Early Church - Byzantium b - RR160B5b
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In summer, this is from a contemporary account now, in summer when attacked they would have to disappear like frogs into the water or into the woods. In winter they had to take refuge behind the shelter of their numerous stockades. They’d dive under water and lying on their backs on the bottom they’d breathe through a long reed and thus escape destruction. For the inexperienced take these projecting reeds for natural but the experienced recognized by their cut and pierce the body through with them or pull them out so that the diver must come to the surface if he will not be stifled. It was this people [now going on) of such unpromising origin who multiplied into the mighty millions of Slavic peoples covering Eastern and South-Eastern Europe today. Their expansion is exactly parallel to the German expansion southward from the shores of the Baltic but whereas the Germanic migration was eruptive like a volcano the Slavonic was a gradual percolation like that of a flood rolling slowly forward. From their very nature and experience the Slavs could not expand by conquest but they moved noiselessly into unclaimed territory or areas vacated by the immigration of Germans. To the north-East of their original homelands stretched the empty reaches of Russia to the Northern valleys of the upper [unknown] to the north-west valleys of the Vistula and the old now abandoned German homeland of the older extended west to the Alps and the Sauk to the south-west, the northern slopes of the [unknown] and the abandoned homeland of [unknown], modern Czechoslovakia, to the south, the steps of Southern Russia, for a while the home of [unknown], but now filled by regular succession of Mongolian nomads from Asia. [00:03:00]
And if that wasn’t bad enough then the next pressure...
And if that wasn’t bad enough then the next pressure both on these peoples and on Byzantium was Attila the Hun. And just a few accounts of their character from the period, because it gives us something of the flavor of history when we get the words of men of the day telling us what they were like.
Yes, now the Huns, under Attila.
“They subdued the [unknown] also wearing out by constant warfare a race which was equal to them in war but unlike them in civilization, mode of life and appearance. Those men whom they perhaps in no wise surpassed in war they put to flight by the terror of their looks and sparing them with no little horror by their awful aspect and by their horribly swarthy appearance. They have a sort of shapeless lump if I may say so, not a face, and pinholes rather than eyes. Their wild appearance gives evidence of the hardihood of their spirits for they are cruel even to their children on the first day they are born. They cut the cheeks of the males with a sword so that before they receive the nourishment of milk they are compelled to learn to endure a wound. They grow old without beards and the youths are without good looks because a face furloughed by a sword spoils by its scars the natural grace of a beard. Somewhat short in stature they are trained to quick bodily movement and are very alert in horsemanship and ready with bow and arrow. They have broad shoulders and thick set necks and are always erect and proud. These men in short live in the form of humans but with a savagery of beasts. “
Then these men are an embassy from Byzantium to Attila...
Then these men are an embassy from Byzantium to Attila.
“At the village food was supplied to us generously, millet instead of wheat and mead as it is called in the native tongue instead of wine. The attendants following us were also supplied with millet and a drink made of barley was provided. Having completed the long journey late in the afternoon we camped by a certain lake which had fresh water and once the inhabitants of the nearby village drew their water. A wind and a storm arose and a sudden accompanied by thunder and frequent lightning flashes and the heavy down pour of rain and not only overturned our tent but also rolled all our gear into the water of the lake. Terrified by the tumult which ruled the water and by what had happened we left the place and were separated by one another and as in the dark and in the rain each of those took whatever road he thought would be easy for himself. When we came to the huts of the village for we returned to it all by different routes we met in the same place and searched shouting for the things we needed. The Scythians who were ruled by the Huns and were under them leaped out at the tumult and lit the reeds which they used for fire and having made a light they asked why we were in such an outcry. The barbarians with us answered that we had been thrown into confusion by the storm and so they summoned us to their own huts and burning a great many reeds furnished a shelter. A woman rules in the village, she had been one of Gladys’s wives and she sent us provisions and good looking women to comfort us. This is a Scythian compliment but we when the [unknown] had been laid out showed them kindness but refused intercourse with them [These are Christian men]. We remained in the huts until daylight and then turned to search for our baggage. We found it all, some in the places where we had chance to haul it, some on the bank of the lake and some in the water itself. We spent that day in the village drying out all our things for the sun had stopped and the sun was shining.”
