Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Fabianus, bp. of Rome
Fabianus (1) (called by the Greeks and in the Liberian Catalogue Fabius, by Eutychius and in the Alexandrian Chronicle Flavianus), bp. of Rome from early in Feb. 236 to Jan. 20, 250, and a martyr. Eusebius relates that, the brethren being assembled in the church to choose a successor to Anteros, Fabianus, a layman lately come from the country, being indicated as the chosen of Heaven by a dove settling on his head, the people acclaimed him as worthy and placed him on the episcopal throne (H. E. vi. 29). That the choice proved a good one is witnessed by Cyprian, who rejoices that "his honourable consummation had corresponded to the integrity of his administration" (Ep. 39, cf. 30).
In the Liberian Catalogue (a.d. 354) he is said to have divided the regions of the city among the deacons, and to have been martyred Jan. 20, 250. In the Felician Catalogue (a.d. 530) and in later editions of the Liber Pontificalis it is added that he made also seven subdeacons to superintend the seven notaries appointed to record faithfully the acts of the martyrs; also that he caused to be brought to Rome by sea the body of Pontianus (the predecessor of his predecessor Anteros), martyred in Sardinia, and buried it in the cemetery of Callixtus on the Appian Way; in which cemetery he too was buried. It is remarkable that, though the Roman calendar designates all the first 30 bishops of Rome except two as saints and martyrs, Fabianus is the first, except Telesphorus and Pontianus, whose martyrdom rests on any good authority (cf. also Eus. H. E. vi. 39; Hieron. de Ill. Vir. c. 54; Cypr. Epp. 39, 30). Fabianus was among the earliest victims of the Decian persecution. Fragments of a slab bearing the inscription ΦΑΒΙΑΝΟC + ΕΠΙ + ΜΡ (Fabianus episcopus martyr), together with others inscribed with the names of Anteros, Lucius, and Eutychianus, Roman bishops of the same period, have been found in what is called the papal crypt of the cemetery of Callixtus, thus attesting the accounts given of the place of his burial (Roma Sotterranea, by Northcote and Brownlow).
Fabianus is specially named by Eusebius (H. E. vi. 36) as one among many bishops to whom Origen wrote in defence of his own orthodoxy. Cyprian mentions him (Ep. 59) as having, with Donatus bp. of Carthage, written a letter severely censuring one Privatus, an heretical bp. of Lambaesa in Numidia, who had been condemned by a synod of 90 bishops at Lambaesa for "many and grievous faults." Nothing more is known about Fabianus with certainty. Great doubt rests on the story (accepted by Andreas du Chesne, in Vit. Pontif., and in the main by the Bollandists) of his having been the founder of the seven Gallic churches of Toulouse, Arles, Tours, Paris, Narbonne, Clermont, Limoges; to which he is said to have sent respectively Saturninus, Trophimus, Gratianus, Dionysius, Paulus, Astremonius, and Martialis as missionary bishops. The story is absent from early records, and is disputable also on other grounds. Still more improbable is the story, accepted by the Bollandists and Baronius, and resting mainly on the authority of the Acts of St. Pontius, that the emperor Philip and his son became Christians, and were baptized by Fabianus. [Philippus (5).] Three spurious decretals are attributed to Fabianus. There are also ten decreta assigned to him by Gratian and others, on matters of discipline.