Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Thomas Apameensis, bishop of Apamea
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Thomas Apameensis, bishop of Apamea
Thomas (9) Apameensis, bp. of Apamea, the metropolis of Syria Secunda; one of the bishops sent to invite pope Vigilius to the second council of Constantinople. He himself attended it. Two contemporary historians, Procopius and Evagrius (the latter praises Thomas as a "man most mighty in word and in deed"), record his tact and courage when a great peril threatened his city. In 540 Chosroes, at the head of his Persians, after burning Antioch, was reported to be marching on Apamea. The panic-stricken people entreated their bishop to strengthen them to meet their fate by displaying a piece of the true cross, a cubit in length, which was treasured in their church in a casket richly decorated with gold and gems, and usually shewn to the faithful but once a year. Thomas fixed a day for its exhibition, to which the people of the neighbouring towns also eagerly repaired; among them the parents of Evagrius, bringing with them the future historian, who vividly describes the crowds pressing to see, and seeking to kiss, the sacred wood. The bishop (as both narrators relate) took it out of the casket, and raising it up in both hands proceeded round the church, according to usage. "A flame of fire shining, but not consuming," around and above the relic, moved as he moved, lighting up the roof. This was repeated several times. The people greeted with joy this visible token of divine protection, and drew from it confident hopes of deliverance. As Chosroes approached, the bishop met him, and assured him that no resistance was contemplated by the citizens, on whose behalf he engaged that the king with a limited guard should be admitted within the gates. Chosroes accordingly, leaving his army in camp, entered with 200 men. In violation of a compact he had recently entered into with the emperor (to receive 5,000 pounds of gold paid down and 500 annually, and make no further demands), he exacted from the bishop more than 10,000 pounds of silver, and all the gold and silver ornaments in the church treasury. Thomas produced last of all the casket that enshrined the cross, and, shewing its contents to the king, said, "This alone is left; take the gold and gems—I grudge them not; only leave us the precious wood of salvation." The king granted his petition. Thomas conciliated Chosroes by assiduously courting his favour. It would be unfair to judge him hardly under circumstances of such great responsibility and peril, though he shews politic suppleness and tact rather than the higher virtues of a prelate and patriot.