Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

John of Ephesus, Ecclesiastical History, Part 3 -- Book 5


THE first twelve chapters of the fifth hook refer to the Tritheites, and will be found in the earlier part of the translation, where we have collected the scattered references to Conon, the Condobaudites, and other minor Monophysite sects. For so Timothy classes them, because however strongly opposed by Theodosius and the heads of the party, they nevertheless had sprung out from them, and agreed in holding their central doctrine of the complete union of the two natures in Christ. The rest of the book treats of the emperor Maurice, and in rearranging these chapters, we have done no more than our author recommends; for in his naive heading he says, 'After the first twelve chapters it treats of the reign of the victorious Maurice, who ought indeed to have stood at the head of the book, but it did not occur to us.' And this same apology he repeats in his title to the thirteenth chapter.

[V.13] His account of Maurice he commences ab ovo, with the death of Justinian, in the fourteenth day of the month of November, 876 (A. D. 565), after a reign of thirty-nine years. His successor, Justin, his sister's son, reigned thirteen years all but forty days, during part of which, from the severe malady which visited him, Tiberius acted |350 by his appointment as Caesar, made on the seventh day of December, in the year 886 (A. D. 575); and subsequently, during his lifetime, he bestowed upon him the royal crown: for he saw that he was himself dying, and therefore raised him to the throne, for though he still survived, it was in the weakness and humiliation of death. The time he lived after making Tiberius king was nine days. Tiberius occupied the throne as Cesar for four years, and reigned afterwards as emperor for a period of four years more all but thirty-one days; and when he found himself sick unto death, he too was compelled to appoint as Caesar the count Maurice, the Cappadocian, on the fifth day of August in the year 893 (A. D. 582); for it had so happened, that Maurice had arrived at the capital but a few days before from the East, where he had been made Commander-in-chief over all the Roman generals, as we have mentioned in the previous chapters upon this subject. He further gave him the name of Tiberius, and joined with him in the government his younger daughter, Augusta, to whom he also gave the name of Constantina, and, made Maurice immediately take her as wife. The time he survived this appointment was only eight days, and when he saw himself sinking, on the day before his death, he further gave him the royal crown, and departed from this world in his suburban palace in the Hebdomum 1; whence they brought him to |351 the palace in the city, and buried him after the manner of kings.

[V. 14.] Meanwhile, the God-loving king Maurice sat upon the royal throne, and showed himself, and was proclaimed as emperor, and began to manage and administer such matters as belong to the kingdom; and after the time of mourning for king Tiberius was passed, he made great preparations, and arranged the affairs of the kingdom, with much pomp and magnificence, such as suits the majesty of kings. But these things it would not be easy for any one to detail without much labour, nor does our subject permit us to occupy ourselves with them, further than by an occasional allusion to such of them as are connected with the history of the church, which is our proper business. After the royal banquet, therefore, which was very splendid with magnificent presents and royal shows, the queen proved with child, and in due time a son was born to them in the purple, on the fourth day of August, 894 (A. D. 583), and they named him Theodosius, |352 in allusion to Theodosius the Second, who was the only one besides from the time of Constantine downwards who was born in the purple. For neither did Constantine beget a son after attaining to the empire, nor any one of those who succeeded him, neither Marcinus nor Leo, nor Zeno, nor Anastasius, nor Justin, nor Justinian, nor Justin the Second, nor Tiberius, down to the time of Maurice. Upon the birth, therefore, of the child, general rejoicing was made, especially because there were persons entirely unfit for so high an office, looking forward to and making preparations for seizing the kingdom by force: but on the day of this infant's birth, their projects were extinguished and brought to an end, so that even in the Hippodrome the people of the city, with loud shouts in his honour, said, 'God grant thee well; for thou hast freed us from subjection to many.' Forthwith, too, there were offered to the infant presents and gifts in abundance, by all the nobles and ladies of rank, and senators and others besides, each one trying his best to outdo his neighbour in the costliness of the offerings which were presented to him with great respect.

