Chapter XXVIII.—Letter from the Emperor Constantine to the Synod of Tyre, and Exile of St. Athanasius through the Machination of the Arian Faction.
Athanasius, after having fled from Tyre, repaired 1199 to Constantinople, and on coming to the emperor Constantine, complained of what he had suffered, in presence of the bishops who had condemned him, and besought him to permit the decrees of the council of Tyre to be submitted for examination before the emperor. Constantine regarded this request as reasonable, and wrote in the following terms to the bishops assembled at Tyre:—
“I know not what has been enacted in confusion and vehemence by your Synod; but it appears that, from some disturbing disorder, decrees which are not in conformity with truth have been enacted, and that your constant irritation of one another evidently prevented you from considering what is pleasing to God. But it will be the work of Divine Providence to scatter the evils which have been drawn out of this contentiousness, and to manifest to us clearly whether you have not been misled in your judgment by motives of private friendship or aversion. I therefore command that you all come here to my piety without delay, in order that we may receive an exact account of your transactions. I will explain to you the cause of my writing to you in this strain, and you will know from what follows, why I summon you before myself through this document. As I was returning on horseback to that city which bears my name, and which I regard as my much prospered country, Athanasius, the bishop, presented himself so unexpectedly in the middle of the highway, with certain individuals who accompanied him, that I felt exceedingly surprised at beholding him. God, who sees all things, is my witness, that at first I did not know who he was, but that some of my attendants having ascertained this point, and the injustice which he had suffered, gave me the necessary information. I did not on this occasion grant him an interview. He, however, persevered in requesting an audience; and although I refused him, and was on the point of commanding that he should be removed from my presence, he told me with more boldness, that he sought no other favor of me than that I should summon you hither, in order that he might in your presence complain of what he had suffered unnecessarily. As this request appears reasonable and timely, I deemed it right to address you in this strain, and to command all of you who were convened at the Synod of Tyre to hasten to the court of our clemency, so that you may demonstrate by your works, the purity and inflexibility of your decisions before me, whom you cannot refuse to acknowledge as a genuine servant of God. By my zeal in His service, peace has been established throughout the world, and the name of God is genuinely praised among the barbarians, who till now were in ignorance of the truth; and it is evident that whoever is ignorant of the truth knows not God. Notwithstanding, as is above stated, the barbarians have, through my instrumentality, learnt to know genuinely and to worship God; for they perceived that everywhere, and on all occasions, his protection rested on me; and they reverence God the more deeply because they fear my power. But we who have to announce the mysteries of forbearance (for I will not say that we keep them), we, I say, ought not to do anything that can tend to dissension or hatred, or, to speak plainly, to the destruction of the human race. Come, then, to us, as I have said, with all diligence, and be assured that I shall do everything in my power to preserve all the particularly infallible parts of the law of God in a way that no fault or heterodoxy can be fabrip. 279 cated; while those enemies of the law who, under the guise of the Holy Name, endeavor to introduce variant and differing blasphemies, have been openly scattered, utterly crushed, and wholly suppressed.”
This letter of the emperor so excited the fears of some of the bishops that they set off on their journey homewards. But Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, and his partisans, went to the emperor, and represented that the Synod of Tyre had enacted no decrees against Athanasius but what were founded on justice. They brought forward as witnesses Theognis, Maris, Theodore, Valens, and Ursacius, and deposed that he had broken the mystical cup, and after uttering many other calumnies, they prevailed with their accusations. The emperor, either believing their statements to be true, or imagining that unanimity would be restored among the bishops if Athanasius were removed, exiled him to Treves, in Western Gaul; and thither, therefore, he was conducted.
This letter is given in Athan. Apol. cont. Arian. 86; Soc. i. 33–35.