Aolib.comFragment of Photochrom print of the front of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany (ca. 1897)

The Arian Controversy »


By Henry Melvill Gwatkin

[Sidenote: Constans demands a council.]

The wording of the creed of Tyana was a direct blow at Julius of Rome, and is of itself enough to show that its authors were no lovers of peace. But Western suspicion was already roused by the issue of the Lucianic creed. There could no longer be any doubt that the Nicene faith was the real object of attack. Before the Eastern envoys reached Constans in Gaul, he had already written to his brother (Constantine II. was now dead) to demand a new general council. Constantius was busy with the Persian war, and could not refuse; so it was summoned to meet in the summer of 343. To the dismay of the Eusebians, the place chosen was Sardica in Dacia, just inside the dominions of Constans. After their failure with the Eastern bishops at Antioch, they could not hope to control the Westerns in a free council.

[Sidenote: Council of Sardica (343).]

To Sardica the bishops came. The Westerns were about ninety—six in number, ’with Hosius of Cordova for their father,’ bringing with him Athanasius and Marcellus, and supported by the chief Westerns–Gratus of Carthage, Protasius of Milan, Maximus of Trier, Fortunatian of Aquileia, and Vincent of Capua, the old Roman legate at Nicaea. The Easterns, under Stephen of Antioch and Acacius of Caesarea, the disciple and successor of Eusebius, were for once outnumbered. They therefore travelled in one body, more than seventy strong, and agreed to act together. They began by insisting that the deposition of Marcellus and Athanasius at Antioch should be accepted without discussion. Such a demand was absurd. There was no reason why the deposition at Antioch should be accepted blindly rather than the acquittal at Rome. At any rate, the council had an express commission to re—open the whole case, and indeed had met for no other purpose; so, if they were not to do it, they might as well go home. The Westerns were determined to sift the whole matter to the bottom, but the Eusebians refused to enter the council. It was in vain that Hosius asked them to give their proofs, if it were only to himself in private. In vain he promised that if Athanasius was acquitted, and they were still unwilling to receive him, he would take him back with him to Spain. The Westerns began the trial: the Easterns left Sardica by night in haste. They had heard, forsooth, of a victory on the Persian frontier, and must pay their respects to the Emperor without a moment’s delay.

[Sidenote: Acquittal of Marcellus and Athanasius.]

Once more the charges were examined and the accused acquitted. In the case of Marcellus, it was found that the Eusebians had misquoted his book, setting down opinions as his own which he had only put forward for discussion. Thus it was not true that he had denied the eternity of the Word in the past or of his kingdom in the future. Quite so: but the eternity of the Sonship is another matter. This was the real charge against him, and he was allowed to evade it. Though doctrinal questions lay more in the background in the case of Athanasius, one party in the council was for issuing a new creed in explanation of the Nicene. The proposal was wisely rejected. It would have made the fatal admission that Arianism had not been clearly condemned at Nicaea, and thrown on the Westerns the odium of innovation. All that could be done was to pass a series of canons to check the worst scandals of late years. After this the council issued its encyclical and the bishops dispersed.

[Sidenote: Rival council of Philippopolis.]

Meanwhile the Easterns (such was their haste) halted for some weeks at Philippopolis to issue their own encyclical, falsely dating it from Sardica. They begin with their main argument, that the acts of councils are irreversible. Next they recite the charges against Athanasius and Marcellus, and the doings of the Westerns at Sardica. Hereupon they denounce Hosius, Julius, and others as associates of heretics and patrons of the detestable errors of Marcellus. A few random charges of gross immorality are added, after the Eusebian custom. They end with a new creed, the fourth of Antioch, with some verbal changes, and seven anathemas instead of two.

[Sidenote: The fifth creed of Antioch (344).]

The quarrel of East and West seemed worse than ever. The Eusebians had behaved discreditably enough, but they had at least frustrated the council, and secured a recognition of their creed from a large body of Eastern conservatives. So far they had been fairly successful, but the next move on their side was a blunder and worse. When the Sardican envoys, Vincent of Capua and Euphrates of Cologne, came eastward in the spring of 344, a harlot was brought one night into their lodgings. Great was the scandal when the plot was traced up to the Eusebian leader, Stephen of Antioch. A new council was held, by which Stephen was deposed and Leontius the Lucianist, himself the subject of an old scandal, was raised to the vacant see. The fourth creed of Antioch was also re—issued with a few changes, but followed by long paragraphs of explanation. The Easterns adhered to their condemnation of Marcellus, and joined with him his disciple Photinus of Sirmium, who had made the Lord a mere man like the Ebionites. On the other hand, they condemned several Arian phrases, and insisted in the strongest manner on the mutual, inseparable, and, as it were, organic union of the Son with the Father in a single deity.

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