[V.15] The commencement of a new reign is naturally favourable to designing men, and those therefore whose practice it is to make a pretext of men's religion in order to rob and plunder them, did not cease their endeavours to stir up Maurice against the orthodox, laying to their charge many wicked and unfounded accusations, while |353 he neither knew what they held, nor what was the cause of their mutual divisions. As then they were constantly irritating him against them, he finally became angry, and summoned the patriarch, and commanded him to send and arrest and imprison such as would not communicate with him. But John 2 the patriarch, being already in grief and sorrow because of the heathen, since even after they had been detected and discovered by the providence of God, and convicted by the testimony of one another, and the legal depositions had been taken, and that not only in the capital, but in every region and city, as we have fully narrated above, and many members of the senate had been proved to be guilty, he then had let the matter rest, and thrown a veil over it, and but few of them had been put to death, and a few others sent into exile, while the rest of them continued as they were, and still held their rank and office. On this account the patriarch mourned inconsolably, so that when he was ordered to arrest and persecute the orthodox, he answered with indignation, 'Think you that God will be pleased that when we let heathens escape, and set them free, and acquit them, after their heathenism has been discovered and made known to every one, that now, after we have given them impunity, we persecute and condemn and slay Christians in their stead? Are these |354 the laws of justice? What do the distinguishers say or do that we ought to persecute them? Be it known then to your majesty, that as long as heathens are unpunished, and go at large, and not one of them is even deposed from his office, I know not how I can persecute Christians, with whose faith no fault can be found, and who consider themselves to he believers even more fully than ourselves.' And so for the present he put a stop to the persecution.

[V 15] A short time after these turbulent persons found some victims in the Arians: for as leave had always been refused to their repeated requests for permission to fall upon the congregations of the believers, they invented pretexts, and made numerous complaints against the Arians, and having assembled their whole troop, they fell upon an Arian church, the members of which met outside the city in the queen's monastery. The time chosen for the attack was when they were celebrating the communion, and having entered, they overturned their altar, and threw their oblations to the ground, and carried off all their vessels and books, and every thing else on which they could lay hands: and the people they dragged by force and imprisoned in the chancel of the church. And every one imprisoned there experienced the truth of the word of the Lord, where he says, 'Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt not come out thence, until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.' [Matt.v.26] For not one of them |355 was allowed to get out, until he had paid the very last farthing which he possessed in the world.

[V.17] How much better those fared who were accused of heathenism, our author shews in the adventures of Gregory of Antioch, which we have detailed before. In the next chapter he tells us of the wealth and dignities conferred by Maurice upon his relatives, as follows:

[V.18] At the beginning of his reign, the king sent for his father, an old man named Paul, and his mother, and his brother, whose name was Peter, and his two sisters, one of whom was a widow, and the other the wife of Philippicus. The latter he first of all appointed comes excubitorum: and subsequently elevated him to the rank which he had himself previously held, of commander-in-chief over all the Roman armies in the East, in which capacity he sent him to levy fresh forces to carry on the war against the Persians. And next he made his father head of the senate, and chief of all the patricians, and gave him and his son Peter, the king's brother, the entire property of the great patrician Marcellus, brother of the late king Justin, which was not much less than the royal demesnes themselves, with his houses and landed estates, and gold and silver, and his wardrobe, and every thing that he had everywhere without exception. And next he gave his father and mother another house near the church (of S. Sophia) and his own palace. Soon after he gave his sister and her husband |356 Philippicus a large and strong-built house, on the western side of the city, in the suburb called Zeugma 3; while his other sister, the widow, received a new and well-built mansion, lately erected by the patrician Peter, and which is almost as large as a city. He also gave to his other relatives large and noble houses belonging to the crown, and studiously enriched them in wealth and rank and honour, and gave them high offices near to the royal person, and in every way sought to increase their power: but as it is not the object of our book to treat of these things, we must omit their further detail.

[V.19.] One relative, however, needs more particular mention, namely, Domitian, metropolitan of Melitene. Already Maurice, when sent by Tiberius to the East with the title of count, had shewn his devotion to the interests of his family by making him bishop of Melitene in Cappadocia: and when, after spending a period of two years more or less in the East, he had returned to the capital, and been made king, immediately Domitian hastened to him, and became his counsellor and most intimate adviser, and the person |357 who thought for him, and encouraged him in all the severe and painful difficulties with which he had to contend in the wars which pressed upon him on all sides, with the heathen and Magian people of the Persians, and the barbarous and savage tribes who came from the ends of the world, and are called Avars, and also with the Slavonians. And in all these difficulties the bishop of Melitene was the king's comforter and counsellor, although he was still but a young man. He was however thoroughly imbued with the opinions of the council of Chalcedon and of Leo. The great and important matters then, which pressed upon the empire on all sides, he laid before the king, together with his advice; and he let him settle them as he chose, and so he continues to do to this day 4.

