Bishop Gregory (hgr) wrote,
Bishop Gregory

Ареопагит: Sitz im Leben

1.1.Cretan connections of Carpus and Sitz im Leben of the Corpus Areopagiticum


Apostle Paul mentions Carpus as a resident of Troas, and the further mainstream Byzantine tradition (known in the Oriental languages, too) adds that the place of his apostolic mission was Thrace.[1] No legend is known about Carpus’ preaching in Crete. According to the mainstream tradition, there is only one apostle of Crete, Titus. Nevertheless, some traces of a legend on apostolic mission in Crete of both Titus and Carpus are preserved. I found these traces in the hymnography of the Cretan feast of the Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete, December 23.

One anonymous canon, actually not in use, addresses Titus in Carpus in the beginning (ode 1, troparion 2)[2] as the founders of the Cretan diocese:


Ἱερομύστα Τῖτε</span>

καὶ θεοφόρε Κάρπε,

οἱ ἀκλινεῖς θεμέλιοι

τῆς Κρητῶν ἐπαρχίας,

Θεῷ παριστάμενοι

σὺν πολλῇ παρρησίᾳ

ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν δεήθητε

σὺν τοῖς ἁγίοις μάρτυσι

κινδύνων λυτρωθῆναι ἡμᾶς.


Oh Titus, initiated in holy mysteries,

and god-bearing Carpus,

the unshakable foundations

of the eparchy of Cretans,

standing before God

with a great franchise,

pray for us

with the holy martyrs

to release us from the evils.

Another anonymous canon which is now printed in the Greek menaion addresses the ten martyrs as “Τίτου καὶ Κάρπου κλήματα” (“branches of Titus and Carpus”). This troparion is borrowed in another anonymous canon, now not in liturgical use, which could be more ancient.[3]

It is extremely unlikely that these canons echo Dionysius the Areopagite, especially given that Areopagite said nothing about the apostolate of Carpus in Crete. On the contrary, if those who were pseudonymising the Vorlage of the Corpus and their audience were not acquainted with an already existing tradition on the apostolate of Carpus in Crete, the mention of Crete would be senseless. Crete itself does not play any role in the account on Carpus in the Letter VIII.

The only reasonable conclusion is that both Corpus Dionysiacum and our Cretan canons reflect a pre-Arabian Cretan local tradition of the double apostolate in Crete of Carpus and Titus. This tradition extinguished during the centuries of separation of Crete from the rest of Byzantium.

The pseudonymised recension of the Corpus shows clear Cretan connections. Apart from the mention of Dionysius’ visit to Carpus in Crete, there is an important implicit indication, “Titus hierarch” as the addressee of the Letter IX. Titus is the apostle of Crete according to both our local Cretan and mainstream Byzantine traditions.

It is interesting that there is a parallel with the two apostles of Ephesus. Dionysius addresses each of them according to their status: Timotheos is the addressee of the long treatises while Gaius of the short ones. As to the two apostles of Crete, the picture is analogous: Titus as the addressee of a relatively long letter while Carpus appears as the hero of a story addressed to a third person.[4]

Neither Peter the Iberian nor John the Eunuch visited Crete but the role of the Cretan anti-Chalcedonian diaspora within Peter the Iberian’s Palestinian milieu is firmly attested. John Rufus in the Plerophoriae, 44, puts the history of the monastery established by Urbicia and her brother Euphrasius who were children of an unnamed bishop of Crete.[5] In the time of persecutions they fled to Palestine and founded a monastery here. Somewhere in the late 470s, their monastery joined Epiphanius, an exiled bishop of Pamphylia, one of the most celebre confessors of the anti-Chalcedonism. Then, a new wave of persecutions forced them to leave their monastery and to go to Alexandria. In her reply to the Chalcedonian authorities of Palestine, Urbicia referred to her late spiritual father, “the holy monk Timotheos” in Crete. Then (apparently, after the proclamation of the Henotikon in 482) they all returned to Palestine, in Maiouma, where Urbicia and Euphrasius died (before ca 500 when John Rufus wrote his Plerophories) preserving their anti-Chalcedonian faith. This bishop Epiphanius gave priestly ordination to Severus, the future patriarch of Antioch, then a monk in the monastery founded by Peter the Iberian, several years after the death of the latter.[6]

This milieu connected to the monastery of Urbicia and Euphrasius in Maiuma, well-known to John Rufus, was both that of the disciples of Peter the Iberian and that of the mainstream (Severianist) anti-Chalcedonism of the reign of Anastasius (through bishop Epiphanius and Severus himself). If the pseudonymised recension of the Corpus Dionysiacum was prepared here, it has good chance to contain hallmarks of Cretan connections. In the same time, such a milieu of origin opens the broadest perspective for the integration into the mainstream Church tradition through Severus of Antioch.


