There’s a period there in the seventh century where he lets himself go and just drifts without trying to make sense of any of it. He shuns cities and people and takes to the wild spaces. He stops eating, just to see what happens. His bones push through his skin and his veins run with fire, but that’s it. He lays down one night thinking maybe he’ll die, maybe this is it, but when he wakes up covered with a light bready sort of a substance he knows that isn’t going to work. The manna keeps coming, a little more each morning, until he’s back to his fighting weight, 110 pounds soaking wet. “Still one of the people, ha,” he says, and shakes his head at the sky.

When the isolation gets to him, he buttonholes some rube and spins wild-eyed, disconnected tales of impossible beasts and booming prophetic voices, of fiery skies and invisible servants serving lavish banquets. All bunk. He doesn’t go for much in the way of miracles, except for the basic one of his continued breathing. Some days he pretends he’s an atheist.

One afternoon as he’s picking his way through the Caucasus, he comes across a floating hand writing his name in burning letters a cubit high on the side of the mountain. “Tacky,” he grumbles, “very tacky.”

Render unto Caesar: the Longinus side