Part II. – Containing Epistles, or Fragments of Epistles.
Epistle I. – To Domitius and Didymus.129
1. But it would be a superfluous task for me to mention by name our (martyr) friends, who are numerous and at the same time unknown to you. Only understand that they include men and women, both young men and old, both maidens and aged matrons, both soldiers and private citizens, – every class and every age, of whom some have suffered by stripes and fire, and some by the sword, and have won the victory and received their crowns. In the case of others. however, even a very long lifetime has not proved sufficient to secure their appearance as men acceptable to the Lord; as indeed in my own case too, that sufficient time has not shown itself up to the present. Wherefore He has preserved me for another convenient season, of which He knows Himself, as He says: “In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee.” (Isa_39:8)
2. Since, however, you have been inquiring130 about what has befallen us, and wish to be informed as to how we have fared, you have got a full report of our fortunes; how when we – that is to say, Gains, and myself, and Faustus, and Peter, and Paul – were led off as prisoners by the centurion and the magistrates,131 and the soldiers and other attendants accompanying them, there came upon us certain parties from Mareotis, who dragged us with them against our will, and though we were disinclined to follow them, and carried us away by force;132 and how Gains and Peter and myself have been separated from our other brethren, and shut up alone in a desert and sterile place in Libya, at a distance of three days’ journey from Paraetonium.
3. And a little further on, he proceeds thus: – And they concealed themselves in the city, and secretly visited the brethren. I refer to the presbyters Maximus, Dioscorus, Demetrius, and Lucius. For Faustinus and Aquila, who are persons of greater prominence in the world, are wandering about in Egypt. I specify also the deacons who survived those who died in the sickness,133 viz., Faustus, Eusebius, and Chaeremon. And of Eusebius I speak as one whom the Lord strengthened from the beginning, and qualified for the task of discharging energetically the services due to the confessors who are in prison, and of executing the perilous office of dressing out and burying134 the bodies of those perfected and blessed martyrs. For even up to the present day the governor does not cease to put to death, in a cruel manner, as I have already said, some of those who are brought before him; while he wears others out by torture, and wastes others away with imprisonment and bonds, commanding also that no one shall approach them and making strict scrutiny lest any one should be seen to do so. And nevertheless God imparts relief to the oppressed by the tender kindness and earnestness of the brethren.
Epistle II. – To Novatus.135
Dionysius to Novatus136 his brother, greeting. If you were carried on against your will, as you say, you will show that such has been the case by your voluntary retirement. For it would have been but dutiful to have suffered any kind of ill, so as to avoid rending the Church of God. And a martyrdom borne for the sake of preventing a division of the Church, would not have been more inglorious than one endured for refusing to worship idols;137 nay, in my opinion at least, the former would have been a nobler thing than the latter. For in the one case a person gives such a testimony simply for his own individual soul, whereas in the other case he is a witness for the whole Church. And now, if you can persuade or constrain the brethren to come to be of one mind again, your uprightness will be superior to your error; and the latter will not be charged against you, while the former will be commended in you. But if you cannot prevail so far with your recusant brethren, see to it that you save your own soul. My wish is, that in the Lord you may fare well as you study peace.
Epistle III. – To Fabius138 Bishop of Antioch.
1. The persecution with us did not commence with the imperial edict, but preceded it by a whole year. And a certain prophet and poet, an enemy to this city,139 whatever else he was, had previously roused and exasperated against us the masses of the heathen. inflaming them anew with the fires of their native superstition. Excited by him, and finding full liberty for the perpetration of wickedness, they reckoned this the only piety and service to their demons,140 namely, our slaughter.
2. First, then, they seized an old man of the name of Metras, and commanded him to utter words of impiety; and as he refused, they beat his body with clubs, and lacerated his face and eyes with sharp reeds, and then dragged him off to the suburbs and stoned him there. Next they carried off a woman named Quinta, who was a believer, to an idol temple, and compelled her to worship the idol; and when she turned away from it, and showed how she detested it, they bound her feet and dragged her through the whole city along the rough stone-paved streets, knocking her at the same time against the millstones, and scourging her, until they brought her to the same place, and stoned her also there. Then with one impulse they all rushed upon the houses of the God-fearing, and whatever pious persons any of them knew individually as neighbours, after these they hurried and bore them with them, and robbed and plundered them, setting aside the more valuable portions of their property for themselves, and scattering about the commoner articles, and such as were made of wood, and burning them on the roads, so that they made these parts present the spectacle of a city taken by the enemy. The brethren, however, simply gave way and withdrew, and, like those to whom Paul bears witness,141 they took the spoiling of their goods with joy. And I know not that any of them – except possibly some solitary individual who may have chanced to fall into their hands – thus far has denied the Lord.
