Journey To Cappadocia

constantine died on 11 may 337. within four weeks of his death, an imperial ukase restored all exiled bishops to their sees. The order was issued in the name of all the emperors (presumably including the Caesar Dalmatius, as well as the three sons of Constantine), but Constantius had no part in undoing his father's policies. The initiative belonged to Constantinus, though he doubtless acted on the advice of the exiled bishop of Alexandria, who had been resident in his capital of Trier since the winter of 335/6.

Athanasius refers to the restoration of the exiled bishops as a joint action of Constantinus, Constantius, and Constans [Hist. Ar. 8.1). Yet he nowhere quotes the formal act which had legal force. Instead he quotes a private letter of recommendation which Constantinus wrote in his name alone on 17 June 337 'to the people of the catholic church of the city of Alexandria.' Athanasius (the letter recalled) had been sent to Gaul as a temporary measure and partly for his own safety. Constantine had always intended to restore the bishop to his proper place, but death prevented him from fulfilling his intention. His son and successor; therefore, gave effect to his wishes and was sending the great man back to his welcoming flock (Apol. c. Ar. 87.4-7; Hist. Ar. 8.2).

Athanasius left Trier at once. But he did not travel to Alexandria by the quickest or most direct route. There was political and ecclesiastical business to perform on the way. Constantius must be conciliated, or at least mollified, and Athanasius had an audience with him at Viminacium in the province of Moesia Superior {Apol. ad Const. 5.2). The outcome of the interview is unknown; indeed, the bare fact of its occurrence is known only because Athanasius let slip a single passing allusion to it many years later. The historical context, however is clear.

Constantius was on his way from Constantinople to confer with his brothers in Pannonia.1 The three sons of Constantine were proclaimed Augusti on 9 Sep tember 337, presumably when they met together: shortly before that date Dalmatius, their colleague as Caesar, and all other possible dynastic rivals had been killed, most of them in Constantinople, with Constantius conniving at or at least not preventing their slaughter.2 When he met Athanasius, therefore, Constantius had weightier matters on his mind than ecclesiastical politics. The empire, divided in 335 into four parts, one for each of the Caesars, now needed to be reallocated between the three sons of Constantine. In the event, it was Constans, strategically situated between his older brothers, who emerged with a large increase of territory.3 Constantinus claimed primacy in the new imperial college, but even if his two younger brothers acknowledged his pre-eminence (which is not at all certain), it can have represented little more than an empty formality.4 Constantius acquired the diocese of Thraciae, but soon the Persian war, which his father had bequeathed him, required his constant attention. For a dozen years from 338, Constantius prosecuted war on the eastern frontier: Antioch was his principal residence, and he usually spent his winters in Syria, his summers on campaign in Mesopotamia.5 In 337, however, before he returned to Syria—and perhaps even before he conferred with his brothers—another military emergency had claimed Constantius* attention. Constantine had reconquered territory north of the Danube, originally annexed by Trajan, but abandoned during the tumultuous years of the mid-third century.6 Soon after his death these conquests were again overrun, even though Constantius campaigned against the Sarmatians, apparently in 337, and was believed by loyal subjects to have won a victory over them.7

Athanasius was keenly aware of Constantius* pressing political and military preoccupations, and he made full use of his opportunity. Some years later his enemies at the Council of Serdica described his activities during the summer of 337 with a vivid sense of outrage:

He reached Alexandria from Gaul after a very long time... Throughout the whole of his return journey he overturned churches, restored condemned bishops, promised to some hope of returning to their sees, and consecrated unbelievers as bishops by means of fisticuffs and murder by pagans, even though the existing bishops were alive and remained guiltless [of any crime). He paid no respect to the laws and pinned all on desperation, so that he seized the churches of Alexandria by force, by murder, by war.8

