by Theodore the Syncellus
On the foolish attack of the Avars and godless Persians against this city, protected by God, and of their shameful retreat which the divine love brought about for mankind by the intervention of the Mother of God.
I. Prophesying long ago, by the prophetic inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the benevolence of God the Father, with regard to the incarnation and the birth of the divine Word by the Mother of God, the eminent prophet Isaiah proclaimed and says:
“Go up a high mountain, to announce good news in Sion: raise up your voice loudly, to announce good news in Jerusalem: ‘Lift up your voice without fear!’ Say to the cities of Judah: ‘Here is our God! Here is the Lord God who comes with power, extending his sovereign arms.'”
The prophet says this by divine inspiration; and by the mountains overhanging the naked and the ground, according to my opinion, he referred, tropologically to the high and elevated thought which does not wish anything to see things stuck to the world, except that which is absolutely necessary. Such was his thought and his word, and such of all those who, being prophets and apostles, like Isaiah merited the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Since there are, here and now, such things to tell which, so to speak, by a miracle, resulted from the kindness of God towards us, amidst great suffering, exceeding even the celestial spheres, which none could show to the world and show clearly to men, except someone who had the prophetic heart, and who was worthy of the light of the Holy Spirit.
II. Come then, holy Isaiah, because indeed your powerful spirit envisaged and predicted great things, inspire me, by the pen of your prophetic grace, the things which I have to tell; approach me, you who predicted the glory of the only son of God and the mystery of the Virgin, after having seen the throne of God, and having heard the song of the Seraphs, and the doors trembling before you on their hinges, and besides every obstacle depart before he that entered the sacrosanct residence of God. It is for you to paint for me the current miracle, and to give the grace which I can see in the figure and the example of old Jerusalem, all these admirable miracles that the Mother of God accomplished for this city because of the divine love for men.
Listen then, and understand thereafter, the picture that is before us, what it represents and what it shows. In the house of David at once time reigned king Ahaz, the son of Ozias the leper, the heir to both the spite and the kingdom of his father. And because even Ahaz fell easily into sin, and was inclined to injustice, he did not accept in his heart the teaching of the divine mystery of the Virgin, though he was invited by God, by the prophet, to ask that He grant to him a sign of the end of the reign of death, or further, on the divine incarnation. The sign was anyway given to the house of David, and this sign is completed, because the Virgin gave birth to God, while keeping until the end her virginity. Ahaz remained nevertheless the image of unbelief, while the Jewish people shout until our own day: “I do not ask for a sign, because I will not test the Lord.”
III. So Ahaz reigned over Jerusalem, but the picture that I intend to give differs anyway from the description of the prophet. Because my emperor is religious and without misdeeds, devoting, it can be said, all his life to completing and observing the divine commands and he encourages all his subjects to do the same. How could our city not obtain help and divine support more than the other Jerusalem, — our city which has received from God such an emperor 1, who loves God particularly, and has another Isaiah, i.e. my archpriest 2, ever vigilant, and who transmits in a sober spirit the decrees of God to his people? But, my prophet, paint for me the other details of the picture, since the difference between the two monarchs and their characters is obvious! So while Ahaz was the king to devastate the town of Jerusalem, and to dethrone the descendant of David, and to help to power the son of Tabeel who formed part of and became companion in their spite, it is beautiful to read the words of the prophet himself about them, not only because they are full of holiness and divine grace, but also so that you see your own eyes, by listening to what was said in paraboles, the figure of the prophet, painting this picture.
IV. “In the time of Ahaz, son of Joatham, son of Oziah, king of Judah, Rezin, king of Aram, went up with Phacaeus, son of Romelius, king of Samaria, against Jerusalem, to besiege it. He brought this news brought to the house of David while saying: Aram has allied itself to Ephraim. Then the heart of the king and the heart of his people began to sway, like the trees in the forest sway in the wind. The Lord said to Isaiah: So go and join Ahaz, you and your son that survives and is called Jaschub (i.e. “returning to God”), at the end of the channel of the upper pool, on the road of the field of the Fuller, and you will say to him: Hey, don’t be disturbed! don’t be afraid, so that your heart does not weaken because of these ends of smoking firebrands. Because every time my anger is raised, it is calmed. The son of Aram and the son of Remaliah have exploited your loss, saying: Let us go up against Judah, to terrify it and to plunder, and we will make the son of Tabeel king there! But that won’t happen.”
V. And all that the prophet said and wrote, as history and parabole, happened to those of the Jews who then lived in Jerusalem, as a figure and example, but was used also as a prediction for us, to whom God spread the grace of his love, by the mediation of the Mother of God. Because look: God revealed by the prophet the blessed message of the redemption of Ahaz, a descendant of David in the carnal way, and through him of the unbelieving people of the Jews, by the way of the channel of the higher pool, on the road of the field of the Fuller. Because the word clearly shows that any redemption which was purchased, purchases and will purchase mankind, flows from the teaching of the mystery of Christ. Because I know that his words say “field” for the Universe, because man is a microcosm, and he symbolically names the Fuller, according to the Bible, that which can clean the stain. From all that, it is obvious that conversion, leading to baptism by true knowledge, opens to the men the way to heaven.
VI. But it is time to return to our main subject, because there is no point in missing the target, however skillfully one draws one’s arrows. “Hear this, therefore, all the peoples, listen, all the inhabitants of the world, the descendants of earth and the sons of men. (Because the descendants of earth 3 are those who are interested only in terrestrial things, and the sons of men are those who keep the dignity of the image of God.)
Listen well, and I will tell you what great things the Lord of armies has done through the Mother of God. But I will not relate further events with these details (because that would exceed the power of even the wisest) but, as a my talent allows, my report will have the value of the words of a modest historiographer. In the past Syria and Samaria undertook the war against Jerusalem, of which the monarch and the king in Damascus was Rezin, and that in Samaria, the son of Remaliah, who reigned indeed over the people living next to the country of Judah, but which were rightly minimised by their neighbors, because their power was short-lived. But the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people began to sway anyway as the trees in the forest sway, as you heard in the prophetic words.
Against this city and the man reigning there in the love of God with his pious father, the Chaldaeans and Assyrians started to boast; they had been formerly the Masters of the Eastern people, vicious and cruel, according to every writing, famous for their malice and power. The other dog also started to boast and was mad, furious and barbarous, the ruler of savage peoples, who made foreign peoples migrate, living in the north and most of the west, whose the number is only like the grains of sand of the beaches of the sea; these deliberated, advanced, sprang, and surrounded the earth and the sea, like a swarm of bees.
VII. However the powerful emperor was far away, because he had left on campaign for a remote area, against those who were devastating all the Eastern part of the Roman empire; he did not see the the three-headed chimera, but the many-headed, Nabuchodonosor 4; I speak about the current tyrant of Babylon: of the devil Chosrau who owes his life and empire over the Persians to the grace of the Christian emperor 5. The mighty emperor was thus far away, and entrusted the throne to his son, the imperial prince 6, who wished to follow the piety and devotion of his father. The emperor thus entrusting him with his brothers and the city to the guardianship of God and the Virgin, left them. But the Persian Shahrbaraz (as the Babylonians call this Holophernes) outrunning all the elite army of Persia, encircled Chalcedon nearby with his cavalry and his siege-engines, because God prevented his passage, because of the favorable situation of the city: he laid out in front of the city our Jordan, to put an obstacle to the incursion of those which are uncircumcised in their hearts. But he did not prevent the wickedness of that demented person who showed himself by words, councils and by the sending of troops, the ally and battle-companion of this pig, attacking our city from the west; and after having burned all the holy places, every imperial building, every warehouse and private dwelling, in his advance without delay and his effervescent fury, he even intended to burn the imperial city.
