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VII.—The Breach with Gregory of Nazianzus.

Cappadocia, it has been seen, had been divided into two provinces, and of one of these Tyana had been constituted the chief town.  Anthimus, bishop of Tyana, now contended that an ecclesiastical partition should follow the civil, and that Tyana should enjoy parallel metropolitan privileges to those of Cæsarea.  To this claim Basil determined to offer an uncompromising resistance, and summoned Gregory of Nazianzus to his side.  Gregory replied in friendly and complimentary terms,187187    Greg. Naz., Ep. xlvii. and pointed out that Basil’s friendship for Eustathius of Sebaste was a cause of suspicion in the Church.  At the same time he placed himself at the archbishop’s disposal.  The friends started together with a train of slaves and mules to collect the produce of the monastery of St. Orestes, in Cappadocia Secunda, which was the property of the see of Cæsarea.  Anthimus blocked the defiles with his retainers and in the vicinity of Sasima188188    cf. Maran, Vit. Bas. xxiii. 4. there was an unseemly struggle between the domestics of the two prelates.189189    Greg. Naz., Or. xliii. 58, and Ep. xlviii.  Bas., Epp. lxxiv., lxxv., lxxvi.  The friends proceeded to Nazianzus, and there, with imperious inconsiderateness, Basil insisted upon nominating Gregory to one of the bishoprics which he was founding in order to strengthen his position against Anthimus.190190    It has been debated whether the odium theologicum was here mixed up with the odium ecclesiasticumGregory (Orat. xliii. 58) represents Anthimus as defending his seizure of the metropolitan revenues on the ground that it was wrong δασμοφορειν κακοδόξοις, to pay tribute to men of evil opinions, and LeClerc (Bibl. Univer. xviii. p. 60) has condemned Anthimus as an Arian.  He was undoubtedly Αρή& 187·ος (Greg. Naz., Ep. xlviii.), a devotee of Ares, as he shewed in the skirmish by Sasima; but there is no reason to suppose him to have been Αρειανός, or Arian.  He probably looked askance at the orthodoxy of Basil.  Basil would never have called him μόψυχος (Ep. ccx. 5) if he had been unsound on the incarnation.  cf. Baronius, Act. Sanc. Maj. ii. p. 394.  For Gregory, the brother, Nyssa was selected, a town on the Halys, about a hundred miles distant from Cæsarea, so obscure that Eusebius of Samosata remonstrated with Basil on the unreasonableness of forcing such a man to undertake the episcopate of such a place.191191    Ep. xcviii., but see note, p. 182, on the doubt as to this allusion.  For Gregory, the friend, a similar fate was ordered.  The spot chosen was Sasima, a townlet commanding the scene of the recent fray.192192    Greg. Naz., with grim humour, objects to be sent to Sasima to fight for Basil’s supply of sucking pigs and poultry from St. Orestes.  Ep. xlviii.  It was an insignificant place at the bifurcation of the road leading northwards from Tyana to Doara and diverging westward to Nazianzus.193193    “Nyssa was more clearly than either Sasima or Doara a part of Cappadocia Secunda; it always retained its ecclesiastical dependence on Cæsarea, but politically it must have been subject to Tyana from 372 to 536, and afterwards to Mokissos.  All three were apparently places to which Basil consecrated bishops during his contest with Anthimus and the civil power.  His bishop of Nyssa, his own brother Gregory, was ejected by the dominant Arians, but the eminence and vigour of Gregory secured his reinstatement and triumphant return.  Basil’s appointment was thus successful, and the connexion always continued.  His appointment at Sasima was unsuccessful.  Gregory of Nazianzus would not maintain the contest, and Sasima passed under the metropolitan of Tyana.  At Doara, in like fashion, Basil’s nominee was expelled, and apparently never reinstated.  Ep. ccxxxix.  Greg. Naz. Or. xiii.”  Ramsay, Hist. Geog. of A.M. 305.  xxviGregory speaks of it with contempt, and almost with disgust,194194    As in Carm. De Vita Sua:
   Σταθμός τις ἐστὶν ἐν μέσῃ λεωφόρῳ

   Τῆς Καππαδοκῶν ὃς σχίζετ᾽ εἰς τρισσὴν ὁδόν.

   Ανυδρος, ἄχλους, οὐδ᾽ ὅλως ἐλεύθερος,

   Δεινῶς ἐπευκτὸν καὶ στενὸν κωμύδριον,

   Κόνις τὰ πάντα, καὶ ψόφοι, σὺν ἅρμασι,

   Θρῆνοι, στεναγμοὶ, πράκτορες, στρέβλαι, πέδαι·

   Λαὸς δ᾽ ὅσοι ξένοι τε καὶ πλανώμενοι,

   Αὕτη Σασίμων τῶν ἐμῶν ἐκκλησία.