The sober facts behind this diatribe are that Athanasius aided his friends and opposed his enemies in a context of violence. Athanasius himself later unwittingly identified one of the episodes about which complaint was made. Alexander, the aged bishop of Constantinople, who had held the see of Byzantium, later Constantinople, for twenty-three years, died in the summer of 337.9 Athanasius was in Constantinople shortly after the disputed election which followed Alexander's death. The Christians of the imperial capital were almost evenly divided between those who fervently upheld the Nicene formula and those who were sympathetic to the views of Arius: the former supported Paul, a young priest who had recently come to the city; the latter the elderly Macedonius, who had long been a deacon of their church. Alexander left a document comparing the two men, in which he declared a strong preference for Paul as a teacher and a virtuous man. Paul was duly elected and consecrated. Since the supporters of Paul did not wait for their choice to be ratified by the bishops of adjacent sees, as custom demanded, it seems probable a priori that Athanasius was one of the required trio of bishops who consecrated Paul as bishop of Constantinople. When Constantius returned from Pannonia, he was enraged at the election and had it overturned. A council of bishops from the surrounding provinces deposed Paul and replaced him with Eusebius of Nicomedia, even though Macedonius, whom Paul had advanced to the priesthood, supported his bishop (Hist. Ar. 7.1 ).10

By this juncture Athanasius had left the imperial capital. He traveled posthaste, but found time to intervene in ecclesiastical matters in Syria, Phoenice, and Palestine.11 The beneficiaries of his assistance (it may be conjectured) included Asclepas, the bishop of Gaza: he had been exiled in 326, he was now entitled to return to his see, and he subsequently joined Athanasius in exile in Rome. Athanasius entered Alexandria again on 23 November 337 (Index 10).12 His enemies had perhaps already taken the first steps toward deposing him and installing a successor for a council of bishops met during the winter of 337/8, probably in Antioch while Constantius was in the city,13 to depose Athanasius and name a new bishop of Alexandria.

The central and unshakeable testimony for the abortive attempt to depose Athanasius in the winter of 337/8 is provided by the synodical letter of a council of bishops held in Alexandria to exonerate him—a council sometimes unhappily misdated to 339.14 This council of bishops from the Egyptian provinces met in the Egyptian capital in 338 and declared Athanasius innocent of the charges which his enemies had brought against him. In order to vindicate himself, Athanasius later quoted the synodical letter of this council, which indicates, at least in outline, the dangers which beset him after his return from exile (Apol. c. Ar. 3-19).

The party of Eusebius (so they are styled) convened a council of bishops (3.2). Since the Alexandrian letter voices no complaint about the membership of the council at Antioch, it was probably a large and representative conclave of bishops from throughout the eastern provinces. The charges against Athanasius included both old ones, which the Council of Tyre had investigated, and new ones relating to Athanasius' behavior during and after his return from the West. The council found Athanasius guilty on at least some grave counts, deposed him from his see, and appointed Pistus to replace him as bishop of Alexandria (Ep. enc. 6.1). A letter, to which the assembled bishops appended their names, then communicated the decisions of the council to other bishops and to each of the three emperors [Apol. c. Ar. 3.5-7,19.4/5).

The council resuscitated the old suspicion that Athanasius* election in 328 was invalid. The synodical letter complained that after the death of the bishop Alexander, when a certain few made mention of the name of Athanasius, six or seven bishops elected him secretly and sub rosa. (6.4)15

But that need not have been a formal charge in 338. The formal grounds for the deposition of Athanasius probably comprised three counts. First, Athanasius had ordered the priest Macarius to break the chalice of Ischyras and to overturn his altar (11.1-4). This charge had been thoroughly investigated by the Council of Tyre: that council sent a commission of enquiry to the Mareotis; the commission collected evidence on the spot and found the allegations to be proven (17.6). Second, Athanasius was responsible for deaths and murders in Alexandria after his return (3.5-5.5). And third, he had sold grain supplied by Constantine for the maintenance of widows in Egypt, appropriating the proceeds for his own pocket (18.2).

Athanasius did not of course intend to accept the verdict of a hostile council: he sought vindication from a friendly one. Eighty bishops from the Egyptian provinces met in Alexandria. Athanasius had presumably summoned them as soon as he heard that his enemies were convening a council to try him, but it met after Constantius had written to him endorsing the findings of the Council of Antioch (18.2). Although no source attests the fact, Athanasius must have taken the synodical letter which vindicated him to present to the emperor. It was in fact his own composition, drawing on the dossier of documents which his Defense against the Arians was later to quote in full.16

The bishops at Alexandria, in their letter addressed 'to the bishops of the catholic church everywhere,' complain that the council which has deposed Athanasius is no council of the church, but a conspiracy designed to compass his death by means of imperial anger (3). Athanasius has killed no one, has handed no one over to the executioner, has caused no one imprisonment or exile. Sentence was passed on the men in question by the prefect of Egypt while Athanasius was still in Syria (5.2-4). Athanasius* enemies are heretics (5.5-6.2), and their leader; Eusebius, not only has clearly broken the law of the church by abandoning the see of Berytus for Nicomedia and now Nicomedia for another see (in fact, Constantinople), but was also rightly deprived of his status as bishop in 325 for fomenting heresy (6.6-7.3). How can such men presume to sit in judgement on Athanasius? The accusations against him are a plot by Arian madmen.

