Epiphanius, archdeacon and secretary of Cyril of Alexandria, is known to us from a single writing: a letter sent to Maximian, the new bishop of Constantinople after Nestorius’s departure, in the period immediately following the Council of Ephesus. The brief text, furnished with a unique appendix CPG III, 5450 and 5396; ACO I,4, 222-225, is extremely interesting for a knowledge of the tangled background to the then extremely intense theological debate and the accompanying diplomatic intrigue. In fact in it Epiphanius says that Bishop Cyril, so worried over the negative direction of events as to fall sick, was disappointed over the little zeal shown for his cause by his colleague at Constantinople. What is needed, the author firmly requests, is that every effort be made at court to gain the emperor’s favor. The Alexandrian church had already taken steps along these lines, sending letters to the most influential dignitaries, to the Augusta Pulcheria and to the ladies Marcella and Droseria, and sending these same people gifts eulogiae, benedictiones so conspicuous as to have bled the coffers to the point of having to take out loans, both then and at a later date. But that was not enough. Maximian in his turn had to intervene at court, esp. with Pulcheria, maintain contacts with the Alexandrian clergy and act in concert with Cyril: only in this way was the whole question brought to a happy conclusion. To convince his correspondent, attached to the note was a detailed list of the gifts given and their recipients, probably to give Maximian another nudge and, especially, a useful suggestion.

This text has reached us through an indirect tradition. The letter and the list of gifts were in fact included in the Synodicon adversus tragoediam Irenaei, a dossier composed in the 6th c. by a defender of the Three Chapters, probably an African, who had translated from Greek into Latin a series of texts taken mostly from a lost apology of Nestorius, entitled Tragedy and written by the count Irenaeus, friend of Theodoret and Nestorius. The whole was thus handed down by an opponent of Cyril. This is not surprising, considering that Cyril himself seems to have felt obliged to respond to the accusations that came against him because of the facts exposed in Epiphanius’s letter, at least if a homily is to be attributed to him in which, with a typical trick of retorsio, Cyril accuses Nestorius himself of having emptied the coffers to incite the court against him PG 77, 1029-1040; cf. CPG III, 5248.


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