of Rome was represented by two legates, in accordance with a precedent set at Arles in 314.28
The debates which preceded the signing of the creed wore on from early June29 to late July; the common sentiment of the church historians is conveyed in Socrates' anecdote that on the eve of the council idle disputants traded subtleties in public, until a simple old man reminded them that faith, not eloquence, is the key to heaven.30 Rufinus says that the Emperor, showered with letters from litigious bishops, burnt them on his arrival without having read them (Ruf. HE 1.2). Eusebius dwells on the august mien of Constantine, his eirenic counsels, the shrewdness of his kindly interventions. These he made in Greek, though at the outset, having been welcomed by the 'bishop in the first row',31 he replied in Latin (Euseb. V.C. 3.10-11). This oration has not survived, although the words ascribed to Constantine by Rufinus - 'you are not to be judged of men, you are as gods to us' - are characteristic of him, and not such as a theologian would have coined.32
An encyclical issued after the council shows that Alexander gained the better part of a compromise in the Melitian controversy. Melitian ordinations were upheld, but on condition that Alexander be acknowledged as the bishop of Alexandria, and that no further ordinations be performed without his consent (Socr. HE 1.9). Canon 6 confirmed the supremacy of the metropolitan in his province;33 another, which could be taken as a reflection on Eusebius of Nicomedia, forbade the translation of bishops from see to see, and was widely flouted after the council, as before.34 The philanthropia ('humanity') of the ruling on those who had lapsed under persecution would have been more gratifying to Eusebius, whose intimacy with Licinius had exposed him to suspicion and reproach.35 Penance, after a period of exclusion, was to be the price of return for those who had sacrificed, the heaviest burden falling on
28 See, Opt. Appendix 4. Ossius and the legates (or Silvester) come first in all lists.
29 Though Socr. HE 1.13 states that it opened on 20 May.
30 Socr. HE 1.8. In a different encounter (Ruf.HE 1.3, much expanded in Gel. HE, bk 2), an old man armed with nothing but the scriptures converts an Arian philosopher. On the sentiment of the historians see Lim, Public disputation, 217-29.
31 Identified as Eusebius of Nicomedia by the chapter heading, by Theodoret as Eustathius of Antioch (Thdt. HE 1.7), and by Sozomen as the historian himself (Soz. HE 1.19).
32 Ruf. HE 1.2; cf. Opt. Donat. 1.23.4. On the speech attributed to Constantine by Gel. HE 2.7.1-41 see Ehrhardt, 'Constantinian documents'.
33 Especially in Egypt; canon 7 gives Jerusalem second rank in Palestine after Caesarea. For the text see Jonkers, Acta, 38-47.
34 On canon 15 see Socr. HE 7.38, with Bright, Notes, 47-51. Alexander had made it a charge against Eusebius of Nicomedia that he migrated there from Berytus /Beirut (Socr. HE 1.6).
35 Constantine calls him a creature of Licinius, according to Thdt. HE 1.19.
Was this article helpful?