« ForrigeFortsett »
with the names of Pharoah and Holofernes;' the public discontent was inflamed by the hope or promise of a glorious deliverance; and the seditious saints were tempted to promote the accomplishment of their own General predictions. Notwithstanding these provoca ... tions, the Catholics of Gaul, Spain, and Italy, enjoyed, under the reign of the Arians, the free and peaceful exercise of their religion. Their haughty masters respected the zeal of a numerous people, resolved to die at the foot of their altars; and the example of their devout constancy was admired and imitated by the barbarians themselves. The conquerors evaded, however, the disgraceful reproach, or confession of fear, by attributing their toleration to the liberal motives of reason and humanity; and while they affected the language, they imperceptibly imbibed the spirit of genuine Christianity.
The peace of the church was sometimes interrupted. The Catholics were indiscreet, Vandals, the barbarians were impatient; and the partial acts of severity or injustice, which had been recommended by the Arian clergy, were exaggerated by the orthodox writers. The guilt of persecution may be imputed to Euric, king of the Visigoths; who suspended the exercise of ecclesiastical, or, at least, of episcopal functions; and punished the popular bishops of Aquitain with imprisonment, exile, and confiscation." But the cruel and absurd enterprise of subduing the minds of a whole people, was undertaken by the Vandals Genseric, alone- Genseric himself, in his early youth, —«74*9 ^a^ renounced the orthodox communion; and the apostate could neither grant, nor expect, a .sincere forgiveness. He was exasperated to find, that the Africans, who had fled before him in the field, still presumed to dispute his will in synods and churches; and his ferocious mind was incapable of fear, or of compassion. His Catholic subjects were oppressed by intolerant laws, and arbitrary punishments. The language of Genseric was furious and formidable; the knowledge of his intentions might justify the most unfavourable interpretation of his actions; and the Arians were reproached with the frequent executions which stained the palace, and the dominions of the tyrant. Arms and ambition were, however, the ruling passions Hunneric, of tne monarch of the sea. But Hunneric, his A. D. 477. inglorious son, who seemed to inherit only his vices, tormented the Catholics with the same unrelenting fury which had been fatal to his brother, his nephews, and the friends and favourites of his father; and, even to the Arian patriarch, who was inhumanly burnt alive in the midst of Carthage. The religious war was preceded and prepared by an insidious truce; persecution was made the serious and important business of the Vandal court; and the loathsome disease, which hastened the death of Hunneric, revenged the injuries, without contributing to the deliverance, of the church. The throne of Africa was successively filled by the two Gunda- nePnews of Hunneric; by Gundamund, who round, reigned about twelve, and by Thrasimund, who '" '' • governed the nation about twenty-seven, years. Their administration was hostile and oppressive to the orthodox party. Gundamund appeared to emulate, or even to surpass, the cruelty of his uncle; and, if at length he relented, if he recalled the bishops, and restored the freedom of Athanasian worship, a premature death intercepted the benefits of his tardy clemency. His brother, Thrasimund, was the greatest and mnna, most accomplished of the Vandal kings, whom A.d. 496. j^ exceued in beauty, prudence, and magnanimity of soul. But this magnanimous character was degraded by his intolerant zeal and deceitful clemency. Instead of threats and tortures, he employed the gentle, but efficacious, powers of seduction. Wealth, dignity, and the royal favour, were the liberal rewards of apostacy; the Catholics, who had violated the laws, migkt purchase their pardon by the renunciation of their faith: and whenever Thrasimund meditated any rigorous measure, he patiently waited till the indiscretion of his adversaries furnished him with a specious opportunity. Bigotry was his last sentiment in the hour of death; and he exacted from his successor a solemn oath, that he would never tolerate the sectaries of Athanasius. Hiideric, But Qis successor, Hilderic, the gentle son of the A. D. szs. savage Hunneric, preferred the duties of humanity and justice, to the vain obligation of an impious oath; and his accession was gloriously marked by the restoration of peace and universal freedom. The throne of that virtuous, though feeble monarch, was usurped Geiimer, by his cousin Gelimer, a zealous Arian; but the A.D.530. Vandal kingdom,before he could enjoy or abuse his power, was subverted by the arms of Belisarius; and the orthodox party retaliated the injuries which they had endured."
1 Genseric confessed the resemblance, by the severity with which he punished such indiscreet allusions. Victor Vitensis, 1. 7. p. 10.
> Such are the contemporary complaints of Sidonius, bishop of Clermont- (lib. 8. c. 6. p. 182, &c. edit. Sirmond.) Gregory of Tours, who quotes this Epistle, (lib. 2. c. 25. in tom. 2. p. 174.) extorts an unwarrantable assertion, that of the nine vacancies in Aquitarn, some had been produced by episcopal martyrdoms.
