Sirmium Arles And Milan

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Although the council of sirmium met late in 351,1 one tmpor-tant preparatory step had been taken before the Battle of Mursa, probably in the spring. Basil of Ancyra interrogated Photinus about his theological views in the presence of eight officials of Constantius, some of very high rank: they included Taurus, the future consul of 361; Datianus and Cerialis, who held the consulate together in 358; and Thalassius, the praetorian prefect of Gallus—which implies that Gallus and his prefect had not yet left court to reside at Antioch.2 These dignitaries attended, not as judges to try Photinus,3 but as witnesses to the accuracy of the record of the interrogation made by shorthand writers, who produced three sealed copies, one for Constantius, one for the comités themselves, and one for use by the council of bishops destined to decide whether the theology of Photinus was orthodox or heretical. This preliminary investigation must not be confused with the council proper, whose decisions were to provide the basis for Constantius' attempt to enforce his ecclesiastical policies in the newly conquered West.

The Council of Sirmium took three decisions which were announced in a single synodical letter. First, it condemned and deposed Photinus, replacing him with Germinius from Cyzicus,4 and Marcellus of Ancyra was (as before) associated with his disciple in the condemnation. Second, the council reiterated the creed originally drawn up at Antioch in 342. To the original text of the creed and its repudiation of the most notorious views associated with Arius were now added twenty-six brief anathemas to replace the complex formulations of the 'long creed' of 344: a few rejected the caricature of Arius' views current in the West, but the majority proscribed the views of Marcellus and Photinus, though without naming the pair.3 Third, the Council of Sirmium again condemned and deposed Athanasius.

This crucial fact nowhere stands on fully explicit record. Yet Sulpicius

Severus speaks of a joint condemnation of Photinus, Marccllus, and Athanasius in a context which can hardly refer to any occasion other than the Council of Sirmium,6 and a condemnation of Athanasius by the council is a necessary hypothesis, both a priori, since his deposition by the Council of Antioch in 349 had been set aside,7 and in order to explain the subsequent course of events. For it was to controvert his condemnation by a council of hostile bishops shortly after 350 that Athanasius originally composed his Defense before Constantius,8 and the evidence directly pertaining to the Councils of Aries in 353/4 and Milan in 355 strongly implies that it was the synodical letter of the Council of Sirmium which was placed before the western bishops for their signatures, and that that letter contained both a creed and a joint condemnation of Marcellus, Photinus, and Athanasius.9

The Council of Sirmium wrote to Julius, the bishop of Rome, but he died on 12 April 352 before he could take any action.10 It thus fell to his successor Liberius, who was consecrated in May 352,11 to find the correct diplomatic response. Liberius acted as his predecessor had a dozen years earlier.12 He appointed himself as an arbitrator in the dispute between Athanasius and his enemies, and sent three priests from Rome to Alexandria. In his letter of 357, which constitutes the only clear evidence for his action, Liberius claims that he was motivated by a desire for peace 3nd concord between the churches, and that he had invited Athanasius to come to Rome so that a decision could be made in accordance with ecclesiastical discipline, with a threat to cut him off from communion with the church of Rome if he refused.13 The invitation can hardly be doubted, but in 357, when writing to the eastern bishops after his capitulation to the demands of Constantius, Liberius had reason enough to misrepresent the tenor of his letter of 352. At the earlier date, he cannot have threatened to excommunicate Athanasius, since such a threat would have been tantamount to accepting the validity of his deposition by the Council of Sirmium. Rather, he invited both parties to come or to send representatives to Rome.

Athanasius declined to come. Instead, as in 338, he convened a council of Egyptian bishops, seventy-five or eighty in number, which reiterated his innocence, adding for good measure that this Council of Alexandria was attended by a larger number of bishops than were present at the Council of Sirmium.14 When this letter was transmitted to Italy, Liberius convened a council of Italian bishops, presumably at Rome, to which he read the letter from Alexandria.15 The council reviewed the case of Athanasius, and it seems that it requested Constantius to convene a larger and more representative council at Aquileia: such at least is the implication of an allusion in a partially preserved letter which Liberius wrote to Ossius in late 353 or early 354, where he refers to a request by Italian bishops to Constantius to convene a council at Aquileia.16

