Pope Symmachus

Pope Symmachus (d. 19 July 514) was Pope from 22 November 498 to his death in 514.[1] His tenure was marked by a serious schism over who was legitimately elected pope by the citizens of Rome.[1]

Pope Saint

Papa Symmachus
Papacy began22 November 498
Papacy ended19 July 514
PredecessorAnastasius II
Personal details
Birth nameSymmachus
BornSardinia, Vandal Kingdom
Died19 July 514
Rome, Ostrogothic Kingdom
Feast day19 July
Venerated inCatholic Church

Early life

He was born on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia (then under Vandal rule), the son of Fortunatus; Jeffrey Richards notes that he was born a pagan, and "perhaps the rankest outsider" of all the Ostrogothic Popes, most of whom were members of aristocratic families.[2] Symmachus was baptized in Rome, where he became Archdeacon of the Roman Church under Pope Anastasius II (496–498).


Symmachus was elected pope on 22 November 498[3] in the Constantinian basilica (Saint Giovanni Laterano). The archpriest of Santa Prassede, Laurentius, was elected pope that same day at the Basilica Saint Mariae (presumably Saint Maria Maggiore) by a dissenting faction with Byzantine sympathies, who were supported by Eastern Roman Emperor Anastasius. Both factions agreed to allow the Gothic King Theodoric the Great to arbitrate. He ruled that the one who was elected first and[4] whose supporters were the most numerous should be recognized as pope. This was a purely political decision. An investigation favored Symmachus and his election was recognized as proper.[5] However, an early document known as the "Laurentian Fragment" claims that Symmachus obtained the decision by paying bribes,[6] while deacon Magnus Felix Ennodius of Milan later wrote that 400 solidi were distributed amongst influential personages, whom it would be indiscreet to name.[7]

Roman Synod I

Symmachus proceeded to call a synod, to be held at Rome on 1 March 499, which was attended by 72 bishops and all of the Roman clergy. Laurentius attended this synod. Afterwards he was assigned the diocesis of Nuceria in Campania. According to the account in the Liber Pontificalis, Symmachus bestowed the See on Laurentius "guided by sympathy", but the "Laurentian Fragment" states that Laurentius "was severely threatened and cajoled, and forcibly despatched" to Nuceria (Nocera Umbra, east of Assisi).[8] The synod also ordained that any cleric who sought to gain votes for a successor to the papacy during the lifetime of the pope, or who called conferences and held consultations for that purpose, should be deposed and excommunicated.[9]

In 501, the Senator Rufius Postumius Festus,[10] a supporter of Laurentius, accused Symmachus of various crimes. The initial charge was that Symmachus celebrated Easter on the wrong date. The king Theodoric summoned him to Ariminum to respond to the charge. The pope arrived only to discover a number of other charges, including unchastity and the misuse of church property, would also be brought against him.[11][12] Symmachus panicked, fleeing from Ariminum in the middle of the night with only one companion. His flight proved to be a miscalculation, as it was regarded as an admission of guilt. Laurentius was brought back to Rome by his supporters, but a sizeable group of the clergy, including most of the most senior clerics, withdrew from communion with him. A visiting bishop, Peter of Altinum,[13] was appointed by Theodoric to celebrate Easter 502 and assume the administration of the See, pending the decision of a synod to be convened following Easter.[14]


Presided over by the other Italian metropolitans, Peter II of Ravenna, Laurentius of Milan, and Marcellianus of Aquileia, the Synod opened in the Basilica of Santa Maria (Maggiore). It proved tumultuous. The session quickly deadlocked over the presence of a visiting bishop, Peter of Altina, who had been sent by Theoderic as Apostolic Visitor, at the request of Senators Festus and Probinus, the opponents of Symmachus.[15] Symmachus argued that the presence of a visiting bishop implied the See of Rome was vacant, and the See could only be vacant if he were guilty—which meant the case had already been decided before the evidence could be heard. Although the majority of the assembled bishops agreed with this, the Apostolic Visitor could not be made to withdraw without Theodoric's permission; this was not forthcoming. In response to this deadlock, rioting by the citizens of Rome increased, causing a number of bishops to flee Rome and the rest to petition Theodoric to move the synod to Ravenna.

