1. THUS, then, the first portion of my task has now been completed and brought to an end; for I have shown up the wickedness of that personage, both in what he did towards us, and in what he intended to do, perpetually contriving something yet more tyrannical than the last. Now, we shall aim at another mark, which perhaps no one has yet hit—-one more sacred to God, more agreeable to ourselves, and perhaps more full of edification for those that come after us. I mean to subjoin to what has been already said, a narrative of the just dispensations (balances) of God, and by what equivalents He repays iniquity, which comes in for some of these payments at the moment, for others after a short postponement—-in whatever way may seem best to the Word, the Creator, and the Dispenser of all things, Who knows how to temper calamity with mercy, and to chastise arrogance with disgrace and with plagues, according to the measure of correction that He appoints.
2. Diseases justly sent upon the impious, rendings that cannot be concealed, plagues and scourges of divers kinds, corresponding to the atrocities they have committed, deaths that follow not the common course of Nature, and exclamations and vain repentances amidst their troubles, the warnings of dreams, and the apparitions in a true vision—-who can rehearse all these in a manner worthy of the theme? and all that has come upon those who either have transgressed against religious houses, or have insulted the holy tables, or have acted like madmen to the mystical chalices, or have greedily gorged themselves with our flesh, or all the other crimes that they have dared to do—-all the things that have fallen upon the perpetrators themselves are evident and public manifestations of God’s anger at such doings. All these facts therefore I will willingly pass over, not that I disbelieve what I have seen and heard, nor refer these occurrences to natural causes or accident, after the fashion of those who vainly so interpret them, but that I may not be thought to be dwelling upon trifles, omitting greater and more remarkable facts. A miracle, therefore, that is in the mouth of everybody, and not disputed even by the heathen themselves, is the one I proceed to describe.
3. He [Julian] was daily growing more infuriated against us, as though raising up waves by other waves, he that went mad first against himself, that trampled upon things holy, and that did despite unto the Spirit of Grace: is it more proper to call him Jeroboam or Ahab, those most wicked of the Israelites; or Pharaoh the Egyptian, or Nebuchadnezzar the Assyrian; or combining all together shall we name him one and the same, since he shows himself to have united in himself the vices of them all—-the apostasy of Jeroboam, the bloodthirstiness of Ahab, the hardness of heart of Pharaoh, the sacrilegious acts of Nebuchadnezzar, the impiety of all put together! For when he had exhausted every other resource, and despised every other form of tyranny in our regard as trifling and unworthy of him (since there never was a character so fertile in finding out and contriving mischief), at last he stirred up against us the nation of the Jews, making his accomplice in his machinations their well-known credulity, as well as that hatred for us which has smouldered in them from the very beginning; prophesying to them out of their own books and mysteries that now was the appointed time come for them to return into their own land, and to rebuild the Temple, and restore the reign of their hereditary institutions —- thus hiding his true purpose under the mark of benevolence.
4. And when he had formed this plan, and made them believe it (for whatever suits one’s wishes is a ready engine for deceiving people), they began to debate about rebuilding the Temple, and in large number and with great zeal set about the work. For the partisans of the other side report that not only did their women strip off all their personal ornaments and contribute it towards the work and operations, but even carried away the rubbish in the laps of their gowns, sparing neither the so precious clothes nor yet the tenderness of their own limbs, for they believed they were doing a pious action, and regarded everything of less moment than the work in hand. But they being driven against one another, as though by a furious blast of wind, and sudden heaving of the earth, some rushed to one of the neighbouring sacred places to pray for mercy; others, as is wont to happen in such cases, made use of what came to hand to shelter themselves; others were carried away blindly by the panic, and struck against those who were running up to see what was the matter. There are some who say that neither did the sacred place admit them, but that when they approached the folding doors that stood wide open, on coming up to them they found them closed in their faces by an unseen and invisible power which works wonders of the sort for the confusion of the impious and the saving of the godly. But what all people nowadays report and believe is that when they were forcing their way and struggling about the entrance a flame issued forth from the sacred place [church] and stopped them, and some it burnt up and consumed so that a fate befell them similar to the disaster of the people of Sodom, or to the miracle about Nadab and Abiud, who offered incense and perished so strangely: whilst others it maimed in the principal parts of the body, and so left them for a living monument of God’s threatening and wrath against sinners. Such then was this event; and let no one disbelieve, unless he doubts likewise the other mighty works of God! But what is yet more strange and more conspicuous, there stood in the heavens a light circumscribing a Cross, and that which before on earth was contemned by the ungodly both in figure and in name is now exhibited in heaven, and is made by God a trophy of His victory over the impious, a trophy more lofty than any other!
5. What will those gentlemen say of these events—-they who are wise, as this world goes, and make a fine show of their own cause, smoothing down their flowing beard and trailing before our eyes that elegant philosophic mantle! Reply to me for thyself, thou writer of long discourses, that dost compose incredible stories and gapest up at the skies, telling lies about things celestial, and weaving out of the movements of the stars, people’s nativities and predictions of the future! Tell me of those stars of thine, the Ariadne’s Crown, the Berenice’s Hair, the lascivious Swan, the violent Bull! or, if thou pleasest, tell me of thine Ophiuchus, or of thy Capricorn, or of thy Lion, or all the rest that thou hast discovered for a bad end and made them into gods in constellations! Where dost thou find this cycle in thy science, where the Star that of old moved towards Bethlehem out of the East, that leader and introducer of thy own Wise Men! I, too, have something to tell from the heavens: that Star declared the presence of Christ: this Crown is that of the victory of Christ!
6. Thus much is taken from things celestial and sympathizing with our fortunes, in accordance with the mighty harmony and disposition of the universe. What follows let the Psalm finish for me: “Because Thou hast cast down cities,” namely, those ancient ones for the very same acts of impiety, in the middle of the very same offences against us; some thereof overwhelmed by the floods, others swallowed up by earthquake; so that one is pretty nearly able to apply the remainder: “The memorial of them hath perished with a sound and a destruction noised abroad.” For such has been their fall, and such their ruin, also of those their neighbours who took the most delight in their impiety, so that a very long time were necessary to them for their restoration, even if anyone should have the boldness to undertake it.