It had long been Athanasius' strategy to associate his own cause with the defense of true faith. Hence it is plausible to conjecture that he wrote the work compendiously known as On the Council ofNicaea in response to Liberius' let ter of 352 in order to put the Council of Nicaea and its creed at the centre of ecclesiastical controversy.17 The work opens like a letter:

You have done well in telling me of the question you put to those who were advocating the views of Arius, among whom were both some of the accomplices of Eusebius and very many brothers who believe what the church teaches. I welcome your Christ-loving vigilance which well exposed the impiety of their heresy, but I am astounded at their shameless-ness. Although the Arian arguments have been shown to be rotten and futile, and they themselves have been condemned by all for every perversity, nevertheless, even after this they have been complaining like the Jews, and saying: 'Why did those who assembled at Nicaea use terms not in scripture, "from the essence" and "of the same essence" (hotno-ousios)T You, as a learned man, showed that they were talking nonsense in spite of their subterfuges of this sort. (1.1/2)

Athanasius compares the Arians at length to the Jews who killed Christ, then observes:

Knowing this, I would have made no reply to their questions. But since your friendliness has asked to be informed of what was done at the council, 1 have not delayed. By reply I have told [you] how it happened then, showing briefly how destitute the Arian heresy is of pious wisdom and how they only frame evasions. (2.3)

Athanasius gives a brief and selective account of the Council of Nicaea, concentrating on the phrase 'from the essence* and the word 'of the same essence.' He points out how Eusebius of Caesarea accepted them as part of the church's faith and the tradition of the fathers (3/4). He quotes Eusebius' embarrassed letter to his congregation in an appendix to prove that Acacius, the successor of Eusebius, knows this perfectly well and is therefore acting inconsistently in rejecting these terms (3.5, cf. 33). That should be an allusion to Acacius' role at Sirmium, though Athanasius nowhere refers explicitly to the council.

On the Council of Nicaea comprises four main sections. First, Athanasius discusses in what sense Christ is the Son of God. He poses a dilemma between the adoptive and essential senses of the word, and ridicules Arian attempts to find a third sense: the choice lies between the teaching of the Sadducees and Paul of Samosata, which Athanasius expounds, and catholic doctrine (6-17). Next, Athanasius argues that the phrase 'from the essence' and the word 'of the same essence* embody that teaching and were chosen by the Council of Nicaea precisely in order to contradict 'the impious phrases of the Arians' and to preserve the true sense of the scriptures (18-24). Third, Athanasius quotes Theognostus, Dionysius of Alexandria, Dionysius of Rome, and even Origen to demonstrate that the Council of Nicaea did not invent the phrases which the Arians have impugned (25-27).18 Finally, Athanasius closes his argument by objecting to

Arian use of the term 'unoriginate' (agenetos) as borrowed from pagans and theologically misleading (28-32).

In the manuscripts of On the Council of Nicaea, there then follow not only the letter which Eusebius of Caesarea wrote from Nicaea to his congregation in Palestine justifying his acceptance of the creed of 325 (33), but also a sheaf of other documents in which Arius and his allies are condemned:

(1) the deposition of Arius by Alexander of Alexandria in a letter of Alexander to the clergy of Alexandria and the Mareotis, recited by him in their presence, asking them to subscribe to his circular letter excommunicating Arius, followed by that letter and its subscriptions (c. 320);

(2) a letter of the Council of Nicaea to the churches in Egypt condemning Arius (325);

(3) a letter of Constantine to the church of Alexandria announcing the condemnation of Arius at Nicaea (325);

(4) the letter of Constantine exiling Arius, brought to Alexandria in 333;

(5) the long and abusive letter which Constantine wrote to Arius and his fellow Arians at the same time;

(6) Constantine's letter to the church of Nicomedia announcing the deposition of Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis of Nicaea (c. October 325);

(7) Constantine's letter to Theodotus.19

This dossier builds up a coherent case. Athanasius argues that the creed of the Council of Sirmium in 351 expresses heretical ideas which the Council of Nicaea condemned long before. It has often been observed that the Nicene creed and its key term homoousios become prominent in theological debate only in the 350s.20 On the known facts, it can plausibly be claimed that it was Athanasius who brought it into prominence by sending his On the Council of Nicaea to the bishop of Rome in 352. He had devised a potent rallying-cry.

