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Book I
Note H

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

Italy and Her Invaders

by
Thomas Hodgkin


2nd edition
Oxford University Press
London, 1892

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Book I
Chapter 15

Book 1 (continued)

Vol. I
p679
Chapter XIII

Arcadius

Authorities

Sources: —

Our chief sources are Zosimus and the ecclesiastical historians, but we have also one contemporary authority of peculiar interest in the letters and speeches of Synesius of Cyrene, whose visit to Constantinople is alluded to in the following chapter. Synesius was born about 370, of ancient family — he traced his descent from the Heracleidae, the mythical founders of Cyrene — and he studied philosophy at Athens and Alexandria. His sojourn in Constantinople appears to have lasted from 397 to 400. After his return to Africa he became a convert to Christianity, of a very broad and eclectic type, and about the year 409 in deference to the earnest request of his fellow-citizens he accepted the office of Bishop of Ptolemais, though fully conscious how little he, the jovial sportsman and litterateur, conformed to the conventional standard of holiness required in a father of the Church. He will probably be always known by the kindly, and on the whole faithful, picture of him contained in Kingsley's 'Hypatia.'

Besides the oration on Kingship, Synesius wrote a treatise called 'the Egyptians or concerning Providence,' in which under allegorical disguise some of the chief events connected with the revolt of Gainas are related. Aurelian is spoken of as Osiris, the principle of good: under the name Typhos, the principle of evil, some leader of the opposite party, said to have been Aurelian's brother, is designated. The whole subject is very obscure, and till 'Typhos' can be identified, it seems to me hardly wise to try to interweave this strange parable with authentic history.

p680 Separation between Eastern and Western Empires. Hitherto the course of events has compelled us often to linger by the shores of the Euxine and the Propontis. The barbarians whose fortunes we have been following have rarely lost sight of the Danube. The great Emperor who tamed them has ruled the world from Constantinople. Henceforward it will be our duty to concentrate our attention on the affairs of Western Europe and only to attend to the history of the Eastern Empire, in so far as it may be absolutely necessary to enable us to understand the history of the West. For however true it may be that Theodosius intended to make no permanent division of the Empire, when on his death‑bed at Milan he left the East to Arcadius and the West to Honorius, it is not less true that that division, towards which the stream of destiny had long been tending, did practically result from the arrangements then made by him, from the weakness of his sons and from the mutual and envenomed hatred of their ministers. The process of division began in 330, when Constantine dedicated his new capital by the Bosphorus. It ended in 800, when the people of Rome shouted 'Life and Victory to Carolus Augustus, crowned by God, great and pacific Emperor of the Romans.' But if we must connect one date more than another with a process which was thus going forward for nearly half a millennium, undoubtedly that date will be 395, the year of the death of Theodosius.

Recognising this fact, I shall only sketch in brief outline the thirteen years of the reign of Arcadius. We have seen that this prince, nominally lord of half the civilised world, really a man of such feeble and sluggish temperament as to be always the slave of  p681 some more powerful character near him, had passed, after the manner of Rufinus, under the dominion of three joint-rulers, — Eutropius the Eunuch, Eudoxia the daughter of a Frankish warrior, and Gainas the Goth. How these three may have divided their power we know not; doubtless there were rivalries and jealousies between them, but for five years they seemed to have pulled the strings of the Imperial puppet in apparent harmony. Eutropius the Eunuch. During this time Eutropius, 'Superintendent of the Sacred Bedchamber,' was the chief figure in the administration of the Empire. He raised up his friends and cast down his enemies. Hosius, once a servant in the kitchen of Theodosius, became Master of the Offices, and Leo, a big swashbuckler soldier, who had once been a wool-comber, and whose chief glory was that he could drink more goblets of wine than any other man in the camp, was made, at a crisis of the fortunes of the State, Magister Militum per Orientem.1 On the other hand, the old general, Abundantius, who had formerly been one of the many masters of the despised and elderly Eunuch, and who, by introducing him to the Court, had laid the foundations of his future greatness, had to atone for too vividly recalling to the upstart Minister the memories of past degradation. He was banished to Pityus, at the eastern end of the Black Sea, under the roots of Caucasus, where only the charity of the barbarians prevented him from perishing with hunger. Timasius, the old general of Theodosius, who had been threatened with the anger of Rufinus,2 fell before the yet deadlier  p682 enmity of Eutropius. An unworthy confidant of the general's, Bargus the sausage-seller, was persuaded to accuse his patron of treasonable designs upon the throne; forged letters were adduced in support of the charge: Timasius was condemned and banished to the great Oasis in the Libyan desert in the west of Egypt. His son, Syagrius, sought to deliver him from that terrible place of exile, surrounded with vast wildernesses in which no creature could live: and it was said that he had hired a band of robbers to assist him in his pious design, but whether he failed to communicate with his father, whether the sand of the desert swallowed up both father and son, or whether both escaped and lingered out inglorious lives among the savage tribes of the Soudan, was never ascertained. Enough that both Timasius and Bargus vanished from the eyes of men.

