Johns Hopkins University Press
  • “We Didn’t Start the Fire”: The Alexandrian Legacy Within Orthodox Memory

If we think about the past and the way Christians constructed the signs and symbols of persecution, invariably something—or, someone—is on fire. In this article, I argue that the destruction of two significant Alexandrian holy sites, the Great Alexandrian Church and the Serapeum, tells us a great deal about how fifth-century ecclesiastical historians crafted episcopal legitimacy by using familiar tropes that signaled to their readers that a Christian persecution was underway. I conclude that how a bishop played with fire made all the difference in the story of Christian orthodoxy.


Christian persecution, orthodoxy, Alexandria, Athanasius of Alexandria, Theophilus of Alexandria, Constantinople

If we think about the past and the way Christians constructed the signs and symbols of persecution, invariably something—or, someone—is on fire. This tradition of burning the holy reaches back into the earliest narratives of Christian martyrdom. The aged bishop Polycarp, for example, was intended to die on the stake under the directives of the imperial representative in Smyrna, but miraculously the martyr bakes rather than burns (Mart. Pol. 15). Another glimpse into the history of conflict between Rome and Christians was the infamous Neronian fire.1 It is said that in 64 ce, the Emperor Nero set the city of Rome on fire, but blamed the Christians. Tacitus records just how far the mad emperor’s game of deflection would go. To punish the presumed holy fire starters, Nero, in a moment of “poetic justice,” used Christian bodies to illuminate his garden (Annals 25.44). If the city burned, so would the Christians.

The imperial link between persecution and fire was again replicated in several Christian narratives of persecution in the following centuries. Records of the first imperial persecution in 250 ce cite another mad emperor with an equal penchant to set the empire on fire. The Emperor Decius, however, sought out both holy persons and their treasured books.2 The discourse of fire and persecution was a powerful one that implicated the empire in the minds and imaginations of early Christians. By the [End Page 13] fourth century, Eusebius of Caesarea turned back to these early moments of flame and destruction and compiled a number of stories to demonstrate to his readers how to recognize holiness under threat. The sparks of flame would become one of the most compelling signs that an imperial persecution was underway.3 The trope continued to grow and included not only holy relics, but also holy spaces. The most famous account that will set the pattern for later persecution narratives is preserved in Lactantius’s report on the burning and leveling of the Nicomedian church at the start of the Great Persecution in 303 ce.4

While it was still twilight the prefect came to the church with military leaders, tribunes, and accountants. They forced open the doors and searched for the image of God. They found the Scriptures and burnt them; all were granted [spoils]; the scene was one of plunder, panic, and confusion . . . bringing axes and other iron tools, and after being ordered from every direction they leveled the lofty edifice to the ground within a few hours

(Lactantius, Mort. 12.2–5).5

This particular story of fire and destruction would not be contained in Nicomedia alone. Later ecclesiastical historians built on this narrative and replicated its horrors in two other imperial cities: Alexandria and Constantinople, which will occupy us here. In this article, I explore how the destruction of holy spaces and the story of persecution were used to legitimize and undermine Christian orthodoxy by late fourth- and early fifth-century pro-Nicene ecclesiastical historians. Two Alexandrian bishops stand at the center of these narratives, but served very different roles in preserving stories of sacred spaces on fire.6 [End Page 14]

The first bishop we will examine, Athanasius of Alexandria, records an event that was instigated by an inter-Christian conflict when his episcopal authority was under threat and the “Great Church of Alexandria” was set on fire (c. 338 ce). The second bishop, Theophilus of Alexandria, found himself embroiled within not one, but two episodes where sacred spaces were set aflame. These two episodes include the destruction of the Alexandrian Serapeum (391 ce) and, later, the consuming fire that destroyed the “Great Church of Constantinople” (399 ce). I argue that the destruction of these sacred spaces tells us a great deal about how ecclesiastical historians crafted episcopal legitimacy through familiar tropes of Christian persecution. One bishop will emerge a hero and the other will struggle to escape the charge of the mad fire starter so easily associated with a nefarious imperial legacy. I conclude that how one plays with fire makes all the difference in the story of Christian orthodoxy.


Before we turn to a detailed assessment of Alexandria’s bishops, a topographical overview of Alexandria and its sacred spaces will set the stage for the significance of their destruction within Christian memory. Judith McKenzie has provided an extensive analysis of the architecture in and around Alexandria during our focus period of late antiquity and beyond.7 The city, founded by Alexander the Great in 331 bce, later became the capital of the Hellenistic world and exemplified the height of civilization, despite frequent invasions and significant internal unrest. Between the restoration efforts made by Diocletian (284–305 ce) and the conquest of the Arab armies in the seventh century, Alexandria became a powerful and influential megalopolis within the Roman Empire. As a strategic stronghold, it boasted of its access to both [End Page 15] a Mediterranean port and the Nile. Undeniably, Alexandria sat at the political center of the Graeco–Roman world.

The colonnades and statues in the central streets, Canopica Way and the Soma, reminded her visitors of its rich history and import. The city was also an amalgam of intellectual, religious, and economic wealth that captured the literary imaginations of many ancient authors and served to further bolster its reputation as a vibrant civic epicenter. Classical structures peppered the city and would become the focus of both inter-Christian and non-Christian conflict.

The unified imperial presence in Egypt was also instrumental in promoting its affluence and amplifies the role of imperial politics in later Christian theological readings of traditional Roman sites. Egypt’s political structure was systematized due in large part to the reform efforts of Septimius Severus (193–211) and Diocletian (284–305) after him. The hierarchical structures set in place by these imperial reforms helped to centralize the Egyptian episcopal authority in Alexandria, although it was not until the fifth and sixth centuries that large-scale construction of churches and monasteries began there.8 Prior to that point, we find the standard use of public buildings that were quickly adapted for ecclesial use. For example, the use of the Caesareum in the city center caused quite a stir. McKenzie notes that as early as 300 ce papyri evidence points to the use of churches both in the city proper and the surrounding periphery.9 Here we will occupy ourselves with two key structures: the Caesareum and the Serapeum. These two civic and religious spaces were eventually destroyed, but for now, we will focus on their location and function within a Christian vision of Alexandria.10 [End Page 16]

As many as twelve churches were in use at any given point by 375 and became the center of inter-Christian competition. Graeco–Roman temples also remained in use until the last decade of the fourth century. For the time being, we will focus on Athanasius’s confiscation of the Caesareum during his episcopacy. Late accounts will use this move from the Theonas Church, preferred by his predecessor Alexander, to the Caesareum as a mark of Christian triumph in Alexandria. The Coptic tradition, in particular, heralds this moment as proof of God’s divine providence in the city.11 This argument also provides us with firmer evidence for the location of the presumed attack under a competitor bishop, Gregory of Cappadocia, preserved in Athanasius’s Encyclical Letter discussed in more detail below.