He then describes their visit with Attila and then...
He then describes their visit with Attila and then they meet someone from Byzantium who had been taken captive and now was living amongst the Huns and the Scythians and they speak to him:
“Having greeted him in turn I asked who he was and from where he had come into this barbaric land and taken up a Scythian life. He in turn asked why was he was so eager to know this. I answered that the reason for my curiosity was his Hellenic speech. He then laughing said that he was a Greek by race and that he had gone for trade to [unknown] the city of Murcia on the Danube river and had lived in it for a long time and had married a very rich woman but when the city came under the barbarians he had been stripped of his prosperity and on account of the wealth belonging to him had been assigned to [unknown] in the distribution of the spoils for the elite of the Scythians after Attila took the captives selected from among the well to do because they sold for the most money. He fought bravely in the latter battles with the Romans and the nations of the [unknown] and having given his barbarian master according to the law of the Scythians what he had gained for himself in the war he had obtained his freedom. He had married a barbarian woman and had children, he was a partaker of the table of [unknown], one of the leaders, and led a better life at present than he had formerly. Among the Scythians, said he, men are accustomed to live at ease after war, each enjoying what he has causing very little or no trouble and not being troubled. Among the Romans however men are easily destroyed in war, in the first place, because they put their hopes of safety in others since on account of their tyrants all men are not allowed to use arms.”
Sounds quite modern, doesn’t it? This was Rome and Italy that he’s talking about. Then perhaps just one more about Attila’s death, the great Hun had not long to live and a few weeks or months later the time of his death as the historian Proclus reports and this are Proclus’s words:
“Attila took to marriage a very beautiful girl [unknown...
“Attila took to marriage a very beautiful girl [unknown] by name after numerous other wives according to the custom of his grace. Worn out by excessive merriment at his wedding and sodden with sleep and wine he lay on his back. In this position a hemorrhage which ordinarily would have flowed from his nose since it was hindered from its accustomed channels poured down his throat in deadly passage and killed him. So drunkenness put a shameful end to a king in war. But late on the following day the royal attendants expecting some misfortune after loud shouts broke down the doors. They found Attila dead from the flow of blood unwounded and the girl with downcast look weeping beneath her veil. Then as is the custom of that race they cut off parts of their hair and disfigured their faces horribly with deep wounds so that the distinguished warrior might bewailed not with feminine lamentations and tears but with manly blood. Concerning this event had happened [well that I’ll skip over]. Attilla was considered fearsome to such a degree by the Empires that supernatural signs showed his death to rulers by way of boon. In the middle of a plain in a silk tent his body was laid out and solemnly displayed to inspire awe. The most select horsemen of the whole Hunnish race rode around him where he had been placed in the fashion of the circus races uttering his funeral song as follows: chief of the Huns, King Attila, born of [unknown] his father, lord of the mightiest races, who alone with power unknown before his time held the city and German realms and even terrified both empires of the Roman world captured their cities and placated by their prayers took yearly tribute from them to save the rest from being plundered. When he had done all these things through the kindness of fortune neither by enemies wound nor friend’s treachery but with his nation secure amid his pleasures and in happiness and without sense of pain he fell. Who would then consider this a death which no one thinks should be avenged. After he had been mourned with such a lamentation they celebrated [unknown] as they called it over his tomb with great revelry, coupling opposite extremes of feeling in turn among themselves. They expressed funereal grief mixed with joy and then secretly by night they buried the body in the ground. They bound his coffins, the first with gold, the second with silver, and the third with iron, showing by such a device that these things suited to a most mighty king. Iron because with it he subdued nation, gold and silver because he received the honors of both empires. They added arms of enemies gained in battle, fittings costly in the gleam of their various precious stones and ornaments of every kind and sort whereby royal state is upheld. In order that human curiosity might be kept away from such great riches they slaughtered those appointed to the task, a grim payment for their work, so sudden death covered the buriers and the buried.” [00:14:18]
Attila the Hun when he died the Hunnish empire fell...