The longest section of the letter goes over charges made at the Council of Tyre (11-17). The allegation that Athanasius murdered Arsenius also receives prominence (8.4/5, 9.5-10.3). Since Arsenius was still alive, he could serve as an example of how baseless the charges against Athanasius were. The chalice of Ischyras receives a much longer discussion. Like the later Defense against the Arians, the letter of the Council of Alexandria in 338 argues that Athanasius cannot have ordered Macarius to break a holy chalice belonging to Ischyras or to overturn his altar, because Ischyras was a follower of Colluthus, not a validly ordained priest, and because the building where he claimed to celebrate the sacraments was not a church. The central contention, however, is less that the charges made in 335 against Athanasius were false than that the Council of Tyre was improperly constituted, proceeded improperly, and rendered an improper verdict. The commission of enquiry was biased, the bishops of Egypt in 335 rejected its members as Arians and enemies of Athanasius, and it conducted its enquiry in an illegal manner. Among the council's members was Eusebius of Caesarea, who ought to have been disqualified for sacrificing during the persecution (8.1-3). And the council was not autonomous:

How do they dare to call it a council, over which a comes presided, [where] a speculator was present and a commentariensis ushered us in instead of deacons of the church? (8.3)

This passage and its subsequent amplification in the Defense against the Arians provide the only basis for the conventional (but false) picture of the comes Dionysius presiding over the Council of Tyre and guiding its deliberations from the chair.17

The ancient accusation continues with an amplification which undercuts its stark picture of secular domination:

[Dionysius] spoke and those present were silent, or rather obeyed the comes, and the removal of the self-styled bishops was prevented by his advice. He gave orders, we were dragged in by soldiers, or rather when Eusebius and his part)' gave the orders, he meekly put their decisions into effect. (8.3)

Similarly, another passage complains that in the Mareotis the prefect of Egypt acted in exactly the same way as Dionysius at Tyre:

Just as there was a comes there with a military escort, who allowed nothing to be said or done contrary to what they were resolved on,18 so too here the prefect of Egypt with his retinue was terrorising all those belonging to the church and permitting no one to give evidence truthfully. (14.4)

On a less hostile representation of the same facts, Dionysius kept order at the council and enforced the decisions made by the majority of the bishops of Tyre. The supporters of Athanasius at Tyre asked the comes to overrule the council, but he refused (Apol. c. Ar. 78-81). It was a total travesty of the facts to represent Dionysius' refusa! to intervene as coercion of the council.

In the event, according to the letter, it was Arian slanders which secured the removal of Athanasius. Since no charge could be proven against Athanasius, even though the comes was prejudiced and used violence against him, the bishop fled to Constantine and complained, whereupon the emperor summoned the bishops from Tyre. But when Eusebius and his associates arrived, they made no mention of the charges investigated at Tyre, alleging instead that Athanasius had tampered with the supply of grain from Alexandria to Constantinople. And Eusebius swore that the rich and powerful bishop had become omnipotent in Egypt. Yet God was gracious and Constantine lenient: Athanasius was not executed but exiled (9.1-4).

The letter of the Council of Alexandria was accompanied by documents to bear out its contention that the proceedings of the Council of Tyre were improper and its verdict invalid. The text of the letter explicitly appeals to seven such documents, and Athanasius* Defense against the Arians preserves five of them:

(1) the letter of Ischyras to Athanasius (64, cf. 17.6),

(2) a letter of Constantine to Athanasius about the affair of Arsenius (68, cf. 9.5, 17.2),

(3) the protest of the clergy of the Mareotis in September 335 (73-76, cf. 17.1),

(4) the letter of Alexander of Thessalonica to Dionysius (80, cf. 16.1),

(5) the synodical letter of the Council of Jerusalem in September 335 (19.2: quoted in part at ApoL c. Ar. 84).

