Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Leontius, bp. of Antioch
Leontius (2), bp. of Antioch, a.d. 348–357: a Phrygian by birth (Theod. H. E. ii. 10), and, like many leading Arians, a disciple of the celebrated teacher Lucian (Philostorg. iii. 15). When the see of Antioch became vacant by the removal of Stephen, the emperor Constantius effected the appointment of Leontius, who strove to avoid giving offence to either Arians or orthodox. One of the current party tests was whether the doxology was used in our present form or in that which the Arians (ib. 113) maintained to be the more ancient, "Glory be to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Ghost." Those who watched Leontius could never make out more of his doxology than "world without end. Amen" (Theod. ii. 119). Among the orthodox of his flock were two ascetics, Flavian and Diodorus, who, though not yet advanced to the priesthood, had very great influence because of their holy lives. To them Theodoret ascribes the invention of the practice of dividing the choir into two and chanting the Psalms of David antiphonically, a use of the church of Antioch which legend soon attributed to its martyr-bishop Ignatius (Socr. vi 8). They assembled the devout at the tombs of the martyrs and spent the whole night in singing of hymns. Leontius could not forbid this popular devotion, but requested its leaders to hold their meetings in church, a request with which they complied. Leontius foresaw that on his death the conduct of affairs was likely to fall into less cautious hands, and, touching his white hairs predicted, "When this snow melts there will be much mud." The orthodox, however, complained that he shewed manifest bias in advancing unworthy Arians. In particular he incurred censure by his ordination to the diaconate of his former pupil Aetius, afterwards notorious as an extreme Arian leader. On the strong protest of Flavian and Diodorus Leontius suspended Aetius from ecclesiastical functions. Philostorgius (iii. 27) relates that Leontius subsequently saved the life of Aetius by clearing him from false charges made to the emperor Gallus. When Athanasius came to Antioch, he communicated not with Leontius and the dominant party, but with the ultra-orthodox minority called Eustathians, who had refused to recognize any other bishop while the deposed Eustathius was alive and who worshipped in private conventicles. Leontius accused Athanasius of cowardice in running away from his own church. The taunt stung Athanasius deeply. He wrote his Apologia de Fuga in reply to it, and always speaks bitterly of Leontius, seldom omitting the opprobrious epithet ὁ ἀπόκυπος. He even (de Fug. 26) accuses the aged bishop of criminality in his early relations with Eustolium. If there had been any proof of this, Leontius would have been deposed not for mutilation but for corrupting a church virgin; and if it had been believed at Antioch the respect paid him by orthodox members of his flock would be inconceivable. The censure of so great a man irretrievably damaged Leontius in the estimation of succeeding ages, and his mildness and moderation have caused him to be compared to one of those hidden reefs which are more dangerous to mariners than naked rocks. Yet we may charitably think that the gentleness and love of peace which all attest were not mere hypocrisy, and may impute his toleration of heretics to no worse cause than insufficient appreciation of the serious issues involved. The Paschal Chronicle, p. 503, quotes the authority of Leontius for its account of the martyrdom of Babylas. Leontius died at the end of 357 or beginning of 358. Athanasius, writing in 358, Hist. Ar., speaks of him as still living, but perhaps the news had not reached Athanasius.