VIII. However, the enemy of the west, which was led by a terribly abominable little runt, called by the barbarians in their own language the Khagan, attacked the ramparts of the city for several days, making advance innumerable people which covered the land and the sea with their arms. Because he was the devastating revenge of the eternal malignant spirit; he showed himself to be the child of the devil, not by nature, but by his own decision, and every diabolical wickedness was incarnate in him. Like an anti-god, believing that he had power over land and sea, he mouthed off at heaven and reached the land of his language, to crush the people of God, like abandoned eggs, according to his plan. This is why he extended his hands, soiled with blood, from the confines of the land down to the sea. Using his pirate fleet, he transformed the sea into firm ground, and he covered the firm ground with cavalry and infantry, because he wanted to devastate this Jerusalem from all sides. So what led him into so great a nonsense? And who inspired him with this malevolent plan? I will answer the first question initially, then finally I will be able to do the second also.
IX. Firstly, I say and I report as the primary cause, the multiplicity and the variety of our sins, and that we run our public life unworthily from every point of view of the divine commands of our redeemer God, because we corrode ourselves and we devour ourselves, and we attempt to commit every form of wickedness. In the second place I mention the insatiability and culpability of this wild beast, and there is nothing which could and would satisfy this leech.
Because his carnal procreator (if only it had not happened!) had taken refuge, like a plague sent by God, in the remote lands near these regions, where his people currently live, by beseeching previous Roman emperors. Those had treated him then as a refugee, had clothed him naked, and had given food to him starving; they did not even suspect what a infamous creature they admitted in their vicinity, and what a devastating danger for the Roman empire they accomodated almost at their heart! 7 The empire of the father was inherited by his son, the successor, the elder brother of this dog of today. However in a short time, these seized control of nearby people by plunderings and massacres, and making them their slaves; little by little they grew and multiplied, and covered that land by their multitude.
X. And when this crafty and malignant fox became his brother’s heir (which he was not!), which means of intriguing did he not try against us? And on the other hand what did our emperor not do to try to alleviate his spite? Which forms of kindness did he not show towards this dog? But apparently there is no end to the spite of this wild beast, and there is nothing so strong and capable which can soften his low and barbarian intentions. So who does not know of his devastating invasion that it dared to carry out a few years ago, when the pious and good emperor left to meet him, according to certain treaties, to greet him from the Long Walls. At the same time the emperor gave orders to surround him with every care and courtesy, hoping by this to reconcile and appease this savage.
Who doesn’t know the plot and the trick of this serpent, and that his unexpected trickery seized a mass of men, and made them captives? With the men, women, old men and children also were chained and removed in great number to the enemy land. But he did not put an end to his spite, even there, and spread himself with threats that he would devastate this city, reigning over the other cities, unless he received half of all the treasures and goods in the city. But it is inappropriate on this occasion to recount now all the events then.
In short, he received enough money and property to fill even the hands of Briaraeus, and would have improved the cruelty of Phalaris also, but all that did not satisfy this leech; on the contrary, the payment of treasure became the stimulant to still greater faithlessness for this dog. He received all that in consequence of the earlier peace treaty, and he reinforced the terms of the treaty also with an ancient formula on oath, given by his emissary. But neither the ancient oath, nor the payment of so much treasure, nor the imperial treatment, nor the wisdom and the influence of so powerful an emperor were effective to change his perfidy.
XI. However, when the most pious emperor left, as was told earlier, against the Eastern enemies of God, he did not leave this proud and boastful man without making peace with him. But he entrusted the city, his imperial children and the palace to God and the Virgin, and in the unquestionable hope, flowing from what he had done, he left courageously on campaign, supposing at the same time that he would succeed in appeasing this wild beast by a reasonable subsidy; he thought this since he had already earlier entrusted to this barbarian the city, his children and the palace 8.
For a good man is to be able to conclude his business reasonably, and the judicious king makes the prosperity of his people and his city, as the wise kings, David and Solomon say in the Holy Scriptures. But even this did not make the spite of this dragon more moderate, though even demons would have been ashamed. On the contrary, when he was informed that the emperor had gone on campaign against the Persians, when he learned that his benefactor and his father — as he called him — had left the city, at once the preparations started: the concentration of the barbarian peoples, better called the wild beasts, the preparation of arms and helepoles, the gathering of the monoxyles on the sea which can travel the sea by oar, while transporting the tribes.
There they devised all kinds of tricks, even manufactured engines, to make the town of God, protected by the Virgin, the booty of this deer. All this was premeditated and carried out by him; he concentrated all the barbarian armed forces subjected to him, he covered land and sea with the wild tribes whose element of life is war.
XII. The most pious emperor, after having heard all this, stimulated to action the guardian of public affairs (this was Bonos, a man known by all), directed him by letters, and helped him with all things necessary. While raising his hands towards the sky, he protested thus to the Lord: “You, Lord, you see all, and you know all, and you know that I had entrusted to you and your Immaculate Mother my children, the city and your people living there.
I believed that the Khagan, this barbarian savage, would quieten down, and based on this opinion, I entrusted my business to him; I believed that thus this beast would change, perhaps. Even so I could not achieve a result, and I did not succeed in dominating the insatiability of his spirit. However you see what great things he devises against your people trusting in your name. Therefore you, Lord of the Universe, to whom I entrusted my heart, my life and the children that you gave me, just as the city given by you to my care, keep your pledge intact. Because you gave the law to Moses, your servant on pledges, when you ordered that a deposit or a pledge was to be kept intact and without fault. So keep now, according to your own law, safe and well, the city which I entrusted to the force of your power and the mother of your kindness, to the Mother of God.”
XIII. Is it thus that the powerful emperor beseeched God? balancing up this and that, weighing up his care and plans, finding himself between two distresses. While the children of the emperor, in the oratory of the Mother of God, being attached to the palace, offered their ingenuous innocence and their heart, just as the virginity and the purity of their bodies, as an entreaty and an aromatic incense, and they exclaimed all in tears:
“All-Powerful Lady! our father had entrusted to you your city and us, your servants who are still children, as you see it, very Holy Lady, and he had given us to you; then, raising his cross, he went against these wolves which were ravaging the sheep of the sheep-fold of your son. So save us, save the city and its inhabitants, save us from the snake who attacks us.”
The Preceptor of the city, spending his nights in prayer and speeches, was the worthy archpriest, our Isaiah who knew himself the concentration of the troops and their armament. The fact that they raised their hands to God, and asked the Virgin for assistance and protection, was a weapon, sabre and shield for all the inhabitants of the city, because our archpriest gathered everyone, if he were a priest or clerk, living as a monk or among the people, — of the men of any age, from the child to the old man, and by the following words, as if he armed them, he harangued them to be brave and not discouraged.
“Come, and let us prostrate ourselves before the only son of God the Father, because it is him, our God. Come and cry before the Lord who created us; and because he holds the fate of the war in his hands, except by the will of God the multitude cannot be saved, even by unequalled power the emperor cannot be saved, nor will the city remain intact, if the Lord does not keep it. The enemy attacks us on horse and with war engines, with an enormous multitude, but we will overcome by the holy name of our Lord God. Because the Lord himself fights for us, and because the Virgin Mother of God will also be protective of this city, if we ourselves turn all our heart toward them with all our heart and a devoted soul.”
So saying, and so teaching the city, the archpriest prayed to God, day and night, unceasingly.
