The History of the Alexandrian Creed or: The Slap Heard 'Round the (Christian) World

Chapter I: A Slap Too Far
"The heretic is always better dead. And mortal eyes cannot distinguish the saint from the heretic." -George Bernard Shaw

Chapter I: A Slap Too Far
The sound of the palm of Nicholas of Myra hitting the cheek of Arius of Alexandria echoed through the council chamber at Nicaea, followed shortly-thereafter by gasps of shock and exclamations of outrage; even Constantine himself had gone wide-eyed, not expecting holy men to engage in such base violence against one another. Over that din, though, one relatively youthful voice was louder and more forceful than the rest, and let its own fury be known:

"And you call yourself a Christian?!"

According to his hagiography, Athanasius of Alexandria said that he did not know why he shouted those words at Nicholas. Indeed, Athanasius once remarked that he felt as if "the words came from somewhere outside of me, from somewhere above".

After several seconds of stunned silence in the chamber, Nicholas reportedly scrunched up his face, furrowed his eyebrows, jabbed his finger in Athanasius' direction, and shouted back:

"I do not need a boy of half my years telling me what it means to be a Christian!"

The other clergy in the council room soon began to engage in further shouting matches and physical altercations - calls to order from the council president Hosius of Cordoba were drowned out amidst all of it - and the chaos only ended when Constantine ordered his guards to separate Arius' faction from the opposing group, led by Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria. Athanasius, however, was left in the empty space between the two parties. The young deacon had been one of Arius' most ardent detractors for most of the council, fighting against his fellow Alexandrian's heresy with rhetorical tooth and claw. And yet, he had just come into conflict with his own allies, albeit not over the theological issues that all of them had gathered there to handle. As the two opposing factions left the council room (in opposite directions, of course) it was reported that Athanasius remained after everyone had left, his face pensive and heavy as he stared up at the ceiling.

Once again according to his hagiography, Athanasius reportedly stayed up for most of the night in contemplative prayer, beseeching God for answers to his inner turmoil. When the deacon finally did get sleep, he said that he had a dream where he saw the Father begetting the Son, in time.

The next day, when the council reconvened, Athanasius walked to where Arius' faction was sitting, embraced the old Alexandrian presbyter, and sat down next to him. Curses rose from Patriarch Alexander's faction, but more than a few bishops arose out of seats near the Patriarch and crossed the floor to where Arius and now Athanasius were sitting. Among them included Caecilianus of Carthage, Theognis of Nicaea, Eusebius of Caesarea Maritima, Marcus of Calabria, Theophilus of the Goths, Domnus of Pannonia, Leontius of Caesarea Mazaca, Paul of Neocaesarea, Nicasius of Die, and Aristaces of Armenia. By the time that bishops were done defecting from Nicholas to Arius, approximately a third of bishops at the council were aligned with the Arians, and the other two-thirds aligned with the anti-Arians. While the Arians were still significantly in the minority, they were a much stronger force than they had been before, and notably contained virtually all of the western bishops among their number, as well as numerous bishops of areas outside of Roman control.

Hosius of Cordoba reportedly frowned at the events, but none-the-less gave a small, short nod to Athanasius once things had settled down. Whether or not the motion was intended as such, Patriarch Alexander' faction took the nod to mean that Hosius - who was supposed to be an impartial adjudicator of the proceedings - had thrown in his lot with the Arians. Nicholas of Myra reportedly stood up, pointed at Constantine - prompting the Emperor's guards to ready their weapons - before shouting that Hosius should be removed as council president and replaced with Patriarch Alexander. This once again ignited tensions, which only ended when the Arians - now accompanied by Hosius - left the council building entirely, chased by supporters of Patriarch Alexander the entire way; Nicholas, reportedly, pulled off his sandal and threw it at Athanasius, the piece of footwear striking the young deacon in the forehead, causing a slight bruise for several days after.

