Writings of Phileas
Text edited by Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson and
first published by T&T Clark in Edinburgh in 1867. Additional
introductionary material and notes provided for the American
edition by A. Cleveland Coxe, 1886.
Translator's Biographical Notice
[a.d. 307.] From Jerome  we learn that this Phileas belonged to
Thmuis, a town of Lower Egypt, the modern Tmai, which was situated
between the Tanite and Mendesian branches of the Nile, an episcopal
seat, and in the time of Valentinian and Theodosius the Great a place
of considerable consequence, enjoying a separate government of its
own. Eusebius  speaks of him as a man not less distinguished for
his services to his country than for his eminence in philosophical
studies and his proficiency in foreign literature and science. He
tells us further, that, along with another person of considerable
importance, by name Philoromus, being brought to trial for his faith,
he withstood the threats and insults of the judge, and all the
entreaties of relatives and friends, to compromise his Christian
belief, and was condemned to lose his head. Jerome also, in the
passage already referred to, names him a true philosopher, and, at the
same time, a godly martyr; and states, that on assuming the bishopric
of his native district, he wrote a very, elegant book in praise of the
martyrs. Of this book certain fragments are preserved for us in
Eusebius. In addition to these we have also an epistle which the same
Phileas seems to have written in the name of three other bishops, as
well as himself, to Meletius, the bishop of Lycopolis, and founder of
the Meletian schism. This epistle appears to have been written in
Greek; but we possess only a Latin version, which, however, from its
abrupt style, is believed to be very ancient. The four bishops whose
names stand at the head of the Epistle--viz., Hesychius, Pachomius,
Theodorus, and Phileas, are also mentioned by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl.,
viii. 13) as distinguished martyrs. This epistle was written evidently
when those bishops were in prison, and its date is determined by the
mention of Peter as the then bishop of Alexandria. The martyrdom of
Phileas is fixed with much probability as happening at Alexandria,
under Maximus, about the year 307 a.d.  [But see Neale,
Patriarchate of Alex., i. pp. 97-101, for his view of two bearing this
Fragments of the Epistle of Phileas to the People of Thmuis. 
Having before them all these examples and signs and illustrious tokens
which are given us in the divine and holy Scriptures, the blessed
martyrs who lived with us did not hesitate. but, directing the eye of
their soul in sincerity to that God who is over all, and embracing
with willing mind the death which their piety cost them, they adhered
steadfastly to their vocation. For they learned that our Lord Jesus
Christ endured man's estate on our behalf, that He might destroy all
sin, and furnish us with the provision needful for our entrance into
eternal life. "For He thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but
made Himself of no reputation, taking upon Him the form of a servant:
and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself unto death,
even the death of the cross."  For which reason also these
Christ-bearing  martyrs sought zealously the greater gifts, and
endured, some of them, every kind of pain and all the varied
contrivances of torture not merely once, bat once and again; and
though the guards showed their fury against them not only by
threatenings m word, but also by deeds of violence, they did not
swerve from their resolution, because perfect love casteth out fear.
And to narrate their virtue and their manly endurance under every
torment, what language would suffice? For as every one who chose was
at liberty to abuse them, some beat them with wooden clubs,  and
others with rods, and others with scourges, and others again with
thongs, land others with ropes. And the spectacle of these modes of
torture had great variety in it, and exhibited vast malignity. For
some had their hands bound behind them, and were suspended on the rack
and bad every, limb in their body stretched with a certain kind of
pulleys.  Then after all this the torturers, according to their
orders, lacerated with the sharp iron claws  the whole body, not
merely, as in the case of murderers, the sides only, but also the
stomach and the knees and the cheeks. And others were hung up in
mid-air, suspended by one hand from the portico, and their sufferings
were fiercer than any other kind of agony by reason of the distention
of their joints and limbs. And others were bound to pillars, face to
face, not touching the ground with their feet, but hanging with all
the weight of the body, so that their chains were drawn all the more
tightly by reason of the tension. And this they endured not simply as
long as the governor  spoke with them, or had leisure to hear
them, but well-nigh through the whole day. For when he passed on to
others he left some of those under his authority to keep watch over
these former, and to observe whether any of them, being overcome by
the torture, seemed likely to yield. But he gave them orders at the
same time to cast them into chains without sparing, and thereafter,
when they were expiring, to throw them on the ground and drag them
along. For they said that they would not give themselves the slightest
concern about us, but would look upon us and deal with us as if we
were nothing at all. This second mode of torture our enemies devised
then over and above the scourging.
And there were also some who, after the tortures, were placed upon the
stocks and had both their feet stretched through all the four holes,
so that they were compelled to lie on their back on the stocks, as
they were unable (to stand) in, consequence of the fresh wounds they
had over the whole body from the scourging. And others being thrown
upon the ground lay prostrated there by the excessively frequent
application of the tortures; in which condition they exhibited to the
onlookers a still more dreadful spectacle than they did when actually
undergoing their torments, bearing, as they did, on their bodies the
varied and manifold tokens of the cruel ingenuity of their tortures.
