Letter XXV. 1986
To Athanasius, bishop of Ancyra. 1987
1. I have received intelligence from those who come to me from Ancyra, and they are many and more than I can count, but they all agree in what they say, that you, a man very dear to me, (how can I speak so as to give no offence?) do not mention me in very pleasant terms, nor yet in such as your character would lead me to expect. I, however, learned long ago the weakness of human nature, and its readiness to turn from one extreme to another; and so, be well assured, nothing connected with it can astonish me, nor does any change come quite unexpected. Therefore that my lot should have changed p. 131 for the worse, and that reproaches and insults should have arisen in the place of former respect, I do not make much ado. But one thing does really strike me as astonishing and monstrous, and that is that it should be you who have this mind about me, and go so far as to feel anger and indignation against me, and, if the report of your hearers is to be believed, have already proceeded to such extremities as to utter threats. At these threats, I will not deny, I really have laughed. Truly I should have been but a boy to be frightened at such bugbears. But it does seem to me alarming and distressing that you, who, as I have trusted, are preserved for the comfort of the churches, a buttress of the truth where many fall away, and a seed of the ancient and true love, should so far fall in with the present course of events as to be more influenced by the calumny of the first man you come across than by your long knowledge of me, and, without any proof, should be seduced into suspecting absurdities.
2. But, as I said, for the present I postpone the case. Would it have been too hard a task, my dear sir, to discuss in a short letter, as between friend and friend, points which you wish to raise; or, if you objected to entrusting such things to writing, to get me to come to you? But if you could not help speaking out, and your uncontrollable anger allowed no time for delay, at least you might have employed one of those about you who are naturally adapted for dealing with confidential matters, as a means of communication with me. But now, of all those who for one reason or another approach you, into whose ears has it not been dinned that I am a writer and composer of certain “pests”? For this is the word which those, who quote you word for word, say that you have used. The more I bring my mind to bear upon the matter the more hopeless is my puzzle. This idea has struck me. Can any heretic have grieved your orthodoxy, and driven you to the utterance of that word by malevolently putting my name to his own writings? For you, a man who has sustained great and famous contests on behalf of the truth, could never have endured to inflict such an outrage on what I am well known to have written against those who dare to say that God the Son is in essence unlike God the Father, or who blasphemously describe the Holy Ghost as created and made. You might relieve me from my difficulty yourself, if you would tell me plainly what it is that has stirred you to be thus offended with me.
This Athanasius was appointed to the see of Ancyra (Angora) by the influence of Acacius the one-eyed, bp. of Cæsarea, the inveterate opponent of Cyril of Jerusalem, and leader of the Homœans. He therefore started his episcopate under unfavorable auspices, but acquired a reputation for orthodoxy. cf. Greg. Nyss., Contra Eunom. I. ii. 292. On Basils high opinion of him, cf. Letter xxix.