7. Was it then only earth and heaven, and did not air likewise give a sign on that occasion, and was hallowed with the badges of the Passion? Let those who were spectators and partakers of that prodigy exhibit their garments, which to the present time are stamped with the brandmarks of the Cross! For at the very moment that anyone, either of our own brethren or of the outsiders, was telling the event or hearing it told by others, he beheld the miracle happening in his own case or to his neighbour, being all spotted with stars, or beholding the other so marked upon his clothes in a manner more variegated than could be done by any artificial work of the loom or elaborate painting. What is the result of this? Such great consternation at the spectacle that nearly all, as by one signal and with one voice, invoked the God of the Christians, and propitiated Him with many praises and supplications: whilst many, without further delay, but at the moment of the occurrence, ran up to our priests, and besought them earnestly that they might be made members of the Church, being sanctified by the holy baptism, for they had been saved by means of their fright.
8. So passed that affair; but he, infatuated and urged on as he was by his furies in detail, advances to meet the finishing stroke of his crimes: for, as he supposed the matter of the Christians was going on according to his mind, and expected from what he had already accomplished that complete success (if he only willed it) would attend his enterprises; taking advantage of the tranquillity prevailing on the side of the Western barbarians, he plans the following scheme—-a very sensible and very humane one, too! Having levied in these parts a double force, one military, the other of the demons who led him on (in which he placed the more confidence of the two), he marches against the Persians, trusting rather to his inconsiderate rashness than to the warranty of his strength, not being able to discern, very wise as he was, that courage and rashness, however similar they may be in sound, are yet widely different from each other in reality as much as what we call manliness and unmanliness. For the being bold in military matters is a mark of courage, just as being dispirited is of cowardice: but where there is too much danger, to run headlong and thrust oneself into it and not check oneself, is a mark of rashness; whereas giving way shows caution, and it does not evince the same prudence to prefer keeping one’s own, and to seek to obtain something of what is not one’s own, for the former is our first duty, and to be held in honour by all sensible persons; the latter, if it can be done with facility, is to be admitted, but if it be injurious, must be given up; whilst he who risks everything he has for the sake of getting something of what he hopes for, is extremely foolish, and seems to me to be like an unskilful pugilist striking out before he fairly settles himself on his guard, or else like the captain of a ship that is going to pieces and no longer fit for sea, who sinks or attempts to sink an enemy’s vessel. None of these things does he seem to have considered when he engaged without reflection in his schemes: and whilst his Romans were still convulsed and ill-disposed towards him on account of the persecution, to covet a stranger’s empire and to be a Salmoneus, making thunder out of a drum, having his eyes fixed upon the Trajans and Hadrians of former times, (persons whose caution was no less admirable than their bravery,) he did not think of the Carus, and the Valerian who paid the penalty of their inconsiderate rashness (“not to insult misfortune,” as the tragedian says) in the territories of Persians, and were destroyed in the middle of their success.
9. But, as already said, such was his determination—-and he was full of eagerness, bringing into one every jugglery of divination, of imposture, of mentionable and unmentionable sacrifices, in order that it might be all at once destroyed in a brief space. And his vow, how great and monstrous a thing, (O thou Christ, thou Word, thou Passion of the impassive, thou Mystery of all creation!) It was to subjugate the whole Christian family to obedience to his own demons, so soon as he had accomplished the business in hand! Now, the first steps in his enterprise, excessively audacious and much celebrated by those of his own party, were as follows. All the land of the Assyrians that the Euphrates flows through, and skirting Persia there unites itself with the Tigris; all this he took and ravaged, and captured some of the fortified towns, in the total absence of anyone to hinder him, whether that he had taken the Persians unaware by the rapidity of his advance, or whether he was out-generalled by them and drawn on by degrees further and further into the snare (for both stories are told); at any rate, advancing in this way, with his army marching along the river’s bank and his flotilla upon the river supplying provisions and carrying the baggage, after a considerable interval he touches Ctesiphon, a place which, even to be near, was thought by him half the victory, by reason of his longing for it.
10. From this point, however, like sand slipping from beneath the feet, or a great wave bursting upon a ship, things began to go back with him; for Ctesiphon is a strong fortified town, hard to take, and very well secured by a wall of burnt brick, a deep ditch, and the swamps coming from the river. It is rendered yet more secure by another strong place, the name of which is Cochè, furnished with equal defences as far as regards garrison and artificial protection, so closely united with it that they appear one city, the river separating both, between them. For it was neither possible to take the place by general assault, nor to reduce it by siege, nor even to force a way through by means of the fleet principally, for he would run the risk of destruction; being exposed to missiles from higher ground on both sides, he leaves the place in his rear, and does so in this manner. Of the river Euphrates, which is a very large one, he cuts off no inconsiderable part and diverts it so as to be navigable for vessels, by means of a canal, of which ancient vestiges are said to be visible; and thus joining the Tigris a little in front of Ctesiphon, he saves his boats from one river by means of the other river, in all security; in this way he escapes the danger that menaced him from the two garrisons. But, as he advanced, a Persian army suddenly started up, and continually received fresh reinforcements, but did not think it advisable to stand in front and fight it out, without the greatest necessity (although it was in their power to conquer, from their superior numbers); but from the tops of the hills and narrow passes they shot arrows and threw darts, whenever opportunity served, and thus readily prevented his further progress. Hence he is reduced to great perplexity, and not knowing to what side to turn, he finds out an unlucky solution for the difficulty.
11. For a man, one of no little consideration amongst the Persians, following the example of. that Zopyrus employed by Cyrus in the case of Babylon, on the pretence that he had had some quarrel, or rather a very great one and for a very great cause, with his king, and, on that account very hostile to the Persian cause, and well disposed towards the Romans, thus addresses the emperor: “Sire, what means all this, why do you take such rotten measures in so important a matter? Wherefore this provision-fleet, and this train of everything—-a mere incentive to cowardice; for nothing is so unfit for fighting, and fond of laziness, as a full belly, and the having the means of saving oneself in one’s own hands? But if you will listen to me, you will burn this flotilla: what a relief to this fine army will be the result! and yourself will take another route, better supplied and safer than this; along which I will be your guide (being acquainted with the country as well as any man living), and will cause you to enter into the heart of the enemy’s country, where you can obtain whatever you please, and so make your way home; and me you shall then recompense, when you have actually made proof of my good will and good advice.”
