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The line of better Roman Emperors chosen by ability and experience ended in 180 when Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius, became sole Emperor at his father's death. Born in 161, Commodus was the first Roman Emperor to be born while his father was Emperor. The Stoic education provided by the Emperor had little appeal to Commodus, who was more interested in fighting as a gladiator, killing animals, and enjoying sensuality. He abandoned his father's ambition to annex territory north of the Danube and quickly made peace with the Marcomanni and the Quadi, gaining 13,000 soldiers from the Quadi and forbidding them from fighting the Iazyges, Buri, and the Vandals. Rome also made peace with the Buri, regaining captives from them and 15,000 from others.
Commodus returned to Rome in triumph and began his dissolute activities. His associates he sent to rule the provinces were so corrupt that he soon alienated the Senate. A conspiracy in 182 was given away when Pompeianus approached Commodus with a sword saying, "This dagger the Senate sends."1 Pompeianus and four conspirators were executed. The power of Saoterus was so hated by the people that the prefects of the guard murdered him. Tigidius Perennis accused Paternus of instigating this; he and several prominent figures were put to death, while others were punished with exile. Commodus stopped appearing in public as he indulged in banquets, baths, and pleasure with 300 concubines, as many young men, and in brothels. Perennis was allowed to subvert the laws by executing men and confiscating their wealth for himself and Commodus. Many senators and rich women were killed without trials, and rich provincials were robbed. The sister of Commodus, Lucilla, was exiled to Capri and then killed for having conspired with her husband Pompeianus.
An inscription from 182 indicates that Commodus tried to limit forced labor on imperial estates in Africa to six days. Four years later regular shipment of African produce to Rome was instituted. In Britain Roman forces led by Ulpius Marcellus lost and regained the Antonine wall in 184; but this was abandoned the next year when he and his successor Helvius Pertinax faced army mutinies. Perennis was lynched by soldiers for dismissing senators and appointing knights as commanders. Commodus replaced Perennis with Cleandar, an imperial slave who rose to become the richest chamberlain ever by selling government offices and confiscating wealth, appointing as many as 25 consuls for the year 190. Burrus, the brother-in-law of Commodus, was killed by Cleandar for reporting to the Emperor what Cleandar was doing, as were several for defending Burrus. Finally Papirius Dionysius, the grain commissioner, caused a famine in 190 so that hungry Romans would destroy Cleandar. The Emperor's Christian concubine Marcia pleaded with Commodus, and he had Cleandar and his son executed to stop the rebellion.
Commodus had been treated for illness and trained to be a gladiator by the physician Galen, who was from Pergamum, a city in Asia Minor with an outstanding library and a healing shrine of Asclepius. Galen (c. 130-c. 200) developed the theories of Hippocrates by practicing on gladiators and studying anatomy by vivisection in Alexandria, though not a single human skeleton was available when he came to Rome because of religious restrictions. Galen, whose medical influence was to last more than a millennium, developed a pharmacy of 540 medicines from plants, 180 from animals, and 100 from minerals. During the short reign of Pertinax Galen wrote an Exhortation to the Study of the Arts, Especially Medicine in which he advised students against seeking riches and the professions of male prostitutes and athletes. Galen also cited Christians to support his argument that even non-philosophers could achieve good behavior similar to the philosophical ideal.
Getting himself declared divine as Hercules, Commodus delighted in killing wild beasts in the arena, and he killed many people, often for petty reasons. His arrogance knew few bounds as he renamed Rome Commodiana as his colony and changed the names of the months. He tried to remain popular by giving 140 denarii to each person, while ordering senators in other cities to contribute five denarii each every year on his birthday. Imperial authority was maintained by the use of secret police and the army. Commodus murdered many prominent men such as prefect Julianus, commissioner Dionysius, his own nephew Antoninus, and several ex-consuls. When Marcia, the prefect Laetus and chamberlain Eclectus learned they were about to be killed as Commodus was moving to live with the gladiators in the barracks, Marcia poisoned Commodus. After he vomited this, they sent an athlete named Narcissus, who strangled him in a bath on the last day of 192.
After Commodus was assassinated, Laetus and Eclectus took Helvius Pertinax, 66, to the praetorian camp, where he promised the guards a donative of 12,000 sesterces each. Pertinax was probably chosen, because he had held more high offices than anyone; he may have survived, because he had gained less wealth than anyone. Pertinax told the Senate he wanted to resign; but they declared him Emperor and Commodus a public enemy. Pertinax treated the Senate democratically, and he was declared its chief according to ancient practice. He restored the rights of innocent victims, removed the stigma against those unjustly executed, and vowed never to sanction the death penalty for senators. The imperial treasury had been reduced to less than a million sesterces. So Pertinax sold imperial luxuries such as statues, arms, horses, furniture, and slaves while cutting palace expenditures in half. Oppressive taxes and restrictions on commerce were canceled. Those improving uncultivated Italian lands were exempted from tribute for ten years. The praetorians got what they were promised, and the people received 100 denarii each.
Not getting what he wanted, Laetus incited soldiers, who were no longer allowed to plunder; after only 86 days on the throne they murdered Emperor Pertinax and his loyal Eclectus. City prefect Sulpicianus, father-in-law of Pertinax, aimed to take the throne; but he was outbid by the wealthy Didius Julianus, who promised the praetorian guards 25,000 sesterces and gave them 30,000 each, saying he would restore the honor of Commodus. The Senate and people loathed Julianus, because they believed Pertinax was reforming the abuses of the Commodus era, and many believed the soldiers killed Pertinax for money.
Pescennius Niger, the Roman governor in Syria, was urged by those in Asia to assume the throne, and Julianus ordered him killed. Septimius Severus, commanding in Pannonia, shrewdly sent a letter to Britain governor Clodius Albinus, declaring him Caesar, and marched for Rome. Julianus got the Senate to declare Severus a public enemy and fortified the palace, putting to death Laetus and Marcia. Meanwhile Severus not only won over most of Europe, he even persuaded those sent by Julianus to kill him. The desperate Julianus tried to share the throne with Severus; but the Senate sentenced Julianus to death, declared Severus Emperor, and bestowed divine honors on Pertinax. Julianus was executed in the palace after reigning 66 days.
Severus executed the praetorians, who had murdered Pertinax, and dismissed the guards, who had failed to prevent this. Severus also promised not to execute senators; but he was the first to violate this law by murdering Julius Solon, the senator who framed it. Severus was blamed for making Rome turbulent with many non-Italian troops and excessive expenditures on the army, though he was popular as the avenger of Pertinax. Severus was born in Africa on April 11 in 145 and rose in a military career. He punished magistrates proved guilty by provincials and secured the grain supply. Severus led his army against the forces of Niger and Aemilianus in a brief civil war. His generals defeated and killed Aemilianus in the Hellespont; then they besieged Byzantium. Severus defeated Niger at Issus, where 20,000 Romans died according to Dio Cassius; Niger was killed retreating from Antioch to the Euphrates. Severus punished supporters of Niger, crossed the Euphrates, and in 195 brought the Parthians and Adiabenians under Roman authority, though Dio Cassius complained this military conquest cost more than it gained. Byzantium was starved into surrender after three years. Its magistrates and soldiers were put to death; its walls were demolished, and its privileges were suppressed as it was subjected to nearby Perinthus.
Suspecting Albinus, Severus had his army in Mesopotamia declare him a public enemy and headed for Rome. Though both Albinus and Severus were born in Africa, Severus was only an equestrian, and Albinus was educated in the school of Marcus Aurelius. Yet Severus got the Senate in Rome to denounce Albinus, who had crossed the channel from Britain with three legions and auxiliaries, defeating Roman forces led by Lupus. This civil war was won by the army of Severus at Lugdunum (Lyons), where according to Dio 150,000 from each side fought. Albinus committed suicide, and the city was sacked and burned in 197. Severus returned to Rome and executed 29 senators who had supported Albinus. Severus had his son Antoninus (later called Caracalla) confirmed as Caesar. When Parthian king Vologases besieged Nisibis, Severus launched another campaign against the Parthians, relieved Nisibis, took Seleucia and Babylon, and plundered Ctesiphon (enslaving perhaps 100,000); but he failed to capture Hatra. In 199 Severus visited Egypt.
Severus returned to Rome, where Praetorian Prefect Plautianus was exercising great power over finances and even laws. In 203 Severus visited his native Leptis Magna in Africa, promoting municipal and cultural activities there. Severus returned to Rome to celebrate secular games the next year, spending a record 200,000,000 sesterces on the people. The coinage was debased, as the denarius was now less than half silver. Severus gained popularity by moving the postal service from private individuals to the imperial government. Plautianus was accused of plotting against the Emperor and was killed by an attendant of Caracalla. The eminent lawyer Papinian became praetorian prefect in 203 until 212 and was known for equity and humaneness. Caracalla and his brother Geta felt free to indulge in women and boys, embezzle money, and associate with gladiators. Dio described how for two years 600 bandits led by Bulla robbed travelers on Italian roads. Before being thrown to wild beasts, Bulla observed his band was large, because slaves were mistreated, and freedmen were underpaid. Severus paid soldiers well and relaxed discipline, allowing them to live with their wives and expect frequent donatives. Severus added two legions in Mesopotamia and one in Italy, and he put provincials in the praetorian guard.
In Britain Hadrian's wall was improved so much that later generations believed it was built by Severus. Suffering from gout or arthritis, Severus was carried in a litter on the British campaign in 208 when they invaded the Caledonians in the north, though it may have cost the Romans 50,000 men. Geta was raised to equal rank with his ambitious brother Caracalla (Antoninus), who tried to kill their aging father; Severus punished others but not his son. When Septimius Severus died of illness in 211, his two sons mistrusted each other and divided the palace. Caracalla refused to divide the empire though, and the next year he had Geta murdered while clinging to their mother's arms. The distinguished jurist Papinian refused to justify this fratricide and was killed, along with about 20,000 others suspected of being sympathetic to Geta or a threat to the paranoid Emperor. The guilt-stricken Caracalla often had visions of his angry father and brother.
Caracalla restored the rights of Antioch and Byzantium that had been taken away by Septimius Severus for supporting Niger. Caracalla placated the soldiers by raising their pay from 500 to 750 denarii; but he had to debase the coins further and double most taxes. An edict of 212 extended Roman citizenship to all free men in the empire, broadening the tax base. Caracalla also wasted money on wild beasts he liked to kill in arenas. Although he was more adulterous than any, Caracalla had adulterers executed in violation of the law. In addition to murdering many prominent men, Caracalla sent others to cold or hot provinces where their health would fail. After defeating the Alamanni in Lower Moesia, in the east he tricked Osroeni king Abgarus to visit as a friend and imprisoned him in order to subdue the Osroene in 216. Then he did the same thing to the Armenian king, thereafter losing any trust he might have had. Believing he was the reincarnation of the Macedonian Alexander, Caracalla went to Egypt, where he had thousands of seditious Alexandrians slaughtered while he reported to the Senate he was performing "purification rites." While the Emperor was abroad, senators were expected to erect palaces and theaters for expensive entertainment. Finally while on a pilgrimage from Edessa to the lunar temple at Carrhae, Caracalla was assassinated by the disgruntled soldier Martialis.
The assassin was killed immediately, and Praetorian Prefect Opellius Macrinus, promising to give the army money and end the burdensome war, became Emperor and took his young son Diadumenus as colleague, ordering soldiers to name his son Antoninus. The credibility of Macrinus suffered when it was learned he had organized the assassination even though he denied it. When the angry Parthian Artabanus invaded Mesopotamia, Macrinus was unable to pacify him, and the Roman army was defeated near Nisibis. Macrinus made peace by paying Artabanus 200,000,000 sesterces, and the war with Armenia ended when Macrinus sent Tiridates a crown. The harsh discipline of Macrinus in a winter camp, crucifying soldiers and decimating his legions, alienated them so quickly that after one year troops deserted to Elagabalus. Macrinus tried to appease his soldiers by giving them money; but he was defeated and put to death outside of Antioch in 218.
Named after a Syrian sun cult of which he was priest, Elagabalus (Heliogabalus) was put forward by his grandmother Maesa as the son of Caracalla. The army unusually gathered in Syria was won over to his cause. After defeating Macrinus, Elagabalus entered Antioch and promised each soldier 2,000 sesterces to prevent them from sacking the city. Elagabalus trampled on Roman tradition by assuming tribunician and proconsular powers even before they were decreed by the Senate. He transferred a sacred black stone from Emesa to Rome and tried to make his religion dominant over all others. Elagabalus limited reprisals but soon slid into extraordinary sensuality, murdering those who criticized him. He married a Vestal virgin and several others. His banquets were orgies of rare foods alternating with sexual pleasures. Elagabalus dressed as a woman, even married "husbands," and played the role of a prostitute as he made lust the principal occupation of his life. Honors, ranks, and powers were sold by him and his lusted agents for money, even positions such as senators, tribunes, generals, legates, and procurators. It was reported that his religious sacrifices included noble Italian boys.
