Bryn Mawr Classical Review

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Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.12.28

Hans Hauben, Studies on the Melitian Schism in Egypt (AD 306-335). Edited by Peter van Nuffelen. Variorum collected studies series, CS1001.   Farnham; Burlington, VT:  Ashgate Variorum, 2012.  Pp. 294.  ISBN 9781409439424.  $154.95.  

Reviewed by Malcolm Choat, Macquarie University (

Table of Contents

This welcome Variorum volume collects Hans Hauben's writings on the Melitian schism. Hauben is the most prolific analyst of this late antique Egyptian, intra-Christian dispute in recent decades. Fourteen articles on the subject, composed over a period of twenty-five years, are collected. Appended to these are three articles on further topics related to Egyptian Christianity.

The initiative for this collection is attributed to Hauben's former student, Peter Van Nuffelen, to whom thanks are due not only for supporting this very useful volume, but also for the volume's introduction.His introduction provides a very useful historical overview of the schism, an account of the sources for it, and an appraisal of the status quaestionis. A fulsome bibliography is appended. Hauben's contributions are then reproduced, in the chronological order of their publication. The articles in the volume can be classified into three main themes, which I treat here in turn. Essential overarching context for these more focused studies is provided by the synthetic appraisal and overview of the schism contained in 'The Melitian "Church of the Martyrs": Christian Dissenters in Ancient Egypt' (VII).

The first set of papers focuses on the famous Melitian monastic papyrus archive published as P.Lond. VI 1913–1922 (Jews and Christians in Egypt: The Jewish Troubles in Alexandria and the Athanasian Controversies, ed. H.I. Bell and W.E. Crum, London, 1924), and in particular a long letter sent from Alexandria in the mid-330s, P.Lond. VI 1914. An examination of this text was the occasion of Hauben's first published contribution to the debate, 'On the Melitians in P. London VI (P. Jews) 1914: The problem of papas Heraiscus' (I),1 a paper presented at the Sixteenth International Congress of Papyrology in New York in 1980. In this, Hauben focuses on the long papyrus letter P.Lond. VI 1914, sent by the Melitian Callistus from Alexandria, probably in mid 335. Here he set out the interpretation of Heraiscus as a Melitian 'anti-pope', an interpretation he maintained until new evidence forced him to abandon it some two decades later in the article reproduced here as XIII ('Heraiscus as Melitian bishop of Heracleopolis Magna and the Alexandrian see', 2004). As Peter van Minnen realised in a 2001 study, the Bishop Heraiscus mentioned as a Heracleoplite landowner in P.Harraur 48 must be the Melitian Bishop mentioned in P.Lond. V 1914, who is thus no sort of Melitian 'Anti-pope' of Alexandria, as Hauben (among many) had argued. This new information allowed Hauben not only to argue that the stories retailed by Epiphanius of Salamis of the short-lived Bishops Theonas and Achillas between the episcopates of Alexander and Athanasius are fictional, but to reconsider the entire Melitian attitude to the episcopal see of Alexandria. In his revised understanding of the ecclesiology of the schism, neither Melitius nor his successor John Arkhaph attempted to place themselves or another Melitian on the throne of St Mark as a rival to Alexander and Athanasius.

Between the dates of these two contributions lie two more approaches to this letter. In 'Le Papyrus London VI (P. Jews) 1914 dans son contexte historique (mai 335)' (X, originally published in 2001), Hauben reacted to attempts to redate the letter and reassess the conduct of Athanasius depicted in it with a convincing restatement of the case for situating the letter in 335, and a typically balanced and judicious assessment of the role in informing modern impressions of Athanasius' 'character' played by the letter, the true importance of which, as he notes in closing, lies elsewhere. 'Catholiques et Melitiens a Alexandrie a la veille du Synode de Tyr (335)' (XII) set the letter in further historical context by highlighting modes of Melitian resistance and community cohesion in Alexandria in the years leading up to its writing.

