Julius I., who governed the Roman Church for fifteen years from the early part of 337, added greatly and deservedly to the moral influence of his see by his unswerving loyalty to the Nicene faith, and his cordial and effective support of its great champion in the troubles which so soon followed on the "first return" of St. Athanasius. [1] It was most probably in the end of 339 [2] that the "Eastern" Arianisers or "Eusebians," bent on ruining the restored archbishop of Alexandria by reviving old charges, or rather old libels, and reinforcing them by new ones, - asked Julius to assemble a Council for a fresh inquiry into the case, "and, if he pleased, to act as judge." [3] Obviously these Easterns did not deem themselves bound to appeal to the bishop of Rome as to a supreme judge in all ecclesiastical cases they invite him to preside over the


trial; and he, in turn, complies with their request for a Council by summoning one to meet in Rome, and inviting both parties to attend it. Athanasius, having escaped from Alexandria after the sacrilegious outrages of the spring of 340, appears at Rome, and waits there, impressing the bishop and the Church by the moral grandeur and beauty of his character. The Eusebians detain the messengers of Julius until the January of 341, and then write to him in a querulous spirit, charging him with partiality to the accused bishop (who, in their view, was still canonically under deposition by sentence of the Council of Tyre in 335) - throwing on him the responsibility for "rekindling the fire of discord," and insisting that, although his see was "apostolic," yet "all bishops were of equal authority, and were not to be esteemed according to the greatness of their respective Cities" - a clear hint that, in the East, the Roman Church was suspected of building overmuch on the dignity of its city. The reply of Julius, [4] which was not written until the late autumn, contains some points which have been misapprehended.


1. The Nicene Council, he says, "agreed," and even "prescribed," that the decisions of one synod might be reversed by another. [5] But this remark (whatever may be its historical basis) has no bearing on any special function of the Roman see or Church; it would hold good just as fully if the Council, thus supposed to be competent to re-hear causes decided by synods in Asia, had been summoned to meet anywhere else than at Rome.

2. Next comes a sentence to the effect that, if Athanasius, or Marcellus of Ancyra (whom the Easterns had condemned as having put forth a form of Sabellianism), "had given offence, word should have been written to us all, that so a just decision might proceed from all. [6] Some confusion has arisen from not observing that Julius is here looking back to the past wrongdoings of the Eusebians, when they condemned Athanasius and others in synods, at Tyre and Antioch, which were not properly representative of the collective episcopate. "You acted in this


way," he says in effect; "you ought to have acted otherwise, considering that the 'sufferers were bishops of eminent Churches which Apostles had personally governed.'" He illustrates the word "all" by saying that "the bishops will be obliged again to assemble, in order that the condemnation of those who are found guilty may take place in the presence of all." But then he reminds them of a special "custom" in regard to Alexandrian Church causes, -" that word should be written first to us, and so a just decision should proceed from this place " [7] (Rome). This must be the passage which Socrates in the next century so gravely misapprehended, as if Julius had quoted a "canon commanding that the Churches should make no regulations without the consent of the bishop of Rome." [8] Papalist advocates are apt to produce this statement as if it were of primary authority; [9] whereas it needs to be corrected by what Julius actually wrote, which refers to Alexandria simply, in view of its specially close relation to Rome. Since Athanasius personally was concerned, "they ought to have informed the Church


here;" whereas "now they wish us to concur in a sentence which they had passed by their own authority without consulting us. This," proceeds Julius, "is by no means in accordance with what the directions of Paul, and the traditions of the Fathers, have prescribed to us;" they must allow him to say this, - he is writing in the common interest, - "for what we have received from blessed Peter the Apostle, this I make known to you." This context refers to the special case of Alexandria; and whatever Julius understood by "the directions of Paul" and "the tradition from Peter," he probably had in mind the associations which linked the names of the two great Apostles with that of Mark, the reputed founder of the Alexandrian see. He then returns to the general subject of his letter.


[1] One of the best letters that a Roman bishop ever wrote was Julius' letter of congratulation to the Alexandrians in view of Athanasius' second return. S. Ath. Apol. c. Ari. 52.

[2] Those who, like Prof. Gwatkin, date Athanasius' first return in 337, and his second exile in 339, would date this request at the end of 338.

[3] S. Ath. Apol. c. Ari. 20.

[4] It is given in Athanasius' Apol. c. Ari. c. 20 ff. See Historical Writings of St. Athanasius (Oxford, 1881), p. xxvi.

[5] S. Ath. Apol. c. Ari. 22. Robertson thinks this is a "free" reference to Nic. can. 5, about re-hearings of cases by provincial synods. Transl. Ath. p. 111. But the cases are such as have been decided by individual bishops.

[6] Literally, "that so what was just might be determined by all" (Ath. Apol. c. Ari. 35).

[7] Kai outws orizesqai ta dikaia. This "custom" is misrepresented by Mr. Rivington, as if it applied to any "case of difference arising amongst bishops" (p. 471).

[8] Socr. ii. 17, and cf. Soz. iii. 10.

[9] Rivington, p. 176.