Antiochus Strategos

Antiochus Strategos: The Sack of Jerusalem (614)
Byzantine law granted toleration to Jews [Theodosian Code 16.8.21], although there were occasional attempts at forced conversion [Leo VI, Novels], but there was a general prejudice against Jews. The following account of the fall of Jerusalem to the Persians in 614, by the monk Antiochus Stategos, who live din the monastary (lavra) of St. Sabas inJerusalem, shows this attitude. It provides a Byzantine version of the later blood libel.

It also, of course, may reflect Jewish resistance to Byzantine restrictions an oppression.

Finally, it might be noted that, despite Antiochus’ account, the Persians of this period seem to have been significantly more tolerant of religious diversity than almost any contemporary government. They began the system, long continued and later known (under the Turks) as the Millet system by which each religious group governed itself in religious and family matters.

The beginning of the struggle of the Persians with the Christians of Jerusalem was on the 15th April, in the second indiction, in the fourth year of the Emperor Heraclius. They spent twenty days in the struggle. And they shot from their ballistas with such violence, that on the twenty-first day they broke down the city wall. Thereupon the evil; foemen entered the city in great fury, like infuriated wild beasts and irritated serpents. The men however, who defended the city wall fled, and hid themselves in caverns, fosses and cisterns in order to save themselves; and the people in crowds fled into churches and altars; and there they destroyed them.

For the enemy entered in a mighty wrath, gnashing their teeth in violent fury; like evil beasts they roared, bellowed like lions, hissed like ferocious serpents, and slew all whom they found. Lile mad dogs they tore with their teeth the flesh of the faithful, and respected non at all, neither male nor female, neither young nor old, neither child nor baby, neither priest no monk, neither virgin nor widow….

Meanwhile the evil Persians, who had no pity in their hearts, raced to every place in the city and with one accord extirpated all the people. Anyone who ran away in terror they caught hold of; and if any cried out from fear, they roared at them with gashing teeth, and by breaking their teeth on the ground forced them to close their mouths.

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Willibald and Mother Church, like a hen that cherishes her offspring beneath her wings, won over many adoptive sons to the Lord, protecting them continually with the shield of his kindliness. These he trained with gentleness and sympathy, detaching them from their imperfections until they reached perfect maturity. These, having followed in the steps of their master and absorbed his teaching, have now become famous for the training they give to others.

This, then, was Willibald, who at first began to practise a holy life with the support of but a few helpers, but who at last, after struggling in many ways against the opposition of numerous chieftains and courtiers, gained possession of a people worthy of the Lord.

Treasures worthy of our Lord

Far and wide through the vast province of Bavaria he drove his plough, sowing the seed and reaping the harvest with the help of many fellow¬labourers. And all though the land of Bavaria, now dotted about with chu

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Soon after he came there, the archbishop St. Boniface, Burchard and Wizo consecrated him and invested him with the sacred authority of the episcopate. He remained there for a week after he was consecrated bishop and then returned once more to the place which had been allotted him. At the time of his consecration Willibald was forty¬one years old; he was consecrated at Salzburg in the autumn, about three weeks before the Feast of St. Martin.

The long course of Willibald’s travels and sightseeing on which he had spent seven long years was now over and gone. We have tried to set down and make known all the facts which have been ascertained and thoroughly investigated.

These facts were not learned from anyone else but heard from Willibald himself; and having received them from his own lips, we have taken them down and written them in the Monastery of Heidenheim, as his deacons and other subordinates can testify. I say this so that no one may afterwards say tha

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The Supreme Pontiff, in whom is vested the highest authority, at once replied that his command was sufficient permission, and he ordered him to set out obediently without any qualm of conscience, saying: “If I am free to transfer the abbot Petronax himself to any other place, then certainly he has no permission or power to oppose my wishes.” And so Willibald replied on the spot that he would willingly carry out his wishes and commands, not only there but anywhere in the world, whereever he had a mind to send him. He then pledged himself to go in accordance with his wishes without any further delay. After this, the discussion being ended, Willibald departed at Easter¬time, reaching his journey’s end on the Feast of St. Andrew. Tidbercht, however, remained behind at St. Benedict’s.

He went to Lucca, where his father was buried, and thence to the city of Pavia, from there to Brescia and thence to a place which is called Garda. Then he came to Duke Odi

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After this, a priest who came from Spain to St. Benedict’s and stayed there asked permission of Abbot Petronax to go to Rome. When the permission was asked Petronax without hesitation begged Willibald to accompany him and take him to St. Peter’s. He gave his consent at once and promised to fulfil the mission. So they set out, and when they came to Rome and entered the basilica of St. Peter they asked the protection of the heavenly keeper of the keys and commended themselves to his kindly patronage.

