Athanasius And The Martyrs Of Adrianople

After the council of serdica, practically three years passed before Athanasius reentered Alexandria. For it was clear that the exiled bishops whom the western council had restored could not resume secure possession of their sees until the eastern emperor agreed to their return. A certain amount is known about the ecclesiastical negotiations between East and West after the Council of Serdica and about Constantius' dealings with Athanasius after he had accepted the Sercican decisions and agreed to allow him to return.1 But what did Athanasius do between the council and the first letter which he received from Constantius in the summer of 345? As with his journey to the court of Constantius in 338/ it seems that Athanasius has been successful in concealing significant activities which he subsequently wished to obliterate from the historical record. The Defense before Constantius conveys the impression, which the Festal Index converts into asserted fact, that after the council Athanasius retired from the border-city of Serdica to Naissus and remained there uninterruptedly until he moved to Aquileia, which he had reached by the Easter season of 345: specifically, in 344 'being at Naissus on his return from the council, he there celebrated Easter,' and in 345 'having traveled to Aquileia, he kept Easter there' (Index 16, 17, cf. Apoi ad Const. 4.5). There is no reason to doubt that Athanasius celebrated Easter 344 in Naissus and Easter 345 in Aquileia. The falsification of history comes in the suggestion or assertion that he went nowhere else. For there is irrefragable evidence in his own writings that Athanasius set foot in the territory of Constantius during this period—and a strong possibility that he crossed illegally into the eastern empire not merely once, but twice.

The History of the Arians eloquently describes the misdeeds of the villainous and cowardly eastern bishops immediately after the Council of Serdica. Their cruel and vicious attacks on laymen and right-thinking bishops who opposed them far surpassed their previous wrongdoing:

Since the people of Adrianople did not wish to communicate with [the eastern bishops) because they were fleeing from the council and were guilty of misdemeanor, they sent a report to the emperor Constantius and caused ten laymen from the imperial factory there to be beheaded, with Philagrius, the comes, again present and aiding them in this too. (The tombs of these men are outside the city: we too have seen them as we passed by.) Then, priding themselves on their great success, because they had fled to avoid being convicted of making false accusations, they persuaded the emperor to put their wishes into effect. They caused two priests and three deacons to be banished from Alexandria to Armenia. Arius and Asterius,3 the one the bishop of Petra in Palestine, the other bishop in Arabia, who had bolted from them, they not only banished to Upper Libya, but caused to suffer violence. As for Lucius, the bishop of Adrianople, when they saw that he used great freedom in denouncing them and exposed their impiety, they causcd him again, as before, to be bound neck and hands in iron chains: in this manner they sent him into exile, where he perished, as they know. They removed the bishop Diodorus, but when they saw that Olympius of Aeni and Theodulus of Trajanopolis, both bishops from Thrace and good and orthodox men, hated heresy, on the first occasion the Eusebians brought false charges and the emperor Constantius wrote, and on the second they reminded [him of them].4 The rescript ordered them not only to be expelled from their cities and their churches, but also to suffer capital punishment wherever they were found . . . They wished to show in Alexandria that they deserved to be feared, and they caused an order to be issued that the harbors and gates of the cities be watched, in case they returned to their churches on the strength of the permission from the council. They caused orders to be sent to the magistrates at Alexandria concerning Athanasius and certain named priests, that if either the bishop or any of them should be found to have set foot in the city or its territory, the magistrate should be permitted to behead those who might be discovered. [Hist. Ar. 18.2-19.4)

Athanasius here passes in rapid review a series of actions taken against himself and Lucius of Adrianople, both restored by the Council of Serdica, and against certain eastern bishops who were coerced and punished for displaying sympathy for their exiled colleagues. Since Athanasius himself provides the main (and sometimes the only) evidence for each of these episodes, each needs to be examined separately.

