The Intervention Of Constans

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athanasius finally returned to egypt in 346 as a result of political pressure from Constans, who threatened his brother with war unless he agreed to the return of the bishop of Alexandria and other eastern bishops in exile in the West.1 When Constans was killed early in 350, Athanasius lost his imperial protector; and, when the Council of Sirmium condemned him in 351, the charges included high treason.2 It was alleged, with a certain prima facie plausibility, that during his exile Athanasius had fomented enmity between the two Augusti. It is a matter of some historical importance, therefore, to discover precisely what dealings Athanasius had with the emperor who ruled the western empire from 340 to 349. On the other hand, it is not at all easy to unravel the facts, since the only ancient writer who gives anything remotely resembling a complete account of any aspect of these dealings is Athanasius himself. Consequently, it will be worthwhile to set out the relevant evidence and the deductions which can be elicited from it systematically rather than chronologically.

The Defense before Constantius has the form of a speech to be delivered to the emperor in person. Even though Athanasius neither delivered it before Constantius nor ever intended to do so, he wrote the original version of the speech (which comprises the first eighteen chapters of modern editions, apart from a couple of later additions) with the emperor in mind throughout as the primary audience whom he needed to convince, and it seems that he sent it to him in the summer of 353.3 Athanasius composed his defense against the charge that he had turned Constans against the eastern emperor with a careful regard for what Constantius knew about his dealings with his brother. That severely circumscribed his ability to misrepresent facts which were (or might be) known to Constantius. What therefore does the original Defense before Constantius of

353 reveal about Athanasius' dealings with Constans?

Four chapters of the Defense before Constantius (in the division of the text devised by modern editors) deal with the charge that Athanasius caused enmity between 'the most pious Augustus of blessed and eternal memory* and his brother (2-5). The first of these comprises a captatio benevolentiae: although the falsity of the ecclesiastical charges made by Athanasius' accusers, already proven in the Defense against the Arians to be malicious inventions (1.1-4), means that the charge cannot be taken seriously, Constantius has shown that he possesses the imperial virtue of patience by giving Athanasius the opportunity to reply and set forth the truth (2). And the last of the four chapters devoted to the charge concludes the refutation with an a priori argument based on the interviews which Constantius has been gracious to grant Athanasius: if he did not complain to Constantius about his enemies when he had every reason to do so, it is plainly ridiculous to imagine that he ever slandered him to his brother Constans (5).4 The two intervening chapters present and deal with Athanasius' interviews with Constans.

Athanasius was not deeply imbued with traditional Greek rhetorical culture, and never shows any familiarity with the traditional literary genres except philosophy.5 Hence neither the structure of the original Defense before Constantius of 353 nor its individual parts correspond to the precepts of generations of theorists which underlie the structure of so many works by fourth-century Christian writers.6 Athanasius' account of his dealings with Constans cannot be called a narratio in the technical sense in which that term is used by ancient rhetorical handbooks. Where theorists prescribed an initial narratio of the facts of the case (usually brief), followed by an ample elaboration of arguments based upon them,7 Athanasius throughout combines and interlaces narrative and argument.

Despite his lack of literary polish, Athanasius' native intelligence and familiarity with the world made him capable of forceful pleading on his own behalf. He chose a specific logical structure for this section of his speech. He first discusses his audiences with the dead emperor geographically in order to prove that he never saw him alone—and hence never had the opportunity to slander Constantius privately. Then he reviews his dealings with Constans, including written communications, in chronological order to prove that he saw him only when summoned to court, never on his own initiative or at his own request. Hence if historical deductions are to be teased out of these chapters, what Athanasius says about where he had audiences with Constantius must be analysed separately from what he says about their dates and occasions. Athanasius sets a somewhat strident tone for his exposition:

I truly blush with shame to defend myself against such charges, which I think that not even my accuser himself will repeat in my presence. For he knows perfectly well both that he himself is lying and that I neither went mad nor took leave of my senses even so far as to expose myself to the suspicion of having let any such thing enter my mind. For this reason I would not have replied to any others who asked me in case my listeners might suspend their judgment, if only for the duration of my speech of defense. But to your piety I defend myself in a clear and loud voice, and stretching out my hand, as I have learned from the apostle, 'I call on God as my witness and stake my life on it* (2 Corinthians 1.23). As it is written in the histories of the kings [of Israel], 'the Lord is my witness, and his Christ is my witness* (1 Samuel 12.5). (Permit me too to utter these words.) I never on any occasion spoke ill of your piety before your brother Constans of blessed memory, the most pious Augustus. (3.1-3)