3. But they also seized that most admirable virgin Apollonia, then in advanced life, and knocked out all her teeth,142 and cut her jaws; and then kindling a fire before the city, they threatened to burn her alive unless she would! repeat along with them their expressions of impiety.143 And although she seemed to deprecate144 her fate for a little, on being let go, she leaped eagerly into the fire and was consumed. They also laid hold of a certain Serapion in his own house;145 and after torturing him with severe cruelties, and breaking all his limbs, they dashed him headlong from an upper storey to the ground. And there was no road, no thoroughfare, no lane even, where we could walk, whether by night or by day; for at all times and in every place they all kept crying out, that if any one should refuse to repeat their blasphemous expressions, he must be at once dragged off and burnt. These in fictions were carried rigorously on for a considerable time146 in this manner. But when the insurrection and the civil war in due time overtook these wretched people,147 that diverted their savage cruelty from us, and turned it against themselves. And we enjoyed a little breathing time, as long as leisure failed them for exercising their fury against us.148
4. But speedily was the change from that more kindly reign149 announced to us; and great was the terror of threatening that was now made to reach us. Already, indeed, the edict had arrived; and it was of such a tenor as almost perfectly to correspond with what was intimated to us beforetime by our Lord, setting before us the most dreadful horrors, so as, if that were possible, to cause the very elect to stumble.150 All verily were greatly alarmed, and of the more notable there were some, and these a large number, who speedily accommodated themselves to the decree in fear;151 others, who were engaged in the public service, were drawn into compliance by the very necessities of their official duties;152 others were dragged on to it by their friends, and on being called by name approached the impure and unholy sacrifices; others yielded pale and trembling, as if they were not to offer sacrifice, but to be themselves the sacrifices and victims for the idols, so that they were jeered by the large multitude surrounding the scene, and made it plain to all that they were too cowardly either to face death or to offer the sacrifices. But there were others who hurried up to, the altars with greater alacrity, stoutly asserting153 that they had never been Christians at all before; of whom our Lord’s prophetic declaration holds most true, that it will be hard for such to be saved. Of the rest, some followed one or other of these parties already mentioned; and some fled, and some were seized. And of these, some went as far in keeping their faith as bonds and imprisonment; and certain persons among them endured imprisonment even for several days, and then after all abjured the faith before coming into the court of justice; while others, after holding out against the torture for a time, sank before the prospect of further sufferings.154
5. But there were also others, stedfast and blessed pillars of the Lord, who, receiving strength from Himself, and obtaining power and vigour worthy of and commensurate with the force of the faith that was in themselves, have proved admirable witnesses for His kingdom. And of these the first was Julianus, a man suffering from gout, and able neither to stand nor to walk, who was arranged along with two other men who carried him. Of these two persons, the one immediately denied Christ; but the other, a person named Cronion, and surnamed Eunus, and together with him the aged Julianus himself, confessed the Lord, and were carried on camels through the whole city, which is, as you know, a very large one, and were scourged in that elevated position, and finally were consumed in a tremendous fire, while the whole populace surrounded them. And a certain soldier who stood by them when they I were led away to execution, and who opposed the wanton insolence of the people, was pursued by the outcries they raised against him; and this most courageous soldier of God, Besas by name, was arranged; and after bearing himself most nobly in that mighty conflict on behalf of piety, he was beheaded. And another individual, who was by birth a Libyan, and who at once in name and in real blessedness was also a true Macar155 although much was tried by the judge to persuade him to make a denial, did not yield, and was consequently burned alive. And these were succeeded by Epimachus and Alexander, who, after a long time156 spent in chains, and after suffering countless agonies and inflictions of the scraper157 and the scourge, were also burnt to ashes in an immense fire.
6. And along with these there were four women. Among them was Ammonarium, a pious virgin, who was tortured for a very long time by the judge in a most relentless manner, because she declared plainly from the first that she would utter none of the things which he commanded her to repeat; and after she had made good her profession she was led off to execution. The others were the most venerable and aged Mercuria, and Dionysia, who had been the mother of many children, and yet did not love her offspring better than her Lord.158 These, when the governor was ashamed to subject them any further to profitless torments, and thus to see himself beaten by women, died by the sword, without more experience of tortures. For truly their champion Ammonarium had received tortures for them all.
7. Heron also, and Ater,159 and Isidorus160 who were Egyptians, and along with them Dioscorus, a boy of about fifteen years of age, were delivered up. And though at first he, the judge, tried to deceive the youth with fair speeches, thinking he could easily seduce him, and then attempted also to compel him by force of tortures, fancying he might be made to yield without much difficulty in that way, Dioscorus neither submitted to his persuasions nor gave way to his terrors. And the rest, after their bodies had been lacerated in a most savage manner, and their stedfastness had nevertheless been maintained, he consigned also to the flames. But Dioscorus he dismissed, wondering at the distinguished appearance he had made in public, and at the extreme wisdom of the answers he gave to his interrogations, and declaring that, on account of his age, he granted him further time for repentance. And this most godly Dioscorus is with us at present, tarrying for a greater conflict and a more lengthened contest. A certain person of the name of Nemesion, too, who was also an Egyptian, was falsely accused of being a companion of robbers; and after the had cleared himself of this charge before the centurion, and proved it to be a most unnatural calumny, he was informed against as a Christian, and had to come as a prisoner before the governor. And that most unrighteous magistrate inflicted on him a punishment twice as severe as that to which the robbers were subjected, making him suffer both tortures and scourgings, and then consigning him to the fire between the robbers. Thus the blessed martyr was honoured after the pattern of Christ.