12. And when he had said this, and gained credence to his story (for rashness is credulous, especially when God drives it on), everything that was dreadful happened at once; the boats were the prey of the flames, there was no bread, the ridicule of the enemy came to fill up the measure, the fatal blow was inflicted by his own hand, even hope had well nigh vanished, the guide had disappeared along with his promises, round about him the enemy, swelling up round him the war, the getting at them not easy, provisions not procurable, the army in despair and discontented with their commander, of hope for good nothing was left, but one wish alone, as was natural under the circumstances, the ridding themselves of bad government and bad generalship.
13. Up to this point, such is the universal account; but thenceforward, one and the same story is not told by all, but different accounts are reported and made up by different people, both of those present at the battle, and those not present; for some say that he was hit by a dart from the Persians, when engaged in a disorderly skirmish, as he was running hither and thither in his consternation; and the same fate befell him as it did to Cyrus, son of Parysatis, who went up with the Ten Thousand against his brother Artaxerxes, and by fighting inconsiderately threw away the victory through his rashness. Others, however, tell some such story as this respecting his end: that he had gone up upon a lofty hill to take a view of his army and ascertain how much was left him for carrying on the war; and that when he saw the number considerable and superior to his expectation, he exclaimed, “What a dreadful thing if we shall bring back all these fellows to the land of the Eomans!” as though he begrudged them a safe return. Whereupon one of his officers, being indignant and not able to repress his rage, ran him through the bowels, without caring for his own life. Others tell that the deed was done by a barbarian jester, such as follow the camp, “for the purpose of driving away ill humour and for amusing the men when they are drinking.” This tale about the jester is borrowed from Lampridius, who gives it as one of the many current respecting the death of Alexander Severus. The “Historia Augusta,” a recent compilation, was then in everybody’s hands. At any rate, he receives a wound truly seasonable (or mortal) and salutary for the whole world, and by a single cut from his slaughterer he pays the penalty for the many entrails of victims to which he had trusted (to his own destruction); but what surprises me, is how the vain man that fancied he learnt the future from that means, knew nothing of the wound about to be inflicted on his own entrails! The concluding reflection is for once very appropriate: the liver of the victim was the approved means for reading the Future, and it was precisely in that organ that the arch-diviner received the fatal thrust.
14. One action of this person deserves not to be passed over in silence, as it contains, to wind up many others, the strongest exemplification of his madness. He was lying upon the bank of the river, and in a very bad way from his wound, when, remembering that many of those before his time who had aimed at glory, in order that they might be thought something higher than mortals, had (through some contrivances of their own) disappeared from amongst men, and thereby got themselves accounted gods; so he, being filled with a craving for similar glory, and at the same time ashamed of the manner of his end (by reason of the disgrace arising from his temerity), what does he contrive and what do? for not even with life does wickedness become extinct. He endeavours to throw his body into the river, and for this purpose he was using the assistance of some of his confidants and accomplices in his secret doings! And had not one of the imperial eunuchs perceived what was going on, and telling it to the rest out of disgust at the extravagant notion, prevented his purpose from being effected—-why, another new god born out of an accident, would have manifested himself to the stupid!” And he, having thus reigned, thus commanded his army, closed his life in this way.
15. When that man had received the imperial power immediately after him, who was elected for his successor in the very camp, and in the extremity of danger—-that imperatively demanded a leader—-a man illustrious in all other respects as well as for piety, and in personal appearance truly fitted for sovereignty—-he was utterly unable to come to blows with, or even to get near the Persians (although far from deficient either in courage or eagerness for battle), because his army had lost all force and all hope. He sought therefore for the means of retreating, and considered in what way he could effect this with safety, inasmuch as he had not been the inheritor of empire, but of defeat. Now, if the Persians had not made a moderate use of their victory (for it is a law with them to know how to measure out prosperity) or had not been fearful of something or other, as the report goes, and therefore had agreed to terms so unexpected and reasonable, nothing was there to prevent “not even a fire-carrier’s” (as the saying is) “surviving out of the whole army,” so completely had the Persians got them in their power, inasmuch as the latter were fighting in their own country, and were elated by the recent events; for the obtaining of some success is a sufficient foundation for hope of the future. In the present case, the one party had, as I have said, but one object in view—-namely, how to save his army and preserve the sinews of the Roman power, for they were the sinews, and though they had failed, it was more through the imprudence of him that commanded than their own cowardice. So they agreed to these terms, so disgraceful, and so unworthy of the hand of Romans, to sum up the whole in one word; of the blame of which convention if anyone acquits the late and charges the present emperor, he is, in my opinion, but an ignorant critic of what has happened, for the crop is not due to the reaper, but to its sower, nor the conflagration to him that is unable to extinguish it, but to the incendiary. And the remark of Herodotus about the tyranny at Samos may be appropriately quoted, “that Histiaeus stitched the shoe, but Aristagoras put it on,” meaning him that had received the succession from the man who had first gotten it.
16. What then remained but for the corpse of the impious one to be carried home by the Romans, although he had closed his career in this manner? For we also have one dead of our own, in the prince that deceased before this one: so let us take a view, in this point also, of the difference between the two, whether this conduces to the felicity or to the misery of the departed. The one is followed to the tomb with public benedictions and processions, and, in fact, with all our solemnities, nocturnal chants, and torchlight folldwings, wherewith we Christians use to do honour to a pious departure from this world. The assembly meets, the carrying forth of the corpse takes place amidst the weeping of all; and, if one can believe the story, which is spread about by the reports of the vulgar, when the corpse was passing over Mount Taurus, on its way to his native city (that city of the same name with those princes and of illustrious name) a sound from the heights was heard by some of the train, as though of persons playing on musical instruments and accompanying them—-these being, I suppose, the angelic hosts, in honour to his piety and a funereal recompense of his virtue. For although he had seemed to shake the foundations of the true faith, this, nevertheless, must be laid to the charge of his subordinates’ stupidity and unsoundness, who, getting hold of a soul that was unsuspicious and not firmly grounded in religion, nor able to see the pitfalls in its path, led it astray what way they pleased, and under the pretence of correctness of doctrine, converted his zeal into sin.
