3.16.1 “The wicked could do nothing against your bishop, brothers—believe you me. They had no other aim than to waste our time, leaving themselves no opportunity for repentance in this life. I urge you, therefore, to help yourselves, to love each other in your holy affection with all your strength, and to receive your bishop, Athanasius, with infinite joy, beloved.

3.16.2 I know very well that his departure has not caused you as much grief as your surpassing joy at his return to you.

3.16.3 Drive out those who wish to destroy our gracious unity, and love each other as you look toward God, I urge you. For I gladly received your bishop, Athanasius, and addressed him, confident that he is a man of God. May God preserve you, dear brothers.”

3.16.4 The great Athanasius came to Alexandria with this letter from the emperor. All the clergy and laity gladly received him, seeing that their shepherd had returned to his sheep with great honor. They all glorified God and celebrated the all-excellent Emperor Constantine with shouts of praise.

3.16.5 This brought unspeakable joy to those on our side but grief and endless shame to the enemies and those who waged war against the Son of God.

3.16.6 Nevertheless, the followers of Eusebius of Nicomedia, especially, cast off all modesty, “making a show of piety, but denying its power” [2 Timothy 3:5]. Though they ought to have plunged into the earth, they instead wrapped themselves in excessive shamelessness and turned their impractical skill in wicked business against another bulwark of piety.

3.16.7 Eusebius of Nicomedia was the father and most prominent leader of all these evil plans, for he was extremely skilled in the ways of evil, just like his father the devil. He held the reins not of the church of God but of the ungodly band of Arians. Delaying in Constantinople and consulting rather often with the emperor through the Arian priest, he grew increasingly forthright with him and found an inroad for his fraud in the emperor’s simplicity. Thus he easily wove his webs against the champions of truth.

3.16.8 Mistakenly hoping for success in his evil plan against great Athanasius, he concocted an apparently harmless way to attack godly Eustathius, the head of the church of Antioch. He approached the benevolent Emperor Constantine, ostensibly friendly and joyful at what he had accomplished, seeking permission to travel to Jerusalem to see the holy houses of God he had built there. He beguiled the David-like soul of the emperor with these deceptive words and departed from Constantinople with great honor, for the emperor had provided him with carriages and all other luxuries.

3.16.9 Theognis of Nicaea departed with him as his accomplice in his wicked and godless plans, as we said before.

3.16.10 When they arrived and entered Antioch, they put on a mask of friendship, as Theodoret says—though he omits much of what happened in his writing, composing his history with very few details. But we have consulted the writers prior to him who carefully recorded everything in order and sequence and have thus determined the succession of events. For, as I have said before, we are here organizing their works together by picking out excerpts from one or another.

3.16.11 But let us return to the present topic. When the guilty men reached Antioch, great Eustathius, the head of the church there, received them with great spiritual joy. He had heard of their feigned repentance as if it were genuine and rejoiced over them. Great Eustathius welcomed them kindly due to pious devotion to Christ and saw fit to treat them generously.

3.16.12 Afterwards, they set out from Antioch and visited the holy sites of Jerusalem. There they saw some like-minded people, from whom they received more than a little encouragement for the plot they had sewed up against the champion of truth.

3.16.13 They did not meet Eusebius of Caesarea Palestinae, as Theodoret apparently falsely accuses the man by writing lies about him. All our holy fathers remember him as an exemplar of the orthodox faith and celebrate the success of his efforts and struggles for the holy consubstantial Trinity in the council at Nicaea.

3.16.14 Just as they remember godly Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem, the great Eustathius, Alexander of Alexandria, Leontius of Caesarea Cappadocia, Eupsychius of Tyana, Protogenes of Sardica, and, above all, Hosius of Cordova, Athanasius of Alexandria, and Alexander of Constantinople, and all the rest who contended for apostolic doctrine in that sacred holy council, they also remember the admirable Eusebius Pamphili, bishop of Caesarea Palestinae.

3.16.15 But the followers of Eusebius of Nicomedia did not meet with him. They rather met with like-minded men—Patrophilus of Scythopolis, Aetius of Lydda, Theodotus of Laodicea, and whichever other participants in the impiety of Arius they found. They mingled with them, informed them of the mischief they had concocted against holy Eustathius, left Jerusalem with them, and arrived at Antioch together.

3.16.16 The supposed purpose for their visit was a dignified funeral procession, but their actual aim was war against piety towards Christ. They had hired a prostitute for an aureus and persuaded her to testify for them for an hour. Having called a meeting with great Eustathius and the holy bishops with him, those who had contrived the plan against the high priest then ordered everyone else to get out and asked that the unfortunate woman be brought into the meeting as quickly as possible.

