At Milan in 345 the eastern legates achieved material progress for their cause in that the western bishops assented to reject the opinions of Photinus of Sirmium. That considerably qualified the western Serdican defence of Marcellus of Ankyra, his former bishop, with which it was obviously incompatible. The legates could hardly feel able to accept the Serdican manifesto in favour of one hypostasis, which, for them, was closely associated with Marcellus' denial of Christ's divine pre-existence. There is no evidence surviving that the legates were asked to accept Athanasius back into their communion. But this was the demand put to Valens and Ursacius, and it is significant that, since there was no specific doctrinal accusation against Athanasius, the two Illyrians could concede this without any dogmatic surrender on their part. They simply apologized for not telling the truth. That was bound to appear more difficult for legates from Antioch; Athanasius had come to embody the role of the great divider of the empire and of the emperors' church, because of his refusal to share communion with those whom he called 'Arians'. He was well aware that they did not profess the doctrines condemned in the Nicene anathema. And before 350 he cannot be seen to be zealous for the Nicene term homoousios. Surprisingly he was well content to say 'like in essence' (e.g. ep. ad episc. Aeg. 17). His opponents did not attack the council of Nicaea (ibid. 18). Nor did they utter a word in defence of Arius (ibid. 10). But Athanasius characterized them as having no respect for 'the apostolic see of Rome, the metropolis of Romania' (Hist. Ar. 35), by which he had been acquitted. They were wrong to make charges against his conduct prior to the question of faith, echoing here the imperial agenda for the council of Serdica, a council which had bishops 'from all parts of the world'; and its western half had declared Athanasius innocent (36). Unfortunately it had also approved of Marcellus; and the installing of his disciple Photinus at the major see of Sirmium, seat of the prefecture of Illyricum, can only have been a source of sharp irritation at Antioch. That was taking the western synod of
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Publication information: Book title: The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great. Contributors: Henry Chadwick - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 260.
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