, come hither, and turn towards me the eye of the soul from its wandering abroad, and wait and know that this is the God, exalting Himself amongst the heathen, exalting Himself in the great things that He hath done, in signs, and in the things now done yet more manifestly."
Would that part of our choir were that company which of old chanted together with us a hymn to God, one neither feigned nor inglorious, but deemed worthy once of a place at His Eight Hand, and which I am confident, shall be again (after a little time) thought worthy of that same place: but which at present, from I know not what offence, stands aloof, and revolts from us, and does not even (what more astonishes me) through the influence of the common joy, come to meet together with us, but is holding a festive dance on its own account----one that is neither good in measure, nor danced to tune (for thus much, perhaps, even they themselves will allow me to remark)----but of what kind, and what a dance!! But if Zeal is moved to speak, yet Faith gets the upper hand, and I shall check the harshness of my speech out of respect for my hope. Still do I cherish my own members: still do I concede more to old love than to present jealousy, and for that reason I become too long-suffering than that I should upbraid them in warmer terms.
One party, one kind of souls, do I exclude from the festive assembly, though I groan and am pained, and grieved for them who perhaps understand me not, neither are sensible of their own ruin, whom I bewail (for this is the most pitiable part of their affliction): nevertheless I exclude by proclamation, all who have not been sown upon the solid and immovable Rock, but upon the dry and barren ground. These be they who having come unto the Word superficially, and through not having depth of earth, forthwith springing up and peeping forth, upon a brief assault of the Evil One, and a slight blast of persecution, have withered up and died away. And those yet worse than they, and still more worthy of exclusion from the festivity----all those who did not for even a little space hold out against the times and against those who were leading us into an evil captivity away from Him "Who ascended up on high and made captives of us for our good;" but these did superfluously show themselves good for nought, and mercenary, inasmuch as they did not resist even for a little while, but were straggling plants, though not even a slight affliction or trial had befallen them on account of the Word; but for the sake of temporary gain, or court-favour, or brief power, these wretched fellows bartered away their own salvation!
And now that we have purified by speech the entire body of our choir, let us sanctify ourselves both in body and in soul, and joining all together in one spirit, let us chant the song of triumph which Israel sang of old over the Egyptians overwhelmed in the Red Sea, while Miriam led the choir, and brandished high her timbrel. "Let us sing unto the Lord, for He hath glorified Himself marvellously, the horse and the rider He hath cast" (not into the sea, for this part of the song I alter, but) "whither it was pleasing to Him, and in what way He thought it fit; the God that doeth and changeth all things" (as saith somewhere in his prophecy, Amos, most divinely philosophizing). "He that turneth into mourning the shadow of death, and that darkeneth the day into night," and Who, as it were, by means of a certain revolution, directs and corrects the whole world, as well as our affairs, whether tempest-tossed or not tempest-tossed, shaken and upset by its changes, and subject to constant vicissitudes, though by the ordering of His Providence they be fixed and not to be shaken, even though they move through contrary courses----ways that be clear unto the Word, although unknown to us. "He that putteth down the mighty from their thrones, and adorneth with a crown him that expected it not" (for this, too, I borrow from Holy Scripture). "Who clotheth the feeble knees with strength, and breaketh the arms of the sinner and the wicked" (this is from another song, just as each occurs to my recollection, there being many ready to complete my hymn, and to contribute their part to my song of thanksgiving). "He that giveth to be seen of the ungodly both the exaltation above the cedars, and the plucking down into being no more; when we may be able with safety and swiftness of foot to escape from the ungodliness of the same."
Who shall sing these things as they deserve, and relate them amongst those who relate things divine? "Who shall tell the mighty works of the Lord, shall make to be heard all his praises?" What voice or what force of speech shall he find equal to the miracle? Who hath broken the shield, the sword, and the battle? Who hath bruised the heads of the dragon upon the waters, and given him for food unto the nations to whom Thou hast delivered him up? Who hath stilled the whirlwind into a breeze? Who hath said unto the sea, Be thou silent, be thou muzzled, and thy waves shall break themselves within thee? He Who hath crushed him that was lifted up and boiled furiously, but not for long. Who hath given us to walk upon serpents and scorpions, no longer lying secretly in wait for the heel of the passer-by (as their sentence directed), but publicly rising up and lifting on high the head that they were condemned to have trampled under foot? Who is He that hath made an unexpected condemnation an acquittal? Who is He that hath not completely "suffered the rod of sinners" (shall I venture to say) "in the lot of the righteous" (or, what is more modest than this expression) in the lot of those that know Him?
For it was not as righteous that we were delivered up to Him (for this is what few men, on few occasions, have experienced in order that they, like noble athletes, may put to shame him that tries their strength, but as offenders who have been condemned, and afterwards pardoned out of His fatherly compassion; having been beaten only that we may be reformed, and admonished in order that we may turn unto Him. "For He hath tried us, yet not in wrath; He hath chastised us, but not in anger:" having manifested his loving-kindness through both things ----his admonition, and his remission. "Who is he that hath wrought vengeance among the heathen, rebukes amongst the nations?" "Even the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle."
I find but one voice, one song in any way worthy of the present occasion----that which Isaiah hath shouted out before us, exactly suited to the present times, and vying with the magnitude of the blessing: "Let the heavens above rejoice, and let the clouds drop down righteousness; let the mountains break forth into joy, and let the little hills exult" inasmuch as the whole creation and the heavenly powers, such, at least, is my opinion, take an equal interest in these events. For not only does the "whole creation groan with us and is in the pangs of labour, being made subject to corruption" (I mean to things below that are born and perish) "expecting the end of these things and the revelation," in order that itself may then obtain the hoped-for deliverance, as being bound fast to them against its will through the power of Him that created it; but it also joins in glorifying Him, and exults together with the sons of God when they do rejoice.
For this cause I will not refrain from sacred expressions when I am telling of Divine Power. "Let the desert rejoice, and let her blossom like the lily" (that is, the Church, which but yesterday seemed a widow, and husbandless, as well as everyone that was withered up by the envious and joyless winter of ungodliness), "because the Lord hath had compassion upon His people, neither hath He abandoned His own inheritance:" because He hath done marvellous things, and His ancient, true counsel, the which was to be favourable towards them that fear Him and that hope in His mercy, forasmuch as He hath broken down the gates of brass, and smitten asunder the bars of iron; because we have been humbled for our transgressions, and the snare has been broken, and we are set free, in the joy of the God that hath called us, and who comforts the lowly in heart."
Do ye mark how I weave my song out of sacred words and thoughts? and, as it were, with what belongs to others, I exalt and decorate myself, how I grow inspired by my joy? I spurn everything humble and human, cementing together and joining one thing with another, and bringing into one whole what belongs to the same spirit.
Aforetime the wonderful works of God were shown forth in Enoch translated, Isaiah caught up, Noah himself saved, and saving the names of races; the whole world in a small bark escaping the deluge of the inhabitable land, in order that the earth might be adorned with more godly inhabitants; Abraham called, and honoured with a son in spite of his age, as a pledge of another promised Seed, and offering up his only begotten son a willing sacrifice, and receiving a miraculous victim instead of that son; the miraculous destruction of the wicked overwhelmed with fire and brimstone; the yet more miraculous deliverance; the Pillar of Salt that proclaimed the turning back again to sin; Joseph sold into slavery, fallen in love with, preserving his chastity, and receiving wisdom from God, and set free, and made a ruler, and dispensing corn in a higher stewardship; Moses thought worthy of talking with God and admonished, and making laws, and becoming a god unto Pharaoh, and leading forth Israel into the Land of Promise; the plagues of the destroyed Egyptians, and the preservation of the Israelites, who laboured in the midst of these Egyptians; and the Sea retiring before the rod, and giving heed unto a word, and letting some pass along as on dry land, whilst others, according to its proper nature, it overwhelmed.
And whatever other miracles came after these: the Pillar of Cloud giving shadow by day, the Pillar of Fire giving light by night, and both of them leading the way; the Bread rained down in the wilderness; the Meat sent down from heaven----the former proportioned to their need, the latter even above their need; the Water from the Rock----the one gushing forth, the other rendered sweet; Amalek overcome in battle, and that too by the ineffable and mystical gesture of the hands; the Sun standing still and the Moon stayed, and Jordan cut in twain; and the walls shaken down by the walking round them of the priests and the sounding of trumpets, and by the number that hath power; the Earth and the Fleece of Wool alternately wetted and unmoistened; Strength residing in the hair----a match for a whole army; the few chosen by Lapping of Water, and trusting to conquer, and conquering according to their trust, that small number those many thousands. What need is there for me to reckon up one by one everything that was done through Christ Himself during His saving presence and dwelling in the flesh? And all the miracles that have been wrought after Him and through Him, by His holy Apostles and ministers of the Word? How many books and monuments tell their history!
But as for the present matter in truth, come hither and hearken, and I will tell unto you, in order that the generation that now is, and those that come after, may understand the wonders of the power of the Lord----since it is not possible to set them forth without first laying before you the greatness of the danger that threatened us. And this cannot be done without our showing up the badness of that disposition, and from what principles and seeds of wickedness it ran off into this unhappiness, storing up its venom little by little, till it exceeded all the most spiteful of reptiles and wild beasts. To tell the tragic tale of all his actions we shall leave to books and to the charge of history; for we at least have not leisure to rehearse them beyond the limits of our present purpose; but by enumerating a few instances out of many we will leave to those that come after, as it were a published bill of indictment against him, having collected therein the most weighty of our charges.
First and foremost then, this man having been saved by the great Constantius, immediately on his succession to his father, at what time the army rose against those in power (making a revolution through their apprehension of revolution), and settled the government under new sovereigns; being saved together with his brother (a preservation beyond belief and all expectation), he neither felt gratitude to God for his escape nor to the emperor through whose means he had been preserved, but showed himself wicked towards both, by conceiving apostacy from the one and rebellion against the other.
But to come to what is necessary for me to state in the beginning----they were honoured with a princely maintenance and education in one of the royal castles, being treasured up for imperial power by this most humane emperor, as the sole relics of his family: who thus, at the same time, made his excuse for the revolution that had taken place upon his accession on the plea that it had been audaciously done and not with his consent; and equally seeking to display his own magnanimity by the sharing of the empire with them; and thirdly, to establish his power on more solid foundations by means of these props----a thing that showed he planned more humanely than wisely.
Whilst they were here enjoying complete leisure, imperial rank being still in the future, and being prepared for them, whilst their age and expectations did not yet exalt them to the secondary dignity; they had masters in all branches of learning, their uncle and sovereign causing them to be instructed in the complete and regular course of education; they studied also, and still more extensively, our own kind of philosophy, that which deals not with words alone, but which conveys piety by means of moral training: living in intercourse with the most excellent of men, and in the exercise of the most pleasant of occupations, and which offers a great field for the display of virtue: for both brothers offered and enrolled themselves amongst the clergy; reading aloud the sacred books to the people, thinking that this tended not a little to their glory, and that piety was a greater decoration than all things else.
By most sumptuous monuments to Martyrs, by emulation in their offerings, by all the other marks by which the fear of God is characterized, did they make known their love of wisdom and their love of Christ: the one of them being sincerely pious; for although too hasty in temper, nevertheless he was genuine in his piety: the other awaiting his opportunity, and concealing under a mask of goodness his evil disposition. A proof of this (for indeed I cannot omit noticing it) was the miracle which then occurred, one highly deserving of being remembered, and capable of opening the eyes of many of the ungodly.
Both the brothers were, as I have told you, labouring for the Martyrs, and were zealously vying with one another in erecting an edifice to their honour with a large and efficient body of workmen: but inasmuch as the work did not proceed from the same motive, so neither did the labour come to the same end with both: for the work of the one (the elder brother, I mean) was finishing, and going on according to calculation, as though God readily accepted the offering, like Abel's sacrifice, rightly offered up, and cut in pieces; for the donation was, in some sort, the consecration of the first-fruits of the flock: but the offering of the other (alas for the dishonour of the impious, that already in this world bears testimony to the next, and that proclaims beforehand great events by trifling signs!), the God of Martyrs rejected it, as He did the sacrifice of Cain!
And he continued labouring, and the earth shook off what he had toiled at, and he grew all the more zealous in the task, and she rejected the foundations of him that was unsound in the faith; as though she were crying aloud at the shaking of the world that was about to proceed from him, and doing honour to the Martyrs through the dishonour she did to the most impious of men. This fact was a kind of presage of the future obstinacy and madness of the man, and of his insults to the Martyrs, and of his lawless conduct against the sacred edifices----one that from afar pursued the persecutor, and signified in advance the recompense of his impiety!
O thou Soul, clever truly for evil-doing, yet that canst not escape thy own punishment! O thou God, that hidest the Future, in order that it may either cut short impiety, or display Thy foreknowledge! Oh unexpected, yet more true than unexpected miracle! Oh brotherly love of the Martyrs! They did not accept honour from him that was hereafter to do dishonour to many Martyrs; they did not receive the gift of him that was hereafter to make many Confessors, or rather, to begrudge them the credit of the conflict! Or, to speak more correctly, they did not suffer themselves to be the only Martyrs to be insulted, whilst the others were interred and cared for by pious Lands; nor wonld they give the Sophist of Wickedness the pleasure of exulting over the insults done them, in order that by the same hand some monuments of the Martyrs should be set up, and others pulled down; and that some Martyrs should be honoured, but others dishonoured; whilst the honour in semblance anticipated by but a little while the dishonour in reality; lest, in addition to the greatness of the insult, he should think in himself how clever he was in thus cheating (as he did man) God also----the most quick-sighted, the All Wise, He who "seizeth the wise in their craftiness"----by means of his outward show; but that he might know that he was understood, and that he might not be puffed up, seeing that he was detected.
