« Aretas Arethas Aretius, Benedictus »


ARETHAS: Archbishop of Cæsarea; b. at Patræ about 860. In the light of recent investigations and discoveries he appears as a vigorous ecclesiastical ruler in the Byzantine empire, and as a powerful promoter of learning, who took up and carried on the traditions of the school of Photius. The period of his life was one of great interest in scholarship and in the collection of the surviving treasures of antiquity. He became archbishop of Cæsarea under the Emperor Leo VI. (d. 912), and as such was next in rank to the patriarch of Constantinople. He must have lived to a good old age, as we have a manuscript letter of his to the emperor Romanus (d. 944). In his episcopal capacity, he was a defender of orthodoxy as it was understood by Photius. He despised both the Nestorians and the “insane” Eutychians, whom he classed with the Manicheans; he rejected Tatian’s doctrine of the Logos as equally heretical with the Arian. The tendency to the veneration of relics and of the Virgin Mary appears here and there in his works. Both these and his actions display a passionate temperament, with an unswerving steadfastness when he has once taken a side. Leo VI. came into conflict with the canon law by his decision to marry for the fourth time, probably induced by the desire for a male heir. The story of this conflict (904-907) unfolds a remarkable picture of Byzantine polities, as conditioned by the mutual relations of Church and State. While the Saracens were threatening the frontier of the empire, Leo labored diligently to gain the consent of the patriarch Nicholas to his fourth marriage; but Nicholas was reluctant to give it, and appealed to the disapproval of Arethas in support of his action in refusing to admit the emperor to the Church. When the patriarch showed a more conciliatory temper, Arethas refused to follow him, and was banished after the downfall of Nicholas. He won the latter’s successor, Euthymius, to his way of thinking, and adhered to his support when Nicholas was restored after the death of Leo. Euthymius, after an outward reconciliation with his competitor, retired to a life of asceticism, dying in 917. The hatred of his enemies pursued him even to the grave; but three years later Arethas was able to show his constancy by accomplishing the reverential translation of his remains. These data for the biography of Arethas are illustrated by a number of letters and occasional writings collected in the unpublished 277 Moscow Codex 315 (called 302 by Matthæi). These show that he held a position of great influence in relation not only to the emperors but to all the principal political, military, and ecclesiastical leaders. That his life was full of controversy appears from the number of his polemical writings, directed sometimes to his own vindication from personal charges, but more often against the Iconoclasts, the Armenian Monophysites, the Jews, or the “babblings” of Lucian and Julian. Especially noteworthy is that against his former pupil Nicetas of Paphlagonia. But his interests were by no means exclusively ecclesiastical, as is shown by a number of beautifully written manuscripts which he had prepared for his library, and himself completed by introductions, notes, and appendices. The most valuable contain works of Euclid, Aristides, Plato, Lucian, and Marcus Aurelius, as well as a collection of Christian apologists down to Eusebius, which in many cases supplies the primary text. The notes vary in value, but show a wide knowledge of Greek and Alexandrian literature, and contain many remarks of historical, antiquarian, and lexicographic importance. The principal work of Arethas’s own composition is his commentary on the Apocalypse, written probably after 913, and based upon the earlier commentary of Andrew of Cæsarea. It is not, however, a mere compilation, but contains a large amount of new observations and quotations from other sources, increasing it, for the early chapters, to more than double the length found in Andrew. The exegetical standpoint is the same; Arethas takes it for granted that the Apocalypse contains revelations from the world beyond, and finds in each prominent word the possibility of manifold references to past and future history, though holding firmly that these interpretations must be justified by the rest of Scripture and by pure Christian thought. The text of his commentary is in MPG, cvi. 487-786, and in Cramer, Catena Grœcorum patrum in Novum Testamentum, viii. (Oxford, 1844), pp. 176-582. Few of his other works have been published.

(G. Heinrici.)

Bibliography: J. C. T. Otto, Des Patriarchen Gennadius . . . Confession . . . nebst Excurs über Arethas’ Zeitailter, Vienna, 1864; Rettig, in TSK, iv. (1831) 755-756; C. de Boor, Vita Euthymii, Anekdoton zur Geschichte Leos des Weisén chaps. xii., xv., xvi., xviii.. xx., Berlin. 1888; Krumbacher, Geschichte. pp. 233-234.

« Aretas Arethas Aretius, Benedictus »
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