While this state of matters went on some died under their tortures
putting the adversary to shame by their constancy. And others were
thrust half-dead into the prison, where in a few days, worn out with
their agonies, they met their end. But the rest, getting sure recovery
under the application of remedies, through time and their lengthened
detention in prison, became more confident. And thus then, when they
were commanded to make their choice between these alternatives,
namely, either to put their hand to the unholy sacrifice and thus
secure exemption from further trouble, and obtain from them their
abominable sentence of absolution and liberation,  or else to
refuse to sacrifice, and thus expect the judgment of death to be
executed on them, they never hesitated, but went cheerfully to
death.  For they knew the sentence declared for us of old by
the Holy Scriptures: "He that sacrificeth to other gods," it is said,
"shall be utterly destroyed."  And again  "Thou shalt
have no other gods before Me." 
The Epistle of the Same Phileas of Thmuis to Meletius, Bishop of
The Beginning of the Epistle of the Bishops. 
Hesychius, Pachomius, Theodorus, and Phileas, to Meletius, our friend
and fellow-minister in the Lord, greeting. Some reports having reached
us concerning thee, which, on the testimony of certain individuals who
came to us, spake of certain things foreign to divine order and
ecclesiastical rule which are being attempted, yea, rather which are
being done by thee, we, in an ingenuous manner held them to be
untrustworthy, regarding them to be such as we would not willingly
credit, when we thought of the audacity implied in their magnitude and
their uncertain attempts. But since many who are visiting us at the
present time have lent some credibility to these reports, and have not
hesitated to attest them as facts, we, to our exceeding surprise, have
been compelled to indite this letter to thee. And what agitation and
sadness have been caused to us all in common and to each of us
individually by (the report of) the ordination carried through by thee
in parishes having no manner of connection with thee, we are unable
sufficiently to express. We have not delayed, however, by a short
statement to prove your practice wrong. There is the law of our
fathers and forefathers, of which neither art thou thyself ignorant,
established according to divine and ecclesiastical order; for it is
all for the good pleasure of God and the zealous regard. of better
things.  By them it has been established and settled that it is
not lawful for any bishop to celebrate ordinations in other parishes
 than his own; a law which is exceedingly important  and
wisely devised. For, in the first place, it is but right that the
conversation and life of those who are ordained should be examined
with great care; and in the second place, that all confusion and
turbulence should be done away with. For every one shall have enough
to do in managing his own parish, and in finding with great care and
many anxieties suitable subordinates among these with whom he has
passed his whole life, and who have been trained under his hands. But
thou, neither making any account of these things, nor regarding the
future, nor considering the law of our sainted fathers and those who
have been taken to Christ time after time. nor the honour of our great
bishop and father,  Peter,  on whom we all depend in the
hope which we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, nor softened by our
imprisonments and trials, and daily and multiplied reproach, hast
ventured on subverting all things at once. And what means will be left
thee for justifying thyself with respect to these things? But perhaps
thou wilt say: I did this to prevent many being drawn away with the
unbelief of many, because the flocks were in need and forsaken, there
being no pastor with them. Well, but it is most certain that they are
not in such destitution: in the first place, because there are many
going about them and in a position to act as visitors; and in the
second place, even if there was some measure of neglect on their side,
then the proper way would have been for the representation to be made
promptly by the people, and for us to take account of them according
to their desert.  But they knew that they were in no want of
ministers, and therefore they did not come to seek them. They knew
that we were wont to discharge them with an admonition from such
inquisition for matter of complaint, or that everything was done with
all carefulness which seemed to be for their profit; for all was done
under correction,  and all was considered with well-approved
honesty. Thou, however, giving such strenuous attention to the deceits
of certain parties and their vain words, hast made a stealthy leap to
the celebrating of ordinations. For if, indeed, those with thee were
constraining thee to this, and in their ignorance were doing violence
to ecclesiastical order, thou oughtest to have followed the common
rule and have informed us by letter; and in that way what seemed
expedient would have been done. And if perchance some persuaded you to
credit their story that it was all over with us,--a thing of which
thou couldest not have been ignorant, because there were many passing
and repassing by us who might visit you,--even although, I say, this
had been the case, yet thou oughtest to have waited for the judgment
of the superior father and for his allowance of this practice. But
without giving any heed to these matters, I but indulging a different
expectation, yea rather, indeed, denying all respect to us, thou hast
provided certain rulers for the people. For now we have learned, too,
that there were also divisions,  because thy unwarrantable
exercise of the right of ordination displeased many. And thou wert not
persuaded to delay such procedure or restrain thy purpose readily even
by the word of the Apostle Paul, the most blessed seer,  and
the man who put on Christ, who is the Christ of all of us no less; for
he, in writing to his dearly-beloved son Timothy, says: "Lay hands
suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins." 