The pampered menial who could make his anger thus terrible to his foes was of course soon surrounded by a crowd of sycophants. Ignoble natures always prostrate themselves before the possessor of power, and the same kind of persons who now grovel before a democracy then vied with each other for the honour of shaking the hand of the Eunuch, clasped his knees, kissed his wrinkled cheeks, and hailed him as 'Defender of the Laws' and 'Father of the Emperor.' Statues were erected to him in all the chief cities of the East. In some he was represented as a judge clad in solemn toga: in others he was a mailed horseman: and inscriptions on the bases of the statues dared to talk of his noble birth (though men were still living who had bought and sold him as a slave), to declare that he, the Chamberlain, had fought great battles and  p683 won them without others' help, or to call him the 'third founder of the City of Constantinople.'

Sale of Offices. Meanwhile, Eutropius was accumulating vast stores of wealth. The greater part of the confiscated property of Rufinus found its way into his hands; and as it soon became manifest that his word was all‑powerful with Arcadius in the selection of governors of the provinces, he was able to coin this influence into gold, and according to Claudian's account of the matter, actually set up a kind of domestic mart at which prefectures and governorships were openly sold to the highest bidder.

Claudian In Eutropium I, 196‑206. 'All the lands between Tigris and the Balkans are put to sale by this hucksterer of Empire. One man sells his villa for the government of Asia; another with his wife's jewels purchases Syria; a third thinks he has bought Bithynia too dear at the sacrifice of the home of his fathers. A tariff fixed on the Eunuch's door distinguishes the price of the various nations; so many sesterces for Galatia, so many for Pontus, so many for Lydia. If you wish to rule Lycia, pay down so many thousands.

"For Phrygia you must pay me something more."

'Tis thus he bargains. He, oft sold before,

Now fain would sell us all, and branded see

Upon our brows his mark of infamy.'

John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople. One good deed and memorable in the history of the Christian Church marked the administration of Eutropius. On the death of Nectarius, Bishop of Constantinople, long and fierce debates arose as to the choice of his successor. Eutropius, who with all his vices was not wanting in penetration and insight into character, appears to have suggested the name of John Chrysostom, to whose eloquent discourses he had listened  p684 during a recent visit to Antioch. The suggestion pleased both clergy and people; the golden-mouthed preacher was unanimously elected to the vacant see. An order was sent to Asterius, Count of the East, who according to the somewhat high-handed fashion usual in dealing with bishops-elect, captured the unwilling preacher, delivered him to the Imperial officers, and sent him in honourable custody to the city, with which his name was thenceforward to be for ever associated.

Aurelian and the patriotic Roman party. The degrading yoke of the Eunuch-chamberlain was not borne without a murmur by the nobles of Constantinople. There was a party, headed by the high-souled and cultivated Aurelian, which dared to protest with increasing boldness against the ascendency of court-lackeys within the palace, and Gothic soldiers without. To this party Synesius of Cyrene attached himself. He had come, a young man of about twenty-seven, on a mission from his native city to offer a golden wreath to the Emperor and to obtain some remission of the crushing taxation under which the Cyrenaic province was groaning. For more than a year he had been in vain pleading for an audience with the Emperor. The covetous Eunuch, who had no desire to see the quotations of provincial governorships lowered by any alleviation of their burdens, kept the doors of the palace fast closed against him. At length, however, the opportunity of Synesius came. It was the year 399, the year when the Fasti were soiled by the disgraceful Consulship of Eutropius; but it was also the year in which, by some means unknown to us, Aurelian obtained the commanding position of Praetorian Prefect. From this high vantage-ground he  p685 was able effectually to help the young orator, and thus it was that, apparently in the beginning of the year, Synesius, admitted to the palace, delivered before Arcadius his celebrated oration 'on Kingship.'