XIV. However, the man that the wise and powerful emperor left to manage and supervise the affairs of the city did not neglect at all his duties; he showed his ingenuity in various ways in accomplishing everything that depends on the effort and diligence of man. Because God himself delights in such men, because he does not wish that those who have confidence in him to be saved, be lazy and impotent. It was thus that Joshua, son of Nun, in the past gave the order in which he drew up an ambush against the town of Hal; and he made Gideon arm his men with jugs and torches against the Midianites. The guardian of the affairs of the emperor thus examined everything with a very vigilant eye, reinforced the walls, and made provision for all that was necessary for the battle. He was motivated to this by fear of the mighty emperor, and by his letters, arriving unceasingly from afar, and containing instructions, because even in his absence the struggle was led by the servant of God: the emperor, teaching his duty, and motivating his most faithful guardian.
XV. At the same time at all the western doors of the city, from which left even the revenge of darkness, the holy archpriest, after having painted on icons the holy features of the Virgin carrying in her arms that which she had given birth to, the Lord, — and these icons were like the most brilliant sun, driving out the darkness by its rays, — the archpriest, I say, shouted in a comprehensible and reasonable voice to the masses of barbarians and the demons leading them:
“Oh foreign people and diabolical hordes, you have undertaken the whole war against these. But the Mother of God will put an end to all your boldness and pride by its only call, because she is really the mother of He which drowned Pharaoh and all his army in the middle of the Red Sea, and discouraged and weakened all the diabolical horde.”
This was done and said by the archpriest, then he beseeched God and the Virgin to keep the city, the lighthouse of the law of the Christians, intact, because it is to be feared that with her even the lessons of the mystery of Christ could run into extreme danger.
XVI. The enemy tribes thus encircled the city on the East and on the West, by sea and on the North. A poet named what he saw on one side Scylla, on the other side Charybdis. But the city begged in tears the Virgin by the words of the inspired mouth of the archpriest:
“Save me, oh Lady, save me, because I will perish. Do not remain dumb, inactive, silent any longer, because I know that you are powerful. See, my adversaries thunder and say: ‘Come let’s cut it off from the nations so that no-one will remember the name of Israel. ‘Have they conspired there, with one heart, Moab and Agaranians, Gebal, Ammon and Amalek and all the Philistines? even Assur has joined them. But treat them like a straw blown in the wind, when a fire devours a forest, so that they can never say: ‘She has no refuge in her God.’ “
The city was in this state and did what it did, because there are not human words which took to tell what was done and said in their houses and publicly in this city entrusted to the government and direction of the most holy shepherd.
XVII. The barbarian of the East, camped with all his army close to the town of Chalcedon, was the first to start fires. The enemy of the West at once put himself in contention with him, as if they were responding to each other and wanted to increase their zeal on both sides; they set ablaze and razed to the ground the sanctuaries of God and all the imperial buildings and all the private buildings. Moses, when he led in Israel to war against Amalek, lifted his arms towards the sky (his form thus showing the shape of the cross), while Aaron and Hur supported the hands of the legislator on the two sides, because they were tired.
That means the loss of the power of the Law, because it dealt too much with the flesh, it is for this reason that God sent his Son into the world. However, our Moses raised with his own innocent hands the effigy of the only son of God whom even the demons fear and of whom it is said that He was not created by human hands. He did not need corporeal support, because, according to the Gospel of Christ-God, He died, crucified, for the world. He passed, pouring tears, around all the ramparts of the city, and he showed the effigy, as an invincible weapon, towards the nebulous troops of darkness and the phalanxes of the West. And in a low voice, like the first Moses, when he had the Ark of the Covenant carried before of the people, said to the Lord: “Arise, Lord! let your enemies be scattered! Let those who hate you flee before you!” and he added to it again the words of king David:
“As smoke is dissipated, they are dissipated; as wax melts before a fire, so perish the foreign tribes opposing our God who comes from the west to help us.”
XVIII. So it was the first day of the siege of the peoples come from the west, when things happened thus. And it was the third day of the week 9. The archpriest, like a second Moses, instead of going up the mountain, went up on the Western wall, preceded and followed by a procession of priests, all selected. The guardian of the affairs of the emperor, on the other hand, ordered the soldiers and a selected part of the people to make a fierce resistance, like Gideon once, who faced tens of thousands with a limited number of soldiers. The barbarian tribes lined up opposite, from sea to sea, like swarms of wasps, and filled all the earth with their weapons.
At the same time, on the side of the sea, the barbarian army was not yet prepared for battle. On the other hand, the view from the side of the land was most terrible, and the aspect of the enemies was such as to almost drive one mad. Because for each of our soldiers there was a hundred or even more barbarians, each one was covered in armor, they all wore a helmet and they carried all kinds of military machines. The sun which reflected on them, on the side of the East, reflected its rays on their steel, and showed them still more terrible, making those who looked at them shiver with fear. But so far the barbarian only wanted, so to speak, to show his power and numbers; then — yielding to the night — he withdrew into his camp.
The following day, the barbarian prepared all that was necessary for war, and covered the ground, in front of the army, with turrets, so called. But this voracious and greedy dog did not restrain himself even then, and demanded food from the city. This the son of the emperor gave him, with a generosity of an emperor, while letting the barbarian dog know what follows: “Even if you hate me, I treat you with friendship, and all while preparing myself for war, my goal is peace. This is because I am raised thus by my God and my very pious father.” The other, though he accepted the food and listened to the remarks of the monarch, remained the mad and barking dog that he had been before, and continued to behave like a voracious dog.
XIX. The third day arrived, and the enemy attacked the walls, like a hail accompanied by lightnings, because he thought that he would subjugate all, with a single blow. But the All-Powerful Virgin, after having made known to him her own power by experience, revealed to him the presages of the fall which quickly awaits the sinner. Because she attracted a great number of soldiers of the Khagan into a trap before of one of her churches, being in front of the wall of the city. This place bore the name of a healing spring which was there.
The Virgin, by massacring the barbariabs at the hands of the Christian soldiers, struck the pride of the Khagan down to the ground, and weakened all his army. The crafty man did not show his fear then, but all this gave courage to our men who knew on the one hand by experience the power of the Virgin, and on the other hand believed that the Mother of God really hastened to fight for the interest of her city. Because then, throughout the day, unceasingly, different local skirmishes took place and shooting with bow and sling, all along the wall. The Virgin was present everywhere, overcame without being overcome, spread fear and horror on the enemy, while giving strength to her servants. She preserved her subjects safe and sound, and devastated the enemy masses.
The third day of the presence of the barbarians proceeded thus, as we said, when all this occurred.
XX. On the fourth day, this imbecile started to draw up the helepoles and the catapults; in addition, he built siege-towers out of wood. The construction of all that was a very easy task for him, and did not require much time; all this was done almost more quickly than the pronunciation of the orders, on the one hand, because a whole multitude of barbarians worked there, on the other hand, because the wooden material was within his range, since he used the waggons, on which he travelled here, and at the same time material from the houses destroyed by him. But God made fun of him, and in his fury he addressed sarcastic words to him, terrifying him in his rage, he and all his people. On the fifth day, the very young monarch, having taken men on his side, those naturally which were his companions in all the plans and his support in the execution of the decisions: the archpriest himself and the best of the senate, — he sent gifts and a delegation, to again summon the tyrant to a armistice. So he sent Somnas, Eliakim and Joach; I overlook the fourth legate 10, because Hezekiah in the past also sent only three men to the Babylonian Rabshakah who in the past wanted to devastate Jerusalem.
