Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Timotheus, called Aelurus
Timotheus (18), commonly called Aelurus, a Monophysite intruder into the see of Alexandria. He had been at first a monk, then a presbyter under Dioscorus, and soon after the deposition of the latter at the council of Chalcedon had come into collision with his successor PROTERIUS. Deposed from office and banished into Libya (Mansi, Concil. vii. 617), he awaited, as his opponents afterwards said, the death of the emperor Marcian (ib. 525, 532). When that occurred in Jan. 457, he returned to Alexandria, and practised the artifice which apparently procured him the epithet αἴλουρος, "cat." "Creeping" at night to the cells of certain ignorant monks, he called to each by name, and on being asked who he was, replied, "I am an angel, sent to warn you to break off communion with Proterius, and to choose Timotheus as bishop" (Theod. Lect. i. 1). Collecting a band of turbulent men, he took possession, in the latter part of Lent, of the great "Caesarean" church, and was there lawlessly consecrated by only two bishops, whom Proterius and the Egyptian synod had deposed, and who, like himself, had been sentenced to exile. Thus, without the countenance of a single legitimate prelate (see Mansi, vii. 585) "he enthroned himself," as 14 Egyptian bishops express it in their memorials to the emperor Leo I. and to Anatolius of Constantinople (ib. 526, 533), while the real
archbishop was sitting in his palace among his clergy. He instantly proceeded to perform episcopal acts; but after thus playing the anti-patriarch for a few days, he was expelled by the "dux" Dionysius; and it was apparently in revenge that his adherents (ib. 526, 533) hunted Proterius into a baptistery and murdered him (Easter, 457). Thereupon Timotheus returned and acted as archbishop. He declared open war against the maintainers of "two natures" as being in effect Nestorianizers, and on this ground boldly broke off communion with Rome, Constantinople, and Antioch, denouncing bishops of the Alexandrian patriarchate who had accepted the formula of the council, and some of whom had held their sees before the accession of Cyril; he also sent to cities and monasteries a prohibition to communicate with such bishops or to recognize clerics ordained by them. The 14 prelates who supply our most authentic information on these events were forced by the storm thus raised to abandon their homes, travel to Constantinople, and present memorials to the emperor and archbishop. These are extant in Latin versions (ib. 524 ff.). Timotheus Aelurus sent some bishops and clerics to plead his cause with the emperor. We possess a fragment of their petition (ib. 536), to the effect that under their "most pious archbishop, the great city of the Alexandrians, with its churches and monasteries, was by God's favour enjoying complete peace," and that they and their archbishop held firmly to the Nicene Creed, refusing to admit any alterations in, or additions to, its text. The document, as we now have it, breaks off abruptly with the words, "for the church of the great city of the Alexandrians does not accept the council of Chalcedon"; but it appears from other evidence (Leo, Ep. 149; Mansi, vii. 522) that it went on to ask that the sanction given to that council might be recalled, and a new council summoned, asserting that the Alexandrian people, the civil dignitaries, the municipal functionaries, and the company of transporters of corn-freights, desired to retain Timotheus as their bishop. The emperor Leo refused the request of the emissaries of Timotheus for immediate action against the authority of the council of Chalcedon, which he had already constructively upheld by confirming the ecclesiastical acts of his predecessors (cf. pope Leo's Ep. 149 with Mansi, vii. 524), but yet deemed it expedient to send copies of both memorials to the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem, and to 55 other prelates and three leading monks (one of them being Symeon Stylites), requesting their opinion as to the case of Timotheus and as to the authority of the council (Evagr. ii. 9; Mansi, vii. 521). Of the prelates consulted, all but one, the inconstant Amphilochius of Side, accepted the council of Chalcedon (Evagr. ii. 10), and all condemned Timotheus in more or less energetic terms, although some with "a salvo, if the statements of the exiles were true" (Mansi, vii. 537 ff.). In the early summer of 460 Leo I. sent orders to Stilas, the "dux" commanding at Alexandria, to expel Timotheus from the church, and to promote the election of an orthodox bishop (Liberat. Brev. 15). "The Cat" was then ejected, but shewed his wonted acuteness by obtaining permission to come to Constantinople and pretend that he had adopted the Chalcedonian doctrine, as if heterodoxy had been his only fault, and so on becoming orthodox he might hope to retain his see. Pope Leo wrote, on June 17, 460, to the emperor Leo and to Gennadius, the new patriarch of Constantinople, urging that Timotheus, even supposing his conversion sincere, was disqualified by having "invaded so great a see during the lifetime of its bishop" (Epp. 169, 170). Accordingly Timotheus was a second time exiled with his brother Anatolius—first to Gangra and then, on his causing fresh disturbances, to a village on the shore of the Chersonesus which Eutychius calls Marsuphia (cf. Evagr. ii. 11; Liberat. Brev. 16; Theophan. Chronogr. i. 186; Eutychius, ii. 103); and during 16 years the church over which he had tyrannized was at peace under the rule of his namesake, Timotheus, called Salofaciolus. But when the next emperor, Zeno, fled from the usurper Basiliscus, towards the close of 475, a new scene opened for Aelurus. He was summoned to Constantinople, where his admirers greeted him with "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" (Simplicius, in Mansi, vii. 976). The patriarch Acacius closed the churches against him, but he held services in private houses (Mansi, l.c.). Basiliscus recognized him as rightful bp. of Alexandria, and by his advice put forth a circular to the episcopate, condemning "the innovation in the faith which was made at Chalcedon" (Evagr. iii. 4). But when the Eutychians of Constantinople, deeming his arrival a godsend, hastened to pay court to him, he disappointed them by declaring that he for his part accepted the statement which Cyril had in effect adopted at his reunion with John of Antioch, that "the Incarnate Word was consubstantial with us, according to the flesh" (ib. 5). On his way home he visited Ephesus, and gratified its clergy and laity by declaring their church (the fifth in Christendom in point of dignity) to be free from that subjection to Constantinople which had been imposed on it by the 28th canon of Chalcedon (ib. 6). When he reached Alexandria, the kindly and popular Salofaciolus was allowed to retire to his monastery at the suburb called Canopus. Aelurus did not long survive, dying probably in the autumn of 477 (Neale, Hist. Alex. ii. 17).