It remains to add
on individual letters where specific arguments supple
ment the general considerations already applied.
III speaks of 'the fast of forty [days]' (6). Easter fell on 16 Pharmouthi = 11 April in 342 and 353 as well as in 330. But the historical allusions in the text fit 342 far better than 353: Athanasius not only writes of affliction (5), but also as one absent from Alexandria (1). Schwartz accordingly (and rightly) deduced that 'the year 352 is excluded.*19
IV records that it was sent from court by an officialis of the praetorian prefect Ablabius (5), and 332 is the only year between 329 and 373 when Easter fell on 7 Pharmouthi = 2 April.
VII speaks of 'the fast of forty [days}' and fixes Easter as 4 Pharmouthi = 30 March (11), on which day it also fell in 340 and 346. Although the letter does not explicitly refer to Athanasius' absence from Alexandria, its references to wicked men intruding into the church of the saints and its contention that heretics and schismatics ought not to celebrate Easter (4) would not be inappropriate to either of the alternative dates.
X and all subsequent letters except XTV prescribe a lenten fast of forty days. X fixes the date of Easter as 30 Phamenoth = 26 March, on which day it also fell in 349. Schwartz argued that Athanasius wrote the letter in Trier shortly after Easter 337 for the following year;40 A. Robertson, that Athanasius began the letter in Trier and failed to revise the introduction when he completed it in Alexandria after his return.41 But their arguments collapse once a distinction is drawn between Athanasius' notification of the date of Easter 338 in the late spring or early summer of 337 and his Festal Letter proper written in the winter of 337/8. Athanasius in fact wrote the Festal Letter not only after his return to Alexandria on 23 November 337, but also after a council of hostile bishops met in Antioch to condemn and depose him.42
XI fixes Easter as 20 Pharmouthi = 15 April, on which day it also fell in 344. The transmitted year must be correct, since Athanasius was writing before the party of Eusebius had dislodged him from Alexandria (12).
XIII was written from Rome (1): therefore, in 341, not in 330 or 352, when Easter also fell on 24 Pharmouthi =19 April.
XVII and XVIII are brief communications to the clergy of Alexandria shortly after one Easter giving notice of the date of the next. Since the three successive Easters in question fell on 20 Pharmouthi = 15 April, 12 Pharmouthi = 7 April, and 4 Pharmouthi = 30 March, while XVIII refers explicitly to the decision of the Council of Serdica concerning the date of Easter, there can be no doubt that the letters were written in 344 and 345 respectively in order to make known the dates at which Easter was to be celebrated in 345 and 346. A recent denial of their authenticity is based on a failure to see that they are 'notificazioni festali,' not Festal Letters proper.45
XIX explicitly refers to Athanasius* return from exile since the preceding Easter (1), so that it was clearly written for Easter 347, even though Easter also fell on 17 Pharmouthi = 12 April in 358 and 369.
The end of XX is lost, but the heading attests its date for Easter as 8 Pharmouthi = 3 April. Although Easter also fell on the same day in 337, the tone of the letter implies Athanasius' presence in Alexandria. It was, therefore, written in 348.
XXVIII, of which both the beginning and end are lost, must be redated from 346 to 334 if VI is to be redated from 334 to 356, as Schwartz proposed.44
XL dates Easter to 25 Pharmouthi = 20 April. Easter fell on the same day in 363, when Athanasius was in hiding from the agents of the emperor Julian. The content of the two preserved fragments could suit 363 better than 368.4S
The substantial Coptic fragments of XLI1I are securely identified as such by a brief quotation from the original Greek in Cosmas Indicopleustes. The date of Easter is not preserved: it fell on 22 Pharmouthi in 371, but in no other year between 329 and 373.
The Letter to Serapion stands in the Syriac collection of Festal Letters between Letters XI and XIII with the subscription: 'He wrote this from Rome. There is no twelfth |letter].' Moreover, it explicitly refers to the lengthening of the pre-Easter fast in Egypt from six to forty days:
I have deemed it highly necessary and very urgent to make known to your modest)- ... that you should proclaim the fast of forty days to the brethren, and persuade them to fast, lest, while all the world is fasting, we who are in Egypt should be derided as the only people who do not fast, but take our pleasure in these days.
The place of the letter in the corpus and the subscription unambiguously imply a date of 339/40. But it is not clear what evidence the editor had for his dating beyond an inference that Athanasius wrote the letter from exile and hence must have written it in Rome for Easter 340. Most recent scholars reject the transmitted date in favor of a slightly earlier one.46 Following a h:nt from Duchesne, both Schwartz and Lorenz construed the Letter to Serapion as introducing the change in liturgical practise into Egypt, and de duced that Athanasius wrote it in exile in Gaul in the autumn of 336 for Easter 337.47 But it seems improbable that Athanasius would have tried to introduce such a change in Egypt while he himself was in exile in Gaul: it is surely much more probable a priori that he did so on his return, for Easter 338. Moreover, although the Letter toSerapion refers to the change, it does not itself read like a document introducing the forty-day fast to a country where it is completely unknown. Peri argued for composition early in 338, noting certain similarities of thought and expression between the Letter to Serapiott and Festal Letter X, which was written for Easter 338, and the fact that its list of new bishops (2) has a close analogue only in the Festal Letter for 347 written immediately after Athanasius* second return from exile (X1X.13).48 On the other hand, Camplani dates the Letter to Serapion to the winter of 338/9, supposing that it accompanied or closely followed the copy of Festal Letter XI sent to the bishop of Thmuis—which would explain perfectly why it was placed after Festal Letter XI in the non-Alexandrian collection of the letters.'" In either case, whether the letter was written for the lentcn season of 338 or 339, it illuminates Athanasius' struggle to retain possession of his see between his first return from exile on 23 November 337 and his second exile in the spring of 339. If the Letter to Serapion was indeed written outside Alexandria, as has often been supposed,50 that would be no argument against dating it to the late winter of 337/8, but confirmation that Athanasius went to the court of Constantius to defend himself very shortly after he had returned to Egypt.51
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