Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Gregorius Theopolitanus, bp. of Antioch

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Gregorius (31) Theopolitanus, bp. of Antioch a.d. 569–594. In his earliest youth he devoted himself to a monastic life, and became so celebrated for his austerities that when scarcely past boyhood he was chosen superior of the Syrian laura of Pharon or Pharan (Moschus), called by Evagrius the monastery of the Byzantines. Sergius the Armenian in the monastery of the Eunuchs near the Jordan was earnestly importuned by Gregory to conduct him to his venerable master, another Sergius, dwelling by the Dead Sea. When the latter saw Gregory approach, he cordially saluted him, brought water, washed his feet, and conversed with him upon spiritual subjects the whole day. Sergius the disciple afterwards reminded his master that he had never treated other visitors, although some had been bishops and presbyters, as he had treated father Gregory. "Who father Gregory may be," the old man replied, "I know not; but this I know, I have entertained a patriarch in my cave, and I have seen him carry the sacred pallium and the Gospels" (Joann. Mosch. Prat. Spirit. c. 139, 140, in Patr. Lat. lxxiv. 189. From Pharan Gregory was summoned by Justin II. to preside over the monastery of Mount Sinai (Evagr. H. E. v. 6). On the expulsion of Anastasius, bp. of Antioch, by Justin in 569, Gregory was appointed his successor. Theophanes (Chron. a.d. 562, p. 206) makes his promotion take place from the Syrian monastery. His administration is highly praised by Evagrius, who ascribes to him almost every possible excellence. When Chosroes I. invaded the Roman territory, a.d. 572, Gregory, who was kept informed of the real state of affairs by his friend the bp. of Nisibis, then besieged by the Roman forces, vainly endeavoured to rouse the feeble emperor by representations of the successes of the Persian forces and the incompetence of the imperial commanders. An earthquake compelled Gregory to flee with the treasures of the church, and he had the mortification of seeing Antioch occupied by the troops of Adaormanes, the general of Chosroes (Evagr. H. E. v. 9). The latter years of his episcopate were clouded by extreme unpopularity and embittered by grave accusations (ib. c. 18). In the reign of Maurice, a.d. 588, a quarrel with Asterius, the popular Count of the East, again aroused the passions of the excitable Antiochenes against their bishop. He was openly reviled by the mob, and turned into ridicule on the stage. On the removal of Asterius, his successor, John, was commissioned by the emperor to inquire into the charges against Gregory, who proceeded to Constantinople, accompanied by Evagrius as his legal adviser, c. 589, and received a triumphal acquittal (ib. vi. 7). He returned to Antioch to witness its almost total destruction by earthquake, a.d. 589, barely escaping with his life (ib. c. 8). In the wide spread discontent of the imperial forces, the troops in Syria on the Persian frontier broke out into open mutiny. Gregory, who by his largesses had made himself very popular with the troops, was dispatched to bring them back to their allegiance. He was suffering severely from gout, and had to be conveyed in a litter, from which he addressed the army so eloquently that they at once consented to accept the emperor's nominee, Philippicus, as their commander. His harangue is preserved by his grateful friend Evagrius (ib. c. 11–13). Soon after, his diplomatic skill caused him to be selected by Maurice as an ambassador to the younger Chosroes, when compelled by his disasters to take refuge in the imperial territory, a.d. 590 or 591, and Gregory's advice was instrumental in the recovery of his throne, for which the grateful monarch sent him some gold and jewelled crosses and other valuable presents (ib. c. 18–21). In spite of his age and infirmities, Gregory conducted a visitation of the remoter portions of his patriarchate, which were much infected with the doctrines of Severus, and succeeded in bringing back whole tribes, as well as many separate villages and monasteries, into union with the catholic church (ib. c. 22). After this he paid a visit to Simeon Stylites the younger, who was suffering from a mortal disease (ib. c. 23). Soon after he appears to have resigned his see into the hands of the deposed patriarch Anastasius, who resumed his patriarchal authority in 594, in which year Gregory died (ib. c. 24). His extant works consist of a homily in Mulieres unguentiferas found in Galland and Migne (Patr. Gk. lxxxviii. p. 1847), and two sermons on the Baptism of Christ, which have been erroneously ascribed to Chrysostom. Evagrius (vi. 24) also attributes to Gregory a volume of historical collections, now lost. Fabric. Bibl. Graec. xi. 102; Cave, Hist. Lat. i. 534. Cf. Huidacher in Zeitschr. für Kathol. Theol. 1901, xxv. 367.

[E.V.]