Elagabalus' cousin Alexander Severus had been declared Caesar and soon became an alternative to the Emperor's shameful lifestyle. Alexander was protected by soldiers, who warned Elagabalus to dismiss the foul persons and return to a decent life. While plotting against Alexander, Elagabalus ordered the Senate to leave Rome. The rhetorician Silvinus was killed, though the jurist Ulpian was saved. Finally in 222 soldiers killed Elagabalus in a latrine and threw his body in the Tiber.
The Roman Senate immediately bestowed the imperial titles and power on Alexander Severus. As he was born October 1, 208 and was only 13, his grandmother Maesa until her death in 226 and his mother Mamaea acted as regents. A council of seventy included sixteen senators and was headed by the distinguished jurist Domitius Ulpian as praetorian prefect. Ulpian reformed the many violations of Elagabalus and wrote massive works on Roman law. He wrote that all human beings are born free, thus making slavery unnatural. Yet the loss of privileges eventually led the praetorians to murder Ulpian in 228. Iulius Paulus was another great jurist who was praetorian prefect under Alexander. Paulus emphasized that the Emperor should set an example by obeying the laws, and he wrote the voluminous Opinions (Sententiae).
During the reign of Alexander colleges of industries and trades were organized to provide for the needs of Rome, and welfare institutions were extended. Many were exempted from taxes, including officials, soldiers, college guilds, ship-owners, firemen, those over seventy, women, fathers of five children, veterans, doctors, teachers, and philosophers. Taxes thus fell heavily on farmers and workers in the lower classes. Alexander loaned public money at only four percent, and to the poor he even advanced cash to purchase land without any interest at all. Elagabalus had wasted grain; but Alexander purchased it at his own expense and restored the supply. Coins indicate that at least five times Emperor Alexander Severus distributed grain or money to the people.
The imperial life of Alexander offered a striking contrast to his predecessor as he practiced self-discipline, study, instructive discussion, and public service. Elagabalus had allowed both sexes to mix at public baths, but Alexander ended that indulgence. He could be severe especially on thieves. His friend Turinus used his position to sell favors. The Emperor ordered him bound to a stake and suffocated by smoke, because he had been a "seller of smoke." The palace was open to all, but only those with innocent minds were invited to enter. Alexander sent the Syrian sun-god back to Emesa and tolerated all religions, respecting the rights of Jews and tolerating Christians, since he believed each is an expression of universal truth. Along with statues of deified Emperors were represented the holy souls of Abraham, Orpheus, Christ, and Apollonius of Tyana. Alexander had heard the golden rule from a Jew or Christian, and when disciplining anyone he told the herald to announce that what you do not wish anyone to do to you, you should not do to them. This saying was also inscribed on public buildings.
The discipline of Alexander and his commanders, like historian Dio Cassius in Pannonia, was not popular with a corrupted army. Mutinies against his officers had to be put down in Illyricum, Mauretania, Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Germany. Dio was saved by retiring to write history in 229. Artabanus V of the Arsacid dynasty in Parthia, weakened by the invasion of Septimius Severus and others, was overthrown in 224 by the Persian Ardashir (Artaxerxes), who founded the Sassanian dynasty as king of kings two years later. In 230 the Persians, setting out to regain their ancient empire with Magian zeal, besieged Nisibis. Diplomatic efforts failed as Persia insisted on reclaiming all of western Asia. Their 400 elegant emissaries were seized by Alexander and sent to farm in Phrygia. Alexander and his mother launched a campaign in alliance with Armenian king Chosroes by invading through Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Babylon. The three separate Roman armies enabled the Persians to destroy the central one. Alexander retreated to Antioch as disease, hunger, and cold added to the disastrous war. The need for legions in the west caused the Romans to end the war against Persia without a settlement in 233, and the next year a campaign was prepared against the Alamanni.
Julius Verus Maxininus was put in charge of training on the Upper Rhine. Alexander and his mother joined the army at Mainz and began negotiating cash payments. Troops resented this, and Pannonian recruits proclaimed Maxininus Emperor. The army of Alexander Severus deserted him, and he and his mother were killed in 235.
Maxininus was a Thracian who rose to equestrian rank in the military. He began his reign crushing two mutinies in the north by putting to death senator Magnus and as many as 4,000 others. Maxininus used his army to defeat German resistance, and in 236 and 237 they fought the Sarmatians and Dacians. Lacking education and culture, Maxininus stayed away from Italy, refused to see such people, and even had those who revealed his obscure background killed. With an extensive spy network senatorial officers were especially proscribed as much property was confiscated. Money had to be found, because he doubled soldiers' pay, and military needs such as road-building were promoted. He also appropriated ornaments from public places and temples, which often caused tumult and massacres. In opposing those who had supported Alexander, Maxininus ordered Christians persecuted.
In Africa the imperial procurator was killed in Thysdrus attempting to gather taxes. In 238 the 80-year-old proconsul Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus was proclaimed Augustus (Emperor), and at Carthage he appointed his son co-Emperor. Envoys were sent to Rome and killed praetorian commander Vitalianus, allowing the Senate to confirm the Gordians' imperial titles. Romans turned against supporters of Maxininus and killed city prefect Sabinus. Twenty consuls were sent out to the provinces to defend the new Emperors. However, Numidian governor Capellianus had a grudge against Gordian and remained loyal to Maxininus; when his troops killed Gordian II, his aged father committed suicide.
The Roman Senate quickly elected two of the twenty, Pupienus Maximus and Caelius Balbinus, as Emperors. The people disliked former city prefect Pupienus and demonstrated until the elder Gordian's grandson, Antonius Gordianus, was named Caesar, and 250 denarii was given to each citizen. Pupienus organized an army in north Italy while Balbinus governed in Rome. Maxininus gave a donative and marched his army across the Alps into northern Italy, finding no food in the abandoned land but meeting resistance at Aquileia. While besieging this city, the northern army's discipline broke down, and soldiers, who had family and property in Alba, murdered Maxininus, his son, prefect Anulinus, and other officers. Pupienus was supported by German soldiers, because he had been a conscientious governor of their province. He arrived and gave the rebel army amnesty and a donative, dismissing them to their stations. Pupienus returned triumphantly to Rome, where recalcitrant praetorian guards ended friction between the two Emperors by capturing them and murdering both in their camp. The guards proclaimed the 13-year-old Gordian III Emperor.
Little is known about who advised the young Gordian until Praetorian Prefect Timesitheus took control in 241; but a 238 decree indicates administration by provincial governors was given authority even in judicial matters over military courts, and local rights over finances were regained. A rebellion led by Sabinianus in Carthage was quelled by the governor of Mauretania in 240. Having diverse government experience in many provinces, Timesitheus continued extensive building of roads, and lines of forts were erected in Numidia and Mauretania. In the east Persians had overrun Mesopotamia and taken Nisibis and Carrhae. Shapur I succeeded his father Ardashir in 242, quelling rebellions by the Chorasmians, mountain Medes, Gelae, Dailamites, and Hyrcanians. Then Shapur invaded Syria, threatening Antioch. Gordian and Timesitheus mobilized the Danubian army, and the latter defeated Carpi raiders in Thrace. In 243 they drove the Persians out of Syria, regaining Carrhae and Nisibis; Edessa was made a Roman colony. When Timesitheus died of illness or perhaps poison, he was succeeded as praetorian prefect by an Arabian named Philip.
The ambitious Philip blamed commissariat problems on Gordian and had the Emperor murdered, writing the Senate he had died of disease. The soldiers proclaimed Philip Emperor in 244, and he made a peace treaty with Shapur. Philip led troops against unrest in Moesia and Dacia before returning to Rome to celebrate its millennium with secular games in 248. Excessive taxes and oppressive government by Philip's brother C. Julius Priscus in Mesopotamia stimulated rebellions led by Jotapianus in Cappadocia and Emesa priest-king Sulpicius Uranius Antoninus in Syria. In the lower Danube region Pacatianus led a revolt. Philip was so discouraged he wanted to abdicate; but instead the confident Decius was given supreme command in Moesia and Pannonia. Pacatianus was soon killed by his own soldiers, and in 249 the successful Decius was compelled by the army to become Emperor. The ill Philip marched north to meet Decius but was defeated and killed in battle. The son of Philip was put to death in Rome by the praetorians, and the Senate recognized Decius.
Attempting to restore Roman virtue, Decius appointed Valerian censor and required traditional sacrifices, causing a serious though brief persecution of Christians. In Rome Senator Licinianus attempted to become Emperor but was soon killed, and the two sons of Decius were proclaimed Augusti. Invading Goths brought Decius to the Danube. The Goths retreated but besieged Philippopolis in Thrace. The Gothic king Cniva defeated and killed Decius and his older son at Abrittus in 251. Thrace governor T. Julius Priscus had surrendered mutinous troops to the Goths at Philippopolis and briefly claimed to be Emperor also. 100,000 people in the city were reported to have been massacred. Since Hostilianus, the surviving son of Decius, was a child, Moesia governor C. Trebonianus Gallus was proclaimed Emperor by his troops. Gallus in a weak position allowed the Goths to carry off much of the population and wealth of Thrace. He adopted Hostilianus as his son but was blamed when the boy was carried off by a plague that was to sweep across the empire for the next fifteen years.
Aemilius Aemilianus, governing Pannonia and Moesia, won victories against the Goths north of the Danube and was proclaimed Emperor. The army of Aemilianus so outnumbered that of Gallus that the latter was killed by his own troops. Aemilianus lasted only three months, meeting a similar fate to that of Gallus after he summoned Valerian's Rhine legions, who proclaimed him Emperor. Valerian got the Senate to declare his son Gallienus as his colleague and Augustus in September 253.
The next year Gallienus led an army that drove back the Alamanni; as he fought five wars with the Germans in five years, he resided mostly at Cologne. In 256 the Franks, formed out of Cherusci and Chatti, invaded most of Gaul, while Saxons began raiding the English Channel. As Valerian headed east to confront the Persians, persecution of Christians resumed. Meanwhile the Goths plundered rich cities like Chalcedon, Nicomedia, Trebizond, Cyzicus, and eventually even Athens. In 259 the Persians defeated and captured Emperor Valerian, a great embarrassment to the Roman empire. The next year revolts broke out in the Danube region, and Macrianus proclaimed his two sons Emperors in the east. Persian king Shapur got Armenian king Chosroes assassinated. Defeating Roman forces, Shapur's Persians occupied Antioch, Apamea, Seleucia, and Tarsus. Palmyran king Odenathus sent Shapur gifts, but the Persian potentate had them thrown in the Euphrates.
While Silvanus was governing for young Caesar Saloninus in Cologne, Postumus besieged the city with his legions from Germany and had them both killed. Macrianus approached with an army of 30,000 but was defeated by the Pannonian force of Aureolus. In 262 Odenathus joined his Syrian army with Roman forces and defeated the Persians, regaining Carrhae and Nisibis and even besieging the Persian capital at Ctesiphon. Egyptian prefect L. Mussius Aemilianus, who had supported the Macriani until their fall, stopped grain shipments to Italy. Gallienus sent a fleet commanded by Theodotus, who defeated, executed, and replaced Aemilianus. The next year Gallienus led an army against Postumus and was wounded defeating him in Gaul.
Emperor Gallienus enjoyed the Neo-Platonist philosophy of Plotinus, promoted Greek religion in the Eleusinian mysteries, and managed to survive until 268. During his reign of fifteen years though, eighteen men and one woman, Palmyran queen Zenobia, vied for the imperial throne. The provinces were greatly disturbed, and the civil wars weakened the frontier defenses, such as Raetia and Germany. In Sicily slaves rebelled; Alexandria's civil war went on for twelve years; and Isaurians in Asia Minor became independent of the empire and took over part of Cilicia. These many wars along with the famine and plague that accompanied them devastated the land, the people, and the economy of the empire. Agriculture was greatly affected, and the rich took over more land. Insecurity on the roads made commerce very risky and difficult. Small farmers and city workers were hit hard, greatly shrinking the middle class with the important exceptions of the military and government officials, some of whom became rich.
Aureolus prevented Postumus from invading Italy. Yet when the cavalry of Aureolus became a threat to Gallienus, the Emperor besieged him at Milan, as Aureolus proclaimed himself Emperor. A conspiracy led by Aurelius Claudius and Domitius Aurelian arranged for the murder of Gallienus, and a large contribution to the troops secured the throne for Claudius. The Senate, resenting their recent loss of power, had the late Emperor's family liquidated and supported Claudius. Aureolus surrendered to Claudius and was executed. Postumus was fighting a revolt led by Laelianus, who died when Mainz was taken. When Postumus refused to let his soldiers plunder the city, they killed him. These Rhine legions proclaimed Aurelius Marius and, after he died, Victorinus. Claudius sent a force commanded by Placidianus against them in Gaul.