Athanasius also needed to wage war on another front. He realised that Constantius would try to enforce the decisions of the Council of Sirmium as soon as political conditions permitted. Accordingiy, on 19 May 353, when he knew that Constantius would soon invade Gaul, Athanasius sent Serapion of Thmuis, four other bishops, and three priests of Alexandria to court with a present for the emperor (Hist. ac. 1.7; Index 25). Sozomenus reports that they had instructions to attempt to conciliate Constantius if at all possible, to reply to calumnies against Athanasius if it proved necessary, and to take any other measures they might deem appropriate for the welfare of the church and the bishop of Alexandria.21 These envoys probably carried with them the original version of Athanasius' Defense before Constantius.

Although the speech nowhere explicitly mentions the Council of Sirmium, Athanasius' oblique and tendentious allusions to it suggest that he originally wrote to parry the charges on which the council had condemned and deposed him. Athanasius presents himself as the victim of a hostile plot (1.1). His en emies, who are rank Arians (6.2,11.1), have written to the emperor (2.1)—that is, to put their letter in its proper historical context, which Athanasius conceals, they have written to Constantius to inform him officially of the decisions of the council. Athanasius answers in the literary form of a speech designed to be recited before Constantius, as if the emperor were conducting a formal trial of Athanasius in the presence of the accuser to whom the speech refers several times.22 The literary form may be artificial, but the charges against the bishop of Alexandria were real enough."

It would be naive to suppose that what Athanasius selected for refutation comprised the whole of the case against him. A sentence in Socrates may imply that Athanasius was charged with disturbing all Egypt and Libya.24 And Athanasius himself reveals that ecclesiastical offenses, including the old charge of sacrilege, formed part of the indictment. Against these he rested his case on the letters quoted in the first part of the Defense against the Arians and the palinode of Ursacius and Valens. The prooemium of the speech presents as the basis of the whole argument the assumption that Constantius loves truth and God, that Athanasius is innocent of all suspicion, and that his accusers are proven calumniators (1).

In the original Defense before Constantius, Athanasius concentrated on three 'slanders': that he had fostered enmity between Constans and his brother; that he wrote to the usurper Magnentius; and that he showed disrespect for Constantius by using the newly constructed Great Church in Alexandria before it was formally dedicated. Athanasius had some explaining to do, and his rebuttals of the charges, for all their vigorous eloquence, are often convoluted and evasive.25 His answer to the first charge was twofold. First, he protested that neither he nor Constans had ever spoken a harsh word to the other about Constantius, and he argued that he never spoke with Constans alone and in secret, so that the content of their conversations can easily be verified from the bishops or the high official who between them heard every word uttered during these audiences. Second, he gives an extremely compressed account of his dealings with Constans down to 346, and appeals to what he said to Constantius at the three audiences to show that he never spoke evil of his adversaries (2-5). The answer to the charge of treasonable correspondence with Magnentius had to overcome the inconvenient fact that a letter of Athanasius had been produced. The bishop dismissed it as a forgery and argued on a priori grounds that it was absurd to imagine that he could have written to someone whom he had never met. Could he have begun (he asks) by congratulating Magnentius on the murder of his own benefactor, of the pious Christians who had welcomed him as an exile in Rome? Magnentius was a devil or demon, untrustworthy to his friends: he broke oaths, sinned against God, and employed magic (6-12).

The third charge was easier to rebut. Athanasius had not dedicated the Great Church, since it was illegal to do so without Constantius' instruction; he had merely used it as an emergency measure because of the size of the crowds flock ing to worship at Easter. During Lent many worshippers had almost been crushed in the existing small churches: at Easter itself Athanasius wished to avoid unnecessary suffering and death. There were good precedents for using an unfinished church: Alexander had used the Church of Theonas while it was still being built for similar reasons, while Athanasius had seen the same happen in Trier and Aquileia—where Constans himself attended the service (15.4). Athanasius then justified his action on more general practical grounds and ended with a long peroration in which he prayed that Constantius might live long and perform the dedication: the church was ready, it only required his presence, and it was the wish of all that he come to Alexandria to dedicate it (14-18).

