I have decided to take a break from Bloodlands; after writing about such devastation and hell for several weeks – and adding to that my recent post about the Armenian Genocide – I felt the desire to get away from this most cruel history for a time. What a rotten century for so many people.
I decided to revisit a book I have read once before – not for the purpose of offering a detailed series of reviews, but just to read. Something of a lighter nature; a topic not so bloody, not so depressing.
A History of Medieval Europe, by RHC Davis.
Yes, the Middle Ages. In many ways a much brighter period than the supposedly more enlightened twentieth century.
I have written somewhat extensively about the Middle Ages; in terms of law, culture, technology, etc., there is much to be said that is positive of this period – certainly relative to the stereotypical view. I have cited Davis’s book in one or two of those posts, but never reviewed this book directly.
I am not going to do so now, either. However, when I come across interesting tidbits, I cannot help but want to capture these. In order to allow myself to keep my reading of this book relatively light while at the same time relieving myself of the burden of wanting to note certain items, I will offer short posts as I go along.
Again, these will not be extensive reviews; some posts may be little more than the citing of a passage, or comparing and contrasting a passage to something I have written before.
With all of that as preamble, here is something from the book for Laurence Vance: the case is that of one “Andronicus,” an early fourth-century Christian martyr:
There are two accounts of their martyrdom, the first account being held by Thierry Ruinart (Acta Martyrum, ed. Ratisbon, 448 sq.) to be entirely authentic. According to these Acts, Tarachus (ca. 239- 304), a Roman who was a native of Claudiopolis in Isauria and a former soldier, the plebeian Probus of Side in Pamphylia, and the patrician Andronicus, who belonged to a prominent family of Ephesus, were tried by the governor Numerian Maximus and horribly tortured three times in various cities, including Tarsus, Mopsuestia, and Anazarbus of Cilicia.
The magistrate had had the bread and meat of sacrifice thrust into Andronicus’s mouth so that he should not have to pay the penalty of martyrdom.
Apparently, Roman law required the citizens to eat the bread and meat sacrificed to Roman gods. These three Christians would not do this; the magistrate even trying to force it upon them during the torture.
Andronicus did not react kindly or thankfully to this act. Snyder quotes from JB Firth, Constantine the Great, published in 1905:
‘May you be punished, bloody tyrant, both you and those who have given you power to defile me with your impious sacrifices!’ shouted Andronicus. ‘One day you will know what you have done to the servants of God.’
‘Accursed scoundrel,’ replied the magistrate, ‘do you dare to curse the emperors who have given the world such long and profound peace?’
‘I have cursed them and I will curse them,’ was the reply, ‘these public scourges, these drinkers of blood that have turned the world upside-down.’
I guess a Roman “global force for good” was insufficient reason for Andronicus to offer his worship. Instead, Andronicus had further choice words when questioned and threatened by the governor:
Maximus: Adore the gods, and obey the emperors, who are our fathers and masters.
Andronicus: The devil is your father while you do his works.
Andronicus did not interpret Romans 13 the way many Christians do today – “obey your emperor” no matter the “devil” that is his father.
Maximus: If you had but the least sense of piety, you would sacrifice to the gods whom the emperors so religiously worship.
Andronicus: That is not piety, but impiety to abandon the true God, and worship marble.
“Religiously worship” marble: the troops and the flag. Andronicus would have none of that nonsense and blasphemy. Keep in mind, all of this is happening while Andronicus is being physical tortured.
Maximus: My authority shall not be baffled by you.
Andronicus: Nor shall it ever be said that the cause of Jesus Christ is vanquished by your authority.
What? There goes that Romans 13 thing again, right out the window.
Maximus: Do not expect to die at once. I will keep you alive till the time of the shows, that you may see your limbs devoured one after another by cruel beasts.
Andronicus: You are more inhuman than the tigers, and more insatiable with blood than the most barbarous murderers.
There was a time when the cost of speaking truth to power for a Christian was death. This is true nowhere in the West today, to my knowledge. Yet almost every so-called Christian leader avoids confronting the evil of the state; even worse, many fully and whole-heartedly support this evil.
Cowards and blasphemers.
Constantine became Christian – a Christian Emperor of Rome. In doing so, he took a step that changed Europe fundamentally, a step that ultimately ensured European culture would survive and thrive during the Middle Ages – likely avoiding what would otherwise have been properly labeled a Dark Age after the fall of Rome.