For if the God of Martyrs had not checked his impiety, nor had dried up, like a poisonous stream, his intended and concealed villany, or cut it short by what means He only knew, according to His hidden wisdom and government, like as He suffered the iniquities of the Amorites to fill up their measure; but it was needful that his evil intention should be hated, and his offering be rejected, for the edification of the multitude, and that the justice and purity of God with respect to the things offered unto Himself should be manifested to the world.
For He that said unto backsliding Israel, "If ye offer a wheaten cake, it is vain: your incense is an abomination unto me;" not accepting their New Moons and Sabbaths and Great Day, seeing that He, being full, stands not in need of anything that is human and little, so that He should take pleasure in those who offer to Him unworthily; for He abominates the sacrifice of transgressors, even though, it be a calf, as that of a dog, and their frankincense like a blasphemy; and excluding from the Temple and shaking off as defilement the hire of a harlot; whilst He gives honour to that sacrifice alone which pure hands bring unto the Most Pure, and a high and sanctified spirit. What wonder, then, if He did not accept honour from that man, offered in bad manner and from a bad motive,----He that seeth not as man seeth, nor looketh at the outward appearance, but at the hidden man, and the inward workshop of virtue or of wickedness! So much for this; and if anyone is incredulous, we call in evidence those that beheld the fact, for they are numerous, who have delivered down the miracle to us, and will deliver it down to those who come after.
But when, as the two advanced to man's estate, they began to handle the doctrines of philosophy (which I wish they had never done), and were deriving that power from words which to the good is the weapon of virtue, but to the ill-conditioned the incentive to vice, this man was no longer able to restrain his disease in every part, nor to plan within himself alone the plot of his impiety in all its completeness; but like as fire smouldering in wood, even though it does not rise into a bright flame, either sparks flying out, or smoke from the inside, give warning of the mischief; or, if you like it better, as certain water-springs that run through subterranean channels by the aid of air, and then, not having sufficient room nor a free passage, burst forth in many places of the ground, and gurgle out from below, being forced upwards by the strength of the air, but checked and repelled by the weight above; in the same way did he conceal the most part of his impiety, by reason of the times and the superintendence of one stronger than himself (for as yet it was not safe to be impious); still, in some points he exposed the secret of his thoughts; and, to the more sharpsighted, his impiety rather than his intelligence, by exerting himself in advocacy of the Pagans, in his disputations against his brother, to a greater degree than was becoming----on the pretext, forsooth, that he was practising upon the weaker argument; but this was in reality an exercising of himself against the Truth, and a delighting in everything by which an impious disposition is characterized.
But when the kindness of the emperor appoints his brother ruler, and puts into his hands no small part of the habitable earth, this youth obtained opportunity to hold intercourse, in all freedom and security, with teachers and opinions of the freest kind. Aria was his schopl of impiety; whatever works wonders as regards astrology, nativities, the show of knowledge of the Future, and all the jugglery that goes along with them. The only thing now wanting was for power to be added to his impiety; he had not long to wait, and this also is given to him against us, because wickedness of the multitude was now filled up to the brim, and the prosperity of the Christians had run, so to speak, into extravagance, and demanded the contrary change; and because of the license, arid honours, and satiety, through which we had waxed proud.
In reality it seems a harder matter to retain good things, than to obtain those we do not possess; and more easy to recover departed prosperity by dint of care, than to preserve long that which is present, and "pride goeth before destruction," the Proverbs well say, "and humility before glory;" or, that I may speak more plainly, ruin follows pride, and glorification follows humility. "The Lord sets His face against the high-minded, and giveth grace unto the humble, and recompenseth contrary things unto the adversaries; He that meeteth out all things justly." Of this the divine David was well aware, and reckons as one of his blessings, the fact of his being chastened, and confesses his thankfulness to Him, Who had chastened; inasmuch as the learning the commandments accrued to himself therefrom. And, "Before I was humbled (says he), I went astray: on this account I have kept Thy word," placing his humiliation in the middle between his transgression and his correction, seeing that it arose out of the first, and produced the second, for sin is the parent of humiliation, and humiliation of repentance. So we, having been exalted when we were virtuous and orderly; and having grown up into this form and multitude through God's guidance, "waxed fat and kicked;" and when we had spread ourselves out, we were pressed close; and the glory and strength that we had gathered amidst persecutions and oppression, this when we prospered we brought to ruin----the sequel of my discourse shall show how.
The reign and the life of the Caesar (Gallus) receives its termination: the intervening events I shall pass over in silence, from a wish to spare both the maker and the sufferer, of both of whom I respect the piety, though I approve not of their rashness; for though it was unavoidable for them, as being men, to err, this feature is what one cannot praise in the character of either, except that, even in this case, by the charge we shall bring against the one we shall acquit the other of all blame. The man we are speaking of immediately became the heir of his brother's power, but not of his piety, and shortly after heir to the men who had raised him to power, partly with his consent, and partly because he was forced by the lot of all, and was overcome by compulsion, which proved evil and ruinous to the whole world.
Why didst thou this, O most religious and Christ-loving of princes! (for I address thee as though present here, and listening to my censure, even though I know thee to be far above our fault-finding, for thou art placed at the side of God, and hast inherited the glory that is there; having retired from earth only to receive another crown ----change thy crown). Why didst thou devise this scheme? thou who didst so far surpass all in sagacity and understanding, not only the princes of thy own times, but also those who preceded thee: thou who didst clear away barbarian force from round about us, and didst put down domestic tyrants, some by means of argument, others by force of arms; and in either way, without being embarrassed in the one course by the employment of the other: thou of whom great trophies stand erected with arms and with battles, but yet greater and more conspicuous thy gifts to heaven: thou to whom embassies and petitioners flocked from every quarter of the world, whom part already obeyed, and the rest would have obeyed; for everything was hoped, equal to what had been already achieved. Thou that wert led by God's own hand in every action and purpose, whose prudence was admired more than his valour, and his valour again more than his prudence, and yet more admirable than his glory in both was his piety.
How was it then that in this case alone thou didst show thyself ignorant and inconsiderate? What meant the hastiness of thy inhuman humanity? What evil spirit took part in thy deliberation? The great inheritance, thy hereditary decoration----I mean those that are named after Christ----the nation shining out in all parts of the habitable world, the Royal Priesthood gathered together with so much blood and sweat: didst thou in so little space and brief moment of time present and deliver up unto the public murderer!
Perhaps I appear to you, my brethren, to be impious somewhat, and unreasonable in using words like these, and because I do not immediately subjoin the words of the truth to the words of upbraiding; and yet I have sufficiently cleared myself even by the terms of my accusation, if ye have only paid a little attention to the form of my chiding. And in this case only the accusation contains in itself the acquittal, for by using the word "benignity," I let you see the defence: for who is not assured, even of those but slightly acquainted with that prince, that not merely would he have passed over not only that man, the glory of his own family, or the maintenance of his own power, but that he would have, without grudging, purchased our well-being and safety by the sacrifice of his empire, of all his possessions, and of his very life, than which nothing is more precious to every man?
No one, surely, was ever possessed with so fervent a desire for any object, as was that emperor for the aggrandizement of the Christians, and their advancement to the highest pitch of glory and power: and neither nations vanquished, nor the commonwealth well governed, nor the greatness of wealth, nor the superabundance of glory, nor the being, and the being entitled "King of Kings," nor all the other marks by which mortal felicity is distinguished; not one of all these things gave him such delight as that, through his means, we, and through our means, he should have glory in the sight of God and men, and that our supremacy should continue indestructible to all time; for besides all this, he clearly perceived the fact (thinking as he did on these matters with deeper insight and loftier mind than the vulgar herd), that simultaneously with the state of the Christians grew up that of the Romans, and their supremacy began its course with the sojourn of Christ upon earth, which before that time had not perfectly ripened into a monarchy: and for this reason, in my opinion, he fostered and befriended our Church all the more: inasmuch as he, though he did slightly vex us, yet did so not out of despite and insolence, nor to gratify other parties at our expense: but he vexed us a little in order that we might be at one together, and become unanimous, and not be divided, neither be separated by our schisms.
But, as I observed, simplicity of disposition is a thing that is unguarded, and humanity goes along with insecurity, and one free from wickedness is the last to suspect wickedness in others: for this reason what was coming was unperceived, and the simulation was undetected; and impiety little by little crept in, and two kind feelings came into play simultaneously, one of them for his own pious family, the other for this, the most impious and godless of mankind. And what had this said individual to blame in the Christians, what was there in our morals that he disapproved of, what did he find so superior and unshakable by argument in the doctrines held by the heathen, what sort of model did he follow, that he set himself up for the most knowing of all through his impiety, and strove to rival the author of his elevation after a somewhat novel fashion? And since truly he could not possibly surpass him in virtue and better conduct, he aimed at so doing by means of showing himself quite the reverse, by his outrageous behaviour against religion, and his zeal for the worse side. The apology for that person [Constantius], in behalf of the Christians, and as regards the Christians, goes so far as this, and is a satisfactory one, at least for people of sense.
But as there are many who, though they acquit Constantius of the above-named charge, yet do not excuse him on another count, but accuse him of stupidity in that he put power into the hands of one most ill-disposed towards himself (nay, rather his mortal foe); and, first of all, made the same person his enemy, and then made him strong, laying the foundations of his enmity by the execution of his brother [Gallas], and then furnishing the strength by the conferring of the imperial rank----it is necessary for me to go a little into particulars upon this subject, and to show that his kindness was not entirely without reason, nor foreign to the magnanimity and forethought befitting an emperor; for we should be ashamed if, after receiving so much honour at his hands, and being firmly convinced of his eminent piety, we did not state what is just in his defence; a thing which is due from us, the Cultivators of Reason and Truth, even to those who have conferred no benefits upon us; and, all. the more so, after his departure from this world, when we have escaped all appearance of being flatterers and our statements are no longer exposed to injurious suspicion.
For who would not have expected, if nothing more, at least to tame that man [Julian] by the honours lavished on him, or to make him more honest by the very confidence with which he was treated? as though by a just and imperial decision on the merits of the two brothers, both of him that had been punished, and of him that was promoted; inasmuch as the man who raises the second brother to honours that no one could have expected, not even the recipient of those honours himself, makes it evident that he had not punished the first brother without just grounds of anger; and that the first action was the result of the audacious behaviour of that party, the second the effect of his own insolence.
And besides this, he derived confidence, if one must mention the principal thing, not so much from that person's trustworthiness, as from confidence in his own strength, just as Alexander the Great seems to me out of similar confidence to have granted, not merely his life to the vanquished Porus, and that, too, after he had contended so vigorously for his kingdom, but the sovereignty of India to boot: as though he could display in no other way than this his magnanimity----a point in which he, being Alexander, deemed it far worse to be beaten, than by force of arms in the first instance; whilst, if he found him ungrateful, it still remained in his power to reduce him a second time to subjection; and the very superabundance of confidence produced his humanity.
And yet why do I contest this point, when it is quite possible for me to gain my cause, even though beaten here? For if he that trusted is blameworthy, what must the person trusted be, compared with him? And if the not discovering, beforehand, a man's disposition is to be censured, how low must we place that badness of disposition itself? But in truth wickedness is a thing that defies all calculation, and there is no means whereby one can make the bad better; when this person, by the very things through which he justly ought to have been rendered better disposed, and if he still harboured any spark of ill feeling, to have extinguished it altogether, was kindled, by these very favours, into yet more bitter enmity, and sought out for the means to revenge himself upon his benefactor.
Such things did his Platos teach him, and his Chrysippuses, and the far-famed Walk, and the grave Porch, send those who mouth so grandiloquently this, the equality of Geometry, and the arguments about Justice, and the duty to prefer receiving wrong to the committing wrong! this, his fine teachers, and the accomplices and lawgivers of his reign----people that he had picked up out of the highways and the pits; of whom he could not approve the conduct, though he admired their loquacity, and probably not so much this as their mere impiety, a fitting counsellor and instructor as to what ought to be done, and what not.
Assuredly we ought to admire these men that build cities in words (which cannot subsist in reality), that all but worship majestic tyrannies, and, with all their grave looks, esteem the penny far above their gods, some of whom hold that there is no God at all, others that He takes no heed of things here below, but that the universe moves along at random, and by chance; others, that it is guided by the Stars and the dispositions of Necessity, directed I know not by whom, nor from what source; others suppose that the All tends to Pleasure, and that this is the end of human existence; Virtue is to them merely a specious name, nor is there anything beyond the present life, nor any Judgment upon the things done in this life hereafter, to chastise iniquity; for either no one of the wise men amongst them has perceived the truth, but has been entangled in the deep mud (as the saying is) and unillumined gloom of error and ignorance, so as not even to look towards the rays of the Truth, after purifying his intellect; but grovelling in the dirt around things below, and the objects of the senses, and not able to imagine anything superior to the "demons," nor to raise himself up in a manner worthy of Him that made us----or if anyone caught a slight glimpse of it, inasmuch as he used for his guide Reason and not God, he was drawn astray by that which had the most plausible appearance, and which attracted the vulgar by its proximity.