8. There was also a body of soldiers,161 including Ammon, and Zeno, and Ptolemy, and Ingenuus, and along with them an old man, Theophilus, who had taken up their position in a mass in front of the tribunal; and when a certain person was standing his trial as a Christian, and was already inclining to make a denial, these stood round about and ground their teeth, and made signs with their faces, and stretched out their hands, and made all manner of gestures with their bodies. And while the attention of all was directed to them, before any could lay hold of them, they ran quickly up to the bench of judgment162 and declared themselves to be Christians, and made such an impression that the governor and his associates were filled with fear; and those who were trader trial seemed to be most courageous in the prospect of what they were to suffer, while the judges themselves trembled. These, then, went with a high spirit from the tribunals, and exulted in their testimony, God Himself causing them to triumph gloriously.163
9. Moreover, others in large numbers were torn asunder by the heathen throughout the cities and villages. Of one of these I shall give some account, as an example. Ischyrion served one of the rulers in the capacity of steward for stated wages. His employer ordered this man to offer sacrifice; and on his refusal to do so, he abused him. When he persisted in his non-compliance, his master treated him with contumely; and when he still held out, he took a huge stick and thrust it through his bowels and heart, and slew him. Why should I mention the multitudes of those who had to wander about in desert places and upon the mountains, and who were cut off by hunger, and thirst, and cold, and sickness, and robbers, and wild beasts? The survivors of such are the witnesses of their election and their victory. One circumstance, however, I shall subjoin as an illustration of these things. There was a certain very aged person of the name of Chaeremon, bishop of the place called the t city of the Nile.164 He fled along with his partner to the Arabian mountain,165 and never returned. The brethren, too, were unable to discover anything of them, although they made frequent search; and they never could find either the men themselves, or their bodies. Many were also carried off as slaves by the barbarous Saracens166 to that same Arabian mount. Some of these were ransomed with difficulty, and only by paying a great sum of money; others of them have not been ransomed to this day. And these facts I have related, brother, not without a purpose, but in order that you may know how many and how terrible are the ills that have befallen us; which troubles also will be best understood by those who have had most experience of them.
10. Those sainted martyrs, accordingly, who were once with us, and who now are seated with Christ,167 and are sharers in His kingdom, and partakers with Him in His judgment,168 and who act as His judicial assessors,169 received there certain of the brethren who had fallen away, and who had become chargeable with sacrificing to the idols. And as they saw that the conversion and repentance of such might be acceptable to Him who desires not at all the death of the sinner,170 but rather his repentance, they proved their sincerity, and received them, and brought them together again, and assembled with them, and had fellowship with them in their prayers and at their festivals.171 What advice then, brethren, do you give us as regards these? What should we do? Are we to stand forth and act with the decision and judgment which those (martyrs) formed, and to observe the same graciousness with them, and to deal so kindly with those toward whom they showed such compassion? or are we to treat their decision as an unrighteous one,172 and to constitute ourselves judges of their opinion on such subjects, and to throw clemency into tears, and to overturn the established order?173
11. But I shall give a more particular account of one case here which occurred among us:174 There was with us a certain Serapion, an aged believer. He had spent his long life blamelessly, but had fallen in the time of trial (the persecution). Often did this man pray (for absolution), and no one gave heed to him;175 for he had sacrificed to the idols. Falling sick, he continued three successive days dumb and senseless. Recovering a little on the fourth day, he called to him his grandchild, and said, “My son, how long do you detain me? Hasten, I entreat you, and absolve me quickly. Summon one of the presbyters to me.” And when he had said this, he became speechless again. The boy ran for the presbyter; but it was night, and the man was sick, and was consequently unable to come. But as an injunction had been issued by me,176 that persons at the point of death, if they requested it then, and especially if they had earnestly sought it before, should be absolved,177 in order that they might depart this life in cheerful hope, he gave the boy a small portion of the Eucharist,178 telling him to steep it in water179 and drop it into the old man’s mouth. The boy returned bearing the portion; and as he came near, and before he had yet entered, Serapion again recovered, and said, “You have come, my child, and the presbyter was unable to come; but do quickly what you were instructed to do, and so let me depart.” The boy steeped the morsel in water, and at once dropped it into the (old man’s) mouth; and after he had swallowed a little of it, he forthwith gave up the ghost. Was he not then manifestly preserved? and did he not continue in life just until he could be absolved, and until through the wiping away of his sins he could be acknowledged180 for the many good acts he had done?
Epistle IV. – To Cornelius the Roman Bishop.181
In addition to all these, he writes likewise to Cornelius at Rome after receiving his Epistle against Novatus. And in that letter he also shows that he had been invited by Helenus, bishop in Tarsus of Cilicia, and by the others who were with him – namely, Firmilian, bishop in Cappadocia, and Theoctistus in Palestine – to meet them at the Council of Antioch, where certain persons were attempting to establish the schism of Novatus. In addition to this, he writes that it was reported to him that Fabius was dead, and that Demetrianus was appointed his successor in the bishopric of the church at Antioch. He writes also respecting the bishop in Jerusalem, expressing himself in these very words: “And the blessed Alexander, having been cast into prison, went to his rest in blessedness.”
