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Pierius
3rd century
Ancient Christian Church
Alexandria/Egypt


In the concluding section of Book VII, within the imperial administrations of Probus (276-282), Carus (282-283), and Diocletian (284-305), and before the onslaught of renewed persecutions which Eusebius associated with the events of his own life time, he identified a variety of those who formed various "successions," whether of church or heresy. For Alexandria, within the "succession" of those who formed the headship of the catechetical School after the departure of Origen (c. 185-254; who headed the School from 203 to 231) that included Heraclas, Dionysius, Theognostus, one comes to Pierius, about whom Eusebius says nothing more than he was "one of the presbyters at Alexandria," who was "noted for his life of extreme poverty and for his learning in philosophy," so that "he was exceedingly well practised in the deeper study of divine things and in expositions thereof, as well as in his public discourses in church" (H.E. VII.32.26-27; Oulton 1927: 250). But it is not considered likely that Pierius was actually one who headed the School, though undoubtedly he played some instructional role within (Lawlor 1928: 263, 264, 332).

Jerome, in his Lives of Illustrious Men, enriches and makes somewhat more specific that Pierius flourished "in the reign of Carus and Diocletian, at the time when Theonas ruled as bishop <282-300> in the same church", and taught with "such elegance of language" that he was called "Origen Junior" [ J 76; NPNF 2 III (1892) 377]. Jerome also affirms, presumably on the basis of his reading of Eusebius, the same distinguishing characteristics of the life of Pierius, but also, on the basis of his own research and awareness of the extant literature, that Pierius had "published so many treatises on all sorts of subjects," though he only names the "long treatise <tractatus> of his On the Prophet Hosea which from internal evidence appears to have been delivered on the vigil of Passover" [ J 76; NPNF 2 III (1892) 378]. Jerome himself wrote a commentary on this prophetic book, so that it has been suggested that the tractatus by Pierius was more nearly a homily or sermon appropriate for the Easter vigil (Q2.1.8 p. 111). Some excerpts of this same homily are given by Philip of Side (early fifth century; cf. Lawlor 1928: 263). Others who read or knew of his homilies included Sylvia, a noble Roman lady on pilgrimage to Palestine [Palladius of Helenopolis (c. 365-425), Historia Lausiaca, cited OEEC 687].

With respect to the ultimate fate of Pierius, as well as reference to some few others of his extensive publications, most is derived from the account given by Photios (c. 810-893), which begins: "Read a work by Pierius the presbyter, who is said to have suffered martyrdom with his brother Isidore, and to have been the teacher of the martyr Pamphilus in theology and head of the catechetical school at Alexandria" (Bibliotheca, chapter 119 apud Q.2.1.8 p. 112). The matter of the martyrdom of Pierius and Isidore is imprecise, since the tradition also knew of Pierius' presence in Rome late in his life after the persecutions (Photios, Bibliotheca chapter 119 apud Q2.1.8 p. 111), but of Pamphilus (c. 240-310) much is known including an exact date, since he was mentor to Eusebius (H.E. VII.32.25 with reference to "a special work concerning him," "treated separately"; cf. Lawlor 1928: 331-332, and Eusebius' The Martyrs of Palestine 11.1-3; Oulton 1927: 379-383).

Clyde Curry Smith



Bibliography (see link to abbreviations table below):

J 76
PG 10; CPG 1.1630; TLG 2963
Q2.1.8; DECL 489 (TBöhm); FOTC 100 108-109; OEEC 687 (CKannengiesser); GEEC 920 (FWNorris)


Supplementary Bibliography:
Lawlor 1928 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 II: Introduction, Notes, and Index, by Hugh Jackson Lawlor.
NPNF 2 III 1892 Jerome, De viris inlustribus, translated by Ernest Cushing Richardson, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Buffalo and New York: Christian Literature. Series 2, Volume III, pp. 359-384.
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 2001, was researched and written by Dr. Clyde Curry Smith, Professor Emeritus of Ancient History and Religion, University of Wisconsin, River Falls.


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