Select Works And Letters Or Athanasius by Athanasius
32. He defends his Flight.
Hearing, nay almost seeing, these things, through the mournful representations of the messengers, I confess I turned back again into the desert, justly concluding, as your Piety will perceive, that if I was sought after, that I might be sent as soon as I was discovered to the Prefects , I should be prevented from ever coming to your Grace; and that if those who would not subscribe against me, suffered so severely as they did, and the laity who refused to communicate with the Arians were ordered for death, there was no doubt at all but that ten thousand new modes of destruction would be devised by the calumniators against me; and that after my death, they would employ against whomsoever they wished to injure, whatever means they chose, venting their lies against us the more boldly, for that then there would no longer be any one left who could expose them. I fled, not because I feared your Piety (for I know your long-suffering and goodness), but because from what had taken place, I perceived the spirit of my enemies, and considered that they would make use of all possible means to accomplish my destruction, from fear that they would be brought to answer for what they had done contrary to the intentions of your Excellency. For observe, your Grace commanded that the Bishops should be expelled only out of the cities and the province. But these worthy persons presumed to exceed your commands, and banished aged men and Bishops venerable for their years into desert and unfrequented and frightful places, beyond the boundaries of three provinces . Some of them were sent off from Libya to the great Oasis; others from the Thebais to Ammoniaca in Libya . Neither was it from fear of death that I fled; let none of them condemn me as guilty of cowardice; but because it is the injunction of our Saviour that we should flee when we are persecuted, and hide ourselves when we are sought after, and not expose ourselves to certain dangers, nor by appearing before our persecutors inflame still more their rage against us. For to give one's self up to one's enemies to be murdered, is the same thing as to murder one's self; but to flee, as our Saviour has enjoined, is to know our time, and to manifest a real concern for our persecutors, lest if they proceed to the shedding of blood, they become guilty of the transgression of the law, Thou shalt not kill .' And yet these men by their calumnies against me, earnestly wish that I should suffer death. What they have again lately done proves that this is their desire and murderous intention. You will be astonished, I am sure, Augustus, most beloved of God, when you hear it; it is indeed an outrage worthy of amazement. What it is, I pray you briefly to hear.