Another Synod

King Theodoric refused their request to move the Synod, ordering them instead to reconvene on 1 September. On 27 August the King wrote to the Bishops that he was sending two of the Majores Domus nostrae, Gudila and Bedeulphus, to see to it that the Synod assembled in safety and without fear.[16] Upon reconvening, matters were no less acrimonious. First the accusers introduced a document which included a clause stating that the king already knew Symmachus was guilty, and thus the Synod should assume guilt, hear the evidence, then pass sentence. More momentous was an attack by a mob on Pope Symmachus' party as he set out to make his appearance at the Synod: many of his supporters were injured and several—including the priests Gordianus and Dignissimus—killed. Symmachus retreated to St. Peter's and refused to come out, despite the urgings of deputations from the Synod.[17] The "Life of Symmachus", however, presents these killings as part of the street-fighting between the supporters of Senators Festus and Probinus on the one side, and Senator Faustus on the other. The attacks were directed particularly against clerics, including Dignissimus a priest of S. Pietro in Vinculis and Gordianus a priest of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, though the rhetoric of the passage extends the violence to anyone who was a supporter of Symmachus, man or woman, cleric or layperson. It was unsafe for a cleric to walk about in Rome at night![18]

Synod IV ad Palmaria

At this point, the synod petitioned king Theodoric once again, asking permission to dissolve the meeting and return home. Theodoric replied, in a letter dated 1 October, that they must see the matter to a conclusion. So the bishops assembled once again on 23 October 502 at a place known as Palma,[19] and after reviewing the events of the previous two sessions decided that since the pope was the successor of Saint Peter, they could not pass judgment on him, and left the matter to God to decide. All who had abandoned communion with him were urged to reconcile with him, and that any clergy who celebrated mass in Rome without his consent in the future should be punished as a schismatic. The resolutions were signed by 76 bishops, led by Laurentius of Milan and Peter of Ravenna.[20]

Despite the outcome of the synod, Laurentius returned to Rome, and for the next four years, according to the "Laurentian Fragment", he held its churches and ruled as pope with the support of the senator Festus.[21] The struggle between the two factions was carried out on two fronts. One was through mob violence committed by supporters of each religious camp, and it is vividly described in the Liber Pontificalis.[22] The other was through diplomacy, which produced a sheaf of forged documents, the so-called "Symmachian forgeries", of judgments in ecclesiastical law to support Symmachus' claim that as pope he could not be called to account.[23] A more productive achievement on the diplomatic front was to convince king Theodoric to intervene, conducted chiefly by two non-Roman supporters, the Milanese deacon Ennodius and the exiled deacon Dioscorus. At last Theodoric withdrew his support of Laurentius in 506, instructing Festus to hand over the Roman churches to Symmachus.[24]

In 513, Caesarius, bishop of Arles, visited Symmachus while being detained in Italy. This meeting led to Caesarius' receiving a pallium. Based on this introduction, Caesarius later wrote to Symmachus for help with establishing his authority, which Symmachus eagerly gave, according to William Klingshirn, "to gather outside support for his primacy."[25]

Pope Symmachus provided money and clothing to the Catholic bishops of Africa and Sardinia who had been exiled by the rulers of the Arian Vandals. He also ransomed prisoners from upper Italy, and gave them gifts of aid.[26]

Symmachus died on 19 July 514[3], and was buried in St. Peter's Basilica. He had ruled for fifteen years, seven months, and twenty-seven days.

