Theodoret Hist Eccl., 2.6; 5.10

2. 6. Council held at Sardica

Two hundred and fifty bishops assembled at Sardica , as is proved by ancient records. The great Athanasius, Asclepas, bishop of Gaza, already mentioned , and Marcellus , bishop of Ancyra, the metropolis of Galatia, who also held this bishopric at the time of the council of Nicæa, all repaired there. The calumniators, and the chiefs of the Arian faction, who had previously judged the cause of Athanasius, also attended. But when they found that the members of the synod were staunch in their adherence to sound doctrine, they would not even enter the council, although they had been summoned to it, but fled away, both accusers and judges. All these circumstances are far more clearly explained in a letter drawn up by the council; and I shall therefore now insert it.

Synodical Letter from the Bishops assembled at Sardica, addressed to the other Bishops.

The holy council assembled at Sardica, from Rome, Spain, Gaul, Italy, Campania, Calabria, Africa, Sardinia, Pannonia, Mœsia, Dacia, Dardania, Lesser Dacia, Macedonia, Thessaly, Achaia, Epirus, Thrace, Rhodope, Asia, Caria, Bithynia, the Hellespont, Phrygia, Pisidia, Cappadocia, Pontus, the lesser Phrygia, Cilicia, Pamphylia, Lydia, the Cyclades, Egypt, the Thebaid, Libya, Galatia, Palestine and Arabia, to the bishops throughout the world, our fellow-ministers in the catholic and apostolic Church, and our beloved brethren in the Lord. Peace be unto you.

The madness of the Arians has often led them to the perpetration of violent atrocities against the servants of God who keep the true faith; they introduce false doctrines themselves, and persecute those who uphold orthodox principles. So violent were their attacks on the faith, that they reached the ears of our most pious emperors. Through the co-operation of the grace of God, the emperors have summoned us from different provinces and cities to the holy council which they have appointed to be held in the city of Sardica, in order that all dissensions may be terminated, all evil doctrines expelled, and the religion of Christ alone maintained among all people. Some bishops from the east have attended the council at the solicitation of our most religious emperors, principally on account of the reports circulated against our beloved brethren and fellow-ministers, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra in Galatia, and Asclepas, bishop of Gaza. Perhaps the calumnies of the Arians have already reached you, and they have endeavoured thus to forestall the council, and make you believe their groundless accusations of the innocent, and prevent any suspicion being raised of the depraved heresy which they uphold. But they have not long been permitted so to act. The Lord is the Protector of the churches; for them and for us all He suffered death, and opened for us the way to heaven.

The adherents of Eusebius, Maris, Theodorus, Theognis, Ursacius, Valens, Menophantus, and Stephanus, had already written to Julius, the bishop of Rome, and our fellow-minister, against our aforesaid fellow-ministers, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra in Galatia, and Asclepas, bishop of Gaza. Some bishops of the opposite party wrote also to Julius, testifying to the innocence of Athanasius, and proving that all that had been asserted by the followers of Eusebius was nothing more than lies and slander. The refusal of the Arians to obey the summons of our beloved brother and fellow-ruler, Julius, and also the letter written by that bishop, clearly prove the falseness of their accusation. For, had they believed that what they had done and represented against our fellow-minister admitted of justification, they would have gone to Rome. But their mode of procedure in this great and holy council is a manifest proof of their fraud. Upon their arrival at Sardica, they perceived that our brethren, Athanasius, Marcellus, Asclepas, and others, were there also; they were therefore afraid to come to the test, although they had been summoned, not once or twice only, but repeatedly. There were they waited for by the assembled bishops, particularly by the venerable Hosius, one worthy of all honour and respect, on account of his advanced age, his adherence to the faith, and his labours for the church. All urged them to join the assembly and avail themselves of the opportunity of proving, in the presence of their fellow-ministers, the truth of the charges they had brought against them in their absence, both by word and by letter. But they refused to obey the summons, as we have already stated, and so by their excesses proved the falsity of their statements, and all but proclaimed aloud the plot and schemes they had formed. Men confident of the truth of their assertions are always ready to stand to them openly. But as these accusers would not appear to substantiate what they had advanced, any future allegations which they may by their usual artifices bring against our fellow-ministers, will only be regarded as proceeding from a desire of slandering them in their absence, without the courage to confront them openly.