XXI. But the legates returned without result, though they had handed over the gifts willing or not; then they said to those which had sent them: “We saw a terrestrial Proteus, a demon in human form whose word is unstable, his appearance and character terrible. Ah! the filth of his body and clothing — which we saw — ah! his words — which we heard —, we feel sick to speak to you about him and we are afraid of him. Like a second Salmoneus, he tattoos his skin below, thinks nothing of the future, and never reasons justly. But, since it is absolutely necessary that we tell you the essence of the words that he said to us, the tyrant, this depraved monster said to us what follows:
‘Let your God not mislead you. You trust him by saying that you will not hand over the city, to me and to the people which are with me. Tomorrow I will occupy the city in any case, and I will render it uninhabited. I will make —by my kindness — a gift of their lives to the inhabitants, and I will make possible for them to leave the city completely naked, but in mercy I will leave to each one a chiton, to hide their shame. I will summon Shahrbaraz to them and the Persian troops so that they cause you no loss. So leave, right now as I said, the city, but do not ask anything humanitarian of me!’
These are the words that he said to us, and he threatened us with still more serious things.
He added further: if we do not leave early, we will see that tomorrow the mass of Persians will fight beside the tyrant in front of the ramparts of the city. And, indeed, we saw also the Persian legates sent by Shahrbaraz who brought him gifts. We understand again that they have concluded an alliance, to send the Slavic monoxyles, to transport the Persian army from Chalcedon, by sea.”
XXII. These were the words of the legates. Of course the barbarian did not ask for an army of Perses, as if he was short of allies, because the firm ground and the sea were both full of wild people under his command, but he wanted to make known to us his alliance with the Persians, who moved against us. When night fell, the monoxyles were launched; there were a multitude of Slavs who directed them to transport the advancing army of the allied Persians. Because the Slavs had already great experience with regard to bravery at sea, since the time when they also attacked the territories of the Romans.
The monarch, the archpriest and guardian of the affairs of the emperor, after listening to the words of the legates, sighed seriously, raised their hands with all those which lived the city towards the sky, and said:
“Mighty Lord — you who bring low every proud man, you who can decide according to your will everything that happens in the world, whose force is incomparable and whose power can be neglected by none, because all the Universe is suject to you — hear all the words of Sennacherib that he transmitted, to blaspheme you, the Master of the Universe. For our hope does not reside in our arrows, and we do not have a sword to save us. It is you, our strong bastion, even against these so powerful enemies. And for this reason thus, you, omnipotent and all-mighty — who is seated on the Cherubins, and it is from there that you look at the Hells — throw a glance from the throne of the Master on the masses of the peoples who do not know each other, and who have surrounded us from the east and the west.
XXIII. Our Lord, it is in your power to save small and great, because you have the power to do so, when you wish. And so who could face the strength of your arm, our Lord God? Do not give the sceptre of your glory to those which do not even exist! 11 Do not let these men overcome you. Because, see, see that this Rezin and the son of Remaliah were allied, fell into agreement, and concluded a contract, in order to abolish the tabernacle of your glory, and to choke the voice of those who glorify you, ‘Let them fall into their own traps, our Lord, because under the pride of the impious people your unhappy people is consumed.’ Who is it that by his will alone conquered the Ethiopian Zare who led formerly his army with a thousand times a thousand men against king Asa? Who killed the enemy peoples whose number was innumerable, when Josaphat, deprived of any human help, lifted his hands towards you? Since you are able, now also, to do everything, by your pure will, save then the city of your heritage, and save the people who are called by your name, so that no-one can say ‘Where is their God?’ On the contrary: Let these people understand that they are only men.” Thus they the monarch, the archpriest, the head of the army and the city prayed constantly.
XXIV. But God put an obstacle in the passing of the Persians to this dog, preparing an ambush for them, and by killing some of those which were sent by the tyrants to each other. The fight did not cease, neither on the sixth, seventh, nor eighth day and continued with shootings and local brawls. For the barbarian, it was a very tiring and extremely serious task, on the one hand, to draw up on the land the siege-engines, to build helepoles against the bastions, and on the other hand, to prepare on the sea the monoxyles of the Slavs, so that they could start the siege at the same time, at the same hour, by land and sea, against the city. Because he had already transformed earlier, using the monoxyles filled with foreign tribes, the bay of the Horn into firm ground. He thought that to approach the city this was the best place. But he did not know, the devil, what he knew later, by experience, that the invincible guard of the city was the holy house of the Mother of God, being at Blachernae, close to the bay of Horn, and this is what safeguarded the city and all its inhabitants. It is there, that it was necessary that all the army of this Pharaoh perish in the sea, and so the bay was named Red Sea after the event. While this nutcase prepared the fight by land and sea, he advanced some armoured riders, selected as well as he could — this happened in the areas where those who were sailing towards the Euxine Sea took to sea — to show himself to the Persian army and to Shahrbraz which showed themselves in their turn. Because on the other side, he did the same, and filled all the opposite bank with heavy cavalry. The latter attacked the part of the city in Asia, and the former that in Europe, like mad beasts, thinking that she would be surely their booty.
XXV. When the ninth day came, on firm ground, the most violent fighting burst out, all along the wall, and consequently the enemy perished in heaps, carrying off his dead in the sight of all our men. Some of ours were also wounded. Even the following night did not put an end to the fight, and the combat continued on both sides throughout the night, without rest. The foreign tribe, in its combat against us, did not have men who would have been worthy of ours. Our army overcame the enemy everywhere with great courage. There came the tenth day of the stay of this dog. It was the fifth day of the week, and the seventh of the month, that the Romans call August. But who has the strength to tell the miraculous deeds of God, and who is able to show the power of the Virgin? Glory to he that names holy the chosen day which was the day of the most and most miraculous deeds, of the divine love, shown towards us. Because even the fifth, but the seventh also, and especially the tenth proved — one for certain things, the other for others — clearly such days which showed us all the miracles of our rescue, of divine origin. The fifth day, by its effect, fills with divine happiness all our senses which are at the center of the spiritual combats. The seventh on the other hand, like a virgin and without mother, was worthy of the grace of the Eternal Virgin, the Mother of God. Finally the tenth, which completes all, brought to us, by God and the Virgin, total freedom.12
XXVI. I believe that even Zachariah, one of the twelve minor prophets, prophesied by his prophetic heart that day, and he named it that of happiness and of divine exaltation, in the words that he says to us:
“The fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth will become for the house of Judah happiness, joy and merry feastdays.”
It is true, we know that the sons of the Hebrews interpreted differently the words of prophecy, by saying that the fact that Jerusalem would pass into the hands of strangers in the days mentioned, and what would follow: the disastrous humiliation and the austere fasting, would become joy and happiness for Judah. What I do not know, it is the date when the Jews hope for that, the Jews which are always precisely in mourning, because they condemned innocent blood. It is God whom they nailed on the cross, and it is very right which they wear mourning for that. Moreover nobody prevents them from understanding, and believing in the words of Zachariah, as they wish. In any case for us the fifth, the seventh and the tenth days became absolutely identical, because they carried in themselves the love of God and the Virgin towards us.
XXVII. The tenth day has also another mystery about which I cannot keep silent, because doing so, in my opinion, would be a sin against justice itself. Because Nabuzardan, the commander of the guard of the Babylonian Nabuchodonosor, set fire to the Temple of Jerusalem on the tenth day of the fifth month of the Hebrews, and conquered the city by assault. The infallible witness is Jeremiah who is wisest in the things of God, and who was crowned already in the belly of his mother by the Lord; he writes in his book these words: “This happened in the fifth month, the ten of the month. Nabuzardan, commanding the guard, one of the immediate entourage of the king of Babylon, made his entry into Jerusalem. He set fire to the Temple of the Lord, the royal palace, and he set fire to all the houses of the city and all the palaces. The army of Chaldaeans which was with the commander of the guard, threw down all the ramparts which surrounded Jerusalem. Nabuzardan left part of the ordinary people of the country, as vine growers and ploughmen.”