The Defense before Constantius was overtaken by events long before it reached the emperor in whose presence Athanasius had composed it to be recited. Four days after the envoys who carried it sailed from Alexandria, the palatinus Montanus arrived with a letter inviting Athanasius to come to the imperial court (Apol. ad Const. 19.4; Index 24; Hist. ac. 1.8). Athanasius seized on a reference in the letter to his own request to come to Italy as a pretext for rejecting the invitation. He had never made such a request. Had he done so, he would have been grateful to the emperor for granting it. But, since he had in fact not done so, it would be wrong for him to abandon his duties to visit one who granted his requests on behalf of the church even while he was absent. Athanasius protested in a written reply that he was ready to obey, but that since Constantius had issued no peremptory command, only an invitation based on misinformation or a misapprehension, he had concluded that the emperor did not really wish him to come {Apol. ad Const. 19.4-21.4).

Constantius had met his match in diplomatic evasion, but he was not yet willing to take the risk of attempting to supplant Athanasius by force. He turned his attention to obtaining acceptance of the Council of Sirmium in the West. Some agents of this policy can be identified.26 The most prominent and most active were Saturninus, bishop of Aries; Patemus of Perigueux; and Epictetus, the young bishop of Centumcellae on the Italian coast north of Rome.27 Saturninus and Paternus were Gauls themselves and established bishops, but Epictetus appears to have been an easterner imposed by Constantius after September 352 (Letter to the Bishops of Egypt and Libya 7; Hist. Ar. 75.2).28 Auxentius, who became bishop of Milan in 355 and retained the see until his death in 374, came from Cappadocia (Hist. Ar. 75.1) and was alleged to have received ordination as a priest from Gregory in Alexandria.29 And the name of Zosimus, who replaced Maximus as bishop of Naples, probably also in 355, suggests that he too was of eastern origin.30

Another bishop who played a prominent role, if only briefly, was Potamius, the first bishop of Lisbon known to history. Unfortunately, there is little fourth-century evidence for his career except the biased and unreliable Libetlus precum composed by two followers of Lucifer of Caralis more than twenty years later, and it is difficult to reconcile what contemporary writers report about the conduct and beliefs of Potamius in the late 350s with the orthodoxy of those works which survive.31 According to the two Luciferians, Potamius was orthodox in his beliefs until he was bribed with the promise of a fundus fiscalis: after Ossius of Corduba had denounced him to all the Spanish bishops as an impious heretic, he complained to Constantius, who then summoned Ossius to Sirmium in 357.32 Whatever the truth of these allegations, or of the story in the same document that he died before he could enjoy his reward, Potamius was at court in the summer of 357: there he put pressure on Liberius,33 and his name and that of Ossius stand in the heading of the 'blasphemy of Sirmium> as its joint authors.34 Moreover, a Gallic bishop writing in the autumn of 357 denounced a 'letter of Potamius' from which he quoted the heterodox proposition that the incarnation made God passible.35

Significantly, that is the total of western bishops who are attested as active supporters of Constantius' attempts to win western acceptance of the Council of Sirmium. The small number reflects more than paucity of evidence: it indicates an almost complete lack of enthusiasm for the decisions of the Council of Sirmium among the bishops of Italy, Gaul, and Spain. Constantius was compelled to obtain acceptance of those decisions by coercion and threats, and the acceptance thereby extorted represented no more than a sullen, grudging, and temporary acquiescence. Even if there was as yet no groundswell of active support for Athanasius or the Nicene creed, the vast majority of Gallic and Italian bishops showed their deep reluctance to endorse the decisions of their eastern colleagues by staying at home when Constantius convened councils at Aries and Milan.

While Constantius was spending the winter of 353/4 at Aries, a council of bishops met there, perhaps before the end of 353.36 The membership of the Council of Aries is nowhere fully described, but those known to have attended are predominantly eastern and Gallic bishops (with envoys from the bishop of Rome), and their total number was undoubtedly small.37 No new creed was formulated at Aries. The only ancient narrative source which describes the proceedings speaks of an imperial edict ordering that bishops who refused to subscribe to the condemnation of Athanasius be driven into exile. The same writer discloses that the document presented to the council for acceptance and signature was a letter which condemned Marcellus and Photinus as well as Athanasius—and which must be the synodical letter of the Council of Sirmium. Paulinus, the bishop of Trier, who assented to the condemnation of Marcellus and Photinus, but not to that of Athanasius, was exiled.38 Two legates had been sent from Rome: one of them, to Liberius' intense shame, accepted the decisions of the council, though the other refused to do so.39 The rest of the bishops, 'compelled by fear and a faction,' signed the document presented to the council.40