To the letter were also attached two other documents which do not survive— extracts from the ephemerides of the prefect of Egypt for August 335 (5.4) and a testimonial on behalf of Athanasius by the bishops of Libya, the Pentapolis, and Egypt which appears to have denied the accusation of embezzlement (19.1). Moreover, the letter appears to utilise, without explicitly citing them, another seven letters written between 333 and 335 which the Defense against the Arians also quotes in full.19

The arguments and the technique of documentation show the hand of Athanasius,20 and in fact, years latei^ in an unguarded moment and in another context, he confessed his authorship of the council's letter. The Defense before Constantius protests that

I did not write to your brother except [on the occasions] when the Eusebians wrote to him against me and I was compelled to defend myself while I was still in Alexandria, and when, at his command that I prepare copies of the holy scriptures,21 I produced and sent them. (Apol. ad Const. 4.2)

The defense of himself against the Eusebians to which Athanasius refers here is clearly the letter of the Council of Alexandria in 338. Athanasius sent a copy of it to Constans (and presumably, therefore, a copy to Constantinus), and in reply Constans asked Athanasius to send him copies of the Bible. That was a clear gesture of sympathy and encouragement, doubtless intended to recall Constantine's similar request to Eusebius of Caesarea.22 This request to supply Greek texts for use in the new city of Constantinople constituted official recognition of Eusebius' standing as a biblical scholar with a lifelong interest in the text of the Bible.23 Although there is no reason to think that Athanasius had similar academic and scholarly interests, Constans' request may, nevertheless, have had an effect on the textual transmission of the Greek Bible: the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus of the Old and New Testaments and Apocrypha could be one of the codices which Athanasius sent to the West, since its Alexandrian origin seems certain and its precise contents and their order correspond exactly to the canon of scripture which Athanasius later laid down in his Easter letter of 367 (Festal Letter 39)24

The letter does not contain all that Athanasius wished to say. The final salutation is missing, and the letter, as extant, closes with a reaffirmation that Athanasius is still the bishop of Alexandria and a warning against the schismatic Melitians, who still vex and harass the church:

For they make improper ordinations, even of virtual pagans, and they do such things as we are ashamed to write, but which you can learn from those sent by us who will also give you this letter. (19.5)

Copies of the letter were dispatched to the metropolitan bishops of important provinces, and perhaps to many others: they were taken by trusted priests, who performed the delicate task of discrediting the man whom the Council of Antioch had named to replace Athanasius.25

The reaction of one important bishop stands on record.26 Julius, the bishop of Rome, received the letter of the Council of Antioch, brought by a priest and two deacons, which informed him that Pistus was now bishop of Alexandria. Soon afterward priests arrived in Rome from Alexandria bearing the letter which exculpated Athanasius. They informed Julius that Pistus was an Arian who had been ordained (presumably as priest) by Secundus of Ptolemais, whom the Council of Nicaea had excommunicated for heresy.27 The envoys from Syria could not deny the facts. Julius treated Pistus* ordination by Secundus as an absolute bar to his election as bishop: 'it was impossible for the ordination by Secundus the Arian to have validity in the catholic church,' and to accord it any recognition would be to 'dishonor' the great and holy Council of Nicaea (Apol. c. Ar. 24). Moreover, when Julius confronted Macarius, Martyrius, and Hesychius, who brought the synodical letter of the Council of Antioch, with Athanasius' envoys, they let slip an injudicious remark which Julius was able to construe as a request that he convene a new council and that he write both to Athanasius and to Eusebius and his associates inviting them to come to Rome so that a just verdict could be rendered in the presence of all (Apol. c. Ar. 22.3).28 Many other bishops, probably the majority, must have reacted to the appointment of Pistus in the same way.

A JOURNEY TO CAPPADOCJA As the sequel shows, the choice was soon acknowledged to be indefensible.

Constantius undoubtedly encouraged the enemies of Athanasius and may well have attended part of the council which deposed Athanasius in the winter of 337/8. But the bishops formally communicated their decisions to him by letter (Hist. Ar. 9.1), and he then wrote to Athanasius. All that is known for certain about this letter, to which the surviving evidence contains a single, barely perceptible allusion, is that it reproached the bishop of Alexandria for embezzlement (Apol. c. Ar. 18.2). Presumably, however, it also summoned Athanasius to court. The bishop dared not disobey, and soon departed from Alexandria with the letter which he had written on his own behalf in the name of the assembled bishops of Egypt.

