Acacius of Caesarea

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Acacius of Caesarea in (Greek: Ἀκάκιος Mονόφθαλμος was an Arian bishop and a pupil and successor in the Palestinian see of Caesarea of Eusebius of Caesarea. He is remembered mainly for his bitter opposition to St. Cyril of Jerusalem and for his part in the acute stages of the Arian controversy during the latter half of the fourth century.


Nothing is known of the date or country of his birth. He was probably a Syrian. Throughout his life he bore the nickname of one-eyed (in Greek: `o Mονoφθαλμος) that no doubt from came a personal defect,[1] although it possibly had a maliciously figurative reference, or also, to his general shifty conduct and his rare skill in ambiguous statement.

The prestige he possessed as the friend and successor of Eusebius of Caesarea coupled with his great intellectual ability, singled him out as the spokesman and guiding spirit among the Arians, even before their first great leader, Eusebius of Nicomedia, died in 342. In 341, Acacius attended the council of Antioch,[2] where in the presence of the emperor Constantius II "the Golden Basilica" was dedicated by a group of ninety bishops, he subscribed to the ambiguous creeds then drawn up from which the term Homoousion and all mention of "substance" were excluded. For this, he and other bishops of the Eusebian party were deposed at the Council of Sardica in 347. Then, refusing to acquiesce in the sentence passed upon them, he and the excommunicated bishops withdrew to Philippopolis, where he, in turn, helped to secure a sentence of excommunication and deposition against his judges, including Bishop Julius of Rome and Bp. Hosius of Cordoba. The penalties that were inflicted on him at the hands of the Nicene party did nothing to diminish his prestige. St. Jerome tells us that his esteem with Constantius II was so great during all these years that when Bishop Liberius of Rome was deposed in 357 and driven into exile, Acacius was able to secure the antipope Felix in his place.

In 358, his long standing quarrel with Cyril of Jerusalem, the bishop of Jerusalem, culminated in the deposition of Cyril. The quarrel, which dated back to a period not long after Cyril was installed as Bishop of Jerusalem had ostensibly arisen over a question of canonical precedence. Charges and counter-charges of heresy followed for some years, until Acacius managed to secure Cyril's deposition through the assistance of the Palestinian bishops, whom he had induced to examine a charge of contumacy, i.e. contempt, against Cyril. Cyril went into exile, but was restored to his church within two years by a decision of the Council of Seleucia. But with the trust enjoyed by Acacius with emperor Constantius II he was able to undo Cyril of Jerusalem's restoration. In 360, Cyril was condemned once more, this time by the Synod of Constantinople. Cyril yielded and left his see, and remained in exile until the accession, in 361, of emperor Julian the Apostate.

Acacius took a leading place among the prelates who succeeded in splitting into two the ecumenical council that Constantius II proposed to summon, and thus nullified its authority. While the Western bishops assembled at Rimini, in 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 between one hundred and fifty and one hundred and sixty. The Semi-Arians were in a large majority. Acacius had a well-disciplined group of followers, called after him Acacians. With the Anomoeans, he could count on his side about forty bishops. After the majority confirmed the Semi-Arian creed of Antioch ("Creed of the Dedication") and Silvanus of Tarsus proposed confirmation of the Lucianic Creed, Acacius and his party walked out of the assembly, as a protest. In spite of the protest, the Creed was signed the next morning behind closed doors, a proceeding that Acacius quickly 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 of Antioch. Cyril was already under censure. Acacius refused to bring his followers back to the assembly until some accused bishops who were present had withdrawn. After a stormy debate his approach was agreed to and Leonas, the representative of Constantius II at the assembly, rose and read a copy of a new Creed that Acacius had put into his hands. This version rejected the terms Homoousion and Homoiousion "as alien from Scripture," and anathematizing the term "Anomoeon," but distinctly confessed 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), was rejected by the Semi-Arian majority. The majority then proceeded to depose Acacius and his followers.

Acacius and his followers did not wait for the sentence of deposition. They immediately traveled to Constantinople and to place their complaints before Constantius. Acacius soon gained his ear. A new council was speedily called at Constantinople, of which Acacius was its soul.[3] Through his efforts the Council was brought to accept the Confession of Rimini. Completing their triumph, he and Eudoxius of Antioch, then bishop of Constantinople, used their whole influence to bring the edicts of the Council of Nicea, and all mention of the Homoousion, into disuse and oblivion.[4] On his return to the East in 361, Acacius and his followers consecrated new bishops to the sees that were vacant. Among these, Meletius was placed in the see of Antioch. When the imperial throne was filled by the Nicene friendly emperor Jovian, Acacius with his friends suddenly changed their views, and voluntarily accepted the creed of Nicea in 363.[5] On the accession in 364 of the Arian Emperor Valens, however, Acacius quickly returned to Arianism and made common cause with Eudoxius of Antioch.[6] But he found no support with the council of Macedonian bishops at Lampsacus, as his deposition at Seleucia was confirmed. He died in 366.

Literary works

He was a bishop of great learning, a patron of studies, who enriched with parchments the library at Caesarea founded by Eusebius of Caesarea.[7] He wrote, among other works, a treatise in seventeen books on the Ecclesiastes, as well as six books or essays of Miscellanies (in Greek: σύμμικτα ζητηματα) on various subjects. He also wrote on the life of Eusebius. All this work is lost other than Epiphanius of Salamis' preservation of a considerable fragment of Acacius' Aντιλογια against Marcellus of Ancyra in his Panarion.


  1. St.Jerome, Viri ill. III., XCVIII.
  2. Sozomen, Historia Ecclesiastica, iii. 5.
  3. Philostorgius iv. 12.
  4. Sozomen iv. 26.
  5. Socrates Scholasticus|Socrates iii. 25.
  6. Socrates iv. 2.
  7. Jerome, Epistula ad Marcellam, 141.
Succession box:
Acacius of Caesarea
Preceded by:
Bishop of Caesarea
Succeeded by:
Gelasius of Caesarea
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