Constantius was not willing to allow his aim of obtaining western assent to the decisions of the Council of Sirmium to be frustrated by the mere absence of potential signatories from the Council of Aries (or later from the Council of Milan). At Nicaea in 325 his father had sent officials to set the creed before each bishop at the council individually for signature, and after the Council of Serdica more than two hundred bishops who had not been present added their names to the western synodical letter. Constantius now combined these two precedents. In a process which lasted several years, officials took copies of the Sirmian decisions, as subscribed at Aries, and subsequently at Milan, to individual bishops in Italy,41 and then in Gaul, Spain, and Britain, and compelled them to add their names under threat of exile. Finally, in 356 the document was presented to the bishops of Egypt for their approval (Letter to the Bishops of Egypt and Libya 5/6). It is Athanasius who describes most fully and explicitly the procedure used after the Councils of Aries and Milan. Although he describes at first hand what happened in Egypt, his description is valid also for the West:

Immediately instructions and letters came here to the prefect that the grain be taken away from Athanasius and given to those who hold the views of Arius, and that those who wish should be allowed to harass those who worship with him. And there was a threat against the magistrates if they did not worship with the Arians. This was the preliminary to what was done later through the dux Syrianus. To the parts [of the em-pirej outside [Egypt] also went orders, and notarii and palatini were sent from city to city both to the bishops and to the magistrates carrying threats, so that the magistrates should apply pressure and the bishops should either enter into communion with the Arians and write against Athanasius or themselves endure the penalty of exile, while the congregations who worshipped with them knew that there would be imprisonment, violence, beatings, and confiscation of their property [if they did not comply]. {Hist. Ar. 31.2/3)

It seems that the policy succeeded, at least in the short run. Decurions who received an imperial command that they compel their local bishop to comply or else themselves suffer financial loss (31.6) could not remain totally indifferent. Such indirect pressure secured widespread compliance: bishops throughout the West succumbed to the demand that they either subscribe to the document presented to them or forfeit their see. Athanasius* account rings true (31.4-6)—except for his final claim that 'every place and every city was filled with fear and disorder as bishops were dragged around, while the magistrates watched the tears and groans of the congregations.'

Liberius remained aloof and defiant, and Constantius himself wrote to the people of Rome complaining about the conduct of their bishop.42 Liberius responded politely, then, after an exchange of letters, requested the emperor to convene yet another council in a letter taken to Milan by the Sardinian bishop Lucifer of Caralis, the Roman priest Pancratius, and the deacon Hilarius.43 The envoys appear to have passed through Vercellae, where they enlisted the support of the bishop Eusebius, formerly a priest at Rome, who soon became a staunch supporter of the cause of Athanasius.44

Constantius called another council, which met at Milan in 355, probably in July and August, with the emperor again close at hand to keep a watchful eye on the proceedings.45 Again the attendance was small. Socrates indeed asserts that more than three hundred western bishops came.46 But his figure is implausible in itself, and his testimony is outweighed by the direct evidence of a letter from the Council of Milan to Eusebius of Vercellae: the letter which urged Eusebius to attend in order to join in the whole world's condemnation of the heretics Marcellus and Photinus and the sacrilegious Athanasius, was followed by thirty subscriptions commencing with the names of Caecilianus (who seems to be otherwise unknown), Ursacius, and Valens.47 The council opened with a demand that those present subscribe to the condemnation of Marcellus, Photinus, and Athanasius as set out in the synodical letter of the Council of Sirmium.48 According to Sulpicius Severus, Eusebius and Lucifer refused and were deposed. Dionysius, the bishop of Milan, agreed to put his name to the condemnation of Athanasius, provided that the council discuss doctrinal matters. Ursacius, Valens, and the rest demurred. The emperor was consulted and repeated his demand that the decisions of Sirmium be accepted entire. Dionysius refused and was exiled: the easterner Auxentius replaced him.49 Besides Dionysius, the Council of Milan also condemned Lucifer and Eusebius for refusing to add their names to the document placed before them, and all three bishops departed into exile in the East.50