Once the Arians had been removed, Patriarch Alexander convinced Constantine to resume the council. The Emperor was, obviously, less than pleased at the events that had occurred, but acquiesced to Alexander's request either way. While the Arian issue had, after a fashion, been taken care of, there were still other matters at hand for the council to deal with, such as Paphnutius' wish that clerical celibacy be nullified. (It would not be.) The council would go on for another month before its creed was finalized.

The Nicene Creed of 325:

"We believe in one God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son Almighty, Light of Light, very God of Very God, begotten of the Father, co-eternal and consubstantial with Him; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. Any who deny these statements, who attempt to divide the almighty God against Himself, they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church."

After being evicted from the council, Arius' faction swiftly fled the city. Many of its members returned to their bishoprics, renewed in their fervor for Arian Christianity and dedicated to spreading it outside of the reach of Patriarch Alexander and his faction. Many more of Arius' supporters, however, sailed to Alexandria as swiftly as the winds could carry them. Given that Alexander would still be busy in Nicaea for the foreseeable future, some of Arius' faction - including Athanasius - convinced the presbyter to return to his home city, where they could proclaim him, rather than Alexander, as the Patriarch of Alexandria. Arius knew that such an outcome was unlikely, given the strength of Alexander's support in the city, but agreed to go to Alexandria with them if they ensured that a creed of their own would be written up and disseminated as soon as possible, hopefully outpacing that of Alexander's.

In the several days that it took the Arian faction to reach Alexandria by boat, most of their minor disagreements were hashed out, though there was still a split between the heterousians and the homoiousians, over whether the Son, begotten in time, was of like substance with the Father or of unlike substance. Much to Arius' relief, the intra-Arian factions agreed to put that matter aside until a time when they weren't living as fugitives. When all of Arius' supporters had reached Alexandria, a creed had already been finalized. Athanasius was the one who wrote it onto papyrus, and it was signed by all of the Arian bishops that remained with the presbyter.

The Alexandrian Creed of 325:

"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, highest and above all else, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in Jesus Christ, the begotten son of the Father, Light of Light, very Holy of very Holy, eternally devoted servant of God; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven, lifted by His Father; from thence shall He come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost, begotten by the Father, very Holy of very Holy, eternally devoted servant of God. Any who deny these statements, who attempt to deny the Almighty holy supremacy of God, they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church."

However, Arius' expectations that he would not be welcomed to Alexandria as Christ himself might have been were justified. Upon hearing that the Arians were in Alexandria and attempting to disseminate a creed of their own - and upon receiving word of what had transpired in Nicaea - the Patriarch's supporters alerted the local Roman authorities, who were similarly under orders from Constantine to support the Patriarch's Christians against their opponents. Arius was not in Alexandria a week before the Romans began searching the city for him and his supporters, and the presbyter soon made preparations to flee to the western portions of the empire, where Alexander's influence was sparse and where the Arians had many allies.

Unfortunately, Roman authorities captured Arius the night before he was to depart, stating that he would be held until Patriarch Alexander could return and hold a trial for the presbyter's heresy and insubordination to the mother Church. After much prayer and discussion, the remaining Arian bishops - lead now by Athanasius - agreed to leave Alexandria and head west, as had been the original plan. Athanasius and the rest of his group arrived in Massilia in September, and then quickly scattered in order to avoid easy capture.

By the end of 325 AD, Arius had been burnt at the stake as a heretic, becoming the first martyr of Alexandrian Christianity. The Kingdom of Armenia quickly arrested Aristaces and turned him over to the Romans, not wishing to jeopardize their relationship with their western benefactors, turning him also into a martyr shortly after Arius had been. Similarly, when Mirian III of Iberia was confronted with both a Nicaean and an Alexandrian preacher offering to baptize him into the Christian Church, he kept the Nicaean preacher in his court and sent the Alexandrian one to the Romans, preferring pragmatic geopolitics over theological minutiae.

