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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The empire from Constantine the Great to Justinian

Arianism and the Council of Nicaea


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Arius advanced the idea that the Son of God was a created being. This idea formed the basis of the Arian heresy. Beyond the boundaries of Egypt, Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, and Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, sided with Arius. Feeling ran high. Arius, in spite of the efforts of his adherents, was refused communion by Alexander, bishop of Alexandria. Local efforts to pacify the disturbances in the church did not succeed.  

Constantine, who had just defeated Licinius and had become sole Emperor, arrived in 324 at Nicomedia, where he received numerous complaints from both the opponents and the adherents of Arius. Desiring above all to maintain religious peace in the Empire and not realizing the full significance of the dogmatic dispute, the Emperor sent a letter to Bishop Alexander and Arius, urging them to come to an agreement. He pointed out as an example the philosophers, who had their disputes yet lived in peace. He also indicated in his letter that it should not be difficult for them to come to an agreement, since both of them believed in Divine Providence and Jesus Christ. Restore me then my quiet days, and untroubled nights, that the joy of undimmed light, the delight of a tranquil life, may henceforth be my portion, Constantine wrote in his letter.  

This letter was delivered to Alexandria by Bishop Hosius (Osius) of Cordova (Spain), whom Constantine held in great esteem. He delivered the letter, investigated the matter thoroughly, and explained to the Emperor on his return the full significance of the Arian movement. It was only then that Constantine decided to call a council.  

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