[V.20] On Maurice's elevation to the crown, his chief difficulty arose from finding that the lavishness of Tiberius had exhausted the treasures which Justin had stored up in the palace. For upon his becoming king, he found large sums of gold secretly hoarded there, which his predecessor had gathered by unjust means: and at the sight of it, as though some zealous spirit had entered into him, he began spending and scattering and dispersing it on all sides, sometimes fittingly and compassionately, or in the usual |358 largesses to the army; and sometimes without thought or reason, as if he were throwing it about with a fan, until all Justin's treasures were expended, a large portion being consumed in his largesses at his accession. For as he himself said, he gave away then no less than seventy-five talents of gold, besides silver, and other royal matters, such as is the custom of kings to give; and finally, he was obliged to open the treasures of king Anastasius, and take money from thence. But when he departed from this world, and Maurice became king in his stead, he found the palace swept as clean as if it had been emptied with a broom, and was compelled therefore to take possession of any money that was discovered, or came in from the taxes, and withhold his hand, and effect savings in the expenses of the army, and hoard it up, saying, 'I must not disperse and scatter the money, but collect and store it up, that I may have the means of purchasing peace for the state.' And with this object he withheld his hand, and refrained from many of the customary observances, until he was much ridiculed and scoffed at by many, and called a close-fisted and miserly fellow, who could benefit and enrich none but his own relatives: and much more of the same sort was said, which, without some special reason, would not have been fit to record in a history of the church.

[V. 21] Returning to ecclesiastical matters, our |359 historian informs us, that the rebuke of the patriarch, though ineffectual in preventing attempts at persecution, was not lost upon the king. For, in the midst of his difficulties and anxieties, from the wars which surrounded him on all sides, turbulent men, having no zeal for the faith, and using it only as a pretext for greedily plotting after the spoil of the house's and property of their neighbours, craftily endeavoured to get permission and authority to carry out their purpose, and never ceased wearying the ears of the king and patriarch with their constant calumnies, which, though not confined to them, were especially directed against those who found a stumblingblock in the council of Chalcedon. They complained therefore, saying, 'These men gather in large meetings, and celebrate the communion and baptism in greater numbers than the catholic church, even if you add to it all the heresies of Arians, and Samosatenians, and Tetradites 5, and Manichaeans 6, and Marcionites, and the like: and they disturb and upset the whole church. Give us therefore authority to arrest and imprison them, and put them to the torture, and root out all their |360 meeting houses.' But the patriarch, being a gentle and merciful man, and who knew their cunning, and that their zeal was only for rapine and plunder, rebuked them, saying, 'If your zeal were upright in these things which you so press upon us, or if your purpose were the correction of these people, we should commend it: but as we know that your real object is to plunder and steal the goods of others, go and be quiet: for we will not permit any persecution to take place in our days, but to the best of our power will teach and admonish them.' And as these persons consisted not merely of clergymen, but also of laymen, some of whom were unsound in their Christianity —physicians, for instance, and heathens—who, besides their greediness for plunder, wished to make a demonstration also of their Christianity by professing zeal for the Christian faith, when they saw that the bishop would not submit to their cunning, they did not hesitate to din the ears of the merciful king himself, as some of them had access to him by being the royal physicians. But the king, as one whose whole conversation and all his thoughts were wrapped in the wars with the barbarians, would not even so much as listen to them, saying, 'Because we have not enough to do with the wars with the barbarians on all our confines, you want to bring upon us intestine wars also!' And thus their violence was restrained, and their projects were rebuffed and brought to nought.

