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NPNF2-10. Ambrose: Selected Works and Letters
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Chapter XVI.

St. Ambrose assures Gratian of victory, declaring that it has been foretold in the prophecies of Ezekiel. This hope is further stayed upon the emperor’s piety, the former disasters being the punishment of Eastern heresy.20892089    The disasters here alluded to are the rout of the Roman army, in 378 a.d., at Hadrianople, and the miserable death of the Emperor Valens, who took refuge in a hut, which was surrounded and fired by the Goths, the emperor perishing in the flames. This reverse was regarded by the orthodox as a judgment upon the Arianism of Valens and others in high places. The book closes with a prayer to God, that He will now show His mercy, and save the army, the land, and the sovereign of the faithful.

136. I must no further detain your Majesty, in this season of preparation for war, and the achievement of victory over the Barbarians. Go forth, sheltered, indeed, under the shield of faith, and girt with the sword of the Spirit; go forth to the victory, promised of old time, and foretold in oracles given by God.

137. For Ezekiel, in those far-off days, already prophesied the minishing of our people, and the Gothic wars, saying: “Prophesy, therefore, Son of Man, and say: O Gog, thus saith the Lord—Shalt thou not, in that day when My people Israel shall be established to dwell in peace, rise up and come forth from thy place, from the far north, and many nations with thee, all riders upon horses, a great and mighty gathering, and the valour of many hosts? Yea, go up against my people Israel, as clouds to cover the land, in the last days.”20902090    Ezek. xxxviii. 14 ff.

138. That Gog is the Goth, whose coming forth we have already seen, and over whom victory in days to come is promised, according to the word of the Lord: “And they shall spoil them, who had been their despoilers, and plunder them, who had carried off their goods for a prey, saith the Lord. And it shall be in that day, that I will give to Gog”—that is, to the Goths—“a place that is famous, for Israel an high-heaped tomb of many men, of men who have made their way to the sea, and it shall reach round about, and close the mouth of the valley, and there [the house of Israel shall] overthrow Gog and all his multitude, and it shall be called the valley of the multitude of Gog: and the house of Israel shall overwhelm them, that the land may be cleansed.”20912091    Ezek. xxxix. 10 ff.

139. Nor, furthermore, may we doubt, your sacred Majesty, that we, who have undertaken the contest with alien unbelief, shall enjoy the aid of the Catholic Faith that is strong in you. Plainly indeed the reason of God’s wrath has been already made manifest, so that belief in the Roman Empire was first overthrown, where faith in God gave way.20922092    The success of the Goths at Hadrianople encouraged the northern barbarians to fresh invasions of the empire, within which they from now began to form permanent lodgments, and it correspondingly discouraged the subjects of the empire, and sapped the old belief—a legacy from paganism—in the fortune of Rome.

140. No desire have I to recount the deaths, tortures, and banishments of confessors, the offices of the faithful made into presents for traitors.20932093    Orthodox bishops and priests were expelled from their sees and offices to make room for “betrayers of the faith,” i.e. men who had apostatized to Arianism. The mingled tumult of blasphemy and foreign onslaughts is a description of the condition of the eastern provinces of the empire, where Arianism was rampant, and all was overrun by the Goths. The latter was regarded by some as the result of the former. Thus St. Jerome: “Our sins are the strength of the barbarians, our vices bring defeat upon the arms of Rome.”—H. The provinces here mentioned lay along the right bank of the Danube, and took in what is now Lower Hungary, Servia, and Bulgaria. The result of the disaster of Hadrianople was to put all these countries in the power of the Goths. Have we not heard, from all along the border,—from Thrace, and through Dacia by the river, Mœsia, and all Valeria of the Pannonians,—a mingled tumult of blasphemers preaching and barbarians invading? What profit could neighbours so bloodthirsty bring us, or how could the Roman State be safe with such defenders?20942094    The Goths had been driven in upon the Roman frontiers by the inroads of the Huns, who expelled them from their former habitations in S. & S. W. Russia. A treaty had been made between them and the Emperor Valens, who agreed to take them under his protection, but the bad faith with which the Goths soon found themselves treated led to hostilities, and so to the great overthrow at Hadrianople in 378.

141. Enough, yea, more than enough, Almighty God, have we now atoned for the deaths of confessors, the banishment of priests, and the guilt of wickedness so overweening, by our own blood, our own banishment—sufficiently plain is it that they, who have broken faith, cannot be safe. Turn again, O Lord, and set up the banners of Thy faith.

142. No military eagles, no flight of birds,20952095    No auguries—which were taken by observing the flight of birds, as omens were by noting their voices. These observances of course disappeared from the Roman army as soon as the empire became Christian. In saying that the Name of the Saviour leads the troops to war, St. Ambrose probably alludes to the Labarum or banner emblazoned with the monogram Χρ, which is composed of the two first letters of the Name Χριστός. here lead the van of our army, but Thy Name, Lord Jesus, and Thy worship. This is no land of unbelievers, but the land whose custom it is to send forth confessors—Italy; Italy, ofttimes tempted, but never drawn away; Italy, which your Majesty hath long defended, and now again rescued from the barbarian. No wavering mind in our emperor, but faith firm fixed.

143. Show forth now a plain sign of Thy Majesty, that he who believes Thee to be the true Lord of Hosts, and Captain of the armies of heaven; he who believes that Thou art the true Power and Wisdom of God, no being of time nor of creation, but even as it is written, the eternal Power and Divinity of God,20962096    1 Cor. i. 24. may, upheld by the aid of thy Might Supreme, win the prize of victory for his Faith.


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