Then the sacred Pontiff of the Apostolic See, Gregory III, hearing that the venerable man Willibald was there, sent for him to come into his presence. And when he came to the Supreme Pontiff he fell down at once on his face to the ground and greeted him. And immediately that pious Shepherd of the People began to question him about the details of his journey and asked him earnestly how he had spent seven years travelling to the ends of the earth and how he had contriv

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Embarking once more, they came to a city called Naples and remained there several days. It is the seat of an archbishop whose dignity is great there. Not far away is the small town of Lucullanum, where the body of St. Severinus is preserved. Then he came to the city of Capua, and the archbishop there sent him to the bishop of another town; that bishop sent hiln to the Bishop of Teano, and he in turn sent him to St. Benedict’s [at Monte Cassino]. It was autumn when he reached Monte Cassino, and it was seven years since he first began his journey from Rome and ten years in all since he had left his native country.

The return of the legates to Rome was occasioned by the excommurucation clf Leo the Isaurian in 728, who had threatened Pope Gregorv II.

See the Dialogues of Gregory the Great, iv. c. 30. Theodoric was supposed to have been cast into hell for having imprisoned and caused the death of Pope lohn V and for having killed Symmachus, the Senator. Arculf&#

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They were there for a long time waiting for a ship to get ready. Afterwards they sailed during the whole of the winter, from the feast of St. Andrew [30 November] until a week before Easter. Then they landed at the city of Constantinople, where the bodies of three saints, Andrew, Timothy and Luke the Evangelist, lie beneath one altar, whilst the body of St. John Chrysostom lies before another.

His tomb is there where, as a priest, he stood to celebrate Mass. Our bishop stayed there for two years and had an alcove in the church so that every day he could sit and gaze upon the place where the saints lay at rest. Thence he went to Nicea, where formerly the Emperor Constantine held a council at which three hundred and eighteen bishops were present, all taking an active part.

The church there resembles the one at Mount Olivet, where our Lord ascended into heaven; and in the church are all the portraits of the bishops who took part in the Council. Willibald went there

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Then they travelled across a wide plain covered with Olive trees, and with them travelled an Ethiopian and his two camels, who led a woman on a mule through the woods. And as they went on their way, a lion with gaping jaws came out upon them growling and roaring, ready to seize and devour them; it terrified them greatly. But the Ethiopian said: “Have no fear-let us go forward.”

So without hesitation they proceeded on their way and as they approached the lion it turned aside and, through the help of Almighty God, left the way open for them to continue their journey. And they said that a short time after they had left that place they heard the same lion roaring, as if in his fury he would devour many of the men who went there to gather olives.

Between Tyre and Ptolomaeis

When they came to the town which is called Ptolomaeis, which stands by the edge of the sea, they continued their journey and reached the summit of Libanus, where that mounta

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The remains of the church of St. George, who was said to have been born there, are still to be seen: they have been restored as a Greek Church. Arculf gives the first account of St. George known to have been circulated in Britain. It is worthy of notice that the north of England where his narrative was well known, had a great devotion to St. George, a piace being assigned to him in the Anglo¬Saxon ritual of Durham, which is probably of the early ninth century. A “Passilon of St. George ” was written by Aelfric, Archbishop of York, A.D. 1021¬51. Arculf describes the marble column to which St. George was bound whilst being scourged.

He then travelled over three hundred miles to the town of Emesa in Syria, and thence he came to Salamias[1] which is on the farther borders of Syria. He spent the whole season of Lent there because he was ill and unable to travel. His companions, who were in his party, went forward to the King of the Saracens, named Murmumni, to ask

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After praying there, they departed and care to a large town called Thecua: this is the place where the Holy Innocents were slaughtered by Herod. A church stands there now. In it rests the body of one of the prophets. Then they came to the Laura [Halsall” i.e. monastery] in the valley: it is a great monastery and there resides the abbot and the doorkeeper who keeps the keys of the church.

The mountain surrounds the valley

Many are the monks who belong to that monastery, and they dwell Scattered round the valley on the summits of the hills where they have little cells cut out for them from the stony rock of the hills. The mountain surrounds the valley in which the monastery is built: there lies the body of St. Saba.

St. Saba founded the monastery in A.D. 483 and was made by the Patriarch of Jerusalem archimandrite over all the monasteries of Palestine.

Thence they came to the spot where Philip baptized the eunuch A small church stands th

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In the valley there is a church of our Lady andl the church is her tomb (not that her body lies at rest there, but as a memorial to her). After praying there, he climbed Mount Olivet,which is near to the valley at its eastern end-the valley lies betveen Jerusalem and Alount Olivet. On Mount Olivet there is now a church on the spot where our Lord prayed before His passon and said to his Disciples: ” Watch and pray that ye enter nct into temptation.” Then he came to the very hill whence our lord ascended into heaven.

In the centre of the church is a bsautiful candlestick sculptured in bronze: it is square and stands ia the middle of the church where our Lord ascended into heavel In thle middle of the bronze candlestick is a square vessel of glass, and in the glass is a small lamp, and round about the lamp, c]osed on all sides, is the glass. The reason why it is closed on all sides is that the lamp may burn both in good weather and bad.

Between the pill