17. We, however, more commonly out of regard for his father (who had laid the foundation of the imperial power and the Christian religion) as well as for the inheritance of the Faith that had come to him by descent—-we reverenced with good reason the earthly Tabernacle of him that had spent his life in reigning righteously, that had finished his course with a holy end, and had left the supremacy to our side. And when the corpse drew near to the great imperial city, what needs it to mention the cortège of the whole army and the escort under arms that attended as upon the living emperor, or the crowd that poured forth from the splendid city, the most splendid that was ever seen, or ever will be? Nay, even that audacious and bold person, decorated with the still new purple, and therefore, as was natural, full of pride, himself forms a part of the funereal honour paid his predecessor, paying and receiving the same obligation, partly out of constraint, partly (they say) of his own free will, for the whole army, even though they submitted to the existing authority, nevertheless paid more respect to the deceased, for the reason that, somehow or other, we are naturally inclined to sympathize more with recent misfortune, mingling regret with our love, and adding compassion to the two. For this reasou they could not endure that the departed one should not be honoured and received like an emperor; so they persuade, nay, compel, the rebel to go to meet the corpse in befitting form, that is, stripping his brow of the diadem, and with head bent before his sovereign, as was right, thus to escort the corpse, in company with the bearers, to the tomb and to the famous Church of the Apostles, who received the holy race, and now guard their remains, which receive almost equal honours with their own! In this way our emperor was interred.
18. But as for the other, the circumstances attending his departure to the war were disgraceful (for he was pursued by mobs and townsfolk with vulgar and ribald cries, as most people yet remember), but still more inglorious was his return. What was his disgrace? Buffoons and mimes escorted him, the train moved along amidst foul jokes from the stage, with piping and dancing, whilst he was upbraided with his apostasy, his defeat, and his end, suffering every sort of insult, hearing every sort of thing in which such people indulge who make ribaldry their trade, until the city of Tarsus received him (why and wherefore condemned to this indignity I know not); where he has a consecrated ground without honour, a tomb accursed, a temple abominable, and not even to be looked at by pious eyes!
19. And these things I have related as forming the greatest and most important of the charges against him, though I am not ignorant that to two or three of the parasites in the palace, his equals in irreligion (for the others I willingly pass over), there was given such mighty payment for their impiety that nothing would have prevented their plundering all that was subject to the Romans, both land and sea, if an end had not been put opportunely to the business, so greatly did they surpass in rapine and greediness those hundred-handed giants of old; for the governments of the provinces were not put into the hands of the most humane, but of the most cruel, and one road to office was apostasy, and to obtain preferment at his hands the taking the worst measures both for one’s self and others.
20. What shall I say of his revisals and alterations of sentences, frequently changed and upset at midnight, like the tides? For my fine fellow thought proper to play the judge, making everything his own out of vanity. But perhaps by blaming him for very trifling things I shall be thought to disparage very important matters through others inconsiderable; nevertheless, it must be owned that such conduct is not deserving of the Elysian Fields, nor of the glory of a Rhadamanthus in the next world, a lot which those of the same fraternity and set claim for him. One thing in his conduct I have to admire. Many of his former companions and acquaintances, principally from the schools in Asia, he summoned to him with all haste, as though about to do wonderful things for them, as he excited them to hope when they remembered his fine promises. |103 But when they were arrived, ’twas the saying, “the deceits of counters and the illusions of dreams,” for some he befooled in one way, some in another, for there were whom he entertained at table, and drank to, with much bawling out of “My friend,” and after all sent them about their business disappointed, not knowing whom to blame the most—-him for the deception, or themselves for their credulity.
21. That part, too, is certainly to be commended in the training of our philosopher, that he was so very free from anger, and superior to all the passions, after the model of the princes of any period that were neither to be bent nor to be shaken, nor would turn their faces round, whatever should happen, or betray any trace of feeling! so that when sitting in judgment he used to fill the whole palace with his cries and exclamations, as though it were he that was being ill-treated and punished, and not himself protecting those that suffered such things. This behaviour we shall not deem worth a single word, but there is one thing of which who in the world is ignorant—-how that many persons of the vulgar sort that approached for the purpose of making such petitions as people do to their rulers, he used so badly, hitting them with his fist and kicking them with his foot, that they were very well content to escape without worse treatment.
22. But the puffings and blowings of the fire (in which this wonderful man, who reviles our rites, set an example to all old ladies) when he was kindling the sacrificial flame, in what part of our discourse shall we place them? How fine a thing to behold the cheeks of the emperor of the Romans thus distorted, and occasioning laughter, not merely to the outside world, but to the very people whom he thought to please by acting thus! for he had never heard of Minerva, his own goddess, that cursed the pipes by which she had disfigured her face, when instead of mirror she used the pool; and the healths and loving-cups that he pledged in public to the courtesans, and was pledged by them in return, whilst he cloaked the indecency under the show of a religious ceremony—-a thing certainly well worthy of admiration!
23. This character of his was made known by experience to others, and by his coming to the throne which gave him free scope to display it. But it had previously been detected by some; ever since I lived with this person at Athens; for he too had gone thither, immediately after the catastrophe of his brother, having himself solicited this permission from the emperor. There was a double reason for this journey: the one more specious—-the object of acquainting himself with Greece and the schools of that country; the other more secret, and communicated to but a few—-that he might consult the sacrificers and cheats there upon the matters concerning himself; so far back did his paganism extend. At that time, therefore, I remember that I became no bad judge of his character, though far from being of much sagacity in that line; but what made me a true guesser was the inconsistency of his behaviour and his extreme excitability (that is, if he be the best diviner who knows how to guess shrewdly). A sign of no good seemed to me to be his neck unsteady, his shoulders always in motion and shrugging up and down like a pair of scales, his eye rolling and glancing from side to side with a certain insane expression, his feet unsteady and stumbling, his nostrils breathing insolence and disdain, the gestures of his face ridiculous and expressing the same feelings, his bursts of laughter unrestrained and gusty, his nods of assent and dissent without any reason, his speech stopping short and interrupted by his taking breath, his questions without any order and unintelligent, his answers not a whit better than his questions, following one on top of the other, and not definite, nor returned in the regular order of instruction.
