Gaza and Porphyry (man or stone?)

You might well want to read this;

An example that may interest you is;

"To understand the history of the place it is even more important to realize that the Jewish element did not enter into its making. In fact Gaza, much more than her sister Ascalon, showed herself consistently hostile to the Jews whenever she came into contact with them. We need not go back, for our present purposes, earlier than to Hellenistic times. When Jonathan Maccabaeus, at the time of the wars between Demetrius II and Antiochus VI, made an expedition through Philistia, the people of Ascalon 'met him honourably. From whence he went to Gaza, but they of Gaza shut him out; wherefore he laid siege unto it, and burned the suburbs thereof with fire, and spoiled them. Afterward, when they of Gaza made supplication unto Jonathan, he made peace with them, and took the sons of their chief men for hostages, and sent them to Jerusalem'. In 96 B.C., after a desperate siege of a year's duration, Alexander Jannaeus succeeded by treachery in getting possession of the place. He destroyed it utterly: venit calvitium super Gazam. Whether the new city which arose about a generation afterwards was founded on the same site, or, as is more probable, at some distance off, is a moot point. But, however that may be, it flourished not a little. It reckoned its years from the autumn of 61 B.C.; doubtless that was the time when it was decided to refound the place. Pompeius had granted the Gazaeans their ' freedom ', and the foundation of the new city is generally attributed to Aulus Gabinius, who went to Syria as proconsul in 57 B.C.; but the adoption of the era of 61 shows that plans for the foundation must have been laid earlier. Gaza had not only an era, but (like Ascalon) a calendar of its own, which continued in use at least down to the sixth century after Christ, and probably until the Arab conquest in 635.

The place remained proud of its independence. The all­absorbing Herod the Great, it is true, acquired it in 30 B.C.; but after his death it again became autonomous, in the limited sense in which autonomy was under stood of cities in a Roman province. Under the Roman government, Philistine and Jew perforce controlled their hatred of each other; but it is characteristic of their relations that when an opportunity occurred in the First Revolt against Rome, in 66, the Jews attacked and plundered and at least partly burned the hated city.

Hadrian, who took a great interest in this, as in all the cities of the provinces, visited it more than once; the most important occasion was in 130. For a short time the coins of the city bear a double date, one reckoned by the ordinary era, the other from the year of this visit. A public festival, the ' Hadrianic panegyris ', was long celebrated annually in his honour; and it is probable that the coins bear this special date because they were issued annually to supply the unusual demand created by the influx of visitors to the festival. It is true that the Paschal Chronicle attributes the foundation of the panegyris to an earlier visit of the Emperor in X I9, but the commencement of the new era in 130 is against it. To one of Hadrian's visits, also, we may conjecturally assign the foundation of the great temple of the god Marnas, which Mark describes with a mixture of pride and abhorrence. For the temple is first represented on the coins of Hadrian himself. The ' Olympian ' Emperor who founded the great temple of Zeus on the sacred mountain Gerizim of the Samaritans would not be slow to recognize the claims of the ' Cretan Zeus ' of the Gazaeans. It is said that after the suppression of a revolt of the Jews in A.D. 119, Hadrian selected Gaza as the place at which to sell his Jewish captives; the Gazaeans doubtless appreciated this privilege.

For centuries the city continued to prosper exceedingly. It was officially recognized by the imperial government as a sacred and autonomous city, enjoying the right of asylum. Eventually, we do not know exactly when, it attained the rank of a Roman ' colony '. Mark's praise of the city may be read in his fourth chapter. Antoninus Martyr, about a century and a half later, calls it civitas splendida deliciosa. In the fifth and sixth centuries it was the home of a school of rhetoric in which Procopius and Choricius are the most important names. It is, perhaps, not altogether unfortunate that Mark the Deacon lived too early to come under the influence of this school.

We can easily understand that in a place with a history of this kind Christianity had a harder struggle than was usual to gain a footing. The Philistines were even more stiff­necked than the Jews. It was only natural that in all towns where interests, not merely religious or sentimental, but also financial, were involved in the pagan worships, the conditions affecting the establishment of the new religion, even though recognized by the imperial government, should have been more arduous than in country places. But when the town had the peculiar individuality of Gaza, the fight must have been especially hard. So it came about that Gaza was one of the last strongholds of Paganism to fall before the advance of Christianity. The history of that fall is told by Mark.