The oration of Synesius 'on Kingship.' It was a striking scene: the young and eloquent deputy from Cyrene standing up in the midst of that brilliant assemblage to lecture the short, sallow, sleepy-eyed young man, who was hailed as Lord of the Universe, on the duties of his office.3 If Synesius really uttered half the bold and noble words which appear in his published oration, it is a marvel that he was not at once arrested on a charge of laesa majestas; but while, on the one hand, he may well have added weight to his sentences at a later day in the secure seclusion of Cyrene, on the other hand, it was safe to presume on the lethargy of the lectured Emperor. Where Theodosius would have been listening with flushed face and on the point of bursting forth in a passion of uncontrollable rage, the heavy-eyed Arcadius yawned and wondered how soon the oration of the young deputy from Cyrene would be ended.

'The Emperor,' said the young orator, 'ought to know the faces of his soldiers, to endear himself to them by sharing their hardships and their dangers, to make himself acquainted with the wants and grievances of his subjects by visiting the provinces in person. The great Caesars of Rome lived in the open air, feared  p686 not to expose themselves to the noontide sun and to the winter's wind, lived under tents, were seen by the peasant and the legionary. The notion that sovereign should shut himself up in his palace, beheld only by adoring courtiers, surrounded by tall, fair-haired guards, with golden shields and golden lances, perfumed with essences and odours, this seclusion and idolatry of the Emperor is a custom borrowed from the barbarians and if persisted in will ruin the Republic, whose fortune even now hangs, as it were, on a razor's edge. For while the Emperor is shutting himself up in his palace, living the life of a polypus, occupying himself only with the pleasures of the table or with buffooneries of low comedians, the barbarians are pressing into our armies, urging every day more audacious crimes, yea, have already kindled rebellion in some provinces of the Empire. Their chiefs, raised to high military command, are taking their seats in the Senate. They wear the Roman toga, condescending so far to our usages when they are figuring as officers of the State, but as soon as they re‑enter their dwellings they hasten to throw off the civic gown, declaring that it hinders the drawing of the sword. The true patriot Emperor will find this to be his first task, cautiously, but firmly, to weed out the barbarians from his army, and make that army what it once was, Roman.'

The patriotic oration of Synesius awoke no echo in the soul of Arcadius, but it was contemporaneous with and may possibly have been in part the cause of certain events which made the year 399 memorable in the history of the Eastern Empire.4 Eutropius the venal  p687 chamberlain, Eudoxia the Frankish empress, and Gainas the Gothic general, had, as we have seen, for some years been helping one another to misgovern the Empire; but in 399, the year of Eutropius' consulship, this disastrous coalition was dissolved, chiefly, it would seem, by the overweening arrogance and insatiable rapacity of the Eunuch-Consul, but also partly by the inherent tendency of all coalitions which are founded merely on a selfish desire to appropriate the honours and emoluments of the State, to break down sooner or later under the warring ambitions of their members.

Rebellion of Count Tribigild. Early in the year tidings came to Constantinople of untoward events in the inland province of Phrygia. A colony of Greuthungi, who had been settled there probably after the great victory which Promotus gained over their invading hordes,5 had broken out into open revolt, and were marching hither and thither, entering and plundering at their will the wealthy cities, whose mouldering walls and unrepaired battlements bore witness to the deep peace which had long reigned in the provinces of Asia. The leader of the insurrection was Tribigild the Ostrogoth, a kinsman of Gainas, who, though he had attained the rank of a Count, complained that his services as a captain of foederati had not been rewarded with the promotion which they deserved.

Leo's disastrous campaign. When these tidings reached the Imperial Court, Eutropius at first affected to treat them with indifference. 'A little band of malefactors,' said he, 'is wandering about in Phrygia. They need the scourge  p688 of the lictor, not the darts of the soldier, to repress their outrages.' But this ostrich-like policy of ignoring the danger of the Empire availed not long. When it had obviously failed, Eutropius affected a new and martial ardour, and men saw with amused wonder the elderly slave donning the terrible habiliments of war, and trying to utter the words of command in his thin and quavering falsetto. But it was needful to appoint generals for the war; and while the defence of Europe was entrusted to Gainas, Leo, the burly but incapable favourite of Eutropius, had the Asiatic campaign entrusted to his care. His troops, already demoralised by too long enjoyment of the pleasures of the town, gained nothing from the leadership of such a man. There was no proper vigilance on the march; the sentinels were not properly posted on the ramparts of the camp; at length there came a night when the whole army was surprised in its drunken slumber. Some were killed in their sleep; of the fugitives many were soon floundering in a morass which bordered the camp. Among these last was Leo himself, who certainly perished, though we need not take as literally true the poet's statement that he died of terror —

