THIRD MILLENNIUM LIBRARY
APOSTLE OF THE GOTHS
CHARLES A. ANDERSON SCOTT
CHAPTER I. Early History of the Goths
CHAPTER II. The Beginnings of Christianity among the Goths; Life of Ulfilas
Note.—The Identification of Athanaric with the “Sacrilegus judex”
CHAPTER III. The Goths and the Empire
Note.—Bessell’s account of the movement of the Goths after Adrianople
CHAPTER IV. The Persecutions of 370—375; Audianism; the Conversion of the Visigoths
CHAPTER V. The Arianism of Ulfilas and the Goths; the Gothic Bible; Death of Ulfilas
CHAPTER VI. The Decline of the Gothic Churches in the East
CHAPTER VII. The Gothic Churches in Italy and Gaul, and their Decline CHAPTER VIII. The Gothic Church in Spain, and its Decline
The flood of barbarian invasion, which for the first six centuries of our era was beating round the Roman empire, is broken by a few towering crests; in all the indistinguishable sea of human beings there appear two or three men whose genius and majesty have made an impression on the memory as well as on the history of Europe. Attila, Alaric, and Theodoric have found a place among the household names of history, as well as a niche in popular mythology. These all planted their renown on the field of battle; by their achievements as chieftains, generals, and conquerors, they “made themselves for ever known”. There is one name alone which rests its claim to be remembered on a different foundation. Sole among all these countless numbers, Ulfilas is known and remembered for works of peace, for achievement in literature, for the triumph of the Cross.
The race to which he belonged, and for which he worked, provides a background not unworthy of this unique figure. The fortunes of the Goths in the history of Europe command an interest such as few other episodes in that great epic can surpass. Of no other Teutonic race were the conceptions so bold, the achievements so great, and the ultimate failure so complete. Geographically their line of influence extends from the Bosphorus to the Pillars of Hercules. Chronologically their history covers the transition from the Roman Empire to modern Europe. In the history of religion they are contemporaries and spectators of the passage from paganism to papacy. Their position from these different points of view is strangely similar. Driven like a wedge into the eastern side of Europe by the superincumbent weight of the Huns, they pass along the whole length of it, to be similarly thrust out at the west by the Franks. During this whole course they hold a place intermediate between barbarism and civilization. They are not nomads, yet they are not able to found a state. Their political fate is matched by their ecclesiastical. They are not heathens, yet they are not acknowledged as Christians. Planted in an indefensible position by their Arian creed, they are crushed between the opposing masses of heathendom and Catholicism.
It is this additional quality, the relation between their fortunes and their faith, which gives to the history of the Goths its crowning interest. Almost alone among the “barbarians”, we see in them the working of a conviction. In all physical respects equal to any race in that loner series, in material achievement surpassed by none, they present also a quality of mind to which, so far as we know, there was no parallel in any of their competitors. It may indeed be said by some that the thought which they appropriated and presented was a trifle, a crotchet at most, and their adhesion to it only to be reckoned as obstinacy. But even obstinate adhesion to a crotchet would be sufficiently unique among the nations of that period; while, if their faith be regarded from their own view-point under all the dignity of a worthy conviction, bitten in indelibly upon the national consciousness, then such a national apprehension and tenacious grasp of an idea is a phenomenon of the highest interest. Such an idea is the one embodied in the Gothic Church. It is the object of this essay to trace the working of this idea in Gothic history, to observe its first planting through the teaching of Ulfilas, its fostering under the power of his influence and memory, and its great and fatal effect upon the political development of the people.
Its ultimate effects upon the history of the Goths are not far to seek. The map of Europe bears no trace of their wanderings or their settlements. Three Gothic kingdoms, the most short-lived of which endured at least a century, passed away without leaving a sign. For two centuries they professed themselves Christians; yet their Church left fewer marks of its existence even than their state. The annals of the Christian church record with honor the one name of that Gothic king who broke with the traditions of his people to become a Catholic. In our own century their name has been ingenuously borrowed as a term of reproach wherewith to brand an unpopular style of architecture. And by popular phraseology they have been planted alongside their Vandal cousins in a pillory of splendid disgrace.
History has done them hardly more justice than tradition. Their enemies are their chroniclers. Their own records have perished. Yet, when all the shreds of information regarding them are pieced together, even in the poor tapestry that results, we see indubitable marks of greatness, the indelible qualities of race. We see in a marked degree the presence of vitality, of tenaciousness, and of the power of initiative.
These three qualities reveal themselves conspicuously, as in the race, so in the representative man. Two great monuments of Gothic history are the memory of Ulfilas, and the fragments of his book. In the following pages an attempt has been made to collect the facts relating to this man, to estimate his position, to note the marks which he left upon his people and his age, and to trace the stream of his influence, as it affected the history of his people, till it was at last exhausted and forgotten.
How imperfectly I have succeeded in this task few can be more conscious than myself. The very extent of the history, the multiplicity of relations secular and ecclesiastical into which the Goths during these three centuries entered, the complications of doctrinal controversy in which every student of the fourth century is involved,—may explain my failure, though they may not excuse my attempt. It is in this consciousness of having left much undone and imperfectly worked out, that I have noted with some fullness the authorities, especially so much of the modern literature bearing on the various sections as has come within my reach. In the usual alternative between a punctilious citation of the authorities and unattested assertion, I have had, as I conceive, no choice. In dealing with a subject where the evidence is so widely spread and so thinly scattered, the paramount desire to bring out the truth makes constant reference to the authorities imperative. It is with this view .also that I have collected in the Appendix the most important passages in the Church historians bearing on the ecclesiastical position of Ulfilas, and the vexed question of the conversion of the Visigoths. A minute comparison of these is very instructive.
In English I do not know of any book which deals directly with either Ulfilas or the Gothic Churches. In German the works of Aschbach, Krafft, Pallmann, and Helfferich are all more or less closely concerned with these subjects. In French there are Maimbour and Revillout dealing with them from the side of the history of Arianism. I wish, however, to acknowledge especially my indebtedness to Felix Dahn’s great work Die Könige der Germanen (of which the volumes dealing with the Goths are now complete), to Bessell’s very minute study of the authorities for the life of Ulfilas, and to Mr. Gwatkin’s Studies in Arianism.
I recall also with gratitude the memory of the Rev. John Hulse, through whose benefaction I have been encouraged to study in this by-path of Church history, and enabled to publish these all too unworthy results. Our actual information regarding the life and labors of Ulfilas is still very limited. Of original sources there are probably not more than three. Of his Translation large portions are still lacking. I cannot help cherishing a hope that there is lying buried in some nook of Germany, Italy, or Spain, and yet to come to light, some further record of the great spiritual Father of the Goths.
EARLY HISTORY OF THE GOTH
If it might be deemed not unworthy of the sobriety of history to give play for a moment to fancy, we might frame for ourselves an allegory of Europe’s middle age, a rough generalization of our period, which might serve to correct the proportions, and illustrate the ultimate value and meaning of the details which follow. We might image to ourselves the prospect of time and its events presented to an observer withdrawn beyond its conditions and the reach of their effects as an avenue of centuries. Down one section of it there moves a man somewhat bowed with years, robed in fine vesture and bearing treasures of art and thought, the heritage of the past. His step is slow and languid, and his treasures seem ready to fall from his loosening grasp; but ever and anon he collects himself, erects his head, gathers with a firmer hand his “foot-catching robes”, and makes a determined effort to throw off the dull languor and the feebleness of age. To join him there comes down a branching alley a child clad in simple white, carrying in his hand a book. He is young, hardly yet conscious of himself; but his frank eyes have a look of confidence and assurance that claims for him the future. Of his book, as yet his sole possession, he has mastered the letters, but hardly yet begun to grasp the meaning. The man beholds the child at first with undisguised scorn, then with suspicion which changes to alarm. He knows not how to treat him; tries indifference, harshness, and cajolery in turn,—then gives him his hand. So they move on together, now joined, now separate, as the old man recognizes his own feebleness and need of support, or is dismayed by the growing vigor of his companion. One by one the possessions of the old man are transferred to the boy. Yet there remains a danger, a double one, between the boy and the fulfillment of the destiny which appears written on his face. The old man’s strength is still more than a match for his, and in a fit of jealous fury he may fall upon him and kill or cripple him. Again, his treasures are too many and too various for the boy to bear as yet, and should the old man fail now or soon, his gifts must perish with him.
So, behind and between them steps a third, out from another alley,—a true son of the forest, rough handed, gentle hearted, obstinate in opinion, pliable in sentiment. He looks with wonder and amazement on the gems and robes with which the old man is decked; with wonder and awe on the face of the child, with its “tranced yet open gaze”. This second figure is received by the old man at first with contempt of the great childish giant who is dazzled by the jewels, and subdued by the glance of the child; then, recognizing the value of his arm as a stay for himself, he tolerates his presence with a blustering mien of mingled arrogance and humiliation. Nor does the boy here show himself much more generous. He views his new companion at first with distrust, and grudgingly accepts his proffered aid and protection. He has shared already in some of the old man’s possessions, and despises now the plain homeliness of the new-comer; besides, he is conscious of his own coming vigor, and will not be hampered by any alliance now, that might lead to inconvenient claims in the future. The new-comer resents this treatment. He snatches at the old man’s treasures, lays sometimes a rough hand upon the child, or again relapses into humble submission and henchmanship, trying all means to overcome the puny arrogance of the one and the cold and cautious reserve of the other. Meanwhile he is doing his appointed work, supporting the old man’s tottering footsteps, helping and protecting, half unconsciously perhaps, the growing youth, bearing and transferring gradually the possessions of the Old World to the New. He is the “Barbarian”, so called in contempt by both those whom he served; he is the “Scourge of God”, but also the Sheath over God’s new graft. It was under cover of his protection that the New entered upon the heritage of the Old. When the transfer has been made sure, the old man drops aside, the son of the forest falls behind; but the child, now grown to manhood and consciousness of self, marches forward, bearing the gifts of the Ancient, reaping the strength of the Barbarian.
Some such picture might the stage of Europe present during the first five centuries of our era if viewed through an “inverted glass”. Such, or something like it, was the rôle played during that period by the Barbarian in relation to the Old World and to the New.
Foremost among these barbarians (whether we take account of numbers, of weight and duration of influence, of intensity of national consciousness, or of the long roll of world-renowned leaders of men) stand those tribes which, though classed under various names, are yet derived from the common Gothic stock. Their history may be roughly divided into two parts. The great epoch in their national life, as in that of the other Teutonic stocks, is the hour of their first contact with the Roman Empire, the rich depositary of Latin traditions of law and government, as of Greek achievements in art, literature, and philosophy; the depositary also since the Christian era of Hebrew Monotheism, and of the cosmopolitan Christian faith, which claimed government and law, philosophy, literature, and art as its subjects, and all the world for its throne. This turning-point in their history came to the Goths about the beginning of the third century, when Rome was losing her right to be considered the center of the Roman empire, when the State religion of heathenism had long degenerated from a faith to a superstition, which was supported by indifferent rulers and skeptical philosophers only as a safeguard against popular enlightenment and liberty; at a time, too, when the new faith had differentiated itself in the eyes of the Roman world from Judaism, but had raised furious indignation and alarm by proclaiming the pernicious doctrine of equality for all men. It was on the edge of an empire thus pregnant with change that the Goths arrived towards the beginning of the third century.
Their history up to this point is involved in obscurity. Whence they had come; whether they were autochthonous in Europe, or had migrated thither from the East sometime in the dim past; what place they held, in the latter case, in the sequence of Aryan stocks, and how long they had been in Europe—these and many similar questions must remain unanswered. There are no records. Only on the question of the quarter whence they started on their great out-wandering do the legends of the people, and a few vague statements of early travelers and topographers, throw a little dubious light. Of their origin and wanderings, of their habits of life and thought, of their constitution and religious ideas and practices we can have no knowledge more secure than the inferences drawn from long-descended and highly-embellished legends, and from a comparison of what we know of other related stocks.
Visigoths and Getae
It is true that much information may be gathered from various sources, which seem to refer authoritatively to Gothic history; and modern writers have actually constructed out of the numerous references in old historians and chroniclers to Goths, Scythians, and Getae a long and continuous account of Gothic history, constitution, and religion. Such accounts are all but valueless. As sources of Gothic history, these references are open to a double objection. Many of them are untrustworthy in themselves, and the application of any of them to the Goths rests upon an untenable assumption. This is the ancient and persistent assumption which identifies the Goths of the third and following centuries with the Getae of the earlier empire and through them with the Scythians of a still more distant period. This ethnological theory, which must have arisen from chance similarities of name, locality, and relation to the empire, is of very early origin, and has given rise to most serious confusion. Critical or even careful enquiry was no part of the early annalist’s accepted task, and when a people bearing a name so similar appeared in the same locality as the Getae were known to have occupied, he concluded without question that they belonged to the same stock. A theory countenanced by the very earliest and contemporary writers of Gothic history was naturally accepted by their successors, and the usage of Scythicus and Geticus, Scythia and Getica for Gotthus and Gotthicus is in some writers “undeviating”. Many later accounts of the Goths illustrate the effects of the natural converse tendency to refer to them all the notices in earlier historians of both Getae and Scythians. Apart from the natural ancestry, and to show that they were not the “parvenus” in Europe which they were supposed to be, but were lineally descended from races which had fought the Romans for centuries, and figured even in the pages of Herodotus and Thucydides.
Another fruitful source of confusion lies in the great number of names by which different sections of the Gothic stock were known, and the loose way in which the annalists use them sometimes of particular sections, at other times to denote the whole nation.
But when all historical notices of Getae and Scythians have been excluded, except those where it can be shown that the writer under one of these names meant to refer actually to the Goths, the materials for their history are very much curtailed, and the date of their contact with the Roman empire brought down to the reign of Caracalla. From this point onwards they appear ever more frequently on the pages of the historian, as the necessity for expansion, want of means of subsistence, hunger after the good things of the empire, and the pressure of peoples behind them, urged them forward first to skirmishing inroads, then to a close-locked struggle, and finally to conquest. It might be thought that under these circumstances the history of the Goths, at any rate after the date of their arrival on the frontiers of the empire, would have attracted the attention of their contemporaries in the empire, and ensured us a trustworthy account of the people at this important stage. But this is not the case; apart from the fragments of Dexippus, there is no account of the Goths written by a contemporary till the last years before their entrance within the empire, while the authorities most relied upon are actually separated from the earlier period of their history by one, two, or three centuries.
Of the sources available for the pre-Christian era, the most valuable is that contained in the work of Jordanis (or Jordanes, as he is also called). Under the title of a history of the Getae he compiled an account of the Gothic peoples extending from their earliest myths or traditions down to the fall of Vitigis. Jordanis was apparently a bishop, settled in the south of Italy about the middle of the sixth century. That he was himself a Goth lends interest, but does not of itself add to his authority as an historian of the people. Living and writing three centuries after they began to play a part in Roman history, and many centuries after they had left the early home of which he gives an account, he was eye-witness and contemporary only of events which are sufficiently well known from other sources: and for the rest, the value of his statements must be measured by the value of his authorities and his skill in using them. His own account of his work shows that it was a compilation, and that he had not even his main authority before him when he wrote. This was the history of Cassiodorus, the minister and secretary of Theodoric. Jordanis, before he began to write his own history, got the loan of the manuscript for three days, and seems to have made copious though hurried extracts, which he afterwards incorporated in his text. The rest of the work was made up from other authorities, from the traditions and folklore of the people, and, for the later period, from the records of his own memory. The work of Cassiodorus in its turn was drawn from various older sources, chiefly from historians whose works are now lost, but also to some extent from popular songs and traditions.
Through this mingling of Saga that may be partly history, and history that is more than half Saga, the beginnings of the Gothic peoples are dimly portrayed to us. The Saga and the history are so intertwined, however, that they may be distinguished only herein perhaps, that while the story tells us too little the Saga accounts for too much. Through this misty haze we see the ancient home of the race, that to which they looked back as their earliest, on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Some of their accounts stopped short at the southern coast, others looked beyond and across the sea to Sweden itself (Scanzia). This gives occasion to refer the three most famous divisions of the stock to the crews of the three ships which carried the migrating people and the laggard progress of the third boat earned for her crew and their descendants the name of Gepidi. Whether there be a kernel of fact embedded in this legend of migration from Sweden or not, the land to the south of the Baltic was undoubtedly the point of departure for their migration to the south. At what time this took place cannot now be ascertained, and the different dates assigned by different historians depend on the date they fix for the first appearance of the Goths on the borders of the empire, and on the time they allow for their progress across the center of Europe.
The first distinct mention of Goths in connection with the Roman Empire is in the reign of Caracalla (A.D. 215), against whom the sarcastic jest was made that he ought to be called Geticus Maximus, “because he had killed his brother Geta and conquered the Gothi, who were at that time called Getae”. Bessell, however, has shown good reason for referring this rather to the Dacians, who even in the time of Dion Cassius were confused with the Getae. Passing over this and another doubtful allusion, we may fix the first appearance of the Goths on the edge of the Roman empire in or about A.D. 238. And, as it is scarcely credible that they had settled down and remained as peaceful neighbors for any length of time, while there is at least one instance of a tribe moving from the North Sea to the Roman boundaries within the space of a year, their migration from their northern settlement may very well have taken place in the early years of the third century. Impelled by what motives we know not, whether by fear behind or by hope before, they streamed up the basin of the Vistula, over the watershed, and down the valley of the Pruth, till they reached the Euxine and the frontiers of the Roman Empire. Here they settled in the ill-defined district known to the historians as Scythia, which included the south-east corner of Russia as far as the Maeotis or Sea of Azov, and the country north of the lower Danube, answering to what was in much later times known as Moldavia and Wallachia.
Ostrogoths and Visigoths.
Whether the distinction between Ostrogoths and Visigoths arose first in their new settlement, or (as is more probable) was already existing when they left their northern home; and whether again these names were originally based on the relative geographical positions of two tribes, or were connected with the names of kings or royal families;—these are questions that do not concern us here: at any rate, the relative position of the two peoples in their new settlement was in accordance with the geographical interpretation of their names. For whether the Ostrogoths, according to the alternative offered by Jordanis, were so called after one of their kings, Ostrogoth a, or because they dwelt to the east of their kindred, the latter explanation at least agreed with the fact. The dividing line, though it cannot be supposed to have been very rigidly observed, must have been at or near the river Pruth; eastwards lay the Ostrogoths, and westwards the Visigoths. The usage of these and other names for different sections of the Gothic race is obscure. Besides the main division into Ostro- and Visigoths, there are many other names recorded, applying to larger or smaller sections; and among the Visigoths especially there was a tendency after the break-up of the joint kingdom to split off into separate tribes each under their own chief. The names Ostrogoth and Visigoth were not applied by either nation to themselves; each side called themselves “Goths” and their neighbors “west” and “east Goths” respectively. The same two peoples were distinguished in their earlier history under the names of Greutungi and Thervingi, which are still used by the historians of the empire simply as alternative names for the Ostrogoths and Visigoths. Each section had, moreover, its royal house. The Amalungs among the Ostrogoths and the Balthungs among the Visigoths were held in the highest honor, and had an hereditary claim to the headship of their respective peoples; while, so long as the two sections were ruled by one king, he was chosen from the Amalung stock. The question of the “United Kingship” among the Goths has given rise to much debate. It has been held, on the one hand, that down to the fall of the kingdom of Hermanaric the Ostrogothic kings held double sway over both Ostrogoths and Visigoths; but this has been called in question by later writers; the passage in Jordanis which it is founded upon can bear another interpretation, and the continuous existence of a united kingdom down to Hermanaric would involve contradictious with other statements of the same writer. The best supported account appears to be that the two peoples came to a political as well as a local separation after the joint rule of Ostrogotha; and though the widely extended authority of Hermanaric cannot fail very early to have reached his own kinsfolk and immediate neighbors the Visigoths, yet whatever submission they made to him, there was no real surrender of independence, and they continued to make peace and war with the Romans or among themselves, uncontrolled by the Ostrogothic overlordship.
We find this race, therefore, at the date of their first inroad upon the empire (A.D. 238), occupying a territory in central Europe of undetermined depth, but in length extending from the Crimea to the Sereth; divided about the middle of this line by some far-descended distinction into east and west folks, and ruled by princes of two royal houses.
Of their religion as of their manners and mode of thought, at and before this epoch, nothing can be ascertained with certainty. Attempts have indeed been made to find the names of deities in those of the traditional fathers of the stock, by connecting, for example, Gapt or Gaut with Geat (one of the names of Wotan), or Balthen with Balder; but the very nature of the attempt is an index of the poverty of our information. Traces of a mythology and of a worship of some sort are perhaps to be found in two passages of Jordanis,— in one of which he states that after a great victory the chiefs of the people, through whose good fortune it had been gained, were hailed not as simple men but as demigods, that is Anses, where there can be little doubt that we have an allusion to the “Aesir”, or upholding deities of northern mythology. In a second passage, he relates a similar case where the king and conqueror Tanausis was “worshipped after death among the deities of his people”. Of sacred objects or of a national cultus there are very few traces. In the account given by Sozomen of the persecution under Athanaric we read of a wooden image set upon a wagon, which was carried round from one village to another to receive worship. This recalls the procession of Freya among the northern peoples, when an image was similarly carried through the country, and also the account given by Tacitus of the rites of the goddess Nerthus or “Mother Earth” among the Lombards. And if credence may be given to the details of the description in Eunapius of the passage of the Danube in 380 (? 376), the heathens who were then crossing brought with them both sacred objects and heathen priests and priestesses. Lastly, in a highly interesting passage in Jordanis, we may find traces of a belief among the Goths in certain supernatural beings well known in northern mythology. The popular legend of the origin of the Huns is there given; namely, that they were the offspring of a union between certain witches whom the Gothic king “discovered among his people, and holding them in suspicion ejected from the country” with certain “unclean spirits wandering through the desert”. It has been conjectured that here, under the phraseology of Cassiodorus colored by his biblical knowledge, there lies an allusion to the Teutonic dwarfs or “skohls” dwelling in this case not in the caves and holes, but on the outlying uninhabited steppe.
These scanty indications of the stage of religious consciousness which the Goths had reached at the time of their first contact with Christendom are yet sufficient to warrant the assumption that their natural religion was similar to that of the other Teutonic races, that their Valhalla was tenanted by gods removed from humanity more by the heroism of their deeds than by their morality, benevolence, or even their all controlling power; while the earth and the darkness were peopled by unknown beings, partly benevolent and partly malicious. It was a brave, simple-hearted people, panting for the treasure, the comfort, and the secure sustenance to be found only within the Roman Empire. To them Christianity came with winning grace, with gifts in her hand of knowledge, of power, and of peace.
THE BEGINNING OF CHRISTIANITY AND THE GOTHS
The necessity, laid upon us by the results of modern inquiry, of withdrawing from the theory of the early writers who connected Goths with Getae, deprives us at the same time of a great deal of information on the early history, mythology, worship, and civilization of the Goths; for the history and habits of the Getae are comparatively well known. From their first appearance in the narrative by Herodotus of Darius’ march against the Scythians in B.C. 456, allusions to them are frequent in the historians. It cannot escape notice that the very length of continuous existence in one district, which is assumed by those who accept the chain, Scythians—Getae—Goths, the persistency of this one nation, while all the peoples round them were being moved, subdued, annihilated, or absorbed, is in itself so unlikely, that the burden of proof lies fairly upon those who maintain such a continuity of more than 600 years, rather than on those who call it in question. More than one writer, after accepting or demonstrating the reality of this connection, has been able to give a full and interesting account of the ancestors of the Goths, and especially of their mythology; but as this can no longer be maintained, we are thrown back for information on the very slender sources of Jordanis, and scanty allusions in other historians. From these, as well as from the natural probability arising from their close relationship, it may be gathered, as we have seen, that the Gothic mythology corresponded pretty closely to the well-known system of the German peoples. Polytheists they certainly were; their gods were of the Homeric stamp, raised above mankind solely by their power; while even that was limited by fate, either personified or impersonal.
The introduction of Christianity among this people took place during the space of 130 years, less or more, when they were settled north of the Danube and of the Euxine. Standing thus in contact with the Roman Empire along their whole southern boundary, they were also in contact with Christianity. But the time for missionary enterprise, the age of devoted bands of missionaries going out from the empire to work among the barbarians, was not yet. In the third century the new faith was still struggling for recognition, from time to time struggling for very existence. Its prospect of ultimate supremacy was to all appearance very slight. It was held in the balance against the heathenism, which rested on the traditions of centuries,—and not rarely within these two centuries, during which the Goths played their great part without and within the Eastern empire, did it seem likely, as far as men could judge, that the old faith, aided by chance, by the policy of the imperial court, and by dissension within the young church, would succeed in crushing its rival. It would scarcely be expected that a church, struggling for patronage, with difficulty holding its own against heathenism, and distracted by controversy, if not yet rent by schism, should show any great aptitude or enthusiasm for missionary work; the seeds of Christianity were carried beyond the Danube by no organized effort, by no church supported laborers detached for the work, but, to all appearance, accidentally, and certainly at the cost of much misery and suffering.
It has been observed that the first indisputable appearance of the Goths in European history must be dated in A.D. 238, when they laid waste the South-Danubian province of Moesia as far as the Black Sea. In the thirty years (238—269) that followed, there took place no fewer than ten such inroads. Emperor after emperor marched against the same devastating barbarians, and whether he achieved victory, or encountered defeat, his successors had alike to reckon with the same foe,—a people, who descended like locusts upon the fertile plains of Moesia, urged not by desire of conquest, nor as yet by hope of settlement, but by the imperious necessity of obtaining food, and by the reports of a land of plenty and riches, lying across the dividing stream. The attempt to satisfy these craving hordes with an annual subsidy failed no less than the attempt to hold them in check by force of arms. A victory cost the Emperor Decius 30,000 men. A defeat cost the lives of the whole Roman army and of the emperor himself. Nor had the enemy themselves tilled fields, valuable cities, or rich treasures to lose, through which retaliation might be inflicted and a warning brought home to them. It became at length the despairing hope of the Roman subjects south of the Danube, that the winter might pass without the ice on the river becoming strong enough to afford the barbarians a safe and easy passage, wherever they chose to cross. Nor were they content with the plunder of Moesia alone; but, extending their range, took shipping on the Euxine, and scoured the coasts of Asia Minor from Trebizond to Ephesus. Achaia was attacked both by land and by sea. Even large and fortified towns did not escape their furious onset or patient blockade, however long they might have defied their arts of siege;—Philippopolis and Athens, in Europe, Chalcedon, Nicomedia, and Ephesus, in Asia, fell into their hands.
From these expeditions they returned with immense booty,—corn and cattle, silks and fine linen, silver and gold, and captives of all ranks and of all ages. It is to these captives, many of whom were Christians, and not a few clergy, that the introduction of Christianity among the Goths is primarily due. Of this we have direct testimony. Sozomen, relating how, at the time of Constantine, “the church multiplied throughout the whole Roman world”, adds as follows: “To almost all the barbarians the opportunity of having Christian teaching proclaimed to them was offered by the wars which took place at that time between the Romans and the other races, under the reign of Gallienus and his successors. For when, in those reigns, an untold multitude of mixed folk passed over from Thrace, and overran Asia, while from different quarters different barbarian peoples did in like manner by the Romans alongside them, many priests of Christ were taken prisoners and abode with them. And when they were found healing the sick there, cleansing those who had evil spirits, by simply naming the name of Christ, and calling on the Son of God, and, further, holding a noble and blameless conversation, and overcoming their reproach by their manly walk, the barbarians marveled at the men, their life and wonderful works, and acknowledged that they themselves would be wise and win the favor of God, if they were to act after the manner of those, who thus showed themselves to be better men, and, like them, were to serve the Right. So, getting them to instruct them in their duty, they were taught and baptized, and subsequently met as a congregation”.
It is of course not to be mistaken that this account, written nearly a century later, is colored, especially in its details, by the ecclesiastical experience of the writer, and is, in these particulars, little more than a statement of probabilities; but there can be no doubt about the main fact, that the Christian captives spread the knowledge of their faith among their masters. This is further attested by Philostorgius, who both lived nearer to the events he described, and was himself a native of one of the districts of Asia Minor which the Goths had laid waste. His account is similar to that of Sozomen : in the reign of Gallienus and Valerian a great body of Goths had overrun Europe and even crossed into Asia, Galatia, and Cappadocia, and had carried off from thence many captives, including members of the clergy; this captive and pious crowd had turned 'not a few of the barbarians to a life of piety and a Christian way of thinking.
The influence of such captives on their captors, and their means of obtaining the respect and affection of their masters, may be illustrated by the case of the Iberians, which is given with much detail by Sozomen. A captive Christian woman (perhaps a virgin or nun), named Nouné, first by her blameless and self-denying life, then by her skill or simple prudence exerted in healing the sick wife of the king, and finally through certain strange deliverances and successes, which were ascribed to her prayers, brought to the faith both the king and the people, and it is recorded that they built a church, and sent to Constantine to ask him to provide them with priests and teachers. Whatever may have been the foundation for this story, which appears in a highly-elaborated form, it is easy to see how knowledge and skill would come to the aid of devotion and purity of life, in winning for the Christians from the south a powerful influence over the simple, unlearned barbarians of the north.
These accounts are confirmed, and the sympathy excited by the fate of the captives throughout the whole Church is shown, by an allusion to the circumstances of this period, which is preserved in one of the letters of Basil. In a letter, which he addressed to Damasus, bishop of Rome, beseeching the sympathy and support of the churches in the west for the churches of his own diocese, which were suffering from various causes, he reminds him that there is a precedent for such help in the assistance rendered by a former bishop of Rome, Dionysius; for, at that time of the Gothic inroads, he had condoled with the church in Cappadocia on their losses and sufferings, and had sent envoys to “redeem the brethren who were captives”.