They fled, beloved brethren, not only because their charges were slander, but also because they saw men arrive with serious and manifold accusations against themselves. Chains and fetters were produced. Some were present whom they had exiled: others came forward as representatives of those still kept in exile. There stood relations and friends of men whom they had put to death. Most serious of all, bishops also appeared, one of whom exhibited the irons and the chains with which they had laden him. Others testified that death followed their false charges. For their infatuation had led them so far as even to attempt the life of a bishop; and he would have been killed had he not escaped from their hands. Theodulus , our fellow-minister, of blessed memory, passed hence with their calumny on his name; for, through it, he had been condemned to death. Some showed the wounds which had been inflicted on them by the sword; others deposed that they had been exposed to the miseries of famine.

All these depositions were made, not by a few obscure individuals, but by whole churches; the presbyters of these churches giving evidence that the persecutors had armed the military against them with swords, and the common people with clubs; had employed judicial threats, and produced spurious documents. The letters written by Theognis, for the purpose of prejudicing the emperor against our fellow-ministers, Athanasius, Marcellus, and Asclepas, were read and attested by those who had formerly been the deacons of Theognis. It was also proved that they had stripped virgins naked, had burnt churches, and imprisoned our fellow-ministers, and all because of the infamous heresy of the Ariomaniacs. For thus all who refused to make common cause with them were treated.

The consciousness of having committed all these crimes placed them in great straits. Ashamed of their deeds, which could no longer be concealed, they repaired to Sardica, thinking that their boldness in venturing there would remove all suspicion of their guilt. But when they perceived the presence of those whom they had falsely accused, and of those who had suffered from their cruelty; and that likewise several had come with irrefragable accusations against them, they would not enter the council. Our fellow-ministers, on the other hand, Athanasius, Marcellus, and Asclepas, took every means to induce them to attend, by tears, by urgency, by challenge, promising not only to prove the falsity of their accusations, but also to show how deeply they had injured their own churches. But they were so overwhelmed by the consciousness of their own evil deeds, that they took to flight, and by this flight clearly proved the falsity of their accusations as well as their own guilt.

But though their calumny and perfidy, which had indeed been apparent from the beginning, were now clearly perceived, yet we determined to examine the circumstances of the case according to the laws of truth, lest they should, from their very flight, derive pretexts for renewed acts of deceitfulness.

Upon carrying this resolution into effect, we proved by their actions that they were false accusers, and that they had formed plots against our fellow-ministers. Arsenius, whom they declared had been put to death by Athanasius, is still alive, and takes his place among the living. This fact alone is sufficient to show that their other allegations are false.

Although they spread a report everywhere that a chalice had been broken by Macarius, one of the presbyters of Athanasius, yet those who came from Alexandria, from Mareotis, and from other places, testified that this was not the fact; and the bishops in Egypt wrote to Julius, our fellow-minister, declaring that there was not the least suspicion that such a deed had been done. The judicial facts which the Arians assert they possess against Macarius have been all drawn up by one party; and in these documents the depositions of pagans and of catechumens were included. One of these catechumens, when interrogated, replied that he was in the church on the entry of Macarius. Another deposed that Ischyras, whom they had talked about so much, was then lying ill in his cell. Hence it appears that the mysteries could not have been celebrated at that time, as the catechumens were present, and as Ischyras was absent; for he was at that very time confined by illness. Ischyras, that wicked man who had falsely affirmed that Athanasius had burnt some of the sacred books, and had been convicted of the crime, now confessed that he was ill in bed when Macarius arrived; hence the falsehood of his accusation was clearly demonstrated. His calumny was, however, rewarded by his party; they gave him the title of a bishop, although he was not yet even a presbyter. For two presbyters came to the synod, who some time back had been attached to Meletius, and were afterwards received back by the blessed Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and are now with Athanasius, protesting that he had never been ordained a presbyter, and that Meletius had never had any church, or employed any minister in Mareotis. Yet, although he had never been ordained a presbyter, they promote him to a bishopric, in order that his title may impose upon those who hear his false accusations.

