Chapter XIV.—Concerning the Banishment and Return of the Holy Liberius.
This victorious champion of the truth was sent into Thrace, according to the imperial order. Two years after this event Constantius went to Rome. The ladies of rank urged their husbands to petition the emperor for the restoration of the shepherd to his flock: they added, that if this were not granted, they would desert them, and go themselves after their great pastor. Their husbands replied, that they were afraid of incurring the resentment of the emperor. “If we were to ask him,” they continued, “being men, he would deem it an unpardonable offence; but if you were yourselves to present the petition, he would at any rate spare you, and would either accede to your request, or else dismiss you without injury.” These noble ladies adopted this suggestion, and presented themselves before the emperor in all their customary splendour of array, that so the sovereign, judging their rank from their dress, might count them worthy of being treated with courtesy and kindness. Thus entering the presence, they besought him to take pity on the condition of so large a city, deprived of its shepherd, and made an easy prey to the attacks of wolves. The emperor replied, that the flock possessed a shepherd capable of tending it, and that no other was needed in the city. For after the banishment of the great Liberius, one of his deacons, named Felix, had been appointed bishop. He preserved inviolate the doctrines set forth in the Nicene confession of faith, yet he held communion with those who had corrupted that faith. For this reason none of the citizens of Rome would enter the House of Prayer while he was in it. The ladies mentioned these facts to the emperor. Their persuasions were successful; and he commanded that the great Liberius should be recalled from exile, and that the two bishops should conjointly rule the Church. The edict of the emperor was read in the circus, and the multitude shouted that the imperial ordinance was just; that the spectators were divided into two factions, each deriving its name from its own colours 544 , and that each faction would now have its own bishop. After having thus ridiculed the edict of the emperor, they all exclaimed with one voice, “One God, one Christ, one bishop.” I have deemed it right to set down their precise words. Some time after this Christian people had uttered these pious and righteous acclamations, the holy Liberius returned, and Felix retired to another city.
I have, for the sake of preserving order, appended this narrative to what relates to the proceedings of the bishops at Milan. I shall now return to the relation of events in their due course.
There were originally four factions in the Circus; blue, green, white, and red. Domitian added two more, golden and purple. But the blue and the green absorbed the rest, and divided the multitude at the games. Cf. Juv. XI. 197.
“Totam hodie Romam circus capit, et fragor aurem
Percutit, eventum viridis quo colligo panni.”
Cf. Amm. Marc. xiv. 6, and Plin. Ep. ix. 6.