The period of the inroads, which so strangely formed a sowing-time for Christianity, was followed by a long period of tranquility, during which the new faith took root and spread. The great victory won by Claudius, after he had almost despaired of the state, was followed up with the greatest persistency and military skill; and Aurelian, his successor, had given proof in the same way of his strength and courage, before he signalized his wisdom also by withdrawing his garrisons from Dacia, and deciding henceforth to defend the Danube as the frontier of the Roman empire. The province thus abandoned was occupied chiefly by the Thervingi or Visigoths, though some part of it came into the possession of the Taiphali or Victohali, who were probably smaller branches of the same stem. On the Goths, thus at peace with the empire, and established on its borders, the influence of the Roman world now began to be more freely exercised. It was one of the conditions of peace that they should provide a large body of troops, chiefly cavalry, to serve under the emperor; and though Aurelian’s early death would shorten the period of their service under himself, yet the arrangement was continued, and it became more and more the practice for bodies of Goths to take service alongside the Roman legion, and even in the emperor’s body guard. While these emigrants thus came into contact with Roman manners and Roman opinions, a lively commercial intercourse, which sprang up between the north and south banks of the Danube, would bring the same within the reach of their countrymen at home. The cession of Dacia had been followed by the withdrawal of most of the Roman settlers; but not a few, on the other hand, had preferred to trust their new masters rather than leave their old home. These would now become agents and distributors of the products of the southern province, and of the luxuries which a generous treaty of peace, as well as the security of numerous hostages, hindered the Goths from carrying off by force. So important indeed did this commercial intercourse become, that its enforced cessation during the war of A.D. 369 was one of the most effective inducements to the Goths to sue for peace. But if I am right in my conjecture as to the reason which had induced some at least of these Romans to remain in the country of their adoption, they must have had more than an indirect influence on the propagation of Christianity. The persecutions of the Christians, which occurred at intervals throughout the third century (notably in 235 and 250), together with the general insecurity of life and property which they experienced at all times, led many of them to seek from the barbarians the welcome and protection which they failed to find in the empire. There has been preserved a remark of Constantine, which shows that these migrations had attracted the attention of the emperor, and had withdrawn from the empire worthy and valuable citizens. “The barbarians”, he said, “are now boasting over these very men, even they who received the men who at that time fled from among us”. It may easily be supposed that settlers who had left the southern province for such a cause would be not improbably found among those who refused to follow the garrisons when they were withdrawn from the Roman outposts.
It is to the faithful work and pure lives of men such as these, who had fled from Roman civilization for conscience sake, to the example of patience in misfortune and high Christian character displayed by the captives, and to the instruction of the presbyters sprinkled among them, that we must look, as the source of Christianity among the Goths.
The peaceful relation between the Goths and the empire remained undisturbed, except by occasional raids made by small parties of Goths on the southern bank, until the reign of Constantine. Nor is it very easy to trace the causes or the progress of the hostilities which then broke out. The transference of the capital from Rome to Constantinople, and the necessity of securing the frontier, which lay comparatively near to the new capital, no doubt made Constantine more ready to take the offensive; but the conditions of peace, which were offered and accepted, as well as the statement that he agreed to pay a subsidy to the barbarians, give weight to the supposition that his object was not so much to subdue or terrify them as to enforce a favorable alliance and obtain guarantees for their conduct. Campaigns were carried on against the Goths probably in the years 323 and 332 (in the latter case under the younger Constantine), and at the conclusion of the latter the Goths submitted, gave hostages for future good behavior (amongst whom was found the son of the king Aorich), and further agreed to provide a contingent of 40,000 troops for the imperial army.
Early References to Christian Goths.
Up to this point we have found no direct allusion in the writers of the time either to Christianity or to a church among the Goths; and the coincidence is certainly remarkable that the earliest distinct reference to them as Christians comes from the champion of the orthodox faith against the heresy which they afterwards adopted. Athanasius, writing before the Council of Nicaea, mentions among the list of barbarian peoples who had received the gospel of Christ both Scythians and Goths. They together with Aethiopians and Armenians, had shown the power of Christianity by changed lives, by abandoning cruelty and massacre. Even wars they no longer loved, but had betaken themselves to peaceful pursuits; and the hands that had grasped the sword they now stretched out in prayer. Nay, so strong was their faith, they even despised death, and some of them had already become martyrs of Christ.
The allusion in Cyril is less direct; for though among the races whom he claims as Christian the Goths certainly find a place, yet the challenge is expressed in such general language, and is so obviously rhetorical, that we should hardly be justified in concluding (as some have done) that he meant to assert that among them also was found a fully-organized church, possessing “bishops, presbyters, deacons, monks, virgins, and laity besides”. Nor can we refer even the statement of Athanasius to the Goths of the Danube; far more probably had he in mind a community and a church in the Crimean peninsula. The fact (to which we shall have to refer later), that, of all the sea raids undertaken by the Goths between the years 238 and 269, the Visigoths took part in only two, while the Ostrogoths, who were settled in Southern Russia along the coast of the Euxine from the Crimea to the Dneister, were engaged probably in all of them, makes it very unlikely that the captives mentioned by Philostorgius were carried anywhere else than to the eastern settlements. To the influence of these Asian Christians, exerted mainly, if not entirely, upon the Ostrogoths, must be added the ever-increasing intercourse carried on by sea between the Crimea and both the southern shore of the Euxine and Constantinople. To these probabilities has now to be added the fact that the only traces of an organized Gothic Church existing before the year are clearly to be referred to a community in this neighborhood. Among the bishops who were present at the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325), and who signed the symbol which was then approved, we find a certain Theophilus, before whose name stand the words “de Gothis”, and after it the word “Bosphoritanus”. There can be little doubt that this was a bishop representing a Gothic Church on the Cimmerian Bosphorus; and if, following the Paris MSS., we read further down the list the name Domnus Bosphorensis or Bosphoranus, we may find here another bishop from this diocese, and regard Theophikis as chief or archbishop of the Crimean churches. The undoubted presence at this council of at least one bishop of the Goths, and the conclusion drawn therefrom in favor of the orthodoxy of the Gothic Church in general, led afterwards to the greatest confusion. Failing to distinguish between the Crimean and Danubian communities, the historians often found their information contradictory, and altered it in the readiest way to suit the condition, of the Church which they had especially in view.
One other figure, which is little but a shadow, must be placed between the Nicene Council and the general conversion of the Goths. In the touching and affectionate letter of Basil to Ascholius, thanking him for the gift to the Church of Cappadocia of certain relics of Gothic martyrs, we hear for the first and only time of Eutyches, a Cappadocian, a friend and probably contemporary of Basil, who had gone to Europe, and in some way become a missionary among the Goths. These martyrs had been fruits of his ministry. The letter of Ascholius had reminded Basil of his friend, for he says, “You gladdened me by the remembrance of the old days, while you saddened me by the testimony of what I saw; for no one of us stands near to Eutyches for worth—we, who are so far from bringing to gentleness the barbarian by the power of the spirit and the exercise of the gift received from Him, that even those who are gently disposed are made fierce by the exceeding number of our sins”.
Eutyches, being dead, had yet spoken to his old friend through the relics and in the story of the sufferings of his disciples; and perhaps Basil half regretted that his lot had kept him in an organized Christian community, whence “love was fled”, and where, though there were “heavy tribulations”, there was found none of the martyr spirit. He wrote this letter during his bishopric, that is to say, between 370 and 379, and as he was himself born in 329, we may place the activity among the Goths of Eutyches his friend between the years 355 and 365.
We are now met, almost simultaneously, by the fact, of which the consequences were most serious, and by the man, whose influence for good and evil was most momentous, for the Gothic Church,—by the personality of Ulfilas and by the Arianism of the Goths. For it was soon known in the Christian world that the Gothic Church was Arian in its creed, fatally and stubbornly attached to some form of that teaching which had been condemned at Nicaea, and thus hopelessly alienated from the party which had triumphed there, and eventually made good its claims to represent the only orthodox faith. It was also widely known that the conversion of that section of the nation, which became the Gothic Church, was due to the apostolic labors of one of their own race,—the great missionary bishop Ulfilas. But to him too was to be traced the heresy in which they stopped short on the way from heathenism to a complete Christian faith. To the ecclesiastical mind of the fourth century this was a condition more desperate and an attitude more hostile to the true Church, than open heathenism or blatant infidelity. It was a battle for life and death between the two parties, and certain even of those courtesies which obtain between ordinary foes were suspended in this internecine struggle. The victory fell ultimately to the Athanasians; and the Arians suffered by the fortune of war, what there is no reason to doubt they would have inflicted had victory been theirs, the fate of having their history written by contemptuous and unscrupulous enemies. Thus, in the period which we now approach—the first age of the Gothic Church—there is added to the insecurity which inevitably belongs to the statements of historians writing from fifty to eighty years after the events they record, the distrust which is raised by the obvious and even avowed partisanship of the writers. In the matter of the Arian Gothic Church of Ulfilas, the relation of these three terms, the Church, the Man, and the Creed, is presented in every possible variation. Each one of them appears in turn as the parent of the others, and it is only too clear that, when the events in their historical sequence did not coincide with the ecclesiastical (or anti-ecclesiastical) views of the writer, they were not seldom rearranged, or even distorted to that end. It is fortunate, however, that historical works dealing with this period, and founded to some extent at least on contemporary authorities, are preserved in sufficient numbers to make a comparison possible. Such a comparison ought to yield a precipitate of truth; and while we must decline to follow the most thoroughgoing foreign critic the full length of his destructive criticism in this field, it may prove possible to construct a harmony of the authorities, and to ascertain with some nearness to certainty what were the events, and what their sequence, which lie behind these apparently contradictory accounts. We must be prepared to find that round Ulfilas, as the central figure in the Gothic Church, or rather as the only name of a spiritual leader of the Goths known to most of the historians, much has gathered that does not of right belong to him. His was the name that suggested itself to be attached to any nameless ecclesiastic who crossed the stage of Gothic history; his influence the deus ex machina to be summoned to solve all historical puzzles. In like manner, when attempts came to be made in much later times to collect the scattered scraps of information regarding the Gothic Church, his is the figure round which they have all been grouped; so that, to take one example, we are gratified by a list of four or five Gothic bishops, “successors of Ulfilas”, though he in all probability had no successor, or at most but one, who can be identified.
The Document discovered by Waitz.
The materials for a life of Ulfilas and an estimate of his character and position, inadequate as they are even now, were still more unsatisfactory till within the last fifty years. Up till 1840 we were dependent entirely upon the Church historians of the fifth century, whose unfriendly attitude towards a heretic of the preceding century, and uncritical handling of the traditions on which they founded, furnished but a meager and untrustworthy account of the great bishop. It was the good fortune of Waitz to discover, in a MS. in the library of the Louvre, a new and authentic account, written by an Arian, a contemporary, and indeed a scholar, of Ulfilas. The importance of the discovery is obvious. We can now behold the man, and the ecclesiastic, from two sides, as he had left his mark on the memories of his opponents, and as he was known by his intimate friend, adherent, and pupil, Auxentius.
The foundation of an enquiry into the history, of which Ulfilas was the center and the pivot, will perhaps best be laid by an account of this document. For, though it is true that of the points in dispute in regard to his life but few are touched on by Auxentius, yet in his evidence we shall find firm ground from which to approach the debated questions. This memoir is contained in a MS., the proper contents of which are certain writings of Hilary, two books of Ambrose de fide, and a copy of the proceedings of the Council of Aquileia, held in 381. The object of this council, where the Catholics were led by Ambrose, was to bring to reason or submission the western Arians, who were represented by Palladius and Secundianus. There was little courtesy shown to opponents in such councils, and small respect for the rights of minorities. Ambrose, no doubt, conducted himself overbearingly towards the heretics, but what they resented most bitterly was that their pleadings and replies were misrepresented or omitted in the official account of the proceedings. To correct these misrepresentations and supply the omissions, another Arian has made use of the broad margin of his copy of the Acta to make a fresh copy of his own, inserting remarks and corrections, as well as some longer documents bearing on the proceedings of the council. This marginal script extends over fifty-two pages, with a wide interval of twenty-five pages in the middle, whose margin is left blank. It is unfortunately much injured. For not only has one whole line at the top and at the bottom of almost every sheet been cut away in the binding, as well as many letters from the fore-edge, but the text itself also has been defaced in several places, and that so systematically, that it can hardly have been caused by accident. The writing is an autograph of the compiler himself, and from his regular expression in introducing his own remarks, we learn that his name was Maximin, and that he was a bishop. That he was also an Arian is clear from the whole scope of the document, and from the tendency of these remarks, which is uniformly to correct the Acta in favor of the Arian representatives.
The fragmentary character and partial illegibility of the MS. is very unfortunate, and a hiatus frequently occurs just where it was most important to have a continuous text; for Maximin took occasion to add to, or introduce into, his version of the Acta sundry documents, whose character and relation to the council could only be ascertained with certainty if the context were complete. But one consequence of the mutilation of the MS. is that it is no longer possible to discover exactly at what point, and by what connecting link, the writer passes from his revised or annotated copy of the transactions to the document, which is of such value and importance for the life of Ulfilas. Nevertheless, from references which are made to it in other parts of the MS., both its author and its subject may be ascertained beyond doubt.
The writer was Auxentius, an Arian bishop of Dorostorus (Silistria), and it is Ulfilas whom he describes thus: “A man whom I am not competent to praise according to his merit, yet altogether keep silent I dare not. One to whom I, most of all men, am a debtor, even as he bestowed more labor upon me. For from my earliest years he received me from my parents to be his disciple, taught me the sacred writings and manifested to me the truth, and, through the tender mercy of God and the grace of Christ, brought me up both physically and spiritually as his son in the fait”. In the first line, which is legible, of this account, drawn up by Auxentius, he is found distinctly referring to one, who can be no other than this his master, as “of most upright conversation, truly a confessor of Christ, a teacher of piety, and a preacher of truth”. To this there follows immediately an exposition of the doctrinal position of Ulfilas, and of his teaching regarding the qualities and relations of the Father and the Son. This is very full, and includes a description of his attitude towards each of the parties which were prominent in the Church at that time, with reasons for his dissent from each. Leaving the doctrinal position of Ulfilas for future examination, we find the epochs of his life given by Auxentius thus. He died at Constantinople at the age of seventy, when he had been bishop and preached “in the one and only church of Christ” for forty years, having been consecrated at the age of thirty, the earliest canonical age. Previous to his consecration he had been a “lector” or reader; as bishop he worked for seven years among the Goths on the far side of the Danube, till, a cruel persecution having risen against them, he sought and obtained leave from the emperor Constantius to move his flock across the Danube, and settle with them in Moesia; here he spent (so far as we learn from Auxentius) the remaining three and thirty years of his bishopric and his life, till he undertook his last journey to Constantinople upon imperial request, and died almost as soon as he reached the city.
The facts of his life are given very briefly and tersely, especially when compared with the account of his teaching; and it is worthy of note that no direct mention is made of his great work of translation; hence we feel that the object of the writing was not primarily historical or biographical or even commemorative, but doctrinal if not polemic. It is quite in accordance with this view that the climax and the close of the work is the creed of Ulfilas, solemnly introduced by the words: “And he, moreover, at his departure, even in the moment of death, through his testament, left for the people committed to him a statement of his faith”. Then follows the creed, and though the conclusion is unfortunately lost through the defective state of the MS., yet enough remains to show that it was distinctly Arian in its tendency; while, on the other hand, it corresponded exactly with none of the many creeds which were at the time the watchwords of as many parties; Of the utmost importance, however, for the history of the Gothic Church is the first clause, which runs,—“I, Ulfilas, bishop and confessor, have always thus believed”. Ulfilas was at no time in his life an adherent of the Athanasian party.
It will at once be seen that the most important date for fixing the chronology of his life is that of the year when he journeyed to Constantinople, and died. The object of his visit has been lost through the fragmentary state of the MS. at this point; but at the very end of the MS., the second part of which consists of a polemical work by Palladius addressed to Ambrose, we find an independent allusion to Ulfilas, and to a journey which he made to Constantinople, attended “by the other bishops”. It is also stated that their object was to induce the emperor to summon a general council. They obtained his promise; whereupon the leaders of the opposite (Athanasian) party were alarmed, and brought so much pressure to bear upon the emperor that he not only withdrew his promise, but also issued a decree forbidding the holding of any discussion concerning the faith “either in private at home, or in public, or in any place whatsoever”.
The date of the composition of the principal work which Maximin has inserted in this marginal script— that of Palladius, which forms the second part of the MS. —could be fixed with some certainty, (1) between the death of Auxentius, bishop of Milan, and the appointment of an Arian successor, Mercurin (Auxentius II), that is between 374—386; (2) between the Council of Aquileia and the death of Damasus, bishop of Rome, that is between 381—384. Taking note of the fact that the writing contains no reference to the Acta Concil. Aquileia, which could scarcely have happened, if it had been compiled after the publication of the Acta, and further that the interest in the whole controversy subsided very rapidly after the same council, we should date the work nearer to 381 than to 384. If it could be assumed, therefore, that this clause, which brings the MS. to a conclusion, is in vital connection with the rest of the work, and part of the same composition, the date of Ulfilas’ death would be ascertained to within one or two years; for it would be mentioned in a document which cannot be placed earlier than 381 or later than 384. But, however probable this date may on other grounds be shown to be, it cannot be supported from the general date of the composition of this polemic of Palladius. The last clause is not homogeneous with the whole work. It is preceded in the MS. by a passage of impassioned appeal, which might most fitly form a peroration by itself After a rhetorical allusion to Italy and Rome, “which have been held worthy to behold the martyrdoms of apostles, and to hold their sacred relics in possession”, Palladius challenges the Athanasians, “if they have any assurance of faith”, to meet their adversaries in public disputation before the senate at Rome, and promises on behalf of the Arians that their defences, drawn up at all points according to the authority of all the Scriptures, should then be forthcoming. Amongst the audience he hoped they would permit the presence of “followers of heathenism” as well as Christians, citing the mission of Paul to the Gentiles, and of Peter to the Jews, as a proof that the “Apostolic summons excluded none from hearing of religion”. “For, so it shall come to pass, that when truth, which is in the meanwhile crushed by your hostile attack, begins to breathe again, those who now appear to be without will become servants of God”. Finally, he declares that, wheresoever it may please them to hold a council, by the help of God through His only begotten Son, Palladius of Ratiara, and Auxentius, out of the rest of the bishops, will not be found wanting. It is at the close of this impassioned address to Ambrose that there follows immediately the notice of the last journey of Ulfilas to Constantinople, which is related in the matter-of-fact style of an annalist, and supported by a reference to the narrative of “Saint Auxentius”, which had been inserted in the first section of Maximin’s MS.
The conclusion cannot be avoided that the notice of Ulfilas forms no integral part of the writing of Palladius, but is, in truth, a pendant to it added by Maximin. Hence the date of the composition of Palladius’ polemic cannot be taken to define the date of the death of Ulfilas, which must be ascertained upon independent evidence. Now, the tenour of this concluding paragraph is as follows: “When they (presumably Palladius and Auxentius), together with Ulfilas and the rest of their fellow-bishops, had reached Constantinople, and the emperors, moreover, were present there, after that a council had been promised to them, as Auxentius has set forth, the heads of the heretic party did use all their influence to have a decree issued to forbid a council, and to provide that neither privately at home, nor publicly, nor in any place whatsoever, should any disputation concerning the faith be held—as is shown by the text of the decree”.
Regarding this statement by itself, we would gather that Palladius pursued his plan of a council, but wished it now to be held not at Rome, but at Constantinople. The Arian bishops, with Ulfilas amongst them, met in the capital. If this is called a council or synod by Maximin, it is, nevertheless, nothing more than a conference of Arian bishops. They had come not to meet or form a general council, but to demand one; and, furthermore, the presence of the emperors in Constantinople seems to be regarded by the chronicler as an accident, and one favorable to their design. Their mission appeared at first likely to be crowned with success. The much-desired council was promised to them. Upon this the Athanasians (here called “heretics”, according to the common practice of the Arians, who regarded themselves as alone the true Church), took alarm, and brought such pressure to bear on the emperors that not only was the promise rescinded, but a decree was issued, which finally crushed the hopes of the Arian party by prohibiting religious discussions of any and every kind. This important statement is now attested by a reference to two decrees of Theodosius, which profess to embody the legislation referred to in the text, the origin of which has been thus described. Now these laws are dated in 388 and 386 respectively. The former of the two, however, is seen to refer more directly to such circumstances; and, on the evidence of this law, and its date in the Codex of Theodosius, the year of the journey of the bishops, the year of the death of Ulfilas, has been fixed at 388.
It cannot be denied that there appears to be circumstantial evidence here of the strongest kind; so much so that, in spite of the convergence of many other lines of proof on 381 as the date of Ulfilas’ death, Waitz was compelled, with not a little reluctance, to accept the year 388, and to assign dates to the different events of his life by reckoning backwards from that year as the year of his death. Thus his birth falls in 318, his consecration as bishop in 348, and his flight with his people in 355.
The reluctance to accept the date thus forced upon him by the connection set up between Ulfilas’ last journey to Constantinople and the laws of 388 and 386, is well founded; the difficulties and contradictions that follow are many and insuperable. In the first place, there is no trace of an assembly of bishops at Constantinople in 388. The church historians, well-informed as they are on the events of the time in question, have no mention of it, and, moreover, a council in that year can be shown to have been out of the question, since the emperor, who, according to Auxentius, must have been at Constantinople, was absent from the capital during the greater part of the year. In the next place, the legislation of the year 383 had been already such as to destroy all possibility of a council for the settlement or even for the discussion of the Arian question. In fact, the policy of suppression, which had been persistently and systematically followed out by Theodosius since his accession, had long before 388 so reduced the numbers and influence of the Arian party in the Church that proposals for a council at that time would have been absurd, even if they had been legally possible. Thirdly, the laws quoted at the end of the MS. prove, on examination, to be quite inappropriate, and even futile in regard to their ostensible purpose,—namely, to rescind a promise just given, and absolutely to forbid the proposed council.
But these very laws thus quoted, which give rise to the difficulty, contain also the clue to its solution. It is admitted that, in the MS. of Waitz, we have the actual autograph of the compiler, Maximin, who made use of the wide margin of his copy of the Acts of the Council of Aquileia to engross thereon some portion of the same Acta, with a few remarks of his own interjected, a quotation from Cyprian, the writing of Auxentius, and the letter which Palladius had publicly addressed to Ambrosius. Who Maximin himself was, there is nothing beyond his own writing to show; but from this it appears that he was a bishop, an Arian, and had been in all probability a personal friend of Palladius, Secundian, and Auxentius, with whose ephemeral works he is so well acquainted, and whose opinions he defends so earnestly. At what time he collected for himself these documents, bearing on the Arian controversy, cannot be distinctly ascertained. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that the appended laws, together with the statement derived from Auxentius, of which they are offered in confirmation, and which has been shown above to be independent, of the foregoing Palladian document, were not written here before 438. The evidence for this statement is very curious. The second of these two laws (the year of whose issue has unfortunately been defaced in the MS.) is identical in its wording with the law of 386, Codex Theodosianus XVI, 4, 1. The most cursory examination of this law, however, shows that it is incomplete; for neither has it any grammatical construction, nor does it convey any effective sense. In fact, a comparison with Cod. Theod. XVI. 1, 4, sinews that it is nothing more than an incomplete sentence taken from that law, which here appears as independent and complete. Thus, not only is the ostensible application of the second law discredited, by which it is referred to the prohibition of Arian conferences at Constantinople, but it proves to be a fragment of a law issued by Valentinian at Milan, under special circumstances, and actually in favor of the Arian party, while this particular clause was directed against the Catholics, “who think that to themselves alone the liberty of assembly has been granted”. Now, since it cannot be supposed that this detachment of a sentence of the law Cod. Theod. xvi. 1, 4, and the erection of the fragment into an independent law, took place twice—once in the hands of the collator of the Codex, and again in those of Maximin—it follows that the latter drew his quotation from the published Codex. But the Codex was not collected and published till the year 438. With this second law we must connect also the first one, which immediately precedes it in the Codex, and assume that Maximin, having the statement of Auxentius before him, searched the Codex for an edict or edicts to confirm it, found these two in immediate proximity to one another, under the very appropriate title, “De his qui de fide contendunt”, and hastily added them to his text.
If, therefore, the connection of the year 388 with the last journey of Ulfilas to Constantinople depends only on the evidence of Maximin, writing later than 438, and conjecturally assigning the laws he quotes to the circumstances in the text, we are at liberty to neglect this evidence in favor of the otherwise converging testimony in favor of a date between 381 and 383. One of the objections to the date of 388 for the futile application for a council was, that there was no trace of such negotiations in the historians, nor would such an attempt have been possible under the historical circumstances as we know them. This objection does not apply to 381. We are aware of a situation and a course of events which, though differing in detail, are yet in striking agreement with the situation and events described by Auxentius. Sozomen, in introducing a story of readiness and address displayed by an aged bishop in the presence of Theodosius, explains that “the Arians, being still a considerable body, on account of the support given them by Constantius and Valens, were assembling with more boldness, and holding public discussion concerning God and the divine substance; and they were for persuading the officers of the palace, who were like-minded with themselves, to make trial of the emperor. For they thought to succeed in their attempt, having regard to what happened in the time of Constantine. But this also raised anxiety and alarm in the party of the Catholics”. From this point the account goes on to speak of Eunomius as the object of special fear among the Catholics, in relation to the emperor; and describes how, by the influence of his wife, and the parabolic instruction of a courageous bishop, “he became more cautious, and did not admit those who held the contrary opinion”; and a decree was issued, forbidding discussion and assemblies in the public market, and “making it very unsafe to discuss the nature and substance of the Godhead in the same way as before”. The correspondence of this account with Auxentius is sufficiently remarkable. In both, the emperor is the central figure; inclining at first to admit the heretics to negotiations, raising thereby the alarm of the Catholics; being diverted, through their influence, from his tolerant purpose, and destroying all hope in the heretic party by the issue of an edict forbidding all public discussion. This account is placed by Sozomen between the arrival of Theodosius in Constantinople and the consequent banishment of Demophilus, and the meeting of the Great Council of Constantinople, that is to say, between November, 380, and June, 381. Turning now to the Codex Theodosianus, XVI. 5, 6, we find an edict of January 10th, 381, which answers exactly to the circumstances and the foregoing negotiations as described by both Auxentius and Sozomen, while we cannot but find a distinct reference to the promise hastily given by the emperor in one of the opening sentences: “Let all men know, that even if anything have been obtained by men of this kind by any special authority whatever, craftily obtained, it is of no value”.
Finally, the transfer of the date of Ulfilas’ death, from 388 to 381, provides an immediate solution of a very perplexing statement in another historian. In an account of Ulfilas, given by Philostorgius (368—430), who, after Auxentius, stands nearest to him in point of time, and is further connected with him by the ties of a common creed, his consecration to the bishopric is described thus: “Having been sent by the rulers of the nation on an embassy, with certain others, in the time of Constantine, he was appointed by Eusebius, and the bishops with him, to be bishop over the Christians in Gothia”. As the history of Philostorgius is preserved only in the epitome which is given of it by Photius, who is, moreover, of opinion that Philostorgius thinks too highly of Ulfilas, and may therefore not have taken much pains to mold the extracts he made into a harmonious account, it is not difficult to understand how the embassy, and the selection for the office of bishop, are carelessly put together in one sentence, and made to appear as if both took place in the reign of Constantine (who died in 337). But no similar account can be given of the express assertion that Ulfilas was made bishop by “Eusebius, and the bishops with him.” That is a fact on which Philostorgius is as likely to be accurate as Photius is unlikely to have invented it. And as Eusebius, of Nicomedia, who alone can be referred to, died in 342, to place the consecration of Ulfilas in 348 involves a hopeless contradiction to the authoritative statement of Philostorgius. On the other hand, if 381 be accepted as the year of Ulfilas’ death, reckoning back the forty years of his bishopric, we arrive at 341 as the year of his consecration, and that is within the lifetime of Eusebius. Nor was a fitting opportunity lacking in that year. At the Council of the Dedication, held at Antioch in 341, there were present some ninety bishops of the Eusebian party, and Eusebius was the leading spirit there. It can, of course, be only a conjecture, but if the consecration of Ulfilas took place at this time, and during this council, then the expression of Philostorgius becomes fully intelligible.
These are the grounds upon which the conclusion of Waitz may be set aside, and the year 381 accepted in place of 388 as the year of Ulfilas’ death. The other dates follow accordingly. He was born in 311, consecrated bishop of the “Christians in Gothia” in 341, and migrated with his persecuted flock into Moesia in 348. In 380 he journeyed to Constantinople in obedience to a summons from the emperor, and there he died, either, at the end of the same year, or in the very first days of 381. So much may be established upon the testimony of Auxentius, the simplicity of whose account, together with the entire absence of “tendency”, which is implied in the fact that the biographical notice is quite apart from, and subordinate to, the main purpose of the document, entitle him to the fullest credit. Unfortunately, he went no farther; and from the man, whose familiarity with the people, the scene, the circumstances, and the chief actor, would have enabled him to give most valuable information, we have, so far as regards the outward history of Christianity among the Goths, little more than the bare facts collected above.
Seeking now to fill in these outlines, we have to depend on less satisfactory authorities, who wrote, for the most part, fifty or sixty years after the death of Ulfilas and had views of church history, and of church and state policy, to support, which were an almost irresistible temptation to accept or reject statements according to their bearing on these points, if not in some cases to modify them in the direction of their own sympathies. The passage in Philostorgius, to which reference has already been made, supplies important information concerning Ulfilas, which goes far to fill up the outline given by Auxentius. Beginning with the remark that “about this time Ulfilas (Ourphilas) is said to have brought across into Roman soil a large body of people from among the Scythians beyond the Danube (whom the ancients called Getae, but the moderns, Goths)”,—he proceeds to describe the origin of Christianity among this people, as has been shown above, and refers especially to Asia, Galatia, and Cappadocia, as districts from which Christian captives were carried off. “To this, body of captives belonged also the forefathers of Ulfilas, being Cappadocians by race, from a township near to Parnassus, and a village called Sadagolthina”. This very exact statement, which has been accepted without cavil by most of the historians, gains an apparent support, sufficient almost to induce conviction, from the fact that Philostorgius, as a Cappadocian and an Arian himself, may be presumed to be well-informed on the point in question. But this support is only apparent, and the statement itself, in the absence of attestation from any collateral evidence, can at best be regarded as a tradition preserved by a writer to whom it was a matter of personal interest. The following points are to be noted :
First, the connection of Philostorgius with Cappadocia does not really add weight to his testimony regarding the descent of Ulfilas from a Cappadocian captive, carried off thence to some place beyond the Danube. He stands even less near to original information on this point than a Byzantine writer would do. Indeed, such a fact could hardly be known to any one, writing forty or fifty years after the death of Ulfilas, except by a tradition derived from Ulfilas himself.
