Fathers of the Church
Letter XLII. to Constantius the Prefect
by Theodoret in Unknown | translated by Blomfield Jackson
Did no necessity compel me to address a letter to your greatness, I might haply be found guilty of presumption, for neither taking due measure of myself nor recognising the greatness of your power. But now that all that is left of the city and district which God has committed to my charge is in peril of utterly perishing, and certain men have dared to bring calumnious charges against the recent visitation, I am sure your magnificence will pardon the boldness of my letter when you enquire into the necessity of the case, my own object in writing. I groan and lament at being compelled to write against a man over whose errors one ought to throw a veil, because he is of the clerical order. Nevertheless I write to defend the cause of the poor whom he is wronging. After being charged with many crimes and excluded from the Communion, pending the assembly of the sacred Synod, in alarm at the decision of the episcopal council he has made his escape from this place, thereby trampling, as he supposed, on the laws of the Church, and, by his contempt of the sentence of excommunication has laid bare his motive. He has undertaken an accusation not even fit for men of mean crafts, and in consequence of his ill-feeling towards the illustrious Philip has proceeded against the wretched tax-payers. I feel that it is quite needless for me to mention his character, his course of life from the beginning and the greatness of his wrong-doings, but this one thing I do beseech your Excellency, not to believe his lies, but to ratify the visitation, and spare the wretched tax-payers. Aye, spare the thrice wretched decurions who cannot exact the moneys demanded of them. Who indeed is ignorant of the severity of the taxation of the acres among us? On this account most of our landowners have fled, our hinds have run away, and the greater part of our lands are deserted. In discussing the land there will be no impropriety in our using geometrical terms. Of our country the length is forty milestones, and the breadth the same. It includes many high mountains, some wholly bare, and some covered with unproductive vegetation. Within this district there are fifty thousand free jugers, and besides that ten thousand which belong to the imperial treasury. Now only let your wisdom consider how great is the wrong. For if none of the country had been uncultivated, and it had all furnished easy husbandry for the hinds, they would nevertheless have sunk under the tribute unable to endure the severity of the taxation. And here is a proof of what I say. In the time of Isidorus of glorious memory, fifteen thousand acres were taxed in gold, but the exactors of the Comitian assessment, unable to bear the loss, frequently complained, and by offerings besought your high dignity to let them off two thousand five hundred for the unproductive acres, and your excellency's predecessors in this office ordered the unproductive acreage to be taken off the unfortunate decurions, and an equivalent number to be substituted for the Comitian; and not even thus are they able to complete the tale.
So with many words I ask your favour, and beseech your magnificence to put aside the false accusations that are made against the wretched tax- payers, to stem the tide of distress in this unhappy district, and let it once more lift its head. Thus you will leave an imperishable memory of honour to future generations. I am joined in my supplication to you by all the saints of our district, and especially by that right holy and pious man of God, the Lord Jacobus. who holds silence in such great esteem that he cannot be induced to write, but he prays that our city, which is made illustrious by having him as neighbour and is protected by his prayers, may receive the boon which I ask.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (NPNF II/III, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.