Chapter III.—Athanasius, encouraged by the Letter of Constantine the Younger, returns to Alexandria.
Constantine Cæsar to the members of the Catholic Church of the Alexandrians.
It cannot, I conceive, have escaped the knowledge of your devout minds, that Athanasius, the expositor of the venerated law, was sent for a while unto the Gauls, lest he should sustain some irreparable injury from the perverseness of his blood-thirsty adversaries, whose ferocity continually endangered his sacred life. To evade this [perverseness], therefore, he was taken from the jaws of the men who threatened him into a city under my jurisdiction, where, as long as it was his appointed residence, he has been abundantly supplied with every necessity: although his distinguished virtue trusting in divine aid would have made light of the pressure of a more rigorous fortune. And since our sovereign, my father, Constantine Augustus of blessed memory, was prevented by death from accomplishing his purpose of restoring this bishop to his see, and to your most sanctified piety, I have deemed it proper to carry his wishes into effect, having inherited the task from him. With how great veneration he has been regarded by us, ye will learn on his arrival among you; nor need any one be surprised at the honor I have put upon him, since I have been alike influenced by a sense of what was due to so excellent a personage, and the knowledge of your affectionate solicitude respecting him. May Divine Providence preserve you, beloved brethren.
Relying on this letter, Athanasius came to Alexandria, and was most joyfully received by the people of the city. Nevertheless as many in it as had embraced Arianism, combining together, entered into conspiracies against him, by which frequent seditions were excited, affording a pretext to the Eusebians for accusing him to the emperor of having taken possession of the Alexandrian church on his own responsibility, in spite of the adverse judgment of a general council of bishops. So far indeed did they succeed in pressing their charges, that the emperor became exasperated, and banished him from Alexandria. How indeed this came about I shall hereafter explain.