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. 33-34.
The Lives of the Popes,
ELEUTHERIUS, a Grecian of Nicopolis, son of Habundius, lived also in the reign of L. Antoninus Commodus, for whose flagitious life the city of Rome smarted sorely; for in his time the Capitol, being fired with lightning, together with the famous library which had cost the ancients so much care in collecting, was consumed; nor did the neighbouring houses escape the same calamity. Not long after, another fire broke forth, in which the temple of Vesta, the palace, and a good part of the city were burnt to the ground. He was of so rash and freakish a humour that he caused the head of a vast colossus to be taken off, and that of his own statue to be placed in room of it; and in imitation of Augustus, he would needs have a month of his own name, ordering December to be called Commodus. But these things were soon changed after his death, and himself adjudged an enemy to mankind, such an hatred and detestation did all men entertain of his villanies. He was strangled in the twelfth year and seventh month of his reign.
Eleutherius, soon after his entrance upon the pontificate, received a message from Lucius, king of Britain, wherein he expressed a desire that he and his subjects might become Christians. Hereupon Eleutherius sends Fugatius and Damianus, two very religious men, to that island to baptize the king and his people. There were at that time in Britain twenty-five heathen priests called Flamens, and among them three styled Archflamens, in the place of which, as Ptolemy says, were constituted three archbishops — the ancient Church being wont to fix patriarchs there, where in the time of Gentilism Protoflamens had been seated. Furthermore, Eleutherius ordained that no person should superstitiously abstain from any sort of meat which was commonly eaten; and that no clergyman should be degraded before he were legally found guilty of the crime laid to his charge — following herein the example of our Saviour, who so patiently bore the fault of Judas, being not yet convicted, though really guilty, that whatsoever he acted in the meantime, by virtue of his apostleship remained firm and valid. He also prohibited the passing sentence against any person accused, unless he were present 34 to make his defence, which was afterwards confirmed by Damasus and the pontifical laws. In his pontificate the Church enjoyed peace and tranquility, and Christianity was wonderfully propagated in the world, but especially at Rome, where many of the best quality, with their wives and children, received the faith and were baptized. Only Apollonius, a great orator, was now a martyr, having first in the Senate made an excellent speech in favour of Christianity, the doing of which was then a capital crime. Apollonius being dead, several heresies very much prevailed. For the sect of the Marcionites was divided into several parties; some of them owning but one principle, or God, others two, others three, thereby utterly undermining the credit of the prophets and other discoverers of revealed religion. Moreover, Florinus and Blastus set up new figments against the truth, asserting God to be the author of all kinds of evil, in contradiction to that text, that “every thing which God made was good.”1 Opposite to these were the Quotiliani, who denied God to be the author of any kind of evil, in equal contradiction to that other text, “I the Lord create evil.”2 Some are of opinion that Galen of Pergamus, the famous physician, and Julian, the great lawyer, and Fronto, the rhetorician, lived at this time; though whether they did or no, in so great a confusion of time and story, I shall neither affirm nor deny. But I dare be confident concerning Modestus and Bardesanes, the former of which wrote against Marcion, the latter against Valentinus, being now as strenuous an opposer, as he had been formerly a zealous follower, of that heretic. St Hierom, upon the perusal of his books, translated out of the Syriac language into Greek, affirms this Bardesanes to have been a wonderfully brisk ingenious writer; “And if,” says he, “there be so much smartness in the translation, how much more shall we judge to be in the original?” As for Eleutherius, having at three Decembrian ordinations made twelve presbyters, eight deacons, fifteen bishops, he died and was buried near St Peter in the Vatican, May 26. He was in the chair fifteen years, three months, two days, and the see was vacant five days.
2 Isaiah xlv.
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