Arian bishops in the western Empire and in the Danube basin, however, freely preached the supremacy of the Father away from the influence of the Nicaeans and away from Constantine's base of power in Anatolia. While the Christological differences between Nicene Christianity and Alexandrian Christianity were of little concern to anyone except members of the clergy themselves - subsistence farmers were too busy trying not to starve to care as to whether the god that they worship has a co-equal son or a subordinate son, after all - local power holders in those areas saw an opportunity in the Alexandrian creed to oppose the influence of Constantine, such acts being a perennial issue in the Empire at that time.

Junius Bassus, the praetorian prefect of Gaul (composing Gaul proper, Britannia, and Spain) offered Athanasius a safe haven at his manor, before also asking the young priest to baptize him; Junius would later build a church in Augusta Treverorum for Athanasius, and convinced the young man to take the title of Bishop of Treverorum. Junius also coerced Aemilianus, the praetorian prefect of Italy (composing Italy proper, west northern Africa, Pannonia, Dacia, and Macedonia), into allowing free passage of Alexandrian preachers throughout the Italian prefecture. The Emperor - who had solidly thrown his lot in with the Nicaeans - wrote stern letters to Junius and Aemilianus regarding the "Arian heresy", but the matter was meager enough in a geopolitical sense that he simply opted to let his prefects act as they wished on matters of religion, albeit also putting more agents in Gaul and Italy to keep an eye on them.

In the city of Pula on the Istrian coast, however, a young man by the name of Flavius Julius Crispus sees a servant of his suddenly fall over dead, displaying symptoms of poisoning... And right after having stolen a sip of wine newly gifted to Crispus as a peace offering from his father, Emperor Constantine I. Crispus' mind runs wild for several minutes, before settling on thoughts of Gaul, and the safe haven offered there.


Hey there, folks! I hope that you enjoyed this first chapter. I've been wanting to do something on a more-successful Arian Christianity for a while now, and have finally gotten around to it.

The slap that Ol' Saint Nick gave to Arian seems to be historical. Athanasius' change of heart, of course, is the PoD. Faith is a weird, fuzzy, and fickle thing - as I can say from my own experience as a person of faith - so I decided that it wouldn't be too far-fetched for a deeply religious man to have a spontaneous, radical change like that given a shocking enough event, such as a respected bishop engaging in basic violence against an elderly man.

I am, unfortunately, not as learned on 4th century Christianity and 4th century Rome as I would like to be. Much of the information used for this post has been freshly gathered, but I hope that all or most of it is accurate.

For reference, my aim here isn't an Arius-wank or a Nicaea-bash. I obviously have my own personal opinions on the First Council of Nicaea, but I'm more interested in playing out how an "early schism" of sorts in the Christian church might go.

As people have frequently noted, most people don't really care about the sort of theological minutaie debated at ecumenical councils. After all, Constantine called the First Council of Nicaea not out of a desire to watch the rhetorical sparring of Christian holy men, but to try to consolidate and homogenize the faith that he was adopting at the time; it wouldn't do any good for the Empire's new most popular religion to be deeply divided against itself.

That being said, I believe that the best way to make an "early schism" in the Christian church interesting is to play up the geopolitics that often follow religion. For example, while there were genuine matters of faith at stake during the Protestant Reformation - you would not have fanatic Calvinists burning images and tearing down statues if there wasn't some degree of true belief there, after all - many and more Christian rulers threw off the Roman Catholic Church not out of religious zeal, but rather out of pragmatic function; while Henry VIII is the most famous example of this, there were countless more Christian sovereigns that followed in his footsteps for even more relatively minor reasons than just matters of divorce. A simple fact of history is that at least as many powerful people use faith as a tool, as instead consider faith a purpose and a goal in its own right.

Thus, I've decided to try to set things up so that ambitious people in the Roman Empire - no shortage of those! - would use Arianism to further their own geopolitical goals at the expense of the now-Nicaean Emperor. Again, I'm no expert on Roman history, but my vague understanding of it is that wherever the Emperor is situated at the time, it is within the furthest reaches of the Empire that ambitious opponents will gather, grow, and scheme. Given that Constantine is in the process of shifting the seat of Roman power from the city of Rome itself to his new capital on the Bosphorus, it seems reasonable that the Gallic provinces are most ripe for intrigue and dissent.