Secondly, it is to say the least, highly improbable that any captives carried away from Cappadocia were so carried away by the Goths of the Danube; still less probable that such could be the case in the expedition to which Philostorgius refers the captivity of an ancestor of Ulfilas. This expedition, in the reign of Valerian and Gallienus, took place in 267, and in so far as it was the only one which penetrated to Cappadocia, the account of Philostorgius is confirmed. But in all the sea-expeditions, except that of 258, in which the Visigoths also took part, but which reached no further than Nicomedia, the marauders were Ostrogoths from the Crimea and the coast of the Euxine, who had quickly learnt to make use of the highway of the sea,—perhaps had only to recall their experience acquired on the Baltic. Hence we should naturally look for Cappadocian captives, and traces of their influence, in the Crimea, but not among the Goths of the Danube.
Thirdly, it is not easy to understand how the descendants of a captive family could, in the third generation, have risen to such importance among the Goths that one of them, at the age of 17 or 23, should represent the people at the court of Constantinople, either as a hostage or as an ambassador. Yet this is what Philostorgius has related of Ulfilas just before. His object in connecting Ulfilas with Cappadocia was, no doubt, to enforce the idea that Arianism was a much earlier factor than had been supposed (compare the immediately following account of Theophilus, also ordained by Eusebius as deacon to go to the Indians); and the groundwork of the account may probably have been the work among the Goths of the undoubted Cappadocian, Eutyches, and the testimony borne thereto in the letters to and from Basil, and in the martyr relics presented to the Church in Cappadocia.
Leaving undetermined the question of the credibility of Philostorgius on this subject of the nationality of Ulfilas, we thank him, nevertheless, for the following. Sometime in the reign of Constantine, Ulfilas was “sent by the ruler of the nation on an embassy, with others”. This event in his life is the earliest of those mentioned by Philostorgius, and was no doubt taken by Photius as the point round which to collect his excerpts from that writer on the subject. If this be so, the phrase with which the whole passage is introduced may be pressed so as to give a clue to the date of the event which was earliest, but is thus by Photius confusedly combined with the event which was most important,—his consecration by Eusebius. The “times” referred to are seen, from the chronological position of the narrative, to be those immediately succeeding the Vicennalia; hence the year 827 or. 328. And if, as seems probable, the anxiety of Constantine to secure the frontier, to which his newly founded capital was in perilous proximity, determined him first to overawe, and then to make peace with, the Goths on the Danube, the presence at his court of representatives of that nation, either as hostages or as envoys, would readily be explained. If this were not the occasion, however, the conclusion of the important treaty in 332 would provide another opportunity. From this time we must suppose that Ulfilas resided, possibly as a hostage, at Constantinople or, at any rate, within the empire; for to this period, and the opportunities which such a residence would offer, we ascribe his knowledge and command of both Greek and Latin, and the commencement of his great task of the Translation, his work as “lector”, and his acquaintance with Eusebius, which led to his appointment as bishop. His command over three languages is doubly attested by Auxentius, who describes him as preaching constantly in the Greek, the Latin, and the Gothic tongue, and also as having left behind “several treatises and many expositions in those very three languages”; and if in explanation of this, and other indications of opportunity for study and familiarity with the Roman world, we assume for Ulfilas a sojourn of some years within the empire, we can find room for his activity as a “lector” either among the large body of Goths, who were, after the peace of 332, attached to the Roman army, or among those of his countrymen who were drawn in ever-increasing numbers to settle in the empire, where, since the peace, they were admitted to many high offices. Whether his conversion to Christianity is to be ascribed to the same period or not, there can be little doubt that it was then that he first learnt and embraced the Arian doctrines, which in one form or other would be found wherever he might be stationed in the empire.
The question of the form of Arianism, adopted and represented by Ulfilas, must be reserved for later discussion; sufficient for our present purpose that he had become an Arian, and had worked as a “lector” among his countrymen before his ordination by the semi-Arian Eusebius. In the latter circumstance we may find the simplest and readiest motive for the undertaking of the great work, which marks Ulfilas as a leader among men, the Luther as well as the Moses of his people, the father of all Teutonic literature, the first translator of the Scriptures into the mother tongue of the barbarians, in whose hands was the future of the world. The need of such a work would be obvious from the first moment of his undertaking to be a “reader” of Christian truth among his own countrymen. Nowhere else, and at no other time of his life, would the opportunity be so favorable for both conceiving and carrying out such a design. Living, as I imagine him to have done, in some part of the province of Asia, possibly moving from one garrison to another with the Goths who served under the Roman standard, he would come in contact with many men, especially of the Eusebian party, from whom he would obtain both encouragement and assistance; and his ordination by bishops of that party, at the earliest canonical age, is indirect proof both of their intimate acquaintance with him, and of zeal and ability displayed by him in his previous work.
The death of Constantine, the persistent and powerful champion of union in the Church, was the signal for renewed activity among the Eusebian party they held a council at Antioch in 338 for the purpose of deposing Athanasius, and met there again in 341 to consecrate the Golden Church of Constantine, and also to reply to the letter of Julius. At the same time we find Philostorgius relating, in immediate connection with these councils, the appointment by Eusebius of two men to work among the heathen, of Ulfilas as bishop and of Theophilus as diakonus, wherein we cannot fail to see striking evidence of a determination among that party to widen their influence by missionary enterprise.
Under such auspices was Ulfilas sent forth to preach the Gospel to the large body of his countrymen on the far side of the Danube, possibly with some part at least of his translation completed and in his hand. The Visigoths, or Thervingi, were at that time ruled by a prince or chief, whose great figure, looming through the haze, makes us wish that some of the historians had been at pains to tell us more, and more accurately, about him and his deeds, and sufferings. The political connection of these Visigoths and their prince with the Ostrogoths, and the wide-ruling Ermanaric, is very obscure, but it seems probable that if any dependence at all were admitted by the former, it was little more than nominal. When the gentile, or topographical, distinction between Ostrogoths and Visigoths deepened into a political separation, which took place either during or before the reign of Ermanaric, and certainly before the onset of the Huns, the Visigoths did not apparently come under the rule of one king, chosen from among themselves, but fell into separate tribes, whose chiefs or princes were independent of one another, and shortly, if not immediately, became independent of the Ostrogothic king. The ruler of the people, among whom Ulfilas went to work, bore the title not of king, but of “judge”, which may, according to Grimm’s suggestion, be a Latin attempt to render the Gothic “faths”, i.e. herr, or “over-lord”. Among a Gothic people, thus ruled by an “irreligious” and impious overlord, Ulfilas worked until the success of his efforts roused the alarm or suspicion of the ruler, and gave rise to a cruel persecution, “so that Satan”, as Auxentius quaintly phrases it, “who was eager to work mischief, against his will worked weal; for those whom he hoped to make deniers of the faith and renegades, Christ aiding and defending them, became martyrs and confessors. Whereupon, after the glorious martyrdom of many servants and handmaids of Christ, because the persecution was still in terrible fashion over-hanging them, after fulfilling only seven years in his bishopric, this most saintly man, Ulfilas, of blessed memory, was driven forth by the barbarians, together with a great body of the faithful, and received with honor on Roman soil by the then reigning emperor, Constantius; so that just as God, by the hand of Moses, did set free his people from the power and violence of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and caused them to pass through the Red Sea, and procured them to be his servants, so did God, by the hand of Ulfilas, set free from the barbarian the confessors of his own only begotten Son, and caused them to pass over the Danube, and to serve him according to the manner of his holy ones”. What follows in the narrative of Auxentius is rather fragmentary, but it is clear that he carries out the parallel between the two leaders, pointing out that Ulfilas also judged the people forty years in all. This account is confirmed by Philostorgius in the passage already referred to, though, in consequence of the confusion introduced by Photius’ epitome, the migration is made to take place under Constantine. Ulfilas settled with his Christian Goths in Moesia at the foot of the range of Haemus, round about Nicopolis, and near the site of the modern Tirnova. Here Jordanis, or his authority, knew them,—“a very numerous people, but poor and unwarlike, rich in nothing except cattle of different kinds, pastures, and forest trees; not having much wheat, though the soil is fertile in all other kinds of produce”. This is evidently the picture of a peaceful pastoral people, drawn probably by the hand of one (not Jordanis himself) who could not appreciate the gentler manners of the once terrible barbarians, or the hidden source of their new civilization. It is not a little remarkable that this is the only place where Jordanis mentions Ulfilas. “There were”, he says, “other Goths indeed, who are called Gothi Minores, a numerous people, with their chief priest, or primate, Ulfilas, who is also said to have taught them letters”. The meagerness of this account, his only reference to the famous bishop, is an indication in itself of the narrowness of the sources from which the historian of the Goths drew his information.
We must now leave Ulfilas working among his people, safely and peaceably established at the foot of the Balkan mountains, preaching, writing, and carrying on the work of his translation; his people were Arians, because he himself held Arian doctrines in some form or other, and on his death-bed he could say, “I, Ulfilas, have always thus believed”.
The Gothi Minores do not again appear in history; no doubt their settlement became a rallying point for Arians of other nationalities, and when the severe legislation of Theodosius forced the adherents of the defeated party to leave the capital, it was in Moesia that many of them took refuge, among whom Demophilus, the late bishop of Constantinople, was the most noteworthy. Possibly some of the Gothi Minores were swept along with Alaric’s host, and found their way to Greece and Italy. Otherwise the people became absorbed in the ordinary population of Moesia. Of Ulfilas himself, from the time of the migration, we hear nothing for twenty years, except that in 360 he was present at the synod of Constantinople, at which the creed of Ariminum was accepted and confirmed. But we may see traces of his influence on his fellow-countrymen across the Danube in their subsequent history; and whether or not we claim for him all the active participation which is ascribed by the historians, we can well believe that during these twenty years he built up that great influence, described by Socrates, which, from that historian’s point of view he used for evil. “For the Goths having been instructed by him in the things belonging to the faith, and having been by him made sharers in a more civilized way of life, readily obeyed him in all things, being fully persuaded that nothing of what was said or done by him was bad, but that all tended to the advantage of the zealous believer”. The part taken by Ulfilas in the events following, 367, and the questions arising in that connection, are so intimately connected with the general conversion of the Visigoths, that they can be best discussed in a subsequent chapter.
THE GOTHS AND THE EMPIRE
The history of Christianity among the Goths in the succeeding period is so closely bound up with their civil and political history, that it will be necessary, even for the proper understanding of the questions which have to be treated, to give here a short sketch of the relations of this people to the empire, reserving for the present any point that is held in dispute.
The peace of 332, the last of Constantine’s great services to the empire, governed the relations between the Goths and the Romans for many years. It was certainly to the advantage of both parties to preserve it unbroken. Apart from the security they had given in their hostages, the Goths had motives of self-interest, binding them to good behavior, in the advantages of a peaceful intercourse with the empire, and the career which was opened up to many a barbarian in the army or in the palace. On the other band, the emperor, besides the services of the auxiliaries, whom the Goths were bound to provide, enjoyed, through their tranquility, a security along the northern frontier, which was of the utmost importance at a time when the empire was engaged in frequent struggles with Persia. These peaceful relations continued throughout the reign of Constantius (837—861). In the reign of Julian the sounds of discontent and coming danger first made themselves heard. But it was not till the reign of Valens that hostilities actually broke out. The causes and the details of the war of 867—869 are very obscure, and do not concern us here; it ended in a peace concluded between Valens and Athanaric, which was arranged and ratified on board a ship moored in the river. From this time forward there appears on the scene a new and famous figure,—another chief of some section, tribal or otherwise, of the Visigoths,— namely Fritigern, whose relations to Athanaric on the one hand, and to Christianity on the other, form one of the kernels of the whole question. But whatever was the position of the parties, now three in number, in the years immediately after the peace of 869, all these relations were thrown into the greatest confusion by the sudden appearance on the stage of European history of the Huns.
At what time the terrible riding folk first passed the Gate of the Nations, and entered Europe, cannot be ascertained with certainty, but in or before the year 375 the shock of their onset upon the Goths of the Volga made itself felt upon the banks of the Danube. The empire, or great federation, governed by Ermanaric went to pieces. One part of the Ostrogoths submitted to the dominion of the new comers, and was absorbed in the great wave that rolled forward toward Europe. Another part fled before the wave, and, falling back upon their brethren, the Visigoths, crushed Athanaric and his subjects back into the Carpathians, while they thrust Fritigern and his people forward to the very waters of the Danube. From the far side of the dividing stream, while the whole people, men, women, and children, were massed up to the banks, looking back with terror for the approach of the dreaded foe behind, a hopeless, starving multitude, stretching out their hands to the land of plenty and of safety which lay in front, Fritigern sent envoys to Valens, asking him to receive his flying people, and give them leave to settle on Roman soil. Valens, after long debate with his advisers, gave his consent, and, almost before the negotiations were completed, the impatient people began to cross. Some plunging into the river were drowned in an attempt to swim over; others crossed on rafts; while the main body were transported by boats, the passage lasting through days and nights,—200,000 fighting men, according to Eunapius, with their weapons and their families.
Whatever were the conditions on which the barbarians were allowed to enter the empire, it is certain that they were not observed on either side. Valens was in distant Antioch; and the carrying out of the whole operation was necessarily entrusted to officials. They scandalously abused their position. On the one hand, the Goths were not compelled to lay down their arms; and on the other, the provisions which had been promised, and which were absolutely necessary for the starving multitude, were cruelly withheld till the people were fain to part with their gold and their jewels— nay, even with their children—to buy a piece of meat. The madness of such conduct is inexplicable. Lupicinus and Maximus were blinded by their greed, and they saw their own folly too late, when the people who had gradually been stripped of their goods, their treasure, their children, and their honor, of all but their arms, rose against their oppressors, destroyed the small force which Lupicinus had at his command, and poured forth over the whole peninsula, carrying back as they returned not only much booty, but their own treasure and their own children from every town. The Emperor Valens, engaged on the opposite frontier of the empire in negotiations and hostilities with the Persians, and most unwilling to leave that quarter till he had brought affairs to an issue, trusted to the lieutenants whom he sent, and to the assistance of Gratian, emperor in the west, to subdue the revolt of his new subjects. But his generals Profuturus and Trajanus were defeated in the Dobrudscha, and Gratian, after reaching the frontier, was compelled to divert his forces to meet a sudden inroad of the Alemanni on the Rhine; and not till Valens himself returned to the seat of war were the Goths compelled to desist from plundering far and wide, and to fight not only for land and liberty, but for their very existence as a nation.
The opposing armies drew together in the neighborhood of Adrianople. Whether from fear at the greatness of the stake, which depended for him and his people on the issue of the conflict, or from an honorable desire to obtain by negotiation and without bloodshed all they demanded—namely, the fulfillment of the late compact, securing to the Goths a free settlement in Moesia, and proper sustenance till they could support themselves—Fritigern, under whose leadership the other tribes seem to have united themselves with the Visigoths, made several attempts to come to terms. The envoy, who passed between the camps, is described by Ammian as “a presbyter, as they themselves call him, of the Christian religion”, who was sent by Fritigern “as an envoy with other humble men”. This presbyter has been commonly identified with Ulfilas, but only on the ground that he would be a persona grata to Valens, and the most likely and competent man to undertake the mission. Pleasing as it would be to find Ulfilas on so rich an opportunity using his great influence for the highest good of both nations, we must point out that the idea is quite unsupported by any ancient authority. Even Socrates and Sozomen, who are elsewhere very ready to introduce Ulfilas into their account of other transactions, know nothing about him on this occasion. On the other hand, Isidore, deriving his information, no doubt, from the source common to himself and Jordanis, represents the relation between the immigrant Visigoths and their former countrymen, the Moeso-Goths, as decidedly hostile. The latter absolutely declined to form an alliance with the new comers (and had even to defend their independence with the sword); and though, for reasons which appear later, we must reject (perhaps as a private comment of the compiler) the concluding sentence, which tacitly contrasts these Moeso-Goths as Christians and Catholics with the later immigrants as heathens or Arians, yet the passage, as a whole, points to a relation between the two peoples, such as would make it very improbable that Ulfilas would be found in the camp of Fritigern. Ammian states distinctly that the envoy, besides the public demands of the Goths, was entrusted with a private message from Fritigern. It has been conjectured that this referred to the question of religion, and perhaps included an offer to conform to Valens' wishes in the matter, but in the absence of any information on this point, and, above all, of any results that followed, the speculation is unnecessary, if it be not precluded by the previous fulfillment of all such conditions as Fritigern might have offered.
The envoy was dismissed with an ambiguous reply (this again was scarcely likely if Ulfilas had been the man); and a similar attempt, twice renewed, only met with similar success. A fierce, and for a long time a doubtful, battle ensued. But a furious charge of barbarian cavalry, under Alatheus and Saphrax, decided the day. The defeat of the Romans was so complete that Adrianople was called the second Cannae. Two-thirds of the army perished by the sword or in the morass; and the emperor himself was carried wounded to a small hut, to which the barbarians, ignorant of their opportunity, set fire, and so destroyed the enemy of their nation and the champion of their faith.
Valens was succeeded by Theodosius, who displayed both high military skill and great political shrewdness in his treatment of the Goths. The victory of Adrianople had put south-eastern Europe at the mercy of the barbarians; but with the danger that had threatened them, there disappeared the only bond that held them together. Having failed in one attempt to take Adrianople by assault, and in another to seize Constantinople by surprise, they broke up into roving bands who scoured the whole peninsula, succeeded in doing much damage, but often fell victims to the cautious and watchful generals of Theodosius. It is probable also that about this time the uniting influence of Fritigern was withdrawn by his death,—at any rate, he is not mentioned later than the year of the great battle. The serious and prolonged illness which attacked the emperor at Thessalonica, and detained him there from February to December, 380, obliged him to leave the work of clearing the province of Thrace of the barbarians to his generals. Moreover, several of the other tribes, who were always moving up to the Danube to take the place of those who had crossed the river, emboldened by the perilous condition of Theodosius, forced their way across, and strengthened the barbarian resistance in Moesia. But the emperor did not confine himself to the attempt to drive the Goths out of Thrace by force, but opened negotiations with them, which led even sooner to a complete pacification, the barbarians receiving permission to settle in different places along the line of the Danube, from Pannonia to Moesia. The Goths were now fairly established within the empire, and the crowning proof and symbol of the new relations established between the two was the appearance at Constantinople of the fierce old heathen Athanaric, who, coming in his old age to make submission to the power which his nation had conquered, was received by Theodosius with most distinguished honor. He entered the city on January 11th, 881; but fifteen days afterwards the old chief died, and was buried with the greatest pomp. It were strange indeed if, as we have reason to believe, he died in the same month, in the same city of strangers, and under similar circumstances with Ulfilas, the Christian whom he had persecuted and driven from his fatherland.
THE PERSECUTIONS OF A.D. 370—375.
Having thus sketched the external history of the Visigoths from the peace of Constantine to their pacification and settlement within the eastern empire under Theodosius, we return to trace the progress of Christianity and the fortunes of the Church among the Goths during the latter part of the same period. The earlier part of this period is marked by the work of Ulfilas on the far side of the Danube, and perhaps by that of Eutyches. The middle part, from the flight of Ulfilas to the second persecution, is unfortunately a perfect blank in the records preserved to us, and it is not until the year 370 that we can take up the thread at a point twenty years after Ulfilas dropped it. In the year 370, or possibly in the year immediately preceding, the opposition of the heathen governor of the Visigoths to the ever-growing body of Christians broke out in fierce persecution. The date is fixed by evidence converging from several independent sources. Jerome, in his chronicle under the year 370, relates that Athanaric, king of the Goths, raised a persecution against the Christians, slew a great number, and drove out the Christians from their fatherland on to Roman soil. An opportunity for such persecution would be found after the conclusion of peace with Valens; and in the ill-success that had attended Athanaric we may perhaps see the motive for his taking vengeance on the unbelievers, to whose presence among the people the anger of the heathen gods was frequently ascribed.
This persecution of Christians among the Goths is not to be confounded with the previous one which had issued in the migration of Ulfilas with his flock. Both are sufficiently attested as independent persecutions, taking place at an interval of over twenty years. Ulfilas, with his Arian Goths, had been settled all that time in Moesia. Who, then, were these Christians who fell under the displeasure of Athanaric in 370? Who had planted the seed that was bearing such fruit, and was their steadfastness to the credit of an Arian or of an Athanasian creed?
It is clear that these same questions were raised by those who were all but contemporaries of the persecuted Christians, and were not satisfactorily answered even then. But there can be no doubt that the orthodox opinion was that the Gothic Christians who suffered at this time were not Arians but Catholics. Thus Augustine, referring to this persecution, distinctly claims its victims as Catholic martyrs; and so strongly emphasizes the fact that none but Catholics were exposed to it, giving as his authority “certain brethren who had been present there as boys”, and were eyewitnesses of their sufferings, that he even appears to be controverting a different opinion. Thus Theodoret also speaks of the Goths as having been brought up in "the teaching of the Apostles". Jerome would never have alluded to them in such an unqualified way if he had had any inkling of unorthodoxy in their Church. Nor would Basil have received so gratefully the relics of an Arian martyr. And, not to multiply the indication of this opinion, Ambrose, in the commentary on Luke, mentions the Gothic martyrs in direct distinction to those who tolerated even the discussion of the Arian doctrines.
On the other hand Socrates, describing the general conversion of the Visigoths, which he places at any rate before 375, mentions a persecution cruelly carried on against the Christians by Athanaric, and especially adds : “So that there suffered martyrdom at that time barbarians who were of the Arian party”. And yet another sect claims a share in the persecution, if we add the statement of Epiphanius that the Audians, whom he knew on the banks of the Euphrates in 375, had been driven out of “Scythia, that is the land of the Goths”, four years before.
Taking a general view of these and similar passages that might be added, we cannot escape the conclusion that the persecution which lasted, with alternations of greater or less severity, from the end of 369 till 873 or 374, fell upon both Catholics and Arians, and found victims among Athanasians, Arians, and Audians alike. And the supposition is not in itself an unlikely one. The withdrawal of Ulfilas with his Arian flock need by no means necessarily have left Christianity unrepresented among the Visigoths. Not a few of his own followers even might prefer to take their chance of the persecution dying away when the great body of confessors and their energetic leader were departed; and even if we have not any direct evidence on the point, we can scarcely believe that Ulfilas left either his converts who remained behind or his heathen countrymen uncared for. No doubt those twenty years after the first migration, though a blank to us as regards Ulfilas, were filled with active missionary work, carried on by his converts and scholars who were sent out from the Arian community in Moesia. Again, the Catholic Christians, of whom we must always assume the presence among the Goths of the fourth century, whether as individuals or as small communities, would be unaffected by the departure of Ulfilas except in so far as they shared in the general cessation of persecution that followed. And with the ever-increasing communication in both directions between the barbarians and the Romans, these Catholic Christians must have received both encouragement and support from their coreligionists within the empire. Of this we shall find indirect proof in the bonds of familiarity and sympathy which undoubtedly existed at this time between the “Church in Gothia” and the Church in Cappadocia.
The Sect of Audians.
Lastly, there were the Audians, who were probably a more important factor in Gothic Christendom than the meagreness of our information would lead us to suppose. Our chief source of information concerning the sect and their founder is Epiphanius, who found them pretty numerous in the neighborhood of the Euphrates, and devoted to them one of his treatises “against heretics”. Audius, we learn, was of Mesopotamian descent, but dwelling in Syria, when, “at the time of Arius”, he founded his sect. A man of great purity of life himself, and ardently zealous for the purity of the Church, he did not hesitate to expose the irregularities and lash the vices of the clergy by whom he was surrounded. Encountering, as was natural, great dislike and misrepresentation, he nevertheless persisted in his work as censor, “studying in the meanwhile to be separated as little as possible from the fellowship and society of the Church”, until actual violence, to which he and his disciples had been exposed, forced him to leave the communion where his strict morality and shrewd tongue were so unpopular. The influence of his life and his earnestness was, however, strong enough to attract to his side many of the laity; and the bishops of Syria, alarmed lest a serious schism should arise, laid a complaint before the emperor, who sustained it, and banished Audius to Scythia.
Up to this time it would appear that he had not at any rate published the opinions which afterwards marked him out as a heretic; but they were probably known to a few of his supporters, and must have been rapidly developed after his banishment. From the land of his exile he exercised an influence which must have been great indeed to produce such results as are described by Epiphanius. He speaks of monasteries, convents, and congregations spreading as far as the Taurus mountains, Palestine, and Arabia, though at his own day the Audians were reduced to an insignificant sect, having then only two settlements. But what chiefly concerns us is that Audius made his way into the very interior of Gothia, and instructed many of the Goths in Christian doctrine. In fact, it is on the side of Audianism alone that we have a picture of a real ecclesiastical organization among the Goths, for Epiphanius goes on to describe how, through Audius, there arose monasteries and an organized religious life, recognized vows of virginity, and a general discipline of no common kind.
But Audius was an old man already when he was sent into exile, and most of this work must have been done by his successors. Several bishops joined his communion, and carried on his work after his death, among whom one Uranius is specially noted. But the Goths also were not backward in this respect, and it appears that Audius himself, who had been ordained by a bishop in Palestine (one who had left the Syrian Church for similar reasons), ordained Goths to the same office; and the succession must have been maintained, for we hear of a certain Silvanus, bishop in Gothia, after whose death the churches dwindled. But the principal cause of the decline of the Audians in Gothia was a severe persecution which they underwent together with other “Christians of our own communion”. And the way in which Epiphanius describes the persecution leaves no doubt that it was the same as that which fell on all Christians alike in 370. “Moreover, the most part of them were chased out of Gothia, and not they alone, but also our own Christians in the same place, through a great persecution which arose under a barbarian king”. The cause of the persecution, he adds, was the anger of the king against the Romans on account of their emperors being Christians. In this remark we may find remarkable confirmation of the reason suggested for Athanaric’s persecution, namely, chagrin at the conditions of peace imposed on him by the Christian king, Valens. In consequence of the persecution, many Audians among the Goths fled from their country and betook themselves to Mesopotamia, where they had been living already three or four years when Epiphanius wrote.
In judging Audius and the Audians, Epiphanius finds more, to blame in their schism than in their false doctrines. After describing the latter, he adds, “What is worse than all the rest, and more terrible, is that they do not pray with anyone, even if he be known to be a virtuous man, if only he be connected with the church”, that is, with the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the doctrinal position and the ritual of Audius, in two points at least, divided him very sharply from the Orthodox Church. He and his followers refused to follow the direction of the Nicene Council regarding Easter, and persisted in celebrating it according to the Jewish calendar, believing themselves herein also to be keeping the purity of early practice in opposition to an innovation dictated by subservience to Constantine. A more serious point of difference lay in the opinion held by Audius concerning the corporeal nature of God. Taking the account given in Genesis of the creation of man, and especially the texts Genesis I. 27, and II. 7, as the basis of his teaching, he sought to show that, man being made in the image of God and at the same time formed out of the dust of the ground, therefore God Himself must be conceived as possessing a corporeal existence. For this theory he sought further support in such anthropomorphic expressions as Ps. XXXIV. 15: “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry”.
This teaching was not a new thing in the Church, as Krafft points out, for one Melito, bishop of Sardes, had written a work in which the same doctrine was propounded. A reference to it may perhaps be found also in Augustine, who classes with the Anthropomorphites a certain sect called Vadiani, which may be a corruption of Audiani. Modern writers point out that an anthropomorphic conception of the Deity would recommend itself to the heathen Goths, both as easier to comprehend, and as more nearly related to their own conception, wherein the full deity was only a step beyond the demigod, and removed from the hero more by antiquity than by omnipotence, infinity, or incomprehensibility. But there is no ground for supposing that Audius deliberately adopted this view in order to effect more quickly the conversion of the Goths. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that the austere life led by the monks of Audius would deeply impress the barbarians, and appeal, moreover, to sympathies buried deep in the heart of the Teutonic race. Epiphanius has nothing but praise for the Audians in this respect. “For indeed”, he says, “this method is altogether admirable in its fashion, and everything within these monasteries is ordered well, apart from these controversies”.
We believe, therefore, that all these forms of belief had representatives among the Christian Churches and communities on whom Athanaric’s anger broke forth,— Nicenes, Arians, and Audians; and all alike, no doubt, furnished victims to the roll of martyrs. Tradition has preserved to us the names of some of these; while of many others we know only the perseverance and the cruel fate. Nor is it necessary to attempt, as some have done, to claim the heroes of the persecution for any particular church. Those within hearing of the conflict, but outside the ring of the flames of persecution, might grasp eagerly at proofs of the steadfastness shown by adherents of their own creed. But upon the very field of battle, and within reach of the fire that tried all parties alike, such distinctions would surely melt away. When the scorned and hated idol was drawn through the village, and they were called to do homage to it, Arian, Nicene, and Audian, who were there to glorify one Master, and looked with steadfast eyes to receiving the same eternal crown, would hardly stay to think of the trivial points that distinguished them from their neighbors, such as whether the Creator made man in the image of a divine body, and whether the Lord God the Son were begotten or made, equal or second to His Father in the Godhead. Those who died, died not in defense of the creed of a council, nor of the teaching of a bishop, however noble, but as subjects of one King, confessors of one Redeemer, children of one God.
After the great work of Ulfilas, the most interesting monument of the Gothic Church is the document which forms the basis if not the entire contents of the Acts of St. Saba, one of the Gothic Christians who fell in this persecution by Athanaric. This is the letter which was sent by the suffering Church in Gothia to the Church in Cappadocia, accompanying or following the remains of the martyr, which they had sent to their sympathetic fellow-Christians in testimony of their steadfastness and gratitude. The salutation runs thus: “The Church of God which is in Gothia to the Church of God which is in Cappadocia, and to all Christians of the Catholic Church wheresoever in the world they dwell—mercy, peace, and love of God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord be fulfilled”. Then follows a quotation from Acts X. 35, which leads at once to the mention of Saba as one who feared God and worked righteousness, and had indeed been accepted by Him. He was a Goth by birth, who had been a Christian from boyhood, and had led so holy and noble a life, and witnessed so glorious a confession, that the Church was moved to describe his works and sufferings for the instruction and edification of the faithful. After a eulogy on his character, in which his justice, devotion, and peaceableness are celebrated in turn, the third paragraph takes up his history at the beginning of the persecution “by the princes and magistrates of Gothia”, who insisted on the Christians renouncing their faith publicly by eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Some of the heathens, touched with compassion for their Christian neighbors, combined to give them means of escape by substituting secretly for the forbidden meat portions of meat that had not been thus polluted; but Saba, when he understood the subterfuge, refused to profit by it, and openly warned the Christians that no true Christian could accept escape on such a condition, “and thus he warned them to avoid the snare of the devil”.