XXVIII. These words of the prophet tell us that the fifth month of the Hebrews was in its tenth day, when the Persians set fire to the Temple and the capital of the Jews. Among the Hebrews the fifth month is named Ab, because God had ordered that they hold and call Nisan the first among the months newly named. And thus we find the month Ab is the fifth starting from Nisan. Nisan among Hebrews is usually what is among Romans April. Among the Romans we find that the fifth month is August, starting from April. And if the Hebrews learned how to count the months according to the changes of the moon, then it is clear — as anyone could say — that the months and the days of the Hebrews are not harmonized exactly with the days and the months of the Romans, but they agree only in general: thus the month of Nisan often falls in April. As the commander of the guard thus occupied Jerusalem on the tenth day of the fifth month of the Hebrews, the Khagan hoped to occupy Constantinople, on the tenth day of his arrival.
XXIX. Because even the Roman emperor who carried out the punishment of the Jews, for their sin against our Saviour, set fire to the Temple of Jerusalem and destroyed the city, on the tenth day of the fifth month. Josephus, a writer worthy of trust, writes thus in the sixth book of the History of the Fall of the Jews:13 “God already condemned beforehand the Temple to be delivered to the flames; and by the passage of time, the tenth day of the month Loos arrived, on which day the monarch of Babylon had formerly made it burn.
Therefore everyone can admire the punctuality of the flow of time: because fate fixed the same month and the same day when Babylonians had set fire to the Temple formerly.” However, Josephus correctly wrote that the tenth day of the month of Ab, where according to divine Jeremiah, the king of Babylon had occupied the Temple and Jerusalem, is identical with the tenth day of the month of Loos, when Titus devastated the same city; it is thus proof that Josephus knew himself that the months of the Hebrews show, from time to time, several times a simultaneity; and it happens that the fifth month of the Hebrews is at the same time as August of the Romans.
XXX. All that is true, even if it is a digression. Our history shows that Nabuzardan demolished the Temple and Jerusalem, on the tenth day of the fifth month. Titus destroyed them in the same way, on the tenth day of the fifth month. The Khagan also, this sinful tyrant, spread out against the city so great a mass of enemies, from the east, from the west, by land and sea, exactly in the fifth month, and on the tenth day of his stay, if we count the first month in the series of the months lately established in accordance with the law of God. But God and the Virgin covered him with shame, him and those who were gathered, in order to show their divine kindness towards us, who were unworthy of rescue, and to show that before God the worship which is pure and without cruelty of the Christians is much more valuable and much better received than that which is according to the law. This last includes all the fatty and bloody sacrifices that the people of Israel, according to the flesh, had to carry out. Our worship is better received, even if we, so to speak, are not afraid to approach boldly, very many of the divine sacraments, with sinful conscience and hands which were not washed.
XXXI. That which is to be told about the tenth day, was not hidden by me; but with regard to the numerical coincidence with the tenth day, I believe that I did not understand it until the end. As for the devastation of Jerusalem, it; was accomplished by the devastators on the tenth of the month. And the tyrant thought, even now, that he was going to take the city on the tenth day after his arrival. Because the months did not differ much from the other, since the Jewish Ab, the Macedonian Loos and the month named August among the Romans, often coincide completely, even if they differ in their names. That is allowed, and that will surely be it, because it is really thus. That is to say August the fifth month, and the day the tenth, even if we do not count it from the beginning of the month, but of the arrival of this enemy criminal. Both the two dates coincide with the former ones. But with regard to the care of God towards us, our case is very differ from the others. It is about this that we will speak in the continuation.
XXXII. Now it is time to tell, if possible, the miraculous deeds of God and the Virgin, accomplished that day. It was the fifth day of the week, as we mentioned earlier, the seventh of August, the tenth day of the attack against us by this ravaging dog. He began the battle, on land and sea, at the same time against the city. Strong clamours were heard and a great noise of war all along the wall and over all the sea; the bugles sounded the signs of the attack everywhere and all the city was filled with noises and clamours all around. The tyrant prepared so that the catapults were put in motion and a multitude of projectiles was launched, at a single gesture, all along the wall; he had everything prepared that he wanted for the attack against the city. In the bay of Horn he filled the monoxyles with the Slavs and other wild peoples, which he had brought with him; and he gave the order that the barbarians with the heavy weapons, being transported in an innumerable mass in the monoxyles, should start to row against the city with terrible cries. Because he had tested and planned: while the besiegers from the land were going to destroy the walls of the city, those who attacked from the sea, in the bay of Horn, could easily approach the city. God and the Lady Virgin, on the other hand, showed him that his hopes were unrealizable and were overcome on all sides. Because on each point of the wall a so great number of corpses lay, and the enemy fell unceasingly that the barbarians were no longer in a position to take away and to burn their dead.
XXXIII. The Mother of God, in the sea battle, in front of her holy church of Blachernae, made the monoxyles with their men sink. If this expression were not serious, one could have said that all the bay could have been passed on dry foot because of the corpses lying there, and the monoxyles tossing randomly quite empty and moving without a goal. The fact that the Virgin herself won this fight, and won this victory, was shown clearly by the following facts: those who fought on the sea, on our vessels, turn around at the first attack of the enemy force and they failed to beat a retreat, and by that they would have made almost possible attacks by the enemy, if the pity of the Virgin had not prevented this misfortune, refusing to endure such a spectacle. She put in action her own force and power.
Not like Moses, dividing and uniting again the floods of the Red Sea by his staff, but only by her gesture and her pure will she made the chariots of Pharaoh and his army to sink. Everyone sank there, with the sailors and their instruments. Some say that ours were not withdrawn from the fear of the enemy, but that it is the Virgin itself which ordered ours to pretend to retire, because she wanted to achieve a miracle. In consequence of that, the barbarians sank completely, in front of her holy church, in the bridge of our rescue, our calm harbour, because all that was the church of the Mother of God in Blachernae. And this sight and astonishing and mighty miracle could be seen: while all the bay became firm ground, covered in blood, because of the corpses and abandoned monoxyles, some of the barbarians who — as good swimmers — succeeded in escaping from the dead and devastation at sea, and to reach the north bank, fled into the mountains, not being pursued by anybody.
XXXIV. It is said that even the wicked tyrant was an eyewitness of his own shame, courtesy of the Virgin, and at the same time he was the minister of his own loss. After having contemplated his own defeat from a hill, sitting on a horse and surrounded by his men-at-arms, he returned shaken to his camp, drawn up in front of the walls of the city, while beating his chest and his cheeks with his hands. Many days passed during which our men succeeded, on the one hand to collect with weariness the corpses of the barbarians floating in the water, on the other hand to fish out their monoxyles so that they could be burned. When those who fought on the walls against the enemy, learned the happy news of the loss of the barbarians at sea, and still more admired the multitude of the heads splitted on the lances that our men carried slowly towards the man to whom the mighty emperor had entrusted the management of the affairs of state, encouraged by the power of God and protected by the strength of the Virgin, they opened wide the doors of the ramparts and — making noise and cries, indicating confidence and victory — poured outside for a hand- to- hand fight against the enemy and his engines. Our men were full of such happiness and strength, while the barbarians felt grief and despair to such a state that even the children and the women marched against them, arriving in the camp of the enemy. One could see how one can drive out a thousand, and two pursue ten thousand in an attack, as Moses said formerly.
XXXV. The Mother of God, the Virgin, the Lady gave such strength to those which did not have any and such power to the weak, only by her goodwill. It is also obvious that the Mother of God did this so that our men could burn the siege-engines of the enemy, and she wanted to show by that also a greater sign of her love for us. Because very wisely she influenced the guardian of the affairs of the state, to justly prevent those who were leaving with all enthusiasm, to have care for a greater security, and prevent the exit of our men, and recall at the same time those which were running outside of the walls. And he did it, not by bugles sounding the retirement, but by cries, by running, by gesticulating and by exhorting with words our men with sure and reasonable words.