Claudius wrote the Senate that although the whole country was exhausted, 320,000 Goths had invaded Roman territory, assaulting the wealthy Macedonian capital at Thessalonica. He had to admit that the usurper Tetricus governed in Gaul and Spain, while Zenobia reigned over Asia. Claudius led an imperial army that defeated the Goths in Moesia, Thrace, and Macedonia, taking some Gothic youth into the army, enslaving others, and giving each soldier two or three captive women. Claudius appointed Aurelian to continue the campaign against the Goths while he turned to face the Juthungi and Vandals in the Danube region, where he succumbed to the plague in 270. The army in Italy elected his brother Quintillus Emperor but had him killed after learning the army in the Balkans had selected the popular Domitius Aurelian.
Aurelian was a strict disciplinarian and declared that public support and spoils taken from the enemy should be enough so that soldiers should leave the provincials' goods alone. After two decades of war Aurelian defeated and made a treaty with the Goths by which the Vandals supplied him with 2,000 cavalry, and the Goths were allowed to retreat and occupy Dacia. When 500 of these cavalry broke the agreement, they were destroyed. Next the Juthungi (Marcomanni) encroached into Italy. After his forces took a beating at Placentia, Aurelian defeated the German invaders in Umbria and exterminated what remained near Pavia. This threat apparently stimulated Aurelian to order the erection of a wall twenty feet high, twelve feet wide, and twelve miles long around the city of Rome. Aurelian had some senators killed and confiscated much property. In the imperial capital a revolt of mint workers was large enough to kill 7,000 soldiers. Aurelian changed a monthly dole of grain to a daily distribution of two pounds of bread and an occasional allotment of pork, oil, and salt. He made worship of the sun an official religion.
In 271 Aurelian destroyed the Gothic invader Cannabas and 5,000 of his men north of the Danube on his way to recover Asia Minor from the retreating authority of Palmyra queen Zenobia. The death of Persian king Shapur in 272 seems to have left her with few allies. The city of Tyana was spared by Aurelian, and Greeks joined the Roman side. While his general Probus was driving her forces out of Egypt, Aurelian defeated her best general Zabdas at Antioch. The Roman Emperor supported the claims of the Christian Domnus, who was endorsed by Italian bishops. Zabdas retreated to Emesa, while Zenobia prepared for a siege at Palmyra, where she rejected a peace offer. However, as she escaped to the Euphrates, where she was captured, the city surrendered. Her advisor, the rhetorician Longinus, was put to death; but she was taken to Rome, as Aurelian left a garrison of 600 archers in Palmyra. The next year Aurelian fought the Carpi beyond the Danube. Hearing his garrison had been massacred, he returned to destroy Palmyra. In Egypt a wealthy merchant named Firmus led a revolt joined by the Nubian Blemmyes tribe. Aurelian moved against them, causing Firmus to commit suicide and razing the walls of Alexandria.
In 274 Aurelian took his army into Gaul, where he punished rebel fighters, gave Tetricus clemency, and drove the Franks and Batavians north of the Rhine. Aurelian returned to Rome and marched in triumph with captives from many nations that included Zenobia and the senatorial Tetricus, both of whom received comfortable pensions. The sun temple received 15,000 pounds of gold. Aurelian went back to Gaul to counter invading Juthungi and Alamanni from Raetia; then he headed for Mesopotamia. Before reaching Byzantium a secretary charged with extortion organized a conspiracy that assassinated Aurelian in 275.
After so many competing Emperors, now for six months no one took on the imperial position; the victories of Aurelian had calmed usurpation and sedition for a while. Finally in September 275 the Senate persuaded 75-year-old Tacitus to don the purple. Tacitus governed conservatively for six months, though his half-brother Florian, whom he made praetorian prefect, was rejected by the Senate for a consulship, and another relative, Maximinus, was so oppressive in governing Syria that he was murdered. Florian tried to succeed Tacitus without approval by the Senate and marched his army to Tarsus to counter the claim of Probus; but after three months Florian was betrayed by his men and killed.
Probus punished surviving murderers of Aurelian and visited Rome to receive confirmation by the Senate, which he allowed to conduct civil administration. He then marched his army to Gaul and drove out the Franks, Longiones, Alamanni, and the Burgundian Vandals, liberating sixty cities, killing a reported 400,000 Germans, and taking 16,000 into his army. In 278 Probus secured Raetia and drove invading Vandals from Illyricum. Julius Saturninus claimed imperial command in Syria but soon died at Apamea. In Asia Minor Probus established forts to control the Isaurians; he made peace with Persian king Vahram II (r. 276-293), and while traveling back through Thrace, he settled 100,000 Batarnae in the empire. Probus ordered a wall built from the Rhine to the Danube, though in a few years it would be torn down by the Alamanni. Short-lived rebellions were put down in Lugdunum, Cologne, and Britain. Probus celebrated with violent games, though eighty gladiators broke free and rampaged in Rome before they were all killed. Probus began applying soldiers to reclaiming land and cultivating vines; he even hoped for a day when an imperial army would no longer be needed. This idea frightened the military, and Probus was murdered by his own soldiers at Sirmium.
The Guard's prefect Carus was made Emperor by the army in 282. They defeated invading Quadi and killed 16,000 Sarmatians with heavy losses. Then marching east to the Persian war, Carus and his army crossed both the Euphrates and Tigris to take Seleucia and Ctesiphon; but after ruling ten months he was struck down for going too far by lightning (according to the official report). His oldest son Carinus was ruling in the west, and the eastern army was taken over by his younger son Numerian, who was under the influence of his father-in-law, the prefect Aper; but Numerian was soon found dead. The army appointed Diocles Emperor, and he stabbed Aper with his own sword, proclaiming himself Emperor Diocletian in 284. Carinus, who had married and divorced nine wives and put on extravagant and cruel spectacles with wild animals, met Diocletian with a strong army in the Margus valley; but Carinus was murdered by a tribune, whose wife he had seduced, making Diocletian undisputed ruler of the Roman empire in 285.
Torah scholars called Tannaim continued to develop an oral tradition after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, led by such distinguished men as Jochanan ben Zakkai, Gamaliel II of Jabneh, Akiba ben Joseph, Meir, and Judah Hanasi. Based on Akiba's collection as corrected by Meir, the Patriarch Judah (c. 135-c. 225) managed to synthesize the teachings of the various schools into a unified compendium of oral traditions called the Mishnah, written only as notes or secretly. The wealthy Judah wielded unprecedented power over Jews, even vetoing the Sanhedrin, which he had moved from Usha to Sepphoris because of his health. When the plague during the reign of Marcus Aurelius was followed by a famine, Judah opened his storehouses and distributed grain to the needy. Judean communities were suffering under the "crown money" tax, which caused many to leave Tiberias. He was so respected that he was called the teacher saint, and quotes in the Mishnah by him are simply attributed to the Rabbi (Teacher). The Mishnah completed the phase of the independent Tannaim, who would be followed by the Amoraim (Interpreters) of the Mishnah in writing down their ideas in the Talmud (Teaching).
The Mishnah is arranged into six broad categories on prayer, agriculture, sacred times, marriage and family, economic and social issues, and ritual purity. The Mishnah emphasizes that laws of the Torah are to be obeyed without exception, giving Judaism a legalistic character. By following the edicts and decrees of God as handed in the scriptures they believed they would find prosperity on earth and blessing in the world to come. Their main duties included venerating parents, giving charity, attending school, offering hospitality, endowing brides, accompanying corpses to the grave, praying devoutly, peacemaking, and studying their teachings. Crimes were not expiated until the victims were reimbursed, satisfied, or appeased.
The Mishnah has two views on whether to educate daughters. Ben-Azai favored it, but Eleazar ben Hyrcanus compared it to prostitution. Unfortunately the latter view prevailed, and women were seldom educated. The Mishnah is much more critical of heathen practices than of their Christian rivals. Jews were not allowed to sell to Romans animals that might be used for killing in the arena. Simeon ben Gamaliel said that the world rests on truth, justice, and peace. Ben Zoma suggested that learning from everyone makes one wise, controlling one's passions makes one strong, being satisfied with one's lot makes one rich, and honoring humanity makes one honored. Simeon ben Chalafta said that God has no better way of blessing than with peace.
Under Severus Jews as well as Christians were persecuted for their religion. After the civil war that consolidated the power of Severus, marauding bands in Palestine were hunted down with the aid of teachers Eleazar, son of Simon ben Jochai, and Ishmael, son of Jose the Prudent. Many people including Joshua ben Karcha criticized them for this. Judah was succeeded by his son Gamaliel III, who emphasized that study should supplement essential work. In 216 the pressure of the Persian war caused the Romans to end the allowance first given by Julius Caesar making Jews exempt from taxes during their sabbatical year in which fields lay fallow. So the authority Jannai proclaimed it permissible to cultivate the land that year. Judah II succeeded his father Gamaliel and moved the Sanhedrin from Sepphoris to the city of Tiberias. Stories and legends of a close friendship between Judah and a Roman Emperor or governor may refer to Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, or Alexander Severus. Most likely is the last, since Alexander included Abraham in his pantheon of religious figures and was quite favorable to Jews.
Jews had lived free of persecution in Babylon for generations; but when the new Persian Sassanid dynasty replaced the Parthians, the religious fanaticism of the Zarathustrian magi caused problems. Abba-Areka (c. 175-247) had studied with Judah I in Tiberias. The Babylonian exilarch appointed Abba inspector of the markets responsible for controlling weights and measures. When Abba did not obey the exilarch's order to control prices, he was put in prison. About 219 Abba opened a school called Sidra that attracted 1200 students. Using the Mishnah for teaching, Abba tried to improve the morals of the Babylonians. He forbade solemnizing marriage until it was preceded by courtship, and he prohibited fathers from marrying off their daughters without their consent. He stopped the legal devices that enabled a husband to make a divorce retroactive. Abba also strengthened the judicial system, obliging everyone to obey a summons. His rival Mar-Samuel went even farther and declared the secular laws as binding as the Jewish ones. This enabled Samuel to have good relations with the court of Shapur I (r. 242-272). Soon under the Sassanid dynasty the Jewish courts lost their criminal jurisdiction, and Jews were no longer permitted to hold public offices. In 259 the Palmyran king Odenathus destroyed the city of Nahardea and its Jewish community; Samuel's daughters and others were taken as prisoners to Sepphoris.
Probably during the reign of Marcus Aurelius a priest of the mother goddess Cybele named Montanus, who had converted to Christianity in Phrygia, had ecstatic experiences in which he believed the Holy Spirit spoke through him. Two prophetesses, Priscilla and Maximilla, who had left their husbands, had similar experiences and beliefs. From this in Asia Minor grew the Montanist movement, which considered itself the spiritual church, but which was opposed by many who believed these supernatural experiences were not inspired by the Holy Spirit but devils.
Irenaeus grew up in Smyrna, where he was taught by Polycarp. Irenaeus went to southern Gaul as a missionary, witnessed the persecution in Lugdunum (Lyons), and succeeded the martyred bishop Pothinus in 177. Irenaeus was sent to mediate the Montanist disputes with Eleutherus, who was bishop of Rome from 177 to 190. While churches in Asia Minor celebrated Easter on the Jewish Passover and Roman churches did so on the following Sunday, Irenaeus advised the resentful Victor, Bishop of Rome, not to let this difference destroy church unity. In a letter to Victor Irenaeus wrote that as long as one can do good to one's neighbors and does not do so, that one will be considered a stranger to the love of God. He recommended speaking well of the deserving but never ill of the undeserving in order to attain the glory of God. Irenaeus observed that transgressions bound one by the chains of one's own sins; but breaking the bonds by repentance loosens the shackles. He thought the business of the Christian is always preparing for death. Irenaeus died before or possibly during the persecution of Emperor Septimius Severus in 202.
Irenaeus knew that it is not easy to persuade one under the influence of error toward a contrary opinion. His major work, Refutation of the Falsely Called Knowledge (Gnosis), written in Greek, survives in Latin translation. In the first of five books Irenaeus described the doctrines of Gnostics such as Valentinus, Marcion, and others. Then he demonstrated by scriptures and the apostolic tradition why orthodox Christian theology is better. His work and similar tracts by Tertullian and others were so comprehensive and persuasive that the Gnostic sects declined rapidly in the third century, and most Gnostic texts were eradicated. Recent discoveries in the 20th century of some Gnostic works have revealed the general accuracy of his presentation. Most of the differences are metaphysical and theological rather than ethical; but Irenaeus did note Gnostic elitism in their suggestion that good works are necessary to traditional Christians but not to those having the superior spiritual knowledge. Irenaeus charged that some Gnostics indulged in lusts of the flesh in the belief that carnal things may be allowed to carnal nature, because spiritual things are provided to the spiritual nature.
