This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 9, Chapters 10-11.
Notes and Commentary:
These final chapters describe the fall of Maximin the Tyrant of the East and enemy of the Christians.
Chapter 10 notes how Maximin came into conflict with Constantine and Licinius, which resulted in war between his forces and those of Licinius.
In the opening battle Maximin was defeated and in an act of unmanly cowardice divested himself of the imperial insignia and escaped to safety by slipping into the crowd.
Attempting to regroup, Maximin issued a decree giving full liberty to the Christians. Eusebius cites a Greek translation of the Latin original of this decree. In it, the tyrant claimed that he had instructed his governors to be lenient with the Christians, but some had misinterpreted and misapplied his instructions. He further ordered that Christians should be free to observe their religion and to build “the Lord’s houses.” He also decreed that any confiscated land be returned to them.
Eusebius notes that this order came less than a year after Maximin’s ordinances against Christians which were set up on tablets.
Not long after this, Maximin was smitten by a stroke of God. His body was consumed by “an invisible, divinely-sent fire,” till he was reduced to little more than a skeleton. His eyes fell out of his sockets, blinding him. With his last breath he acknowledged that this punishment had come upon him justly for this maltreatment of the Christians.
Chapter 11 describes the aftermath of Maximin’s death. Statues of the tyrant were smashed and portraits defaced. His high government officials, men who had led the persecution of Christians, were executed, including Peucetius and Culcianus. When Licinius came to Antioch he tortured and put to death Theotecnus and his associates. Finally, Maximin’s sons were also put to death.
Book 9 ends with the fall of Maximin the tyrant of the East, the persecutor and enemy of the Christians. His horrific death and the death of those associated with him shows the justice of God. It assures the reader that those who oppress believers will be given retribution according to the justice of God.