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The Apostolic Fathers

The Apostolic Fathers by J.B. Lightfoot: Part I, Volume 2: Hippolytus of Portus

§ 3.


Among these stands foremost the hero of Greek story, who has bequeathed not only his name, but also the myth of his death, to the Christian theologian and bishop. I need not however dwell now on this inherited legend, of which I shall have to speak hereafter. I would only remark on one other point of contact, which (over and above the name) might suggest the propriety of adapting the legend of the earlier Hippolytus to the later. The son of Theseus was the type and embodiment of continence in Greek mythology. The opponent of Zephyrinus and Callistus was the champion of purity in the Church—the severe opponent of any laxity which might endanger the virgin discipline of the Christian brotherhood.


But my business now is rather with those contemporaries or nearly contemporaries—real or imaginary persons—who have been blended with the hero of the Tiburtine Way, and thus have confused his personality and involved his history in endless perplexity. Of such namesakes I single out five.

(1) Hippolytus the martyr of Antioch. Döllinger (p. 51 sq) supposed that he had read the riddle of this Antiochene martyr's creatin; and indeed his solution seemed, with the imperfect knowledge which they then possessed, to be highly plausible. He supposed that the same passage of Eusebius which, as translated by Rufinus, had bestowed on Hippolytus the see of Bostra (see below, p. 428), had also, as adoptd by Jerome1, transformed him into a presbyter of Antioch. The notice in the Chronicon of Jerome (Euseb. Chron. II. p. 179) under the year 227 is 'Geminus presbyter Antiochenus et Hippolytus et Beryllus episcopus Arabiae Bostrenus clari scriptores habentur.' Döllinger postulates the omission of 'et' in some copies, so that the connexion 'presbyter Antiochenus Hippolytus' would be established. In the Hieronymian Martyrology we have under iii. Kal. Febr. (Jan. 30)

In Antiochia passio sancti Hippolyti martyris.

Moreover on the previous day (Jan. 29) we have

iv Kal. Feb. Hippolyti episcopi de antiquis,

and on the succeeding (Jan. 31) there is also a mention of a Hippolytus. These all doubtless represent the same person, the notices having been derived from different but allied sources. Accordingly in the Old Roman Martyrology there is a similar notice on the same day

Antiochiae passio sancti Hippolyti,

and consequently his name occurs in this place in Ado and the later Latin Martyrologies. But Döllinger's hypothesis offers no explanation of the difference of the day, iii Kal. Feb. in place of Id. Aug.

The publication of Wright's Syriac Martyrology shows that this Antiochene Martyr Hippolytus was a real person celebrated on this day from the beginning.

Later Kanun [Jan.] 30 In the city of Antioch, Hippolytus.

Here, as elsewhere, the contents of this ancient list have found their

1 See AR. 8. k. So far as regards Hippolytus and Beryllus this notice is taken from Euseb. H. E. vi. 20; but Eusebius does not mention Geminus. Jerome himself however devotes a few lines to him elsewhere (Vir. Illustr. 64), where he describes him as 'Antiochenae ecclesiae presbyter,' who flourished under the emperor Alexander.


way into the Roman Martyrologies through the so-called Hieronymian. But they can tell us nothing about him; except that they transfer to him the notice asscribing the lapse into Novatianism and recantation which belongs first to the Roman Hippolytus. The Greek books are equally ignorant of any circumstances relating to the life or martyrdom of this Antiochene Hippolytus. But the Menaea, like the later Latin Martyrologies, clothe him with borrowed plumage taken from the martyr of the Tiburtine Way—adopting however not the Novatianism but the incidents of the Chryse legend as told in the Roman story (see AR. 44). But both Eastern and Western Martyrologies preserve for this Antiochene Hippolytus his proper day.

This Hippolytus therefore is a real person distinct from any Roman Hippolytus, as the Syriac Martyrology (p. 646) shows; and it is strange that a modern critic, Erbes, should have confused the two and imagined that he had found support for his theory of the Antiochene origin of the Roman Hippolytus. But he does not seem to have seen the notice in the Syriac Martyrology, which is the key to the whole position. I may mention by the way that the expression, 'of the ancients,' de antiquis, is characteristic of this Syriac Martyrology and designates those martyrs and confessors who perished in some earlier persecution than the last under Diocletian, which was recent when the list was first drawn up.

(2) Hippolytus, the Alexandrian connected with Dionysius. In his account of the letters of Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria (A.D. 249-265), the historian Eusebius (H. E. vi. 46) mentions among others one addressed to the Romans, which he describes as διακονικη δια Ιππολυτου. This Hippolytus therefore must have been the delegate who was charged with delivering the letter. What may have been the purport of this letter διακονικη, de ministeriis or de diaconis, we cannot say. But as we are told on contemporary authority (see I. p. 255) that Fabianus bishop of Rome (†A.D. 250) about that time 'regiones divist diaconibus,' it is a reasonable conjecture that the letter had some reference to these arrangements. Cornelius the successor of Fabianus informs us (H.E. vi. 43) that there were in the Roman Church in his time 'seven deacons and seven subdeacons.' We may therefore believe that there is some truth in the notice of the Liber Pontificalis (I. p. 64) found even in its earlier form (c. A.D. 530), which adds to the contemporary notice above quoted 'et fecit vii subdiaconos qui septem notariis immenerent ut gesta martyrum fideliter colligerent.' At all events this division of the city by Fabianus among the seven deacons was sufficiently important in the eyes of the contemporary chronicles to entitle it to a special notice which is unique of its kind in his chronicle. But however this may be, Hippolytus is a fairly common name, and we should want better evidence than we possess that the Roman Hippolytus was living and able to take a long journey at so very late a date; nor is there any notice which connects him even remotely with Alexandria.

(3) Hippolytus the Greek captain of brigands. In the Notitia Portarum Viarum, Ecclesiarum, or guide book of the close of the 7th century, which William of Malmesbury has appended to his Gesta Anglorum, there is a notice referring to the papal crypt on the Appian way, 'non longe pausant martyres Hippolitus, Adrianus, Eusebius, Maria, Martha, Pauline, Valeria, Marcellus' (Rom. Sott. I. p. 181). The portion of the Acts of these Greek martyrs is extant in a single Latin MS, of which the text has been carefully edited by De Rossi Rom. Sott. III p. 201 sq. Baronius, who had first published them, took considerable liberties with the MS, so that his text is worthless. The heading is; 'Pridie Kl. Decembris festivitas sanctorum martyrum, Eusebii presbyteri, Marcelli diaconi, Hippolyti, Hadrias, Paulinae, Neon et Mariae, Maximi, Martanae, et Valeriae.' the date given is 'Valeriano et Lucullo consulibus'1 [A.D. 265], but the persecuting emperor is represented to be Decius [A.D. 250-252] and the Roman bishop Stephen [A.D. 254-257]. They begin by describing how 'Hippolytus the monk' lived in the crypts ('in cryptis') where he gathered together the believers in secret. The place is more than once called 'arenaeium.' Paulina, the wife of Hadrias, is the sister of Hippolytus, and Maria and Neon are their children, aged thirteen and ten respectively. They are all converted and undergo martyrdom, though not at the same time. Paulina suffers first, together with Eusebius the priest and Marcellus the deacon, and they are buried by Hippolytus in the 'arenarium' at the first mile-stone from the city. Then Neon and Maria; and they too are buried, vi Kal. Nov., 'in ipsa via Appia milliario ab urbe Roma primo in arenario ipso ubi consueverant convenire.' A few days afterwards Hadrias and Hippolytus are seized and beaten to death. Their bodies are left 'in eodem loco juxta insulam Lycaoniam'; but a certain deacon2 comes by night and reverently deposits them in the same 'arenarium' with the rest v Id. Nov. Nine months later two

1 De Rossi has been able to explain how a false consular date became attached to this persecution, Bull. di Archeol. Crist. 1887, p. 65.

2 The present text says 'venit quidam Hippolytus diaconus noctu'; but obviously the transcriber through carelessness has substituted the wrong name.

Greek Christian ladies, Martana and her daughter Valeria, arrive in Rome. They also die as confessors, apparently starved to death; and are buried in the same place iv. Id. Dec.

Though these Acts are free from the accumulation of horrors and of miracles which condemn so many other accounts of martyrdom, their chronological inconsistencies, not to mention other signs, show that they cannot be a contemporary or nearly contemporary record. De Rossi (R. S. III. p. 200) contents himself with stating that in their present form they ought not to be placed later than about the eighth century.

We have however older evidence for the story than these Acts in two inscriptions which were read by the medieval pilgrims in the cemetery of Callistus in the neighborhood of the papal crypt. They run as follows;


           xiii K. JUN.

These inscriptions are given by De Rossi Rom. Sott. III p. 194 (comp. I. p. 263) and in Inscr. Christ. Urb. Rom. II. p. 66 sq. For reasons which seemed satisfactory, but which it is unnecessary to repeat here


De Rossi had inferred that these inscriptions must be anterior to the 7th century and were probably written in the 5th or at the latest in the 6th (III. p. 197). A few letters of the first inscription itself have been discovered very recently (Bull. di Archeol. Crist. 1887, p. 60 sq), which fully confirm this surmise. They suggest the age of Symmachus as the date of the inscription. The fragment contains the date v Id. Nov. at the heading, which is the day of Hippolytus' martyrdom.

