At this period Athanasius returned from Gaul to Alexandria. It is said that Constantine intended to have recalled him, and that in his testament he even gave orders to that effect. But as he was prevented by death from performing his intention, his son who bore his name, and who was then commanding in Western Gaul, recalled Athanasius, and wrote a letter on the subject to the people of Alexandria. Having met with a copy of this letter translated from the Latin into Greek, I shall insert it precisely as I found it. It is as follows: --
|Constantine Cæsar, to the people of the Catholic Church in the city of Alexandria.
|You cannot, I believe, be unacquainted with the fact that Athanasius, the interpreter of the venerated law, since the cruelty of his bloodthirsty and hostile enemies continued, to the danger of his sacred person, was sent for a time into Gaul in order that he might not incur irretrievable extremities through the perversity of these worthless opponents; in order then to make this danger futile, he was taken out of the jaws of the men, who pressed upon him, and was commanded to live near me, so that in the city where he dwelt, he might be amply furnished with all necessaries; but his virtue is so famous and extraordinary, because he is confident of Divine aid, that he sets at naught all the rougher burdens of fortune. Our lord and my father, Constantine Augustus, of blessed memory, intended to have reinstated this bishop in his own place, and thus especially to have restored him to your much beloved piety; but, since he was anticipated by the human lot, and died before fulfilling his intention, I, as his successor, purpose to carry into execution the design of the emperor of Divine memory. Athanasius will inform you, when he shall see your face, in how great reverence he was held by me. Nor is it surprising that I should have acted as I have done towards him, for the image of your own desire and the appearance of so noble a man, moved and impelled me to this step. May Divine Providence watch over you, my beloved brethren.|
In consequence of this letter from the emperor Athanasius went home, and resumed the government of the Egyptian churches. Those who were attached to the Arian doctrines were thrown into consternation and could not keep the peace; they excited continuous seditions, and had recourse to other machinations against him. The partisans of Eusebius accused him before the emperor of being a seditious person, and of having reversed the decree of exile, contrary to the laws of the church, and without the consent of the bishops. I shall presently relate in the proper place, how, by their intrigues, Athanasius was again expelled from Alexandria.
Eusebius, surnamed Pamphilus, died about this period, and Acacius succeeded to the bishopric of Cæsarea in Palestine. He was a zealous imitator of Eusebius because he had been instructed by him in the Sacred Word; he possessed a capable mind and was polished in expression, so that he left many writings worthy of commendation. Not long after, the emperor Constantine declared war against his brother Constans at Aquileia, and was slain by his own generals. The Roman Empire was divided between the surviving brothers; the West fell to the lot of Constans and the East to Constantius.