Posted by: ken98 | January 18, 2010

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Guerilla Bishops and Virgins

Day 129 – Ken here (M)(1-18-2010)
(DEF v.2, ch.21, pp.810-820)

Starting to pull out of it (the being sick part I mean, although we ARE pulling out, gradually, from this long, long digression into Christian Heresy) – starting to be able to do more than just blog and get my energy up to get out of the house once a day, so my horizons are expanding somewhat from concentrating on the painfully inevitable Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

That being said, we continue with the Heresy Chronicles of Gibbon, finishing up the long, amazing history of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria and Scourge of the Arians, and finishing up today with a few brief stories about the Bishops of Rome and the Bishops of Constantinople (the capitals of the religious Christian empire) – showing the extreme violence and tumults of the wild Christian riots and murders of the 4th century. How, from a pacifist, head-in-the-clouds, dirt-poor, carpenter’s son, did 4th century Christian Rome and Most Holy and Christian Constantinople happen? Perhaps spirituality and organized religion only intersect at a small point and are (in reality) two very different animals entirely (to mix metaphors egregiously).

On.. to Gibbon!

The Story
 
The Long Saga of Athanasius – Part iii (cont)

  • Constantius had just exiled all the Tritheist (Catholic) Bishops, including Liberius of Rome (remember Bishops of Rome would later be called Popes – after the fall of the Western Empire in a century). Athanasius (as a Catholic) was also on the list to be ordered out of office – but because of his huge, fanatical fan-base in Alexandria the extraction had to be done (in the words of the Wicked Witch of the West) “carefully”
  • Athanasius receives a “verbal” order to leave, he refuses, the emperor asks that the leading citizens form a committee to review the whole mess (a trap), they agree, the emperor moves the Legions of Upper Eqypt and Libya into the city of Alexandria. At midnight, the empire (Duke Syrianus with 5000 troops) attacks the Bishop in the Church of St Theonas while he is at prayer – the congregation hides him, dying in the process, Athanasius escapes to spend years in hiding as a guerilla Christian militating against the Constantius, Arians, and the empire. Alexandria is sacked by the Arians, and 90 other Egyptian cities (356)
  • Athanasius retreats in hiding, melting into the populations of Egyptians in the new, numerous, populous monasteries dotting the Egyptian desert (356-362)
  • Bishops are forced upon congregations (ie Arians on Orthodox, Orthodox on Arians) and the guerilla wars start – Gibbon example: Orthodox singers chant certain words STRONGLY in hymns (like the word AND) to forcefully make them sound Tritheist and not Arian. The Arians get mad as anything hearing it
  •  
    Two Examples of the Very UnChristian Nature of the Christian Empire: Rome and Constantinople
     
    Rome, Bishop Liberius, Bishop Felix

  • Constantius deposes Liberius, puts Felix in his place as bishop of Rome. All Rome is in an uproar. So Const. allows BOTH Felix and Liberius to rule. When Constantius innocently visits Rome (for one of his few visits) he gets chanted at in the Circus. The populace take matters into their own hands
  • Felix is de-throned, Arians killed left and right in the riots, or more accurately, the pogram which follows
  •  
    Constantinople, Bishop Paul, Bishop Macedonius

  • Both Paul and Macedonius stand for election to Bishop of Constantinople
  • Paul is made Bishop, but is driven from his throne 5 times in 14 years (by adherents of Macedonius and Arians)
  • Hermogenes (Master General of the Cavalry) – a very high official in the empire – is ordered to arrest Paul – he is murdered by a huge mob
  • Philip (Praetorian Prefect) – almost the highest office in the land – is ordered next to arrest Paul – he tricks Paul into meeting him in a Bath House, captures him, pulls him out the back door, and goes overseas, where he kills Paul 6 days later
  • Macedonius is now Bishop, the crowds are not pleased
  • Constantius moves the body of Constantine from one Church to another (because the chapel in which it sat was in “ruinous condition” – but this involved moving it from a Tritheist to an Arian Church – the riots which follow (Arians versus Trithesits) bathe the streets of the capital in blood
  • Gibbon on Virgins
    Gibbon kind of trips over himself when he comes across the mention of virgins in history – he brings his whole narrative to a halt to relate the meeting of a Saint and a virgin in Alexandria (this passage relates to the hiding of Athanasius during his years as a guerilla)

    …he was once concealed in a still more extraordinary asylum, the house of a virgin, only twenty years of age, and who was celebrated in the whole city for her exquisite beauty. At the hour of midnight, as she related her story many years afterwards, she was surprised by the appearance of the archbishop in a loose undress, who, advancing with hasty steps, conjured her to afford him the protection which he had been directed by a celestial vision to seek under her hospitable roof.