The archive of which P. Lond. VI 1914 is part consists of the papers of a certain Apa Paieous, a Melitian monastic leader who dwelt in the monastery of Hathor in the Upper Cynopolite nome in the 330s. Inter alia in the book Hauben comments on Melitian monasticism, and provides a sustained treatment in 'Aurelios Pageus, alias Apa Paieous, et le monastere melitien d'Hathor' (XI), in which Hauben examines the monastery of Hathor and the archive of Paieous in light of the publication of a further dossier proceeding from the monastery (Das Archiv des Nepheros und verwandte Texte, ed. B. Kramer, J.C. Shelton and G.M. Browne, Mainz 1987). Hauben closely analyses P.Lond. VI 1913, reaffirming (correctly in the present reviewer's opinion) the long known (but recently disputed) opinion that the 'Aurelios Pageus' who is mentioned in this text is none other that the Paieous to whom the letters which comprise the remainder of the archive are addressed: 'Il n'y a plus aucune raison de persévérer dans l'erreur'. He also engages here with the question of the monastery's location (which is specified as being in the neighbouring Heracleopolite nome in a document, P.Neph. 48, published with the archive of Nepheros but not strictly part of it), arguing that nothing in the archive of Nepheros proper anchors Hathor in the Heracleopolite nome: yet it remains the case that P.Neph. 48, even if not dated to 323 as argued by Klaas Worp (ZPE 78 [1989] 135), shows that Hathor was considered to be in the Heracleopolite at some stage in the fourth century. Hauben seems uncomfortable with the early dating of P.Neph. 48 because it would involve the monastery of Hathor progressing from a 'laura' style settlement (which the buying of a well-appointed building [a cell?] on the 'mountain of Hathor' by a monk seems to suggest) to a 'more or less Pachomian system' in the archive of Paieous, to the somewhat 'intermediary' (i.e., not quite anchoretic or coenobitic) monastic system which the editors of the Nepheros archive saw in those texts. However, nowhere in any of the Melitian archives is the exact physical nature of the settlement set out coherently, and it remains entirely possible that it was comprised, like a great number of late-antique monastic settlements in Egypt, of a central monastery and a group of related cells nearby on the mountain (one could cite any number of examples: the community at Naqlun in the Fayum and the 'White Monastery' of Shenoute near modern Sohag may suffice). If this were the case, there would be little contradiction in a free-hold cell on the mountain being attested before the organizational hierarchy attested in P.Lond VI 1913. However, as Hauben rightly notes that the date proposed for P.Neph. 48 is not certain, it is perhaps best to follow his advice not to build any theories upon it. Hauben closes with a forceful argument, with which it is difficult not to agree, that not only is Pageus / Paieous the same person, but that only one monastery, that of Hathor, is at issue in P.Lond. VI 1913. Rather than being part of a 'daughter monastery' near the Heracleoplite village of Hipponon Pageus / Paieous, was attached to the monastery of Hathor before and after the summons to the synod which occasioned the 'deed of appointment' contained in P.Lond. VI 1913.

The second major theme addressed in the volume is the attempted settlement of the Melitian dispute at the council of Nicaea in in 325 C.E. and in following years. Two chapters treat the texts arising from the council which dealt with the Melitians. 'La réordination du clergé mélitien imposée par le Concile de Nicée' (II) discusses the equivocal and ambiguous requirement of the Council of Nicaea that the Bishops ordained by Melitius should be 'confirmed by the imposition of more mystic hands', an ambiguity which in Hauben's opinion contributed to the failure of this attempt at reconciliation. 'Das Konzil von Nicaca (325) zur Wiederaufnahme der Melitianer: Versuch einer Text- und Strukturanalyse' (IX) presents further close analysis of the section of the synodical letter of the Council of Nicaea which dealt with the readmission of the Melitians into the Church.

A related strand of research is represented in a set of articles arising from close analysis of the catalogue of Melitian Bishops presented (as required by the council) by Melitius to the then Bishop of Alexandria Alexander (transmitted by Athanasius in Apol.c.Ar. 71.6). In 'Le catalogue mélitien réexaminé' (IV) Hauben concludes that the catalogue does not permit the reading of a 'nationalist' character into the early stages of the schism. The description in the catalogue of John Arkhaph, who led the schismatic Church after Melitius death, occasions two further contirbutions. 'Jean Arkhaph, évêque de Memphis, dans le catalogue mélitien' (V) looks in more detail at a particular figure in the Melitian catalogue, John Arkhaph, 'who was ordered by the Emperor to be with the Archbishop' in the wording of the catalogue (words which Hauben argues were added by Athanasius himself), and the implications of his imperial recognition as the designated spokesperson for the schism before the (orthodox) archbishop of Alexandria. This is revisited in 'John Arkhaph and "the Bishop" (Athan., Apol. sec. 71.6): a reassessment' (VIII), based on the observations of Annick Martin. Hauben accepts Martin's argument that the reading ἀρχιεπισκόπου, the significance of which Hauben analysed at length on the earlier article, is a medieval 'correction' of ἐπισκόπου, the reading (found in a thirteenth-century codex) which should be preferred, and makes some adjustments to his arguments (including acknowledging that the gloss describing John's role might have originated with Melitius himself). However, he maintains that 'the Bishop' in question was Alexander, not Athanasius himself.

A final theme is provided by the origins of the Melitian schism. Hauben examines this in 'La première année du schisme mélitien (305/ 306)' (III), setting out the sources for the genesis of the schism and providing a timeline of events in these two years. In 'Épiphane de Salamine sur le schisme mélitien' (XIV) he focuses on the valuable information on the schism (notwithstanding the fictional Bishops referred to above) preserved in Epiphanius's Panarion, surveying the contents and sources of Epiphanius's discussion of the Melitians, with a detailed assessment of the traditions which only the heresiarch transmits.

Along with these studies, the volume contains a review by Hauben of Alberto Camplani's important 1989 study Le lettere festali di Atanasio di Alessandria (VI), and three 'related studies' (XV 'The Alexandrian patriarch as pharaoh: from biblical metaphor to scholarly topos'; XVI 'On the invocation of the `Holy and Consubstantial Trinity' in Byzantine oath and dating formulas', and XVII 'Christ versus Apollo in early Byzantine Kourion? With a note on the so-called Panayia Aphroditissa in Paphos').

The treatments collected in this volume are essential reading for all those who deal with the Melitian schism, and late antique Egyptian Christianity in general, and their assembly into this one convenient and highly useful volume is most welcome.


1.   Roman numerals refer to the numbers assigned to the chapters in standard Variorum style.

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