Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Acacius, bp. of Caesarea

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Acacius (2), bp. of Caesarea, from a personal defect known as ὁ μονόφθαλμος, the pupil and biographer of Eusebius the church historian. He succeeded his master as bishop, A.D. 340 (Socr. H. E. ii. 4; Soz. H. E. iii. 2). He is chiefly known to us as the bitter and uncompromising adversary of Cyril of Jerusalem, and as the leader of an intriguing band of ambitious prelates. The events of his life show Acacius to have been a man of great intellectual ability but unscrupulous. After the death of Eusebius of Nicomedia, c. 342, he became the head of the courtly Arian party, and is thought by some to be the person styled by Greg. Naz. (Orat. xxi. 21) "the tongue of the Arians," George of Cappadocia being "the hand." He assisted in consecrating Cyril, A.D. 351, and in accordance with the 7th Nicene Canon claimed a right of priority for the metropolitical see of Caesarea over that of Jerusalem. This Cyril refused to yield. Acacius, supported by the Palestinian bishops, deposed Cyril on frivolous grounds, and expelled him from Jerusalem, A.D. 358. [Cyril of Jerusalem.] (Soz. iv. 25; Theod. ii. 26.)

Acacius attended the council of Antioch, A.D. 341 (Soz. iii. 5), when in the presence of the emperor Constantius "the Golden Basilica" was dedicated by a band of ninety bishops, and he subscribed the ambiguous creeds then drawn up from which the term Homoousion and all mention of "substance" were carefully excluded. With other bishops of the Eusebian party he was deposed at the council of Sardica, A.D. 347. They refused to submit to the sentence, and withdrew to Philippopolis, where they held a council of their own, deposing their deposers, including Pope Julius and Hosius of Cordova (Theod. ii. 26; Socr. ii. 16; Soz. iii. 14; Labb. Conc. ii. 625–699) According to Jerome (Vir. Ill. 98), his influence with the emperor Constantius was considerable enough to nominate Felix (the antipope) to the see of Rome at the fall of Liberius, A.D. 357. Acacius took a leading place among the intriguing prelates, who succeeded in splitting into two the oecumenical council which Constantius had proposed to summon, and thus nullifying its authority. While the Western bishops were assembling at Rimini, A.D. 359, he and his brethren of the East gathered at Seleucia, where he headed a turbulent party, called after him Acacians. After the majority had confirmed the semi-Arian creed of Antioch ("Creed of the Dedication"), Acacius brought forward a Confession (preserved by Athanasius, de Synod, § 29; Socr. ii. 40; Soz. iv. 22) rejecting the terms Homoousion and Homoiousion "as alien from Scripture," and anathematizing the term "Anomoeon," but distinctly confessing the "likeness" of the Son to the Father. This formula the semi-Arian majority rejected, and becoming exasperated by the disingenuousness of Acacius, who interpreted the "likeness of the Son to the Father" as "likeness in will alone," ὅμοιον κατὰ τὴν βούλησιν μόνον, and refused to be judged by his own published writings (Socr. and Soz. l.c.), they proceeded to depose him and his adherents. Acacius and the other deposed prelates flew to Constantinople and laid their complaints before the emperor. The adroit Acacius soon gained the ear of the weak Constantius, and finding that the favour he had shown to the bold blasphemies of Aetius had to some degree compromised him with his royal patron, he had no scruple in throwing over his former friend. A new council was speedily called at Constantinople, of which Acacius was the soul (Philostorg. iv. 12). Mainly through his intrigues the Council was brought to accept the Confession of Rimini, by which, in Jerome's strong words, "the whole world groaned and wondered to find itself Arian" (Dial. adv. Luc. 19). To complete their triumph, he and Eudoxius of Antioch, then bp. of Constantinople, put forth their whole influence to bring the edicts of the Nicene council, and all mention of the Homoousion, into disuse and oblivion (Soz. iv. 26). On his return to the East in 361 Acacius and his party consecrated new bishops to the vacant sees, Meletius being placed in the see of Antioch. When the imperial throne was filled by the orthodox Jovian, Acacius with his friends found it convenient to change their views, and in 363 they voluntarily accepted the Nicene Symbol (Socr. iii. 25). On the accession of the Arian Valens in 364 Acacius once more went over to the more powerful side, making common cause with the Arian Eudoxius (Socr. iv. 2). But he found no favour with the council of Macedonian bishops at Lampsacus, and his deposition at Seleucia was confirmed. According to Baronius, he died A.D. 366.

Acacius enriched with parchments the library at Caesarea founded by Pamphilus (Hieron. Ep. ad. Marcellam, 141). He wrote on Ecclesiastes, six books of σύμμικτα ζητήματα and other treatises; a considerable fragment of his Ἀντιλογία against Marcellus of Ancyra is preserved by Epiphanius (Haer. 72, 6–9). His Life of Eusebius Pamphili has unhappily perished. See Fabricius, B. G. vii. p. 336, ix. pp. 254, 256 (ed. Harless); Tillemont, Mem. eccl. vi. (passim); Rivington (Luke), Dublin Review, 1894, i. 358–380; Hefele, Konz. Gesch. Bd. i.

[E.V.]