Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 564
The Liber Pontificalis, written in Rome, AD 530/546 gives an account of the contested election of Pope Symmachus in AD 498 and the factional fights that continued until AD 506.
53. Symmachus. [...]
Hic sub intentione ordinatus est uno die cum Laurentio, Symmachus in basilica Constantiniana, Laurentius in basilica beatae Mariae. Ex qua causa separatus est clerus et divisus est et senatus, alii cum Symmachum alii vero cum Laurentium. […] Post annos vero IIII, zelo ducti aliqui ex clero er alii ex senatu, maxime Festus et Probinus, incriminaverunt Symmachum. […] Tunc ab omnibus episcopis et presbiteris et diaconibus et omni clero vel plebe reintegratur sedis apostolicae beatus Symmachus cum gloria apud beatum Petrum sedere praesul. Eodem tempore Festus caput senati excons. et Probinus excons. coeperunt intra urbem Romam pugnare cum aliis senatoribus et maxime cum Fausto excons. Et caedes et homicidia in clero ex invidia. […] Etiam et multos sacerdotes occidit, inter quos et Dignissimum et Gordianum, presbiteros a vincula sancti Petri apostoli et sanctos Iohannem et Paulum, quos fustibus et gladio interfecerunt; nam multos christianos, ut nulli esset securitas die vel nocte de clero in civitate ambulare.
(ed. Duchesne 1886: 260-261).
53. Symmachus. [...]
He was ordained on the same day in rivalry with Lawrence; Symmachus in the Constantinian basilica, and Lawrence in the basilica of the Blessed Mary. Because of it the clergy were separated and the senate was divided: some were with Symmachus, and some with Lawrence. […] After four years, some members of the clergy and some others of the senate, especially Festus and Probinus, driven by envy, accused Symmachus. […] So Symmachus was reintegrated to the Apostolic See by all the bishops and presbyters and deacons and all the clergy, and the people, and he sat as the prelate at St Peter's with glory. At that time exconsul Festus, the head of the senate, and Probinus, exconsul, started to fight inside the city of Rome with other senators, and especially with exconsul Faustus. The jealousy caused many deaths and homicides among the clergy. […] And he [Festus] killed even many priests, among them Dignissimus and Gordianus, the presbyters of Saint Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli) and of St John and Peter, who were killed with cudgels and sword; similarly many Christians, so it was not safe for the clergy to walk in the city either by day, or by night.
(trans. S. Adamiak)


The major part of this information is, understandably, omitted in the first, anti-Symmachian, edition of the Liber Pontificalis. The council mentioned in the passage is the Roman council of AD 502, which ineffectively tried to pacify the situation in the city.

Place of event:

  • Rome
  • Rome

About the source:

Title: Liber Pontificalis, The Book of Pontiffs, Gesta Pontificum Romanorum
Origin: Rome (Rome)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Liber Pontificalis is a major source for the history of the papacy in the first millenium. It is a collection of the lives of popes, starting from St Peter and kept going through to 870. Liber Pontificalis is prefaced by two apocryphical letters of Pope Damasus and Jerome, but it cannot be dated to that period. Although Mommsen tended to put the date of the actual compilation as late as the seventh century, nowadays Duchesne`s view is generally accepted that there were two editions made in the 530s-540s. The first, presumably completed soon after 530, has not survived as such, though we have two epitomes made from it (known as “Felician” and “Cononian” from the names of the popes at which they end). Duchesne tried to reconstruct it in his edition, but we follow the second edition presented by him, which was completed by the siege of Rome in 546. The work was then left aside for some time, and taken up again probably under Honorius (625-638) or shortly afterwards; hence the additions were written shortly after each pontiff`s death.
Liber starts to provide some more reliable information with the times of Pope Leo I (440-461), and becomes very well informed with the end of the fifth century. The lives of earlier popes cannot be considered as a valid source of information about their lifetime. However, those notices are a precious source for the sixth century: we learn what was considered an old tradition at the time, and how the past of the Roman church was being seen and constructed then. It is especially important when we deal with the liturgy.
 L. Duchesne ed., Le `Liber Pontificalis`, vol. 1., Paris 1886.
 T. Mommsen ed., Liber Pontificalis pars prior, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Gesta Pontificum Romanorum 1, Berlin 1898.
 The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis). The ancient biographies of the first ninety Roman bishops to AD 715, revised edition, translated with an introduction by R. Davis, Liverpool 2000.


Functions within the Church - Parish presbyter
Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Described by a title - Sacerdos/ἱερεύς
Ecclesiastical administration - Election of Church authorities
    Relation with - Noble
    Conflict - Violence
    Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER564,