The emperor, on being informed that Athanasius held meetings in the church of Alexandria, and taught the people boldly, and converted many pagans to Christianity, commanded him, under the severest penalties, to depart from Alexandria. The pretext made use of for enforcing this edict, was that Athanasius, after having been banished by Constantius, had reassumed his episcopal see without the sanction of the reigning emperor; for Julian declared that he had never contemplated restoring the bishops who had been exiled by Constantius to their ecclesiastical functions, but only to their native land. On the announcement of the command enjoining his immediate departure, Athanasius said to the Christian multitudes who stood weeping around him, |Be of good courage; it is but a cloud which will speedily be dispersed.| After these words he bade farewell; he then committed the care of the church to the most zealous of his friends and quitted Alexandria.
About the same period, the inhabitants of Cyzicus sent an embassy to the emperor to lay before him some of their private affairs, and particularly to entreat the restoration of the pagan temples. He applauded their forethought, and promised to grant all their requests. He expelled Eleusius, the bishop of their city, because he had destroyed some temples, and desecrated the sacred areas with contumely, provided houses for the support of widows, erected buildings for holy virgins, and induced pagans to abandon their ancestral rites.
The emperor prohibited some foreign Christians, who had accompanied him, from entering the city of Cyzicus, from the apprehension, it appears, that they would, in conjunction with the Christians within the city, excite a sedition on account of religion. There were many persons gathered with them who also held like religious views with the Christians of the city, and who were engaged in woolen manufactures for the state, and were coiners of money. They were numerous, and were divided into two populous classes; they had received permission from preceding emperors to dwell, with their wives and possessions, in Cyzicus, provided that they annually handed over to the public treasury a supply of clothes for the soldiery and of newly coined money.
Although Julian was anxious to advance paganism by every means, yet he deemed it the height of imprudence to employ force or vengeance against those who refused to sacrifice. Besides, there were so many Christians in every city that it would have been no easy task for the rulers even to number them. He did not even forbid them to assemble together for worship, as he was aware that when freedom of the will is called into question, constraint is utterly useless. He expelled the clergy and presidents of the churches from all the cities, in order to put an end to these assemblies, saying truly that by their absence the gatherings of the people would be effectually dissolved, if indeed there were none to convene the churches, and none to teach or to dispense the mysteries, religion itself would, in the course of time, fall into oblivion. The pretext which he advanced for these proceedings was, that the clergy were the leaders of sedition among the people. Under this plea, he expelled Eleusius and his friends from Cyzicus, although there was not even a symptom nor expectation of sedition in that city. He also publicly called upon the citizens of Bostra to expel Titus, their bishop. It appears that the emperor had threatened to impeach Titus and the other clergy as the authors of any sedition that might arise among the people, and that Titus had thereupon written stating to him that although the Christians were near the pagans in number, yet that, in accordance with his exhortations, they were disposed to remain quiet, and were not likely to rise up in sedition. Julian, with the view of not exciting the enmity of the inhabitants of Bostra against Titus, represented, in a letter which he addressed to them, that their bishop had advanced a calumny against them, by stating that it was in accordance with his exhortations rather than with their own inclination that they refrained from sedition; and Julian exhorted them to expel him from their city as a public enemy.
It appears that the Christians were subjected to similar injustice in other places; sometimes by the command of the emperor, and sometimes by the wrath and impetuosity of the populace. The blame of these transactions may be justly imputed to the ruler; for he did not bring under the force of law the transgressors of law, but out of his hatred to the Christian religion, he only visited the perpetrators of such deeds with verbal rebukes, while, by his actions, he urged them on in the same course. Hence although not absolutely persecuted by the emperor, the Christians were obliged to flee from city to city and village to village. My grandfather and many of my ancestors were compelled to flee in this manner. My grandfather was of pagan parentage; and, with his own family and that of Alaphion, had been the first to embrace Christianity in Bethelia, a populous town near Gaza, in which there are temples highly reverenced by the people of the country, on account of their antiquity and structural excellence. The most celebrated of these temples is the Pantheon, built on an artificial eminence commanding a view of the whole town. The conjecture is that the place received its name from the temple, that the original name given to this temple was in the Syriac language, and that this name was afterwards rendered into Greek and expressed by a word which signifies that the temple is the residence of all the gods.
It is said that the above-mentioned families were converted through the instrumentality of the monk Hilarion. Alaphion, it appears, was possessed of a devil; and neither the pagans nor the Jews could, by any incantations and enchantments, deliver him from this affliction; but Hilarion, by simply calling on the name of Christ, expelled the demon, and Alaphion, with his whole family, immediately embraced Christianity.
My grandfather was endowed with great natural ability, which he applied with success to the explanation of the Sacred Scriptures; he had made some attainments in general knowledge, and was not ignorant of arithmetic. He was much beloved by the Christians of Ascalon, of Gaza, and of the surrounding country; and was regarded as necessary to religion, on account of his gift in expounding the doubtful points of Scripture. No one can speak in adequate terms of the virtues of the other family. The first churches and monasteries erected in that country were founded by members of this family and supported by their power and beneficence towards strangers and the needy. Some good men belonging to this family have flourished even in our own days; and in my youth I saw some of them, but they were then very aged. I shall have occasion to say more concerning them in the course of my history.