AETIUS (fl. 350), surnamed “the Atheist,” founder of an extreme sect of Arians, was a native of Cocle-Syria. After working as a vine-dresser and then as a goldsmith he became a traveling doctor, and displayed great skill in disputations on medical subjects; but his controversial power soon found a wider field for its exercise in the great theological question of the time. He studied successively under the Arians, Paulinus, bishop of Antioch, Athanasius, bishop of Anazarbus, and the presbyter Antonius of Tarsus. In 350 he was ordained a deacon by Leontius of Antioch, but was shortly afterwards forced by the orthodox party to leave that town. At the first synod of Sirmium he won a dialectic victory over the homoiousian bishops, hasilius and Eustathius, who sought in consequence to stir up against him the enmity of Caesar Gallus.
In 356 he went to Alexandria with Eunomius in order to advocate Arianism, but he was banished by Constantius. Julian recalled him from exile, bestowed upon him an estate in Lesbos, and retained him for a time at his court in Constantinople. Being consecrated a bishop, he used his office in the interests of Arianism by creating other bishops of that party. At the accession of Valens (364) he retired to his estate at Lesbos, but soon returned to Constantinople, where he died in 367. The Anomoean sect of the Arians, of whom he was the leader, are sometimes called after him Aetians. His work De Fide has been preserved in connection with a refutation written by Epiphanius (Haer. lxxvi. 10). Its main thought is that the Homousia, i.e. the doctrine that the Son (therefore the Begotten) is essentially God, is self-contradictory, since the idea of unbegottenness is just that which constitutes the nature of God.
See A. Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. iv. passim.
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