See also


  1. ^ a b Kirsch 1913.
  2. ^ Richards 1979, p. 243: Of the 17 Popes between 483 and 604, seven were certainly or likely members of Roman aristocratic families, and three more had provincial aristocratic origins
  3. ^ a b Hughes, Philip (1947). A History of the Church. 1. Sheed & Ward. p. 319. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  4. ^ Mansi 1762, p. 201: The Latin text of the Life of Symmachus says vel, not et: that is to say 'or', not 'and'.
  5. ^ Davis 1989, p. 43f; The original Latin in Mansi 1762, p. 301: quod tandem aequitas in Symmacho invenit, et cognitio veritatis
  6. ^ Davis 2000, p. 97.
  7. ^ Richards 1979, p. 70f.
  8. ^ Davis 2000, p. 44, 97; Mansi 1762, p. 204; Hefele 1895, p. 59: Nuceria had been destroyed, probably by the Visigoths, at the beginning of the fifth century. Laurentius was being sent to a ruin, to care for refugees.
  9. ^ Mansi 1762, p. 231: …si presbyter, aut diaconus, aut clericus, papa incolumi, et eo inconsulto, aut subscriptionem pro Romano pontificatu commodare, aut pitacia promittere, aut sacramentum praebere tentaverit, aut aliquod certe suffragium pollicere, vel de hac causa privatis conventiculis factis deliberare atque decernere, loci sui dignitate atque communione privetur
  10. ^ Jones & Martindale 1980, pp. 467–469.
  11. ^ Davis 2000, p. 98: The "Laurentian Fragment" states that, while walking along the seashore, he saw the woman with whom he was accused of committing sin
  12. ^ Mansi 1762, p. 284; Hefele 1895, p. 60: Deacon Ennodius of Pavia, later the city's Bishop, who drew up an apology for Symmachus, admits the charge of adultery
  13. ^ Altinum, a town on the shore of the Lagoon of Venice, had been sacked and burned by Attila the Hun in A.D. 452. The scattered survivors retreated to the islands in the lagoon.
  14. ^ Richards 1979, p. 71.
  15. ^ Mansi 1762, p. 201, "Life of Symmachus"
  16. ^ Mansi 1762, pp. 254–256.
  17. ^ Richards 1979, p. 72.
  18. ^ Mansi 1762, p. 202.
  19. ^ Hefele 1895, p. 67: a porticu Beati Petri Apostoli, quae appellatur ad Palmaria
  20. ^ Richards 1979, p. 73; Mansi 1762, p. 261–269.
  21. ^ Davis 2000, p. 98.
  22. ^ Richards 1979, p. 75.
  23. ^ Richards 1979, p. 81f.
  24. ^ Richards 1979, p. 76.
  25. ^ Klingshirn 1994, p. 30, 86f; Several letters between the two survive, which Klingshirn has translated, pp. 88–94
  26. ^ Davis 2000, p. 46.


External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Anastasius II
Succeeded by
500s (decade)

The 500s decade ran from January 1, 500, to December 31, 509.


Year 514 (DXIV) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Cassiodorus without colleague (or, less frequently, year 1267 Ab urbe condita). The denomination 514 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Acacian schism

The Acacian schism, between the Eastern and Western Christian Churches lasted 35 years, from 484 to 519 AD. It resulted from a drift in the leaders of Eastern Christianity toward Miaphysitism and Emperor Zeno's unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the parties with the Henotikon.

Antipope Laurentius

Laurentius (possibly Caelius) was Archpriest of Santa Prassede and later antipope of the Roman Catholic Church. Elected in 498 at the Basilica Saint Mariae (presumably Saint Maria Maggiore) with the support of a dissenting faction with Byzantine sympathies, who were supported by Eastern Roman Emperor Anastasius, in opposition to Pope Symmachus, the division between the two opposing factions split not only the church, but the senate and the people of Rome. However, Laurentius remained in Rome as Pope until 506.

Collectiones canonum Dionysianae

The Collectiones canonum Dionysianae (Latin: Dionysian collections of canons) are the several collections of ancient canons prepared by the Scythian monk Dionysius 'the humble' (exiguus). They include the Collectio conciliorum Dionysiana I, the Collectio conciliorum Dionysiana II, and the Collectio decretalium Dionysiana. They are of the utmost importance for the development of the canon law tradition in the West.

