At Antioch in Syria a presbyter of bishop Flavian named John had acquired a considerable reputation, mainly for his strongly ethical and candid discourses. In 387 there was a crisis at Antioch, when Theodosius I needed to raise money by a high tax to pay for his campaign against Magnus Maximus; 1 in a riot statues of Theodosius and his first wife Flaccilla were overturned. This was an insult to imperial authority, as such legally counted as 'sacrilege' (e.g. Augustine, S. Dolbeau 6, p. 463; En. in Ps. 66. 4). For this a price would be paid by the city councillors held responsible for a failure to keep order. The pagan orator Libanius wrote letters interceding for mercy. The city of Syrian Seleucia, port of Antioch, interceded, though in a way that much offended the Antiochenes proud of their superiority (Chrys. Hom. in Col. 7. 3, PG 62. 548). Commissioned by the city council (Hom. in Stat. 21. 1), the old bishop Flavian went to Constantinople in person to beg for pardon for his city, and seems to have been more effective than the pagan representations. While Flavian was absent, presbyter John preached a series of sermons, in broad terms rebuking the people of the city for their moral laxities, especially their love of swearing, which in his view was responsible for the disaster. Educated pagans were present. Temporarily Antioch lost its title of metropolis. The hippodrome and city baths were closed, so that people took to the river Orontes as a substitute. Among the magnates, but not the poor and destitute sleeping rough, there were some exemplary executions, tortures, and confiscations, for failing to enforce order (as usual in edicts in the Theodosian Code). But the final upshot was less dreadful than had been feared. And John's homilies made him famous.
John had also given expression to Christian feelings of anger that, through a collection made by their patriarch, the numerous and wealthy Jews of
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Publication information: Book title: The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great. Contributors: Henry Chadwick - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 479.
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