Select Works And Letters Or Athanasius by Athanasius
24. Why Athanasius did not obey the Imperial Order.
On the subject of this letter, my opponents conferred with the magistrates. And was it not reasonable that I, having received it, should demand their letters, and refuse to give heed to mere pretences? And were they not acting in direct contradiction to the tenor of your instructions to me, while they failed to shew me the commands of your Piety? I therefore, seeing they produced no letters from you, considered it improbable that a mere verbal communication should be made to them, especially as the letter of your Grace had charged me not to give ear to such persons. I acted rightly then, most religious Augustus, that as I had returned to my country under the authority of your letters, so I should only leave it by your command; and might not render myself liable hereafter to a charge of having deserted the Church, but as receiving your order might have a reason for my retiring. This was demanded for me by all my people, who went to Syrianus together with the Presbyters, and the greatest part, to say the least, of the city with them. Maximus, the Prefect of Egypt, was also there: and their request was that either he would send me a declaration of your wishes in writing, or would forbear to disturb the Churches, while the people themselves were sending a deputation to you respecting the matter. When they persisted in their demand, Syrianus at last perceived the reasonableness of it, and consented, protesting by your safety (Hilary was present and witnessed this) that he would put an end to the disturbance, and refer the case to your Piety. The guards of the Duke, as well as those of the Prefect of Egypt, know that this is true; the Prytanis of the city also remembers the words; so that you will perceive that neither I, nor any one else, resisted your commands.