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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus.: Of the Synod at Ariminum, and the Creed there published.

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Chapter XXXVII.—Of the Synod at Ariminum, and the Creed there published. 391

The emperor on being apprised of what had taken place, sent these three bishops into exile; and determined to convene an ecumenical council, that by drawing all the Eastern bishops into the West, he might if possible bring them all to agree. But when, on consideration, the length of the journey seemed to present serious obstacles, he directed that the Synod should consist of two divisions; permitting those present at Milan to meet at Ariminum in Italy: but the Eastern bishops he instructed by letters to assemble at Nicomedia in Bithynia. The emperor’s object in these arrangements was to effect a general unity of opinion; but the issue was contrary to his expectation. For neither of the Synods was in harmony with itself, but each was divided into opposing factions: for those convened at Ariminum could not agree with one another; and the Eastern bishops assembled at Seleucia in Isauria made another schism. The details of what took place in both we will give in the course of our history, 392 but we shall first make a few observations on Eudoxius. About that time Leontius having died, who had ordained the heretic Aëtius 393 as deacon, Eudoxius bishop of Germanicia—this city is in Syria—who was then at Rome, thinking no time was to be lost, speciously represented to the emperor that the city over which he presided was in need of his counsel and care, and requested permission to return there immediately. This the emperor readily acceded to, having no suspicion of a clandestine purpose: Eudoxius having some of the principal officers of the emperor’s bedchamber as coadjutors, deserted his own diocese, and fraudulently installed himself in the see of Antioch. His first desire was to restore Aëtius; accordingly he convened a council of bishops for the purpose of reinvesting Aëtius with the dignity of the diaconate. But this could in no way be brought about, for the odium with which Aëtius was regarded was more prevalent than the exertions of Eudoxius in his favor. When the bishops were assembled at Ariminum, those from the East declared that they were willing to pass in silence the case of Athanasius: a resolution that was zealously supported by Ursacius and Valens, who had formerly maintained the tenets of Arius; but, as I have already stated, had afterwards presented a recantation of their opinion to the bishop of Rome, and publicly avowed their assent to the doctrine of consubstantiality. For these men always inclined to side with the dominant party. Germinius, Auxentius, Demophilus and Gaius made the same declaration in reference to Athanasius. When therefore some endeavored to propose one thing in the convocation of bishops, and some another, Ursacius and Valens said that all former draughts of the creed ought to be considered as set aside, and the last alone, which had been prepared at their late convention at Sirmium, regarded as authorized. They then caused to be read a paper which they held in their hands, containing another form of the creed: this had indeed been drawn up at Sirmium, but had been kept concealed, as we have before observed, until their present publication of it at Ariminum. It has been translated from the Latin into Greek, and is as follows: 394

’The catholic faith was expounded at Sirmium in presence of our lord Constantius, 395 in the consulate 396 of the most illustrious Flavius Eusebius, and Hypatius, on the twenty-third of May.

‘We believe in one only and true God, the Father Almighty, the Creator and Framer of all things: and in one only-begotten Son of God, before all ages, before all beginning, before all conceivable time, and before all comprehensible thought, begotten without passion: by whom the ages were framed, and all things made: who was begotten as the only-begotten of the Father, only of only, God of God, like to the Father who begat him, according to the Scriptures: whose generation no one knows, but the Father only who begat him. We know that this his only-begotten Son came down from the heavens by his Father’s consent for the putting away of sin, was born of the Virgin Mary, conversed with his disciples, and fulfilled every dispensation according to the Father’s will: was crucified and died, and descended into the lower parts of the earth, and disposed matters there; at the sight of whom the (door-keepers of Hades p. 62 trembled 397 ): having arisen on the third day, he again conversed with his disciples, and after forty days were completed he ascended into the heavens, and is seated at the Father’s right hand; and at the last day he will come in his Father’s glory to render to every one according to his works. [We believe] also in the Holy Spirit, whom the only-begotten Son of God Jesus Christ himself promised to send to the human race as the Comforter, according to that which is written: 398 “I go away to my Father, and will ask him, and he will send you another Comforter, the Spirit of truth. He shall receive of mine, and shall teach you, and bring all things to your remembrance.” As for the term “substance,” which was used by our fathers for the sake of greater simplicity, but not being understood by the people has caused offense on account of the fact that the Scriptures do not contain it, it seemed desirable that it should be wholly abolished, and that in future no mention should be made of substance in reference to God, since the divine Scriptures have nowhere spoken concerning the substance of the Father and the Son. But we say that the Son is in all things like the Father, as the Holy Scriptures affirm and teach.’