Unable at first to make much impression on Gaza itself (for even if Philip entered there, his mission hardly had any permanent result), the Christians, so to speak, drew their lines around it. Little Christian communities sprang up in the surrounding villages. A gradually increasing number of believers was to be found in the city; though when a person is described as ' of Gaza ' it is not always possible to say whether he belonged to the city or to its district. It may be that, as Duchesne thinks, the persecution under Diocletian was not so severe in Palestine as elsewhere. But of what persecution there was, Gaza and its district had a respectable share. Of the seven Gazaean virgins (mentioned by the Bollandists, August 31) who were put to the sword, we know no details, not even whether they suffered in the great persecution or at another time. But we have the story of a Christian maiden from the neighbourhood of Gaza, who, threatened with the stews, protested against the tyrant who allowed such monsters to represent him in the government of his dominions. She was put to the torture and burned, together with another poor woman, Valentina, who had protested on her behalf. Other martyrs connected with Gaza who figure in the calendar are Major, apparently a soldier of the Mauretanian legion (martyred about 303, and commemorated on February 15), Agapius, Thecla, and Timotheus (all commemorated on August I9); and Thee and Maiour (December I9). Thecla was apparently a native of Bizya in Thrace, but probably suffered at Gaza under Diocletian, being thrown to wild beasts. Agapius's place of martyrdom is doubtful, but whether he suffered at Gaza or at Caesarea, he is mentioned by Eusebius along with Thecla in a way that seems to connect him with the former place. As to Timotheus, Eusebius definitely assigns his martyrdom to Gaza in the second year of the persecution, that is to say, 304. It is he whose shrine the Christians of Gaza visited on the occasion of their prayers for rain, as described by Mark in c. 20. Thee and Maiour (also mentioned in the same passage as sharing a shrine with Timotheus) belong to the later stage of the persecution, having suffered in 3c8, under Maximin II. It is probably a mere coincidence that another Timotheus, a deacon who was martyred far away in Mauretania, is also commemorated on the same day with them; the idea that it is this martyr whose shrine is mentioned by Mark in c. 20 is almost certainly mistaken. Mention is due also to Alexander, as one of the six misguided enthusiasts who, with hands tied, thrust themselves on the notice of Urbanus, the governor of the province, protesting that they were ready to fight with beasts. It is to be hoped that they were satisfied when he beheaded them at Caesarea. But the foremost figure among the Christians of Gaza in these days was Silvanus, an army­veteran, and a presbyter and confessor of the neighbourhood of the city. In the fifth year of the persecution he was sent to the mines at Phaeno, to the south of the Dead Sea; for such transportation had by this time begun to replace more violent measures of repression. At Phaeno he seems to have been ordained bishop. Duchesne suggests that this may have been one of the irregular ordinations due to Meletius. It must, however, be noted that Eusebius in one place calls him ' bishop of the churches round Gaza '. When the colony at Phaeno was broken up in 3IO, the military commandant got rid of Silvanus by beheading him. The Christians doubtless regarded him as a martyr, but Duchesne notes that his execution differs in kind from the ordinary martyrdom.

Throughout the Great Persecution the Christians in Gaza itself doubtless continued to meet secretly for worship, and we hear of a meeting being raided by the police, and the prisoners subjected to torture and mutilation.

Of all the places in the neighbourhood of Gaza, its port, Maiumas, was the most fruitful field for the work of the Christians. Gaza, it must be remembered, lay some two and a half miles inland. The population of ports, the ' nautical rabble ', is notoriously susceptible to innovating influences. The old­fashioned upper class of Gaza, people like that family which Saint Porphyry converted en bloc, as Mark tells us in one of his most graphic episodes, must have looked down with contempt on the people of Maiumas, most of whom were probably concerned in the Egyptian trade. Mark, indeed, lets fall a significant observation when he says (c. 58) that the Christians from the seaport were more numerous than those in the city because there were many Egyptian wine­merchants there. The Christianizing influence doubtless came rather from Alexandria than from Caesarea or any other place in Palestine, Maiumas was so far out of sympathy with Gaza in matters of religion, that-doubtless in response to an appeal on the part of the inhabitants, and at any rate on the ground that it was predominantly Christian-Constantine made it an independent city with its own bishop, and named it after his sister Constantia (according to Eusebius) or his son Constantius (according to Sozomen). But if he called it Constantia, Mark and other writers such as Sozomen (himself very familiar with the neighbourhood) continue to use the old name. That is not entirely due to the fact that, as we shall see, Julian the Philosopher revoked Constantine's grant. In such matters most Syrian cities were extraordinarily conservative, and with rare exceptions the original Semitic name has survived the Greek or Roman into modern times; and the name of the port is still preserved in the form Maimas."

Now, we just have to figure out if the "Imperial Stone" was taken to Gaza, and shipped out of its "port" Maiumas?


Responses To This Message

Porphyry and coffins!