The heat of the persecution seems then to have cooled for a season, but broke out again with a general inquisition for Christians, from which Saba’s would-be friends again sought to shield him by swearing that there were no Christians in the village. But Saba broke into the assembly and loudly exclaimed, “Let no one swear for me, for I am a Christian”. Summoned before the chief persecutor, he was contemptuously dismissed, on the discovery of his great poverty, as one who could do neither good nor harm.
Afterwards there arose a third and more determined persecution, during which the holy man set out to keep the feast of Easter with a presbyter named Gutthica; but, commanded by a vision which met him on the journey, turned back to find another presbyter named Sansala, unexpectedly returned to his native country, and with him he kept the festival. On the third night after the celebration, “Atharidus, the son of the King Rhotesteus”, broke into the village with a body of impious bandits, and carried off both the presbyter and Saba bound and naked. Treated by his persecutors with the harshest cruelty, the saint bore with them with steadfast patience. Left for the night bound to a log, he was released by a woman who had pity on him, but he refused to make his escape. In spite of both torture and cajolery, he refused to eat the meat offered to idols. At length, after he had several times escaped death as it seemed by a miracle, Atharidus ordered him away for execution. Led away to be thrown into the river Musaeus, he inquired of his executioners what his companion had done “that he should not deserve to die”, and his last words testified to his faith in God and praised the name of His Son. He died by “wood and water”, for a beam was fastened to his neck that he should sink. He was only thirty-eight years old when he thus confessed his Master by his death, and “received the martyr’s crown on the fifth day of the week after Easter week”, that is to say, on the 12th of April. His body was sought out and obtained by Julius Soranus, “dux Scythiae”, who was himself a Christian, “who has sent it to Cappadocia to your Church by permission of the presbytery, a precious gift and glorious fruit of the faith. Wherefore do you, holding a celebration on the day of his martyrdom, make this known to the rest of the brethren, that rejoicing with all the Catholic and Apostolic Church they may praise God, who choose His own servants for Himself. They salute you who with us do suffer persecution”. And this letter from the persecuted Church in Gothia to the sympathizing Church in Cappadocia is then concluded with the Doxology.
Most interesting confirmation of this account has been curiously preserved in certain letters of Basil, who was Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, from the year 364. The first is addressed to Julius Soranus, who was at the time (373) Governor in Scythia, and appears from the letter to have been a sincere Christian, and held in high honor by the bishop. It is at the conclusion, after discussing matters of purely personal interest, that he writes: “But in all the good you do, you lay up treasure for yourself; and if you provide relief for them that are persecuted for the name of the Lord, that you prepare for thyself against the day of reward. But you will do well if you do also send to your fatherland relics of the martyrs, since, as you have reported, the persecution is even now causing martyrs for the Lord”. This is clearly in answer to a letter from Soranus offering to procure some of the precious relics for his native Church. That he did so, and that they were those of the martyr Saba is clear from two other letters of Basil, one addressed to Ascholius, and the other to Soranus himself. The first is in answer to a letter from Ascholius, which must have had reference to the Church in Gothia and the martyrdom of Saba. Basil, in his despair at the state of his own Church, the coldness of the love, the strife of parties, the zeal which caused bitterness, but neither roused nor could support persecution, had been encouraged by the testimony to the faith of the Church in Europe, conveyed by the relics of a martyr from among the barbarians beyond the Danube. And when he recurs further on in his letter to the letter of Ascholius, he takes up some of his language: “Your own relation also, the agonies, the bodies that were torn for the sake of the Faith, the anger of the barbarian when he was despised by the men of unquailing heart, all the various tortures of the persecutors, the steadfastness through all of the sufferers, the wood, the water, which were the final trials of the martyrs”. The reference here to the sufferings of Saba, if not to the actual narration of them, in the letter to the Church in Cappadocia, is too distinct to be called in question, and it has been supposed that the letter of Ascholius, to which Basil was replying, was the identical narrative. The second letter, addressed to Soranus, conveys to him directly the thanks of Basil for the precious gift that he had made to his fatherland, “like a grateful husbandman sending of his first-fruits to those who had provided the seed”.
Another record of the same persecution is contained in the Greek Calendar, which celebrates, on March 26th, the martyrdom of six-and-twenty Goths, of whom two, Bathusis and Verekas, were presbyters, and the rest were of the laity, both men and women. These suffered, according to this record, in the reign of Valentinian and Valens, through the cruelty of the Gothic king, Jungerich (Atlianaric), by whom they were burnt together in a church. Then follows a long account of the removal of the relics by a pious queen, who, with her daughter, brought them to Cyzicum. The memory of the same event is also preserved in the fragments of a Gothic calendar, which were discovered in the library at Milan early in this century. One of the seven festivals therein noted is on the 29th of the month preceding November, which is marked as “Remembrance of the martyrs among the Goth-folk who were burnt with Vereka, a presbyter ('papa'), and with Batvin, the servant of the Catholic Church”."
In the same month the calendar also commemorates the many martyrs among the Goth-folk, and “Fripareikeis”, where it has been proposed, either with or without a change of reading, to find an allusion to Fritigern, not indeed as a martyr, but as a champion of the faith. This would be illustrated by the dedication of a day in November to “Constantine, King”, but the reading seems established, and, apart from the first syllable, it is hard to find the name of the Gothic chief underlying the word in the MS. The other persons commemorated are Dorotheus, Episcopus, Philip, Apostle in Hierapolis, the forty venerable virgins in Beroea, and Andrew, Apostle. This curious relic of the early Gothic Church appears to belong to its Thracian period, and hence to the close of the fourth century.
This persecution of Athanaric would seem to have been prolonged with varying intensity over several years; and while the death of Saba and the persecution of the Audians, described by Epiphanius, must be placed in or before 372, the death of Nicetas, which is also commemorated in the Acta Sanctorum, belongs apparently to the year 374, or the beginning of 375. The accounts given of Nicetas in the Acta, and of the persecution in general by Sozomen, are obviously connected, and refer to the same period. But it is clear on the face of it that the account of Nicetas in the Acta has been “edited” by a later redactor, and has received copious additions, suggested by the editor's knowledge or ignorance of the history of the time.
Passing over for the present the perplexing questions that arise in this connection, we learn here something about the later stage of the persecution. Nicetas, like Saba, was by birth a Goth, and brought up in the midst of barbarian surroundings. “All men know the Ister, renowned among rivers for its size, called in the language of that neighborhood the Danube. It had, moreover, for dwellers on its banks, Goths, who at that time had moved out of their own country”. Here lived Nicetas, by birth and nurture, but neither by life, character, nor faith, a Goth. In his youth he had drawn from the streams of the teaching of Theophilus. Now in the reign of Gratian, the impious and bloodthirsty Athanaric began to shed the blood of the faithful, and taught his subjects to do the like. Nicetas, in spite of his threats and cruelties, “nothing heeding, persevered in preaching the faith”. At length he was seized and put to torture, but nothing could induce him to abandon his confession, and, after one or two miraculous deliverances from death, he received the crown of martyrdom along with many others. A certain Marianus of Cilicia, who was a believer, having by means of a miracle obtained possession of the body of the saint, transported it to Mopsuestia, where certain miracles followed, of which an account is given. This portion of the Acta is probably, as we shall see later, independent of both of the intervening paragraphs, and perhaps represents the original account, which would be drawn up presumably by Marianus himself. From Sozomen we learn that, of the Christians, some were brought to trial and boldly confessed their faith; others were destroyed without an opportunity being allowed them of speaking. A wooden idol placed upon a wagon was drawn through the villages, and the Christians were summoned to come forth from their houses to worship and offer sacrifice; upon their refusing, the heathens burnt their dwellings to the ground with the occupants. One act of barbarous cruelty is recorded. Several Christians, who had been driven by fear or force to offer sacrifice, fled with their wives and children “to the tent of the church at that place”, but only to be pursued by their enemies and there burnt alive together. These are probably the victims whose memory is preserved in the calendar.
The statement in the Acta Nicetae that the persecution in which he fell took place under Gratian, if it be a genuine record, would fix the date later than the exaltation of that prince in 374. On the other hand, it may have taken a place at any time between that and the death of Athanaric in 381. The statement that the Goths had then migrated from their own country must be regarded as an insertion of the editor to make all his statements tally, and could at no time be true of subjects of Athanaric. On the whole, it seems most probable that this persecution was a continuation of the former one, and took place only in 375. Whatever we may have afterwards to say concerning the concurrent political events, the general results of these persecutions were disastrous to Athanaric, whose power dwindled as that of his rival Fritigern increased.
We have thus observed the appearance of a Christian Church among the Goths under two successive phases: first, as the organized result of the labours of Ulfilas, professing in the main an Arian creed, fleeing before the first cruel persecution to settle with their beloved teacher in Moesia, whence they continued to work for the conversion of their brethren. Secondly, there appears among the Goths, who remained across the Danube, a more sporadic Christianity, scattered confessors, presbyters, and communities owning allegiance to one or other of the various parties, according as they received the seeds of the Gospel from Arians, Audians, or Nicenes. They, too, felt the blast of persecution, and many of them no doubt took refuge with their countrymen beyond the river. Others, however, found a refuge and a rallying-point with Athanaric’s rival, Fritigern, who, about this time, proclaimed himself a Christian, or at least a protector of the persecuted. Thus was formed the kernel of the future Christian Gothic state. From this rivalry proceeded the general conversion of the Visigoths.
This raises one of the most perplexing and debated questions in connection with the Gothic Church. It is a double one. When and under what circumstances did the Visigoths as a nation, or the great bulk of them, accept Christianity?—and why was the Christian scheme of doctrine which they adopted an Arian one? In answering these questions, if an answer can be found for them, we shall also meet the subordinate yet important question—What part was played by Ulfilas in this act of his nation's history?
This conversion of the Visigoths to Arian Christianity is closely connected with their migrations across the Danube in 376 and the following years, and also with the relations between Athanaric and Fritigern. The rivalry of these two chiefs represents the struggle between the old faith and the new, between proud barbarian independence and a subject-alliance with the empire, between the old national spirit that stiffened its back against misfortune and distress, and a more supple statesmanship, with wider views, which perceived how by a small surrender it was possible to secure an immense advantage. The third political element in the matter is the Emperor Valens, a prince of Arian leanings in the hands of a strongly Arian court. In these circumstances it is hopeless to look for an impartial record of the events that led to the conversion. None of the authorities except Eunapius and Ammian can claim to be heard as contemporaries. Most of them wrote sixty or more years later. Their partisanship, unchecked by any true historic sense, took its own way with the facts. Even before comparing one authority with his fellows, we feel that the accounts are colored by the influence of all that has gone between, affected by the rise of new parties as well as by the extinction of old ones. Caution has, moreover, to be observed in handling these authorities, lest too much weight be given to a manifoldness of concurrent testimony, which may after all have but one original source underlying it. This, while it involves much careful comparison, at the same time opens the door to much destructive criticism. But between the rocks of partial and ill-supported assertion and the whirlpool of skepticism a course may yet be shaped.
The one undisputed fact is that the Visigoths professed Christianity and held it under an Arian creed in 381. That it was more to them than a mere outward profession, and that the form was not less important in their eyes than the essence itself, is clear from the facts that they transmitted the faith and the form together to their brethren the Ostrogoths, to the Vandals, and other Teutonic tribes, as well as to their own posterity; and moreover that, rather than abandon the form, they sacrificed opportunities such as were offered to no other barbarian race, foredoomed themselves to failure in the noblest and most patient struggles to invigorate the effete Roman race and decaying empire, and accepted the ruin of one kingdom after another, though it had been erected with an infinitude of patience.
More open to question, but yet extremely probable, is the opinion that the definite transference of their national, allegiance from heathenism to Christianity took place on an occasion of their crossing the Danube, and being received within the empire. We are defending a position when we say that it could only have taken place under an Arian emperor, and that he could have been no other than the Emperor Valens; and we are on much disputed ground when we maintain that the occasion was the general immigration in the year 376, that the act was a national act by the chiefs acting as representatives of the nation, and took place by agreement between Fritigern with his fellow chiefs and Valens, either upon the offer of the one party or on the demand of the other; while it is quite possible that previous communications between Fritigern and the emperor had laid the foundation of Gothic Arianism.
If we turn now to the authorities, we find one group which must be dealt with together. The accounts of the conversion of the Visigoths given by Orosius, Jordanis, and Isidore are thrown into one group by a curious remark which, with individual variations, is common to all of them, but which could scarcely have occurred to each of them independently. At the close of the account, after the death of Valens, they each remark on the “judgment of God”, which inflicted upon Valens in this life the same torture of burning which, by perverting their faith, he had secured for the Goths in the life to come. From this we conclude either that one of these writers was the source from which the others drew, or what is most probable, that all three depended on a fourth authority. In either case we cannot cite two of the three in support of the third. But there is good ground for believing that Jordanis depended either directly or indirectly on a document which carried the history down to 417; and it is important that we can show that this source was accessible to and in part at least used by Sozomen who might otherwise be looked upon as an independent authority. This is proved by a comparison of the accounts given in both writers of the first contact of the Huns with the Ostrogoths; the legend of the popular notion that the peoples were divided by an impassable sea, which was only removed when some hunters saw an "infuriated cow" or “a stag” crossing the shallow water, is common to both Sozomen and Jordanis, and undoubtedly betrays a common source; and since Sozomen wrote in 440, this may very well have been the document of 417. Jordanis’ account of the conversion is as follows.
“The Visigoths, after being long in perplexity as to what they should do to escape the Huns, by general consent dispatched envoys to the Emperor Valens, saying that if he would give them a portion of Thrace or Moesia to settle in they would live according to his laws and submit to his authority. And that he might have more abundant confidence in them they promised, if he would give them teachers in their own tongue, to become Christians. When Valens had heard this, he soon afterwards granted with much satisfaction what he would fain have been the first to ask, and received the Goths in certain parts of Moesia, where he planted them as a wall against other races; moreover, because the Emperor Valens, smitten by the perverted faith of the Arians, had at that time suppressed all the churches belonging to our party, he sent them for preachers supporters of his own creed. And they imbued the Goths, who came thither ignorant and unlearned, with the poison of their own perverted faith; so in this way the Visigoths, through the Emperor Valens, were made Arians rather than Christians. Moreover, they themselves sent preachers to carry the Gospel in the same form to the Ostrogoths and Gepidi, nations of the same stock as themselves; and in this way all the nations of the same speech were drawn into the same sect”.
In Orosius the account is much shorter, all details as well as motives being omitted, but the course of events is the same. The Arianism of the Goths is traced to an application made to Valens and acceded to,—that “bishops might be sent to them from whom they might learn the rule of Christian faith”. Turning to Sozomen, we find indications that the same original document was at his disposal, and probably formed the basis of his narrative; but he has tried to combine it with, and perhaps to assimilate it to, a supplementary account either written or oral, which added two new factors, a quarrel between the heathen Athanaric and the Christian Fritigern, and the influence of Ulfilas. He diverges from the account of Jordanis at the point where the embassy was dispatched to Valens. “The head of this embassy is said to have been Ulfilas, the bishop of the nation”. Then, after the migration, a quarrel broke out among the Goths, the different sides being led by Athanaric and Frithigern. Frithigern having been beaten in battle, applied to Valens for help. The imperial troops in Thrace having been sent to his aid, he won a great victory, and put Athanaric and his party to flight. Then, out of gratitude to the emperor, he adopted his religion, and induced his followers to do the like.
But Sozomen is not satisfied that this was the only reason for the Arianism of the Goths, and accordingly he introduces Ulfilas as another agent in their conversion. Ulfilas, who was then their bishop, had originally held the faith in full accordance with the Catholic Church; and though, in the reign of Constantius, he had “without due consideration” taken part with Eudoxius and Acacius at the Synod of Constantinople (360), he had continued nevertheless in communion with those who held the Nicene faith. But when he came to Constantinople on this embassy he met there the chiefs of the Arian persuasion, who plied him both with arguments, and with promises of their support in his appeal to the emperor, if he only would join them, until either from pressure of the necessity of his mission, or from honest conviction, he joined the Arian communion, and severed his whole people from the Catholic Church. For he had boundless influence over them, through his long devotion to their cause, and the sufferings and perils he had gone through for their sake and the Church. This narrative of Sozomen, so far as it is distinct from Jordanis, is related in a degree too striking to be overlooked to the Acta of Nicetas, and especially to sections 2 and 3 of that document, which it is further to be noticed are not unreasonably suspected of being themselves an insertion made by a later editor into the original account of Nicetas.
Fortunately, it is not necessary for our inquiry to decide precisely what is the nature of the relation between these two accounts, whether one is the parent of the other, or both are founded upon a third and earlier document. Nevertheless, I incline to the opinion that these paragraphs in the Acta Nicetae were probably drawn up later than the account of Sozomen, and were not the foundation of that account. Bessell, for whose theory of the conversion it is of importance to show that the Acta Nicetae were the foundation of the accounts of the Church historians, lays stress on the many special traits “in the Acta which he would regard as indications of greater closeness to the time of action”; but the traits to which he refers are little more than stock epithets, and are consistent with the generally artificial character of the style, which gives an impression much more of a revision in the spirit of a triumphant and much later ecclesiasticism, than of the original work of one who was immediately or closely connected with the events.
This account, which is common to Sozomen and the Acta Nicetae, and which we may for convenience refer to as the second document of Sozomen, was also used by Socrates, and one obvious blunder of the former writer, which arose either from an attempt to reconcile his document with some previous notions of his own, or from careless handling of it, is corrected by a reference to the latter. This blunder is contained in the description of strife between Athanaric and Fritigern as breaking out after the Hunnish invasion, and after the general migration across the Danube; an arrangement of events which is quite unhistorical, and is contradicted not only by the account in Socrates, but also by the thoroughly trustworthy and fully detailed narrative of Ammian. But having made this obvious correction, there is no reason why we should not accept the civil war between Athanaric and Fritigern as historical, and as leading to important consequences for the Goths. Whether the cause of this discord was originally political or religious it is not easy to decide; but whichever element appeared first, it is certain that the other quickly followed. Whether Fritigern was a rival chief, who strengthened his hands by giving protection to Christians who fled from Athanaric’s persecution, or whether he was a Christian of noble family who was driven to appear as a political rival to the heathen Athanaric, the issue was the same. His party were defeated. He crossed the river to ask help from Valens; returned with Roman troops, and retrieved his defeat by a victory which drove Athanaric northward and eastward, and excluded him and his followers from finding asylum with their countrymen in the Roman empire when the Hunnish thundercloud burst upon them.
Passing on to the second part of Sozomen’s account, that which introduces Ulfilas as an actor in the drama, we find it to be open to much suspicion. A comparison with Socrates shows that this introduction of Ulfilas as an important figure in the negotiations was either absent from the document with which he, Socrates, and the editor of Acta Nicetae were all directly or indirectly acquainted, or was ignored by the better informed Socrates. Again, the very clumsy way in which Sozomen introduces Ulfilas and his influence, as a further explanation of what has been sufficiently explained already in the conversion of Frithigern and his influence on his subjects, followed by that most strange account of his “thoughtlessly” joining Eudoxius and Acacius in 360, but, nevertheless, remaining in communion with the Nicaeans, betrays traces not so much of the smooth course of an original and authentic document as of an attempt to foist into such a record some previous opinion or tradition which the writer himself held. It will suffice to indicate one more point which raises suspicion against the genuineness of this record. The discussions between Ulfilas and the heads of the Arian party, and the meetings during which pressure was brought to bear, and promises were held out of influence to be exercised with the emperor, are represented as taking place at Constantinople. Now Valens, to whom the embassy was directed, was at Antioch; is it then to be supposed that Ulfilas, if he had been one of the envoys, knowing the stress and terror of his people on the far bank of the Danube, would pause in his journey to Antioch to discuss points of doctrine with the Arian leaders at Constantinople? But Sozomen is evidently under the impression that the emperor was actually at Constantinople, a place to which he did not return for fifteen months after the Goths had crossed the Danube. By Socrates, Ulfilas is also introduced, but only parenthetically; and all that he has to tell is incorporated by Sozomen in his perverted account. Thus we conclude that of these church-historians, Socrates stands nearest to the original source; that Sozomen, coming next, had access to Socrates' account, and also directly or indirectly to the document on which Jordanis founded his; but that he introduced matter of his own apart from either of these authorities, which is of very doubtful value. Lastly, that the Acta Nicetae, 2 and 3, are not the source of Socrates, but represent either an independent contamination of the same authorities, or, as seems much more probable, a version of Socrates worked up and embellished for insertion in the original Acta.
A fourth writer who discusses the same subject is Theodoret; but as his account shows no indications of resting on different or better authority than the foregoing, and contains only one variation of moment for our enquiry, it need not detain us long. It shows the bitterness, if not also the unfairness, of the odium theologicum more clearly than the other historians do.
The condition that the Goths should become Arians is made to proceed from the side of the emperor on the instigation of “Eudoxius the badly named”. For he said they had long ago received the rays of divine instruction, and were being brought up in the teachings of the Apostles; and a common faith would prove a stronger pledge of peace. To Eudoxius also (or Euzoius?) he ascribes the conversion of Ulfilas, whom he charges with having been brought over by means not of argument alone, but of bribes. Ulfilas, moreover, whose influence over his people is here again described as supreme, lightly, persuaded them to adopt the new form of faith by saying that there was no doctrine of importance involved in the dispute, which was merely a matter of party jealousy, and a battle about words. The greater part of this version falls to the ground at once when tested with the touchstone of the Auxentian document; but the suggestion that the proposal that the Goths should become Arians proceeded from Valens is quite a reasonable one, though hardly to be preferred to the statement of the converse.
Finally, we have an interesting and graphic account given by Eunapius, who was actually a contemporary writer, of the passage of the Danube from which Bessell has tried to draw conclusions concerning the date and probable motives of the conversion of the Visigoths. No doubt he is right in maintaining that the reference here is to a different and later passage of the river than that in 376, namely to one in 380. But if this be the case, according to our conception of the history, the body of Goths who crossed in 380 were not Fritigern’s Goths of 376, returned to their country after their great victory, and now hurling themselves anew upon the empire. That is an altogether untenable theory. They were bands of Ostrogoths, and perhaps of remaining Visigoths, who, either at the summons of Fritigern or upon the news of the disabling illness of Theodosius, flocked to share in the victories and the booty of their comrades who had crossed before.
Statements concerning Christians, or professing Christians, coming from a heathen, and avowedly hostile, writer like Eunapius, are obviously to be received with caution. But some of the details which he gives are too curious to be passed over. After describing the tribes crossing in great numbers, he adds that each tribe brought along with it its national sacred things or idols, together with the priests and priestesses belonging to them. But about these the most deep and “adamantine” silence was preserved, and all the open and ostensible signs of religion were prepared to “deceive the enemy”. They had dressed up some of their number in robes to represent bishops, and made them advance in front and in the middle of the line. Monks also they had provided themselves with, and that without much difficulty, for it “sufficed if they swept along in dark robes and tunics, and both were, and were thought to be, scoundrels”. All this was done to deceive some people who met them on the opposite bank, not further specified, who were “so sunk in foolishness that they were clearly and immovably convinced that they were Christians and followed all the rites”.
We are now in a position to collect the evidence thus sifted, and briefly to describe the course of events which we believe to have led to the conversion of the Visigoths. After the peace of 369 concluded between Valens and Athanaric, the latter was left with his heart full of wrath, and his hands free to avenge upon the Christians the insults which their unbelief offered to his native gods. Ulfilas, through his disciples, had probably carried on the work of evangelization among his old countrymen, particularly among the dependents of a smaller chieftain, Fritigern; but the faith had also found adherents among the subjects of Athanaric. The cruel persecution of the Christians by Athanaric raised the rivalry of the two chiefs to an open quarrel. Fritigern, whether out of conviction or of policy, took the part of the Christians, who soon learnt to know their champion, and flocked to him. In the war which followed, Fritigern was defeated, and hastened across the Danube to seek help from the Roman emperor. The only pretext for such a request, or for the assistance accorded to him, would be the claims of persecuted Christians on a Christian emperor. And whether the church-historians are right or not in ascribing the chief's own conversion wholly to his gratitude on this occasion, his convictions would certainly be strengthened and his faith encouraged. The Roman troops led the Goths, who owed allegiance to Fritigern, to a victory which secured the position of the latter as an independent chieftain, and internal peace for the period that intervened before the inbreaking of the Huns. To this period, and to the communications between Valens and Fritigern, I ascribe the application for, and sending of, “preachers from whom they might learn the rule of Christian faith”, though the historians, with the foreshortening inseparable from their method, have connected this with the embassy of 376. Before the latter year arrived, these labourers, assisted perhaps by missionaries of Ulfilas, may have converted no small section of the Goths to the simple form which the faith took, outside the reach of theological controversies, and so the famous embassy of 376 may very well have carried sincere proposals for the acceptance by the whole nation of the faith of the emperor, which was already known and accepted by a considerable section. While on the other hand, if the true view lies with Theodoret, it may have been Valens who dictated a condition which could be of service to the peace of the empire only if a large part at least of the incoming people could accept it with sincerity. This seems to me to be the only account of the conversion of the Visigoths reconcilable with a fair and comprehensive survey of the authorities.
THE ARIANISM OF ULFILAS AND THE GOTHS :
THE GOTHIC BIBLE
The acceptance of Christianity by the Goths in the modified form of Arianism, as described in the last chapter, was an event of most serious importance for their future development, and, as it proved, of hardly less importance for the future of the Roman empire. Provided thus with a platform that lay between the darkness of heathenism and the light of a full-orbed Christianity, they came to a fatal halt. In this dim twilight of Arianism the figure of the Christ appeared familiar to them, and comprehensible by its resemblance to their own old deities who stood between man and the absolute divine,—the All-Father. It did not cost them much to exchange these demigods, who were just one step removed from heroes, for one heroic figure in whom all the powers and qualities of the rest should combine. But the All-Father remained as far removed as ever from reach and contact of human needs. Christ was not God come down from heaven to reveal the Godhead in the flesh, to deliver man from sin, having made atonement for it, and so to exalt him to an original state of glory and holiness. He was a creature like man—the first and highest of creatures, it is true—and as such worthy to be honored and adored next to God, but exalted above man by the design and will of the Father, not by virtue of his own divine essence. Least of all was his essence to be regarded as identical with that of the Father, for “the transition from one who walked on earth to equality with the All-Father is so great as to be almost inconceivable”. It was thus that the Arian Christ found responsive acceptance in the Teutonic mind. They pictured him as a true king upon earth, moving about the highways of Palestine, attended by troops of loyal followers, from among whom he had chosen the Twelve as captains. When he “went up into a mountain”, and took his seat, his captains stood in obedient readiness before him, and all below and around the faithful host was waiting to hear his commands and ready to execute them. Or if at any time the Teutonic mind took a deeper and more spiritual view of the Saviour’s work, it was as the Healer that they loved to behold him, moving about among suffering humanity, touching for the evil, restoring sight, and power, and hearing.
Teutonic Arianism is nevertheless to be carefully distinguished from Hellenic Arianism. Even if the two could be shown to occupy the same platform of belief, the moral value of the same faith was very different in and for the two parties who had approached it from different directions. For the Goth, in spite of the assistance he may have found in the likeness between his demigods and the Arian Christ, it was nevertheless a distinctly upward step in faith when he confessed a belief in a historic revelation, and submitted himself to the teaching of the Gospel, through which Jesus was manifested as the Son of God. For the Hellenic Christian, on the other hand, the acceptance of an Arian creed, or any of the post-Nicene compromises, was a step backwards and downwards. He left the high level of conception of the nature of God to which, after a great struggle and, as it were, by a supreme effort the Nicene Council had sprung; and he fell back upon a philosophical heathenism, which began by denying the Godhead of Christ, and afterwards sought to bring about a compromise of faith with reason at the cost of logic by proclaiming Christ to be God, but God “in the second degree”.
Nor is the Arian Teuton morally superior to the Arian Hellene in theory only, but still more remarkably in practice. Here the moral tendency of the race came to the aid of a defective faith. In the Arian Church of the empire the surrender to heathen philosophy seemed to be followed by a surrender of Christian morality. At a time when neither party can claim to have illustrated the ethics of the Gospel by their conduct, the Arians distinguished themselves above their rivals in their display of worldliness, and their unscrupulous recourse to treachery and intrigue. In the matter of “works” if we may trust the report of writers like Salvian, the Goths, on the other hand, approached nearer to the full ideal of Christian life than their stunted faith would warrant us to expect. They had learnt to curb their passions, to respect women, and to honor truth. Nevertheless it was a stunted faith, nor was there much hope that it would develop to a fuller, richer form. For the bitterness of schism proved a more impervious barrier to the fostering of a more perfect faith than the ignorance of heathenism had been to the introduction of true light.
The effect of this conversion on the political history of the Goths will appear in subsequent chapters. For the Roman empire also, whose subject-allies they now became, the form of their creed, and the tenacity with which they clung to it, involved important consequences. The conversion of the Goths arrested the decay of the Arian cause, which would otherwise have collapsed, under the pressure of persecution upon its hollow and divided frame, before the fourth century had come to a close. But the same day that planted this new buttress of the party within the empire saw it shattered at its foundation by the death of its champion, Valens, by the consequent loss of court support, and its ultimate transfer to the opposite party. The gain of a nation could not atone to the Arian party for the loss of an emperor. Three years later the Arian bishop and clergy of Constantinople had to surrender the churches, and submit to laws suppressing all the gatherings of their flocks, or leave the capital. Most of them chose the latter alternative, and the Arian Church became little more comprehensive than the Gothic Church, had few fixed habitations, but wandered over southern Europe with these its latest converts, and only staunch supporters.
But it must not be supposed that the Arianism of the Gothic Church presented that many-fashioned creed in its coldest and most brutal form. The distinctions had been fined down till, on the main point at issue, they might seem to any but a trained theologian practically to disappear, and it is hard to say that the language of homage and adoration for the Son of God, God and Creator of all other created things, which comes from the pen of Auxentius, and came to him from the lips of Ulfilas,—it is hard to say that this is the language of any but a Christian in the full sense of the term. The form of faith which was held by Ulfilas, and taught by him to the Goths, may be studied in the manuscript of Auxentius, to which he appended his beloved master's creed. The latter is unfortunately only a fragment as it has come down to us in the transcription of Maximin, but it may nevertheless honor these pages,—the first Teutonic Confession of Faith. Auxentius introduces it thus: “And he, even at his departure, at the very hour of death, left for the people committed to his charge a written confession of his faith, saying thus:
“I, Ulfilas, bishop and confessor, have always thus believed, and in this one and true faith I make my testament before my Lord.
