Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Hosius (1), a confessor under Maximian
Hosius (1), (Osius), a confessor under Maximian, and bp. of Corduba, the capital of the province of Baetica in Spain. He took a leading part on the catholic side in the controversies of the first half of the 4th cent. For nearly 50 years he was the foremost bishop of his time, held in universal esteem and enjoying unbounded influence. Eusebius says, "He was approved for the sobriety and genuineness of his faith, had. distinguished himself by the boldness of his religious profession, and his fame was widely spread" (Vit. Cons. bk. ii. cc. 63, 73). Socrates calls him "the, celebrated Hosius" (H. E. ii. 29). Sozomen says: "He was honoured for his faith, virtuous life, and steadfast confession of truth" (H. E. i. 16). Athanasius is never weary of repeating his praises. "of the great Hosius," he says, "who answers to his name, that confessor of a happy old age, it is superfluous for me to speak, for he is not an obscure person, but of all men the most illustrious" (Apol. de Fugâ, § 7). Considering his great renown and his prominent part in affairs, it is remarkable how very little is known of his personal history. There seems no reason to doubt Eusebius, Athanasius, and others, who make him a native of Spain. Athanasius says (Hist. Arian. § 45) that when Hosius was more than 100 years old, and had been more than 60 years a bishop, he was summoned by Constantius from Spain to Sirmium, and there subscribed an Arian formula about the middle of a.d. 357. Soon afterwards he returned to his native country and died. We may probably, therefore, place his birth c. 256, as Tillemont does (Mém. t. vii. p. 302, 4to, ed.).
The common view that he suffered for the Christian faith in Diocletian's persecution between 303 and 305 is more than doubtful. We have his own testimony in his letter to Constantius (the son of Constantine) preserved by Athanasius (Hist. Arian. § 44). "I was a confessor at the first, when a persecution arose in the time of your grandfather Maximian." These words can hardly refer to the general persecution enjoined by Diocletian. The allusion seems to be to the persecution of which the chief promoter was Maximian, the Augustus and colleague, not the son-in-law, of Diocletian. Maximianus Herculius was made Caesar in 285, and Augustus in 286, as is shewn by coins and inscriptions (cf. Clinton, Fasti Romani, vo1. i. p. 328), and for six years the Roman empire was divided between these two rulers, Diocletian having the East and Maximian the West. In 292 a further partition of the empire took place by the appointment of two Caesars, Constantius Chlorus (the father of Constantine) and Galerius Maximianus. When Constantius was made Caesar in 292, Maximian's half of the empire was subdivided. "Cuneta quae trans Alpes Galliae sunt Constantio commissa; Africa Italiaque Herculio" (Aur. Vict. de Caesar, xxxix. 30). On the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian in 305, Gaul, with Italy and Africa, was given to Constantius, and the rest of the empire to Galerius. But Constantius, content with the dignity of Augustus, refused to administer Italy and Africa (Eutropius, x. 1). Orosius similarly says that Constantius, "Italiam, Africam, Hispaniam et Gallias obtinuit. Sed, vir tranquillissimus, Gallia tantum Hispaniaque contentus, Galerio caeteris patribus cessit" (Hist. vii. 25). Constantius, says Sozomen (H. E. i. 6), was not willing that Christianity should be accounted unlawful in the countries beyond the confines of Italy, i.e. in Gaul, Britain, or the region of the Pyrenaean mountains as far as the western ocean. These facts shew that in the division of the empire Spain was always an appendage of Gaul, and under the same administration. If so, it was under the jurisdiction of Constantius, and, as both Lactantius and Eusebius affirm, that Constantius took no part in the persecution of the Christians, it could not have been in his period that Hosius became a confessor. When, then, did he suffer? We have his own testimony that he had been a confessor in the time of Maximian. Probably it was in some special and local persecution carried out under the orders of Maximianus Herculius while he was sole ruler of the West, before Constantius was appointed Caesar in 292, and much before the general persecution authorized by the edicts of Diocletian in 303. It is very probable that between 286 and 292, while Maximian was sole ruler of the West, there were many martyrdoms in Spain as well as in Gaul and Italy. Hosius would have been then between 30 and 36 years old, and it is far more likely that he suffered persecution and witnessed a good confession then than later under the mild rule of Constantius. Beyond Hosius's own statement, we have no contemporary evidence upon the subject.
