• Arianism started in Alexandria.
  • It’s named after Arius, a pretty popular and charismatic priest who believed that Jesus was secondary to God, not equal to God.
  • He was not of the same nature (consubstantial) as God the Father nor was he of like nature (homoiousian),
  • He didn’t invent this idea.
  • It had been debated for a long time.
  • Going right back to the first century, around the time the NT was being written, many of the church leaders took the view that Jesus was secondary to God.
  • This view was argued by Origen of Alexandria, Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, the Epistle of Barnabas, Justin Martyr, the Didache, Tertullian, and Pope Dionysius.
  • Which is something I find shocks modern Christians.
  • I like to throw that into conversations.
  • “You do realize, of course, that the earliest Christian leaders didn’t believe Jesus was God, right?”
  • Anyway Arius became the focal point of the issue.
  • Arius’ argument was pretty simple.
  • The Father comes before the Son.
  • Therefore there must have been a time when the Son did not exist.
  • They argued that it was logical and the only conclusion you could arrive at using reason.
  • The idea was actually supported by Jesus himself in the gospels, John 14:28: “the Father is greater than I”.
  • And also Colossians 1:15: where Jesus is called “the firstborn of all creation.”
  • But when has reason ever had much to do with Christianity?
  • The other side tried to argue that God and Jesus were of the same essence, homoousious, “one in being” or “of single essence”.
  • And that both had been around forever.
  • Known as the Trinitarians.
  • Arius wasn’t alone in arguing for Jesus being secondary.
  • At the first Council of Nicaea, which Constantine himself supervised in 325, twenty-two bishops, led by Eusebius of Nicomedia in Bythinia, came as supporters of Arius.
  • They argued about it for two months.
  • Finally Constantine ruled in favour of the Trinitarian camp.
  • But he thought the whole debate was silly.
  • According to Eusebius, Constantine said the debate was “trivial and entirely unimportant”, “really silly” and “a quarrel over small and quite unimportant points”.
  • This is where they came up with the original Nicene Creed.
  • Which every Christian had to sign up to.
  • It said
  • We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. [But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]
  • Con had Arius exiled to Palestine.
  • BTW there’s a great story about Arius.
  • Apparently he liked to take popular songs or poems of the day and re-write them so they framed his ideas about the nature of Jesus.
  • He was the Weird Al Yankovic of his day.
  • Constantine issued an edict against the Arians.
  • “In addition, if any writing composed by Arius should be found, it should be handed over to the flames, so that not only will the wickedness of his teaching be obliterated, but nothing will be left even to remind anyone of him. And I hereby make a public order, that if someone should be discovered to have hidden a writing composed by Arius, and not to have immediately brought it forward and destroyed it by fire, his penalty shall be death. As soon as he is discovered in this offense, he shall be submitted for capital punishment…..”
  • But Con himself didn’t really think it was important.
  • As long as people believed in the same god and kept their private opinions about the nature of Jesus to themselves, who cared?
  • But the Christians with the most influence thought differently.
  • They didn’t like different ideas, even at this early stage.
  • Of course, this view goes right back to the earliest days of Christianity.
  • Paul and Peter seem to have had pretty different views about Jesus.
  • And when you read Paul’s epistles, he talks about “super apostles” going around preaching about a “different Jesus”.
  • This is as early as the 50s.
  • Anyway, a couple of years later, in 327, Con changed his mind, brought Arius back from exile, and became an Arian himself!
  • And he had the leader of the other party, Athanasius, sent into exile instead.
  • Although he also let him come back later on too.
  • Unfortunately for Arius, on the day he made his triumphant return to Constantinople, and was ready to give a big victory speech, he died on the way to the church.
  • His enemies said it was divine retribution.
  • But he was probably poisoned.
  • Socrates Scholasticus (a bitter enemy of Arius) describes what he claims to be Arius’s death as follows:
  • It was then Saturday, and Arius was expecting to assemble with the church on the day following: but divine retribution overtook his daring criminalities. For going out of the imperial palace, attended by a crowd of Eusebian partisans like guards, he paraded proudly through the midst of the city, attracting the notice of all the people. As he approached the place called Constantine’s Forum, where the column of porphyry is erected, a terror arising from the remorse of conscience seized Arius, and with the terror a violent relaxation of the bowels: he therefore enquired whether there was a convenient place near, and being directed to the back of Constantine’s Forum, he hastened thither. Soon after a faintness came over him, and together with the evacuations his bowels protruded, followed by a copious hemorrhage, and the descent of the smaller intestines: moreover portions of his spleen and liver were brought off in the effusion of blood, so that he almost immediately died. The scene of this catastrophe still is shown at Constantinople, as I have said, behind the shambles in the colonnade: and by persons going by pointing the finger at the place, there is a perpetual remembrance preserved of this extraordinary kind of death.
  • That wasn’t the end of the Arians though.
  • Historians report that Constantine, who had never been baptized as a Christian for most of his lifetime, was baptized on his deathbed by the Arian bishop, Eusebius of Nicomedia.
  • Apparently this was so he could continue being an evil cunt and still get into heaven.
