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From The Lives of the Popes from the Time of our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Accession of Gregory VII. Written Originally in Latin by B. Platina, Native of Cremona, and translated into English (from an anonymous translation, first printed in 1685 by Sir Paul Rycaut), Edited by William Benham, Volume I, London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, [1888, undated in text]; pp. 88-92.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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A.D. 385-398.

SIRICIUS, a Roman, son of Tiburtius, lived in the time of Valentinian, who, for his being a Christian, had been very unjustly dealt withal, and cashiered from a considerable command in the army by Julian. But upon the death of Jovinian, being by the universal consent 89 of the soldiers elected emperor, he admitted his brother Valens his colleague in the empire, and assigned to him the government of the east. Afterwards in the third year of his reign, at the persuasion of his wife and her mother, he created his young son Gratian Augustus. And whereas one Procopius had raised a sedition and set up for himself at Constantinople, him with his adherents the emperor very suddenly overthrew and put to death.

But Valens having been baptized by Eudoxius, an Arian bishop, and becoming a bigoted heretic, presently fell to persecuting and banishing the orthodox, especially after the death of Athanasius, who, while he lived, was a mighty support to the Christian state for forty-six years together. Lucius, also another heretical bishop, was extremely violent and outrageous against the orthodox Christians; nor did he spare so much as the Anchorites and Eremites, but sent parties of soldiers to invade their solitudes, who either put them to death or else sent them into exile. Amongst this sort of men, they who at that time had the greatest esteem and authority were the two Macarii in Syria, the disciples of Anthony, one of which lived in the upper, the other in the lower desert; as also Isidorus, Panucius, Pambus, Moses, Benjamin, Paulus Apheliotes, Paulus Phocensis, and Joseph in Egypt. While Lucius was intent upon the banishment of these men, a certain inspired woman went about crying aloud, that those good men, those men of God, ought by no means to be sent into the islands. Moreover, Mauvia, queen of the Saracens, having by frequent battles very much impaired the Roman forces, and harassed their towns on the borders of Palestine and Arabia, refused to grant the peace which they desired at her hands, unless Moses, a man of most exemplary piety, were consecrated and appointed bishop to her people. This Lucius willingly assented to; but when Moses was brought to him, he plainly told him, that the multitudes of Christians condemned to the mines, banished to the islands, and imprisoned through his cruelty, did cry loud against him, and that therefore he would never endure the imposition of his polluted hands. Hereupon, certain bishops being recalled from exile to consecrate him, he was presented to the queen, and thereby a peace concluded. But Valens and Lucius continued still to wreak their fury against the orthodox, though Valens was rendered somewhat more favourable towards them by the letters of 90 Themistus, the philosopher. Athanaricus also, king of the Goths, exercised very great cruelty against those of his people who were Christians, many of whom suffered martyrdom for their religion.

In the meantime, Valentinian, by his valour and conduct, subdued the Saxons and Burgundians. But while he was making preparations for war against the Sarmatians, who had spread themselves through the two Hungaries, he died at a little town called Brigio, through a sudden effusion of blood. At this time the Goths, being driven out of their own country, had possessed themselves of all Thrace; against them Valens marches with his army (having first, though now too late, recalled from exile the bishops and monks, and forced them to serve in the war with him), but his army was utterly routed, and himself burnt in an obscure cottage, — an overthrow which proved very fatal to the Roman Empire and all Italy.