Irenaeus believed that God allowed humans to fall because of pride and to teach discipline by experience, making salvation a result of progressive education culminating in the divine incarnation and the universal good message. Irenaeus acknowledged imperfection in the world but believed it has a purpose in developing character by mastering temptations and difficulties. He believed that God made humans free with the ability to obey God voluntarily and not by compulsion. God does not coerce, but good will is always present. Thus God did not make some good and others bad. Humans were given the mental ability to know good and evil, and by experience they learn that disobeying God deprives one of life. Irenaeus established the importance of orthodox doctrines passed on by apostolic succession as a protection against dangerous innovation and speculation. In contrast to Gnostic dualism Irenaeus emphasized the unity of God as creator, ruler, and judge. The wisdom of God excels all human wisdom, punishing the wicked and blessing the pious with infinite goodness and justice. Irenaeus prayed that his adversaries may be converted, loving them, he wrote, better than they love themselves. For he believed that the true way to God is love and that it is better to know only Christ than to fall into curious questions and paltry subtleties.
Tertullian was born in the middle of the second century at Carthage, where he was well educated. His father was probably a centurion. Tertullian went to Rome as a young man and probably practiced law. He did not convert to Christianity until he returned to Carthage near the end of the century. Twelve Christians had been martyred at Carthage in 180. Tertullian was impressed by the witness of martyrs, the moral discipline, and the devotion to one God.
About 197 or so Tertullian wrote a defense of Christianity addressed to the rulers of the Roman empire in which he pleaded for a hearing so that they would not condemn Christians in ignorance and therefore unjustly. He argued that those who once hated Christianity because they knew nothing about it, after knowing it, not only laid down their enmity but became its disciples. There is an outcry that the state is being filled with Christians of both sexes and of every age and condition, and this is true because many are passing over to the Christian faith. Most criminals are ashamed of their evils; but Christians are an exception, usually only being ashamed they had not been converted earlier. Christians alone are forbidden to explain what they did in order to help the judge make a correct decision. All that public hatred demands is the confession of the name, not an examination of the charge. Usually criminals deny the offense and are tortured to confess; but Christians alone are tortured to make them deny their confession. Since there is no investigation of one's actions, clearly the only crime of a Christian is adhering to the name. The authorities are unwilling or ashamed to mention the actual crimes.
Tertullian argued that Romans hate the guiltless and a guiltless name, exhibiting violence and the unjust domination of a tyranny, because the law to condemn for a mere name is unjust. He cited Nero and Domitian as examples of cruel tyrants who persecuted Christians, whereas the noble Marcus Aurelius put the law aside and condemned their accusers. Christians have kept their secrets as have the Samothracian and Eleusinian mysteries. False rumors have spread of Christian enormities that have never been proven, such as child sacrifice, which was practiced publicly in Africa as recently as the proconsulship of Tiberius.
Christians are charged with not worshipping the gods because they do not sacrifice for the Emperor. Tertullian believed there are no such gods. He wrote they worship the one God, who is invisible but created all things. Christ came once as a lowly human and expelled devils by a word, restored vision to the blind, cleansed lepers, reinvigorated paralytics, summoned the dead to life, and made the elements of nature obey him by calming storms and walking on the sea, proving he was the Logos of God. He was crucified; but he had predicted that, as he did also his resurrection. His disciples have spread over the world, as their master bade them; they have suffered persecution by Jews and Romans.
Tertullian challenged the authorities to search and see if the divinity of Christ is true. If its acceptance transforms a person to one truly good, one should renounce what is opposed to it as false. Tertullian believed that Christ is coming again to judge every soul. The charges recoil on the heads of the accusers not merely for refusing the religion of the one true God but for persecuting it. Even if their gods exist, is it not generally held that there is one higher and more powerful absolute God? Tertullian noted that empires are acquired by wars and victories that involve the taking of cities with the destruction of temples and killing of priests as well as citizens. "Thus the sacrileges of the Romans are as numerous as their trophies. They boast as many triumphs over the gods as over the nations."2 They have advanced to greatness by injuring religion.
Tertullian argued that it is unjust to compel free persons to offer sacrifices against their will, since honoring the gods should be voluntary. Jesus taught Christians to pray for their enemies and bless those who persecute them, and Paul said to pray for kings and rulers so that they may live in peace. Augustus, who founded the empire, would not accept the title Lord. Tertullian suggested they give up worship of other beings as divine except God so that God will be propitious to the Emperor. To call Caesar god is to invoke a curse. Tertullian went on that in addition to loving their enemies, Christians are forbidden to retaliate if they are injured lest they become as bad themselves. Thus who can suffer from their hands? He asked if anyone could point to a single act of Christian vengeance. Christians even help by exorcising evil spirits. Therefore Christians should receive milder treatment and have a place among the societies that are tolerated by the laws since they are not charged with any real crimes. Christians are not interested in affairs of state, because they acknowledge the one all-embracing commonwealth of the world.
Tertullian described Christian society as a religious community bound by a unity of discipline and a common hope that meets together to pray to God. They pray for emperors, those in authority, and for the welfare of the world in peace, and they read their sacred writings. They are known for loving one another. All are brothers by the law of their common mother nature, though their opponents are hardly men, being such unkind brothers. Those who have drunk in one spirit of holiness are even more fit to be called brothers. One in mind and soul, they share their worldly goods with one another, having all things in common except their wives. Their feasts are known by the Greek term for affection, agapè, as they benefit the needy in modest gatherings that begin with prayer to God. They eat and drink in chastity. Tertullian also observed that Christians fast and bind their passions tightly and assail heaven with importunities; yet when they have awakened the divine compassion, Jupiter gets the honor. Yet the Romans are the sources of trouble in human affairs, since they are always attracting public adversity. Christians live and work among them without retreating like Indian Brahmins, and their arts benefit the public.
Tertullian believed that Christians alone are without crime, because they are taught by God what goodness is and have knowledge revealed by a perfect master. They faithfully do God's will enjoined on them by a Judge they dare not despise. He asked why they are not permitted equal liberty for their doctrines, which are similar to what the philosophers counsel - justice, patience, sobriety, and chastity. Christians avoid sexual perversions, as the men confine themselves to women. If their speculations are presumptuous, they should be subjected to ridicule, not to swords, flames, crosses, and wild beasts. Yet even these martyrdoms are their joy, because they would rather be condemned than give up their faith in God. Like warriors, their battle is to be summoned before tribunals to face execution while testifying to the truth. They are overcome, but they conquer by dying, being victorious at the moment they are subdued. The unjust killing of Christians is the proof of their innocence. Although this cruelty is a temptation to Christians, the more often they are mowed down, the more their numbers grow, for the blood of Christians is the seed. Those who inquire into their doctrines embrace them, and those who embrace them desire to partake fully of God's grace by giving their blood. Although they may be condemned by men, they are acquitted by the Highest.
Under Emperor Septimius Severus about 202 several Christians were martyred for their religious belief in Carthage. Tertullian may have edited the account of Vivia Perpetua's arrest and visions, how Felicitas prayed and had her baby a month early, and a description of how these two women and Saturas were exposed to wild animals in the arena before being killed by swords. It was probably some time after these events that Tertullian supported Montanist prophecy and its strict moral discipline as he felt the traditional church was becoming lax and corrupt.
In "The Crown" written probably in 204 Tertullian questioned whether warfare is proper at all for Christians. He asked,
Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword,
when the Lord proclaims that
he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword?
And shall the son of peace take part in the battle
when it does not become him even to sue at law?
And shall he apply the chain, and the prison,
and the torture, and the punishment,
who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs?3
He goes on to ask why one should watch others more than Christ or guard the temples one has renounced. He suggested that when one becomes a believer, the military profession should be abandoned.
Like Irenaeus, Tertullian also wrote extensive treatises against the doctrines of Marcion and the Valentinians. He wrote that without amendment repentance is vain. After repentance ignorance cannot be used as an excuse if one goes back into the same sin. The relapsing sinner rejects the Giver in abandoning the gift of forgiveness, denying the Benefactor and not honoring the benefit. Such are not only contumacious to the Lord but also ungrateful. How can one expect sins to be pardoned if repentance has not been fulfilled? Tertullian recommended confession and various kinds of penance. He also wrote about Christian baptism and prayer. Tertullian was married and presented a positive portrait of Christian family life. He strongly warned Christians to reject idolatrous corruption and certainly to avoid cruel spectacles.
The fiery Tertullian wrote "Of Patience" although he confessed he was not good at practicing that virtue. God is an example of patience in shining on the just and unjust, allowing the forces of nature to affect the worthy and unworthy, and in bearing with ungrateful nations. The example of Jesus is easier to imitate. He despised no one's table or roof, cared for the ungrateful, yielded to those who ensnared him, tolerated his betrayer, and served others like an obedient slave. Tertullian suggested we be willing to lose earthly things since we can keep heavenly things. The whole world may perish so long as patience is gained. Christians should be patient in the face of personal violence and abusive speech. Why should one grieve or be impatient at the death of loved ones since death is only a departure? Tertullian cautioned against revenge. Vengeance cannot be regulated, because too little can make one mad, and too much puts one in danger of the law. Patience enables one not to feel the pain so that one will not desire revenge. Eventually the severe Tertullian formed his own sect that lasted in Africa until the 5th century. He died some time after 220.
Similar arguments to those in Tertullian's Defense can be found in a dialog, Octavius, by his contemporary Minucius Felix. Octavius persuades Caecilius and points out that Roman temples are built from the spoils of violence; but to adore what is taken by force is to consecrate sacrilege, not divinities. Octavius points out that Romans expose unwanted children to wild beasts, and their women cause abortions by drinking medical preparations. Christians are opposed to all homicide. Modest Christians abide by the bond of a single marriage or by none at all. They share with each other in sober banquets. They love one another, because they do not know how to hate. They call each other brothers, as born of one God and Parent, and they are companions in faith.
About 240 a North African bishop named Commodianus wrote poetic instructions in favor of Christian discipline. In the daily war he advised people to fight with lust, neglect the persuasions of luxury, be sparing with wine, restrain the tongue from cursing, repress rage, beware of trampling on inferiors when weighed down by misery, lend yourself as a protector only and do no hurt, lead yourself on a right path unstained by jealousy, be gentle with your riches to those of little account, give your labor, clothe the naked, and thus you shall conquer.
Hippolytus studied with Irenaeus and wrote The Refutation of All Heresies, which was discovered at Mount Athos in 1842. In this long work Hippolytus criticized 32 heresies, which he traced back to pagan philosophies. He also challenged the bishops of Rome, charging that Zephyrinus (199-217) was manipulated by Callistus (217-222), who arranged to be his successor. According to Hippolytus, Callistus operated a bank for his wealthy Christian master Carpophorus and, caught embezzling money, Callistus caused a disturbance among Jews in a synagogue on the Sabbath, resulting in the Roman prefect Fuscianus sending him to slave in the mines of Sardinia. During the reign of Commodus the bishop of Rome, Victor, through the influence of Marcia obtained the release of Christians from this misery of overwork, malnutrition, and disease that soon produced death. Hippolytus wrote that Victor excepted Callistus because of his crimes; but Callistus pleaded and was released with the Christians, though it is difficult to explain why Victor gave Callistus a pension.
Zephyrinus put Callistus in charge of the church's lucrative cemeteries. Callistus accused Hippolytus of heresy in a theological dispute and in 217 was elected bishop of Rome. Hippolytus became a rival bishop and has been called the first anti-pope. He complained that Callistus connived with sensual indulgence by continually forgiving sins (such as adultery) of many who had been rejected by numerous sects, that priests twice married were allowed to remain as clergy, and that women were considered married to slaves and freedmen which Roman law did not recognize as such. Hippolytus thus favored a Christian community of saints including only the just, while Callistus, citing the parable of the tares, accepted saints and sinners while refusing to go along with Roman class distinctions. Hippolytus also opposed Urban I (222-230) and Pontian (230-235); but in the persecution of 235 both Hippolytus and Pontian were exiled to Sardinia, where they were reconciled before they died that year, ending the schism.
Cyprian was born into a wealthy family at Carthage about 200. He was probably a lawyer, and according to Jerome he was a respected teacher of rhetoric. Cyprian did not convert to Christianity until 246 when he sold his estates to benefit the poor, took a vow of chastity, and was baptized by Caecilius. He lived ascetically and opposed all pagan amusements. He studied the scriptures and the writing of Tertullian. Popular demand persuaded him to become bishop of Carthage only two years later. During the Decian persecution Cyprian hid himself and wrote letters to clergy and others at Rome and at Carthage for fourteen months while thousands of Christians rejected their faith to obtain libelli pacis certifying they had sacrificed to the pagan gods.
Bishop Fabius of Rome died a martyr in January 250, and more than a year passed before Cornelius was elected bishop of Rome, while Novatian, who had continued official correspondence for the Roman see during the interval, was consecrated by only three Italian bishops. Many "confessors," who had maintained their faith, were willing to forgive the apostates and allow them back into the community; but Cyprian and councils of bishops strengthened church control by asserting that power to remit sins was in the hands of the clergy and that discipline rested with the bishops. Lapsed Christians were divided into categories of those who had sacrificed, burned incense, or obtained a certificate, and graduated penance was applied. The minority view for strict discipline was condemned by a council of sixty bishops at Rome in October 251, and Novatian was excommunicated. The Novatian schism spread and continued for several centuries as a puritan sect in the East. Letters of Cornelius indicate he had 155 clerical personnel, including 46 priests, supporting 1500 widows and dependents. From this, scholars estimate about 40,000 Christians lived among 900,000 inhabitants at Rome.