'Leo himself, more timid than the deer,

Springs on his steed, with teeth that chatter fear:

The horse perspiring 'neath that mighty mass,

Soon falls and struggles in the swift morass.

. . . . . . . . .

Then shrieked the general: lo! the gentle wind

Brought down a shower of shaken leaves behind.

Each leaf, to Leo's terror, seemed a dart,

And terror struck, like javelins, to his heart.

With skin untouched, and hurt by fear alone,

He breathed his guilty life out with a groan.'6

 p689  Fall of Eutropius. It may possibly have been the failure of the general, who was Eutropius' favourite, and the knowledge of the unpopularity which he had thus incurred, that emboldened his two former allies, but present enemies, to declare themselves against him. Gainas, like Tribigild, was dissatisfied with his share in the plunder of an Empire, and probably contrasted enviously the rewards given to Alaric with his own. Eudoxia had long fretted under the Eunuch's arrogance, and had been forced — so men said — to hear from him the insulting words, 'Beware, oh lady! The hand which raised thee to the throne can pull thee down from thence.' It was Eudoxia who dealt the fatal blow to the Eunuch's power. She suddenly appeared before the Emperor, holding her little two-year‑old daughter Flaccilla by the hand, and with her baby, Pulcheria, in her arms, to complain of the insolence of Eutropius. She stretched forth her children and wept: the children wept also; and Arcadius, goaded into energy at their mingled cries, at once gave orders for the fall of the detested Minister.

Eutropius seeks refuge in the great church. When he saw that his position in the Palace was undermined, Eutropius at once gave up the game. He knew that he had countless enemies, he doubted if he had one faithful friend, and his own heart gave him no counsels of courage or of hope. He fled to the great church of St. Sophia, and there at the altar sought an asylum from his foes. He himself in the days of his power had grudged this last refuge to Pentadia, the widow of his victim Timasius, and had caused a law to be passed, removing, or at least abridging, the right of asylum in churches. Now, however, the church, with splendid magnanimity, threw her aegis over her  p690 fallen foe. When Chrysostom entered the Cathedral he found Eutropius, in sordid garb, his thin grey hairs covered with dust, clinging in an agony of terror to 'the table of refuge.' The soldiers soon appeared and demanded the surrender of the fugitive, but Chrysostom boldly told them that they should penetrate into the sanctuary only over his dead body, since, living, he would never betray the honour of the Church, the Bride of Christ. A day passed in negotiations between the Cathedral and the Palace. The mob in the Hippodrome, the troops before the royal dwelling, shouted for the head of the fallen Minister; but Chrysostom remained firm, and Arcadius, yielding to the ascendancy of that noble nature, besought the soldiers with tears not to violate the sanctity of the altar.

'Vanity of vanities.' The next day was Sunday, and the proudest day in the life of the golden-mouthed orator. A vast crowd of men and women flocked to the Cathedral, and when Chrysostom mounted the pulpit, the curtain between the nave and the chancel was drawn aside, and all the throng beheld the Superintendent of the Sacred Bedchamber, the Consul who gave his name to the year, the lately omnipotent Eutropius, lying prostrate in over-mastering fear under the Holy Table. The Bishop chose his text from 'the Preacher' of a date earlier by fourteen centuries, 'Vanity of vanities: all is vanity.' In eloquent words he described the pomps and revels, the troops of flatterers and the gay garlands which had once made up this man's felicity, contrasting them with the forlorn condition of the wretch who was weeping and trembling under the altar. Eutropius himself probably cared little what the Bishop said, so long as he did not surrender him to the terrible Silentiarius,  p691 who was chafing and fuming outside; but there were many who thought the preacher's eloquence ill‑timed, and that there was something ungenerous in delivering a sermon which was in fact a bitter invective against a foe so utterly fallen.7

