A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

2. Bishop of ALEXANDRIA, was probably a native of the same city. He was born of pagan parents, who were persons of rank and influence. He studied the doctrines of the various philosophical sects, and this led him at last to embrace Christianity. Origen, who was one of his teachers, had probably great influence upon this step of his pupil. After having been a presbyter for some time, he succeeded, about A. D. 232, Heraclas as the head of the theological school at Alexandria, and after the death of Heraclas. who had been raised to the bishopric of Alexandria, Dionysius

succeeded him in the see, A. D. 247. During the persecution of the Christians by Decius, Dionysius was seized by the soldiers and carried to Taposiris, a small town between Alexandria and Canopus, probably with a view of putting him to death there. But he escaped from captivity in a manner which lie himself describes very minutely (apud Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 6.40). He had, however, to suffer still more severely in A. D. 257, during the persecution which the emperor Valerian instituted againist the Christians. Dionysius made an open confession of his faith before the emperor's praefect Aemilianus, and was exiled in consequence to Cephro, a desert district of Libya, whither he was compelled to proceed forthwith, although he was severely ill at the time. After an exile of three years, an edict of Gallienus in favour of the Christians enabled him to return to Alexandria, where henceforth he was extremely zealous in combating heretical opinions. In his attacks against Sabellius he was carried so far by his zeal, that he uttered tlings which were themselves incompatible with the orthodox faith; but when he was taken to accountby Dionysius, bishop of Rome, who convoked a synod for the purpose, he readily owned that he had acted rashly and inconsiderately. In A. D. 265 he was invited to a synod at Antioch, to dispute with Paulus of Samosata, but being prevented from going thither by old age and infirmity, he wrote a letter to the synod on the subject of the controversy to be discussed, and soon after, in the same year, he died, after having occupied the see of Alexandria for a period of seventeen years. The church of Rome regards Dionysius as a saint, and celebrates his memory on the 18th of October. We learn from Epiphanes (Haeres. 69), that at Alexandria a church was dedicated to him. Dionysius wrote a considerable number of theological works, consisting partly of treatises and partly of epistles addressed to the heads of churches and to communities, but all that is left us of them consists of fragments preserved in Eusebius and others. A complete list of his works is given by Cave, from which we mention only the most important. 1. On Promises, in two books, was directed against Nepos, and two considerable fragments of it are still extant. (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 3.28, 7.24.) 2. A work addressed to Dionysius, bishop of Rome, in four books or epistles, against Sabellius. Dionysius here excused the hasty assertions of which he himself had been guilty in attacking Sabellius. A great number of fragments and extracts of it are preserved in the writings of Athanasiuis and Basilius. 3. A work addressed to Timotheus, " On Nature," of which extracts are preserved in Eusebius. (Praep. Exang. 14.23, 27.) Of his Epistles also numerous fragments are extant in the works of Eusebius. All that is extant of Dionysius, is collected in Gallandi's Bibl. Patr. iii. p. 481, &c., and in the separate collection by Simon de Magistris, Rome, 1796, fol. (Cave, Hist. Lit. i. p. 95, &c.)