Our evidence however goes much father back than this date. In the inscription which pope Damasus (A.D. 366-384) placed in or near the papal crypt he enumerated the illustrious dead who were buried there (see Rom. Sott. II. p. 23; comp. Inscr. Christ. Urb. Rom. II. p. 66); and among these are specified


where we have evidently a reference to this same group of Greek martyrs and confessors of whom this Hippolytus was the chief; though he does not tell us any particulars about them. To one of this group, possibly to Hippolytus himself, may refer the Damasian verses Inscr. Christ. Urb. Rom. II. p. 108, where he apostrophizes a certain martyr 'quod fama refert, te Graecia misit,' but it throws no additional light on the subject.

Comparing the extant Acts with the inscriptions above cited, which once were read in the cemetery of Callistus, we see that these Acts take up the story at a late point, after the conversion of Hippolytus. They must therefore hvae lost their beginning; or at all events they presuppose some previous document giving an account of the earlier history. This story related how Hippolytus was the captain of a band of Greek robbers; how on his voyage he had vowed a vow to Stygian Jove (funereo Jovi) or Pluto; how arrived at Rome he had established himself in an arenarium or disused cave whence sand had been extracted; how he had been converted to the Christian faith and exchanged the life of a free-booter for the life of a recluse ('monachi'); how he had been instrumental in the conversion of his companions and gathered together a Christian congregation in this cave; and how finally he had left this arenarium as a catacomb ('dulce cubile') for Christian folk—he himself and his companions being buried there.

These are doubtless the martyrs who are commemorated in the Hieronymian Martyrology under xiii Kal. Jul., where the notice as corrected by De Rossi (Rom. Sott. I. p. 264; comp. III. p. 197) from a comparison of MSS runs


Romae in coemeterio Hippolyti sanctorum Honorii, Evodii, Petri, Valeriae, etc.1

thus giving xiii Kal. Jul. where the inscription (as transcribed) has xiii Kal. Jun., so that there must be an error in the one or the other. This is a very common form of blunder, see e.g. Ignat. and Polyc. I, p. 666, ed. 1; p. 683, ed. 2.

On this notice De Rossi points out that the consuls of the year 386, Honorius and Evodius, are mixed up with the names of the martyrs, probably (as he suggests, III. p. 197) because the bodies of Gervasius and Protasius, commemorated on this same day (xiii Kal. Jul.), were discovered in this year. Marcellus is connected with these Greek martyrs in the Acts, as we have seen; but of Petrus, here associated with them, no account has been given. Of Maria and Neon there are some traces though very corrupt in this Martyrology under vi Kal. Nov. The bodies of Hippolytus, Adrias, Maria, Neon and Paulina were deposited in S. Agatha of the Suburra under Leo IX (A.D. 1048-1054); but whether they were translated thither straight from their original resting place we do not know.

A description of the catacomb supposed by De Rossi to be the arenarium of Hippolytus to the N.E. of the cemetery of Callistus is given in Rom. Sott. III. p. 213 sq, p. 301 sq (see Tav. xlii-xlv). He places it in the second half of the third and beginning of the fourth century. From this sanctuary on the Appian Way, not from the more famous cemetery on the Tiburtine, was taken in the year 1646 the sepulchral inscription bearing the words AT EPOLITV (ad Hippolytum); see Rom. Sott. III. p. 215, Bull. di Archeol. Crist. 1882, p. 48.

(4) Hippolytus the soldier, the warder of S. Laurence. Much has been written on the supposed confusion of Hippolytus the theologian and Hippolytus the soldier; and not a few critics have found in this confusion the key to most of the perplexities which confront us in the story of Hippolytus. I shall have occasion to discuss the whole subject at a subsequent point; and it will then be shown that this was not a case of confusion. There was no Hippolytus the warder of S. Laurence distinct from Hippolytus the famous divine: but at a very late period in his legendary career popular opinion transformed him from a cleric into a soldier, connecting him at the same time with S. Laurence.

(5) Hippolytus of Thebes, a writer of the eleventh century; on whom see Fabricius Bibl. Graec. VII. p. 198 sq, ed. Harles. Fragments of this writer are included in Fabricius Hippol. Op. I. App. p. 43 sq. He is quoted by Michael Glycas as Ιππολυτος ο Θηβαιος. In Niceph. Call. H. E. ii. 3 a fragment of this writer is given as from Hippolytus ος Πορτου της πρεσβυτερας Ρωμης επισκοπος ετυγχανεν ων. He was the author of a Chronicle (χρονικον συνταγμα). The accounts De Duodecim Apostolis and De Septuaginta Discipulis, which have sometimes been included in the works of our Hippolytus, are his.

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