He then proceeds to develop an argument designed to prove that he must be innocent of the charge because he never saw or conversed with the emperor

Constans alone:

I did not incite him, as my accusers falsely allege. On the contrary, whenever I entered his presence, he himself spoke of your generosity—and he spoke of it even when the embassy of Thalassus came to Poetovio while I was in Aquileia. The Lord is my witness how I kept recalling your piety and kept saying what I wish God may reveal to your soul, so that you may condemn the calumny of those who are slandering me before you! Bear with me as I say this, most generous Augustus, and freely grant me your indulgence. For that lover of Christ was not so light-minded nor was I of such a character that we could discuss such matters between us, that I could slander brother to brother or speak ill of an emperor before an emperor. I am not mad, emperor, nor have I forgotten the divine utterance which says: 'Do not curse the king in your thoughts, and do not curse a rich man in the secrecy of your bedchamber; for a bird of the air will carry away your utterance and a winged messenger will report your words' (Ecclesiastes 10.20).

If even what is said in private against you who are kings [and emperors] is not concealed, it is surely incredible that I should have spoken against you in the presence of an emperor and with so many in attendance. For I never went alone to see your brother nor did he ever converse with me alone. I always entered his presence with the bishop of the city where I was and other bishops who happened to be there: we saw him together and we departed again together. On this matter Fortunatianus, the bishop of Aquileia, can bear witness, and Father Ossius is capable of speaking, as are Crispinus, the bishop of Patavium;8 Lucillus of Verona; Dionysius of Elis;9 and Vincentius, the Campanian bishop.10 And since Maximinus of Trier and Protasius of Milan have died, Eugenius too who was magister can bear witness. For he stood before the veil and heard the requests I made of Constans and what he graciously said to me. (3.3-7)

What Athanasius says about the places where he had an audience seems clear enough. He was always accompanied by the bishop of the city where the audience occurred and other bishops who happened to be on hand. And his exposition is structured on the assumption that the audiences occurred in the three cities of Aquileia, Trier, and Milan. For his audience or audiences in Aquilcia, Athanasius can produce a bevy of witnesses: not only Fortunatianus, the bishop of the city (who is attested as bishop of Aquileia from 343 to 357),11 but also the bishops Ossius, Lucillus, Dionysius, and Vincentius. For the audiences in Trier and Milan, the testimony available was not so direct and impressive, since Maximinus and Protasius, who were the bishops of these cities in the early 340s, had both died several years before 353.12 Athanasius appeals, therefore, to Eugenius, who was either magister officiorum or magister admissionum at the relevant times—and clearly, in Athanasius* opinion, still alive when he composed the original Defense before Constantius in 353.13 Eugenius* political influence is also known from Libanius, who complained to Julian in 362 that the tiny Eugenius became great under Constans and used his power to seize the estates of Aristophanes of Corinth.14

One other matter in the passage quoted requires comment before proceeding further. Who was Thalassus, and why did he come to Poetovio? The first question is easy to answer. Thalassus in Athanasius' speech and the Thalassus whom Zosimus names as an envoy sent by Constantius to Magnentius in the summer of 351 are obviously the same man as the Thalassius who is well attested as the praetorian prefect charged with administering the East under the titular authority of the inexperienced Caesar Gallus.15 Thalassius died during the winter of 353/4, but when Athanasius originally wrote this passage, he was alive and the de facto ruler of the eastern provinces including Egypt. It is not so immediately obvious why Thalassius came to Poetovio while Athanasius was in Aquileia. But there is a plausible historical context in the winter of 344/5 which will explain why Athanasius mentions him here: it was (it seems) in answer to the embassy of Thalassius that Constans threatened his brother with war if he did not agree to the restoration of Athanasius and Paul of Constantinople.16 For the present, it will suffice to observe that, while Athanasius implies that Constans received the embassy of Thalassius at Poetovio, he states categorically that he himself was in Aquileia at the time—where it is known that he resided during the spring of 345 (15.4; Index 17).

Although it is established that Athanasius had audiences with Constans only in the three cities of Aquileia, Trier, and Milan, the passage of the Defense before Constantius analysed so far reveals nothing whatever about the number of interviews, either in total or in each city, and very little about their dates and occasions. To discover how many audiences there were and when they occurred, it is necessary to turn to the continuation of the passage already quoted, which is evasive and slippery in the extreme:

Although this is sufficient for proof, permit me nonetheless to set out an account of my travels, so that from these facts too you may condemn those who baselessly slander me.