These statements having been read, those who were dissatisfied with them rose and said ‘We came not hither because we were in want of a creed; for we preserve inviolate that which we received from the beginning; but we are here met to repress any innovation upon it which may have been made. If therefore what has been recited introduces no novelties, now openly anathematize the Arian heresy, in the same manner as the ancient canon of the church has rejected all heresies as blasphemous: for it is evident to the whole world that the impious dogma of Arius has excited the disturbances of the church, and the troubles which exist until now.’ This proposition, which was not accepted by Ursacius, Valens, Germinius, Auxentius, Demophilus, and Gaïus, rent the church asunder completely: for these prelates adhered to what had then been recited in the Synod of Ariminum; while the others again confirmed the Nicene Creed. They also ridiculed the superscription of the creed that had been read; and especially Athanasius, in a letter which he sent to his friends, wherein he thus expresses himself: 399

‘What point of doctrine was wanting to the piety of the catholic church, that they should now make an investigation respecting the faith, and prefix moreover the consulate of the present times to their published exposition of it? For Ursacius, Valens, and Germinius have done what was neither done, nor even heard of, at any time before among Christians: having composed a creed such as they themselves are willing to believe, they prefaced it with the consulate, month, and day of the present time, in order to prove to all discerning persons that theirs is not the ancient faith, but such as was originated under the reign of the present emperor Constantius. 400 Moreover they have written all things with a view to their own heresy: and besides this, pretending to write respecting the Lord, they name another “Lord” as theirs, even Constantius, who has countenanced their impiety, so that those who deny the Son to be eternal, have styled him eternal emperor. Thus are they proved to be the enemies of Christ by their profanity. But perhaps the holy prophets’ record of time afforded them a precedent for [noticing] the consulate! Now even if they should presume to make this pretext, they would most glaringly expose their own ignorance. The prophecies of these holy men do indeed mark the times. Isaiah and Hosea lived in the days of Uzziah, Joatham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; 401 Jeremiah in the time of Josiah; 402 Ezekiel and Daniel in the reign of Cyrus and Darius; and others uttered their predictions in other times. Yet they did not then lay the foundations of religion. That was in existence before them, and always was, even before the creation of the world, God having prepared it for us in Christ. Nor did they designate the commencement of their own faith; for they were themselves men of faith previously: but they signified the times of the promises given through them. Now the promises primarily referred to our Saviour’s advent; and all that was foretold respecting the course of future events in relation to Israel and the Gentiles was collateral and subordinate. Hence the periods mentioned indicated not the beginning of their faith, as I before observed, but the times in which these prophets lived and foretold such things. But these sages of our day, who neither compile histories, nor predict future events, after writing, “The Catholic Faith was published,” immediately add the consulate, with the month and the day: and as the holy prophets wrote the date of their records and of their own ministration, so these men intimate the era of their own faith. And would that they had written concerning their own faith only—since they have now begun to believe—and had not undertaken to write respecting the Catholic faith. For they have not written, “Thus we believe” but, p. 63 “The Catholic Faith was published.” The temerity of purpose herein manifested argues their ignorance; while the novelty of expression found in the document they have concocted shows it to be the same as the Arian heresy. By writing in this manner, they have declared when they themselves began to believe, and from what time they wish it to be understood their faith was first preached. And just as when the evangelist Luke says, 403 “A decree of enrolment was published,” he speaks of an edict which was not in existence before, but came into operation at that time, and was published by him who had written it; so these men by writing “The faith has now been published,” have declared that the tenets of their heresy are of modern invention, and did not exist previously. But since they apply the term “Catholic” to it, they seem to have unconsciously fallen into the extravagant assumption of the Cataphrygians, asserting even as they did, that “the Christian faith was first revealed to us, and commenced with us.” And as those termed Maximilla and Montanus, so these style Constantius their Lord, instead of Christ. But if according to them the faith had its beginning from the present consulate, what will the fathers and the blessed martyrs do? Moreover what will they themselves do with those who were instructed in religious principles by them, and died before this consulate? By what means will they recall them to life, in order to obliterate from their minds what they seemed to have taught them, and to implant in its stead those new discoveries which they have published? So stupid are they as to be only capable of framing pretenses, and these such as are unbecoming and unreasonable, and carry with them their own refutation.’