First, the trouble at Adrianople (18.2). Ten workers in the imperial arms factory at Adrianople, which was a large and important producer of weapons and shields,5 were executed for insulting the eastern bishops as they returned from

Serdica. There would have been a considerable interval between the arrest and execution of the fabricenses if Constantius were still in Syria when he was consulted about their punishment. However, the emperor may have come to Constantinople in the autumn of 343.6 The date of the execution has some relevance to determining when Athanasius might have seen the tombs of the executed men by the side of the road leading out of the city. The arrest, banishment, and death in exile of the bishop Lucius appear to be later than and entirely separate from the execution of the fabricenses (19.1). Lucius had been with the western bishops at Serdica:7 there is no evidence independent of Athanasius bearing on his arrest, but the obvious inference from what he says is that Lucius returned to Adrianople after the council and was arrested for this clearly illegal action. Athanasius also adduces the death of Lucius in the Defense of His Flight (3.3), but there he provides no specific detail at all about it.

Second, the exile of two priests and three deacons from Alexandria to Armenia (18.3a). This is known only from this passage and a later one in the History of the Avians where Athanasius records that Constantius permitted them to return in the early summer of 344 (21.1).

Third, Arius and Asterius (18.3b). The Palestinian bishop Arius and the Arabian bishop Asterius came to Serdica with the eastern bishops, but broke ranks by associating with the western party: as a result, according to Athanasius, they were incarcerated in the palatium where the easterners were lodging (15.4). Yet their names appear among the original subscriptions to the western synodical letter,8 they added their names and salutations to the council's letter to the churches of the Mareotis,9 and the western bishops state that they attended a session of the council and informed it of their maltreatment.10 On the other hand, according to Athanasius, they were sent into exile in Libya Superior. It seems to follow either that they left Serdica with the rest of the eastern bishops before the western synodical letter was composed and subscribed or that they were later apprehended and arrested in eastern territory.

Fourth, the deposition of Diodorus (19.2a). Since Diodorus subscribed the western synodical letter at Serdica as bishop of Tenedos in the Asian province of Insulae,11 while Athanasius can find nothing more serious to complain about than his deposition and replacement (Hist. Ar. 5.2), it may be conjectured that he went to the West before the council and stayed there.

Fifth, Olympius of Aeni (in the province of Rhodope) and Theodulus of Traianopolis (19.2), the bishops of two small neighboring cities on the Thracian shore of the Aegean Sea. Since Athanasius couples the names of Olympius and Theodulus, it may be inferred that both had been excommunicated by the eastern bishops at one of the gatherings which they held before they reached Serdica:12 Athanasius had earlier observed that the eastern bishops used Musonianus and Hesychius to terrorise and plot against any victims whom they chose (Hist. Ar. 15.3). Olympius and Theodulus then fled to escape arrest, and Theodulus died either before or during the council.13 Olympius, on the other hand, played some part in the debates at Scrdica and appears to have secured himself a safe refuge whatever the outcome of the council: it was at the suggestion of Olympius that Ossius proposed that any bishop who had suffered violence and had been expelled unjustly because he agreed with the beliefs of the worldwide church or defended truth should be allowed to remain in the city where he had taken refuge until he could return to his own city or until the wrong done to him was remedied.14 What Athanasius says about the actions of the Eusebians is compressed and obscure, but he appears to distinguish between two consultations of Constantius, the first before the council, the second after: that perhaps lends support to the hypothesis that Constantius visited Constantinople in the autumn of 343.