I believe there is one God the Father, alone unbegotten and invisible, and I believe in His only-begotten Son, our Lord and God, Creator and Maker of the whole creation, not having any like unto Him—therefore there is one God of all, who is also God of our God—and in one Holy Spirit, an enlightening and sanctifying power—(as Christ says for warning to His Apostles: 'Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but do ye dwell in the City of Jerusalem until ye be clothed with power from on high'. And again: 'And ye shall receive power coming upon you by the Holy Spirit')—neither God nor Lord, but the minister of Christ . . . ."
At this point the MS. becomes fragmentary, and the sentence is incomplete; only we can ascertain that he believed the Spirit to be “subjected and in all things obedient to the Son”, and the Son to be “subjected and obedient in all things to God the Father”. Thereafter the creed seems to have closed with a doxology addressed to the Father “through Christ ... and by the Holy Spirit”. The creed thus presented is expanded by Auxentius in the account of his master's teaching, which fills the greater part of the document. He had “never hesitated to proclaim openly and freely to willing and unwilling hearers alike, one only true God, the Father of Christ, and the second rank of Christ Himself; well knowing that this, the alone true God, is alone unbegotten, without beginning, without end, eternal, .... incorruptible, incommunicable, of incorporeal essence, not combined of parts, single, unchangeable, .... incomparably greater and better than all; who being alone, not unto the division or diminution of His Godhead, but unto the display of His goodness and property, by His alone will and power,—passionless did passionlessly, incorruptible did incorruptibly, immoveable did without motion create and beget, make and establish an only-begotten God. According to the tradition and authority of the divine Scriptures, that this second God and Author of all things existed of the Father, and after the Father, and for the Father, and for the glory of the Father, this was never concealed by him; but that He was both great God and great Lord, and great King, and great Mystery, Redeemer, Saviour, just Judge of quick and dead, yet having a greater God, even His Father; this he did always set forth according to the blessed Gospel”.
After this exposition of the positive views of his master, Auxentius proceeds to define his position negatively, setting forth his condemnation of one party after another, with the reasons which he added for the sake of his pupils. We recognize here at once the man who joined the synod at Constantinople in 360, and there signed the creed of Ariminum with the addendum that the words hypostasis and ousia should cease to be used in reference to the Godhead. One after the other the parties, whose watchwords are compounded with ousia are unsparingly condemned.
The kernel of the creed of Nicaea lay in the word omousios which was inserted after much debate and with widespread reluctance. The objections to it on the conservative side were many. Its value in the eyes of the Athanasian party was that it held the Arians in a vice. There was no eluding its searching analysis of the various compromises proposed; and the efforts of the Arians who had accepted it to disguise its force to their followers, and to explain their own conduct in signing a creed which made use of it to define the relation of the Father to the Son, only served to attest its value as a discerner of the false from the true. Two bishops alone had the courage to refuse their signatures, and to share with Arius the consequences,—removal and banishment. Two others, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognius of Nicaea, chose the less heroic alternative, and signed with reservations. But either the reservations became too widely known, or their sympathy with Arius was afterwards too openly displayed, for three months later they had to accept the same sentence as their bolder comrades.
This is the Eusebius who afterwards selected Ulfilas to be bishop among the Goths, and with whose views the young “lector” must have been very familiar, to whose party indeed he most likely belonged. For Eusebius did not long remain in exile, and on his return to his see became one of the leaders of that reaction against the Homoousion, which set in immediately after the council had separated. For the next fifty years the authority of their creed trembled in the balance. One coalition after another attacked and condemned the Nicene decision, and attempted to set up a watchword of their own. Homoiousion was the first. Eusebius, of Caesarea, had had his own creed returned to him spoiled by the insertion of one word. It did not express his faith, but he signed it, issuing to his flock an explanation of his reasons for doing so. He took the word to designate “likeness in respect of essence”, not “sameness of essence”; and the many who felt with Eusebius did the like, and formed the party who were known as Homoiousians. In so far as they represented a protest against the obnoxious word omousios they had a large and increasing body of supporters. The centre party at the council had hardly confirmed the new creed before they began to take alarm at what they had done. The new word was not in the Scriptures. That they had insisted on before, but had been overruled by the Athanasians, “who maintained that, if Scripture was to be limited to any particular meaning, they must go outside Scripture for technical terms to define that meaning”. But now the full effect of this innovation was felt outside the council; and, what was worse, in the anxiety to repel Arianism, they had sanctioned a word which was distinctly open to question on the ground of Sabellianism. The controversy slumbered, but the reaction gathered force and volume in the time that intervened before the death of Constantine. The death of this emperor removed the court and state support, which had done so much to enforce the creed of Nicaea. The Eusebian party were ready and quick to seize the opportunity. The council at Antioch in 339, and the council of the Dedication in 341, follow one another in quick succession. The consecration of Theophilus to work among the Indians, and of Ulfilas as bishop among the Goths, marks a determined missionary activity in the party, and the general adhesion of the men whom they chose to the doctrines they represented. But if Ulfilas was a follower of Eusebius in 341, at a later period of his life he heartily opposed his teaching, and appears to have joined a new party, which took shape and acquired influence before the council of Constantinople in 360.
In Auxentius’ exposition of the teaching of his master we learn that he condemned Homousians and Homoiusians alike. Nevertheless, it is interesting to trace in his language a difference in the manner, though not in the measure, of the condemnation. “The detestable and abominable confession of the Homousians he spurned and trampled on as an invention of the devil and the teaching of demons”. But “of the Homoiousians also he deplored and shunned the error and impiety, being himself most carefully instructed out of the Holy Scriptures, and having also been earnestly confirmed therein in many consultations of saintly bishops”. And again, his attitude to the two sects is described, and the same distinction may be traced. The sect of the Homousians he would destroy, because he believed non confusas et concretas personas, sed discretas et distinctas. The Homoiusians, moreover, he would scatter because non res comparatas sed differentes adfectus defendebat. There is an obvious softening in the phrasing, even a little touch of tenderness in reference to the errors of the Homoiousians or Eusebian party, which would be very natural in one who in earlier life had been connected with them.
Fortunately, we are not called upon here to trace the history of the parties in the Church in the fourth century, a history of strife and intrigue, of base dependence on court favor, of unsparing and unscrupulous use of any short lease of power. The softer sort of Arianism, which Eusebius represented, held the party together till a slight change of front, in which omion kata panda and omousios became “more and more the watchwords of conservatism”, alienated the fiercer spirits, who formed together a party which, returning to the doctrines of Arius in their most simple form, took or received the name of Anomoeans. The direct contradiction of their doctrine was offered by a party who were naturally known as the Homoeans, and to this party Ulfilas, at least after 360, belonged. Auxentius gives his positive teaching on this point briefly thus: “That the Son is like to His Father .... according to Holy Scripture and tradition”. This party appears, by its leaders, at the parallel councils of Ariminum and Seleucia. The course of time and the rise of new parties had tended to draw more closely together the Nicenes and the semi-Arians, who were now representing the old Eusebian party, and defended the omiousios against the omousios. But in the face of a new and common foe an alliance was brought about, partially through the judicious mediation of Hilary of Poitiers. The representatives of the new Homoean party met this combination, Ursacius and Valens at Ariminum, and Acacius at Seleucia. Outwardly worsted at both places, they nevertheless contrived to get a creed of their own approval accepted by a joint conference at Constantinople, and confirmed their victory by a council which they held at the same place a few days later (January, 360). At this latter council Ulfilas was present, and took part with Acacius, as we learn from Sozomen.
Thanks to the disunion and weakness of the other parties in the east, and to the court influence and commanding position enjoyed by Acacius and his successor, the Homoeans maintained their superiority until the fall of Arianism with the death of Valens, and the new attitude of the court under Theodosius. That period coincides with the last twenty years of the life of Ulfilas, and during it we must regard him as a steadfast adherent of that party.
Whatever were the views he held, he maintained them with determination and very little tolerance for those who dissented from him. “In preaching and expounding he declared all heretics to be not Christians, but Anti-Christs; not in hope, but without hope; not worshippers of God, but without God; not leaders, but misleaders”. Auxentius adds a list of the heretics whom he denounced, which contains the names of thirteen sects, including both the Homousians and the Homoiusians. One name on the list, that of Antropiani, may possibly refer to the Anthropomorphite sect of the Audians, against whom the phrase “incorporeal in His substance”, which occurs in the account of his teaching, may be specially directed.
On the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the specific discussion of which, though it was involved in the Arian controversy, was bequeathed to a later age, Ulfilas differed widely from what was subsequently the orthodox belief. His teaching on that point was,— that the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but made before all things by the Father through the Son; that He is not first nor second, but placed by the First through the Second in the third rank; that He is not unbegotten nor begotten, but created by the Unbegotten through the Only-begotten in the third rank. In support of this doctrine he was wont to quote John I. 3, and 1 Cor. VIII. 6. It followed from the foregoing that the Holy Spirit could not be said to be either Advocate, or God, or Lord; but from God through the Lord received power to be not Author nor Creator, but Illuminator, Sanctifier, Teacher ... Minister of Christ, and the Distributor of Grace. Ulfilas further maintained the unity of the Church of the living God, “the pillar and foundation of truth”, the unity of the flock of Christ “our Lord and God, one Virgin, one Spouse, one Queen”; and, as the converse of this, he firmly declared that, as there was but one community of Christians, “all other conventicles were not churches of God, but synagogues of Satan”. For all points of his teaching he relied almost exclusively on the Scriptures (“tradition” is once mentioned by Auxentius). This was characteristic of the Homoeans, who were distinguished for it even in an age which had been put upon its guard against non-Scriptural expressions by the troubles that had arisen from the Homousion. In this short account of Ulfilas by Auxentius, the general appeal to “Holy Scripture” is made four times; four texts are quoted, and at the close he adds: “Let the reader understand that all these things were taught by him, and have been described by us according to the Holy Scriptures”.
Such was the teaching of Ulfilas, especially on those questions which were threatening in his day to rend the Church. Our only authority hitherto has been Auxentius. Attempts have been made to deduce confirmation, and perhaps amplification, of his report from Ulfilas’ rendering of crucial passages in the New Testament. But the results of this enquiry are slight and dubious at best. There remain one or two Arian documents discovered this century, written in Latin or in Gothic, in which traces of the hand or teaching of Ulfilas have been found. The Ambrosian codices, which were brought to light by the researches of Cardinal Mai at Milan, are two MSS. of great interest and value in connection with the Gothic Church. The first is a palimpsest containing, in the upper script, a “thesaurus” of the works of Augustine written about the seventh century. The lower script, the writing of which is “far better and fairer” dates from the fourth or fifth century, and contains large fragments of a commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, which bears clear traces of an Arian origin. The second MS. is also a palimpsest. The original codex having been broken up, the parchments came to form part of two volumes, one of which lies in Milan and the other at the Vatican. When collected together the original manuscript yielded fragments of a commentary on St. John, written in the language of Ulfilas, and several fragments of dogmatic treatises written in Latin, and even more pronounced than the first document in the Arian character of their doctrine. Reserving for the present the description of the Moeso-Gothic manuscript, we may find in the dogmatic fragments valuable illustrations of the Arianism of the Goths.
The ancient home of both these MSS. had been the famous monastery of Bobio. The monastery of Bobio was founded in 612 by Columbanus, the Irish monk, who left his early home in the monastery of Bangor, and after some years of missionary work with his companion Gallus in Burgundy and Neustria, left the latter to carry on his work on the shores of the Bodensee, and himself pushed on to Italy. Here, in a secluded nook of the Apennines, he planted his new monastery, an outpost of the Catholic faith, in the midst of the Arian Lombards. Eager and vehement in all he undertook, Columbanus set about to gather round him a magazine of Arian literature, out of which to forge new weapons for the destruction of the stubborn heresy. One of these palimpsests is inscribed, “The book of S. Columbanus of Bobio”. That he used his library with effect we learn from his biographer, who says of him “that he laid bare as with a cautery, and dissected the deceits of the Arian heresy”; and further, that he issued against them a book displaying a rich acquaintance with the controversy. To the possession of this hostile student of Arian literature we may trace this manuscript. It would be still more interesting if we could ascertain its author. Cardinal Mai, in editing these fragments, confesses that he is unable to point out the author of them; but of this much he is convinced,—the date of the MS. is to be placed at the end of the fourth century or at latest in the fifth; the author was a bishop but the style is unpretentious and provincial. The fragments are, in his opinion, the remains of three treatises,—one, “Concerning the Son of God”; a second, “Concerning the Holy Spirit”; and a third, “Concerning ecclesiastical questions”.
The documents, thus published by Mai, have recently been examined by Krafft, who came to conclusions more decided about the authorship. The MS. belongs clearly to the fourth or beginning of the fifth century. The doctrine expounded therein coincides with none of the well-known forms of Arianism; it approaches most nearly to the scheme set forth by Eunomius before the Emperor Theodosius, but there are discrepancies even when compared with his creed. In a word, the only teaching with which they entirely agree is that of Ulfilas, as set forth by Auxentius. With this, the correspondence is very remarkable, even in details. The phrase secundum divinarum scribturarum traditionem is a favourite with Auxentius, and the writer of the treatises alike. On the subordination of the persons of the Godhead, obedience of the Son to the Father, and the Spirit to the Son, as well as in many expressions used to define the Divine nature, they agree. The anonymous writer repudiates the title of Arians imposed upon his party, and in the exposition of his faith justifies the disclaimer. For he, as Auxentius does, exalts the Son as God and Lord, while, on the other hand, he maintains doctrines foreign to pure Arianism, namely, that the Son did not make progress in the character of his divinity, but was at once made perfect; and again, that though not eternal a priori he was eternal in posterum. The verbal coincidences with Auxentius are very striking, especially when we take into consideration the brevity of the exposition the latter has given. In both, we find not only the orthodox (“those who so call themselves”), but also the Homoiusians and the Macedonians condemned. And in the anonymous treatise the last receive especial attention, their distinction from the orthodox being pointed out as well as their distinction from the writer. In style also there is a remarkable correspondence; that which Cardinal Mai notes in both documents as an unpretentious and rather rustic style, to which, indeed, the anonymous writer makes an apologetic allusion at the beginning of his treatise, is characteristic of Auxentius also. On the combined evidence of corresponding style, identical phrases, arguments, and quotations from Scripture, taken in connection with the undoubted date of the MS., Krafft ascribes these fragments to the same pen as that which wrote the exposition of Ulfilas' teaching, that is, to Auxentius. The date of the composition may be ascertained approximately from a consideration of one sentence, where the writer declares his chief object of attack to be “those who call themselves orthodox, who have forced their way into our churches, and do now hold them in tyrannical fashion declaring that the Son is in all things equal to God the Father”. This can only refer to a time succeeding, and probably immediately succeeding, the legal suppression of Arianism in Constantinople by Theodosius and the occupation of all the churches of the sect by their triumphant rivals.
There is not so much evidence to be found for the other suggestion advanced by Krafft that the commentary on St. Luke is actually the work of Ulfilas. The style and doctrine, so far as opportunity is afforded by the passages commented on for bringing forward peculiarities of doctrine, correspond with the style and doctrine of the treatises. Certain words differing from the correct Latin spelling show traces of Gothic influence, and some of the characteristic teaching of the treatise is reproduced very exactly. Moreover, there is one passage in the commentary which is undoubtedly more appropriate to the circumstances of Ulfilas and his flock than to any other church extant about the period at which the MS. must be dated. On Luke V. 11, which is thus paraphrased—“And they drew their ships to land, and left all, and followed the Saviour and His saving words”, the comment is as follows: “I believe they were saying, the earth shall receive our boats as a mother her offspring; let us leave parents and all things, that we may find a better parent and all things made ready; let us learn with our ships to leave behind our bodies, and imitating the master to consecrate our victorious spirits to a martyr’s death, that seeking sky instead of earth, instead of this world, paradise, we may win a kingdom; and let us with Paul boast triumphantly, I follow after, etc”. Though it may be hard to say where the transition takes place here between the imagined words of the Apostles and the exhortation of the speaker to his flock, it is clear nevertheless that the flock was threatened with, perhaps in the very midst of, a persecution unto death. It may fairly be asked to what flock in Europe, except to that over which Ulfilas was bishop, could such words have been addressed during the half century within which this MS. must fall. Take further into consideration the connection of the commentary with the treatises, and that of the treatises with the commentary on St. John in the Gothic tongue of Ulfilas, and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, we have at least a strong presumption in favor of this theory of the authorship. But we cannot suppose that Ulfilas would compose a commentary so obviously addressed, in the first instance, to his own people in what was to most of them a foreign tongue. Rather is it probable that this is a translation from the Gothic original made either by Ulfilas himself or, as it seems more likely, by his admiring pupil Auxentius.
Interesting as this investigation is, and doubly interesting though the discovery would be if it could be proved that we have here a genuine work of Ulfilas, yet the direct addition to our knowledge would be small. The very exactness of the correspondence between the treatises and the exposition of Auxentius, while it is the most striking evidence for identity of origin, at the same time subtracts from their value as sources of additional information; and the commentary yields even less to supplement the information from Auxentius. In fact, his invaluable exposition of the faith of his master supplies all we know, but that is all we need to know of the position of Ulfilas in the Church of his time, and of the faith which he handed down to his followers.
The Gothic Bible.
The work of Ulfilas for his people was not confined to the preaching of the Gospel, the organization of the Church, and the civilizing influence of his great personality. Enduring as were the results of these labours, and widely as his influence was spread thereby, he achieved in his translation of the Bible into Gothic a work whose issues were wider and more enduring still. He was not only the Moses but the Luther also of his flock; had not only led them forth out of the land of their oppressors, but had also given them the Bible in their mother-tongue. To believe the chroniclers, he was their Cadmus too, and had devised the alphabet in which their speech first became a written language.
The fact that Ulfilas had translated the Scriptures into Gothic was vouched for by the early authorities. Philostorgius, in the passage frequently referred to, relates of Ulfilas, that “besides all the other ways in which he ministered to his people, he also invented for them letters of their own, and translated into their own tongue the whole of the Scriptures, except indeed the books of Kings”, which he omitted because of their stirring narratives of war, with which his people were already too familiar. The other authority is that represented by a group of writers of whom we may take Socrates as representative. He says that “at that time, Ulfilas, bishop of the Goths, invented Gothic letters, and having translated the Holy Scriptures into the Gothic tongue, prepared the way for the barbarians to learn the divine teaching”. The only important addition to the statement of Socrates is that the translation was made “out of the Greek”.
Excluding those statements of intermediate historians, which are clearly based on one or other of these authorities, there are only two traces of a version of the Bible in Gothic to be found between these early authorities and the sixteenth century. One is in a note which appears at the end of the Codex Brixianus, warning the reader not to suppose that one thing is written in the Greek and another in the Latin, or in the “so-called Gothic”. This indicates that a Gothic version was in existence, and held in the same estimation with the Latin, and evidently belongs to a time when, on the one hand, Greek was but little understood, while Latin and Gothic, on the other hand, had about equal acceptance, a relation between the three tongues only to be found in the era of the kingdoms of Theodoric and of Toulouse. The second allusion to a Gothic version is found in a writer of the ninth century. Walafrid Strabo, abbot of the Monastery of Reichenau in 842, referring to the Goths, says that “learned men of that nation have translated the sacred books into their own tongue” and adds that their work was then extant.
After these two notices, six centuries intervene before we hear again of a Gothic Bible. Then, in the fifteenth or beginning of the sixteenth century, a manuscript is discovered in the Monastery of Werden, near Cologne, from which one visitor after another copies short extracts, which are published, and rouse the curiosity of the learned world. The Lord’s Prayer was copied by Antonio Morilloni, and given by him to Becanus, who printed it in his Origines Antverpiane in 1569. Then the language of the new MS. was declared to be Gothic, and it was at once concluded that this was a copy of the translation of Ulfilas. At the end of the century the MS. was transferred either by purchase or by robbery to Prague, whence it was carried off after the siege in 1648, and presented by the victorious Konigsmark to Queen Cristina of Sweden. From Stockholm it passed in a mysterious manner into the hands of Isaac Vossius, in whose possession it was when the first complete transcript was made and published by Franciscus Junius in 1655. It was then discovered that the manuscript had originally contained the four Gospels in Gothic, arranged in the following order : Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark. But, as of the original number of 318 sheets only 118 could then be found, large portions of each Gospel were missing. Junius printed such portions as were still preserved in parallel columns with an Anglo-Saxon version, while copious notes, as well as a glossary, were added at the end. We learn from an introductory tetrastich that the MS. was already known as the Codex Argenteus, a name which it has borne ever since. Its uncial letters are formed in silver upon a surface of purple vellum, and, before the silver was blackened with age and the purple faded, the MS. must have been a most brilliant one. A poem, dedicatory, consisting of some three hundred lines in elegiac metre, gives a history of the Goths founded on Jordanis and the Church historians, and offers the work to the patronage of the Count de la Gardie, who had bought the MS. from Vossius and restored it to Sweden. After having it bound in a heavy silver case, he presented it to the University of Upsala, where it now lies, one of the greatest literary treasures of the north.
For many years the Codex Argenteus remained the only discovered monument of Gothic literature; and of the translation of the whole Bible made by Ulfilas no trace had yet appeared beyond these portions of the Gospels. But in 1736 a MS. was brought to light at Wolfenbuttel, which proved to contain large portions of the Epistle to the Romans in Gothic. The letters of this, the so-called Codex Carolinus, closely resemble those of the Codex Argenteus, though they appear to have been more hastily formed. Still more valuable, inasmuch as they contain passages from the Old Testament also, are the MSS. discovered in 1817 by Cardinal Mai. They had formed part of the library of Bobio, and belong apparently to the sixth century. Of these, the so-called Milanese codices, the first (Codex A) contains, beneath the homilies of Gregory Nazianzen, large portions of each of the Epistles of Paul. Code B contains smaller portions of several epistles and the whole of 2 Corinthians. The third, which is specially known as the Ambrosian, yields portions of the Gospel of St. Matthew, some of which were lacking in the Codex Argenteus; and a fourth MS. of three sheets contains also, beneath a later writing, some verses from Nehemiah and Esdras. The fifth MS. contains the fragments of a Gothic commentary on St. John, now published and known as the Skeireins. The MSS. thus enumerated, and the portions of Scripture they contain, represent all that has yet been discovered of a Bible in the Gothic tongue. Of the New Testament there are yet lacking the Acts of the Apostles, the Catholic Epistles, and the Apocalypse. Of the Old Testament very little has been found but indications which appear in the Skeireins, e.g. a quotation from the Psalms and allusions to passages in the Books of Genesis and Numbers, leave no doubt that there was a complete version in existence in the sixth century.
Have we then before us in these MSS. portions of the great work of Ulfilas? Few have denied this, but all must admit that it is but an assumption. It is, in fact, difficult either to assert or to deny that the fragments which have been preserved to our time belong to that version which was completed by Ulfilas. But the probability remains exceedingly strong that, in the Codex Argenteus and the Milanese MSS., we have a version of the New Testament at least, which is in the main the work of Ulfilas. That Ulfilas made such a translation, and that his translation was held in the highest authority among his own people and their descendants, makes it very improbable that any of his successors would attempt either to add or to substitute a new version. But with respect to the fragments of the Old Testament the presumption is in the other direction; for, short as they are, it can be shown that they are translated from Italian MSS. of the Septuagint, which formed the basis of the Complutensian edition.
Now, taking the material collected in these manuscripts, and assuming that in the version of the New Testament we have in the main a portion of the work of Ulfilas, we can learn much concerning his translation, its basis, its method, and its probable history. That the translation of Ulfilas was founded on Greek authorities is both directly asserted in the Acta Nicetae, and confirmed by a close examination of the Gothic text. He has even been accused of a too slavish adherence to the text of the Greek original; but the censure is easily removed on consideration, both of the only purpose that could have sustained him in such a work (namely, to make the Scriptures intelligible to his whole people), and also of several passages and phrases which deviate from a literal translation with the obvious intention of securing that that they should be understood by the unlearned folk. Nevertheless, in adhering to the order of words in the Greek, even against the rhythm of his own language, where the meaning or force could thereby be better brought out, in the frequent use of the dual number, and various other delicate characteristics, he has left good evidence to show what was the language out of which he translated.
It is true, however, that a connection can be even more distinctly traced between these Gothic MISS. and the early Italian version. Added words and phrases, which are rejected by the Greek codices but acknowledged by the Latin, appear in the Gothic version. In many passages the readings are those characteristic of the Latin and variant from the Greek authorities. Hence the influence of Latin authority on the Gothic MSS. must be admitted. It has been explained in various ways. The opinion that Ulfilas translated from Latin sources only has scarcely been seriously held, and is refuted by the exposition of the fundamental connection with Greek authorities. Another explanation offered has been that Ulfilas used both Greek and Latin manuscripts.
Influence of the Italian MSS.
But apart from the improbability either that he would be at the unnecessary pains to collate authorities when all that was wanted was a simple translation of the Scripture, or that the Latin versions would be held of any authority in the east in the end of the fourth century, it can hardly be explained why, if Ulfilas had the Latin authority before him, he used it so seldom; or why he passed it over in so many places where its assistance would have helped him to avoid mistakes and misapprehensions. The only tenable explanation is that the work of Ulfilas, passing out of Moesia with the Goths into Italy, was there compared by later Gothic theologians with the Latin versions which they found there; that they added glosses and corrections, which afterwards became incorporated in the text, and gave it a distinctly Latin character. Thus, to take some of the more obvious additions, it must have been after comparison with the Latin version (for the corresponding words are found in none of the Greek MSS.) that the words were introduced which mark the beginning and the close of certain books. The Euthalian subscriptions to the Epistles, some of which appear in Codex B, must have been added sometime after 458, when they were first drawn up, and the immediate source of these also was probably one of the Latin versions. Which of these versions it was which formed the basis of the revision cannot be ascertained. The changes introduced in the Gothic correspond exactly with the text of no one of the known Latin versions; but the Itala and the Brixian Codex seem to have been the source of many of the new readings. With the Vulgate the Gothic corresponds more rarely than with any other of the Latin versions.
The first evidence of a subsequent revision is afforded by a comparison of the MSS. where certain passages have been preserved in duplicate, which plainly indicates the existence of two recensions; and on the margin of the Gospel of St. Luke in the Codex Argenteus the various readings and glosses which appear there show how a second recension might very easily be formed. The relations between the different MSS. and the original work of Ulfilas on the one hand, and the Greek and Latin MSS. on the other, belong to textual criticism, and require to be thoroughly sifted before it is possible to make use of the Gothic version for the textual criticism of the New Testament. It is sufficient for the present sketch to ascertain the probable origin and history of the translation, and to indicate the problems to which it gives rise.
That Ulfilas, far from slavishly adhering to his original and reproducing a Greek book clad in Gothic words, allowed himself some freedom in adapting his translation to the needs of an uninformed people, is clear from many passages and phrases. Thus, to take one example, he transposed the method of reckoning by years and new moons, which he found common in the Gospels, into the method with which his people were more familiar, and counted by “winters” and “full-moons”. On the other hand, many variations from the original are to be explained as due to misreadings and false renderings, or to ignorance of the customs of the Jews. Of each of these classes of mistakes many examples have been collected by Gabelentz.
Does this translation by the great Arian bishop contain no traces of his distinctive doctrines? This is naturally a question of great interest, and the absence of all such traces from the MSS. known to him led one critic to doubt whether Ulfilas were actually the author of the translation which they contained. But it must be remembered that in accordance with the exposition of Ulfilas’ doctrinal position given in the last chapter, the uncompromising doctrines of the extreme Arians were absent from his creed, and there are few passages in the New Testament where he would have any opportunity or temptation to color his translation according to his views. We have seen that he maintained, however illogical the position may seem to us, that the Son was God and would be God to all eternity, but in secundo gradu; hence, there was nothing in his creed to make him shrink from applying to the Son any or all of the titles he found applied to Him in the New Testament; and it is in vain that we look for traces of his Arianism even in such passages as might be crucial for an extreme Arian. Unfortunately, the opening of the Gospel of St. John, which would have been particularly interesting in this connection, is still wanting in our MSS.; but in Rom. IX. 5, the important passage is rendered without deviation from the original.
It would be another interesting enquiry how far the translation is colored by Teutonic modes of thought, and what traces can be found in its language of their distinctive conception of the future life, of sin and of redemption. The apprehension of “law” in the Gothic mind, if we may judge from the word they used to express it, was not that of a command issued (as “gebot”) or of a line of action laid down and confirmed by a superior authority (cf. lex, law, gesetz), but it was rather viewed subjectively and as contained in that which is known to a man, so that these Gentiles were, in a strangely exact sense, “a law unto themselves”. Sin and the sinful state of man were looked at from two points of view. In the first of these, sin was the transgression of the law, and exposed the transgressor to the payment of a penalty. This notion of penalty incurred by crime or sin, and the necessity of its discharge, was one of the deepest convictions of the Teutonic consciousness; the notion of guilt and the notion of debt coincided, one word served for both. So also the word by which Ulfilas represented condemnation either for this world or for the next, was colored by the local circumstances and position of his people. In the age and among the tribes, where every stranger was a foe, the simplest and the worst punishment an injured community could inflict was to drive the offender from their midst. He became a wanderer on the face of the earth, or in Teutonic phrase a “vearges”, or wolf; and Ulfilas, making use of “gavarjan” and its derivatives, pictured the sinner after judgment as the outcast and the wanderer. He used the word “halja”, the hollow place, knitting up the new scheme of Christianity with a fragment of the old Teutonic mythology, in which Hel was already known as the goddess of the place of darkness and the newly departed. The word gehenna, wherever it occurred, he wisely did not attempt to translate, but transliterated it into “gaiainna”. Parallel with the notion of sin as a crime, and redemption as the payment of the penalty it had entailed, was the conviction, deep rooted in Teutonic thought and language, that sin was a disease, and the Redeemer a healer. This also might be abundantly illustrated from the Gothic version. “Salvation” was regarded as “healing”; above all the “Saviour” was the “the Healer”.
