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St Athanasius the Great DEFENCE OF HIS FLIGHT, Complete

Translated by Cardinal Newman.

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Introduction to the DEFENCE OF HIS FLIGHT

The date of this Defence of his Flight must be placed early enough to fall within the lifetime, or very close to the death (S:1. n. 1), of Leontius of Antioch, and late enough to satisfy the references (S:6) to the events at the end of May 357 (see notes there), and to the lapse of Hosius, the exact date of which again depends upon that of the Sirmian Council of 357, which, if held the presence of Constantius, must have fallen as late as August (Gwatk. Stud. 157, n. 3). Athanasius not only refers to the lapse of Hosius, but by the quotation he makes from Gal. ii. 5, appears to know of its merely temporary nature (see D.C.B. iii. 173). How early, then, does the first-named condition compel us to place the 'Defence?' Upon the news of the death of Leontius reaching Italy (Soz. iv. 12), Eudoxius obtained the leave of Constantius (who was in Italy, April 28 to July 3, 357, and again, Nov. 10 to Dec. 10, Gwatk. p. 292), to repair to Antioch. There he got himself elected bishop, assembled a council (Acacius and other Homoeans), and wrote a synodal letter, expelling from the Antiochene Church those who dissented. Some of the latter repaired to Ancyra with a letter from the semi-Arian George of Laodicea; at Ancyra, Basil assembled a small council (before Easter, April 12, 358, see D.C.B. i. 281, Epiph. Haer. 73), which wrote to the Emperor protesting against the proceedings of Eudoxius. To gain room for these events, at the very least five months, and probably more, must be allowed to elapse between the death of Leontius and April 12, 358. Leontius must therefore have died in the summer (Gwatk. p. 153, note), or at the very latest in October, 357. We cannot, therefore, place the Apology much after this date, for the reference to Hosius shews--in addition to many other indications--how quickly Athanasius in his hiding-place was informed of current events.

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