The evidence for Athanasius* journey to the court of Constantius in the spring of 338 is mainly indirect, since he preserves an almost total silence about it in his accounts of his own career. In the Defense before Constantius, however, he bases an argument on what he said to Constantius on the three occasions when the emperor had granted him an audience:

What place or what time does my accuser state, when he has falsely been alleging that I said such things? Or in whose presence was I so mad as to utter such things as he has wrongly accused me of saying? Or who supports his accusation and provides witness? For 'what his eyes have seen,' a man ought also to 'say,' as the holy scripture has recommended (Proverbs 25.7). My accuser will find no witness for what never happened, but I have your piety as a truthful witness that I am not lying. For; knowing the excellence of your memory, I ask you to recall the speeches which I offered on several occasions when you granted me an audience, for the first time in Viminacium, for the second in Caesarea of Cappadocia, and for a third in Antioch, [and to recall) whether I ever spoke ill even of the Eusebians after they had done me harm, whether 1 denounced any of those who had wronged me. If I did not even denounce those against whom it was my duty to speak, what madness would have possessed me to slander one emperor to another emperor and to bring brother into conflict with brother? I beseech you, either have me refuted face to face or condemn the slanders, and imitate David, who says: i have cast out the man who spreads tales secretly against his neighbor' (Psalm 101 [100].5). (Apol. ad Const. 5.1-4)

The dates and occasions of the first and third audiences are certain. The first, at Viminacium, can have occurred only in the summer of 337 while Athanasius was on his way from Trier to Alexandria, which he entered on 23 November 337.29 The third is well attested: in 346 Athanasius went to Syria and saw Constantius in Antioch before returning to Alexandria.30 But what was the date or the occasion of the second?

The Defense before Constantius clearly indicates that the audience in Caesarea occurred between the first audience and the third, while the movements of Athanasius and Constantius between 337 and 346 circumscribe very narrowly the range of possible dates. It must have occurred before Athanasius fled from Alexandria to the West on 16 April 339. But when precisely? A second interview with Constantius before Athanasius returned to Alexandria has often been deduced.31 But that is surely impossible if Athanasius had returned from exile in the autumn of 337: Constantius cannot have reached Antioch, where he spent the winter of 337/8, much earlier than the end of October,32 while Athanasius reentered Alexandria on 23 November (Index 10). Hence, even in default of confirmatory evidence, the audience in Caesarea would have to be dared to 338, when the emperor went to Cappadocia to supervise the restoration of the pro-Roman Arsaces as ruler of Armenia.33 But an appearance of Athanasius before Constantius is a necessary sequel to what is known about the Councils of Antioch and Alexandria in the winter of 337/8.

Reticence, prudence, or dissimulation prevented Athanasius from including in any of his numerous apologias on his own behalf an explicit account of his journey to Cappadocia, his appearance before the emperor at Caesarea, and his return to Alexandria. His enemies had no similar motives for silence, and the letter of the eastern bishops at Serdica in 343 complains about his conduct during this journey:

Afterward Athanasius, traveling through different parts of the world, seducing some people, and deceiving by means of his dishonesty and pestilential flattery innocent bishops who were ignorant of his crimes or unaware of certain of his activities in Egypt, disturbed peaceful churches by begging testimonials from each of them or created new churches for his own support just as he wished. Yet this had no effect against a judgement consecrated long before by holy and distinguished bishops. For the commendation of those who were not judges at the council, never had the judgement of the council [in their possession), and are known not to have been present when the aforesaid Athanasius was being heard, could neither aid nor benefit him.34

The complaint relates to Athanasius' conduct after his return to Alexandria in 337 but before his arrival in Rome: whereas an earlier passage had denounced the circumstances of his return in 337, the continuation of this passage complains about his deception of Julius and other Italian bishops. Can the allusion, therefore, be to Athanasius' activities between his flight from Alexandria in the spring of 339.and his arrival in Rome?35 Hardly. Neither time nor the circumstances of Athanasius' flight permit. In 339 he left Alexandria 'secretly and surreptitiously' (as the same letter puts it), and he fled the territory of Constantius as fast as possible in order to avoid arrest and possible death (Ep. enc. 6.3). And once in safety (he may have traveled by way of Africa), he proceeded within a few weeks to Rome, where he knew he would find an important ally. The eastern bishops allude, therefore, not to Athanasius' activities in 339, but to his canvassing of support among the bishops of Palestine, Phoenice, and Syria on his journey to and from Constantius' court in the spring of 338.

