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§9. Athanasius under Julian and his successors; Fourth and Fifth Exiles. Feb. 21, 362, to Feb. 1, 366.

(a) The Council of Alexandria in 362. The eight months of undisturbed residence enjoyed by Athanasius under Julian were well employed. One of his first acts was to convoke a Synod at Alexandria to deal with the questions which stood in the way of the peace of the Church. The Synod was one ‘of saints and confessors,’ including as it did many of the Egyptian bishops who had suffered under George (p. 483, note 3, again we miss the name of the trusted Serapion), Asterius of Petra and Eusebius of Vercellae, with legates from Lucifer of Calaris, Apollinarius of Laodicea, and Paulinus the Presbyter who ruled the Eustathian community of Antioch. Our knowledge of the proceedings of the Synod (with an exception to be referred to later on) is derived entirely from its ‘Tome’ or Synodal letter addressed to the latter community and to the exiles who were its guests. Rufinus, from whom or from the Tome itself Socrates appears to derive his knowledge, follows the Tome closely, with perhaps a faint trace of knowledge from some other8080    He states (1) That a rigorist party in the council were at first opposed to all conciliatory measures; this is highly probable, see Hieron. adv. Lucif. 20; (2) that former active Arians were to be admitted to lay communion only; this is not unlikely; (3) by implication, that Eusebius and Lucifer went first to Antioch, and agreed to take no step till after the Council which Eus. was to attend in person, and Luc. by deputy, at Alxa., but that Luc. broke his promise. This may contain a grain of truth, i.e. that Lucifer promised to do nothing before he heard from Alxa., but Eusebius can scarcely have gone to Antioch. I owe these notices to the excellent analysis of our sources of information in Krüger, Lucif. p. 46 sq.; but he makes an odd slip, p. 48, in saying that Soz. ‘schweigt von der Synode zu Alex. uberhaupt.’ source. Sozomen gives a short and inadequate report (v. 12). But the importance of the Council is out of all proportion either to the number of bishops who took part in it or to the scale of its documentary records. Jerome goes so far as to say that by its judicious conciliation it ‘snatched the whole world from the jaws of Satan’ (Adv. Lucif. 20). If this is in any measure true, if it undid both in East and West the humiliating results of the twin Synods of 359, the honour of the achievement is due to Athanasius alone. He saw that victory was not to be won by smiting men who were ready for peace, that the cause of Christ was not to be furthered by breaking the bruised reed and quenching the smoking flax. (Best accounts of the Council, Newman, Arians V. i., Krüger, Lucif. 41–52, Gwatkin, p. 205, sqq.) The details may be reserved for the Introduction to the Tome, p. 481. But in the strong calm moderation of that document we feel that Athanasius is no longer a combatant arduously contending for victory, but a conqueror surveying the field of his triumph and resolving upon the terms of peace. The Council is the ripe first-fruits of the de Synodis, the decisive step by which he placed himself at the head of the reuniting forces of Eastern Christendom; forces which under the recognised headship of the ‘Father of Orthodoxy’ were able successfully to withstand the revived political supremacy of Arianism under Valens, and after his death to cast it out of the Church. The Council then is justly recognised as the crown of the career of Athanasius, for its resolutions and its Letter unmistakably proceed from him alone, and none but he could have tempered the fiery zeal of the confessors and taught them to distinguish friend from foe.

It would have been well had Lucifer been there in person and not by deputy only. As it was he had gone to Antioch in fiery haste, with a promise extorted by Eusebius to do nothing rashly. Fanatical in his orthodoxy, quite unable to grasp the theological differences between the various parties (his remonstrances with Hilary upon the conciliatory efforts of the latter shew his total lack of theology: see also Krüger, pp. 36, sq.), and concentrating all his indignation upon persons rather than principles, Lucifer found Antioch without a bishop; for Euzoius was an Arian, and Meletius, whose return to the church of the Palæa was (so it seems) daily expected, was to Lucifer little better. What to such a man could seem a quicker way to the extinction of the schism than the immediate ordination of a bishop whom all would respect, and whose record was one of the most uncompromising resistance to heresy? Lucifer accordingly, with the aid we may suppose of Kymatius and Anatolius, ordained Paulinus, the widely-esteemed head of the irreconcileable or (to adopt Newman’s word) protestant minority, who had never owned any Bishop of Antioch save the deposed and banished Eustathius. The act of Lucifer had momentous consequences (see D.C.B. on Meletius and Flavian, &c.); it perpetuated the existing tendency to schism between East and West; and but for the forbearance of Athanasius it would perhaps have wrecked the alliance of Conservative Asia with Nicene orthodoxy which his later years cemented. Even as it was, the relations between Athanasius and Basil were sorely tried by the schism of Antioch. The Tome however was signed by Paulinus8181    This is placed later in 363 by Dr. Bright, D.C.B. i. 199, on the ground of a statement of Epiphanius, Hær. 77. 20, which, however, is not quite decisive on the point., who added a short statement of his own faith, which, by recognising the legitimacy of the theological language of the other catholic party at Antioch, implicitly conceded the falseness of his own position.