Epistle V., Which Is the First on the Subject of Baptism Addressed to Stephen, Bishop of Rome.182
Understand, however, my brother,183 that all the churches located in the east, and also in remoter districts,184 that were formerly in a state of division, are now made one again;185 and all those at the head of the churches everywhere are of one mind, and rejoice exceedingly at the peace which has been restored beyond all expectation. I may mention Demetrianus in Antioch; Theoctistus in Caesareia; Mazabanes in Aelia,186 the successor of the deceased Alexander;187 Marinus in Tyre; Heliodorus in Laodicea, the successor of the deceased Thelymidres; Helenus in Tarsus, and with him all the churches of Cilicia; and Firmilian and all Cappadocia. For I have named only the more illustrious of the bishops, so as neither to make my epistle too long, nor to render my discourse too heavy for you. All the districts of Syria, however, and of Arabia, to the brethren in which you from time to time have been forwarding supplies188 and at present have sent letters, and Mesopotamia too, and Pontus, and Syria, and, to speak in brief, all parties, are everywhere rejoicing at the unanimity and brotherly love now established, and are glorifying God for the same.
The Same, Otherwise Rendered.189
But know, my brother, that all the churches throughout the East, and those that are placed beyond, which formerly were separated, are now at length returned to unity; and all the presidents190 of the churches everywhere think one and the same thing, and rejoice with incredible joy on account of the unlooked-for return of peace: to wit, Demetrianus in Antioch; Theoctistus in Caesarea; Mazabenes in Aelia, after the death of Alexander; Marinus in Tyre; Heliodorus in Laodicea, after the death of Thelymidres; Helenus in Tarsus, and all the churches of Cilicia; Firmilianus, with all Cappadocia. And I have named only the more illustrious bishops, lest by chance my letter should be made too prolix, and my address too wearisome. The whole of the Syrias, indeed, and Arabia, to which you now and then send help, and to which you have now written letters; Mesopotamia also, and Pontus, and Bithynia; and, to comprise all in one word, all the lands everywhere, are rejoicing, praising God on account of this concord and brotherly charity.
Epistle VI. – To Sixtus, Bishop.191
1. Previously, indeed, (Stephen) had written letters about Helanus and Firmilianus, and about all who were established throughout Cilicia and Cappadocia, and all the neighbouring provinces, giving them to understand that for that same reason he would depart from their communion, because they rebaptized heretics. And consider the seriousness of the matter. For, indeed, in the most considerable councils of the bishops, as I hear, it has been decreed that they who come from heresy should first be trained in Catholic doctrine, and then should be cleansed by baptism from the filth of the old and impure leaven. Asking and calling him to witness on all these matters, I sent letters.
And a little after Dionysius proceeds: –
2. And, moreover, to our beloved co-presbyters Dionysius and Philemon, who before agreed with Stephen, and had written to me about the same matters, I wrote previously in few words, but now I have written again more at length.
In the same letter, says Eusebius,192 he informs Xystus193 of the Sabellian heretics, that they were gaining ground at that time, in these words: –
3. For since of the doctrine, which lately has been set on foot at Ptolemais, a city of Pentapolis, implores and full of blasphemy against Almighty God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; full of unbelief and perfidy towards His only begotten Son and the first-born of every creature, the Word made man, and which takes away the perception of the Holy Spirit, – on either side both letters were brought to me, and brethren had come to discuss it, setting forth more plainly as much as by God’s gift I was able, – I wrote certain letters, copies of which I have sent to thee.
Epistle VII. – To Philemon, a Presbyter.194
I indeed gave attention to reading the books and carefully studying the traditions of heretics, to the extent indeed of corrupting my soul with their execrable opinions; yet receiving from them this advantage, that I could refute them in my own mind, and detested them more heartily than ever. And when a certain brother of the order of presbyters sought to deter me, and feared lest I should be involved in the same wicked filthiness, because he said that my mind would be contaminated, and indeed with truth, as I myself perceived, I was strengthened by a vision that was sent me from God. And a word spoken to me, expressly commanded me, saying, Read everything which shall come into thy hands, for thou art fit to do so, who correctest and provest each one; and from them to thee first of all has appeared the cause and the occasion of believing. I received this vision as being what was in accordance with the apostolic word, which thus urges all who are endowed with greater virtue, “Be ye skilful money-changers.”195
Then, says Eusebius, he subjoins some things parenthetically about all heresies: –
This rule and form I have received from our blessed Father Heraclus: For thou, who came from heresies, even if they had fallen away from the Church, much rather if they had not fallen away, but when they were seen to frequent the assemblies of the faithful, were charged with going to hear the teachers of perverse doctrine, and ejected from the Church, he did not admit after many prayers, before they had openly and publicly narrated whatever things they had heard from their adversaries. Then he received them at length to the assemblies of the faithful, by no means asking of them to receive baptism anew. Because they had already previously received the Holy Spirit from that very baptism.
Once more, this question being thoroughly ventilated, he adds: –
I learned this besides, that this custom is not now first of all imported among the Africans196 alone; but moreover, long before, in the times of former bishops, among most populous churches, and that when synods of the brethren of Iconium and Synades were held, it also pleased as many as possible, I should be unwilling, by overturning their judgments, to throw them into strifes and contentious. For it is written, “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour’s landmark, which thy fathers have placed.” (Deu_19:14)
Epistle VIII. – To Dionysius.197
For we rightly repulse Novatian, who has rent the Church, and has drawn away some of the brethren to impiety and blasphemies; who has brought into the world a most impious doctrine concerning God, and calumniates our most merciful Lord Jesus Christ as if He were unmerciful; and besides all these things, holds the sacred layer as of no effect, and rejects it, and overturns faith and confession, which are put before baptism, and utterly drives away the Holy Spirit from them, even if any hope subsists either that He would abide in them, or that He should return to them.