While these things were transacting, Siricius ordained that those monks whose life and manners were approved of, should be capable of admission into any ecclesiastical office, from the lowest to the highest, even the Episcopal dignity itself. That the several degrees of holy orders should not be conferred at once, but at certain distances of time. Moreover, he forbade the Manichees who lurked in the city, the communion of the faithful; but withal provided that upon their repentance and return to the orthodox faith, they should be received into the Church, upon condition they would undertake a monastic course of living, and devote themselves to fasting and prayer all their life; upon which, if it appeared that their conversion were sincere, they might, at the approach of death, receive the blessed sacrament as their viaticum. He ordained likewise, that none but a bishop should have power to ordain a presbyter; that whosoever married a widow, or second wife, should be degraded from his office in the church, and that heretics, upon their repentance, should be received with only the imposition of hands. In his time lived Hilarius, Bishop of Poictiers, who wrote twelve books against the Arians, and one against Valens and Ursatius; but not long after he died at Poictiers. Victorinus, also an African, who had once been a professor of rhetoric at Rome, but afterwards, being very ancient, was converted to Christianity, wrote several books after the dialectic manner against Arius. Moreover, Gregorius Bæticus, 91 Bishop of Illiberis, wrote at this time divers tracts, showing the excellence of the Christian religion. But Photinus, a Galatian, the scholar of Marcellus, Bishop of Ancyra, endeavoured now to revive the heresy of Ebion, who held Christ to be a mere man, born in the ordinary way of generation. Being banished by the Emperor Valentinian, he wrote divers treatises, and especially against the Gentiles. Didymus of Alexandria, who had been blind from his very childhood, and thereby utterly ignorant of the first rudiments of learning, became yet afterwards in his old age so great a proficient in those arts which most require the assistance of sight, particularly in logic and geometry, that he wrote some excellent treatises in the mathematics. He published also commentaries on the psalms, and the gospels of Matthew and John, and was a great opposer of the Arians. Moreover, Optatus, an African, Bishop of Mela, compiled six books against the Donatists; and Severus Aquilius, a Spaniard, who was kinsman to that Severus to whom Lactantius penned two books of epistles, wrote one volume, called “Catastrophe.” As for our Siricius, having settled the affairs of the Church, and at five ordinations made twenty-six presbyters, sixteen deacons, thirty-two bishops, he died and was buried in the cemetery of Priscilla, in the Via Salaria, February 22. He was in the chair fifteen years, eleven months, twenty days; and by his death the see was vacant twenty days.

The Emperor Gratian was a young prince of eminent piety, and so good a soldier, that in an expedition against the Germans, who were now harassing the Roman borders, he did at one battle at Argentaria cut off thirty thousand of them, with very little loss on his own side. Returning from thence to Italy, he expelled all those of the Arian faction, and admitted none but the orthodox to the execution of any ecclesiastical office. But apprehending the public weal to be in great danger from the attempts of the Goths, he associated to himself, as a partner in the government, Theodosius, a Spaniard, a person eminent for his valour and conduct, who, vanquishing the Alans, Huns, and Goths, re-established the empire of the east, and entered into a league with Athanaricus, king of the Goths, after whose death and magnificent burial at Constantinople, his whole army repaired to Theodosius, and declared they would serve under no other commander but that good emperor. In the meantime, Maximus usurped the 92 empire in Britain, and passing over into Gaul, slew Gratian at Lyons, whose death so terrified his younger brother, Valentinian, that he forthwith fled for refuge to Theodosius in the east. Some are of opinion that those two brethren owed the calamities which befell them to their mother Justina, whose great zeal for the Arian heresy made her a fierce persecutor of the orthodox, and especially of St Ambrose, whom, against his will, the people of Milan had at this time chosen their bishop. For Auxentius, an Arian, their late bishop, being dead, a great sedition arose in the city about choosing his successor. Now Ambrose, who was a man of consular dignity and their governor, endeavouring all he could to quell that disorder, and to that end going into the church, where the people were in a tumultuary manner assembled, he there makes an excellent speech tending to persuade them to peace and unity among themselves, which so wrought upon them, that they all with one consent cried out, that they would have no other bishop but Ambrose himself. And the event answered their desires; for being as yet but a catechumen, he was forthwith baptized, and then admitted into holy orders, and constituted Bishop of Milan. That he was a person of great learning and extraordinary sanctity, the account which we have of his life, and the many excellent books which he wrote, do abundantly testify.

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Previous Pope:  39. Damasus I. 40. Siricius I. Next Pope: 41. Anastasius I.

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