AND THE COUNCIL OF NICE 55
the eternal uncreated foundation of all things was held to be the creator of the mediate being who makes all things, but still himself unable to create. In the attempt to avoid lapsing into polytheism by as- suming that there were two primal causes, Arius posited a demi-god of whom the Scriptures say not a word. As a result of very effective propaganda his teachings gained a tremendous popular following.
Constantine did everything he could to salvage Church unity, so valuable to the Empire which his tireless efforts had unified. He called together the first great Council, that of Nice. Pope Sylvester's ambassadors acted as chairmen. The Council decided against Arius: Christ was proclaimed to be truly God, born of the true God and like in nature to the Father. But this verdict of the Council was also the inception of a drama which kept the Empire in a state of excitement for more than half a century. Under Constantine's successors, the Arians gained control of the secular power and also made some head- way in the West. During this springtime flood of the most powerful heresy since the days of the Gnostics, the Papacy could act only as a protecting dam. The See of Peter was sure that its was the true teaching. It maintained its claim to the highest pastoral authority and used whatever influence it possessed when the persecuted bishops of the Orthodox East asked for help. Nevertheless the Popes exer- cised no such influence as did Athanasius, the real leader of the Catholic forces. He has often been termed one of the greatest men of all times. The whole of his long life was dedicated to the upbuilding of the Church. Often viciously attacked, persecuted and exiled, he was a man of brilliant mind and unflinching character, and his was a soul which found God in the contemplative inner life, though it always tingled with zest for battle. In him were joined together, as con- temporaries already said, the nature of two precious stones: those who struck him found that he was a diamond, and those who were sundered from him realized that he was a magnet. Fellow Christians saw in the purity of his life a norm of the episcopacy, and in his theology a canon of orthodoxy. The odyssey of this warrior, who defended the Church against the power of the state as passionately as he fought for her against the heretics, also describes the hour of Pope Liberius' weakness: he had gone into exile for the cause of Athanasius, but there had conceded so much to the Arians that he was on the verge