24. Why should I go into particulars? I saw the man before his actions exactly what I afterwards found him in his actions; and were any present of those who were then with me and heard my words, they would without hesitation bear testimony to what I say; to whom I exclaimed as soon as I had observed these signs, “What an evil the Roman world is breeding!” at once making the prediction and praying against myself that I might turn out a false prophet; for that were better than for the world to be filled with these evils, and such a monstrosity make its appearance as never was seen before; though there are many celebrated deluges on record, and conflagrations, and quakings and yawnings of the earth, and men yet more savage, and beasts of strange sort and composite form, such as Nature has made out of caprice. Thus he has met with an end well suited to his folly, for God did not show His wonted long-suffering in this case, where His clemency had been an evil unto many, and had occasioned much dejection to the upright, and much arrogance in sinners; as though there were no one to superintend our affairs, nor either Providence or Retribution, but that blind Chance carried on and turned about everything—-a notion springing from a wicked mind, and one that is in a dangerous condition as regards the highest subjects.
25. These are the “tales of us Galileans—-of us, the vile and abject;” these are told by us who worship the Crucified One, the disciples of the uneducated fishermen, as ye call us; by us, who sit together and sing psalms with the old women; by us, wasted away and half dead with the long fasts; by us, who keep awake to no purpose, and through standing vigils grow silly—-but yet overthrow you. “Where are the learned men? Where are the councillors?” (I quote the song of victory from one of our own ignorant men, as ye think them). Where are your sacrifices and ceremonies and mysteries? Where are your victims, both public and those kept secret, and the art of divination by entrails, so highly lauded? Where is the jugglery of prediction, and the miracles of those having familiar spirits? Where is the glorious Babylon, so much talked of, and the whole world brought before your view by means of a little, and accursed, blood? Where are the Persians and Medes already grasped in the hand? Where are the gods that were followed in procession, and did follow your march—-they that fought for you, and fought with you? Where are your predictions and threats against the Christians, and the preordained extermination of us, even to the name? All are vanished, have been falsified, have melted away—-the boastings of the impious have turned out a dream!
26. Now the King of Judah, Hezekiah, when a certain king of the foreigners had come against him with a great force, and had encompassed Jerusalem with his leaguer, and uttered in a sarcastic manner blasphemous and impious words against the king and against his God, as though, whatever might happen, He should not deliver the city out of his power—-he went up to the Temple, and having rent his clothes, and shedding streams of tears, extending his hands to heaven, calls God to witness the blasphemy of Sennacherib, and prays that He would become the avenger of the arrogance of his threats, saying, “Thou hast seen how greatly this stranger hath reviled Thee, the Lord of Israel; Thou hast seen it, O Lord, keep not Thou silence!” And truly he was not disappointed of his prayer: but the enemy of God perceived in the end his own madness, and went off without doing anything, with all his threats, having lost the bulk of his army by the stroke of some invisible Power, and retreating in consequence of disagreeable tidings, that raised the siege unexpectedly, and ruined his hopes. Thus did Hezekiah, he that was clothed with much strength, the King of Jerusalem the great, and who perhaps would have repelled the enemy by his unassisted efforts. But we, whose sole arm, bulwark, and all other defence left, was the hope in God, stripped and shorn entirely of all human aid, whom were we to have, either as hearer of our prayer, or as hinderer of those threats, save and accept Him that swears against pride—-the God of Jacob?
O the incredible tale! O the audacity of the things hoped for! We were promised, in place of all other sacrifice, to the demons; and we, the great inheritance of God, the holy nation, the royal priesthood, were made the prize of a single hope, the trophy of a single war!
27. Is this the recompense from thee to the Christians, in return for having been saved (unluckily) by their means? Didst thou thus repay the Lord thy God? Formerly, whilst God still bore with thee, and delayed His revenge on our account, nor had yet kindled all His indignation, but held up His hand on high against the ungodly, and was bending and making ready His bow, but held it back by force, and, like some concealed constitutional disease, He waited first for the whole of its virulence to break out; as indeed is the regular course of God’s judgments, in order that either He may save through repentance, or punish with greater cause: at that time we being discontented at what had taken place, and apprehensive of what was to come (for we did not bear patiently the hidden goodness of God towards His own people), we uttered those expostulations unto God, at one time invoking Him as a master, at another supplicating Him as a kind father, partly upbraiding and expostulating with Him, as is the wont of people in grief: “Wherefore hast Thou rejected us, O God; for ever? Hath Thy Spirit been wroth against the sheep of Thy pasture? Remember the help that Thou hast possessed from the beginning, which Thou hast obtained through the sufferings of Thy Only-begotten Word, which Thou hast thought worthy of the great Covenant, which Thou hast drawn up to the heavens by the New Mystery and by the pledge of the Spirit: and lift up Thine hand against their pride at last; remembering what the enemies have done against Thy saints, and how they have boasted against Thy festivals.” The sword also we invoked, and the plagues of Egypt, and besought Him to execute His own judgment, and exhorted Him to rise up at last against the ungodly, saying, “How long, Lord, shall the sinners—-how long shall the sinners boast themselves, and shall tread down Thy people, and harm Thine inheritance, and shall alike speak and do what is unlawful?” And again those pitiful and yet more appropriate expressions, “Thou hast made us a thing to be spoken against, and a contempt unto those near at hand; a bye-word to our neighbours, and a laughing-stock to all men.” A vine (we used to say) transplanted out of Egypt (out of dark ignorance of God), which had grown up to this beauty of faith and bigness, then the fence was taken away which formerly defended us (the protection of God); it was laid open to all passers by (to bad rulers); it was laid waste by the wild boar (by him that chose wickedness for his own, and was covered with the mire).