Towards 500 a Scythian monk, known as Dionysius Exiguus, who had come to Rome after the death of Pope Gelasius (496), and who was well skilled in both Latin and Greek, undertook to bring out a more exact translation of the canons of the Greek councils. In a second effort he collected papal decretals from Siricius (384-89) to Anastasius II (496-98), inclusive, anterior therefore, to Pope Symmachus (514-23). By order of Pope Hormisdas (514-23), Dionysius made a third collection, in which he included the original text of all the canons of the Greek councils, together with a Latin version of the same; but the preface alone has survived. Finally, he combined the first and second in one collection, which thus united the canons of the councils and the papal decretals; it is in this shape that the work of Dionysius has reached us.

This collection opens with a table or list of titles, each of which is afterwards repeated before the respective canons; then come the first fifty canons of the Apostles, the canons of the Greek councils, the canons of Carthage (419), and the canons of preceding African synods under Aurelius, which had been read and inserted in the Council of Carthage. This first part of the collection is closed by a letter of Pope Boniface I, read at the same council, letters of Cyril of Alexandria and Atticus of Constantinople to the African Fathers, and a letter of Pope Celestine I. The second part of the collection opens likewise with a preface, in the shape of a letter to the priest Julian, and a table of titles; then follow one decretal of Siricius, twenty-one of Innocent I, one of Zozimus, four of Boniface I, three of Celestine I, seven of pope Leo I, one of Gelasius I and one of Anastasius II. The additions met with in Voel and Justel are taken from inferior manuscripts.

Eusebius of Rome

Eusebius of Rome (died c. 357), the founder of the church on the Esquiline Hill in Rome that bears his name, is listed in the Roman Martyrology as one of the saints venerated on 14 August.

The Martyrology of Usuard styles him confessor at Rome under the Arian emperor Constantius II and adds that he was buried in the cemetery of Callistus. Some later martyrologies call him a martyr. He is said to have been a Roman patrician and priest, and is mentioned with distinction in Latin martyrologies.

The "Acta Eusebii", discovered in 1479 by Mombritius and reproduced by Baluze in his "Miscellanea" (1678–1715), tell the following story: When Pope Liberius was permitted by Constantius II to return to Rome, supposedly at the price of his orthodoxy, by subscribing to the Arian formula of Sirmium, Eusebius, a priest, an ardent defender of the Nicene Creed, publicly preached against both pope and emperor, branding them as heretics. When the orthodox party who supported the antipope Felix were excluded from all the churches, Eusebius continued to say Mass in his own house. He was arrested and brought before Liberius and Constantius, and boldly reproved Liberius for deserting the Catholic faith. In consequence he was placed in a dungeon four feet wide (or was imprisoned in his own house), where he spent his time in prayer and died after seven months. His body was buried in the cemetery of Callistus with the simple inscription: "Eusebio homini Dei". This act of kindness was performed by two priests, Gregory and Orosius, friends of Eusebius. Gregory was put into the same prison and also died there. He was buried by Orosius, who professes to be the writer of the Acts.

It is generally admitted that these Acts were a forgery either entirely or at least in part, and written in the same spirit if not by the same hand as the notice on Liberius in the "Liber Pontificalis". The Bollandists and Tillemont point out some historical difficulties in the narrative, especially the fact that Liberius, Constantius, and Eusebius were never in Rome at the same time. Constantius visited Rome but once, and remained there for about a month, and Liberius was then still in exile. Some, taking for granted the alleged fall of Liberius, would overcome this difficulty by stating that, at the request of Liberius, who resented the zeal of the priest, the secular power interfered and imprisoned Eusebius. It is not at all certain whether Eusebius died after the return of Liberius, during his exile, or even much before that period.

Sant'Eusebio, the basilica-style church on the Esquiline in Rome dedicated to him, is said to have been built on the site of his house. It is mentioned in the acts of a council held in Rome under Pope Symmachus in 498, and was rebuilt by Pope Zacharias. It is a titular church of the cardinal-priest and the station church for the Friday after the fourth Sunday in Lent. It once belonged to the Celestines (an order now extinct); Pope Leo XII gave it to the Jesuits.