That was affirmed as a safety measure and an precautionary act by the head of the army. The Virgin Mother of God reached and ensures that these orders are carried out by the barbarians themselves, because she trusted them to destroy by fire their own siege-engines. The course of the events proves it too. At sunset, when the night fell, these devils lit and burned, along the wall, the tortoises, the caltrops, the helepoles, assault-towers on wheels, all the machines of war and the catapults, all that was there, or had been transferred onto chariots, or had been manufactured on the spot. So they started the similar fire which does not die out and which will absorb them. In consequence of that, during all the night, in the Western part of the city, all the air was lit by the light of the burning. For most of the following day, we could see neither the city nor the sea, because of widespread smoke. The archpriest, the General and a considerable multitude of townsmen, being outside the door whom we call, in accordance with reality, the Gilded Door, and looking at the fire and the smoke of the barbarian engines, raised their hands towards heaven, and uttered cries and tears of gratitude: “Your law, Lord, was shown by its strength; your right hand, Lord, cut the enemy in pieces, and by the excess of your glory, you have defeated the adversaries.”
XXXVI. Since the impudent dog thus received the reward of his own baseness, he withdrew to his own lands. In his retreat, he was to see thousands of corpses of the men and animals which he had brought with him; he was about to leave even more as casualties; the fugitives reported to us that these soon died. This fool could thus learn, by experience, that there is no god more powerful than our God, and that there is no power which could oppose the very Blessed Virgin. Thus the enemy of the west returned empty-handed and ashamed, the son of darkness; and as it is said, he blamed extremely those which had instigated him to this boldness, and that with true title, though he never needed a Master in spite.
XXXVII. The other enemy, the tyrant of Babylon who camped in the surroundings of Chalcedon, seeing the smoke of the fire, caused by the burning of the engines by the barbarians of the west, thought, it is said, that the city burned (God keep us!), was delighted at this, but at the same time he was saddened. He was delighted, because he thought in error that the capital of the Romans was already vanished; but he sighed and was saddened at the same time as it was not him, but — as he believed — the other tyrant who had devastated the city. Because this Holophernes had promised to his king Nabuchodonosor that he would succeed, either by fighting, or trickery; and that this scumbag would be the Master of the city. This is why he still camped several days at Chalcedon, even after the departure of the Western enemies, and the unlucky one hoped for the execution of his own foolish plan. Finally when God and the Virgin also reversed his hopes, he himself withdrew, ashamed and rightly humiliated, as he had made him his companion and accessory to turpitude.
XXXVIII. The two ends of smoking firebrands thus appeared, according to wise Isaiah: Rezin, the king of Syria and son of Remaliah, Phaceus, the monarch of Samariah, this one because of the flame and smoke of the fire which he had lit himself, the other because of the darkness and the sadness of his sinful conscience. They were in no state either to harm Jerusalem, either to strip the son of David of his power or to make the son of Tabeel monarch, — plans in which they agreed and that they concluded at the time of their alliance. On the contrary: their lot became opprobrium and eternal shame before each people and nation. It became obvious to us that very holy Isaiah depicted in the figure and example of the old Jerusalem the miracles accomplished today, and now he spoke to the descendant of David reigning in our time; “Do not fear a allied attack of these two ends of smoking firebrands which they have organised against you, against my city and my people.” According to what I know, all this also occurred as divine Isaiah had predicted, in the figure and example in connection with Jerusalem and Achaz, of the then king of the two tribes.
XXXIX. However, we all were eyewitnesses of the fact that the Virgin and Mother of God put to flight with a single blow the armed strength of both enemies; she did not do it with a blow of a lance, like Phineas who transfixed a Midianite and an Israelite. She did that by her voice and will only, terrifying and pursueing this one and that one at the same time. Because it is not only the tyrant of the west who withdrew shamefully, but the Persian also returned humiliated, as he was to ruminate in these words, himself: ” If so strong peoples of which the number can be compared only with the grains of sand of the sea, camped so many days under the walls of the city, reaching without a battle the edge of the sea, but could do nothing against this city and were lost despite every apparent advantage, then why I do remain still here, on the beach, ready, in vain, for the fight, and why I still nourish in myself these vain hopes? It is obvious that a divine and superhuman power guard this city and have kept it safe and sound; it is impossible for anyone to harm it.” This said, and apparently very astonished, he took the road of retreat, the murderer. Because disappointment in their hopes usually determines even the barbarians to hold the power of God as invincible. This was the experience of the Egyptians also who, after having tried the divine power at sea, were constrained to say: ” Let us run, run because God fights against the Egyptians for Israel.”
XL. I believe that the words and the visions of the prophet Ezechiel who saw great things, are fulfilled now. In these, instigated by the prophetic inspiration, he gave a prophecy in the Holy Scriptures on Gog. There are some who say that in Hebrew “Gog” means “assembly of the people” because they believe that no-one was ever called by this name. It appears obvious that what Ezechiel said was prophesied about the land of the people of Israel according to the flesh, but neither the date of what the prophet condescended to predict, nor the events of war against Judah which followed, make it acceptable to us to think that the things said concern the land of Israel and the people which mark themselves by the circumcision of the flesh. Because the prophet Ezechiel wrote what has been said before the deportation of the people to Babylonia; after this time, on the other hand, the people which marched against Judah did not withdraw empty-handed, and did not become, as the prophet says, the spoils of the wild beasts and the birds of prey. Because did not the Romans and Titus attack Judah after the activity of the prophet Ezechiel, and burn the Temple by fire and the city to the ground, and killed the majority of the population, by famine and sword? those who remained, men and the holy objects, became their property, as booty.
But before that, Titus and the Romans, when Mattathias and his sons had to face the attack of the peoples neighboring Judah which wanted to exterminate the remainder of the people, the enemy often fell, but, in these wars, we do not find anything similar to what the prophet wrote. Since neither time, nor the events make it possible for us to accept prophecy as relating to the land of Israel, it must be that we seek that which the prophet names Israel, and what he names his land, against which Gog led his armies, then it became the grazing ground of the birds of prey and the wild beasts.
XLI. But so that what I say become clear and quite comprehensible, it is reasonable and suitable to quote words of the prophet, finding the place given; but the prophetic words will not be complete and continual; I restrict myself to what is relevant because the length of the place quoted: “The word of the Lord was addressed to me in these terms: Son of man, turn to Gog and prophesy against him and say to him: Thus speaks the Lord God: Here, I declare myself against you, Prince de Rosh, Mesoch and Thobel; and I will make you go out, with all your army, horses and riders, all perfectly armoured, many troop, all bearing shields and helmets. The Persians, the Ethiopians and the Libyans are with them and you. Many peoples will come from the extreme north with you. That day, thoughts will be born in your spirit and you will utter evil designs: I will go up against a country without defense, march against the quiet people which live in the land in safety where there are no ramparts, nor bolts, nor doors. I will plunder them and make booty of them. I will go up against those which live on the navel of the earth. They are Sheba, Dedan and the traffickers of Chalcedon 14.
You will get under way and you will leave your residence in the extreme north and of the many people with you, all will be mounted on horses. You will go up against Israel, my people. You will be like a cloud which covers the earth. And I will bring you against my country so that all the nations know me, when I express my holiness, on your subject, Gog, in their eyes. Thus speaks the Lord God to Gog: My anger will go up and my jealousy in the heat of my fury, and I will express my greatness and holiness and glory and I will make myself known to the eyes of the many nations, and they will know that I am the Lord.
