The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Arius

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The American Cyclopædia
Arius
Edition of 1879. See also Arius on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

ARIUS, the founder of Arianism, according to some a Libyan, according to others a native of Alexandria, died in 336. He joined the Meletians in Alexandria, but left them, and in 306 was ordained a deacon by Bishop Peter of Alexandria. He afterward returned to the Meletians and was excommunicated, but was readmitted to the church by Achillas, successor of Peter, and ordained priest. After the death of Achillas, Arius came near being elected bishop of Alexandria; but Alexander was preferred to him. According to the Arian historian Philostorgius, Arius himself brought about the election of Alexander. It is reported that for several years Alexander held Arius in high esteem, and that the most perfect agreement existed between them. The great controversy with which their names are connected began when Alexander made an address to his clergy in which he spoke of the Trinity as consisting of a single essence. Arius exclaimed against this, affirmed the distinct personality of the Father and the Son, and accused Alexander of Sabellianism. Alexander demanded from Arius a recantation; but the latter not only refused this, but sent a written confession of faith to several bishops, requesting, in case they agreed with him, their intercession with Alexander in his behalf. A number of prominent bishops responded favorably; among them were Eusebius of Cæsarea, the church historian, and Eusebius of Nicomedia, who as bishop of the imperial residence had a great influence over Constantine and his sister Constantia. Alexander therefore convened a synod at Alexandria in 320 (or according to some authorities in 321), which was attended by about 100 bishops from Egypt and Libya, at which Arius and his adherents were “expelled from the church which adores the divinity of Christ.” As Arius nevertheless continued to teach and to hold divine service, Alexander addressed circular letters to the bishops, in which he asked them not to admit the Arians to the communion of the church, and not to believe Eusebius of Nicomedia and “people of that class.” Expelled from Alexandria, Arius went to Palestine, whence he addressed a defence of his doctrine to Eusebius of Nicomedia. Invited to Nicomedia, he wrote thence a letter to Alexander, endeavoring in language as conciliatory as possible to prove his views to be those of the fathers of the church. Here he also wrote his most important work, the Thalia (“Banquet”), fragments of which are extant in the writings of Athanasius, and composed several songs designed to make known his principles among the people. A synod held in Bithynia about 323 allowed Arius to hold divine service, and interceded in his behalf with the bishop of Alexandria. The division in the church had now become so great that Constantine was induced to convoke the œcumenical council of Nice in 325, to put an end to the controversy. Arius was present at the council, in which the young deacon Athanasius of Alexandria distinguished himself as the foremost opponent of the Arian views. The council decreed the Son to be consubstantial (ὁμοούσιος) with the Father, deposed and condemned Arius, ordered his writings to be burned, and made it a capital offence to own them. The emperor banished Arius to Illyria, and soon the bishops Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis of Nice shared the same fate for refusing submission to the decrees of the council. After a time, however, Constantine was induced by his sister and many in his court, who were in sympathy with Arius, to recall and hear him. This was the beginning of new and violent conflicts. In Alexandria the Arians entered into negotiations concerning a union with the Meletians. A synod at Tyre in 335 deposed Athanasius, who was then banished by the emperor to Treves. In 336 Constantine undertook to enforce the recognition of Arius in Constantinople; but on the day fixed for the recognition Arius fell dead in the street. Some of his friends ascribed his death to poison, some of his opponents to the efficacious prayer of the orthodox bishop of Constantinople. (See Arianism.)