Athanasius’s use of the Caesareum for his episcopal duties held not only ecclesial but political significance as well. The site was located between Cleopatra’s famous Needles and the city agora. The Caesareum had also been used prior to its adaptation as the location of the imperial cult. Athanasius’s decision to confiscate this space and use it for his own episcopal use was a visual sign of his power and control of not just its present Christian orthodoxy but also over its classical non-Christian past. The Caesareum, also later known as St. Michaels, took on extensive renovations and its use by Athanasius would first draw the ire of Constantine’s only surviving son Constantius II. Athanasius’s illegal use of the space prior to its official dedication to the emperor is cited as one of the four charges that would eventually force Athanasius to flee Alexandria.12

For our purposes, the objections to its use by the emperor also served as the basis to Athanasius’s claim that an imperial persecution had once again been ignited— even when the emperor had professed to be a Christian.13 And while the actual space under dispute shifted as many times as Athanasius wrote about this episode, it is arguable that the actual historical location he originally referenced was the Caesareum.14 The structure was initially set on fire, according to Athanasius, when Gregory invaded Alexandria in 338. It was then reportedly completely destroyed by a mob in 366 (Index, 38) and permission was granted by the later Emperor Valens to rebuild [End Page 17] the structure in 368 (Index, 40).15 Thus the confiscation and use of the Caesareum by the Alexandrian bishop served as symbol of his success at the precise moment his legitimacy was under contestation.


Athanasius was forced out of Alexandria multiple times during his career due to his role in the Arian conflict.16 As Virginia Burrus has noted, even though Athanasius was only a young boy at the actual Nicene council in 325, he took great pains to condemn Arius’s teaching well after the infamous heretic’s death in 336. He did so in order to move the legacy of the famed council of Nicaea into the theological framing of Alexandrian control and solidify his own episcopal legitimacy. Athanasius’s rightful claim to the Alexandrian see was contested from the very start. In an effort to hold onto his position, he used the conflict to paint himself as a persecuted defender of the faith especially when known Arian supporters were sent to Alexandria to remove him from his ecclesiastical post.

And Athanasius’s enemies were initially successful. The ill-fated bishop was forced out of Alexandria no less than five times and struggled to maintain his control.17 In this article, we will focus on Athanasius’s second flight after Gregory of Cappadocia was sent to replace him and the Great Church was set on fire.18 Burrus astutely remarks: “Only after the crisis of Gregory’s entry into Alexandria in late 338 did Athanasius rediscover ‘Arius’ (who had been dead since 335 or 336) and the usefulness of the label ‘Arianism.’”19 As we will come to see, Athanasius continued to malign Arius’s memory and the memories of his supporters and sympathizers to construct a defensible orthodox identity tied to sacred sites in and around Alexandria. Athanasius’s polemical works capitalized on a genealogical rhetoric that pit the “Arian madmen” against the true inheritors of Nicene Christianity, namely, [End Page 18] Athanasius.20 If an imperial persecution was underway, then the ousted bishop’s claim over that legacy would help ensure his triumphant return.

In the summer of 339, Athanasius composed his Encylical Letter while safely harbored in Rome.21 The contents of the letter describe for his audience the series of dramatic events that resulted in what is considered his second exile. It is in this encyclical that Athanasius first portrays himself as a persecuted victim, while simultaneously stylizing himself as an unconventional literary hero. He accomplishes this through several steps. In his effort to create an unstoppable protagonist, Athanasius creates the most threatening of enemies. Gregory of Cappadocia is a false outsider bishop sent by known heretics to replace him. As both foreigner and thug, he aligned his efforts with both heretical clerics and emperor to institute a secret war against the church. To support this claim, he describes a particularly violent scene that he argues mirrors the imperial persecutions of the not too distant past. Athanasius concludes that his eventual flight from Alexandria and survival were necessary in order to record these events—not unlike Lactantius before him—as well as live on to expose this persecution.

Athanasius begins his letter by emphasizing that Gregory is no ordinary villain. He has a particular taste for fire and destruction. Gregory and his associates are all “Arian madmen” not unlike other mad villains of the past (Ep. encycl. 2).22 To drive home the dubious nature of these intruders, he makes it clear that these men were those same men responsible for his first flight from Alexandria to Gaul. He then details the climactic moment that reveals their true intent. Gregory’s bloodlust was not for Athanasius alone but extends to the entire city of Alexandria. In the days preceding Athanasius’s flight to Rome, Gregory gathered his Arian madmen and other co-conspirators, such as a known Manichean general, along with his disreputable imperial soldiers, to storm the “Great Alexandrian Church” (Ep. encycl. 7).23 Calamity ensues, and Athanasius describes the disaster as follows:

The church and the holy baptistery were set on fire, and straightway groans, shrieks, and lamentations were heard throughout the city; while the citizens, in their indignation at these enormities, cried shame upon the governor and protested the violence used against them. For holy and undefiled virgins were being stripped [End Page 19] naked, and suffering treatment that is not to be named, and if they resisted, they were in danger of their lives.

(Ep. encycl. 3).24

Here Athanasius builds on Lactantius’s earlier description of the destruction of the Nicomedian church. In this episode, he replaces the holy books with the holy baptistery. It is the location where god and the holy bodies of the faithful meet. This particular scene will serve as the foundation for several of his other apologetics texts used to defend his status as the true bishop of Alexandria. While the description of the Church and its name changes, the central message remained consistent throughout his works.25 An imperial persecution was underway. And this was unlike any persecution that had taken place prior to this point. Now competitor outside bishops aligned themselves with the empire and known heretics to destroy the true defenders of the faith. These villains joined forces not just to attack the innocent, but, according to Athanasius, establish a heretical empire. Ever the master of a compelling story, Athanasius understood how to use sacred space and the stories of Christian persecution to excite and ignite the imaginations of his readers. This combination, as we will soon see, was easily replicated by other Christian authors to identify their own contemporary enemies in disguise.26

In another significant city—that is Constantinople—the story of the destruction of her great Church repeats. Once again, we find the narrative deployed to condemn another invading foreigner who aligned himself too closely with the empire. What [End Page 20] stands out in this narrative of an imperial persecution in disguise was that the invading villain also came from Alexandria. The bishop Theophilus found himself outside of his episcopal jurisdiction and, according to John Chrysostom, declared war on the faithful. As we will see, Theophilus of Alexandria and Gregory of Cappadocia would have more in common than Theophilus and Athanasius ever would.