I will break your bow in your left hand, and I will make your arrows fall from your right hand. I will drive you over the mountains of Israel and you will succumb, and all your army and the people with you will be given to the multitude of the birds of prey. I give you like pasture to the wild beasts of the earth; and people will live in the islands in safety; and the day will arrive, says the Lord God, when I will give a famous place for his burial to Gog, in Israel, the common grave of the Passers- by which is on the sea; and the people of Gog will be buried there. Says the Lord God.
XLII. So, you have heard the words of the prophet. Can anyone, by clear reasoning, form an opinion, which examines whether the prophecies quoted relate to the old Israel and its land, and if they can be accomplished on them? The date excludes the accomplishment of the prophecy in Israel, and even the places where according to the words of the prophet all that should be accomplished do not lead us to think of the land of Israel, according to the flesh. Because the prophet had said that for the people marching against the land of Israel their common grave will be in the sea, and by their fall, the islands will be delivered from their terror.
My attention is not diverted from the fact that the prophet has predicted that with the people Gog himself would fall to earth and would subside, and thus time could come when somebody will set out again and say that if this assassin did not fall with those who perished, then we cannot well relate the prophetic predictions to the events of today.
However, everyone who knows the Holy Scriptures well, knows that the verb “to fall” into the divine writings has several senses and several meanings. It can be interpreted in several fashions and in various ways. The verb “to fall” is used in one of its meanings and senses: to break down in certain foolish hopes. The divine Ezechiel prophet declared rightly in this sense that the wicked tyrant falls, and his fall can be also noted by that the part armed with his people fell indeed and really. But if the sons of the Hebrews wish to interpret the words of the prophet in another way, and not of this one, they can understand them as they wish. But what other common grave, to be found at sea and pertaining to the people travelling with Gog against the land of Israel, can they show? When and how were the islands lived in in safety after Gog, fighting against Israel, had vanished?
XLIII. And if after the deportation of the Jews, when Ezekiel did prophesy, nothing accomplishes the words of the prophet in the land of Israel, according to the flesh, what then must we think? Because the Romans, as we have just said, undertook their attack only after these events against the land of Israel; they devastated all the landd, they returned with booty, they killed the majority of the people by a terrible famine and the murderous sword, and they put in prison those which remained. At the time of Hasmonaeans, the sons of Mattathias heroically fought against the neighboring peoples, threatening Israel; however, from the words of the prophet nothing occurred with the people which went on campaign against the land of Israel.
It remains after that to examine whether in the times which follow, the words of the prophet could have been accomplished. The fact that the Jews live today all dispersed, among all the peoples, and Israel, according to the flesh, does not have its own land, against which Gog could fight in the intention to have profit and booty, is obvious to any reasonable man. After all that, what goal could there be for peoples attack the land of Israel? The goal of war is in general the hope of booty, the removal of men, the seizure of goods; this is why the barbarian peoples begin a war. On the land of Israel there is nothing, neither today, nor in the future of any sort that could be such a cause of war. If thus the words of the prophet, neither in the past, nor in the future, could not and cannot be fulfilled, it only remains to interpret them in fact by the events of the present.
XLIV. Thus, I have reasoned carefully, if it is not inconsiderate to say so, that we should interpret the word “Gog” for the assembly of these people led against us by this mad dog. I have learned from other people that the name Gog means the multitude and the assembly of the people, but it is I who took this city for “the land of Israel” where God and the Virgin is glorified with a holy piety, and where the rite of the true piety of God is celebrated. Because the real existence of the true Israel means that the Lord is glorified with true heart and a devoted soul, and to live the innocent land of Israel means to celebrate a sacrifice everywhere pure and without bloodshed to God. What other but our city would rightly be that which could be named infallibly and correctly, in its totality, the place of sacrifice of God, and one can see that it is generally speaking the only church which sings the glory and the anthems of God and the Virgin. Thus, Gog, i.e. a multitude of people, assembled against this land of Israel, saying: “So let us go up against those who live on the navel of the earth where Sheba, Dedan and the traffickers of Chalcedon are found, let us pillage plunder, and get booty.”
Those who know the significance of the names, existing among the Hebrews, say that Sheba and Dedan are people subject to the Romans. However, so that I do not appear one who deploys more zeal than one should, and who deals too much with superfluous things, I pass over the circumstances which relate to this. But if we must understand for traffickers of Chalcedon the neighbors of this city, then my reasoning is on the right road and is irrefutable. Even if somebody said that by the “Chalcedonians” it is necessary to understand Libyan traffickers, even in this case there is no possibility that the prophet spoke about the land of Israel, according to the flesh. Because the Chalcedonian traffickers never traded with that land of Israel.
XLV. It is also necessary to examine these words of the prophet, where he ensures that Gog, in arranging his wicked plans, says: “I will go up against a country without defense, march against quiet people which live on the land in safety where there are no ramparts, bolts, or doors. I will plunder them and make booty of them. I will go up against the navel of the earth.” Because the fool thinks that the country is without defense, and the city without monarch, because he had news of the departure of the powerful emperor. He supposed that the people lived quietly and lived in the city in safety; he believed that the people of the Christians were not expert in war, and he missed men too. And when this most shameless dog advanced against the Long Walls, and did all that he did, as a foolish man, he said in his heart:
“There is no God here, and as ramparts, neither the Virgin, nor the arm of the divine power will save the city. This is why I go up against the navel of the earth, and I will plunder it and I will make booty of it. And there will be nobody who can stop me.”
The insatiability and the greed of the barbarian pushed him to think all that.
XLVI. And what other place could one name as “the navel of the earth” but this city where God put the imperial residence of the Christians, and that He made, by its central position, such that it can by itself be used as an intermediary between the east and the west. It is against this city that sovereigns, peoples and nations gathered, and it is their strength which was overcome by the Lord who had said in Sion:
“Be without fear, Sion! Let not your hands weaken! See, your God is in the midst of you, it is He which can save you.”
The gathering of the peoples of the northern lands, of the horses and armoured riders, and with them of Persians, presented themselves in front of this city. That was said word for word by the prophet. The strength of our God made their bows fall from their left hands and from their right, it was the Virgin who broke their arrows. They fell on the mountains of Israel and they became the pasture of wild beasts and birds of prey. All that was prophesied by Ezekiel, the divine prophet:
“On that day, says the Lord God, I will give to Gog a famous place for his burial in Israel, the common grave of the Passers- by which is on the sea, where all the people of Gog will be buried.”
I think that that means another thing than the loss of the foreign people, on the sea, the mass of whom was drowned by God and the Virgin in the bay of Horn. This bay is named not only the Bay of Horn, even if it is here that the Mother of God became the “horn of safety” for the city, but also the common grave of Gog, the place of burial of the people which is on the sea, and at the same time the Red Sea, where the chariots of Pharaoh drowned, even all its army.
XLVII. Because the zeal of the Lord of armies, God Almighty, did all that, and as the prophet says:
“Our Lord God manifested His greatness and His holiness and He became glorious in the eyes of the nations and the people. And all the earth knew, that he alone is the Lord. Because our enemies learned from all that they had suffered, even if they wander in darkness, and the sun of justice has not yet risen on them, that death carries out them to feed and that their strength is lost in Hell, and that they are banished from glory, and that they will be thus too in the future.”
I thought that it is good, in this place, to quote the words of the prophet Ezechiel, and my opinion which follows, though I know indeed that it is possible to accuse me of verbosity. You who judge rightly, it is for you to decide if you accept my procedure, i.e. if it is necessary that I refer to this prophecy, or indeed to correct me by saying that the prophecy did not logically relate to my discourse. However, the fact of the achieved rescue, in your interest, by the Lord, cannot be discussed, because it is an indisputable fact.