Banishment and death of Eutropius. Before many days had passed, Eutropius came forth from his asylum, induced, it was said, by a promise that his life should be spared. His goods were confiscated, the consular annals were 'vindicated from the foul taint and muddy defilement brought upon them by the mention of his name.' His statues, in brass and marble, were pulled down 'that this infamy of our age may no longer pollute our vision,'8 and he was banished under strict custody to the island of Cyprus. Even thence, however, he was recalled. Gainas, now his open enemy, clamoured for his head, declaring that his kinsman Tribigild would never be reconciled so long as Eutropius remained alive. Eudoxia probably urged her shrill entreaties on the same side. There remained the difficulty of the Imperial promise, perhaps the Imperial oath, that the culprit's life should be spared: but a way was found out of this difficulty. It was alleged that the promise had been that he should not be killed at Constantinople, and he was therefore brought back only as far as Chalcedon, the fair Asiatic city which rose opposite to Constantinople, and there the Eunuch met his doom.

Obscure movements of Tribigild. After the fall of Eutropius the history of the rebellion of Tribigild and Gainas becomes more and more unintelligible and obscure. Tribigild, instead of pushing westward and overrunning the opulent plains of Lydia  p692 (which, Zosimus thinks, he might successfully have accomplished), wasted his strength in border warfare with the strongly-posted dwellers in mountainous Pisidia. Then, accompanied only by the remnants of his army, he made his way across the Hellespont into Thrace, and there soon afterwards perished.9 Gainas at first played the part of candid friend to the Empire, recommending the concession of one point after another to Tribigild, in order to soothe his resentment, and secretly encouraging the desertions of the foederati under his command to the rebel standard; but when the reverses of Tribigild made this part impossible, Gainas in open rebellion. he threw off the mask and stood revealed as the real author of the rebellion. At his request Arcadius consented to meet him in conference at the church of St. Euphemia, outside the gates of Chalcedon. His principal demand was for the surrender of three men who were the chiefs of the 'Roman' or national party within the city, and whose surrender, as he expected, would give his partisans a predominant influence in the State. These three men were Saturninus, the consul for 383, whose successful negotiations with the Goths seventeen years ago, had given the foederati their present position of vantage in the army; Aurelian, the consul-designate for 400 (colleague of Stilicho in that office); and Joannes, a friend, some said a favoured lover, of the Empress. Even Arcadius seems to have recoiled from the baseness of giving up these men to the barbarian; but Aurelian and Saturninus came forward of their own accord, and with something of the old Roman spirit voluntarily offered themselves for the good of their country. Gainas was touched by their patriotic devotion;  p693 perhaps Chrysostom added his intercession: at any rate, the Goth was content to insult them with his clemency. They were led out as if to death: the executioner brandished his drawn sword; but when the blade had touched the skin of their necks they were told that their lives were spared, but their possessions confiscated, and that they might go forth in poverty and exile.

Arrogance of the Goths. The result of the interview between Gainas and the Emperor seems to have been the complete ascendancy of the Gothic party in Constantinople. 'The city was altogether barbarised' is the expressive sentence of a historian,10 'and all who dwelt in it were treated after the manner of captives.'a So great was the danger impending over the city, that a very large comet was visible in the heavens. But as some counterpoise to the terror of the comet, tall and fair angels in the guise of heavy-armed soldiers stood round the palace one night, and terrified the barbarians into the abandonment of their design to set it on fire.

Irresolution of Gainas. Up to the time of his overthrow of Eutropius, Gainas had shown both courage and resource, but now success made him languid and weak of will.11 Like so many another barbarian leader, when he had the Roman Empire at his feet, he did not know whether he himself wished to destroy or to preserve it. He loudly demanded the cession of one church in the city to his Arian co‑religionists; but under the scathing invective of Chrysostom, who reminded him that he had come as  p694 a fugitive and an outcast into the great Roman republic, and had solemnly sworn to Theodosius that he would yield true obedience to its laws, he flinched from that request. Then he thought of making a raid on the shops of the silversmiths, but the shopkeepers got wind of his design, and locked up their tempting wares. The angelic guards (whoever they may have been) frustrated his design of setting fire to the palace. At length he flung out of the city, in a fever of vexation and rage with himself and everyone about him,12 giving out that he was possessed with a demon, and would go to worship at the Church of St. John the Apostle, seven miles outside Constantinople.

