Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen.: Council of Tyre; Illegal Deposition of St. Athanasius.Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Chapter XXV.—Council of Tyre; Illegal Deposition of St. Athanasius.
The plots of the enemies of Athanasius involved him in fresh troubles, excited the hatred of the emperor against him, and stirred up a multitude of accusers. Wearied by their importunity, the emperor convened a council at Cæsarea in Palestine. Athanasius was summoned thither; but fearing the artifices of Eusebius, bishop of the city, of Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, and of their party, he refused to attend, and for thirty months, although pressed to attend, persisted in his refusal. At the end of that period, however, he was forced more urgently and repaired to Tyre, where a great number of the bishops of the East were assembled, 1187 who commanded him to undergo the charges of those who accused him. Of Johns party, Callinicus, a bishop, and a certain Ischurias, accused him of breaking a mystical chalice and of throwing down an episcopal chair; and of often causing Ischurias, although he was a presbyter, to be loaded with chains; and by falsely informing Hyginus, governor of Egypt, that he had cast stones at the statues of the emperor of occasioning his being thrown into prison; of deposing Callinicus, bishop of the Catholic Church at Pelusium, and of saying that he would debar him from fellowship unless he could remove certain suspicions concerning his having broken a mystical chalice; of committing the Church of Pelusium to Mark, a deposed presbyter; and of placing Callinicus under a military guard, and of putting him under judicial tortures. Euplus, Pachomius, Isaac, Achillas, 1188 and Hermæon, bishops of Johns party, accused him of inflicting blows. They all concurred in maintaining that he obtained the episcopal dignity by means of the perjury of certain individuals, it having been decreed that no one should receive ordination, who could not clear himself of any crime laid to his charge. They further alleged, that having been deceived by him, they had separated themselves from communion with him, and that, so far from satisfying their scruples, he had treated them with violence and thrown them into prison.
Further, the affair of Arsenius was again agitated; and as generally happens in such a studiously concocted plot, many even of those considered his friends loomed up unexpectedly as accusers. A document was then read, containing popular complaints that the people of Alexandria could not continue their attendance at church on his account. Athanasius, having been urged to justify himself, presented himself repeatedly before the tribunal; successfully repelled some of the allegations, and requested delay for investigation as to the others. He was exceedingly perplexed when he reflected on the favor in which his accusers were held by his judges, on the number of witnesses belonging to the sects of Arius and Melitius who appeared against him, and on the indulgence that was manifested towards the informers, whose allegations had been overcome. And especially in the indictment concerning Arsenius, whose arm he was charged with having cut off for purposes of magic, and in the indictment concerning a certain woman to whom he was charged with having given gifts for uncleanness, and with having corrupted her by night, although she was unwilling. Both these indictments were proved to be ridiculous and full of false espionage. When this female made the deposition before the bishops, Timothy, a presbyter of Alexandria, who stood by Athanasius, approached her according to a plan he had secretly concerted, and said to her, “Did I then, O woman, violate your chastity?” 1189 She replied, “But didst thou not?” and mentioned the place and the attendant circumstances, in which she had been forced. He likewise led Arsenius into the midst of them, showed both his hands to the judges, and requested them to make the accusers account for the arm which they had exhibited. For it happened that Arsenius, either driven by a Divine influence, or, as it is said, having been concealed by the plans of Athanasius, when the danger to that bishop on his account was announced, escaped by night, and arrived at Tyre the day before the trial. But these allegations having been thus summarily dismissed, so that no defense was necessary, no mention of the first was made in the transactions; most probably, I think, because the whole affair was considered too indecorous and absurd for insertion. As to the second, the accusers strove to justify themselves by saying that a bishop under the jurisdiction of Athanasius, named Plusian, 1190 had, at the command of his chief, burnt the house of Arsenius, fastened him to a column, and maltreated him with thongs, and then chained him in a cell. They further stated that Arsenius escaped from the p. 276 cell through a window, and while he was sought for remained a while in concealment; that as he did not appear, they naturally supposed him to be dead; that the reputation he had acquired as a man and confessor, had endeared him to the bishops of Johns party; and that they sought for him, and applied on his behalf to the magistrates.
Athanasius was filled with apprehension when he reflected on these subjects, and began to suspect that his enemies were secretly scheming to effect his ruin. After several sessions, when the Synod was filled with tumult and confusion, and the accusers and a multitude of persons around the tribunal were crying aloud that Athanasius ought to be deposed as a sorcerer and a ruffian, and as being utterly unworthy the priesthood, the officers, who had been appointed by the emperor to be present at the Synod for the maintenance of order, compelled the accused to quit the judgment hall secretly; for they feared lest they might become his murderers, as is apt to be the case in the rush of a tumult. On finding that he could not remain in Tyre without peril of his life, and that there was no hope of obtaining justice against his numerous accusers, from judges who were inimical to him, he fled to Constantinople. The Synod condemned him during his absence, deposed him from the bishopric, and prohibited his residing at Alexandria, lest, said they, he should excite disturbances and seditions. John and all his adherents were restored to communion, as if they had been unjustly suffering wrongs, and each was reinstated in his own clerical rank. The bishops then gave an account of their proceedings to the emperor, and wrote to the bishops of all regions, enjoining them not to receive Athanasius into fellowship, and not to write to him or receive letters from him, as one who had been convicted of the crimes which they had investigated, and on account of his flight, as also guilty in those indictments which had not been tried. They likewise declared, in this epistle, that they had been obliged to pass such condemnation upon him, because, when commanded by the emperor the preceding year to repair to the bishops of the East, who were assembled at Cæsarea, he disobeyed the injunction, kept the bishops waiting for him, and set at naught the commands of the ruler. They also deposed that when the bishops had assembled at Tyre, he went to that city, attended by a large retinue, for the purpose of exciting disturbances and tumults in the Synod; that when there, he sometimes refused to reply to the charges preferred against him; sometimes insulted the bishops individually; when summoned by them, sometimes not obeying, at others not deigning to be judged. They specified in the same letter, that he was manifestly guilty of having broken a mystical chalice, and that this fact was attested by Theognis, bishop of Nicæa; by Maris, bishop of Chalcedonia; by Theodore, bishop of Heraclea; by Valentinus and Ursacius; and by Macedonius, who had been sent to the village in Egypt, where the chalice was said to have been broken, in order to ascertain the truth. Thus did the bishops detail successively each of the allegations against Athanasius, with the same art to which sophists resort when they desire to heighten the effect of their calumnies. Many of the priests, however, who were present at the trial, perceived the injustice of the accusation. It is related that Paphnutius, the confessor, 1191 who was present at the Synod, arose, and took the hand of Maximus, the bishop of Jerusalem, to lead him away, as if those who were confessors, and had their eyes dug out for the sake of piety, ought not to participate in an assembly of wicked men.
Eus. V. C. iv. 41, 42; the letter in 42 has a late addition in Theodoret, H. E. i. 29 (27); Athan. Apol. cont. Arian. 8–12, 71–83; Ruf. H. E. i. 16, 17; Soc. i. 27–32.275:1188
In the brief by Melitius, Achilles and Hermæon are given as bishops respectively of Cusæ and Cynus (Cynopolis). Athan. Apol. cont. Arian. 71.275:1189
Ruf. H. E. i. 17.275:1190
Mention is made of a bishop of this name in the Epistle of Arsenius to Athanasius, which is preserved in the Apol. cont. Arian. 69.276:1191
This is in Ruf. H. E. i. 17. He also signs the first letter of the Egyptian bishops at Tyre to Dionysius; Athan. Apol. cont. Arian. 79; he presumably subscribed to the second. Ibid.
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