HotFreeBooks.com
Historical Miniatures
by August Strindberg
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"To Athens? Never! I do not trust them."

"Nor they, you! That is appropriate. Go to Athens, and tell your countrymen—the Persian does not want them. The vine tendrils seek the sound elm, but turn away from the rotten cabbage-top."

Alcibiades had begun to walk up and down the room. That meant that he was irresolute.

"Is the Athenian really outside?" he asked.

"He kneels outside in order to beg the traitor Alcibiades to be their lord. But listen, you are a democrat, are you not?"

"Yes, of course."

"Then you must change your point of view, for now an oligarchy governs Athens."

"Yes, ah! yes, yes—but I am an aristocrat, the most aristocratic in the State."

"Spinning-top! Seek for a whip!"

Alcibiades stood still. "I think, I must speak with the Athenian after all."

"Do that! Speak the Athenian language to him! He does not understand Persian."

* * * * *

Alcibiades returned to Athens; the death-sentence against him was annulled; and as a commander who had won a battle, he was able to have a triumphal procession from Piraeus to the city. But popular favour was fickle, and, becoming suspected of aspiring to be king, he fled again, this time to the Persian satrap Pharnabazes. Since he could not live without intrigues, he was soon entangled in one, unmasked, and condemned, without his knowing it, to death.

One day he was sitting with his paramour, and chatting quietly at his ease: "You think, then, Timandra, that Cyrus marches against his brother Artaxerxes, in order to seize the throne of Persia."

"I am sure of it, and equally sure that he has ten thousand Athenians under Xenophon with him."

"Do you know whether Artaxerxes has been warned?"

"Yes, I know it."

"Who could have warned him?"

"You did."

"Does Cyrus know that?"

"Yes, he does."

"Who has betrayed me?"

"I did."

"Then I am lost."

"Yes, you are."

"To think that I must fall through a woman!"

"Did you expect anything else, Alcibiades?"

"No, not really! Can I not fly?"

"You cannot, but I can."

"I see smoke! Is the house on fire?"

"Yes, it is. And there are archers posted outside!"

"The comedy is over! We return to tragedy...."

"And the satyr-play begins."

"My feet are hot; generally cold is a precursor of death."

"Everything is born from its opposite, Alcibiades."

"Give me a kiss."

She kissed him, the handsomest man of Athens.

"Thank you!"

"Go to the window; there you will see!"

Alcibiades stepped to the window. "Now I see."

At that moment he was struck by an arrow. "But now I see nothing! It grows dark, and I thought it would grow light."

Timandra fled, as the corpse began to burn.



SOCRATES

Sparta had conquered Athens, and Athens lay in ruins. The government by the people was over, and the rule of the Thirty Tyrants had succeeded it. Socrates and Euripides walked with sad faces among the ruins on the Agora.

Socrates spoke: "We are on the ruins of Athens' walls! We have become Spartans. We would have no tyrants, and now thirty rule over us."

"I go to the North," said Euripides, "to Macedonia, whither I am invited."

"In that you are right, for the Tyrants have forbidden the acting of your tragedies."

"That is true."

"And they have forbidden me to teach."

"Have they forbidden Socrates to speak? No! Then he can teach, for he cannot speak without teaching. But they must have forbidden the oracles to speak, for they have ceased to prophesy. Everything has ceased! Hellas has ceased to be! And why?"

"You may well ask. Has Zeus begotten the son who is to overthrow him, as Aeschylus foretold?"

"Who knows? The people have introduced a new God called Adonai or Adonis. He is from the East, and his name signifies the Lord."

"Who is the new god?"

"He teaches readiness for death, and the resurrection. And they have also got a new goddess. Have you heard of Cybele, the mother of the gods, a virgin, who is worshipped in Rome like Vesta by vestal priests."

"There is so much that is new and obscure, like wine in fermentation. There comes Aristophanes. Farewell, my friend, for the last time here in life."

"Wait! Aristophanes beckons! No, see! he weeps! Aristophanes weeps!"

Aristophanes approached. "Euripides," he said, "don't go till I have spoken to you."

"Can you speak?" answered Euripides.

"I weep."

"Do not quit your role. Shall that represent tears?"

"Sympathise with a companion in distress, Euripides; the Tyrants have closed my theatre."

"Socrates, shall I sympathise with my executioner?"

"I believe that the Temple of Nemesis has been opened again," answered Socrates. "Aristophanes has never been ingenuous hitherto; now he is so with a vengeance. Very well, Aristophanes, I sympathise with you that you can no more scoff at me. I pardon you, but I cannot help you to stage your comedies. That is asking too much. Now I follow Euripides home."

* * * * *

Socrates sat by Aspasia, who had grown elderly. "Euripides has gone to Macedonia," he said.

"From his wives."

"You have become bitter."

"I am tired of seeing ruins and all the rest. The Tyrants are murdering the citizens."

"That is the occupation of tyrants."

"Shall we soon have rest?"

"In the Ceramicus, in a cedar coffin."

"I will not die; I will live, but quietly."

"Life is not quiet."

"Yes, if one is well off."

"One never is."

"No, not if one is unhappily married, like you, Socrates."

"My wife is certainly the worst possible; if she had not had me for a husband, she would long ago have been murdered."

"Xantippe betrays you with her gossiping; and when she does not understand what you say, she gives others distorted ideas of your opinions and your person."

"Yes, I know that, but I cannot alter it."

"Why do you continue in such a state of humiliation?"

"Why should I fly? One is only justified in flying from superior force, and Xantippe is not a superior force to me."

"You are forbidden, on pain of death, to give instruction; that is her work and that of Anytos."

"She may bring about my death, if she likes, for then she has only brought about my freedom.... Aspasia, I hear that our friendship is on the decline; you have found new friends, you have become another person. Let me say farewell before Lysicles comes."

"Do you know him?"

"Yes, and the whole town speaks of your coming marriage."

"With the cattle-dealer, Lysicles?"

"Yes, that is your affair; I don't talk about it." "But you think I should have cherished Pericles' memory better?"

"I would fain have seen Aspasia's memory better preserved; but since I have seen Athenians adorn themselves with garlands to celebrate Athens' overthrow; since I have seen Phidias...."

"How, then, will Socrates end?" "Certainly not like Aspasia."

"The gods jest with us. Beware! O Socrates!"

* * * * *

Socrates was at last in prison, accused of having seduced the youth, and blasphemed or repudiated the gods of the State. Among the accusers were a young poetaster, Melitos, the tanner Anytos, and the orator Lykon.

Socrates made his Apology, and declared that he had always believed on God, and the voice of his conscience, which he called his "demon." He was condemned to drink hemlock, and kept in prison, where, however, he was allowed to see his wife and his few remaining friends.

Just now his wife was with him, and wept.

"Weep not," said Socrates; "it is not your fault."

"Will you see the children?"

"Why should I lacerate their little souls with a useless leave-taking? Go to them and comfort them; divert their minds with an expedition to the woods."

"Shall we rejoice while you are dying?"

"Rejoice that my sufferings come to an end! Rejoice that I die with honour."

"Have you no last wish?"

"I wish for nothing, except peace and freedom from your foolish tears and sighs, and your disturbing lamentations. Go, woman, and say to yourself that Socrates wants to sleep for he is tired and out of humour; say to yourself that he will wake again, refreshed, rejuvenated, happy and amiable."

"I wish you had taught me all this before; you had nothing to learn from me."

"Yes! I have learnt from you patience and self-control."

"Do you forgive me?"

"I cannot, for I have done it already. Say farewell now, as though I were going on a journey. Say 'We meet again,' as though I were soon returning!"

"Farewell, then, Socrates, and be not angry with me."

"No, I am always well-disposed towards you."

"Farewell, my husband, for ever."

"Not for ever. You wish to see me again, don't you? Put on a cheerful face, and say, 'We meet again.'"

"We meet again."

"Good! and when we meet again, we will go with the children together into the woods."

"Socrates was not what I thought he was."

"Go! I want to sleep."

She went, but met in the doorway Plato and Crito.

"The hour approaches, friends," said Socrates wearily, and with feverish eyes.

"Are you calm, Master?"

"To say the truth, I am quite calm. I will not assert that I am joyful, but my conscience does not trouble me."

"When, Socrates, when—will it happen?"

"You mean, When is it to happen,—the last thing? Plato, my friend, my dearest ... it hastens.... I have just now enjoyed a sleep. I have been over the river on the other side; I have seen for a moment the original forms of imperishable Beauty, of which things on earth are only dim copies.... I have seen the future, the destinies of the human race; I have spoken to the mighty, the lofty, and the pure; I have learnt the wise Order which guides the apparent great disorder; I trembled at the unfathomable secret of the Universe of which I had a glimmering perception, and I felt the immensity of my ignorance. Plato, you shall write what I have seen. You shall teach the children of men to estimate things at their proper value, to look up to the Invisible with awe, to revere Beauty, to cultivate virtue, and to hope for final deliverance, as they work, through faithful performance of duty and self-renunciation."

He went to the bed, and lay down.

Plato followed him, "Are you ill, Master?"

"No, I have been; but now I am getting well."

"Have you already...."

"I have already emptied the cup!"

"Our Wisest leaves us."

"No mortal is wise! But I thank the gods who gave me modesty and conscience."

There was silence in the room.

"Socrates is dead!"



FLACCUS AND MARO

After the death of Socrates, the greatness of Athens was no more. Sparta ruled for a time, and then came the turn of Thebes. Subsequently the Macedonians invaded the country, and governed it till the year 196 B.C., when the Romans conquered both Macedonia and Greece, and completely destroyed Corinth, but spared Athens, which was deprived of its fortifications under Sulla, on account of the great memories which gathered round it.

Now, in Julius Caesar's time, it had become the fashion to send youths to Athens to study Grammar, Rhetoric, and Philosophy there. There was no great philosopher there, but they studied the history of philosophy. There was also no religion, for no one believed on the gods of the State, although, from old habit, they celebrated the sacrificial feasts.

