Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

servile extraction. The merchants of Alexandria were impoverished by the unjust, and almost universal, monopoly, which he acquired, of nitre, salt, paper, funerals, &c.; and the spiritual father of a great people condescended to practise the vile and pernicious arts of an informer. The Alexandrians could never forget nor forgive the tax which he suggested on all the houses of the city; under an obsolete claim that the royal founder had conveyed to his successors, the Ptolemies and the Caesars, the perpetual property of the soil. The Pagans, who had been flattered with the hopes of freedom and toleration, excited his devout avarice; and the rich temples of Alexandria were either pillaged or insulted by the haughty prelate, who exclaimed, in a loud and threatening tone, “How long will these sepulchres be permitted to stand?” Under the reign of Constantius, he was expelled by the fury, or rather by the justice, of the people; and it was not without a violent struggle that the civil and military powers of the state could restore his authority and gratify his revenge. The messenger who proclaimed at Alexandria the accession of Julian announced the downfall of the archbishop. George, with two of his obsequious A.D. xi. ministers, count Diodorus, and Dracontius, master of the mint,” were ignominiously dragged in chains to the public prison. At the end of twenty-four days, the prison was forced open by the H, ions: rage of a superstitious multitude, impatient of the tedious forms to:#. of judicial proceedings. The enemies of gods and men expired December 2, under their cruel insults; the lifeless bodies of the archbishop and his associates were carried in triumph through the streets on the back of a camel; and the inactivity of the Athanasian party lo was esteemed a shining example of evangelical patience. The remains of these guilty wretches were thrown into the sea; and the popular leaders of the tumult declared their resolution to disappoint the devotion of the Christians, and to intercept the future honours of these martyrs, who had been punished, like their predecessors, by the enemies of their religion.” The fears of the Pagans were just, and their precautions ineffectual. The meritorious death of the archbishop obliterated the memory of his life. The rival of Athanasius was dear

12, Philostorgius, with cautious malice, insinuates their guilt, kai row 'Abavao tov Yvounv arparmymarat ris mpačews, l. vii. c. 2, Godefroy, p. 267.

* Cineres projecit in mare, id metuens, ut clamabat, ne, collectis supremis, aedes illis exstruerent [leg. extruerentur] ut reliquis, qui deviare a religione compulsi pertulere cruciabiles poenas, ad usque gloriosam mortem intemerată fide progressiet nunc MARTYREs appellantur, Ammian. xxii. 11. Epiphanius proves to the Arians that George was not a martyr.

and sacred to the Arians, and the seeming conversion of those sectaries introduced his worship into the bosom of the Catholic church.” The odious stranger, disguising every circumstance of time and place, assumed the mask of a martyr, a saint, and a Christian hero; * and the infamous George of Cappadocia has been transformed” into the renowned St. George of England, the patron of arms, of chivalry, and of the garter.” About the same time that Julian was informed of the tumult of Alexandria, he received intelligence from Edessa that the proud and wealthy faction of the Arians had insulted the weakness of the Valentinians, and committed such disorders as ought not to be suffered with impunity in a well-regulated state. Without expecting the slow forms of justice, the exasperated prince directed his mandate to the magistrates of Edessa,” by which he confiscated the whole property of the church: the money was distributed among the soldiers; the lands were added to the domain; and this act of oppression was aggravated by the most ungenerous irony. “I shew myself,” says Julian, “ the true friend of the Galilaeans. Their admirable law has promised the kingdom of heaven to the poor; and they will advance with more diligence in the paths of virtue and salvation, when they are relieved by my assistance from the load of temporal possessions. Take care,” pursued the monarch, in a more serious tone, “take care how you provoke my patience and humanity. If these disorders continue, I will revenge on the magistrates the crimes of the people; and you will have reason to dread, not only confiscation and exile, but fire and the sword.” The tumults of Alexandria were doubtless of a more bloody and dangerous nature: but a Christian bishop had fallen by the hands of the Pagans; and the public epistle of Julian affords a very lively proof of the partial spirit of his administration. His reproaches to the citizens of Alexandria are mingled with expressions of esteem and tenderness; and he laments that on this occasion they should have departed from the gentle and generous manners which attested their Grecian extraction. He gravely censures the offence which they had committed against the laws of justice and humanity; but he recapitulates, with visible complacency, the intolerable provocations which they had so long endured from the impious tyranny of George of Cappadocia. Julian admits the principle that a wise and vigorous government should chastise the insolence of the people: yet, in consideration of their founder Alexander and of Serapis their tutelar deity, he grants a free and gracious pardon to the guilty city, for which he again feels the affection of a brother.” After the tumult of Alexandria had subsided, Athanasius, Restoration amidst the public acclamations, seated himself on the throne :* from whence his unworthy competitor had been precipitated;#o, a and, as the zeal of the archbishop was tempered with discretion, the exercise of his authority tended not to inflame, but to reconcile, the minds of the people. His pastoral labours were not confined to the narrow limits of Egypt. The state of the Christian world was present to his active and capacious mind; and the age, the merit, the reputation of Athanasius enabled him to assume, in a moment of danger, the office of Ecclesiastical Dictator.” Three years were not yet elapsed since the majority of the bishops of the West had ignorantly, or reluctantly, subscribed the Confession of Rimini. They repented, they believed, but they dreaded the unseasonable rigour of their orthodox brethren, and, if their pride was stronger than their faith, they might throw themselves into the arms of the Arians, to escape the indignity of a public penance, which must degrade them to the condition of obscure laymen. At the same time, the domestic differences concerning the union and distinction

