« AnteriorContinuar »
Gibbon's account of this matter.
ing the emperor's stay at Antioch, the city was almost entirely ruined by an earthquake. It was preceded by violent claps of thunder, unusual winds, and a dreadful noise under ground. Then followed so terrible a shock, that the earth trembled, several houses were overturned, and others tossed to and fro, like a ship at sea. The noise of the cracking and bursting of the timber, and of the falling of the houses, drowned the cries of the dismayed populace. Those who happened to be in their houses were, for the most part buried under their ruins; such as were walking in the streets and in the squares, were, by the violence of the shock, dashed against each other, and most of them killed or dangerously wounded. Trajan himself was much hurt, but escaped through a window out of the house in which he was. When the earthquake ceased, the voice of a woman was heard crying under the ruins, which being removed, she was found with a sucking child in her arms, whom she kept alive, as well as herself, with her milk.
The eminent station of Ignatius, and the popularity which generally attends superior talents, marked him out as the victim of imperial fury on the occasion. He was seized, and by the emperor's order sent from Antioch to Rome, where he was exposed to the fury of wild beasts in the theatre, and by them devoured. About the same . time, Simeon, the son of Cleopas, who had succeeded the apostle James, as pastor of the church originally gathered in Jerusalem, but which, at the time of its destruction, removed to a small town called Pella, was accused, before Atticus, the Roman governor, of being a Christian. He was then an hundred and twenty years old, but his hoary hairs were no protection to him under the charge of fessing Christianity. He endured the punishment of scourging, for many days; but though his hardiness astonished, his sufferings failed to excite the pity of his persecutors, and he was, at length, ordered to be crucified.
proThis state of things, which is commonly termed the third persecution, seems to have continued during the whole of Trajan's reign, for it does not appear that his edicts against the Christians were revoked during his life, which, after having swayed the imperial sceptre 19 years, was closed in the year 117, while prosecuting his great military expedition into the east.
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED.
The state of the Christian profession under the reigns of
Adrian and the Antonines. A. D. 117–180.
The persecuting edicts, which had been issued against the Christians, under the former emperors, continued unrepealed when Adrian was raised to the throne of the Cæsars. The law of Trajan, of which I have taken notice in the foregoing section, and which had been registered among the public edicts of the empire, bad in some degree ameliorated the state of matters.
“ The Christians were not to be officiously sought after;" but still, such as were accused and convicted of an adherence to Christianity were to be put to death as wicked citizens, if they did not return to the religion of their ancestors.
Under the reign of Adrian, the empire flourished in peace and prosperity. He encouraged the arts, reformed the laws, enforced military discipline, and visited all his provinces in person. His vast and active genius was equally suited to the most enlarged views, and the minute details of civil policy; but the ruling passions of his soul were curiosity and vanity. As they prevailed, and as
Reign of Adrian.
they were attracted by different objects, Adrian was, by turns, an excellent prince, a ridiculous sophist, or a jealous tyrant. After his death, the senate doubted whether they should pronounce him a god or a tyrant, and the honours decreed to his memory were granted to the prayers of his successor, the pious Antoninus.*
In the sixth year of his reign, Adrian came to Athens, where he was initiated in the Elusinian mysteries. Tertullian describes him as a man excessively curious and inquisitive-(curiositatum omnium explorator)—his knowledge was various and extensive-he had studied all the arts of magic, and was passionately fond of the pagan institutions. At the time of his visiting Athens, Quadratus was pastor of the Christian church in that city, having succeeded Publius, who suffered martyrdom either in this or the foregoing reign. It seems likely that this church had undergone a severe persecution, for we are informed that when Quadratus took the oversight of them, he found the fock in a dispersed and confused state; their public assemblies were neglected; their zeal was become languid, and they were in danger of being wholly scattered. Quadratus laboured indefatigably to recover them, and he succeeded. Order and discipline were restored, insomuch that at a subsequent period, when Origen wrote his treatise against Celsus, he adduces the church at Athens as a notable pattern of good order, constancy, meekness and quietness.t
Quadratus drew up an apology for the Christian Religion, which he addressed and delivered to the emperor; as did also Aristides, a Christian writer at that time in Athens. Unfortunately these apologies are lost, and it is greatly to be regretted; for had they survived the wreck of time, they would, in all probability, have thrown much
* Gibbon's Rome, vol. i. ch. 3, + Eusebius, b. 4. ch. 23. and Cave's Life of Quadratus, Vol. I.
light upon the state of the Christian profession at that period. Nor have we any certain information what effect they produced upon the mind of the emperor. “The pagan priests,” says Mosheim,“ set the populace in motion to demand from the magistrates, with one voice, during the public games, the destruction of the Christians; and the magistrates fearing that a sedition might be the consequence of despising or opposing these popular clamours, were too much disposed to indulge them in their requests.” During these commotions, Serenus Granianus, proconsul of Asia, wrote to the emperor that “ it seemed to him unreasonable, that the Christians should be put to death, merely to gratify the clamours of the people, without trial, and without being convicted of
any crime.” This seems the first instance of any Roman góvernor publicly daring to question the propriety and justice of Trajan's edict, which, independant of any moral guilt, inflicted death on Christians, merely because they were Christians. Serenus, at the time of writing his letter, was probably about to quit his office, but Adrian addressed the following rescript to his successor.
To MINUTIUS FUNDANUS. “ I have received a letter written to me by the very illustrious Serenus Granianus, whom you have succeeded. To me then the affair seems by no means fit to be slight ly passed over, that men may not be disturbed without cause, and that sycophants may not be encouraged in their odious practices. If the people of the province will appear publicly, and make open charges against the Christians, so as to give them an opportunity of answering for themselves, let them proceed in that manner only, and not by rude demands and meré clamours. For it is much more proper, if any person will accuse them, that you should take cognizance of these matters. If therefore any accuse, and shew that they actually break the SECT. 11.]
Reseript of Adrian.
laws, do you determine according to the nature of the crime. But, by Hercules, if the charge be a mere calumny, do you estimate the enormity of such calumny and punish as it deserves.” *
This rescript seems to have somewhat abated the fury of the persecution, though not wholly to have put an end to it. Tertullian, in reference to these times, informs us that Arrius Antoninus, then proconsul of Asia, when the Christians came in a body before his tribunal, ordered some of them to be put to death; and said to others, “ You wretches! If ye will die, ye have precipices and halters.” He adds, that several other governors of provinces, punished some few Christians, and dismissed the rest, so that the persecution was neither so general nor so severe as it had been under Trajan.
During the reign of Adrian, the Jews once more attempted to free themselves from the Roman yoke. A rebellious chief arose among them, of the name of Barchochebas, who assumed the title “ king of the Jews," and prevailed upon these deluded people, thinned as they were by slaughter, and dispersed throughout the different provinces, to rally round his standard, and contend with the Romans for empire. While the rebellion was in progress, the Christians, refusing to join the standard of this fictitious Messiah, suffered the most atrocious indignities, and were massacred without mercy, until the fall of their leader, and the destruction of his adherents put an end to the sedition. The issue of the rebellion was the entire exclusion of the Jews from the territory of Judea.
After a reign of twenty-one years, Adrian was succeeded, in the year 138, by Titus Antoninus Pius, a senator about fifty years of age, whom he declared his successor, only on the condition that he himself should immediately adopt Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, a youth of about se
Easebins, þ. 4. e. 9. and Justin Martyr's first Apology, ud finem.