After departing from Alexandria, I did not go to the court of your brother, nor to any others, only to Rome. Entrusting my cause to the church (for I was concerned for this alone), I spent my time in public worship. I did not write to your brother except [on the occasions] when the Eusebians wrote to him against me and 1 was compelled to defend myself while I was still in Alexandria, and when, at his command that I prepare copies of the holy scriptures, I produced and sent them. [I say this because] in my defense I must tell the truth to your piety. So, after three years had passed, in the fourth year17 he wrote ordering me to present myself before him. (He was then in Milan.) When I enquired into the reason (for I did not know, the Lord is my witness), I learned that certain bishops had gone to court and requested him to write to your piety so that a council might be held. Believe me, emperoi; it happened like this; I am not lying. So I went down to Milan and experienced great generosity; for he graciously saw me and said that he had written and sent to you asking for a council to be held.18

I was still residing in the aforementioned city when he sent for me again [to come] to Gaul, since Father Ossius was going there too, so that the two of us could travel [together] from there to Serdica. After the council, he wrote to me while I was residing in Naissus, and after going up to Aquileia I then remained there [until] the letters of your piety reached me there. And after being summoned again from there by your departed brother, I went to his court in Gaul and so came to your piety. (3.8-4.5)

This long passage proceeds in chronological order except for the digression on Athanasius' written correspondence with Constans. Athanasius returns to his main argument with the assertion that he had no dealings with Constans for three full years: the logic of the passage entails that he must mean three full calendar years from his arrival in Rome (or at least from his departure from Alexandria), not three years from his correspondence with Constans in 338.19 In the fourth year of his exile, that is, no earlier than the summer of 342, Athanasius was summoned by Constans to Milan, because 'certain bishops' had already persuaded him to write to Constantius proposing, or demanding, a council of both eastern and western bishops (4.3). Who were these 'certain bishops'? The plural could, as in the preceding reference to the emperor Constantinus as anonymous 'others,' designate a single individual. But, whether Athanasius in fact intended to refer to one or more bishops here, an easy identification of the date and occasion offers itself. For it was during the year 342 that Paul of

Constantinople arrived at the court of Constans in Trier, and the western emperor decided to take up the cause of all the exiled eastern bishops.

Eusebius of Nicomedia, who had orchestrated the campaign against Athanasius and his allies as bishop of Constantinople since c. October 337, died before he received (or at least before he was able to answer) the conciliar letter which Julius sent from Rome on behalf of Athanasius and Marcellus in the late spring or summer of 341.20 Paul, whom Eusebius had replaced in 337, thereupon attempted to recover his see. He left his place of exile in Pontus and returned to Constantinople. At the same time, the Christians of the city opposed to Paul elected Macedonius as bishop. News of this reached Constantius while he was wintering in Antioch. He ordered the magister militum Hermogenes, who was perhaps already on his way to take up an appointment in Thrace, to expel Paul from Constantinople. When Hermogenes arrived in the city and tried to carry out the emperor's orders, a mob burned the house where he was lodging, dragged him out, and lynched him. Constantius himself then came post-haste across Asia Minor in the depths of winter: he ejected Paul and punished the city by halving its supply of free grain. When he returned to Antioch, he left Macedonius as bishop of the city.21

The riot in which Hermogenes perished belongs to the beginning of 342.22 Expelled from Constantinople, Paul betook himself to Triei; whose bishop Maximinus had already shown his goodwill and political support. That is made clear by the complaints voiced against Maximinus by the eastern bishops at the Council of Serdica in 343:

He refused to receive our episcopal colleagues whom we had sent to Gaul; he was the first to communicate with the wicked and reckless Paul of Constantinople; and he was himself the cause of such a disaster because Paul was recalled to Constantinople, on whose account many murders were committed. He himself was the cause of so many murders, who invited Paul, who had earlier been condemned, to return to Constantinople.23

There appear to be three distinct charges made here against Maximinus, which should be considered in chronological ordei; since the eastern bishops appear to conflate three separate episodes for rhetorical effect. First, Maximinus was the first to recognise Paul as bishop of Constantinople. If the word 'first' is to have real content, then this charge must relate to Paul's first tenure of the see of Constantinople in 337. Paul must have written to Trier immediately after his election—doubtless with the encouragement and perhaps at the instigation of Athanasius. Second, Maximinus caused slaughter in Constantinople by summoning Paul to the city in the winter of 341/2. And third, Maximinus refused to communicate with the bishops Narcissus of Neronias, Theodorus of Heraclea, Maris of Chalcedon, and Marcus of Arethusa when they went to Constans at