A enerai "^c Passionate declamations of the Catho ... the sole historians of this persecution, canSo"einU not afford any distinct series of causes and Afnca' events; any impartial view of characters, or counsels; but the most remarkable circumstances that deserve either credit or notice, may be referred to the following heads.—I. In the original law which is still extant/ Hunneric expressly declares, and the declaration appears to be correct, that he had faithfully transcribed the regulations and penalties of the imperial edicts, against the heretical congregations, the clergy, and the people, who dissented from the established religion. If the rights of conscience had been understood, the Catholics must have condemned their past conduct, or acquiesced in their actual sufferings. But they still persisted to refuse the indulgence which they claimed. While they trembled under the lash of persecution, they praised the laudable severity of Hunneric himself, who burnt or banished great numbers of Manichaeans;2 and they rejected, with horror, the ignominious compromise, that the disciples of Arius, and of Athanasius, should enjoy a reciprocal and similar toleration in the territories of the Romans, and in those of the Vandals." II. The practice of a conference, which the Catholics had so frequently used, to insult and punish their obstinate antagonists, was retorted against themselves.b At the command of Hunneric, four hundred and sixty-six orthodox bishops assembled at Carthage; but when they were admitted into the hall of audience, they had the mortification of beholding the Arian Cirila exalted on the patriarchal throne. The disputants were separated after the mutual and ordinary reproaches of noise and silence, of delay and precipitation, of military force and of popular clamour. One martyr and one confessor were selected among the Catholic bishops; twenty-eight escaped by flight, and eighty-eight by conformity; forty-six were sent into Corsica to cut timber for the royal navy; and. three hundred and two were banished to the different parts of Africa, exposed to the insults of their enemies, and! carefully deprived of all the temporal and spiritual conrforts of life.c The hardships of ten years exile must have reduced their numbers; and if they had complied with the law of Thrasimund, which prohibited any episcopal consecrations, the orthodox church of Africa must have expired with the lives of'its actual members. They disobeyed; and their disobedience was punished by a second exile of two hundred and twenty bishops into Sardinia; where they languished fifteen years, till the accession of the gracious Hilderic.d The two islands were judiciously chosen by the malice of their Arian tyrants. Seneca, from his own experience, has deplored and exaggerated the miserable state of Corsica,' and the plenty of Sardinia was overbalanced by the unwholesome quality of the air.f III. The zeal of Genseric, and his successors, for the conversion of the Catholics, must have rendered them still more jealous to guard the purity of the Vandal faith. Before the churches were finally shut, it was a crime to appear in a barbarian dress; and those who presumed to neglect the royal mandate, were rudely dragged backwards by their long hair.g The palatine officers, who refused to profess the religion of their prince, were ignominiously stripped of their honours and employments; banished to Sardinia and Sicily; or condemned
* The original monuments of the Vandal persecution are prewired in the fire books of the history of Victor Vitensi»(de Persecutione V .imlnlici), a bishop who was exiled by Hunneric; in the Life of St. Fulgentins, who was distinguished in the persecution of Thrasimund, (in Biblioth. Max. Patrum, tom. 9. p. 4—16.) and in the first book of the Vandalic War, by the impartial Procopius, (c. 7,8. p. 196 —199.) Dem. Rumart, the last editor of Victor, nas illustrated the whole subject with a copious and leamed apparatus of notes and supplement. (Pans, 1694.) 'Victor, 4. 2. p. 65. Hunneric refuses the name of Catholics to the Haauau
,-«;<:.. He describes, as the veri Divini c Majestatis cukores, his own party, who professed the faith, confirmed by more than a thousand bishops, in the synods of
Kimini and Sclcucin.
* Victor. 1. \. p. 91, 22. Laudabtlior.. . videbatui. In the MSS. which omit tiiis word, the passage is unintelligible. See Ruinart, Not. p. 164.
* Victor. 2. 2. p. 22, 23. The clergy of Carthage called these conditions ptrieulota; and they seem, indeed to have been proposed as a snare to entrap the Catholic bishops.
'' See the narrative of this conference, and the treatment of the bishops, in Victor. 2. 13—18.U. 35—42. and the -whole fourth book, p. 63—171. The third book, p. 42—62. is •ntirely filled l'y their apology or confession of faith.
c See the list of the African bishops, in Victor. p. 117—140. and Ruinart's notes p. 215—397. The schismatic name of Donatui frequently occurs, and they appear' to have adopted (like our fanatics of the last age) the pious appellations of Diodatus, Deogratias, Quidvultdius, Habetdeum, &c.
* Fulgent. Vit. c. 16—29. Thrasimund affected the praise of moderation and leaming ; and Fulgentius addressed three books of controversy to the Arian tyrant, whom he styles piisrime ilex. Biblioth. Maxim. Patrum, tom. 9. p. 41. Only sixty bishops are mentioned as exiles in the life of Fulgentius; they are increased to one hundred and twenty by Victor Tunnunensis and Isidore; but the number of two hundred and twenty is specified in the Hiitoria Miictlla, and a short authentic chronicle of the times. See (luinart, p. 570, 571.
'•• See the base and insipid epigrams of the Stoic, who could not support exile with more fortitude than Ovid. Corsica might not produce com, wine, or oil; but it could not be destitute of grass, water, and even fire.
1 Si obgravitatem cceli interissent, vile, damnum. Tacit. Annal. Z.85. In this application, Thrasimundjwould have adopted the reading of some critics, utile damnam.
I See these preludes of a general persecution, in Victor. 2. 3, 4. 7. and the two edicts of Hunneric, lib. 2. p. 35. lib. 4. p. 64.