28. These things therefore did I think and cry aloud unto God, but now for what expressions, and in place of what, do I exchange them? Henceforth, I bewail the destruction of the wicked, I become loving unto those that hated me, and I cry aloud in words like these: “How have they been turned into desolation! Of a sudden they have failed, they have perished through their own transgressions, as dust that a whirlwind hath carried away, like down tossed about by the winds; as the morning dew, as the whizzing of a dart that is thrown, as a clap of thunder, as lightning flying past.” If now they should be converted, and ceasing from their long error and infatuation should follow after Truth, then perchance some good would accrue to them from their disaster: inasmuch as the being chastised is often for the advantage of those suffering chastisement. But if they should remain in the same mind, and cleave unto their idols still, nor be corrected by misfortune (a thing that makes even fools wise) —-then doth Jeremiah bewail Jerusalem so greatly, that he exhorts even things inanimate to lamentation, and demands a tear from the very walls. But for these people, what adequate lamentation can be found, and who can fittingly bewail their present condition, though he cease to shed a tear for their future chastisement? Because “they have become foolish, and have gone afar off, and have worshipped the creature beyond the Creator”—-not only so, but have risen up against those that served God, and have lifted up an impious hand, well deserving of such great plagues!
29. Let these things therefore take their course in what way soever is well-pleasing to God! Who knows whether He “who looseth those that be bound, and bringeth back from the Gates of Death him that is heavy and bowed down,” He “who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather his conversion,” who enlightened and corrected us who were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death—-will not some time or another take to himself these men also, and will lead them like a flock with the shepherd’s rod, laying aside the heavy rod of iron. But my speech will again run back to the same song of triumph: “Bel hath fallen, Dagon is broken to pieces, Sharon hath become a marsh, Lebanon is ashamed:” they will not longer “bid the fool to reign over them,” that is, the motionless, senseless host of idols: neither will they seek after the goddess of flies, Accaran, or any other more ridiculous than she: they will no more think about the groves, and the high-places, and every well-wooded and shady mountain: they will no more sacrifice their sons and their daughters unto devils, for which Israel of old was rebuked by the prophets; but what is all this to me? Let me turn to the present, and what concerns ourselves. No more shall they cast an evil eye upon our sacred edifices; no more shall they defile with polluting blood the altars named after the most pure and bloodless sacrifice: no more shall they disgrace with impious altars the places not to be approached: no more shall they plunder and profane the consecrated gifts, uniting rapine with sacrilege: no longer shall they insult the hoary hairs of priests, the gravity of deacons, and the modesty of virgins: no more shall they let loose the fury of swine upon the entrails of saints cut open, in order that they may gorge themselves at once with food and with entrails: no more shall they set fire to the monuments of the martyrs, as though they could check the zeal of others to follow their example by their insults against them: no more shall they destroy with fire the relics of saints, polluting their bones by mixing them with the vilest bones, and then scatter them to the winds, in order to defraud them of the honour due even to such remains: no more shall they set up a pulpit of pestilences, and revel in their blasphemies against bishops and presbyters, nay, against Prophets and Apostles, and even against Christ himself! No more shall they hold festivals against us; and exclude us by law from the cultivation of false learning, as though they could at the same time put a gag upon our tongues!
80. Give me thy reasons, both as an emperor, and as a sophist, thy conclusive arguments and syllogisms: let us see what our own fishermen and vulgar folks will have to say for themselves, “Put away the sound of thy songs, and the music of thy instruments,” as my Prophet exhorts thee. Let David again sing with freedom, he that struck down the lofty Goliath with the Mystic Stones, he that overcame many through meekness, and who healed Saul through his spiritual harmony, when possessed by the Evil Spirit. Let the torch-bearer put out his fire; let the wise and holy virgins kindle their own lamps for the bridegroom; let the hierophant put off his harlot’s attire: ye priests clothe yourselves with righteousness, and with the garment of glory, instead of the spirit of sloth, and with that great and spotless vesture, namely, Christ, our proper decoration!
31. Let thy herald hush his disgraceful proclamation; let my herald cry aloud the words of inspiration: destroy thy books of jugglery and divination, let only those of the Prophets and Apostles be opened: put a stop to thy infamous rites, so full of darkness: I will raise up against them our sacred vigils of the Light: stop up thy sanctuaries and the roads leading unto hell; I will show thee the open road and that leads to heaven! What mighty preparations of arms, or contrivances of engines have brought these things? How many myriads of men and legions had effected such great things as we have done merely by our prayers, and the Lord who willed the same! He hath scattered the darkness, He hath restored the light, He hath founded firmly the earth, He hath bent the heavens like a bow, He hath put the stars in their order, He hath sown the air, He hath set bounds to the sea, He hath drawn out the rivers, He hath given life to animals, He hath formed Man after His own image, He hath placed the universe around all, He hath by one word set free the darkened earth and restored it to light, order, and pristine harmony. No more shall gluttonous and sinful demons have dominion; no more shall the creature be dishonoured under pretence of honour, being worshipped in the place of God! Throw down thy Triptolemuses, and thy Eleusis, and thy foolish Dragons: shame thyself of the books of thine oracular Orpheus: accept the gift of the season that covers thy nakedness; and if these things be but fables and fictions, I will reveal to thee the mysteries of Night!