This journey provides the context for Athanasius' tenth Festal Letter, written for Easter 338, which in this year fell on 26 March (30 Phamenoth). This letter has produced some strange theories from modern scholars who have mistakenly believed that the transmitted text contains a large lacuna: one held that it is a conflation of the Festal Letters for 337 and 338, another that there are hidden lacunae in addition to the obvious one in the editio prittceps and hence that the letter is a miscellany of diverse fragments.36 But neither the date of the letter nor the integrity of the text transmitted in a Syriac translation admits of any doubt whatever.37 Athanasius wrote the tenth Festal Letter shortly before Easter 338— and there is no reason to imagine that he composed (or began) it in Trier the preceding spring or summer. It was Athanasius' custom to notify the churches throughout Egypt of the date of the next Easter long in advance by means of a very brief communication, then to send a much longer homiletic letter the 'festal letter' proper, as the Easter season approached.38 Accordingly, he must have written the tenth Festal Letter in late January or February 338.

The letter makes clear that its writer is in Alexandria (11). But it opens with a reference to Athanasius* recent exile in Gaul:39

Even when I traveled so far from you, my brethren, I did not forget the custom which obtains among you, which has been transmitted to us by our [spiritual] fathers, nor was I silent and failed to notify you of the time of the annual holy feast, and the day of its celebration. For although I was hindered by those afflictions of which you have doubtless heard, and severe trials were laid upon me, and a great distance separated us, while the enemies of truth followed our tracks, laying snares to discover a letter from us, so that by their accusations they might add to the pain of our wounds, yet, since the Lord strengthened and comforted us in our afflictions, we were not deterred, even when held fast in the midst of such machinations and conspiracies, from stating and making known to you our saving Easter feast, even from the ends of the earth. (1)

The main theme of the letter, incessantly reiterated, is God's constant protection of his true servants. Athanasius produces the predictable biblical precedents to encourage his flock in time of trouble—Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael in Babylon (Daniel 3.8-31), Israel leaving Egypt, David hunted by King Saul, Elisha (2 Kings 6.13-17), Esther, Paul, and above all Christ. Athanasius insistently proclaims his confidence in God's protection. The enemy may employ every device in order to ruin him, but the man who is in Christ will obtain the victory. His tone, however, is gloomy and worried—totally unlike the triumphant letter which he wrote in 332 from the court of Constantine after his acquittal at Psammathia (Festal Letter 4). The mood of the letter for Easter 338 is hardly what should be expected from a man who had recently returned from exile as a hero. It reflects not the euphoria of Athanasius* return to Alexandria, but the gravity of the perils facing him after his enemies again condemned and deposed him. Athanasius puts on a brave face:

O beloved friends! if from affliction comes comfort, from labors rest, from sickness health, from death immortality, then it is not seemly to be distressed by what comes upon mankind for a brief period, then it is not right to be downcast because of the tribulations which occur, then it is not proper to be afraid if the gang who attack Christ conspire against true belief. On the contrary, we should please God all the more in such circumstances and consider such things as a testing and practise for a virtuous life. For how can anyone display patience except after labors and sorrows? Or how can anyone be tested for fortitude without an assault from his enemies? (7)

For the enemy draws near in afflictions and trials and labors, doing everything in his endeavor to overthrow us. But so long as the man who is in Christ enters into battle against the foes and sets patience against angei; humility against arrogance, virtue against wickedness, he wins the victory and exclaims: 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me* (Philippians 4.13). (8)

Yet the tone and contents of the letter betray the unconscious fears of a man who had been accused of capital crimes and who knew that he must soon do battle with his enemies.40 Athanasius probably composed it immediately after the Council of Alexandria and before he departed for the imperial court, which had moved from Antioch to Caesarea in Cappadocia by the time he arrived.

The Letter to Serapion which stands in the Svriac corpus of Festal Letters between the eleventh and thirteenth letters probably also belongs in the same historical context.41 Athanasius wrote it as a supplement to an Easter letter which he had just sent to all the bishops in Egypt. One section has a clear relevance to Athanasius* struggle to retain his see:

Because some Melitians, being come from Syria, have boasted that they had received what does not belong to them, I mean, that they also were reckoned in the catholic church, on this account, I have sent to you a copy of the letter of our fellow ministers in Palestine so that, when it reaches you, you may know the fraud of the pretenders in this matter. Foi; because they boasted, as I have said before, it was necessary for me to write to the bishops in Syria, and immediately those in Palestine sent us a reply, having agreed in the judgement against them, as you may learn from this example.

