Pg 88 Κοσμάς Cosmas Indicopleustes, Christian Topography. Preface to the online edition



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Note.
With regard to wine, it is manifest from what is recorded in Scripture that, after the Deluge, Noah having planted and cultivated the vine and expressed the juice from the grapes, drank to excess of the sweet must of which he had no previous experience, and made himself drunk; and with regard to flesh the case is still more manifest, for God instructed him in these terms: |45 Lo! I have given you all things as the green herb to eat, but flesh in the blood thereof shall ye not eat65; meaning this: Lately I interdicted you from eating many things, but now I permit you [136] to eat of all things, and to eat even flesh. Sacrifice, therefore, and pour out the blood, and then eat the flesh as ye eat vegetables; and eat also of the olive, of which before the Flood it was not permitted to eat, because it also was the fruit of a tree. But perhaps someone will object and say: If it is true that before the Flood they did not eat flesh, why is it then written: Abel was a keeper of sheep, and brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof?66 If they did not eat flesh, why did they take upon them the care of sheep? And why did Abel, when he brought a lamb for sacrifice, not slay it? Now, one who so enquires, will be truly answered that, in making the oblation, he presented the holocausts alive; for one of the editions shows this, saying: Over Cain and over his sacrifice he did not apply fire, so that it is evident that the offerings were consumed with divine fire. They provided themselves with a flock to procure for themselves milk and wool. Another objection: If they did not eat flesh, how came it into their head to select the fat for the sacrifice to God? Answer----Because when anything is to be burned in the fire, fat is more readily set ablaze.

Text.

When God in his mercy wished that the human race should be no longer pinched with such scanty fare, and such hard toil, as they were less robust than the first men, who, being newly created, were better able to sustain their punishment, God taking occasion from the wickedness of men, of whom he found none righteous except Noah, brought in a flood for two or even for more reasons----that he might destroy the wicked, and save alive him that was righteous for the instruction of future generations----that, by the untimely end of the wicked, he might the better deter those who are liable to death, and will some |46 time or other die, from doing what is wicked----and that he might bring men, and the brutes that were created for the use of man, into this earth of ours, which is better than the other, and almost equal to Paradise; which also he hath done, having ordered Noah, who was left in this earth after the Flood, to taste of everything whether tree or grain, and having taught him also to eat flesh. But that he brought in the Flood not for the purpose merely of destroying the wicked, is evident from the fact that the water prevailed for a length of time, although one or two days were quite sufficient to have destroyed them all; but he brought it in also, that he might take the Ark across the ocean, and bring it to this earth of ours. For during one hundred and fifty days did the water prevail without diminishing, until, wonderful to relate, the Ark came to this earth of ours. The circumstance, moreover, that the water rose fifteen cubits above the tops of the highest [137] mountains, makes it evident beyond all question that this was due to the depth to which the Ark was submerged in the waters, in order that it might rest upon the mountains. For a half of the height of the Ark was under water to the depth of fifteen cubits, for its entire height was thirty cubits. From this, then, as well as from the prophecy of Lamech, and the construction of the table in the Tabernacle, we can learn that beyond the ocean there is an earth which encompasses the ocean. Nay more; the hierophant Moses also in Deuteronomy saith thus: And thou, Israel, hear the command which I give unto thee this day. Do not say in thine heart who shall go up into heaven to bring it down to us, or who shall go over the sea for us to bring it to us; but the word is nigh unto thee even in thy mouth.67 By this he means: Say not it is impossible to go up into heaven to bring down thence the divine precepts, or to |47 cross over to the farther side of the sea to bring them thence, for lo! they are in thy mouth and in thy heart. In the same passage he teaches us two truths----that beyond the ocean there is land or a place, and that it is impossible to cross the ocean, just as we, while in this mortal state, cannot possibly go up into heaven. Even Baruch, the scribe of Jeremiah the Prophet, when giving counsels of prudence in his epistle, being a man well taught in the institutions of Moses, speaks in the same strain with Moses, and says: Who hath gone up into heaven and taken it and brought it down from the clouds, who hath passed over the sea?68 Here he does not speak of our sea, for it admits of being crossed, but of the ocean itself.