One episode at the Council of Milan is of particular importance. Writing within three years of the council, Hilary of Poitiers reported that when Eusebius of Vercellae was pressed to sign the condemnation of Athanasius, he replied that agreement ought to be reached first on the orthodoxy of the bishops present since he had heard that some were 'polluted with heretical corruption.' He then produced a copy of the Nicene creed and professed himself willing to fulfill the demands made of him if everyone subscribed this creed. Dionysius of Milan took the paper and began to append his assent. Valens snatched the pen and paper from his hand, shouting that that was not on the agenda. The episode became known and provoked resentment in the city. The bishops, therefore, repaired to the imperial palace and—here, unfortunately, the fragmentary narrative breaks off.51

The historicity of the episode has recently been denied.52 Yet it is a priori probable that the allies of Athanasius would try to shift debate from his guilt or innocence to the Nicene creed: Athanasius had proclaimed as early as 339 in his Encyclical Letter that his deposition then imperiled the orthodoxy of the whole church, and he had recently (it seems) sent Liberius his On the Council of Nicaea to make the same case on purely theological grounds.53 What more natural than that Liberius and other Italian bishops should publicise the Nicene creed? Moreover, two other items of evidence support the story. In his work On the Councils, Hilary protests that he heard the Nicene creed only shortly before his exile: the context is tendentious and cannot be pressed to mean that he first heard the creed at the council which exiled him in 356, but it is perfectly consonant with Hilary's first hearing the creed recited and discussed in 355.S4 And Athanasius' circular Letter to the Bishops of Egypt and Libya, written in the spring of 356, alludes very clearly to the Council of Milan. It warns the bishops against accepting a creed which is about to be circulated for their signatures under threat of exile, and contrasts this Arian creed with the creed of Nicaea, the touchstone of orthodox belief (Letter to the Bishops of Egypt and Libya 5/6).

Pressure was now put on Liberius, who had avoided attending the council. The eunuch Eusebius came to Rome and urged Liberius in secret and diplomatically to subscribe the Sirmian decisions (Hist. Ar. 35.2-40.3). When the bishop continued to refuse, Constantius ordered the prefect of the city to arrest him and send him to the imperial court in Milan (during the autumn of 355).55 There he had an audience with the emperor, of which a record, doubtless somewhat embroidered, has been preserved: if this purported transcript can be believed, the interview was acrimonious on both sides, and Epictetus of Centumcellae was present to add his voice to the attempt at persuasion.56 When Liberius persisted in his recalcitrance, he was sent to Beroea in Thrace until such time as he should agree to append his name too to the synodical letter of the Council of Sirmium (Hist. Ar. 41.3). In his place, the archdeacon Felix was consecrated bishop of Rome by the prescribed trio of bishops (Hist. Ar. 75.3). The consecration probably took place in Milan, and the consecrators of Felix included Acacius of Caesarea, who happened to be at court.57 The clergy of Rome had all sworn a joint public oath never to accept any other bishop as long as Liberius lived, but in the event they all (including the future bishop Damasus) acknowledged Felix as their legitimate bishop.58

When Liberius capitulated to Constantius' demands in 357, he was allowed to return, and Felix left the city, though without (it seems) forfeiting episcopal status.59 Felix had proven more adept than Liberius at frustrating the emperor's wishes: he retained a reputation for never having sullied the faith of Nicaea,60 and his name was allowed to stand in the official records of the Roman see as a legitimate bishop, not an interloper.61 When Liberius died in 366, the dissensions in the Roman church broke out in a violently contested election: Damasus was elected bishop, but fighting between his partisans and those of his rival left one hundred and thirty-seven bodies in the basilica of Sicininus in a single day.62

While the Council of Milan was still in session, Constantius acted to expel Athanasius from his see. The imperial notarius Diogenes arrived in Alexandria during August 355 and began to try to dispossess Athanasius by political means. After four months he gave up and left the city on 23 December 355 (Apol. ad Const. 22; Hist. ac. 1.9). On 6 January 356 the dux Syrianus and the notarius

Hilarius entered the city with a large body of troops. Athanasius asked the dux whether he had orders from the emperor: when he denied having any, Athanasius asked him or Maximus, the prefect of Egypt, to write to Constantius on the grounds that he possessed a letter (the letter of 350, which he produced) promising him secure enjoyment of his see. Athanasius* request was supported by his clergy, his congregation, and a large part of the city. Syrianus proceeded carefully. He agreed to the request and bided his time for another twenty-three days. Then, suddenly, during the night of 8/9 February he occupied the Church of Theonas (Apol. ad Const. 25; Fug. 6.1; Hist, ac 1.10; Index 28).

