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Anastasius I, Emperor of the East

V/VI Centuries
Anastasius was a reform-minded senior senator and financial expert from Dyrracchium (now Durres, Albania) whom the Empress Adriana, widow of Emperor Zeno, selected as her husband in 491 despite his advanced age (he was 61). Theology had long been one of Anastasius's interests, and as emperor he used his power to advance his opinions. He was a strong supporter of the Henoticon, and tried to reconcile Chalcedonian and anti-Chalcedonian groups into a state church which both sides rejected as heretical. In 496 he deposed the (Chalcedonian) Patriarch Euphemius of Constantinople for opposing the compromise stance, and in 511 deposed Patriarch Macedonius for the same reason. The Chalcedonian Pope of Rome St. Gelasius I wrote a famous epistle to Anastasius criticising the emperor's amateurish dabbling in theology and articulating a doctrine of division of powers between Church and State (with the Church's "burden" the more serious of the two) which would have enormous consequences in later Western history; Anastasius sent a furious reply, but his influence in the West was minimal. In 512, the Miaphysite version of the Trisagion prayer (which refers all three "Holies" to the Son alone) became a flash-point issue for religious tensions, and Chalcedonian rebels nearly overthrew the government. In spite of all this, the Miaphysites did not see Anastasius as one of their own, and the emperor's policies merely contributed to the ever-deepening rift. Anastasius died in 518, the same year that the Miaphysite Council of Tyre solidified the doctrinal position of the Syrian Jacobites. He was 88 years old.

--- Norman Hugh Redington

Under construction --- far from complete! Read with caution.


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