Of the subsequent tragical fortunes of Maurice |361 and his family our historian of course knows nothing: for his own death, at a good old age, apparently happened in the third or fourth year of Maurice's reign. His last notice of him is an account of his rebuilding the desolate city of Arabissus, in Cappadocia, a town remarkable on no other account than as being the emperor's birthplace, and the original seat of his family: and this new instance of devotion to his relatives naturally served to increase the ill-will entertained against him at the capital, on seeing all matters of state administered with so niggard a hand, while he loaded them with the highest offices and the most extravagant gifts. [V.22] The narrative is introduced by a statement, confirmed by coins still extant, that Maurice did not consent to the change of name commanded by Tiberius, who, on giving him the crown in his dying moments, had called him after himself, but persisted in using that only which had been given him by his parents, and would permit no other name than Maurice to be inscribed on his gold coins. From this he proceeds to mention, that a point on which he had greatly set his heart was the rebuilding and restoration of his native town of Arabissus. For this purpose he sent officers 7 into all quarters to collect skilful artificers in the |362 working and chiselling of stones, and builders, and carpenters, and masons, and smiths, and mechanicians, and all other kinds of craftsmen, and stationed there a troop of soldiers, to keep them constantly engaged in the building, each occupied with his own branch of labour. His first command was, that the church should be taken down, and rebuilt on a larger and more magnificent scale: and he sent himself a large and splendid set of church-furniture of silver and gold, with beautiful vessels for the altar, and for the adornment of the whole building, and gave orders also for a large ciborium, such as is customary in all the churches of the capital, to be made here in pieces, and sent thither to be fixed up on the spot. After the church, his next order was for the erection of an extensive hospice, with lofty buildings: and next, for the public service of the city, a large townhall, and long and handsome porticoes followed, and magnificent basilicas, and a palace, and a strong wall. And much conversation and murmuring was made thereat; for people said, 'Every day he complains about the Roman armies, which labour and fight in behalf of the state, and says, I have no gold to distribute among them: and while there are numerous strong cities, both in the East and West, captured and laid in ruins by the barbarians, to which all he has to say is, I have no money to give, how is it that he now expends such and such a number of talents—and they mentioned a definite number, but as we cannot answer for its |363 exactness, we do not record it in our history: they said, however,—How is it that he expends all these talents in rebuilding a town, which never was of consequence, nor of any value to the Roman state?'

[V.23] But Maurice had soon a worse enemy to contend with than the murmurs of his citizens: for two years after he had undertaken the restoration of his native town, and while the works were being rapidly pushed onwards to completion, suddenly a great and terrible earthquake happened, being the third which in succession have overthrown place after place in the East, and, as it were, in wrath, threw down the whole of Arabissus, and levelled all the buildings in it, new and old, to the ground. And all men wondered: but though the king Maurice was greatly vexed and troubled, and feared lest the overthrow of the city was by the secret indication of God, yet will he not desist from rebuilding it a second time: for all the artificers whom he had collected still remain there, apparently to renew their former attempt at restoring and rebuilding it again.

End of the Fifth Book of Church Histories, in which are contained twenty-three chapters.

[Footnotes have been numbered and moved here]

1. a This passage shows that the Hebdomum was still outside the city, for Tiberius is said to have been [Syriac, Greek] a word solely applied to the suburban palaces Probably, therefore, Justinian only included a part of it within the city walls. It is mentioned as a place of recreation for the emperors by Rufinus, de vit. Pat iii. 19. ... in Septimo, ubi solent imperatores egressi de civitate libenter degere. I have before mentioned the rumour that Tiberius was poisoned in a dish of mulberries. In the Chron Alex. nothing more is said than [Greek]. Prokenson is the Latin word 'processus' as transmuted by the Byzantine nasal pronunciation.

2. b This was John the Faster, a very different character from John Scholasticus.

3. c The suburb called Zeugma is said to have had its name from mules having been there yoked to the car on which the remains of the protomartyr S Stephan were brought to the capital. The names of both the houses are given in the Syriac, namely, [Syriac] but I can find no traces of them in the Byzantine historians, though Theophanes, p. 229, gives an account of various buildings which Philippicus himself elected

4. d To this Domitianus of Melitene Maurice left the guardianship of his children, by his will dated in the fifteenth year of his reign: and Theoph Simocatta praises him as [Greek], i e. in counsel.

5. e Several sects in the eaily church were called Tetradites, [Greek], but probably it here signifies such as were accused of holding a quaternity, tetras, instead of the Holy Trinity In this sense Dom Macer applies it to the Manichees in his Hierolex, but probably oui author intends by it the Nestorians.

6. f Although the word in the text [Syriac] suggests 'Montanists,' yet I imagine that it really signifies the Manichees, constantly called [Syriac] by our author as being the followers of Manes

7. g These officers were called Scribones, and Du Cange quotes a passage from Gregory the Great, to prove that their duty was to travel into the provinces with the emperor's commands, and even sometimes with authority to see them executed Their rank is shewn by his calling them 'viri magnifici'

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2002.  All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.

Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts