In an attempt to put an end to the doctrinal dissension between Arians and Nicenes, the Emperor Constantius II (d. 361) summoned the Council of Milan in 355. Unwilling to forswear, recalcitrant Nicene bishops Eusebius of Vercelli, Dionysius of Milan, and Lucifer of Cagliari were condemned to exile and replaced by arians. The memory of the banished bishops, however, remained alive in the Nicene communities of northern Italy, where they acquired a status of martyrs and heroes of the resistance to an oppressive Empire.
Twenty years after the Council of Milan, Nicene bishop Ambrose of Milan (d. 397) will use these bishops’ exile as a rhetorical device during his confrontation with the arian Empress Justina in 386. In this paper, I will argue that Ambrose’s strategy was intended to mobilise the support of local and imperial-wide networks of diehard nicenes, which were dissatisfied by Ambrose’s actuation during the Priscilianist controversy.