As the bishops and officers of the church generally suffered first in the outbreaks of persecution, it is more than probable that Hosius was already bp. of Corduba when he became a confessor. His earliest public act with which we are acquainted was his presence as bp. of Corduba at the synod of Elvira, but the date of this synod, like that of other events in his history, is involved in much obscurity. Mendoza, who has written more fully upon it than any other author, is of opinion that it should be placed in 300 or 301. Nineteen bishops from different parts of Spain were present, hence it may be regarded as representing the whole church of Spain. The president was Felix of Acci (Guadix) in Baetica, probably the oldest bishop present. The name of Hosius comes next. As a rule the order of signatures to the Acts of councils indicates the order of precedence among the bishops, either according to the date of their consecration or the importance of their episcopal sees (Hefele, Hist. of Councils, vol. i. 64, Eng. trans.). As Hosius was probably not over 45 years old, his high position could not have been due to his age, but must have been in right of his see. We infer, therefore, that Corduba then held the first place among the cities of Spain.
It is now very difficult to form a true conception of Corduba in its ancient grandeur. In the 1st and the beginning of the 2nd cents. Spain reached a very high development in the social system of Rome. Roman influence had so spread in Baetica that the natives had forgotten their own language. Roman schools were opened in the coloniae and municipia, the most brilliant being at Corduba and Osca. For nearly two centuries Spain produced men remarkable in all kinds of culture. Lucan and the two Senecas were born at Corduba, its schools thus furnishing rivals even to Vergil and Cicero. In the time of Hosius this intellectual activity had considerably declined, and pre-eminence in literary culture had passed to the province of Africa. But Corduba must still have retained a high place in the social development of the time. A man called to such an important see would most probably be one of some personal distinction. Baronius (ad ann. 57) attaches little importance to this synod, which he suspects of Novatianist tendencies. The very first canon, indeed, decrees that adults who have sacrificed to idols have committed a capital crime and can never again be received into communion. Such a denial of pardon to those who lapsed under persecution was the chief error of Novatian (Socr. H. E. iv. 28). The Novatianist discipline was very rigid in other respects also, especially with reference to carnal sins, and many of the canons of Elvira relate to such offences, and their stern and austere spirit shews how deeply the Fathers at Elvira were influenced by Novatianist principles. Though we cannot trace the hand of Hosius in the composition of these canons, yet as he was a leading member of the synod, its decrees would doubtless be in harmony with his convictions.
For 12 or 13 years after this synod nothing is known of his life. He then seems to have been brought into close personal relations with the emperor Constantine, and thenceforward his acts form part of the history of his time. It would be interesting to know how Hosius acquired the great influence over Constantine which it is believed he exercised up to the time of the Nicene council. But there is not a single passage in any ancient writer which relates the origin of their connexion.
The absence of Hosius from the synod of Arles, Aug. 1, 314, the most numerously attended council that had hitherto been held in Christendom, is remarkable. Bishops from Italy, Gaul, Spain, and Britain were assembled as representatives of the whole Western church. Constantine was absent, being engaged in his first war with Licinius in Pannonia. Possibly Hosius may have been in attendance upon the emperor, as we learn from Eusebius (Vit. Const. ii. 4) that in this campaign Constantine took with him "the priests of God," for the benefit of their prayers and "to have them constantly about his person, as most trusty guardians of the soul." Traces exist of the presence of Hosius at the imperial court in 316, when the Donatists, having been condemned at the council in Nov. at Milan by the emperor himself, spread abroad a report, as we learn from Augustine (cont. Ep. Parmen. lib. i. c. 8, vol. ix. p. 43, ed. Migne), that by the advice of Hosius, a friend of Caecilian, the catholic bp. of Carthage, they had been condemned.
In the relations between Christianity and paganism there is ground for thinking that the position of Hosius at this time must have been somewhat of a representative one on the Christian side; otherwise it is difficult to understand why the emperor should have addressed to him a law declaring free such slaves as were emancipated in the presence of the bishops or clergy (a.d. 321; Cod. Theod. lib. iv. tit. 7, col. 379, Hänel's ed.). By the end of 323 Constantine had become sole master of the Roman empire in the East and West, and took measures for the re-establishment of religious concord throughout his dominions. To this end, says Socrates (H. E. i. 7), "he sent a letter to Alexander, bp. of Alexandria, and to Arius, by a trustworthy person named Hosius, who was bp. of Corduba in Spain, whom the emperor greatly loved and held in the highest estimation," urging them not to contend about matters of small importance (Eus. Vit. Const. ii. 63). That Hosius, a bishop of the Western church, and speaking only Latin, should be sent to a city in the East in which Greek civilization had reached its highest development is a striking proof of the high opinion that the emperor had of him. Moreover, his mission gave him precedence as an imperial commissioner over the bp. of Alexandria, whose see ranked next to that of Rome. It is not very clear what Hosius did at Alexandria, the accounts being very imperfect and confused. He apparently devoted himself with great earnestness to refuting the dogmas of Sabellius (Socr. H. E. iii. 7); but as to his steps with reference to Arius, history is silent. We know, however, that he failed to extinguish the flame which the Arians had lighted. Finding it impossible to terminate these controversies, he had to return to Constantine and acknowledge that his mission had failed. The emperor thereupon, probably by his advice (Sulpit. Sever. Hist. ii. 55, "Nicaena synodus auctore illo [Hosio] confecta habebatur"), resolved to convoke an oecumenical council and to invite bishops from all quarters. The council was held at Nicaea in 325. The part of Hosius in it has been much discussed. (1) Was he the president of the council, and if so (2) did he preside as legate of the pope? There is no doubt of his very prominent position. Unfortunately no complete account of the acts of the synod is extant, if such ever existed.
(1) Roman Catholic writers, such as Baronius, Nat. Alexander (vol. vii. p. 390), Fleury, Alzog, and Hefele (Conc. i. 39), maintain that he was president, but as the legate of the pope. They refer to Gelasius (lib. i. c. 5), who says, "Osius ex Hispanis, . . . Silvestri Episcopi maximae Romae locum obtinebat"—ἐπέχων καὶ τὸν τόπον, Mansi, ii. 806 D. There is a little ambiguity in these words. A man may occupy a place which rightly belongs to another, but it does not follow that he is his representative because he sits in his seat. At this epoch, although the bp. of Rome held the first place among all his brethren, partly because Rome was the principal city in the world, yet his ecclesiastical jurisdiction does not appear to have extended beyond the churches of the ten provinces of Italy, called in the versio prisca of the 6th Nicene canon "suburbicaria loca." The churches of the East were mainly under the jurisdiction of the metropolitans of Alexandria or Antioch, and these great bishops would not brook the interference of their Western brethren. Moreover, the great strength of Christianity lay then in the East. The West was still imperfectly Christianized. It is difficult, therefore, to believe that Hosius presided at the council of Nicaea—an Eastern synod—as legate of the pope.
(2) But when we inquire why the usual order of precedence was departed from, we are a little at a loss for a satisfactory answer. Du Pin (Nouv. Bib. t. ii. pt. 2, p. 315) thought that Hosius presided because already acquainted with the question at issue and highly esteemed by the emperor. Similarly Schröckh (Kirchengeschichte, Thl. v. § 336). This seems the most probable explanation. It would be difficult to understand how the bishop of a see in Spain took precedence over the great patriarchs of the East if he had not been appointed by the emperor. Hosius was at the height of his reputation and enjoying the fullest confidence of his imperial master. He was, says Dean Stanley (Eastern Church, lect. iii.), "as the world-renowned Spaniard, an object of deeper interest to Christendom than any bp. of Rome could at that time have been." The power of the popes of Rome was not yet sufficiently consolidated for their claim to preside to have been admitted. Eleven years before, at the great council of the West at Arles in 314; the emperor appointed Marinus, bp. of Arles, to preside, while pope Silvester was represented there, as at Nicaea, by two presbyters and two deacons (cf. Hefele, Conc. i. 181). The council of Nicaea was convoked by Constantine, and there is good reason to believe that Hosius held the foremost place by his appointment. He is believed to have been the emperor's adviser in ecclesiastical matters. The part that Constantine, then only a catechumen, took in the proceedings at Nicaea shews that he must have received some instruction as to the debated questions from an orthodox teacher. It is very unlikely that he could have of himself given such a philosophical explanation of the Homoousion as he did (see the letter addressed by Eusebius to the Christians at Caesarea and preserved by Socrates, H. E. i. 8). Again, the emperor's letter to the churches respecting the council (Eus. Vit. Const. iii. 17–20) bears unmistakable traces of the hand of a theologian. Dean Milman (Hist. of Christianity, vol. ii. p. 364, crown 8vo ed.) calls the letter of Constantine to Arius and Alexander "in its spirit a model of temper and conciliation. It is probable that the hand of Hosius is to be traced in its composition. His influence was uniformly exercised in this manner. Wherever the edicts of the government were mild, conciliating, and humane, we find the bp. of Corduba."
