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65Book II.

Chapter I.—Return of St. Athanasius.

The divine Athanasius returned to Alexandria, after having remained two years and four months at Treves449449    From Feb. 336 to June 338. The “Porta Nigra” and the ruins of the Baths still shew relics of the splendour of the imperial city. The exile was generously treated. Maximinus, the bishop of Treves, was orthodox and friendly. (Ath. ad Episc. Ægypt. §8.) On the conclusion of the term of his relegation to Treves Constantine II. took him in the imperial suite to Viminacium, a town on the Danube, not far from the modern Passarovitz. Here the three emperors met. Athanasius continued his journey to Alexandria via Constantinople and the Cappadocian Cæsarea. (Ath. Hist. Ar. §8 and Apol. ad Const. §5.). Constantine, the eldest son of Constantine the Great, whose imperial sway extended over Western Gaul, wrote the following letter to the church of Alexandria.

Epistle of the Emperor Constantine, the son of Constantine the Great, to the Alexandrians.

Constantinus Cæsar to the people of the Catholic Church of Alexandria.

“I think that it cannot have escaped your pious intelligence that Athanasius, the interpreter of the venerated law, was opportunely sent into Gaul, in order that, so long as the savagery of these bloodthirsty opponents was threatening peril to his sacred head, he might be saved from suffering irremediable wrongs. To avoid this imminent peril, he was snatched from the jaws of his foes, to remain in a city under my jurisdiction, where he might be abundantly supplied with every necessary. Yet the greatness of his virtue, relying on the grace of God, led him to despise all the calamities of adverse fortune. Constantine, my lord and my father, of blessed memory, intended to have reinstated him in his former bishopric, and to have restored him to your piety; but as the emperor was arrested by the hand of death before his desires were accomplished, I, being his heir, have deemed it fitting to carry into execution the purpose of this sovereign of divine memory. You will learn from your bishop himself, when you see him, with how much respect I have treated him. Nor indeed is it surprising that he should have been thus treated by me. I was moved to this line of conduct by his own great virtue, and the thought of your affectionate longing for his return. May Divine Providence watch over you, beloved brethren!”

Furnished with this letter, St. Athanasius returned450450    In Nov. 338. His clergy thought it the happiest day of their lives. Ath. Ap. Cont. Ar. §7. from exile, and was most gladly welcomed both by the rich and by the poor, by the inhabitants of cities, and by those of the provinces. The followers of the madness of Arius were the only persons who felt any vexation at his return. Eusebius, Theognis, and those of their faction resorted to their former machinations, and endeavoured to prejudice the ears of the young emperor against him.

I shall now proceed to relate in what manner Constantius swerved from the doctrines of the Apostles.


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