Also, butterflies happened and kept Crispus from dying. There are incredibly sparse details on the specifics of his death, but most people seem to agree that he died from poison in some fashion or another - whether it was murder or suicide appears to be up in the air - so I went with that.
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It's good to see good old saint Nicholas is still as generous with giving gifts as ever, in this case gifting the Arians with an opportunity. I'm definitely interested in what comes next.
Chapter II: A Prisoner in Treverorum
"Prison itself is a tremendous education in the need for patience and perseverance. It is above all a test of one's commitment." -Nelson Mandela

Chapter II: A Prisoner in Treverorum
All who knew Athanasius of Alexandria could attest to the genius that the young man possessed, with the boy of 29 years possessing more wisdom and knowledge than many people twice his age or older; it was not without reason that Patriarch Alexander had chosen Athanasius to spearhead the offensive against Arius, after all, and had once intended to make the young deacon his successor as Bishop of Alexandria. Even though Athanasius had primarily become learned in matters of theology, a man as intelligent as he was had no trouble picking up the basics of other fields with ease, such as in the natural sciences or in secular philosophy.

Thus, even though Athanasius had little no experience in the art of politicking, he was very well aware that his stay at Treverorum under the protection of praetorian prefect Junius Bassus was less than completely voluntary. Certainly, the armed guards following Athanasius around every where that the newly-minted bishop traveled did well to ward off any of Emperor Constantine's agents or zealous anti-Arians, but the young clergyman also had to ask permission from Bassus' men in order to go anywhere, his movement tightly restricted. Without any power base or allies in the Gallic prefecture, Athanasius had no choice for the moment but to accept what was essentially loose house arrest.

According to his hagiography, Athanasius said of the situation that he had "exchanged his freedom of the world in order to maintain his freedom of God", and that he "would do so again as many times as he needed, in order to protect the supremacy of the Father".

However, the time soon came that Athanasius was able to assert some independence from Bassus. As part of the prefect's plan to set himself up in opposition to the Emperor, he began replacing bishops throughout the prefecture, swapping out ones who swore by the Nicene Creed with ones who swore by the Alexandrian Creed. Bassus recognized, though, that simple loyalty to the branch of Christianity that he had adopted was not the only important quality in a bishop, and that some degree of competency in clerical matters was required for any potential candidates, lest they fail in their duties of attending to the spiritual needs of the masses. Not being a holy man himself and not judging himself proper to make those sorts of decisions, Bassus passed the responsibility for vetting new bishops on to Athanasius, who received a strongly worded "suggestion" from Bassus to remind every new bishop that they owed their protection and their positions to the prefect.

Athanasius, of course, recognized the opportunity to create a clerical body that would support him at least as much as they supported Bassus, even if the young bishop still needed to keep his Roman benefactor satisfied in the process. The first collaborator that Athanasius found was in Euphrates of Colonia Agrippa, a day's journey to the north of Treverorum. The bishops of Colonia had long sought to extend their bishopric into Treverorum, in the hopes of bringing the Gallic capital into their diocese. The sudden appearance of Athanasius in the city, however, had disrupted their plans, and Euphrates had marched to Treverorum upon hearing the news, demanding what he saw as his rightful clerical jurisdiction. Unfortunately for Euphrates, the young Athanasius had essentially been given full de facto control of Christianity in Gaul by the prefect, and so the bishop of Colonia was in no place to make such demands. Athanasius, instead, presented the ten-year veteran bishop an offer. If Euphrates would swear by the Alexandrian Creed, and if he agreed to allow Athanasius diocese over Treverorum, then Euphrates would be granted a high position in the religious hierarchy that the young bishop knew would soon be established. Euphrates accepted, becoming Athanasius' first ally.

