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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

THE malignity of the enemies of St. Athanasius involved him in fresh troubles, excited the hatred of the emperor against him, and stirred up a multitude of calumniators. Wearied by their importunity, the emperor convened a council at Cæsarea, in Palestine. Athanasius was summoned thither; but, fearing the artifices of Eusebius, bishop of the city, of Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, and of their party, he refused to attend, and for thirty months, in spite of all remonstrances, persisted in his refusal. At the end of that period, however, he was compelled to repair to Tyre, where a great number of the bishops of the East were assembled. They required him to reply to the accusations framed by John, and brought against him by Callinicus, a bishop, and a certain Ischurias. These accusations were, that he had broken a vase used in the celebration of the mysteries; that he had thrown down the episcopal chair; that he had often caused Ischurias, although he was a presbyter, to be loaded with chains, and that, by falsely accusing him before Hygenus, governor of Egypt, of casting stones at the statues of the emperor, he had occasioned his being thrown into prison; that he had deposed Callinicus, bishop of the Catholic church at Pelusium, and had debarred him from communion until he could remove certain suspicions concerning his having broken a sacred vase; that he had committed the bishopric of Pelusium to Mark, a deposed presbyter; and that he had placed Callinicus under the custody of soldiers, and had put him to the torture. Other calumnies were brought against him by Euplus, Pachomius, Isaac, Achillas, and Hermeon, bishops of John’s party. They all concurred in maintaining that he obtained the episcopal dignity by means of the perjury of certain individuals, it having been decreed that no one should receive ordination who could not clear himself of any crime laid to his charge. They further alleged, that having been deceived by him, they had separated themselves from communion with him, and that, so far from satisfying their scruples, he had treated them with violence, and thrown them into prison.

The accusers then proceeded to renew the calumny concerning Arsenius; and, as generally happens in plots of this nature, many of the reputed friends of the accused joined the ranks of his calumniators. A document was then read, containing complaints from the people of Alexandria, and purporting to convey a refusal to join the ecclesiastical assemblies. Athanasius having been urged to justify himself, presented himself repeatedly before the tribunal; successfully repelled some of the accusations, and requested permission to delay replying to the others. He was exceedingly perplexed when he reflected on the favour in which his accusers were held by his judges, on the number of witnesses belonging to the sects of Arius and Meletius who appeared against him, and on the indulgence that was manifested towards his accusers after their calumnies had been detected. As, for instance, when he was charged with having cut off the arm of Arsenius for purposes of sorcery, and with having seduced a certain female by bribery. Both these charges were proved to be false and absurd. When this female made the deposition before the bishops, Timothy, a presbyter of Alexandria, who stood by Athanasius, approached her according to a plan he had secretly concerted, and said to her, “Did I then, O woman, violate your chastity?” She replied, “But didst thou not?” and mentioned the place and attendant circumstances. He likewise led Arsenius into the midst of them, showed both his hands to the judges, and requested them to make the accusers account for the arm which they had exhibited. For it happened that Arsenius, either acting under divine inspiration, or grieved at hearing that Athanasius was accused of having slain him, escaped by night from the place of his concealment, and arrived at Tyre the day before trial. Both these accusations having been thus summarily dismissed, no mention of the first was made in the Acts of the Council; most probably, I think, because the whole affair was considered too indecorous and absurd for insertion. As to the second, the accusers strove to justify themselves by saying, that a bishop named Plusian had, at the command of Athanasius, burnt the house of Arsenius, fastened him to a column, and scourged him cruelly, and then imprisoned him in a cell. They further stated, that Arsenius escaped from the cell through a window, and remained for a time in concealment; that as he did not appear, they naturally supposed him to be dead; that the reputation he had acquired by his manly confession of the faith had endeared him to the bishops of John’s party, and that they sought for him, and applied on his behalf to the magistrates. Athanasius was filled with apprehension when he reflected on these subjects, and began to suspect that his enemies were secretly scheming to effect his ruin. After several sessions, when the synod was filled with tumult and confusion, and the accusers and a multitude of persons around the tribunal were crying aloud that Athanasius ought to be deposed as a sorcerer and a ruffian, and as being utterly unworthy the priesthood, the officers who had been appointed by the emperor to maintain order in the synod compelled the accused to quit the judgment hall secretly; for they feared that he might be torn to pieces by the mob. On finding that he could not remain in Tyre without peril of his life, and that there was no hope of obtaining justice against his numerous accusers from judges who were inimical to him, he fled to Constantinople. The synod condemned him during his absence, deposed him from the bishopric, and prohibited his residing at Alexandria, lest, they said, he should excite seditions and disturbances. John and all his adherents were restored to communion, as if they had been illegally excommunicated, and were reinstated in the clerical appointments of which they had been deprived. The bishops then gave an account of their proceedings to the emperor, and wrote to the bishops of all regions, enjoining them not to receive Athanasius into communion, and not to write to him nor receive letters from him, as they had convicted him in several instances, and had reason to believe, from the manner of his flight, that he was guilty of many crimes of which they had not taken public cognizance. They likewise declared in this epistle, that they had been obliged to pass such a condemnation upon him, because, when commanded by the emperor the preceding year to repair to the bishops of the East, who were assembled at Cæsarea, he disobeyed the injunction, kept the bishops waiting for him, and set at nought the commands of the emperor. They also deposed that when the bishops had assembled at Tyre, he went to that city, attended by a large retinue, for the purpose of exciting seditions and disturbances in the synod; that when there, he sometimes refused to reply to the charges preferred against him; sometimes insulted the bishops; and at other times would not defer to their decisions. They specified in the same letter, that he was manifestly guilty of having broken a vase used in the celebration of the sacred mysteries, and that this fact was attested by Theognis, bishop of Nicæa; by Maris, bishop of Chalcedonia; by Theodore, bishop of Heraclea; by Valentinus and Ursacius; and by Macedonius, who had been sent to the village in Egypt where the vase was said to have been broken, in order to ascertain the truth. Thus did the bishops detail successively each point of accusation against Athanasius, with the same art to which sophists resort when they desire to heighten the effect of their calumnies. Many of the clergy, however, who were present at the trial, perceived the injustice of the accusation. It is related that Paphnucius, the confessor, who had taken his place among the synod, arose, and took the hand of Maximus, the bishop of Jerusalem, to lead him away, as if those who had made a confession of the faith, and had been maimed and blinded for the sake of religion, ought not to remain in an assembly of wicked men.

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