Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

27. Athanasius leaves Alexandria to go to Constantius, but is stopped by the news of the banishment of the Bishops.

Observing these things, I did not give sentence against myself, but hastened to come to your Piety, with this my defence, knowing your goodness, and remembering your faithful promises, and being confident that, as it is written in the divine Proverbs, ‘Just speeches are acceptable to a gracious king 1360 .’ But when I had already entered upon my journey, and had passed through the desert 1361 , a report suddenly reached me 1362 , which at first I thought to be incredible, but which afterwards proved to be true. It was rumoured everywhere that Liberius, Bishop of Rome, the great Hosius of Spain, Paulinus of Gaul, Dionysius and Eusebius of Italy, Lucifer of Sardinia, and certain other Bishops and Presbyters and Deacons, had been banished 1363 because they refused to subscribe to my condemnation. These had been banished: and Vincentius of Capua, Fortunatian of Aquileia, Heremius of Thessalonica, and all the Bishops of the West, were treated with no ordinary force, nay were suffering extreme violence and grievous injuries, until they could be induced to promise that they would not communicate with me. While I was astonished and perplexed at these tidings, behold another report 1364 overtook me, respecting them of Egypt and Libya, that nearly ninety Bishops had been under persecution, and that their Churches were given up to the professors of Arianism; that sixteen had been banished, and of the rest, some had p. 249 fled, and others were constrained to dissemble. For the persecution was said to be so violent in those parts, that at Alexandria, while the brethren were praying during Easter and on the Lord’s days in a desert place near the cemetery, the General came upon them with a force of soldiery, more than three thousand in number, with arms, drawn swords, and spears; whereupon outrages, such as might be expected to follow so unprovoked an attack, were committed against women and children, who were doing nothing more than praying to God. It would perhaps be unseasonable to give an account of them now, lest the mere mention of such enormities should move us all to tears. But such was their cruelty, that virgins were stripped, and even the bodies of those who died from the blows they received were not immediately given up for burial, but were cast out to the dogs, until their relatives, with great risk to themselves, came secretly and stole them away, and much effort was necessary, that no one might know it.



Prov. xvi. 13. quoted otherwise, supr. §12.


[Probably the Libyan desert, as Const. was now in Italy.]


In this chapter he breaks off his Oratorical form, and ends his Apology much more in the form of a letter, vid. however τῶν λόγων καιρόν, infr. §§34, 35 init. προσφωνήσω, §35.


Council of Milan 355, see Apol. Fug. 5.


Vid. Hist. Ar. §§31, 32, 54, 70, &c. [Prolegg. ch, ii. §8 (1).]

Next: The news of the intrusion of George.