3.16.17 The accomplices to their lawless act brought the woman to the center. She held an infant at her breast. Pointing to it, she claimed that she had conceived and given birth through sexual intercourse with Eustathius. She firmly and loudly persisted in this testimony. Great Eustathius, having recognized the clear slander, ordered her to bring to the center whatever witness she had of this charge.

3.16.18 When she admitted that she had none, those who had planned the false accusation proposed that the prostitute take an oath, though the holy apostolic canon commands that an accusation against a priest is not to be allowed except with two or three witnesses.1

3.16.19 But these men, despising divine law and disregarding God’s judgment against slanderers, like condemned judges, spun and accepted a baseless accusation against such a great man through a prostitute. When the unfortunate woman added an oath (which they themselves had compelled her to do), exclaiming that the infant was Eustathius’s, they utterly disgracefully cast their vote as if against an adulterer.

3.16.20 Some of the other high priests (there were many with great Eustathius who fought for apostolic doctrine), unaware of all the intrigues, openly opposed those lawbreakers and kept Bishop Eustathius from accepting that unjust vote. The architects of the plot hurried with all speed to the emperor and persuaded him that they had found the allegations to be true in their investigation and that the vote for deposition was just. So they caused the champion of piety and prudence to be driven out from the holy walls as an adulterer and a tyrant and to be taken into exile in a city in Illyricum, beyond Thrace.

3.16.21 Eusebius of Nicomedia, the enemy of apostolic doctrine, however, who knew how to make a show of his slander against the preachers of the true faith, stayed with Theognis in Constantinople. They had left in Antioch participants in their depravity, who ordained Eulalius in place of godly Eustathius.

3.16.22 Because he lived for only a brief period after that, they next promoted a certain Euphronius. But he too died very quickly (he lived only a year and some months after his ordination), so they had the authority over that church given to Flacitus.

3.16.23 All these men uniformly held to the godlessness of Arius in secret, for which reason all who laid claim to the true pious faith, whether clergy or laity, left the church meetings and gathered with each other. Everyone called them Eustathians, for they united after his banishment.

3.16.24 Moreover, that unfortunate woman not long thereafter fell victim to severe and prolonged illness. She revealed the plot and laid bare the false accusation after she had summoned not two or three but many of the priests and explained to them the intrigues of the strange group of wicked men. She confessed that she had started that false accusation for money, but she held that her oath was not entirely false. She explained that the infant was fathered by a certain blacksmith named Eustathius.

3.16.25 This illustrates the audacity exhibited in Antioch at that time by wicked Eusebius and his followers. But even then, the wicked were not ashamed, nor had they had their fill of false accusations against champions of truth. Instead, aware that their charges against great Eustathius had met with success, they sewed up another plot against godly Athanasius of a sort which none of the evilest people had ever dared.

3.16.26 They again hired certain accusers from the same faction of Melitius, whom they brought to the emperor to complain against Athanasius, that champion of virtue, that he had undertaken many shameful impious acts. The masterminds of this plan were Eusebius, Theognis, and Theodore of Heraclea in Thrace. They said his actions were unacceptable and no one could bear to hear them.

3.16.27 They therefore persuaded the emperor to convene a council in Syrian Antioch, where the enemies had the majority, and to judge Athanasius there. Obliging them as priests (for he was entirely unaware of their intrigues), the emperor did as they asked.

3.16.28 But the champion of truth, great Athanasius, knew of the hostility of the aforementioned wicked men, so he did not come to the council. Now gaining from this a greater pretext for false accusation, they once for all commenced the war against truth. In writing they accused him before the emperor of tyranny and contempt.

3.16.29 This roused the gentle emperor to anger against Athanasius. So he wrote to him with a hint of anger, urging him to travel to Tyre. He had commanded that the council be moved there, for he suspected that Athanasius was apprehensive of Antioch because many in the East had accepted the stain of Arius. He wrote also to the council as one distinguished in piety must write:2


Next Chapter – 3.17 Emperor Constantine’s letter to the synod which had gathered together at Tyre

Previous Chapter – 3.15 The most God-loving Emperor Constantine’s letter to Alexander the bishop of Alexandria

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Created by RR 6-20-22

  1. Cf. 1 Timothy 5:19.
  2. The following letter is also preserved in Eusebius, Vita Const. 4.42; Theodoret 1.29.1-6.

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