The writings of our fellow-minister, Marcellus, were also read, and plainly evinced the duplicity of the adherents of Eusebius; for what Marcellus had simply suggested as a point of inquiry, they accused him of professing as a point of faith. The statements which he had made, both before and after the inquiry, were read, and his faith was proved to be orthodox. He did not affirm, as they represented, that the beginning of the Word of God was dated from His conception by the holy Mary, or that His kingdom would have an end. On the contrary, he wrote that His kingdom had had no beginning, and would have no end. Asclepas, our fellow-minister, produced the reports drawn up at Antioch in the presence of the accusers, and of Eusebius, bishop of Cæsarea, and proved his innocence by the sentence of the bishops who had presided as judges.

It was not then without cause, beloved brethren, that, although so frequently summoned, they would not attend the council; it was not without cause that they took to flight. The reproaches of conscience constrained them to make their escape, and thus, at the same time, to demonstrate the groundlessness of their calumnies, and the truth of those accusations which were advanced and proved against them. Besides all the other grounds of complaint, it may be added that all those who had been accused of holding the Arian heresy, and had been ejected in consequence, were not only received, but advanced to the highest dignities by them. They raised deacons to the presbyterate, and thence to the episcopate; and in all this they were actuated by no other motive than the desire of propagating and diffusing their heresy, and of corrupting the true faith.

Next to Eusebius, the following are their principal leaders; Theodorus, bishop of Heraclea, Narcissus, bishop of Neronias in Cilicia, Stephanus, bishop of Antioch, Georgius , bishop of Laodicea, Acacius , bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine, Menophantus, bishop of Ephesus in Asia, Ursacius, bishop of Singidunum in Mœsia, and Valens, bishop of Mursa in Pannonia. These bishops forbade those who came with them from the east to attend the holy council, or to unite with the Church of God. On their road to Sardica they held private assemblies at different places, and formed a compact cemented by threats, that, when they arrived in Sardica, they would not join the holy council, nor assist at its deliberations; arranging that, as soon as they had arrived they should present themselves for form’s sake, and immediately betake themselves to flight. These facts were made known to us by our fellow-ministers, Macarius of Palestine , and Asterius of Arabia , who came with them to Sardica, but refused to share their unorthodoxy. These bishops complained before the holy council of the violent treatment they had received from them, and of the want of right principles evinced in all their transactions. They added that there were many among them who still held orthodox opinions, but that these were prevented from going to the council; and that sometimes threats, sometimes promises, were resorted to, in order to retain them in that party. For this reason they were compelled to reside together in one house; and never allowed, even for the shortest space of time, to be alone.

It is not right to pass over in silence and without rebuke the calumnies, the imprisonments, the murders, the stripes, the forged letters, the indignities, the stripping naked of virgins, the banishments, the destruction of churches, the acts of incendiarism, the translation of bishops from small towns to large dioceses, and above all, the ill-starred Arian heresy, raised by their means against the true faith. For these causes, therefore, we declare the innocence and purity of our beloved brethren and fellow-ministers, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra in Galatia, and Asclepas, bishop of Gaza, and of all the other servants of God who are with them; and we have written to each of their dioceses, in order that the people of each church may be made acquainted with the innocence of their respective bishops, and that they may recognise them alone and wait for their return. Men who have come down on their churches like wolves , such as Gregorius in Alexandria, Basilius in Ancyra, and Quintianus in Gaza, we charge them not even to call bishops, nor yet Christians, nor to have any communion with them, nor to receive any letters from them, nor to write to them.

Theodorus, bishop of Heraclea in Europe, Narcissus, bishop of Neronias in Cilicia, Acacius, bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine, Stephanus, bishop of Antioch, Ursacius, bishop of Singidunum in Mœsia, Valens, bishop of Mursa in Pannonia, Menophantus, bishop of Ephesus, and Georgius, bishop of Laodicea (for though fear kept him from leaving the East, he has been deposed by the blessed Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and has imbibed the infatuation of the Arians), have on account of their various crimes been cast forth from their bishoprics by the unanimous decision of the holy council. We have decreed that they are not only not to be regarded as bishops, but to be refused communion with us. For those who separate the Son from the substance and divinity of the Father, and alienate the Word from the Father, ought to be separated from the Catholic Church, and alienated from all who bear the name of Christians. Let them then be anathema to you, and to all the faithful, because they have corrupted the word of truth. For the apostle’s precept enjoins, if any one should bring to you another gospel than that which you have received, let him be accursed. Command that no one hold communion with them; for light can have no fellowship with darkness. Keep far off from them; for what concord has Christ with Belial? Be careful, beloved brethren, that you neither write to them nor receive their letters. Endeavour, beloved brethren and fellow-ministers, as though present with us in spirit at the council, to give your hearty consent to what is enacted, and affix to it your written signature, for the sake of preserving unanimity of opinion among all our fellow-ministers throughout the world.