At the conclusion of the council Hosius seems to have returned to Corduba. For nearly 20 years he lived in retirement in his own diocese. No trace of a return to the court of Constantine remains, and it does not appear that they ever met again. We must look to the history of the time for some explanation of the cause for these altered relations. Constantine left Asia Minor for Rome, which he reached c. July 326. His brief stay there was marked by deeds of cruelty. In the midst of the Vicennalia the people of Rome heard with regret that his son Crispus had been put to death. Not long afterwards the young Licinianus, his nephew, a boy of 12, was killed, at the suggestion, it is said, of the empress Fausta, whom retribution soon overtook. There followed a great number of public executions. The true causes of these events are involved in mystery, but Constantine is said to have become a prey to remorse. A great change certainly took place in his character after he became sole master of the Roman empire. He was spoiled by prosperity (Eutropius, lib. x. cc. 4, 6). He became arrogant and impatient of counsel, distrustful and suspicious. This moral deterioration was accompanied with great vacillation in his religious opinions. A few years after the council of Nicaea he fell under Arian influences. Arius was recalled; and at the instigation of Eusebius of Nicomedia and his adherents, Athanasius was condemned upon a false charge and banished to Gaul a.d. 335). Not long before his death, in 337, Constantine received baptism from Eusebius of Nicomedia, an Arian bishop. This change in the character and opinions of Constantine was the true cause of his altered relations with Hosius. As the influence of the Arians over his mind increased, that of his old counsellor would of necessity decline.
Hosius does not appear to have been present at any of the synods between those of Nicaea and Sardica, nor to have taken any public part in the controversies between Athanasius and the Arians during 20 years. In 345 the emperor Constans summoned Athanasius to Milan from Rome, and informed him that he had been urged by certain bishops (believed to have been pope Julius, Hosius, and Maximinus of Trèves; cf. Hilar. Frag. 2, p. 16) to use his influence with his brother Constantius, that a council might be called to settle the questions concerning him, the place of meeting to be Sardica. Athanasius while in Milan was directed by Constans to go to Gaul to meet Hosius and travel with him to Sardica (Athan. Apol. ad Const. c. 4). Hosius was now nearly 90 years old. So long a journey implies considerable vigour of body, and that age had not changed his convictions nor impaired his zeal. Nor had his long retirement lessened his influence or the unbounded respect felt for him by his contemporaries. In the encyclical letter of the council of Sardica to be found in Athanasius (Apol. contr. Arian. c. 44), Hosius is spoken of as "one who on account of his age, his confession, and the many labours he had undergone, is worthy of all reverence." His presidency in this case is affirmed in express terms by Athanasius (Hist. Arian. c. 16): "The great Hosius was president of the council." The Acts shew him as the life and soul of the synod, proposing most of the canons and taking the foremost part in the proceedings. The synod afforded a great opportunity for his wisdom and conciliatory spirit. He specially sought to conciliate the Eusebian party, of which he writes to Constantine (ib. c. 44): "on my own account I challenged the enemies of Athanasius, when they came to the church where I generally was, to declare what they had against him. This I did once and again, requesting them if they were unwilling to appear before the whole council, yet to appear before me alone." The Eusebians, however, rejecting all overtures, held a synod of their own at Philippopolis, whence they sent an encyclical letter to the churches, condemning Hosius, Julius, bp. of Rome, and others, chiefly for holding communion with Athanasius. Hosius, they said, had also always been a persecutor of a certain Marcus of blessed memory, a strenuous defender of evil men, and a companion of wicked and abandoned persons in the East (Hilar. Frag. iii. t. ii. col. 674, ed. Migne).
Until 354 we hear nothing further of him. An extant letter written to him by pope Liberius, early in 354, shews the great respect in which he was held. Liberius writes, full of grief, because Vincentius of Capua, one of his legates in whom he had placed great confidence, at a synod consisting chiefly of the Eusebian party, held at Arles in 353, had consented under constraint to give up communion with Athanasius (ib. vi. t. ii. col. 688).