Yet if Paradise did exist in this earth of ours, rnany a man among those who are keen to know and enquire into all kinds of subjects, would think he could not be too quick in getting there: for if there be some who to procure silk69 for the miserable gains of commerce, hesitate not to travel to the uttermost ends of the earth, how should they hesitate to go where they would gain a sight of Paradise itself? Now this country of silk is situated in the remotest of all the Indies, and lies to the |48 left of those who enter the Indian sea, far beyond the Persian Gulf, and the island called by the Indians Selediba and by the Greeks Trapobanê (sic).70 It is called Tzinitza, and is surrounded on the left by the ocean, just as Barbaria is surrounded by it on the right. The Indian philosophers, called the Brachmans, say that if you stretch a cord from Tzinitza to pass through Persia, onward to the Roman dominions, the middle of the earth would be quite correctly [138] traced, and they are perhaps right. For the country in question deflects considerably to the left, so that the loads of silk passing by land through one nation after another, reach Persia in a comparatively short time;71 whilst the route by sea to Persia is vastly greater. For just as |49 great a distance as the Persian Gulf runs up into Persia,72 so great a distance and even a greater has one to run, who, being bound for Tzinitza, sails eastward from Taprobanê; while besides, the distances from the mouth of the Persian Gulf to Taprobanê; and the parts beyond through the whole width of the Indian sea are very considerable.73 He then who comes by land from Tzinitza to Persia shortens very considerably the length of the journey. This is why there is always to be found a great quantity of silk in Persia. Beyond Tzinitza there is neither navigation nor any land to inhabit.



If one measures in a straight cord line74 the stages which make up the length of the earth from Tzinitza to the west, he will find that there are somewhere about four hundred stages,75 each thirty miles in length. The measurement is to be made in this way: from Tzinitza to the borders of Persia, between which are included all Iouvia,76 India, and the country of the Bactrians, there are about one hundred and fifty stages at least; the whole country of the Persians has eighty stations; and from Nisibis to Seleucia77 |50 there are thirteen stages; and from Seleucia to Rome and the Gauls and Iberia, whose inhabitants are now called Spaniards, onward to Gadeira, which lies out towards the ocean, there are more than one hundred and fifty stages; thus making altogether the number of stages to be four hundred, more or less. With regard to breadth: from the hyperborean regions to Byzantium there are not more than fifty stages. For we can form a conjecture as to the extent of the uninhabited and the inhabited parts of those northern regions from the Caspian Sea, which is a gulf of the ocean. From Byzantium, again, to Alexandria there are fifty stages, and from Alexandria to the Cataracts thirty stages;78 from the Cataracts to Axômis, thirty stages;79 from Axômis |51 to the projecting part of Ethiopia, which is the frankincense country called Barbaria, lying along the ocean, and not near but at a great distance from the land of Sasu which is the remotest part of Ethiopia, fifty stages more or less; so that we may reckon the whole number of stages at two hundred more or less; and thus we see that even here the divine scripture speaks the truth in representing the length of the earth to be double its breadth; For thou shalt make the table in length two cubits and in breadth one cubit, a pattern, as it were, of the earth.80

