Letter to a priest

We should never easily have had anything to do with Pegasius had we not been convinced that formerly whilst he appeared to be a bishop of the Galileans he knew how to respect and honour the gods. I tell you this not because I heard it from those who are wont to speak from sentiments of enmity or friendship and indeed a very great many such rumours were current about him and came to my ears and by the gods I thought that he deserved to be hated more than the most depraved wretches. But when being called by the late Constantius to the camp I went by that road I started from Alexandria Troas very early in the morning and reached Ilium at the time of full market (between nine and ten in the morning). He came to meet me and he became my guide as for one who wished to know the city this being my pretext for visiting the temples and led me about everywhere to show me the curiosities. Listen then to facts and words from which one may suppose him to be not regardless of the gods.

There is a sanctuary of Hector where a bronze statue stands in a small chapel. Opposite to him they have put up Achilles in the open air If you have seen the place you will well understand what I say. You may hear from the guides the legend on account of which great Achilles has been placed opposite to him and occupies the whole space in the open air. Happening to find the altars still burning and I might almost say still in a blaze and Hector’s statue anointed with fat. I looked at Pegasius and said What is the meaning of these sacrifices of the Ilians sounding him in a delicate way in order to learn how his feelings were. He answered What is there unbecoming if they do homage to a good man their citizen just as we do to the martyrs. It is true the statue is not uninjured but the good will of the Ilians in respect of those times if it is looked into is comely. What then happened afterwards. Let us go I said into the sacred precincts the témenos of the Ilian Athene. He also most willingly led the way opened to me the temple and as if calling me to witness he showed me all the statues perfectly well preserved and he did none of the things those impious men are wont to do who make on the forehead the memorial of the impious one nor did he hiss to himself ie aside like those men for their high theology consists in these two things hissing against the daemons and making the sign of the cross on the forehead.

These two things I desired to tell you a third which comes to my mind I think I must not conceal. The same Pegasius followed me also to the Achilleum and showed me the sepulchre unhurt for I had heard also that he had excavated this tomb. But he approached it even with great reverence. All this I saw myself. But I have heard from those who are now inimically disposed against him that in secret he prays to and worships the sun. Would you not accept my testimony even as a private man Of the sentiments which each one has regarding the gods who could be more credible witnesses than the gods themselves. Should we have made Pegasius a priest if we had known him to have been impious towards the gods. But if in those times whether aspiring to power or as he often told us desiring to preserve the temples of the gods he wrapped those rags around his body and feigned impiety in name for he has shown that he never did mischief to anything at all in the sanctuaries except some few stones which he took out from an inn or perhaps ruin in order to be able to save the rest is it worth while to speak about it and should we not be ashamed to treat him just as Aphobius did and as all the Galileans pray to see him treated If you listen at all to me you will honour not him alone but also the others who go over from Christianity to heathenism in order that these may follow us easily when we summon them to the good way and that the others the Christians may rejoice the less. But if we drive away those who come of themselves nobody will readily follow when we invite them.