To better understand the second bishop from Alexandria—and Theophilus’s more ambivalent memory as an orthodox hero—it is helpful to link him to another famous bishop in exile. John Chrysostom, the failed bishop of Constantinople, comes into direct conflict with Theophilus of Alexandria at the turning point of his episcopal career. John was elected bishop of Constantinople in October–November 397 and, after a short tenure, was sent into exile for the first time in September–October 403 due in no small part to Theophilus’s involvement in what will be known as the Origenist controversy. As tensions began to heat up, Theophilus started to feel pressure from his Jerusalem counterparts and was forced to confront and correct the theological teachings of neighboring Nitrian monks. The scene quickly turned violent. After refusing Theophilus’s entreaties to curb their heretical ways, the so-called Tall Brothers were reportedly beaten by the bishop and chased out of Egypt. To escape the violent temper of the Alexandrian bishop, they fled to more friendly allies across the empire and eventually made their way to Constantinople. The monks were taken in by both the Empress Eudoxia and John Chrysostom.

Subsequently, the Alexandrian bishop traveled to Constantinople in hot pursuit of the wayward monks and was responsible for convoking the infamous Synod of Oak at which John was condemned for his aiding and abetting known heretics. John was then expelled for the first time (he was removed a second and final time in June 404). Now, there are great number of reasons associated with John’s displacement, but, for our purposes, he blames Theophilus directly in a letter written to Innocent I, the bishop of Rome, after his initial expulsion.27 In this letter, John describes Theophilus’s activity as criminal. He, and not John, is the true villain who ought to be on trial. Theophilus’s fiery temper and abuse of power led to several atrocities including [End Page 21] rumors that he had set the Great Constantinopolitan Church on fire. A charge that would take shape after John’s death in exile. But this rumor was not the first time Theophilus had been charged with playing with fire.

Theophilus’s burning reputation had two sides. In addition to this fiery temper, he was also remembered by ecclesiastical historians as a defender of Christianity over and against Roman traditionalists. His role in the destruction of the Alexandrian Serapeum and the rebuilding of a Christian martyrium on the site of the destroyed temple is frequently commented upon. In this section, we will explore how the burning of sacred spaces in Alexandria held significance for both Christians and non-Christians alike. While Theophilus will often be praised for his lithomania in Alexandria, his reputation as a fire starter would eventually be used against him outside the city.28

The temple of the god Serapis has a long history in the Roman imperial ideology and built culture. In its Roman reception, the god was frequently referred to as a consort of Isis. In many ways, this mythologized relationship reflected the fraught and all-consuming relationship the city of Rome had with Alexandria evident in both imperial structures and imperial representatives.29 For example, the Emperor Septimius Severus adopted the beard and hairstyle of Serapis. He was also responsible for restoring the temple in Alexandria, which was then completed by his son Caracalla. Caracalla simultaneously built a twin structure on the Quirinal Hill in Rome.

As briefly discussed before, Athanasius’s use of imperially significant spaces helped to secure his legitimacy as both a religious authority and an (eventual) imperial representative. The former bishop of Alexandria was a local as well as universal hero because of his savvy approach to spatial politics. It appears that Athanasius’s successors progressively moved away from this strategic power play. And by the time Theophilus was ordained the Alexandria patriarch in 385, the Alexandrian see was embroiled in additional religious controversies that would challenge the episcopal supremacy both in North Africa and the eastern Roman Empire.

One might conjecture that Theophilus’s destructive activities had more to do with an attempt to re-imagine a Christian Alexandria to remain in control during a very unstable period of Alexandrian influence across the empire.30 For example, the episcopal politics of the previous century had placed Alexandria at odds with Antioch, which was another theological and political battleground.31 The memory [End Page 22] of this tense relationship was due to the episcopal battle at play in Antioch over the rejection of the bishop Meletius and Alexandria’s support of his rival Paulinus. The division of interests and investments would eventually give rise to another conflict in another significant city of the empire. Alexandria’s fight for influence over and the episcopal struggle in Antioch then extended to the capital of the eastern empire Constantinople and it added fuel to Theophilus’s already fiery reputation in fifth-century ecclesiastical histories.

Prior to this battle of bishops, however, Theophilus ignited a series of fires in Alexandria that followed him on his journey to Constantine’s golden city. Theophilus’s critics characterized the bishop as susceptible to a form of mania (a dangerous accusation) that continued to undermine his ability to maintain control of both his person and those he was charged to oversee in and around Alexandria.32 He is frequently described as an unstable character with questionable motives and inconsistent theological policies by both ancient and modern biographers.33 One of the first campaigns Theophilus undertakes in his new role as the bishop of Alexandria was to destroy a series of Alexandrian temples both in and outside the city.34 For example, with the noted approval of Theodosius I, the Temple of Osiris at Canopus and the Mithraeum were shut down and looted. Sacred artifacts were pilfered from the temples, which included the statues of Dionysus and other local deific representations.35 But the most significant episode linked to Theophilus was the infamous sack and destruction of the Serapeum Temple in 391.

The fifth-century ecclesiastical historians Socrates, Sozomen, Rufinus, and Theodoret all record this episode with slightly differing details and visions of Theophilus that highlight the shifting focus on anti-traditional Roman policies across the empire. The tone of each narration of the story depends on how influential John Chrysostom’s earliest biographers were on each ecclesiastical historian and their own spatial politics—and we will soon learn why. Most fifth-century historians [End Page 23] would present the chaotic episode as a failure in leadership to control the Alexandrian traditionalists and thus paint Theophilus as a politically inept leader.36 Sozomen barely mentions what direct role Theophilus played in the capital campaigns in Alexandria (HE VII. 15) and appears to have preserved a more significant critique of Theophilus’s role in John Chrysostom’s exile, which we will turn to in the next section.37