What wonder is it then, that starting from such principles as these, and steered by such pilots, the man trusted should have turned out such a villain towards him that had trusted him; the man honoured, so base to him that had conferred the honour? For if I must make any apology for him, in the midst of my indictment, the fellow does not seem to me to have rebelled against those who had set him up, and to have sought free scope for his own folly, so much out of resentment for the loss of his brother (whom he well knew was opposed to him on the side of religion) as because he could not endure the spread of Christianity, and had run mad against the Faith; for "philosophy and sovereignty (as their cant hath it) ought to be united in one"----not in order that states may be restrained from impiety, but that they may be filled therewith.
And that first act of his self-will and madness, his assuming the diadem and decorating himself with the supreme title----the which, not being the rapine of chance, but the price of merit, either regular succession confers, or else the revolution of the sovereign; or else the decision of the Senate, as in the olden time: a title which does not render him that is master of the power, master likewise of the honour in its full extent. In the next place, since he knew that he had made desperate measures a matter of necessity to him in consequence of what he had already dared, what does he plan, and to what extent of impiety and audacity does he proceed? O the mad soul! He marches against the emperor, and moves forth out of the West, under the pretence of excusing his conduct in assuming the diadem, for he still thought of cloaking his desperate intention, but in reality with the view of transferring the empire to himself, and getting himself admired for his want of sense----and truly he was not disappointed in his hopes.
(Let not those be astonished, who know not the inscrutable depth of the counsels of God, by which the universe is directed, and who do not submit to the One skilled in the pilotage, Who is in all respects wiser than ourselves, Who guides His own whither and in what manner He pleaseth: and entirely for their good, and healing, what though those that are being healed be impatient tinder the cure: by which counsels He is not stirred up unto wickedness, for the Deity being good by His nature, is not the cause of evils, neither of him that prefers the things of wickedness.) He was not, however, checked in his career, but with vast celerity traversing his own and some part of the barbarian frontier, and forcing a passage more by stealth than by force of arms, he at last is drawing near to the capital of the empire; being, as his own partisans say, stimulated to this expedition by presages, the daemons promising a revolution in the time coming, and devising a change in the state: or rather, as the tale is of those who tell the truth, he did this in accordance with a certain preconcerted plot, but one more secret and deeply laid; he was calculating upon a death, of which he was himself the contriver, having plotted the execution of the crime by means of someone in the interior: so that his success was not foreknowledge but knowledge, and not a favour of the daemons. How sagacious they are in such matters, Persia has clearly shown: so let people cease praising the demons for his rapid success, or else we shall impute his ruin also to the same agency.
Now, if the decease of the emperor had not anticipated the advance of the tyrant, and his privy machination been more effectual than his open violence, the miscreant would soon have discovered that he had been too expeditious for his own destruction; and before his fit of frenzy was chastised by the Persians, he would have paid the penalty of his crime in the territories of the Romans upon whom he basely waged war. Proof of this is at hand: for whilst he was still advancing and fancying himself undiscovered, by order of that most excellent emperor he was being surrounded by a force that cut off his retreat, as became evident from what followed; for even after he was master of the empire, he had no small trouble in mastering this army. Now, his adversary, boiling with indignation against this folly and impiety combined, and having this very clever fellow completely in his net----alas for our wickedness!----in the very middle of his march closes his mortal career, after offering many excuses to God and man for his misplaced humanity, and having set an example to all Christians by his zeal of affection for the Faith!
In this place, a tear or two mingled with joy on account of what comes next in my theme, rises to my eyes, and, as it were, the battle, engagement, and strife, when river and sea come together and strive for mastery. For from what came last I am affected with the joy, but from what went before I am moved to the tears, not merely on account of the Christians and the contumely that befell them, whether moved by the Evil One, and permitted by God for our correction on account of our pride: but also on account of that man's soul, and those that were drawn away together with him into the same perdition.
Some people bewail their concluding plagues, and their torments in this world, because the present life is the only thing they believe in, and they cannot reach with their minds into the next, neither do they believe there is any account taken, or retribution in store for the things done in this life: but they lead the life of brute beasts, existing only upon what comes day by day, and the Present; measuring happiness by one thing alone, comfort in this world, and by its opposite, their disappointments, they estimate unhappiness. But it strikes me one should bewail them more for their torments in the next world, and the punishment that is stored up for the wicked: and yet I do not mention the greatest of all, their being shut out from God: how vast an aggravation that is of their punishment!
How should I not weep for the unhappy man himself; for the persecutors more than for the persecuted? How not bewail yet more than those that went over to the side of evil, the man that carried them with him? But rather, to the one side, it was no hardship to suffer for Christ's sake, nay the most welcome thing possible, and that not only for the next world, but for the glory and freedom of speech that they bestowed upon themselves by means of their dangers: but to the other side, before the torments in store and threatened, came those they have suffered now: and better were it for them if they had been punished a longer time in this world, than to have been reserved for the yet juster punishments of the future state. Thus much for the sake of the law that forbids us to exult over the fall of an enemy, and demands sympathy from those that stand upright: and now it is time for me to return to the rest of my subject.
What was this so great zeal in a bad cause, what this love of impiety, what this running after destruction, whence became such an enemy of Christ this former disciple of Christ, he that was conversant in so many words of Truth, and who had preached and heard of the things that lead unto salvation? For no sooner had he inherited the empire than he publicly professed his impiety, as if ashamed of ever having been a Christian, and on this account bearing a grudge against the Christians in whose name he had participated: and the very first of his audacities, according to those who boast of his secret doings, into which details am I forced to enter! with unhallowed blood he rids himself of his baptism, setting up the initiation of abomination against the initiation according to our rite, "a swine wallowing in the mire," according to the proverb; and he unconsecrates his hands by cleansing them from the bloodless sacrifice by means whereof we are made partakers with Christ, both in His sufferings and in His divinity. With victims and with sacrifices he inaugurates his palace, using evil counsellors for an evil reign.
But since I have mentioned victims and the man's superstition, or more properly unhappy condition , as regards such matters, I do not know whether I ought to commit to writing the miracle that was whispered about, or to disbelieve those that report it; for I myself am wavering in my judgment, and know not to which side to incline, inasmuch as things justly claiming to be believed are mixed up with others totally unworthy of credit. For that some sign from heaven should have been given to mark the novelty and impiety of the crime, is not to be reckoned among things incredible, but amongst such as have often happened before on the eve of very great changes; but that this sign was given in the manner reported is, to me at any rate, a matter of great astonishment, as well as to all such as wish and believe that things pure are manifested in a pure manner.
The story is, that when he was sacrificing, the entrails of the victim displayed the figure of the Cross enclosed within a garland, which sight struck the others with horror and dismay, and the conviction of our gaining the victory; but the instructor in impiety it filled with confidence, as he pretended, as showing that we were circumscribed and hemmed in, for in this way did he extemporize the explanation of the Cross and the circle around it. Kow this is what excites my wonder, and if false, let the winds bear it away; but if true, then here is Balaam again prophesying and Samuel raised, or seems so, by the woman having a familiar spirit; and the devils, as they go out, confessing Jesus, and the Truth is shown forth by its adversaries. It may be that this was so ordered that he (Julian) should be checked in his impious course, for the Deity, ever inclining towards mercy, knows how to invent new and singular ways of salvation; but what is told by many, to believe also is not unreasonable.
He had descended into one of those sanctuaries, inaccessible to the multitude, and feared by all (as would that he had feared the way leading unto hell before proceeding to such extremities), in company with the man that was as bad as many sanctuaries put together, the wise in such things, or sophist more rightly to be called; for this is a kind of divination amongst them to confer with darkness, as it were, and the subterranean demons concerning future events: whether that they delight more in darkness, because they are darkness, and makers of the darkness of wickedness, or that they shun the contact of pious persons above ground, because through such they lose their power. But when, as my fine fellow proceeded in the rites, the frightful things assailed him, unearthly noises, as they say, and unpleasant odours, and fiery apparitions, and other fables and nonsense of the sort, being terror-struck at the novelty (for he was yet a novice in these matters), he flies for help to the Cross, his old remedy, and makes the sign thereof against his terrors, and makes an ally of Him whom he persecuted. And what follows is yet more horrible.
The Seal prevailed: the demons are worsted, the terrors are allayed. And then what follows? The wickedness revives, he takes courage again; the attempt is repeated, the same terrors return; again the sign of the Cross, and the vanishing demons; the neophyte in despair. The celebrant is at hand, explaining away the truth: "We have made ourselves abominable, we have not terrified them;" the worse side conquers, for these were his words: and by dint of talking he persuades, and by persuading he leads his disciple into the pit of perdition. And no wonder at it, for a vicious disposition is more ready to follow what is better than to be checked by what is better. Now what he said, did, or was deceived in, before he was sent up again, those may know who initiate and are initiated into these rites: at any rate he reascends full of the demon both in mind and in his actions, and indicating by the frenzy of his eyes whom he had been worshipping; if indeed he was not possessed with a demon from the very day on which he first took up with such bad ideas; but then, it became more conspicuous, in order that he might not have gone down there in vain, and become partaker with demons: a thing which those people call "enthusiasm," putting a handsome name upon it. Now his first actions were as related above.
But when the birth-pains were growing strong, and the magician was bursting forth to light, he became aware of something (either as being a man clever in wickedness and without a rival in impiety, or whether he was put up to it by those who anointed him for this end), that to carry on the war openly, and to preside in person over the impious attempt, besides being both rash and stupid, was in all respects most damaging to his object: for that we should become the more obstinate when oppressed, and would oppose to tyranny our zeal in the cause of religion; inasmuch as generous spirits are wont to grow restive against compulsion, and after the manner of a flame fanned by the wind, to blaze up so much the more, the more violently they are blown down. And this he discovered not only from reflection, but had it proved to him by the history of the previous persecutions, which have only made the Christian more honoured instead of more feeble, strengthening him in piety, and like heated iron dipped in water, steeling him by means of his dangers; but if he carried on the war with artifice, and coloured violence with cajolery, and like covering round a hook with the bait, so covered his tyranny with wheedling, his enterprise would become at once ingenious and likely to be successful.
For, besides his other motives, he begrudged the honour of martyrdom to our combatants, and for this reason he contrives now to use compulsion, and yet not seem to do so. That we might suffer, and yet not gain honour as though suffering for Christ's sake. What folly in the first place if he thought it would be unknown on whose account these dangers were run, and that he could hide the truth by his cunning devices! But the more he plotted against our honours so much the greater and more conspicuous was he making them.
In the second place, if he imagined that we braved danger out of love of glory, and not of the Truth, let the Empedocleses amongst those people play at such a game, and their Aristacuses, and their Empedotimuses, and their Trophoniuses, and a lot more of such unlucky folks ----of whom the one, after making a God of himself, as he fancied, by means of the Sicilian crater, and sent himself up to a better termination of existence, was betrayed by that dear little sandal, vomited np by the fire, and was proclaimed not a god amongst men, but a man of vanity, no philosopher, nay, not even possessed of common intelligence; whilst those who out of the same itch and ambition buried themselves in certain inaccessible caves, and were afterwards detected, did not reap so much honour from the deception as they did disgrace from the discovery.
It is sweeter to Christians to suffer for religion's sake, even though they may be unknown to all men, than it is to others to enjoy glory combined with impiety; for we make small account of pleasing men, but our whole aim is at honour from God, or rather at something above this honour, we being true lovers of wisdom and lovers of God, craving for assimilation to the Good for the sake of the Good itself, not for the honours in store for us there. Eor this is the second class of the praiseworthy actions----the doing anything for reward, and on account of recompense: as the third is of those that shun wickedness out of fear of punishment. Such and of such character are our societies: and this is easy, for those who choose, to prove from many examples.
But he, as though he were about to deprive us of a very great honour (for the vulgar always judge of other people's feelings by their own), particularly persecuted this reputation of ours: neither did he, in common with former persecutors magnanimously proclaim his own impiety: nor does he (if not like a sovereign, at any rate like a tyrant), take his measures about us, in the way of one who thought it a fine thing to force impiety upon the nations of the world, and to tyrannize over a creed that had vanquished all other creeds----he attacks our religion in a very rascally and ungenerous way, and introduces into his persecution the traps and snares concealed in arguments . Consequently, as power is divided into two parts---- persuasion and force (and what was yet more inhuman, he made over the exercise of his tyranny to mobs and to towns, of whom the frenzy is less open to blame on account of their want of reason, and inconsiderate impetuosity in everything; and this he did, not by means of a public order, but by not repressing their outbreaks, making their will and pleasure an unwritten law).
But the milder and more kingly part, the way of persuasion, he forsooth takes for himself; he did not, however, play this part quite perfectly, for neither is it in Nature that either the leopard should put off its spots or the Aethiopian his blackness, or the fire its burning, or the wicked one, being a murderer from the beginning, his hatred of man, or that he should put off that spiteful disposition with which he started against us. But as the story goes that the chameleon becomes all kinds of colours and readily assumes every hue except the white (for I pass by the Proteus of the fable, that Egyptian trickster), in the same way that man also was and became everything towards the Christians except clemency, and his humanity was very inhuman, and his persuasiveness compulsion, and his goodness an excuse for savageness: in order that he might appear to use force with good reason, when he had failed in persuading.
And this is evident from the fact that persuasion lasted but a short time, whilst much more prevalent was the argument of force that followed close upon it, in order that, as in the hunts, we might be caught either in the snares or by the pursuit; and one way at least should capture us all. In the next place, he being thus disposed and prepared, uses another stratagem against us, with all possible security, though exceeding impiety; he (as is the custom with all persecutors), makes a beginning of his wickedness with those nearest to him and the company around his person; inasmuch as it was not possible to attack those outside if those within were not gained over, just as one cannot lead an army against the enemy which is mutinous towards its own general.