    (DEF v.2, ch.21, p.813)

    and earlier (describing the pillaging of Alexandria the 3rd time Athanasius was thrown out (356)

    The other churches of the city were profaned by similar outrages; and, during at least four months, Alexandria was exposed to the insults of a licentious army, stimulated by the ecclesiastics of an hostile faction. Many of the faithful were killed, who may deserve the name of martyrs if their deaths were neither provoked nor revenged; bishops and presbyters were treated with cruel ignominy; consecrated virgins were stripped naked, scourged, and violated…

    (DEF v.2, ch.21, p.809)

    and earlier yet – the (in Gibbon’s eyes) INCREDIBLE number of virgins available in ancient Alexandria (this passage is about Arius’ faction when he was originally condemned by the Bishop (and his arch-rival) Alexander (318)

    His competitor Alexander assumed the office of his judge. The important cause was argued before him; and if at first he seemed to hesitate, he at length pronounced his final sentence as an absolute rule of faith. The undaunted presbyter, who presumed to resist the authority of his angry bishop, was separated from the communion of the church. But the pride of Arius was supported by the applause of a numerous party. He reckoned among his immediate followers two bishops of Egypt, seven presbyters, twelve deacons, and (what may appear almost incredible) seven hundred virgins.

    (DEF v.2, ch.21, p.779)

    Obi-Wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness) in the movie Star Wars - a lone, righteous man living in seclusion, forcing an enormous empire to dance to his tune - Athanasius was in a similar situation during his guerilla Christian wars in the late 350's into the 360's

    Obi-Wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness) in the movie Star Wars - a lone, righteous man living in seclusion, forcing an enormous empire to dance to his tune - Athanasius was in a similar situation during his guerilla Christian wars in the late 350's into the 360's

     
    Return of the Jedi – Athanasius in Hiding Appears Everywhere and Nowhere
    There is something of the Jedi Knight in Gibbon’s Athanasius. He is in hiding out in the open (in the deserts just outside his home town Alexandria, living openly with his fellow Egyptian monks). He openly writes scolding letters to the emperor, and writes inflammatory circular letters to The Church as a whole in his own name. He visits his old See of Alexandria and performs pastoral duties there. He visits Constantinople, the succeeding Councils of the Church (Councils of Rimini, Seleucus) in secret and witnesses the proceedings, having clandestine meetings with the Tritheist faction. He does all this under imperial condemnation and a standing order for his arrest (and probable execution). He is a more militant Obi-Wan Kenobi, a single man battling a wildly successful, but misguided empire to restore justice and right.

    As I’ve mentioned before, Gibbon absolutely loves the hyper-Orthodox Catholic Athanasius (and absolutely loves Julian, the Apostate, pagan emperor – we’ll see later – so he’s ecumenical at least in his loves – a worthy quality, very rational). He lovingly describes the adventures of Athanasius in his years in hiding.
     
    The Adventures of Athanasius

    This from Gibbon:

    His various adventures might have furnished the subject of a very entertaining romance.

    He was once secreted in a dry cistern, which he had scarcely left before he was betrayed by the treachery of a female slave and he was once concealed in a still more extraordinary asylum, the house of a virgin, only twenty years of age, and who was celebrated in the whole city for her exquisite beauty. At the hour of midnight, as she related her story many years afterwards, she was surprised by the appearance of the archbishop in a loose undress, who, advancing with hasty steps, conjured her to afford him the protection which he had been directed by a celestial vision to seek under her hospitable roof.

    The pious maid accepted and preserved the sacred pledge which was intrusted to her prudence and courage. Without imparting the secret to any one, she instantly conducted Athanasius into her most sacred chamber, and watched over his safety with the tenderness of a friend and the assiduity of a servant. As long as the danger continued, she regularly supplied him with books and provisions, washed his feet, managed his correspondence, and dexterously concealed from the eye of suspicion this familiar and solitary intercourse between a saint whose character required the most unblemished chastity, and a female whose charms might excite the most dangerous emotions.

    During the six years of persecution and exile, Athanasius repeated his visits to his fair and faithful companion; and the formal declaration, that he saw the councils of Rimini and Seleucia, forces us to believe that he was secretly present at the time and place of their convocation. The advantage of personally negotiating with his friends, and of observing and improving the divisions of his enemies, might justify, in a prudent statesman, so bold and dangerous an enterprise: and Alexandria was connected by trade and navigation with every seaport of the Mediterranean.

    From the depth of his inaccessible retreat the intrepid primate waged an incessant and offensive war against the protector of the Arians; and his seasonable writings, which were diligently circulated and eagerly perused, contributed to unite and animate the orthodox party. In his public apologies, which he addressed to the emperor himself, he sometimes affected the praise of moderation; whilst at the same time, in secret and vehement invectives, he exposed Constantius as a weak and wicked prince, the executioner of his family, the tyrant of the republic, and the Anti-christ of the church.

    (DEF v.2 ch.2, pp.813-814)

     
    Little Known Facts: Ancient Egyptians Don’t Squeal

    A little know fact preserved (like a fly in amber) in a passage from Ammianus Marcellinus is summarized by Gibbon. This from Gibbon (in talking about the Egyptian monks who were protecting Athanasius from the Empire when Athanasius was hiding among them):

    The monasteries of Egypt were seated in lonely and desolate places, on the summit of mountains, or in the islands of the Nile; and the sacred horn or trumpet of Tabenne was the well-known signal which assembled several thousand robust and determined monks, who, for the most part, had been the peasants of the adjacent country.

    When their dark retreats were invaded by a military force which it was impossible to resist, they silently stretched out their necks to the executioner; and supported their national character, that tortures could never wrest from an Egyptian the confession of a secret which he was resolved not to disclose

    (DEF v.2, ch.21, pp.813)

    Who knew?

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