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Arius ( 256 - 336 )  Category ( Religious_Leaders_Figures ) [suggest a correction]

AriusArius was an early fourth century C.E. Christian priest from Alexandria, Egypt. His teachings, which maintained that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was not coeternal with God the Father, but that he had been created at some point by God. Put simply, Arius argued that Jesus had not always existed. This teaching was considered heretical by the Catholic Christian Church and sparked a controversy that led to much disagreement, schisms within the church, and bloodshed. The matter was not agreed upon until the time of Constantine the Great, in the year 324 at the Council at Nicaea. Arius was excommunicated along with other priests who shared his views. Scholars have a difficult time in reconstructing the specifics of the life and teachings of Arius, as few remain which are extant. Constantine ordered Arius' writings burned while the priest was still alive. The few works that survive are part of other books in which Arius is denounced as a heretic. His "Thalia," or "Festivity," was a popular work combining prose and verse. It survives in fragmentary form.

When Constantine summoned the Council of Nicaea in 325, it condemned Arius's teaching and exiled him. A few years later Arius was recalled and apparently spent his remaining life energies attempting to get back into the good graces of the church. His philosophical enemy, a priest named Athanasius, worked hard to prevent this, but in 336, just when Arius was about to be allowed to again receive communion in Constantinople, he apparently died suddenly and painfully. A number of critics and historians believe that Arius was poisoned by his enemies.

Very little is known of Arius's early life. Scholars believe he was possibly of Libyan descent and his father's name may have been Ammonius. Arius was probably a student at a school in Antioch, studying under Saint Lucian. Later he was ordained a deacon of the church, and then a priest. Though his opponents have assaulted his character over the centuries, by contemporary accounts Arius was a man of ascetic character, pure morals, and firm convictions. A contemporary described him as "tall and lean, of distinguished appearance and polished address. Women doted on him, charmed by his beautiful manners, touched by his appearance of asceticism. Men were impressed by his aura of intellectual superiority."

Image: Arius of Alexandria.

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