Council of Constantinople in 360 AD

Council of Constantinople in 360 AD

Zlatomira Gerdzhikova


Institute for Balkan Studies & Center of Thracology  DOI
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences 25 June 2020
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. core article


Abstract: In 360 AD a small council was held in Constantinople, summoned by Emperor Constantius II the main task resolving the division of the Eastern bishops. The council considered the theological interpretations of Acacius and his followers and adopted a symbol of faith that will be used by barbarian peoples for more than a century.

Keywords: Church Council, Constantinople, Arianism, Balkans, Late Antiquity

In 359, immediately after the end of the parallel councils in Arimini and Seleucia, Emperor Constantius II summoned a council in Constantinople, with the main task resolving the division of the Church resulted at the council in Seleucia. Representatives of the Eastern and Western churches were to take part in the council. About 50 eastern and several western bishops, their number is not specified, arrived at Constantinople.

In January 360, a council with probably no more than 72 bishops, met in Constantinople (Socr. HE II.41.5-6, Philost HE IV.12, Soz. HE IV.24.1). Among the participants are bishops such as Maris of Chalcedon and Ulfila, the Gothic bishop (Socr. HE II.41.23; Soz. HE IV.24.1).[1] Most bishops were from Bithynia and Acacius' followers have a dominant influence.

The Council adopted a symbol based on the symbol of Nicaea. All previous symbols were abolished and new ones were forbidden[2] (Socr. HE II.41.8-17, Theod. HE II.21.3-7). The symbols of Rimini and Constantinople (359/360) lay the foundations of what we can define as the "Arian church" (Doc. 60.9; 62. 5) and which has nothing to do with the theological interpretations of Arius. Homoian Arianism would become the main faith of the Goths and through them of most of the Germanic tribes. As federati, they did not have to obey the religious laws of the empire[3] and continued to practice this religion for more than 200 years. Homoians also remain in the East, attested to the reign of Justinian.

The symbol adopted in Constantinople in 360[4], according to Gwatkin[5] and Harnack,[6] is a completely impersonal compromise that no one refers to or returns to when it comes to a theological interpretation, although like the symbol adopted in Arimini, one a year earlier, continued to have political influence.[7] Although we continue to meet homoians and they continue to have political and theological influence, its pure form ceases to exist with the death of Constantius II. For this reason, the contemporaries of Epiphanius, the Council of Constantinople in 381, and even the historians of the fifth century did not give a name to this religious group. In their eyes, this was not a specific group.[8]

The problem of Aetius, who was eventually convicted, was considered in Constantinople. His supporters were given six months during which they could distance themselves from him or be convicted like him. This decision led to the creation of an independent homoian church in the East. It is obvious that homoians were neither Aryans nor New Aryans. As a result, Constantius succeeded in re-establishing unity in 360, like his father Constantine in 325. On February 15, he finally celebrated the consecration of St. Sofia in Constantinople, whose construction was erected by Constantine I. The theological decisions of the council were spread by council letters throughout the empire with a request to be signed. (Socr. HE II.43.9; Soz. HE IV.26.2) and remained the official faith of the empire for 20 years - until the religious changes of Theodosius in 380. This homoian period was broken only during the reign of Julian and Jovian.[9]

After accepting the symbol, the bishops proceeded to condemn the enemies of Acacius. In most cases, disciplinary sanctionces were imposed, which included the transfer of a bishop from one see to another, which the council not only apologized for, but also replaced Macedonius from Constantinople with Eudoxius of Antioch. The council did not show consistency when it removed Eleusis from Cyzyck and replaced him with Eunomius, while at the same time condemning the teacher of Aetius in heresy (Theod. HE II.28). The council excommunicated Basil of Ancyra, who tried to turn the clergy of Sirmium against their bishop Herminius and sent a letter to Africa asking for help from local bishops (Hilar. In Const. 26 testifies that African bishops sent a signed letter condemning the blasphemy of Ursacius and Valens). The council excommunicated Neonas from Seleucia, Sophronius from Zompeiopolis, Cyril from Jerusalem and many others.