Trier. Socrates plausibly states that these bishops went to Gaul after Constans had written to Constantius demanding that a delegation of three bishops be sent to justify to him the deposition of Paul and Athanasius.24 The approximate date of the embassy is fixed as 342 by the creed which the four bishops brought with them and which both Athanasius (Syn. 25.2-5) and Socrates quote.25 The precise date can hardly be earlier than the autumn of 342, since time must be allowed for Paul to reach Trier, for Constans to write and Constantius to react, and for the delegation to travel from Antioch to Gaul. Constans* presence in Trier is not in fact explicitly attested during the summer of 342, but the city was one of his normal residences, and it seems that during this summer he settled Franci in Toxandria at the mouth of the Rhine—which implies that he passed through Trier both before and afterward.26

In 359 Athanasius alluded to the embassy of the four bishops in a typically cryptic fashion. The Arians (he proclaimed) showed their vacillating inconsistency by composing another creed only a few months after the 'Dedication Council': they sent it to Gaul with Narcissus, Maris, Theodorus, and Marcus, who presented it to Constans and everyone there 'as if sent from a council' {Syn. 25.1). Athanasius* chronology is vague and misleading: the 'few months' are not a couple of months (as an unwary reader might suppose), but about a year and a half (from January 341 to the summer of 342). Nevertheless, Athanasius' ridicule documents two important facts about the embassy of the four bishops. It was sent by a council of bishops (which presumably met at Antioch), and it was sent to Constans as well as to Maximinus and other bishops ('all those there'). Furthermore, Athanasius quotes the creed which the four bishops took to Gaul. It makes an obvious attempt to parry the objections of Marcellus and the like to previous creeds of Antiochene councils: although the statement of beliefs avoids the crucial term ousia, the anathemas reject as heretical the idea that the Son is 'of different substance (hypostasis) and not of God' (Syn. 25.2-5).27

The reception, fate, and sequel of the embassy of the four eastern bishops to Trier are all alike unknown. Late in 342, however, Constans summoned Athanasius to an audience in Milan.28 Paul and Maximinus of Trier had exercised effective persuasion. The western emperor had become the champion of all the eastern bishops who were in exile in the west, convinced that their deposition imperiled Christian orthodoxy. Constans wrote again to his brother, presumably in the winter of 342/3, insisting on a joint council of eastern and western bishops (ApoL ad Const. 4.4). Constantius acceded reluctantly to his demands, and a day was at last set for the bishops of both brothers' domains to meet at Serdica, close to the border between them. Athanasius no longer stood alone: his cause enjoyed the firm support of the western emperor, it was joined to that of other bishops, and he had convinced both the western emperor and most western bishops that his cause was indeed the cause of orthodoxy.

In this context it will be appropriate to look forward to the other three audiences with Constans which Athanasius records. The emperor's movements establish their approximate dates.29 Shortly after the first audience in Milan late in 342, Constans crossed the Alps into Gaul, sped north-west, and reached Boulogne by 25 January, whence he made a famous winter crossing of the English Channel.30 The second audience was in Trier, when Constans interviewed Athanasius and Ossius together before they set off for the Council of Serdica. The emperor's presence in Trier is certified on 30 June 343,31 but the interview probably occurred some weeks latec

Ln his chronological survey Athanasius does not explicitly mention the third audience—precisely because it was the embarrassing one, the audience after which Constans threatened his brother with war. But his statement that 'after going up to Aquileia I then remained there' (Apol. ad Const. 4.5) can be combined with his earlier admission that he had an audience at Aquileia (3.7) and his later disclosure of the fact that both he and Constans were in Aquileia at an Easter (15.4) to date the third interview to the early months of 345, a year in which Easter fell on 7 April (Index 17).

The final interview occurred in Trier after Athanasius received a letter from Constantius permitting him to return to Alexandria. Since the emperor's letter was written from Edessa (Apol. c. Ar. 51.6) no earlier than the summer of 345, while Athanasius reentered Alexandria on 21 October 346 (Hist. ac. 1.1; Index 18), the date must fall between the end of summer 345 and the middle of the following year. But the evidence of the Theodosian Code appears to indicate that Constans was at Sirmium in Pannonia on 5 March 346 and at Caesena in north Italy on 23 May.32 Hence, if Athanasius needed to travel to Trier to see Constans, the audience presumably occurred in the autumn of 345 or; at the latest, during the winter of 345/6.

To conclude this chapter based principally on what Athanasius says about his audiences with Constans in the Defense before Constantius, it may be helpful to set out in schematic form the dates and places which have been deduced from what he says separately about the places where they occurred and their sequence:

342, autumn

343, c. July/August 345, late winter/spring 345, autumn

Milan Trier

Aquileia Trier

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