lixEusebius and Asterius of Petra carried the letter to Antioch, where they found the mischief already done. In deep pain at the headstrong action of his fellow-countryman, Eusebius gave practical assurance to both parties of his full sympathy and recognition, and made his way home through Asia and Illyria, doing his best in the cause of concord wherever he came. Lucifer renounced communion with all the parties to what he considered a guilty compromise, and journeyed home to Sardinia, making mischief everywhere (terribly so at Naples, according to the grotesque tale in the Lib. Prec.; see D.C.B. iv. 1221 under Zosimus (2)), and ended his days in the twofold reputation of saint and schismatic (Krüger, pp. 55, 116 sq.).

It may be well to add a few words upon the supposed Coptic acts of this council, and upon their connection with the very ancient Syntagma Doctrinæ, wrongly so named, and wrongly ascribed to Athanasius. These ‘acts’ are in reality a series of documents consisting of (1) The Nicene Creed, Canons, and Signatures; (2) A Coptic recension of the Syntagma Doctrinæ; (3) the letter of Paulinus from Tom. Ant., sub fin., a letter of Epiphanius, and a fragmentary letter of ‘Rufinus,’ i.e. Rufinianus (see infr. p. 566, note 1). Revillout, who published these texts from a Turin and a Roman (Borgia) manuscript in 1881 (Le Concile de Nicée d’apres les textes Coptes) jumped (Archives des missions scientifiques et littéraires, 1879) at the conclusion that the whole series emanated from the council of 362, from whose labours all our copies of the Nicene canons and signatures are supposed by him to emanate. His theory cannot be discussed at length in this place. It is worked out with ingenuity, but with insufficient knowledge of general Church history. It appears to be adopted wholesale by Eichhorn in his otherwise critical and excellent Athanasii de vita ascetica testimonia (see below, p. 189); but even those whose scepticism has not been awaked by the hypothesis itself must I think be satisfied by the careful study of M. Batiffol (Studia Patristica, fasc. ii.) that Revillout has erected a castle in the air. Of any ‘acts’ of the Council of 362 the documents contain no trace at all. It is therefore out of place to do more than allude here to the great interest of the Syntagma in its three or four extant recensions in connection at once with the history of Egyptian Monasticism and with the literature of the Διδαχὴ τῶν ιβ' ἀποστόλων (see Harnack in Theol. Litzg. 1887, pp. 32, sqq., Eichhorn, ib. p. 569, Warfield in Andover Review, 1886, p. 81, sqq., and other American literature referred to by Harnack a.a.O).

All over the Empire the exiles were returning, and councils were held (p. 489), repudiating the Homœan formula of union, and affirming that of Nicæa. In dealing with the question of those who had formerly compromised themselves with Arianism, these councils followed the lead of that of Alexandria, which accordingly is justly said by Jerome (adv. Lucif. 20) to have snatched the world from the jaws of Satan, by obviating countless schisms and attaching to the Church many who might otherwise have been driven back into Arianism.