The region which produces frankincense is situated at the projecting parts of Ethiopia, and lies inland, but is washed by the ocean on the other side. Hence the [139] inhabitants of Barbaria, being near at hand, go up into the interior and, engaging in traffic with the natives, bring back from them many kinds of spices, frankincense, cassia, calamus,81 and many other articles of merchandise, which they afterwards send by sea to Adulê, to the country of the Homeritcs, to Further India, and to Persia. This very fact you will find mentioned in the Book of Kings, where it is recorded that the Queen of Sheba, that is, of the Homerite country, whom afterwards our Lord in the Gospels calls the Queen of the South, brought to Solomon spices from this very Barbaria, which lay near Sheba on |52 the other side of the sea, together with bars of ebony, and apes and gold from Ethiopia which, though separated from Sheba by the Arabian Gulf, lay in its vicinity. We can see again from the words of the Lord that he calls these places the ends of the earth, saying: The Queen of the South shall rise up in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon.----Matt, xii, 42. For the Homerites are not far distant from Barbaria, as the sea which lies between them can be crossed in a couple of days, and then beyond Barbaria is the ocean, which is there called Zingion. The country known as that of Sasu is itself near the ocean, just as the ocean is near the frankincense country, in which there are many gold mines. The King of the Axômites accordingly, every other year, through the governor of Agau,82 sends thither special agents to bargain for the gold, and these are accompanied by many other traders----upwards, say, of five hundred----bound on the same errand as themselves. They take along with them to the mining district oxen, lumps of salt, and iron, and when they reach its neighbourhood they make a halt at a certain spot and form an encampment, which they fence round with a great hedge of thorns. Within this they live, and having slaughtered the oxen, cut them in |53 pieces, and lay the pieces on the top of the thorns, along with the lumps of salt and the iron. Then come the natives bringing gold in nuggets like peas,83 called tancharas, and lay one or two or more of these upon what pleases them----the pieces of flesh or the salt or the iron, and then they retire to some distance off. Then the owner of the meat approaches, and if he is satisfied he takes the gold away, and upon seeing this its owner comes and takes the flesh or the salt or the iron. If, however, he is not satisfied, he leaves the gold, when the native seeing that he has not taken it, comes and either puts down more gold, or takes up what he had laid down, and goes away. Such is the mode in which business is transacted with the people of that country, because their language is different and interpreters are hardly to be found. The time they stay in that country is five days more or less, according as the natives more or less readily coming forward buy up all their wares. On the journey [140] homeward they all agree to travel well-armed, since some of the tribes through whose country they must pass might threaten to attack them from a desire to rob them of their gold. The space of six months is taken up with this trading expedition, including both the going and the returning. In going they march very slowly, chiefly because of the cattle, but in returning they quicken their pace lest on the way they should be overtaken by winter and its rains. For the sources of the river Nile lie somewhere in these parts, and in winter, on account of the heavy rains, the numerous rivers which they generate obstruct the path of the traveller. The people there have their winter at the time we have our summer. It begins in the month Epiphi of the Egyptians and continues till Thôth,84 and during the |54 three months the rain falls in torrents, and makes a multitude of rivers all of which flow into the Nile.

The facts which I have just recorded fell partly under my own observation and partly were told me by traders who had been to those parts. And I now wish to give an account to your Piety of a matter quite pertinent to our subject. On the coast of Ethiopia, two miles off from the shore, is a town called Adulê, which forms the port of the Axômites and is much frequented by traders who come from Alexandria and the Elanitic Gulf.85 Here is to be seen a marble chair, just as you enter the town on the western side by the road which leads to Axômis. This chair appertained to one of the Ptolemies, who had subjected this country to his authority.86 It is made of costly white marble such as we employ for marble tables, but not of the sort which comes from Proconnesus.87 Its base is |55 quadrangular, and it rests at the four corners on four slender and elegant pillars, with one in the middle of greater girth and grooved in spiral form. The pillars support the seat of the chair as well as its back against which one leans, and there are also sides to right and left. The whole chair with its base, five pillars, seat and back and sides to right and left, has been sculptured from a single block into this form. It measures about two cubits and a half, and is in shape like the chair we call the Bishop's throne.88 Behind the Chair is another marble of basanite stone, three cubits in height and of quadrangular form, like a tablet, which at the centre of its upper portion rises to a sharp point whence the sides slope gently down in the form of the letter lambda (λ), but the main body of the slab is rectangular. This tablet has now fallen down behind the Chair, and the lower part has been broken and destroyed. Both the marble and the chair itself arc covered over with Greek characters. Now when I was in this part of the country some five and twenty years ago, more or less, at the beginning of the reign of the Roman Emperor Justinus,89 Elesbaan, who was then King of the Axômites, [141] and was preparing to start on an expedition against the Homerites on the opposite side of the Gulf 90 wrote to the |56 Governor of Adulê directing him to take copies of the inscriptions on the Chair of Ptolemy and on the tablet,91 and to send them to him. Then the Governor, whose name was Abbas, applied to myself and another merchant called Mênas, who afterwards became a monk at Rhaithû,92 and not long ago departed this life----and at his request we went and copied the inscriptions. One set of the copies was made over to the Governor; but we kept also like copies for ourselves which I shall here embody in this work, since their contents contribute to our knowledge of the country, its inhabitants, and the distances of the several places. We found also sculptured on the back of the Chair figures of Hercules and Mercury; and my companion, Menas, of happy memory, alluding to these would have it that Hercules was the symbol of strength and Mercury of wealth. I remembered, however, the Acts of the Apostles, and would on this one point differ from him, upholding |57that we should take Hermes rather as the symbol of speech, for it is recorded in the Acts that they called Barnabas, Jupiter, and Paul, Mercury, because he was the chief speaker. Here is the form of the Chair and of the marble, and Ptolemy himself.93

