Chapter XIII.—Of the Outrages committed by the Pagans against the Christians.
He moreover interdicted such as would not abjure Christianity, and offer sacrifice to idols, from holding any office at court: nor would he allow Christians to be governors of provinces; for, said he, their law forbids them to use the sword against offenders worthy of capital punishment. 519 He also induced many to sacrifice, partly by flatteries, and partly by gifts. Immediately, as if tried in a furnace, it at once became evident to all, who were the real Christians, and who were merely nominal ones. Such as were Christians in integrity of heart, very readily resigned their commission, 520 choosing to endure anything rather than deny Christ. Of this number were Jovian, Valentinian, and Valens, each of whom afterwards became emperor. But others of unsound principles, who preferred the riches and honor of this world to the true felicity, sacrificed without hesitation. Of these was Ecebolius, a sophist 521 of Constantinople who, accommodating himself to the dispositions of the emperors, pretended in the reign of Constantius to be an ardent Christian; while in Julians time he appeared an equally vigorous pagan: and after Julians death, he again made a profession of Christianity. For he prostrated himself before the church doors, and called out, Trample on me, for I am as salt that has lost its savor. Of so fickle and inconstant a character was this person, throughout the whole period of his history. About this time the emperor wishing to make reprisals on the Persians, for the frequent incursions they had made on the Roman territories in the reign of Constantius, marched with great expedition through Asia into the East. But as he well knew what a train of calamities attend a war, and what immense resources are needful to carry it on successfully and that without it cannot be carried on, he craftily devised a plan for collecting money by extorting it from the Christians. On all those who refused to sacrifice he imposed p. 86 a heavy fine, which was exacted with great rigor from such as were true Christians, every one being compelled to pay in proportion to what he possessed. By these unjust means the emperor soon amassed immense wealth; for this law was put in execution, both where Julian was personally present, and where he was not. The pagans at the same time assailed the Christians; and there was a great concourse of those who styled themselves philosophers. They then proceeded to institute certain abominable mysteries; 522 and sacrificing pure children both male and female, they inspected their entrails, and even tasted their flesh. These infamous rites were practiced in other cities, but more particularly at Athens and Alexandria; in which latter place, a calumnious accusation was made against Athanasius the bishop, the emperor being assured that he was intent on desolating not that city only, but all Egypt, and that nothing but his expulsion out of the country could save it. The governor of Alexandria was therefore instructed by an imperial edict to apprehend him.
Based, probably, on Matt. 26:52, John 18:11.85:520
ζώνην ἀπετίθεντο ; literally, put off their girdle, as the badge of office.85:521
The term was used first by traveling teachers of rhetoric at the time of the philosopher Socrates as descriptive of their profession; and although it later acquired an unfavorable significance, it continued to be used also as a professional name given to teachers of rhetoric, as here.86:522
Cf. Tertull. Apol. IX. In the bosom of Africa infants were publicly sacrificed to Saturn, even to the days of a proconsul under Tiberius, &c.