Outbreak of popular fury against Gainas. Apparently when he left the city it was with some design of returning and besieging it in regular form, while his attack was to be seconded by his partisans within the walls; but this design, if it were ever clearly thought out, was frustrated by a conflict which suddenly arose between the Goths in Constantinople and the citizens. 12 July, 400. The uncomprehended jabberings of an old beggar woman at one of the gates, her harsh treatment by a Gothic soldier, and the championship of the poor old creature by a brave Roman, were the sparks which kindled this flame of war. The citizens who had long been chafing under the arrogant demeanour of the foederati, fought bravely, arming themselves in part with the weapons of their dead foes; and in that age, before the invention of gunpowder, a vast and resolute multitude could probably always prevail in street-fighting over a comparatively small number even  p695 of disciplined troops. At any rate, so it was that the fortune of war went against the Goths (at last reduced to a troop of 7000 men), who retired, slowly and in fighting order, to 'the Gothic Church,' which was near the Imperial palace. The excited crowd wrung from Arcadius by their clamours leave to disregard the sanctity of the Gothic asylum. The church was partially unroofed, and burning firebrands, hurled down among its wooden seats, kindled a flame in which the Gothic remnant perished.

Gainas out‑manoeuvred by Fravitta. The sudden popular fury had delivered the capital of the East from the only serious risk which it ran of capture by the Goths. Gainas, who was now declared a public enemy by the Senate, withdrew with his army to the Northern shore of the Hellespont. Fravitta, the brave and loyal heathen Goth, whom we last met with, engaged in deadly debate with Eriulph on the question whether to observe or to break their oaths of fidelity to Theodosius,13 was appointed as Imperial general. This man, though broken in health, was still full of courage and skill in war. He cooped up the enemy in the wasted Thracian Chersonese, and when at length Gainas was compelled by hunger to attempt on rafts the passage of the Hellespont, Fravitta, with his swift and brazen-beaked Liburnian galleys, dealt such destruction to the frail flotilla that Gainas found himself practically without an army. He fled to the shores of the Danube where Uldis the Hun found him wandering with a few followers, and, thinking to earn the favour of the Emperor, surrounded his little army, Death of Gainas. and after many skirmishes, slew him fighting bravely. The head of Gainas, sent as a present to Arcadius, caused  p696 great joy to the citizens of Constantinople, 400 and was the seal of a new foedus between the Empire and the Huns.

Fravitta's reward. As for Fravitta, when he returned to Constantinople, though some sagacious critics censured him for too languid a pursuit of the foe, the Emperor received him with all honour, decorated him with the Consulship, 401 and asked him to name his own reward for such signal services. 'That I may be allowed to serve God after the manner of my forefathers,' was the reply of the honest and simple-minded heathen.14

The failure of Gainas in his attempt to make himself master of the New Rome deserves to be remembered when we find ourselves spectators of the success of Alaric in his similar enterprise against the Old Rome. It suggests also a question whether it was on the whole a gain or a loss to the world that Constantinople was not taken by a Teutonic chief and did not become the seat of a German monarchy. On the one side is the immense gain to civilisation implied in the preservation of the treasures of Greek literature and science for more than 1000 years after the victory of Fravitta. On the other is the possibility that a Teutonic monarchy by the Bosphorus might have poured fresh life and vigour into the exhausted nations of the East, might have saved Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt from the flood of Arab invasion, perhaps might, by changing the conditions of  p697 human society, have prevented the uprising of the Empire of Islam.

Chrysostom's missionary efforts among the Goths. The remainder of the reign of Arcadius was chiefly occupied with the dissensions which led to the deposition and banishment of Chrysostom. That well-known page of ecclesiastical history must be very briefly written here. We may notice, however, the fact that in the earlier and happier years of the great preacher's episcopate he seems to have devoted himself with much success to the conversion of the Goths. A church at Constantinople was especially set apart for religious services in the Gothic tongue. Priests, deacons, and readers acquainted with that language were ordained to minister to the barbarians, and Chrysostom himself frequently appeared in the pulpit of the church and addressed them by the aid of an interpreter. Missionaries were sent by him to some of the wandering tribes, possibly Goths, possibly Huns, who, 'dwelling by the banks of the Danube, thirsted for the waters of salvation;' and he wrote to the Bishop of Angora, urging him to undertake the conversion (doubtless the conversion from Arianism to Orthodoxy) of the 'Scythians,' by whom we must probably understand the Ostrogoths settled in Central Asia Minor.