The day after, Athanasius received news that his erstwhile mentor and friend, Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria, had died, and been succeeded by Potamon of Heraclea, who had been one of Athanasius' allies at the Council of Nicaea before the young then-deacon's defection to Arius. Athanasius fasted for two weeks afterwards.

The rest of the vetting and appointments followed similarly. Across Gaul, what was essentially a purge of Nicene Christianity took place. Those incumbent bishops who refused to swear by the Alexandrian Creed were removed through violent force, subterfuge, blackmail, or simony. Replacing them were new bishops hand-picked by Athanasius for their theological credentials, their loyalty to him, and their understanding that Bassus was - ultimately and unfortunately - in actual control of the dioceses where they preached.

Athanasius had prepared one final event to cap off the ecumenical shake-up that had taken most of 326 CE to accomplish, however. He had told each bishop to gather in Treverorum on the 24th of December, if it was reasonable for them to travel to the prefectural capital in the dead of winter. By the appointed date, most of the bishops from Germania, Belgica, Lugdunensis, and the Viennensis provinces had managed to weather the cold and arrive at Treverorum - most of the bishops from Britannia and Hispania had deigned to stay in their own diocese, not wishing to brave the storms and the snow - putting Bassus on his guard; certainly a bunch of old men and weak young theologians weren't going to try anything drastic, not in the prefect's seat of power and not with hundreds of Roman soldiers in the city, but Bassus knew that he could never be certain with Athanasius. Even though the prefect was intending to use Athanasius as nothing more than a piece in his game with Constantine, he still recognized the immense capabilities of the young bishop, and was constantly wary for any schemes by his so-called pawn.

In one surviving writing from Bassus, the prefect remarked: "Never have I seen a holy man so shrewd in worldly matters. I shudder to think what he might have accomplished had he decided to join the legions rather than the church."

The bishop of Treverorum called upon the gathered clergy - many of those present having been personally appointed by Athanasius - to engage in Eucharistic liturgy at midnight, overseen by Bassus and his men. (The service had to be performed outside Athanasius' still unfinished cathedral, the bishops warmed by nearby fires prepared for that purpose.) Upon the beginning of the liturgy - which was also attended by many Christian laypeople, ecstatic to see so many of their eminent holy men in one place - Athanasius informed the bishops that, after much reading of scripture and significant amounts of prayer, he had settled on the 25th of December to be the date of the nativity, the date of the physical birth of Jesus Christ, their eternally devoted servant of God. The significance of that date was not lost the attendees; it was, after all, the day that the Romans celebrated the winter solstice, and plenty of the gathered bishops understood how well the celebration of the nativity on December 25th would help to convert the remaining Roman heathens.

Continuing the liturgy, Athanasius presided over the Eucharist throughout the late night of the 24th, finishing the rite just before a small bell was rung nearby to signal the passing of midnight, and the second part of Athanasius' plan went into action. During the vetting of the bishops, Athanasius had found a handful of whom that he felt that he could trust implicitly, and imparted upon them a crucial task to be performed when the 25th began. As silence reigned for several long seconds at the end of the Eucharist, one bishop - Nicasius of Dio, who had defected with Athanasius at the Council of Nicaea - "spontaneously" stood up and shouted: "May the Father save Patriarch Athanasius of Treverorum and of all Gaul!" Following Nicasius, another pre-selected bishop - this time Severus of Rotomagus - stood up and did the same. Another handful of Athanasius' plants followed suit, before the fervor overtook the rest of the bishops and the gathered laypeople, who all stood and proclaimed as Patriarch the young man who not two years before had been a humble deacon of Alexandria. Some of the nearby Roman soldiers apparently drew their weapons in response, fearing that the gathered crowd would begin some sort of zealous riot.