Such were the more enduring results of the recall of the exiled bishops by Julian; results very different from what he contemplated in recalling them. Apparently before the date of the council he had written to the Alexandrians (Ep. 26), explaining that he had recalled the exiles to their countries, not to their sees, and directing that Athanasius, who ought after so many sentences against him to have asked special permission to return, should leave the City at once on pain of severer punishment. An appeal seems to have been made against this order by the people of Alexandria, but without effect. Pending the appeal Athanasius apparently felt safe in remaining in the town, and carrying out the measures described above. In October (it would seem) Julian wrote an indignant letter to the Prefect Ecdikius Olympus (Sievers, p. 124), threatening a heavy fine if Athanasius, ‘the enemy of the gods,’ did not leave not only Alexandria, but Egypt, at once. He adds an angry comment on his having dared to baptize ‘in my reign’ Greek ladies of rank (Ep. 6). Another letter (Ep. 51) to the people of Alexandria, along with arguments in favour of Serapis and the gods, and against Christ, reiterates the order for Athanasius to leave Egypt by Dec. 1. Julian’s somewhat petulant reference to the bishop as a ‘contemptible little fellow’ ill conceals his evident feeling that Athanasius, who had ‘coped with Constantius like a king battling with a king’ (Greg. Naz.), was in Egypt a power greater than himself. But no man has ever wielded such political power as Athanasius with so little disposition to use it. He bowed his head to the storm and prepared to leave Alexandria once more (Oct. 23). His friends stood round lamenting their loss. ‘Be of good heart,’ he replied, ‘it is only a cloud, and will soon pass away’ (Soz. v. 14). He took a Nile boat, and set off toward Upper Egypt, but finding that he was tracked by the government officers he directed the boat’s course to be reversed. Presently they met that of the pursuers, who suspecting nothing asked for news of Athanasius. ‘He is not far off’ was the answer, given according to one account by Athanasius himself (Thdt. iii. 9, Socr. iii. 14). He returned to Chæreu, the first station on the road eastward from Alexandria (as is inferred from the Thereu or Thereon of Hist. Aceph. vii., viii.; but the identification is merely conjectural; for Chæreu cf. Itin. and Vit. Ant. 86), and after danger of pursuit was over, ‘ascended to the upper parts of Egypt as far as Upper Hermupolis in the Thebaid and as far as Antinoupolis; and while he abode in these places it was learned that Julian the Emperor was dead, and that Jovian, a Christian, was Emperor’ (Hist. Aceph.). Of his stay in the Thebaid (cf. Fest. Ind. xxxv.) some picturesque details are preserved in the life of Pachomius and the letter of Ammon (on which see below, p. 487). As he approached Hermupolis, the bishops, clergy, and monks (‘about 100 in number’) of the Thebaid lined both banks of the river to welcome him. ‘Who are these,’ he exclaimed, ‘that fly as a cloud and as doves with their lxyoung ones’ (Isa. lx. 8, LXX). Then he saluted the Abbat Theodore, and asked after the brethren. ‘By thy holy prayers, Father, we are well.’ He was mounted on an ass and escorted to the monastery with burning torches (they ‘almost set fire to him’), the abbat walking before him on foot. He inspected the monasteries, and expressed his high approval of all he heard and saw, and when Theodore, upon departing for his Easter (363) visitation8282    Krüger, in Theol. Litzg. 1890, p. 620 sqq., fixes the death of Theodore for Easter 363, on the ground, as I venture to think, of a date (345) for the death of Pachomius too early by one year. The question is too intricate to discuss here, but with all deference to so competent a critic, I am confident that Theodore lived till at any rate the following Easter. See infr. p. 569, note 3. of the brethren, asked ‘the Pope’ to remember him in his prayers, the answer was characteristic: ‘If we forget thee, O Jerusalem’ (Vit. Pachom. 92, see p. 569). About midsummer he was near Antinoupolis, and trusted messengers warned him that the pursuers were again upon his track. Theodore brought his covered boat to escort him up to Tabenne, and in company with an ‘abbat’ called Pammon they made their way slowly against wind and stream. Athanasius became much alarmed and prayed earnestly to himself, while Theodore’s monks towed the boat from the shore. Athanasius, in reply to an encouraging remark of Pammon, spoke of the peace of mind he felt when under persecution, and of the consolation of suffering and even death for Christ’s sake. Pammon looked at Theodore, and they smiled, barely restraining a laugh. ‘You think me a coward,’ said Athanasius. ‘Tell him,’ said Theodore to Pammon. ‘No, you must tell him.’ Theodore then announced to the astonished archbishop that at that very hour Julian had been killed in Persia, and that he should lose no time in making his way to the new Christian Emperor, who would restore him to the Church. The story (below, p. 487) implies rather than expressly states that the day and hour tallied exactly with the death of Julian, June 26, 363. This story is, on the whole, the best attested of the many legends of the kind which surround the mysterious end of the unfortunate prince. (Cf. Thdt. H. E. iii. 23, Soz. vi. 2. For the religious policy of Julian and his relation to Church history, see Rendall’s Julian and the full and excellent article by Wordsworth in D.C.B. iii. 484–525.)

Athanasius entered Alexandria secretly and made his way by way of Hierapolis (Sept. 6, Fest. Ind.) to Jovian at Edessa, and returned with him (apparently) to Antioch. On Feb. 14 (or 20, Fest. Index) he returned to Alexandria with imperial letters and took possession of the churches, his fourth exile having lasted ‘fifteen months and twenty-two days’ (Hist. Aceph.). The visit to Antioch was important.