Athens was dead, and so was the whole of the ancient world—Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor. In Rome they lived on the memories of the past of Greece, and the greatest Roman, Cicero, when he wished to discuss some philosophic theme, always commenced by citing the opinions of the ancient Greeks on the subject; he also closed in the same way, for he had no original opinion of his own on any subject, such as the nature of the gods, &c.

One early spring day, during the last years of Julius Caesar, two students sat in an arbour below Lykabettos, opposite the college of Kynosarges. Wine was on the table, but they did not seem very devoted to their yellow "Chios." They sat there with an air of indifference, as though they were waiting for something. The same atmosphere of lethargy seemed to pervade their surroundings. The innkeeper sat and dozed; the youths in the college opposite lounged at the door; pedestrians on the high road went by without greeting anyone; the peasant in the field sat on his plough, and wiped the sweat from his forehead.

The elder of the two students fingered his glass, and at last opened his mouth.

"Say something!"

"I have nothing to say, for I know nothing."

"Have you already learnt everything?"

"Yes." "I came yesterday from Rome with great hopes of being able to learn something new and of hearing something remarkable, but I hear only silence."

"My dear Maro, I have been here for years, and I have listened, but heard nothing new. I have heard in the Poikile that Thales maintained that there were no gods, but that everything had been produced from moisture. I have further heard Anaximines' doctrine that air was the source of all things; Pherecydes' doctrine of ether as the original principle; Heraclitus' doctrine of fire. Anaximander has taught me that the universe came from some primitive substance; Leucippus and Democritus spoke to me of empty space with primitive corpuscles or atoms. Anaxagoras made believe that the atom had reason. Xenophanes wished to persuade me that God and the Universe were one. Empedocles, the wisest of the whole company, despaired at the imperfection of reason, and went in despair and flung himself head foremost into Etna's burning mountain."

"Do you believe that?"

"No! it may well be a lie like everything else. Then I learnt a number of interesting doctrines from Plato which were subsequently all confuted by Aristotle. At last I took up my position with the wisest of the wise—Socrates, who openly declared, as you know, that he knew nothing."

"That is the same as the Sophists said,—that one knew nothing, and hardly so much."

"You are right, and our good Socrates was a Sophist, without wishing to be one. But there is one, a single one, who.... Yes, I mean Pythagoras. He has proclaimed this and that doctrine in the East and the West, but I have found one anchor in his philosophy, and I have gripped firm ground with it. I certainly swing in the wind, but I do not drift away from it."

"Tell me."

"Do what you think right at the risk of being banished from your country; the mob cannot judge what is right. Therefore you should think little of their praise, and despise their blame. Cultivate the friendship of kindred spirits, but regard the rest of mankind as a worthless mass. Always be at war with 'the beans' (he means the democrats). 'Odi profanum vulgus et arceo!'"

"You ought to live at home in Rome, Flaccus, where...."

"Yes, what are you doing now in Rome?"

"Caesar is Caesar; he conquers the world, and unites all the highest functions, even the priestly, in his own person. I have nothing against it, but they say he is aiming at his own deification."

"Why not? All gods have first been heroes, and many gods have not been so great as Caesar. Romulus was certainly no giant, though he had the luck to come first, as someone must. Now he is a god, has a temple, and they sacrifice to him."

"It is probably a lie, like everything else."

"Probably." "Yes, I have heard another legend of the founding of Rome by Aeneas' son Ascanius, who fled from Troy; and I intend to take it as the starting-point of my great poem...."

"You mean the Aeneid, of which I have heard mention."

"Yes, the Aeneid."

"Is it difficult to write poetry?"

"No; one follows good patterns. Hitherto Theocritus has been mine, but now I shall go to Father Homer himself."

"By Heracles! Now there you will be undisturbed—so long, that is, as Maecenas sends you the sesterces regularly."

"Yes, he does! But how do you get along?"

"My father, a freedman, toils as quaestor, and will find me a place."

"Have you no interests, no passions, no ambitions?" "No; what should I do with them? 'Nihil admirari.' That is my motto. If there are gods who guide the destinies of men and nations, why should I interfere and wear myself out in a useless struggle? Think of Demosthenes, who for thirty years delivered speeches against the Macedonian, and warned his countrymen, who would not listen to him! The gods were with the Macedonian, and condemned Hellas to be overthrown. Demosthenes was imprisoned. Comically enough, he was accused of having been bribed by the same Macedonian. That was, of course, a lie. This patriot who sacrificed himself for the salvation of his fatherland, who believed he was fighting on the gods' side, had to take poison, and fell, fighting against the gods! Vestigia terrent!"

During their conversation, the sun had gone down, and now in the twilight beacons were visible flaming on Aegina, on Salamis, by Phaleros, in the Piraeus, and finally on the Acropolis. The murmurs from the city became louder till they rose to one immense paean of joy. Men came down the streets, and brought their wives and children with them, some on foot, others riding and driving. The worthy innkeeper Agathon was aroused, and went out into the highway to learn the cause of the confusion. The two students had gone on the inn roof to look out. But they surmised danger for foreigners like themselves, and, alarmed by the ever louder shouting, descended again, and concealed themselves in the wine-press. At last Agathon's voice was heard: "Caesar is assassinated! Death to the Romans! Freedom for Hellas!"

Such was the news. The garden of the inn filled with people, wine flowed, and shouts of joy resounded, varied by sarcastic remarks on the passing Romans who were fleeing northwards from the town in order to reach the Macedonian frontier.

Maro and Flaccus underwent great anxiety, hidden as they were in the vat of the wine-press, from which hiding-place they heard the whole news, with its accompanying details. Caesar had been assassinated by Cassius and Brutus in the Capitol.

"Brutus?" whispered Maro. "Then it is certainly over with the Caesars, just as the old Brutus made an end of the Kings!"

And Brutus was flying to Hellas to rouse the Greeks against the Romans. "Long live Brutus!" they cried in the garden.

"Then we shall live also!" said the pliant Flaccus. "Caesar is dead; let us do homage to Brutus for the present."

* * * * *

Many years had passed when the former student of Athens, Quintus Horatius Flaccus, was walking one day in the garden of his villa on the Sabine Hills. This villa he had received as a gift from his friend Maecenas, who possessed a splendid country-house close by in Tibur itself.

Horace was now a very famous poet, but still essentially the same as he had been when a student in Athens. Destiny or the gods had played with him, but the poet had taken it as a good joke on the part of the Higher Powers, and answered it with a satire. After the murder of Caesar, Brutus had fled to Greece, and been so well received there, that the Athenians had erected a statue to him, and raised troops for him against Antonius and the other generals, among whom was the invalid Octavianus (afterwards Augustus).

Horace was compelled to serve as a soldier, and actually commanded a legion at Philippi, where Brutus fell. The poet, who was no warrior, fled from the superior force of the enemy, and came to Rome, where, after the amnesty had been proclaimed, he became a clerk in a public office. At the same time he had begun to write verses, was discovered by Maecenas, and received his reward in the form of an estate.

The Emperor Augustus admired him, and offered him a position as secretary, but Horace refused, partly because he could never see anything else but an usurper in this Emperor, partly because he loved freedom and independence above all things.

Just now he was walking in his garden, whose fruit-trees he had himself cultivated. He plucked roses and hyacinths, for he awaited the visit of a favourite guest, his old friend and fellow-student of Athens, Publius Virgilius Maro, as well known as Horace himself, although he had not yet allowed his Aeneid to appear in manuscript.

A table was laid in a vine-arbour; flagons of old Massisian and Falernian lay already on ice, oysters and eels were there; a kid and some quails were roasting on the spit in the kitchen; fruit had been plucked in the garden; and the only thing wanting on the table, which had been laid for two persons, were flowers.

A little slave, who was able to write, ran to and fro between the garden-gate and the dove-tower, in order to look out for the expected guest. The poet was standing at the water-barrel and washing his hands, after he had finished plucking flowers, when someone clapped him on the shoulder.

"Virgil! Which way have you come, then?"

"Over the hills of Tibur from Maecenas."

"Welcome, wanderer, whichever way you have come! Sit down—you must be tired—in my hemicyklion, under the olives I planted myself, while the spits turn, and they ply the chopping-knife. Here you see my plot of land which represents the world to me."

Their first greetings and questions were over, and the two friends sat down to the table. The host was certainly an Epicurean or votary of pleasure; but in order to be able to enjoy, one must be moderate, and the meal, judging by Roman customs, was quite a frugal one, but simple and brilliant. Then the cups were passed round, and the wine awoke memories in spite of its supposed lethal capacity of quenching them.

"Well, you were in the war, friend?" began Virgil.

"Yes, and I fled disgracefully, as you know."

"I have read so in one of your poems, but it is said not to be true, and you have slandered yourself."

"Have I? Perhaps! One talks nonsense when one writes."

"You poet, do you remember how you asked me in Athens whether it were difficult? How did you come to write?"

"I needed money!"

"Now you slander yourself again! If all clients who needed money could write, the world would be full of poets."

"Well, perhaps it was not so. But speak of yourself—of your Aeneid."

Virgil looked gloomy: "Of that I will not speak."

"Is it finished?"

"More than that! It is done with!"

"Done with?"

"Yes! When I read it, I found it a failure! It was not Homer; it was nothing. It was a punishment, because I wished to outshine my father."

"Have you destroyed it?"

"Not yet; but it is sealed up, in order to be destroyed after my death."

"Now you are slandering yourself, and you are depressed, Maro, not by years, not by work, but by something else."

"Yes, by something else. The future disturbs me!"

Horace shook his cup and recited: [Footnote: Hor. Od. I. ii.] "Do not go to the astrologers, Leuconoe. Better bear life as it comes. Be wise, clear your wine! While we speak, envious life is flying. Enjoy the present, and think as little as possible about the future."

"That I cannot!" broke in Virgil. "I cannot drown myself in my cups, when I see my fatherland perishing."

"Has Rome ever been so powerful as it is now? Do we not possess the whole known world—Egypt, Syria, Greece, Italy, Spain, Germany, Gaul, Britain? And yet we live in a time of peace: the Temple of Janus is closed; the earth rejoices; the arts flourish; and commerce was never so active as at present."