And for this reason he changes the imperial household, first selecting some individuals for death, and banishing others, not as being well disposed to the great emperor (their late master), but as being yet better disposed towards that Greater One, and thereby unserviceable to himself on both accounts. The soldiery he gains over partly by his own efforts, partly through their officers, an engine he considered most to be relied on----part of them being vanquished by the hope of promotion, part seduced by their own simplicity, and knowing no other law than the will of the emperor.
And still more than the army, did he make his own all that portion which he found already corrupt and unsound----time-servers then as they had been before, of whom he had enslaved one half and hoped to do the other, for he had not exterminated the whole body, neither had the power who persecuted through his agency given him. so much strength against us, for there yet remained "over sixteen thousand that had not bent the knee unto Baal," neither had worshipped the Golden Image, neither had been bitten by the serpents, but had looked up to the Serpent that was hung upon a tree, and was destroyed by the sufferings of Christ. For there were many persons in office and in high station, whom there was a probability of overcoming whether by means of fear or of hope; many also of those in lower place, and only considerable through number, in attacking whom he was rebuffed like a warlike engine of unsuitable sort by some well-built wall. Nevertheless, that which escaped did not vex him so much as that which was caught encouraged him (as it naturally would a man so infatuated); and his wishes pictured to him what was hoped for as already in his possession.
Moreover he shows his audacity against the great symbol , which marches in procession along with the Cross, and leads the army, elevated on high, being both a solace to toil, and so named in the Roman language, and king (as one may express it) over all the other standards, whatever are adorned with imperial portraits, and expanded webs in divers dyes and pictures, and whatever, breathing through the fearful gaping mouths of dragons, raised on high on the tops of spears, and filled with wind throughout their hollow bodies, spotted over with woven scales, present to the eye a most agreeable and at the same time terrible show. And when things about him were settled according to his mind, and he was, as he fancied, out of the reach of danger in his own vicinity, he then proceeds to what came next.
O thou most foolish, and impious, and ignorant in great matters! dost thou dare this against the great inheritance and the whole world's harvest, that passes over all limits by means of the simplicity of the Word and the folly, as ye will call it, of the preaching, the which has overcome the wise, and put an end to devils, and has shot over Time, being at once ancient and new, in the same way as ye make a special wonder of one of your own gods; since it is the former by its shadowing forth in types, the latter by the accomplishment of the mystery stored up for its due time? Didst thou not do this against the great heritage of Christ, and who wert thou, and what, and from whence? Against the great heritage, and which will never cease, even though some may rage against it, even more than thou hast done, but which will advance ever further and be exalted? (for I believe the prophecies and the things seen); that heritage which He, as God, hath created, and, as Man, hath inherited; which the Law hath typified, grace fulfilled, and Christ dedicated; which the Prophets built up, the Apostles bound together, and the Evangelists finished off!
Didst thou war against the sacrifice of Christ with thy abominations, against the blood that cleansed the world with thy offerings of blood? Didst thou wage war against Peace? Didst thou lift thy hand against the Hand that was nailed for thee and through thee? Against the Gall didst thou set thine own liking; against the Cross, a trophy; against His death, subversion of religion; against His Resurrection, thy rebellion; against the Martyr, the want of martyrs? Thou persecutor next to Herod, thou traitor next to Judas, except so far as not ending thy life with, a halter, as he did; thou murderer of Christ next to Pilate; thou hater of God next to the Jews!
Hadst thou no respect for the victims slain for Christ's sake? Didst thou not fear those mighty champions, that John, that Peter, Paul, James, Stephen, Luke, Andrew, and Thecla? And those who after them, and before them, faced danger in the cause of Truth, and who confronted the fire, the sword, the wild beasts, the tyrants, with joy, and evils either present or threatening, as though they were in the bodies of others, or rather as if released from the body! And what for? That they might not betray the Truth, even as far as a word goes; those to whom belong the great honours and festivals; those by whom devils are cast out and diseases healed; to whom belong manifestations of future events, and to whom belong prophecies; whose very bodies possess equal power with their holy souls, whether touched or worshipped; of whom even the drops of the blood and little relics of their passion, produce equal effect with their bodies!
All these marvels thou dost not respect, but dost contemn, thou that admirest the funeral pyre of Hercules, the result of his misfortunes and evil doings for women's sake: and that butchery of Pelops for the sake of hospitality, or of piety, in consequence whereof the descendants of Pelops were marked by their shoulders and the piece of ivory; and the castrations of Phrygians, who are fascinated by means of the pipe, and are abused after the piping; and those in the rites of King Mithras, the well-deserved or mystical brandings; and the sacrifice of strangers at Tauri, and the sacrifice of the royal maid before the expedition to Troy; and the blood of Menaeceas shed for Thebes, and that of the daughters of Scedasus for Leuctra; and the Laconian youths lacerated with scourges, and their blood upon the altar so delightful to the pure and virgin goddess; thou that extollest the hemlock of Socrates, and the leg of Epictetus, and the death of Anaxarchus----persons whose philosophy was more the result of compulsion than of choice; and the leap of Cleombrotus the Ambraciote, brought about by the treatise on souls; and Pythagoras' prohibition concerning beans, and Theano's contempt of death, and that of I know not how many of those initiated into her own rites, or following the same philosophy.
But thou must admire at least what is here before thee, if thou dost not those just set forth, thou most philosophical and high-minded of men, that apest the Epaminondases and Scipios of old in the article of the endurance of hardship; thou that marchest on foot along with thy troops, and eatest whatever food is at hand, and praisest that kind of rulership which does everything for itself. For it is the mark of a philosophical and generous mind not to despise the virtue even of enemies, and to give more credit to the valour of foes than to the badness and cowardice of one's own side. Dost thou see these persons here without livelihood and without a home, all but without a body and without blood in their veins, and who in this respect approach near unto God? These men,
"With feet unwashed, and with the earth for bed"
(as thy Homer hath it, in order that he may do honour to one of his demons by the fiction)----these men that are here below, and yet superior to things below? these that are amongst men, and yet above things human; these that are bound, and yet free; that are overcome, yet invincible; that have nothing in this world, and get all things in the world above; of whom the life is double----the one part despised, the other diligently sought after; who are through mortification of themselves immortal; through solitariness united with God; that are without desire, and with the Divinity, and without the passion of earthly love; whose is the Fountain of Light, and its irradiation even now; whose are the angelic chants, the station through the night, and the escape of the soul rapt up, before its time, unto God; to whom belong the power of purifying others, and the being purified themselves; who know no limit either in ascending or in deification; to whom belong the rocks and the heavens; to whom belong the being cast out and the thrones; whose are nakedness and a vesture of incorruptibility; whose are solitude and a solemn assembly here; whose it is to have trampled upon all pleasures, and who have the everlasting and ineffable enjoyment of pleasure; whose is the tear, the bewailing of sin, that purifies one from the world; the stretching forth of whose hands quenches the fire, quells the rage of wild beasts, blunts the edge of the sword, routs legions, and will (be sure) muzzle even thy impiety, even though thou mayest be exalted for a little while, and play the comedy of thy impiousness with thy own demons to help thee!
How comes it that all these things are not terrible to thee, thou too daring man, that runnest into death, if ever anyone did? How comes it they do not inspire thee with respect? And yet they are more worthy of honour than the greediness of Solon, the wise, and the legislator, which Croesus tested by means of his Lydian gold: and than Socrates' love of Beauty (for I am ashamed to say love of boys, although he disguises it very prettily with his inventions): and then Plato's gluttony in Sicily, through which he is sold for a slave, and is ransomed not by one of his own disciples nor by a Greek at all; and then Xenocrates' fondness for fish; and then the wit of Diogenes (he that lived in the tub), whereby he makes strangers give place to kings, out of the tragedy, that is, household bread to the cheese-cakes, or than the philosophy of Epicurus which lays down no Good above Pleasures. Crates is a great man with you; and certainly it was philosophic conduct for a sheep-farmer to have cast away his fortune----conduct quite like that of our own philosophers. But then he makes too much parade of his liberty in his preaching, whereby he shows himself not so much a lover of wisdom as a lover of fame. A great man is he of the tempest-tossed ship, and all the goods thrown overboard, who returned thanks to dame Fortune for reducing him again to the bare cloak. A great man too is Antisthenes, who when he had had his face battered by some mischievous and impudent fellow, wrote upon his forehead, like the maker of a statue, the name of the man who had beaten him----perhaps in order to accuse him more forcibly. Thou dost also praise a man, a little before our own times, because he stood still the space of a whole day, praying to the sun:----perhaps after having waited for the luminary to be nearest to the earth, in order that he might abridge his devotions, which he concluded with the moment of its setting; and also that man's standing, at Potidaea, in the winter season during a whole night, engaged in contemplation, and not feeling the frost, by reason of his ecstasy; or Homer's zeal for knowledge in the case of the Arcadian riddle; or Aristotle's philosophy and attention to the currents of the Euripus, through which puzzles the two came by their deaths; or the well of Cleanthes, and the leather strap of Anaxagoras, and the melancholy of Heraclitus.
How many are they who have done all this, and for how long? Yet thou dost not admire the thousands and tens of thousands of similar examples on our side, of persons practising such philosophy during their whole life, and so to speak, over the whole world; men and women vying together in continence, and forgetting their nature only so far as it behoves them to propitiate God by means of chastity and endurance of hardships, and these not only common people, accustomed to toil through their original mean condition, but also persons, once of high rank and distinguished both for opulence, birth, and station; who now invent for themselves a life of sufferings, in imitation of Christ, of whom though there be no talk (by reason that religion is not placed in talk, and that "brief is the fruit of lip-wisdom," as is the sentiment of one of your own poets also), yet more abundant is the blessedness, and the edification in their actions.
But in spite of this, he slighted all these things, and was bent on one object alone, namely, how to gratify the demons who had often possessed him, as he well deserved. Before settling any other of the affairs of state he rushes upon the Christians, and these two objects engrossed his whole attention, namely the "Galilaeans" (as he insultingly used to call us), and the Persians, who obstinately continued the war, but our affair is much greater and more important, that he considered the war with the Persians a mere trifle and child's play. And this he did not indeed proclaim openly, yet he did not conceal it; and such was the excess of his infatuation that he never ceased avowing it to all parties; neither was this most excellent and sagacious of all sovereigns aware that by the former persecutions it was but a little thing that was troubled and upset, inasmuch as our system of religion had not yet spread over many people, and the Truth was established in only a few, and stood in need of illustration; but now that the Word of Salvation was spread abroad, and prevailed the most in our parts of the world, the attempt to change or upset the status of the Christians was no other than to toss about the Roman empire, and endanger the whole commonwealth, and to suffer at our own hands what not even our enemies would wish us worse; and this too from that new-fangled philosophy and government through which we were made so happy, and had returned once more to that Grolden Age and way of life so free from all fighting and discord!
The government administered with moderation, the lowering of the taxes, the judicious choice of magistrates, the punishment of peculators, and all the other marks of a transient and momentary prosperity and illusion were, forsooth, likely to produce great benefit to the public, and our ears must needs be dinned with their praises; but populations and cities torn by faction, families torn asunder, households set at variance, marriages dissolved., and all else that it was natural should follow that mischievous step, and which really did follow it to a great extent ----were these things conducive either to that man's glory, or to the benefit of the public? and yet who is there either so warm a partisan of impiety (paganism), or so destitute of common sense, that he would assent to this? For, as in the case of the body, if one or two members are diseased, the rest may possibly endure it without harm, and the blessing of health be maintained in the entire person through which even the parts affected may again be set to rights; but when the greater part is at strife, and full of bitterness, there is no possibility for the whole to be well, and such a state of things is manifest danger; in the same manner in governments it happens that single infirmities are covered over by the well-being of the mass; but when the majority are in a rotten state, there is danger to the whole. And this I think anyone else, even of those who hate us most, would have perceived; his bad temper, however, had darkened his reason, and he goes on weaving the snares of persecution for small and great alike.
That measure of his was very childish and silly; so far from being that of a prince, as not even to be worthy of a person moderately sound of understanding, and this was his fancying that our subversion would follow upon his changing of our name, or that he shamed us as though called by the most opprobrious of titles. He immediately makes a change in our appellation, naming us Galilaeans instead of Christians, and making it law we should so be styled; proving by the act that the being called after Christ is a very great thing to one's glory, and highly honourable, by the very fact that he plotted how to deprive us of the same; being perhaps afraid of that Name, as are the devils, and for that reason changing it to another name, something neither customary nor generally known.
We, however, will not disturb their names, for we could not change them into any other name more ridiculous than what they have----their "Phalli" and their "Ithyphalli," their "Melampygi" and their "Apygi," their "Tragopan," and their venerable "Pan" himself, one god born out of many lovers, and receiving his disgrace for his name; for with them it is necessary either that the one and the most excellent Being should have sinned against many women, or else that he was the son of many fathers, and the most vile in his origin. We therefore will not begrudge them either their doings or their names, but let them enjoy their own folly, and pride themselves upon things the most disgraceful, and, should they wish it, we will leave them their "Bulleater," and their "Child of three Nights," in order the more to gratify them; him that was begotten and that begot others so respectably: performing for his thirteenth labour the feat of the fifty daughters of Thestias in one night, in order that through such exploits he might be styled a god. For the Christians (if they chose, that is) had many appellations to fit him selected out of his own stock, and those more disgraceful and more proper for him than the name he gave us. For what should have hindered us from joking in return with the emperor of the Romans (and as he fancied himself, deluded as he was by his demons, of all the world), and styling him "Idolianus," and "Pisaeas," and "Adonaeus," and "Bull-burner," as some of the wits amongst us actually entitled him (inasmuch as this were a very easy business), and whatever other names history supplies us with, either to parody or to coin consistently with truth?