And thus he at once shows his own anxious consideration for him,
 and gives him his example and exhibits the law according to
which, with all carefulness and caution, parties are to be chosen for
the honour of ordination.  We make this declaration to thee,
that in future thou mayest study  to keep within the safe and
salutary limits of the law.
The Conclusion of the Epistle of the Bishops.
After receiving and perusing this epistle, he neither wrote any reply
nor repaired to them in the prison, nor went to the blessed Peter. But
when all these bishops and presbyters and deacons had suffered
martyrdom in the prison at Alexandria, be at once entered Alexandria.
Now in that city there was a certain person, by name Isidorus,
turbulent in character, and possessed with the ambition of being a
teacher. And there was also a certain Arius, who wore the habit of
piety, and was in like manner possessed with the ambition to be a
teacher. And when they discovered the object of Meletius's passion
 and what it was that he sought, hastening to him, and looking
with an evil eye on the episcopal authority of the blessed Peter, that
the aim and desire of Meletius might be made patent,  they
discovered to Meletius certain presbyters, then in hiding, to whom the
blessed Peter had given power to act as parish-visitors. And Meletius
recommending them to improve the opportunity given them for rectifying
their error, suspended them for the time, and by his own authority
ordained two persons in their place,  namely, one in prison
and another in the mines. On learning these things the blessed Peter,
with much endurance, wrote to the people of Alexandria an epistle in
the following terms. 
 [Another glorious product of the school of Alexandria.]
 Apol. contr. Ruf., book i. num. 9, Works, ii. p. 465.
 Proprii operis nihil omnino scripsit, exceptis epistolis quas
ad amicos forte mittebat; in tantum se humilitate dejecerat.
 In Eusebius, Hist. Eccles., viii. 10.
 Phil. ii. 6-8.
 christopho'roi. So Ignatius of Antioch was called theopho'ros,
God-bearer. [Vol. i. pp. 45, 49, this series.]
 1 John iv. 18.
 xulois. What is meant, however, may be the instrument called by
the Romans equuleus, a kind of rack in the shape of a horse, commonly
used in taking the evidence of slaves.
 manga'nois tisi'.
 The text gives amunteri'ois eko'lazon, for which Nicephorus
reads amunteriois ta`s kola'seis. The amunteria were probably the
Latin ungulae, an instrument of torture like claws. So Rufinus
understands the phrase.
 egemo'n. That is probably the Roman Praefectus Augustalis.
 tes epara'tou eleutheri'as.
 0 [It is impossible to accept modern theories of the
inconsiderable number of the primitive martyrs, in view of the
abounding evidences of a chronic and continuous persecution always
evidenced by even these fragments of authentic history. See vol. iv.
 Exod. xxii. 20.
 Exod. xx. 3.
 Eusebius, after quoting these passages, adds:--"These are
the words of a true philosopher, and one who was no less a lover of
God than of wisdom, which, before the final sentence of his judge, and
while he lay yet in prison, he addressed to the brethren in his
church, at once to represent to them in what condition he was himself,
and to exhort them to maintain steadfastly, even after his speedy
death, their piety towards Christ."--Tr.
 This epistle was first edited by Scipio Maffeius from an
ancient Verona manuscript in the Osserv. Letter, vol. iii. pp. 11-17,
where is given the Fragment of a History of the Meletian Schism. See
Neander's important remarks on this whole document, Church History,
iii. p. 310 (Bohn).--Tr.
 Zelo meliorum.
 [Parishes = dioceses (so called now); but they were very small
territorially, and every city had its "bishop." See Bingham, book ix.
cap. 2, and Euseb., book v. cap. 23. Comp. note 1, p. 106, supra]
 Bene nimis magna.
 [The bishops of Alexandria are called popes to this day, and
were so from the beginning. See vol. v. p. 154.]
 [Peter succeeded Theonas as sixteenth bishop and primate of
Alexandria. See vol. iv. p. 384; also Neale, Pat of Alex., i. p. 90.]
 Oportuerat ex populo properare ac nos exigere pro merito.
 Sub arguente.
 The manuscript reads chrismata, for which schismata is
 0 Provisoris--perhaps rather, The Provider--the saint who with
careful forethought has mapped out our proper course in such matters.
 1 Tim. v. 22.
 Erga illum providentiam.
 The manuscript gives ordinando adnuntias, for which is
proposed ordinandi. Adnuntiamus.
 Reading studeas for studetur.
 Ut cogniscatur concupiscentia Meletii.
 The text is--Commendans ei occasionem Meletius, separavit
eos, &c.; on which see especially Neander, iii. p. 311 (Bohn).
 This epistle is given elsewhere. [This volume, infra]
Also, see links to 3500 other Manuscripts:
E-mail to: BELIEVE
The main BELIEVE web-page (and the index to subjects) is at:
BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet