Home Read stories Africa maps The Project Resources Our Writers News

bishop 179?-189/190? A.D.
Ancient Christian Church

Eusebius of Caesarea (c.260-340) initiated his Ecclesiastical History with reference to "the successions from the holy apostles" [I.1] thereby enunciating the principal one of those several themes by which he intended to tell his story [cf. Grant 1980, esp.ch.VI]. As a consequence those major urban centers of the Roman imperial world, including its second city, Alexandria, could provide Eusebius with the main points of reference wherein he could document literally by named persons those who were in that succession and thereby presided over the ministry of their respective urban communities.

According to Eusebius, Julian "was entrusted with the episcopate of the churches at Alexandria" following a twelve year administration by Agrippinus (q.v.), which Eusebius dates to the first year of the imperial successor Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus (August 31, 161 - 31 December 31, 192 when he was assassinated, having reigned as co-emperor with his father from 177 and on his own from March 17, 180) [H.E. IV.19, V.9]. The previous imperial reign of the noted philosophically-minded Marcus Aurelius (April 26, 121 - March 17, 180, ruled from March 7, 161) had from the Christian perspective become notable by virtue of the advent of persecution. For this was also the era in which the frontiers of the Roman state underwent initial pressure from outside powers, and loyalty oaths began to be administered, with martyrdom attendant. As Robert McQueen Grant has observed, "Christians were willing to pray for the emperor, but they would not take oaths or offer sacrifices" [1955:85]. The consequences were severe, especially at Lyons in Gaul in 177, as Eusebius details [H.E. V.1.1-63].

The initial years of Commodus began with a continuation of comparable persecution both throughout the Roman province of Africa, as evidenced near the other great city of Carthage by the martyrdoms of Namphanio and three other companions (q.v.) in addition to the well-documented Speratus and his eleven adolescent catechetical students known collectively as the "Scillitan Martyrs" (q.v.), and into the Roman province of Egypt and sporadically elsewhere. So while nowhere documented, the episcopacy of Julian must have included some response on his part to these matters, since Eusebius includes reference to a noteworthy few others, best illustrated by the "Acts of Apollonius" (q.v.), before observing that it was precisely "during the reign of Commodus (that) our affairs took an easier turn, and, thanks to the divine grace, peace embraced the churches throughout the whole world" [H.E. V.21].

With that Eusebius concludes what little he knew of Julian, indicating that "in the tenth year of the reign of Commodus, Victor (q.v.) succeeded Eleutherus (ODP 11-12)," while in that same year "when Julian had completed his tenth year, Demetrius was entrusted with the ministry of the communities at Alexandria" [H.E. V.22]. Philip Carrington, trying to portray Alexandrian Christianity in the second Christian century, comments:

We have a list of bishops, however, with the number of years they held office, which is preserved in the pages of Eusebius. If we start in the year 62, a number obtained by working backwards from 190, the approximate date of the accession of Demetrius, we find that it works out like this: Annianus (or Hananiah) 62, Avilus 84, Cerdon 98, Primus 109, Justus 119, Eumenes 130, Marcus 143, Celadion 153, Agrippinus 167, Julian 178, and Demetrius 190. Demetrius is the first bishop about whom we have any real information. Annianus occurs in legend. The rest are mere names. [1957:II.44]
By pausing to observe each of those names, we have put each of them briefly into a chronological framework worthy of inclusion within a "Dictionary of African Christian Biography"!

Clyde Curry Smith

Bibliography (see link to abbreviations table below):

GEEC 33 (FWNorris)

Supplementary Bibliography:
Carrington 1957 The Early Christian Church, by Philip Carrington. Cambridge: At the University Press. 2 volumes.
Grant 1955b The Sword and the Cross, by Robert McQueen Grant. New York: The Macmillan Company.
Grant 1980 Eusebius as Church Historian, by Robert McQueen Grant. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Oulton 1927 Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, The Ecclesiastical History and the Martyrs of Palestine, translated with Introduction and Notes, by Hugh Jackson Lawlor and John Ernest Leonard Oulton. London: SPCK. 2 volumes. Volume I: Translation, by John Ernest Leonard Oulton. (Specific references also cited as H.E. with book and chapter).

This article, received in 2004, was researched and written by Dr. Clyde Curry Smith, Professor Emeritus of Ancient History and Religion, University of Wisconsin, River Falls.

Click here for Abbreviations and Source References for Ancient African Christians.