  • What a great religion!
  • Constantius II, who succeeded Constantine, was also an Arian sympathizer.
  • Under him, Arianism reached its high point at The third Council of Sirmium in 357.
  • After the efforts of Julian the Apostate to restore paganism in the empire, the emperor Valens—himself an Arian—renewed the persecution of Nicene hierarchs.
  • However, Valens’ successor Theodosius I effectively wiped out Arianism once and for all among the elites of the Eastern Empire through a combination of imperial decree, persecution, and the calling of the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, which condemned Arius anew while reaffirming and expanding the Nicene Creed.
  • Let’s finish with some of Constantine’s later actions.
  • He’s portrayed by Eusebius as an angel, the very model of a Christian emperor.
  • He gets a complete boner over him.
  • When Constantine appears at the Council of Nicaea, Eusebius writes that he looked like:
  • “some heavenly angel of God, clad in glittering raiment that seemed to gleam and flash with bright effulgent rays of light, encrusted as it was with gold and precious stones”
  • But that angelic view is very biased and historians tend to disagree with Eusebius.
  • As we saw earlier, Constantine’s son from his first marriage, Crispus, had been made Caesar and had proven himself many times over in battle, including against Licinius.
  • But Constantine had remarried to Fausta and had several sons to her.
  • The eldest, named after his father, was made a Caesar when he was still an infant.
  • In 323, the Caesarship of Gaul was taken from Crispus and given to the younger Constantius, aged seven.
  • It might be that he thought Crispus was too ambitious and couldn’t be trusted.
  • Remember that Diocletian had resigned his Augustus title after 20 years.
  • And Constantine was getting close to his own 20 years.
  • But he had no intention of retiring.
  • There’s no evidence that Crispus had been disloyal.
  • But he might have assumed he would soon be the new Augustus and they had an unpleasant conversation or three.
  • In 326, the 20 year mark for Con, he made the young Constantius consul along with himself.
  • And Crispus was arrested and banished.
  • He was murdered not long after.
  • With him fell Licinianus, the son of Licinius and Constantia.
  • He was only 12.
  • One story in the ancient sources is that Fausta was behind it all.
  • And it wasn’t just because she wanted her sons to be the heirs to the throne.
  • It’s claimed that she tried to fuck Crispus.
  • When he turned her down, she convinced Con that Crispus was going to betray him.
  • Or that he tried to rape her.
  • He believed her and had his son executed.
  • Con’s mother, Helena, was furious at the death of her grandson, and gave Constantine a piece of her mind.
  • So Constantine, believing he’d been played for a fool, had Fausta drowned in a hot bath.
  • Eusebius, mind you, mentions NONE of this.
  • It appears in the history of Zosimus, a polytheist Greek historian who lived in Constantinople during the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Anastasius I (491–518).
  • So much for the angelic Christian emperor.
  • As I mentioned earlier, Constantine was supposedly baptised by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, a distant relative, on his deathbed in 337.
  • We only have the word of Eusebius of Caesarea, a different Eusebius, the earliest Christian historian, for that, of course.
  • Constantine dies in 337.
  • During his lifetime he moved the capital of the empire to Byzantium, re-named Constantinople by Barry and Stan.
  • It was built using overtly Christian architecture which he made non-Christians pay for.
  • Christian chroniclers tell that it appeared necessary to Constantine “to teach his subjects to give up their rites … and to accustom them to despise their temples and the images contained therein
  • Crucifixion was abolished for reasons of Christian piety, but was replaced with hanging
  • On March 7, 321, Sunday, already sacred to Christians and to the Roman Sun God Sol Invictus, was declared an official day of rest.
  • On that day markets were banned and public offices were closed, except for the purpose of freeing slaves.
  • There were, however, no restrictions on performing farming work, which was the work of the great majority of the population, on Sundays.
  • At first, Constantine encouraged the construction of new temples and tolerated traditional sacrifices;by the end of his reign, he had begun to order the pillaging and tearing down of Roman temples.
  • And of course he introduced anti-Semitism.
  • Some scholars have said you can draw a straight line between Constantine and Auschwitz.
  • After his death, his son Constantius, only 21 years old, a good Christian, became emperor Constantine II jointly with his brothers Constantius II and Constans, with the Empire divided between them and their cousins, the Caesars Dalmatius and Hannibalianus.
  • This arrangement barely survived Constantine I’s death, as his sons arranged the slaughter of most of the rest of the family by the army.
  • As a result, the three brothers gathered together in Pannonia and there, on 9 September 337, divided the Roman world between themselves.
  • Constantine, proclaimed Augustus by the troops received Gaul, Britannia and Hispania.
  • He was soon involved in the struggle between factions rupturing the unity of the Christian Church.
  • The Western portion of the Empire, under the influence of the Popes in Rome, favored Catholicism over Arianism, and through their intercession they convinced Constantine to free Athanasius, allowing him to return to Alexandria.
  • This action aggravated Constantius II, who was a committed supporter of Arianism.
  • In 340, the three brothers went to war against each other.
  • Constantine II was killed.
