Arius was a Libyan whose name is now used to refer to the fourth-century controversy over Christ’s divine sonship, the “Arian Controversy.” He seems to have studied under Lucian of Antioch. He eventually became an Alexandrian priest over the Baucalis region. He was excommunicated by the Bishop of Alexandria, Alexander, when a dispute erupted over the nature of Christ’s relationship with the Father (c. A.D. 318). Arius was condemned by an African council around 318 (the decision of which was later re-examined and confirmed at another Alexandrian council c. 323), and so he fled to Palestine with his followers. The supporters of Arius and of Alexander soon released a flurry of letters, both to inform and convince a wider audience, and soon the entire church of the eastern empire was informed and taking sides.

Arius was condemned at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and banished to Illyricum. But Constantine soon invited Arius to be reconciled to the church, and the emperor ordered the Alexandrians to be reconciled with him. But the Alexandrian leaders refused. The exact chronology is not certain, but we know that Arius wandered around and was eventually judged orthodox by a synod in Palestine. At some point, he wrote a letter which really angered Constantine, leading Constantine to order all Arius’ books burned. That may have been before or after his banishment. Athanasius continued refusing to admit Arius to communion. Eventually Constantine decided to admit Arius into communion in Constantinople, but suddenly Arius died the night before his re-admission in 336 (see Athanasius’ startling account in his Letter to Serapion concerning the death of Arius). But by the time of his death, Arius was only a minor figure in the “Arian” controversy, and others had taken leading roles, perpetuating and magnifying the controversy for generations to come.

This chart lists any letters to or from Arius, or letters which would have impacted him, and his Thalia.

Date Description CPG
c. 318 Arius to Eusebius of Nicomedia 2025
c. 318 Fragment of a letter from Eusebius of Nicomedia to Arius 2046
c. 320 Arius and other Alexandrian clergy to Alexander of Alexandria pleading his cause 2026
c. 321/2 Summary of letter of a council in Palestine reinstating Arius
c. 322 Priest George to the Arians in Alexandria defending Alexander 3556
Oct. 324 Emperor Constantine to Alexander of Alexandria and Arius 2020
27 Nov. 327 Emperor Constantine to Arius 2040
End of 327 Arius and Euzoius to the Emperor Constantine 2027
333 Imperial edict against Arius and his followers 2041
333 Emperor Constantine to Arius and his followers 2042
? Thalia – Arius’ poem about the relationship between the Father and the Son 2028

Related pages:

Map of the earliest supporters of Arius

Documents of the Early Arian Controversy

Created by AJW

Last updated: 5-10-2012

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