But the strangest thing of all is that when the Saviour and Lord of all, the Creator and Ruler of this lower universe, the Son and Word of the Great Father, Mediator, High-priest, and Partner of His throne; He, who for the sake of us that had dishonoured His image, and had cast it down to the ground, and who knew not the great mystery of the Union, had not merely "come down into the form of a servant," but had gone up unto the Cross, carrying with Him my sin, to die there----that He being called a Samaritan, and what is much worse, accused of being possessed by a devil, was neither ashamed, nor reproached those who insulted Him----He to whom it was an easy thing to avenge himself upon the wicked by means of the angelic host, and by a single word----but that He answered those that insulted Him, altogether patiently and with mildness, and shed tears for those who crucified Him----a very strange thing it was for him to think that we would be vexed or ashamed at being so called, or be slackened in our zeal for the good cause, or would make more account of his insults than of our own lives and bodies, which we know how to despise for the Truth's sake! But this matter which I have mentioned was more ridiculous than annoying, and we send it back to the stage ----at all events we should never be able to surpass those who thus joke and are joked at with things of the sort upon the head.
That thing, however, was very bad and ill-natured in him, when not being able to persuade us openly, and being ashamed to use force like a tyrant, he disguised the foe in the lion's skin, or if you like it better, he disguised in the mask of Menos, a measure most unjust. What is the proper name for it? He forced with gentleness. The rest I shall leave to such as choose to inquire into or to write about him, as my discourse is hastening to its conclusion, since I think that many, to whom it will seem a pious deed to cast a word at a sinner, will be interested in what I know not whether to call the tragedy or the comedy of that season, in order that a fact of such importance, and by no means deserving of oblivion, may be handed down to those who come after us. But instead of telling all, I will mention one or two things as a specimen, for the benefit of those who so greatly admire his conduct, that they may be convinced they are endeavouring to praise a person for whom it is not even possible to find censure equal to his deserts.
It is a royal custom, I know not whether with all men amongst whom royalty exists, but certainly with the Romans, and one, too, of those most thought of, that the reigning princes shall be honoured with public statues. For the crowns, and the diadems, and the dye of the purple robe, and the numbered life guards, and the multitude of subjects do not suffice to establish their sovereignty, but they must needs have adoration through which they may appear more awful----and not merely that adoration which they receive in person, but also that received in their statues and pictures, in order that the veneration may be more insatiable and more complete. These portraits different emperors delight in accompanying with other representations; some the chief cities of their dominions offering them gifts, others, Victories holding garlands over their heads; others, their officials doing homage to them, and decorated with the insignia of their charges; others, hunting scenes and feats of archery; others, barbarians overcome, and trampled under foot, or being slaughtered in a variety of forms; for they love not only the realities of the actions upon which they pride themselves, but also the representations of the same.
Now what does this man contrive, and what snare does he set for the former sort of Christians? Like those who mix poison with food, he mixes his impiety (idolatry) with the customary honours of the sovereign, and thus bringing into one the Roman laws and the worship of idols; he associates his own portraits with the figures of his demons, pretending that they were some other sort of customary representations. He exposes these figures to peoples and to cities, and above all to those in government of nations, so that he could not miss being in one way or another mischievous: for either by the honour paid to the sovereign that to idols was also insinuated, or else by the shunning of the latter the sovereign himself was insulted, the worship of the two being mixed up together. This treachery, and so cunningly devised snare of impiety, a few indeed escape (of the more cautious and intelligent sort), but these get punished for their sagacity on the pretext that they had offended against the respect due to the emperor; but, in reality, because they braved the danger for the sake of their true sovereign and their religion. But many of the more ignorant and simple sort were caught in the trap, who, perhaps, deserve pardon for their ignorance, thus drawn away by stratagem into impiety. So much for this, which alone were enough to brand with infamy the policy of an emperor; for we do not hold that the same conduct is becoming in princes as in private persons, seeing that the two things are not of the same importance. For a private individual may be excused for effecting his object by artifice----for often in those to whom force is not possible, this way of contrivance must be conceded; but in the case of a sovereign, as it is very disgraceful to be overcome by force, so is it, in my opinion, much more disgraceful and unbecoming to gain his ends and purpose, like a thief, by means of trickery.
Another action of his, which proceeded from the same motive and policy, but much worse and more impious in degree, inasmuch as the mischief extended itself to a greater number of sufferers, is what I shall subjoin to what has been already told. It was the day of an imperial distribution of gifts (either the annual one or extemporized by the emperor at the moment out of malice), when the soldiery were ordered to attend to be rewarded according to the merit, or to the rank of such. Again comes on that ignoble farce; again, that impious comedy! In order that his cruelty might be painted over with a certain show of benevolence, and the soldiers' inconsiderateness and greediness (in which they generally live) might be caught by the bait of money! Now he sat in state in all his splendour, splendidly holding festival against Religion, and priding himself upon the success of his tricks, like a Melampus, I ween, or a Proteus, being and becoming all things, and changing his forms with perfect ease. But what sort of things were those surrounding him, and what lamentations do they not deserve, not only from those then present at the scene, but also from those now receiving that atrocious spectacle through their ears?
There was placed before him gold, there was placed before him incense; the fire at hand; the masters of the ceremonies close by. And the pretext how plausible! that this was the regular formality of the imperial donative, that is to say, of the more ancient and honorific description. What next? Each was obliged to throw incense upon the fire, and so to receive gold from the emperor, pay for perdition, small price for so dear a thing ----for entire souls of men, and for sin against God! Alas, for the bargain! alas, for the bartering! A whole army to be purchased for one trick! and they that had subdued the whole world were overthrown by a tiny fire, a gold coin, and by means of a little incense----smoke; the greater part of them not even being aware
of the sacrifice of themselves! for this was the most grievous part of the business: each passed in review with the idea he was to get something; and did not even keep himself after getting it! He kissed the emperor's hand, and did not know that he was kissing his own murderer! And those who did know it were none the better off; when once involved in the mischief, and taking for an inviolable law their own original inadvertence. What myriads of Persians, what archers, what slingers had effected this! What soldier of steel, in armour of proof, what battering engines had brought about what was effected by a single hand, a single moment, and a vile trick!
Shall I join with this a yet more painful sting than what is told above? It is reported that some of those thus unwittingly taken in, after they had been thus treated, and were returned home, they gave an entertainment to their messmates (toi=j sussi/toij koinwne=in trape/zhj). After the meal, when the drinking had advanced as far as the customary cold draught, they, as though no harm had happened, invoked the name of Christ over the bowl containing the liquor, casting their eyes upwards with the sign of the Cross. Some one of their messmates, wondering at it, said: "What means this? Do ye mention Christ, after renouncing Him?" "How have we renounced Him?" reply they, half dead with fright, "and what is this strange news we hear?" On his reply, "You have thrown incense on the fire," and informing them that was the renunciation, they immediately, leaping up from the banquet like men out of their senses and frantic, boiling with zeal and fury, they rushed through the grand square, shouting out and calling, "We are Christians! Christians in our souls! Let every man hear it, and God above all, unto Whom we live and will die! We have not been false to Thee, O Saviour Christ; we have not denied the blessed Confession; if the hand has erred at all, the conscience has not gone with it. We have been cunningly entrapped by the Emperor, we have not turned traitors for gold. We cast off the impiety; we cleanse ourselves with our blood." Then running up to the Emperor, they cried out very boldly, "We have not received gifts, O Emperor, but have been condemned to death; we have not been summoned for honour, but have been sentenced to disgrace. Grant a favour to thy own soldiers: sacrifice us to Christ, of Whom alone we are the subjects: give us fire instead of the fire; make ashes of us instead of those ashes: cut off the hands which we so wickedly extended; the feet with which we so wickedly ran. Honour with thy gold others that will not repent of having taken it; Christ suffices us, Whom we have in the place of all things." Saying these words all with one voice, they also exhorted the rest to understand the fraud, to recover from their intoxication, to make excuse to Christ with their blood. The Emperor was exasperated at this, but avoided putting them to death openly, that he might not make martyrs out of them----they who, as far as depended on themselves at least, were true martyrs; he sentenced them to banishment, and so took his revenge on them, thereby conferring on them the greatest benefit, that they should be stationed at a distance from his abominations and his stratagems.
And yet, although he followed such a course, and exhibited his malevolence in many things, he did not constantly keep to the same design, because his mind had no stability, but depended entirely on the inspiration of the demon; neither did he keep the secret of his wickedness, but, as the story goes, like as the fire of Etna slumbers within the recesses of the mountain, swelling like a flood from below, and violently compressed (whether it be something else, or the panting of the Giant in torment), for a while it utters a suppressed but fearful sound, and belches out from its summit smoke, a token of the mischief going on within; but if it should be superabundant, and grow irrepressible, bursting forth from its proper bosom, rushing upwards, and pouring over the edges of the crater, it devastates parts of the subjacent land with its treacherous and fearful stream;----in just such a manner you might have found him keeping himself under restraint, and attacking our community with the deceitfulness of his sophistical creed; but whenever the unruliness of his rage overflowed, then was he no longer able to conceal his malice, but carried on the persecution without disguise against our divine and pious band.
To pass over his edicts against the sacred edifices, both such as were publicly set forth and such as were privately executed; his confiscation of offerings and revenues, not so much out of impiety as avarice; his robbery of consecrated vessels, insulted by profane hands, and those who, on account of these vessels, were brought to judgment and put to the torture, priests and their flock, and the columns besmeared with blood, surrounded and girded by their hands whilst they were lacerated with the scourges; and the archers running about through towns and villages, yet more cruel and more fierce than he who had commanded this, in order that, instead of Persians and Scythians and the other barbarians, they might subdue us;---- to say nothing of all this, who does not know of the cruelty of the Alexandrians, who, besides the many other atrocities they committed against us, taking immoderate advantage of the occasion, being a population by nature factious and furious, are reported to have added this also to their impious deeds, that they filled our sacred edifice with blood, alike that of sacrificed beasts and murdered men; and to have done this under the direction of a certain person amongst the Emperor's philosophers, only celebrated for deeds of the sort. Who is ignorant of the tumult of the Heliopolitans? Who, of the mad behaviour of the people of Gaza----those that were praised and rewarded by that man because they had properly appreciated his magnificence? Who has not heard of the insanity of the Arethusians, a place previously unknown, but ever since that time only too notorious? for it is not only distinguished conduct that renders people famous, but also any wickedness that surpasses other people's reputation for evil.
They are said----for I must relate one fact out of many, a thing to cause a shudder even in those without God!----to have seized consecrated virgins, superior to the world, and unpolluted almost by even the eyes of males, and brought them out into their midst, stripping them of their clothes in order to abase them first by the exposure, then ripping them up and cutting them open (O Christ, how can I put up with Thy longsuffering on this occasion!). Some feasted on them abominably with their own teeth, in a way worthy of their evil genius; gorged themselves with their raw livers; and after that repast, took another of the usual and lawful kind; whilst others, sprinkling the yet panting entrails with swine's food, and letting in the fiercer sort of swine, exhibited a show----and what a show!----to behold the flesh eaten up, and chewed together with the barley----a food not to be approached, and then for the first time seen, or even heard of! With which to feed his own demons only did the contriver of such scenes deserve, as in truth he did feed them right well with that blood and that wound which he received in his own entrails, even though those wretched men, not even possessed of common sense by reason of their impiety, may continue blind to the fact.
But as to the affair of Marcus----that admirable man ----and of the Arethusians, who is there so much out of our world as to be ignorant of it, and not anticipate the narrator with the story? This man, in the time of the excellent Constantius, having, under the authority then granted to the Christians, pulled down a certain habitation of demons, and turned many Christians from the error of heathenism unto salvation, no less by the sanctity of his life than through the power of his preaching, had long been an object of hatred to the Arethusians, or rather to the devil-worshippers among the Arethusians. But when the power of the Christians was shaken, and that of the heathen began to revive, Marcus did not escape the tyranny of the times; for the mob, although it may keep under its passions for the present, like a fire smouldering amongst sticks, or a torrent strongly dammed up, is wont, when it gets an opportunity, to blaze up and burst forth. Seeing, therefore, the commotion of the people against him, who were intending and threatening extreme measures, at first he meditates making his escape, not so much out of cowardice, as on account of the commandment bidding one to flee from one city to another city, and give way unto the persecutors; seeing that it behoves people, being Christians, to have regard, not merely to what concerns themselves (even though they be very courageous, and full of fortitude), but likewise even to spare their persecutors, so that the share in the business, at least, belonging to themselves, shall not contribute to the danger of their enemies. But when many persons were seized and pulled about on his account, and were even in danger of their souls by reason of the cruelty of the persecutors, he would not suffer others to be imperilled for his individual security; and therefore he forms a resolution at once most virtuous and most philosophic. He returns from flight, comes and surrenders himself to the mob to treat as they please, and boldly faces the hostility of the times. On that occasion what horror was wanting? What new cruelty not invented? Whilst his assailants each contributed a different thing to the concert of the one wickedness, and did not respect, if nothing else, the philosophic behaviour of their victim. Nay, they were the more exasperated on that account, and interpreted his giving himself up as contempt for themselves, and not as courage to face dangers.