During his long life Hosius had preserved an unblemished name and been a consistent and uncompromising supporter of the Nicene faith. At length, when 100 years old, he gave way for a brief moment to the violence of his persecutors, and consented under torture to hold communion with Valens and Ursacius (Athan. Hist. Arian. 45), a concession which has been much magnified and misrepresented.
In 355 a synod was convoked by Constantius at Milan, which deserved, says Tillemont (Mém. t. vi. p. 362), the name of a robber synod even more than did the false council of Ephesus. At this synod the Eusebians first openly declared in favour of the dogmas of Arius, and endeavoured to secure their acceptance by the church. The emperor called upon the orthodox bishops, under penalty of banishment, to join in the condemnation of Athanasius. Most of them gave way, and consented to condemn Athanasius and to hold communion with the Arians (Rufinus, lib. i. c. 20). The few who stood firm were banished, bound with chains, to distant provinces: Dionysius, exarch of Milan, to Cappadocia, or Armenia; Lucifer to Syria; Eusebius of Vercelli into Palestine (cf. Athan. Apol. Const. 27). In 366 Liberius, bp. of Rome, was summoned to Milan, where Constantius was residing, and allowed three days to choose between signing the condemnation of Athanasius or going into exile. He chose the latter, and was banished to Beroea in Thrace. From the first the object of the Arians had been to gain the great Hosius. "As long as he escaped their wicked machinations they thought they had accomplished nothing. We have done everything, they said to Constantius. We have banished the bishop of the Romans, and before him a very great number of other bishops, and have filled every place with alarm. But these strong measures are as nothing, nor is our success at all more secure so long as Hosius remains. Begin then to persecute him also, and spare him not, ancient as he is. Our heresy knows not to honour the hoary hairs of the aged" (Athan. Hist. Arian. § 42). At their solicitation the emperor had previously summoned Hosius to Milan, c. a.d. 355. On his arrival he urged him to subscribe against Athanasius and hold communion with the Arians. The old man, full of grief that such a proposal should have been even made to him, would not for one moment listen to it. Severely rebuking the emperor and endeavouring to convince him of his error, he withdrew from the court and returned to his own country. Constantius wrote frequently, sometimes flattering, sometimes threatening him. "Be persuaded," he said, "and subscribe against Athanasius, for whoever subscribes against him thereby embraces with us the Arian cause." Hosius remained fearless and unmoved, and wrote a spirited answer to, Constantius, preserved by Athanasius, the only extant composition by Hosius (ib. § 44). The emperor continued to threaten him severely, intending either to bring him over by force or to banish him, for, says Socrates (H. E. ii. 31) the Arians considered that this would give great authority to their opinions. Finding that Hosius would not subscribe, Constantius sent for him to Sirmium and detained him there a whole year. "Unmindful," says Athanasius (l.c.), "of his father's love for Hosius, without reverence for his great age, for he was then 100 years old, this patron of impiety and emperor of heresy used such violence towards the old man that at last, broken down by suffering, he was brought, though with reluctance, to hold communion with Valens and Ursacius, but he would not subscribe against Athanasius" (a.d. 357). He says elsewhere (Apol. pro Fug. § 7) that Hosius "yielded for a time to the Arians, as being old and infirm in body, and after repeated blows had been inflicted upon him above measure, and conspiracies formed against his kinsfolk." Socrates gives similar testimony (l.c.; cf. Newman, Arians, c. iv. § 3).