32. No more does the Oak speak; no more does the Cauldron give oracles; no more is the Pythia filled with I know what, save lies and nonsense. Again the Castalian Fount has been silenced and is silent, and becomes no longer an oracular stream, but an object of ridicule: again a voiceless statue is Apollo: again is Daphne a shrub bewailed in fable: again is thy Bacchus a catamite, with a train of drunkards tied to his tail, as well as thy grand mystery, the Phallus; and a god abandoning himself to the beautiful Prosymnus: again Semele is struck with lightning: again Vulcan is lame (though quick to catch an adulterer), and a god grimed with soot, although a famous artificer, and the Thersites of Olympus: again Mars is a prisoner for adultery, with all his terrors, and frights, and tumults, and gets wounded through his audacity: again Venus is one, formerly a harlot, to her shame, and the procuress of shameful copulations: again Minerva is a maid, and yet brings forth a dragon: again Hercules is mad, or rather has ceased to be mad: again out of lasciviousness and impurity, Jove, teacher, and sovereign of the gods, turns himself into all sorts of things; and though able to draw up all the gods together with all living things, is himself drawn down by none: again Jupiter’s tomb is shown in Crete. If I see thy god of gain, thy god of speech, thy president of games, I close my eyes and run past thy god out of shame for the exhibition: thou mayest, for ought I care, adore the tension of his—-speech (shall I call it), and his money-bag. One thing alone of them all is respectable—-namely, the honours paid amongst the Egyptians to the Nile by the catamite, also those to Isis, and the gods of Mendes and the Apis bulls, and the other things thou dost sculpture or paint, composite and monstrous creatures, thy ludicrous Pan, thy Priapus, thy Hermaphroditus; and the gods who castrate themselves, or tear themselves to pieces. These subjects, however, I will leave to the stage, and to those who decorate them with pomps and ceremonies, and I will conclude my discourse with an exhortation.
33. Men and women, young and old, all ye that have been admitted to this tribunal, and all ye that are set in the lower place, all ye whom the Lord hath redeemed, first, out of error and ungodliness, and now from the rebellion of the gentiles, from the dangers already present, and from those anticipated: hear the words of a man not slightly versed in such matters both from what daily takes place and from ancient histories, books, and facts. It is a great thing never to have experienced any trouble—-though perhaps, after all, not a great thing if the saying be true, “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth the son whom He accepteth and for whom He careth.” But truly it is a great thing never to have sinned at all—-at least heinously, inasmuch as completeness in virtue the Lord has placed beyond mortal reach; and secondly, it is a great thing that such as have somewhat stumbled and been chastised, and then set on their feet again, should abide sensible of that correction, and shun a second scourging for a second offence.
34. Wherefore let us be really corrected by this divine correction; let us show ourselves deserving, not only of what we have suffered at first, but of the blessings we obtained afterwards; let us make some defence, as regards the calamity that overtook us, in the fact that we were not given over to the gentiles as malefactors, but have been chastised as sons; let us not forget the tossing in the calm, nor the sickness in time of health, nor the captivity when restored to Jerusalem, nor Egypt after leaving Egypt. Let us not make the time of suffering better for us than that of delivery, but we shall make it so if we show ourselves at that time chastened and moderate, and raising up all our hopes to heaven; but now puffed up and boastful, and running back again into the same sins out of which we were carried into the calamities that then befell us. “Not so, my children, not so,” says in some place Eli the priest, reproving his sons when offending against God. For we know that it is easier to recall past discipline than to preserve it when sent to us from God; because a virtuous course brings back the one, whilst negligence dissipates the other: also our bodies when diseased, recover through strict diet and fasts, but when recovered they fall back through gradual careless living and surfeiting, and tumble again into the same maladies. Knowing these things, and teaching others the like, let us be masters over ourselves, and use the occasion with prudence.
35. First, therefore, brethren, let us keep a festival, not with cheerfulness of face, nor changes and sumptuousness of apparel, nor with revellings and drunkenness, the fruit whereof ye have been taught is chambering and wanton-ness; neither let us crown the streets with flowers, nor our tables with the scandal of perfumes, nor let us decorate the entrances of our dwellings; neither let our houses be illuminated with the material light, nor resounding with concerts and the clapping of hands—-for this is the pride of a heathen festivity. But let not us glorify God, or celebrate the present occasion with such things as these, wherewith it is not fitting—-but rather with purity of soul and cheerfulness of temper, and with the lamps of the Church that illuminate the body, I mean with godly contemplations, add thoughts raised aloft upon the Sacred Lamp-stand, and diffusing a light over all the world I Compared to such a Light, I esteem as a mere trifle all that men light up when they hold festival. I have also a certain unguent, but one wherewith only priests and kings are anointed, being of various ingredients and very costly, and poured out for our sake, but compounded by the art of the Great Ointment-maker. Oh, that it may be mine to offer up to God the sweet savour of this ointment! I have likewise a table, this spiritual one, which the Lord hath prepared for me, when He rescued me out of the hand of the oppressors, at the which I refresh myself and revel, yet do not grow wanton out of fulness, but calm down all rebellion of my passions. Flowers, too, I have, more blooming and lasting than all those of spring, “out of the full land that the Lord hath blessed,” that is, the holy and sweet-smelling pastors and teachers, and all that is pure and choice of the congregation; with these do I desire to be crowned and to go in procession, “having fought the good fight, having finished my course, having kept the faith,” according to the holy Apostle. Let us take up hymns instead of timbrils, psalmody instead of profane talking and songs, the applause of thanksgiving instead of the applause of the theatre, and action that is of good report, understanding instead of laughter, instead of drunkenness, sober reflection, instead of luxury, gravity of demeanour. And if thou must needs dance, like a festival-keeper and reveller, then dance, but not the dance of Herodias the immodest, the end whereof was the death of the Baptist, but rather that of David upon the stopping of the Ark, the which I take for an emblem, of a rapid and diversified walking after the will of God. This is the first and chiefest chapter of my exhortation.
36. Secondly, the words I am about to utter will be unpleasant and hard of acceptation, I well know, to the generality (for man when placed in a position to retaliate loves to do so, more especially when justly provoked at what he has lately suffered, while reason is far from compelling anger to obey the rein). Nevertheless, they deserve to be listened to and followed. Let us not use the occasion unsparingly; let us not abuse our power; let us not be bitter towards those that have wronged us; let us not do the same things that we have blamed in others, but profiting by the change so far as escaping danger goes, let us detest all thoughts of retaliation: a sufficient vengeance for reasonable men is the terror of those that have injured them, and their expecting the treatment of which they are deserving, and the torments of their own conscience; for what a person fears that he is about to suffer, the same he does suffer even though he does not actually suffer it; and perhaps even more from himself than he would from those that should inflict it. Let us, therefore, not consent for anger to be meted out as their due to our enemies, nor let us show ourselves punishers too gentle for their deserts; but seeing that we cannot exact from them the full debt of vengeance, let us forgive them the whole; let us be better and more highminded than those who have wronged us; let us show them what their demons teach them, and what Christ hath taught us, who having glory in the things that He suffered, was not less superior in the things He refrained from doing, though He had the power. Let us render unto God our thankoffering; let us magnify the Mystery by our goodness, and to this end let us improve the occasion.