The aged priest was led in triumph through the city, a voluntary champion of the faith, venerable for his age, yet more venerable for his dignity, except in the eyes of his persecutors and tyrants! He was led along by every age and condition, with no exception, alike by men and women, old and young, by all who held public offices, and by all people of rank. All had but one object of emulation, how to surpass each other in atrocity towards the aged man; and it was considered by them a pious deed to do the most mischief, and to conquer the ancient champion who was fighting against the whole town. He was dragged through the streets, he was thrust into the sewers, he was pulled by the hairs, not only of the head, but of every part of the body without exception, shame being mingled with torment, at the hands of people who deservedly are thus tortured in the rites of Mithras , he was tossed in the air from one set of school-boys to another, who caught that noble body on the points of their writing-styles, and made a game out of a tragedy: he had his legs squeezed with slip-knots to the very bones, he had his ears cut through with twine, and that of the thinnest and sharpest sort, hoisted on high in a hamper, smeared over with honey and pickle, he was lacerated by bees and wasps at noon-day, when the sun was darting his flames, and melting away the flesh of the victim, but making his assailant get more fierce in the devouring of that happy flesh, for I cannot call it wretched. In that situation it is said, that----let this also be deemed worthy of record----that this old man, youthful and bold to face his trials (for his cheerfulness never deserted him amidst these horrors, but on the contrary he exulted in his torments), uttered that memorable and often quoted expression "that he approved of the omen, beholding himself raised on high, and them humbled and lying below him." So greatly was he superior to those that had him in their power, and so much was he beyond the reach of their vexations, as though he were present at the danger of another, and considered the whole scene as a triumph, not a calamity.
And yet what man, even in the smallest degree equitable and humane, would not have respected his behaviour? But the times did not allow of it, neither did the zeal of the emperor that exacted cruelty from mobs, cities, and magistrates, even whilst he pretended the contrary to such as did not understand the depth of his malice. Such was the treatment of this intrepid old man----and what for? That he might not throw away a single piece of gold upon his tormentors, in order that it might be clear that he was enduring all this on account of religion. For as long as the other party made the compensation for the temple (he had pulled down) very heavy and demanded from him the amount in full, or else required him to rebuild the temple at his own cost, it was thought that the impossibility of the demand, and not his religious scruples, was the reason for his obstinacy. But when he got the better of them by his fortitude, and continually made them subtract something from the valuation, he at the end reduced it so far that the sum demanded was extremely small, and very easy for him to pay. And there was equal emulation on both sides----the one party to gain their point by receiving ever so little, the other, not to be subdued into paying anything at all, although there were many eager to contribute even a larger amount, not merely from piety, but on account of the firmness and fortitude of the individual. On that occasion he showed that he was carrying on the contest, not for the sake of the money, but for his religion.
Are these things then evidences of good nature and clemency, or the reverse, marks of audacity and cruelty? Let these tell us who admire the prince-philosopher. For my part I fancy no one in the world will be at a loss for the proper and true answer, and I have not yet added that amongst those who saved the villain when his whole family was in danger, and carried him off by stealth, this Marcus was one; for which deed alone he justly, perhaps, suffered this treatment, nay, was deserving of suffering even worse, because he had unwittingly preserved such a pest to the whole world! It is reported that the then Prefect (for he was a person, though a heathen in religion, yet superior to all the heathen, both those of old and those of reputation in the present day) spoke thus with boldness to the emperor, because he could not consent to the varied tortures inflicted on the old man, and his fortitude under them: "Are we not ashamed, Sire, to be so much beaten by all Christians as to be unable to get the better of a single old man, that has undergone every kind of torture? And when the subduing of him is no great triumph, is it not the extreme of ill-luck to come away beaten by him? And thus, as it seems, subordinates were ashamed of the very conduct that emperors gloried in. Than this what could happen more distressing for the actors than for the sufferers? Such was the affair of the Arethusians, and so conducted----so that the cruelty of Echetos and of Phalaris was a trifle compared to the barbarity of those people, or rather of him that stimulated and brought about these atrocities----for from the seed come the plants, and from the gale come the wrecks.
The rest of my tale, of what a kind, and how extensive is it! Would that someone would give me the leisure and the eloquence of Herodotus and Thucydides, that I may fitly deliver down to all time to come the wickedness of that man, and that the stories of that period may be posted up for those who come after us! I will say nothing about the Orontes and the nightly murders which the Orontes concealed at the emperor's command, its stream choked with corpses, and slaying without making a show; for here it would be more to the purpose to quote the lines of the "Iliad." I will hurry over the vaults and recesses of his place, and all that there was in the cisterns, in the wells, and in the conduits, crammed as they were with wicked stores and mysteries----not only of boys and maidens cut into pieces for the purpose of raising ghosts, for divination, and for unlawful sacrifices, but also of persons who had perished for their religion. Let us put down all this to the account of those of whom even he was ashamed----in this at least acting rightly, for he showed by the attempt to conceal it that the abomination was not a seemly thing to be made public. The affair, however, of our friends at Caesarea, those that were so immoderate and hot in the zeal for religion, and were so harassed and insulted by him on that account, it is perhaps not reasonable to blame him for, as he appeared to be rightly exasperated on account of Dame Fortune's having come to grief in the moment of his good fortune----since we must make some allowance even to unrighteousness when it is in power.
But who is ignorant of the story how that when a certain mob was running mad against the Christians, and had already committed great slaughter, and was threatening a great deal more, the governor of that province, steering a middle course between the temper of the times and the law (for he thought himself obliged to serve the former, but at the same time had a tolerable respect for the latter), he executed many of the Christians, but punished a very few of the heathen. Thereupon, being summoned before the emperor, on such charge brought against him, he was cashiered, arrested, and tried on this charge. He put forward in his defence the laws in accordance with which he had been entrusted with the administration of justice----he narrowly escaped being sentenced to death at last, however, he met with indulgence, and was condemned to exile. And how admirable and humane was the speech, when, that upright judge, that non-persecutor of the Christians, said: "What great matter is it if a single Grecian hand has despatched ten Galilaeans!" Was not this undisguised savageness? Was not this an edict of persecution infinitely more precise in terms, and more terrible than those publicly posted up? For what difference is there between enacting penalties for the Christians and showing oneself pleased with those that persecuted the Christians, and making a heavy charge out of one's acting impartially? For the will of a prince is an unwritten law, being backed by might, and one of far greater force than the written laws that be not supported by authority.
"Not so," say those who venerate his memory, and are making up for us this "new god," this "sweet-tempered, philanthropic personage," and this because he proclaimed, "Let not the Christians be persecuted, but let them suffer whatever their persecutors think fit," in such manner clearing him from the charge of persecution. And yet no one ever thought the Hydra gentle because it raised aloft nine heads instead of a single one (if it be right to believe the fable); nor yet the Chimera of Patara, because it had three, and those of different kinds, to make it as formidable as possible; or Cerberus in Hell, because he has three also, and all alike; or the sea-monster, Scylla, because she has six round about her, and those greatly to be shunned; and yet they say her upper parts are fair, gentle, and not unpleasing to the view, for so far she was a young woman, having some share of the same nature with ourselves; but from thence downwards the canine and bestial heads were there for no good, seizing upon whole fleets at once, and differing nought in point of dangerousness from the Charybdis on the opposite side. Or dost thou upbraid the shafts and the stones of archers and slingers, and not the men that sling and shoot them? Or again, the hounds of the hunters, and the drugs of the poisoners, and the horns and the claws of butting bulls and of tearing beasts? And shall those who employ these instruments stand out of it and get no part of the blame for the atrocities these instruments commit? Such conduct shows great want of reason, and truly needs a sophist to defend his own crimes, and by the power of his eloquence to disguise the truth. But it is impossible that he shall disguise himself, though he turn himself into many shapes, and become of all kinds by means of his devices; even though he should put on the "Helmet of Pluto," as the saying is, or the Ring of Gyges, and by using the turning of the beasil steal himself away. On the contrary, the more he attempts to escape and to turn himself away, so much the more is he convicted before Truth, who sits in judgment (and before persons of any intelligence in these matters), of both doing and attempting things that not even he would be able to defend as justly done: so easily convicted is wickedness, and on all sides inconsistent with itself.
And it is not that the things he was already doing were of such a nature as I have described, and so far removed from the generosity and dignity of a sovereign, whilst those he was intending were more clement and more worthy of an emperor; it would have been a very good job if they did not prove far more inhuman than the actions already stated. For as when a great serpent moves along some of its scales stand up on end, others half way, others are about to be similarly erected, whilst it cannot but be that the rest will in their turn be set in motion, even though at the moment they appear motionless; or, if you like the simile better, as in a thunderstorm, part is already come down, part is blackening overhead, until this too shall come down when the mischief acquires the force sufficient. In the same way was it with him too----part of his wickedness had been already committed, part was being sketched out by his hopes and his threats against us. And these measures were so preposterous and out of the common course, as to be due to his invention exclusively, both as to the planning of them and the wish to put them into execution, although there had been before him many persecutors of the Christians.
For things of which Diocletian never dreamed (he that first wantonly attacked the Christians); nor yet Maximian, who followed and went beyond him; nor yet Maximin (Daza), who came after them, and surpassed both as a persecutor, the signs of whose chastizement for this crime his statues, exposed in public, yet display, and publish for his infamy the mutilation of his body. These things was he meditating, as the sharers in his secrets (and betrayers of them attest) declare. But he was held back by the hand of God, and by the tears of the Christians----many of which, indeed, were shed, and by many who had no other remedy against the persecutor. This plan of his was to deprive the Christians of all freedom of speech, to exclude them from all meetings, markets, and public assemblies, nay, even from the law-courts; for that no one should be allowed to participate in all these who did not first burn incense upon altars set there for the purpose, and pay to him a mighty price, and that for so great a favour! Oh! ye laws, lawgivers, and sovereigns, that, like the beauty of the sky, the light of the sun, the diffusion of the air, are ordained for a common and impartial blessing unto all, in like manner ordaining for all free men the benefit of the laws, equally and for the same price, of which he was plotting how to deprive the Christians. So that neither would it be allowed them, when tyrannically used, to obtain redress; nor if defrauded in their money matters, or ill-treated in any way less or more, to be helped by the laws; but that they should be banished from their own country, be slain, and almost excluded from things inanimate! Actions these that brought to the sufferers greater zeal for the good cause, and freedom of speech towards God, but upon those that committed them the more criminality and dishonour!
And how very clever was the argument of him that was at once executioner and sovereign, law-breaker, and law-maker; or, to speak more correctly, rather "enemy and avenger," according to our way of speaking. "That it was part of our religion neither to resist injury nor to go to law, nor to possess anything at all, nor to consider anything one's own, but to live in the other world, and to despise things present as though they were not; neither is it lawful for anyone to return evil for evil, but when they are smitten on the one cheek to turn the other also to the smiter, and to be stripped of the coat after the cloak;" and perhaps he will add, "ought to pray for those that injured them, and wish well to their persecutors." 'Tis very true he could not help knowing all this----he that once was a Reader of the divine oracles, was a candidate for the honour of the great pulpit, and used to glorify the Martyrs by the gift of churches and of consecrated lands!
In which place I am first astonished that the man so accurately acquainted with all this, had not observed, or else had purposely overlooked that text, "The wicked man shall perish in an evil way, and so shall everyone that denieth God;" nay (what is going further than this ), whilst he was plaguing such as stood fast in their confession, and was entangling them in such troubles as he himself richly deserved to fall into. If, therefore, according to the rule he prescribes, "that we must be such as above described, and abide within the limits defined," he is able to prove that fact ---- then judgment is passed on him that he is the worse of the two, or else that this conduct is well-pleasing to his own gods; and inasmuch as habits are divided into two kinds (I mean Virtue and Vice), he proves that the better part is set apart for us, the worse cast contemptuously to his side. Let him allow this, and then we shall gain our cause by the testimony of our adversaries and those prosecuting us. But if they make any pretence to generosity and clemency, in speech at least if not in action, and are not so devoid of shame (even though they be very wicked and delight in evil gods) as to assert that Vice, like one of two snares, belongs to them----let them show in that case how and where it is just that we when wronged shall endure it patiently, whilst they should not spare us who spare them? View the matter in this way: seasons of power have come to us as well as to you, revolving and changing from one side to the other. What has ever happened to your party from the Christians of the kind that has often happened to the Christians from your party? Of what liberty of speech have we debarred you? Against whom have we stirred up furious mobs, or officials going far beyond their instructions? Whom have we brought into peril of his life, or rather, whom have we expelled from their offices and honours that belong by right to the best men? And to sum up all, upon whom have we inflicted anything like what has often been perpetrated by your side, and often been threatened? Not even yourselves can say this, you who cast in our teeth our own gentleness and humanity.
