Tuesday, January 07, 2003

27 - How the Defender of the Faith Protected the Interests of the Christians

From: “The Secret History” – by Pocopius of Caesarea

27 - How the Defender of the Faith Protected the Interests of the Christians

The deeds of Justinian were such that all eternity would not be long enough in which to describe them adequately. So a few examples will have to suffice to illuminate his whole character to future generations: what a dissembler he was, how he disregarded God, the priests, the laws, and the people who showed themselves loyal to him. He had no shame at all, either when he brought destruction on the State or at any misdeed; he did not bother to try to excuse his actions, and his only care was how he might get sole possession of all the wealth of the world. To begin:

As bishop of Alexandria he appointed a man by the name of Paul. At this time one Rhodon, a Phoenician, was Governor of that city. Him he ordered to serve Paul with all zeal, and to allow none of his instructions to be unfulfilled. For thus he thought he could associate all the priests in Alexandria under the synod of Chalcedon.

Now there was a certain Arsenius a native of Palestine, who had become one of the most useful intimates of the Empress Theodora, and consequently after acquiring great power and wealth, had been raised to senatorial rank, though he was a disgusting fellow. He was a Samaritan, but so as not to lose his official rank and power, became a nominal Christian; while his father and brother, encouraged by his authority, continued in their ancestral faith in Scythopolis, where, with his consent, they persecuted the Christians intolerably. As a result of this, the citizens revolted and put them both to a most shameful death. Many later troubles afflicted the people of Palestine because of this. At the time, however, neither Justinian nor the Empress did anything to punish Arsenius, though he was principally responsible for the whole trouble. They merely forbade him entrance to the palace, to get rid of the crowds of Christians complaining against him.

This Arsenius, thinking to please the Emperor, soon after went to Alexandria with Paul, to assist him generally and in special to help him get the good will of the Alexandrians. For during the time he had been barred from the palace, he affirmed he had become learned in all the Christian doctrines. This displeased Theodora, for she pretended to disagree with the Emperor in religious matters, as I have told before.

As -soon as they arrived in Alexandria, Paul handed over a deacon by the name of Psoes to Rhoden to be put to death, on the charge that this man alone stood in the way of the accomplishment of the Emperor's wishes. And following instructions in letters from the Emperor, which came frequently and cogently, Rhodon ordered the man to be scourged; after which, while he was being racked by the torture, he up and died.

When news of this reached the Emperor, at the Empress's instigation he expressed horror at what had been done by Paul, Rhodon and Arsenius: as if he had forgotten his own instructions to these men. He now appointed Liberius, a patrician from Rome, Governor of Alexandria, and sent certain priests of good reputation to Alexandria, to investigate the matter; among these were the Archdeacon of Rome, Pelagius, who was commissioned by Pope Vigilius to act as his legate.

Paul, convicted of the murder, was removed from the bishopric; Rhodon, who fled to Constantinople, was beheaded by the Emperor and his estates confiscated, although the man produced thirteen letters which the Emperor had written him, insisting and commanding him to serve Paul in everything and never to oppose him, so that he could fulfill his every wish in religious matters. Liberius, at Theodora's order, crucified Arsenius, and the Emperor confiscated his property, though he had no charge to bring against him except that he had been intimate with Paul. Now whether his actions in this matter were just or otherwise, I cannot say; but I shall soon show why I have described the affair.

Some time later, Paul came to Constantinople and offered the Emperor seven gold centenaries if he would reinstate him in the holy office from which, he claimed, he had been illegally removed. Justinian genially took the money, treated the man with great respect, and agreed to make him Bishop of Alexandria again very soon, though another now held the office; as if he did not know that he himself had put to death Paul's friends and helpers, and had confiscated their estates.

So the Augustus zealously extended every effort to arrange this matter, and Paul was generally expected to regain his bishopric one way or another. But Vigilius, who was in the capital at the time, decided not to yield to the Emperor's command in such a case; and he said he could not annul a decision which Pelagius had given as his legate. And the Emperor, whose only idea was to get the money, dismissed the matter.

Here is another similar case. There was a certain Faustin, born in Palestine, and of an old Samaritan family, who accepted a nominal Christianity when the law constrained him. This Faustin became a Senator and a Governor of his province; and when his term of office expired a little later, he came to Constantinople, where he was denounced by certain priests as having favored the Samaritans and impiously persecuted the Christians in Palestine. Justinian appeared to be very angry and outraged that during his rule over the Romans, anybody could have insulted the name of Christ.

So the Senate investigated the affair and by the will of the Emperor, punished Faustin with exile. But the Emperor, after getting from him the money he wanted, straightway annulled the decree. And Faustin, restored to his former rank, and the Emperor's friendship, was made Count of the imperial domains in Palestine and Phoenicia, where he fearlessly did as much harm as he wanted. Now in what way Justinian protected the true interests of the Christians may clearly be seen in these instances, few of them as I have had time to give.

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