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30. A copy of the letter of Constantius against Athanasius.

Victor Constantius Maximus Augustus to the Alexandrians.

Your city, preserving its national character, and remembering the virtue of its founders, has habitually shewn itself obedient unto us, as it does at this day; and we on our part should consider ourselves greatly wanting in our duty, did not our good will eclipse even that of Alexander himself. For as it belongs to a temperate mind, to behave itself orderly in all respects, so it is the part of royalty, on account of virtue, permit me to say, such as yours, to embrace you above all others; you, 250who rose up as the first teachers of wisdom who were the first to acknowledge13701370    On the reading, cf. infr. note 6. God; who moreover have chosen for yourselves the most consummate masters; and have cordially acquiesced in our opinion, justly abominating that impostor and cheat, and dutifully uniting yourselves to those venerable men who are beyond all admiration. And yet, who is ignorant, even among those who live in the ends of the earth, what violent party spirit was displayed in the late proceedings? with which we know not anything that has ever happened, worthy to be compared. The majority of the citizens had their eyes blinded, and a man who had come forth from the lowest dens of infamy obtained authority among them, entrapping into falsehood, as under cover of darkness, those who were desirous to know the truth;—one who never provided for them any fruitful and edifying discourse, but corrupted their minds with unprofitable subtleties. His flatterers shouted and applauded him; they were astonished at his powers, and they still probably murmur secretly; while the majority of the more simple sort took their cue from them. And thus all went with the stream, as if a flood had broken in, while everything was entirely neglected. One of the multitude was in power;—how can I describe him more truly than by saying, that he was superior in nothing to the meanest of the people, and that the only kindness which he shewed to the city was, that he did not thrust her citizens down into the pit. This noble-minded and illustrious person did not wait for judgment to proceed against him, but sentenced himself to banishment, as he deserved. So that now it is for the interest of the Barbarians to remove him out of the way, lest he lead some of them into impiety, for he will make his complaint, like distressed characters in a play, to those who first fall in with him. To him however we will now bid a long farewell. For yourselves there are few with whom I can compare you: I am bound rather to honour you separately above all others, for the great virtue and wisdom which your actions, that are celebrated almost through the whole world, proclaim you to possess. Go on in this sober course. I would gladly have repeated to me a description of your conduct in such terms of praise as it deserves; O you who have eclipsed your predecessors in the race of glory, and will be a noble example both to those who are now alive, and to all who shall come after, and alone have chosen for yourselves the most perfect of beings as guide for your conduct, both in word and deed, and hesitated not a moment, but manfully transferred your affections, and gave yourselves up to the other side, leaving those grovelling13711371    τῶν χαμαί, vid. contr. Euseb. H. E. vii. 27. and earthly teachers, and stretching forth towards heavenly things, under the guidance of the most venerable George13721372    Of Cappadocia, de Syn. 37, note 3., than whom no man is more perfectly instructed therein. Under him you will continue to have a good hope respecting the future life, and will pass your time in this present world, in rest and quietness. Would that all the citizens together would lay hold on his words, as a sacred anchor, so that we might need neither knife nor cautery for those whose souls are diseased! Such persons we most earnestly advise to renounce their zeal in favour of Athanasius, and not even to remember the foolish things which he spoke so plentifully among them. Otherwise they will bring themselves before they are aware into extreme peril, from which we know not any one who will be skilful enough to deliver such factious persons. For while that pestilent fellow Athanasius is driven from place to place, being convicted of the basest crimes, for which he would only suffer the punishment he deserves, if one were to kill him ten times over, it would be inconsistent in us to suffer those flatterers and juggling ministers of his to exult against us; men of such a character as it is a shame even to speak of, respecting whom orders have long ago been given to the magistrates, that they should be put to death. But even now perhaps they shall not die, if they desist from their former offences, and repent at last. For that most pestilent fellow Athanasius led them on, and corrupted the whole state, and laid his impious and polluted hands upon the most holy things.


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