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St Athanasius the Great DEFENCE AGAINST THE ARIANS, Complete

Translated by Cardinal Newman.

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Introduction (7 pages / Jump directly to the treatise against the arians)

"This Apology," says Montfaucon, "is the most authentic source of the history of the Church in the first half of the fourth century. Athanasius is far superior to any other historians of the period, both from his bearing for the most part a personal testimony to the facts he relates, and from his great accuracy and use of actual documents. On the other hand, Rufinus, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, must not be used without extreme caution, unless they adduce documents, which is seldom the case." The 'Apology' is a personal defence by Athanasius against the charges laid against him by the Eusebian party, and does not directly concern matters of doctrine. After the Council of Nicaea, the Eusebian policy had been to oust the principal opponents from their sees on personal grounds, so as to pave the way for the abrogation of the Nicene formula. The attack upon Athanasius began in 331, but without success. It was renewed at Caesarea and Tyre in 334-335, and resulted in the exile of Athanasius to Treveri, 336. His return in 337 was followed by a Synod at Antioch which 'deposed' him (close of 338), and by his expulsion in favour of Gregory (339). Then follow the intervention of Julius (339-340), and the Council of Sardica (343), which resulted in the eventual return of Athanasius in the autumn of 346. (The details are given more fully in the Prolegomena, ch. ii. S:S:4-6). After this latter date, and before the relapse of Valens and Ursacius which followed upon the death of Constans, Athanasius drew up a collection of documents in proof of his innocence, connecting them together by an explanatory narrative. (1) The charges against him related to events alleged to have occurred before the year 332 (extortion of money, subvention of the rebel Philumenus, the chalice of Ischyras, murder and mutilation of the bishop Arsenius): the principal evidence as to their falsehood was comprised in the proceedings of the Councils of Tyre and Jerusalem, and of the commission of enquiry sent by the assembled bishops to the Mareotis. (2) The judicial investigations which proved the innocence of Athanasius took place first at Rome under Julius, secondly at Sardica under Hosius; and were followed by the recognition of his innocence on the part of the Emperor Constantius, of bishops in various parts of the world, and lastly of some of his chief accusers.

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