I found an interesting claim in Bruce Shelley's Church History in Plain Language, regarding Arius's methods of promoting his theology, Arianism:

[Arius] put ideas into jingles, which set to simple tunes like a radio commercial, were soon being sung by the dock-workers, the street-hawkers, and the schoolchildren of the city. (107)

Shelley doesn't provide a citation, so I wonder what his basis is. How do we know that Arius used "jingles" or "simple tunes" to promote Arianism? How do we know that they were popular among these particular groups of people?

1 Answer 1


The source appears to be mostly St. Athanasius, who was a deacon in Alexandria at the time the Arian controversy broke out (and later the bishop of the same see). He writes in his Discourses Against the Arians (Discourse 1, Chapter 1, 4)

For of the one [i.e., a certain Sotades, who apparently wrote songs] has Arius imitated the dissolute and effeminate tone, in writing Thaliae [The Banquets, songs that Arius wrote so as to be sung at banquets]; on his model; and the other [i.e. the daughter of Herodias] he has rivalled in her dance.


Who, after abandoning the oracles of divine Scripture, call Arius's Thaliae; a new wisdom? And with reason too, for they are announcing a new heresy. And hence a man may marvel, that, whereas many have written many treatises and abundant homilies upon the Old Testament and the New, yet in none of them is a Thalia found; nay nor among the more respectable of the Gentiles, but among those only who sing such strains over their cups, amid cheers and jokes, when men are merry, that the rest may laugh; till this marvellous Arius, taking no grave pattern, and ignorant even of what is respectable, while he stole largely from other heresies, would be original in the ludicrous, with none but Sotades for his rival. For what beseemed him more, when he would dance forth against the Saviour, than to throw his wretched words of irreligion into dissolute and loose metres?

So, it seems that Arius composed songs that sailors could easily remember. (It is to be recalled that Alexandria was a major port city.) This seems to be the reason that Arianism spread so quickly, whereas previous heresies had remained largely contained in local areas.

  • The viral voice: it's a method? Commented May 3, 2016 at 17:42

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