Inscription on the Tablet.

The great king, Ptolemy, son of King Ptolemy and Queen Arsinoe, twin gods, grandson of the two sovereigns King Ptolemy and Queen Berenice 94----gods sôtêres----sprung from Hercules the son of Jupiter on the father's side, and on the mother's side from Dionysus the son of Jupiter----having received from his father the Kingdom of Egypt and Libya and Syria and Phoenicia and Cyprus, and Lycia and Caria, and the Islands of the Cyclades, made an expedition into Asia with forces of infantry and cavalry, and a fleet and elephants from the Troglodytes and Ethiopia----animals which his father and himself were the |58 first to capture by hunting in those countries, and which they took down to Egypt, where they had them trained for employment in war.95 And when he had made himself master of all the country on this side of the Euphrates, and of Cilicia and Pamphylia and Ionia, and the Hellespont and Thrace, and of all the forces in the provinces, and of the Indian elephants,96 and had also made subject to his authority all the monarchs who ruled in these parts, [142] he crossed the Euphrates river, and when he had subdued Mesopotamia and Babylonia and Susiana and Persis and Media, and all the rest of the country as far as Bactriana, and had collected all the spoils of the temples which had been taken away from Egypt by the Persians, he conveyed them to that country 97 along with the other |59 treasures, and sent back his troops by canals which had been dug.98



Such was the inscription on the tablet so far as we could copy it out, and, but for a few words, it would have been the whole, for it was only a small part of the tablet that had been fractured. The inscription again on the Chair was a continuation of the other,99 and ran thus:----