"Yes, the peace that precedes a war. For all these conquered nations are awake, and have an eye on Rome. Not on Greece as before, for Greece is barren and laid waste, and passes into the great silence. Do you know that Sulla and Mithridates have gone slaying and pillaging over Hellas, so that science and art have fled to the Egyptian Alexandria or the growing Byzantium? Do you know that pirates, whose origin is unknown, from the East, have recently plundered every temple in Hellas, so that hardly any religious service can be held there? The oracles are dumb, the poets are silent like song-birds in a storm, the great tragedies are no longer performed; people rather go to see farces and gladiatorial shows. Hellas is a ruin, and Rome will soon be one."

"Times are bad, I grant, but every time has been one of decay, and has, however, prepared the way for a new epoch. The fallen leaves of autumn form a forcing-bed for the coming spring; Nature, life, and history ever renew themselves through death. Therefore death is to me only a renewal, a change, and whenever I meet a funeral, I always say to myself, 'O how pleasant it is to live!'"

"My dear Flaccus, you live with your dreams in the Golden Age, while we others only drag ourselves through this life of the Iron Age. Do you remember how Hesiod complains already of his own time?"

"No, I have forgotten that, but in order to oblige you I will listen."

"'The people of to-day are an iron race, and never rest from the burden of work, neither by day nor by night. They are a sinful folk, and the gods send them heavy troubles. But even when they send joy, this turns to their misfortune. Some day Zeus will destroy them, these many-tongued people, when they are born with grey locks on their temples. Yes, our children are born old men already, toothless, wrinkled and with bald heads. The father is not gracious to the child, nor the child to the father, nor the guest to his host, nor servant to fellow-servant, nor brother to brother. Children dishonour their old parents, revile them and speak unfriendly words—these young scoundrels who know nothing of divine vengeance, and never thank their ageing parents for their fostering care of them as children. Might is right, and one city destroys another. Honesty and faithfulness in keeping vows are never rewarded, as little as kindness or justice. Oh no, they who practise sin and break the law, demand honour. Scoundrels betray noble men, and commit perjury without scruple. Envy follows men, these unhappy ones with their harsh voices and dreadful faces, who rejoice over the evil and the mischief which they do.'"

"Yes, so Hesiod spoke a thousand years ago, and I must confess his words are well deserved, but what can one do?"

"Yes, they are. Cicero was murdered, and I feel inclined to follow the example of Cato, who died in order to escape sin. I sink, Flaccus, in lies and hypocrisy. But I will not sink ... I will mount. I have praised Augustus and his son Marcellus in my verses, but I believe no more in them, for they are not the future. Therefore the Aeneid shall be burnt!"

"You disquiet me, Maro. But what do you believe in?"

"I believe in the Sibyl, who has prophesied that the Iron Age will end, and the Golden Age return."

"You have sung of that in the Fourth Eclogue, I remember.... Have you fever?"

"I believe I have. Do you remember—no! our fathers remember when the Capitol was burnt, and the Sibylline books destroyed. But now new books have come from Alexandria, and in them they have read that a new era will begin; that Rome will be destroyed but built up again, and that a Golden Age...."

Here the seer was silent. Then he continued: "Pardon me, Flaccus, but I am poorly, and must ride home before the mists rise from the Campagna."

"Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume! Labuntur anni! I will follow you, friend, on my ass, for you are sick. But 'the man of righteous heart and rock-like purpose will not be shaken nor terrified by the blind zeal of the citizens commanding evil, nor the glance of the threatening tyrant.... If the walls of the world fall in, they will bury him unterrified beneath their ruin.'"

* * * * *

Some days later Virgil died in Naples. His will was opened, and actually found to contain a request that his Aeneid should be burnt. But it was not carried out. Posterity has passed various judgments on this ignoring of a dead man's wish—some think it was a pity; others that it was a good thing.

When Christianity arrived, Virgil was enrolled among the prophets. The Aeneid was regarded as a Sibylline book and included in the liturgy. Pilgrimages were made to the poet's tomb. And later on he was raised to the rank of a saint by Dante.



LEONTOPOLIS

A caravan was encamped on a height eastward of the ancient Egyptian town Heliopolis. There were many people in it, but all were Hebrews. They had come on camels and asses from Palestine through the desert —the same desert which the Israelites had passed through thousands of years before.

In the evening twilight, by the faint light of the half-moon, hundreds of camp-fires were to be seen, and by them sat the women with their little children while the men carried water.

Never yet had the desert beheld so many little children, and, as they were now being put to bed for the night, the camp echoed with their cries. It was like an enormous nursery. But when the washing was over, and the little ones were laid to their mothers' breasts, the cries one after the other ceased, and there was complete silence. Under a sycamore tree sat a woman, and suckled her child; close by stood a Hebrew, feeding his ass with branches of the broom plant; when he had done that, he went higher up the hill, and looked towards the north. A foreigner—a Roman, to judge by his dress —passed, and regarded the woman with the child closely, as though he were counting them.

The Hebrew showed signs of uneasiness, and began a conversation with the Roman, in order to divert his attention from the woman.

"Say, traveller, is that the City of the Sun there in the west?"

"You see it!" answered the Roman.

"Then it is Bethshemesh."

"Heliopolis, from which both Greeks and Romans have derived their wisdom; Plato himself has been here."

"Can Leontopolis also be seen from here?"

"You see the pinnacles of its temple two miles northward."

"But that is the land of Goshen, which our father Abraham visited, and which Jacob had portioned out to him," said the Hebrew, turning to his wife, who only answered with an inclination of her head. Then, speaking to the Roman, he continued, "Israel wandered from Egypt to Canaan. But after the Babylonish captivity a part of them returned and settled down here. You know that."

"Yes, I know that. And now the Israelites here have increased till they number many thousand souls, and have built a temple for themselves, which you see standing in the distance. Did you know that?"

"Yes, something about it. So that, then, is Roman territory?"

"Yes. Everything is Roman now—Syria, Canaan, Greece, Egypt —Germany, Gaul, Britain; the world belongs to Rome, according to the prophecy of the Cumaean Sibyl."

"Good! But the world is to be redeemed through Israel, according to God's promise to our father Abraham."

"I have heard that fable also, but for the present Rome has the fulfilment of the promise. Do you come from Jerusalem?"

"I come through the desert like the others, and I bring wife and child with me."

"Child—yes! Why do you Hebrews carry so many children with you?"

The Hebrew was silent, but since he perceived that the Roman knew the reason, and since the latter looked like a benevolent man, he resolved to tell the truth.

"Herod the King heard from the Wise Men of the East the prophecy that a King of the Jews would be born in Bethlehem in the land of Judaea. In order to escape the supposed danger, Herod had all the children recently born in that district put to death. Just as Pharaoh once had our first-born put to death here. But Moses was saved, in order to free our people from the Egyptian bondage."

"Well! but who was this King of the Jews to be?"

"The promised Messiah."

"Do you believe that he is born?" "I cannot tell."

"I can," said the Roman. "He is born; he will rule the world, and bring all people under his sceptre."

"And who will that be?"

"The Emperor, Augustus."

"Is he of Abraham's seed or of David's house? No. And has he come with peace, as Isaiah prophesied, 'His kingdom shall be great, and of peace there shall be no end'? The Emperor is certainly not a man of peace."

"Farewell, Israelite. Now you are a Roman subject. Be content with the redemption through Rome. We know not of any other."

The Roman departed.

The Hebrew approached his wife. "Mary!" he said.

"Joseph!" she answered. "Hush! The child sleeps."



THE LAMB

Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch, had come to Jerusalem, because there was much unrest among the populace. He had taken up his dwelling with Pilate, the Governor. Since on the preceding evening he had witnessed a gladiatorial show in the circus and then taken part in an orgy, he slept late into the morning—so late that his host, who was waiting for his guest, had gone upon the roof.

There lay the Holy City, with Mount Moriah and the Temple, Zion and David's House. To the north-west and west there stretched the Valley of Sharon to the Mediterranean Sea, which in the clear air appeared like a blue streak at a distance of five miles.

In the east there rose the Mount of Olives, with its gardens and vineyards, olives, figs and terebinths, below ran the brook Kedron whose banks were decked in their spring apparel of flourishing laurels, tamarisks, and willows.

The Governor was restless, and often paused to stand by the parapet of the roof in order to look down into the forecourt of the Temple. Here numbers of people moved about busily, forming themselves into knots which dissolved and then formed larger groups.

At last the Tetrarch appeared. He had overslept himself, and his eyes were blood-shot. He gave the Governor a brief greeting, and settled himself as though for a conversation. But he found it hard to bring out a word; his head hung down, and he did not know how to begin, for the orgies of the preceding night had made him forget what he had come for.

Pilate came to his help: "Speak, Herod; your heart is full, and your mind uneasy."

"What do you say, my brother?"

"We were speaking yesterday of the strange man who stirs up the people."

"Quite right! I had John beheaded. Is it he who is going about?"

"No, it is another one now."

"Are there two of them?"

"Yes, this is another one."

"But they have the same history—a prophecy which foretold their birth, and the fable of a supernatural origin, just like the Perseus of mythology, and the philosopher Plato in history. Is it a confusion of persons?"

"No, not at all."

"What is his name? Josua, Jesse...?"

"His name is Jesus, and he is said to have passed his childhood in the Egyptian towns Heliopolis and Leontopolis."

"Then he must be a magician or wizard; can he not come and divert me?"

"It is difficult to find him, for he is now in one place, now in another. But we will question the High Priest; I have had him called, and he waits below."

"Why is there this commotion in the court of the Temple?"

"They are going to erect the Emperor's statue in the Holy of Holies."

"Quite right! Our gracious Emperor Tiberius lives like a madman on Capri, and is pummelled by his nephew Caligula, if the offspring of incest can be called a nephew. And now he is to become a god. Ha! Ha!"

"Antiochus Epiphanes had the statue of Zeus set up in the Holy of Holies. He, however, was a god. But to set up this beast, Tiberius, means a tumult."

"What are we to do? Call the Priest here."

Pilate went and fetched the High Priest Caiaphas.