XLVIII. It is a beautiful and worthy thing that the Deborah of today employs the words of the Deborah of before, in singing the anthem of the victory against this Sisera. This current Deborah is called by me the church of God who — raising his hands towards God — pierced this Sisera with a lance. However, the mother of this Sisera watched by the grilles of her window, believing that her son already was distributing the spoils. What does she say, then, our Deborah, singing a song of victory to our Lord: “Kings, listen; princes, lend an ear; let us sing for the Lord, God of Israel! How the great ones of the people praise the Lord!
Make heard the song of those who sing briskly, marching in the middle of the road. May they do justice to the Lord! Lord! Strengthen justice among the people of Israel, and humiliate those who are stronger than your people!” The current Deborah, the church of God, says this, and adds to it, in giving the example of virginal purity, of the mortification of the flesh, and the sound of drum also to its song, as the sister of Moses did. Let us sing with the Lord because He was greatly glorified, because Bel has bowed and Dagon broken down; and all those who adored the idols were humiliated, and those who glorified images were covered with shame.
We others — the people God saved with so much difficulty, beyond hope, and that He saved, by the strength of His own arm, from death and bitter and imminent slavery — let us show by good deeds our recognition of the Savior. Because it is not those who just say: My Lord, My Lord, who will be saved, but those who fulfill the will of the Lord.
XLIX. However, let us not look only at the deeds committed towards us by the barbarians, by burning the forsaken houses and by devastating the best lands, so as not to reduce in this way our recognition of the rescue and kindness of being delivered! It is necessary that we consider also from what a powerful danger the Lord delivered us! And at this point in time we will recognize the greatness of the benefits with which God and the Virgin have filled us. Because we already believed that we saw with our eyes, as an immediate danger, priests, leaders, children — all who could beforehand have fled from death and in exchange ensured a miserable life, carried in a bitter servitude, in irons to foreign lands, to a deplorable life to which even death is preferable. As if we had seen women and children, – – women who were obscenely dishonored and who became toys of barbarian vice, and at the same time, objects of mockery placed in the sight of their husbands who do not dare to howl, even if they must endure such terrible things.
As if we had seen children who, because of their age cannot be useful yet, massacred; those, on the other hand, which can be, are deported in front of our eyes, by these foreign hands. Is there a sight more miserable than this? It would be all as well as to traverse, contemplate and count the holy churches, the palace, all the city lying on the ground.
L. Even if we have received forgiveness now, because of the multitude of our sins, we could have been the cause of the devastation of this great city, the beautiful buildings and the brilliant houses, and we could have become unworthy of all that. But now, that the Lord saved us of all these dangers, what thanksgivings do we owe, in exchange for what they did for us, to the Lord and the Virgin Mother of God? What praise and what glorification should we sing for the benefits in which we have taken part — even unworthily?
“Because the Lord has rescued the poor, He did not scorn the prisoners! How the heavens and the earth acclaim Him, the sea and all that is stirred up there! Because the Lord God has saved Sion, and He comforted the poor wretches of its people.”
It is necessary that we appear neither good-for-nothings, neither lazy, nor inactive; each one according to his possibilities must accomplish good deeds, and thus he will glorify and praise the Savior.
LI. And while these miraculous things took place by the love of God the merciful, proven towards us, according to the envoys bringing the imperial rescripts the faithful and mighty emperor who, himself held open day and night his ears and eyes, and his spirit was vigilant, he looked at and watched for every part of the roads and the sea; and his spirit meditated ceaselessly, and he reflected during long sleepless nights on the outcome of this complex concern: what news would he receive on the rescue of this city by God. There when on the other hand, as it is reported, the couriers arrived, announcing the marvelous deeds of God, he did not ask them the news that they brought. Beforehand he ran to the church of the Virgin and the Mother of God, and prostrated himself on the ground, asking Her that he would hear good news brought by the newly-arrived legates. And when he found that the news corresponded to that which he solicited, he knelt again on the ground, in the sight of the army and the people present, and while pouring out tears, he prayed to God and the Virgin:
“I give you grace, he said, Divine Word, our Savior and king of all things visible and invisible, and you also Virgin, Mother of God and Lady, because you did not denied anything to the city which you condescended to entrust to me and the people of whom you made me shepherd, and more precisely you have made them praise you with myself, but you have carried them towards the waters of saving baptism giving peace, you safeguarded them from any distress and you made the herd inaccessible to the wolves.”
Those which brought back the imperial rescripts, have said that the most wise emperor said and did all that, but this was proven by the letters of the emperor also which he condescended to address in imperial manner to several; all this shows, how it was in consideration of former pains taken, and what happened, at the invitation of God, after these events.
LII. At the same time, the very worthy archpriest dedicated himself to God without ceasing, like a favorable holocaust, on the one hand by the mortification of his own flesh, on the other hand by the divine enthusiasm of his heart. And he obtains for us safety for the future not by the blood of sheep and goats, but by the sacrifice without bloodshed, offered in favor of the delivery in the sacrosanct church of the Mother of God, at Blachernae. He unceasingly celebrates the triumphal festival of the delivery from evil with communal litanies and asks that the city remain intact for the eternity of all time.
Oh, very wise Isaiah — as you outlined to me at the beginning of my speech in broad outline the delivery of this city —, seal, yourself, with your seal again the end of this sermon, and announce that the city will be safeguarded, in the future also, from war. Speak thus to this city:
“Here is the oracle of the Lord, our God: I will protect this city to save it, because of myself, and David, my servant.”
Because by the devotion for God and tenderness for his subjects, our emperor is also a David; and with the example of David, that the Lord adorned him with victories, just as he makes his son reigning with him a man distinguished for wisdom and love of peace, with the example of Solomon, and that he is endowed with devotion and the true faith, just like his father! Because the devotion and the faith of Solomon was not to follow. Pray, prophet, to God, and also beseech the Virgin whom you saw in your heart, in advance, that she would be really the Mother of God, and you announced it by your prophetic words.
Thus beseech them that they save always the city and its people which are sinners, but can always escape thanks to God and to the Virgin. Because it is God who has glory and strength in the centuries of the centuries. Amen.
1. Heraclius (610-641 AD).
2. Sergius, Patriarch from 610-658 AD.
3. Cf. Hesiod, Theogony 185; also George of Pisidia, Bellum Avaricum 215.
4. The references to Nabuchodonosor and Holophernes are a reference to the apocryphal book of Judith.
5. Khosrau II was restored to his throne by the emperor Maurice in 590 AD. After the murder of Maurice, Khosrau used the murder as a pretext to throw off his obligation and wage war on the Eastern Roman Empire.
6. Constantine, the 14-year old son of Heraclius.
7. In Pannonia.
8. When Heraclius was preparing to campaign against the Persinas, he addressed a letter to the Avar Khagan, reminding him of the treaty agreed in 620, and appointing him tutor to his sons. In April 622 the emperor left to campaign in the east against the Persians.
9. 29th July 626 AD.
10. Theodore the Syncellus himself.
11. See Esther 4:17 and Deuteronomy 6:4. The gods of the pagans do not really exist, nor their worshippers.
12. This numerology of 7 and 10 is discussed in Hierocles Alexandrinus, Commentarius in Aureum Carmen 20, 45-48. Ed. Fr. G. A. Mullachius, Fragmenta Philosophorum Graecorum, vol. 1. Paris (1883), pp. 464-465.
13. Josephus, Jewish War, book 6, 4:8.
14. The biblical reading may have been massaged here to fit the interpretation. The whole passage is from Ezekiel 38-39.