Thursday, June 25, 2020

Eusebius, EH.8.5-6: The Martyrs of Nicomedia





This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 8, chapters 5-6.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters continue to describe the Diocletian persecution, focusing on the sufferings of Christians in Nicomedia (now the modern city of Izmit, Turkey), which Diocletian had made capital of the Eastern Roman Empire in AD 286, and in the imperial circles.

Chapter 5 notes that when the edict against Christians were announced, one unnamed upper-class Christian boldly took down a publicly posted copy and tore it to pieces. A footnote explains that this was probably the martyr Euethius, adding, “Tradition, however, identified him with St. George of England” (263, n. 2).

Chapter 6 describes the sufferings of those in the imperial household. The eunuch Dorotheus and Gorgonius were strangled.

An imperial servant named Peter suffered violent torture on the gridiron.

Anthimus, the bishop of Nicomedia was beheaded.

After a fire broke out in the palace, Christians were blamed and many more were “butchered with the sword” or burned, and the bodies of many were cast into the sea for fear that Christians would “worship” them if they were placed in tombs.

After an uprising in Melitene in Armenia, an imperial command was given for the “presidents” of the churches and other officers to be arrested and imprisoned. Further letters urged that the church officers to either sacrifice or face mutilation and torture. This led to numerous martyrdoms in each province and city.

Conclusion:

These chapters note that among the first to suffer in the Diocletian persecution were those in the imperial household and in the city of Nicomedia. Christians were blamed for fires and insurrection to give cover to their persecution. This persecution is presented by Eusebius as the most serious and widespread faced by early Christians, and yet the believers remained faithful to death.

JTR

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