Having after this with a strong hand compelled the nations bordering on my kingdom to live in peace, I made war upon the following nations, and by force of arms reduced them to subjection.100 I warred first with the nation |60 of Gazê,101 then with Agamê 102 and Sigyê,103 and having conquered them I exacted the half of all that they |61 possessed. I next reduced Aua 104 and Tiamô, called Tziamô, and the Gambêla,105 and the tribes near them [he means the nations beyond the Nile],106 and Zingabênê and Angabe and Tiama and Athagaûs and Kalaa,107 and the Semênoi ---- a people who lived beyond the Nile on mountains difficult of |62 access and covered with snow, where the year is all winter with hailstorms, frosts and snows into which a man sinks knee-deep.108 I passed the river to attack these nations, and reduced them. I next subdued Lazine and Zaa and Gabala, tribes 109 which inhabit mountains with steep declivities abounding with hot springs, the Atalmô and Bega,110 and all the tribes in the same quarter along with them. I proceeded next against the TangaTtae,111 who adjoin the borders of Egypt; and having reduced them I made a footpath giving access by land into Egypt from that part of my dominions. Next I reduced Annine and Metine----tribes inhabiting precipitous mountains.112 My arms |63 were next directed against the Sesea nation. These had retired to a high mountain difficult of access; but I [143] blockaded the mountain on every side, and compelled them to come down and surrender. I then selected for myself the best of their young men and their women, with their sons and daughters and all besides that they possessed. The tribes of Rhausi I next brought to submission: a barbarous race spread over wide waterless plains in the interior of the frankincense country. [Advancing thence towards the sea] I encountered the Solate, whom I subdued, and left with instructions to guard the coast.113 All these |64 nations, protected though they were by mountains all but impregnable, I conquered, after engagements in which I was myself present. Upon their submission I restored their territories to them, subject to the payment of tribute. Many other tribes besides these submitted of their own accord, and became likewise tributary. And I sent a fleet and land forces against the Arabitae and Cinaedocolpitae 114 who dwelt on the other side of the Red Sea, and having reduced the sovereigns of both, I imposed on them a land tribute and charged them to make travelling safe both by sea and by land. I thus subdued the whole coast from Leucê Cômê 115 to the country of the Sabaeans. I first and |65 alone of the kings of my race made these conquests. For this success I now offer my thanks to my mighty God, Arês, who begat me, and by whose aid I reduced all the nations bordering on my own country, on the East to the country of frankincense, and on the West to Ethiopia and Sasu.116 Of these expeditions, some were conducted by |66 myself in person, and ended in victory, and the others I entrusted to my officers. Having thus brought all the world under my authority to peace, I came down to Aduli and offered sacrifice to Zeus, and to Ares and to Poseidon, whom I entreated to befriend all who go down to the sea in ships. Here also I reunited all my forces, and setting down this Chair in this place, I consecrated it to Ares in the twenty-seventh year of my reign.
Scholia of Cosmas on the Inscription of Ptolemy. From the Vatican codex.
Then Lazine and Zaa and Gabala. These nations are called by these names up to the present time.

I conquered the Sesea nation. Here he indicates the nations of Barbaria.

The Arabitae and Cinaedocolpitae. Note----He refers to the people of the Homerite country, that is, the inhabitants of Arabia Felix.

From Leuce Come. Note----In the territories of the Blemmyes there is a village (Kw&mh) called Leucoge.

As far as the country of the Sabaeans. Note----The land of the Sabaeans is also in the Homerite country.