Chrysostom's unpopularity with a section of the inhabitants of Constantinople. But both the virtues and the failings of the golden-mouthed preacher conspired to effect his downfall. He was too holy, too apostolic a man to fill acceptably an episcopal throne in the Constantinople of the fifth century. In his denunciations of the foppery and extravagance of the male and female dandies of Constantinople he showed a vehemence, sometimes, we must confess, a pettiness of criticism which, while it of course exasperated the objects of his invective, may  p698 have been felt by his more sober-minded hearers to be scarcely worthy of the dignity of his great office.15 Before many years had passed, the Bishop had arrayed against him all the gaily-dressed and fashionable ladies of Constantinople with the Empress at their head, many of the nobles, and not a few of his own clergy, and of the monks in the capital who chafed under the strictness of his discipline, so different from the lax government of his easy-tempered predecessor. All these smouldering embers were blown into a flame by Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, who had favoured the election of another candidate to the vacant see and in whom ecclesiastical Alexandria's jealousy of ecclesiastical Constantinople found its most violent and unscrupulous representative. The Synod of the Oak. A council was held under the presidency of Theophilus outside of Chalcedon (the 'Synod of the Oak'), at which on the most paltry charges and with an utter disregard of canonical order, Chrysostom was deposed from his see, chiefly by the votes of the Egyptian bishops, ignorant partisans of Theophilus. Chrysostom appealed from the decision of the Synod to a lawful general council; but now came the opportunity of the temporal power, guided by that hot‑blooded Frankish lady, Eudoxia. Believing that the Bishop had in one of his sermons covertly alluded to her as Jezebel, she caused her submissive husband to issue a rescript ratifying the sentence of deposition and ordering that the deposed prelate should be banished. Banishment After a touching farewell to his flock,  p699 Chrysostom gave himself up to the Imperial officers, and was hurried across the Bosphorus into Bithynia.

and recall of Chrysostom. But if the golden-mouthed prelate had bitter enemies in Constantinople he had also many enthusiastic friends. The crowds which had flocked to hear him preach in the great basilica, which had applauded his denunciations of the follies of the rich, and had been consoled by his cheering words when the city was threatened by the fierce hosts of Gainas, saw now with anger and fear the pulpit empty of its greatest ornament. An earthquake which happened shortly after the banishment of the Bishop increased the general uneasiness. There was a tumultuous uprising in the capital, which caused Theophilus to return in all haste to Alexandria. The Court-party felt that they had gone too far. Arcadius signed the order for the recall of Chrysostom, and Eudoxia herself sent her chief eunuch, Briso, to meet him with an autograph letter in which she called God to witness that she was guiltless of any machinations against the holy man who had baptised her children.

Eudoxia's statue. Thus did Chrysostom return, and was at first loud in his praises of the gracious Augusta who had exerted herself on his behalf. But soon the old enmities broke forth again. A silver statue of Eudoxia, mounted on a high column of porphyry, was dedicated with half-pagan rites on a Sunday in the Forum near the Church of St. Sophia. The noise of the heathenish merry-making disturbed the too scanty worshippers in the Church, and Chrysostom poured forth his indignation in a splendid torrent of angry eloquence. The words which he used, severe enough in themselves, were magnified by the rumour which bore them to the Empress. Even posterity has been similarly deceived,  p700 for the Church historians, Socrates and Sozomen, report (as it is now believed quite erroneously) that on this occasion the Bishop used the famous words, 'Again Herodias rages, again she dances, again she demands the head of John.'16 There was again open enmity between the great preacher and the Court-party; another council was assembled which confirmed the deposition pronounced by the Synod of the Oak, and after some weeks of tumult and violence, Chrysostom's second exile. June, 404 Chrysostom was at last persuaded to go quietly on board the vessel which was to bear him across the Bosphorus, this time never to return. He was taken first to Cucusus, a desolate village in the high uplands of Taurus, on the borders of Cilicia and Lesser Armenia. The bitter winter-cold of that mountainous region, and the marauding ravages of the Isaurians, made his abode in this place full of hardship, and he was already quite broken in health when, after three years of exile, June, 407 the order arrived for his transference from Taurus to Caucasus, from the desolate Cilician village to the yet more inhospitable Pityus on the Colchian shore of the Black Sea. But he never survived, probably was not expected to survive, to the end of the journey. His death. 14 September, 407. Worn out with fatigue and the cruelty of his guards, he died at Comana in Pontus before he had reached the waters of the Euxine.