Athanasius wrote thus to his friends: and the interested who may read through his whole epistle will perceive how powerfully he treats the subject; but for brevity’s sake we have here inserted a part of it only. The Synod deposed Valens, Ursacius, Auxentius, Germinius, Gaïus, and Demophilus for refusing to anathematize the Arian doctrine; who being very indignant at their deposition, hastened directly to the emperor, carrying with them the exposition of faith which had been read in the Synod. The council also acquainted the emperor with their determinations in a communication which translated from the Latin into Greek, was to the following effect: 404

Epistle of the Synod of Ariminum to the Emperor Constantius.

We believe that it was by the appointment of God, as well as at the command of your piety, that the decrees formerly published have been executed. Accordingly we Western bishops came out of various districts to Ariminum, in order that the faith of the catholic church might be made manifest, and that those who held contrary views might be detected. For on a considerate review by us of all points, our decision has been to adhere to the ancient faith which the prophets, the gospels, and the apostles have revealed through our Lord Jesus Christ, the guardian of your empire, and the protector of your person, which faith also we have always maintained. We conceived that it would be unwarrantable and impious to mutilate any of those things which have been justly and rightly ratified, by those who sat in the Nicene council with Constantine of glorious memory, the father of your piety. Their doctrine and views have been infused into the minds and preached in the hearing of the people, and found to be powerfully opposed, even fatal, to the Arian heresy. And not only this heresy, but also all others have been put down by it. Should therefore anything be added to or taken away from what was at that time established, it would prove perilous; for if either of these things should happen, the enemy will have boldness to do as they please. 405

Wherefore Ursacius and Valens being heretofore suspected of entertaining Arian sentiments, were suspended from communion: but in order to be restored to it they made an apology, and claimed that they had repented of their shortcoming, as their written recantation attests: they therefore obtained pardon and complete absolution.

The time when these things occurred was when the council was in session at Milan, when the presbyters of the church of Rome were also present.

At 406 the same time, having known that Constantine, who even after his death is worthy of honorable mention, exposed the faith with due precision, but being born of men was baptized and departed to the peace due to him as his reward, we have deemed it improper to innovate after him disregarding so many holy p. 64 confessors and martyrs, who also were authors of this confession, and persevered in their faith in the ancient system of the catholic church. Their faith God has perpetuated down to the years of your own reign through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whose grace it also became possible for you to so strengthen your dominion as to rule over one portion of the world.

Yet have these infatuated and wretched persons, endued with an unhappy disposition, again had the temerity to declare themselves the propagators of false doctrine, and even endeavor to subvert the constitution of the Church. For when the letters of your piety had ordered us to assemble for the examination of the faith, they laid bare their intention, stripped of its deceitful garb. For they attempted with certain craft and confusion to propose innovations, having in this as allies Germinius, Auxentius, 407 and Gaius, who continually cause strife and dissension, and their single teaching has surpassed the whole body of blasphemies. But when they perceived that we had not the same disposition or mind as they in regard to their false views they changed their minds during our council and said another expression of belief should be put forth. And short indeed was the time which convinced them of the falsity of their views.

