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RHETORIC AND HISTORICAL DISTORTION: THE CASE OF MARK OF ARETHUSA* Juana Torres  Christian authors cultivated different literary genres, some of them from pagan traditions and others newly created, choosing in each case the one they deemed most suitable for their purposes. Thanks to their excellent training in rhetoric, they composed works of high literary quality, which therefore seemed extremely convincing. Indeed, most early Christian authors received a comprehensive education and finished their schooling in prestigious rhetorical schools.1 Having acquired great rhetorical skills, they produced highly persuasive discourses. This paper argues that patristic texts must be subjected to severe philological critique before the historical reconstruction of what they have to say. The predominance of rhetoric in these works, whatever their literary genre, forces us to analyse information they convey with great care, as it is often distorted. This will be shown by one example from many possible in patristic texts: the case of Bishop Mark of Arethusa in Syria, who lived during the reigns of the Emperors Constantius II and Julian. Despite his inclination towards Homoian beliefs, Mark has paradoxically passed into history as a defender of the Nicene faith and a martyr, and thus is included in the Constantinopolitan Synaxarion . The events that the sources have transmitted will be analysed to seek a possible explanation for why Nicene scholars overlooked the bishop’s obvious pro-Arian position and turned him into a martyr of Julian’s policies. *  Research for this paper has been carried out within the Project FFI2015–65453-P of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. 1  The classic work on the educational system in Late Antiquity is Henri-Irénée Marrou, Histoire de l’éducation dans l’Antiquité (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1965) (chap. 9). Also useful: Max Ludwig Wolfram Laistner, Christianity and Pagan Culture in the Later Roman Empire (New York-Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967); Marguerite Harl, Le déchiffrement du sens. Études sur l’hermenéutique chrétienne d’Origène à Grégoire de Nysse (Paris: Institut des études augustiniennes, 1993), 417-431; and Gilles Dorival, “L’apologétique chrétienne et la culture grecque”, in Les apologistes chrétiens et la culture grecque, ed. Bernard Pouderon, & Joseph Doré (Paris : Beauchesne, 1998), 423–465. i6 p&c 00 book.indb 69 2017.09.20. 16:22 JUANA TORRES 70 The first reference to Mark of Arethusa signals his presence at the Council of Antioch in 341, when Bishop Julius of Rome accused the delegates of modifying the dogma established at the Council of Nicaea, and reproached them for not inviting him in breach of Church canons.2 Mark was a member of the delegation of Eastern bishops —Narcissus of Neronias in Cilicia, Theodore of Heraclea in Thracia, Maris of Chalcedon —from the Eusebian party3 sent by Constantius in 342 to appear before Emperor Constans in Trier. These bishops defended the decisions of the Synod of Tyre (335) which had deposed Athanasius of Alexandria and Paul of Constantinople and sought to persuade the emperor that the trial at the synod had been fair. When they were asked about their faith, they altered the formula defined at Antioch and proclaimed another that was equally dissimilar to the Nicene faith.4 Therefore, although the effort was presented before the western authorities as a form of reconciliation, it did not achieve success. Nonetheless, the Eastern delegation had sought peace and tried to attenuate or even end the situation of hostility between the Eastern and Western churches.5 It was unsuccessful because Emperor Constans dismissed their embassy without accepting their version, but in any case, he understood that Athanasius of Alexandria, the great defender of orthodoxy, was deposed not because of his behaviour but as a result of the reservations of the eastern bishops concerning the Nicene dogma. In 351, Mark of Arethusa attended the Council of Sirmium convened by Emperor Constantius II to put a halt to a new heresy led by Photinus, the bishop of that city.6 The Eastern and Western bishops gathered in Sirmium deposed Photinus for his Sabellianism, and Paul of Samosata for his Monarchianism.7 Following this synod, three 2 Socrates Scholasticus, Historia Ecclesiastica II. 17, ed. and trans. by Günther C. Hansen, Pierre Périchon, and Pierre Maraval, Socrate de Constantinople. Histoire Ecclésiastique, livres II–III, (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 2005); Sozomen, Historia Ecclesiastica III. 10. 1, ed. and trans. by Joseph Bidez, Günther C. Hansen, André M. Jean Festugière, and Guy Sabbah, Sozomene. Histoire Ecclésiastique, livres...


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