The Tridentine Calendar had a commemoration of Eusebius, after that of the commemoration of the vigil of the feast of the Assumption of Mary on 14 August, on which day the main liturgy was that of the feast of Lawrence of Rome, within whose octave it fell. The 1920 typical edition of the Roman Missal omitted the celebration on that date of the day within the Octave of Saint Lawrence. The Vigil of the Assumption became the principal liturgy, with a commemoration of Eusebius alone. The 1969 revision of the calendar removed the commemoration of Eusebius, while sanctioning the celebration of his feast in the Roman basilica that bears his name.

Flavius Ennodius Messala

Flavius Ennodius Messala was a Roman senator in Ostrogothic Italy. He was appointed consul for 506 with Areobindus Dagalaiphus Areobindus as his colleague.

His father was Flavius Anicius Probus Faustus, the leading supporter of Pope Symmachus in the Laurentian schism, and his brother was Rufius Magnus Faustus Avienus, one of the consuls for 502. According to Ennodius, Messala had a literary bent (Ep. 8.3, 9.12), and in 512 was engaged to a wealthy girl. (Ep. 9.26.35)

John the Deacon (Church of Rome)

Sometimes confused with Johannes Hymonides; see also John the Deacon for others.John the Deacon (fl. 500) was a deacon in the Church of Rome during the pontificate of Pope Symmachus (498–514). He is known only from an epistle he wrote to a Senarius, a vir illustris who had asked him to explain aspects of Christian initiatory practice. John's response provides a "rather full description" of the catechumenal process and initiation rites at Rome at the beginning of the 6th century. He covers prebaptismal exorcisms; the ritual use of salt; the anointing of the ears, nostrils, and breast of the candidate; the use of milk and honey for first communion; ritual nudity and immersion; special white clothing for the newly baptized; and the need for even infants to undergo the process, saying that

Maximus of Pavia

Maximus was Bishop of Pavia. He was in attendance at councils of Rome convened under Pope Symmachus.

Ostrogothic Papacy

The Ostrogothic Papacy was a period from 493 to 537 where the papacy was strongly influenced by the Ostrogothic Kingdom, if the pope was not outright appointed by the Ostrogothic King. The selection and administration of popes during this period was strongly influenced by Theodoric the Great and his successors Athalaric and Theodahad. This period terminated with Justinian I's (re)conquest of Rome during the Gothic War (535–554), inaugurating the Byzantine Papacy (537-752).

According to Howorth, "while they were not much interfered with in their administrative work, so long as they did not themselves interfere with politics, the Gothic kings meddled considerably in the selection of the new popes and largely dominated their election. Simony prevailed to a scandalous extent, as did intrigues of a discreditable kind, and the quality and endowments of the candidates became of secondary importance in their chances of being elected, compared with their skill in corrupting the officials of the foreign kings and in their powers of chicane." According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "[Theodoric] was tolerant towards the Catholic Church and did not interfere in dogmatic matters. He remained as neutral as possible towards the pope, though he exercised a preponderant influence in the affairs of the papacy."


Piligrim (Pilgrim of Passau, Pilegrinus, Peregrinus) (died 20 May 991) was Bishop of Passau. Piligrim was ambitious, but also concerned with the Christianization of Hungary.

He was educated at the Benedictine Niederaltaich Abbey, and was made bishop in 971. To him are attributed some, if not all, of the Forgeries of Lorch. These are a series of documents, especially papal bulls of Pope Symmachus, Pope Eugene II, Pope Leo VII, and Pope Agapetus II, fabricated to prove that Passau was a continuation of a former archdiocese of Lorch. By these he attempted to obtain from Benedict VI the elevation of Passau to an archdiocese, the re-erection of those dioceses in Pannonia and Mœsia which had been suffragans of Lorch, and the pallium for himself. There is extant an alleged Bull of Benedict VI granting Piligrim's demands; but this is also the work of Piligrim, possibly a document drawn up for the papal signature, which it never received.