Athanasius escaped and left Alexandria. Perhaps he went to Libya, for he later claimed that he started to travel to the court of Constantius until he was stopped, first by news of the arrest of Liberius and the exile of bishops by the Council of Milan, then by a report of the persecution of bishops in Egypt and Libya (Apol. ad Const. 27A-4). But events in Egypt required that he not abandon the sources of his political support. Force was being used in Alexandria and throughout Egypt to secure compliance with the deposition of Athanasius: of the ninety bishops loyal to him, sixteen were exiled, some fled, and others conformed to the new policy [Apol. ad Const. 27.1-28.4; Hist. Ar. 54-80). Resistance proved tenacious, especially in Alexandria. On 12 February the laity of the city entered a long, formal protest at the violence of Syrianus (Hist. Ar. 81). The supporters of Athanasius retained the city churches until June, when the new prefect Cataphronius and the conies Heraclius dispossessed them and handed the churches over to the supporters of George. George himself arrived eight months later, on 24 February 357. His hold upon his see was never secure and did not last long. On 29 August 358 the largely Christian populace attacked him in the Church of Dionysius and almost lynched him. Just over a month later (on 2 October) George left Alexandria. The supporters of Athanasius seized all the churches of the city a few days later. However, although the dux Sebastianus ejected them and restored the churches to the supporters of George on 24 December 358, and although the notarius Paulus arrived on 23 June 359, published an imperial edict on George's behalf, and used coercion to drum up support for him, George himself did not attempt to return to Alexandria for more than three years (Hist. ac. 2.2-5; Index 29).63

Athanasius remained in hiding for the rest of the reign of Constantius. After his initial flight, he returned to Alexandria and hid there during at least part of 357 and 358—presumably emerging when his partisans controlled the city in the autumn of the latter year. Thereafter, he wandered among the monks of Lower and Upper Egypt, a fugitive from the emperor and his agents, but apparently never in danger of betrayal to the authorities. Constantius, no longer constrained by the necessities of diplomacy, gave vent to his feeling of annoyance toward Athanasius in letters to the city of Alexandria and to Aezanes and Saezancs, the rulers of the kingdom of Axum.

The emperor flattered the city of Alexander but informed the people that

Athanasius was an outlaw who deserved to be apprehended and killed. He denounced the outlawed bishop as a low-born impostor who had achieved power by deceit:

Most of those in the city were blinded, and a man who comes from the lowest depths of society obtained authority, tricking into falsehood those who desired the truth as if they were blindfolded, never providing fruitful discourse, but corrupting their minds so that they were dull and useless. His flatterers shouted and applauded, they were astonished [with admiration] and are probably still murmuring secretly.64 Most of the simple folk took their cue from them, while matters went downhill with everything being overwhelmed as if in a flood. The man who led the crowd (how could I describe it more accurately?) was no different from the artisans, and the only benefit which he gave to the city was not to throw its inhabitants into pits. (Apol. ad Const 30.3/4)

The Alexandrians should welcome the excellent and learned George, turning their minds from mundane to heavenly matters and living in peace with good hope for the life hereafter.

Constantius warned the princes of Axum too against Athanasius, and asked them to send Frumentius, whom Athanasius had ordained as bishop, to Alexandria, so that George could investigate his conduct and beliefs as a bishop, reappoint him if they proved to be sound, and then send him back to spread true doctrine in the lands beyond the southern frontier of Egypt {Apol. ad Const. 31). In this letter which Athanasius quotes to illustrate the danger which compelled him to flee, Constantius states a central feature of his conception of his role as a Christian emperor: he felt that he had a duty to spread true belief both inside and outside the borders of the Roman Empire.65 Official ambassadors are known to have gone to the Axumitae and Homeritae, since a constitution of 15 January 357 preserves part of Constantius* instructions to Musonianus, the praetorian prefect of the East, limiting their free maintenance to one year.66 And inscriptions found at Axum not only attest a king of kings named Aeizanas and his brothers Saizanas and Adephas, but also imply that the ruler Ezana, who is presumably identical with Aeizanes (or Aezanes), converted to some form of monotheism after his accession.67

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