It is difficult to determine which of the confessions of faith drawn up at Sirmium was actually signed by Hosius. Whether there was only one synod of Sirmium, or two or three at intervals of a few years, is also a question upon which opinions have differed widely. The predominant opinion is expressed by Valesius in a note to Socrates (H. E. ii. 30), viz. that there were three synods there, each issuing a different creed. The first, in 351, at which Photinus was deposed, published a confession in Greek. At the second, in 357, Hosius was compelled to be present and his subscription was obtained by force to a creed written in Latin, called by Hilarius "blasphemia apud Sirmium per Osium et Potamium conscripta" (Opp. ed. Migne, t. ii. col. 487). The third Sirmian creed, called the "Dated Creed" from its naming the consuls, was agreed upon at a convention of bishops in May 359 This was the creed afterwards produced by Ursacius and Valens at the synod of Ariminum (cf. Athan. de Synod. 48). Socrates, indeed (H. E. ii. 30), says that three creeds were drawn up at the same synod of Sirmium as that which deposed Photinus (a.d. 351)—one in Greek and two in Latin—neither of which agreed together. But this is clearly an error. Sozomen says (H. E. iv. 12) that "Hosius had certainly, with the view of arresting the contention excited by Valens, Ursacius, and Germinius, consented, though by compulsion, with some other bishops at Sirmium to refrain from the use of the terms Homoousion and Homoiousion, because such terms do not occur in the Holy Scriptures and are beyond the understanding of men." These very expressions occur in the creed set forth at Sirmium in Latin, and afterwards translated into Greek, which Socrates gives (l.c.), and there is no room to doubt that this was the confession which Hosius signed.
It may be doubted, says Dean Stanley (East. Ch. lect. vii. c. 3), "whether in his own age the authority of Hosius in the theological world was not even higher than that of Athanasius." The Arians, therefore, would naturally make the most of the concession wrung from him. Those who constantly slandered Athanasius would not have many scruples about calumniating Hosius. Epiphanius (Haer. 73), about 20 years later, says that the Arians thought they could condemn the teaching of the church as to the Homoousion by producing letters fraudulently procured from the venerable Hosius, stating that the substance was dissimilar. Sozomen says (H. E. iv. 12) that Eudoxius, bp. of Antioch, c. 358, upheld the heresy of Aetius, that the Son is dissimilar to the Father, and rejected the terms Homoousion and Homoiousion. When he received the letter of Hosius he spread a report that Liberius had also made the same admission (iv. 15). These letters were most probably spurious. There is reason also to believe that the creed actually signed by Hosius was interpolated and sent into the East in his name. This may perhaps explain the expression of Hilarius (contr. Constantium, c. 23, col. 580, ed. Migne, vol. ii.) when he speaks of "deliramenta Osii et incrementa Ursacii et Valentis" (cf. Newman's notes to Athanasius, Eng. trans. vol. i. p. 162).
Exaggerated reports of the fall of Hosius were spread by the Arians far and wide. His perversion was their strongest argument against the Catholic party in Gaul. To this a contemporary writer, Phoebadius, bp. of Agennum, replies (Lib. contra Arian. c. 23, Patr. Lat. ed. Migne, vol. xx. col. 30): "Novit enim mundus quae in hanc tenuerit aetatem qua constantia apud Sardicam et in Nicaeno tractatu assensus sit et damnaverit Arianos. . . . Si nonaginta fere annis male credidit, post nonaginta illum recte sentire non credam." The Donatists also, whose views Hosius had opposed equally strongly, did not fail to calumniate him. Augustine vindicates his memory (Lib. contra Parmen. lib. i. c. 4, § 7, ed. Migne, vol. ix. col. 38). Marcellus and Faustinus, two presbyters who were followers of Lucifer of Cagliari, relate (Libellum ad Theodos. c. 383 or 384) that on the return of Hosius to Spain, Gregory, bp. of Elvira, refused to hold communion with him, and as Hosius was in the act of pronouncing his deposition he was struck dumb and fell from his seat. It is very possible that the first part of the story may have had some foundation, as a letter is extant (Hilar. Frag. xii. t. ii. col. 713, ed. Migne) from Eusebius of Vercelli to Gregory of Spain (c. 360), congratulating him on having withstood the transgressor Hosius. Among ancient writers, no one has referred to the lapse of Hosius so bitterly as Hilary of Poictiers. This is the more remarkable as he had never heard of the Nicene Creed until he went into exile (Hilar. de Syn. c. 91, ad fin. vol. ii. col. 545 ed. Migne). He charges Hosius and Potamius, bp. of Lisbon, with having drawn up the second creed of Sirmium, which he designates in one place (Opp. ed. Migne, t. ii. col. 487) as the "blasphemia," in another (col. 599) as "deliramenta Osii"; and says (col. 539) that his fall was due to his having been too anxious to get away from Sirmium and die in his own country. These hard sayings occur in Hilary's treatise de Synodis, written probably in 358, a year after the second synod of Sirmium, at which Hosius was forced to be present. Hilary himself tells us (de Syn. c. 63, t. ii. col. 533) that the majority of those with whom he was then living in exile had no true acquaintance with God—in other words, held Arian opinions—"Ex majori pane Asianae decem provinciae intra quas consisto, vere Deum nesciunt." Whatever tidings came to him would therefore reach him through Arian channels. His means of information are not to be compared with those of Athanasius. He is, moreover, the only ancient writer who says that Hosius had any hand in the composition of the creed of the second council of Sirmium, and any combination between Hosius and Potamius, the reputed author with him of this confession, is for other reasons most improbable. The one had been all his life a consistent supporter of the Nicene Creed, the other a renegade. Moreover, Hosius at this time was about 100 years old. At such an age men do not willingly invent new creeds; they are far more likely to cling tenaciously to old ones.