Not all ecclesiastical historians painted Theophilus in a negative light and even Sozomen will not go so far as to condemn the destruction of the Serapeum (the Christians ultimately come out victorious).38 For example, Socrates connects Theophilus’s attack on the Serapeum with the destruction of the Mithraeum (HE V.16–17).39 Both sacred spaces are described as inherently violent spaces deserving of destruction. Socrates re-imagines this moment as an opportunity for Theophilus to turn ill into good. He goes so far as to insist that the destruction of traditional Alexandrian sacred sites had been foretold and served as a catalyst for conversion. Socrates’s version of the narrative successfully lives on in Egyptian histories. Theodoret, following Socrates, also paints Theophilus in a positive light in his efforts to appropriate tropes about fire and non-Christian spaces (just as the great Athanasius did) even though he, too, will have a few sharp words for Theophilus’s ill treatment of John Chrysostom.40 Theodoret’s treatment of the Alexandrian bishop represents a later period where anti-Roman traditionalist policies were in full swing and violent Christians were deemed a necessary part of Christian imperial policy. Theophilus, in this instance, is frequently characterized as a hero precisely because his destruction of non-Christian sites was, according to Theodoret, responsible for the conversion [End Page 24] of the masses. The habitual destruction of non-Christian sacred spaces began to take place across the empire.41

And yet, we learn a great deal about how Theophilus’s legacy and orthodoxy is strategically undermined (even tacitly), if we pay close attention to the framing of the event in Sozomen’s assessment of the destruction of the Serapeum. Sozomen first notes a series of anti-traditionalist initiatives such as the destruction of the Temple of Dionysus. A mob of Christians violate the adyta (inner sanctuary) of the temple and pilfer a series of sacred artifacts that then are exposed and paraded through Alexandria with pomp and mockery, which results in further tensions among the Alexandrian citizens. In a pre-emptive effort to protect other notable sacred spaces in and around the city, Sozomen reports that a group of Alexandrian traditionalists sequester themselves in the Serapeum and take with them a number of captured Christians. There they perform a mini-imperial persecution. The occupiers torture their Christian captives and compel them to sacrifice to the god Serapis. Anyone who refused to sacrifice was crucified, had their legs broken, and was put to death. Sozomen states that the occupation and torture that took place in the Serapeum went on for an extended period of time until the local imperial authorities were forced to step in under the holy Emperor Theodosius’s directive.

Sozomen claims that the captors were erroneously led by a man named Olympius. He is described as an Alexandrian non-Christian dressed in a philosopher’s mantle, who boldly characterized the experience of the Alexandrian traditionalists (and not the Christians) as a martyrdom. He goes on to insist that the occupiers must suffer for their faith and die rather than neglect the gods of their fathers—certainly, a peculiar argument. Here Sozomen decries the language of persecution on the tongue of a persecutor. The Serapeum defenders perform a perverted version of the Christian narrative claiming they are the true victims. In response to these events, Theodosius, the real hero of Sozomen’s narrative, declares the captive Christians as the true Alexandrian martyrs. And, to quell any further rebellion in the city, the emperor extends an offer of clemency to the occupiers, but as a just punishment levels the temple after they vacate the site.

A revealing set of details stands out that highlights how Theophilus is framed in two accounts we will explore below and, I argue, informs Sozomen’s narrative. The temple occupiers, consumed by both guilt and fear, flee the city. An additional rumor remains behind that the evening before their flight and the destruction of the temple, a lone voice was heard singing a Christian hymn that only Olympius could hear. It was enough to frighten the false leader and he fled the city in the middle of the night. These two details are important to remember. A cowardly leader abandons his supporters and flees the city in the middle of the night and his followers soon do the same. After their flight, the sacred space they occupied is destroyed as punishment [End Page 25] for the entire city. Both the cowardly flight and destruction of a holy space prove to the readers who is guilty and who is not.

After the flames are put out, what remains is a very conflicted history pertaining to the destruction of sacred Alexandrian sites. If we compare the sacking of non-Christian and Christian sites, we start to see how spatial language shows readers a cloaked, frequently nefarious, plot is at work. A persecution is under way. Moreover, Sozomen’s earlier reference to the invasion of the inner sanctuary of the Temple of Dionysius stands out as an additional troubling detail that further implicates Theophilus’s later activities in Constantinople. The memory over the burning of Alexandrian temples remains a mixed one. In terms of Christian orthodoxy, the destruction and burning of Alexandrian traditional sacred sites and their links to Theophilus’s actions outside of Alexandria harken back to these earlier details that identify false leaders and their persecution of the faithful.

Theophilus’s unstable character, while not explicitly called out when dealing with non-Christians in Alexandria, is certainly condemned when his manic personality ignites and leads him to Constantinople. There, Theophilus’s true love of fire and destruction comes under intense scrutiny and his true nature is revealed. The destruction of an inner sanctuary, the parading and mocking of violated virgins and elderly clerics in the city streets, and the flames that consume the Great Church of Constantinople in the aftermath of his flight are remembered as a shocking series of events—and a bit too familiar.


As Elizabeth Clark highlights, Theophilus’s afterlife presents him in a much harsher light than is probably warranted.42 As noted, John Chrysostom credits Theophilus’s meddling in Constantinopolitan politics as the chief cause for his own expulsion from the city.43 Moreover, John’s reputation as an orthodox bishop—even though he died a heretic during his second exile in 407—was the result of a swift recovery [End Page 26] effort undertaken by two key biographers, Ps.-Martyrius and Palladius, almost immediately after his death.44 It is their version of the events that transpired between John and Theophilus that serve as the blueprint from which many of ecclesiastical historians build their narratives. And although Theophilus is not overtly referred to as a heretic by John’s two biographers, as Susanna Elm has convincingly showed, his involvement in the expulsion of John Chrysostom from Constantinople is quite revealing.45 Recent biographies on Theophilus by Alexander Russell and Krastu Banev have also further complicated this history.46

In the second episode of fire and destruction, Theophilus is presented as an invading bishop who incites violence against the Constantinopolitan Christians.47 And while later ecclesiastical historians will present him in an ambivalent light, familiar tropes help us to reframe the conflict and draw conclusions that have not previously been acknowledged. Theophilus is not simply a bishop beset by ambition and greed, but he attempts to wage a holy war if we only know where to look for the signs of persecution. According to John’s biographers, there is firm evidence that reveals that this Alexandrian bishop was no orthodox hero, but a villain in disguise.

Both Ps.-Martyrius and Palladius successfully transform John Chrysostom into a saint through the aid and agency of Athanasius as they simultaneously characterize Theophilus as the invading heretic. They accomplish this task by drawing strong narrative connections to the Nicene hero’s struggles with invading bishops. The violence inflicted upon John’s supporters and subsequent damage to the Constantinopolitan church mirror those events described in Athanasius’s Encyclical Letter. Furthermore, John’s biographers explicitly refer to Athanasius as a way to legitimize John’s orthodoxy and transfer the pro-Nicene Alexandrian legacy to Constantinople and wrestle it away from Theophilus.

To demonstrate this point, the narrative sequence of violence we explored in Athanasius’s encyclical is inserted into both Ps.-Martyrius’s and Palladius’s accounts. In the Funerary Speech we see:

When some of those who come to the holy rites of initiation had just emerged from the pool of the baptismal font, others were still in it, and others were ready to immerse themselves, [when] a solid mass of soldiers entered with swords and clubs. . . . They beat and drove out those who lacked both clothing and sin, . . . [End Page 27] sparing no one, not even women, whose natures have taught especially to feel shame at being naked [Gen 3:7–11].

(Ps.-Martyrius, Fun. Orat. 93)

Here we find several intertextual links: the baptistery is invaded and, in their mad pursuit of John, these enemies target the faithful—even persons in the very process of Christian initiation. Ps-Martyrius then emphasizes the tragic nature of the whole affair in the climactic moment of the burning of the Constantinopolitan Church. After John’s forced departure from the city, the church catches fire and it quickly spreads to the surrounding buildings. There is a rumor the church may have been set on fire by John’s followers (Ps.-Martyrius, Fun. Orat. 111), but Ps.-Martyrius dismisses these claims:

The fire began in the late afternoon, and during the night, before morning arrived, the entire church was destroyed and that very beautiful and great seat of the consuls, with the church pointing with the edge of the fire, just as if with a finger, at the guilty neighbours.

(Ps.-Martyrius, Fun. Orat. 112).

Ps.-Martyrius here concludes that this was no ordinary fire, but a sign of God’s wrath and justice. The city suffered for John’s wrongful expulsion and her most sacred sites were destroyed by a mysterious fire.48

We also find an extended version of this same event in Palladius’s text. Like Ps.-Martyrius, the first attack on the church takes place at the Easter Vigil. A vicious soldier named Lucius the Greek brings with him known clerics associated with Theophilus who enlist swordsmen to storm the inner sanctuary of the church.

At night, he suddenly rushed to attack, furious, like a wolf, along with the priest who showed him and his soldiers the way. He pushed through the crowd with a sword, he came forward to the holy waters and cast out those who were about to be initiated into the Resurrection of the Savior. He arrogantly pushed aside the deacon and spilled the symbols of the mysteries. As for the priests, who were of a certain age, he struck their skulls with a club and defiled the baptismal pool with their blood. . . . Naked women with their husbands were running away wounded, disgracing themselves for fear of being killed or disgraced.

(Dia. 9.196–205)

For Palladius, the initial assault is not the end of the persecution. It goes on for days until John is forced to leave Constantinople. Like before, the burning of the Church is not the outcome of the violent doings of the persecutor, but the divine justice brought about as payment for John’s removal. John’s flight from Constantinople leaves his episcopal seat empty and when the flames of the Lord descend, the Church is consumed. To bring home the miraculous nature of this fire, Palladius states it [End Page 28] extended to the Senate House and continued to spread searching out John’s opponents and “to expose the madness of Theophilus.”49 Not a single life was lost, but the city was purified by this holy and destructive force.

To summarize briefly, in both narratives, John’s enemies invade the inner sanctuary of the sacred church and, after John is exiled, the church is consumed by fire. It is as if the imperial persecutions, or, more specifically, the Alexandrian persecutions, have taken place once again. Now we find ourselves not in North Africa, but at the very heart of the empire in Constantinople and the invading bishop is not Gregory but Theophilus. The story line remains a familiar one: the faithful are tortured and the church burns and, with the added literary elements introduced by Athanasius, the bishop, John Chrysostom, is expelled.

If the familiar narrative structure were not enough, both of John’s defenders explicitly refer to “the Great Athanasius of Alexandria” when they discuss the aftermath of John’s first exile and presumably illegal return to Constantinople. Each author reports that, after the legitimacy of the Synod of the Oak was called into question, Theophilus fled the city—a detail not lost on fifth-century ecclesiastical historians such as Sozomen. Theophilus’s flight back to Egypt was in the middle of the night, which is, as we explored above, a coward’s flight. Sozomen uses this trope to flag for his readers the known enemies of Christianity. While Theophilus ultimately avoided explicit blame for his involvement in the Serapeum episode, his activity in Constantinople was not so easily dismissed. The false leader who occupies and tortures the victims within the inner sanctum of a recognizably sacred space (even if it is not a Christian space) remains a damning charge.

In the two accounts shaped by John Chrysostom’s defenders, we see how the Athanasian legacy was so successful that, by the time John Chrysostom’s seemingly failed exile took place, the simple act of invoking Athanasius’s experience was enough to resurrect and rehabilitate John’s memory and condemn his enemies.50 John Chrysostom, like Athanasius of Alexandria, was posthumously brought back to the city and triumphantly proclaimed a defender of the faith precisely because his story mirrored that of his literary and orthodox predecessor. So too, a warning was inserted into the tale. Invading bishops, particularly those who violently attack holy spaces, will be exposed as the mad cowards they truly are and their reputations will burn on in infamy. Theophilus, as John’s literary foil, functions in a similar way to Athanasius’s chief rivals Gregory of Cappadocia (and his successor, George also of Cappadocia). Theophilus’s role as an invading bishop who colludes with known heretics, criminals, and imperial officials bent on persecuting the orthodox was not lost on John’s supporters and later ecclesiastical historians. Theophilus’s actions actively undermine his claim to the power of the Alexandrian episcopate or, at the very least, his orthodox legacy. [End Page 29]


The act of remembering the destruction of the Serapeum and the Constantinopolitan church highlights a recurrent theme within late ancient Christian literature: where there is a fire, there is a persecution. Late fourth- and early fifth-century Christian authors, in quite a different moment, invoked earlier stories of fire and destruction to signal to their readers that what they were witnessing was a Christian persecution—even when the fire starters were not warring emperors, but Christian bishops. These stories of inter-Christian conflict, particularly in those moments when Christian authors invoke fiery tropes to identify who is or is not an authentic Christian (and leader), provides us with brief glimpses into the complicated memory-making process of Christian orthodoxy.

The fourth and fifth centuries were a widely violent time as Roman citizens, Christian or non-Christian, fought over the control of significant spaces. In this article, I have showed how the destruction of sacred places and fire itself shaped the Christian imagination and were used to determine Christian authenticity. Not all fires in Alexandria were created equal. Once the memory of Athanasius moves from Alexandria to Constantinople, the charge of persecution is not so easily invoked— particularly, when a new Alexandria bishop is said to have set fire to other holy spaces. And still, holy spaces remained hybrid spaces. The Caesareum and the Serapeum eventually transformed into charged Christian sacred sites. One is “attacked” by other Christians in an effort to control that space. And then that burning episode is once again re-read in quite a different context, but with the same aim: to rehabilitate the reputation of a bishop in flight. In the second burning episode, Theophilus orders (or encourages) the destruction of the Serapeum prior to his involvement with John Chrysostom. And yet, his fiery reputation carries a dangerous spark that follows him to Constantinople where the persecutions of the past were set alight once again.

