A historical and theological re-evaluation of the polemical writings of Athanasius of Alexandria (bishop 328-73), who would become known to later Christian generations as a saint and a champion of orthodoxy, and as the defender of the original Nicene Creed of 325 against the `Arian heresy'. For much of his own lifetime, however, Athanasius was an extremely controversial figure, and his writings, although highly influential on modern interpretations of the
fourth-century Church and the so-called `Arian Controversy', display bias and distortion. David M. Gwynn examines Athanasius' polemic in detail, and in particular his construction of those he condemns as `Arian' as a single `heretical party', 'the Eusebians'. Gwynn argues that Athanasius' image of the Church
polarized between his own `orthodoxy' and the `Arianism' of the `Eusebians' is a polemical construct, which has seriously impaired our knowledge of the development of Christianity in the crucial period in which the Later Roman Empire became ever increasingly a Christian empire.
David M. Gwynn is Junior Research Fellow, Christ Church, Oxford.