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The Works Of Dionysius by Dionysius

Epistle XI.--To Hermammon.

1. But Gallus did not understand the wickedness of Decius, nor did he note beforehand what it was that wrought his ruin. But he stumbled at the very stone which was lying before his eyes; for when his sovereignty was in a prosperous position, and when affairs were turning out according to his wish, he oppressed those holy men who interceded with God on behalf of his peace and his welfare. And consequently, persecuting them, he persecuted also the prayers offered in his own behalf.

2. And to John a revelation is made in like manner: |And there was given unto him,| he says, |a mouth speaking great things, and blasphemy; and power was given unto him, and forty and two months.| And one finds both things to wonder at in Valerian's case; and most especially has one to consider how different it was with him before these events, -- how mild and well-disposed he was towards the men of God. For among the emperors who preceded him, there was not one who exhibited so kindly and favourable a disposition toward them as he did; yea, even those who were said to have become Christians openly did not receive them with that extreme friendliness and graciousness with which he received them at the beginning of his reign; and his whole house was filled then with the pious, and it was itself a very church of God. But the master and president of the Magi of Egypt prevailed on him to abandon that course, urging him to slay and persecute those pure and holy men as adversaries and obstacles to their accursed and abominable incantations. For there are, indeed, and there were men who, by their simple presence, and by merely showing themselves, and by simply breathing and uttering some words, have been able to dissipate the artifices of wicked demons. But he put it into his mind to practise the impure rites of initiation, and detestable juggleries, and execrable sacrifices, and to slay miserable children, and to make oblations of the offspring of unhappy fathers, and to divide the bowels of the newly-born, and to mutilate and cut up the creatures made by God, as if by such means they would attain to blessedness.

3. Afterwards he subjoins the following: -- Splendid surely were the thank-offerings, then, which Macrianus brought them for that empire which was the object of his hopes; who, while formerly reputed as the sovereign's faithful public treasurer, had yet no mind for anything which was either reasonable in itself or conducive to the public good, but subjected himself to that curse of prophecy which says, |Woe unto those who prophesy from their own heart, and see not the public good!| For he did not discern that providence which regulates all things; nor did he think of the judgment of Him who is before all, and through all, and over all. Wherefore he also became an enemy to His Catholic Church; and besides that, he alienated and estranged himself from the mercy of God, and fled to the utmost possible distance from His salvation. And in this indeed he demonstrated the reality of the peculiar significance of his name.

4. And again, after some other matters, he proceeds thus: -- For Valerian was instigated to these acts by this man, and was thereby exposed to contumely and reproach, according to the word spoken by the Lord to Isaiah: |Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their own abominations in which their souls delighted; I also will choose their mockeries, and will recompense their sin.| But this man (Macrianus), being maddened with his passion for the empire, all unworthy of it as he was, and at the same time having no capacity for assuming the insignia of imperial government, by reason of his crippled body, put forward his two sons as the bearers, so to speak, of their father's offences. For unmistakeably apparent in their case was the truth of that declaration made by God, when He said, |Visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.| For he heaped his own wicked passions, for which he had failed in securing satisfaction, upon the heads of his sons, and thus wiped off upon them his own wickedness, and transferred to them, too, the hatred he himself had shown toward God.

5. That man, then, after he had betrayed the one and made war upon the other of the emperors preceding him, speedily perished, with his whole family, root and branch. And Gallienus was proclaimed, and acknowledged by all. And he was at once an old emperor and a new; for he was prior to those, and he also survived them. To this effect indeed is the word spoken by the Lord to Isaiah: |Behold, the things which were from the beginning have come to pass; and there are new things which shall now arise.| For as a cloud which intercepts the sun's rays, and overshadows it for a little, obscures it, and appears itself in its place, but again, when the cloud has passed by or melted away, the sun, which had risen before, comes forth again and shows itself: so did this Macrianus put himself forward, and achieve access for himself even to the very empire of Gallienus now established; but now he is that no more, because indeed he never was it, while this other, i.e., Gallienus, is just as he was. And his empire, as if it had cast off old age, and had purged itself of the wickedness formerly attaching to it, is at present in a more vigorous and flourishing condition, and is now seen and heard of at greater distances, and stretches abroad in every direction.

6. Then he further indicates the exact time at which he wrote this account, as follows: -- And it occurs to me again to review the days of the imperial years. For I see that those most impious men, whose names may have been once so famous, have in a short space become nameless. But our more pious and godly prince has passed his septennium, and is now in his ninth year, in which we are to celebrate the festival.

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