   [N.B.—The last line marks the quantity.]

   “A post town on the king’s high road,

   Where three ways meet, is my abode;

   No brooklet, not a blade of grass,

   Enlivens the dull hole, alas!

   Dust, din, all day; the creak of wheels;

   Groans, yells, the exciseman at one’s heels

   With screw and chain; the population

   A shifting horde from every nation.

   A viler spot you long may search,

   Than this Sasima, now my church!”
and never seems to have forgiven his old friend for forcing him to accept the responsibility of the episcopate, and in such a place.195195    It is curious that a place which had so important a connexion with Gregory the divine should have passed so completely into oblivion.  From it he derived his episcopal rank.  His consecration to Sasima was the main ground of the objection of his opponents at Constantinople in 381 to his occupying the see of the imperial city.  He was bishop of Sasima, and, by the fifteenth Canon of Nicæa, could not be transferred to Constantinople.  He never was bishop of Nazianzus, though he did administer that diocese before the appointment of Eulalius in 383.  But while the name “Gregory of Nazianzus” has obscured the very existence of his father, who was really Gregory of Nazianzus, and is known even to the typical schoolboy, Gregory has never been described as “Gregory of Sasima.”  “The great plain which extends from Sasima nearly to Soandos is full of underground houses and churches, which are said to be of immense extent.  The inhabitants are described by Leo Diaconus (p. 35) as having been originally named Troglodytes.…Every house in Hassa Keni has an underground story cut out of the rock; long narrow passages connect the underground rooms belonging to each house, and also run from house to house.  A big solid disc of stone stands in a niche outside each underground house door, ready to be pulled in front of the door on any alarm.…Sasima was on the road between Nazianzus and Tyana.  The distances point certainly to Hassa Keni.…An absolutely unhistorical legend about St. Makrina is related at Hassa Keni.  Recently a good-sized church has been built in the village, evidently on the site of an ancient church; it is dedicated to St. Makrina, who, as the village priest relates, fled hither from Kaisari to escape marriage, and to dedicate herself to a saintly life.  The underground cell in which she lived is below the church.”  Ramsay, Hist. Geog. of Asia Minor, pp. 293, 294.  Paul Lucas identified Sasima with Inschesu.  Gregory resigned the distasteful post,196196    cf. Greg. Naz. Ep. l. and with very bitter feelings.  The utmost that can be said for Basil is that just possibly he was consulting for the interest of the Church, and meaning to honour his friend, by placing Gregory in an outpost of peril and difficulty.  In the kingdom of heaven the place of trial is the place of trust.197197    cf. De Joinville’s happy illustration of this in Histoire du roi Saint Louis, p. 18. Ed. 1617.  The King of France would shew more confidence in the captain whom he might choose to defend La Rochelle, close to the English pale, than in the keeper of Monthléry, in the heart of the realm.  But, unfortunately for the reputation of the archbishop, the war in this case was hardly the Holy War of truth against error and of right against wrong.  It was a rivalry between official and official, and it seemed hard to sacrifice Gregory to a dispute between the claims of the metropolitans of Tyana and Cæsarea.198198    At the same time it is disappointing to find Gregory mixing up with expressions of reluctance to assume awful responsibilities, objections on the score of the disagreeable position of Sasima.  Perhaps something of the sentiments of Basil on this occasion may be inferred from what he says in Letter cii. on the postponement of private to public considerations in the case of the appointment of Pœmenius to Satala.