Epistle IX. – To Sixtus II.198
For truly, brother, I have need of advice, and I crave your judgment, lest perchance I should be mistaken upon the matters which in such wise happen to me. One of the brethren who come together to the church, who for some time has been esteemed as a believer, and who before my ordination, and, if I am not deceived, before even the episcopate of Heraclas himself, had been a partaker of the assembly of the faithful, when he had been concerned in the baptism of those who were lately baptized, and had heard the interrogatories and their answers, came to me in tears, and bewailing his lot. And throwing himself at my feet, he began to confess and to protest that this baptism by which he had been initiated among heretics was not of this kind, nor had it anything whatever in common with this of ours, because that it was full of blasphemy and impiety. And he said that his soul was pierced with a very bitter sense of sorrow, and that he did not dare even to lift up his eyes to God, because he had been initiated by those wicked words and things. Wherefore he besought that, by this purest layer, he might be endowed with adoption and grace. And I, indeed, have not dared to do this; but I have said that the long course of communion had been sufficient for this. For I should not dare to renew afresh, after all, one who had heard the giving of thanks, and who had answered with others Amen; who had stood at the holy table, and had stretched forth his hands199 to receive the blessed food, and had received it, and for a very long time had been a partaker of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Henceforth I bade him be of good courage, and approach to the sacred elements with a firm faith and a good conscience, and become a partaker of them. But he makes no end of his wailing, and shrinks from approaching to the table; and scarcely, when entreated, can he bear to be present at the prayers.
129 Eusebius, Hist. Eccles., vii. 11.
130 Reading ἐπειδὴ πυνθάνεσθε, for which some codices give ἐπεὶ πυνθάνεσθαι.
131 στρατηγῶν. Christophorsonus would read στρατηγοῦ, in the sense of commander. But the word is used here of the duumviri or magistrates of Alexandria. And that the word στρατηγος was used in this civil acceptation, as well as in the common military application, we see by many examples in Athanasius, Ammianus Marcellinus, and others. Thus, as Valesius remarks, the soldiers (στρατιωτῶν) here will be the band with the centurion, and the attendants (ὑπηρετῶν) will be the civil followers of the magistrates.
132 This happened in the first persecution under Decius, when Dionysius was carried off by the first decision of the prefect Sabinus to Taposiris, as he informs us in his epistle to Germanus. Certainly any one who compares that epistle of Dionysius to Germanus with this one to Domitius, will have no doubt that he speaks of one and the same event in both. Hence Eusebius is in error in thinking that in this epistle of Dionysius to Domitius we have a narrative of the events relating to the persecution of Valerian, – a position which may easily be refuted from Dionysius himself. For in the persecution under Valerian, Dionysius was not carried off into exile under military custody, nor were there any men from Mareotis, who came and drove off the soldiers, and bore him away unwillingly, and set him at liberty again: nor had Dionysius on that occasion the presbyters Gaius and Faustus, and Peter and Paul, with him. All these things happened to Dionysius in that persecution which began a little before Decius obtained the empire, as he testifies himself in his epistle to Germanus. But in the persecution under Valerian, Dionysius was accompanied in exile by the presbyter Maximus, and the deacons Faustus, and Eusebius, and Chaeremon, and a certain Roman cleric, as he tells us in the epistle to Germanus. – Valesius.
133 ἐν τῇ νόσῳ. Rufinus reads νησῳ, and renders it, “But of the deacons, some died in the island after the pains of confession.” But Dionysius refers to the pestilence which traversed the whole Roman world in the times of Gallus and Volusianus, as Eusebius in his Chronicon and others record. See Aurelius Victor. Dionysius makes mention of this sickness again in the paschal epistle to the Alexandrians, where he also speaks of the deacons who were cut off by that plague. – Vales.
134 περιστολὰς ἐκτελεῖν. Christophorsonus renders it: “to prepare the linen cloths in which the bodies of the blessed martyrs who departed this life might be wrapped.” In this Valesius thinks he errs by looking at the modern method of burial, whereas among the ancient Christians the custom was somewhat different, the bodies being dressed out in full attire, and that often at great cost, as Eusebius shows us in the case of Astyrius, in the Hist. Eccles., vii. 16. Yet Athanasius, in his Life of Antonius, has this sentence: “The Egyptians are accustomed to attend piously to the funerals of the bodies of the dead, and especially to those of the holy martyrs, and to wrap them in linen cloths: they are not wont, however, to consign them to the earth, but to place them on couches, and keep them in private apartments.”
135 Eusebius, Hist. Eccles., vi. 45.
136 Jerome, in his Catalogus, where he adduces the beginning of this epistle, gives Novatianus for Novatus. So in the Chronicon of Georgius Syncellus we have Διονύσιος Ναυατιανῷ. Rufinus’ account appears to be that there were two such epistles, – one to Novatus, and another to Novatianus. The confounding of these two forms seems, however, to have been frequent among the Greeks. [See Lardner, Credib., sub voce Novat. Wordsworth thinks the Greeks shortened the name, on the grounds which Horace notes ad vocem “Equituticum.” Satires, I. v. 87.]
