Constantinus Caesar to the church of Alexandria (17 June 337)
The work thus consists of two main parrs, each of which proceeds in chronological order (with only two minor deviations in the second part),1 yet the second deals with events down to 337, the first with Athanasius' career between 338 and 347.
Why does the work have such a peculiar arrangement? And how and why did Athanasius compose it? R. Seilcr distinguished six stages in its evolution:
(1) Athanasius first composed a narrative sketch of his career down to 337, comprising 59.1-5 (Opitz 139.4-140.4), 60.1-3 (140.11-19), 63.1-5 (142.24-143.14), 65.1-4 (144.3-21), 71.1-2 (148.25-149.4), 72.2-6 (151.13-152.7), 82 (161.17-30), 86.1 (164.12-14), 87.1-2 (165.36-166.6), and 88.1 (167.1-4). This sketch certainly existed in 338, since the letter of the Council of Alexandria (3-19) draws on it, but Athanasius had probably already drafted most of it in the autumn of 335 in preparation for his appeal to Constantine in Constantinople.
(2)The Council of Alexandria in 338 had before it both the narrative sketch and almost all the documents quoted in 59-87, but the documents had not yet been integrated into the narrative in their present order. Athanasius combined the separate narrative and documents into a single continuous text virtually identical with the present 59.1-88.1 after Julius made available to him the hypomnemata of the commission sent to the Mareotis in 335 (83.4). Julius appears to draw on the second part of the Defense in its present form in his letter to the eastern bishops in (21-35). Presumably, therefore, Athanasius composed it for submission to the Council of Rome in 341.
(3) Athanasius composed a third version consisting of 1-50 and 59-88, though without any references to Ursacius and Valens, shortly after the Council of Serdica (probably in 344) for use in persuading Constantius to allow him to return to Alexandria.
(4) A fourth version reflected the volte face of Ursacius and Valens in 347 and was composed before they resumed their earlier hostility toward Athanasius in 351: it added 51 and 58 and also references to their change of side in other passages (1.3,2.2,20.2, 88.3).
(5) A fifth version added 52-57 some time after 351.
(6) Athanasius added 89-90 in 357 while working on the History of the Arians, the content of whose lost first part it largely duplicated. But Athanasius never revised the Defense properly for publication either in 357 or latei^ and it was published in its surviving form after his death in 373.2
Seiler's analysis contains much of value and rules out of court H.-G. Opitz's later claim that Athanasius composed the whole of the Defense against the Arians in hiding in
357/8 as a unirary work with a single coherent argument.3 But it suffers from over-subtlety: in particular, the grounds advanced for distinguishing between the third, fourth, and fifth versions seem weak.4
Since Seller's dissertation of 1932 there have been two significant studies of the date and composition of the Defense against the Arians. In a brief and trenchant note, A. H. M. Jones drew attention to a passage concerning Rufus, who wrote the hypomnemata of the commission sent to the Mareotis in 335: according to the manuscripts, the man who wrote them is Rufus, now a speculator in the office of the Augustalis (ev Tfi AuyouoTaXiavrj sc. Tdfei). (83.4)
Opitz had emended the transmitted reading to 'in the province of Augustamnica' (ev Tf| AiryouaTanfiicri) on the grounds that there was no praefectus Augustalis until 382.5 Jones defended the transmitted reading and showed that the first prefect of Egypt to be styled praefectus Augustalis was Eutolmius Tatianus, prefect from 367 to 370 [Chr. min. 1.295).6 The title and rank of the prefect changed when rhe Egyptian provinces ceased to belong to the diocese of Oriens and formed instead a separate diocese of Aegyptus—an administrative change which occurred between January 370 and 11 February 371 (CTh 13.5.14, cf. 12.1.63).7 The prefect thus added the functions of vicarius of the new diocese of Aegyptus to his existing duties as governor of the province of Egypt, and the more grandiose title of praefectus Augustalis marked his enhanced status. It follows that the statement that Rufus is 'now a speculator in the office of the Augustalis' was written no earlier than 370, whether by Athanasius himself or by an Alexandrian editor who published the Defense shortly after his death.
T. Orlandi has given an account of the genesis of the Defense which somewhat resembles that of Seiler, to whom he oddly does not refer. Orlandi argues that Athanasius prepared some of the material in the second part as early as 335 and that this was incorporated in the Alexandrian letter of 338 (3-19), but that the composition of the Defense as it survives began in 346, when Athanasius put together the documents relating to Ischyras and Arsenius (63-81). Thereafter, there was a 'strong development' after 351, with the introduction (1-2) being written c. 352/3, but the 'definitive redaction' or 'definitive form' belongs to 357/8, though the work also received some retouching after 367.8 Orlandi's analysis, though acutely argued, is largely unconvincing. The 'enemies' of the opening sentence (1.1) cannot be Ursacius and Valens, as Orlandi assumed: on the contrary, as O. Bardenhewer crisply noted long ago, the overall argument of the first part makes sense only during the period between their volte face in 347 and the death of Constans in early 350.9
The nature of the case probably precludes stria proof. Nevertheless, the following hypothesis, which seeks to include what is valuable in earlier discussions, will explain both why Athanasius wrote the separate parts and why the Defense against the Arians has its present peculiar form. The work (it may be presumed) evolved in four stages:
(1) Athanasius prepared a brief account of his episcopal career to date for the Council of Alexandria in 338, with documents appended.
(2) In 341 he combined the narrative sketch and the appended documents into a documented resume of his career almost identical to the present second part (59.1-88.2) and laid it before the Council of Rome.10
(3) Athanasius composed the first part (1-58) and a peroration (probably 88.3 and
90.1, 3) to defend himself at the Council of Antioch which met and deposed him in 349, shortly before the death of Constans (Sozomenus, HE 4.8.4)," and he included the already existing second part (59.1-88.2) to show that the charges brought against him had always been false (cf. 58.6). (4) Arhanasius subsequently retouched the work, especially at the end, on several different occasions, perhaps separated by many years, adding allusions to events after 353 (89, 90.2), and perhaps still tinkering with the text after 370 (83.4). He never, however, revised the work systematically, gave it the polish appropriate to a finished literary product,12 or in any sense published it in his lifetime.
This hypothesis greatly enhances the value of the Defense against the Arians as historical evidence for the career of Athanasius: once its three main strata have been identified, the single work illuminates the proceedings of no fewer than three councils of bishops—at Alexandria in 338, at Rome in 341, and at Antioch in 349.,J
A general observation will be apposite. Most of those works of Athanasius which relate to his career (except the Encyclical Letter) were not in any real sense 'published' by him: hence he was free to retouch them whenever the fancy took him, and the posthumous editor or editors who put together the collected edition which has survived in mediaeval manuscripts also had the opportunity to alter the text where they deemed it appropriate. Moreover, even some works which were written for wider circulation rather than for ephemeral use at a council of bishops (such as the Defense of His Flight and On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia) show signs of later additions or retouching.14 Schwartz declared forthrightly that this was the case with most of Athanasius* works from the late 350s.,s It has been unfortunate for the understanding of Athanasius that Opitz took it upon himself to espouse the diametrically opposed analysis whenever and wherever possible—and that he penned an unduly harsh, dismissive, and influential footnote attacking Seiler's fundamentally accurate assessment of the Defense against the Arians.™
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