Council of Arles: Introductory Essay Constantine’s letter Letter to Sylvester Canons of Arles
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Incipit: ἤδη μὲν πρότερον
Date: 314
Ancient source: Eusebius, Church History, 10.5.21-24
Modern edition used: G. Bardy, Eusebe de Casaree: Histoire ecclesiastique, vol. 3, Sources chretiennes 55. (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1958)

(21) Constantine Augustus to Chrestus, bishop of Syracuse.

When certain men began wickedly and perversely to disagree among themselves in regard to the holy worship and celestial power and catholic doctrine [a reference to the Donatist schism], I wished to put an end to such disputes among them. So I commanded that certain bishops should be sent from Gaul, and that the opposing parties who were contending persistently and incessantly with each other should be summoned from Africa. In this way the matter which appeared to be causing the disturbance might be examined and decided with all care in their presence, and in the presence of the bishop of Rome [this was the Council of Rome in 313].

(22) But some of them, who seem to have forgotten both of their own salvation and of the reverence due to the most holy religion, have not yet brought the hostilities to an end. They are unwilling to conform to the judgment already passed [at Rome in 313], and assert that not enough bishops were present to express their opinions and decisions. They assert that those [present at Rome] had been too hasty in giving judgment, before all the things which ought to have been accurately investigated had been examined. On this account it has happened that those very ones who ought to hold brotherly and harmonious relations toward each other are shamefully, or rather abominably, divided among themselves, and give occasion to be ridiculed by those men whose souls are estranged from this most holy religion. Therefore it has seemed necessary to me to provide that this dissension, which ought to have ceased after the judgment had been already given by their own voluntary agreement, should now, if possible, be brought to an end by the presence of a great number of bishops.

(23) Since, therefore, we have commanded a number of bishops from a great many different places to assemble in the city of Arles, before the 1st of August, we have thought proper to write to you also. You should secure from the most illustrious Latronianus, corrector of Sicily, a public vehicle, and you should choose two others of the second rank and take them with you. You should bring along three servants who may serve you on the way, and arrive to the above-mentioned place before the appointed day. It is disgraceful that shameful feuds have allowed this dispute to continue until the present time. Hopefully it can be resolved when all sides have been heard from, both those who are now at variance with one another, and those whom I have commanded to be present. By your firmness and the wise unanimity and harmony of other present, this division can be healed, in accordance with the faith, so that brotherly harmony may be restored, even if gradually.

(24) May the Almighty God preserve thee in health for many years.

Translation adapted from NPNF2, vol. 1, pp. 381-82 by AJW

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