There is no other evidence for these dealings of Athanasius with the bishops of Syria and Palestine. But it is hard to believe that they have nothing to do with the attempts to unseat him between the autumn of 337 and the spring of 339: Melitians had suffered from the violence of Athanasius* partisans before the Council of Tyre, and it was doubtless Melitians who complained of his use of violence after his return and provided the evidence on which he had been deposed at Antioch.

Athanasius* defense of himself before Constantius and his diplomatic offensive effectively neutralised his condemnation by the hostile council in the winter of 337/8. He returned to Alexandria still bishop of the city in the early summer of 338, and immediately persuaded the monk Antony to come to lend his prestige to his own cause. At the request of the bishops of Egypt, Antony descended from his mountain and visited Alexandria (July/August 338), where he denounced Arians, converted pagans, and cast out a demon, departing on the third day after his arrival with public ceremony.42 The visit of Antony was clearly arranged and orchestrated by Athanasius to demonstrate his popularity in Alexandria. That such a demonstration was needed showed the fragility of his hold on power. The visit of Antony probably followed closely upon the arrival of a new prefect of Egypt, whose task was to supervise the expulsion of the bishop of Alexandria.

Failure had not deterred the enemies of Athanasius. They determined to make no mistake the next time. An embassy from Alexandria arrived at the imperial court requesting that Philagrius be reappointed prefect of Egypt in place of Theodorus (Hist. Ar. 9.2). The ambassadors clearly belonged to the opposition against Athanasius, for Philagrius had assisted the commission of enquiry in 335, while Theodorus was the prefect whom the Council of Antioch in the winter of 337/8 accused of executing and exiling men on the orders of Athanasius (Apol. c. Ar. 5.4). The petition, welcome enough to Constantius and perhaps inspired by him, was granted, and Philagrius entered Alexandria as prefect for the second time, to immense rejoicing.43 He brought with him the eunuch Arsacius, and he could be relied upon to enforce the planned deposition of Athanasius (Hist. Ar. 10.1).

Another council of bishops met at Antioch during the winter of 338/9 and again condemned and deposed Athanasius. The emperor Constantius was present, so that Athanasius was able to complain that his successor was sent 'from court' (Ep. enc. 2.1). The council again raked up the charge of ordering the breaking of the chalice of Ischyras, on which the Council of Tyre had found Athanasius guilty. And they again condemned Athanasius for his conduct when he returned to Alexandria in 337: many perished in rioting when he entered the city, and Athanasius had assaulted some and handed others over to be condemned by the prefect. But the charge of embezzlement which the Council of Alexandria had controverted (Apol c. Ar. 18.2) was dropped: hence it may be inferred that Athanasius had successfully disproved the allegations when he appeared before the emperor. On the other hand, a new offense was alleged, though the charge was one of which others were more guilty than Athanasius. The Council of Antioch found Athanasius' return to his see improper and contrary to normal procedure, on the grounds that he had returned on his own initiative without the sanction of a council of bishops.44 In Athanasius' case, impropriety could be established only if the verdict of the Council of Tyre were assumed to be valid—a most dubious proposition. It must accordingly be suspected that the invocation of a rule which another Council of Antioch had explicitly formulated in 327 or 328 was designed primarily to disqualify not Athanasius,45 but other bishops whom Constantinus had restored in 337, all of whom had indubitably been condemned and deposed by councils whose verdicts the father of the emperors had endorsed and ratified.

Once it had deposed Athanasius, the Council of Antioch cast about for a suitable and plausible successor. Pistus, to whom Julius (and doubtless many other bishops) had taken exception the previous year; clearly would not do. Eusebius of Nicomedia decided that Eusebius of Emesa was the best candidate, but the latter declined to offer himself, either on principle or out of diffidence.46 The council thereupon selected Gregory, who was untainted by any scandal, to be the new bishop of Alexandria.47 Gregory was a Cappadocian like Philagrius, and the new bishop knew that he could rely upon the prefect. He wasted little time in going to Egypt to take possession of his see. On 16 March 339 an attempt was made to arrest Athanasius, and on the following day he went into hiding in the city. On 22 March Gregory entered Alexandria as its bishop. Finally, on 16 April Athanasius fled the city and left Egypt (Index 11).

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