Anonymous, Martyrdom of Pionius 4
The beginning of Pionius’ speech in his own defence, addressed to the citizens of Smyrna. He has refused to obey the Emperor’s command to sacrifice to the pagan gods.
tum martyribus in medio constitutis, Polemon ait, ‘bonum est, Pioni, et te sicut ceteros obedire, ac iussa complent, declinare supplicia.’ sed beatus martyr Polemonis sermone percepto, extensa manu, laeto et alacri vultu tali oratione respondit: ‘vos viri qui exultatis pulcritudine moenium, et Smyrnae civitatis decore gaudetis, et Homero poeta gloriamini, et si qui vobiscum ex Iudaeis adsunt, paucis audite, vos alloquor. audio enim quod irrideatis eos qui ad sacrificandum, aut sponte prosiliunt, aut alio cogente non renuunt; et in illis levitatem pectoris, in his spontaneum damnetis errorem, cum oporteret vos Homero doctori vestro, ac magistro pariter obedire, qui asserit nefas esse exultare de defunctis, nec ullum conflictum cum luce cassis, aut certamen debere esse cum mortuis.’
Then, when the martyrs had stood in the midst, Polemon said, ‘It would be a good thing, Pionius, for you to obey like the others and, by fulfilling the command, to avoid the tortures.’ But on hearing Polemon’s words, the blessed martyr put out his hand and replied, a glad and cheerful expression on his face, with the following speech: ‘You men who delight in the beauty of your city-walls, who are glad at the splendour of your city, and who boast of Homer your poet, listen – and any of the Jews who might also be among your number – to the few words I say to you. For I hear that you deride those who are either zealous to sacrifice of their own accord, or who do not refuse to do so when forced by another; in the first case you would condemn them for their levity of spirit, in the latter, for a voluntary error, when you ought to obey Homer, your teacher and master, who declares that it is impious to exult in the dead, and that you should not fight in vain with the light, or compete with the dead.’
Smyrna was one of the cities which claimed to be Homer’s birthplace. The passage alluded to is Odyssey 22.412.