Gregory the elder joined in persuading his son.  Basil had his way.  He won a convenient suffragan for the moment.  But he lost his friend.  The sore was never healed, and even in the great funeral oration in which Basil’s virtues and abilities are extolled, Gregory traces the main trouble of his chequered career to Basil’s unkindness, and owns to feeling the smart still, though the hand that inflicted the wound was cold.199199    Or. xliii.  cf. Newman, The Church of the Fathers, p. 142, where the breach is impartially commented on:  “An ascetic, like Gregory, ought not to have complained of the country as deficient in beauty and interest, even though he might be allowed to feel the responsibility of a situation which made him a neighbor of Anthimus.  Yet such was his infirmity; and he repelled the accusations of his mind against himself by charging Basil with unkindness in placing him at Sasima.  On the other hand, it is possible that Basil, in his eagerness for the settlement of his exarchate, too little consulted the character and taste of Gregory; and, above all, the feelings of duty which bound him to Nazianzus.…Henceforth no letters, which are preserved, passed between the two friends; nor are any acts of intercourse discoverable in their history.  Anthimus appointed a rival bishop to Sasima; and Gregory, refusing to contest the see with him, returned to Nazianzus.  Basil laboured by himself.  Gregory retained his feelings of Basil’s unkindness even after his death.…This lamentable occurrence took place eight or nine years before Basil’s death; he had, before and after it, many trials, many sorrows; but this probably was the greatest of all.”  The statement that no letters which are preserved passed between the two friends henceforth will have to be modified, if we suppose Letter clxix. to be addressed to Gregory the Divine.  But Professor Ramsay’s arguments (Hist. Geog. of Asia Minor, p. 293) in favour of Gregory of Nazianzus the elder seem irresistible.
   On Letter clxix. he writes:  “For topographical purposes it is necessary to discover who was the Gregory into whose diocese Glycerius fled.  Tillemont considers that either Gregory of Nyssa or Gregory of Nazianzus is meant.  But the tone of the letter is not what we might expect if Basil were writing to either of them.  It is not conceived in the spirit of authority in which Basil wrote to his brother or to his friend.  It appears to me to show a certain deference which, considering the resolute, imperious, and uncompromising character of Basil (seen especially in his behaviour to Gregory Nazianzen in the matter of the bishopric of Sasima), I can explain only on the supposition that he is writing to the aged and venerable Gregory, bishop of Nazianzos.  Then the whole situation is clear.  Venasa was in the district of Malakopaia, or Suvermez, towards the limits of the diocese of Cæsareia.  The adjoining bishopric was that of Nazianzos.  Venasa being so far from Cæsareia was administered by one of the fifty chorepiscopi whom Basil had under him (Tillemont, Mem. p. servir, etc., ix. p. 120), and the authority of Basil was appealed to only in the final resort.  Glycerius, when Basil decided against him, naturally fled over the border into the diocese of Nazianzos.”  (There is, however, not much reverence in Letter clxxi.)

   “Comment l’homme qui avait tant souffert de l’injustice des autres, put-il être injuste envers son meilleur ami?  L’amitié est de tous les pays.  Partout, on voit des hommes qui semblent nés l’un pour l’autre, se rapprocher par une estime mutuelle, par la conformité de leurs gouts et de leurs caractères partager les peines et les joies de la vie, et donner le spectacle du plus beau sentiment que nous avons reçu de la divinité.  Mais la Grèce avait singulièrement ennobli ce sentiment dejà si pur et si saint, en lui donnant pour but l’amour de la patrie.  Les amis, destines a se servir l’un à l’autre de modèle et de soutien, s’aiment moins pour eux-mêmes, que pour rivaliser de vertu, se dévouer ensemble, s’immoler s’il le faut, au bien public.…C’est cette amitié de dévouement et de sacrifice, qu’au milieu de la mollesse du IVme siècle, Basil conçoit pour Grégoire de Nazianze.  Formée dans les écoles, entretenne par l’amour des lettres, elle avait pour but unique, non plus la patrie, mais Dieu.  L’amitié de Grégoire et plus tendre et plus humaine.…Il a voué sa vie à son ami, mais il en attend la même condescendance, le même denouement à ses propres désirs.  Basile au contraire, semble prendre à la lettre ce qu’il a lu dans Plutarque et dans Xénophon de l’amitié antique.”  E. Fialon, Et. Hist.  In other words, Gregory’s idea of friendship was to sacrifice one’s self:  Basil’s to sacrifice one’s friend.  This is an interesting vindication of Basil, but the cause of God was hardly identical with the humiliation of Anthimus.

xxviiWith Anthimus peace was ultimately established.  Basil vehemently desired it.200200    Ep. xcvii.  Eusebius of Samosata again intervened.201201    Ep. xcviii.  Nazianzus remained for a time subject to Cæsarea, but was eventually recognized as subject to the Metropolitan of Tyana.202202    Greg. Naz., Ep. clii.

The relations, however, between the two metropolitans remained for some time strained.  When in Armenia in 372, Basil arranged some differences between the bishops of that district, and dissipated a cloud of calumny hanging over Cyril, an Armenian bishop.203203    Ep. xcix.  He also acceded to a request on the part of the Church of Satala that he would nominate a bishop for that see, and accordingly appointed Pœmenius, a relation of his own.204204    Epp. cii., ciii.  Later on a certain Faustus, on the strength of a recommendation from a pope with whom he was residing, applied to Basil for consecration to the see, hitherto occupied by Cyril.  With this request Basil declined to comply, and required as a necessary preliminary the authorisation of the Armenian bishops, specially of Theodotus of Nicopolis.  Faustus then betook himself to Anthimus, and succeeded in obtaining uncanonical consecration from him.  This was naturally a serious cause of disagreement.205205    Epp. cxx., cxxi., cxxii.  However, by 375, a better feeling seems to have existed between the rivals.  Basil is able at that date to speak of Anthimus as in complete agreement with him.206206    Ep. ccx.


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