p. 373 Chapter XXXVII.—Concerning the Barbarians beyond the Danube, who were driven out by the Huns, and advanced to the Romans, and their Conversion to Christianity; Ulphilas and Athanarichus; Occurrences between them; whence the Goths received Arianism.
This remarkable oration of Themistius disposed the emperor to be somewhat more humane, and the punishments became in consequence less severe than before. He would not have wholly withdrawn his wrath from the priests unless the anxieties of public affairs had supervened, and not permitted him to pursue them further. 1510 For the Goths, who inhabited the regions beyond the Ister, and had conquered other barbarians, having been vanquished and driven from their country by the Huns, had passed over into the Roman boundaries. The Huns, it is said, were unknown to the Thracians of the Ister and the Goths before this period; for though they were dwelling secretly near to one another, a lake of vast extent was between them, and the inhabitants on each side of the lake respectively imagined that their own country was situated at the extremity of the earth, and that there was nothing beyond them but the sea and water. It so happened, however, that an ox, tormented by insects, plunged into the lake, and was pursued by the herdsman; who, perceiving for the first time that the opposite bank was inhabited, made known the circumstance to his fellow-tribesmen. Some, however, relate that a stag was fleeing, and showed some of the hunters who were of the race of the Huns the way which was concealed superficially by the water. On arriving at the opposite bank, the hunters were struck with the beauty of the country, the serenity of the air, and the adaptedness for cultivation; and they reported what they had seen to their king. The Huns then made an attempt to attack the Goths with a few soldiers; but they afterwards raised a powerful army, conquered the Goths in battle, and took possession of their whole country. The vanquished nation, being pursued by their enemies, crossed over into the Roman territories. They passed over the river, and dispatched an embassy to the emperor, assuring him of their co-operation in any warfare in which he might engage, provided that he would assign a portion of land for them to inhabit. Ulphilas, the bishop of the nation, was the chief of the embassy. The object of his embassy was fully accomplished, and the Goths were permitted to take up their abode in Thrace. Soon after contentions broke out among them, which led to their division into two parts, one of which was headed by Athanaric, and the other by Phritigernes. They took up arms against each other, and Phritigernes was vanquished, and implored the assistance of the Romans. The emperor having commanded the troops in Thrace to assist and to ally with him, a second battle was fought, and Athanaric and his party were put to flight. In acknowledgment of the timely succor afforded by Valens, and in proof of his fidelity to the Romans, Phritigernes embraced the religion of the emperor, and persuaded the barbarians over whom he ruled to follow his example. It does not, however, appear to me that this is the only reason that can be advanced to account for the Goths having retained, even to the present day, the tenets of Arianism. For Ulphilas, their bishop, originally held no opinions at variance with those of the Catholic Church; for during the reign of Constantius, though he took part, as I am convinced, from thoughtlessness, at the council of Constantinople, in conjunction with Eudoxius and Acacius, yet he did not swerve from the doctrines of the Nicæan council. He afterwards, it appears, returned to Constantinople, and, it is said, entered into disputations on doctrinal topics with the chiefs of the Arian faction; and they promised to lay his requests before the emperor, and forward the object of his embassy, if he would conform to their opinions. Compelled by the urgency of the occasion, or, possibly, thinking that it was better to hold such views concerning the Divine nature, Ulphilas entered into communion with the Arians, and separated himself and his whole nation from all connection with the Catholic Church. For as he had instructed the Goths in the elements of religion, and through him they shared in a gentler mode of life, they placed the most implicit confidence in his directions, and were firmly convinced that he could neither do nor say anything that was evil. He had, in fact, given many signal proofs of the greatness of his virtue. He had exposed himself to innumerable perils in defense of the faith, during the period that the aforesaid barbarians were given to pagan worship. He taught them the use of letters, and translated the Sacred Scriptures into their own language. It was on this account, that the barbarians on the banks of the Ister followed the tenets of Arius. At the same period, there were many of the subjects of Phritigernes who testified to Christ, and were martyred. Athanaric resented that his subjects had become Christian under the persuasion of Ulphilas; and because they had abandoned the cult of their fathers, he subjected many individuals to many punishments; some he put to death after they had been dragged before tribunals and had nobly confessed the doctrine, and p. 374 others were slain without being permitted to utter a single word in their own defense. It is said that the officers appointed by Athanaric to execute his cruel mandates, caused a statue to be constructed, which they placed on a chariot, and had it conveyed to the tents of those who were suspected of having embraced Christianity, and who were therefore commanded to worship the statue and offer sacrifice; if they refused to do so, the men and the tents were burnt together. But I have heard that an outrage of still greater atrocity was perpetrated at this period. Many refused to obey those who were compelling them by force to sacrifice. Among them were men and women; of the latter some were leading their little children, others were nourishing their new-born infants at the breast; they fled to their church, which was a tent. The pagans set fire to it, and all were destroyed.
The Goths were not long in making peace among themselves; and in unreasonable excitement, they then began to ravage Thrace and to pillage the cities and villages. Valens, on inquiry, learned by experiment how great a mistake he had made; for he had calculated that the Goths would always be useful to the empire and formidable to its enemies, and had therefore neglected the reinforcement of the Roman ranks. He had taken gold from the cities and villages under the Romans, instead of the usual complement of men for the military service. On his expectation being thus frustrated, he quitted Antioch and hastened to Constantinople. Hence the persecution which he had been carrying on against Christians differing in opinion from himself, had a truce. Euzoïus, president of the Arians, died, and Dorotheus was proposed for his government.
Soc. iv. 32–35; Philost. ii. 5, ix. 16, 17. Cf. Theodoret, H. E. iv. 37; Eunap. Fr. i. 5, 6, ii. 34; Am. Marcel. parts of xxvii., xxx., xxxi.; Zos. iv. 10 sqq.