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Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Agapetus

< Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century

Agapetus, bp. of Rome, was, we are told, a Roman by birth, the son of Gordianus a priest (Anast. quoted by Clinton, Fasti Romani, p. 763; Jaffé, Regesta Pontificum, p. 73). He was already an old man when, six days after the death of Johannes II., he was elected pope in June 535. He began by formally reversing an act of Bonifacius II., one of his own immediate predecessors, fulminating anathemas against the deceased antipope Dioscorus, A.D. 530 (Anast. vol. i. p. 100).

We next find him entering Constantinople on Feb. 19, 536 (Clint. F. R. p. 765), sent thither by Theodahad to avert, if possible, the war with which he was threatened by the emperor Justinian in revenge for the murder of his queen Amalasontha: and we are told that he succeeded in the objects of his mission (Anast. vol. i. p. 102), which must refer to other objects, for he certainly failed to avert the war; Justinian had already incurred such expense as to be unwilling to turn back (Liberat. quoted by Baronius, Annales Ecclesiastici, vii. p. 314), and as a matter of fact Belisarius took Rome within the year. In 535 Anthimus, who was suspected of Monothelitism, had been appointed patriarch of Constantinople by the influence of Theodora. Agapetus, on his first arrival, refused to receive Anthimus unless he could prove himself orthodox, and then only as bp. of Trebizond, for he was averse to the practice of translating bishops. At the same time he boldly accused Justinian himself of Monophysitism; who was fain to satisfy him by signing a "libellus fidei" and professing himself a true Catholic. But the emperor insisted upon his communicating with Anthimus, and even threatened him with expulsion from the city if he refused. Agapetus replied with spirit that he thought he was visiting an orthodox prince, and not a second Diocletian. Then the emperor confronted him with Anthimus, who was easily convicted by Agapetus. Anthimus was formally deposed, and Mennas substituted; and this was done without a council, by the single authority of the pope Agapetus; Justinian of course allowing it, in spite of the remonstrances of Theodora (Anast. vol. i. p. 102; Theophanes, Chronogr. p. 184). Agapetus followed up his victory by denouncing the other heretics who had collected at Constantinople under the patronage of Theodora. He received petitions against them from the Eastern bishops, and from the "monks" in Constantinople, as the Archimandrite coenobites were beginning to be called (Baronius, vii. p. 322). He died on April 21, 536 (Clint. F. R. p. 765). His body was taken to Rome and buried in St. Peter's basilica, Sept. 17. Five of his letters remain: (1) July 18, 535, to Caesarius, bp. of Arles, about a dispute of the latter with bp. Contumeliosus (Mansi, viii. p. 856). (2) Same date, to same, "De augendis alimoniis pauperum" (ib. 855). (3) Sept. 9, 535, Reply to a letter from African bishops to his predecessor Johannes (ib. 848). (4) Same date, reply to Reparatus, bp. of Carthage, who had congratulated him on his accession (ib. 850). (5) March 13, 536, to Peter, bp. of Jerusalem, announcing the deposition of Anthimus and consecration of Mennas (ib. 921). Hefele, Konz. Gesch. Bd. ii.