In order, therefore, that the affairs of the Church may not be continually brought into the same condition, and in order that trouble and tumult may not continually arise and confuse all things, it appeared safe to preserve the previously determined views firm and unalterable, and to separate from our communion the persons above named; for which reason we have despatched to your clemency delegates who will communicate the opinion of the council to you. And to our delegates we have given this commission above all, that they should accredit the truth taking their motive from the ancient and right decisions. They will inform your holiness that peace will not be established as Ursacius and Valens say when some point of the right be overturned. For how can those be at peace who destroy peace? Rather will strife and tumult be occasioned by these things in the church of Rome also, as in the other cities. Wherefore, now, we beseech your clemency that you should look upon our delegation with a calm eye and listen to it with favor, and not allow that anything should be changed, thus bringing insult to the deceased, but permit us to continue in those things which have been defined and legislated by our ancestors; who, we should say, acted with shrewdness and wisdom and with the Holy Spirit. For the innovations they introduce at present fill the believing with distrust and the unbelieving with cruelty. 408 We further implore you to instruct that the bishops who dwell in foreign parts, whom both the infirmity of age and the ills of poverty harass should be assisted to return easily and speedily to their own homes, so that the churches may not remain bereft of their bishops. Still further we beg of you this also, that nothing be stricken off, nor anything be added, to the articles [of faith] remaining over from the times of your pious father even until now; but that these may continue inviolate. Permit us not to toil and suffer longer, nor to be separated from our dioceses, but that together with our own peoples we may in peace have time to offer prayers and thanksgiving, supplicating for your safety and continuance in the dominion, which may the divinity grant unto you perpetually. Our delegates bear the signatures and greetings of the bishops. These [delegates] will from the Divine Scriptures themselves instruct your piety.

The Synod then thus wrote and sent their communications to the emperor by the bishops [selected for that purpose]. But the partisans of Ursacius and Valens having arrived before them, did their utmost to calumniate the council, exhibiting the exposition of the faith which they had brought with them. The emperor, prejudiced beforehand towards Arianism, became extremely exasperated against the Synod, but conferred great honor on Valens and Ursacius and their friends. Those deputed by the council were consequently detained a considerable time, without being able to obtain an answer: at length, however, the emperor replied through those who had come to him, in the manner following:

‘Constantius Victor and Triumphator Augustus to all the bishops convened at Ariminum.

‘That our especial care is ever exercised respecting the divine and venerated law even your sanctity is not ignorant. Nevertheless we have hitherto been unable to give an audience to the twenty bishops sent as deputation from you, for an expedition against the barbarians has become necessary. And since, as you will admit, matters relative to the divine law ought to be entered on with a mind free from all anxiety; I have therefore ordered these bishops to await our return to Adrianople; that when all public business shall have been duly attended to, we may be able then to hear and consider what they shall propose. In the meanwhile let it not seem troublesome to your gravity to wait for their return; since when they shall convey to p. 65 you our resolution, you will be prepared to carry into effect such measures as may be most advantageous to the welfare of the catholic church.’

The bishops on receipt of this letter wrote thus in reply: 409

‘We have received your clemency’s letter, sovereign lord, most beloved of God, in which you inform us that the exigencies of state affairs have hitherto prevented your admitting our delegates to your presence: and you bid us await their return, until your piety shall have learnt from them what has been determined on by us in conformity with the tradition of our ancestors. But we again protest by this letter that we can by no means depart from our primary resolution; and this also we have commissioned our deputies to state. We beseech you therefore, both with serene countenance to order this present epistle of our modesty to be read; and also to listen favorably to the representations with which our delegates have been charged. Your mildness doubtless perceives, as well as we, to how great an extent grief and sadness prevail, because of so many churches being bereft of their bishops in these most blessed times of yours. Again therefore we entreat your clemency, sovereign lord most dear to God, to command us to return to our churches, if it please your piety, before the rigor of winter; in order that we may be enabled, in conjunction with the people, to offer up our accustomed prayers to Almighty God, and to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son, for the prosperity of your reign, as we have always done, and even now do in our prayers.’