Herod closed his eyes, and folded his hands over his breast. He regarded all matters of business as an interruption to his pleasures, and generally liked to cut them short. When Pilate returned with Caiaphas, the Tetrarch awoke from his doze, and did not know where he was, or what they were talking about. Pilate stepped forward, aroused him to consciousness, and directed his attention to the matter in hand.

"There is a tumult in the Temple," was his first observation, for that disturbed his sleep. "Ah! the Priest is here. What is the meaning of the uproar below?"

"It is the Galilaean, who has taken to using force, and has driven the money-changers out of the Temple."

Herod's curiosity was aroused: "I should like to see him."

"He has already gone."

"Tell us, High Priest, who is this man? Is he the Messiah?"

"That is incredible. The son of a poor carpenter, who is weak in the head!"

"Is he a prophet?"

"He stirs up the people, he breaks the law, he is a glutton and wine-bibber, and he blasphemes God. Yes, he says that he himself is God, the Son of the Highest."

"Have you witnesses to this?"

"Yes, but they contradict each other."

"Then procure better witnesses, who will agree. But now, Priest, we must talk of something else. You know that the Senate have decreed the apotheosis of the Emperor, and that his image is to be set up in the Temple. What do you think about it?"

"We live by the favour of the Emperor. But if this abomination is done, we will all die as the Maccabees did."

"Then die!"

Caiaphas considered a moment before he answered. "I will summon the Sanhedrim, and tell them what the Emperor wishes."

"Yes, do that. And before the Passover you must bring the Galilaean before me, for I wish to see him."

"I will."

"Then go in peace."

Caiaphas retired.

"They are a hard people, these Israelites," said Pilate, for want of something better to say. "I am also of Israel," answered Herod somewhat curtly, "for I am an Edomite, of Esau's race, and my mother was a Samaritan, belonging to the despised people."

Pilate saw that he had made a slip, and therefore struck the ground three times with his official staff. A large trap-door opened, and a table came up covered with all kinds of delicacies according to Roman taste.

Herod's countenance cleared.

* * * * *

In the Court of the Priests stood Caiaphas and Annas, and spoke with each other.

"Since we cannot avert the abomination," said Caiaphas, "and the Emperor's image is to be erected in the Holy of Holies, and the people will be destroyed if there is an insurrection, it is better for us to bring an offering to the Lord, and that one man die for the people."

"You are right. An extraordinary atoning sacrifice is necessary, and as the Passover is approaching, let us sacrifice the Galilaean."

"Good! But the offering should be pure. Is the Galilaean pure?"

"Pure as a lamb."

"May he then take Israel's sins upon him, that we may be set free through his blood. Who brings him into our hands?"

"One of his disciples, who stands outside."

"Fetch him in."

John, later known as the "Evangelist," was brought in, and Caiaphas began to examine him.

"What do you say concerning your teacher? Has he transgressed the law of Moses?"

"He has fulfilled the law."

"But what new commandment has he introduced into our holy law?"

"Love one another."

"Did he say he was the King of the Jews?"

"The Master said, 'My kingdom is not of this world.'"

"Has he not made children rebel against their parents?"

"The Master said, 'He who loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.'"

"Did he not say that one has a right to neglect one's duties as a citizen?"

"The Master said, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.'"

"Did he tell labourers to leave their work?"

"The Master said, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden.'"

"Did he say that he would conquer the world?"

"The Master said, 'In the world ye have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.'"

Caiaphas was weary: "According to all that I have heard and perceived, this man has not answered a single question."

"The Master answers in spirit and in truth, but you ask according to the flesh and the letter. We are not the children of one spirit."

"I don't understand."

"He has sent me to preach good tidings to the poor, to heal the broken in heart, to preach deliverance to the captives, to give sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised."

"What you speak in foolishness, young man, can neither bring credit to you nor to your teacher."

"Woe unto you when men praise you, and he who departeth from evil maketh himself a prey."

Caiaphas turned to Annas: "This is not the man who will deliver the Galilaean up to us."

"They have sent another one—Listen! Is your name Iscariot?"

"No; my name is John."

"Then go in peace, but send us Iscariot instead. But wait! Give us in two words the teaching of your Master regarding the meaning of life."

"Death is a gain for the righteous," answered John without stopping to think.

"Is life not itself...?"

"Through death ye shall enter into life."

"We have heard enough. Go."

But Caiaphas repeated to himself, as though he thought he would understand those words in his own mouth better: "Death is a gain for the righteous."

Now there arose a clamour from the market-place and the hall of justice. Annas and Caiaphas went out upon the battlemented walls to find out the cause. Levites were standing there, and looking down.

"Has he been taken?"

"He has already been seized as an inciter to insurrection, because he bade his disciples to sell their garments and buy a sword."

"Have they found them with weapons?"

"They have found two swords."

"Then he is already condemned."

Then they heard a cry rise from the crowd before the Court of Justice—at first difficult to distinguish, but ever clearer. The people were crying "Crucify! Crucify!"

"Is that not too severe, regarded as a punishment?" said Caiaphas.

"No," answered the Levite; "one of his disciples called Simon or Peter drew his sword and wounded one of the servants called Malchus."

"Do we need any more witnesses?"

"But the Teacher said, 'Put up thy sword into its sheath, for they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword.'"

"That is a difficult saying," said Annas, and went down. But the people continued to cry, "Crucify! Crucify!"



THE WILD BEAST

Before the temple of Jupiter Latiaris in Rome, two men of the middle classes met each other. They both remained standing in order to contemplate the new temple, which was different from all others, and looked as if it had felt the effects of an earthquake. The basement had the shape of a roof; the columns stood reversed with their capitals below, and the roof was constructed like a basement with cellar-windows.

"So we meet here again, Hebrew," said one of the two, who resembled a Roman merchant. "Was it not in Joppa that we last met?"

"Yes," answered the Hebrew. "One meets the Roman everywhere; he is at home everywhere; one also meets the Hebrew everywhere, but he is at home nowhere. But tell me, whose temple is this?"

"This is the Temple of the Wild Beast, the Emperor Caligula, the madman, the murderer, the incestuous. He has erected it to himself; his image stands within; and the madman comes every day to worship himself."

So saying, the Roman made a sign on his forehead, moving the forefinger of his right hand first from above, below, and then from left to right.

The Hebrew looked at him in astonishment.

"Are you not a Roman?"

"Yes, I am a Roman Christian."

"Where do you live?" "Here under Rome, in the catacombs."

He pointed to a hole in the ground, which resembled those that led down to the cloacae.

"Do you live here under the ground?"

"Yes, that is where we Christians live; there we lie like seed in the earth, and germinate."

"Those are grave-vaults down there."

"Yes, we are buried with Christ, and await the resurrection."

"Have you a temple down there?"

"We have our religious service there, and to-day we celebrate the birth of Christ."

"Someone is coming down the street," said the Hebrew. The Roman opened the trap-door in the ground in order to descend. From below the sounds of a choral hymn were heard. "The City hath no need of the moon, neither of the sun, for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."

"Who is the Lamb?" asked the Hebrew.

"Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the World."

"Do you think the world is redeemed, while this mad Caligula...."

"The world will be redeemed, if we continue to hope."

"You have, then, taken the promise away from Israel?"

"No, we have inherited the promise, for Christ was of the stock of Israel."

"Someone is coming."

"Then farewell. We shall always meet, for the earth is ours."

In the temple, which people called "the world turned upside down," a man slunk along the walls in a state of panic, as though he were afraid to display his back. He had the face of a youth without any hair round it. His upper lip was drawn upwards on the left side, and showed a long canine tooth, while at the same time his right eye shot a sharp glance like a poisonous arrow.

He glided along the wall to the apse, where an image was erected. It was a likeness of the timid man himself, representing him exactly even to his clothes.

"Is the priest there?" the mad Emperor whispered, for it was he.

No answer followed.

"Priest, dear priest, I am so frightened. Are you not coming?"

A sacrificial priest came forward, fell on his knee before the Emperor, and worshipped him.

"Jupiter, Optimus, Maximus, Latiaris, frighten away thy foes."

"Have I foes, then? Yes, and that is what frightens me. Do you believe that I am God?"

"Thou art."

"Let us then have thunder, to frighten my foes."

The priest beat upon a kettledrum, and the echoes rolled through the temple.

The Emperor laughed, so that all his teeth were visible.

"Priest!" he cried as he seated himself on his throne, "now you shall sacrifice to me."

The priest kindled a fire on the little altar before the madman.

The Emperor said, "The scent is good. Now I am the mightiest in heaven and on earth. I rule over living and dead; I cast into Tartarus and lift into Elysium. How mighty I am! I tame the waves of the sea, and command the storm to cease: I hold sway over the planets in their courses; I myself have created chaos, and the human race lie at my feet, from the primeval forests of Britain to the sources of the Nile, which I alone have discovered. I have made my favourite horse consul, and the people have acknowledged his consulship. Priest! Worship me! Or do you forget who I am? No, I am I, and I shall always worship myself in my own image. Caius Caesar Caligula, I honour thee, Lord of the world, how I honour myself! Jupiter Latiaris Caligula!"

He fell before the image on his knee.

"Some one is coming," said the priest warningly.

"Kill him."

"It is the tribune, Cassius Chaeraea!"

"Frighten him away."

"Chaeraea does not let himself be frightened."

The tribune came in fearlessly and without ceremony.

"Caius Caesar, your wife is dead."

"All the better," answered the Emperor.

"They have dashed your only child against a wall."

"Ah, how pleasant!" laughed the madman.

"And now you are to die."

"No, I cannot. I am immortal."

"I wait for you outside. It shall not take place here."

"Creep away, ant! My foot is too great to reach thy littleness."

Then a sound of singing rose from the basement of the temple, or from the earth; they were children's voices.

The Emperor was again alarmed, and crept under his chair.

Chaeraea, who had waited at the door, lost patience.

"Dog! are you coming? Or shall I strike you dead here?"

"Chaeraea," whimpered the Emperor, "do not kill me! I will kiss your foot."

"Then kiss it now when I trample you to death."