Junius Bassus was, of course, surprised by the events, but not actually angry or upset with the newly proclaimed Patriarch. That Athanasius had managed to keep such a ploy hidden from the prefect for nearly a year impressed the Roman. Certainly, it had placed the young Alexandrian in a much higher position of power than Bassus had intended for Athanasius to have, but it also meant that - so long as Athanasius continued to cooperate with Bassus - that the prefect himself had that much more control over the religion of Gaul, as well. Such an act from the man who was essentially Bassus' personal priest likely wouldn't sit well with Emperor Constantine, no doubt, but Bassus figured that he could cross that proverbial bridge when he came to it. At that moment, however, he gathered his men and joined the crowd of worshipers in front of Athanasius, even convincing some of the pagans amongst them to be baptized by the new Patriarch.

In the morning, a feast was had, with Bassus opening up his stores for the people of Treverorum and Athanasius performing more rites, including frequent baptisms of Romans swayed to the new faith. The two men of the hour - one the leader of temporal Gaul, and the other newly leader of spiritual Gaul - took private moments to consult with one another, coming to a new agreement regarding Athanasius' position in relation to Bassus; according to unsubstantiated records, the prefect convinced the patriarch to remain subordinate to him in exchange for his cathedral being doubled in size, with room for clerical offices included.

Miracles happen every day, though, and the date newly celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ was no exception in 326 CE. As the feasting winded down, and as people returned to the warmth of their homes, a lone man in a hooded robe sought an audience with Junius Bassus. Upon being let into the prefect's manor, he revealed himself as Flavius Junius Crispus - cold, dirty, and exhausted, but very much alive, and very much enraged at his father's attempt to kill him, seeking shelter and aid from Bassus.

A surviving writing from Bassus reads: "Athanasius had baptized me a year before, but it was on that night that I truly became a Christian. If those were the sort of gifts that the Father would send me for assisting His bishops in spreading the good word, then I would build Athanasius a thousand cathedrals if he had asked for them."

Let me tell you what, trying to find records on early Christian bishops and dioceses can be incredibly difficult at times.
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That is definitely some impressive politicking and it seems we're heading to a Mediterranean-North Sea split when it comes to religion, especially if the Athanasians are proactive in converting the Franks and the other tribes close to the limes.
I can only imagine how difficult proper research must be in this epoch. You've done a great job so far though, I like the politicking it really brings the characters to life.

I like the Christmas theme too. It has me thinking of the implications of this for Saint Nick's future popularity though :p
This is very well written, I'm thoroughly enjoying it so far and look forward to where you're taking this. Can't wait to see how this showdown plays out.
Chapter III: A Family Affair
"You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them." -Desmond Tutu

Chapter III: A Family Affair
To the south of Egypt, a young Phoenician priest from Tyre named Frumentius was consecrated as a bishop by Patriarch Potamon I of Alexandria and sent to convert the Kingdom of Axum to Christianity, under the Nicene Creed. Further east, the Thomasine Archbishop John of Persia and Great India - who had been driven out of the Council of Nicaea with the rest of the Arians after he had defected along with Athanasius - flees to his diocese in Malabar, bearing with him a heretical text bearing the name of his patron apostle: the Gospel of Thomas, a semi-gnostic scripture that would quickly be disseminated among far eastern Christians, in spite of protestations from Patriarch Potamon.

Of course, Potamon and his benefactor in Emperor Constantine had much bigger concerns than a relatively small group of heretics separated from them by the entirety of the Sassanian Empire. Much closer to home, and within the bounds of Roman sovereignty, the young up-start Athanasius had declared himself Patriarch of Gaul from his base in Treverorum, sponsored by Junius Bassus, the praetorian prefect of Gaul. While that was dire news for Potamon - who had hoped to nip the Arians in the bud before they could become established away from his center of power in Egypt - the Emperor had much bigger concerns at hand: his son, Flavius Julius Crispus, had fled to Gaul after Constantine's failed assassination attempt, and had sought shelter with Junius Bassus. At that moment, then, three of the biggest threats to the status quo of the Roman Empire were together in one location, engaging in only God knew what sort of plans. The prefecture of Italy - its praetorian prefect Aemilianus remaining neutral in the conflict brewing between east and west, between Nicaea and Alexandria, and between father and son - was in turn a battleground of knives in the dark and preachers in the streets, with Nicaeans martyring Alexandrians, with Alexandrians martyring Nicaeans, and with dimly lit alleyways running red with the blood of both Constantinian and Bassian agents.

