Diocorus had been Cyril’s secretary at Ephesus, and had been less than keen on the Formula of Union, thinking that it had conceded too much to the language of the Antiochenes. As Theophilus and Cyril had before him, Dioscorus interfered in the affairs of the patrirch of Constantinople. In his case by supporting Eutyches, an archimandrate in Constantinople, who insisted on talking about the ‘one nature’ of Christ.
St Cyril had used the formula mia physis tou theou logou sesarkomene – that is ‘the One nature of God the Word Incarnate’, and for Eutyches and Dioscorus what mattered was to stress the one nature of Christ. In a synod at Constantinople in 448 Eutyches was condemned for his heresy, but in 449, in at attempt to decided whether Eutyches had been wrongly condemned, Theodosius II had convened a Council at which Dioscorus had presided.
It was not, as we have seen, usual at this time for Popes either to summon or attend a Council, but, as at Ephesus, the Pope’s views had been sought, and Leo had sent a letter to the Constantinople hearing which he asked to be read at Ephesus (where the new Council was held in 449). Leo’s Tome, to which we shall come in the final post on this subject, was an attempt by a gifted theologian to resolve the problems caused by the disputes. Dioscorus did not, however, allow Leo’s letter to be read, and concentrated on condemning the Constantinople decision. The Council found Eutyches orthodox and condemned the Patriarch, Flavian and those who had agreed with him. The Council was a resounding success for Alexandria. Dioscorus had, it seemed, succeeded beyond even the achievement of Cyril.
In fact Dioscorus had pushed matters too far. Flavian had put in an appeal to Leo, and protests against the overweening arrogance of Alexandria were now loud. This was the third time in a century that Alexandria had asserted its ancient right to be regarded as the second patriarchate of Christendom by humiliating the upstarts of Constantinople. Theophilus had had St John Chrysostom condemned at the Synod of the Oak in 403, Cyril had done the same with Nestorius in 432, and now, it seemed, Disocorus had repeated their triumph. But where Rome had supported Theophilus and Cyril, Leo refused to recognise the results of the Council, calling it a ‘Robber Council’ . Whilst Theodosius II lived, Leo had made no headway in getting another one; that changed with his death. Pulcheria and Marcian convened a Council in Chaldedon, just across the Bosphorus from the imperial capital.
As Bishop of Rome, Leo, had been consulted by all parties, as Celestine I had been before Ephesus in 432; what did this imply in terms of the status of the Bishop of Rome? The difficulty here is the insistence of many chroniclers on interpreting it to fit their preconceived ideas: Roman Catholics would say it showed the authority of Rome was crucial; Orthodox historians would say it showed the Bishop should be consulted, but since he had not convened the Council, it showed he was not regarded as essential for its results to be accepted; and the Protestants? They have tended to ignore this period. In fact what the Council and its history showed was how the Papacy was developing. Athanasius, Theophilus and Cyril had all made sure they consulted Rome. The See of St Mark naturally looked to the See of St Peter – and beside that, both Sees had an interest in curbing the ambitions of Constinantinople. If Dioscorus thought that this would see him through, he was to find out otherwise at Chalcedon.