And then how comes it that thou dost not consider this circumstance, thou wisest and most knowing of men, thou that confinest the Christians within the strictest limit of virtue, that in our code of laws some rules carry with them the necessity of obedience to their injunctions; and which, if not observed, punishment follows; whereas others do not carry with them obligation, but voluntary obedience; whilst for such as do not observe them, no punishment whatever follows. Now if it were possible for all to be very good, and attain to the extreme point of virtue, this certainly would be best and most perfect: and since things divine are distinct from things human, and whilst the former have in themselves all that is good, it is a great thing if the latter attain even to mediocrity----what is the meaning of thy prescribing rules that are not meant for all, or else that they are condemned who do not keep them; just as though those not deserving of capital punishment were ipso facto deserving of commendation: and, on the other hand, those not worthy of commendation deserved capital punishment; but rather the right thing is so long as we remain within the limits of our own system and of human capability, then to demand of us correctness of conduct.
But I must carry back my words to the subject of words; for I cannot help returning to this point, and must endeavour to the best of my ability to advocate their cause: for though there are many and weighty reasons why that person deserves to be detested, yet in no case will he be shown to have acted more illegally than in this: and let everyone share in my indignation who takes a pleasure in words, and is addicted to this pursuit----of which number I will not deny that I am one: all other things I have left to those who like them, riches, nobility, glory, power, which are of the lower world, and give delights fleeting like a dream. Words alone I cleave to, and I do not begrudge the toils by land and sea that have supplied me with them. May mine be the possession of words, and his, too, whoever loves me, which possession I embraced, and still embrace, first of all after the things that be first of all----I mean Religion and the Hope beyond the visible world----so that if, according to Pindar, "what is one's own weighs heavily," speech in their defence is incumbent upon me; and it is especially just for me, perhaps more than anyone else, to express my gratitude to words for words by word of mouth.
How did it come into thy head, thou silliest and greediest of mortals, to deprive the Christians of words? (For this was not one of the measures threatened only, but of those actually enforced.) Whence came the idea, and for what cause? What " oracular " Hermes, as thou wouldst call him, put this notion into thy head? What Telchines did it, those mischievous and envious demons? If thou pleasest we will assign the reason: it was fated that thou for attempting so many things contrary to law, shouldest finally be brought down to this, and publicly be inconsistent with thyself: that in the very thing, on which thou most didst pride thyself, in this thou shouldest unconsciously disgrace thyself, and receive the more painful condemnation. Answer, pray, what does thy decree mean, and what is the reason of this innovation with respect to words? And if thou canst show any just cause, we shall indeed be vexed, yet we will not blame thee; for as we have learnt how to conquer with reason on our side, so have we also been taught how to be beaten fairly.
"Ours" (says he) "are the words and the speaking of Greek, whose right it is to worship the gods; yours are the want of words, and clownishness, and nothing beyond the faith in your own doctrine." At this, those I fancy will not laugh, who follow the sect of Pythagoras amongst you, with whom the "a)uto_j e1fa" is the first and greatest of articles of faith; and preferable to the "Golden (perhaps Leaden) Words." For after that preliminary and much celebrated training of Silence of such as were initiated into his doctrine (in order that they might be trained in bridling speech by dint of holding their tongues), it was the rule, 'tis said, that when questioned about any one of his tenets, they replied in explanation, when the reason was asked, that it had been so decreed by Pythagoras himself: and that the reason of the doctrine was what had come intothat sage's head, without proof, and unquestioned. Thus your "He said so" comes to the same thing with our "Believe," but in other syllables and terms, although you never give over ridiculing and abusing the latter. For our saying means that it is not allowable to disbelieve things said by divinely-inspired persons, but that the proof of the Word is their trustworthiness, a thing more convincing than any logical argument or defence.
However, allow this part of our notions to be worthy of ridicule: in what way wilt thou prove that words concern thee? Nay, if they be thine, how canst thou show that we have no part in them, according to thy legislation and unreasonableness? Whose property are the words of the Greek language? And how must that language be spoken and conceived? Let me define the meaning of the term to thee, O thou man that busiest thyself about synonyms, and meanings, and things of different signification under one name, or the same under different names, and so forth----for thou must either assert that they belong to the religion, or else to the nation which first invented the meaning of the language. If speaking Greek belongs to the religion, pray show where it is the rule, and amongst what sort of priests (like particular sorts of sacrifices), and in honour of what kind of diction? Since all nations have not the same doctrines, nor any single one the sole possession of them; nor yet the same ceremonial, as it is laid down by your own sacred interpreters and directors of sacrifice. For in some places, with the Sindians for instance, it is a religious action to curse the "Bull-eater," and this is a way of doing honour to the god, namely, the reviling of him; or with the Tauri to sacrifice strangers; or with the Saconeans to be flogged upon the altar; or with the Phrygians to castrate themselves when fascinated by the sound of the fife, and emasculated by force of dancing: or amongst others, to abuse boys, or to prostitute oneself; and whatever else belongs to the different Mysteries, not to mention them one by one: in the same manner, for whom of the gods or demons dost thou pretend that speaking Greek is reserved? And yet even though such were the case, it is not even then made out that this tongue is Heathen property, nor that it is the common good set apart for any one of your gods or demons, in the same way as the custom is to sacrifice many other common things.
But if thou wilt not pretend thus much, and yet will lay claim to the language, and the property of your side, and consequently shut us out of it, as from an estate descended to you by right of inheritance, with which we have no concern----in the first place I do not see what are thy reasons, nor how thou wilt make good this claim for thy demons. For it does not follow that, if we have agreed that such as are Greeks in tongue and in religion are the same people, then, as a matter of course, the words belong to the religion, and we are reasonably pronounced to be excluded from the use of them. This inference, at least, is judged by your own grammarians as illogical, since it does not follow that because the two things have to do with one and the same, that they necessarily are both identical with each other. Or, put the case in this way, if we suppose the same person to be both a goldsmith and a painter, will "goldsmith's work" be changed into "painting," or "painting" into "goldsmith's work?" Such arguments are mere waste of time.
In the next place, I will ask thee, thou philhellene and philologian, whether it is thy intention to debar us entirely from speaking Greek----for instance, from this kind of ordinary and prose expressions, of vulgar use, or merely from the polished and transcendental style, as not allowable to be approached by any others than persons of superior education? If the latter, what loss is it to us if such words as smerdale\on, or kanabi/zein, or mw~n, or dh&pouqen, or a#tta, or o(mwsge/pwj, be accounted as belonging to the select language, and all the rest be thrown to the mob, as were bastards of old into the Cynosarges? But if what is commonplace and plain be also a part of speaking Greek, why do ye not exclude us from this also; or, in short, from the Greek tongue altogether, of whatever kind, or in whatever condition it be? Such a course would be the more humane, and put the finishing-stroke to your own barbarism.
The case stands thus (let me philosophize to thee in a more exalted and refined manner): If there are certain sounds issuing from the vocal organs, diffusing themselves through the air, and penetrating into the ears, superior to our own, and more expressive; for I laugh at your majestic terms, the "Moly," the "Xanthus," and the "Chalces,"
or whether they (the gods) converse with one another by means of bare thoughts and ideas, it is not our part to determine; but what is our part is this---- that a language is not the property of those that invented it, but of those who share in the same; neither is there any art or occupation, of whatsoever sort thou mayest think of, which is not subject to this rule; but just as in a skilfully-composed and musical harmony there is a different sound of each different string, either high or low, yet all belong to one tuner and performer, contributing together to the single beauty of the tune, in the same way, also, the artist and creator, Speech, has appointed a different word for the inventor of each different art or occupation, and has exposed them all alike for public use, coupling together human society by the ties of mutual communication and kindness, and rendering it more gentle.
Is speaking Greek thy exclusive right? Pray tell me, are not the letters of the alphabet the invention of the Phoenicians, or, as others say, of the Egyptians, or of those yet wiser than they, the Hebrews----if they believe that the Law was engraved by God upon divinely inscribed tables of stone? Is the Attic language thy right? To calculate sums, and to count, to reckon on the fingers weights and measures, and, before all these, tactics and military rules, to whom do they belong? Do they not to the Euboeans, since Palamedes was an Euboean----that inventor of many things, and thereby becoming an object of jealousy, and having to pay the penalty of his cleverness, condemned to death by those who fought against Troy? What, pray, if Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Hebrews are those whom we employ in common for our own education----supposing the natives of Euboea should make a claim (according to the rule thou hast laid down) for the things specially belonging to themselves, what in the world shall we do? And what defence shall we offer to them when convicted by laws of our own making? Surely there is no help for it, we must be dispossessed of these things, and suffer the fate of the jackdaw, stripped bare, divested of our borrowed plumes, and made objects of ridicule.
Are poems thine by right? Do they not rather belong to that old lady who, being bumped on the shoulder by someone that was running violently in the opposite direction, as the story goes, in reviling the vehemence of his haste, gave utterance to an epic verse? And this same verse having greatly taken the young man's fancy, and been more carefully reduced to metre, created thy poetry, so greatly admired. And what of the rest? If thou pridest thyself so much upon arms, from whom dost thou get arms, my noble sir? Is it not from the Cyclops, the inventors of forging metal? And if a great thing in thy estimation----nay, the greatest of all that are----is that imperial purple, in virtue of which thou art a wise man and a lawgiver (of this sort), must not thou take it off and return it to the Tyreans, to whom belongs the sheep-keeping bitch that having fed upon the shell-fish, and stained her lips, thereby made the dye known to the shepherd, and bestowed upon you sovereigns the proud rag so full of woe unto the wicked! And husbandry and shipbuilding----what shall we say if the Athenians debar us from them, when they tell about their Ceres and their Triptolemus, and the Dragons, and Celeus, and Icarius, and the whole stock of legends concerning them, which have turned them into an infamous Mystery, one truly worthy of the night?
Dost thou wish me to ascend to the main article in thy madness, or rather infatuation? Whence come the very practice of initiating and being initiated, and religious ceremony? Do not they all proceed from the Thracians? Let the very appellation (threskeuein) convince thee. As for sacrificing victims, does not that come from the Assyrians, or perhaps the Cyprians; the observation of the stars from the Chaldeans, the art of land-measuring from the Egyptians? Is not the science of magic a Persian invention? The interpretation of dreams, from whom else dost thou hear it but from the Telmessians? And augury, from whom else than the Phrygians, the first men to study the flying of birds and their various motions? And not to draw out the subject too far, whence dost thou get each single part? Is it not one part from each separate source? but out of all coming together into the same, there has grown up a single mystery of superstitious worship. What follows then: must we submit, when everything has thus reverted to the first inventors, to possess nothing of our own but vice and this new-fangled rule as regards the Deity? For thou art the first of the Christians that hast plotted rebellion against thy Master, just as the slaves did against the Scythians, as history tells us; and it had been a very good thing if thy wicked band also had been dispersed according to thy own Scythian rulers and laws, in which case we had been delivered from troubles, and it would have been our lot to view the Roman realm in the enjoyment of its ancient happiness, and exempted from all intestine discord----a thing that is more to be shunned and dreaded than any war of foreigners, by so much as the devouring of one's own flesh is more to be shunned than the consuming that of others.
If the above charges seem to thee to indicate an accusation smoothly clothed, and unsuited to the imperial dignity, let me now advance others yet more to the purpose than these. Perceiving that our cause was strong, both in its doctrines and also in the testimonies from on high, and that it was at once both old and new---- old, that is, by the prophecies and the inspiration of the Deity that flashed through it; new by the final manifestation of the Godhead, and the miracles springing out of and during this manifestation, but still stronger and more conspicuous in the types of the Church that have been handed down and observed for this purpose----in order, I say, that not even this side should remain exempt from his mischief, what does he do, and what does he plan? He follows the example of Rabshakeh the Assyrian. This person was a general of Sennacherib, king of the Assyrians. This king having marched into Judaea, and besieging Jerusalem with a great force and army, sitting down before the city, when he found himself unable to reduce it by force, neither was any hope held out to him from traitors within, he attempts to win over the city by means of soft and smooth-tongued words, which design the besieged detecting, begged first of all that the conference should be carried on with them in the Syrian tongue, and not in Hebrew, lest perchance they might be inveigled into slavery through the gentleness of his speech.
He (Julian) also, having the same design, was intending to establish schools in every town, with pulpits and higher and lower rows of benches, for lectures and expositions of the heathen doctrines, both of such as give rules of morality and those that treat of abstruse subjects, also a form of prayer alternately pronounced, and penance for those that sinned proportionate to the offence, initiation also, and completion, and other things that evidently belong to our constitution. He was purposing also to build inns and hospices for pilgrims, monasteries for men, convents for virgins, places for meditation, and to establish a system, of charity for the relief of prisoners, and also that which is conducted by means of letters of recommendation by which we forward such as require it from one nation to another----things which he had especially admired in our institutions.
Such things was that evil teacher and sophist planning: that they were not completed nor his scheme ever brought into action, I know not whether it was to the advantage of ourselves (who got rid of him and his too soon for it), or of himself, to have proceeded no further than the dreaming of them. For the attempts would have exhibited some of the motions of men, and some of the mimicry of apes: for these animals are said to mimic the actions of men when certain baits are spread before them with treacherous intention. By these baits the animals are taken, because their mimicry is unable to come up to the cleverness of man. For "the Thessalian cavalry, the Lacedaemonian women, and they who drink of Arethusa" (I mean the Sicilians), as their own oracle hath it, have not the superiority over those of the same race in a higher degree than the above-named customs and institutions, which chiefly distinguish the Christians, have over others: being such as can be rivalled by no others of those that try to follow us, seeing that they are established, not through human devising, but by the power of God and the consolidating effect of time.
