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(âr`ēənĭz'əm), Christian heresy founded by AriusArius
, c.256–336, Libyan theologian, founder of the Arian heresy. A parish priest in Alexandria, he advanced the doctrine famous as Arianism and was excommunicated locally (321).
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 in the 4th cent. It was one of the most widespread and divisive heresies in the history of Christianity. As a priest in Alexandria, Arius taught (c.318) that God created, before all things, a Son who was the first creature, but who was neither equal to nor coeternal with the Father. According to Arius, Jesus was a supernatural creature not quite human and not quite divine. In these ideas Arius followed the school of LucianLucian
, b. c.120, d. after 180, Greek writer, also called Lucianus, b. Samosata, Syria. In late life he held a government position in Egypt. Lucian wrote an easy, masterly Attic prose, which he turned to satirical use.
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 of Antioch.

Rise of Arianism

Because of his heretical teachings, Arius was condemned and deprived of his office. He fled to Palestine and spread his doctrine among the masses through popular sermons and songs, and among the powerful through the efforts of influential leaders, such as Eusebius of NicomediaEusebius of Nicomedia
, d. 342, Christian churchman and theologian, leader of the heresy of Arianism. He was bishop of Nicomedia (330–39) and patriarch of Constantinople (339–42); Eusebius was powerful because of his influence with Roman Emperor Constantine I and
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 and, to a lesser extent, Eusebius of CaesareaEusebius of Caesarea
or Eusebius Pamphili
, c.263–339?, Greek apologist and church historian, b. Palestine. He was bishop of Caesarea, Palestine (314?–339).
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. The civil as well as the religious peace of the East was threatened, and Roman Emperor Constantine I convoked (325) the first ecumenical council (see Nicaea, First Council ofNicaea, First Council of,
325, 1st ecumenical council, convened by Roman Emperor Constantine the Great to solve the problems raised by Arianism. It has been said that 318 persons attended, but a more likely number is 225, including every Eastern bishop of importance, four
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). The council condemned Arianism, but the Greek term homoousios [consubstantial, of the same substance] used by the council to define the Son's relationship to the Father was not universally popular: it had been used before by the heretic Sabellius. Some, like Marcellus of AncyraMarcellus of Ancyra
, fl. 350, Galatian churchman, the most violent opponent of Arianism in Asia Minor. He developed the theory that the Trinity was the result of emanations from God that would ultimately revert to God in the final judgment.
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, in attacking Arianism, lapsed into Sabellianism (see under SabelliusSabellius,
fl. 215, Christian priest and theologian, b. probably Libya or Egypt. He went to Rome, became the leader of those who accepted the doctrine of modalistic monarchianism, and was excommunicated by Pope St. Calixtus I in 220.
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Eusebius of Nicomedia used this fear of Sabellianism to persuade Constantine to return Arius to his duties in Alexandria. AthanasiusAthanasius, Saint
, c.297–373, patriarch of Alexandria (328–73), Doctor of the Church, great champion of orthodoxy during the Arian crisis of the 4th cent. (see Arianism).
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, chief defender of the Nicene formula, was bishop in Alexandria, and conflict was inevitable. The Eusebians managed to secure Athanasius' exile, and when the Arian Constantius IIConstantius II,
317–61, Roman emperor, son of Constantine I. When the empire was divided (337) at the death of Constantine, Constantius II was given rule over Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, while his brothers, Constans I and Constantine II, received other portions.
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 became emperor, Catholic bishops in the East, e.g., EustathiusEustathius, Saint
, c.280–c.335, patriarch of Antioch (324?–330?), leader at the First Council of Nicaea. He was deposed and exiled by a faction led by Eusebius of Nicomedia during the Arian reaction. His followers refused to acknowledge Meletius as bishop. Feast: July 16.
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, were banished wholesale.

Athanasius' exile in Rome brought Pope Julius IJulius I, Saint,
pope (337–52), a Roman; successor of St. Marcus. In the controversy over Arianism, when both sides appealed to him for support, he convened a synod at Rome (340), at which were present St.
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 into the struggle. A council wholly favorable to Athanasius, convened at Sardica (c.343), was avoided by the Eastern bishops and ignored by Constantius. The Catholics were left dependent on Rome for support. After the West fell to Constantius, the Eusebians reversed the decisions of Sardica in several councils (Arles, 353; Milan, 355; Boziers, 356), and Pope LiberiusLiberius
, d. 366, pope (352–66), a Roman; successor of St. Julius I. At the beginning of his pontificate, the status of Athanasius was still disputed, and Liberius requested Emperor Constantius II to call the Council of Arles (353).
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, St. Hilary of PoitiersHilary of Poitiers, Saint
, c.315–367?, bishop of Poitiers from c.350, Doctor of the Church. A convert from paganism, he distinguished himself as a supporter of Athanasius against Arianism. For his zeal he was exiled (c.356).
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, and HosiusHosius
, c.255–c.358, Spanish prelate, bishop of Córdoba, leader against Arianism. He presided at the Council of Nicaea (325) and is credited by Athanasius with having authored the Nicene formulary.
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 of Cordoba were exiled. The victorious Arians, however, had now begun to quarrel among themselves.

