Ossius (Hosius) of Cordova (c. 256 – c. 357) led a remarkably long career in the early Christian church. His episcopate in Cordova, Spain began around 295 and lasted for over sixty years. He gained experience in the imperial court through his service as the ecclesiastical advisor to Constantine from about 313 until after the council of Nicaea. Fighting against Arianism, Ossius played prominent roles in such councils as Antioch (325), Nicaea (325) and Serdica (343). It is believed that he presided over all three of these councils. After Serdica, he spent the next several years serving in his home see relatively uninterrupted, though he always remained a strong supporter of the Nicene creed.
Around 357 however, Ossius started to find himself facing pressure from the Arians following the banishment of Pope Liberius. The Emperor Constantius summoned the bishop to the council of Sirmium (357) and he was coerced into subscribing to the Anomoean creed. When he finally agreed, this sparked negative reactions in the West, such as from Hilary, Phoebadius and the Luciferians. In defense of the bishop, Ossius was about one hundred years old at this point, and it should come as no surprise that he would succumb to the pressures under which he had been placed. Following Sirmium, Ossius returned to Spain and is believed to have died shortly thereafter.
Despite his long career, few of Ossius’ writings are known. Two works attributed to him by Isidore of Seville, De laude virginitatis and De interpretatione vestium sacerdotalium, are no longer extant. The following table lists his surviving works, and the documents marked with asterisks are spurious. The links provide more information on each of the documents.
The Writings of Ossius of Cordova
|343||Synodical Letter to Pope Julius||538|
|343||Canons of the Council of Serdica||539|
|343||Letter of Ossius and Protogenes to Pope Julius||539a|
|c. 536||Letter to Emperor Constantius||537|
|*Doctrines of Bishop Ossius on the observations of the Lord’s disciples||540|
|*Words of Leonis||540a|
Chadwick, Henry. “Ossius of Cordova and the Presidency of the Council of Antioch, 325.” JTS 9 (1958): 259-304.
De Clercq, Victor C. Ossius of Cordova: A Contribution to the History of the Constantinian Period. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1954.
Hess, Hamilton. The Early Development of Canon Law and the Council of Serdica. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Simonetti, M. “Ossius.” In Encyclopedia of the Early Church. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 626.
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Last updated: 2-29-2012
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