(XVII.) THE FOUR ITALIAN COUNCILS.
But we must now look back to the West. When the Council of bishops, assembled at Aquileia in the September of 381, wrote their third letter to the emperors - that is, in effect, to Theodosius - were they aware of the proceedings of the Constantinopolitan Council? It would appear not. They might ask for a new General Council to be held at Alexandria, and to treat "more fully" of the Antiochene difficulties, without any such cognisance; and had they learned how the Council of Constantinople had, under factious influence, set aside the Antiochene concordat, and appointed Flavian to succeed Meletius, they could not have been content simply to restate their previously expressed approval of the concordat. And when thanks are tendered to Theodosius for "excluding misbelief and restoring faith and concord to the Catholics," to what law of his were these Italian bishops alluding? Surely to the first law, that of February, 380, which had established Trinitarian orthodoxy as the recognised religion for all subjects of the empire, whereas the second law, of July 30, 381, had
special reference to the East.  And next as to the Council of Milan, held soon after that of Aquileia, and presided over by St. Ambrose: its members had heard of the appointment of Nectarius to the see of Constantinople; they had been deceived by Maximus into admitting his own absurd claim; and they thereupon complained that the Easterns had acted without waiting for their opinion" on the subject.  It is pleaded on the Papalist side that by nostram sententiam they "certainly meant the judgment of Rome," and thus "invoked the principle" of what is boldly described as "the Niceno-Sardican canon."  Then why did not they say
so? In the context, they tell the emperor that "Athanasius of holy memory, and Peter, and very many of the Easterns," had set Maximus a precedent by "having recourse to the judgment of the Roman Church, of Italy, and of the whole West." And the words which close the same paragraph, and explain the sentence in question, claim for Westerns "not the chief part in the inquiry, but a share in a general decision."  Nor is this all: towards the end of the same letter, they argue that if the Easterns had thought it worth while to invite a single Western bishop, Ascholius, to join the Council of Constantinople, much more was it befitting that they should "submit to have the question discussed by the prelate of the Roman Church and by the neighbouring and Italian prelates."  Not much here of a "Papal appellate jurisdiction," even in its rudimentary form.
The fourteenth letter of St Ambrose is commonly connected with the same period. Thus Hefele dates it in 382, the Benedictines "about" 382. It has been recently assigned to 391, but for reasons that may well seem insufficient, and in the teeth of high authorities. 
A Council met at Rome, in accordance with the desire of the Council of Milan, in 382, but - which is somewhat remarkable - we have but few accounts of its proceedings. Paulinus was present and was doubtless recognised as the bishop of Antioch, Flavian being ignored. Epiphanius also attended. St. Ambrose was incapacitated by illness soon after his arrival. 
Lastly, we come to the Council of Capua, held in 391, in the hope of terminating the Antiochene dissension, which had been aggravated by the consecration of Evagrius as successor of Paulinus. Theodosius desired Flavian, whom almost all the Easterns regarded as bishop of Antioch, to attend the Council; but he excused himself and thereby, in the opinion of St. Ambrose, made his case worse than before, although Evagrius was "not wholly in the right." The Council, thus baffled, "committed the judgment of the case" to Theophilus of Alexandria and his suffragans, as supposed to be impartial; and Ambrose adds, on his own behalf when writing to Theophilus, "We (i.e. I) think you should refer to our holy brother the bishop (sacerdotem) of the Roman Church, for we feel sure that what you will decide will be what he also cannot disapprove."  Yet a Papalist advocate thinks himself justified in giving this account of the resolution of the synod: "The contest was remanded to the judgment of Theophilus ... and the matter was to be confirmed
by the Apostolic See."  Is this a fair way of dealing with documents, when the reader is not presented with the original? Of course the sense is, "Confer with Damasus, for you and he will be sure to take the same view of the matter."
 Episcopis tradi, Cod. Theod. xvi. 1. 3. Mr. Rivington assumes that this Aquileian letter refers to it, and remarks that "this law of July brings in the name of Nectarius, who was ordained at that council" of Constantinople in 381 (p. 264). It does so; but then it is not the Aquileian, but the Milanese letter, - not Ambr. Ep. 12, but Ambr. Ep. 13 - which mentions Nectarius. No doubt the council of Milan had learned with displeasure what was done by the council of Constantinople.
 Ambr. Ep. 13. 4.
 Rivington, pp. 275, 478. He adds, "The council did claim that the East should act in accordance with its provision," "not mentioning the canon, but obviously arguing upon its lines." In p. 478, Mr. Rivington waxes bolder still: "They in effect invoked the Niceno-Sardican canons." In p. 266 he twice says that they refer to "the council of Constantinople as comparatively recent (nuper)." He cannot have even read the original context, which refer, to a council in which Maximus showed a letter from Peter of Alexandria in his behalf; which he did at a council in Italy: "ad hoc partium venisse Maximum," etc.
 "Non praerogativam ... examinis, sed consortium communis arbitrii" (Ep. 13. 4). On this we have two glosses: "A common judgment is not necessarily one in which all parties contribute the same amount of authority, but in which all, head and members as well, join" (p. 275). Where does the council recognise the idea of a dominant Reman headship over a general council? The "praerogativa examinis" is rendered an inquiry "of first instance." But the antithesis excludes the dilution of "praerogativa."
 Ambr. Ep. 13. 7. They add, "Si quid uni huic reservatum est, quanto magis pluribus reservandum est?"
 Rivington, p. 477. The Apollinarian trouble might well be matter of anxiety in 382: see Greg. Naz. Epp. 101, 102, written in that very year. Instead of there being no Gothic war known nor "disturbance in Illyricum" (such as this letter mentions) in 382, we know from Idatius that it was on October 3rd of that year that "universa gens Gothorum in Romaniam se tradiderunt," the result being a "pax infida" (so Marcellinus: "Romano sese imperio dedit mensi Octobrio." Cf. Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, i. 147. Westerns had been thought unreasonable in asking Easterns to attend a synod in Italy in 382: the "courteous" letter from Constantinople shows this (see Tillemont, x. 149), and Ambrose's Ep. 13 was likely enough to have been misconstrued by Easterns. Theodosius might well invite Western bishops to the East with the good will of their own emperor Gratian. See the last words of Ep. 13. Ep. 14.5, indeed, refers naturally to the preceding letter, and is unintelligible apart from it.
 Cp. Ambr. Ep. 15.10
 Ambr. Ep. 56. In the last sentence of the letter a hope is expressed, "ut nos quoque, accepta vestrorum serie statutorum cum id gestum esse cognoverimus quod ecclesia Romana haud dubie comprobaverit, laeti fructum hujusmodi examinis adipiscamur."
 Rivington, p. 476.