The gigantic tribune threw the chair to one side, leapt on the madman and crushed his windpipe beneath his heel; the tongue, protruded from his jaws, seemed to be spitting abuse even in death.

* * * * *

The Wild Beast had three heads; the name of the second was Claudius. He played dice with his friend Caius Silius, who was famous for his wealth and his beauty.

"Follow the game," hissed Caesar.

"I am following it," answered his friend.

"No, you are absent-minded. Where were you last night?" "I was in the Suburra."

"You should not go to the Suburra; you should stay with me."

"Follow the game."

"I am following it; but what are the stakes we are playing for?"

"You are playing for your life."

"And you, Caesar?"

"I am also playing for your life."

"And if you lose?" asked Silius.

"Then you will lose your life."

The Emperor knocked with the dice-box on the table. His secretary Narcissus came in.

"Give me writing materials, Narcissus. The antidote for snake-bites is yew-tree resin...."

"And the antidote to hemlock?"

"Against that there is no antidote."

"Follow the game, or I shall be angry."

"No, you cannot be angry!" answered Silius.

"Yes, that is true,—I cannot! I only said so!"

Messalina, the Emperor's wife, had entered.

"Why is Silius sitting here and playing," she asked, "when he should accompany me to the theatre?"

"He is compelled," answered the Emperor.

"Wretch! what rights have you over him?"

"He is my slave; all are slaves of the Lord of the world. Therefore Rome is the most democratic of all States, for all its citizens are equal—equal before Men and God."

"He is your slave, but he is my husband," said Messalina.

"Your husband! Why, you are married to me."

"What does that matter?"

"Do you go and marry without asking my permission?"

"Yes, why not?"

"You are certainly droll, Messalina! And I pardon you. Go, my children, and amuse yourselves. Narcissus will play with me."

When the Emperor was left alone with Narcissus, his expression changed.

"Follow them, Narcissus!" he hissed. "Take Locusta with you, and give them the poison. Then I shall marry Agrippina."

But when Silius and the Empress had gone without, Silius asked innocently: "Have you yourself prepared the mushrooms which he will eat this evening?"

"I have not done it myself, but Locusta has, and she understands her business."

* * * * *

The name of the third head of the Wild Beast was Nero. He was Agrippina's worthy son, had poisoned his half-brother Britannicus, murdered his mother, kicked his wife to death, and committed unnatural crime. He falsified the coinage and plundered the temples. He made an artistic tour to Greece, where he first appeared as a public singer and brought eight hundred wreaths home, then as a charioteer, in which capacity he upset everything, but received the prize because nobody dared to refuse it to him.

To such a depth had Rome and Greece sunk. Claudius was an angel compared to this monster; but he also received apotheosis.

To-day the Emperor had returned home from his artistic tour, and found his capital in flames. Since, in his fits of intoxication, he had so often raged against his old-fashioned Rome, with its narrow streets, and had on various occasions expressed the wish that fire might break out at all its corners, he came under the suspicion of having set it in flames.

He sat in his palace on the Esquiline in a great columned hall, and feasted his eyes on the magnificent conflagration. It was a marble hall with only a few articles of furniture, because the Emperor feared they might afford lurking-places for murderers. But in the background of the hall was a strong gilded iron grating, behind which could be caught a glimpse of two yellow-brown lions from Libya. These the Emperor called his "cats."

At the door of the grating stood two slaves, Pallas and Alexander, and watched every change in the Emperor's face.

"He smiles," whispered Pallas; "then it is all over with us. Brother, we shall meet again. Pray for me and give me the kiss of peace."

"The Lord shall deliver thee from all evil, and preserve thee for His heavenly kingdom. This mortal must put on immortality, and this corruptible, incorruption."

The red face of the Emperor, red with wine and the light of the conflagration, began to assume a look of attention, and it could be seen from his eyes and ears that he was listening. Did he hear perhaps how the masses of people whispered their suspicions of the "incendiary"?

"Pallas!" he roared, "Rome is burning!"

The slave remained speechless from fright.

"Pallas! Are you deaf?"

No answer.

"Pallas! Are you dumb? They say down there that I have fired the town, but I have not. Run out in the streets and spread about the report that the Christians have done it."

"No, I will not!" answered the slave.

Nero believed that his ears had deceived him.

"Do you not know," he said, "that the Christians are magicians, and live like rats in the catacombs, and that all Rome is undermined by them? I have thought of making the Tiber flow in to drown them, or of opening the walls of the cloacas and submerging the catacombs in filth. Their Sibylline books have prophesied the fall of Rome, though they use the name 'Babylon.' See, now the Capitol takes fire. Pallas, run out, and say the Christians have done it."

"That I will not do," answered Pallas loud and clearly, "because it is not true."

"This time my ears have not deceived me," roared the Emperor rising. "You will not go into the town; then go in through the grating-door and play with my lions."

He opened the door, and pushed Pallas into the fore-court of the lions.

"Alexander!" said Pallas, "I have prayed you to be firm and courageous!"

"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the latter day He shall raise me from the earth."

"What is that you are saying?" said the Emperor, and pulled a cord, which opened the second door to the lions.

"Alexander, go out into the town, and spread the report that the Christians have set Rome on fire."

"No," answered Alexander, "for I am a Christian."

"What is a Christian?"

"God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

"Will you not perish? Have I not the power to destroy you?"

"You have no power over me, except it be given from above."

"He does not fear death. Lentulus! bring fire here; I will set fire to your clothes, that we may see if you can burn, I will set your hair, your beard, your nails on fire; but we will first soak you in oil and naphtha, in pitch and sulphur. Then we will see whether you have an everlasting life. Lentulus!"

Lentulus rushed in: "Emperor! The city is in an uproar! Fly!"

"Must I fly? First bring fire!"

"Spain has revolted, and chosen Galba as Emperor."

"Galba! Eheu! fugaces, Postume ... Galba! Well, then, let us fly, but whither?"

"Through the catacombs, sire."

"No! the Christians live there, and they will kill me."

"They kill no one," said Alexander.

"Not even their enemies?"

"They pray for their enemies."

"Then they are mad! All the better!"

* * * * *

The Christians were assembled in one of the crypts of the catacombs. "The Capitol is burning; that is the heathen's Zion," said Alexander.

"The Lord of Hosts avenges his destroyed Jerusalem."

"Say not 'avenges,' say 'punishes.'"

"Someone is coming down the passage."

"Is it a brother?"

"No, he makes no obeisance before the cross."

"Then it is an executioner."

The Emperor appeared in rags, dirty, with a handkerchief tied round his forehead. As he approached the Christians, whom in their white cloaks he took for Greeks, he became quiet and resolved to bargain with them.

"Are you Greeks?"

"Here is neither Jew nor Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but all are brothers in Christ! Welcome, brother!"

"It is the Wild Beast," said Alexander.

The Emperor now recognised his escaped slave, and in his terror fell on his knees.

"Kill me not! I am a poor stone-cutter, who has lost his way. Show me the way out, whether right or left."

"Do you know me?" asked Alexander.

"Alexander!" answered the Emperor.

"He whom you wished to burn. It is I!"

"Mercy! Kill me not!"

"Stand up, Caesar! Thy life is in God's hand."

"Do I find mercy?"

"You shall have a guide."

"Say whether right or left; then I can help myself."

"Keep to the left."

"And if you lie."

"I cannot lie! Do you see, that is the difference."

"Why do you not lie? I should have done so."

"Keep to the left."

The Emperor believed him, and went. But after going some steps, he stood still and turned round.

"Out upon you, slaves! Now I shall help myself."

It was a terribly stormy night, when Nero, accompanied by the boy Sporus, and a few slaves, reached the estate of his freedman Phaon. Phaon did not dare to receive him, but advised him to hide in a clay-pit. But the Emperor did not wish to creep into the earth, but sprang into a pond, when he heard the pursuers approaching, and remained standing in the water. From this place he heard those who were going by seeking him, say that he was condemned to be flogged to death. Then, after some hesitation, he thrust a dagger into his breast.

His nurse Acte, who had also been his paramour, buried him in a garden on Monte Pincio. The Romans loved him after his death, and brought flowers to his grave. But the Christians saw in him the Wild Beast and the Antichrist of the Apocalypse.

THE APOSTATE

At a date rather more than three hundred years after the Birth of Christ, the stage of the world's history had shifted from the Mediterranean to the East. Greece was sunk in everlasting sleep, Rome lay in ruins and had become a tributary state. Jerusalem was destroyed, Alexandria at the mouth of the Nile in a state of decay. The world's metropolis lay on the Black Sea, and was a half-oriental colony called Byzantium, or, after Constantine the Great, Constantinople. The heathen world was a waste, and Christianity had become the State religion. But the spirit of Christianity had not penetrated the empire. Doctrine indeed there was—plenty of doctrine—but those at court lived worse lives than the heathen, and the way to the throne in Byzantium was generally through a murder.

But while the centre of gravity in Europe had shifted to the East, new conquests had been made in the West and in the North. The Romans had founded fifty cities on the Rhine, and, since Julius Caesar's time, all Gaul lay under Roman ploughs and worshipped Roman gods in Roman temples.

But now that Christianity was to be introduced into Gaul, it encountered great difficulties. The original religion of the country, Druidism, had been proscribed by the Emperor Claudius, and the Roman cult of the gods substituted. And now that a second alteration of their religion was proposed, the Gauls strongly resented it. Accordingly Gaul was in a state of disorganisation, which was likely to result in some new growth.

But under the rule of Constantius, new danger from another side threatened the newly-formed provinces of Gaul. The German races, the Franks and the Alemanni, were attracted by the charm of the fertile land, where the mountains seemed to drop with wine, and the plains were covered with yellow corn. In order to protect the best of his provinces, and perhaps for other reasons, the Emperor sent his cousin and brother-in-law, Julian, to subdue the Germans. Although Julian had been educated in a convent and at a university, he seems to have understood the art of war, for he defeated the invaders and then retired to Lutetia Parisiorum.