Piligrim converted numerous pagans in Hungary. He built many schools and churches, restored the Rule of St. Benedict in Niederaltaich, transferred the relics of Maximilian of Tebessa from Altötting to Passau, and held synods (983–991) at Ennsburg (Lorch), Mautern an der Donau, and Mistelbach. In the Nibelungenlied he is lauded as a contemporary of the heroes of that epic.

Pseudo-Council of Sinuessa

The pseudo-Council of Sinuessa was a purported gathering of bishops in 303 at Sinuessa, Italy, the purpose being a trial of Marcellinus on charges of apostasy. It is generally accepted that the gathering never took place and that the purported council documents were forged for political purposes in the 6th century during the schism between Pope Symmachus and Antipope Laurentius. The collection of forgeries, including the Council of Sinuessa, is collectively known as the Symmachian forgeries.

The Catholic Encyclopedia describes

The Latin phrase "quia prima sedes non judicatur a quoquam" means roughly "for the occupant of the highest see cannot be judged by anyone", and the anecdote was produced in later centuries as evidence for the doctrine of papal supremacy.

Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus

Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus (died 526) was a 6th-century Roman aristocrat, an historian and a supporter of Nicene Orthodoxy. He was a patron of secular learning, and became the consul for the year 485. He supported Pope Symmachus in the schism over the Popes' election, and was executed with his son-in-law Boethius after being charged with treason.

Rufius Magnus Faustus Avienus

Rufius Magnus Faustus Avienus was a politician of the Western Roman Empire. He was appointed consul for 502 with Flavius Probus as his colleague.

His father was Flavius Anicius Probus Faustus, who was the leading supporter of Pope Symmachus in the Laurentian schism, and his brother was Flavius Ennodius Messala, one of the consuls for 506. Avienus was later Praetorian prefect of Italy (527–528).

Saint Pudens

Saint Pudens was an early Christian saint and martyr.

He is mentioned as a layman of the Roman Church in 2 Timothy 4:21. According to tradition, he lodged Saint Peter and was baptised by him, and was martyred under Nero (reigned 54–68). He is commemorated on April 14 in the Eastern Orthodox Church calendar and May 19 according to the Dominican Martyrology.

He is said to have been the son of Quintus Cornelius Pudens, a Roman Senator. He is said to have had two sons, Novatus and Timotheus, and two daughters, Praxedes and Pudentiana, all saints, but if Pudens' life is documented, those of his daughters is derived only by the existence of two ancient churches, Santa Prassede and Santa Pudenziana in Rome.

The acts of the synod of Pope Symmachus (499) show the existence of a titulus Pudentis, a church with the authority to administer sacraments, which was also known as ecclesia Pudentiana.

San Pancrazio

The church of San Pancrazio (English: St Pancras; Latin: S. Pancratii) is a Roman Catholic ancient basilica and titular church founded by Pope Symmachus in the 6th century in Rome, Italy. It stands in via S. Pancrazio, westward beyond the Porta San Pancrazio that opens in a stretch of the Aurelian Wall on the Janiculum.

The Cardinal Priest of the Titulus S. Pancratii is Antonio Cañizares Llovera. Among the previous titulars, Pope Paul IV (15 January-24 September 1537) and Pope Clement VIII (18 December 1585-30 January 1592).

Santi Giovanni e Paolo al Celio

The Basilica of Saints John and Paul on the Caelian Hill (Italian: Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo al Celio) is an ancient basilica church in Rome, located on the Caelian Hill.

The church was built in 398, by will of the senator Pammachius, over the home of two Roman soldiers, John and Paul, martyred under the emperor Julian in 362. The church was thus called the Titulus Pammachii and is recorded as such in the acts of the synod held by Pope Symmachus in 499.

The church was damaged during the sack by Alaric I (410) and because of an earthquake (442), restored by Pope Paschal I (824), sacked again by the Normans (1084), and again restored, with the addition of a monastery and a bell tower.

It is home to the Passionists and is the burial place of St. Paul of the Cross. Additionally, it is the station church of the first Friday in Lent.

