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THE

FIFTH CENTURY.

PART I.

THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE CHURCH,

CHAPTER I.

Concerning the prosperous Events that happened to the Church.

I. In order to arrive at a true knowlege of the CENT. V. causes to which we are to attribute the outward state

The state of of the church, and the events which happened to it the Roman

empire. during the fifth century, we must keep in view the civil history of this period. It is, therefore, proper to observe, that, in the beginning of this century, the Roman empire was divided into two sovereignties; one of which comprehended the eastern provinces, the other those of the west. Arcadius, the emperor of the east, reigned at Constantinople; and Honorius, who governed the western provinces, chose Ravenna for the place of his residence. The latter prince, remarkable only for the sweetness of his temper and the goodness of his heart, neglected the great affairs of the empire; and, inattentive to the weighty duties of his station, held the reins of government with an unsteady hand. The Goths, taking advantage of this criminal indolence, made incursions into Italy, laid waste its fairest provinces, and sometimes carried their desolations as far as Rome, which they ravaged and plundered in the most dreadful manner. These calamities, which fell upon the western part of the empire from the Gothic depredations, were followed by others still VOL. II.

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CENT. v. more dreadful under the succeeding emperors. A fierce

and warlike people, issuing from Germany, overspread Italy, Gaul, and Spain, the noblest of all the European provinces, and erected new kingdoms in these fertile countries; and Odoacer, at last, at the head of the Heruli, having conquered Augustulus, in 476, gave the mortal blow to the western empire, and reduced all Italy under his dominion. About sixteen years after this, Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, made war upon these barbarian invaders, at the request of Zeno, emperor of the east; conquered Odoacer in several battles; and obtained, as the fruit of his victories, a kingdom for the Ostrogoths in Italy, which subsisted under various turns of fortune from the year 493 to 552a.

These new monarchs of the west pretended to acknowlege the supremacy of the emperors who resided at Constantinople, and gave some faint external marks of a disposition to reign in subordination to them; but, in reality, they ruled with an absolute independence, in their respective governments; and, as appears particularly from the dominion exercised by Theodoric in Italy, they left nothing to the eastern emperors but a mere shadow of power and authority b.

II. These constant wars, and the inexpressible idolatry.

calamities with which they were attended, were undoubtedly detrimental to the cause and progress of Christianity. It must, however, be acknowleged that the Christian emperors, especially those who ruled in the east, were active and assiduous in extirpating the remains of the ancient superstitions. Theodosius the

The farther decline of

a See, for a fuller illustration of this branch of history, the learned work of M. de Bos, entitled, Histoire Critique de la Monarchie Françoise, tom. i. p. 258; as also Mascow's History of the Germans.

• Car. du Fresne, Dissert. xxiii. ad Histor. Ludovici S. p. 280. -Muratori, Antiq. Ital. tom. ii. p. 578, 832.-Giannone, Historia di Napoli, tom. i. p. 207.-Vita Theodorici Ostrogothorum Regis, a Johanne Cochlæo, printed in 1699, with the observations of Peringskiold.

younger distinguished himself in this pious and noble cent. Vi work, and many remarkable monuments of his zeal are still preserved"; such as the laws which enjoined either the destruction of the heathen temples, or the dedication of them to Christ and his saints; the edicts, by which he abrogated the sacrilegious rites and ceremonies of Paganism, and removed from all offices and employments in the state such as persisted in their attachment to the absurdities of Polytheism.

This spirit of reformation appeared with less vigor in the western empire. There the feasts of Saturn and Pan, the combats of the gladiators, and other rites that were instituted in honor of the pagan deities, were celebrated with the utmost freedom and impunity; and persons of the highest rank and authority publicly professed the religion of their idolatrous ancestors. This liberty was, however, from time to time, reduced within narrower limits; and all those public sports and festivals, which were more peculiarly incompatible with the genius and sanctity of the Christian religion, were every where abolished

III. The limits of the church continued to extend Nations conthemselves, and gained ground daily upon the idola-verted to

Christianity trous nations, both in the eastern and western empires. In the east, the inhabitants of the mountains Libanus and Anti-Libanus, being dreadfully infested with wild beasts, implored the assistance and counsels of the famous Simeon the Stylite, of whom we shall have

Ć See the Theodosian Code, tom. vi. p. 327.

d See the Saturnalia of Macrobius, lib. i.-Scipio Maffei delli Anfiteatri, lib. i. p. 56.-Pierre le Brun, Hist. Critique des Pratiques superstitieuses, tom. i. p. 237; and, above all, Montfaucon's Diss. de Moribus Tempore Theodosii M. et Arcadii, which is to be found in Latin, in the eleventh volume of the works of St. Chrysostom, and in French, in the twentieth volume of the Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions et des Belles Lettres, p. 197.

è Anastasius prohibited, toward the conclusion of this century, the combats with the wild beasts, and other shews. Asseman. Biblioth. Orient. Vatic. tom. i. p. 246.

CENT. V, occasion to speak hereafter. Simeon gave them for

answer, that the only effectual method of removing this calamity was, to abandon the superstitious worship of their ancestors, and substitute the Christian religion in its place. The docility of this people, joined to the extremities to which they were reduced, engaged them to follow the counsels of this holy man. They embraced Christianity, and, in consequence of their conversion, they had the pleasure of seeing their savage enemies abandon their habitations, if we may believe the writers wno affirm the truth of this prodigy. The same Simeon, by his influence and authority, introduced the Christian worship into a certain district of the Arabians: some allege, that this also was effected by a miracle, which to me appears more than doubtful. To these instances of the progress of the Gospel, we may add the conversion of a considerable number of Jews in the isle of Crete: finding themselves grossly deluded by the impious pretensions of an impostor, called Moses Cretensis, who gave himself out for the Messiah, they opened their eyes upon the truth, and spontaneously embraced the Christian religion

IV. The German nations, who rent in pieces the son of the Roman empire in the west, were not all converted to

Christianity at the same time. Some of them had Christianity,

The conver• tions to

? Vide idem Opus, tom. i. p. 246.

K . We shall give the relation of Socrates, concerning this impostor, in the words of the learned and estimable author of the Remarks on Ecclesiastical History. « In the time of Theo“ dosius the younger, an impostor arose, called Moses Cretensis. “ He pretended to be a second Moses, sent to deliver the Jews “ who dwelt in Crete, and promised to divide the sea, and give " them a safe passage through it. They assembled together, « with their wives and children, and followed him to a promon

tory. He there commanded them to cast themselves into “ the sea. Many of them obeyed, and perished in the waters; " and many were taken up and

saved by fishermen. Upon this, “ the deluded Jews would have torn the impostór to pieces; “ but he escaped them, and was seen no more." See Jortin's Remarks, vol. iii.

h Socrates, Hist. Eccles. lib. vii. cap. xxxviii. p. 383.

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