The legions had marched up the Mons Martis or Martyrorum, as it was called by turns. At their head went the insignificant-looking man with his beard trimmed like a philosopher's—Julian, surnamed Caesar, but not therefore Emperor. High on the summit of the hill stood a temple of Mars, but it was closed. When the army had encamped, Julian went alone to the edge of the hill, in order to view the town Lutetia, which he had never seen.

On the island between the two arms of the Seine lay the main part of the town with the temple of Jupiter; but the Imperial Palace and the Amphitheatre stood on the slope of Mount Parnassus, on the left bank of the river. For three hundred years from the time of Julius Caesar, the Emperors had stayed here at intervals. The two last occupants had been Constantine the Great and Constantius.

After thoughtfully contemplating for a while the valley with the river flowing through it, Julian exclaimed, "Urbs! Why, it is Rome! A river, a valley, and hills, seven or more, just as at Rome. Don't you see, we stand on the Capitoline? On the opposite side we have Janiculum represented by Mount Parnassus, and in the north Mons Valerian forms our Vatican. And the city on the island! The island resembles a ship, just like the island in the Tiber, on which they have erected an obelisk as a mast, so striking was the similarity. Caesar indeed was too original to have wished to copy. They call Byzantium New Rome, but Rome is like a worm; when cut in two, a living creature is formed from each piece. What do you say, Maximus?"

"Rome was the city of the seven hills and the seven kings; how many there will be here, none can say."

"It had never occurred to me," answered Julian, "that Rome had had just as many kings as hills—a curious coincidence!"

Maximus the Mystic, who, together with the Sophist Priscus, always accompanied the Emperor, in order to give him opportunities for philosophising, immediately objected: "There are no 'coincidences,' Caesar, everything is reckoned and numbered; everything is created with a conscious purpose, and in harmonious correspondence—the firmament of heaven and the circle of the earth."

"You have learnt that in Egypt," Priscus interrupted, "for the Egyptians see the river Nile in the constellation Eridanus. I should like to know under which constellation this Lutetia lies!"

"It lies under Andromeda, like Rome," answered Maximus, "but Perseus hangs over the Holy Land, so that Algol stands over Jerusalem."

"Why do you call that cursed land 'holy'?" broke in Julian, who could not control his generally quiet temper as soon as any subject was mentioned connected with Christianity, which he hated.

"I call the land 'holy' because the Redeemer of the world was born there. And you know that He was born without a father, like Perseus; you know also that Perseus delivered Andromeda, as Jesus Christ will deliver Rome and Lutetia."

Julian was silent, for, as a Neo-platonist, he liked analogies between the heavenly and the temporal, and a poetic figure was more for him than a rhetorical ornament.

Educated in a convent by Christian priests, he had early gained an insight into the new teaching of Christianity; but he believed that his philosophic culture had shown him that the seed of Christianity had already germinated in Socrates and Plato. After he had made the acquaintance of the Neo-Platonists, he found nothing to object to in the recently-promulgated dogmas of Christianity. But he felt a boundless hate against these Galilaeans who wished to appropriate all the wisdom of the past ages and give it their own name. He regarded them as thieves. The doctrine of Christ's Divine Sonship seemed to him quite natural, for as a Pantheist he believed that the souls of all men are born of God and have part in Him. He himself acknowledged the dogma recently promulgated at Nicaea, that the Son is of the same essence as the Father, although he interpreted, it in his own way. As to miracles, they happened every day, and could be imitated by magicians. He acknowledged the truth of the Fall of Man, for Plato also had declared that the soul is imprisoned in matter —in sinful matter, with which we must do battle. And this had been confirmed by St. Paul's saying in the Epistle to the Romans, "The good which I would, that I do not, but the evil, which I would not, that I do," and again, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members, which warreth against the law of my mind.... O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" That was the lament of the thinking sensitive man regarding the soul's imprisonment in matter; the disgust of human nature at itself.

Julian, as a sensitive and struggling spirit, had felt this pressure, and had honestly and successfully combated the lusts of the flesh. Grown up though he was, among murderers and sybarites, in the extravagant luxury of the Byzantine Court, where, for example, he had at first possessed a thousand barbers and a thousand cooks, he had abandoned luxury, lived like a Christian ascetic, acted justly, and was high-minded. He had a perfect comprehension of the soul's imprisonment in the flesh or of "sin," but understood nothing of the Redemption through Christ. Three hundred years had passed since the birth of Christ, and the world had become continually more wretched. The Christians he had seen, especially his uncle Constantine the Great, lived worse than the heathen. As a young man he had tested the new teaching in his own internal struggles; he had prayed to Christ as to God, but had not been heard. When he had lamented his plight to the devout Eusebius, the latter had answered, "Be patient in hope! Continue constant in prayer."

But the youth answered, "I cannot be patient."

Then Eusebius said, "The deliverance comes, but not in our time. A thousand years are as a day before the Lord God! Wait five days, then you will see."

"I will not wait," exclaimed the youth angrily.

"So say the damned souls also. But look you, impatience is one of the torments of hell, and you make a hell for yourself with your impatience."

Julian became a hater of Christ, without exactly knowing why. The philosophers did not teach it him, for they adapted Christianity to their philosophy. Celsus' feeble attack on Christianity had not misled Julian's ripe and cultured intelligence. Eusebius explained his pupil's hatred of Christ in the following way: "He has heathen blood in him, for he comes of Illyrian stock; he does not belong to this sheepfold. Or is his pride so boundless, his envy so great, that he cannot tolerate any Autocrat in the realm of the spirit? He lives himself like a Christian, and teaches the same as Christ, but at the same time is a Christ-hater."

* * * * *

Meanwhile Julian, in order to hide his anger, had approached the little Temple of Mars on the hill. The building was in ruins, the doors had been carried away, and the columns were broken. As he entered it, he saw the statue of Mars, modelled after a good Greek one of Ares, standing in the apse, but the nose was broken off, the fingers were lacking, and the whole statue was streaked with dirt.

"This is the work of the Galilaeans," said Julian, "but they shall pay for it."

"They have already paid with their lives," answered Maximus.

"Dionysius [Footnote: St. Denis] was beheaded on the hill, and his chapel stands there on the slope."

"Are you also a Galilaean?"

"No; but I love justice."

"Justice and its guardian-goddess Astrasa left the earth when the Iron Age began; now she is a star in heaven."

"In the Zodiac," interrupted Priscus; "I believe also, we all live in Zodiacs, and there justice has no place."

A sudden murmur of voices was heard from the camp. Julian mounted a heap of stones to see what was the matter. The whole of the north-east side of Mars' Hill was covered with soldiers, and below in the valley were to be seen tents and camp-fires. These thousands belonged to all the nations of the world. They comprised Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Negroes, Hebrews, Persians, Afghans, Scythians, Germans, Britons, and Gauls. But now they were in movement and swarming, as gnats do when they dance.

"What is the excitement about?" asked Julian.

A little bell from the chapel of St. Denis sounded the Angelus, and the Christians fell on their knees, while the heathen remained standing or continued their occupations. The Christians considered themselves disturbed, and so did the heathen.

"This religion," said Julian, "which should unite all, only divides them. If the Church Councils, instead of formulating new creeds, had done away with all forms, and proclaimed free worship with praise and adoration of the Highest, all peoples would have bent the knee before the Nameless, but look at the Christians! Since the law is on their side, they have the upper hand, and therefore compel the heathen to adore their Galilaean! But I will not help them. I can hold nations together, but not professors of creeds. Let us go into the town. I will not mix in the matter."

Some Christian tribunes approached Julian, with the evident purpose of complaining, but he waved them off.

* * * * *

Julian had entered Lutetia on foot, accompanied by his philosophers. He had not allowed himself to be escorted by generals or other officers, because he did not trust them.

He found the new town to be a miniature of the Rome of the Caesars. It is true that huts with straw roofs formed the nucleus of it, but there were also several temples and chapels, a prefecture, a forum, and an amphitheatre. The forum or market-place was surrounded by colonnades, in which tradesmen and money-changers' had opened their shops. One side—the shortest—of it was occupied by the prefecture, in which the Aedile and Quaestor lived.

Unnoticed and unrecognised by the people, Julian went into the prefecture. In the hall he saw Christian symbols—the cross, the fish, the good shepherd, etc. Christianity was certainly the State religion, but Julian's hatred against everything Christian was so great that he could not look at these figures. Accordingly he went out again, called the Prefect down, and bade him show the way to the Imperial palace and the left side of the river. There he took up his abode in a simple room resembling a monk's cell. As he had been obliged to make many detours since he had left Byzantium, and the punitive expedition against the Franks and Alemanni had consumed much time, he found letters waiting his arrival. Among them was one from the Emperor which seriously discomposed Julian.

The attitude of the Emperor towards his cousin had always been somewhat dubious, almost hostile, and now, after the latter's victories, envy and fear had taken possession of the mind of the Byzantine despot. The letter contained a command for Julian to send back the legions at once, as the war was at an end. Julian saw the danger if he stripped the newly recovered land bare of defence, but his sense of duty and conscientiousness bade him obey, and without hesitation he sent the Emperor's edict to the camp. This was on the evening of the first day of his arrival.

The next morning Julian had gone out for an excursion with his learned staff. They slowly climbed Mount Parnassus, and wandered through the oak wood on the north side, avoiding the beaten paths. He and his companions philosophised and disputed eagerly, and, forgetting their surroundings, wandered ever deeper into the forest. Finally they reached an open space where grazing deer had taken refuge, and set themselves down to rest on strangely-shaped stones which lay in a circle. In the oaks over their heads were large green clumps of a different colour from the oak-leaves, and these they thought were birds' nests.

"I have never seen so many crows' nests together," said Julian.

"They are not crows' nests, your Majesty," answered the scribe Eleazar, who acted as Julian's secretary. "That is the sacred mistletoe, which grows on the oak, and through the operation of cosmic forces takes this globular form, which is also said to be that of the earth and the other heavenly bodies."

"Is that...?"

"Yes, and we seem to have entered a sacred sacrificial grove, in which the primeval deities of the land are still worshipped by the Druids, although their worship is forbidden."

