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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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Page 3

The First Ecumenical Council was called together by imperial edicts in the Bithynian city, Nicaea. The exact number of people who came to this council is not known; the number of Nicaean Fathers is often estimated at 318. Most of them were eastern bishops. The aged bishop of Rome sent in his place two presbyters. Among the matters taken up by the council the most important was the Arian dispute. The Emperor presided at the council and sometimes even led the discussions.  

St. Athanasius the GreatThe acts of the Council of Nicaea have not been preserved. Some doubt that any written records of the proceedings were kept at all. Information about the council comes from the writings of those who participated in it as well as from the accounts of historians. The most enthusiastic and skillful opponent of Arius was the archdeacon of the Alexandrian church, Athanasius. After heated discussions the council condemned the heresy of Arius, and after introducing some corrections and additions, it adopted the Creed in which, contrary to the teachings of Arius, Jesus Christ was recognized as the Son of God, unbegotten, and consubstantial (of one essence) with His Father. The Nicene Creed was signed by many of the Arian bishops. The more persistent of them, including Arius himself, were subjected to exile and confinement. One of the best authorities on Arianism wrote: Arianism had started with a vigour promising a great career, and in a few years seemed no unequal claimant for the supremacy of the East. But its strength collapsed the moment the council met, withered by the universal reprobation of the Christian world Arianism seemed hopelessly crushed when the council closed. The solemn proclamation of the council announced to all communities the new state of harmony and peace within the church. Constantine wrote: The devil will no longer have any power against us, since all that which he had malignantly devised for our destruction has been entirely overthrown from the foundations. The Splendor of Truth has dissipated at the command of God those dissensions, schisms, tumults, and so to speak, deadly poisons of discord.  

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