In the middle of that tense atmosphere, the accusations soon began to fly between east and west. Junius Bassus asserted that Emperor Constantine had engaged in attempted filicide against Crispus, and demanded that Constantine return to Rome in order to face trial in the Senate for such an abominable crime. Such a request was, of course, patently absurd, and everyone knew it. The power of the Roman senate had been declining since the time of Augustus, and Emperor Diocletian's reforms had reduced it to nothing more than a group of men who were required to do whatever the Emperor demanded of them; under no circumstances could a sitting Emperor truly be compelled to stand trial at the Senate - let alone be convicted by them - and under no circumstances would Constantine willingly do so. Of course, Constantine's inevitable refusal to stand trial was part of the ploy by Bassus; if Constantine refused to defend himself against the accusations, then clearly he was guilty of the crime in question.

In turn, the Emperor accused his son of adultery and incest with his step-mother Fausta, also Constantine's then-wife. The fact that Fausta died shortly after Crispus' flight, with rumors stating that her death was due to a botched abortion, only lent credence to that accusation. Unfortunately for Constantine, a different rumor was also spreading - which we now know was started by agents of Junius Bassus - that Constantine himself had murdered Fausta due to her alerting Crispus of the Emperor's plot to kill him. Whichever story was true, there was also no denying that Crispus had left his wife Helena and his infant son Gaius Licinius behind in Pola, which painted the imperial prince in a negative light no matter what else was a factor. Given that Junius Bassus was giving Crispus protection, Constantine similarly accused the Gallic prefect of harboring a fugitive from justice, and threatened Bassus with charges of treason and removal from his post as prefect unless the Emperor's son be turned back over to him. This, of course, was as unlikely as Constantine traveling to Rome to stand trial before the Senate.

Athanasius, meanwhile, had very little interest with regards to the intra-family feud between Constantine and Crispus. In his new position as Patriarch of Gaul, the young man was more interested in working to save the souls of the pagans within his jurisdiction and in nearby barbarian Germany, rather than engaging in temporal politics. However, Athanasius was keen enough to understand that his continued ability to spread the good word of the Father was predicated on whether Junius Bassus and Crispus - the latter having taken communion with Athanasius in a pledge of loyalty to the Alexandrian Creed - continued to exercise control over the Gallic provinces. He was well aware that if Constantine was able to regain power over the western half of the Empire, that he and all other Alexandrian clergy would be removed even faster than Athanasius himself had removed Nicene bishops from the area. Thus, Athanasius sent a decree out to all Gallic bishoprics, decrying the horrible crimes of Emperor Constantine, as well as the Emperor's continued persecution of those who swore by the true Alexandrian creed. Athanasius wouldn't be able to raise legions to stand against Constantine, but the Patriarch could, at least, work an effective propaganda campaign against him.

Unfortunately, Junius Bassus was in a similar situation in terms of being able to exert military power in the quickly escalating crisis. While he had nearly complete civil control over the Gallic prefecture, Constantine's establishment of the office of the magister militum following his victory over Maxentius in 312 had deprived the praetorian prefects of the military command that they had once had over their territories and placed it into the hands of an independent commander. Given that Bassus had only been appointed prefect in 318, the man had little to no loyalty established among the Gallic legions, or its current magister militum, Flavius Antonius.