This cleansing was carried out by a small council held in Constantinople with the consent of the emperor (Hilar. In Const. 15.10-12). Some of the results were unexpected. Although the bishops of Constantinople appointed Meletius, bishop of Sebastia, to replace Eustathius (Soz. HE IV.26.1), Meletius was chosen by the people of Antioch to fill a vacancy left by the council when Eudoxius was moved to Constantinople. After his election, Meletius showed that he was a supporter of the Nicene Creed (Socr. HE II.44, Theod. HE II.31, Soz. HE IV.28). Less than a month later, he was removed from the chair and replaced by Eusonius, who had been close to Arius for many years. As a result, the existing schism in Antioch became even more complex. There were already three "churches of Antioch."

The Homoean symbol, proclaimed in Constantinople in January 360, had a long life as an "Arian symbol" of the northern barbarians, even after conquering the Roman Empire in the 5th century. Constantius detained 400 Western bishops in Arimini for half a year until they signed the symbol, that he imposed on them.


[1] Schäferdiek, 2014, 47.

[2] Barnes, 1993, 148; Kelly, 1972, 293–295.

[3] Wolfram, 2009, 138–145.

[4] Athanasius., de Syn. 30, 2–10 и Sokrates, HE 2.41, 8–16: (1) Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα θεὸν πατέρα παντοκράτορα, ἐξ οὗ τὰ πάντα, (2) καὶ εἰς τὸν μονογενῆ υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸν πρὸ πάντων αἰώνων καὶ πρὸ πάσης ἀρχῆς γεννηθέντα ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ, δι’ οὗ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο, τὰ ὁρατὰ καὶ τὰ ἀόρατα, γεννηθέντα δὲ μονογενῆ, μόνον ἐκ μόνου τοῦ πατρός, Θεὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ, ὅμοιον τῷ γεννήσαντι αὐτὸν πατρὶ κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, οὗ τὴν γέννησιν οὐδεὶς οἶδεν εἰ μὴ μόνος ὁ γεννήσας αὐτὸν πατήρ. (3) τοῦτον οἴδαμεν μονογενῆ Θεοῦ υἱὸν πέμποντος τοῦ πατρὸς παραγεγενῆσθαι ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν, ὡς γέγραπται, ἐπὶ καταλύσει τῆς ἁμαρτίας καὶ τοῦ θανάτου, καὶ γεννηθέντα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου τὸ κατὰ σάρκα, ὡς γέγραπται, καὶ ἀναστραφέντα μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν καὶ πάσης τῆς οἰκονομίας πληρωθείσης κατὰ τὴν πατρικὴν βούλησιν σταυρωθέντα καὶ ἀποθανόντα καὶ ταφέντα καὶ εἰς τὰ καταχθόνια κατεληλυθέναι, ὅντινα καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ ᾅδης ἔπτηξεν, ὅστις καὶ ἀνέστη ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ καὶ διέτριψεν μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν καὶ πληρωθεισῶν τεσσαράκοντα ἡμερῶν ἀνελήφθη εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς καὶ καθέζεται ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ πατρός, ἐλευσόμενος ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς ἀναστάσεως ἐν τῇ πατρικῇ δόξῃ, ἵνα ἀποδώσῃ ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ. (4) [Πιστεύομεν] καὶ εἰς τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα, ὅπερ αὐτὸς ὁ μονογενὴς τοῦ Θεοῦ υἱὸς ὁ Χριστός, ὁ κύριος καὶ ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν, ἐπηγγείλατο πέμπειν τῷ γένει τῶν ἀνθρώπων παράκλητον, καθάπερ γέγραπται, τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, ὅπερ αὐτὸς ἔπεμψεν, ὅτε ἀνῆλθεν εἰς τοὺς οὐρανούς. (5) Τὸ δὲ ὄνομα τῆς οὐσίας, ὅπερ ἁπλούστερον ὑπὸ τῶν πατέρων ἐνετέθη, ἀγνοούμενον δὲ τοῖς λαοῖς σκάνδαλον ἔφερεν, διότι μηδὲ αἱ γραφαὶ τοῦτο περιέχουσιν, ἤρεσε περιαιρεθῆναι καὶ παντελῶς μηδεμίαν μνήμην τοῦ λοιποῦ τούτου γίνεσθαι, ἐπειδήπερ καὶ αἱ θεῖαι γραφαὶ οὐδαμῶς ἐμνημόνευσαν περὶ οὐσίας πατρὸς καὶ υἱοῦ. Καὶ γὰρ οὐκ ὀφείλει ὑπόστασις περὶ πατρὸς καὶ υἱοῦ καὶ ἁγίου πνεύματος ὀνομάζεσθαι. ὅμοιον δὲ λέγομεν τῷ πατρὶ τὸν υἱόν, ὡς λέγουσιν αἱ θεῖαι γραφαὶ καὶ διδάσκουσιν. (6) πᾶσαι δὲ αἱ αἱρέσεις, αἵ τε ἤδη πρότερον κατεκρίθησαν καὶ αἵτινες ἐὰν καινότεραι γένωνται, ἐναντίαι τυγχάνουσαι τῆς ἐκτεθείσης ταύτης φραφῆς, ἀνάθεμα ἔστωσαν.