Treasured by the Nation.
Such was the gift that Ulfilas gave to his people, and to all the folk who used the same tongue; not a bald and characterless reproduction of the words of his original, but a vivid and vigorous presentation of its spirit; not careless of its true meaning, but clothing it in the idioms, even allowing it to be colored by the earlier ideas of his people, doing everything that the book might come to them in no strange garb, but might become readily familiar and be truly a national possession. That they regarded it as such for many generations after his death we know. Goths and Vandals alike carried it with them on their "wanderings" through Europe. Whether in simple piety or in the superstitious hope of reading the future on the chance-appointed page, it was consulted on the battlefields of Gaul before the fight began. In Italy it was diligently compared with the Latin authorities, and notes were made of the discrepancies. To Spain the Vandals carried it before the Goths, and in their hands it crossed to Africa and even came round again to Rome when Genseric tried to win where Hannibal had failed.
In a wider sense but not less truly, Ulfilas made a great gift to the world. Though it has lain buried for so many centuries, it is none the less the foundation- stone of all Teutonic literature. Whether he invented an alphabet for the language, adapting to its needs signs taken from neighboring alphabets, or whether he found a written language but no literature, are questions for the philologist. In either case he was the first to raise a barbarian tongue to the dignity of a literary language, and made for himself and his Goths a monument even more lasting than their deeds.
That Ulfilas was not content with having given his people a version of the Bible in their own tongue we learn from Auxentius. In the three languages, which he could wield, he composed "treatises, and made many translations for use and edifying"; and, as we have seen, certain fragments of a commentary in Latin and of doctrinal treatises which have come down to us, have been ascribed to his pen or to his dictation. Another of the Milanese MSS. contains a fragment of an exposition or a commentary on the Gospel of St. John, which is written in the same language as the version of the Bible Moeso-Gothic and with characters similar to those of the Codex Argenteus, while in its contents it agrees with the Latin MSS. in the form of Arianism which it upholds and displays. Hence it has been conjectured that this fragment, the so-called Skeireins, is part of one of the works of Ulfilas; but, though any evidence to the contrary is lacking, the conjecture remains one of which there is small hope of proving the truth.
If by such works as these, by the labours of his pupils and disciples, and above all by the leavening power of the Scriptures now opened to their understanding, Ulfilas carried on indirectly the work of conversion among his heathen countrymen who remained on the other side of the Danube, among his own people he moved in person, preaching and teaching the word of God, “giving thanks to God the Father through Christ with gladness”. So he fulfilled the years of his bishopric. His pupil delights to compare him to David, who for thirty years was “king and prophet to rule and teach the people of God and the children of Israel”; or to Moses, by whose hand God had brought his people out of the land of bondage and caused them to pass through the Red Sea, and brought them into a land of promise; or even with the ministry of “our Lord and God Jesus Christ”, inasmuch as like his Master, Ulfilas at the age of thirty began “to preach the Gospel and to feed the souls of men”.
Death of Ulfilas
But his work was done; hardships as well as years must have combined to make him an old man, when in 381 he was sent for to Constantinople. The emperor required his presence. The reason can only be conjectured. A split had taken place among the Arians in Constantinople. Party riots were too common there, and a fierce dispute over a theological dogma however abstruse, placed the peace of the city, if not the security of the palace, in jeopardy. Ulfilas was summoned to meet the innovators, and either by argument or by influence to induce them to surrender the opinion that caused the dispute. “In the name of God”, he set out upon his way, hoping to prevent the teaching of these new heretics from reaching “the churches of Christ, by Christ committed to his care”. No sooner had he reached Constantinople than he fell sick, “having pondered much about the council”, and before he had put his hand to the task which had brought him, “he was taken up after the manner of Elias the prophet”. “Only observe the high desert of the man who by the hand of God was brought to die at Constantinople, call it rather Christianople, where the holy and spotless priest of Christ might receive such strange and brilliant honors at the hands of so great a multitude of Christians”.
The figure of Ulfilas may have seemed vaster when less was known of him. A knowledge of his great influence with his people led historians to introduce that figure at critical points of his nation's history, to summon that influence to their aid to explain the problem of the Gothic creed. But as the figure has become less mysterious, and his influence on outward events less universal and imposing, the man has come nearer to us. We see him not negotiating in courts and camps, but preaching the word of life with unwearied patience to his flock; not moving as an energetic missionary from the Save to the Dneister, but extending a silent influence over the whole Gothic-speaking race through his translation of the Scripture; not entering into the arena of a fierce controversy, where the champions of the different parties did open battle, or descending to the conduct of policy and intrigue which more surely secured success, but training up round him a church that cherished his name, and a band of disciples who carried forth his doctrines and fostered them among all the branches of his own nation for many generations after his death. Auxentius has described his life in outline, and lets us see the affection of the pupil as well as the admiration of a fellow- worker. But Auxentius only confirms what the master's work already proclaims. By birth thought worthy to be a hostage for his nation, by education fitted to take an enviable position among the officials of the palace or the foreign leaders of the army, at a time when the Goths were ever becoming more valuable to the throne, —Ulfilas must have thrown away ambition when he became first a humble lector and then a bishop, a missionary bishop among the Danubian tribes. To all the other qualities that make up a leader of men he added the head that planned and the patient heart that carried out the hitherto' unheard-of task of clothing the story of Israel and the message of the Gospel in a barbarian tongue. He must have loved his people and he must have loved his Master.
THE DECLINE OF THE GOTHIC CHURCH IN THE EAST
The defeat of Valens at Adrianople was the most paralyzing shock which the Roman world had received since the fatal day of Cannae. The army was utterly cut to pieces, the emperor slain, and the whole of southeastern Europe lay open to the victors, who might turn their steps whither they pleased. The policy of the previous years, wherein the emperor had relied ever more exclusively on barbarian auxiliaries to fight the battles of the empire, now reaped a bitter fruit. The townspeople, the farmers, and the peasants of the provinces had not only been discouraged from joining the legions, but had been restrained from equipping or training themselves, had even been forbidden to leave their homesteads. And now the empire, in its hour of need, had no reserve on which to fall back, no source from which to draw new defenders. Stunned by the news of the disaster, the Western Emperor Gratian, who had been advancing to the assistance of Valens, fell back upon Sirmium, and took the wisest and most prudent step in summoning the young Spanish general Theodosius to take over the throne of the East, with all its attendant perplexities and dangers. Guided by his military skill and political shrewdness, the Eastern empire passed through the terrible crisis. Fortunately the fenced cities that defied their attack, and the booty that destroyed their discipline and cohesion, had already done much to diminish the once overwhelming danger of the Gothic mastery. The hope of conquest which had for a moment gleamed before the Goths was quenched when they were repulsed by a handful of Saracens from the walls of Constantinople. They fell back on their original demands,—the fulfillment of the treaty they had made with Valens, and the right to settle in the Balkan peninsula. Theodosius knew his own strength too well to push the enemy to extremity. The empire must have peace to restore its losses, and the army time to recover from the demoralization of Adrianople; so both parties found relief in coming to terms. Perhaps a third of the fighting strength of the nation passed over into Roman service; the remainder settled down in the plains of Thrace and Moesia.-
On the other hand, the battle of Adrianople dealt a blow to Arianism which was nothing less than fatal. The Homoean party, which for twenty years had been supreme, and had all but crushed the rival sections of the Arian body, was itself supported almost wholly on the influence of the court. Valens, who had been both open in his adhesion, and zealous in lending his support, to Arianism in its struggle with the Nicene party, had favored the Homoean form to the exclusion of all others. At his death Homoeanism, and Arianism with it, crumbled away. Gratian, in the interval of sole government between the death of Valens and the appointment of Theodosius, issued an edict of toleration which removed from the Nicenes, at least, the. pressure of the legislation of Valens. This was the first step towards their final victory. The long and dangerous illness of Theodosius was an accident which issued greatly in their favor. While he lay at Thessalonica he was converted by Ascholius, the bishop of that city, and professed the Nicene faith. He went further, and, perhaps in the expectation of death, he accepted the rite of baptism, to which even Constantine had submitted only during the illness which proved his last. Pledged then by his formal admission to the Church, and impelled perhaps by grateful zeal on his recovery, Theodosius became no inactive ally of the Nicene party. Already, in February, 380, a decree issued from Thessalonica, ordering all men to hold the Nicene faith “as committed by the Apostle Peter to the Romans, and now professed by Damasus of Rome and Peter of Alexandria”. But during the illness of the emperor the new policy did not take effect. It was not till he arrived in Constantinople in the end of the same year that the Arians fully experienced the change in their position involved in the change of emperors. Then the alternative was offered to the Arian bishop Demophilus, either to deny his faith and accept the Nicene creed, or to surrender the cathedral and the churches of Constantinople to the opposite party. He chose the latter; and, having summoned his people to meet him in the great church, announced to them that from thenceforth they would worship outside the walls. What a reversal of position this involved for the Nicene party who entered upon the churches thus vacated may be gathered from the fact that Gregory, the Nicene bishop, at that time “was holding his meetings in a little house of prayer”, which was, in fact, a dwelling-house that had been “altered into the fashion of a church by certain of his flock”. But, beyond replacing the Arians by the Nicenes in the churches of Constantinople, Theodosius did not at once take measures to suppress the heretics. Not till three or four years had passed did he issue and enforce edicts of persecution. We may suppose, with some degree of confidence, that his hand was held in some measure by the consideration of his new subjects, in whom a comprehensive and determined attack on the form of faith which they professed would be certain to raise distrust and indignation that might even endanger the newly established relation. New blood had been infused into the dying party of Arianism by the arrival of the Gothic nation, and their settlements in Moesia provided at once a ready asylum for those who fled from Constantinople, and a rallying point for members of any discontented faction; while in Constantinople an ever-increasing resident body of Goths, attracted to the service of the court and of the army, would be a formidable obstacle to any highhanded measures in favor of the Nicene party.
Attempts at Reconciliation.
The vacillating policy of the emperor in the years 380—387 becomes clear when we perceive the presence of a body of Arians with an ill-defined power of disturbing the peace of the empire, which might at one time seem threatening enough to induce the emperor to employ mediation rather than persecution, and at another would appear so problematical that he might boldly risk their anger. His first step, after establishing the Nicene party in the churches of the capital, was to call a general council, at which the semi-Arians were strongly represented. An attempt to reconcile them with the dominant party having failed, they had to submit to lose their churches. The triumph of the Nicene party was complete. On the other hand, two years had scarcely passed before the emperor made a new and more determined attempt to secure unity in the Church, not by crushing out the heretics, but by bringing about a general reconciliation. The deprived Arians were proving troublesome in many quarters of the empire. Theodosius summoned once more the heads of the most influential sects to give and receive an account of the points on which they differed. He had his dream, like Constantine, of a strong unbroken Church, the best ally of the State; and he, too, thought that a frank discussion of the points at issue was all that was required to make all parties see their errors and accept a common basis of doctrine. His failure was even more complete. The discussion never took place. The heads of the different parties—Homoiusians, Arians, Eunomians, etc.—presented the creeds of their particular sects. But upon their followers clamoring that these creeds did not fairly represent their faith, the emperor threw up the attempt, and the only result of the Synod of 383 was a severe decree forbidding all heretics to hold meetings, to give instructions concerning the faith, or to ordain either bishops or inferior clergy.
Evidence both of the continued numerical importance of the Arian party in Constantinople, even after their political influence had disappeared, and of the important position which the Goths held, is afforded by a controversy which broke out among them in the early years of Theodosius reign, and the attention which is given to it by the Church historians. Though, according to its chronological position in the narrative of Socrates, the Psathyrian schism appears to take place after the Italian expedition of Theodosius—that is to say, after 387—yet it had probably broken out some years earlier. The point at issue illustrates very well the nature of many of the controversies of this whole period. It was, whether the Father was to be regarded as already Father before the Son was called into existence.
The Psathyrian Schism
A certain Marinus, who “had been summoned from Thrace” to be a bishop or leader of the Arian party (after the death of Demophilus), had for some reason or other to give way to a rival Dorotheus, who had been brought from Antioch to take his place. Dorotheus denied the eternal Fatherhood of God; Marinus, either of conviction or out of contentiousness, asserted it. The former party remained in possession of their churches; the latter, who insisted on withdrawing" had to build new ones. They were popularly known as Psathyriani, as the historians explain, because a certain Syrian cakeseller or confectioner was an energetic supporter of the party. But they were also known as the party “of the Goths”, whose bishop, Selenas, held with Marinus. Here we may see a possible explanation of the circumstances. Marinus, “called out of Thrace”, may have been the candidate for the Arian bishopric whom the Goths supported. His teaching of the eternal Fatherhood would be entirely in sympathy with the doctrine of Ulfilas, though, so far as we know, Ulfilas did not enter upon the question. On the other hand, Dorotheus, brought up from Antioch and denying the eternal Fatherhood, was probably the candidate of the non-Gothic section of the Arian Church at Constantinople; and either through the superior number of his supporters, or through some intrigue, he was preferred to his rival or exalted in his place.
Almost all the barbarians (i.e. Goths), as we learn, followed Marinus and worshipped with his party. Ulfilas had found a successor who bore the mantle, and with it some of the influence of his master, in one Selenas. He had been the amanuensis of the great bishop, and the people accepted him and “followed him most gladly”. Hence his attachment to the cause of Marinus ensured the adhesion of the greater number of the Gothic Christians. This party itself shortly became a prey to schism. The cause of the dispute is obscure; a certain Agapius, whom Mariuus had raised to the bishopric of Ephesus, claimed the "primacy." The contention that ensued was so bitter that, we are told, many of the clergy withdrew altogether, and joined themselves to the Catholic Church. The Goths took the side of Agapius in this controversy, abandoning their allegiance to Marinus, a proceeding which, in the absence of any further information, seems quite inexplicable. The schism lasted for many years; until, for the Arians of Constantinople at least, it was healed through the mediation of Plinthas, an ex-consul, in the year 419.
The legislation of Theodosius against the Arians affected the Gothic Church in Thrace only indirectly. As foederati, the settlers were allowed to follow their own choice in matters of religion. Nevertheless, the issue of some fifteen persecuting edicts in as many years cannot fail to have roused the sympathetic indignation of the Goths. That disturbances and remonstrance did not follow is due to the fact that these decrees were very imperfectly executed. Almost any one of the number, if rigidly carried out, would have sufficed to eradicate Arianism or, at any rate, to force its adherents to seek safety in obscurity; but they probably represent less a decided purpose of suppressing heresy than repeated concessions to the demands of the chiefs of the Nicene party. Theodosius was encouraged to disregard the feelings of his subject-allies by the opposition between two sections of the nation. There was all along a party among the Goths who adhered to the old paganism. They were especially strong in the capital, where they furnished many valuable and trusted officers to the court and to the army. The Arianism of the main body estranged them from the emperor, whereas the heathen Goths found more ready access to his favor. Thus, over against the national party, there appeared a court party, which latter took rise, perhaps, with the invitation and reception of Athanaric, whose followers, heathens doubtless, remained in the emperor's service after the death of their chief. Theodosius could regard this antagonism with complacency, and even when it led to high words at his own table between the pagan Fravitta and the Christian Eriulf, he bore the insult with indifference. The separation of interest between Constantinople and Thrace, which was the result of this policy, produced serious effects after the emperor’s death.
For fifteen years the Goths in Thracia lived a settled life, learning the arts of peace, occupied with pasturage and tillage. Here the various tribes were gradually welded together. The sense of religious separation fostered the growth of national consciousness. The followers and pupils of Ulfilas carried on his work; the seeds of his teaching took root, and bore fruit in a national character to which later historians were to bear warm testimony.
Auxentius at Dorostorus (Silistria) and Palladius at Ratiara (near Widdin), were working either in the midst of or close beside the young nation. But their allegiance was given to Selenas, who was called the successor of Ulfilas, who, like his master, was “well-fitted to instruct the people in the church”, having command of the Greek as well as of his mother-tongue. The position of the clergy, and their identification with the life of the nation, is shown by their frequent appearance as envoys and negotiators. From the time of the battle of Adrianople down to the battles on the plains of Gaul the Arian presbyters appear frequently as the representatives of their nation.
The death of Theodosius revealed the effects of the fifteen years of tranquil development. The Goths were no longer to plunder, but to conquer; to play a part on the stage of Europe no longer as a collection of tribes loosely held together by common hope of spoil or by common danger, but as a nation with a purpose. That the religious isolation into which they were thrown by the policy of Theodosius, and their resentment at the encouragement which the defection of the heathen party received from him, did much to mold their development can hardly be doubted. The Arianism of the Goths was full of consequence for the empire.
With the general breakup of the nation in 395 the Gothic Church in Thracia disappears. The greater part of the nation took part in the out-wandering. Those who remained behind have left no trace. Many, no doubt, were drawn by the persuasive efforts of Chrysostom's missionaries to join the Catholic Church. In one spot alone, within the Balkan peninsula, the Gothic name and Church was recognized in the ninth century, though we cannot tell whether the little Gothic remnant, who preserved their mother speech at Tomi in the ninth century, preserved also the memory and the teaching of their great first bishop.
Advent of Chrysostom.
For half a century all parties in the Church had been alike in the absence from their ranks of men of commanding genius and influence, who might compare with the heroes of the first half of the century. The leaderships had descended from Athanasius, Arius, and Eusebius to court intriguers and factious strivers for political ends. No party had clean hands; all had at one time or other been soiled by intrigue, surrender of friends, or cowardly abnegation of teaching and principles. But at the end of the century the man at last appeared, and appeared on the side for which victory had already declared. Theodosius, dying in 395, was succeeded in the east by his weakling son Arcadius. In the early years of his reign John, called Chrysostom, was brought a presbyter from Antioch, and made Bishop of Constantinople. We have not to trace the history of the succeeding years, or describe his influence in any direction save one. He sealed the victory of the Catholic party. He achieved what all the edicts of Theodosius failed to do; detached the populace of Constantinople from their persistent and often tumultuous support of Arianism, and, before the end of his brief opportunity, made them devoted adherents of himself, and through himself, of the Catholic Church, he extended the sphere of his diocesan work till it included all Thracia. Here he was in contact with the remnants of the Church of Ulfilas, and no doubt added many of the Thracian Goths to the Catholic faith. In Constantinople he laboured with especial care and devotion for the same people. A church was set apart for their worship, and a staff of presbyters, deacons, and readers of the Scriptures appointed to minister to them in their own tongue; and he himself frequently taught them from the same pulpit, using an interpreter to transmit, as well as possible, his wonderful eloquence. It is no strange thing that such efforts and such devotion met with success; for “many of them which had been deceived he recalled, showing to them the truth of the preaching of the Apostles”.
In the midst of these aggressive measures against Gothic Arianism Chrysostom was called upon to defend the Church against an attempted inroad from the same quarter. Gainas, by birth a Goth, through his good service and determination raised to be Master of the troops, made to his imperial master a request, which was equivalent to a demand, that one of the churches in the city should be transferred to the Arians, his fellow-believers. The emperor was prepared to yield, but the proposal met with most determined opposition from Chrysostom. Whether the demand was a sincere one or an insolent pretext for a quarrel, the result was one of the most serious tumults that ever raged in Constantinople. During the absence of Gainas from the city the gates were shut, the populace rose and put to death seven thousand barbarians, whom they found within. The church which Chrysostom had set apart for the Goths offered them an asylum in vain. Religious hatred, added to a political distrust, had infuriated the mob to such a pitch that they fired the building, and all the refugees perished in the flames.
It was not long in the power of Chrysostom to labour to repair this disaster; the synod of the Oak, confirmed by the cabal under Theophilus of Alexandria, pronounced his deposition and authorized his banishment. But even from the distant wilds of Asia he continued to exercise his influence, and his interest in the Goths remained undiminished. Already, before his banishment, he had received and acceded to a request from the “king of Gothia”, that he would send a bishop to the Church of his country. There can be no doubt that by this “king of Gothia” we must understand the ruler of a tribe which dwelt on the north shore of the Euxine, probably round the Cimmerian Bosphorus, in the modern Crimea. Here a remnant of the subjects of Hermanaric had established themselves after escaping from the Huns, or showing such resistance as might secure them till the storm had passed. To this people Chrysostom had sent one Unila (or Wunnila) to oversee, their Church. But three years later, word came to him in his banishment that Unila was dead, and a Gothic mission was once more in Constantinople to obtain a bishop for their Church. The anxiety of Chrysostom was raised lest his rival Arsacius should introduce heresy and schism into the Gothic Church by appointing an Arian to be bishop. Accordingly, he took steps to have the envoys detained by friends of his own in Constantinople, cherishing the hope that before long he himself would be recalled, and might nominate a successor to Unila. His letters to the wealthy widow Olympias, whose house in Constantinople was thrown open to bishops, monks, and churchmen, together with his letter to the deacon Theodulus, show his great affection for the Gothic Church of the Crimea, and express his gratitude to the monks who remained faithful to him, though they found him banished from Constantinople, and had to meet the persecution of Arsacius for their persistent adherence to his rival.
We have already seen reason to believe that these Goths received the seeds of Christianity from the Cappadocian captives mentioned by Philostorgius, and never deviated from the Nicene faith of their first teachers; and also that the Bishop of Gothia, who signed the Nicene creed, was the representative of the Church in the Crimea. Communications passed between this church and another father of the Church besides Chrysostom. Among the letters of Jerome is preserved a reply which he sent to two of the Gothic clergy named Sunnia and Fretela. Unfortunately, the letter which drew forth this reply has not been preserved. But it is clear that the tenor of it was to enquire concerning several passages in the Psalms where the Greek text of the Septuagint was at variance with the Latin text. To Jerome they appealed to learn the true significance of the Hebrew original. He opens his reply with an expression of his astonishment and thankfulness that the barbarian Gothic tongue should be seeking to know the truth of the Hebrew; and that, while the Greeks are slumbering or disputing, Germania herself is searching the Scriptures. Thereafter he explains the relation between the koiné and his own Hexapla version, where he had carefully rendered the better text into Latin. The body of the letter is taken up with a categorical reply to their several questions, in the course of which the warning is frequently repeated to "avoid foolish and superfluous discussions where there is no actual difference of meaning involved"; and while he carefully answers the most minute questions, he interjects general comments on the true method of translation.
The nation of Goths, from whom the letter to Jerome had proceeded, was known to the Greeks as the Tetraxitai. They maintained considerable intercourse with Constantinople, and were in alliance or subject-alliance with the Emperor Justinian, to whom they made application that he should send them a bishop. This he did, and from that time forward the Church of the Crimea was connected with the Byzantine Church. The seat of the bishopric was at Kapha, and the name of the bishop appears as Gothias in the acts of the Byzantine Synod down to the eighteenth century. One of their bishops, Johannes of Parthenope; was present at the Church Council at Nicaea, and keenly opposed the Iconoclasts.
Traces of the people, if not of the churches, are found at intervals throughout the middle ages. The Minorite Ruysbroeck of Flanders, on the journey which he undertook for Louis IX. in 1253, found, “between Chersun and Soldaja”, forty villages, among whose inhabitants he says there were many Goths, whose language was “deutsch”. Later still Josafa Barbaro, sent by the republic of Venice to the Black Sea in 1486, mentions Goths who spoke “deutsch” as dwelling in “Gothia”, with whom his German servant could converse freely. In the next century they attracted the attention of three travelers, the last of whom, Busbek, though he did not visit their country, met two of their envoys in Constantinople, and obtained information from them concerning the manners and customs of their countrymen. He collected from them a number of words and phrases, which prove to be not only distinctly Teutonic, but in some cases indisputably Gothic in form and root. Joseph Scaliger states, moreover, that the remnant of the Goths, who dwelt among the Pericopean Tartars, possessed the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament in the same language and the same characters as those of Ulfilas’ translation.
Lastly, in 1750, a Jesuit monk of Vienna, named Mondorf, conversed with a galley slave whom he bought from the Turks, and learnt that among his countrymen in the Crimea, where a language related to the German was still spoken, the Christian faith had become extinct, and the worship of the people was paid to a log of wood. The small Christian community in the Crimea lost its connection with the Christian world when the Eastern empire fell; and the intrusion between it and the West of the Tartar and Ottoman tribes produced an isolation which indefinitely weakened the resisting power of the faith. The tide of heathenism, in which all the countries round the Black Sea were engulfed, overflowed also the little Church which had received first, and possessed longest, the simple faith of the Gospel.
THE GOTHIC CHURCHES IN ITALY AND GAUL,
AND THEIR DECLINE.
The death of Theodosius in the year 395 marks the close of an epoch in the world's history. The powerful hand was then removed which for one moment had placed arrest on the decline of the empire. Called first to govern in the East, he had displayed foresight, tact, and determination in the rescue of the State from the perils of the Gothic invasion. Thence his influence had been extended beyond the Eastern empire, and he was the last to hold in one grasp the undivided empire from the Bosphorus to the pillars of Hercules. His policy was approved by success in his lifetime, and might have prospered still had his successors possessed a little of his genius or a spark of his determination. But under the nominal government of Arcadius and Honorius the empire rushed impetuously to its fall.
Within the year of the death of Theodosius the Gothic nation was in arms against the empire. Arcadius had withdrawn or reduced the subsidy which Theodosius had prudently paid to his subject-allies. The young nations, who knew their strength and saw their opportunity, caught the pretext, and threw off the irksome allegiance which bound them to the empire. The next five years saw all South-eastern Europe laid waste by the host of Alaric. From the walls of Constantinople to the plains of Argos, from Athens to Sirmium, they carried war and desolation. Then came the decision, on whose issue two emperors might well be trembling. The fate of the East and of the West was in the balance, one against the other. Constantinople escaped. The word was given to march on Italy, and in 401 the storm broke on the devoted land.
Alaric himself was no stranger to its northern frontier, and the Goths had played a part already in the political and ecclesiastical history of North Italy. Part of the auxiliaries, who took service with Theodosius at the peace of 380, had been sent to garrison Milan, and had appeared in the background of the struggle between Justina and Ambrose. The Western Church found her Chrysostom a few years earlier than the Eastern, in Ambrose. There is a strange correspondence between the history of Milan in 385 and of Constantinople in 400. Events and figures are alike in both. The central figure is the bishop who resists the empress, refuses a demand to permit one of the churches to be set apart for Arian believers, and triumphs over the court through the affection and enthusiasm of the populace. And in both dramas the Arian Goths form the background; they are the pretext, real or ostensible, of the demand, and on them the fury of the populace is poured out.
The Arians had held Milan for at least twenty years in the person of their bishop, Auxentius, when he died in 374. In his successor, Ambrose, they found an opponent no less able than determined, and to Justina, the widow of the former emperor and mother of the young Emperor Valentinian, they had to look for credit and support in their falling state.
The activity of the Arian party in Milan, however, which specially marks the years 885 and 386 corresponds with the presence of Gothic auxiliaries, whose Arianism would at once attach them to the cause of the empress. An Arian, named Mercurinus, was appointed bishop of the party in Milan, and took the name of his predecessor, Auxentius. The reproach addressed to him by Ambrose that he was only bishop in the estimation of a handful of foreigners points to the Goths at the court of Justina, who probably represented the extent of his diocese. The empress then moved the emperor to demand of Ambrose the use of the Basilica “in Porta Romana”, which was outside the walls of the city; but the bishop stoutly refused. A second demand for possession of a new church within the walls met with the same repulse. By order of Justina the new church was surrounded by soldiers, probably Goths, who were interested in this attempt to assert the rights of their faith, and preparations were made within the building that on the succeeding Sunday, which was Easter Day, Auxentius might celebrate the offices of the day. But the opposition of the populace became so threatening that the emperor had to withdraw the troops, and abandon the attempt to force the consent of Ambrose. Justina, persisting in her support of the Arians, induced Valentinian to issue an edict granting free right of assembly to all who accepted the creed of Arianism, which had been confirmed at Constantinople, and menacing with death all those who put obstacles in their way. The Catholics resented this edict, which placed the heretics on the same footing with themselves, and denounced it as an edict of persecution. The attempt, which was renewed under cover of this law, to obtain the church of Porta Romana for the Arians, and the persistent opposition of Ambrose, issued in the plot to seize the bishop and the famous siege, which he and his devoted people sustained in the cathedral and episcopal palace. It may be left undecided whether it was the discovery of famous relics within the beleaguered Church and the redoubled enthusiasm of the people, or the news of the death of Gratian, and the political troubles which followed, that compelled the empress-mother and her son to yield. The victory of Ambrose was complete; but it was not till two years later, when the death of Justina had removed the principal obstacle, that Theodosius “set in order the ecclesiastical affairs in Italy”. Perhaps he withdrew the obnoxious Gothic garrison.
If the Visigoths who overran Italy under Alaric left no political monument of their presence after their withdrawal under Athaulf in 412, it can hardly be expected that there are many traces of that Arian Church of which they were in some sense the representatives. They suffered doubly at the hands of the historians,— as barbarians and as heretics. While nothing too scornful could be said of them as barbarians, nothing was too harsh to say of the heretics. What might have been to their credit as Christians is ascribed to their childishness and inexperience as barbarians; what stains their name with violence and bloodshed as barbarians is attributed to their wickedness and perversity as heretics. We are asked to believe that many acts of clemency, many withdrawals from a doomed city, were due to the effect on the barbarian mind of the gorgeous pomp and solemnity of a religious procession. But the Visigoths were not children, wild and untutored savages fresh from the forests of central Europe. For thirty years and more they had been dwelling within the empire, living a settled and peaceful life. Some had tilled the plains of Thrace, and had held frequent communications with Constantinople; while others had visited the chief cities of the empire as garrison troops, had fought under Theodosius as legionaries, and with him had conquered Maximus. These were not the people to be overawed by a procession, however imposing. It is fair to suppose that with them self-control meant something more than childish awe, and clemency was not due alone to superstition, however skillfully played upon.
Of the heretic Gothic Church itself only one trace has come down to us. The upstart Attalus, whom it suited Alaric’s purpose for a moment to use as a puppet-emperor, though still at heart a heathen, found it to his interest to seek baptism and admission to a Christian Church. The Church, of course, was the Arian-Gothic, and there was found with the Gothic host a bishop, Sigesarius, who administered the rite “to the great gratification of the Goths, and of Alaric himself”.