Attila the Hun when he died the Hunnish empire fell apart and the Huns disintegrated and they merged with various peoples, the Scythians moved across Northern Europe and settled here and there, and some of them finally wound up and settled in Scotland. Very interesting, they’ve left their mark on Scotland in various relics as well as in certain words that have survived to this day. Now one item more, and again I’m going to read because it’s very interesting, I’m taking a little longer but we’ve got to cover a great deal of ground tonight. About Byzantium, now I’ve had gone into great length in our chapter about the nature of Byzantium and I’d like to read a few pages of Rene Guerdon’s book, Byzantium It’s Triumphs and Tragedies. And the title of this chapter of which I’ll read just a little is A State With a Gospel For Constitution. Now their conception of Christianity was very defective, very wrong at points, but all the same because they took even their defective version as the constitution they were able to create the greatest state, the greatest Empire of all history. Guerdon writes:
“What could be the Constitution of a state that had Christ as its sovereign? There could be only one answer, the gospel. In Byzantium then it was the gospel that determined the structure of society and the position of the individual. From this it follows that the Byzantine Empire was essentially a democracy and an authoritian one, doubtless, but a democracy in the sense that the regime was equalitarian. First, there were no class or caste prejudices. The highest positions were open to all, entrance to the administration, the best ladder to success, was wide open to everyone. Advancement in it did not depend upon age or birth but upon merit or ability.”
And then he goes on to cite how many ordinary people...
And then he goes on to cite how many ordinary people, [unknown], and peasants became very powerful. In the struggling for life anyone might emerge with wealth and power. The poor and destitute were not forgotten in Byzantium. The town was full of homes for old people, shelters, charitable institutions, cheap boarding houses, and above all hospitals. The hospital founded in 372 by Bishop Bazel was the size of a small town. Doctors and priests were there in large numbers, orphans were taken in and taught a trade, and even lepers were not turned away. The community which Alexis Clamanus founded on the golden horn consisted of a number of institutions, an orphanage, a home for the blind, and a military hospital. Together they cared for about seven thousand people. All this was charity! The most representative was that of the pantactraer which was organized down to the last detail. Each sick person had a separate room, a bedside rug, a pillow, a mattress, a [unknown], double thickness in winter, a comb, a chamber pot, sponge, basin and slop pail. Baths were twice a week. In addition each person was issued two bath towels, two face towels, two bath robes and at Easter a special allowance to buy more soap. The cleanliness of the rooms was insured by frequent sweeping out. Every morning inspectors made their rounds asking about the quality of the food, for example, and listening attentively to complaints. Now these are charity hospitals. The women were looked after in a separate wing for women by women doctors. Infectious cases were segregated and thanks to an ingenious system of heating enjoyed the most suitable temperature. New doctors were taught by qualified herbalists and a professor. A unique machine in which everyone was very proud cleaned the surgical instruments. The community was served by numerous kitchens, a dispensary, a bakery and a laundry. [00:19:08]
Now, to be a failure here below, that is, in this world...
Now, to be a failure here below, that is, in this world, was no shame. For shall not the humblest here on earth be the most exalted in heaven according to Scriptures? So Byzantium knew nothing of social arrogance. The Basileus or the king or emperor frequently entertained tramps at his table and his door was never closed to anyone who wanted to enter. The following two stories illustrate this point:
“One Sunday after the emperor was leading a solemn procession a working woman broke through the crowd and flung herself at the bridle of his horse. This horse belongs to me she cried, your agents requisitioned it unjustly, give it back to me. She was not flung in prison. On the contrary, the king dismounted, handed over the horse and continued his way on foot. From that time onward however the ceremony was slightly changed, as a precautionary measure, the emperor was accompanied hence forth by several changes of mount. “
[General laughter] He didn’t trust his officials.