Cyprian was able to return to Carthage in 251, and a council of bishops restored his authority. The next year during a plague he sacrificed himself in serving his flock and taking care of his enemies. To support Cornelius against the Novatian schism, Cyprian wrote On the Unity of the Church in which he acknowledged the primacy given the chair of Peter. However, when two Spanish congregations appealed to Cyprian in 254, because Rome's Bishop Stephen had insisted they restore lapsed bishops, he summoned a council that decided the church was not obliged to retain a sinful priest. A controversy over re-baptizing those who had been baptized by the Novatian schism led to Cyprian calling three more councils and his even removing the words "chair of Peter" from his previous treatise. The conflict between Carthage and Rome ended in 257 when Stephen died, and his successor Sixtus II was more conciliatory.
Cyprian was banished to Curubis by the proconsul during the persecution of Emperor Valerian in 257, and a year later he willingly suffered a martyr's death. During a vision forewarning him of his passion he asked for one day to arrange his property, and in fact the delay of one day enabled him to dispose of his goods in care of the poor. Cyprian also wrote "On Works and Alms" in which he exhorted Christians to manifest their faith by works, arguing that contributing to the poor is the best investment. In "On the Advantage of Patience" he suggested that charity, the great bond of brotherhood and the foundation of peace, depended on patience to endure. "On Jealousy and Envy" warned that envy is the root of all wickedness. Loving one's enemies prevents envy, and love brings its own rewards.
A contemporary of Tertullian, Clement was born in the middle of the second century at Athens. He traveled widely studying philosophy until he found in Egypt his teacher Pantaenus, a former Stoic and missionary to India. About 190 Clement succeeded Pantaenus as head of the Christian catechetical school in Alexandria. In the next decade Clement wrote his three great works. The Exhortation to Conversion was designed to win pagans to the Christian faith. The Educator aimed to form and develop Christian character. The Miscellanies taught Christian philosophy and knowledge. In 202 Clement fled the persecution of Septimius Severus. He lived in Antioch, was in Jerusalem in 211, and died about 215.
In his Exhortation (Protrepticus) Clement criticized the immoral idolatry of pagan culture and myths and the cruelty of their sacrifices; yet he found that the philosophers were often divinely inspired by the truth as were the prophets. He praised the benefits conferred by Christ and exhorted his readers to aspire to what is good, to become God-loving, and to attain God and life, which are incapable of being harmed. No blessing is greater than salvation.
Clement's Educator (Paedagogus) takes up the second stage of developing ethical habits. The educator, being practical rather than theoretical, aims to improve the soul by character training, instead of teaching the intellect. As the diseased need a physician, the tutor must cure maladies so that a teacher may then train and guide a soul to knowledge. God alone is sinless, but we may try to sin as little as possible. Deliverance from passions and disorders is most urgent; then one may check the liability of falling into habitual sins. Clement held that virtue is the same in men and women, because temperance and modesty are one; their food is common, and marriage is an equal yoke. All who walk according to truth are children of God.
The instructor by being good artfully glides into censure, rousing the sluggish mind by sharp words if one does not respond to exhortation and praise. God punishes the disobedient for correction; but He does not take vengeance. Revenge is retribution for evil imposed for the advantage of the one taking revenge; but Christ teaches us "to pray for those who despitefully use us."4 The Divine Word saves children by various methods. Admonition is the censure of loving care and produces understanding. Upbraiding censures what is base. Complaint is for those despising or neglecting. Reproach chides. Reproof exposes sin. The educator may also attempt to get one thinking by a severe rebuke or denunciation. Accusation is for wrong-doers. Bewailing one's fate is an artful and latent censure. Indignation is upbraiding from a sense of justice. All these are used for the sake of salvation. Clement believed that virtue resulted from obeying reason or the Word and is a will in conformity to Christ.
In the second book and third books of The Educator Clement discussed specific moral issues and even manners. He acknowledged the Pythagorean idea that it is good not to eat flesh or drink wine; but he allowed for individual decisions. He warned us to guard with all our strength against drunkenness. He referred to costly vessels as a deception of the vision. Christians' possessions should express their beautiful lives; but the best wealth is poverty of desires, and true magnanimity is to despise riches. Boasting about one's plate is base, because anyone can buy it at the market. Clement advised us to abstain from filthy speech and to stop others with stern looks, by averting the face, or by mocking. Bad language exposes one as untrained and licentious. In living together he warned against jibing as leading to insult, strife, contention, and enmity. He cautioned people against the use of ointments and crowns, although he allowed flowers and perfumes made from them. He noted that sleeping on soft feathers is injurious to the health, because turning the body is difficult; he found a bed of moderate softness most suitable. Clement counseled against excessive fondness for jewelry and disapproved of earrings.
Clement began the third book emphasizing that the greatest lesson is to know oneself, because self-knowledge leads to knowing God, which will make one like God by doing well and requiring as few things as possible. Another human beauty is love. It is better to decorate the soul with the ornament of goodness and adorn the body with temperance than to beautify the outside with embellishments. In associations Clement advised against having many domestic servants. Good people treasure wealth in heaven. By selling one's goods and giving to the poor, one finds imperishable treasure. He recommended frugal living, because a voluptuous life is alien to refined pleasures, and love of wealth induces one to stop being ashamed of what is shameful. Baths are used for cleanliness, heat, health, or pleasure; but Clement suggested women use them for cleanliness and health, and men only for cleanliness, since they can use gymnastic exercise for health. One should associate with good people and avoid public spectacles. While respecting celibacy Clement also acknowledged the value of marriage.
Clement's work on Christian philosophy and knowledge is a long compendium on various subjects called Miscellanies (Stromateis). He criticized the sophists but found that eclectic philosophy prepared the way for divine virtue. Clement did not discuss rhetoric, probably because he believed that to act well is more important than to speak well. The ancient laws of the Jews also are a good foundation. They train one for piety and prescribe what is to be done, restraining one from sins. Clement emphasized that spiritual knowledge starts with faith. He endeavored to recapture the term "gnostic" or knower from the heretical gnostics by giving his ideal of the true Christian gnostic. The true gnostic imitates God as far as possible by conferring benefits. Patience is another characteristic of the divine. Clement praised martyrdom but did not approve of offering oneself to be martyred. He argued that women as well as men are capable of perfection. One may be perfect as pious, as patient, as continent, as a worker, as a martyr, or as a gnostic.
The true gnostic does good not from fear of punishment or hope for reward but for the sake of goodness itself. For Clement true perfection is knowledge and love of God. Running down creation and vilifying the body are wrong, because the human frame was formed erect to contemplate heaven, and the senses are to gain knowledge; all its parts are arranged for good, not pleasure. Clement realized that God cannot be embraced in words or by the mind. Yet he put philosophy at the service of Christianity more than any before him, believing that philosophy is knowledge given by God. Like the Stoic, the true gnostic is free of all perturbations of the soul. The gnostic converses with God in prayer. The knower retains the objects contemplated in the mind. Knowledge produces consideration by teaching one to perceive the things that contribute to the permanence of virtue. God helps gnostics by overseeing them closely, for is not everything made for the sake of good persons? Those teaching others should excel in virtues.
Clement described the life of true gnostics. They never prefer the pleasant to what is useful. Their souls are strong, like the body of an athlete. They are prudent in judging what should be done by the just, applying the principles of God from above and having achieved physical moderation. Gnostic souls with perfect virtue are the earthly image of divine power; their development results from nature, training, and reason. The beautiful soul becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit when the whole life corresponds to the Gospel. The really good person transcends the passions by the habit of virtue. They relieve the afflicted, helping with consolation, encouragement, and the necessities of life, giving to all who need. Who could become the enemy of a person who gives no cause for hurt in any way?
The truly continent not only control their passions but have mastered all good things as well, the accomplishments of science and the fruits of virtue. Gnostics' entire lives are prayer and communication with God. They impoverish themselves in order to help those afflicted through perfect love, especially if they know they can bear it more easily than their brothers. Whenever they remember those who have sinned against them, they forgive them. They are not disturbed by anything that happens, as they realize everything takes place by divine arrangement for good. They never prefer pleasure or profit to this divine arrangement, since they are trained by the divine commands to depend on the will of God.
Clement also wrote a short essay, "Who Is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved?" Riches may be used to benefit one's neighbors. The important thing is to make the right use of them. He noted that one may give away riches and retain passions, thus gaining no advantage. One must put away what uses riches badly. He suggested that the truly rich are the virtuous, who are able to make a holy use of their fortunes. The spurious rich turn their lives into outward possessing of what is perishable that now belongs to one, then to another, and finally to no one. By being frugal one may escape superfluous riches and be able to enjoy the eternally good things. Clement recommended that the powerful and wealthy appoint some person of God as their trainer and governor.
Clement did much to integrate Greek philosophy with Christian piety, and he passed the torch to his student and successor, Origen.
Origen was born about 185 probably at Alexandria. He was well educated by his father Leonidas, who made him memorize passages from the Bible, and by Clement in the Catechetical school. In the persecution of 202 when his father was arrested, Origen was restrained by his mother from becoming a martyr by hiding all his clothes, though he wrote encouraging his father not to change his beliefs for their sake. Leonidas was beheaded, and his property was confiscated, leaving Origen to provide for his mother and six younger brothers. Origen lived with a wealthy woman and earned money teaching Greek and copying manuscripts. Bishop Demetrius appointed Origen to succeed Clement as principal of the Catechetical school when he was only 18 years old. He attended classes of philosopher Ammonius Saccas, founder of Neo-Platonism.
According to Eusebius while he was a young man, Origen castrated himself so as to instruct freely young female catechumens. However, in 248 Origen wrote one should not take literally the statement of Jesus in Matthew 19:12 that some "made themselves eunuchs because of the sovereignty of heaven." Eusebius also described how Origen fearlessly supported martyrs and barely escaped himself on numerous occasions. Origen arranged for Heraclas to teach elementary students so that he could learn Hebrew and devote himself to advanced teaching and writing. Origen lived very ascetically, fasting often, rarely eating flesh, never drinking wine, having only one coat, no shoes, and sleeping on the bare floor.
Origen traveled, meeting Hippolytus at Rome in 211, fleeing Emperor Caracalla's persecuting visit to Alexandria by going to Jerusalem and Caesarea in 216, and visiting Alexander Severus' mother Mammaea at Antioch in 218. Back in Alexandria, the wealthy Ambrosius was converted from Valentinian beliefs and provided Origen with books and seven stenographers. In 229 he was ordained a presbyter in Caesarea on the way to a debate with Valentinian Candidus in Greece, where he answered the theory of predestination by asserting that Satan fell by free will and therefore could repent. This caused Alexandrian bishop Demetrius to hold two church councils, excommunicating Origen in 231. Rome and other churches concurred, but bishops in Palestine, Arabia, Phoenicia, and Greece strongly supported Origen. He pitied and prayed for his enemies, opening a school at Caesarea in Palestine. During the persecution of 235 he fled to Cappadocia and stayed with the Christian woman Juliana for two years. At an Arabian council in 244 he persuaded bishop Beryllus to change his theological position on the Christ. During the Decian persecution Origen was thrown into prison, tortured, and condemned; the Emperor's death in 251 freed him, but Origen died three years later in Tyre.
While he was young in Alexandria, Origen wrote On Principles (De Principiis), which except for fragments only exists in the Latin translation made by Rufinus in the late fourth century. In the prolog Rufinus admitted he made changes to make this work more consistent with Origen's later writings, thus making it more orthodox. Origen believed that Christ, the Word of God, was in Moses and the prophets before it was in Jesus. He followed the apostolic teaching that the soul has its own life and after departing the world is rewarded according to its merit with eternal life or is punished for its crimes in eternal fire. Every rational soul has free will and must struggle with opposing influences, though we may free ourselves from the burden of sins if we live correctly and wisely. In the resurrection the soul rises in incorruptible glory. Origen held that the scriptures are inspired and therefore have meanings not apparent at first sight which he attempted to elucidate on various levels.
Origen wrote that every rational creature is capable of earning praise by advancing to better things, acting in conformity to reason, or of receiving censure for falling away from what is right and so becoming justly liable to pains and penalties. In addition to humans Origen included among these rational creatures the devil and its followers as well as angels. He believed in a final consummation in which the goodness of God through the Christ may recall all creatures to one end, including the enemies that have been conquered. While the heretical gnostics separated the God of the law and justice from the good God of the Gospels, Origen perceived only one just and good God, who confers benefits justly and punishes with kindness; for the dignity of the divine nature must have both justice and goodness. With free will comes individual responsibility, and Origen cited Isaiah 1:11 for the idea that all sinners kindle for themselves their fire. No one is plunged into a fire kindled by another. When the soul has gathered a multitude of evil works, the abundance of sins boils up to punishment. The mind then can see in signs and forms a history of its foul and shameful deeds. Thus the conscience is harassed and becomes the accuser and witness against itself.