"Forbidden in spite of the Emperor's edict regarding religious freedom," broke in the Sophist Priscus.

Julian did not like to be reminded of this edict, through which Christianity had won freedom to suppress other creeds. He rose with his companions in order to continue their excursion. After a while they reached Suresnes and its vineyards, where figtrees and peach-trees lined the walls. When they had ascended a height, they saw the whole Seine Valley lying before them, with its fields, gardens, and villas.

"Why, that is like the sacred land of Canaan!" exclaimed Julian, enchanted by the lovely landscape.

On the other side of the river rose the Hill of Mars, with its temples and chapels, and where the soil had been laid bare the white chalk gleamed in patches, as though a countless number of tents had been erected on the slopes.

The philosophers stood for a long time there, and contemplated the view, when a sound was heard like that of an approaching tempest. But no cloud was visible, and they remained listening and wondering. The noise increased till cries, shouts, and the clash of arms were heard. Now the Hill of Mars seemed to be in movement; there were swarms of men on its summit, and here and there steel could be seen flashing. Like a river, the mass began to roll down the hill to the town.

Then the spectators understood. "It is a revolt of the legions," exclaimed Maximus.

"The edict has taken effect."

"They seek their own Emperor."

"Then the only thing for us to do is to turn round and go home." They turned into the path which ran along the river, and followed it up the stream, in order to be able to see what the legions were doing. The dark mass, interspersed with flashes From swords and helmets, poured on in an ever stronger tide.

Quickening their steps, Julian and his companions reached the palace, in which there was great excitement. Julian was naturally a courageous man, but as a philosopher he was retiring, and wished to avoid public scenes. He therefore went through the bath-house and sought his lonely chamber, in order to await what would happen. He paced restlessly up and down the room, feeling that the destiny of his whole future life was just now being decided. So there came what he half expected. Cries were audible from the courtyard of the palace,—"Ave Caesar Julianus Imperator! We choose Julian as Emperor! The crown for Julian! Death to Constantius the murderer and weakling!"

There was no longer any room for doubt. The legions had chosen Julian Emperor because they would not leave this fertile land, which they had conquered at the cost of their blood. Julian, who had not striven for power because he feared responsibility, wished to decline; but messengers from the army warned him, "If you do not accept, you will be slain." He who does not dare to rule will be enslaved. Thus Julian became Emperor of the great realm which stretched from the Black Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.

* * * * *

The night which followed this day was spent by the Emperor in reflection; and when in the morning, after a bath, he appeared to his friends, he was hardly recognisable as the same man. He had literally thrown off the mask, and showed a new face, with a new expression, almost new features. In spite of his upright character, Julian, like Constantine, had been compelled to live in a perpetual state of hypocrisy, by being obliged to favour and practise the Christian teaching in which he did not believe. He had even been forced to acknowledge the Trinity and Deity of Christ as promulgated by the Council of Nicaea, to attend services and observe fasts. The first thing he did after obtaining power, was to use his freedom and be what he was. His first act was to separate the sheep from the goats, i.e. to pick out the "Galilaeans," and form them into legions by themselves, under the pretext that they could thus better carry out their religious practices. But at the same time he surrounded his person exclusively with heathen of the old type,—Hebrews, Syrians, Persians, and Scythians. Simultaneously he assumed the gorgeous purple and glittering diadem of the emperors, trimmed and gilded his beard, and showed himself abroad only on horseback and with a great train. This done, he made preparations for publicly receiving the homage of the people, and determined to use the theatre for that purpose, and to put on the stage Prometheus, the trilogy of Aeschylus, which at that time existed in its entirety. The Emperor had brought actors with him, and the theatre stood ready. The news of this had spread in the town, and was joyfully hailed by the heathen, while the Christians were vexed. The lower classes had, it is true, expected a gladiatorial show and wild beast fights, but a "comedy," as they called it, was always welcome.

The day arrived, and the town was in gala attire. The play was to last from morning to evening without pauses for meals; and as the spring weather was cold and uncertain, the spectators were advised to bring the garment known as "cucullus," a short white Roman mantle with a hood, which was all the more necessary as the theatre stood under the open sky.

Julian, now called Augustus, came to the theatre at the appointed time, accompanied by his philosopher friends, who had to take their seats at a little distance, for the Emperor sat in the imperial box, whither he had summoned the Prefect, Aedile and Quaestor to be in attendance on him. He was somewhat astonished not to find these city authorities there, and as the Aedile was president of the theatre, they could not begin before he came.

The people had risen as Julian entered, and many tribunes had shouted "Long live the Emperor!" but thereupon there followed an embarrassing silence, during which the Emperor was regarded with cold curiosity. When at last the latter was weary of waiting, he called his secretary, the Hebrew Eleazar, and commanded him to go to the prefecture in order to find out the reason of the defaulters' absence, and at the same time he gave the signal for the play to commence.

The actors entered, and at the altar commenced to offer the ancient kind of sacrifice which used to serve as an introduction to tragedies. Since animal sacrifices had ceased in all religions, even in the Jewish after the destruction of the Temple, under Titus in A.D. 70, this unusual proceeding aroused great curiosity. The legionaries were inured to the sight of blood, but the citizens and their wives turned away when the goat was sacrificed to Dionysus. People sought to find the reason for Julian's wish to reintroduce this custom in his laudable attempt to mingle all religions together, and to discover a deeper meaning in the ceremonies of all. The offering indeed was a gift, a sacrifice, and an expression of gratitude, but Maximus the mystic had also persuaded the Emperor that there were hidden powers in the blood itself, the source of life, which attracted spiritual forces of a lower order. Man shed his mother's blood at his birth and the sacred institution of circumcision was intended to be a reminder of the bloody and painful operation of birth. Slaves were slaughtered on the graves of chieftains, and in the time of Julius Caesar the Romans had on one extraordinary occasion sacrificed three hundred prisoners. Captivated by this and by similar philosophical arguments, Julian was enticed into a course which was destined to lead to his destruction. After the sacrifice, at which the soldiers had laughed and the women had wept, the drama commenced in the poet's original language. Greek was indeed spoken by all people of cultivation from Palestine to Gaul, but the uneducated did not know it, and therefore the citizens sat there inattentively.

As the chorus entered for the second time, Eleazar returned with news. "This is what has happened," he said. "The Bishop of Sens, the Primate of the Church of Gaul, has entered the town, and is performing mass in the church. The high officials are present there, and they accordingly beg to be excused attending on the Emperor. They thought that he was aware that Christians never go to the theatre, and they rely upon the edict granting religious liberty."

Julian turned white with rage. "Good! They shall pay for that! Now, my Jewish friend, Eleazar, you shall sit near and talk with me. The actors are wretched, and I cannot endure their pronunciation of Greek."

Eleazar demurred, but the Emperor overruled his objections. The morning passed, and when the first part of the trilogy was at an end, part of the public seemed to wish to steal away; but the exits were closed, in order to avoid the fiasco of actors playing to an empty house, and the disrespect which would thereby be shown to the Emperor. But the discontent of the audience continually increased, for they were tired and hungry. They were also unpleasantly surprised by the presence of a Jew in the Emperor's box. It was not, however, because he was a Jew, for hatred of the Jews arose much later, after the Crusades. During the first centuries after Christ, Jews were confused with Christians because people believed that the new religion came from Palestine and was a continuation of Mosaism. The hostile glances which were cast at Eleazar were therefore more on account of his mean appearance and position than of his religion. The favour shown him by the Emperor was especially a challenge to the Christians, in whose eyes he was an alien and a heathen.

When, in the second part of the trilogy, Prometheus was nailed to the rock, the spectators must have thought of the Crucified as the antitype, for the actor playing that part took that posture, extended his arms, and let his head sink on his breast. The common people became more attentive, and as they neither had learnt Greek nor were acquainted with mythology, they thought that the sufferings of Christ were being represented on the stage. Since this had never been done before, they were displeased, and half-audible conversations began. The Emperor was angry, but did not move a muscle. He was generally quiet, but when he was enraged his intelligence forsook him. He sat there in silence, revolving plans against these barbarians, who had forgotten the wisdom of the ancients. It was now past noon, and the impatience of the audience increased. Then the sky began to be covered with clouds and some flakes of snow fell slowly like white feathers. Those who had mantles drew them over their heads. The actors looked towards the Emperor's box, but he did not move, although it had no roof. He was a soldier, and would not be afraid of anything so trivial as bad weather.

Now Prometheus began to prophesy to Io of the Deliverer who would be born to overthrow Zeus and deliver the fire-bringer. The educated Christians and the heathen looked at each other questioningly, when Io said, "What dost thou say? Shall my son be thy deliverer?" And when Prometheus answered, "He will be the third scion after ten generations," a murmur broke out in the theatre. "Ten generations," that was in round numbers 700 years—a period nearly extending to the birth of Christ, since the Christians reckoned dates from 763 A.D., the end of the mythological era, to which the drama belonged.

Julian perceived that he had "carried wood to the fire," and helped the Christians without intending to do so. Aeschylus had prophesied Christ's birth almost to the very year, and intimated that he would overthrow Zeus. The orthodox followers of Athanasius wished for no better weapon with which to crush the Arians, who denied the Deity of Christ.

The snow fell ever more thickly, till at last it was a snowstorm. Julian was as white as though he wore a shroud, but he did not move, for he was beside himself with rage against himself, against the demons who had enticed him to choose this play, and against the heavenly powers who mocked him.

The whole audience was covered with snow, and discussed theology; the rabble laughed and quarrelled. The only ones who were protected against the inclemency of the weather were the actors under the canopy. But the damp snow was heavy, and the linen awning presently bent and broke.

Then the whole audience rose and burst into laughter; the actors crept out from under the masses of snow, the doors opened, and all fled except Julian and his philosophers.

