After the death of the Emperor Constantine, Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, and Theognis of Nicæa, imagining that a favorable opportunity had arisen, used their utmost efforts to expunge the doctrine of homoousion, and to introduce Arianism in its place. They, nevertheless, despaired of effecting this, if Athanasius should return to Alexandria: in order therefore to accomplish their designs, they sought the assistance of that presbyter by whose means Arius had been recalled from exile a little before. How this was done shall now be described. The presbyter in question presented the will and the request of the deceased king to his son Constantius; who finding those dispositions in it which he was most desirous of, for the empire of the East was by his fathers will apportioned to him, treated the presbyter with great consideration, loaded him with favors, and ordered that free access should be given him both to the palace and to himself. This license soon obtained for him familiar intercourse with the empress, as well as with her eunuchs. There was at that time a chief eunuch of the imperial bed-chamber named Eusebius; him the presbyter persuaded to adopt Arians views, after which the rest of the eunuchs were also prevailed on to adopt the same sentiments. Not only this but the empress also, under the influence of the eunuchs and the presbyters, became favorable to the tenets of Arius; and not long after the subject was introduced to the emperor himself. Thus it became gradually diffused throughout the court, and among the officers of the imperial household and guards, until at length it spread itself over the whole population of the city. The chamberlains in p. 37 the palace discussed this doctrine with the women; and in the family of every citizen there was a logical contest. Moreover, the mischief quickly extended to other provinces and cities, the controversy, like a spark, insignificant at first, exciting in the auditors a spirit of contention: for every one who inquired the cause of the tumult, found immediately occasion for disputing, and determined to take part in the strife at the moment of making the inquiry. By general altercation of this kind all order was subverted; the agitation, however, was confined to the cities of the East, those of Illyricum and the western parts of the empire meanwhile were perfectly tranquil, because they would not annul the decisions of the Council of Nicæa. As this affair increased, going from bad to worse, Eusebius of Nicomedia and his party looked upon popular ferment as a piece of good fortune. For only thus they thought they would be enabled to constitute some one who held their own sentiments bishop of Alexandria. But the return of Athanasius at that time defeated their purpose; for he came thither fortified by a letter from one of the Augusti, which the younger Constantine, who bore his fathers name, addressed to the people of Alexandria, from Treves, a city in Gaul. 263 A copy of this epistle is here subjoined.
There is some difference of opinion as to the exact year of the recall of Athanasius. Baronius and others allege that this took place in 338 a.d., the year after the death of Constantine; but Valesius maintains that Athanasius was recalled the year preceding. This he infers from the words of Athanasius (Apol. c. Arian, 61), and the title of the letter which Constantine the younger addressed to the church in Alexandria.
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