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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

Segued listened to the voice of pity


by a law, which imposed, under pain of death, the belief of the two natures of Christ: the Abyssinians were enjoined to work and to play on the Sabbath; and Segued, in the face of Europe and Africa, renounced his connection with the Alexandrian church. A Jesuit, Alphonso Mendez, the Catholic patriarch of Aethiopia, accepted, in the name of Urban VIII., the homage and abjuration of the penitent. "I confess," said the emperor on his knees, "I confess that the pope is the vicar of Christ, the successor of St. Peter, and the sovereign of the world. To him I swear true obedience, and at his feet I offer my person and kingdom." A similar oath was repeated by his son, his brother, the clergy, the nobles, and even the ladies of the court: the Latin patriarch was invested with honors and wealth; and his missionaries erected their churches or citadels in the most convenient stations of the empire. The Jesuits themselves deplore the fatal indiscretion of their chief, who forgot the mildness of the gospel and the policy of his order, to introduce with hasty violence the liturgy of Rome and the inquisition of Portugal. He condemned the ancient practice of circumcision, which health, rather than superstition, had first invented in the climate of Aethiopia. [160] A new baptism, a new ordination, was inflicted on the natives; and they trembled with horror when the most holy of the dead were torn from their graves, when the most illustrious of the living were excommunicated by a foreign priest. In the defense of their religion and liberty, the Abyssinians rose in arms, with desperate but unsuccessful zeal. Five rebellions were extinguished in the blood of the insurgents: two abunas were slain in battle, whole legions were slaughtered in the field, or suffocated in their caverns; and neither merit, nor rank, nor sex, could save from an ignominious death the enemies of Rome. But the victorious monarch was finally subdued by the constancy of the nation, of his mother, of his son, and of his most faithful friends. Segued listened to the voice of pity, of reason, perhaps of fear: and his edict of liberty of conscience instantly revealed the tyranny and weakness of the Jesuits. On the death of his father, Basilides expelled the Latin patriarch, and restored to the wishes of the nation the faith and the discipline of Egypt. The Monophysite churches resounded with a song of triumph, "that the sheep of Aethiopia were now delivered from the hyaenas of the West;" and the gates of that solitary realm were forever shut against the arts, the science, and the fanaticism of Europe. [161]

[Footnote 159: Religio Romana...nec precibus patrum nec miraculis ab ipsis editis suffulciebatur, is the uncontradicted assurance of the devout emperor Susneus to his patriarch Mendez, (Ludolph. Comment. No. 126, p. 529;) and such assurances should be preciously kept, as an antidote against any marvellous legends.]

[Footnote 160: I am aware how tender is the question of circumcision. Yet I will affirm, 1. That the Aethiopians have a physical reason for the circumcision of males, and even of females, (Recherches Philosophiques sur les Americains, tom. ii.) 2. That it was practised in Aethiopia long before the introduction of Judaism or Christianity, (Herodot. l. ii. c. 104. Marsham, Canon. Chron. p. 72, 73.) "Infantes circumcidunt ob consuetudinemn, non ob Judaismum," says Gregory the Abyssinian priest, (apud Fabric. Lux Christiana, p. 720.) Yet in the heat of dispute, the Portuguese were sometimes branded with the name of uncircumcised, (La Croze, p. 90. Ludolph. Hist. and Comment. l. iii. c. l.)]


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