Chapter XXVII.—Arius having returned to Alexandria with the Emperors Consent, and not being received by Athanasius, the Partisans of Eusebius bring Many Charges against Athanasius before the Emperor.
Arius having thus satisfied the emperor, returned to Alexandria. But his artifice for suppressing the truth did not succeed; for on his arrival at Alexandria, as Athanasius would not receive him, but turned away from him as a pest, he attempted to excite a fresh commotion in that city by disseminating his heresy. Then indeed both Eusebius himself wrote, and prevailed on the emperor also to write, in order that Arius and his partisans might be readmitted into the church. Athanasius nevertheless wholly refused to receive them, and wrote to inform the emperor in reply, that it was impossible for those who had once rejected the faith, and had been anathematized, to be again received into communion on their return. But the emperor, provoked at this answer, menaced Athanasius in these terms:
Since you have been apprised of my will, afford unhindered access into the church to all those who are desirous of entering it. For if it shall be intimated to me that you have prohibited any of those claiming to be reunited to the church, or have hindered their admission, I will forthwith send some one who at my command shall depose you, and drive you into exile.
The emperor wrote thus from a desire of promoting the public good, and because he did not wish to see the church ruptured; for he labored earnestly to bring them all into harmony. Then indeed the partisans of Eusebius, ill-disposed towards Athanasius, imagining they had found a seasonable opportunity, welcomed the emperors displeasure as an auxiliary to their own purpose: and on this account they raised a great disturbance, endeavoring to eject him from his bishopric; for they entertained the hope that the Arian doctrine would prevail only upon the removal of Athanasius. The chief conspirators against him were Eusebius bishop of Nicomedia, Theognis of Nicæa, Maris of Chalcedon, Ursacius of Singidnum in Upper Mœsia, and Valens of Mursa in Upper Pannonia. These persons suborn by bribes certain of the Melitian heresy to fabricate various charges against Athanasius; and first they accuse him through the Melitians Ision, Eudæmon and Callinicus, of having ordered the Egyptians to pay a linen garment as tribute to the church at Alexandria. But this calumny was immediately disproved by Alypius and Macarius, presbyters of the Alexandrian church, who then happened to be at Nicomedia; they having convinced the emperor that these statements to the prejudice of Athanasius were false. Wherefore the emperor by letter severely censured his accusers, but urged Athanasius to come to him. But before he came the Eusebian faction anticipating his arrival, added to their former accusation the charge of another crime of a still more serious nature than the former; charging Athanasius with plotting against his sovereign, and with having sent for treasonable purposes a chest full of gold to one Philumenus. When, however, the emperor had himself investigated this matter at Psamathia, which is in the suburbs of Nicomedia, and had found Athanasius innocent, he dismissed him with honor; and wrote with his own hand to the church at Alexandria to assure them that their bishop had been falsely accused. It would indeed have been both proper and desirable to have passed over in silence the subsequent attacks which the Eusebians made upon Athanasius, lest from these circumstances the Church of Christ should be judged unfavorably of by those who are adverse to its interests. 240 But since having been already committed to writing, they have become known to everybody, I have on that account deemed it necessary to make as cursory allusion to these things as possible, the particulars of which would require a special treatise. Whence the slanderous accusation originated, and the character of those who devised it, I shall now therefore state in brief. Mareotes 241 is a district of Alexandria; there are contained in it very many villages, and an abundant population, with numerous splendid churches; these churches are all under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Alexandria, and are p. 30 subject to his city as parishes. 242 There was in this region a person named Ischyras, who had been guilty of an act deserving of many deaths; 243 for although he had never been admitted to holy orders, he had the audacity to assume the title of presbyter, and to exercise sacred functions belonging to the priesthood. But having been detected in his sacrilegious career, he made his escape thence and sought refuge in Nicomedia, where he implored the protection of the party of Eusebius; who from their hatred to Athanasius, not only received him as a presbyter, but even promised to confer upon him the dignity of the episcopacy, if he would frame an accusation against Athanasius, listening as a pretext for this to whatever stories Ischyras had invented. For he spread a report that he had suffered dreadfully in consequence of an assault; and that Macarius had rushed furiously toward the altar, had overturned the table, and broken a mystical cup: he added also that he had burnt the sacred books. As a reward for this accusation, the Eusebian faction, as I have said, promised him a bishopric; foreseeing that the charges against Macarius would involve, along with the accused party, Athanasius, under whose orders he would seem to have acted. But this charge they formulated later; before it they devised another full of the bitterest malignity, to which I shall now advert. Having by some means, I know not what, obtained a mans hand; whether they themselves had murdered any one, and cut off his hand, or had severed it from some dead body, God knows and the authors of the deed: but be that as it may, they publicly exposed it as the hand of Arsenius, a Melitian bishop, while they kept the alleged owner of it concealed. This hand, they asserted, had been made use of by Athanasius in the performance of certain magic arts; and therefore it was made the gravest ground of accusation which these calumniators had concerted against him: but as it generally happens, all those who entertained any pique against Athanasius came forward at the same time with a variety of other charges. When the emperor was informed of these proceedings, he wrote to his nephew Dalmatius the censor, who then had his residence at Antioch in Syria, directing him to order the accused parties to be brought before him, and after due investigation, to inflict punishment on such as might be convicted. He also sent thither Eusebius and Theognis, that the case might be tried in their presence. When Athanasius knew that he was to be summoned before the censor, he sent into Egypt to make a strict search after Arsenius; and he ascertained indeed that he was secreted there, but was unable to apprehend him, because he often changed his place of concealment. Meanwhile the emperor suppressed the trial which was to have been held before the censor, on the following account.
From the sentiments expressed here may be inferred the respect of the author for the church. His view on the suppression of facts which did not redound to the honor of the church does not show a very high ideal of history, but it bespeaks a laudable regard for the good name of Christianity.29:241
This description is probably dependent on Athanasius, who says in his Apologia contra Arianos, 85, Mareotes is a region of Alexandria. In that region there never was a bishop or a deputy bishop; but the churches of the whole region are subject to the bishop of Alexandria. Each of the presbyters has separate villages, which are numerous,—sometimes ten or more. Ischyras was probably a resident of one of the obscurest of these villages; and it can be seen that what is said of his doings here could easily come to pass.30:242
παροικία = later parochia; hence the derivatives.30:243
Another evidence of the authors reverence for the institutions of religion. For subsequent history of Ischyras, see II. 20.