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Basil Letters And Select Works by Basil

VII.--The Breach with Gregory of Nazianzus.

Cappadocia, it has been seen, had been divided into two provinces, and of one of these Tyana had been constituted the chief town. Anthimus, bishop of Tyana, now contended that an ecclesiastical partition should follow the civil, and that Tyana should enjoy parallel metropolitan privileges to those of Cæsarea. To this claim Basil determined to offer an uncompromising resistance, and summoned Gregory of Nazianzus to his side. Gregory replied in friendly and complimentary terms, and pointed out that Basil's friendship for Eustathius of Sebaste was a cause of suspicion in the Church. At the same time he placed himself at the archbishop's disposal. The friends started together with a train of slaves and mules to collect the produce of the monastery of St. Orestes, in Cappadocia Secunda, which was the property of the see of Cæsarea. Anthimus blocked the defiles with his retainers and in the vicinity of Sasima there was an unseemly struggle between the domestics of the two prelates. The friends proceeded to Nazianzus, and there, with imperious inconsiderateness, Basil insisted upon nominating Gregory to one of the bishoprics which he was founding in order to strengthen his position against Anthimus. For Gregory, the brother, Nyssa was selected, a town on the Halys, about a hundred miles distant from Cæsarea, so obscure that Eusebius of Samosata remonstrated with Basil on the unreasonableness of forcing such a man to undertake the episcopate of such a place. For Gregory, the friend, a similar fate was ordered. The spot chosen was Sasima, a townlet commanding the scene of the recent fray. It was an insignificant place at the bifurcation of the road leading northwards from Tyana to Doara and diverging westward to Nazianzus. Gregory speaks of it with contempt, and almost with disgust, and never seems to have forgiven his old friend for forcing him to accept the responsibility of the episcopate, and in such a place. Gregory resigned the distasteful post, and with very bitter feelings. The utmost that can be said for Basil is that just possibly he was consulting for the interest of the Church, and meaning to honour his friend, by placing Gregory in an outpost of peril and difficulty. In the kingdom of heaven the place of trial is the place of trust. But, unfortunately for the reputation of the archbishop, the war in this case was hardly the Holy War of truth against error and of right against wrong. It was a rivalry between official and official, and it seemed hard to sacrifice Gregory to a dispute between the claims of the metropolitans of Tyana and Cæsarea.

Gregory the elder joined in persuading his son. Basil had his way. He won a convenient suffragan for the moment. But he lost his friend. The sore was never healed, and even in the great funeral oration in which Basil's virtues and abilities are extolled, Gregory traces the main trouble of his chequered career to Basil's unkindness, and owns to feeling the smart still, though the hand that inflicted the wound was cold.

With Anthimus peace was ultimately established. Basil vehemently desired it. Eusebius of Samosata again intervened. Nazianzus remained for a time subject to Cæsarea, but was eventually recognized as subject to the Metropolitan of Tyana.

The relations, however, between the two metropolitans remained for some time strained. When in Armenia in 372, Basil arranged some differences between the bishops of that district, and dissipated a cloud of calumny hanging over Cyril, an Armenian bishop. He also acceded to a request on the part of the Church of Satala that he would nominate a bishop for that see, and accordingly appointed Poemenius, a relation of his own. Later on a certain Faustus, on the strength of a recommendation from a pope with whom he was residing, applied to Basil for consecration to the see, hitherto occupied by Cyril. With this request Basil declined to comply, and required as a necessary preliminary the authorisation of the Armenian bishops, specially of Theodotus of Nicopolis. Faustus then betook himself to Anthimus, and succeeded in obtaining uncanonical consecration from him. This was naturally a serious cause of disagreement. However, by 375, a better feeling seems to have existed between the rivals. Basil is able at that date to speak of Anthimus as in complete agreement with him.

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