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The priests of the river-god Nile were Androgyni. Constantine commanded this scandalous order of priesthood to be suppressed. Euseb. Vit. Const. iv. 25.
What could be the reason for which the Ægyptians honoured their favourite god in this ridiculous and obscene manner? I shall here offer a conjecture about it: Quum multi dii Paganorum utriusque sexus sive dpferoínasis putarentur, Nilum inter eos fuisse numeratum minime mirum
Ille Ægyptum rigat et serit, tanquam mas: ejus autem limus sole calefactus et fruges et animalia parit ; hoc fæmineum. Colebatur itaque vel ab androgy.is, vel forsan ab impuris nebulonibus qui muliebria patiebantur.'
The temple of Venus in Phænice was a school of such sort of debauchery, and therefore destroyed by Constantine.
Lucus hic erat ac delubrum, quod non in media urbe, nec in foro aut plateis positum erat cujusmodi multa visuntur in civitatibus, ornamenti causa ambitiose constructa, sed devium procul a triviis et publico calle, fædissimo dæmoni quem Venerem appellant, in parte verticis Libani montis consecratum. Erat illic schola quædam nequitiæ, omnibus obscenis hominibus, et qui corpus suum omni licentia corruperant, aperta. Quippe effeminati quidam, et feminæ potius dicendi quam viri, sexus sui gravitate abdicata a muliebria patientes, dæmonem placalant. Ad hæc illegitimi concubitus et adulteria, fædaque et nefaria flagitia eo in templo, tanquam in loco ab omni lege ac rectore vacuo, peragebantur.' Euseb. Laud. Const. vii.
When Eusebius says, θηλεία νόσο την δαίμονα Ελεούντο, he borrows his expression from Herodotus, ¿véounts ó Θεος θήλειαν νουσον: “ immisit ipsis Venus morbum femi . neum, I. 105. p. 44. But Iññerde voūros in Herodotus means ta' natahnia, and they who think that it means something else, or something worse, are mistaken. See the commentators on Longinus, who greatly admires this modest and polite periphrasis of the historian ; and an Epistle of Musgrave de hæmorrhagiis menstruis virorum,' in the Philos. Transact. MDCCI. p. 864.
* Θηλεία νόσω την δαίμονα Ελεούντο.
Bacchus was αρρενόθηλυς. Διονύσω τα γύνιδι-αφιέρωσαν εκκλησίαν, το καταγέλαστος και ανδρόγυνον εν αυτή idpúcartes ayahua. · Ecclesiam Baccho Gynidi consecraTunt, simulacro ejus ridiculo et androgyno in ea collocato. Theodoret iii. 7. Jupiter dvdpóryuvos yívatal, él nal μη την γαστέρα, αλλα γουν τον μηρόν κυοφορών, ίνα και ταύτα παρα φύσιν αυτώ πράττοιτο. ού και το διθύραμβον κύημα ανδρόγυνον γενόμενον εκατέραν ενύβρισε φύσιν" drogynus factus est, non in utero quidem sed in femore fætum gestans, ut et ista præter naturam ab eo committerentur. Unde ortus Bacchus ipse quoque androgynus, utrumque sexum contumelia affecit.' Evagrius i. 11.7
It appears from one of his laws, that the Pagans attempted sometimes to compel the Christians to join with them in acts of religion. He ordered such offenders to be bastinadoed, or if they were rich, to be fined; which was not amiss.
By a law which condemns magic arts exercised to the hurt of others, he permits charms, and incantations, and such sort of tricks, intended for harmless or good purposes.
He made laws for the religious observation of Sunday, Euseb. Vit. Const. iv, 18, Sozom, i. 8.
Sicut indignissimum videbatur, diem solis, veneratione sui celebrem, altercantibus jurgiis et noxiis partium contentionibus occupari, ita gratum ac jocundum est, eo die quæ sunt maxime votiva compleri : atque ideo emancipandi et manumittendi die festo. cunctilicentiam habeant, et super his rebus actus non prohibeantur.' Cod. Th. l. 11, tit. viii. p. 118. Before this law, he had given one which runs thus :
Omnes judices urbanæque plebes, et cunctarum artium officia venerabili die soļis quiescant. Ruri tamen positi agrorum culturæ libere licenterque inserviant : quoniam frequenter evenit, ut non aptius alio die frumenta sulcis, aut vineæ scrobibus mandentur, ne occasione momenti pereat commoditas coelesti provisione concessa. Cod. l. iii, tit. xiii. 3.
Compare this law with Virgil, Georg, i. 268, whom the legislator seems to have had in view ;
be looked upon
- Quippe etiam festis quædam exercere diebus
Balantumque gregem fluvio mersare salubri.? • Scævola, consultus quid feriis agi liceret, respondit, Quod omissum noceret. Macrobius Saturn. i. 16.
The emperor Leo repealed this law of Constantine, and published one more strict. Constit. liv.
Gothofred, in his notes on the Theod. Code, gives us the laws for the observation of Sunday, made from A. D. 321. to A. D. 425, by Constantine, Valentinian I. and II. and Theodosius I. and II.