Divisions within Arianism

The Anomoeans [Gr.,=unlike], followers of EunomiusEunomius
, c.A.D. 333–A.D. 393?, bishop of Cyzicus (c.361), founder of the Eunomian heresy. He was a disciple and secretary of Aetius whose extreme Arianism he adopted. His followers were called Eunomians or Anomoeans [Gr.
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 and AetiusAetius
, d. 367, Syrian theologian. He became prominent (c.350) as an exponent of the extreme Arianism developed mainly by his secretary Eunomius. Members of his party were called Aetians and Anomoeans.
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, were pure Arians and held that the Son bore no resemblance to the Father. The semi-Arian court party were called Homoeans [Gr.,=similar], from their teaching that the Son was simply like the Father as defined by Scripture. A third party called Homoiousians [Gr.,=like in substance] were largely prevented from joining the orthodox (Homoousian) party through a misunderstanding of terms. The Arians debated their differences at Sirmium (351–59). The final formula was an ambiguous Homoean declaration that Constantius imposed (359) on the church in two councils, Rimini (for the West) and Seleucia (for the East).

Arianism Defeated

The voices of orthodoxy, however, were not silent. In the West St. Hilary of Poitiers and in the East St. Basil the GreatBasil the Great, Saint
, c.330–379, Greek prelate, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, Doctor of the Church and one of the Four Fathers of the Greek Church. He was a brother of St. Gregory of Nyssa.
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, St. Gregory NazianzenGregory Nazianzen, Saint
, c.330–390, Cappadocian theologian, Doctor of the Church, one of the Four Fathers of the Greek Church. He is sometimes called Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory Theologus. He studied widely in his youth and was from his student days a friend of St.
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, and St. Gregory of NyssaGregory of Nyssa, Saint
, d. 394?, Cappadocian theologian; brother of St. Basil the Great and his successor as champion of orthodoxy. He became bishop of Nyssa in Cappadocia in 371, was removed in 376, and was restored in 378.
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 continued to defend and interpret the Nicene formula. By 364 the West had a Catholic emperor in Valentinian I, and when the Catholic Theodosius ITheodosius I
or Theodosius the Great,
346?–395, Roman emperor of the East (379–95) and emperor of the West (394–95), son of Theodosius, the general of Valentinian I.
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 became emperor of the East (379), Arianism was outlawed. The second ecumenical council was convoked to reaffirm the Nicene formula (see Constantinople, First Council ofConstantinople, First Council of,
381, second ecumenical council. It was convened by Theodosius I, then emperor of the East and a recent convert, to confirm the victory over Arianism.
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), and Arianism within the empire seems to have expired at once.

However, UlfilasUlfilas
or Wulfila
[Gothic,=little wolf], c.311–383, Gothic bishop, translator of the Bible into Gothic. He was converted to Christianity at Constantinople and was consecrated bishop (341) by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia.
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 had carried (c.340) Homoean Arianism to the Goths living in what is now Hungary and the NW Balkan Peninsula with such success that the Visigoths and other Germanic tribes became staunch Arians. Arianism was thus carried over Western Europe and into Africa. The Vandals remained Arians until their defeat by Belisarius (c.534). Among the Lombards the efforts of Pope St. Gregory I and the Lombard queen were successful, and Arianism finally disappeared (c.650) there. In Burgundy the Catholic Franks broke up Arianism by conquest in the 6th cent. In Spain, where the conquering Visigoths were Arians, Catholicism was not established until the mid-6th cent. (by Recared), and Arian ideas survived for at least another century. Arianism brought many results—the ecumenical council, the Catholic Christological system, and even NestorianismNestorianism,
Christian heresy that held Jesus to be two distinct persons, closely and inseparably united. In 428, Emperor Theodosius II named an abbot of Antioch, Nestorius (d. 451?), as patriarch of Constantinople.
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 and, by reaction, MonophysitismMonophysitism
[Gr.,=belief in a single nature], a heresy of the 5th and 6th cent., which grew out of a reaction against Nestorianism. It was anticipated by Apollinarianism and was continuous with the principles of Eutyches, whose doctrine had been rejected in 451 at Chalcedon
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See H. M. Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism (2d ed. 1900); J. H. Newman, The Arians of the Fourth Century (1933, repr. 1968); J. Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (1971).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a tendency in Christianity during the fourth to sixth centuries.

Arianism arose during the late Roman Empire and received its name from its founder, the Alexandrian priest Arius (Greek Áreios; died 336). The Arians did not accept the fundamental dogma of the official Christian Church according to which god the son is consubstantial with god the father. The zealous defenders of this dogma were Alexander, the archbishop of Alexandria, and his successor Athanasius. According to the doctrine of Arius, the divine logos (Christ) was created by god and consequently is not consubstantial with him—that is, in comparison with god the father he is a being of a lower order. Arius was evidently connected with the city and with the city-state intelligentsia and artisans. The attempts of Arius to rationally interpret the nature of divinity contradicted the tendencies of the official Christian Church, which was striving to strengthen the mystical elements in Christian dogma. Arianism, which was destroying the monolithic form of church doctrine, became dangerous for the empire under the conditions in which the Christian Church was being transformed into a predominant institution. These religious and philosophical disputes threatened to turn into political ones. At the Council of Nicaea in 325, Arianism was condemned as a heresy. Soon, however, the emperor Constantine (died 337) came to the support of the Arians, and Arianism was officially acknowledged. With the spread of Arianism from the middle of the fourth century among the Germanic tribes (primarily among the Goths), conflicts with the Arians began to find expression in discord between the native population of the empire and the Goths, from among whom troops in the emperor’s service were formed. Arianism was again condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 381; after this it survived only among the barbarian states of Western Europe and North Africa.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.