And to the places of Sasu. Note----The land of Sasu, where there is much gold----that which is known as Tancharas, is the remotest in Ethiopia. Beyond this, and also beyond the country of the Barbareotes, the people who trade in frankincense, lies the Ocean. |67 
Such is the inscription on the Chair, and at this very [144] day in the very place where that Chair stands they execute in front of it condemned criminals; but whether this custom has prevailed from the time of Ptolemy I cannot say. I have set all this down from a desire to show that he is quite correct in taking the land of Sasu and Barbaria to lie at the extremity of Ethiopia, since he had subjugated all these regions and the tribes by which they were inhabited, most of which we ourselves have seen, while about the rest we obtained accurate information when we were in their neighbourhood. For most of the slaves which are now found in the hands of merchants who resort to these parts are taken from the tribes of which we speak. As for the Semenai,117 where he says there are snows and ice, it is to that country the King of the Axômites expatriates any one whom he has sentenced to be banished. The nation again which has its seats beyond the Arabitae and the Cinaedocolpitae and the country of the Sabaeans he calls the Homerites. We can accordingly, from what has been above recorded, correctly estimate the breadth of the earth from the hyperborean regions down to Sasu and Barbaria, the frankincense country, to be not more than two hundred stages (of thirty miles each). I have written thus with the advantage of possessing exact knowledge, and I cannot therefore have fallen much short of the truth. For the facts I am indebted partly to what I observed in the course of my voyages and travels, and partly to what I learned from others on whose accuracy I could depend. Thus even in this matter divine scripture is proved to be right and the pagans to be wrong, who, in preference to the truth and in support of their vanity, advance conjectures, sophistries, and old wives' fables no matter how false, inventing forsooth another zone farther |68south than the torrid, and like the earth which we inhabit; and although no one has either seen or heard of such. For how could that be seen or heard of, that has never come within the ken of our senses? Hence the nonsense they babble cannot be accepted; for it is the jargon of mere novices in quibbling, and not of old adepts in that art. These youngsters supposed that by their plausible sophisms they could refute the opinions of those who were born before them, thus attempting the impossible, as we have proved in brief in the preceding book.
Note on Ptolemy.
This Ptolemy is one of those Ptolemies who reigned after Alexander the Macedonian, concerning whom the prophet Daniel prophesied in different passages, and especially in the dream of Nabuchodonosor and in the vision of the four beasts that rose up from the sea which Daniel himself saw; namely in the image, a head of gold, but in the vision a lioness, by which he signified the kingdom of the Babylonians, that is Nabuchodonosor. Then, [145] in the image, the breast and the arms of silver, but in the vision, a bear----namely, the empire of the Medes, which was inferior to that of the Babylonians, whereby he means Darius the Mede. Next again in the image----the belly and the thighs of brass, but in the vision a leopard, the kingdom namely of the Persians, by which he signifies Cyrus, whose empire was no less splendid and renowned than that of the Babylonians. Then again in the image, the legs of iron, and in the vision, a beast terrible and dreadful, with claws of brass and teeth of iron, by which he indicates the Macedonian empire----that is Alexander----breaking kingdoms in pieces and subduing them. Then again in the image, the feet and toes partly of iron and partly of clay; and in the vision, ten horns corresponding in number with the toes, by which he means the empire of Alexander broken up after his death, which, in the vision also of the ram and the he-goat was, he says, broken up towards the four winds of heaven. For, when Alexander was approaching his end, he divided his empire among his four friends, of whom one reigned in Europe, that is, in Greece, another in Asia, another in Syria and Babylonia, and |69 the fourth in Egypt, Libya and the southern parts.118 Unto these four were many sons born, who filled their thrones after them and brought manifold evils upon the world, as has been recorded in the book of the Maccabees. Now the little horn speaking great things, that was in the midst of the ten horns, signifies Antiochus Epiphanes, who warred against the Jews in the days of the Maccabees. He speaks therefore of all these things as partly of iron and partly of clay, to show them as conquering each other and being conquered in turn, and not mixed together, just as iron and clay do not commingle.

Then again, in the image, he speaks of a stone cut out of the mountains without hands, and, in the vision, of the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, whereby he indicates the Lord Christ on both side's of his descent----from Abraham and from the Virgin without human seed, for here the words without hands mean without human seed; while the words on the clouds of heaven are employed because the clouds without human hands carry as it were in their womb the rains to which they give birth. Then again, in the image, the words: And he smote the clay, the iron, the brass, the silver and the gold, and they became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors, and the wind with its gusts swept them away and there was no more place found for them (Dan. ii, 35); and in the vision the words: I beheld till the beast was slain and his body destroyed, and given to be burned with fire; and as for the rest of the beasts their dominion was taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season (Dan. vii, ii), signify respectively the same thing----namely, that at the coming of the Lord Christ all these empires would be taken away----the Babylonian, the [146] Median, the Persian and the Macedonian, while all the kingdoms that arose from the partition of the last would become of no account. And such was the very condition of things in the time of Christ, for neither did the Babylonian, Median, Persian nor Macedonian empires then exist, but they had all been destroyed.



