Acacius of Caesarea

Acacius of Caesarea

Acacius of Caesarea in Greek Ἀκάκιος Mονόφθαλμος (died 366) was a Christian bishop, the pupil and successor in the Palestinian see of Caesarea of Eusebius AD 340, whose life he wrote. (Socrates, "Historia Ecclesiastica", 2.4.) He is remembered chiefly for his bitter opposition to St. Cyril of Jerusalem and for the part he was afterwards enabled to play in the more acute stages of the Arian controversy. In the famous twenty-first oration of St. Gregory Nazianzen the author speaks of him as being "the tongue of the Arians". ("Orationes", xxi, 21)

Rise to prominence in the Arian party

Nothing is known of the date or country of his birth, but he was probably a Syrian; and throughout his life bore the nickname of one-eyed (in Greek `o Mονoφθαλμος); no doubt from a personal defect (St.Jerome, "Viri ill." III., XCVIII), but possibly with a maliciously figurative reference, also, to his general shiftiness of conduct and his rare skill in ambiguous statement.

His great intellectual ability, joined to the prestige he already possessed as the friend and successor of Eusebius of Caesarea, naturally singled him out as the likeliest spokesman and guiding spirit of the Arians, even before their first great leader, Eusebius of Nicomedia, had died in 342. Already in 341 Acacius had attended the council of Antioch (Sozomen, "Historia Ecclesiastica", iii. 5), when in the presence of the emperor Constantius II "the Golden Basilica" was dedicated by a band of ninety bishops, and he subscribed the ambiguous creeds then drawn up from which the term Homoousion and all mention of "substance" were excluded. For this with other bishops of the Eusebian party he was deposed at the council of Sardica, 347. Refusing to acquiesce in the sentence passed upon him, he withdrew with the other bishops excomunicated to Philippopolis, where he in turn helped to secure a sentence of excommunication and deposition against his judges, including Pope Julius and Hosius of Cordoba. These penalties which were inflicted on him at the hands of the Nicene party did nothing to diminish his prestige. St. Jerome tells us that his credit with Constantius II was so great during all these years that when Pope Liberius was deposed and driven into exile in 357, Acacius was able to secure Antipope Felix in his place.

Quarrels with Cyril of Jerusalem

The year 358 marks the culmination of his quarrel with Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem. The misunderstanding, which dated back to a period not long after Cyril of Jerusalem's installation, had ostesibly arisen over a question of canonical precedence. Charges and counter-charges of heresy followed for some years, until Acacius managed to secure the deposition of Cyril, through the assistance of the Palestinian bishops, whom he had induced to examine a charge of contumacy. Cyril went into exile, but was restored to his church within two years by a decision of the Synod of Seleucia. But the credit enjoyed by Acacius with the emperor Constantius II was able to undo Cyril of Jerusalem's restoration, and, in 360, Cyril was condemned once more, this time by the Synod of Constantinople. Cyril yielded, and left his see remaining in exile until the accession of the emperor Julian, in 361.

ynod of Seleucia

Acacius took a leading place among the prelates who succeeded in splitting into two the ecumenical council which Constantius II had proposed to summon, and thus nullifying its authority. While the Western bishops were assembling at Rimini, 359, he and his brethren of the East gathered at Seleucia Isauria in Syria (now Silifke, Turkey). The number of bishops present has been variously estimated as somewhere between one hundred and fifty and one hundred and sixty. The Semi-Arians were in a large majority; while Acacius had a well-disciplined group of followers, called after him Acacians. With the Anomoeans, he could count on his side some forty bishops. After the majority had confirmed the Semi-Arian creed of Antioch ("Creed of the Dedication"), Silvanus of Tarsus proposed to confirm the Lucianic Creed, when Acacius and his party arose and left the assembly, by way of protest. In spite of this move the Creed was signed the next morning with closed doors; a proceeding which Acacius promptly characterized as a "deed of darkness." On Wednesday Basil of Ancyra and Macedonius of Constantinople arrived with Hilary of Poitiers, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Eustathius. Cyril was already under censure; and Acacius refused to bring his followers back to the synod until he and some other accused bishops who were present had withdrawn. After a stormy debate his plan was agreed to and Leonas, the representative of Constantius II at the deliberation, rose and read a copy of a new Creed which Acacius had put into his hands. It rejected the terms Homoousion and Homoiousion "as alien from Scripture," and anathematizing the term "Anomoeon," but distinctly confessing the "likeness" of the Son to the Father. This formula, which interpreted the "likeness of the Son to the Father" as "likeness in will alone," oμοιον κατα την βούλησιν μόνον, the semi-Arian majority rejected, and it proceeded to depose Acacius and his adherents.

ynod of Constantinople and Aftermath

Acacius and his followers did not wait for the sentence of deposition; instead they flew to Constantinople and laid their complaints before the emperor. Acacius soon gained the ear of Constantius II. A new council was speedily called at Constantinople, of which Acacius was the soul (Philostorgius iv. 12). Through his labours the Council was brought to accept the Confession of Rimini. To complete their triumph, he and Eudoxius of Antioch, then bishop of Constantinople, put forth their whole influence to bring the edicts of the Council of Nicaea, and all mention of the Homoousion, into disuse and oblivion (Sozomen iv. 26). On his return to the East in 361 Acacius and his party consecrated new bishops to the vacant sees, Meletius being placed in the see of Antioch. When the imperial throne was filled by the nicene Jovian, Acacius with his friends changed their views, and in 363 they voluntarily accepted the creed of Nicaea (Socrates iii. 25). On the accession of the Arian Emperor Valens in 364 Acacius returned to Arianism, making common cause with Eudoxius of Antioch (Socrates iv. 2). But he found no favour with the council of Macedonian bishops at Lampsacus, and his deposition at Seleucia was confirmed. He died in 366.

Literary Works

He was a prelate of great learning, a patron of studies, enriching with parchments the library at Caesarea founded by Eusebius (St. Jerome, "Epistula ad Marcellam", 141). He wrote a treatise in seventeen books on the "Ecclesiastes", and also six books of "Miscellanies" (in Greek σύμμικτα ζητηματα) or essays on various subjects; all this and other books, like the life he wrote of Eusebius, are lost. On the other side St. Epipha­nius of Salamis in his "Panarion" has preserved a considerable fragment of Acacius' Aντιλογια against Marcellus of Ancyra.


* [ "Acacius" (2)] from the "Catholic Encyclopedia" (1913)
*Neander, August; [;ALLSELECTED=1;sid=f7822bef596dc35f41612804846ea115;xc=1;g=moagrp;rgn=full%20text;q1=Neander;cite1=Neander;cite1restrict=author;c=moa;c=moajrnl;view=toc;subview=short;sort=occur;start=1;size=25;idno=AJG3643.0002.001;cc=moa "General history of the Christian religion and church"] , Joseph Torrey (translator), Boston, (1853-54)
*Newman, John Henry; [ "Arians of the Fourth Century"] (1833)
*Smith, William (editor); "Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology", [ "Acacius" (3)] , Boston, (1867)
*Wace, Henry and Piercy, William C.; "Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century", [ "Acacius" (2)] (1911).----

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