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Bill Thayer

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Chapter 26

This webpage reproduces a Chapter of
The Secret History


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Chapter 28

The Anecdota
or Secret History

Chapter XXVII

 p319  Now the deeds done by Justinian were so many in number that all eternity would not be able to suffice for the account of them. 2 But it will suffice for me to collect and mention some few examples from the whole number by which his whole character will be clearly revealed to men of future generations also: that he was a dissembler and cared not either for God or for priests or for laws, nor for the populace, though in seeming it was favoured by him, nor, further, for any decency whatsoever nor for the advantage of the State or for any benefit that might accrue to it, or that his actions might be able to find some excuse, nor did any consideration weigh with him other than simply and solely the snatching of all the money there was in the world. And I shall begin with this last.

3 The Emperor designated a chief priest over the Alexandrians, Paulus by name. And it chanced that a certain Rhodon, a Phoenician by birth, at that time held sway in Alexandria. 4 This man he instructed to support Paulus with all zeal in everything, so that not one of his orders might remain unfulfilled. 5 For in this way he thought he should be able to win the adherence of the heretics among the Alexandrians to the Council of Chalcedon.​1 6 There was a certain Arsenius, a native of Palestine, who had been serviceable to the Empress Theodora in a very important matter, and from this circumstance  p321 he had acquired great power and a vast amount of money and had achieved the dignity of the Senate, although he was an utter scoundrel. 7 This man was, in fact, a Samaritan, but in order not to lose the power he held, he had seen fit to adopt the name of a Christian.​2 8 His father and brother, however, relying upon this man's power, had continued on in Scythopolis,​3 preserving their ancestral faith, and, under instructions from him, they were working outrageous wrongs upon all the Christians. 9 Consequently the citizens rose against them and killed them both with a most cruel death, and many evils came to pass for the people of Palestine from that cause. 10 And at that time neither Justinian nor the Empress did Arsenius any harm, though he had been the chief cause of all the difficulties, but they did forbid him to come to the Palace any longer; for they were being harassed most persistently by the Christians on account of this matter. 11 This Arsenius, thinking to gratify the Emperor, not long afterwards set out in company with Paulus for Alexandria, in order to assist him in other matters and in particular to help him with all his might to bring about obedience on the part of the Alexandrians.​4 12 For he declared that at the time when he had the ill-fortune to be excluded from the Palace, he had not neglected the study of all the doctrines of the Christians. 13 But this annoyed Theodora; for she pretended to go against the Emperor in this, as I have stated previously.​5 14 So when Paulus and  p323 Arsenius had arrived at Alexandria, Paulus delivered to Rhodon a certain deacon named Psoes to be put to death, claiming that he alone was the obstacle which prevented him from executing the Emperor's decisions. 15 And Rhodon, acting under the guidance of the Emperor's messages, which were both frequent and exceedingly urgent, decided to torture the man. And he died at once when racked by the torture. 16 Now when word of this came to the Emperor, he immediately, at the very vehement insistence of the Empress, set everything in motion against Paulus and Rhodon and Arsenius, as if he had forgotten utterly the instructions which he had given to these very men. 17 So he appointed Liberius,​6 one of the Patricians of Rome, as Governor of Alexandria and he sent some of the notable priests to that city to make a review of the situation, among them being the Archdeacon of Rome, Pelagius, assuming the rôle of the Chief Priest Vigilius, as he had been ordered to do by Vigilius. 18 And when the murder had been proved, they immediately removed Paulus from his priesthood; and when Rhodon fled to Byzantium, the Emperor cut off his head and confiscated all his property to the Treasury, although the man displayed thirteen letters which the Emperor had written to him urging and earnestly insisting and commanding that he support Paulus in all things and not oppose him in anything whatsoever, to the end that he might be able to execute the Emperor's  p325 decisions touching the faith. 19 And Liberius, by the will of Theodora, impaled Arsenius, and the Emperor saw fit to confiscate his property, although he had no charge to bring against him other than that he consorted with Paulus.

20 Now as to whether these things were rightly done by him or otherwise I cannot say, but the reason why I have recounted these things I shall declare immediately. 21 Paulus some time later came to Byzantium and offered the Emperor seven centenaria of gold,​7 demanding that he receive back the priesthood, on the ground that it had been illegally wrested from him. 22 And Justinian accepted the money courteously and kept the man in honour, and he agreed to make him Chief Priest of Alexandria immediately, though another held that honour, just as if he did not know that he himself had both slain and robbed of their property men who had lived with him and had dared to serve him. 23 So the Augustus​8 was taking up the matter with great vehemence and enthusiasm, and Paulus was definitely expected to resume the priesthood in any case. 24 But Vigilius, who was now present, absolutely refused to yield to the Emperor if he should issue such a command. For he said that he could not possibly cancel his own vote — meaning the opinion rendered by Pelagius. 25 Thus this Emperor had no concern for anything except to be for ever depriving others of money. And another incident shall be told, as follows.

26 There was a certain Faustinus, born in Palestine,  p327 a Samaritan by descent, but under the constraint of the law he had espoused the name of Christian. 27 This Faustinus had risen to the senatorial rank and was ruler of the land; but a little later he was removed from this office and came to Byzantium, where some of the priests began to slander him, alleging that he was observing the rites of the Samaritans and basely mistreating the Christians living in Palestine. 28 And Justinian appeared to be furious and deeply resentful on this account, that while he was ruling over the Romans the name of Christ should be insulted by anyone. 29 So when the Senate made an investigation of the matter, they penalized Faustinus with banishment because of the Emperor's importunity. 30 But the Emperor received from him all the money he wanted and immediately recalled the decision which had been made. 31 So Faustinus, once more in possession of his former dignity, consorted with the Emperor, and when he was appointed Overseer of the Imperial Domains in Palestine and Phoenicia, he felt more free to put through all the measures that were in accord with his own wishes. 32 As to the methods, then, by which Justinian saw fit to defend the claims of the Christians, although it is not much that we have related, yet it is possible to form a conclusion from it, brief though it be. 33 And how without any hesitation he shattered the laws when money was in sight shall be disclosed very briefly.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The second Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451, defined the nature of Christ's divinity.

2 i.e. he called himself a Christian as a matter of policy.

3 Modern Bethsean.

4 i.e. adherence to the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon.

5 Chap. x.15.

6 Cf. Book VII.xxxvi.6.

7 Cf. Chap. i.33, note.

8 i.e. "the Emperor."

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Page updated: 9 Jun 20