The End of the Pagans of Heliopolis

In 579, a Byzantine general, Theophilus, exterminated the last pagans of Heliopolis. The shocking story is recorded by the contemporary author John of Ephesus (c.507-c.588). Ecclesiastical History 3.27 was translated by R.P. Smith.


The End of the Pagans of Heliopolis

[3.27.1] In the second year of Tiberius' reign, the news reached the capital that the wicked heathens at Baalbek, otherwise called Heliopolis, who were professed worshippers of Satan, were plotting whenever they could find an opportunity to destroy and wipe out the very remembrance of the Christians in that town, who were few and poor, while they all were in the constant enjoyment of wealth and dignity. They indulged moreover in scoffs at Christ, and all who believed in him, and had already ventured upon many acts of open violence.

[3.27.2] Upon the news reaching Tiberius, he entrusted the matter to an officer who had already a short time before been sent to the East by Justin, upon the occasion of a revolt and disturbance created by the Jews and Samaritans in Palestine: and who on his arrival there had effectually reduced them to order, exterminating some and crucifying others, and destroying their property, and compelling them, by the severity of his measures, to submission.

[3.27.3] On receiving the emperor's commands, this officer, whose name was Theophilus, proceeded at once from Palestine to Heliopolis, and having arrested numerous heathens, recompensed them as their audacity deserved, humbling them and crucifying them, and slaying them with the sword. And on being put to the torture, and required to give the names of those who were guilty like themselves of heathenish error, they mentioned numerous persons in every district and city in their land, and in almost every town in the East, but especially at Antioch.