« SiIvanus, bishop of Calahorra Silverius, bishop of Rome Silvester, bishop of Rome »

Silverius, bishop of Rome

Silverius, bp. of Rome during the reign of Justinian I. Agapetus having died at Constantinople when about to return to Italy (on April 22, according to Anastasius) in 536, Liberates tells us (Breviar.) that on the news of his death reaching Rome, Silverius, a subdeacon and son of pope Hormisdas, was elected and ordained, doubtless in the same year. According to Anastasius (Lib. Pontif. in Vit. Silverii) the election of Silverius was forced upon the Romans by the Gothic king Theodatus, who then held the city, the presbyters assenting for the sake of unity. Silverius did not long enjoy his dignity. Belisarius, having got possession of Naples, entered Rome in the name of Justinian on Dec. 10, 536. Vitiges, the successor of Theodatus, commenced a siege of Rome, now in the possession of Belisarius, in Mar. 537. Belisarius, after entering Rome, is said in the Hist. Miscell (lib. 16 in Muratori, t. i. pp. 106, 107) to have been reproved and subjected to penance by Silverius for cruel treatment of the Neapolitans; whereas the contemporary historian Procopius (Bell. Goth. lib. i.) commends the peculiar humanity of Belisarius after the capture of Naples.

Vigilius, one of the deacons of Agapetus at Constantinople, had, on that pope's death there, been sent for by the empress Theodora and promised the popedom through the agency of Belisarius on condition of his disallowing, after his elevation, the council of Chalcedon, and supporting the Monophysites whom she favoured. Vigilius, on his arrival in Italy, found Belisarius at Naples, to whom he communicated the commands of Theodora (Liberatus, Breviar.). Belisarius having gained possession of Rome, Vigilius followed him there and measures were taken to carry out the wishes of the empress. Accusations were laid against Silverius of having been in communication with the Goths who were besieging 903Rome, and having written to Vitiges offering to betray the city. Summoned before Belisarius, with whom was his wife Antonina, who was the spokeswoman and real agent in these proceedings, he was charged with the crime, and banished to Patara and then to Greece. The emperor, on hearing the facts, asserted himself, ordering his recall to Rome and investigation to be made. But the empress succeeded somehow in keeping her husband quiet. For, on the arrival of Silverius at Rome (as we are informed by Liberatus), Vigilius represented to Belisarius that he could not do what was required of him unless the deposed pope were delivered into his hands. He was thereupon given up to two dependants of Vigilius, under whose custody he was sent to Palmaria in the Tyrrhene sea (or Pontia, according to Martyrol. Rom. and Anastasius), where he died from famine, according to Liberatus and Anastasius. Procopius (Hist. Arcan.) speaks of one Eugenius, a servant of Antonina, as having been her instrument in bringing about his death, the expression used seeming to imply a death by violence. Allemann (note on Hist. Arcan.) argues that the account of Procopius, who was living at Rome at the time and likely to know the facts, is preferable; and attributes the implication of Vigilius to prejudice on the part of Liberatus.

Silverius died June 20 (xii. Kal. Jul. al. Jun. Anastas.), most probably A.D. 538, his deposition certainly occurring in 537.


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