The first chapter of the third book of On Principles about the freedom of will exists in the original Greek. The just judgment of God urges people to live virtuously and shun sin, because things worthy of praise or blame are within our power. In Origen's view the Creator makes vessels of honor and dishonor not from foreknowledge since that would be condemning or justifying ahead; but vessels of honor are for those who have cleansed themselves and those of dishonor are for those unpurged. Thus he inferred that older causes before the lifetime affect the destiny and gave the example of Jacob and Esau. Ancient causes lead some to be born into better vessels (or circumstances) than others. Also by the actions in this life one may earn by reformation an honored vessel in the future, or one may fall back to a worse condition. These ideas clearly imply the doctrines of karma and reincarnation.
To explain wisdom of the world, Origen suggested there are spiritual powers which use their freedom of will to produce certain effects. Those admiring worldly power adopt their way of life and habits and thus work for these spirits they serve. Thus souls in human bodies may attract different energies in operations using a diversity of good and evil spirits. Humans may be acted upon by good or evil spirits, previous to their birth as in the examples of John the Baptist and Jeremiah; for souls have free will whether in a body or not. In discussing temptations, Origen described an irrational component of the human psyche as well as a rational one. The irrational part has two affections - coveting and passion. The rational and irrational psyches have been called the good, heavenly one and the other that is inferior and earthly. The wisdom of the flesh is dominated by a material spirit, which is not subject to the law of God, because it has earthly wishes and bodily desires. These desires can produce mental perturbations such as ambition, avarice, envy, pride, and so on. Origen suggested that the will of the soul is intermediate between the flesh and the spirit, obeying and serving one or the other. Those yielding to the pleasures of the flesh become carnal, and those uniting to the spirit become spiritual.
As a result of his On Principles Origen would later be considered unorthodox on four points.
1. Human souls existed previously, and their life in material bodies reflects the results of previous actions.
2. Christ existed previously and was united to the divine nature before incarnating as the son of God related in the Gospels.
3. The resurrection will occur in absolutely ethereal bodies rather than in material ones.
4. All souls, even devils, will finally be restored through the mediation of Christ.
As Origen let his readers choose what they think they should prefer, so I too will let readers decide whether these principles may be true.
When Origen was about sixty, Ambrosius asked him to respond to A True Discourse by Celsus that severely criticized Christianity. In a long work Origen repeated and answered every charge of Celsus, whom he called an Epicurean. Celsus believed the Jews were barbarous, that through Moses and others they gained most of their wisdom from the Egyptians, and that their god Jehovah was an inhuman ogre. He considered Christianity a Jewish superstition aimed at the uneducated by the self-deluded. He thought Jewish and Christian religious beliefs ignored the intellectual problems posed by Greek philosophy. Celsus noted that Christianity attracted the wicked and shiftless from the fishermen and tax collectors who were disciples to appealing to thieves, criminals, and blasphemers. He suggested that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier, who being rejected at home, went to Egypt, where he learned magic. Later he hawked a contradictory message, failed to overcome his enemies, and was abandoned by his disciples to a shameful death.
Celsus argued that ethical teachings of Christianity are nothing new, since they could be found in Plato. Other mysteries like those of the Egyptians and Persian Mithraism offered a similar ascent of the soul to God. Celsus also accused the Christians of treason in their secret and illegal associations, which supported the barbarian threats to the state. He criticized their presumption to have a monopoly on God, and finally he asked them to reject their perverted nonsense and make common cause for the public welfare.
Origen answered these objections by the usual methods of quoting scripture and philosophical arguments. He particularly noted that if Christianity seduced people, it seduced them into much more ethical behavior, making them temperate instead of dissolute, just instead of unjust, prudent instead of foolish, and courageous instead of cowardly, especially in the struggles for the sake of their religion. Origen appealed to the higher natural law as superior to the man-made laws of the Romans. The legitimacy of the state depends on how well it fulfills the spiritual laws. Origen argued that Christians do more good by praying than by fighting in the army. Ultimately he hoped for a peaceful society in which every world citizen would display Christian virtue so that state compulsion would disappear.
Origen also wrote commentaries to many scriptures such as the Gospels of John and Matthew. He interpreted these on the three levels of the physical, psychological, and spiritual, already described as the three parts of humans. Origen also wrote an Exhortation to Martyrdom, encouraging Christians not to be tempted by compromises, and On Prayer to counter determinists who believed that prayer had no effect.
Gregory called Thaumaturgus ("wonder-worker") was born at Neo-Caesarea in Pontus early in the third century. After his father died when he was 14, he and his brother Athenodorus studied Roman law. He studied Neo-Platonism at Alexandria, more law at Berytus (Beirut), and was converted to Christianity by Origen at Caesarea in Palestine. After studying with Origen for several years, Gregory wrote a tribute to his teacher when he left to be a missionary in his native Neo-Caesarea in 238. He became bishop six years later, and it was said that in the next quarter century he transformed this community that had had only 17 Christians to one that had only that many pagans. Stories of his exorcisms and miraculous abilities were still being told in the next century.
In his panegyric oration Gregory described how Origen praised lovers of philosophy and declared that the only life worthy of rational creatures is to aim at upright living, seeking first to know themselves, then to strive after what is truly good and avoid really evil things. For Origen one could not be truly pious without philosophizing. Gregory found that, like some spark lighting his inmost soul, love was kindled and burst into flame within them - a love for the Holy Word and toward his friend. Gregory wrote that the soul is free and cannot be coerced by any means. He admitted that when his teacher perceived any infirmity or baseness in their minds, he pricked it with discourses and reasoning, causing them to start up, as though out of sleep. Origen also taught them logic, natural science, geometry, and astronomy; but the most important subject was ethics. The divine virtues were taught not only in words but by deeds too so that they would not only understand virtue but practice it as well. To the ancient cardinal virtues of justice, prudence, wisdom, temperance, and courage, he added patience and piety so that they might become friends of God. Origen urged them to read all the philosophers and poets, excluding only atheists as unworthy to be studied. So with a prayer Gregory took leave of his teacher.
Dionysius of Alexandria was also converted and taught by Origen, becoming principal at the Catechetical school in 232. Dionysius succeeded Heraclas as bishop of Alexandria in 248. He fled the Decian persecution two years later but wrote a description of the martyrs' ordeals to Bishop Fabius of Antioch. A mob charged into the houses of their Christian neighbors to raid, plunder, and loot. Many renounced their faith while others held out until torture became too much. Some who did not deny their faith were savagely torn to pieces or burnt alive with quicklime. In 257 during the Valerian persecution Dionysius was banished by governor Aemilian for refusing to worship any other gods beside the one Creator God. During this persecution three men and a Marcionite woman came forward to confess the Christ at Caesarea in Palestine and were fed to beasts. Also at Caesarea a wealthy man named Marinus, who was about to be appointed centurion, was beheaded for declaring he was a Christian. The amnesty of Gallienus allowed Dionysius to return to Alexandria. During a severe epidemic in 263 Dionysius described how the Christians nursed the sick and often died in their places, while the heathens fled from their dearest.
Because of his outstanding writing, by the fourth century Dionysius was referred to as "the Great." In his book On Nature he challenged Epicurean determinism by arguing that human observation of design and purpose discredits notions of chance or coincidence and even demonstrates beauty and grace. In On Promises Dionysius criticized the theory of Arsinoe bishop Nepos that scripture promises a millennium of bodily delights and indulgence. Although he admitted he did not understand the book of Revelation, Dionysius argued with scholarly skill that this book was probably not written by the disciple John.
Mani was born in Babylonia on April 14, 216 soon after Caracalla overthrew Vologases V and made his brother Artaban IV (r. 215-226) the last Parthian king. When Mani was twelve, he was told in a vision to withdraw from a baptizing sect associated with Elkhasai. This revelation coincided with Ardashir's overcoming the Parthians and reviving the Persian empire. Near his 24th birthday Mani was told by his higher self or angelic teacher to proclaim himself a prophet. Two years later Shapur I became the king of Persia. Mani's mission took him to Ctesiphon and then into western India for two years. There he wrote a book diplomatically praising Shapur. Hindus found his teaching of celibacy too strict; but in 243 he had more success in Khorasan, where he converted governor Feroz, who told his brother King Shapur that Mani had no political ambitions but wanted to unify the people of the empire with this universal religion.
After Mani spent a year in a cave making paintings, Shapur invited the prophet to his court in 245, and Mani requested and received royal letters to all the Persian governors telling them not to hinder his mission. For the next ten years Mani was able to spread his teachings throughout the Persian empire, establishing many churches and sending out disciples. Adda and Pateg carried the teachings of Mani to Egypt. When people made fun of an ugly saint, Mani pointed out that the soul is beautiful and is to be rescued from the material body.
In 255 Zarathustrian magi led by Kartir persuaded Shapur to break with Mani and promote their religion in the empire, causing Mani to go into exile. In the next eighteen years the prophet returned to Khorasan and traveled in central Asia as far as western China, returning by way of Tibet and Kashmir. In 273 Shapur died and was succeeded by his son Hormizd I, governor of Khorasan, who supported the Manichaeans; but he died after reigning one year. His younger brother Vahram I loved pleasure and was cruel. He was persuaded by the magi to end toleration of heresies and foreign cults in order to promote the orthodox Sassanid religion. Mani tried to meet with the new king at his winter palace in Ctesiphon but failed to do so. Mani was said to have been related to the Parthian Arsacid dynasty, and his association with King Baat, possibly a Parthian Armenian, as he lectured to his disciples at Phargalia, may have led to Mani's arrest at Gondeshapur (Belapat).
Mani was brought before an angry King Vahram and said he had done no harm but had helped the royal family by freeing their servants of demons and by healing them. The king accused Mani of supporting the defeated Parthian cause. Mani replied that God sent him to bring the perfect commandments of Christ that he received from God through an angel so that many souls might be saved and escape punishment. Vahram asked why God did not reveal this to him, the king. Mani replied that God commands and decides whom to teach. The angry king silenced the prophet and had him chained in order to please the magi. Mani said that he had been protected by Shapur and Hormizd, but Vahram sentenced him to death and scourging. Mani was chained heavily in prison for 26 days. There he consoled his disciples and appointed Sisin as his successor. Mani died in prison on February 26 in 274 or 277, described as the Messenger of the Light withdrawing his soul from the body. Public distress at the news stimulated the king to order Mani's body fed to birds and his head placed on a gate. So began persecution of the Manichaeans in the Persian empire that would continue sporadically for centuries.
Four years of persecution occurred before Sisin could organize the church. Many died as martyrs, and many fled to Khorasan or Turkestan. Some went west, and Pateg is said to have preached against the Old Testament in Rome by 280. Vahram II lost Ctesiphon and Seleucia to the Roman Emperor Aurelius Carus in 282, while Amu traveled in central Asia and Adda put together scriptures in Africa. About five years later African proconsul Julian warned Diocletian that this strange religion's ideas on sex, war, agriculture, and civic duties endangered Roman society. By 290 Manichaeism was flourishing in the Fayyum district of Egypt, and the Syriac Psalms would soon be translated into Coptic. Terrible persecution broke out in the Persian empire in 291. Vahram II killed Sisin himself, and many Manichaeans were slaughtered. Innai became the leader and is reported to have healed the king by prayer, giving peace to the new religion for a while.
In 296 Diocletian extended the Christian persecution to the Manichaeans, resulting in numerous martyrs in Egypt and North Africa. Although Persian king Narses (r. 296-303) lost Mesopotamia and western provinces to Rome after he was defeated by Galerius, he left the Manichaeans in peace. In 303 Hormizd II executed Innai, and the next four Manichaean leaders were also killed. In the fourth century Manichaeism spread throughout the Roman empire. Two Christians, Archelaus in his Disputation with Manes and Alexander of Lycopolis in his "Of the Manichaeans," treated Manichaeism as a Christian heresy instead of a new religion, because Mani acknowledged Jesus as the Christ. In 372 Valentinian I prohibited all meetings, and Augustine adopted the faith for a decade until Christians urged Theodosius I to take away their civil rights in 381; the next year he decreed Manichaean elders put to death, and in 383 Theodosius banished all Manichaeans. Exile was again decreed by Valentinian II, and in Rome their property was confiscated in 389.