  • Leaving Constans, only 17, and Constantius II, to divide the empire between themselves.
  • Constans ruled the Western empire for ten years, another Christian, but he was gay, and that upset the Christians.
  • It’s claimed he liked to have sex with “handsome barbarian hostages”, had a reputation for cruelty, and he was assassinated in 350 by the general Magnentius who declared himself emperor.
  • Although he used Christian symbols on his coins, Magnentius revoked the anti-paganism legislation of Constans and even permitted the celebration of nocturnal sacrifices.
  • Constantius II was Unwilling to accept Magnentius as co-ruler, and defeated him at the battles of Mursa Major and Mons Seleucus.
  • Magnentius committed suicide after the latter battle, leaving Constantius II, another Christian, as sole ruler of the empire.
  • In 351, due to the difficulty of managing the empire alone, Constantius elevated his cousin Constantius Gallus to the subordinate rank of Caesar, but had him executed three years later after receiving scathing reports of his violent and corrupt nature.
  • Shortly thereafter, in 355, Constantius promoted his last surviving cousin, Gallus’ younger half-brother, Julian, to the rank of Caesar.
  • However, Julian claimed the rank of Augustus in 360, leading to war between the two.
  • Ultimately, no battle was fought as Constantius became ill and died late in 361, aged only 41.
  • Apparently, realising his death was near, Constantius had himself baptised by Euzoius, the Semi-Arian bishop of Antioch, and then declared that Julian was his rightful successor.
  • AKA Julian “The Apostate”.
  • But before we get into Julian, we should talk about Constantius’ contribution to the rise of Christianity.
  • He issued a number of edicts that were designed to promote Christianity at the expense of Roman polytheism.
  • In the 350s, he created the death penatly for anyone who performed or attended a pagan sacrifice.
  • Just think about that for a second.
  • Performing sacrifices had been a central part of Rome’s history for it’s entire 1000 year history, going right back to Romulus and Remus.
  • Christianity has only been legal for less than 40 years.
  • But already it has used its power to not just BAN, but get the death penalty for the 1000 year old tradition of sacrifices.
  • He also closed pagan temples and issued edicts against soothsayers and magicians.
  • He had the Altar of Victory, established by Octavian in 29 BC to commemorate the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium, removed from the Senate meeting house.
  • Each Senator had traditionally made a sacrifice upon the altar before entering the Senate house.
  • There were also frequent episodes of ordinary Christians destroying, pillaging, desecrating, vandalizing many of the ancient pagan temples, tombs and monuments.
  • And Constantius did nothing to stop them.
  • Some Christians encouraged the emperor to take even more extreme measures in their zeal to stamp out paganism, e.g. in the aftermath of the abolition of sacrifices.
  • Firmicus Maternus, a convert to Christianity, urged: “Paganism, most holy emperors, must be utterly destroyed and blotted out, and disciplined by the severest enactments of your edicts, lest the deadly delusion of the presumption continue to stain the Roman world” and “How fortunate you are that God, whose agents you are, has reserved for you the destruction of idolatry and the ruin of profane temples.”
  • According to Libanius, an orator in Theodosius’ day, Constantius gave the pagan temples to his Christians friends.
  • “he indeed made presents of the temples to those who were about him, just as he might give a horse, or a slave, or a dog, or a golden cup.”
  • Although often considered an Arian, Constantius actually preferred a third, compromise version that lay somewhere in between Arianism and the Nicene Creed, retrospectively called Semi-Arianism.
  • During his reign he attempted to mold the Christian church to follow this compromise position, convening several Christian councils.
  • But later the theologians he took advice from were declared heretics.
  • Again demonstrating what a mess Christianity was in those years.
  • And Constantius was also declared a heretic who abitrarily imposed his will on the church.
  • Christian-related edicts issued by Constantius (by himself or with others) included:
  • Exemption from compulsory public service for the clergy;
  • Exemption from compulsory public service for the sons of clergy;
  • Tax exemptions for clergy and their servants,  and later for their family;
  • Clergy and the issue of private property;
  • Bishops exempted from being tried in secular courts;
  • Christian prostitutes only able to be bought by Christians.
  • Because, really – who else would want to have sex with a Christian prostitute?
  • I wonder if you had to pray with them before you stuck it up their butthole?
  • Dear Eight Pound, Six Ounce, Newborn Baby Jesus, in your golden, fleece diapers, with your curled-up, fat, balled-up little fists pawin’ at the air… please let me stick it up her butthole and then let her go ass to mouth.
  • Constantius also had it in for the Jews.
  • Early in his reign, Constantius issued a double edict in concert with his brothers limiting the ownership of slaves by Jewish people and banning marriages between Jews and Christian women.
  • A later edict issued by Constantius after becoming sole emperor decreed that a person who was proven to have converted from Christianity to Judaism would have all of his property confiscated by the state.
  • Any non-Jewish slave bought by a Jew will be confiscated by the state; if a Jew attempts to circumcise a non-Jewish slave, the slave will be freed and the Jew shall face capital punishment; any Christian slaves owned by a Jew will be taken away and freed.