Symmachian forgeries

The Symmachian forgeries are a sheaf of forged documents produced in the papal curia of Pope Symmachus (498–514) in the beginning of the sixth century, in the same cycle that produced the Liber Pontificalis. In the context of the conflict between partisans of Symmachus and Antipope Laurentius the purpose of these libelli was to further papal pretensions of the independence of the Bishops of Rome from criticisms and judgment of any ecclesiastical tribunal, putting them above law clerical and secular by supplying spurious documents supposedly of an earlier age. "During the dispute between Pope St. Symmachus and the anti-pope Laurentius," the Catholic Encyclopedia reports, "the adherents of Symmachus drew up four apocryphal writings called the 'Symmachian Forgeries'. ... The object of these forgeries was to produce alleged instances from earlier times to support the whole procedure of the adherents of Symmachus, and, in particular, the position that the Roman bishop could not be judged by any court composed of other bishops."Their editor Louis Duchesne divided them in two groups, a group produced in the heat of the conflict involving Symmachus and a later group. Among writings to support Symmachus, Gesta de Xysti purgatione narrated a decision by Sixtus III, who cleared his name from defamation and permanently excommunicated the offender; Gesta de Polychronii episcopi Hierosolynitani accusatione concerned a purely apocryphal simonical Bishop of Jerusalem "Polychronius", who claimed Jerusalem as the first see and his supremacy over other bishops; Gesta Liberii papae concerned mass baptisms carried out by Pope Liberius during his exile from the seat of Peter; Sinuessanae synodi gesta de Marcellino recounted the accusation brought against Pope Marcellinus, that in the company of the Emperor Diocletian he had offered incense to the pagan gods, making the point that when Marcellinus eventually confessed to the misdeed it was declared that the pope had condemned himself, since no one had ever judged the pontiff, because the first see will not be judged by anyone.The most important in this group of forgeries was Silvestri constitutum, a report of a fictitious synod convoked by Pope Sylvester, giving twenty promulgated canons, among which was a prohibition of bringing a solitary accusation upon an ecclesiastic of a degree higher than the accuser's: a bishop might only be accused by seventy-two, and a pope could not be accused by anyone. Silvestri constitutum was also an early instance of the fable that Sylvester had cured Constantine the Great of leprosy with the waters of baptism, incurring the Emperor's abject gratitude, which was elaborated and credited to the point that, in greeting Pope Stephen II in 753, Pepin II dismounted to lead the Pope's horse to his palace on foot, as Constantine would have done.The second, somewhat later group centers on the figure of Sylvester, who accepts the decree of the First Council of Nicaea on the date of Easter. One of these forgeries reports a fictitious synod convoking 275 bishops in the Baths of Trajan; several canons exalt the position of the cleric.


Symmachus can refer to several different people of Roman antiquity:

Symmachus the Ebionite (late 2nd century), author of one of the Greek versions of the Old Testament;

Symmachus (consul 522), son of Boethius

Pope Symmachus, bishop of Rome from 498 to 514.There was also an aristocratic family in ancient Rome that bore this name. Its most important members were:

Aurelius Valerius Tullianus Symmachus, consul in 330

Lucius Aurelius Avianius Symmachus, praefectus urbi in 364–365

Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, c. 340–c. 402, orator, author, and politician, the most influential of the Symmachi

Quintus Fabius Memmius Symmachus, son of the previous

Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, consul in 446

Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus (died 526), consul in 485 and wrote a history of RomeOther uses:

Symmachus ben Joseph, a Jewish Tanna sage of the fifth generation.

1st–4th centuries
During the Roman Empire (until 493)
including under Constantine (312–337)
5th–8th centuries
Ostrogothic Papacy (493–537)
Byzantine Papacy (537–752)
Frankish Papacy (756–857)
9th–12th centuries
Papal selection before 1059
Saeculum obscurum (904–964)
Crescentii era (974–1012)
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Imperial Papacy (1048–1257)
13th–16th centuries
Viterbo (1257–1281)
Orvieto (1262–1297)
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Avignon Papacy (1309–1378)
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Revolutionary Papacy (1775–1848)
Roman Question (1870–1929)
Vatican City (1929–present)
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History of the papacy
Virgin Mary
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