Hell Really Exists

Hell Really Exists

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So the whole world was upset, and outside of the Gauls, from the East even to the West, the three wildest beasts were raging. "Not if I had a hundred tongues and a hundred mouths and a voice of iron, could I comprehend all the forms of their crimes, could I get through all the names of the punishments,"5 which the judges throughout the provinces inflicted upon the just and the innocent. Anyway, why is there any need of relating those things, especially to you, very dear Donatus, who have experienced more than the rest the storm of raging persecution?

For, although you had fallen into the hands of Flaccinus the prefect, a violent murderer, and then when you had come before Hierocles, the governor who had been a vicar, who was an author and councilor for the carrying out of the persecution, you fi-

5 Vergil, Aeneid 6.625-27.

nally furnished to all an example of unconquered fortitude before Priscillian, his successor. Nine times subject to torments and various sufferings, you nine times overcame your adversary with your glorious confession; in nine battles, you unwarred the devil with his satellites; by nine victories, you triumphed over the world with its terrors. How pleasing was that spectacle to God when he beheld you as victor, not bringing under subjection to your chariot white horses or huge elephants, but, best of all, the very triumphant ones themselves!

This is true triumph, when the masters (of the world) are mastered. For they were conquered and subjected by your virtue, inasmuch as by despising their abominable order you spurned with stable faith and strength of mind all their trappings and the slight terrors of tyrannical power. The beatings accomplished nothing against you; the hooks availed nothing; the fire nothing; the sword nothing; the various kinds of torments did nothing. No power could wrest faith and devotion from you. This is being a disciple of God. This is what it means to be a soldier of Christ, one whom no enemy may attack, no wolf drive from the heavenly fold, no snare induce, no pain overcome, no suffering afflict. Finally, after those nine most glorious combats in which the devil was vanquished by you, he did not dare to engage with you any further, whom he tested in so many conflicts and found not able to be overcome. And although the vie-tor's crown has been prepared for you, he has ceased to demand anything further of you, lest you should take it now. Though you may not receive this at present, however, it is being preserved for you completely in the kingdom of God because of your virtues and merits.

But let us get back to the outline of our discussion.

After this crime had been perpetrated, Diocletian, although his good luck had already left him, set out at once for Rome to celebrate there the day of the vi-cennalia, which was to be on the twelfth day before the Kalends of December.' When the solemn rites were celebrated, because he could not bear the freedorn of the Roman people, impatient and sick in soul, he left the city as the first of January was drawing near, when the consulship was being conferred on him for the ninth time. He could not endure the thirteen days of waiting so that he might begin this consulship at Rome, rather than at Ravenna, but setting out in the dead of winter and struck by cold and storms, he contracted a sickness, slight but chronic, and being disturbed and bothered throughout the journey, he had to be carried most of the way on a litter.

And so, when summer had gone, through a circuitous route along the bank of the Hister, he reached Nicomedia, but the sickness had now become severe. Although he saw that he was oppressed with it, he was carried on, nevertheless, in order to dedicate a circus which he had built. It was now a full year after the vicennalia.

Then he was so overcome with weakness that the sparing of his life was asked from all the gods. Finally, on December 13, grief suddenly appeared in the palace; there was sadness and weeping on the part of the judges, trepidation and silence in the whole city. Now they were saying that he was not only dead, but buried as well, when suddenly, in the morning of the next day, the report was spread that he was living, and the expressions of the domestics and the judges changed with alacrity. Nor were there lacking those who suspected that his death was being concealed until the Caesar should come, lest some revolution be instigated, perhaps, by the soldiers. This suspicion had such weight that no one would have believed that he was alive, except that on March 1 he appeared, scarcely recognizable, of course, since he had suffered under sickness for almost an entire year. He who had slept in death on the Ides of December had recovered life. But it was not an entire recovery,

' The vicennalia, celebrated on November 20, 303, commemorated the twentieth anniversary of Diocletian's ascension to the imperial throne.

however, for he became demented, so that at certain times he would be insane and at others would seem clear.

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