Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Euphemius, patriarch of Constantinople
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Euphemius, patriarch of Constantinople
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Euphemius (4), 3rd patriarch of Constantinople, succeeding Fravitta and followed by Macedonius II. He ruled six years and three months, a.d. 489-496, and died in 515. Theophanes calls him Euthymius. He was a presbyter of Constantinople, administrator of a hospital for the poor at Neapolis, untinged with any suspicion of Eutychian leanings, and is described as learned and very virtuous. Finding that Peter Mongus, the patriarch of Alexandria, anathematized the council of Chalcedon, he was so indignant that before he took his seat on the patriarchal throne he solemnly separated from all communion with him, and with his own hands effaced his name from the diptychs, placing in its stead that of Felix III. of Rome. For a year the strife between Mongus and Euphemius was bitter. Each summoned councils against the other; Euphemius even thought of persuading a council to depose Mongus; but at the end of Oct. 490 Mongus died.
To pope Felix the patriarch sent letters, as was usual, to announce his election, but received the reply that he might be admitted as a private member of the church Catholic, but could not be received in communion as a bishop, because he had not removed from the diptychs the names of his predecessors, Acacius and Fravitta.
At the death (probably in 489) of Daniel the Stylite on the pillar where he had lived for 33 years, Euphemius came with others to the foot of the pillar to attend his last moments. Anastasius, the future emperor, then an aged officer of the emperor Zeno, held Eutychian views, and, according to Suidas, formed a sect which met in some church of Constantinople. The patriarch appeared before the conventicle with menacing gestures and drove them from the spot. "If you must frequent the church," he exclaimed, "agree with her! or else no more enter into her gates to pervert men more simple than yourself." Henceforth, says the annalist, Anastasius kept quiet, for the sake of the glory that he coveted. As the emperor Zeno died in 491, this must have occurred within two years after the consecration of Euphemius, and it witnesses alike to his intrepidity and his influence. After the death of Zeno, the empress Ariadne procured the election of Anastasius, on the understanding that he was to marry her. The patriarch openly called him a heretic, unworthy of reigning over Christians, and refused to crown him, despite the entreaties of the empress and the senate, until Anastasius would give a written profession of his creed, promise under his hand to keep the Catholic faith intact, make no innovation in the church, and follow as his rule of belief the decrees of Chalcedon. Anastasius gave the writing under most solemn oaths, and Euphemius put it in charge of the saintly Macedonius, chancellor and treasurer of the church of Constantinople, to be stored in the archives of the cathedral (Evagr. iii. 3z).
At the end of 491, or on Feb. 25, 492, pope Felix died. His successor Gelasius immediately announced his elevation to the emperor Anastasius, but took no notice of Euphemius, who had written at once to express his congratulations, and his desire for peace and for the reunion of the churches. Not obtaining an answer, he wrote a second time. Neither letter remains, but the reply of Gelasius shews that Euphemius, in congratulating the Roman church on its pontiff, added that he himself was not sufficiently his own master to do what he wished; that the people of Constantinople would never agree to disgrace the memory of their late patriarch Acacius; that if that were necessary, the pope had better write to the people about it himself, and send someone to try and persuade them; that Acacius had never said anything against the faith, and that if he was in communion with Mongus, it was when Mongus had given a satisfactory account of his creed. Euphemius subjoined his own confession, rejecting Eutyches and accepting Chalcedon. It seems also that Euphemius spoke of those who had been baptized and ordained by Acacius since the sentence pronounced against him at Rome, and pointed out how embarrassing it would be if the memory of Acacius must be condemned (Ceillier, x. 486). Replying to these temperate counsels, Gelasius allows that in other circumstances he would have written to announce his election, but sourly observes that the custom existed only among those bishops who were united in communion, and was not to be extended to those who, like Euphemius, preferred a strange alliance to that of St. Peter. He allows the necessity of gentleness and tenderness, but remarks that there is no need to throw yourself into the ditch when you are helping others out. As a mark of condescension he willingly grants the canonical remedy to all who had been baptized and ordained by Acacius. Can Euphemius possibly
wish him to allow the names of condemned heretics and their successors to be recited in the sacred diptychs? Euphemius professed to reject Eutyches; let him reject also those who have communicated with the successors of Eutyches. Was it not even worse for Acacius to know the truth and yet communicate with its enemies? The condemnation of Acacius was ipso facto according to the decrees of ancient councils. If Peter Mongus did purge himself, why did not Euphemius send proofs of it? He is much vexed with Euphemius for saying that he is constrained to do things which he does not wish; no bishop should talk so about that truth for which he ought to lay down his life. He refuses to send a mission to Constantinople, for it is the pastor's duty to convince his own flock. At the tribunal of Jesus Christ it will be seen which of the two is bitter and hard. The high spirit of the orthodox patriarch was fired by this dictatorial interference. He even thought of summoning the pope himself to account; and as Gelasius was certainly even more suspicious of the emperor Anastasius, who was, despite the recantation which Euphemius had enforced, a real Eutychian at heart, it is very likely that, as Baronius asserts, the patriarch did not attempt to conceal the pope's antipathy to the emperor.
