Friday, April 27, 2007

Publia Battles Julian the Apostate

I love this story about a particular form of Christian revolt against the persecutions under Julian the Apostate:

A certain woman, named Publia, had about this time acquired great celebrity by her eminent virtues.... She had at her house an assembly of young women who had vowed perpetual virginity, and who continually sung the praises of the Creator and Saviour. When the emperor was passing, they sang louder than usual, to show the contempt with which they regarded his profanity: they chiefly sang those psalms in which the weakness of idols is derided ; and they exclaimed, with David, "The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the works of men's hands." And after having described the senselessness of idols, they said, "Let those who made them, and all those who trust in them, become like unto them." When Julian heard them singing he was much vexed, and commanded them to be silent whenever he should pass that way. Far from obeying this mandate, Publia directed the virgins to sing still louder than before, and to repeat this verse, "Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered." Julian, more enraged than ever, desired that the leader of the choir should be brought before him. He showed no respect for her age or virtue; but called one of the soldiers, and commanded him to give her a blow on each side of her face. Publia esteemed this insult as the highest honour. She returned to her house, and continued to harass the emperor with spiritual songs, in the same way as he who wrote the psalms repressed the evil spirit which agitated Saul.

Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History, Book III, Chapter XIX.

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