Theophilus of Alexandria

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Theophilus and the Serapeum
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Theophilus and the Serapeum

Theophilus of Alexandria, (died 412) was the Nicene patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt (385 - 412).

He was patriarch at a time of conflict between the newly dominant Christians and the pagan establishment in Alexandria, each supported by a segment of the Alexandrian populace. In 391, Theophilus (according to Rufinus and Sozomen) discovered a hidden pagan temple. He and his followers displayed the pagan artifacts to the public which offended the pagans enough to provoke an attack on the Christians. The Christian faction counter-attacked, forcing the pagans to retreat to the Serapeum. A letter was sent by the emperor that Theophilus should grant the offending pagans pardon, but destroy the temple.

The destruction of the Serapeum was seen by many ancient and modern authors as representative of the triumph of Christianity over other religions; when Christians lynched Hypatia, they acclaimed his successor Cyril as "the new Theophilus, for he had destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city" (Chronicle of John of Nikiu).

Theophilus turned on the followers of Origen after having supported them for a time. He was apparently also an opponent of the Nestorians. He was accompanied by his nephew Cyril to Constantinople in 403 and was present at the "Synod of the Oak" that deposed John Chrysostom.

Surviving works

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Preceded by:
Timothy I
Patriarch of Alexandria
385–412
Succeeded by:
Cyril I

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