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Arius

ARIUS, ɑ-rɑus or ê´ri-us: One of the most famous of heretics; b. in Libya (according to others, in Alexandria) about 256; d. at Constantinople 336. He was educated by Lucian, presbyter in Antioch (see Lucian the Martyr), and became presbyter in Alexandria. The bishop of that city, Alexander, took exception to his views concerning the eternal deity of Christ and his equality with the Father and thus, about 318, began the great controversy which bears the name of Arius. He is described as a tall, lean man, with a downcast brow, austere habits, considerable learning, and a smooth, winning address, but quarrelsome disposition. The silence of his enemies conclusively proves that his general moral character was irreproachable. His opponents said that he cherished a personal grudge against Alexander, because he was not himself elected bishop; but the subordination views which he had imbibed in the Antiochian school are sufficient to explain the direction of his development and the course of his life. Condemned by a synod at Alexandria in 320 or 321, he left the city, but was kindly received both by Eusebius of Cæsarea and Eusebius of Nicomedia, and it was evident that not a few of the Asiatic churches favored his ideas. A reconciliation was brought about between him and Alexander; but hardly had he returned to Alexandria before the strife broke out again, and with still greater violence. In spite of his many and powerful friends, Arius was defeated at the Council of Nicæa (325), and banished to Illyria. Soon, however, a reaction in his favor set in. The Eusebian party espoused his cause more openly, and through Constantia, the sister of the emperor, he got access to the court. He was formally recalled from banishment; and all the chiefs of the Eusebians were assembled in Constantinople to receive him back into the bosom of the Church, when he suddenly died the day before the solemnity at the age of over eighty years, at a time and in a manner that seemed to the orthodox to be a direct interposition of Providence, and a condemnation of his doctrine; while his friends attributed his death to poison. Athanasius relates the fact in a letter to Serapion (De morte Arii) on the authority of a priest, Macarius of Constantinople. 285Epiphanius (Hær., lxviii. 7) compares his death to that of Judas the traitor. Socrates (Hist. eccl., i. 38) and Sozomen (Hist. eccl., ii. 30) give minute accounts with disgusting details. Arius’s principal work, called Thalia (“the Banquet”), which he wrote during his stay with Eusebius at Nicomedia, was a defense of his doctrine in an entertaining popular form, half poetry, half prose; with the exception of a few fragments in the tracts of Athanasius, it is lost. A letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, and one to Alexander of Alexandria, are extant (cf. Fabricius-Harles, viii., Hamburg, 1802, p. 309). It should be borne in mind that all knowledge of Arius is derived from the accounts of his enemies and opponents, written during the course of an exceedingly bitter controversy. See Arianism; Athanasius; and consult the works there mentioned.

« Aristotle Arius Ark of the Covenant »





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