Since Mani believed that other religions had deteriorated because their original founders did not write down their teachings, he wrote several books himself in the Aramaic language of Syriac and made sure that they were accurately copied. His first book, Shabuhragan, honored King Shapur I and assured him that he had no political ambitions. The Living Gospel was written and illustrated in the Turkestan cave and contains an account of the mission of Jesus. Mani began this book and his letters by referring to himself as the messenger of Jesus. The Treasure of Life describes how the soul comes from the pure Light and the body from the bad darkness. Although Manichaeism is similar and has been compared to Gnosticism, this book refutes the Marcionite doctrine of a third intermediary principle, and it gives cures for errors. The Book of Mysteries teaches that souls are purged and educated through reincarnation, and it aims to cut away false beliefs. The Pragmateia suggests what ought to be done. His other main works are The Book of Giants, Letters, and The Book of Psalms and Prayers.
Although these books were faithfully copied and translated into many languages as the religion spread, the many persecutions eventually destroyed the books. As Manichaeism faded into Catharist movements in the 13th century, the religion disappeared. In the 20th century Coptic documents were found at al-Fayyum in Egypt, and texts were also found in Turfan and Dun-huang in China. The Chinese catechism noted a book illustrating the two great principles, which may have been based on Mani's paintings made for those who cannot read. The largest work found at al-Fayyum, the Kephalaia, contains the principal teachings of Mani described by disciples. These discoveries, though difficult to piece together because the texts were deteriorating, provide a more balanced view to the already known Christian works refuting Mani.
Mani taught there are two sources that are unborn and eternal - God (Light) and matter (darkness). God as good has nothing in common with evil, because "a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit." Mani explained the universe as having three moments involving these two substances. In the past Spirit and matter were at first separate. Then Spirit entered into matter as souls incarnated into bodies, which is the present condition. Mani as a messenger of Light is helping souls become liberated from their bodies. The third moment is the future when the world will end as Spirit becomes purified again from matter. Somehow the king of darkness decided to enter the region of Light. God had no evil with which to punish, so Spirit entered into matter as souls went into bodies with the five faculties of intuition, thought, will, consideration, and reason. As souls mixed with matter they began to feel material and thus became trapped in bodies. When the Mother of Life, the First Man, and the Living Spirit prayed to the Great Father, that one sent a Messenger with the following twelve virtues: royalty, wisdom, victory, contentment, purity, truth, faith, patience, sincerity, kindness, justice, and Light.
According to Mani, Jesus lifted up the first man Adam to taste the Tree of Life. Mani also taught the trinity of the Father (God of truth), the beloved Son (Christ), and the Holy Spirit (Mother of Life). The five dark rulers may express themselves as the tyranny of rulers, arrogance of officials, idolatrous errors, superstitious rites, and sorcery. Previous messengers of God include Zarathushtra, Buddha, and Jesus. True messengers may be known by the following five characteristics: gentleness, austerity, beauty, wisdom, and transformation. Their mission is to teach and convert living beings in order to save them from their suffering. Mani planted good seeds of truth and strengthened his church, sending out envoys to many lands. He fought greed and lust in order to teach people wisdom and knowledge. The Psalms refer to the divine medicine that heals wounds, crushes evil while crowning godliness, purifies the Light from the darkness, and gives rest to the souls. The Great Father is Love who gives oneself for everything. Souls are divine; even though they have fallen into the world, they will return to God.
Although the Manichaean community had a hierarchy of five levels including Mani's successor and twelve masters (teachers), 72 illuminates (overseers), elders (priests), the rest of the elect, and hearers, the main distinction was between the elect and the hearers. The elect have their hearts, hands, and mouths sealed by celibacy, non-injury, and abstinence from alcohol and meat. The elect eat only a little in the morning and one meal in the evening. In their strict poverty their only possession was one garment that was replaced once a year. The elect teach by grace, wisdom, and faith. The duties of the hearers are to fast, pray, and give charity. They are to fast and be celibate on Sundays, and hearers pray four times a day. Giving charity includes providing food for the elect, who do no injurious work such as farming, giving a relative to be one of the elect, and building a temple or dwelling place. The hearers could work in the fields and have one wife, but they were forbidden to fight in wars. The hearers confess to the elect, and the elect confess to one another.
The soul is from on high but is imprisoned in the body waiting to be liberated. Mani taught renouncing the world's possessions to find the peace of poverty. He advised wisely and skillfully strengthening oneself around the body's gates lest the sin of the body prevail and extinguish the Light. His religious methods include singing and chanting spiritual words, reading and studying, discriminating with wisdom and accepting pure commands, always being clean in actions of body, mouth, and mind, practicing kind deeds, being gentle and amiable, bearing humiliation, following good rules and habits, resting the mind in the place of liberation, and leaping for joy in standing firm in the right way. Mani warned against, lying, anger, and hurtful words that may come from speaking for the sake of killing a man, beasts, or trees. Kindness and sincerity are for saints a base for brightness and a wonderful gate which lets one see everywhere while walking a straight path.
Like the Mahayana Buddhists, Mani promised such would be born in a Pure Land, where they would be free of penalties and could rejoice in calmness. The Light-mind of the Christ awakens those who sleep and gathers those who are scattered abroad. God sends the soul to the judge of the dead that appears as in a mirror. The Great Judge has no partiality but knows how to forgive those who have repented. No one can hide when that one searches out their actions and repays them according to their deserts. The saints go to the heaven of Light and are at peace. Unstained by ignorance, passion, and desire, they are not pressed into rebirth.
Plotinus was born in Egypt in 205, and at age eight he was attending a school of grammar. He studied philosophy in Alexandria but became depressed until he found the teacher he had been looking for in Ammonius Saccas when he was about 28. Plotinus stayed with Ammonius for eleven years. Hoping to learn Persian and Indian philosophy, Plotinus traveled with Gordian III's military expedition against Persia. However, Gordian was assassinated in Mesopotamia, and Plotinus found his way to Antioch and then to Rome by 245. For the next quarter century Plotinus taught philosophy in Rome, influencing many prominent people including Emperor Gallienus. Porphyry became a disciple of Plotinus in 263, and his biography of the philosopher is based mostly on the next six years. Porphyry collected and edited 54 treatises of his teacher into The Six Enneads.
Plotinus was a vegetarian and spent much time meditating in order to experience union with God. According to Porphyry during the time he knew him Plotinus attained this mystic realization four times. Plotinus acted as a mediator in disputes, and friends often appointed him guardian of their children's education. His plan for a Platonic city in Campania was favorably considered by Gallienus; but the Emperor's conflicts with the Senate never allowed the project to be realized. When Porphyry considered suicide, Plotinus persuaded him to rest in Sicily instead. Plotinus himself became ill and retired to Campania, where he died a year later in 270. His closest disciple Amelius had gone to Syria. Finally his physician Eustochius came to him, and Plotinus said that he would attempt to make the divine within him rise up to the divine in the universe.
In The First Ennead Plotinus discussed the relation between the soul and the body, virtue, dialectic, happiness, beauty, the good, and evil. That the soul uses the body indicates they are different. He also identified the good with the soul, because he did not believe it could be a joint affection. Thus the soul in us stands apart from the evils, which humans do and suffer that belong to the animate couplement. Yet if the mind comes out of the soul, it is difficult to separate them, because lower knowledge can be delusional and the cause of much evil. Plotinus believed we do evil because we are worsted by our baser side in desire or rage or some evil imagination. These do not always listen to the reasoning principle. For Plotinus this intellectual principle transcends action and so is guiltless. However, we may or may not be in touch with this intellectual realm. While the body is a living and brutal animal, the true person is this other intellectual principle that is pure and naturally endowed with virtues in the soul. Yet practical virtues do not come from contemplative wisdom but belong to the couplement that includes the vices.
In the tractate "On Virtue" Plotinus asked how the soul can escape from evil. The answer he read (in Plato) is to be like God by becoming just, holy, and wise. The divine being, the soul of the universe, is most wonderful in wisdom. He asked what could be more fitting than for us to become like the ruler of this world. Aspiring toward the ruling in the intelligible means looking for the source of virtues in ourselves. Plotinus distinguished this source of virtue from virtue itself. Yet he observed that we become like the divine by possessing virtue. Even the civic virtues carry a trace of that highest good. The soul becomes evil when it is infused with the body, sharing its states and thoughts. Virtue throws off the body's moods and devotes itself to its own action from wisdom that never allows the passions to affect it (prudence), does not fear parting from the body (courage), and is ruled by reason (rectitude). Such virtue is like God and pure. The virtue is actually in the soul, not in the intellectual principle.
Plotinus next asked whether purification is all of virtue or only its forerunner. Purification brings an alignment with the intellectual principle, and the alignment brings about virtue within. Plotinus wondered how much purification can dispel emotions like anger, desire, and grief and to what degree disengagement from the body is possible. By disengagement he meant the soul withdrawing into itself above all emotions. Necessary pleasures still exist; but fear, for example, ceases except as a monitor. Desires will not be for vile things though they may pass through the imagination in fleeting fancies. The soul will be free and will work to keep the irrational part from being violently assaulted, like a person living next door to a sage may be wise and good out of sheer shame, not venturing to do what a nobler mind would disapprove.
For Plotinus this was not sin but discipline. His concern was not merely to be sinless but to be God. To associate with the reasoning phase of nature leads one to the highest self, as far as an earthly mind is capable. Virtue appears as wisdom, which contemplates all that exists in the intellectual principle. Virtue is dependent on the supreme being, which is independent. Purification of the soul produces the virtues. If any virtue is lacking, none is perfect. One will transcend beyond civic virtues in the final disengagement. Instead of living as a good person, one will live like the gods. To model oneself on good persons produces an image of an image; we must fix our gaze above the image and be like the supreme exemplar.
Plotinus described two stages of the path as first: conversion from the lower life, and second: advancing within the realm of the intelligibles. The musician must learn to transcend specific harmonies and beauty to recognize absolute beauty itself. The lover must not be spellbound by one embodied form but be led by mental discipline to discern the one principle in all. This ascent Plotinus called dialectic, the most precious part of philosophy. This dialectic provides the discipline for the understanding of ethics. Inferior virtues may exist without dialectic; but one cannot be a sage or master in dialectic without the lower virtues. They develop together as the purification of the virtues leads to the development of the greater wisdom and vice versa.
Plotinus found that happiness is more than pleasure, because it depends on the faculty capable of discerning that pleasure is good. Complete happiness depends on living fully and possessing not merely what is good but also the supreme good. The sage finds the good within and only seeks outside desires that are necessities for the sake of the body to which one is bound. One knows that one is above all such things but gives to them to keep the true life undiminished. Adverse fortune does not affect the felicity of one whose life is stable. Happiness is not freedom from pain, sickness, and disaster, but it is the fruition of the authentic good. Anything such as health, which is desired because its opposite is annoying, is not a good but a necessity. Even in pain the radiance of the inner soul shines like the light in a lantern when winds blow. The sage would like to see all people prosper but is still content when they do not. Pleasure for the sage is not found in gratifications of the body; but one is cheerful and untroubled. For Plotinus it is absurd to think that happiness is associated with the body; rather it is the good life centered in the soul. The sage gives the body what is useful and possible as its master while remaining a member of a higher order.
Plotinus observed that happiness is found in the present as the action of the good life. The best life is of the authentic existence and is not measured by time but by eternity. Those who see with the soul know the beauty of noble conduct and moral wisdom. The spiritually ugly are dissolute and unjust, teeming with lust, torn by internal discord, beset by cowardly fears and petty envies, thinking only of what is perishable and base, and perverse in impulses and unclean pleasures, living in abandonment to bodily sensations and delighting in its deformity. Thus one becomes ugly by the alien fall into the body. The soul is dishonored by ceasing to be clean and apart. Thus the soul must be cleared of the desires that come from being intimately conversant with the body and must be emancipated and purged from passions by being withdrawn and solitary. We must ascend to the good, which is what every soul truly desires. To see into a virtuous soul and know its loveliness, withdraw into yourself and look. If you find that you are not yet beautiful, then act like a creator of a statue who cuts away the excessive, straightens the crooked, and smoothes it until it is lovely.
Plotinus concluded that life in the body is evil, but the soul enters its good through virtue by holding itself apart. This flight does not mean quitting earth but living our earth-life with justice and piety guided by the light of philosophy. Vice is what we are to flee. He criticized the Gnostics for believing the world and its creator are evil, and he noted that they neglected to mention virtue. For Plotinus virtue is what makes God in the soul manifest. God on the lips without good conduct is only a word. Despising this world and its gods is not the way to goodness. Plotinus believed in tutelary spirits and suggested that souls return to this sphere under the same spirit or a new one according to the life it is to live. He found the primal source of love in the soul's tendency toward pure beauty, recognizing its kinship, while the vile clashes with nature and God. Copulative love is the will to generate in beauty. Nature seeks to produce the beautiful and thus does not desire to procreate in the ugly. Ultimately Plotinus believed that the life of gods, the godlike and the blessed liberates from the alien, taking no pleasure in the earthly but passing from the alone to the alone.
