Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume II/Sozomen/Book III/Chapter 15
Chapter XV.—Didymus the Blind, and Aëtius the Heretic.
an ecclesiastical writer and president of the school of sacred learning
in Alexandria, flourished about the same period. He was acquainted with
every branch of science, and was conversant with poetry and rhetoric,
with astronomy and geometry, with arithmetic, and with the various
theories of philosophy. He had acquired all this knowledge by the
efforts of his own mind, aided by the sense of hearing, for he became
blind during his first attempt at learning the rudiments. When he had
advanced to youth, he manifested an ardent desire to acquire speech and
training, and for this purpose he frequented the teachers of these
branches, but learned by hearing only, where he made such rapid
progress that he speedily comprehended the difficult theorems in
mathematics. It is said that he learned the letters of the alphabet by
means of tablets in which they were engraved, and which he felt with
his fingers; and that he made himself acquainted with syllables and
words by the force of attention and memory, and by listening
attentively to the sounds. His was a very extraordinary case, and many
persons resorted to Alexandria for the express purpose of hearing, or,
at least, of seeing him. His firmness in defending the doctrines of the
Nicæan council was extremely
displeasing to the Arians. He easily carried conviction to the minds of
his audience by persuasion rather than by power of reasoning, and he
constituted each one a judge of the ambiguous points. He was much
sought after by the members of the Catholic Church, and was praised by
the orders of monks in Egypt, and by Antony the Great.
It is related that when Antony left the desert and repaired to Alexandria to give his testimony in favor of the doctrines of Athanasius, he said to Didymus, “It is not a severe thing, nor does it deserve to be grieved over, O Didymus, that you are deprived of the organs of sight which are possessed by rats, mice, and the lowest animals; but it is a great blessing to possess eyes like angels, whereby you can contemplate keenly the Divine Being, and see accurately the true knowledge.” In Italy and its territories, Eusebius and Hilary, whom I have already mentioned, were conspicuous for strength in the use of their native tongue, whose treatises
concerning the faith and against the heterodox, they say, were approvingly circulated. Lucifer, as the story goes, was the founder of a heresy which bears his name,
and flourished at this period. Aëtius
was likewise held in high estimation among the heterodox; he was a
dialectician, apt in syllogism and proficient in disputation, and a
diligent student of such forms, but without art. He reasoned so boldly
concerning the nature of God, that many persons gave him the name of
“Atheist.” It is said that he was originally a physician of
Antioch in Syria, and that, as he frequently attended meetings of the
churches, and thought over the Sacred Scriptures, he became acquainted
with Gallus, who was then Cæsar, and who honored religion much and
cherished its professors. It seems likely that, as Aëtius obtained
the esteem of Cæsar by means of these disputations, he devoted
himself the more assiduously to these pursuits, in order to progress in
the favor of the emperor. It is said that he was versed in the
philosophy of Aristotle, and frequented the schools in which it was
taught at Alexandria.
Besides the individuals above specified, there were many others in the churches who were capable of instructing the people and of reasoning concerning the doctrines of the Holy Scriptures. It would be too great a task to attempt to name them all. Let it not be accounted strange, if I have bestowed commendations upon the leaders or enthusiasts of the above-mentioned heresies. I admire their eloquence, and their impressiveness in discourse. I leave their doctrines to be judged by those whose right it is. For I have not been set forth to record such matters, nor is it befitting in history; I have only to give an account of events as they happened, not supplementing my own additions. Of those who at that time became most distinguished in education and discourse and who used the Roman and Greek languages, I have enumerated in the above narrative as many as I have received an account of.
- Ruf. H. E. ii. 7; i. 30, 31; Soc. iv. 25; iii. 10; ii. 35; Hieron. de vir. illust. c. cix.
- He alludes to the treatises of Hilary against the Arians and Auxentius, and against Constantius.
- That, namely, of the Luciferians. Cf. Soc. iii. 9.
- Cf. Soc. ii. 35; Philost. iii. 15–20; supplementa from Phot. cod. 40; fragmenta from Suidas, s.v.