* * * * *

As soon as Julian had been elected Emperor, he had sent an ambassador to the Emperor at Byzantium, and now awaited his reply. It was about the time of the winter solstice and the turn of the year. The Christians had, at this period, just begun to celebrate the birth of Christ, and had adopted certain Roman customs from the Saturnalia, the feast in honour of Saturn. Julian, irritated by the challenge of the Nazarenes, began to arm himself for resistance and attack. Now he determined to use his power to give back to heathendom what belonged to it, and to show the Christians whence they had derived their knowledge of the highest things. At the same time he wished to lend heathenism a Christian colouring, so that, at its return, it might be able to conquer everything. The old Temple of Jupiter, on the island in the river, was opened one night, and lights were seen in it. There was also a noise of hammers and saws, mattocks and trowels. This lasted for some time, and people talked about it in the town.

One night in midwinter, Julian sat with Maximus, Priscus, and Eleazar in the Opisthodomos or priests' room, behind the altar in the Temple of Jupiter. The whole temple was lit up, and the purpose of the improvements which had taken place could be seen. By the colonnade on the left hand was an ambo or pulpit, and under it a confessional; there were also a seven-branched candlestick, a baptismal font, a table with shewbread, and an incense-altar. These represented Julian's attempt to attach the new doctrine to the old, and to amalgamate heathenism, Christianity, and Judaism. Heliogabalus had indeed attempted the same in his own rough fashion, by introducing Syrian sun-worship into Rome, but he retained all the heathen gods, even the Egyptian ones. Neither Christians, however, nor Jews would have anything to do with it.

Julian did not love the Jews, but his hatred of Christianity was so great that he preferred to help the stiff-necked race in Palestine, in order to rouse them against Christ. For that purpose he had given orders that the Temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt, and this was the matter which he wished to discuss with his philosophers and Eleazar. "What is your opinion, then?" he asked, after finishing a long speech on the subject. "Let Maximus speak first."

"Caesar Augustus," answered Maximus the mystic, "Jerusalem has been destroyed from the face of the earth, as the prophets foretold, and the Temple cannot be rebuilt."

"Cannot? It shall be."

"It cannot! Constantine's mother, indeed, built a church over the grave of Christ, but the Temple cannot be rebuilt. Since Solomon's time the history of this city has been a history of successive destructions. Sheshach, the Philistines, Arabs, Syrians, Egyptians, and Chaldaeans, destroyed it in early times. Then came Alexander Ptolemaus, and finally Antiochus Epiphanes, who pulled down the walls and set up an image of Jupiter in the Temple. But now, mark! —sixty-three years before Christ, Jerusalem was conquered by Pompey. What happened in the same year after Christ in the Roman Empire? Pompeii, the town by Naples, named after the conqueror, was destroyed in A.D. 63 by an earthquake. That was the answer, and the Lord of Hosts conquered Jupiter,—Zeus."

"Listen!" broke in Julian, "I don't agree with your Pythagorean speculations about numbers. If both events had happened in the year 63 before Christ, then I would be nearly convinced."

"Wait, then, Caesar, and you will be. After Pompey had conquered Jerusalem, and Cassius had plundered it, Herod rebuilt the city and the Temple. But soon afterwards—i.e. in A.D. 70, Jerusalem was completely destroyed by Titus. Only nine years later Monte Somma began to throw up fire as it had never done before, and by it Pompeii and Herculaneum were both destroyed. Pompeii and Herculaneum were Sodom and Gomorrah, and a temple in Pompeii contained an image of Vespasian, who had laid waste part of Jerusalem before Titus. It disappeared altogether. Do you think perhaps that the Christians set Vesuvius on fire, as Nero believed they had fired Rome in A.D. 64?"

Julian reflected: "There were nine years between," he said, "but it seems strange."

"Yes," answered Maximus, "but precisely in the same year 70, in which Titus destroyed the Temple, the Capitol was burnt."

"Then it is the gods who are warring, and we are only soldiers," exclaimed Julian.

Priscus the Sophist, who liked word-encounters, determined to stir up the embers, as they seemed to be expiring: "But Christ has said that one stone shall not remain upon another, and that the Temple shall never be built again."

"Has Christ said that?" answered Julian. "Very well; then he shall show whether he was a god, for I will build again the Temple of Solomon."

And turning to Eleazar, he continued, "Do you believe in prodigies?"

"As surely as the Lord lives, as surely as Abraham's God has brought us out of Egyptian bondage and given us Canaan, so surely will He fulfil the promise, and restore to us land, city, and Temple!"

"May it be with you according to your belief. The Temple shall be built up, even though it be not in three days as the Galilaean thought."

* * * * *

The winter solstice had come, and the Feast of the Saturnalia commenced in Lutetia. The heathen had always kept the feast in recollection of the legendary Golden Age, which was said to have been under the reign of the good Saturn. Then there was peace upon earth; the lion played with the lamb, the fields brought forth harvests without husbandry, weapons were not forged, for men were good and righteous. This beautiful festival, which had been discontinued by the Romans, had been revived by the Christians, who at Christ's coming expected a new Golden Age or the Millennium. But now Julian wished to restore to the heathen their privilege, and at the same time to show the Nazarenes whence they had derived their religious usages.

The heathen began to keep the festival in the old way. The shops were closed, and the city decorated, when on the morrow a procession was seen issuing from the Basilica to the market-place. At the head went King Saturn, with his horn of plenty, corn-sheaves, and doves; he was followed by the Virtues, Fortune, Wealth, Peace, Righteousness. Then followed an actor dressed like the Emperor, and by the hand he led a captive, who, in honour of the day, had been freed from his chains. He was followed by citizens who took their slaves by the arm; and these in their turn by women and children, who scattered corn from the sheaves for the sparrows in the street. The procession passed through the streets, and at first pleased the beholders.

Then they entered the temple, where there was a seated image of Jupiter in the apse. It had been cunningly modelled to resemble God the Father, or Moses, as he began to be represented about that time. Near and a little beneath this image stood Orpheus in the character of the Good Shepherd, with a lamb on his shoulders, and carved in relief on the pedestal was to be seen his descent to Hades, from which he returned bringing Dik (Justice),—a play on the name Eurydice. This was a direct hit at the Christians. Before the divine images stood the Jewish shewbread table, with the bread and the wine—a reminder of the source from which the Christians had taken the Eucharist or the Mass. As though by chance, a new-born heathen child was brought and baptized in the font. To the question of one, who had studied his part, whether heathen were baptized, it was answered by one, who also had his role assigned him, that the ancients had always washed their new-born children.

The whole affair was a comedy staged by Julian.

Then Maximus mounted the pulpit, and, in a Neo-platonic discourse, expounded all religious images, symbols, and customs. He also showed that the heathen only worshipped one God, whose many attributes found expression in various personifications. Then he ostensibly defended Christ's Deity, the Virgin birth, and miracles. "We are," he said, "all of divine origin, since God has created us, and we are His children. There is nothing remarkable in Christ being born without a father, since the philosopher Plato was also born of a virgin without a father." In the middle of his discourse he exclaimed: "Miracles! Why should we not believe in miracles, since we believe in Almighty God? His omnipotence signifies that He can suspend the laws of nature which he has established. He who believes not in miracles is therefore an ass." The discourse was listened to by heathen and Christians. The latter thought that they had never heard anything which so clearly explained mysterious dogmas, and the heathen found that they were one with the Christians. "What, then, stands between us?" exclaimed Maximus, carried away by the sight of the harmony and mutual understanding which prevailed among his audience. "Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why, then, strive one against the other? Have we not here to day celebrated the recollection of the better times which have been, and which will surely return, as the light returns with the renewal of the sun—times of reconciliation and peace on earth, when no one will be master and no one slave? Here is neither Jew nor Greek nor Barbarian, but we are all brothers and sisters in one faith. Therefore love one another; reconcile yourselves with God and each other; give each other the kiss of peace; rejoice, perfect yourselves, be of one mind, and the God of love and peace shall be with you."

The audience was delighted, and with streaming eyes fell in each other's arms, pressed each other's hands, and kissed each other's cheeks.

Then suddenly a row of lights was kindled on the altar; that was part of the ceremonial of the Saturnalia, and signified the return of the sun. This custom was adopted by the Christians in celebrating the Birth of Christ or Christmas.

After this beggars were brought forward, and those of the upper classes washed their feet. Then twelve slaves took their seats at a covered table, while their masters served them. Julian, who, hidden in the Opisthodom, had watched the whole ceremony, secretly rejoiced, because by means of these ancient heathen rites he had entirely defeated the Christians. In them, as he had intended, there was a wordless expression of philanthropy and charity, and both had existed from time immemorial.

Finally, the children were brought forward, and received as presents dolls modelled of wax and clay. The illusion was complete, and the Christians felt as though under an enchanter's spell. "The heathen are Christians after all!" they exclaimed. "Why, then, strive and quarrel, when we are one?"

There was an overflow of emotion, and the success of the experiment was complete. That was the victory of the first day. When, on the following day, the Christians wished to celebrate their Christmas festival, it necessarily appeared a mere copy of that of the heathen.

* * * * *

The Saturnalia lasted seven days, and Julian, intoxicated with his success, resolved to introduce the whole of the ancient ceremonies in all their terrible splendour. His philosophers warned him, but he did not listen to them any more; he must have his hecatombs; a hundred oxen adorned with garlands were to be slaughtered in the open space before the Temple of Jupiter, as a sacrifice to the ancient gods.

"He is mad!" lamented Eleazar.

"Whom the gods would destroy, they strike with blindness. Now he pulls down, what he had built up."

It is difficult to explain how the highly cultivated, clever, and aesthetic Julian could conceive the wild idea of reintroducing animal sacrifices. It was really butchery or execution, and neither butchers nor executioners enjoyed much respect in society. It looked as though his hatred of Christ had clouded his understanding, when, arrayed in the garb of a sacrificial priest, he led forth the first ox, with its horns gilded and wearing a white fillet.

After he had kindled incense on the altar, he poured the bowl of wine over the head of the ox, thrust his knife in its throat and turned it round. A shudder ran through the crowd, who remained riveted to their places.

But as the blood spirted around, and the Emperor opened the quivering body of the animal in order to take an augury from its entrails, a cry rose which ended in an uproar, and all fled. The word "Apostate!" for the first time struck his ear. That was the signal of his defeat, and, as the animals were released by those who held them, they fled away through the streets of the town.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse