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.
Agrippinus “took up the succession” following a fourteen year administration by Celadion [q.v.] and held the office for twelve years before Julian [q.v.] “was entrusted with the episcopate of the churches at Alexandria,” which Eusebius dates to the first year of the imperial successor Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus (August 31, 161 - 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]. Thus the episcopacy of Agrippinus may be said to have fallen entirely within the imperial jurisdiction of the noted philosophically-minded Marcus Aurelius (April 26, 121 - March 17, 180, ruled from March 7, 161], whose “Meditations” suggest the epitome of Stoic virtue and restraint [cf. OCD3 219-221]. He made a tour of the eastern provinces in 175-176, including Alexandria before he wintered in Antioch. Philip Carrington suggests “that he made a good impression” on the Jewish court in Galilee and elsewhere, though his empress died in Cappadocia as they passed back westward through Smyrna to Rome (1957:II.218).
Yet it is rather precisely within this imperial administration that the first of the greater persecutions of Christians begin, as do those literate apologetic efforts by Christian authors to counter that impact. 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]. Yet of these “pastors” at Alexandria, there remains nothing more within the tradition that can be adduced pertaining to them, or of the immediate impact upon them.
Clyde Curry Smith
Bibliography (see link to abbreviations table below):
GEEC 33 (FW Norris)
Carrington 1957 The Early Christian Church, by Philip Carrington. Cambridge: At the University Press. 2 volumes.
The Sword and the Cross, by Robert McQueen Grant. New York: The Macmillan Company.
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.