« Marcellina, a sister of St. Ambrose Marcellinus, bp. of Rome Marcellinus, Flavius »

Marcellinus, bp. of Rome

Marcellinus (1), bp. of Rome after Caius from June 30, 296, to Oct. 25 (?), 304, elected after a vacancy of about two months; called Marcellianus by Jerome, Nicephorus, and in the Chronogr. Syntomon (853). The above dates are those of the Liberian Catalogue (354) and appear correct. In other records his chronology is very uncertain, partly, it would 688seem, owing to a confusion between him and his successor Marcellus. He is omitted altogether in the Liberian Depositio Episcoporum and Depositio Martyrum (see Lipsius, Chronol. der röm. Bisch. p. 242). The main question about him is his conduct with regard to the persecution under Diocletian. The Liberian Catalogue says only that it occurred in his time—"quo tempore fuit persecutio." Eusebius (H. E. vii. 32) intimates that he was in some way implicated in it—ὃν καὶ αὐτὸν κατείληφεν ὁ διωγμός. The Felician Catalogue (530) says: "In which time was a great persecution: within 30 days 16,000 persons of both sexes were crowned with martyrdom through divers provinces; in the course of it Marcellinus himself was led to sacrifice, that he might offer incense, which thing he also did; and having after a few days been brought to penitence, he was by the same Diocletian, for the faith of Christ, together with Claudius Quirinus and Antoninus, beheaded and crowned with martyrdom. The holy bodies lay for 26 days in the street by order of Diocletian; when the presbyter Marcellus collected by night the bodies of the saints, and buried them on the Salarian Way in the cemetery of Priscilla in a cell (cubiculum) which is to be seen to the present day, because the penitent [pope] himself had so ordered while he was being dragged to execution, in a crypt near the body of St. Crescentio, vii. Kal. Maii." Most probably the statements of his having offered incense and of the place of his burial are true, but his martyrdom is at least doubtful. The charge of having yielded to the edict of Diocletian, which required all Christians to offer incense to the gods, appears from Augustine to have been alleged afterwards as a known fact by the African Donatists. True, Augustine treats it as probably a calumny, and says it "is by no means proved by any documentary evidence" (de Unico Baptism. c. Petilian. c. 16, § 27). Further, Theodoret (H. E. i. 2) speaks apparently with praise of the conduct of Marcellinus in the persecution: τὸν ἐν τῷ διωγμῷ διαπρέψαντα. On these grounds Bower, in his history of the popes, warmly maintains his innocence. But it is difficult to account for the introduction of the story into the pontifical annals themselves and its perpetuation as a tradition of the Roman church, unless there had been foundation for it. Even Augustine, however anxious to rebut the charge, can only plead the absence of evidence; he does not deny the tradition, or even the possibility of its truth. The expression of Theodoret is too vague to count as evidence. In the story of the martyrdom there is nothing in itself improbable, and it is quite possible that Marcellinus recovered courage and atoned for his temporary weakness. But there is such a significant absence of early evidence of the martyrdom as to leave it not only unproved but improbable. His name does not appear in the Liberian Depositio Martyrum, nor in Jerome's list, and, apart from the legendary complexion of the Felician narrative (including the statement of 16,000 having suffered in 30 days), the addition of the glory of martyrdom to popes in the later pontifical annals is too frequent to weigh against the silence of earlier accounts. Further, the omission of his name also from the Depositio Episcoporum may be due to his unfaithfulness, if that had not really been atoned for by martyrdom. His burial in the cemetery of Priscilla instead of that of Callistus, where his predecessors since Zephyrinus (236) had been interred, may be accepted without hesitation, the Felician Catalogue being apparently trustworthy as to the burial-places of popes, and the place where he lay being spoken of as well known in the writer's day. A reason for the change of place, independent of the alleged wish of the penitent pope himself, is given by De Rossi (Rom. Sotteran. ii. p. 105), viz. that the Christian cemeteries had been seized during the persecution, so that it had become necessary to construct a new one. It appears (ib. i. p. 203; ii. p. 105) that the Christians did not recover their sacred places till Maxentius restored them to pope Miltiades; and this accounts for the fact, that of the two popes between Marcellinus and Miltiades, the first, Marcellus, was also buried in the cemetery of Priscilla, but the second, Eusebius, as well as Miltiades himself, again in that of Callistus (Catal. Felic.); though not in the old papal crypt, a new one having presumably been constructed by Miltiades. In recensions of the pontifical annals later than the Felician the cemetery of Priscilla is said to have been acquired from a matron of that name by Marcellus, the successor of Marcellinus; but in the Felician account Marcellinus himself appears as having already secured a place of burial there. The cemetery itself was, according to De Rossi, one of the oldest in Rome, with extensive workings in it at a deep level, which he supposes to have been made during the persecution, when the old burial-place of the faithful on the Appian Way was no longer available. The Salarian Way, where the cemetery of Priscilla was, lies far from the Appian, being on the opposite side of the city, towards the N.


« Marcellina, a sister of St. Ambrose Marcellinus, bp. of Rome Marcellinus, Flavius »
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