137 We read, with Gallandi, καὶ ἦν οὐκ ἀδοξοτέρα τῆς ενεκεν τοῦ μὴ ἰδωλολατρευσαι (sic) γινομένης, ἠ ενεκεν τοῦ μὴ σχίσαι μαρτυρία. This is substantially the reading of three Venetian codices, as also of Sophronius on Jerome’s De vir. illustr., ch. 69, and Georgius Syncellus in the Chronogr., p. 374, and Nicephorus Callist., Hist. Eccles., vi. 4. Pearson, in the Annales Cyprian., Num. x. p. 31, proposes θῦσαι for σχίσαι. Rufinus renders it: “et erat non inferior gloria sustinere martyrium ne scindatur ecclesia quam est illa ne idolis immoletur.”
138 Eusebius, Hist. Eccles., vi. 41, 42, 44. Certain codices read Fabianus for Fabius, and that form is adopted also by Rufinus. Eusebius introduces this epistle thus: “The same author, in an epistle written to Fabius bishop of Antioch, gives the following account of the conflicts of those who suffered martyrdom at Alexandria.”
139 καὶ φθάσας ὁ κακῶν, etc. Pearson, Annales Cyprian. ad ann., 249, § 1, renders it rather thus: “et praevertens malorum huic urbi vates et auctor, quisquis ille fuit, commovit,” etc.
140 εὐσέβειαν τὴν θρησκείαν δαιμόνων. Valesius thinks the last three words in the text (= service to their demons) an interpolation by some scholiast. [Note θρησκείαν = cultus, Jam_1:27.]
142 [To this day St. Apollonia is invoked all over Europe; and votive offerings are to be seen hung up at her shrines, in the form of teeth, by those afflicted with toothache.]
143 τὰ τῆς ὰσεβείας κηρύγματα. What these precisely were, it is not easy to say. Dionysius speaks of them also as δύσφημα ῥήματα in this epistle, and as ἄθεοι φωναί in that to Germanus. Gallandi thinks the reference is to the practice, of which we read also in the Acts of Polycarp, ch. 9, where the proconsul addresses the martyr with the order: λοιδόρησον τὸν Χριστόν – Revile Christ. And that the test usually put to reputed Christians by the early persecutors was this cursing of Christ, we learn from Pliny, book x. epist. 97. [Vol. 1. p. 41.]
144 Or, shrink from.
145 ἐφεστιον, for which Nicephorus reads badly, Ἐφέσιον.
147 ἀθλίους. But Pearson suggests ἄθλους, = “when insurrection and civil war took the place of these persecutions.” This would agree better with the common usage of διαδεχομαι.
148 ἀσχολίαν του πρὸς ἡμας θυμοῦ λαβόντων. The Latin version gives, “dum illorum cessaret furor.” W. Lowth renders, “dum non vacaret ipsis furorem suum in nos exercere.”
149 This refers to the death of the Emperor Philip, who showed a very righteous and kindly disposition toward the Christians. Accordingly the matters here recounted by Dionysius took place in the last year of the Emperor Philip. This is also indicated by Dionysius in the beginning of this epistle, where he says that the persecution began at Alexandria a whole year before the edict of the Emperor Decius. But Christophorsonus, not observing this, interprets the μεταβολὴν τῆς βασιλείας as signifying a change in the emperor’s mind toward the Christians, in which error he is followed by Baronius, ch. 102. – Vales.
150 In this sentence the Codex Regius reads, τὸ προῤῥηθὲν ὑπὸ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν παραβραχυ τὸ φοβερωτατον, etc., = “the one intimated beforetime by our Lord, very nearly the most terrible one.” In Georgius Syncellus it is given as ἡ παρὰ βραχύ. But the reading in the text, ἀποφαῖνον, “setting forth,” is found in the Codices Maz., Med., Fuk., and Savilii; and it seems the best, the idea being that this edict of Decius was so terrible as in a certain measure to represent the most fearful of all times, viz., those of Antichrist.
151 ἀπήντων δεδιότες.
152 οἱ δὲ δημοσιεύοντες ὑπὸ τῶν πράξεων ἤγοντο. This is rendered by Christophorsonus, “alii ex privatis aedibus in publicum raptati ad delubra decuntur a magistratibus.” But δημοσιευοντες is the same as τὰ δημόσια πράττοντες, i.e., decurions and magistrates. For when the edict of Decius was conveyed to them, commanding all to sacrifice to the immortal gods, these officials had to convene themselves in the court-house as usual, and stand and listen while the decree was there publicly recited. Thus they were in a position officially which led them to be the first to sacrifice. The word πραξεις occurs often in the sense of the acts and administration of magistrates: thus, in Eusebius, viii. 11; in Aristides, in the funeral oration on Alexander, τὰ δ ̓ είς πράξεις τε καὶ πολιτειας, etc. There are similar passages also in Plutarch’s Πολιτικὰ παραγγελματα, and in Severianus’s sixth homily on Matthew, calls the decurions τοὺς τὰ πολιτικὰ πράττοντας, employed in the departments of law or finance; so that the clause might be rendered, with Valesius: “alii, qui in publico versabantur, rebus ipsis et reliquorum exemplo, ad sacrificandum ducebantur.” See the note in Migne.
153 ἰσχυριζόμενοι here for διισχυριζόμενοι. – Vales.
154 πρὸς τὸ ἑξῆς ἀπεῖρον. It may also mean, “renounced the faith in the prospect of what was before them.”
