Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.


c. 62-c. 84
Ancient Christian Church

Alexandria had been founded by Alexander the Great (III of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.) when he took control of the satrapy of Egypt from the Persians in 331 B.C. It was developed as the capital of that segment of Alexander’s Empire when it passed into the hands of one of his successors, Ptolemy I Soter (367/6-282 B.C.), who had served Alexander well among his generals. Ptolemy I Soter acquired Alexander’s corpse, taking it to the old Egyptian capital, Memphis, where he established himself as satrap in place of the designee, Cleomenes of Naucratis, Alexander’s fiscal administrator, whom he had executed. The creation of the autonomous city as the main port of the eastern Mediterranean was continued through the work of Soter’s son, Ptolemy II Philadephus (308-246 B.C.) and remained in the hands of successive generations of the Ptolemy’s and their sister-wife Cleopatra’s until all of Egypt passed into the control of the Romans by Octavian’s {Gaius Octavius Julius Caesar Augustus, September 23, 63 B.C. to August 19, A.D. 14, “Augustus” from January 16, 27 B.C.) victory (31 B.C.) over Antony {Marcus Antonius, 83-31 B.C.} and Cleopatra VII {69-30 B.C., queen from 51}.

By then Alexandria had become a cultural and cosmopolitan center, attracting all kinds of peoples with their religious traditions, including those of Greek-speaking Jews, within a vast population, such that it was second only to Rome in size. By the second century A.D. Rome itself had “a population of about 700,000” within an empire which, “including slaves” had reached “about 70 million” already under Augustus [Grant 1970:10,11]. According to Grant, with reference to Philo [In Flaccum 43, in Yonge 1993:728], Jews “were especially prominent at Alexandria and in Egypt, where the Jewish population could be counted (with some exaggeration?) at a million” [1970:23]. This growth had taken place over the city’s entire history, so that Philadelphus, while remembered as patron of the great library, is thereby central to the somewhat imaginative account of his bringing together a group of “seventy-two” translators for the transmission of the Hebrew Bible into Greek (the “Septuagint”) preserved in the so-called “Letter to Aristeas” [OCD 160 (TRajak); translated in Barnstone 1984:244-250]. Philo himself {c.20 B.C. - 50 A.D., q.v.} is without question the most important and illustrative of all Alexandrian authors from these earlier centuries.

Nothing identifies who might have been first among Christian converts anywhere in the Roman provinces of Africa or Cyrene or Egypt, though within the New Testament (Acts 18:24-26) a man named Apollos (q.v.) came specifically as a Hellenized “Jew” from his native locale of Alexandria “speaking with an open boldness” in the synagogue at Ephesus, where he was found by Priscilla and Aquila, themselves newly arrived as a consequence of the expulsion of Jews from Rome by {Tiberius} Claudius {Drusus Caesar} (10 B.C.-A.D. 54, reigned from 41) in 49 A.D. (Acts 18:2). The tradition further denominates the person “John whose other name was Mark” (Acts 12:25), as he who as “interpreter of Peter” “wrote accurately, though not in order, all that he recalled of what had been said or done by the Lord” (Papias apud Grant 1946: 68-69), from whence via Hippolytus of Rome (c.155-235) [ANF V (1885) 254-256] through Eusebius of Caesarea (c.260-340) [H.E. II.15-16.1] this “Mark the Evangelist” (q.v.) was transformed into the “first bishop of Alexandria.”

Thus it is that we meet, according to Eusebius, “when Nero {December 15, 37 - June 9, 68, ruled from October 13, 54} was in the eighth year of his reign, Annianus {who} succeeded, first after Mark the Evangelist, to the ministry of the community at Alexandria” [II.24], thereby initiating another of those lines wherein he can elaborate one of his themes for the history of the church: “the successions from the holy apostles” [I.1 (opening words); cf. Grant 1980:ch.VI]. Beyond the mere name at his introduction, Annianus [which Carrington observes represents the Hellenized form of a Hebrew “Hananiah” (1957:II.44), not inappropriate at this date and location] appears twice more. “In the fourth year of Domitian {October 24, 51 - September 18, 96, ruled from September 13, 81}” after twenty-two years as “first” at Alexandria, Annianus died and was succeeded by Avilius {q.v.} denominated “second” [III.14], which enumeration gets reiterated on that occasion “in the first year of Trajan {53-August 8, 117, ruled from January 25, 98}” when “Cerdon {q.v.} was the third that presided over the people in that place,” i.e. Alexandria [III.21]. There is nothing more within the tradition beyond this sequence of names which can be adduced pertaining to any of them!

Clyde Curry Smith

Bibliography (see link to abbreviations table below):

GEEC 33 (FWNorris)

Supplementary Bibliography

ANF V 1885 Hippolytus, translated by Stewart Dingwall Fordyce Salmond, in Ante-Nicene Fathers. Buffalo and New York: Christian Literature. Volume V, pp. 255-256.

Barnstone 1984

The Other Bible, edited by Willis Barnstone. San Francisco: Harper and Row.

Carrington 1957 The Early Christian Church, by Philip Carrington. Cambridge: At the University Press. 2 volumes.

Grant 1946 Second-Century Christianity: A Collection of Fragments, by Robert McQueen Grant. London: SPCK.

Grant 1970 Augustus to Constantine: The Thrust of the Christian Movement into the Roman World, by Robert McQueen Grant. New York, Evanston, and London: Harper and Row.

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).

Yonge 1993 The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged, translated by Charles Duke Yonge. New updated edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

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 forAbbreviations and Source References for Ancient African Christians.