Michael Prokurat, Alexander Golitzin, Michael D. Peterson
The A to Z of the Orthodox Church



ROME. Capital of the Roman Empire and see of the popes (qq.v.), Rome and its mystique-Roma aeterna-have played practically as important a role in the Orthodox as in the Roman Catholic Church (q.v.). The ancient capital was, in a sense, the badge of legitimacy for Constantinople, “New Rome,” the capital of the East and of the Empire, which, until its demise in 1453, claimed to be the continuation of the polity begun by Augustus Caesar. The early Christian history of the city is worth noting in brief, not only for its intrinsic value and its influence on the East, but for the remarkably detailed list of its early bishops (Epiphanius, Haer. 27.6). After the burning of the city by Nero (A.D. 64) and the resulting martyrdom of Peter and Paul, the Church grew under Vespasian (69–79) and Titus (79–81 ) until the persecutions of Domitian (81–96) and Trajan (98–117). Ignatius of Antioch (q.v.) was martyred at Rome (ca. 110–117), along with at least one early bishop, Telephorus (ca. 126–136), Justin Martyr (q.v.), and Cecilia-the latter two under the severe persecutions of Marcus Aurelius (161–180).

The first century and a half of Christianity in Rome was characterized by these persecutions, while the bishops were Greek-speaking and generally lesser known than contemporary Roman heretics Tatian, Valentinus, and Marcion. These heretics seem to have been criticized only by Rhodo, Pius, (possibly) Justin Martyr, and Hippolytus (q.v.) from the Roman Church. (It is significant that the Christian Apologists [q.v.] from this period, other than the aforementioned, were not Roman.) The earliest Roman bishops who actively appear on the historical record are Clement (ca. 88–97), who wrote an epistle to the Corinthians, which was included in some early lists of the canon of Scripture, Pius I (ca. 141–154), brother of the author of The Shepherd of Hermas and the bishop under whom Marcion was excommunicated, and Anicetus (ca. 155–166), who discussed the quartodeciman question with Polycarp of Smyrna (q.v.). Victor I (ca. 189) was the first Latin-speaking pope.

Controversies in the West during the 3rd c. were marked by a practical rigorism in dealing with situations stemming from persecution, and theologically by modalism. Hippolytus, who appears as a consistent and credible theologian of the Trinity (qq.v.), fought modalism among the leadership of the Roman Church for decades. Schisms (q.v.) due to rigorism occurred later concerning the presbyter Novatian (q.v.), who as a disappointed candidate for the see led a group into schism over reconciliation of those who made concessions to paganism during persecution, and over the treatment of the lapsed by Cyprian of Carthage (q.v.). In the first instance, the Roman Church was vindicated in its treatment of Novatian, while in the second case Pope Stephen I was bested by Cyprian. The participation of the Roman Church in the theological issues from the 4th c. to the 8th c. may be tracked in the entries on the Ecumenical Councils and Christology. Although one should be mindful of the fall of the Western Empire in 476 after three “barbarian” (here, Arian Christian) invasions of Italy, the record of “orthodoxy” of the Roman Church during the conciliar period was exemplary. The great suffering due to successive persecutions of the 2nd-3rd c., along with administrative growth and responsible pastoring, was not only a mark of honor, but refined the witness of the Church in the truth of the faith.

The quarrel between the Churches of East and West was parallel to the widening rift between what had been two halves of the one Empire. “Elder Rome” struck a new path with Charlemagne (q.v.) and the Gregorian Reforms while “New Rome” continued the trajectory begun with Constantine (q.v.). In those two paths lay the differences that would eventually divide Europe as well as the Church. Rome is part of the common inheritance of both, albeit differently appropriated, just as are Athens (philosophy) and Jerusalem (the revelation).