Firstly, it is clear from the combined and circumstantial testimony of the Festal Index, the Hist. Aceph., and the narrative of Ammon, that Athanasius hurried to meet Jovian on his march from Persia to Antioch, and visited Alexandria only in passing and in private. He appears to have taken the precaution (see below) of taking certain bishops and others, representing the majority (πλῆθος) of the Egyptian Church, along with him. Accordingly the tale of Theodoret (iv. 2), that he assembled a council (τοὺς λογιμωτέρους τῶν ἐπισκόπων ἐγείρας), and wrote a synodal letter to Jovian, in reply to a request from the latter to furnish him with an accurate statement of doctrine (followed by Montf., Hefele, &c.) must be set aside as a hasty conjecture from the heading of the Letter to Jovian (see below, ch. v. §3 (h), and cf. Vales. on Thdt. iv. 3, who suspected the truth).

Athanasius, secondly, had good reason for hurrying. The Arians had also sent a large deputation to petition against the restoration of Athanasius, and to ask for a bishop. Lucius, their candidate for the post, accompanied the deputation. But the energy of Athanasius was a match for their schemes. He obtained a short but emphatic letter from Jovian, bidding him return to his see, and placed in the Emperor’s hands a letter (below, Letter 56, p. 567), insisting on the integrity of the Nicene creed, which it recites, and especially on the Godhead of the Holy Spirit.

Meanwhile at Antioch, where the winter was spent (Jovian was mostly there till Dec. 21), there was much to be attended to. Least important of all were the efforts of the Arian deputation to secure a hearing for their demands. Jovian’s replies to them on the repeated occasions on which they waylaid him are perhaps undignified (Gwatkin) but yet shew a rough soldier-like common sense. ‘Any one you please except Athanasius’ they urged. ‘I told you, the case of Athanasius is settled already:’ then, to the body-guard ‘Feri, feri’ (i.e. use your sticks!) Some of the πλῆθος of Antioch seized Lucius and brought him to Jovian, saying, ‘Look, your Majesty, at the man they wanted to make a bishop!’ (See p. 568 sq.)

Athanasius appears to have attempted to bring about some settlement of the disputes which distracted the Church of Antioch. The Hist. Aceph. makes him ‘arrange the affairs’ of that Church, but Sozom. (vi. 5), who copies the phrase, significantly adds ὡς οἷ& 231·ν τε ἦν—‘as far as it was feasible.’ The vacillations (Philost. viii. 2, 7, ix. 3, &c.) of Euzoius between Eudoxius on the one hand, and the consistent Anomœans on the other, and the formation of a definite Anomœan sect, represented in Egypt by Heliodorus, Stephen, and other nominees of the bitter Arian Secundus (who appears to be dead at last) probably concerned Athanasius but little. But the breach lxiamong the Antiochene Catholics was more hopeless than ever. The action of Paulinus in ordaining a bishop for Tyre, Diodorus by name (p. 580 note), shews that he had caught something of the spirit of Lucifer, while on the other hand we can well imagine that it was with mixed feelings that Athanasius saw a number of bishops assemble under Meletius to sign the Nicene Creed. To begin with, they explained the ὁμοούσιον to be equivalent to ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας and ὅμοιον κατ᾽ οὐσίαν. Now this was no more than taking Athanasius literally at his word (de Syn. 41 exactly; the confession, Socr. iii. 25, appears to meet Ath. de Syn. half way: cf. the reference to ᾽Ελληνικὴ χρῆσις with de Syn. 51), and there is no reason to doubt that the majority8383    This is certainly true of men like Athanasius of Ancyra, Eusebius of Samosata, Pelagius of Laodicea, Titus of Bostra, &c. of those who signed did so in all sincerity, merely guarding the ὁμοούσιον against its Sabellian sense (which Hilary de Syn. 71, had admitted as possible), and in fact, meaning by the term exactly what Basil the Great and his school meant by it. This is confirmed by the express denunciation of Arianism and Anomœanism. But Athanasius may have suspected an intention on the part of some signatories to evade the full sense of the creed, especially as touching the Holy Spirit, and this suspicion would not be lessened by the fact that Acacius signed with the rest. It must remain possible, therefore, that a clause in the letter to Jovian referred to above, expresses his displeasure8484    The tract de Hypocrisi Meletii et Eusebii printed among the ‘dubious’ works of Athanasius may well express the sentiments of some of his friends of the party of Paulinus on this occasion. (Tillem. viii. 708.) at the wording of the document. (On the significance of the confession in question, see Gwatkin, pp. 226 sq., 244, note 1.) We gather from language used by St. Basil at a later date (Bas. Epp. 89, 258) that Athanasius endeavoured to conciliate Meletius, and to bring about some understanding between the two parties in the Church. Meletius appears to have considered such efforts premature: Basil writes to him that he understands that Athanasius is much disappointed that no renewal of friendly overtures has taken place, and that if Meletius desires the good offices of the Bishop of Alexandria the first word must come from him (probably seven or eight years later than this date). In justice to Meletius it must be allowed that Paulinus did his best to embitter the schism by ordaining bishops at Tyre and elsewhere, ordinations which Meletius naturally resented, and appears to have ignored (D.C.B. iv. Zeno (3),—where observe that the breach of canons began with the appointment of Paulinus himself). Athanasius returned to Alexandria on Feb. 14 (Hist. Aceph.) or 20 (Fest. Ind.), and Jovian died, by inhaling the fumes of a charcoal fire in the bedroom of a wayside inn, on Feb. 17.

