to the need of each. The agape, as prescribed to the Smyrnæans by St. Ignatius of Antioch, was presided over by the bishop; according to the "Cannons of Hippolytus", catechumens were excluded, a regulation which seems to indicate that the meeting bore a liturgical aspect.
An example of the halls in which the faithful met to celebrate the agape may be seen in the vestibule of the Catacomb of Domitilla. A bench runs round this great hall, on which the guests took their places. With this may be compared an inscription found at Cherchel, in Algeria, recording the gift made to the local church of a plot of land and a building intended as a meeting-place for the corporation or guild of the Christians. From the fourth century onward, the agape rapidly lost its original character. The political liberty granted to the Church made it possible for the meetings to grow larger, and involved a departure from primitive simplicity. The funeral banquet continued to be practised, but gave rise to flagrant and intolerable abuses. St. Paulinus of Nola, usually mild and kindly, is forced to admit that the crowd, gathered to honour the feast of a certain martyr, took possession of the basilica and atrium, and there ate the food which had been given out in large quantities. The Council of Laodicea (363) forbade the clergy and laity who should be present at an agape to make it a means of supply, or to take food away from it, at the same time that it forbade the setting up of tables in the churches. In the fifth century the agape becomes of infrequent occurrence, and between the sixth and the eighth it disappears altogether from the churches.
One fact in connection with a subject at present so much studied and discussed seems to be established beyond question, namely, that the agape was never a universal institution. If found in one place, there is not so much as a trace of it in another, nor any reason to suppose that it ever existed there. A feeling of veneration for the dead inspired the funeral banquet, a feeling closely akin to a Christian inspiration. Death was not looked upon as the end of the whole man, but as the beginning of a new and mysterious span of life. The last meal of Christ with His Apostles pointed to this belief of a life after death, but added to it something new and unparalleled, the Eucharistic communion. It would be useless to look for analogies between the funeral banquet and the Eucharistic supper, yet it should not be forgotten that the Eucharistic supper was fundamentally a funerary memorial.
Batiffol, Etudes d'histoire et de théologie positive (Paris, 1902), 277–311; Funk in the Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique (15 January, 1903); Keating, The Agape and the Eucharist in the Early Church (London, 1901); Leclercq in Dict. d'archéol. chrét. et de lit., I, col. 775–848.
Agapetæ (ἀγαπηταί, beloved). In the first century of the Christian era, the Agapetæ were virgins who consecrated themselves to God with a vow of chastity and associated with laymen. In the beginning this community of spiritual life and mutual support, which was based on St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (ix, 5), was holy and edifying. But later it resulted in abuses and scandals, so that councils of the fourth century forbade it. The origin of this association was very probably that these virgins, who did not live in community, required laymen to look after their material interests, and they naturally chose those who, like themselves, had taken a vow of chastity. St. Jerome asked indignantly (Ep., xxii, ad Eustochium) after it had degenerated, Unde in ecclesias Agapetarum pestis introiit? A letter of St. Cyprian shows that abuses of this kind developed in Africa and in the East (Ep., iv., Ed. Hartel). The Council of Ancyra, in 314, forbade virgins consecrated to God to live thus with men as sisters. This did not correct the practice entirely, for St. Jerome arraigns Syrian monks for living in cities with Christian virgins. The Agapetæ are sometimes confounded with the subintroductæ, or woman who lived with clerics without marriage, a class against which the third canon of the Council of Nice (325) was directed. The word Agapetæ was also the name of a branch of the Gnostics in 395, whose tenet was that the relations of the sexes were purified of impropriety if the mind was pure. They taught that one should perjure himself rather than reveal the secrets of his sect.
Hemmer in Dict. de théol. cath. s.v.; and in Giraud, Bibl. Sac., I, 207–208; Achelis, Virgines Subintroductæ (Leipzig, 1902).
Agapetus, a deacon of the church of Sancta Sophia at Constantinople (about 500), reputed tutor of Justinian, and author of a series of exhortations in 72 short chapters addressed (c. 527) to that emperor (P.G., LXXXVI, 1153-86). The first letters of each chapter form an acrostic of dedication that reads: The very humble Deacon Agapetus to the sacred and venerable Emperor Justinian. The little work deals in general terms with the moral, religious, and political duties of a ruler. In form it is quite sententious and rhetorical, and resembles closely a similar work in the romance of Barlaam and Joasaph. Both of these seem to be based on Isocrates, and on Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus. The work of Agapetus was eminently fitted for the use of medieval teachers by reason of its edifying content, the purity of its Greek diction, and its skillful construction. It was translated into Latin, French, and German, and was highly commended by the humanists of the Renaissance. Some twenty editions of it appeared in the sixteenth century.
Krumbacher, Gesch. d. byz. Lit., I, 456–457; K. Præchter, Byz. Zeitschr. (1893), II, 444–460; Fabricius, Bibl. Gr., VIII, 36 sq.
Agapetus I (also Agapitus), Saint, Pope (535–536), date of birth uncertain; d. 22 April, 536. He was the son of Gordianus, a Roman priest who had been slain during the riots in the days of Pope Symmachus. His first official act was to burn in the presence of the assembled clergy the anathema which Boniface II (q. v.) had pronounced against the latter's rival Dioscurus and had ordered to be preserved in the Roman archives. He confirmed the decrees of the council held at Carthage, after the liberation of Africa from the Vandal yoke, according to which converts from Arianism were declared ineligible to Holy Orders and those already ordained were merely admitted to lay communion. He accepted an appeal from Contumeliosus, Bishop of Riez, whom a council at Marseilles had condemned for immorality, and he ordered St. Cæsarius of Aries to grant the accused a new trial before papal delegates. Meanwhile Belisarius, after the very easy conquest of Sicily, was preparing for an invasion of Italy. The Gothic king, Theodehad as a last resort, begged the aged pontiff to proceed to Constantinople and bring his personal influence to bear on the Emperor Justinian. To defray the costs of the embassy Agapetus was compelled to pledge the sacred vessels of the Church of Rome. He set out in midwinter with five bishops and an imposing retinue. In February, 536, he appeared in the capital of the East and was received with all the honours befitting the head of the Catholic Church. As he no doubt had foreseen, the ostensible object of his visit was doomed to failure. Justinian could not be swerved from his resolve to re-establish the rights of the Empire in Italy. But from the ecclesiastical standpoint, the visit of the Pope in Constantinople issued in a triumph scarcely less memorable than the campaigns of Belisarius. The then occupant of the