Porphyry was born at Tyre in 233, advanced rapidly in liberal education, and studied in Athens with Cassius Longinus, who changed his name from the Syrian Malchus, meaning "king," to Porphyry, meaning "purple." Porphyry wanted to see Rome and met Plotinus when he was thirty, becoming completely devoted to him. When he wanted to give up his body, his teacher gave him strength and sent him to Sicily to recover. After Plotinus died, Porphyry returned to Rome and married Marcella to help educate her seven children, becoming head of the Neo-Platonist school. Porphyry was best known for his introduction to the Categories of Aristotle and other works on logic. He tried to show that the philosophies of Aristotle and Plato essentially agree. He wrote a long work of fifteen books criticizing the Christians; but it was ordered burned by Emperors Valentinian III and Theodosius II in 448, and only fragments remain. He tried to make the traditional Roman religion more philosophical, as he also argued against its superstitious elements in his letter to Anebo, an Egyptian priest. In addition to his short biography of Plotinus he also wrote a life of Pythagoras.
Porphyry was concerned with salvation and focused more on practical ethics than Plotinus. Porphyry taught abstinence from meat, sex, and theatrical performances. He believed the soul must purify itself by ascetic discipline in turning from the lower to the higher. The lowest stage is to reduce affections by the golden mean under the dominion of reason in human relations. The next level was the cleansing virtues that lead to detachment. In the higher stages one develops the intuition (nous). He emphasized that God values deeds not words.
Greek novels continue to stand out among the extant literature of western civilization in the third century. The pastoral romance of Daphnis and Chloe was written by Longus about 200 CE and later influenced the literature of the Renaissance. In the prolog Longus claimed, "It will cure the sick, comfort the distress, stir the memory of those who have loved, and educate those who haven't."5 On the island of Lesbos a baby boy and girl are exposed; the boy is suckled by goats and becomes a goatherd; the girl is nurtured by sheep and becomes a shepherd. They learn about love gradually on their own. Daphnis is captured by pirates and survives their shipwreck. Old Philetas tells Daphnis and Chloe about the god Love, who rules the stars and all creatures. He explains that the disease of love is cured by kissing, embracing, and lying naked on the ground, which they innocently experience. They are attacked by Methymneans, who go to war with the Mytileneans. Nymphs and Pan help Chloe to escape unharmed.
Daphnis and Chloe are confused about love, because they see goats doing it standing up from behind; but Lycaenion falls in love with Daphnis and shows him what to do. However, she warns him that Chloe will bleed the first time, and so he refrains, not wanting to hurt her. Soon Chloe attracts suitors, and Daphnis becomes one of them. The homosexual Gnathon while drunk tries to force himself on Daphnis but is pushed away. Nymphs help Daphnis find a purse of silver so that he can marry Chloe. Lampis desires Chloe and abducts her, but Gnathon rescues her. Daphnis learns he is the son of Dionysophanes, who exposed him because he had enough children. Chloe turns out to be the daughter of a wealthy man, who, after becoming poor by spending his money on dramatic choruses and warships, had exposed her. Finally the two lovers are happily married.
The longest Greek novel of this era is The Ethiopian Story of Theagenes and Charikleia by Heliodorus of Emesa. Scholars differ on when it was written - from about 230 to the late 4th century. Byzantine culture enjoyed the novel and believed its author wrote it before converting to Christianity and becoming a bishop. Set in the 6th century BC, in the western delta of the Nile some bandits find a scene of devastation and Charikleia treating the wounds of Theagenes. Bandits thrive in nearby marshes, and more led by Thyamis soon appear. Charikleia vows to hang herself to preserve what even her lover Theagenes has not yet enjoyed. The Athenian Knemon tells the lovers about his step-mother's passion for him and how she died by the cleverness of Thisbe. Thyamis wants to marry Charikleia, who says Theagenes is her brother. Charikleia asks Thyamis to allow her to lay down her priesthood at a shrine of Apollo. When bandits attack Thyamis, he kills the woman he thinks is Charikleia but who turns out to be Thisbe. Knemon meets the Egyptian sage Kalasiris, who eats no animal food and drinks no wine. Kalasiris tells Knemon how he adopted Charikleia from her father Charikles, a priest of Apollo.
At the Pythian games in Delphi Kalasiris learned that Charikles found the infant Charikleia with tokens indicating she is the daughter of Ethiopian queen Persinna, a friend of Kalasiris and the very daughter he has been seeking. Kalasiris helped Charikleia and Theagenes escape from Delphi. Theagenes swore to honor the chastity of Charikleia; though he is the slave of love, he is the master of pleasure. They were captured by pirates, and Peloris fought their leader for Charikleia, because he was the first to board the ship and by their pirate custom should have first prize. In Egypt the merchant Nausikles betroths his daughter Nausikleia to Knemon, while Theagenes is captured by Thyamis and taken to Memphis. Kalasiris and Charikleia disguise themselves as beggars.
Egypt at this time is ruled by the Persian satrap Oroondates, whose queen Arsake likes to take lovers. Petosiris had replaced his older brother Thyamis as priest by accusing him of adultery with Arsake. The two brothers fight in single combat for the priesthood at Memphis until their father Kalasiris reveals himself in his sacerdotal dignity. Thyamis dismisses his men of Bessa, who were attacking Memphis, and he is ordained priest by his father, who soon dies. Arsake desires the handsome Theagenes and has her nurse Kybele arrange for him and Charikleia to be imprisoned in the palace. Kybele's son Achaimenes wants Charikleia and gets the queen to promise her to him in exchange for the information that Theagenes is already enslaved to the Persian royalty but had escaped. However, Theagenes refuses to gratify Arsake if Charikleia is married, and he reveals she is his betrothed, not his sister.
Having lost Charikleia, Achaimenes goes to the satrap Oroondates, who is fighting the Ethiopians over the city of Philai and emerald mines. Achaimenes gets him to send the eunuch Bagoas for Theagenes and Charikleia to prevent his queen's adultery. Meanwhile Thyamis argues with Arsake that Theagenes should be freed in peace time as a royal act. Kybele is poisoned while trying to kill Charikleia when a servant switches the cups. When Theagenes refuses to give in to her desires, Arsake charges Charikleia with this murder and has her burned at the stake; but Charikleia is miraculously untouched by the flames and is protected by the awe-struck spectators. Theagenes and Charikleia are tortured by order of Arsake. Bagoas arrives to take Theagenes and Charikleia, and Arsake hangs herself. Before they get to the satrap, an Ethiopian ambush captures Bagoas and the young couple. As the first prisoners in this phase of the war, Ethiopian king Hydaspes reserves Theagenes and Charikleia for human sacrifice according to their customs. The army of Hydaspes attacks and besieges the Persian-Egyptian forces of Oroondates at Syene (Aswan). Oroondates runs away and is forced to surrender to the Ethiopians.
Hydaspes returns to his capital at Meroe, and people demand the human sacrifice. Both Theagenes and Charikleia are proved virgins by an ordeal of standing on a hot gridiron. The local Hindu philosophers led by Sisimithres protest human and animal sacrifices and are about to leave. Charikleia asks them to judge a suit between her and the king, claiming and proving that she is his daughter as Sisimithres and Queen Persinna, her mother, recognize her and the royal tokens. Although he acknowledges her as his daughter, King Hydaspes plans to sacrifice her anyway but is persuaded not to by the people. Theagenes captures a run-away bull and defeats the Ethiopian wrestling champion. As ambassadors appear, Charikles accuses Theagenes of abducting his daughter Charikleia, proving to the king that Theagenes knows and should marry Charikleia. Hydaspes recognizes that miracles have occurred and orders Sisimithres to proclaim that human sacrifice is abolished. At last Theagenes and Charikleia are to be wed, and the king crowns them with the insignia of the priesthood. The purity of their love, their courage and determination have brought an end to human sacrifice in Ethiopia.
Written in Greek between 140 CE and 340, the Alexander Romance was so popular that it was translated into 24 languages and proliferated into eighty versions. In some manuscripts it was falsely attributed to Alexander's court historian Kallisthenes. This combination of biography, history, and fantasy alters many facts and confuses the chronological sequence of events. His mother is still Olympias, but in this romance the Egyptian king Nektanebos impersonates the god Ammon in fathering Alexander. The boy kills this court astrologer, only then learning he was his father. The precocious youth wins the Olympic chariot race by killing Nikolaos, who was trying to kill him. At a banquet celebrating King Philip's wedding to Cleopatra, Alexander kills Lysias for saying that Philip had many illegitimate children; but the real Alexander after killing Attalos fled with Olympias to Epirus. Alexander tells the satraps of Persia that he will not pay them tribute. In the romance Alexander also apprehends Pausanias after he assassinated Philip. He attacks Thebes out of anger and becomes ruler of Greece.
In this version Alexander goes to Sicily, Italy, and Libya, though the historical Alexander died before he could attempt those conquests. He is declared a god in Egypt and crowned its king. He sacks Tyre and razes it to the ground. Persian king Darius sends him a strap for correction, a ball to play with as a child, and a box of gold so that he could pay his brigands on their way home. Alexander threatens to kill the messenger, because Darius treated him as a brigand chief; but he doesn't, because he is a king. Alexander writes he will use the strap to reduce the barbarians to servitude, considers the ball a symbol of his ruling the world, and believes the money box means that he will be paid tribute. When his men are starving in the Black Sea region, he orders the horses killed and eaten. Alexander goes to Darius, pretending to be his own messenger, putting gold cups in his pocket, and sneaking out when he is recognized. In the battle Darius panics and flees. Alexander refuses to compromise, saying he believes Asia is his. In this romance Darius appeals to the Hindu king Poros. Darius warns Alexander that Fortune knows no king and gives him his daughter Roxana as a wife before he dies.
Alexander writes to the Persians that they may keep their customs, but he demands their gold, silver, and weapons. He makes the assassins of Darius "notable before everyone" by having them crucified. Alexander writes to his mother of fantastic adventures even beyond this world though a flying sage asks him why he investigates heaven when he has not grasped earthly things. His soldiers question why they should invade India, and so he uses his Persian forces. Alexander kills Poros, though in history he allowed him to rule under himself. In his conversation with the sages of India, they define kingship as "An immoral force for superior power, daring maintained by opportunity, a golden burden."6 They ask him, if he is mortal, why he wages so many wars when he must leave behind the things he wins. Alexander goes to Queen Kandake as if he were Antigonus; finding out his true identity, she protects him. Alexander even negotiates with the Amazons. At Babylon Alexander is poisoned by Iollas, and his body is sent to Egypt. Thus the conqueror became a popular figure, though the ethics of the literary hero are about as bad as the real Alexander.
The Story of Apollonius King of Tyre was probably written in Greek in the 3rd century also, though its earliest extant versions are in Latin. The short novella has a complicated plot. King Antiochus in Antioch treats his beautiful daughter as his wife and eliminates suitors by demanding they solve an unsolvable riddle or be beheaded. Apollonius of Tyre realizes Antiochus is committing incest with his daughter, and the evil Antiochus sends a man to murder him and puts a price on his head. When the people of Tarsus agree to keep him secretly, Apollonius contributes grain to end their famine. Apollonius survives a shipwreck but is destitute. A fisherman helps him, and he wins the favor of King Archistrates in the gymnasium playing ball. The many-talented Apollonius tutors the princess, and she marries him. When the cruel Antiochus dies, his kingdom is given to Apollonius. So he and his pregnant wife board a ship. She dies in childbirth and is buried at sea in an elaborate coffin, which is found. She is revived from a coma and then serves the goddess Diana.
Apollonius names his daughter Tarsia after the city and entrusts her to his hosts there, Stranguillio and Dionysias. Fourteen years later Dionysias resents Tarsia outshining her own daughter and orders her steward Theophilus to murder her; but Tarsia is captured by pirates and sold to a pimp at Mytilene, though its king Athenagora helps to preserve her virginity by urging her to tell her lamentable story to each client. When Apollonius finally returns to Tarsus for her, he is told she died. The suicidal king, now a merchant, is eventually redeemed in joy by Tarsia when she tells Apollonius her story, and he realizes she is his daughter. The pimp is burned to death by the people of Mytilene, while his assistant is liberated for helping Tarsia. The prostitutes are given their earnings and their freedom. Apollonius makes a generous gift to repair the city's walls, and Tarsia weds King Athenagora. Apollonius finds his wife in the temple of Diana, and they live as a couple happily for many years. Stranguillio and Dionysias are stoned to death. Apollonius is eventually succeeded as king by his son. This romance further typifies the value of chastity.
1. Augustan History 4:1 in Lives of the Later Caesars
tr. Anthony Birley, p. 164.
2. Tertullian, Apology 25 in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, volume 3, p. 40.
3. Tertullian, "The Chaplet, or De Corona" 11 in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 3, p. 99.
4. Matthew 5:44 as quoted by Clement.
5. Longus, Daphnis and Chloe tr. Christopher Gill in Collected Ancient Greek Novels ed. B. P. Reardon, p. 289.
6. Alexander Romance 3:6 tr. Ken Dowden in Collected Ancient Greek Novels ed. B. P. Reardon, p. 717.
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