He obliged his soldiers to repeat on Sundays a prayer addressed to the one only God. The Christians would have died a thousand deaths, rather than have addressed a prayer to Jupiter ; and therefore this
may as a sort of violence offered to the consciences of the Pagans ; but it must be considered that the Pagans in general, the Roman soldiers in particular, were hardly troubled with pious scruples of this kind. They who used to worship their own worthless emperors living or dead, and their own standards, were not men who would have accounted this any oppression or infringement of religious liberty. If any of them had hesitated, his comrades probably would have laughed him to scorn, and have said to him, as one slave in Terence says to another who seemed to boggle at perjury:
• Nova nunc religio te istæc incessit.' The Christians at that time being just delivered from persecution, must have had some sense of the odious nature of such cruel proceedings. Prudence also directed them not to terrify and provoke the Pagans too much ; and therefore Constantine declared that he would compel no man to receive the Christian religion.
The first imperial law in favour of Christianity, which was published by Constantine and Licinius, began with this reasonable preamble ;
Ηδη μεν πάλαι σκοπούντες την ελευθερίας της θρησκείας ουκ αρνητέαν είναι, αλλ' ενος εκάστου τη διανοία και βου
λήσει εξουσίαν δοτέον του τα θεία πράγματα τημελεϊν κατα την αυτου προαίρεσιν. -Jamdudum quidem, cum animadverteremus non esse cohibendam religionis libertatem, sed uniuscujusque arbitrio ac voluntati permittendum ut ex animi sui sententia rebus divinis operam daret.' Eusebius,
But the Christians soon learned to sing a new song, and to acquire a taste for wholesome severities. First they deprived heretics of their places of worship, then they forbad them to assemble any where, and then they fined, imprisoned, banished, starved, whipped, and hanged them, for the advancement of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and for the honour of Christianity. Such were the dictates of public wisdom. In the mean time the bishops, in their councils, made canons forbidding any Catholic to marry his children to Heretics, or to leave them any legacy, though they were the nearest relations.
The Laws against Heretics collected in the Theodosian Code, stand as a shameful monument of the persecuting Anti-christian spirit which brake out in the fourth century, and grew more and more violent in the following times.
It is the duty of historians to give an impartial and just account of such cruel proceedings, that people may be taught to love their liberties, civil and religious, and to beware of those who would strip them of these blessings, and also, ' ut qui insontes damnaverunt, ipsi causam dicant omnibus sæculis.'
He ordered churches to be built where they were neces. sary, and even where they were not, as in places which were inhabited only by Jews, says Epiphanius, Hær. xxx. 11,
He condemned those who should βλασφημήσαι Χριστον, s speak evil of Christ,' to lose half their estate, if we may credit Nicephorus, vii. 34. This was an imprudent and unreasonable law, giving too much encouragement to indiscreet over-zealous Christians, or busy informers, to accuse Jews or Pagans, or perhaps Heretics, of words spoken in the heat of dispute, or in common conversation. For the honour of Constantine we will suppose either that this law was never made, or that it was made in terrorem, and never executed. Such decrees are beneath a prince, and only fit for an inquisitor-general,
Afterwards, under Constantius, the severity of the laws against Paganism was increased, and sacrificing, together with idolatrous worship, was made a capital crime, which without question filled the church with new Christians, such as they were; for there is not, I think, one Pagan upon record, who died a martyr for his religion in those days. Under Honorius, A. D. 408, we find a Pagan confessor, one Generidus, an officer in the Roman army, who threw up his commission, because he would not conform to Christianity; but the emperor could not well spare him, and so would not part with him. Zosimus, l. v.
He made a law against Heretics, by which he forbad them to have any conventicles, and to meet together in public or in private, to perform acts of religion. Eusebius Vit. Const. iii. 64, 65. Sozom. ii. 32. This was inere insolent tyranny; and Eusebius deserves to be censured for having spoken favourably of it: and yet he is forced to own that it made many hypocritical conformists and nominal Catholics. A fine acquisition! But Constantine, by commanding armies in his youth, and by his success and victories, and by being master of the empire, got a royal and military habit and disposition of giving orders in a very absolute way, and had no just notion of religious toleration.
He also commanded that heretical books should be sought for and burnt.
He made a severe law against those who should embrace Judaism. This likewise was unreasonable.
But we are not to conclude that all the laws of Christian emperors against Paganism, Heresy, and Schism, were strictly executed. The contrary often appears: the Roman senate was much attached tu idolatry, and Sozomen observes of Constantine, that he did not use to inflict all that he had threatened in his edicts, ii. 32. and several Pagan writers, under Christian emperors, declare themselves openly, and speak boldly enough in behalf of their old religion.
There is a law of Constantine, which shows that himself was not altogether free from Pagan superstition, in which he orders the Haruspices to be consulted, if any public edifice was struck with lightning. See Le Clerc, Bibl. A. et M. xxviii. 157, &c. Dacier on Horace, Carm. I. ii. 3.