We may argue, from this case and from the general practice of the Vandals, that the Gothic army, as well as the people who followed, was accompanied even to the field of battle by their bishops. The external form and rites of the Church were necessarily adapted to the circumstances of the people. We have already observed the use of a tent-church among the Goths, when, during the persecution of Athanaric, an erection of this kind was destroyed by fire, together with all those who had sought asylum within. To a portable building of a similar kind Ambrose, no doubt, alluded in the sarcastic remark that “those had formerly used wagons for dwellings, now used a wagon for a church”.
If the traces of the Gothic Church at this time are very few, we may yet observe the working of the Christianity which it fostered. The siege and ‘sack’ of Rome, either as a whole or in detail, may be taken as testimony to a spirit and a character which were strangely modified from the early savagery of the barbarians. It were a shallow criticism that should object at the outset that war, conquest, and plunder should altogether have been shunned by a Christian people. It would be difficult in modern, as it would be impossible in ancient history, to point out a siege and sack, of which such episodes are recorded as distinguished the capture of Rome by Alaric. Augustine himself points out that Rome did not suffer so severely in the days that followed the capture by Alaric as under the avenging return of Marius or Sulla. Far from emulating the cruelties of the latter, the Goths "spared so many senators that it was rather a matter of observation that they slew some."
Alaric’s Sack of Rome
Though it was not in Alaric’s power to deny the spoil of the great city to his long restrained troops, he gave orders that fire was not to be applied to any of the buildings, and proclaimed that he and his people would respect the right of asylum, especially in the churches of SS. Peter and Paul. It is true that the first of these orders failed to secure its object; much damage was caused by fires, which were raised either by accident or by design. But the second general order which, as Augustine remarks, was “contrary to all custom of war in previous wars”, was honorably observed. If we may judge from a somewhat obscure sentence in Augustine, the Goths showed much more hostility to the heathens, and wreaked their fury on the many remains of heathen worship and edifices. Even the heathen inhabitants of the city, who had been most clamorous against the Christians during the siege, were not slow to take advantage of the asylum which was secured in their churches. In all the scene of terror and confusion, in all the opportunity for cruelty and rapine, lives were spared, women’s honor was respected, nuns were conducted by Gothic soldiers to a place of safety. One episode which is related at length by Orosius is very remarkable. A soldier had burst into a house and found there an aged nun in charge of the great sacred vessels of the Church of SS. Peter and Paul. Amazed at the value of his discovery, but warned by their guardian that he would lay hands on them at his peril, he sent word to Alaric. The Gothic chief dispatched at once an escort of soldiers by whom the vessels were protected as they were transferred across the city to the place of asylum, the Church to which they belonged, followed by a great crowd of Christians and pagans who were drawn by the strangeness of the spectacle. The gold and silver vessels were borne along on the shoulders of men; the Gothic escort closed in on either side and behind; and the city rang with the shouts and chants of those who followed in the procession.
I have referred to these events of the capture of Rome by Alaric, because in the paucity of direct reference to the Gothic Church at the time, it has been a satisfaction to find the Goths purged from the charge of uncontrolled licence, and displaying a continence and a moderation not commonly ascribed to barbarians, which may not unreasonably be referred to the influence of Christian teaching.
Theodoric’s great Experiment.
Eighty years after his faithful followers had diverted the little stream beside Cosenza to bury Alaric in its bed, and then turned their backs upon Italy which he had conquered, to seek a home in Gaul, another section of the Gothic race became masters of Italy. The Ostrogoths had been swept along with the wave of Huns in their westward course, had faced their Visigothic kinsmen on the field of Chalons, and out of the wreck of the Hunnish confederacy which was dissipated at the death of Attila, they had risen an independent and powerful people. Under their noble prince Theodoric they overthrew the semblance of a government which existed in Italy, and established the kingdom of the Ostrogoths. Then began that most interesting experiment, the attempt of Theodoric to combine two races in one kingdom, and by blending Gothic vigor and bravery with Roman traditions and cultivation, to restore the famous empire to some of its old prestige. It was a great scheme and it was pursued with a persistency and a patience which surely deserved success, and renders almost pathetic the failure that was the all but inevitable issue. There were many obstacles to such a scheme, and it may be that the methods of Theodoric were not most wisely chosen for its execution, but the rock on which it split was the difference of faith. The Ostrogoths, like their brethren the Visigoths before them, were Arians. Once more an Arian-Gothic Church stood up against the Catholic-Latin Church, and once more the latter was victorious. The Latin Church was the greatest and the most consolidated power which faced Theodoric in Italy, and in its unrelenting opposition to the Arian king lay the secret of his failure.
Theodoric was the first genuine apostle of toleration; he was willing even to suffer for the principle. Firm in maintaining his own faith, he was no less determined in protecting the liberty of others. He defended the Jews from the malice and persecution of the Italians, enforcing a general levy to compensate their losses in a riot. Towards the Catholics he showed the greatest consideration, accepted the post of arbitrator between rival candidates for the Papacy, and decided with most careful judgment; paid honor to their saintly men, and sent contributions to their famous shrines. Had he been a pagan he would have been extolled. He might have been led through a form of conversion, celebrated as defender of the faith, and ultimately canonized. Being a heretic, his best efforts were accepted with sullen distrust; he earned nothing but misapprehension and dislike. His watchword was enough to condemn him, —“We cannot impose a religion by command because no one can be compelled to believe against his will”.
The elevation of Justinian to the throne of the East, an orthodox emperor pledged to root out heresy, brought about a rapprochement between the Church of Italy with the shadowy senate at Rome and the Byzantine court, and this was an alliance fatal to the projects of Theodoric. This silent opposition, imperious to all his advances and threatening the future of his throne and house, embittered the last years of the great king. The extravagant honors paid by the Byzantine Court to Pope John on his mission to Constantinople, conveyed, as no doubt they were intended to convey, to Theodoric the sense of his own isolation and of the hopelessness of his task. He became suspicious of all his envoys, even of his true friends Symmachus and Boethius; and their imprisonment and death at the close of his reign have stained a noble record for ever.
The purpose of this fatal embassy concerns our subject. The orthodox emperors, Justin and Justinian, had given proof of their attachment to the true Church by a determined attempt to suppress heresy. An earlier decree, directed against the survivors of the Arian party, had made an express exception in favor of the Goths, but the new alliance between the Eastern court and the Latin Church encouraged a bolder policy; and the subsequent decree which issued in 523 or 524, exposed to persecution the Arians throughout the empire without any exception. This was a direct blow at Theodoric, who had hitherto observed some semblance of political dependence on the Eastern emperor. The isolation of the Goths as heretics was proclaimed and emphasized, and his own policy of toleration rendered hopeless, if not ridiculous. Moreover, while for his own subjects there was no danger of persecution, there remained within the jurisdiction of Justinian many Goths whom he was bound, if possible, to protect. Hence the necessity of sending the embassy, for which he selected men of the highest rank and influence. The Bishop of Rome was sent, perhaps because he could best represent the danger of retaliation upon the Catholics in Italy. Three senators and a patrician were his colleagues. Whether the bishop sincerely urged the request of Theodoric for the removal of the obnoxious decree, and the toleration of his fellow-countrymen and believers, or only arranged with the emperor a common plan of operations against the heretic king, their mission failed of its object. The envoys returned with empty hands, and the king, in anger or suspicion, threw the pope into that prison whence he was released only by death. The obsequious senate tried, and condemned unheard, their own member Boethius, whose sentence, at first mitigated by the clemency, was afterwards enforced by the frenzied suspicion of Theodoric. The king's own death following shortly afterwards was hailed as the judgment of God, and good Catholics believed with satisfaction that their heretic benefactor was consigned at once to the volcano furnace of Lipari.
After the death of their great king the Ostrogoths struggled against their fate for nearly thirty years. But, at last worn out by victories and defeats alike, they yielded finally to Narses, and the last remnant of them entered the Byzantine service.
Of the Church among the Ostrogoths in the period of their rule in Italy almost no record is preserved. It is mentioned by Cassiodorus that Theodahat showed great liberality towards his own Church, and enriched it with lavish gifts; and some records have been discovered which refer to clergy, churches, and church-lands. The first of these is found at Naples, and belongs to the reign of Totila, about the year 550. The Gothic Church of S. Anastasia had received an advance of 120 “skillings” from a certain Petrus Defensor, in security for which they pledged a piece of marsh land to the value of 180 “skillings”. On receiving the balance of 60 “skillings” they surrendered possession of the land by the document which has been preserved. In the list of signatures, which are partly in Latin and partly in Gothic, there occur the names of a presbyter (who, through weak eyesight, was unable to sign with his own hands), a “papa”, a deacon, a sub-deacon, and certain other clergy. We have here the record of a Gothic Church with a large staff of clergy, and lay officers holding land as a corporation, and conducting their affairs through a notary, all which points to a long established Church, which was itself, no doubt, one of many such. A very similar record of a similar transaction was found at Arezzo, but has since been lost; our imperfect facsimile shows that a certain deacon sold to another deacon some part of the farm of Caballaria.
But the presence and power of the Gothic Church is manifested apart from any other records by the influence it exerted on the policy and life of Theodoric, and on the whole history of the Ostrogothic kingdom. It cannot be supposed that the Church, for whose faith Theodoric sacrificed a sound basis for his kingdom, and the success of his whole policy, existed only in the past. Nor did his successors flinch from the position he had taken up; and these records are only a material proof of the existence of the Church which must have nourished the Arian faith, to which they adhered till the end.
The great king of the Ostrogoths was not the first who had cherished the noble idea of resuscitating a Roman empire, in which Roman forms and traditions should provide a framework for the vigor of his own young race, and barbarian license and impetuosity be restrained and molded by having incorporated with the heritage of the past. Athaulf, who led the Visigoths from the grave of Alaric to find in Gaul a home which they had sought in vain elsewhere, began his reign with “an ardent desire to blot out the Roman name and make all Roman soil an empire of the Goths”, in which himself should play the role of Augustus. But having learnt by long experience that his people would not be bound by the laws of a state, “without which a state is no state”, he determined “to seek glory for himself by restoring to its former glory the Roman name”, by infusing the hardihood of his own race into the decrepit members of the decaying empire. The scene of this experiment was in the south of Gaul, whither the Visigoths withdrew two years after the death of Alaric. Honorius must have seen with relief the departure of his dangerous guests, and it is quite possible, though it can hardly be proved, that they were encouraged to turn their steps in that direction by a treaty with the emperor and a concession of land for settlement. Such a concession could be of but slight actual value, implying little more than leave to hold what land they could conquer for themselves; but it was characteristic of the Goths that they desired nothing so much as settlement under the shadow of the empire. The old name of Rome had not lost its glamour, and very striking is the eager willingness of the barbarians to accept all the responsibilities of self-defense and nominal dependence for the shadowy privilege of the imperial alliance. It was this strange sentiment alone, whether we call it awe, reverence, or affection, that secured the barbarians to Rome as childlike dependents rather than as ungovernable destroyers. Unmanageable, of course, they were, and the empire could make no pretence to chastise them, but the fiction of the “foedus” was always maintained. Quickly disregarded by the stronger party whenever it saw its advantage, it was as readily revived after each escapade. We do not require to follow the windings of policy and intrigue on either side, during which the circle of Roman influence steadily contracted at the same time as its power within that circle as steadily diminished. The Goths, on the other hand, under a succession of able and warlike rulers, gradually extended their boundaries at the expense of the Roman province, and differentiated their power from that of the empire till their king became no more, even ostensibly, the channel of delegated authority, but, in name as well as in fact, an independent sovereign.
Under Athaulf and Wallia, the kings first and third in succession to Alaric, the Pyrenees were passed by the whole nation, and it seemed for a moment as if Spain was the destined seat of the next Gothic kingdom. But the Visigothic kingdom in Spain was not to rise for a century yet, and after overrunning the greater part of the peninsula as far as Cadiz, and making an unsuccessful attempt to carry out Alaric's cherished idea of seeking a home in Africa, the Goths turned back and retraced their steps to the eastern side of the Pyrenees. Here, in the Roman province of Aquitania Fecunda, they settled. It suited Roman policy at the time, to attach the barbarians as dependent allies within the reach of nominal control rather than to leave them free to carve out a kingdom for themselves in distant Spain. To the Goths, on their part, no doubt the fertile plains of Aquitaine were more attractive than the less luxuriant fields of Spain. By the treaty concluded between Wallia and Honorius, the whole basin of the Garonne was open to the Goths for settlement. With this territory there came into their hands the towns of Bordeaux, Angouleme, Poitiers, and others; and the famous city of Toulouse, in which Wallia established his capital, afterwards gave its name to the kingdom.
The Kingdom of Toulouse
The kingdom of Toulouse lasted for close on a hundred years. Under four kings in succession the alternations of peace and war with the empire issued alike to the advantage of the Goths. On the field of Chalons, Visigoths fighting with and for the Romans, met Ostrogoths marshalled under the banner of Attila. The second Theodoric proclaimed and supported Avitus as Roman emperor in succession to Maximus. Now with, and now without, the pretext of Roman authority, the Goths made expeditions to Spain, and gradually established there a claim to supremacy in the peninsula.
But the kingdom reached its widest limits, and the Goths their most brilliant position, under the successor of Theodoric, his brother Euric. The changes in the Western empire which had afforded transient opportunities to his predecessor, were now so frequent as to give this vigorous prince almost continuous occasion to profit by the distraction and vacillation of the nominal sovereigns of Gaul. In fact, the real obstacle to the complete conquest of Southern Gaul by the Goths found not in the desire or determination of the emperors to maintain their hold over their fertile province, but in the stubborn resistance offered to the barbarians by the provincial nobility, and to the heretics by the Catholic clergy. The flood of barbarian conquest had swept over the plains of Narbonne and Lower Auvergne long before it reached Upper Auvergne, where Ecdicius, representing the Roman laity, and Sidonius Apollinaris, the bishop of Clermont, held the high table-land for Roman civilization and Catholic unity. But when Julius Nepos, last but one on the role of Western emperors, formally withdrew the claim of Rome to the territory which his predecessors had for so long neglected to defend, Ecdicius and Sidonius abandoned their untenable post, and the Gothic kingdom was now only bounded by the Loire, the Rhone, and the two seas.
It was at this time that the kingdom of Toulouse reached its climax. Four years before the death of Euric another race had hailed as chief a young prince, before whom the Gothic power in Gaul should crumble to dust. Before Euric had been dead a year, the Franks, under Chlodwig, had crushed in the thin bulwark of Roman rule that lay across the centre of France, and there stood face to face the two peoples, to one of whom the dominion of the West must fall. It is not too much to say that the issue of this momentous contest was never in doubt, that it was decided in advance by one fact,—the Arianism of the Gothic Church.
The Gothic kings of Toulouse and their people had remained faithful to the teaching of Ulfilas, and the Arianizing form of doctrine which had been transmitted to them by their fathers. But the difficulty of presenting an adequate picture of the Gothic Church in Gaul is not less than in the case of the Church in Italy, and arises from the same causes. The disappearance of the nation, the extinction of the Church, the malignity of their opponents, have ensured the destruction of all the records and monuments on the side of the heretics; while lack of sympathy, or of any interest deeper than the polemical, debarred the victorious party from leaving any adequate or trustworthy account of the Church of their rivals. Nevertheless, we may perceive from a number of slight indications that the Gothic Church in Gaul had a well-developed organization, providing for its adherents throughout the kingdom the offices and ministers of a regularly established Christian Church. In the works of Gregory of Tours there is mention of controversies, both public and private, between bishops and presbyters of the two parties, and these so frequent as to presuppose the existence of two bodies of clergy similar in numbers, organization, and distribution. Few of the Arian clergy appear by name in the records of their opponents. Yet we know that Sigesarius, the bishop who baptized Attalus at Rome, accompanied Athaulf to Gaul and Spain, and had charge of his children at the time of their father’s death. That the Arian Church distributed its clergy over the country, and placed them side by side with, or sometimes in place of, the Catholic clergy, may be seen from one or two indications given by Gregory. Thus, in the diocese of Arisitum, the fifteen parishes of which it was composed had all been held by Gothic presbyters. Near the town of Reuntium (Rions) the Goths had possessed themselves of a Catholic church, and “transferred it to the foul service of their sect”. Here, on the eve of Easter, they proceeded to baptize the children of the village, in the hope that as the Catholic priest was denied the opportunity of baptizing, "the people might be more easily entangled with their sect." The Catholic party, not to be foiled, held their baptismal service in a large house adjoining, and their triumph was complete when all the children who had been baptized by the heretics died within the octave of Easter. Whereupon the Arians restored the church to the Catholic party.
The Arian worship and ritual seems not to have differed very much from that of the Catholic Church; scarcely more, perhaps, than various uses within the Church differed from one another. Some of the variations which can be traced owed their presence to the Eastern connections of the Gothic Church. Certain offices which took place with the Catholics during the morning were celebrated by the Arians at daybreak (antelucani). It was this office which, as Sidonius tells us, Theodoric, the successor of Wallia, attended daily. The connection of this early service with Arian use is curiously illustrated by the accusation of Arian practices which was laid against a certain Pamphilus; the complaint against him was that he devoted himself to holy offices from midnight onwards, but ceased at daybreak. It was also a custom peculiar to the Arian Gothic Church that a special cup was provided for the royal family at the communion.
While the Arian Church thus strove to present itself as highly organized and as efficient for ministering to its adherents as its rivals, it did not neglect opportunities for propagating its tenets among the neighboring peoples. Sidonius’ reports having seen one Modaharius, “brandishing darts of heresy”, working as a missionary of the Arians among the Burgundians. Thus, wherever we catch a glimpse of it, the Gothic Church is seen to be acting out in its methods and organization the theory of its existence as stated by Salvian—“so firmly do they consider themselves to be Catholics that they insultingly distinguish us by the title of heretic”.
The controversies, of which many are recorded, are unfortunately recorded only by pronounced partisans. They all result in the same way. The heretic is silenced. Similarly the tests and ordeals which are proposed declare invariably and unmistakably for the Catholic side, while the efforts of the heretics to produce miracles or undergo ordeals are futile, or worse than futile. Gregory accuses the Goths, moreover, of cowardice and timidity, which are characteristics scarcely to be looked for in a people with such a history.
Another contemporary writer, on the other hand, has drawn a picture of Gothic character, and described a state of public and private morals, which bears testimony to the efficacy of their belief, if not to the theological accuracy of their creed. Salvian, the presbyter of Marseilles, in his book on The Government of God, when he is upbraiding the feebleness, and lashing the vices, of the Roman and Catholic Christians, again and again places before them, as examples of Christian life and practice, the “ill-instructed” barbarians who sojourned in the land. Their life was better than their creed; how much worse was that of his own flock. “As concerns the conversation of the Goths and Vandals”, he says, “wherein could we either prefer or compare ourselves? To speak first of love and charity, —all barbarians, one may say, who are of one race and under one king, love one another; all Romans mostly persecute one another. The poor are pillaged, the widows mourn, the orphans are trampled under foot, so much so that many of them flee to the enemy,—seeking, I suppose, Roman humanity among the barbarians when they could no longer bear barbarous inhumanity among the Romans. So, in spite of differences of worship and habits, they pass over to the Goths”. “Treacherous, but chaste”, is the label, which Salvian attaches to the Goths in his list of races and elsewhere he enlarges on the fact that they scorned the licentiousness and debauchery that was undermining Roman vigor, and was such a foul blot even upon the Church itself.
The attitude of this Arian people and government towards the Catholic inhabitants of their country was, on the whole, one of great tolerance. Princes and people alike treated the Catholic clergy with honor and reverence. Portrayed as their conduct is, by those who were alien by race and by creed, and likely to resent and recall the smallest tyranny or attempt at compulsion, there is nevertheless no trace in the records of the earlier kings of any measure of repression or open hostility. Nor was this for lack of provocation. There must have been a deliberate purpose in the policy of the kings of Toulouse,—patiently to live down the opposition of the Catholic clergy, or to bring about the supremacy of the Arian Church by careful fostering and gradual spread of its doctrines. It cannot be that king after king who reigned at Toulouse was blind to the fact that the greatest hindrance to union and tranquility within his kingdom, and to extension beyond it, lay in the resistance, passive or active, of the Catholic clergy. The semi-feudal constitution of the nation placed over against the king a body of nobles, from amongst whom he himself frequently had been raised to the throne, and whose jealousy and insubordination were rendered formidable by their independent following of vassals. In the Catholic clergy, who had learnt independence and to know their own power under the lax government of the declining empire, the Gothic kings found a new and unexpected factor with which they had to reckon. Always in opposition so long as the kings remained heretics, pitilessly immoveable by any concessions short of complete submission, this third party checked the king at every step. They provided a rallying-point for Roman laity and disaffected Goths within the kingdom, and a fulcrum for any crafty foe without. We shall not be surprised, therefore, to find that the king who had the greatest ambition, showed the highest state-craft, and enjoyed the most favorable opportunities, found himself compelled to abandon as untenable the position of toleration taken up by his predecessors, and adopt a policy of repression against the Catholics. This repression, which might conceivably be justified as politically necessary, has been magnified and distorted in the hands of the annalists till it appears as a ruthless and unjustifiable persecution. Euric is branded with the name of persecutor, and his reign supplies dates for many martyrdoms; yet it is more than doubtful whether he can fairly be regarded as a persecutor or his victims as martyrs.
To Sidonius Apollinaris we owe a graphic account of this persecution of the Catholics by Euric. In a letter addressed to Basil, the bishop of a neighboring diocese, he describes the condition of the Church under Euric. After a complimentary preface, he opens his subject by saying: "I do not do wrong in bewailing to you the way in which that wolf, who fattens on the sins of perishing souls, is gnawing at the entrances of the Church biting in secret with a tooth as yet unnoticed." He accuses himself, with other shepherds, of having given the enemy an advantage by slumbering at his post; in spite of the pain it gives him he will set forth the whole truth. Euric (Evarix) is not to be judged by himself or his correspondent for defending or extending his frontiers; but it is a case of Dives and Lazarus, of Pharaoh marching with his diadem, and the Israelite with his basket; of Assur thundering in royal insolence, and Jeremiah with his people bewailing the spiritual Jerusalem. He comforts himself with the reflection that this is not what he deserves, and that affliction purifies the soul. He must, however, confess that he is in dread that Euric is likely to undermine not so much Roman bulwarks as Christian institutions. “The mention of the name of Catholic acts like vinegar, they say, on his face as on his heart, so that you cannot tell whether he is more truly chief of his nation or of his sect”. Then after characterizing Euric as distinguished as a warrior, as a statesman, and as a man of affairs, he gives a list of nine dioceses whose bishops or archbishops have been cut off by death and as no other bishops have afterwards been appointed in their place (by whom, of course, the lower orders of clergy are appointed), wide-spread spiritual ruin has been the result. “This ruin would move even an arch-heretic, spreading as it does, while the fathers are dying, day by day. The parishes are without priests. The churches are falling into decay; alas, even round the altar-stones the cattle may be found cropping the grass. Look more deeply into the injury inflicted on the spiritual members,—it is clear that the more bishops are removed, the more of your people will find their faith endangered. I forbear to mention your own colleagues, Crocus and Simplicius, who have been removed from the chairs that were entrusted to them”. He concludes with an appeal to Basil to devise with his colleagues some remedy for the unhappy state of matters in the vacant dioceses.
This famous account of the “persecution” of Euric has been reproduced at some length, in order that its tone may be apprehended as well as the facts which it contains; for in the tone we fail to find the earnestness of those who have “resisted unto blood” for conscience’ sake, and are led to doubt whether, on calm examination, even the facts related justify a charge of persecution against the king. For what is described here except a political struggle between the Gothic government and the third party in the state, who were using their position as spiritual princes for political ends? We have here, in fact, the prototype of the kulturkampf of the nineteenth century. The method adopted by the State in its contest with the Church is identically the same. The episcopal sees as they fall vacant are not allowed to be filled up; the ordinations of the lower clergy cannot take place; and the consequence of a few years of bloodless conflict is that many country parishes are found without spiritual officers, the services of the Church are suspended, and the churches fall into disrepair. But a policy like this is not to be placed in the same category with the attempts of Decius or Diocletian to suppress Christianity, or of the Stuarts to enforce prelacy upon the Scottish Covenanters. If “persecution” means the tyrannical and cruel application of temporal power to control or crush liberty of opinion and spiritual independence, the word cannot also be used without qualification to describe the action of the State in an imperative attempt to grapple with high treason in the Church. That was the justification of the policy of Euric, and the issue of the struggle in the reign of his successor only confirmed it.
Nor do the details of the persecution, which may be gleaned from the pages of Gregory, invalidate this conclusion. The passage in Gregory, which is chiefly relied on, is obviously a digest of the letter of Sidonius, to which, indeed, express reference is made at the end of the chapter; and a careful examination and comparison would show that even if its authenticity be admitted, it is of no value as an independent authority. Passing from this, the individual cases of the persecution which are alleged all resolve themselves into measures of precaution against ecclesiastics who were suspected, and, as the event proved, only too justly suspected, of holding treasonable intercourse with the Franks. In the records of the bishops of his own diocese of Tours, Gregory mentions two who were banished from their see by the Goths. In each case the reason was the same; they were “suspected of desiring to submit themselves to the rule of the Franks”. But the interval of eleven years, during which the second ruled unmolested, does not at least betoken any undue impatience or nervousness on the part of the Gothic king.
The conversion of Chlodwig was the decisive event for the history of Gaul. Henceforward the whole weight of Catholic influence was given to the Franks. The struggle between a heathen nation with a heathen chief and the united forces of Gothic and Roman Christianity might have been a doubtful one; but the submission of the Frank to the Catholic Church secured him the friendship of a party within the camp of the Goths, whose influence, thanks to their organization and tenacity of purpose, was out of all proportion to their numbers. “Thy faith is our victory”, said the Catholic to the new convert; and a very few years proved the truth of the prophecy.
Euric had been, succeeded by a son who had neither the ability nor the tenacity of his father (A.D. 485). When Alaric weakly surrendered Syagrius to Chlodwig, he made a fatal confession of weakness, by which the Frank was not slow to profit. The interview with the chief of the Franks, sought and obtained by Alaric, produced only a very transient security. The Catholic Church in the south was waiting eagerly for their champion to take the first step towards their freedom, “all men were desiring with anxious longing that they should reign”. Nor did Chlodwig hesitate to take up the role thus assigned to him. "It likes me not at all that these Arians should hold any part of Gaul. Let us march by the help of God, overthrow them, and subject the country to our own rule." With this address to his men Chlodwig opened the campaign. No opportunity was overlooked of keeping up the religious character of the struggle. Parties sent to neighboring shrines along the route brought back the encouraging responses of the Church; and Catholic clergy with the army marched to meet their brethren, who were oppressed by the hand of the heretics.
The conduct of Alaric at this crisis might be ascribed either to the exasperation of conscious weakness or to cool calculation and discrimination. What might be branded as feeble inconsistency in the one view might equally be regarded as determined and far-sighted policy in the other. On the one hand he suppressed with promptitude more than one revolt which the impatience of some of the bishops brought prematurely to a head. Other outbreaks were nipped in the bud by the removal from their sees of other bishops,— Caesarius from Arles, Quintian from Ruthena, and Verus from Tours. The appointment some years later of Quintian to the bishopric of Clermont by the Franks is a measure of the justness of the king's suspicions. On the other hand, he formally abandoned the attempt of his father to force them to compliance with his rule by systematic repression. He permitted vacant bishoprics to be filled up at Bearn, Bigorre, and many other places, and sanctioned the assembling of a council at Agde. This combination of firm and judicious policy failed to avert the doom of the Gothic kingdom of Toulouse. Chlodwig, always rapid in his operations, was determined to anticipate the arrival of the Ostrogothic reinforcements, for which Alaric had appealed to Theodoric. Alaric's captains resented his cautious policy of withdrawal towards the coming succor. The Catholics of Clermont, the town which had been the last to submit to the Goths, fought bravely and obstinately for their conquerors. But the forces of Alaric were no match for the Franks and their allies, the Burgundians. At the battle of Vouglé the king himself fell fighting, and was spared the pain of seeing his country overrun by the enemy and the destruction of his kingdom. “By the help of God”, as the Catholic historian puts it, the orthodox barbarian had won the victory and secured Gaul for the Franks.
THE GOTHIC CHURCH IN SPAIN, AND ITS DECLINE.
The disastrous day of Vouglé put an end to the Gothic kingdom of Toulouse. The death of the king on the field of battle, the youth and immaturity of his legitimate heir, and the disputed succession which followed, exposed the country to the ravages of Frankish armies, unchecked by any opposition from a regular government. The issue of many complications was that, after long delay, Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, interfered to protect his kindred, gradually cleared Southern Gaul of the Frankish troops, and established a boundary between Goths and Franks which roughly corresponded with the course of the Garonne. He saw, moreover, that it concerned the safety of his own kingdom that there should be a strong and stable government in Southern Gaul to hold these new foes in check; and accordingly, under pretext of guardianship of Amalaric, son of the late king Alaric, and his own grandson, Theodoric took into his own hands the Visigothic government. But the home of the Visigothic folk was no longer chiefly in Gaul, but in Spain. Large numbers of them had been forced across the Pyrenees by the southward pressure of the Franks, and by their occupation of Gallia Gothica; and these being added to the numerous bands of earlier conquerors and settlers, it came about that the bulk of the Visigothic stock was planted in Spain, and Gallia Gothica became a dependency of a new Spanish-Gothic kingdom. This, however, was not fully established till the death of Theodoric, when his daughter and his grandson, Amalasuntha and Athalaric, recognized, not unwillingly, Amalaric’s ability to govern his own kingdom, and the Ostrogothic control ceased. Only that part of the old kingdom of Toulouse which was east of the Rhone remained in the hands of the Ostrogoths; and the province of Narbonne or Septimania, west of the Rhone and south of the Garonne, became an adjunct to the new Gothic kingdom in Spain.
Here, in Spain, was played the last act of this long drama in ecclesiastical history. This was the third of the Gothic kingdoms of the West. One of these had already crumbled to ruin, sapped by religious strife and disaffection. A second laboriously-erected kingdom, that of Theodoric, in spite of the military success and skill of its founder, after thirty years of his fostering care was at this very moment beginning to totter, and about to show, by one more instance, the hopelessness of the attempt to build a throne above the quicksand of ecclesiastical schism. Now the same problem was once again presented under new circumstances. It was solved in a new way. The Spanish monarchy, after a long struggle to maintain the ancient faith, saved itself by submission to the Catholic Church. In the kingdom of Toulouse the Goths had tried first by toleration to conciliate, then by repression to disarm, the enemies who hated them even worse as heretics than they despised them as barbarians. In Italy the attempt to find a modus vivendi was yet more patiently and perseveringly pursued, the Gothic government giving to the Catholic Church all the pledges of impartiality and all tokens of respect. In Spain the Visigoths at last confessed themselves beaten; overcome by the subtle unrelenting pressure of organized, though often passive, resistance. There are but three forms which the relations between two such parties can take. Two of these had been tried in turn by the temporal power of the Goths; toleration had been rejected, repression had failed, there remained only submission.
