« Philippus of Tralles Philippus, the Arabian Philippus, bp. of Heraclea »

Philippus, the Arabian

Philippus (5), "the Arabian," emperor, a native of Bostra in Trachonitis and a man of low birth. Having been made pretorian prefect he supplanted the younger Gordian in the affections of the soldiers, and caused him to be deposed and put to death in Mar. 244. After making peace with Sapor the Persian king, he proceeded to Rome. In 248 the games to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the foundation of Rome were celebrated with great splendour. In the summer of 249 Philip was defeated by Decius near Verona and slain. The authorities for his reign are most meagre and conflicting. The only thing that makes it important is the report that he was the first Christian emperor. The chief foundation for this is the narrative which Eusebius (H. E. vi. 34) gives without vouching for its truth, namely, that Philip being a Christian wished at Easter to join in the prayers with the congregation, but that on account of the many crimes be had committed the bishop of the place refused to admit him until he had confessed and taken his place among the penitents, and that he willingly obeyed. The name of the bishop is supplied by Leontius, bp. of Antioch c. 348 (quoted in Chron. Pasch. 270, in Migne, Patr. Gk. xcii. 668), who says it was St. Babylas of Antioch. We are also told that Origen wrote to Philip and the empress (Eus. H. E. vi. 36), but the letters are not preserved, nor do we know their contents. St. Jerome also (Chronicon and de Vir. Ill. 54) calls Philip the first of all Christian emperors, in which he is followed by Orosius; and Dionysius of Alexandria (Eus. H. E. vii. 10) speaks of emperors before Valerian who were reputed to be Christians, but does not mention names. Against this doubtful testimony must be set the following: (1) Constantine is called by 841Eusebius (Vit. Cons. i. 3) the first Christian emperor. (2) No event, except his alleged penitence at Antioch, is recorded of Philip that implies he was a Christian. (3) He celebrated the millennial games with heathen rites. (4) He deified his predecessor, and was himself deified after death. (5) No heathen writer mentions that he was a Christian. (6) A year before Decius issued his edict against the Christians, and therefore while Philip was still reigning, a violent persecution had broken out at Alexandria (Eus. H. E. vi. 41), which would not have been allowed to go on had the emperor really been a Christian. It seems, therefore, safer to conclude with Clinton (Fasti Rom. ii. 51) that Philip was not a Christian. Is there, then, any foundation for the story of Philip and St Babylas? Philip may very possibly have been at Antioch at Easter, a.d. 244, on his return to Rome after Gordian's death, and perhaps feeling remorse for the way he had treated Gordian and believing that Babylas was able to purify him from his guilt, may have made some application to him, and this may be the origin of the story; but it seems impossible to say with any certainty what parts of it, if any, are genuine and what fictitious. Philip was the first emperor who tried to check the grosser forms of vice at Rome (Lampridius, V. Heliogabali, 31; V. Severi, 23), though his efforts were unsuccessful (Victor, de Caesaribus, c. 28). Zosimus, i. 18–22; Vita Gordiani Tertii, cc. 28–33; Tillem. Mém. eccl. iii. 262; Gibbon, cc. 7, 10, 16.


« Philippus of Tralles Philippus, the Arabian Philippus, bp. of Heraclea »
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