Persecution Under Julian The Apostate
This emperor was the son of Julius Constantius, and the nephew of
Constantine the Great. He studied the rudiments of grammar under the
inspection of Mardomus, a eunuch, and a heathen of Constantinople. His
father sent him some time after to Nicomedia, to be instructed in the
christian religion, by the bishop of Eusebius, his kinsman, but his
principles were corrupted by the pernicious doctrines of Ecebolius the
ian, and Maximus the magician.
Constantius dying in the year 361, Julian succeeded him, and had no
sooner attained the imperial dignity, than he renounced Christianity and
embraced paganism, which had for some years fallen into great disrepute.
Though he restored the idolatrous worship, he made no public edicts
against christianity. He recalled all banished pagans, allowed the free
exercise of religion to every sect, but deprived all christians of
offices at court, in the magistracy, or in the army. He was chaste,
temperate, vigilant, laborious, and pious; yet he prohibited any
christian from keeping a school or public seminary of learning, and
deprived all the christian clergy of the privileges granted them by
Constantine the Great.
Bishop Basil made himself first famous by his opposition to Arianism,
which brought upon him the vengeance of the Arian bishop of
Constantinople; he equally opposed paganism. The emperor's agents in
vain tampered with Basil by means of promises, threats, and racks, he
was firm in the faith, and remained in prison to undergo some other
sufferings, when the emperor came accidentally to Ancyra. Julian
determined to examine Basil himself, when that holy man being brought
before him, the emperor did every thing in his power to dissuade him
from persevering in the faith. Basil not only continued as firm as ever,
but, with a prophetic spirit foretold the death of the emperor, and that
he should be tormented in the other life. Enraged at what he heard,
Julian commanded that the body of Basil should be torn every day in
seven different parts, till his skin and flesh were entirely mangled.
This inhuman sentence was executed with rigour, and the martyr expired
under its severities, on the 28th day of June, A. D. 362.
Donatus, bishop of Arezzo, and Hilarinus, a hermit, suffered about the
same time; also Gordian, a Roman magistrate. Artemius, commander in
chief of the Roman forces in Egypt, being a christian, was deprived of
his commission, then of his estate, and lastly of his head.
The persecution raged dreadfully about the latter end of the year 363;
but, as many of the particulars have not been handed down to us, it is
necessary to remark in general, that in Palestine many were burnt alive,
others were dragged by their feet through the streets naked till they
expired; some were scalded to death, many stoned, and great numbers had
their brains beaten out with clubs. In Alexandria, innumerable were the
martyrs who suffered by the sword, burning, crucifixion, and being
stoned. In Arethusa, several were ripped open, and corn being put into
their bellies, swine were brought to feed therein, which, in devouring
the grain, likewise devoured the entrails of the martyrs, and, in
Thrace, Emilianus was burnt at a stake; and Domitius murdered in a cave,
whither he had fled for refuge.
The emperor, Julian the apostate, died of a wound which he received in
his Persian expedition, A. D. 363, and even while expiring, uttered the
most horrid blasphemies. He was succeeded by Jovian, who restored peace
to the church.
After the decease of Jovian, Valentinian succeeded to the empire, and
associated to himself Valens, who had the command in the east, and was
an Arian, of an unrelenting and persecuting disposition.