Nothing cooled the zeal of Euphemius for the council of Chalcedon. Anastasius harboured designs against its supporters; the patriarch gathered together the bishops who were at Constantinople, and invited them to confirm its decrees. According to Theophanes and Victor of Tunis, this occurred in 492 (Vict. Tun. Chron. p. 5); but in Mansi (vii. 1180) the event is placed at the beginning of the patriarchate of Euphemius, and the decrees are said to have been sent by the bishops to pope Felix III. Various jars shewed the continued rupture with Rome. Theodoric had become master of Italy, and in 493 sent Faustus and Irenaeus to the emperor Anastasius to ask to peace. During their sojourn at Constantinople the envoys received complaints from the Greeks against the Roman church, which they reported to the pope. Euphemius urged that the condemnation of Acacius by one prelate only was invalid; to excommunicate a metropolitan of Constantinople a general council was necessary (ib. viii. 16). Now occurred that imprudence which unhappily cost Euphemius his throne. Anastasius, tired of war against the Isaurians, was seeking an honourable way of stopping it. He asked Euphemius in confidence to beg the bishops at Constantinople (there were always bishops coming and going to and from the metropolis) to pray for peace and thus furnish him with an opportunity of entering on negotiations. Euphemius betrayed the secret to John the patrician, father-in-law of Athenodorus, one of the chiefs of the Isaurians. John hurried to the emperor to inform him of the patriarch's indiscretion. Anastasius was deeply offended, and thenceforth never ceased to persecute his old opponent. He accused him of helping the Isaurians against him, and of corresponding with them (Theoph. Chronog. a.d. 488). An assassin, either by Anastasius's own order or to gain his favour, drew his sword on Euphemius at the door of the sacristy, but was struck down by an attendant.
Anastasius sought other means to get rid of Euphemius. Theodorus speaks of the violence with which he demanded back the profession of faith on which his coronation had depended (Theod. Lect. ii. 8, 572 seq. in Patr. Gk. lxxxvi.). He assembled the bishops who were in the capital and preferred charges against their metropolitan, whom they obsequiously declared excommunicated and deposed. The people loyally refused to surrender him, but had soon to yield to the emperor.
Meanwhile Euphemius, fearing for his life, retired to the baptistery, and refused to go out until Macedonius had promised on the word of the emperor that no violence should be done him when they conducted him to exile. With a proper feeling of respect for the fallen greatness and unconquerable dignity of his predecessor, Macedonius, on coming to find him in the baptistery, made the attendant deacon take off the newly-given pallium and clothed himself in the dress of a simple presbyter, "not daring to wear" his insignia before their canonical owner. After some conversation, Macedonius (himself to follow Euphemius to the very same place of exile under the same emperor) handed to him the proceeds of a loan he had raised for his expenses. Euphemius was taken to Eucaïtes in 495, the fifth year of Anastasius. His death occurred 20 years later at Ancyra, whither, it is thought, the Hunnish invasion had made him retire. Elias, metropolitan of Jerusalem, himself afterwards expelled from his see by Anastasius, stood stoutly by Euphemius at the time of his exile, declaring against the legality of his sentence (Cyrillus, Vita S. Sabae, c. 69, apud Sur. t. vi.). In the East Euphemius was always honoured as the defender of the Catholic faith and of Chalcedon, and as a man of the highest holiness and orthodoxy. Great efforts were made at the fifth general council to get his name put solemnly back in the diptychs (Mansi, viii. 1061 E). The authorities for his Life are, Marcel. Chron. a.d. 491-495 in Patr. Lat. li. p. 933; Theod. Lect. Eccl. Hist. ii. 6-15 in Patr. Gk. lxxxvi. pt. i. 185-189; Theoph. Chronog. a.d. 481-489 in Patr. Gk. cviii. 324-337; St. Niceph. Constant. Chronog. Brev. 45 in Patr. Gk. c. p. 1046; Baronius, a.d. 489-495; Gelas. Pap. Ep. et Decret. i. in Patr. Lat. lix. 13.