“One day at the circus two clowns appeared before the emperor’s box. They had some toy boats and were shouting at one another, come on, try harder, just swallow this boat. It’s no good can’t do it. Can’t do it? The other day the palace prefix swallowed a huge galley complete with cargo. [Laughter] The emperor smiled and understood, he asked for details, summoned the accused man, confronted him with the plaintiffs and summoned witnesses. As soon as he was convinced of the official’s guilt he ordered him to be burnt alive in full uniform. To everyone’s delight this was done immediately in the hippodrome. Moreover, what reason had the emperors for pride? So many of them were of the lowest origin for in Byzantine anyone could become Basileus regardless of rank, fortune and ancestry. Leo the First had been a butcher. People in Constantinople used to point out to one another the stall where he and his wife used to sell meat. Justin the First was a poor swineherd from the [unknown] who first appeared in the capitol with bare feet and a pack on his back. One day his nephew haggard and in rags also left the family village to join him, his name was Justinian. Phocus was the simple centurion and Leo the First the Historian was an odd job man. The appearance of Leo the Fifth lived in the greatest poverty, Michael the Third was a servant, Basil the First a peasant, Romulus, one of the lowest in rank of pettiest officers in the navy. All that was necessary for coronation was to be elected by senate, army and people and this procedure was never changed. Even when the course of time the need for a dynastic succession made itself felt the system was then worked out which made some show of respect to democratic principles. [00:22:12]
During his lifetime the emperor elected his son, thus...
During his lifetime the emperor elected his son, thus for twenty four years the old [unknown] his son Copronymuss who had been crowed when one year old. Now that Copronymus is the name he carried all his life, I won’t translate it, but I’ll tell you what it meant, when he was being baptized in the church as a baby he dirtied himself and his mother and the baptismal fount so the rest of his life he carried the name that described what he did, Copronymus, even when he was emperor. [General Laughter] He never lived down that name. The Basíleia too could be of humble origin, for she was expected to be beautiful, hence the number of strange creatures who one after another wore the purple gown. Singers, prostitutes, peasants from the Danube valley like [unknown] the cook and Theodora the prostitute, how many humble workers became father in law to the emperor.”
And it goes on to describe incidents connected with...
And it goes on to describe incidents connected with them, then this fact:
“As all creatures are equal in the sight of God strict equality between the sexes existed in Byzantium. While a girl doubtless led a rather sheltered life and was not always to choose her own husband, the married woman shared completely the life of her menfolk. Often indeed women dominated the family circle. The authority of [unknown], the mother of Alexis the First was notorious. At mealtime [unknown] respectfully awaited his mother and gave her the seat of honor, a chair that is, while he was content to recline on a couch. To hold one’s wife in seclusion was unpardonable.”
And it goes on to describe how any man who beat his wife was very savagely treated, he was a contemptible character. Very revealing as regards this emancipation of women was the status of the empress, she was the equal of her husband, she exercised absolute sovereignty, the incarnation of the almighty God. And this equality did not come to her by virtue of her marriage as a reflection but of her own nature from a true inner emanation according to their theory. Ceremony bore this out and then it goes on to cite examples of this and perhaps just a little more:
Byzantium’s democracy however was not of a secular...
Byzantium’s democracy however was not of a secular nature, the gospel was adopted as the constitution, not from philosophical convictions but because the city of God was believed to be organized along such lines. For just as the Byzantine’s wanted their monarchs to be the incarnation of the Son of God they wanted their state to be the replicate, the kingdom of God. Consequently their entire political social and economic structure was impregnated with divine significance. Divine was their law and order and anyone who broke it was guilty of sacrilege. A law of theolofosis illustrates this point well, it said in substance, quote:
“He who assumes a rank which is not his or lays false claim to an office or assumes a dignity which is not due to him may not put forward heir as an excuse. Having blasphemed against the divine order he will be punished for the crime of high treason.” Unquote.