155 A blessed one. Alluding to Mat_5:10, Mat_5:12.
156 μετὰ πολύν. But Codices Med., Maz., Fuk., and Savilii, as well as Georgius Syncellus, read μετ ̓ οὐ πολυν, “after a short time.”
158 Here Valesius adds from Rufinus the words καὶ Ἀμμωνάριον ετερα, “and a second Ammonarium,” as there are four women mentioned.
159 In Georgius Syncellus and Nicephorus it is given as Aster. Rufinus makes the name Arsinus. And in the old Roman martyrology, taken largely from Rufinus, we find the form Arsenius. – Vales.
160 In his Bibliotheca, cod. cxix., Photius states that Isidorus was full brother to Pierius, the celebrated head of the Alexandrian school, and his colleague in martyrdom. He also intimates, however, that although some have reported that Pierius ended his career by martyrdom, others say he spent the closing period of his life in Rome after the persecution abated. – Ruinart.
161 σύνταγμα στρατιωτικόν. Rufinus and Christophorsonus make it turmam militum. Valesius prefers manipulum or contubernium. These may have been the apparitors or officers of the praefectus Augustalis. Valesius thinks rather that they were legionaries, from the legion which had to guard the city of Alexandria, and which was under the authority of the praefectus Augustalis. For at that time the praefectus Augustalis had charge of military affairs as well as civil.
162 βάθρον. Valesius supposes that what is intended is the seat on which the accused sat when under interrogation by the judge.
163 θριαμβεύοντος αὐτούς. Rufinus makes it, “God thus triumphing in them;” from which it would seem that he had read δι ̓ αὐτούς. But θριαμβεύειν is probably put here for θριαμβεύειν ποιεῖν, as βασιλεύειν is also used by Gregory Nazianzenus.
164 That is, Nilopolis or Niloupolis. Eusebius, bishop of the same seat, subscribed the Council of Ephesus. – Reading.
165 τὸ Ἀράβιον ὄρος. There is a Mons Arabicus mentioned by Herodotus (ii. 8), which Ptolemy and others call Mons Troïcus. – Vales.
166 This passage is notable from the fact that it makes mention of the Saracens. For of the writers whose works have come down to us there is non more ancient than Dionysius of Alexandria that has named the Saracens. Ammianus Marcellinus, however, writes in his fourteenth book that he has made mention of the Saracens in the Acts of Marcus. Spartianus also mentions the Saracens in his Niger, and says that the Roman soldiers were beaten by them. – Vales. [“The barbarous Saracens:” what a nominis umbra projected by “coming events,” in this blissfully ignorant reference of our author! Compare Robertson, Researches, on the conquest of Jerusalem.]
167 As to the martyrs’ immediate departure to the Lord, and their abode with Him, see Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, ch. xliii., and On the Soul, v. 55.
168 That the martyrs were to be Christ’s assessors, judging the word with Him, was a common opinion among the fathers. So, after Dionysius, Eulogius, bishop of Alexandria, in his fifth book, Against the Novatians. Photius, in his Bibliotheca, following Chrysostom, objects to this, and explains Paul’s words in 1Co_6:2 as having the same intention as Christ’s words touching the men of Nineveh and the queen of the south who should rise up in the judgment and condemn that generation.
169 συνδικάζοντες. See a noble passage in Bossuet, Preface sur l’Apocal., § 28.
171 Dionysius is dealing here not with public communion, such as was the bishop’s prerogative to confer anew on the penitent, but with private fellowship among Christian people. – Vales.
172 ἄδικον ποιησώμεθα is the reading of Codices Maz., Med., Fuk., and Savil., and also of Georgius Syncellus. Others read ἄδεκτον ποιησόμεθα, “we shall treat it as inadmissible.”
173 The words καὶ τὸν Θεὸν παροξύνομεν, “and provoke God,” are sometimes added here: but they are wanting in Codices Maz., Med., Fuk., Savil., and in Georgius Syncellus.
174 Eusebius introduces this in words to the following effect: “Writing to this same Fabius, who seemed to incline somewhat to this schism, Dionysius of Alexandria, after setting forth in his letter many other matters which bore on repentance, and after describing the conflicts of the martyrs who had recently suffered in Alexandria, relates among other things one specially wonderful fact, which I have deemed proper for insertion in this history, and which is as follows.”
175 That is, none either of the clergy or of the people were moved by his prayers to consider him a proper subject for absolution; for the people’s suffrages were also necessary for the reception into the Church of any who had lapsed, and been on that account cut off from it. And sometimes the bishop himself asked the people to allow absolution to be given to the suppliant, as we see in Cyprian’s Epistle 53, to Cornelius, and in Tertullian, On Modesty, ch. xiii. Oftener, however, the people themselves made intercession with the bishop for the admission of penitents; of which we have a notable instance in the Epistle of Cornelius to Fabius of Antioch about that bishop who had ordained Novatianus. See also Cyprian, Epistle 59. – Vales.
176 In the African Synod, which met about the time that Dionysius wrote, it was decreed that absolution should be granted to lapsed persons who were near their end, provided that they had sought it earnestly before their illness. See Cyprian in the Epistle to Antonianus. – Vales.