Sulpicius Severus (c. 404 or 405) speaks of the lapse of Hosius as resting on a popular rumour which seemed quite incredible unless extreme old age had enfeebled his powers and made him childish (Hist. Sac. lib. 2).
To clear his memory from the charges of Hilary it is sufficient to point out that the synod of Sardica spoke of Hosius as a man of a "happy old age, who, on account of his age, his confession, and the many labours, he has undergone, is worthy of all reverence." So public a testimony to his high character is enough to silence all detraction, and the affectionate and reverential language in which the great Athanasius describes the passing frailty of his venerable friend, the father of the bishops, is very different from the furious and intemperate tone in which it is referred to by Hilary. "This true Hosius, and his blameless life," says Athanasius, "were known to all." As he relates the violence used towards him, he expresses only the tenderest commiseration for his friend; but against Constantius, his persecutor, his indignation knows no bounds (Hist. Arian. 46).
There is some doubt whether Hosius succumbed to the violence used against him at Sirmium and died there in 357, or whether, after subscribing the Arian formula, he was permitted to end his days in Spain. This involves the further question—whether before his death he recanted, and was readmitted into the Catholic church, or retained his Arian opinions to the last. The story told by the Luciferians and the charges brought against his memory by his old enemies the Donatists serve at least to shew that, according to ecclesiastical tradition, he died in Spain. The question is fully examined by Baronius (sub ann. 357, cc. xxx.–xxxvii.), who does not believe the story told by the Luciferians. The story of the apostate Marcellinus is not confirmed by any contemporary writer. Had it been true, it must have been known to Athanasius, who says distinctly that Hosius yielded to the outrages of the Arians "for a time, as being old and infirm in body" (Apol. pro Fug. § 5), and that "at the approach of death, as it were by his last testament, he bore witness to the force which had been used towards him, and abjured the Arian heresy and gave strict charge that no one should receive it" (Hist. Arian. 45). These words prove that his lapse was but a temporary one, that he died in communion with the church, and in the midst of his friends. Hilary's words as to his anxiety to leave Sirmium andbe buried in his own country imply that he obtained his wish to return to Spain. The date of his death is a little uncertain, but from Marcellinus we learn that it was soon after his return to Spain and before the concession he had made to the Arians had become widely known. As the treatise of Athanasius (Hist. Arian.) was written between 358 and 360, it must have been before that period. Some writers favour the end of 357; others think he lived till 359.
His profound acquaintance with Christian doctrine was combined with a singularly blameless and holy life. He seems to have had great tact and judgment and a conciliatory disposition. The shadow cast upon his name by the concession extorted from him by the Arians must not be allowed to obscure the rightful honour due to him for his labours and sufferings on behalf of the Catholic faith. "Even Christianity," says Dean Milman (Hist. of Christianity, vol. ii. p. 427, ed. 1875), "has no power over that mental imbecility which accompanies the decay of physical strength, and this act of feebleness ought not for an instant to be set against the unblemished virtue of a whole life."
A very full account of his life, and a discussion of various points in his history, will be found in Gams (Die Kirchengesch. von Spanien, Band ii. pp. i–309, Regensburg, 1864). See also Hefele, Conciliengesch. vols. i. and ii., of which there is an Eng. trans.; Tillemont, Mém. t. vii. p. 300, 4to ed.; Dom Ceillier, s.v. t. iii. 392, new ed.; Zahn, Const. der Gr. u. die Kirche, 1876; Florez, España Sagrada, La Provincia de Bética, vol. ix. and x. (Madrid, 1754).