By the fifth century, the burning of non-Christian sacred spaces must wrestle with the spatial tropes forged in the past by writers such as Lactantius, Athanasius, and John Chrysostom’s biographers. The destruction of the Serapeum, alongside other traditional Roman sacred sites, was frequently contested even in Christian memory. In the city of Alexandria, a muddied story of Christian orthodoxy took shape as ecclesiastical historians reflected back on this earlier tumultuous period. Theophilus of Alexandria, John Chrysostom’s noted rival (and invading bishop), remained a questionable character. Readers are left to wonder whether he truly was a hero of Christian triumph. Or was this Alexandrian bishop an unstable enemy of Christianity like a Nero, like an Arius, like a Gregory, or like an Olympius? According to John’s biographers, and Sozomen after them, Theophilus’s charred intentions were on full display. Those who played with fire got burned. [End Page 30]

Jennifer Barry
University of Mary Washington


1. Nero’s responsibility for the fire is remarked in several works, but here I refer to Tacitus Annals, 15.38–39 and Suetonius, Life of Nero, 38.

2. See Acts of Saint Felix Bishop and Martyr, 1–5. A wonderful translation is available in Maureen A. Tilley, Donatist Martyr Stories: The Church in Conflict in Roman North Africa, trans. with notes and intro. (Liverpool: Liverpool Press, 1996), 8–11. Decius’s pursuit of books is also preserved in a variety of other sources including Lactantius, On the Death of Persecutors 12–13 and 15 (discussed in more detail below); and Eusebius of Caesarea EH 8.2.4–5.

3. The story of Nero’s persecution of the Christians is found in Eusebius of Caesarea EH 2.25 and Polycarp’s baking on the pyre in EH, 4.31–37.

4. It is unclear how much damage was inflicted on the actual Nicomedian church given the paucity of archeological evidence. For a recent entry on Nicomedia and Nicaea, see Klaus Belke, Bithynien and Hellespont (TIB 13), forthcoming, sv Nikomedeia / Nikaia. Belke breaks down the archeological evidence as well as literary references to these significant cities. A recent archaeological research team under the support of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) and led by Tuna Şare Ağtürk has resulted in some fascinating discoveries at the ancient site of Nicomedia and modern day Izmit. These include sculpted colorful relief panels that reveal a lively and flourishing metropolis throughout the fourth century. For a description of one of the Tetrarchic relief, see Tuna Şare Ağtürk, “A New Tetrarchic Relief from Nicomedia: Embracing Emperors,” American Journal of Archeology 122.3 (2018): 411–26.

5. Edition: SC 39 and J. L. Creed, ed. and trans., De mortibus persecutorum, Oxford Early Christian Texts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984). Translation: David M. Gwynn, Christianity in the Later Roman Empire: A Sourcebook (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 20. For a biographical reconstruction of Lactantius’s time in Nicomedia and when and where he wrote his Divine Institutes and On the Death of Persecutors, see T. D. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 291 n. 96. The story of the Diocletian persecution is revived in the fifth c. in Orosius’s Seven Books Against the Pagans, 7.25–28. The author also stresses the excessive cruelty of this campaign noting the ten-year period during which churches were burned and the martyrs were slaughtered.

6. While I focus specifically on these two bishops, other fires were frequently noted in other Christian texts as well. The use of the trope of fire to signal persecution and, eventually, heresy were prevalent in the late fourth century. For example, see Basil of Caesarea, “Homily on Detachment from Worldly Things, and on the Fire that Occurred Outside the Church,” Mark DelCogliano, trans., St. Basil the Great: On Christian Doctrine and Practice, Popular Patristics 47 (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2012), 148–81. PG 31:540–64. I thank the anonymous reviewer for directing me to this article. For an expanded examination of this compelling sermon, see also Susan R. Holman, Caroline Macé, and Brian J. Matz, “De Beneficentia: A Homily on Social Action attributed to Basil of Caesarea” Vigiliae Christianae, Vol. 66, No. 5 (2012), pp. 457–81. The fear of destruction and persecution from the empire continues to haunt Christian authors particularly in the eastern Empire. One might also recall John’s Homilies on the Statues where the threat of an imperial leveling of Antioch scares the city into submission after the infamous riots of its citizens in 387. John, of course, credits divine intervention working through the bishop Flavian, who is credited with bringing about Theodosius’s mercy. The city and its sacred spaces are preserved because Flavian, the legitimate bishop of Antioch, is guided by God to intervene on the behalf of the city.

7. Judith McKenzie has provided an extensive analysis of the architecture of Alexandria during our focus period and beyond. Judith McKenzie, The Architecture of Alexandria and Egypt 300 BC–AD 700 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007).

8. See Roger Bagnall, Egypt in Late Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 289– 303 on the evidence available for the material growth and ecclesiastical ownership of land and church property of these sites. The massive change that takes place during this period is often marked by the infamous destruction of the Serapeum in 392 ce. For a description of this event see Johannes Hahn, “The Conversion of the Cult Statues: The Destruction of the Serapeum 392 A.D. and the Transformation of Alexandria into the ‘Christian Loving’ City” in From Temple to Church: Destruction and Renewal of Local Cultic Topography in Late Antiquity, eds. Johannes Hahn, Stephen Emmel, and Ulrich Gotter (Leiden: Brill, 2008): 335–63.

9. McKenzie, 231. As McKenzie highlights, the archeological evidence related to the actual material structures in Alexandria is frustratingly limited. Some biographical support adapted and, in addition to, what McKenzie provides includes the classic three-volume set by P. M. Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972) and Achille Adriani, Repertorio d’Arte dell’Egito Greco–Romano ser. C. vol. I (Palermo, 1966). And for a study on numismatic evidence, see Susan Handler, “Architecture on the Roman Coins of Alexandria” American Journal of Archaeology 75.1 (1979): 57–74. For a more recent engagement, pertaining to our focus time-period found in Christopher Haas, Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997).

10. Other campaigns to burn sacred spaces in Alexandria include the sack of the shrine of Isis at Menouthis nearly a century later under the leadership of Peter Mongus and an Alexandrian student-philoponoi (486 ce). For a description of the political reframing of Christian riots and violence in and around the city of Alexandria, see Edward J. Watts’s Riot in Alexandria: Tradition and Group Dynamics in Late Antique Pagan and Christian Communities (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008). See, in particular, pp.10–20.