Then again, in the image, he says: And in the days of those kings shall the God of Heaven set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people, and it shall stand for ever (Dan. ii, 44). And in the |70 vision he says: And he came even to the Ancient of days and they brought him near before him----and there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Dan. vii, 13, 14). This is one instance more of his saying the same thing both in the image and the vision, namely, that at the coming of the Lord Christ those kingdoms shall pass away and be destroyed, but his kingdom shall be indissoluble and eternal. This Ptolemy is therefore one of those who reigned, either Philometor or Euergetes the Second, or the king called Dionysus, who preceded the last Cleopatra.119 For these reigned more than seven and twenty years, and were descended from the first Ptolemies who were the sovereigns of Egypt, in accordance with the inscription on the marble tablet of which we have given a copy. For concerning the kings that now are, nothing has been written in the Prophet (Daniel), as the Lord himself says that the Law and the Prophets prophesied until John. For when Nebuchodonosor was cogitating whether his kingdom would endure, and Daniel whether the Judaic rites would be perpetually observed, the same revelation was made to both alike. At one and the same time shall thy kingdom come to an end, and the Judaic and ritual observances be abolished, and a new and better dispensation shall supersede the old----and be eternal and indissoluble----and this shall have its beginning when the first kingdoms and legal rites shall cease, and be openly exhibited when its supreme head makes his appearance. For concerning the Roman empire nothing is expressly written in the Prophet, for it did not rise by succession from Nabuchodonosor, nor has it congruity with the polity of the Jews, or, to speak more correctly, with the laws which they obey; but is rather calculated to destroy them. Nor did it succeed the empire of the Macedonians, for he says: The God of Heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. Here he speaks of the Lord Christ, and within the scope of his words includes, though but darkly, the Roman empire, which made its appearance [147] contemporaneously with the Lord Christ. For while Christ was yet |71 in the womb, the Roman empire received its power from God as the servant of the dispensation which Christ introduced, since at that very time the accession was proclaimed of the unending line of the Augusti by whose command a census was made which embraced the whole world. The evangelist certainly indicates that this enrolment 120 was first made in the days of Augustus Caesar, when the Lord Christ was born, and deigned to be enrolled in a country subject to Roman dominion, and to pay tribute thereto.

The empire of the Romans thus participates in the dignity of the Kingdom of the Lord Christ, seeing that it transcends, as far as can be in this state of existence, every other power, and will remain unconquered until the final consummation, for he says that it shall not be destroyed for ever. Now, if that expression for ever be taken as applying to the Lord Christ, it signifies endless duration, in accordance with what Gabriel also says to the Virgin: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his Kingdom there shall be no end.121 If again the expression be taken as applying to the Roman empire which made its appearance in the world along with Christ, this shall not be destroyed while this world continues. For I assert with confidence, that though, by way of chastisement for our sins, hostile barbarians rise up for a short while against the Roman dominion, yet that by the valour of him who governs us the empire will continue to be invincible, provided it does not restrict but widens the influence of Christianity. I say so because this imperial family 122 believed in Christ before the others, and this empire is the servant of the dispensation established by Christ, on which account he, who is the Lord of all, preserves it unconquered till the final consummation. The royal family of the Persians on the other hand is not of Persian lineage, nor in the line of the succession of its former kings, but it sprang from an |72 alien power, that is, from the Magi.123 For by the time of Christ the empire of the Persians had been destroyed by Alexander in accordance with the prophecy, and the successors to his empire ruled that part of the world until the time of Antiochus, after which the Parthians gradually made themselves masters of the country.124 In point of fact, they marched in arms against Jerusalem, and took prisoner Hyrcanus, the Ruler of the Jews, not long before the advent of the Lord Christ.125 As regards this empire of the Magi, it is now about four hundred years since it was founded, and in my opinion it ranks next to that of the Romans, because the Magi, in virtue of their having come to offer homage and adoration to the Lord Christ, obtained a certain distinction. For it was in the Roman dominions that the preaching of Christianity first became current in the days of the Apostles, and it was immediately afterwards extended to Persia by the Apostle Thaddaeus.126 And, to be sure we find [148] this written in the Catholic Epistles: The Church that is in Babylon elect together with you, saluteth you.127 The Roman empire, |73 moreover, has many bulwarks of its safety in that it is the foremost power in the world, in that it was the first to believe in Christ, and in that it renders services to every department of the Christian economy. There is yet another sign of the power which God has accorded to the Romans. I refer to the fact that it is with their coinage all the nations carry on trade from one extremity of the earth to the other. This money is regarded with admiration by all men to whatever kingdom they belong, since there is no other country in which the like of it exists.128 Let us now return to our proper subject.


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