Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume VI/Archelaus/Acts of Disputation/Chapter I
1. The true Thesaurus; to wit, the Disputation conducted in Carchar, a city of Mesopotamia, before Manippus and Ægialeus and Claudius and Cleobolus, who acted as judges. In this city of Mesopotamia there was a certain man, Marcellus by name, who was esteemed as a person worthy of the highest honour for his manner of life, his pursuits, and his lineage, and not less so for his discretion and his nobility of character: he was possessed also of abundant means; and, what is most important of all, he feared God with the deepest piety, and gave ear always with due reverence to the things which were spoken of Christ. In short, there was no good quality lacking in that man, and hence it came to pass that he was held in the greatest regard by the whole city; while, on the other hand, he also made an ample return for the good-will of his city by his munificent and oft-repeated acts of liberality in bestowing on the poor, relieving the afflicted, and giving help to the distressed. But let it suffice us to have said thus much, lest by the weakness of our words we rather take from the man’s virtues than adduce what is worthy of their splendour. I shall come, therefore, to the task which forms my subject. On a certain occasion, when a large body of captives were offered to the bishop Archelaus by the soldiers who held the camp in that place, their numbers being some seven thousand seven hundred, he was harassed with the keenest anxiety on account of the large sum of money which was demanded by the soldiers as the price of the prisoners’ deliverance. And as he could not conceal his solicitude, all aflame for the religion and the fear of God, he at length hastened to Marcellus, and explained to him the importance and difficulty of the case. And when that pattern of piety, Marcellus, heard his narration, without the least delay he went into his house, and provided the price demanded for the prisoners, according to the value set upon them by those who had led them captive; and unlocking the treasures of his goods, he at once distributed the gifts of piety among the soldiers, without any severe consideration of number or distinction, so that they seemed to be presents rather than purchase-moneys. And those soldiers were filled with wonder and admiration at the grandeur of the man’s piety and munificence, and were struck with amazement, and felt the force of this example of pity; so that very many of them were added to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, and threw off the belt of military service, while others withdrew to their camp, taking scarcely a fourth part of the ransom, and the rest made their departure without receiving even so much as would defray the expenses of the way.
- In Epiphanius, Hæres., lxvi. 10, it is Marsipus.
- Pietatis pretia.
- Nec numero aliquo nec discretione ulla distinguit. For distinguit, some propose distribuit.
- Reading commonentur, as in the text. Commoventur is also suggested, ="were deeply moved.”
- On the attitude of the Christians of the primitive Church towards warfare, see Tertullian’s De Corona Militis, ch. 11, and the twelfth canon of the Nicene Council.