Valentinian, an officer of Pannonian birth, was elected Emperor by the army, and shortly co-opted his brother Valens to a share in the Empire. Valens was allotted the Eastern, Valentinian choosing the Western half of the Empire. Valentinian was a convinced but tolerant Catholic, and under his reign Arianism practically died away in the Latin West (infra, p. 488). Valens, a weak, parsimonious, but respectable and well-intentioned ruler, at first took no decided line, but eventually (from the end of 364) fell more and more into the hands of Eudoxius (from whom he received baptism in 367) and the Arian hangers-on of the Court (a suggestive, if in some details disputable, sketch of the general condition of the Eastern Church under Valens in Gwatkin, pp. 228–236, 247 sq.). The semi-Arians of Asia were continuing their advance toward the Nicene position, but the question of the Holy Spirit was already beginning to cleave them into two sections. At their council of Lampsacus (autumn of 364) they reasserted their formula of ‘essential likeness’ against the Homœans, but appear to have left the other and more difficult question undecided. After Valens had declared strongly on the side of the enemy, they were driven to seek Western aid. They set out to seek Valentinian at Milan, but finding him departed on his Gallic campaign (Gwatkin, 236, note) they contented themselves with laying before Liberius, on behalf of the Synod of Lampsacus and other Asiatic Councils, a letter accepting the Nicene Creed. After some hesitation (Soc. iv. 12) they were cordially received by Liberius, who gave them a letter to take home with them, in which the controverted question of the Holy Spirit is passed over in silence. (Letter of the Asiatics in Socr. iv. 12, that of Liberius in Hard. Conc. i. 743–5, the names include Cyril of Jerusalem, Macedonius, Silvanus of Tarsus, Athanasius of Ancyra, &c., and the Pope’s letter is addressed to them ‘et universis orientalibus orthodoxis’). On their return, the disunion of the party manifested itself by the refusal of several bishops to attend the synod convoked to receive the deputies at Tyana, and by their assembling a rival meeting in Caria to reaffirm the ‘Lucianic’ Creed (Hefele, ii. 287 E. Tr.). Further efforts at reunion were frustrated by the Imperial prohibition of an intended Synod at Tarsus, possibly in 367.

Athanasius remained in peace in his see until the spring of 365, when on May 5 a rescript was published at Alexandria, ordering that all bishops expelled under Constantius who had returned to their sees under Julian should be at once expelled by the civil authorities under pain of a heavy fine. The announcement was received with great popular displeasure. The officials were anxious to escape the fine, but the Church-people argued that the order could not apply to Athanasius, who had been restored by Constantius, expelled by Julian in the interest of idolatry, and restored by order of Jovian. Their remonstrances were backed up by popular riots: when these had lasted a month, the Prefect quieted the people by the assurance that the matter was referred back to Augustus (Hist. Aceph. x., followed by Soz. vi. 12). But on Oct. 5 an imperative answer seems to have come. The Prefect and the Commandant broke into the Church of Dionysius at night and searched the apartments of the clergy to seize the bishop. But Athanasius, warned in time, had escaped from the town that very night and retired to a country house which belonged to him near the ‘New River’8585    So Hist. Aceph., Fest. Ind. Socrates iv. 13 says he hid four months ‘in his Father’s tomb.’ Soz. vi. 12, mentions the story, but finding it contradicted by the Hist. Aceph., adopts the vague compromise εἴς τι χώριον ἐκρύπτετο. The ‘New River’ divided Alexandria from its Western suburbs.. This was the shortest and mildest of the five exiles of Athanasius. In the autumn the dangerous revolt of Procopius threw the Eastern Empire into a panic. It was no time to allow popular discontent to smoulder at Alexandria, and on Feb. 1, 366, the notary Brasidas publicly announced the recall of lxiiAthanasius to Imperial order. The notary and ‘curiales’ went out to the suburb in person and escorted Athanasius in state to the Church of Dionysius.


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