Sixth, Athanasius himself (19.3-4). Athanasius* complaints imply that his enemies expected or feared that he might sail to Alexandria. The only rational motive for sending a proclamation to officials in Alexandria allowing them to behead cither the bishop or any of the priests named therein is that they suspected that Athanasius might go to Egypt. How did such a suspicion arise? That it had some basis in fact is confirmed by a reference to this period in Athanasius* Defense of His Flight; written in 357:

They caused Theodulus and Olympius, bishops from Thrace, and us and priests of ours to be sought out in such a way that, if we had been found, we would have suffered capital punishment. Perhaps we would have been killed thus, if we had not escaped contrary to their expectation on that occasion too. For that is the import of the letters given to the proconsul Donatus against Olympius and his friends and to Philagrius against us. (Fug. 3.4-5)

To what earlier occasion or occasions does Athanasius here refer? The end of the passage could refer to his expulsion by Philagrius from Egypt in 339.15 But the flight of the bishops Theodulus and Olympius and the mention of Donatus, who can only be the proconsul of Constantinople,16 anchor the rest of the passage to the period of the Council of Serdica. Moreover, the order to search out Athanasius and his priests prima facie belongs to the months after the council. Nor does the mention of Philagrius contradict this hypothesis. He accompanied the eastern bishops to Serdica (Index 15),17 and he executed the fabricenses at Adrianople who had refused to communicate with the same bishops after the council (Hist. Ar. 18.2). It is a legitimate deduction that Athanasius entered eastern territory at this juncture in order to assist Lucius in resuming possession of his see.

When did Athanasius see the tombs of the men executed at Adrianople? The natural assumption made by all who have so far expressed an opinion is that he must have passed through Adrianople as he returned to Alexandria in 346.18 But in 346 Athanasius went to Rome (Apol. c. Ar. 52.1) before going to the court of Constantius in Antioch (ApoL c. Ar. 54.1): hence it seems overwhelmingly prob able that he traveled from Rome to Syria mainly by sea, not overland through the Balkans.19 On the other hand, if Athanasius accompanied Lucius when he returned to his see, it seems possible that he saw the tombs then. But he speaks of seeing the tombs as he 4passed through*: since Adrianople lies on the great highway leading through the Balkans to Constantinople, it is at least equally possible that he saw them on his way to that city in 344 in the company of his friend Paul of Constantinople, who reoccupied his see in the second half of the year 344. It is again Socrates, with his knowledge of affairs in the city, who describes Paul's second illicit return to his see and his third expulsion.20

When Constantius in Antioch heard that Paul had returned to Constantinople and was again comporting himself as bishop of the city, he ordered the praetorian prefect Philippus to expel him. Philippus, remembering the fate of Hermogenes, went about his task skilfully. He concealed the real purport of his instructions from the emperor and proceeded to the baths of Zeuxippus as if to perform routine official business. From there he summoned Paul with a show of honor, saying that he needed his advice. Paul came. But when he arrived, the prefect produced his imperial instructions. Paul accepted what Socrates calls 'his condemnation without trial': Philippus had called his bluff and outsmarted him, and he perceived how untenable was his usurped position in face of the armed force of the prefect. Philippus quickly had Paul led into the imperial palace and from there bundled aboard a waiting boat. The bishop was sent to Thessalonica, his native city and the closest large port in the territory of Constans, and forbidden to set foot in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire— in other words, he was deported from the territory of Constantius. In Constantinople, Philippus then restored Macedonius as bishop: in the riot which accompanied his reinstatement, more than three thousand people were killed, cither by soldiers or crushed underfoot. Paul soon left Thessalonica and, according to Socrates, sailed by way of Corinth to Italy.

Although Socrates narrates this episode before the Council of Serdica, his implied date has no authority.21 On the contrary, the name of the praetorian prefect who expelled Paul from Constantinople establishes a clear terminus post quern for the episode. Since Domitius Leontius is attested as the praetorian prefect of Constantius until 6 July 344,22 Philippus cannot have become prefect before July 344, though his predecessor may have retained office for some time after his latest attestation. Elsewhere, Philippus is first securely registered as praetorian prefect on 28 July 346.23 Nevertheless, the sequence of ecclesiastical events firmly fixes the expulsion of Paul (and hence the start of his prefecture) to the autumn of 344 or the early winter of 344/5.24 Paul had perhaps been in Constantinople for several weeks before Philippus deported him.

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