11. See Watts, Riot in Alexandria, 200–205. Here Watts notes the preservation of Theophilus’s building campaigns in the Storia della Chiesa di Alessandria. See in particular, n. 51, 200 for more details. And the added details left out of the Storia are highlighted by Watts and rely on Severus of Al-Ashunein’s History of the Patriarchs. See, n. 56, 201.

12. For a discussion of Athanasius’s first flight from Alexandria to Gaul, see, Barry, Bishops in Flight: Exile and Displacement in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2019), 31–37.

13. Evidence for this argument is preserved in several of Athanasius’s apologetic works. In his Defense Before Constantius, for example, Athanasius must defend his use of the space prior to its dedication to the Emperor Constantius II. See, Athanasius, Apol. Const. 17. The defense is particularly difficult to date, but T. D. Barnes, building on the work of Archibald Robertson (1892) and J.-M. Szymusiak (1958), suggests that the defense was written in two stages: chapters 1–26 between 353 and 355, and chapters 27–35 in 357.T. D. Barnes, Athanasius and Constantius: Theology and Politics in the Constantinian Empire (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 196–97.

14. Here I follow Barnes’s argument that the frequently cited attack is historically questionable. The shifting locations alone tell us more about what aspects of Gregory’s heinous attacks Athanasius would like to stress than any firm evidence of a large-scale persecution under Gregory’s orders.

15. For a thorough and recent discussion on the history and difficulty in assessing the Index and the assembly of the surviving Festal Letters, see David M. Gwynn, Athanasius of Alexandria: Bishop, Theologian, Ascetic, Father (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 7–8. On these building campaigns, see Barnes, 163–4 and A. Martin, ‘Les premiers siècles du Christianism a Alexandrie: Essai de topgraphi religieuse (IIIe–IVe),’ REAug 30 (1984), 211–35.

16. The infamous priest Arius (ca. 256–336), whose controversial teaching regarding the relationship between the Father and Son sparked an intense theological debate on the topic. Arius and his theological ideas were addressed at the ecumenical council at Nicaea in 325. For a detailed review of the development and legacy of Nicaea, see Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and Its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).

17. For a detailed discussion on the problems associated with describing Athanasius’s many departures from Alexandria as exiles, see Bishops in Flight, pp. 2–5; 31–55.

18. Festal Index 11–18; Athan. Ep. Ency., ApoL c. Ar. 30, Hist. Ar. 10–21, Fest. Ep. 10; Greg. Naz. Or. 21.28; Socrates HE 2.11, 14; Sozomen HE 3.6, 12

19. Virginia Burrus, Begotten, Not Made: Conceiving Manhood in Late Antiquity (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000), 60

20. Athanasius, in De Synod. 13 and Orat. C. Arian 4, cleverly coins the phrase “Arian madmen” or Ariomaniacs, as an effective way to dismiss his enemies.

21. Athanasius, Encyclical Letter in: H.-G. Opitz (ed.), 1940, 169‒77.

22. For a detailed discussion on the rhetorical degradation and creation of the category of “Arian madmen” in Athanasius’s other works, see, V. Burrus, Begotten Not Made, 47‒68.

23. The church referred to here was probably the same church Athanasius refers to in his Defense before Constantius, which the exiled bishop had used illegally as it had not yet been dedicated to the emperor. According to Barnes the “Great Alexandrian Church” Athanasius refers to here is the Church of Dionysius mentioned also by Socr., HE 2.11, 6 and Julius, Ep. 1 (341). See Barnes, 1993, 49. I believe Athanasius is referring to the Caesareum also known as St. Michaels.

24. Unless otherwise noted, English translation is from M. Atkinson and A. Robertson, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 2.4 (eds. P. Schaff / H. Wace), Buffalo 1892.

25. Contrary to what he describes here in his encyclical, Athanasius claims in a later text that the Church was called the Church of Quirinus. The day the attack was meant to take place also changes as well. In Ep. encycl. 4.4 he claims the attach took place during Lent, but in History of Arians, he states it took place on Easter Sunday. See History of Arians, 10.1.

26. This link between fire and sacred space could also signal that a blameless bishop was among the faithful. Basil’s rift with Eustathius, who was exiled from Antioch in the early days of the so-called Arian controversy, further supports the argument of this article. Basil’s sympathetic dealings and then betrayal by the estranged bishop are thoroughly developed in the afterlife of the famous bishop of Caesarea. His dealing with Eustathius, as Philip Rousseau and others have noted, potentially exposed Basil to controversy and the threat of heresy. See Philip Rousseau, Basil of Caesarea (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), pp. 233–69. He is, therefore, often presented by his biographers as a compassionate bishop who tried to lead the exiled Eustathius back to the faith only to be betrayed and falsely accused of heterodoxy. See also Holman, “Rich City Burning,” 22. In the homily, Basil calls attention to the suspicious nature of outsider bishops, not unlike those nefarious characters such as Gregory of Cappadocia or, later as we’ll soon see, Theophilus of Alexandria. Unlike these two invading bishops, Basil is warmly welcomed and draws upon an event that threatened to undermine his ministry to the city. Here, too we find a fire, or at least the attempt at an arson upon the local church (Homily 21.9). In this scenario, however, the church was not destroyed and the arsonist’s mischief was quickly brought to an end. In this scenario, the Armenian Christians and their Church was protected—and this miracle is due in now small part to Basil’s presence in the city. Basil is no enemy of the church, but carries with him the message of salvation and not persecution. What could have proved to be a disastrous event that may have undermined Basil’s ministry to the city, instead, in this case, proved his legitimacy. The symbol of fire here works to the wandering bishop’s benefit.

27. Note on Letters to Innocent Letters 1 and 2 to Innocent I are found in Palladius, Dia. 2. Both Wendy Mayer and Geoffrey Dunn refer to the collection of John’s letters to Innocent as Epistles 7 and 41, respectively. Translation in consultation with Dunn’s pre-published translations, which were made in preparation for CCSL and are available on Wendy Mayer’s webpage: and Letter_2_to_Innocent_bishop_of_Rome Edition: SC 342, 68–95. Epistle 7 (Letter to Innocent I) is John’s first letter to Innocent I, while Ep. 41 is a follow-up message. These letters are sometimes referenced as Epistles 1 and 2, respectively, but I follow the new numbering of the letter collection by Dunn, found in his “Date of Innocent I’s Epistula 12.”