37. Let us conquer those that have oppressed us, with clemency; and above all let humanity be our director, and the force of that commandment which promises us like for like mercy whenever we need the same; for “with what measure ye mete, with the same shall it be measured to you again,” as we well know. And if any of you feel exceedingly bitter, let us leave to God those who have vexed us, and to the tribunal of the next world; let us not diminish aught of the coming wrath by means of our own violence; let us not think of confiscation; let us not, bring them before the tribunals; let us not banish them from their country; let us not torture them with scourges, nor, to sum up all, let us not do to them anything of all that they have done to us. Let us make them better, if perchance that be possible, by our own example. If any one’s father has been a sufferer, or his son, or wife, or kinsman, or friend, or any of those dear to him, let us render the suffering profitable to them by persuading them to bear patiently the things which they have suffered; in this way we shall do them a greater favour than in any other. Shall I mention the greatest of the blessings we now enjoy? Those that persecuted us are hooted by mobs and cities, and market-places, and assemblies. The old state of things is cried up, the new derided, even by those who joined in the persecution, which is a strange thing; the gods themselves are pulled down amidst all sorts of execration by the very men who set them up, as though they had deceived them for a long time and the delusion had come to an end at last; and he that was yesterday a worshipper is to-day a reviler. What greater thing than all this do we seek for? At the present time this (perhaps too light for their offences) is the fate of those wretched men—-a time will come when I shall behold them and their Great Leader bewailing their own sin, at the time when all wickedness shall be judged and tormented!
38. I pass over the inspired, and our own denouncements, and the punishments that, according to us, are in store in the world to come: turn, pray, to thine own stories that are accepted, not by the poets only, but also by people who were philosophers; I mean thy Pyriphlegethons, Cocyti, and Acherons, wherewith they punish wickedness, Tantalus, Tityos, Ixion. Julian, your king of this fraternity, shall be reckoned amongst these—-nay, at the head of them all, according to my calculation and definition—-though he be not tormented with thirst whilst up to his chin in a lake; nor fearing (as Tragedy pleases) the rock overhanging his head, continually pushed away, continually rolling back; nor revolving along with the whizzing wheel; nor torn by vultures in his liver, never coming to an end, always renewed—-whether all this be truth, or fable foreshowing the truth |118in fictions—-but we shall see with what, and what sort of torture he will be punished, and how much more severely than all the rest—-if, indeed, punishments and retributions be adjudged according to the measure of offences.
39. Here is “a keepsake for thee in return for a kick,” thou best and wisest of men! (to address thee in thy own words); this do we offer thee, we that were excluded from the use of words, according to thy mighty and wonderful legislation; thou seest that we were not destined to be silenced for ever, or be condemned to speechlessness by thy decrees, but to utter a free voice demonstrative of thy folly. For neither is there any means of holding-in the cataracts of Nile, which tumble down from Ethiopia upon Egypt, nor yet the solar beam, even though it may be veiled for a little space by the snowfall, nor to tie the tongue of Christians from exposing to ridicule thy religion. These words Basil and Gregory send thee, “those opponents and counterworkers of thy scheme,” as thou wast wont to call them and persuade others to do the same—-doing us honour by what thou didst threaten us with, and moving us all the more to piety—-persons who being well known for their life, discourse, and mutual affection, and whom thou wast acquainted with ever since our common residence in Greece, thou didst treat with the honour the Cyclops paid Ulysses; thou didst keep us in reserve as the last victims for the persecution, and didst probably design as a thankoffering for victory to thy own demons (a great and splendid one, in truth!) in case we should get thee back returning triumphant from Persia; or else them didst hope, in thy infatuation, to drag us along with thee into the same abyss as thyself!
40. For we two were not less courageous than the youths who were cooled with dew in the furnace; and who overcame the wild beasts through Faith; and who zealously faced danger along with the mother that bore them and the yet bolder priest—-showing that Faith alone of all things is invincible; or than those youths in thy own time, one of whom having insulted thy “Mother of the gods,” and pulled down her altar, was brought before thee as a criminal, but came before thee as a triumphant champion, and after casting much ridicule upon thy purple robe and thy speeches, as mere counters and things to be laughed at, went out again with greater confidence than one returning from a feast or splendid entertainment; whilst another, deeply lacerated over all his body with scourges, and having but little breath left in him from his wounds, was so far from giving in to his torments or making a hardship of his condition, that when he perceived any part of his body not marked by the lashes, he forthwith accused his torturers as defrauding him, and not conferring honour upon his whole body, but letting some part pass unlacerated and unhallowed—-holding out his leg as the only part that had escaped the claws, and bidding them not spare that also.
41. This is the meaning of the lies and ravings of thy Porphyry (of which ye all boast as divinely-inspired words), and of thy “Misopogon,” or rather “Antichrist,” for thou gavest both names to the book—-than which nothing is more contemptible in the eyes of Christians; though at the time thy imperial rank made it important, aided by the parasites that extolled all thy actions; but now it is a Beard tossed about and plucked at, and the object of ridicule together with those that helped make it; in which book thou art mighty proud about the frugality of thy way of living, and of never suffering from indigestion in consequence of over-eating; whilst thou dost purposely omit how bitterly thou didst persecute the Christians, and eat up so great and holy a people. And yet what damage is it to the public if an individual has indigestion, or emits natural eructations? But when so great a persecution as this is stirred up, and such great disturbance occasioned by the change, it is unavoidable that the Roman empire should be in a bad way, as now it proves to have been.
42. Here is a pillar for thee, raised by our hands, more lofty and more conspicuous than the “Pillars of Hercules;” for they were set up to commemorate one Labour, and are only visible to such as visit that part of the world; but this cannot fail as it moves about to be known to all men in all places; and which the time to come, I well know, will receive, holding up, as it does, to infamy thee and thy actions, and warning all that remain never to venture upon any such rebellion against God, lest if they do the same things, they may meet with the same retribution!