|« Prev||Chapter XIII||Next »|
1. The seventh year of our conflict was completed; and the hostile measures which had continued into the eighth year were gradually and quietly becoming less severe. A large number of confessors were collected at the copper mines in Palestine, and were acting with considerable boldness, so far as even to build places of worship. But the ruler of the province, a cruel and wicked man, as his acts against the martyrs showed, having come there and learned the state of affairs, communicated it to the emperor, writing in accusation whatever he thought best.
2. Thereupon, being appointed superintendent of the mines, he divided the band of confessors as if by a royal decree, and sent some to dwell in Cyprus and others in Lebanon, and he scattered others in different parts of Palestine and ordered them to labor in various works.
3. And, selecting the four who seemed to him to be the leaders, he sent them to the commander of the armies in that section. These were Peleus and Nilus,26992699 On Peleus and Nilus, see above, Bk. VIII. chap. 13, note 8. Paleus is called Paul in the Syriac version. Egyptian bishops, also a presbyter,27002700 The name of this man is given as Elias in the Syriac version; but both he and Patermuthius are called laymen. and Patermuthius, who was well known among them all for his zeal toward all. The commander of the army demanded of them a denial of religion, and not obtaining this, he condemned them to death by fire.
4. There were others there who had been allotted to dwell in a separate place by themselves,—such of the confessors as on account of age or mutilations, or for other bodily infirmities, had been released from service. Silvanus,27012701 On Silvanus, bishop of Gaza, see above, Bk. VIII. chap. 13, note 6. a bishop from Gaza, presided over them, and set a worthy and genuine example of Christianity.
5. This man having from the first day of the persecution, and throughout its entire continuance, been eminent for his confessions in all sorts of conflicts, had been kept all that time that he might, so to speak, set the final seal upon the whole conflict in Palestine.
6. There were with him many from Egypt, among whom was John, who surpassed all in our time in the excellence of his memory. He had formerly been deprived of his sight. Nevertheless, on account of his eminence in confession he had with the others suffered the destruction of his foot by cauterization. And although his sight had been destroyed he was subjected to the same burning with fire, the executioners aiming after everything that was merciless and pitiless and cruel and inhuman.
7. Since he was such a man, one would not be so much astonished at his habits and his philosophic life, nor would he seem so wonderful for them, as for the strength of his memory. For he had written whole books of the Divine Scriptures, “not in tables of stone”27022702 2 Cor. iii. 3. as the divine apostle says, neither on skins of animals, nor on paper which moths and time destroy, but truly “in fleshy tables of the heart,”27032703 Ibid. in a transparent soul and most pure eye of the mind, so that whenever he wished he could repeat, as if from a treasury of words, any portion of the Scripture, whether in the law, or the prophets, or the historical books, or the gospels, or the writings of the apostles.
8. I confess that I was astonished when I first saw the man as he was standing in the midst of a large congregation and repeating portions of the Divine Scripture. While I only heard his voice, I thought that, according to the custom in the meetings, he was reading. But when I came near and perceived what he was doing, and observed all the others standing around him with sound eyes while he was using only the eyes of his mind, and yet was speaking naturally like some prophet, and far excelling those who were sound in body, it was impossible for me not to glorify God and wonder. And I seemed to see in these deeds evident and strong confirmation of the fact that true manhood consists not in excellence of bodily appearance, but in the soul and understanding alone. For he, with his body mutilated, manifested the superior excellence of the power that was within him.
9. But as to those whom we have mentioned as abiding in a separate place, and attending to their customary duties in fasting and prayer and other exercises, God himself saw fit to give them a salutary issue by extending his right hand in answer to them. The bitter foe, as they were armed against him zealously through their prayers to God, could no longer endure them, and determined to slay and destroy them from off the earth because they troubled him.
10. And God permitted him to accomplish this, that he might not be restrained from the wickedness he desired, and that at the same time they might receive the prizes of their manifold conflicts. Therefore at the command of the most accursed Maximinus, forty, lacking one,27042704 The Syriac version says forty. were beheaded in one day.
11. These martyrdoms were accomplished in Palestine during eight complete years; and of this description was the persecution in our time. Beginning with the demolition of the churches, it increased greatly as the rulers rose up from time to time against us. In these assaults the multiform and various conflicts of those who wrestled in behalf of religion produced an innumerable multitude of martyrs in every province,—in the regions extending from Libya and throughout all Egypt, and Syria, and from the East round about to the district of Illyricum.
12. But the countries beyond these, all Italy and Sicily and Gaul, and the regions toward the setting sun, in Spain, Mauritania, and Africa, suffered the war of persecution during less than two years,27052705 On the cessation of the persecution in the West at the accession of Maxentius, see Bk. VIII. chap. 14, note 1. and were deemed worthy of a speedier divine visitation and peace; the heavenly Providence sparing the singleness of purpose and faith of those men.
13. For what had never before been recorded in the annals of the Roman government, first took place in our day, contrary to all expectation; for during the persecution in our time the empire was divided into two parts.27062706 On the division of the empire to which Eusebius here refers, see above, Bk. VIII. chap. 13, note 17. The brethren dwelling in the part of which we have just spoken enjoyed peace; but those in the other part endured trials without number.
14. But when the divine grace kindly and compassionately manifested its care for us too, then truly our rulers also, those very ones through whom the wars against us had been formerly carried on, changed their minds in a most wonderful manner, and published a recantation;27072707 i.e. the toleration edict of Galerius, published in the spring of 311. See above, Bk. VIII. chap. 17, note 1. and by favorable edicts and mild decrees concerning us, extinguished the conflagration against us. This recantation also must be recorded.27082708 It would seem that the edict was originally appended to this shorter recension of the martyrs (the longer recension is complete in its present form, and contains no hint of such an addition). Very likely it was dropped with the second half of the work (see above, p. 29) as unnecessary, when the first half was inserted in the History. The edict is given in full in Bk. VIII. chap. 17, above.
|« Prev||Chapter XIII||Next »|