28. Here I deploy the term “lithomania” in order to stress Theophilus’s reputation as both creative and destructive. He is remembered for his building campaigns as he actively sought to build on and over sacred Roman sites.

29. For a discussion on the cult of Isis and its ambivalent relationship with Rome, see John Pollini “Contact Points: The Image and Reception of Egypt and Its Gods in Rome” in Beyond the Nile: Egypt and the Classical World ed. Jeffrey Spier, Timothy Potts, and Sara E. Cole (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018), 211–17.

30. Watts argues that Theophilus’s anti-pagan campaigns were in direct conflict with Athanasius’s use of space. For a description of Theophilus’s episcopal tactics, see Watts, Riot in Alexandria, 190–205.

31. The reception history of Meletius of Antioch in the reflections of both Sozomen and Socrates continue to demonstrate the conflicting history of Christian flight and spatial politics. The pro-Nicene narrative is entirely dependent upon this link. As Wendy Mayer has pointed out, these two ecclesiastical historians had differing opinions when it came to the triangular battle between Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople. Mayer, “Antioch and the Intersection,” 357–67. For a more developed conversation on the various challenges to John Chrysostom’s claim to the Constantinopolitan episcopacy, see Wendy Mayer, “John Chrysostom as Bishop: The View from Antioch,” JEH 55, no. 3 (2004): 455–66.

32. Recall that the last known madmen to control the Alexandrian patriarchy were Athanasius’s infamous enemies such as Gregory of Cappadocia.

33. The first to draw critical attention to scholarly bias and shift the conversation was Elizabeth Clark in her field-changing assessment of the Origenist controversy. See Elizabeth Clark, The Origenist Controversy: The Cultural Construction of an Early Christian Debate (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992). Other scholars have since followed suit evident in the surge of recent translations of his works and biographies on Theophilus. Alexander Russell, Theophilus of Alexandria (New York: Routledge, 2007); Krastu Banev, Theophilus of Alexandria and the First Origenist Controversy: Rhetoric and Power (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); and Alden Mosshammer, The Prologues on Easter of Theophilus of Alexandria and [Cyril] (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).

34. These episodes are recorded in his own writings as well as the works of later historians. See, for example, Theophilus, Synodica Epistula (-Jerome, Ep. 92) 3 (CSEL 55, 150).

35. See McKenzie for a description of the various artifacts that were looted under Theophilus’s directive, 245–47.

36. Sozomen favors the term Hellenes to describe the non-Christian faction in Alexandria. In an effort to preserve the complexity of the category from both the point of view of Sozomen, who shapes this conflict as a localized one and point to whatever historical reality it is possible to glean from the text, I have chosen to adopt the phrase “Alexandrian traditionalists.” Rather than translating Hellenes as Greeks or, the more fraught category, pagans, Alexandrian traditionalists—and when used outside of the city—Roman traditionalists, more accurately captures Sozomen’s use of the category. Many thanks to Robin Whelan and Mark Letteney (and others) for pointing me to the phrase “Roman traditionalists” in order to stress the complexity of identities at play in the historical moment and how the ecclesiastical historians characterize their non-Christian opponents. Mark Letteney. Twitter Post. July 23, 2019, 6:13am and Robin Whelan. Twitter Post. July 23, 2019. 7:07am

37. Greek: PG 67, 1453

38. Watts highlights the positive view of Theophilus in Storia dell Chiesa (2.61) and its elaboration in Severus of Al-Ashmunein’s History of the Patriarchs. See Watts, Riots, 200–202.

39. As Wendy Mayer has convincingly pointed out, Socrates is our one ecclesiastical historian who appears to have supported an anti-Johanine position which further supports why Theophilus would receive a more measured reception in his narration of the event. See Wendy Mayer, “The making of a saint. John Chrysostom in early historiography,” in M. Wallraff and R. Brändle (eds), Chrysostomosbilder in 1600 Jahren. Facetten der Wirkungsgeschichte eines Kirchenvaters, Berlin 2008, 39–51 and Peter Van Nuffelen, Un héritage de paix et de piété. Étude sur les histoires ecclésiastiques de Socrate et de Sozomène, Louvain 2004, 27–30, 73–77. See also, Barry, Bishops in Flight, 167–172.

40. Theodoret, HE V. 22 (PG 82, 1248).

41. For a description of the destruction of the Temple of Apollo in Daphne (a suburb of Antioch) and its fraught memory in both Christian and non-Christian writings, see Shepardson, Controlling Contested Spaces, 163–203.

42. Clark, Origenist Controversy, 6–10.

43. John’s most famous biographer, Palladius of Helenopolis, was born in Galatia. He became a monk in 386 ce and spent several years in Palestine near the ascetic communities of Melania the Elder and of Rufinus of Aquileia. He would later spend time in Alexandria with Isidore, who was the favored bishop of Theophilus for the Constantinopolitan see before John took the post. (Isidore, like so many others, later fell out of favor with the Alexandrian bishop.) Palladius also spent time in the Nitrian desert and became acquainted with the infamous Tall Brothers and soon travelled further south to become a student of Evagrius of Pontus. He was eventually ordained by Dioscorus and then elected bishop of Helenopolis in Bithynia Prima in 400 ce. For a recent detailed biography of Palladius, see Demetrios S. Katos, Palladius of Helenopolis: The Origenist Advocate (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011) and Anne-Marie Malingrey (ed.), Dialogue sur la vie de Jean Chrysostome, 2 vols. SC 341–42, (Paris: Paillart, 1988) 2:68–95.

44. See Bishops in Flight, 103–130.

45. See Peter van Nuffelen, “Theophilus Against John Chrysostom: The Fragments of a Lost Liber and the Reasons for John’s Deposition,” Adamantius 19 (2013): 138–55, as well as Susanna Elm, “The Dog That Did Not Bark: Doctrine and Patriarchal Authority in the Conflict Between Theophilus of Alexandria and John Chrysostom of Constantinople,” in Christian Origins: Theology, Rhetoric, and Community, edited by Lewis Ayres and Gareth Jones (London: Routledge, 1998), 68–93.

46. See n.33 above for full references to these works.

47. Contrast this image with that of Basil of Caesarea, as explained in n.27 above.

48. This episode is described in several ecclesiastical histories. See Socrates, HE 6.18.17–18; Sozomen, HE 8.22.4–6; ang Zosimus Historia Nova, 5.24.4.

49. The full account is found in Palladius, Dial. 10.83–121.

50. For a discussion on the reception of the Athanasian legacy, see Barry, Bishops in Flight, 124–30 and Watts, Riot in Alexandria, 182–89.

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