177 ἀφίεσθαι. There is a longer reading in Codices Fuk. and Savil., viz.: τῶν θείων δώρων τῆς μεταδόσεως ἀξιοὔσθαι καὶ ουτως ἀφιεσθαι, “be deemed worthy of the imparting of the divine gifts, and thus be absolved.”
178 Valesius thinks that this custom prevailed for a long time, and cites a synodical letter of Ratherius, bishop of Verona (which has also been ascribed to Udalricus by Gretserus, who has published it along with his Life of Gregory VII.), in which the practice is expressly forbidden in these terms: “And let no one presume to give the communion to a laic or a woman, for the purpose of conveying it to an infirm person.”
179 ἀποβρέξαι. Rufinus renders it by infundere. References to this custom are found in Adamanus, in the second book of the Miracles of St. Columba, Eze_6:1-14; in Bede, Life of St. Cuthbert, Eze_31:1-18, and in the poem on the life of the same; in Theodorus Campidunensis, Life of St. Magnus, Eze_22:1-31; in Paulus Bernriedensis, Life of Gregory VII., p. 113.
180 ὁμολογηθῆναι. Langus, Wolfius, and Musculus render it confiteri, “confess.” Christophorsonus makes it in numerum confessorum referri, “reckoned in the number of confessors;” which may be allowed, if it is understood to be a reckoning by Christ. For Dionysius alludes to those words of Christ in the Gospel: “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father.” – Vales.
181 Eusebius, Hist. Eccles., vi. 46.
182 In the second chapter of the seventh book of his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius says: “To this Stephen, Eusebius wrote the first of his epistles on the matter of baptism.” And he calls this the first, because Dionysius also wrote other four epistles to Xystus and Dionysius, two of the successors of Stephen, and to Philemon, on the same subject of the baptizing of heretics. – Gallandi.
183 Eusebius introduces the letter thus: “When he had addressed many reasonings on this subject to him (Stephen) by letter, Dionysius at last showed him that, as the persecution had abated, the churches in all parts opposed to the innovations of Novatus were at peace among themselves.” [See vol. 5. p. 275.]
184 καὶ ἔτι προσωτέρω. These words are omitted in Codices Fulk. and Savil., as also by Christophorsonus; but are given in Codices Reg., Maz., and Med., and by Syncellus and Nicephorus.
185 Baronius infers from this epistle that at this date, about 259 A.D., the Oriental bishops had given up their “error,” and fallen in with Stephen’s opinion, that heretics did not require to be rebaptized, – an inference, however, which Valesius deems false. [Undoubtedly so.]
186 The name assigned by the pagans to Jerusalem was Aelia. It was so called even in Constantine’s time, as we see in the Tabula Peutingerorum and the Itinerarium Antonini, written after Constantine’s reign. In the seventh canon of the Nicene Council we also find the name Aelia. [Given by Hadrian A.D. 135.]
187 The words κοιμηθεντος Ἀλεξάνδρου are given in the text in connection with the clause Μαρὶνος ἐν Τύρῳ. They must be transposed, however, as in the translation; for Mazabanes had succeeded Alexander the bishop of Aelia, as Dionysius informs us in his Epistle to Cornelius. so Rufinus puts it also in his Latin version. – Vales.
188 Alluding to the generous practice of the church at Rome in old times in relieving the wants of the other churches, and in sending money and clothes to the brethren who were in captivity, and to those who toiled in the mines. to this effect we have the statement of Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, in his Epistle to Soter, which Eusebius cites in his fourth book. In the same passage, Eusebius also remarks that this commendable custom had been continued in the Roman church up to his own time; and with that object collections were made there, of which Leo Magnus writes in his Sermones. – Vales. [Note this to the eternal honour of this See in its early purity.]
189 [In vol. 5., to illustrate the history of Cyprian, reference is made to this letter: and in the Clark edition another rendering is there given (a preferable one, I think) of this same letter, which I have thought better to reserve for this place. It belongs here, and I have there noted its appearance in this volume.]
190 [προεστῶτες. See Euseb., Hist. Eccles., book viii. capp. 2, 3, and 4; also vol. 5., this series, as above mentioned.]
191 Dionysius mentions letters that had been written by him as well to the Presbyters Dionysius and Philemon as to Stephen, on the baptism of heretics and on the Sabellian heresy.
192 Lib. vii. Phm_1:6.
193 [i.e., Sixtus II.]
194 Of Sixtus, bishop of Rome. [A.D. 257].
195 1Th_5:21. [Euseb., vi. 7. The apostle is supposed to refer to one of the reputed sayings of our Lord, γινεσθε δόκιμοι τραπεζῖται = examinatores, i.e., of coins, rejecting the base, and laying up in store the precious. Compare Jer_15:19.]
196 [I find that it is necessary to say that the “Africans” of Egypt and Carthage were no more negroes than we “Americans” are redmen. The Carthaginians were Canaanites, and the Alexandrians Greeks. I have seen Cyprian’s portrait representing him as a Moor.]
197 At that time presbyter Xystus, and afterwards his successor. He teaches that Novatian is deservedly to be opposed on account of his schism, on account of his impious doctrine, on account of the repetition of baptism to those who came to him.
198 Of a man who sought to be introduced to the Church by baptism, although he said that he had received baptism, with other words and matters among the heretics.
199 [Vol. v. See a reference to Cyril’s Catechetical Lectures.]