Chrysostom and Ambrose. The story of Chrysostom irresistibly suggests both by analogy and by contrast the story of the other great preacher, his contemporary, Ambrose. Both were of high birth: both coupled their names with the events of a great insurrection — Chrysostom with the riot at  p701 Antioch, Ambrose with the massacre of Thessalonica. Both were called upon to face the fury of a woman wielding absolute power through her ascendancy over an incapable Emperor; but while Ambrose gained a signal triumph over Justina, Chrysostom died broken-hearted and in exile, a victim to the vengeance of Eudoxia. And their fortunes were typical of the fortunes of the churches which they represented. Ambrose, as we have already noted, stands at the head of a long line of courageous and somewhat domineering churchmen who made the Caesars of the West tremble before them. Chrysostom's successors, perhaps disheartened by his fate, scarcely ever ventured on anything but the mildest remonstrance with the Emperor at Constantinople. The absolute ascendancy in the church which the Sovereign thus obtained, 'Caesaro-papism,' as it is now the fashion to call it, was a remarkable feature in the constitution of the Eastern Empire, and one which is reproduced in its northern descendant. The church of Russia in our own day acknowledges as her spiritual head the Autocrat of all the Russias, the Holy and Orthodox Czar.

Deaths of Eudoxia and Arcadius. Old and feeble as he was, Chrysostom survived his arch‑foe Eudoxia, who died in childbed 6th of October, 404. Who thereupon assumed the reins of government over Arcadius the meagre chronicles of his reign do not inform us. He himself died on the 1st of May, 408, and his death, as we shall see, led indirectly to certain momentous results in connection with the Empire of the West. Arcadius was still only in his thirty-first year at the time of his death. These sluggish Theodosians had not energy enough even to live.


The Author's Notes:

1 Apparently. I am not sure that the precise title is anywhere mentioned.

2 See p541.

3 We get from Philostorgius (Eccl. Hist. XI.3) these particulars. 'Arcadius was short of stature and weak in frame. His personal strength was slight and his complexion dark. His slothful temper showed itself in his speech and in the blinking of his eyes, which were generally closed as if in slumber and were kept open with an effort.'

4 Güldenpenning's plausible suggestion that the appeal to the old Roman spirit symbolised by this oration was the cause of the barbarian uprising, seems to me to some extent refuted by the fact that Synesius speaks of 'conflagrations already kindled.'

5 See p323.

6 Claudian, In Eutropium II.440‑444, 452‑455.

Thayer's Note: Seems plausible enough to me — mental and physical stress combined with obesity may very well have brought on a heart attack.

7 Socrates, VI.5.

8 Cod. Theod. IX.40.17.

9 Philostorgius, XI.8.

10 Joannes Antiochenus, fr. 190.º

11 Ὑγρότερος ὑπὸ τοῦ κατορθώματος καὶ μαλακώτερος γενόμενος. ὡς ἂν ἤδη τὴν Ῥωμαϊκὴν ἀρχὴν συνῃρηκὼς καὶ τοῖς ποσὶν ἐπεμβαίνων αὐτῇ, μαλακώτερος ἦν ἀμφαφάασθαι. — Eunapius, fr.75.6. (Ap. Müller.)

12 This is how I read the mental state of this strange barbarian, but I am going here a little beyond the strict letter of the authorities.

13 p331.

14 I am somewhat perplexed as to the religion of Fravitta. Zosimus' statement that he was 'a barbarian by race but Greek in his worship of the gods' certainly implies that he worshipped the deities of Olympus. But Eunapius, in the conversation quoted above (fr. 82), makes him ask for leave κατὰ τὸν πάτριον νόμον ἱερατεύειν θεόν. This must surely point to a worship of the gods of Walhalla.

15 Take for instance his tirade against the practice of putting silk threads into the boots of the wealthy, quoted by Stephens from Hom. XVIII on Genesis.

16 The sermon beginning with these words attributed to Chrysostom is now generally admitted to be spurious.


Thayer's Note:

a In my printed copy, the quotation just opened ('and all who dwelt. . .) is never closed. I've supplied the closing quotation mark, but it might belong elsewhere.


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