The bishops having waited together some time after this letter had been despatched, inasmuch as the emperor deigned no reply, they departed to their respective cities. Now the emperor had long before intended to disseminate Arian doctrine throughout the churches; and was anxious to give it the pre-eminence; hence he pretended that their departure was an act of contumely, declaring that they had treated him with contempt by dissolving the council in opposition to his wishes. He therefore gave the partisans of Ursacius unbounded license to act as they pleased in regard to the churches: and directed that the revised form of creed which had been read at Ariminum should be sent to the churches throughout Italy; ordering that whoever would not subscribe it should be ejected from their sees, and that others should be substituted in their place. 410 And first Liberius, bishop of Rome, having refused his assent to that creed, was sent into exile; the adherents of Ursacius appointing Felix to succeed him, who had been a deacon in that church, but on embracing the Arian heresy was elevated to the episcopate. Some however assert that he was not favorable to that opinion, but was constrained by force to receive the ordination of bishop. After this all parts of the West were filled with agitation and tumult, some being ejected and banished, and others established in their stead. These things were effected by violence, on the authority of the imperial edicts, which were also sent into the eastern parts. Not long after indeed Liberius was recalled, and reinstated in his see; for the people of Rome having raised a sedition, and expelled Felix from their church, the emperor even though against his wish consented. The partisans of Ursacius, quitting Italy, passed through the eastern parts; and arriving at Nice, a city of Thrace, they dwelt there a short time and held another Synod, and after translating the form of faith which was read at Ariminum into Greek, they confirmed and published it afresh in the form quoted above, giving it the name of the general council, in this way attempting to deceive the more simple by the similarity of names, and to impose upon them as the creed promulgated at Nicæa in Bithynia, that which they had prepared at Nice in Thrace. 411 But this artifice was of little advantage to them; for it was soon detected, they became the object of derision. Enough now has been said of the transactions which took place in the West: we must now proceed to the narrative of what was done in the East at the same time.



Cf. Sozomen, III. 19; IV. 15–19; Theodoret, H. E. II. 18–21; Rufin. II. 21; Philostorgius, IV. 10. Also Hefele, Hist. of the Ch. Councils, Vol. II. p. 246–271.


Ch. 39.


According to Theodoret (H. E. II. 19) Aëtius was promoted to the diaconate under Leontius at Antioch; but Leontius, on being censured by Flavian and Diodorus for ordaining one who was notorious for his blasphemous utterances, divested him of his diaconate. Hence, later, Eudoxius attempted to restore him, as is here said.


Athan. de Synod. 8; but Athanasius does not say that this creed was translated from Latin, as he does whenever he produces any document put into Greek from Latin; whence it appears, according to Valesius, that this is the form drawn up in Greek by Marcus of Arethusa, and submitted to the third Sirmium council in 359, but read at Ariminum as here said (cf. ch. 30, and note). The argument is not considered conclusive by Reading as far as it regards the original language of the creed; that it was written by Marcus of Arethusa, however, seems to be proved.


The title of the emperor in Athanasius’ version is ‘The most pious and victorious emperor Constantius Augustus, eternal Augustus,’ &c., which agrees with the representations of the ancients on the vainglory of Constantius. Cf. Amm. Marcellin. Rerum Gestarum, XVI. 10. 2, 3 (ed. Eyssenhardt).


359 a.d.


Job xxxviii. 17 (LXX).


John 14:16, John 16:14.


Athan. de Synod. 8.


This appeal to antiquity, as the test of truth, is very common with the earlier Fathers; cf. Eusebius’ treatment of the Scriptures of the New Testament, H. E. III. 3, 24, 25, et al.


Isa. 1:2, Hos. 1:1.


Jer. i. 2.


Luke ii. 1.


Athan, de Synod. 10. The Latin original which is given in Hilar. Fragm. 8, was adopted by Valesius in this place, and subsequently also by the English translators. We have followed the Greek of Socrates, giving the most important differences in the following four notes; viz. 15, 16, 17, and 18. How these variations originated it is impossible to tell with assurance; but it is not improbable that they may represent two drafts, of which one was originally tentative.


The Latin original here contains the following paragraph not reproduced by Socrates: ‘These matters having been strictly investigated and the creed drawn up in the presence of Constantine, who after being baptized, departed to God’s rest in the faith of it, we regard as an abomination any infringement thereon, or any attempt to invalidate the authority of so many saints, confessors, and successors of the martyrs, who assisted at that council, and themselves preserved inviolate all the determinations of the ancient writers of the catholic church: whose faith has remained unto these times in which your piety has received from God the Father, through Jesus Christ our God and Lord, the power of ruling the world.’


The Latin original omits the following paragraph, ending with the words ‘over our portion of the world.’


The Latin original in Hilar. omits the name of Auxentius.


Instead of the Greek words here translated, ‘fill the believing with distrust and the unbelieving with cruelty,’ the Latin original reads ‘verum etiam infideles ad credulitatem vetantur accedere.


Cf. Theodoret, H. E. II. 20.


Cf. Theodoret, H. E. II. 16.


Hilar. Fragm. 8; Hefele, Hist. of Ch. Councils, Vol. II. p. 257.

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