century. It was therefore fitting that when the first general council of the Catholic Cluirch was held (325) it shoil(l be called together at Niciea (Isnik) in western Asia Minor, amid a population long stanchly Christian. Of the (traditional) 318 bish- ops who attended that council about one hundred were from Asia Minor; the semi-barbarous Isauria sent fourteen city bishops and four rural bishops (chore piscnpi), while remote Cilicia sent nine city bishops and one rural bishop. Indeed, the episcopal system of Asia Minor seems to have been almost completed by this time. (Ramsay, Cities and Bish- opries of Asia Minor, in Histor. Geogr. of Asia Minor, London, 1890, 104-426.) In any ease, there were in that territory in the fifth century some 450 Catholic episcopal sees. The institution of rural bishops (chorepiscopi) appears first in Asia Minor (Council of Ancyra, 314) and seems to be the origin of the later parochial system. It is in Asia Minor that arose, or were fought out, nearly all the great ecclesiastical conflicts of the early Christian period. The Church History of Eusebius, first published before 325, exhibits the Christian bishops of Asia Minor during the second and third centuries in con- flict with semi-Oriental philosophic heresies like Gnosticism, that developed under the leadership of keen critical rationalists like Marcion of Sinope on the Black Sea, while the germs of the great christo- logical heresies, e. g. Sabellianism, were first nour- ished on the same soil. Here, too, met the famous councils that overthrew these heresies (Nicaea in 325, Ephesus in 431, and Chalcedon in 451). Internal reform of the Christian Church was first undertaken from Asia Minor, where Montanus, a native of Phry- gia, began the rigorist movement known as Mon- tanism, and denounced the growing laxity of Christian life and the moral apathy of the religious chiefs of the society. He claimed for himself and certain female disciples the survival of the early Christian prophetic gifts, or personal religious inspiration, which seems to have been more frequent and to have survived longer in Asia Minor than elsewhere (Harnack, Mission und Ausbreitung, 2S7, 402). The immediate cause of the last great pereecution , that of Diocletian (284-305), seems to have been the rapid growth of Christianity in all Asia Minor, particularly in the imperial capital, then located at Nicomedia (Ismid). Maximinus Daza, the sym- pathetic colleague in Egypt of the persecuting Galerius (305-311), admitted (Euseb., Hist. Eccl., IX, ix) that nearly all the Orient had become Chris- tian, and in this he was merely the echo of the dying words of the contemporary Christian scholar and martyr, Lucian of Antioch, who asserted (Rufin., Hist. Eccl., IX, vi) that in his time the greater part of the Roman world had become Christian, even entire cities. Such a Christian city of Phrj'gia, Eusebius tells us (Hist. Eccl., VIII, xi, 1), was given to the flames by the pagans in the persecution of Diocletian; the inhabitants perished to a man with the name of Christ upon their hps. Apropos of this, Harnack recalls (op. cit., p. 466) the fact that eighty years earlier Thyatira in the same province was an entiri'ly Christian city, tliough intensely Montanist in religious temper. The city of Apameia in the same province seems to have become quite Christian before 250. The work of Cumont (Inscriptions Chr6- tiennes de I'Asie Mincure, Rome, 1895) exhibits undeniable epigraphic evidence tliat Phrygia was widely Christianized long before the conversion of Constantine (312). The words of Ilenan (Origines du Cliristianisme, III, 3(')3, 364) are therefore eminently true: "Thenceforward (from a. d. 112) for three hundred years Phrygia was cs.sentially a Christian laiul. There began tlie public profession of Christianity; there are found, from the third century, on monuments expose<l to the public gaze. the terms Chresliannfi or Christianas; there the formu- las of epitaphs convey veiled references to Christian dognias; there, from the days of Septimius Severus, great cities adopt biblical symbols for their coins, or ratlier adapt their old traditions t« bibhcal narra- tions. great number of the Christians of Ephesus and Rome came from Phrygia. The names most frequently met with on the monimicnts of Phrj-gia are the antique Christian names (Tniphimus, Tydii- cus, Tryphenus, Papias, etc.), the names special to the apostolic times, and of whicli the martyrologies are full". The Acts of the Christian Bishop, Pionius of Smyrna, a martyr of the time of Decius (249-251), portray that city as largely Christian, and (with exception of the Jews) entirely devoted to its rhetori- cian-bishop. In the fourth century Gregory of Nyssa relates, apropos of Gregory of Caesarea (c. 213-275), the Wonder-worker, disciple and friend of Origen, that during the thirty-five or forty years of his episcopal activity he had Christianized nearly all Pontus. It is an unfair exaggeration (Harnack, 475-476) to attribute his success to toleration of heathen customs, amusements, etc. So good a Christian theologian as Gregory of N}'ssa could relate this condescension of the Wonder-worker without perceiving any real sacrifice of Christian principles in faith or morals; some concessions there must always be when it is question of conversions in bulk. His "Epistola Canonica" (P. G., X, 1019- 48), one of the earliest and most venerable docu- ments of diocesan legislation, presupposes many well-established Christian commimities, whose cap- tive ecclesiastics and citizens (c. 260) spread the first germs of Christianity among the piratical Goths of the Black Sea. Asia Minor was certainly the first part of the Roman world to accept as a whole the principles and the spirit of the Christian re- ligion, and it was not unnatural that the warmth of its conviction should eventually fire the neighbouring Armenia and make it, early in the fourth century, the first of the ancient states formally to accept the religion of Christ (Euseb., Hist. Eccl., IX, viii. 2). The causes of the rapid conversion of Asia Minor are not, in general, dissimilar to those which else- where favoured the spread of Christianity. It may be accepted, with Harnack, that the ground was already prepared for the new religion, inasmuch as Jewish monotheism was acclimatized, had won many disciples, and discredited polytheism, while on the other hand Christianity was confronted by no State religion deeply and inimeniorially entrenched in the hearts of a united and homogeneous people (the imperial worship being a late innovation and offering only a factitious unity). But much of this is true of other parts of the Roman empire, and it remains certain that the local opposition to the Christian religion was nowhere stronger than in the cities of Asia Minor where Antoninus Pius (138-161) had to check the illegal violence of the multitude (Euseb., Hist. Eccl.. IV, xxxiii); even if we do not acc?pt as genuine his rescript "Ad commune Asise" (ibid., IV, xix), it is of ancient origin and exhibits an enduring Christian sense of intolerable injustice, already foresliadowed in I Peter, iv, 3-5, 1.3-19. The literary opposition to Christianity was particu- larly strong, as already said, among the rhetoricians and granunarians, i. e. among the public teacliers and the philosophers, not to speak of the pagan imperial priesthood, nowhere so well organized and favoured as in every province of Asia Minor. Lac- tantius tells us that the last known anti-Christian pamphleteers were both from Bithynia in Asia Minor (Inst. V, 2), Hicrocles, the governor of the province, and another whose name he withholds. The principal tlieologians of Asia Minor (Irena-us, Gregory the Wonder-worker, Methodius of Olympus, Basil of Neocie.sarea, Gregory of Nazianzus. and (iregorj- of
Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/870
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