and worshipped as a saint and martyr

124Some Donatists (Optatus Milev. p. 60, 303, edit. Dupin; and Tillemont, Mém. Ecclés. tom. vi. p. 713, in 4to) and Priscillianists (Tillemont, Mém Ecclés. tom. viii. p. 517, in 4to) have in like manner usurped the honours of Catholic saints and martyrs.

12*The saints of Cappadocia, Basil and the Gregories, were ignorant of their holy companion. Pope Gelasius (A.D. 494), the first Catholic who acknowledges St. George, places him among the martyrs, “qui Deo magis quam hominibus noti sunt". He rejects his Acts as the composition of heretics. Some, perhaps not the oldest, of the spurious Acts are still extant; and, through a cloud go. we may yet distinguish the combat which St. George of Cappadocia sustained, in the presence of Queen Alexandra, against the magician Athanasius.

*This transformation is not given as absolutely certain, but as extremely probable. See the Longueruana, tom. i. p. 194. [Cp. Appendix 22. St. George was made patron saint of England by Edward III.]

127 A curious history of the worship of St. George, from the sixth century when he was already revered in Palestine, in Armenia, at Rome, and at Treves in Gaul), might be extracted from Dr. Heylin (History of [that most famous saynt and souldier of Christ Jesus] St. George, 2d edition, London, 1633, in 4to,

p. 429), and the Bollandists (Act. SS. Mens. April. tom. iii. p. 100-163). #.

ame and so in Europe, and especially in England, proceeded from the Crusades. [Add Dr. J. Milner's Historical and Critical Inquiry into the Existence and Character of St. George, London 1792, attempting to prove that St. George of England was orthodox.]

** Julian. Epist. xliii.

129 Julian. Epist. x. He allowed his friends to assuage his anger. Ammian. xxii. 11.

130 See Athanas. ad Rufin. tom. ii. p. 40, 41 ; and Greg. Nazianzen, Orat. iii. [leg. xxi.) p. 395,396, who justly states the temperate zeal of the primate as much more meritorious than his prayers, his fasts, his persecutions, &c.

