Tuesday, January 07, 2003

28 - His Violation of the Laws of the Romans and How Jews Were Fined for Eating Lamb

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

28 - His Violation of the Laws of the Romans and How Jews Were Fined for Eating Lamb

How he unhesitatingly abolished laws when money was in question will now be shown in a few words. There was one Priscus in the City of Emesa, who was a skilful forger of others' handwriting, and a rare artist in such c ' rime. It happened that the church of Emesa had a long time before inherited the property of a distinguished patrician named Mammian, of illustrious family and of great wealth. During Justinian's reign, Priscus inventoried all the families of the mentioned city, so as to find which were adequately rich to be worth plundering, and after he investigated their family history, and found ancient letters in their ancestors' handwriting, he forged documents purporting to be their agreements to pay to Mammian large sums of money which were supposed to have been left with them by him as a deposit.

The amount of money mentioned as an obligation in these forgeries was not less than one hundred gold centenaries. He also imitated very craftily the writing of a certain notary public whose office was in the Forum during Mammian's lifetime: a man of high reputation for truth and every other virtue, who used to draw up all the citizens' documents, fixing them with his own seal. To those who were in charge of ecclesiastical affairs at Emesa he gave these documents, after they agreed that he would get a share of the money to be obtained from the matter.

But since there was a statute of limitations barring action after thirty years, except in mortgages and certain other matters, where the limit was forty years, they formed the following plan. Going to Constantinople and offering the Emperor large sums of money, they begged him to join in accomplishing the destruction of their innocent fellow citizens. He took the money, and without scruple published a new law, to the effect that the statute of limitations did not apply to the church, but claims connected with that institution might be brought at any time within a hundred years. And this was now the law not only in Emesa, but throughout the whole Roman Empire.

To enforce his decree he sent to Emesa one Longinus, a man of deeds and of great bodily strength, who later was Prefect of Constantinople. And those in charge of church affairs there immediately brought suit for two centenaries against some of the citizens whose ancestors were mentioned in the forgeries; and soon obtained judgment against these men, who had no defence owing to the great lapse of time and their ignorance of the facts. And all the other citizens were greatly grieved over this, and incensed against the accusers; the most reputable men of Emesa being the most perturbed.

Just as this evil was now progressing against the majority of the citizens, Providence intervened in the following way. Longinus ordered Priscus, the inventor of the mischievous trick, to bring him all the documents in the case; and when he objected, slapped him with all his might. Priscus, unable to bear the shock of a blow from a strong man, fell on his back, now trembling and shaking with fear; and supposing that Longinus had discovered him and that the whole deceit had been brought to light, stopped bringing suits.

As if it were not enough to do away with the laws of the Romans daily, the Emperor also exerted himself to destroy the traditions of the Jews. For whenever in their calendar Passover came before the Christian Easter, he forbade the Jews to celebrate it on their proper day, to make then any sacrifices to God or perform any of their customs. Many of them were heavily fined by the magistrates for eating lamb at such times, as if this were against the laws of the State.
Knowing countless other such acts of Justinian, I cannot include them, since the end of this book draws near. In any case, what I have told will be enough to show the nature of the man.

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