But even after Vouglé it took eighty years of contest and disaffection to bring this fact home to the nation. They were years of confusion and insecurity. Of the earlier kings belonging to this portion of Visigothic history little or nothing has come down to us, except their names and the manner of their violent deaths. Not one of the first six who occupied the throne established his house even for two generations. Hardly do they seem to have contemplated it. The indifference to the future, which this fact implies, explains much of the history, and especially how so many princes cherished their old creed, without discovering it to be a hopeless obstacle to their policy. They had no policy. The first who had a policy, and aspired to found a dynasty, came at once into sharp collision with the Catholics, towered by the force of genius and determination, and fell. His son succeeded him, it is true, but only to surrender to the Catholic party, and conform with all his people to the Catholic faith.
Little is recorded of the kings who reigned before Leovigild, but their remains enough to show that they adhered obstinately to the creed of their fathers. Amalaric, no doubt, followed a prudent policy when he allied himself with the Frankish court by marrying Chrotichild, a daughter of the Merowings. But the refusal of his bride to conform to her husband’s creed caused the king to break out in such a persecution of herself and her fellow-Catholics that, instead of an alliance, he brought down upon himself the vengeance of her brother Childibert. Of another of these kings, Athanagild, it was said that he was secretly a Catholic before he died; but the authority is insignificant. He it was, however, who, while yet a pretender to the crown, took the fatal step of summoning the Byzantines to his aid. Justinian was only too ready to accept the opportunity thus offered of planting his foot within the breach of another Gothic kingdom. Athanagild gained his purpose, but sixty years afterwards his successors were still struggling to dislodge the Byzantines, and loosen their grasp upon the land. Two daughters of Athanagild and his wife, Gosvintha, were sought in marriage by two of the Merowing princes; each of these, on her arrival at her bridegroom's home, was induced to abandon the Arian creed and accept the Catholic faith of her husband. In the same reign the collective Arianism of the Germanic races suffered a serious loss, and the pressure on the remaining adherents of the creed in Spain was much increased by the conversion of the king of the Suevi and the whole body of his subjects to the Catholic faith. The isolation of the Visigoths was now complete. On every frontier they were hemmed in by nations whose racial antipathy was embittered by dogmatic separation. To the north-east lay the Franks, ever pressing southward and westward. On the north the Suevi were on the alert to turn the internal dissensions of the kingdom to their own advantage and aggrandizement. And the cities of the south, and along the coast, contained many nests of Byzantines and Byzantine sympathizers, who kept open the communications between the disaffected in the Gothic kingdom and the ever-watchful Eastern emperor.
To rule this kingdom, watched by so many jealous eyes without, and racked by such distractions within, Leovigild was called first as coadjutor, and afterwards as successor, to his brother Liuva. His reign marks the last attempt to firmly establish the Gothic dominion according to its inherited character, by the most strenuous application of all available remedies against its similarly inherited perils. Five months of interregnum had only increased the difficulties of his task. Yet he attacked them with equal boldness and sagacity. Foreign foes and domestic rebels alike felt the effects of his vigorous policy, and acknowledged a worthy successor of Theodoric and Euric. He was the first Gothic king of whom it could truly be said that he was master of the Iberian peninsula.
Towards the Catholic Church the attitude of this Arian prince was, throughout the first ten years of his reign (569—580), one of consistent toleration. This absence of a persecuting spirit in Leovigild is needed to give color to the story, which was current in later times, that he married for his first wife an undoubted Catholic, Theodosia, a sister of the famous bishops, Leander and Isidore. Apart from the unimportant testimony of Lucas of Tuy, there is no reason to suppose that the king's first wife was anything but an Arian like himself. They had two sons, Hermenegild and Reccared, but their mother died before Leovigild came to the throne. In a second marriage he took to wife Gosvintha, the widow of his predecessor Athanagild, a woman notoriously and fanatically Arian. To the fanatical infliience of this woman some have ascribed the blame for most of the evils which followed. But it is unnecessary to see in Gosvintha the sole cause of events, for which many other agencies were preparing the way. In the heart of the king himself the promptings of his wife against the Catholics would only sound familiarly as the echoes of his own experience. His task of government was infinitely complicated by the double antipathy of race and of creed between the two sections of the people whom he ruled. His policy during the earlier part of his reign, when he was mainly occupied in reducing to obedience ambitious and turbulent vassal-nobles, had naturally produced great discontent, and raised against him a number of rebellious-minded chiefs, whose power for mischief was not destroyed, though he had forced them to a show of submission. With these, as well as with all other enemies of his throne, he found the Catholics ever ready to make common cause. A network of intrigue was spread over his whole kingdom, the ends of which communicated with his enemies beyond its borders, with the Suevi within the peninsula, with the Franks in Gaul, with the Byzantines in the coast-cities, and, through them, with the court of the Eastern empire. It would, therefore be no matter for surprise if there grew up in the mind of Leovigild a sense of the impossibility that his own government could co-exist with so formidable and hostile a power as that wielded by the Catholic Church. But it was neither this growing conviction of the king nor the persuasions of Gosvintha that led to the actual crisis. Nevertheless this arose within the family of the king. Leovigild, like some of his predecessors, had sought to strengthen his house by an alliance with the Franks, and had obtained, as a wife for his elder son Hermenegild, Ingundis, daughter of Sigebert and Brunichild, that Brunichild, who, being a Wisigothic princess, had become a Catholic on her marriage. According to that precedent, and according, no doubt, to the expectation of her husband's nation, Ingundis should have taken his faith when she came to be his wife. But she had been brought up by her mother as a strict Catholic; and, moreover, on her journey to Spain, passing through the diocese of Agde, she had been specially warned by Fronimius, the bishop, to shun the Arian heresy as poison. She accordingly refused to change her creed. A sharp quarrel ensued between Ingundis and her grandmother, Gosvintha (who had now become her stepmother-in-law). The princess was little more than a child, but she remained obstinately true to her creed. A story of barbarous cruelty, inflicted on her by Gosvintha, is told by Gregory of Tours. It finds no place, however, in the chronicles of our most sober and trustworthy authority for this period, John of Valclara, who was also a contemporary witness; and the truth of the story has latterly been called in question. Nevertheless, this refusal of Ingundis to conform to the religion of her adopted country was a severe blow to the policy of Leovigild. His long struggle with his nobles and his neighbors was at last concluded. He had brought peace to his people, and looked forward now to years of tranquility and the peaceful succession of his son. But a yet greater blow fell on him. In the same year that his son was married, Leovigild appointed him viceroy or governor of part of his kingdom, probably the province of Baetica, where he resided in Seville, the capital. Here he came under the combined influence of his wife and of Leander, afterwards bishop of Seville, a most able and persuasive champion of the Catholic faith. The announcement of his conversion to the orthodox Church followed in the same year.
The significance of this step was greater than belongs, at first sight, to the simple change of creed. In the political situation of the kingdom the transfer of the allegiance of the heir apparent from the Arian to the Catholic confession both involved and proclaimed a withdrawal of his allegiance to the king. This ecclesiastical defection was necessarily accompanied by a political rebellion. All the elements of opposition in the country would rejoice at the new prospects opened up by the conversion of Hermenegild; orthodox neighboring princes, Roman provincials mindful of their conquered state, Catholic clergy determined with iron will to use every means to root out the detested heresy, Gothic nobles smarting under the bonds and strokes of discipline, one and all regarded the new convert as the hope and mainstay of their cause.
To Leovigild himself there was but one course open at this time. His former policy of toleration was no longer tenable; and between the two extremes of intolerant Arianism and intolerant Catholicism, he had no longer any choice. Even if he had ever been inclined to consider the advisability of submitting to the Catholic party, the action of his son had made such a step henceforward impossible. If the success and comparative ease with which his second son and successor carried out that course might lead us to think that Leovigild would have been wiser had he recognized the fatal hopelessness of prolonging the struggle, we have only to remind ourselves how the national pride of the king, and the injured pride of the father, would certainly outweigh counsels which could only appeal to a far-sighted politician in his coolest mood. From this time forward his policy in Church matters was one consistent attempt to exalt Arianism to be the sole creed of the country to the destruction of the Catholic Church, which, either by force or by persuasion, should be gradually absorbed in the State-Church.
Into the details of the political strife which followed the conversion of Hermenegild we do not require to enter. The son became a rebel by the very force of circumstances. After a prolonged struggle the father prevailed, Hermenegild surrendered, and was exiled to Valentia. A year later (585) he was imprisoned at Tarragona, and there put to death. Whether his father was directly responsible for his death cannot be ascertained. The principal chronicler is unaccountably silent on this point; but public opinion a few years later was obviously against Leovigild. The Catholic Church acknowledged Hermenegild as one of her martyrs when he was canonized by a decree of Pope Sixtus VI.
Leovigild had succeeded in crushing the rebellion headed by his son, but his attempt to undermine the Catholicism, from whose support the rebellion had derived its strength, met with very partial and transient success. Keeping firmly in view this one end, the absorption, voluntary or compulsory, of the Catholic in the Arian Church of his kingdom, he used all the means that offered to that end. He pursued alternately, or it might be simultaneously, a policy of coercion and of conciliation. He has been branded as a cruel persecutor; and were we called upon to accept in all its details the picture drawn by Gregory of Tours, the justice of the charge could hardly be denied. But in the vagueness of this writer's authority, in the obvious connection of the passage with the account of Gosvintha, which is drawn up with unsparing, perhaps unscrupulous, hostility, and in the absence of corroboration for the details. we may find good grounds to suppose that the picture is overdrawn. There is no evidence whatever of a general persecution of the Catholics.
The king’s coercive measures affected mainly, if not exclusively, the higher clergy; and for checking the activity of these he could plead such justification in their political conduct as might well acquit him of the charge of religious persecution. Leander, whom he sent into exile, had been the instrument of the conversion of Hermenegild, and indirectly the cause of the civil war that inevitably followed. During that war he had even journeyed to Constantinople to invoke, on behalf of the rebels, the help of the Byzantine emperor. Fronimius, bishop of Agde, escaped out of the dominions of Leovigild, either at the instance of an accusing conscience, or because he heard that Leovigild had sent out assassins to slay him. Against two other prominent men, whom the king banished from their respective cities, there is no suspicion of complicity in the rebellion or of political disaffection. But Mausona of Merida and Joannes, afterwards of Valclara, were both Goths by birth, and nothing was likely to embitter the king more than to find his policy checked by the apostasy, as it seemed to him, of his own subjects.
Leovigild had made great efforts to bring over Mausona to the Arian side; and when they failed, he sent one Sunna, a violent upholder of Arianism, to be bishop in the same see. Fierce disputes naturally followed, and on the representation or misrepresentation of Sunna, Mausona was banished to Complutum. One other case of persecution was charged against Leovigild. A cleric, whose name is not known, is said to have been first tempted with bribes, and then, as he would not submit, put to the torture by Leovigild, and actually beaten to death in his presence. This is a good example of the evidence on which exaggerated reports of the cruelties of the persecution are based. The story as it stands, even in Gregory, is that the man rejected the king’s offer saying, “I abhor thy gifts as filth”; whereupon Leovigild ordered him to be scourged; but so far was he from being killed (and this is the only instance that can be alleged as evidence of bloody persecution)—“he departed rejoicing, and returned to Gaul”.
Leovigild is further charged with appropriating to the public treasury Church revenues, and annulling the immunities of the clergy. And this is confirmed by the statement made by two authorities, that Reccared, his son, restored to the Church the estates which his father had impounded. But the persecution of Leovigild resolves itself into the banishment from their sees of certain violent and intriguing Catholics, and the confiscation for public use of certain Church property.
On the other hand, Leovigild never ceased to show to the shrines and offices of the Catholic Church the respect which was due from all Christians. Those who accused him of being a barbarous persecutor, taunted him also with hypocrisy because he offered prayers at the shrines of the martyrs, and in the Catholic churches. Nor did he hesitate to make known his own faith in a form which showed the distinction between the Catholic and the so-called Arian faith narrowed to a single point. A Frankish ambassador to the court of Leovigild informed Gregory of Tours that the king proclaimed his faith in Christ, the Son of God, as “equal with the Father; but the Holy Spirit I do not believe to be God; because he is not said in any of the Holy Scriptures to be God”. This admission of the equality of the Son may have been a momentary concession of the king, and is not to be taken as defining the position of the Gothic Church in Spain. For it is at variance with another passage in Gregory, where one of the acts of persecution is represented as beginning with an entreaty of the king to a Catholic that he would confess both the Son and the Spirit to be inferior to the Father. It is also a departure from the creed of Ulfilas, hitherto so unflinchingly maintained by the Goths; and if such a concession had been permanent or general it would certainly have been formulated at the Council of Toledo, where so great a stride towards unity could not have been overlooked. For apart from a personal attitude, thus ostentatiously friendly to the well-disposed Catholics, the king took public measures also to bring about an absorption of the Catholics in the Arian Church. One of the obstacles which hindered the admission to the Arian Church of Catholics, otherwise disposed to conform, was the requisition that the new converts should submit to re-baptism. This had always been a serious check on the growth of the Arian Church, and Leovigild resolved that it should be removed. Accordingly he summoned a council of Arian bishops and clergy with some or all of the Gothic notables to meet at Toledo, and from them he procured a decree that, "Converts from the Roman faith to our Catholic faith need not be baptized; but require only to be purified by the laying on of hands and partaking of communion, and to give glory to the Father through the Son in the Holy Ghost." In this way was the obnoxious formality dispensed with, and the transfer of allegiance from the one confession to the other made to look as insignificant and to be as perfunctory as possible. Great pressure was now brought to bear on the Catholics to induce them to make use of the new opportunity of making submission to the wish of the king. No doubt bribes and cajoleries were freely employed, and a certain specious and temporary success was obtained. Large numbers of Catholics, both clergy and laity, passed over to the Arian side, and one of the bishops, Vincent of Saragossa, was found among the converts.
It is clear that this council at Toledo was the master stroke of Leovigild’s ecclesiastical policy. It caused disunion and uncertainty in the Catholic camp, and probably lightened effectively the task of suppressing the rebellion. But although large numbers of individual Catholics may have been gained to the Arian Church, Leovigild was as far as ever from achieving his main object. This policy, at once the boldest and the most cunning which a Gothic king had yet devised to meet his inherited difficulty, produced but little result in the direction of union of the discordant elements, or consolidation of the kingdom. The attempt to arrive at a fair idea of the relations between the two parties, Catholics and Arians, to recover traces of their respective standards:—intellectual, moral, and doctrinal— is checked in this province of Gothic history, as in others, by the entire absence of material for estimating one party from their own works, and the consequent impossibility of viewing the relation from more than one side. With the single exception of the record of the Council of Toledo just referred to, the Gothic Arianism of Spain has not left any literary monument of its existence. Yet it is impossible to believe that a century and a half of Gothic occupation had passed without producing some literary fruit, or that the controversy which raged through all these years left no monument in the shape of polemical pamphlets and tractates. What became of the liturgies, the copies of the version of Ulfilas, the commentaries, of which we had a specimen in the Skeireins, the apologies and expositions of the Arian creed, and the Church records? The entire disappearance of all these records of the existence of an Arian Church could only be ascribed to an organized and successful attempt to destroy every trace of the heresy. So we are not surprised to find it recorded that the next king, in the fresh ardor of his conversion to Catholicism, ordered all the Arian books to be gathered and handed over to him. They were then piled together, set fire to, and consumed to ashes.
The Gothic Church in Spain, like its sister-churches elsewhere, has thus to be judged entirely on the evidence of its opponents, and scrupulous fairness to an adversary was not a common characteristic in churchmen of the sixth century. Nevertheless, we may get a glimpse of the character of the Arianism upheld by the Spanish Church, and of the arguments by which they defended it, from two interesting passages from Gregory of Tours. He describes, at some length, the discussions which he held with two several ambassadors of Leovigild to Chilperic, who had halted, at Tours on their journey. The bishop naturally gives greater prominence to his own share in the conversations, and perhaps states his own case with more force than that of his collocutors, while he is not superior to the temptation to depreciate both their natural ability and their accomplishments; nevertheless, some valuable light is thrown by these narratives on the Arianism of the time. Both discussions are concerned with the old question of the equality of the first and second Hypostases of the Trinity. On the first occasion, Agila, the Arian envoy, bases his position on the text “My Father is greater than I”; on the sorrow of Jesus at the approach of death, and on His commending His spirit to the Father, “as though possessed of no power in Himself”; and he concludes that “the Son is always inferior to the Father”. To this the bishop replies both with text and with argument; whereupon the Arian turns the discussion to the question of the equality of the Holy Spirit in the Godhead. “The Holy Spirit, whom ye put forward as equal to the Father and the Son, is regarded (by us) as inferior. For no one promise except that which is subjected to his control; and no one sends except one inferior to himself,—as He Himself says in the Gospel, ‘If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you’.”
To this, again, the bishop makes his reply, and the discussion is conducted with calmness until the Catholic stirs the indignation of the heretic by citing the death of Arius as a proof of God’s displeasure at his doctrine. “Blaspheme not the law which thou dost not observe”, he breaks in; “We, who believe not what you believe, nevertheless blaspheme not; for with us it is not accounted an offence to worship this and that. For we say in our common speech, ‘It is no harm if a man, passing between heathen altars and a church of God, make his reverence in both directions’.”
A conception of religion so broad as this passed the apprehension of a bishop of the sixth century, who began to adjure the heretic by the law and the prophets to abandon so dangerous a creed, by professing his faith in the Trinity, and receiving the benediction from his own hands. Agila, however, angrily declared that he would rather die than receive the benediction from “any priest of your creed”. So the conversation broke up, the bishop referring with great distinctness to the saying about the pearls and the swine.
Oppila, the Arian champion in the second case, began by announcing that he believed “what the Catholics believe”, by going to the Catholic church on Easter Day, and attending the celebration of the mass. But he refused to give the kiss of peace, or to partake of the elements, and the bishop found that he had uncloaked an Arian. At supper Gregory asked him once more to state his belief, and why he did not communicate. He replied that it was because of the form in which the Catholics repeated the Gloria, and proceeded to maintain that the Arian form, “Glory to the Father through the Son”, was more scriptural. Whereupon Gregory, at some length, justifies the practice of the Church in giving “Glory to the Son”.
We observe in both these narratives, and especially in the former, what has claimed our attention already,— the strongly practical way in which the Arian theology appealed to the Gothic religious sense. The simple texts, in which emphasis is laid on the human nature and humiliation of Christ, were proof sufficient for them of a scheme of subordination, which was recommended already by its consonance with the principles of Teutonic mythology. There is no trace here, or anywhere else in the history of Gothic Arianism, of the speculations based on the absolute Being, and Simplicity, of an unbegotten God, or of other philosophical refinements into which Arians, like Aetius and Eunomius, proceeded. Both these narratives present to us a Church tenacious, after two centuries of opposition and failure, of the creed left to them by Ulfilas, yet willing to manifest, by fellowship and common worship, how much they held in common with their opponents. Theirs was a more stunted creed, but they had worked out a larger tolerance. It does seem a strange freak of language, or perhaps a monument to the misrepresentations of their adversaries and historians, that this nation should lend its name (Visigoth) to the modern tongues of Europe as a synonym for religious intolerance—‘bigot’.
Death of Leovigild and Conversion of Reccared.
Leovigild survived his elder son but one year, during which he met with some success in an attempt to recall his new subjects, the Suevi, to their former Arian faith. The Catholic writers have a story about a deathbed repentance for the murder of his son, and submission to the Catholic Church with which he had struggled so long. But the report, which, when it first appears, is admittedly based on rumor only, finds no countenance in the best contemporary annalists, and bears on the face of it the stamp of improbability. The source of the story may readily be found in the desire of the new king, his successor, and his councilors, to throw down something to bridge the chasm over which they were about to step and lead the Gothic people. A well-circulated report of Leovigild’s repentance and conversion would do much to soften the severity of the change, when his creed and his policy came to be condemned and abandoned, and would weaken the will of the Arians to resist this new departure. In fact, this application of the story peeps out from Gregory's report, in which the repentant king adjures his hearers "that no one may be found adhering to that heresy." But the report of such a conversion is implicitly condemned by one of the contemporary records, wherein Paul of Merida, after describing the death of the king, contemplates with amiable satisfaction the doom of his soul
Leovigild was succeeded by Reccared, the younger brother of the murdered Hermenegild. This prince, who had more of the character of a diplomatist than that of a warrior, cut the knot which his predecessors had struggled so long to undo, by abandoning the Arianism which had so long entangled their steps, and making full submission to the Catholic Church. That he was already secretly a Catholic before the death of his father is, in the light of his relation to his brother, very improbable. But the experience of a few months of government, added to the knowledge of affairs which he had gained during his father's life-time, convinced him that any attempt to follow up the lines of his father’s policy would end in failure. In the tenth month of his reign Reccared professed himself a Catholic, and was admitted to the Church by the rite of Confirmation.
While making all due allowance for the reality and influence of his personal conversion, it is fair to observe what considerations of policy would combine with growing conviction to urge upon him this stop. The church-policy of Leovigild had met with that comparative success which is little better than absolute failure. The Arian Church was still far from outnumbering its rival in adherents and markedly inferior to it in the culture of its clergy and in intensity of purpose. The best reply to the charge of barbarous persecution against the late king was the present state of affairs. If he had really executed so many bishops and banished all the rest, how came it that the sees were full at his death? It was, no doubt, a great grievance that, in many dioceses, he set up Arian bishops alongside of the Catholic ones; but it would be strange to insist upon this charge if he had already slain or banished all the latter. Leovigild’s enticing methods had more effect, and withdrew not a few Catholics from the Church; but these were her weakest members, and, as a power in the State, Leovigild left the Catholic Church nearly as he found it, but with all the added prestige of persecution. Moreover, the creed which they cherished exposed the Goths to an isolation from help and sympathy, which, as they settled down into a civilized state, must have been very irritating to an ambitious king.
But nothing was so effective to open the eyes of a ruler to the disadvantage of adhesion to the heretic creed as the ambition to found a dynasty; nothing, on the other hand, so calculated to display the advantages of alliance with the Catholic Church. In the absence of any acknowledged hereditary claim to the throne the ruler in the Gothic State for the time being was at best primus inter pares. The nobles who had chosen him, or suffered him to usurp the crown, held a position that bordered dangerously near on independence. Leovigild had spent the first ten years of his reign in a continuous struggle to establish his royal authority over these vassals in name, but rivals in effect. It was a mark of his success that his son succeeded unchallenged to the throne. But the new king, knowing with whom he had to deal, and shrewdly casting about for an alliance to strengthen the power of the crown, would naturally set his eye on the Catholic Church. He would observe how strong it was in that highly developed organization which has always proved so elastic, yet so unbreakable, a framework. He would perceive, too, that in the growing influence of the papacy, the centralization of Christianity at Rome, and the continuity and coherence which followed for the Church at large, there was promise of ever-increasing power for the Catholic Church in Spain. Compared with this widely ramified and highly organized system, the Arian Church had nothing to offer by way of support to the throne. The position of entire dependence on the king which German tradition imposed upon it, checked all independent growth. It could offer no profitable alliance to the king, who was already its head. Some influence, too, must be allowed to the character and cultivation of the Catholic clergy compared with their rivals. However good Christians the Gothic clergy might be, yet, as men of the world, they were no match for highly-trained cosmopolitans, of whom Leander is a type; and in being reconciled to the Church, Reccared would not only secure the alliance and support of the only organized power which could balance the influence of the nobles, but he would also obtain for himself and his house the counsel and support of the most polished intellects and most highly-trained statesmen of his kingdom.
The public announcement of the conversion of the king was variously received by different sections of the nation. The most thoughtful and observant must have been ripe for the change; the careless would follow indifferently where the king was pleased to lead. Hence we are told that, when Reccared summoned the Arian clergy to meet him, and “in a wise address” expounded his new views, he readily overcame their scruples, and induced a large number of them to follow the example which he had set. Many of the nobility also followed in the steps of the king and the clergy, and more tardily, but not less surely, the common folk were gathered in. The Catholic Church wisely refrained from requiring re-baptism, and converts were admitted by the laying-on of hands. Confirmation of the rumored repentance and conversion of Leovigild would be given by the execution at this time of Sisbert, who had been instrumental in the death of Hermenegild. Whether Leovigild were really guilty of the death of his son, or had it unjustly imputed to him, the execution of this official, who was said to have acted on authority, was an indication of Reccared’s having utterly broken with his father's policy, and a shock to the Arian party.
On the other hand, opposition to the new departure, and that of a strenuous kind, was not wanting. Many of the bishops and clergy were not prepared so hastily to give up their cherished creed. Many of the nobles viewed this momentous step of Reccared, not unnaturally, as a breaking with the national tradition as well as with the national creed, and a betrayal of the national consciousness to the ambition of the royal house. No less than three distinct risings took place in different parts of the country; each of these was headed by a bishop of the Arian Church. The most serious was one that broke out in Narbonne, where Athalocus and two of the nobles threw off their allegiance, and, with support from the Burgundian Franks, made war on the Catholics of the province. At the opposite end of the kingdom Sunna, Leovigild’s bishop of Merida, with Segga and Witterich, headed a conspiracy of determined Arians, whose object was to dethrone Reccared and replace him by Segga.
Still a third rising occurred in the same year. The king’s step-mother, Gosvintha, after momentarily conforming with the faith of her son, joined an Arian bishop, Uldila, in alliance with the Franks, to attempt to dethrone Reccared and restore Arianism. But the prompt measures taken by the king were sufficient to repress these risings, one by one, before they became really formidable. Athalocus died, it was said, of a broken heart; Gosvintha died, either by her own hand or by the sword of the executioner; Sunna, made prisoner, and offered pardon and replacement in a bishopric, if he would repent and renounce his Arian error, indignantly refused, saying: “Repentance I know not, and a Catholic I will never be; but in the form in which I have lived I will live, or for the religion in which I have remained from my earliest years I will most gladly die”. He withdrew into exile in Africa, and with his departure the Arian-Gothic Church ceased to exist.
There remained only to write its epitaph, and to ratify the conversion of its members. This was done in 589, when Reccared summoned a general council of the Catholic Church in his dominions to meet at Toledo. At the first sitting of the council the king addressed the members, recalling the long period during which Spain had “struggled with the errors” of heresy, and the change which had been beneficially effected since his accession, and recommending them to take measures for the restoration of discipline, which had suffered from long disuse. On another day the king again appeared, and delivered, to be read to the council, a written document in the form of a speech from the throne. In this he set forth, at great length, a statement of his own faith, and concluded by reciting the creeds of Nicaea and “Constantinople”, and the Formula of Chalcedon. To these both Reccared and his wife, Baddo, testified their assent by affixing their signatures.
Then followed a public recantation of their errors by the Gothic clergy and the noble laics, who had been present at Leovigild’s council in 580, and had subscribed to the detestabilis libellus then drawn up and promulgated “for the perversion of Romans to the Arian heresy”. This recantation and profession of the orthodox faith is signed by eight formerly Arian bishops, and was subscribed also by the rest of the presbyters and deacons who were converted from the Arian heresy, and by several of the nobles. In the two and twenty anathemas which they were called on to pronounce, they condemned, besides Arius and all his adherents with their works, the detestabilis libellus of Leovigild and the “sacrilegious practice of re-baptism”. The canons of the council, which then proceeded with its work, deal chiefly with discipline. In connection with the repentant Arians, it was ordained that their clergy should put away the wives, whom they had been suffered by their former discipline to take, and that the Arian church-edifices should pass into the hands of the Catholic bishops, in whose dioceses they were severally situated. It would appear that those bishops and presbyters of the Arian Church who made their submission on this occasion were received into the ranks of the Catholic clergy.
The second Council of Saragossa, which met three years later, decreed that “presbyters who have been converted to the holy Catholic faith from the Arian heresy, if they have maintained pure faith and holy lives, are to be ordained afresh by the presbyterate, and discharge their office in purity and holiness”. Those who had failed to fulfill these conditions, were to be deposed from their office. The same rule was to apply to deacons also. This council further decreed that “all relics of the Arian heresy”, wherever they might be found, should be handed over by the clergy of the Church where they were discovered to the bishop, that they might be “tried by fire”, an ordeal which we have seen reason to suppose that none of them survived. The offence of concealing any such relics was punished by excommunication. Finally, all churches which had been consecrated by Arian bishops were to be consecrated anew by the Catholic. In this way the Council of Saragossa took measures not only to eradicate the Arian heresy, but also to blot out all traces of its existence,—so completing the work of the Council of Toledo.
It was surely fitting that one of the acknowledged leaders at the great Council of the Conversion should be Leander, the great bishop of Seville, who saw now the consummation of his life’s work in the conversion of the Gothic conquerors of Spain, and the union of “Romans” and “barbarians” under the banner of the Catholic Church.
The last of the Gothic Churches was now extinct. Its members had been absorbed within the great organization which covered Southern Europe from Byzantium to Cadiz with a network of Christian influence. The struggle to maintain an independent existence had been a long one; but the Arians had had the losing side since the death of Valens. The causes of their failure lie on the surface of the foregoing account, but may be briefly summed up. The faultiness and inadequacy of their system of Christian doctrine was of course at the base of their defeat. To this was added—weakness of organization compared with the complete and elaborate system of their opponents; the entire dependence of the clergy on the court, which was traditional since the time of Valens and a fundamental characteristic of Teutonic society; the stern and unyielding opposition of the Catholic Church, bearing upon Arianism both directly, and indirectly through the government, with irresistible pressure; and, finally, the lack of men of conspicuous ability and commanding influence. It is true that the proper records of the Church were lost at its downfall, and we know its leaders not at all, or only through the pages of their adversaries. Nevertheless, it is a striking and suggestive fact that, so far as we know, there appeared only once in the Gothic Church a man of grandeur, and a true leader of men. Bat the influence of that man for good and for evil molded the destiny of his people for more than two hundred years.