of the divine persons were agitated with some heat among the Catholic doctors; and the progress of this metaphysical controversy seemed to threaten a public and lasting division of the Greek and Latin churches. By the wisdom of a select synod, to which the name and presence of Athanasius gave the authority of a general council, the bishops who had unwarily deviated into error were admitted to the communion of the church, on the easy condition of subscribing the Nicene Creed; without any formal acknowledgment of their past fault or any minute definition of their scholastic opinions. The advice of the primate of Egypt had so prepared the clergy of Gaul and Spain, of Italy and Greece, for the reception of this salutary measure; and, notwithstanding the opposition of some ardent spirits,” the fear of the common enemy promoted the peace and harmony of the Christians.188 Hoof. ... The skill and diligence of the primate of Egypt had improved §o, the season of tranquillity, before it was interrupted by the hostile of..." edicts of the emperor.” Julian, who despised the Christians, honoured Athanasius with his sincere and peculiar hatred. For his sake alone, he introduced an arbitrary distinction, repugnant, at least, to the spirit of his former declarations. He maintained that the Galilaeans whom he had recalled from exile were not restored, by that general indulgence, to the possession of their respective churches: and he expressed his astonishment that a criminal, who had been repeatedly condemned by the judgment of the emperors, should dare to insult the majesty of the laws, and insolently usurp the archiepiscopal throne of Alexandria, without expecting the orders of his sovereign. As a punishment for the imaginary offence, he again banished Athanasius from the city: and he was pleased to suppose that this act of justice would be highly agreeable to his pious subjects. The pressing

[ocr errors]

13. I have not leisure to follow the blind obstinacy of Lucifer of Cagliari. See | his adventures in Tillemont (Mém. Ecclés. tom. vii. p. 9oo-916); and observe how the colour of the narrative insensibly changes, as the confessor becomes a . schismatic.

132 Assensus est huic sententiae Occidens, et, per tam necessarium concilium, Satanae faucibus mundus ereptus. The lively and artful Dialogue of Jerom against the Luciferians (tom. ii. p. 135-155) exhibits an original picture of the ecclesiastical policy of the times.

is Tillemont, who supposes that George was massacred in August, crowds the actions of Athanasius into a narrow space (Mém. Ecclés. tom. viii. p. 360). An original fragment, published by the Marquis Maffei, from the old Chapter. library of Verona (Osservazioni Litterarie, tom. iii. p. 60-92) affords many important dates, which are authenticated by the computation of Egyptian months.

solicitations of the people soon convinced him that the majority of the Alexandrians were Christians; and that the greatest part of the Christians were firmly attached to the cause of their oppressed primate. But the knowledge of their sentiments, instead of persuading him to recall his decree, provoked him to extend to all Egypt the term of the exile of Athanasius. The zeal of the multitude rendered Julian still more inexorable: he was alarmed by the danger of leaving at the head of a tumultuous city a daring and popular leader: and the language of his resentment discovers the opinion which he entertained of the courage and abilities of Athanasius. The execution of the sentence was still delayed, by the caution or negligence of Ecdicius, praefect of Egypt, who was at length awakened from

his lethargy by a severe reprimand. “Though you neglect,”

says Julian, “to write to me on any other subject, at least it is your duty to inform me of your conduct towards Athanasius, the enemy of the gods. My intentions have been long since com

municated to you. I swear by the great Serapis that unless,

on the calends of December, Athanasius has departed from Alexandria, nay from Egypt, the officers of your government shall pay a fine of one hundred pounds of gold. You know my temper : I am slow to condemn, but I am still slower to forgive.” This epistle was enforced by a short postscript, written with the emperor's own hand. “The contempt that is shewn for all the gods fills me with grief and indignation. There is nothing that I should see, nothing that I should hear with more pleasure than the expulsion of Athanasius from all Egypt. The abominable wretch! Under my reign, the baptism of several Grecian ladies of the highest rank has been the effect of his persecutions.”.” The death of Athanasius was not expressly commanded; but the praefect of Egypt understood that it was safer for him to

exceed, than to neglect, the orders of an irritated master. The so

archbishop prudently retired to the monasteries of the Desert: eluded, with his usual dexterity, the snares of the enemy; and lived to triumph over the ashes of a prince who, in words of formidable import, had declared his wish that the whole venom

* Tby uwapov, be tróAungev 'EAAmvléas, im' sucú, Yvvaixas row intoniuav Barriorat 8toxea.6aw. I have preserved the ambiguous sense of the last word, the ambiguity of a tyrant who wished to find, or to create, guilt. [P. 485, ed. Hertl. With the reading oxea.0at (to which Gibbon seems, by a curious blunder, to give an active meaning) we should have to render “than that Athanasius should be expelled from all Egypt, and persecuted, the abominable wretch, who dared to baptize Greek ladies". But read with best Ms.-Barrival. Swkeagw: “let him be persecuted".]

« ForrigeFortsett »