[5] Gwatkin, 1900, 168.

[6] Harnack, 1898, IV.80.

[7] Heil, 2014, 95.

[8] Gwatkin, 1900, 168; Harnak, 1894, IV.80.

[9] Heil, 2014, 98.



Athanasius de Synodis Hans-Georg Opitz (ed.), Urkunden zur Geschichte des arianischen Streites 318–328, Athanasius Werke III 1, 1–2 (Berlin and Leipzig, 1934–35)

Hilary of Poitiers, Liber In Constantium, A. Rocher (ed.) Hilaire de Poitiers: Contre Constance, [Sources chrétiennes 334] (Paris, 1987).

Lionel R. Wickham (ed. and tr.), Hilary of Poitiers. Conflicts of Conscience and Law in the fourth-century Church, TTH 25 (Liverpool, 1997).

Philostorgius, Historia ecclesiastica (Kirchengeschichte), Joseph Bidez and Felix Winkelmann (eds), GCS 21, (3rd edn, Berlin, 1981);

Philip R. Amidon (tr.), Philostorgius Church history. translated with an introduction and notes, Writings from the Greco-Roman world 23 (Leiden, 2007)

Sokrates Scholasticus, Historia ecclesiastica, Günther Christian Hansen (ed.), GCS N.F. 1 (Berlin, 1995).

Sozomenos, Historia ecclesiastica, Joseph Bidez and Günther Christian Hansen (eds), GCS 50 (Berlin, 1960);

Ernst Walford (tr.), The ecclesiastical history of Sozomen, comprising a history of the church form A.D. 324 to A.D. 440 (London, 1855).

Theodoret, Historia ecclesiastica, Léon Parmentier and Günther Christian Hansen (eds), Theodoret Kirchengeschichte, GCS N. F. 5, (3rd edn, Berlin, 1998);

Blomfield Jackson (tr.), ‘The Ecclesiastical history, dialogues, and letters of Theodoret’, in Henry Wace and Philip Schaff (eds), Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historical Writings, NPNF 3 (Oxford 1892, repr. 1995), 33–160.


Secondary Sources

Barnes, T.D. (1993) Athanasius and Constantius: Theology and Politics in the Constantinian Empire (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press).

Berndt, G., R. Steinacher (eds.) (2014) Arianism: Roman Heresy and Barbarian Creed (Ashgate).

Gwatkin H.M. (1900) Studies of Arianism, Chiefly referring to the character and chronology of the reaction which followed the Council of Nicaea (Cambridge).

Harnack, A.  (1898) History of Dogma, tr. Neil Buchanan, vol. 4 (London).

Heil, U. (2014) “The Homoians,” – In: Berndt, G., R. Steinacher (eds.) Arianism: Roman Heresy and Barbarian Creed (Ashgate, 2014), 85–116.

Kelly, J.N.D. (1972) Early Christian Creeds (London: Longman).

Schäferdiek, K. (2014) “Ulfila and the so-called “Gothic” Arianism – English Summery” – In: G.M. Berndt, R. Steinacher (eds.) Araianism: Roman Heresy and Barbarian Creed (London&New York: Routledge)


This page is part of the project LABedia: Еncyclopedia of Late Antique Balkans, 4th-5th c.,
financed by the National Science Fund, contract КП-06-Н30/6, 13.12.2018