The Ancient Library

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by Hellebicus and Caesarius, two of his officers, who declared that Antioch was degraded from the rank of a city, was stripped of its possessions and privileges, and reduced to the condition of a village dependent on Laodicea. The places of public amusement were shut up, and the usual distribu­tion of corn was stopped, which was equivalent to a sentence of starvation against those who were accustomed to receive this pauper's allowance. A severe investigation was made into the circum­stances of the riot, and those who were convicted by the extraordinary commissioners of the em­peror lost their property, and were reduced to beggary. Some of the rioters, or of the accused, were put to death. The commissioners, however, suspended the complete execution of the emperor's sentence against the city, and Caesarius went to Constantinople to obtain a final answer from the emperor to the petition of the people and the prayers of the monks and herznits, who left their solitudes, and crowded to Antioch, to intercede for the metropolis of the East. The emperor had already relented at the entreaty of the bishop and the eloquent address of the senator ; the senate of Constantinople had interceded for Antioch, and Theodosius pardoned the city, and all who had taken part in the riot. The property of those who had been convicted was restored, the poor got their allowance again, and Antioch resumed its former dignity and jurisdiction. Tillemorit has collected all the circumstances of this affair of An­tioch (Histoire^ c^c., vol. v. p. 261, &c.), at great length.

In a. d. 390, Thessalonica, the metropolis of the Illyrian provinces, was disturbed by a riot during the emperor's residence at Milan. Botheric. who commanded the soldiers there, had imprisoned one of the charioteers of the Circus, who had solicited a youth to a shameless intercourse. The populace in vain called for their favourite charioteer during the celebration of the games: the general kept him in the prison which his crime had merited. It seems that the populace was ready for insurrection ; a trifling cause was enough to set them in motion, and the garrison was weak. Botheric and his officers were overpowered and assassinated by the people, and their bodies were dragged about the streets. An inquiry into the riot, and the punishment of the guilty, was necessary and just; but Theodosius punished a whole cit}r, guilty and innocent together. It is said that his minister Rufinus prompted the emperor to issue his savage orders, notwithstanding the intercession of the bishops. An army of bar­barians was sent to Thessalonica instead of a cis'il commission supported by a sufficient force. The people were invited to the games of the Circus, and they came without suspicion ; but as soon as the place was full, the soldiers received the signal for a massacre. For three hours the spectators were indiscriminately exposed to the fury of the soldiers, and seven thousand of them, or, as some accounts say, more than twice that number, paid the penalty of the insurrection. The soldiers, it is said, were ordered to produce a certain number of heads, an order which aggravates the guilt of Theodosius, who, if not softened by the usual feelings of humanity, might have remembered the city in which he had so often resided. This mas­sacre, unparalleled in history, is a stain on the name of Theodosius, an eternal brand of infamy. Tillemont, who has so minutely recorded the cle-


mency of Theodosius in the affair of Antioch, ob­serves, " that this year (a. d. 390) is celebrated for the cruelties which the order of Theodosius caused to be committed at Thessalonica, and still more celebrated for the penance which Theodosius performed to expiate so great a crime. We only touch, in a few words, on an event so illustrious and important, because we reserve it for the his­tory of St. Ambrosius." The illustrious and im­portant event was the penance, more illustrious and important in the eyes of the pious historian than the unpardonable crime of massacring thou­sands. It is singular, as Gibbon remarks, that Zosimus, who is certainly not partial to Theodosius, perhaps hardly just, and exposes his faults, does not mention the massacre of Thessalonica ; and vet

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the fact is not doubtful.

Ambrosius, the archbishop of Milan, thought that the civil administration was an affair in which the clergy had an interest; and a riot at Callinicum on the Persian frontier, in which the fanatics of the place, at the instigation of their bishop, had burnt a place of worship of the Valentinians, and the synagogue of the Jews, found an apologist in the archbishop of Milan. The provincial magis­trate had condemned the bishop to rebuild the synagogue, or to make good the damage, and the rioters to be punished ; and the emperor confirmed this equitable and moderate sentence. But to to­lerate difference of opinion was, in the archbishop's judgment, the same as to persecute the orthodox ; and Theodosius was compelled, by the archbishop's monitions and lectures, to let the bishop and his turbulent flock go unpunished. " St. Ambrosius," says Tillemont, " thought that a prince who par­doned so many other similar acts, ought not to expose the Christian religion to the insults of its enemies by so rigorous an order." The massacre of Thessalonica was a trial for the firmness of Am­brosius : he who thought that the burning of a Jew synagogue ought not to be punished could hardly overlook the massacre of a Christian city. He retired from the emperor's presence, but he represented his crime to him in a letter, and he told him that penitence alone could efface his guilt. But the archbishop was prudent in his remonstrances, and to protect himself, he called in the aid of a vision, in which he said that he had been warned not to offer the oblation in the name of Theodosius, nor in his presence. When the emperor proceeded to perform his devotions in the usual manner in the great church of Milan, the archbishop stopped him at the door, and demanded a further acknowledgment of his guilt. The con­science-struck Theodosius humbled himself before the church, which has recorded his penance as one of its greatest victories. He laid aside the insignia of imperial power, and in the posture of a suppliant in the church of Milan, entreated pardon for his great sin before all the congregation. After eight months, the emperor was restored to com­munion with the church, at Christmas, a. d. 390.

Theodosius spent three years in Italy, during which he established Valentinian on the throne of the West, a measure for which his historians may claim the merit of generosity; for he probably would have had no difficulty in keeping the western empire, which he had wrested from the usurpation of Maximus. Theodosius returned to Constan­tinople early in November a. d. 391.

Valentinian II. did not long miantuin his power,

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