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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen.: Liberius, Bishop of Rome, and the cause of his being exiled by Constantius. Felix his Successor.

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Chapter XI.—Liberius, Bishop of Rome, and the cause of his being exiled by Constantius. Felix his Successor.

Although what I have recorded did not occur to Athanasius and the church of Alexandria, at the same period of time after the death of Constans, yet I deemed it right, for the sake of greater clearness, to relate all these events collectively. The council of Milan 1308 was dissolved without any business having been transacted, and the emperor condemned to banishment all those who had opposed the designs of the enemies of Athanasius. As Constantius p. 307 wished to establish uniformity of doctrine throughout the Church, and to unite the priesthood in the maintenance of the same sentiments, he formed a plan to convene the bishops of every religion to a council, to be held in the West. He was aware of the difficulty of carrying this scheme into execution, arising from the vast extent of land and seas which some of the bishops would have to traverse, yet he did not altogether despair of success. While this project was occupying his mind, and before he prepared to make his triumphal entrance into Rome, he sent for Liberius, the bishop of Rome, and strove to persuade him to conformity of sentiment with the priests by whom he was attended, amongst whom was Eudoxius. As Liberius, however, refused compliance, and protested that he would never yield on this point, the emperor banished him to Berœa, in Thrace. It is alleged, that another pretext for the banishment of Liberius was, that he would not withdraw from communion with Athanasius, but manfully opposed the emperor, who insisted that Athanasius had injured the Church, had occasioned the death of the elder of his two brothers, 1309 and had sown the seeds of enmity between Constans and himself. As the emperor revived all the decrees which had been enacted against Athanasius by various councils, and particularly by that of Tyre, Liberius told him that no regard ought to be paid to edicts which were issued from motives of hatred, of favor, or of fear. He desired that the bishops of every region should be made to sign the formulary of faith compiled at Nicæa, and that those bishops who had been exiled on account of their adherence to it should be recalled. He suggested that after these matters were righted all the bishops should, at their own expense, and without being furnished either with public conveyances or money, so as not to seem burdensome and destructive, proceed to Alexandria, and make an accurate test of the truth, which could be more easily instituted at that city than elsewhere, as the injured and those who had inflicted injury as well as the confuters of the charges dwelt there. He then exhibited the letter written by Valens and Ursacius to Julius, his predecessor in the Roman see, in which they solicited his forgiveness, and acknowledged that the depositions brought against Athanasius, at the Mareotis, were false; and he besought the emperor not to condemn Athanasius during his absence, nor to give credit to enactments which were evidently obtained by the machinations of his enemies. With respect to the alleged injuries which had been inflicted on his two brothers, he entreated the emperor not to revenge himself by the hands of priests who had been set apart by God, not for the execution of vengeance, but for sanctification, and the performance of just and benevolent actions.

The emperor perceiving that Liberius was not disposed to comply with his mandate, commanded that he should be conveyed to Thrace, unless he would change his mind within two days. “To me, O emperor,” replied Liberius, “there is no need of deliberation; my resolution has long been formed and decided, and I am ready to go forth to exile.” It is said, that when he was being conducted to banishment, the emperor sent him five hundred pieces of gold; he, however, refused to receive them, and said to the messenger who brought them, “Go, and tell him who sent this gold to give it to the flatterers and hypocrites 1310 who surround him, for their insatiable cupidity plunges them into a state of perpetual want which can never be relieved. Christ, who is in all respects, 1311 like unto his Father, supplies us with food and with all good things.”

Liberius having for the above reasons been deposed from the Roman church, his government was transferred to Felix, a deacon of the clergy there. It is said that Felix always continued in adherence to the Nicene faith; and that, with respect to his conduct in religious matters he was blameless. The only thing alleged against him was, that, prior to his ordination, he held communion with the heterodox. When the emperor entered Rome, the people loudly demanded Liberius, and besought his return; after consulting with the bishops who were with him, he replied that he would recall Liberius and restore him to the people, if he would consent to embrace the same sentiments as those held by the priests of the court.



Athan. Hist. Arian. 31–46; Ruf. H. E. i. 21; Soc. ii. 36; Sulp. Sev. H. S. ii. 39: cf. Theodoret, H. E. ii. 16, dialogue between the emperor and Liberius; Am. Marcel. xv. 7.


The dialogue is preserved in Theodoret, H. E. ii. 16. Cf. Hil. Fragm. v., vi.


He means the Arian bishops. It is like the terms Athanasius employs.


One would have expected from Liberius “the same,” i.e. μός instead of μοιος.

Next: Aëtius, the Syrian, and Eudoxius, the Successor of Leontius in Antioch. Concerning the Term “Consubstantial.”

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