And therefore anyone who offended against this law was very savagely treated. Well our time is more than up and we have very little time for questions but I did want to deal at some length with Byzantium because today it is very commonly despised and we’re told that it was an empire that was stagnant and there’s very little about it in the history books. And yet when you consider that here was an empire of tremendous wealth, tremendous power, with a thousand year history, falling only shortly before Columbus discovered America, and having been founded in the early 300s, eleven hundred years. It would have lasted longer but for the fact of the Crusades. I point out in the chapter the crusaders were the ones who destroyed it. It had many faults; its theology was very, very bad at many points. They saw the emperor as a kind of new incarnation of Christ, very very fault, terrible, heretical. But the fact that to a degree they did make it the kingdom of God on earth and the law of God to be the law of the state gave them a stability and a power that no other nation and all of history has had. [00:27:48]
And yet where is it in the history books...
And yet where is it in the history books. All you get in the history books are its errors and its evils, nothing about its accomplishments, because of course, its accomplishments sprang from faith and this they will not acknowledge. They give a great deal of attention to the Roman Empire but the Roman Empire never was the equal of Byzantium. You read a great deal about the Greeks but the achievement of the Greeks was next to nothing. You read a great deal about modern nations but Byzantium is bypassed. History has been falsified. What Byzantium did with a very bad theology…what could be done with a sound theology? And of course precisely what Byzantium did the Puritans when they came to America made their purpose. They came here with the same purpose and they wrote back and sent pamphlets to England summoning others to come and they said come, for we will here build Zion the city of our God. America thus had a glorious beginning, deliberately twice in history men set out to establish Zion on earth, once in Byzantium and once in this country. We gained our greatness from that purpose, we will not return to it unless we return to that purpose. Byzantium had a noble purpose but a very faulty obedience to it in their theology. Ours was sound, how much greater is our offense that we have departed from it? Let us pray. [00:30:17]
Almighty God our heavenly Father, we thank Thee that...
Almighty God our heavenly Father, we thank Thee that Thou hast given us so glorious a heritage in Jesus Christ. And Thou hast made us a people highly favored, but oh Lord God of Hosts we have sinned. We have gone astray from Thy ways and we have departed from Thy word and we have turned our backs on Thy only begotten Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, our King, our Savior. Oh Lord our God recall us as a people again to Thee and grant that again we be faithful to Thee and that Thy word prevail in our schools and the councils of state, in homes and in business and in churches. That we cast out the unbelief, the Arianism and the Pelagianism in our midst and become a people whose joy it is to obey and to honor Thee. Grant us this we beseech Thee in Jesus’s name, Amen.
I think we can take about two minutes for questions because we do want to maintain strictly our nine o’clock closing time, yes?
[Rushdoony] Yes. No, al the peoples of Europe had Hunnish blood but this was just a way of slandering them. Yes?
[Rushdoony] Very good point. Until the premillennials came alone the belief was that the tribulation was that which the early church went through. Now right up until almost World War One you found great American theologians like Benjamin Warfield, one of the greatest men of God this country has seen, teaching that. That was the Great Tribulation, it was past. But with Scofield [sp?] you see this was changed and projected into the future. [00:33:00]
[Rushdoony] The communist persecutions have been fearful of the communists that have perhaps killed more people than anyone else in history, but not Christians to the same degree. Christians have never been persecuted as savagely and as totally as during the two and half centuries. Remember it was aimed at total extermination and again and again they would just mow them down and new converts would spring up. The old saying ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’ and the worst part of it is that today people act as though this is all a myth, the persecution and the martyrdom. It’s actually so written in some of the newer histories and I have been told that guides now when they take you to the coliseum in Rome they say here according to legends Christians were thrown to the lions. Yes?
[Rushdoony] They were killed everywhere, yes. They were killed everywhere. Well our time is up, next week read chapters twelve and thirteen.
[Rushdoony] Oh that’s right we don’t meet next week, we will meet two weeks from now and chapters twelve and thirteen. [00:35:00]