Fortunately for all of the parties gathered in Treverorum, though, Crispus himself had, in fact, an immense amount of loyalty established among the Gallic legions, as well as with Flavius Antonius. For several years in Gaul as Caesar under his father, Crispus had not only become good friends with Bassus - one of the many reasons he felt comfortable fleeing to the prefect's territory - but had also led the Gallic legions to several victories against barbarian tribes in the region, such as the Franci and the Alamanni; the end result was that Roman soldiers and military command had a deep respect for Crispus. The fact that the imperial prince had also won a decisive naval victory over a much larger force at the Hellespont in 324 against a Licinian fleet - sinching his father's land victory against his co-emperor at Chrysopolis - only further ingratiated the military forces of the empire to Crispus.

From Athanasius' hagiography, he states: "The Father detests bloodshed, of this I have no doubt. Even so, the devil works to keep His word and His grace from being spread to those who need it, and sometimes those who wish to do the Father's work must have someone willing to drive merchants out of temples for them, or to keep them out of the temple altogether."

Athanasius and Bassus were both hoping that Crispus could be the one to keep the Constantinian merchants out of their Gallic temple. The patriarch could propagandize and whip the Alexandrians up into a religious frenzy to defend their creed against the Nicaeans that threatened them, and the prefect could attack and defend in the shadows with his network of agents, but only Crispus had the ability to lead men in battle, a skill that none doubted would soon be necessary. However, nobody could be certain if the legions in Gaul and their magister militum would be willing to betray their Emperor in preference for the imperial prince, and all three men held their breath as Crispus sent out invitations to Flavius Antonius and the various duces and legates stationed in Gaul.

In March of 328, the military commanders of Gaul had gathered in Treverorum. Crispus and Junius Bassus were in closed-doors discussion with them for a week, Athanasius consulting whenever a Christian legate or dux had a question of faith. At the end of the week, Crispus went to Treverorum's central plaza, followed by Flavius Antonius and the other legionary commanders. As the citizens of Treverorum looked on, the magister militum drew his sword and thrust it into the air, followed by the gathered duces and legates.

Flavius Antonius spoke first, in a loud, booming voice: "Ave Flavius Julius Crispus, imperator!" The other legionary commanders followed suit, thrusting their swords back and forth in the air as they chanted Crispus' name.

The news traveled quickly. The Treverorians had held a swift show trial for Constantine in absentia, declared him guilty of the crimes that they had accused him of, and declared that his status as Augustus was revoked by the authority of the people of Rome. In turn, the Gallic legions had declared Constantine's son as imperator, instating him as their new Augustus, Crispus I, who promptly declared that he would ensure that his father would be brought to justice for his crimes. Constantine, of course, was outraged, and began gathering his own legions from the east, in preparation to march west against his own son.

Everyone in Rome had hoped that the civil wars of the past two decades had been ended with the defeat of Licinius, and that Emperor Constantine would usher in a new age of peace and prosperity for the Empire. Unfortunately, everyone in Rome appeared to have been mistaken in their hopes, and once again, Romans readied themselves to fight and to kill other Romans. One could only hope that it would be the last time in their lives that they would have to see that happen.

While Crispus' wife and son are not a fiction, the son's name is, as I could find no record of it. Additionally, Flavius Antonius, the magister militum of Gaul, is also a fiction. Constantine did indeed institute the magister militum and deprive praetorian prefects of military command, but I could find no record for early office holders of the magister militum.
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Well, with how Crispus is likely going to be the new Emperor just before Constantinople was founded, will it still be a thing ITTL (maybe called Crispusople or just plain Nova Roma) here or will the city remain Byzantium here?
I like the way you depict the "separation of powers" at play here, really speaks to the reality of late Roman politics.

Well, with how Crispus is likely going to be the new Emperor just before Constantinople was founded, will it still be a thing ITTL (maybe called Crispusople or just plain Nova Roma) here or will the city remain Byzantium here?

Could have be interesting to have the project be abandoned in favour of retaining the capital at Nicomedia. It would have fascinating historical repercussions.

Or if the empire ends up divided, that could also be interesting - Alexandrian West vs Nicaean East made political

I just felt the need to post this.