We declare those men excommunicate from the Catholic Church who say that Christ is God, but not the true God; that He is the Son, but not the true Son; and that He is both begotten and made; for such persons acknowledge that they understand by the term ‘begotten,’ that which has been made; and because, although the Son of God existed before all ages, they attribute to Him, who exists not in time but before all time, a beginning and an end.

Valens and Ursacius have, like two vipers brought forth by an asp, proceeded from the Arian heresy. For they boastingly declare themselves to be undoubted Christians, and yet affirm that the Word and the Holy Ghost were both crucified and slain, and that they died and rose again; and they pertinaciously maintain, like the heretics, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are of diverse and distinct essences. We have been taught, and we hold the catholic and apostolic tradition and faith and confession which teach, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost have one essence, which is termed substance by the heretics. If it is asked, ‘What is the essence of the Son.’ we confess, that it is that which is acknowledged to be that of the Father alone; for the Father has never been, nor could ever be, without the Son, nor the Son without the Father. It is most absurd to affirm that the Father ever existed without the Son, for that this could never be so has been testified by the Son Himself, who said, ‘ I am in the Father, and the Father in Me ;’ and ‘ I and My Father are one. ‘ None of us denies that He was begotten; but we say that He was begotten before all things, whether visible or invisible; and that He is the Creator of archangels and angels, and of the world, and of the human race. It is written, ‘ Wisdom which is the worker of all things taught me ,’ and again, ‘ All things were made by Him. ‘

He could not have existed always if He had had a beginning, for the everlasting Word has no beginning, and God will never have an end. We do not say that the Father is Son, nor that the Son is Father; but that the Father is Father, and the Son of the Father Son. We confess that the Son is Power of the Father. We confess that the Word is Word of God the Father, and that beside Him there is no other. We believe the Word to be the true God, and Wisdom and Power. We affirm that He is truly the Son, yet not in the way in which others are said to be sons: for they are either gods by reason of their regeneration, or are called sons of God on account of their merit, and not on account of their being of one essence , as is the case with the Father and the Son. We confess an Only-begotten and a Firstborn; but that the Word is only-begotten, who ever was and is in the Father. We use the word firstborn with respect to His humannature. But He is superior (to man) in the new creation (of the Resurrection), inasmuch as He is the Firstborn from the dead.

We confess that God is; we confess the divinity of the Father and of the Son to be one. No one denies that the Father is greater than the Son: not on account of another essence , nor yet on account of their difference, but simply from the very name of the Father being greater than that of the Son. The words uttered by our Lord, ‘ I and My Father are one ,’ are by those men explained as referring to the concord and harmony which prevail between the Father and the Son; but this is a blasphemous and perverse interpretation. We, as Catholics, unanimously condemned this foolish and lamentable opinion: for just as mortal men on a difference having arisen between them quarrel and afterwards are reconciled, so do such interpreters say that disputes and dissension are liable to arise between God the Father Almighty and His Son; a supposition which is altogether absurd and untenable. But we believe and maintain that those holy words, ‘ I and My Father are one,’ point out the oneness of essence which is one and the same in the Father and in the Son.

We also believe that the Son reigns with the Father, that His reign has neither beginning nor end, and that it is not bounded by time, nor can ever cease: for that which always exists never begins to be, and can never cease.

We believe in and we receive the Holy Ghost the Comforter, whom the Lord both promised and sent. We believe in It as sent.

It was not the Holy Ghost who suffered, but the manhood with which He clothed Himself; which He took from the Virgin Mary, which being man was capable of suffering; for man is mortal, whereas God is immortal. We believe that on the third day He rose, the man in God, not God in the man; and that He brought as a gift to His Father the manhood which He had delivered from sin and corruption.

We believe that, at a meet and fixed time, He Himself will judge all men and all their deeds.