1.2. Hallmarks of the origin and the liturgical calendar


As we have seen, there are different traditions regarding the memories of Dionysius the Areopagite, Hierotheos of Athens, Carpus and Polycarp of Smyrna, and Peter the Iberian. Some of them are connected to the main topic of the Corpus Dionysiacum, the revelation of hierarchies during the Dormition of Theotokos. Thus, these memories of Dionysius and Hierotheos (studied in the previous section of this article) say nothing about the authorship. Therefore, I am hesitating even to accept that the memory of Hierotheos on October 4 was established by those who were keeping in mind the memory day of John the Eunuch.

However, the situation with the Copto-Ethiopian memories on October 13 and the Syrian memories on December 3 is quite different. Let us recall that these memories were never studied by the historians of hagiography.

The memories of October 13 give us a coincidence of the memory of Peter the Iberian with that of some Carpus, already having lost his original connection with Papylas and those with them. If we take into account that the name of Carpus is a hallmark of the milieu where the pseudonymised Corpus emerged, such a coincidence with the memory of Peter the Iberian, absolutely unjustified by his or his teacher Abba Isaias’ biographies, is significant. It is to be interpreted as homage of the editors of the pseudonymised Corpus to the author of the core of their work.

The coincidence of the memories of Dionysius the Areopagite, Carpus, and Polycarp of Smyrna on December 3 is even more revealing. Moreover, this date is not far from the two Syrian memory dates of Peter the Iberian, November 27 and December 1 (and especially close to the memorial cycle from November 30 to December 2 described in the additional final chapter of the Life of Peter the Iberian).

Both the memories of October 13 and December 3 reveal different attempts to inscribe a connection between Peter the Iberian and the Corpus Dionysiacum into the liturgical calendars. These attempts were different because the followers of the late Peter the Iberian in Maiuma were dealing with different liturgical traditions of Egypt and Palestine. Their Palestinian legacy was never accepted by the Chalcedonians but partially preserved in the Western Syrian rite. In the anti-Chalcedonian milieu of Egypt, it was, of course, never challenged.

[1] The earliest source is probably Pseudo-Epiphanius of Salamine in his Index discipulorum: νηʹ. Κάρπος, οὗ καὶ αὐτοῦ Παῦλος μέμνηται, ἐπίσκοπος Βεῤῥοίας τῆς Θρᾴκης ἐγένετο [T. SchermannProphetarum vitae fabulosae (Lipsiae, 1907) (BSGRT) 125.7-8].

[2] Canon XLVIII (1): In sanctos X martyres Cretenses, in: A. Kominis, G. Schirò, Analecta hymnica graeca e codicibus eruta Italiae inferioris, vol. 4 (Roma, 1976) 587–598; quoted according to TLG 4354.004.</span>

 [3] The canon presently in use is that published as Canon XLVIII (3): In sanctos X martyres Cretenses in: ibid., 614–622, see ode 5, troparion 2; cf. a probably older canon XLVIII (2), ibid., 599–613, ode 5, troparion 4.

[4] The names which appear in the Corpus Areopagiticum still need to be studied properly. The line of Timotheos, Gaius, and Sosipater points out Ephesus which is important in the context of the Dormition tradition. The line of Titus and Carpus points out Crete. The names of Polycarp of Smyrna and John the Theologian (the addressee of the Letter X) are used to fit Dionysius into the historical frame, especially after an apparently anachronistic quotation from Ignatius of Antioch (cf. Rorem, Pseudo-Dionysius..., 12–14, and 27–28). The sense of the names of Dorotheus (the addressee of the Letter V) and Demophilus are still not understood (however, the hypothesis that the prototype of Demophilus is Peter the Fuller allows understanding of his name as “populist”).

[5] Nau, Jean Rufus, évêque de Maïouma, Plérophories…, 94–97.

[6] Kugener, Zacharie le Scholastique, Vie de Sévère…, 100.


  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 1 comment