But there is nothing like examining this wonderful copying of theirs, or rather parodying as it were on the stage; and discovering what was the scope of the teaching, and what the object of the congregations: in order that, as Plato says about his projected Republic, "when they move about we may discover their intention." For, as Philosophy is divided into two parts, that is, Theory and Practice, and the former is the more sublime but difficult to investigate; the latter the more humble, yet of greater real utility ---- the two gain credit with us by means of one another: for Theory we take for a travelling-companion into the other world, whilst we make Practice the stepping-stone to Theory: inasmuch as it is impossible for persons not living wisely to have claims to wisdom. But on their side I know not which, of these two branches is the more ridiculous, or the more feeble, since they derive not the strength of their system from divine inspiration, just as those roots that are carried away down a stream have no firm hold. Now, let us have a fling at their happiness, and let us play, as often is done on the stage, with them while they play and tell fables; and let there be an addition made to the text "to rejoice with, those that do rejoice, and to weep with them that weep," namely, "to endure to talk nonsense with them that talk nonsense;" and the poets know of laughter in the midst of tears. Let the theatre be got ready (or by whatever other name they bid us call their new building); let the beadles make proclamation; let the people assemble, and those take the chief seats who either are distinguished by hoary hairs and age, and the excellence of their conduct as citizens; or else those conspicuous by their birth and reputation, and by the wisdom that cleaves to earth, and contains more of what is amusing than of true religion: for this point we will leave to their own discretion. What will they do next? Let them describe their presidents for themselves ---- "A purple robe shall adorn them, also a fillet round the head, and the garland and beauty of flowers," ---- since I have on many occasions observed that a majestic appearance, and something above the common, is greatly affected by them, on the supposition that what is commonplace and prosaic brings with it contempt, but what is exaggerated and difficult to be reached produces credit: or else, perhaps, in this case too, they will descend down to our level, and hold that it is not dignity in outward forms that becomes them, but, like ourselves, superiority in morals. For we make small account of what is visible and pictured to the eye, our chief occupation is with the Inner Man, and to draw the spectator along with us to the object of thought, whereby we the more edify the public.
So far, so good: what comes after? Thou wilt certainly supply them with interpreters of the "inspired Oracles" (as ye will call them), and open books upon theology and morals. But what books, pray, and of what authors? A fine thing, truly, for the books of Hesiod to be chanted by them with their wars and rebellions, their Titans and Giants, with their terrible names and doings: Cotos, Briareus, Gyges, Encelados, those serpent-footed, lightning-armed gods of yours; the islands piled upon them, weapons and tombs at once to whoso encountered them: and the births and dropping from all these, Hydras, Chimaeras, Cerberi, Gorgons----a revelling in everything bad. Let these samples of Hesiod's fine things be set forth to the audience: let Orpheus come forward with his harp and all-attractive song; let him thunder out in honour of Jove the Great, supernatural words and ideas of his theogony:----
"Jove, greatest of the gods, rolled up in dung "----
of sheep, that is, and of horses, as well as of mules, in order that from hence may be exhibited the life-giving and life-maintaining power of the Deity: for in no other way could it be done. Nor should he spare the rest of his magniloquence: ----
"The goddess spoke, and both her thighs exposed:"
in order to initiate her lovers, a thing she still does by
means of figures: and after all, Phanes, and Ericapaeus, and he that swallows up all the other gods, and throws them up again, so that he may become father both of gods and men. Let these things be brought on the stage for the benefit of the wonderful audience of this theology, and over and above all this, let there be contrived allegories and exhibitions of miracles: and let the sermon, running wild from these premises, advance into pits and precipices of speculation that has no solid foundation.
And where will thou place Homer, that great comedian in the matter of thy gods, or (if it so please), tragedian; for both these qualifications wilt thou find in his wonderful poems, some deserving of indignation, others of laughter? For really it is a matter of no little anxiety to see how Ocean shall be reconciled to Tethys by the agency of Hera decked out like a courtesan: inasmuch as there would be danger to the whole universe should the two remain continent for any time; whether that it be that the dry Principle be interchanged with the moist, lest, through the excess of the one or the other, the whole be thrown into confusion; or whatever other explanation thou inventest yet more absurd than this. What means that wondrous copulation of the Cloud-compeller with the majestic Juno when she entices him to act indecently at noonday; even though the poets with their fine verses make the best of his conduct, by making him a bed out of dewy lotus, and causing crocus and hyacinth to spring up out of the ground? Whence comes this, and what is the sense of it all? How, pray, is the same Juno, according to you, sister and wife of the supreme Jove, at one time suspended in the air, and amidst the clouds, and pulled down by iron anvils at her feet----though she is complimented with fetters of gold----she, the white-armed and rosy-fingered! so that even the gods who sought to beg for her pardon found their humanity not without danger to themselves: at another time drawing on herself the whole cestus of the Loves, in the midst of her decorations aimed at Jove, so that he confessed that his desires for all his other mistresses collectively fell far short of this single one. What fear, then, is there lest, while the gods are bestirring themselves on account of the Laconian adulteress, and whilst heaven sounds the charge, the foundations of earth should be broken up, the sea be shifted from its bed, the realms of Hades be made public, and things hidden for time out of mind be brought to the light of day? What is the nod with the dark brows, and the accompanying wave of the ambrosial hair, that makes all Olympus tremble? Who is the Mars that is wounded, or else shut up in the brazen pot, that awkward lover of the Golden Yenus, and incautious adulterer, that was caught by the limping god ( who assembled together a whole theatre full of deities to witness his own dishonour), and after all purchased his ransom at a small price?
All these tales, and yet more than these so cleverly and ingeniously put together, and quite out of the common rule, who is there of your party so sublime, so powerful and truly "comparable to Jove for wisdom," as to be able to bring them into a decent form, by means of the words of cloudy dissertation, soaring far above the limits of our comprehension? And yet these stories, if true, you ought not to be ashamed of, nay, ye ought to glory in them, or at any rate to prove that they are not shameful. And what good is there in taking refuge in "fable" as a veil for shame; for fable is the resource not of persons confident in their cause, but of those giving it up: but if these tales be fictions----in the first place let them produce us their undisguised theologians, in order that we may have to deal with them; and next let them explain how it is not silly to make a boast of the very things of which they feel ashamed: and the very things that it was possible to conceal from the vulgar (for education does not belong to all), to make these public to everybody's eyes, by means of statues and figures, and, worst of all, with how great a waste of money, in temples, and altars, and monuments, and offerings, and sacrifices costing many talents: and, when it was in their power to be pious without cost, to prefer the being impious at a great expense!
But if they will argue that these things are only fictions and idle stories of poets employing two instruments to give a charm to their poetry, namely, metre and fable; and sweetening as it were by these means the sound of their works, whereas there is concealed in the same fictions a more secret and transcendental sense, only accessible to a few of the wiser sort: consider in what way I shall learn from the latter plainly and honestly these two things: firstly, how it is that they load with praise the person who make a mock of those whom people worship; and why they esteem worthy of all but divine honours those very persons for whom it were full enough good luck to escape the punishment due to their impiety. For if death be the penalty assigned by law for all such as blaspheme against a single one of their gods----personally and slightly----what ought not they to suffer who let loose their poetry against all in a lump, publicly, and in the most opprobrious terms, and hand down the libel to all time to come! Secondly, this point too is worth considering: there are, I will not deny it, amongst ourselves, also certain doctrines under concealment, but what is the nature of their envelope, and what its effect on the mind? Neither the outward form is indecent, whilst the hidden sense is admirable and exceeding glorious, to such as are introduced into its depth, and like some beauteous and unapproachable body, it is veiled by a robe by no means to be condemned. For it is fitting, at least in my opinion, that neither our expositions nor symbolism of things divine be indecorous and unworthy of the things set forth thereby; nor such as even men would be annoyed at were the same tales related concerning themselves: but should possess the highest beauty, or at any rate not the greatest deformity, in order that the former might charm the wiser sort, the latter not disgust the vulgar.
But with you the inner sense is not worthy of credit, whilst what conceals it is full of mischief. What wisdom is there in leading one into the town through the middle of a bog, or to hurry through jutting rocks and shoals into harbour? What good can come from such things, and what the end of these tales? Thou wilt go on. babbling and allegorizing thine own hallucinations and fancies----but there will be nobody to believe them; because what strikes the eye has the stronger power of persuasion. Thou wilt, therefore, not please thy hearer whilst thou wilt ruin thy spectator, because he is always on the side of what strikes the eye. Now their theoretical part is such as I have described, and so foreign to the premises, that one must first bring together and mix up with each other the several portions, before fitting them and uniting them into one whole, and asserting that all belong to the same person----I mean things concealed in the fable, and the fables which conceal them.
But what wilt thou sayabout the Moral department of these teachers? Whence and from what principles will they start, and what arguments will they use, in order to incite men unto virtue, and render them honest people by their lessons? A very good thing is Concord, for states to agree together, and nations, and families, and individuals; following the law and disposition of Nature which hath divided and united all; and hath made all this into one single world out of several parts. By what examples will they go about to prove this? Perhaps by quoting the wars of the gods, their tumults, and rebellions, and the whole host of evils which they suffer themselves and occasion to others, publicly and privately; with which pretty nearly all history and poetry is filled! Sooner, from the things mentioned, would they render people quarrelsome and furious instead of sane, than convert the imprudent and rude into orderly and sober men, by means of examples like these! For people whom, even without anything to draw them into wickedness, it is a hard matter to reform from evil ways, and bring over to the better part from the worse----who can possibly make such as these gentle and self-restrained, when they have gods for inciters and patrons of their passions; where the being vicious is an honourable thing, inasmuch as some one of the gods presides over it, to whom the particular passion belongs, being dignified with altars and sacrifices, and invested with legal impunity. For this is the most terrible part of it all----that the very things which are punished by the laws are your objects of worship: so great is the absurdity of unrighteousness!
In the second place, let the subject expounded to them be Respect and Honour for parents, and the reverencing the first cause of being next to the First Cause of all. Here let a legend be brought in, and let theology convince. Assuredly Saturn will convince the hearers, when he has castrated Uranus, in order that he may be unable to generate more gods, and give unto the waves to create a goddess, offspring of the foam: and let Jove rebel against Saturn, following his sire's example; that sweet stone and bitter slayer of tyrants, or whatever else of the sort their books afford them, touching honour to parents. Let the third theme be the contempt of riches, and not to seek for gain from every source, and not to take that earnest penny of wickedness, the getting of money by bad means! In what light will the "Patron of gain" be set before them, and his Purse be represented, and the thievish character of the deity be duly honoured, and the saying "Without a copper Phoebus does not prophesy," and "Nothing is more to be honoured than the obolus"----for such are their venerable and respectable maxims.
And what next? Let them teach chastity, and bring forward the subject of temperance: and see! the convincing argument is ready for them in him that turned himself into all manner of things for the sake of women. Jupiter, and the Phrygian Boy, and the Eagle ravisher most dear, in order that the gods might feast most pleasantly, being served with wine by Jove's own favourite: also Hercules, the child of three nights, labouring amongst the fifty daughters of Thestias in a single night, and performing this as his thirteenth Labour; although not counted, I know not wherefore, in the list. Let Mars bridle anger; Bacchus, drunkenness; Diana, inhospitality; Deceit, their own "Oblique" giver of oracles: or immoderate Laughter, the deity that limps, whilst the gods are amused, and steadies himself upon his two spider-legs: Gluttony, Jupiter running along with the "blameless" Venus to a splendid banquet, and followed by the rest of the deities; and the "Bull-eater" that robbed the ploughman, and swallowed up his ox, and got his title and honour from this feat; as well as all the others that ran after the fumes of burnt-offerings and libations.
And yet how do these maxims come up to ours, whose rule of friendship is "loving as one's own self," and the wishing to our neighbour the same good that we wish to ourselves; amongst whom it is a crime not merely to have acted wickedly, but even to have been on the point of it, the wish being punished as much as the deed; by whom chastity is so studied that even the eye is restrained; with whom the murderous hand is so far removed that even anger is chastised; to whom the swearing a false oath is so terrible and monstrous a thing, that to us alone swearing at all is interdicted; whilst as for money, the most of us have never had any at all, whilst others had gladly possessed more, but only that they might have more to despise, philosophically preferring the having nothing to all wealth; casting away the yoke of the belly as a bitter and abominable tyrant, and the author of every evil. Is it not a great thing to boast that they strive to be not even flesh and blood, expending the mortal upon the immortal part; their single rule of virtue being the not giving way to small vices and such as are thought nothing of by the generality. But the greatest thing of all is, that whereas others punish the ends, as the law directs, we chastise the beginnings, and repress them like some dangerous and unruly torrent.
Where else in the world, tell me, wilt thou find, "When reviled do ye bless; when blasphemed at do ye exhort" (inasmuch as it is not the accusation that does the harm but the reality), "when persecuted, submit; when cursed, pray for them that curse you; when stripped, strip yourself to boot"; in one word, to overcome malice by goodness, and make them better who injure us, by enduring the things whereby our patience is tried? And yet even though we should grant that they can repress vice by means of the lessons of their false doctrine, yet how can they ever attain to the full height of our virtue and discipline, when we even regard as vice the not progressing in what is good, and becoming young in place of old, and standing still in the same place, in the condition of whipping-tops, running round, but not going forward at all, but moving in a stationary way, so to speak, by the impulse of the lash; and it behoves us to have already practised one part of the virtues to grasp at another, and to aim at yet another, until the end, and that deification for which we were born, and to which we aspire, inasmuch as we cast a mental glance across the gulf between the two worlds, and have in expectation a reward commensurate with the magnificence of God!