Chapter XII.—Council of Milan.
After the death of Constans, Magnentius assumed the chief authority over the Western empire; and, to repress his usurpation, Constantius repaired to Europe. But this war, severe as it was, did not put an end to the war against the Church. Constantius, who had embraced Arian tenets and readily yielded to the influence of others, was persuaded to convoke a council at Milan 517 , a city of Italy, and first to compel all the assembled bishops to sign the deposition enacted by the iniquitous judges at Tyre; and then, since Athanasius had been expelled from the Church, to draw up another confession of faith. The bishops assembled in council on the receipt of the imperial letter, but they were far from acting according to its directions. On the contrary, they told the emperor to his face that what he had commanded was unjust and impious. For this act of courage they were expelled from the Church, and relegated to the furthest boundaries of the empire.
The admirable Athanasius thus mentions this circumstance in his Apology 518 :—“Who,” he writes, “can narrate such atrocities as they have perpetrated? A short time ago when the Churches were in the enjoyment of peace, and when the people were assembled for prayer, Liberius 519 , bishop of Rome, Paulinus, bishop of the metropolis of Gaul 520 , Dionysius, bishop of the metropolis of Italy 521 , Luciferus, bishop of the metropolis of the Isles of Sardinia 522 , and Eusebius, bishop of one of the cities of Italy 523 , who were all exemplary bishops and preachers of the truth, were seized and driven into exile, for no other cause than because they could not assent to the Arian heresy, nor sign the false accusation which had been framed against us. It is unnecessary that I should speak of the great Hosius, that aged 524 and faithful confessor of the faith, for every one knows that he also was sent into banishment. Of all the bishops he is the most illustrious. What council can be mentioned in which he did not preside, and convince all present by the power of his reasoning? What Church does not still retain the glorious memorials of his protection? Did any one ever go to him sorrowing, and not leave him rejoicing? Who ever asked his aid, and did not obtain all that he desired? Yet they had the boldness to attack this great man, simply because, from his knowledge of the impiety of their calumnies, he refused to affix his signature to their artful accusations against us.”
From the above narrative will be seen the violence of the Arians against these holy men. Athanasius also gives in the same book an account of the numerous plots formed by the p. 77 chiefs of the Arian faction against many others:—“Did any one,” said he, “whom they persecuted and got into their power ever escape from them without suffering what injuries they pleased to inflict? Was any one who was an object of their search found by them whom they did not subject to the most agonizing death, or else to the mutilation of all his limbs? The sentences inflicted by the judges are all attributable to these heretics; for the judges are but the agents of their will, and of their malice. Where is there a place which contains no memorial of their atrocities? If any one ever differed from them in opinion, did they not, like Jezebel, falsely accuse and oppress him? Where is there a church which has not been plunged in sorrow by their plots against its bishop? Antioch has to mourn the loss of Eustathius, the faithful and the orthodox 525 . Balaneæ weeps for Euphration 526 ; Paltus 527 and Antaradus 528 for Cymatius and Carterius. Adrianople has been called to deplore the loss of the well-beloved Eutropius 529 , and of Lucius his successor, who was repeatedly loaded with chains, and expired beneath their weight 530 . Ancyra, Berœa, and Gaza had to mourn the absence of Marcellus 531 , Cyrus 532 and Asclepas 533 , who, after having suffered much ill-treatment from this deceitful sect, were driven into exile. Messengers were sent in quest of Theodulus 534 and Olympius 535 , bishops of Thrace, as well as of me and of the presbyters of my diocese; and had they found us, we should no doubt have been put to death. But at the very time that they were planning our destruction we effected our escape, although they had sent letters to Donatus, the proconsul, against Olympius, and to Philagrius 536 , against me.”
Such were the audacious acts of this impious faction against the most holy Christians. Hosius was the bishop of Cordova, and was the most highly distinguished of all those who assembled at the council of Nicæa; he also obtained the first place among those convened at Sardica.
I now desire to insert in my history an account of the admirable arguments addressed by the far-famed Liberius, in defence of the truth, to the emperor Constantius. They are recorded by some of the pious men of that period in order to stimulate others to the exercise of similar zeal in divine things. Liberius had succeeded Julius, the successor of Silvester, in the government of the church of Rome.
Athanasius was condemned at Arles (353) as well as at Milan in 355. At the latter place Constantius affected more than his fathers infallibility, and exclaimed, “What I will, be that a Canon.” Ath. Hist. Ar. §33.76:518
Apol. de fug. §4 and §5.76:519
For the persecution and vacillation of Liberius, “one of the few Popes that can be charged with heresy” (Principal Barmby in Dict. Christ. Biog. s.v.), see also Ath. Hist. Ar. §35 et seqq.76:520
Treves. Dionysius was the successor of St. Maximinus and a firm champion of orthodoxy. Cf. Sulp. Sev. II. 52.76:521
Milan. Paulinus was banished to Cappadocia.76:522
Calaris (Cagliari). Luciferus, a vehement defender of Athanasius, was banished to Eleutheropolis in Palestine. Mr. Ll. Davies (Dict. Christ. Biog. s.v.), thinks the traditional story of the imprisonment of Luciferus at Milan, to prevent his outspoken advocacy of Athanasius, shews internal evidence of probability.76:523
Eusebius, bishop of Vercellæ (Vercelli), was a staunch Athanasian. He was banished to Scythopolis, where the bishop Patrophilus (cf. Book I. chapter VI. and XX.), a leading Arian, was, he says, his “jailer.” (Vide his letters.)76:524
The epithet εὐγηρότατος felicitously describes the honoured old age of the bishop of Cordova—he was now a hundred years old (Hist. Ar. §45)—before his pitiable lapse. He was sent to Sirmium (Mitrovitz).77:525
Cf. Book I. Chap. 20.77:526
Euphration is mentioned also in Hist. Ar. §5. Balaneæ is now Banias on the coast of Syria.77:527
Now Boldo, a little to the N. of Banias.77:528
In Phœnicia, now Tortosa.77:529
“A good and excellent man,” Ath. Hist. Ar. §5.77:530
Vide p. 68, note.77:531
On the question of the orthodoxy of Marcellus of Ancyra (Angora), vide the conflicting opinions of Bp Lightfoot (Dict. Christ. Biog. ii. 342), and Mr. Ffoulkes (id. iii. 810). Ath. (Apol. contra Ar. §47) says of the Council of Sardica, “The book of our brother Marcellus was also read, by which the frauds of the Eusebians were plainly discovered…his faith was found to be correct,” cf. p. 67, note.77:532
The successor of Eustathius at Berœa, cf. p. 41, note 65. Socrates says the statement that Cyrus accused Eustathius of Sabellianism is an Arian calumny (Soc. i. 24; ii. 9).77:533
Asclepas or Æsculapius was at Tyre (p. 62), and was deposed on the charge of overturning an altar, ὡς θυσιαστηριον ἀνατρέψας (Soz. iii. 8).77:534
Vide p. 68.77:535
Bishop of Ænos in Thrace, now Enos. (Hist. Ar. §19.) Here was shown the tomb of Polydorus. Plin. 4, 11, 18. Virgil (Æn. iii. 18) makes Æneas call it Æneadæ, but see Coningtons note.77:536
Philagrius was præfect of Egypt a.d. 335–340. Ath. (Ep. Encyc.) calls him “a persecutor of the Church and her virgins, an apostate of bad character.”