So great is the ignorance and mental darkness of those whom we have mentioned, that they are unable to see the light of truth. They cannot comprehend the meaning of the words: ‘ that they may be one in us. ‘ It is obvious why the word ‘ one‘ was used; it was because the apostles received the Holy Spirit of God, and yet there were none among them who were the Spirit, neither was there any one of them who was Word, Wisdom, Power, or Only-begotten. ‘ As You,’ He said, ‘ and I are one, that they, may be one in us.‘ These holy words, ‘ that they may be one in us,’ are strictly accurate: for the Lord did not say, ‘one in the same way that I and the Father are one,’ but He said, ‘that the disciples, being knit together and united, may be one in faith and in confession, and so in the grace and piety of God the Father, and by the indulgence and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, may be able to become one.’

From this letter may be learned the duplicity of the calumniators, and the injustice of the former judges, as well as the soundness of the decrees. These holy fathers have taught us not only truths respecting the Divine nature, but also the doctrine of the Incarnation.

Constans was much concerned on hearing of the easy temper of his brother, and was highly incensed against those who had contrived this plot and artfully taken advantage of it. He chose two of the bishops who had attended the council of Sardica, and sent them with letters to his brother; he also dispatched Salianus, a military commander who was celebrated for his piety and integrity, on the same embassy. The letters which he forwarded by them, and which were worthy of himself, contained not only entreaties and counsels, but also menaces. In the first place, he charged his brother to attend to all that the bishops might say, and to take cognizance of the crimes of Stephanus and of his accomplices. He also required him to restore Athanasius to his flock; the calumny of the accusers and the injustice and ill-will of his former judges having become evident. He added, that if he would not accede to his request, and perform this act of justice, he would himself go to Alexandria, restore Athanasius to his flock which earnestly longed for him, and expel all opponents.

Constantius was at Antioch when he received this letter; and he agreed to carry out all that his brother commanded.


5.10.— Synodical letter of Damasus bishop of Rome against Apollinarius and Timotheus.

When the most praiseworthy Damasus had heard of the rise of this heresy, he proclaimed the condemnation not only of Apollinarius but also of Timotheus his follower. The letter in which he made this known to the bishops of the Eastern empire I have thought it well to insert in my history.

Letter of Damasus bishop of Rome.

Most honourable sons: Inasmuch as your love renders to the apostolic see the reverence which is its due, accept the same in no niggard measure for yourselves. For even though in the holy church in which the holy apostle sat, and taught us how it becomes us to manage the rudder which has been committed to us, we nevertheless confess ourselves to be unworthy of the honour, we yet on this very account strive by every means within our power if haply we may be able to achieve the glory of that blessedness. Know then that we have condemned Timotheus, the unhallowed, the disciple of Apollinarius the heretic, together with his impious doctrine, and are confident that for the future his remains will have no weight whatever. But if that old serpent, though smitten once and again, still revives to his own destruction, who though he exists without the church never ceases from the attempt by his deadly venom to overthrow certain unfaithful men, do you avoid it as you would a pest, mindful ever of the apostolic faith— that, I mean, which was set out in writing by the Fathers at Nicæa; do you remain on steady ground, firm and unmoved in the faith, and henceforward suffer neither your clergy nor laity to listen to vain words and futile questions, for we have already given a form, that he who professes himself a Christian may keep it, the form delivered by the Apostles, as says St. Paul, ‘if any one preach to you another gospel than that you have received let him be Anathema.’ For Christ the Son of God, our Lord, gave by his own passion abundant salvation to the race of men, that he might free from all sin the whole man involved in sin. If any one speaks of Christ as having had less of manhood or of Godhead, he is full of devils’ spirits, and proclaims himself a child of hell.

Why then do you again ask me for the condemnation of Timotheus? Here, by the judgment of the apostolic see, in the presence of Peter, bishop of Alexandria, he was condemned, together with his teacher, Apollinarius, who will also in the day of judgment undergo due punishment and torment. But if he succeeds in persuading some less stable men, as though having some hope, after by his confession changing the true hope which is in Christ, with him shall likewise perish whoever of set purpose withstands the order of the Church. May God keep you sound, most honoured sons.

The bishops assembled in great Rome also wrote other things against other heresies which I have thought it necessary to insert in my history.