Christians multiplied, and other metropolitan sees were created, he became known as the arch-metropolitan. The title of patriarch did not come into use until the fifth century. [For the controversy concerning the manner of electing the earliest successors of St. Mark see that article and Bishop (cf. Cabrol, Dict. d'archéol. chrét., I, 1204–1210).]
Up to the time of the second ecumenical council (381) the Patriarch of Alexandria ranked next to the Bishop of Rome. By the third canon of this council, afterwards confirmed by the twenty-eighth canon of the Council of Chalcedon (452), the Patriarch of Constantinople, supported by imperial authority and by a variety of concurring advantages, was given the right of precedency over the Patriarch of Alexandria. But neither Rome nor Alexandria recognized the claim until many years later. During the first two centuries of our era, though Egypt enjoyed unusual quiet, little is known of the ecclesiastical history of its chief see, beyond a barren list of the names of its patriarchs, handed down to us chiefly through the ecclesiastical historian Eusebius. They were, in order: Anianus (d. 84); Abilius; Cerdon, one of the presbyters whom St. Mark ordained; Primus, also called Ephraim, advanced from the grade of layman; Justus (d. 130); Eumenes; Mark II; Celadion; Agrippinus; Julian (d. 189). With the successors of Julian we have something more than a mere list of names. Demetrius governed the Church of Alexandria for forty-two years, and it was he who deposed and excommunicated Origen, notwithstanding his great work as a catechist. Heraclas (d. 247) exercised his power as arch-metropolitan by deposing Ammonius, Bishop Thmuis, and installing a successor (Photius, P.G., CIV, 1229).
Maximus and Theonas (282–300) were followed by Peter, the first occupant of the See of St. Mark to die a martyr (311 or 312). Then came Achillas, who ordained Arius through ignorance of the man's real character; otherwise St. Athanasius certainly would not have given that bishop the praise he does. On the death of Achillas, Alexander, who proved himself a zealous defender of the orthodox faith in the contest against Arius, was elected bishop by unanimous consent of clergy and people, and in spite of the interested opposition of Arius. Alexander, accompanied by his deacon Athanasius, took part in the Council of Nicæa (325), but died soon after (328). The Meletian faction took advantage of his death, and of the absence of Athanasius from the city, to intrude a creature of their own into the vacant see, one Theonas. He survived but three months, when Athanasius, having returned, was chosen to succeed Alexander.
Of the ante-Nicene bishops who ruled this church, Dionysius and Alexander were the most illustrious, as also were St. Athanasius and St. Cyril among those who subsequently filled the see. Athanasius, supported by Rome, where he sought protection and help, the unconquered champion of the true Faith against Arius, died in 373, a glorious confessor of the Faith, after an episcopate of forty-three years. The interval between the death of Athanasius and the accession of St. Cyril (412) was filled by Peter II, a zealous bishop, who was obliged to seek refuge in Rome from the persecuting Arians (d. 381); Timothy I (381–385) who was present at the second œcumenical council, and was honoured with the contempt of the imperial court, because he vigorously opposed, and refused to acknowledge, the decree which gave the Patriarchate of Constantinople rank over that of Alexandria; Theophilus (385–412), the immediate predecessor of Cyril. Under St. Cyril (412–444) whose noble defence of the Divinity of Christ has rendered his memory precious in the Church, the Patriarchate of Alexandria reached its most flourishing epoch. Over 100 bishops, among them ten metropolitans, acknowledged his authority; he tells us himself that the city was renowned for the number of its churches, monasteries, priests, and religious (P. G., LXX, 972). At this time, too, the patriarch possessed considerable civil power, and may be said to have reached the zenith of his reputation. The decline of his office dates from the middle of the fifth century. Under Dioscurus (444–451), the unworthy successor of St. Cyril, the Church of Alexandria became embroiled in the Monophysite heresy. Dioscurus was deposed, and later banished. The election of Proterius as Catholic patriarch was followed by an open schism. Proterius was murdered in 457, and Timothy Ælurus, a Monophysite, was intruded into the see. The schism thus began by Dioscurus and Timothy gave rise to two factions, the orthodox, or Catholic, party, which maintained the faith of the two natures in Christ, as prescribed by the Council of Chalcedon (451), and the Monophysites, who followed the heresy of Dioscurus. The former came to be known as Melchites or Royalists, i.e., adherents or favourites of the emperor, and the latter as Jacobites. The possession of the See of Alexandria alternated between these parties for a time; eventually each communion maintained a distinct and independent succession. Thus the Church of Alexandria became the scene of serious disturbances, which finally brought about its ruin.
We touch but briefly on the more important events that followed. The Catholic Patriarch, John Talaia, elected in 482, was banished by the Emperor Zeno, through the intrigues of his Jacobite rival, Peter Mongus. In his exile he sought refuge with Pope Simplicius (468–483), who exerted himself seriously for the re-establishment of John, but to no purpose. The latter never returned to his see. With his banishment the Catholic succession of Alexandrian bishops was interrupted for sixty years, and the local Church fell into the utmost confusion. The Emperor Justinian, anxious to end this state of affairs, restored the Catholic succession (538–539) in the person of the Abbot Paul. Unfortunately, the new patriarch gave some grievous offence to the Emperor, whereupon he was deposed and Zoilus succeeded him in 541. Among the successors of the latter patriarch, Eulogius, Theodore Scribo, and St. John the Almoner (d. 620) especially distinguished themselves, and restored to the Alexandrian Church something of its former reputation. In the meantime, through mutual factions, the influence of the Jacobites had gradually waned until the election of the Patriarch Benjamin (620). On the other hand, during the contest between the Jacobites and Melchites (Catholics), so completely had the spirit of sectarianism extinguished the feeling of nationality that at the time of the Saracen invasion the Jacobites did not hesitate, in their animosity towards the Melchites, the imperial or Byzantine party, to give up (638) their cities and places of strength to the invaders (see Mohammedanism). The favour which they thus secured with the conquerors enabled them to assume a predominant position [Dub. Rev., XXIV (1848), 439]. Hitherto the Melchites, though far less numerous than the Jacobites, had held the civil power, owing to the aid of the Emperor and his officials. By the treason of the Jacobites they lost not only this power, but with it many of their churches and monasteries. After the death of the Patriarch Peter (654) the Melchite succession was broken for nearly 80 years, a fact that contributed much to the complete Jacobite control of the patriarchate. During this interval the Metropolitan of Tyre consecrated the Catholic bishops, whose number rapidly decreased.
The Saracen domination, so gladly welcomed by the Jacobites, proved to them more of a curse than