Where do I find a list of the Melkite patriarchs of Alexandria?

Recently something or other drew my attention to a mysterious saint named “John the Merciful”.  A google search took me to a dreadful Wikipedia article – since modified – which merely repeated anecdotes from his Life, itself online elsewhere.  He was described as “John V” and patriarch of Alexandria.

With some effort, I discovered that he was in fact the Melkite patriarch – not the Coptic patriarch – at the time of the Sassanid Persian occupation of Egypt under Heraclius.  He was the state appointed patriarch in a hostile land, and he sensibly legged it straight out of Dodge when the Persians arrived, along with Nicetas the governor.  He’s a saint in the Greek orthodox world, although curiously he may also be a Coptic saint – the online material is confusing.  There is an account of him in Butler’s The Arab Conquest of Egypt, although this is very old.

This lead me to wonder where I could find a reliable, scholarly list of bishops of Alexandria.  It isn’t easy to answer that question, whichever episcopal see you are interested in.  You can find such things online, but never referenced, and you never know quite what you’re looking at or how reliable it might be.

After some googling around, for quite some time, I did find some sort of answer.  There is a list in Walter Eder, Chronologies of the Ancient World: Names, Dates, Dynasties, Leiden (2007), which is supplement 1 for Der Neue Pauly.  Section XIII, p.315-332, gives lists of bishops and patriarchs, for Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, together with a “synoptic chart”, a table of dates and bishops showing who was presiding where at what time.  Each section has a brief bibliography.  The Melkite patriarchs of Alexandria are in there.  The series ends with the Muslim conquest, when the Melkite patriarch, a state official, sensibly disappeared off to Constantinople.  A figurehead “Greek Orthodox Patriarch” was re-established about a century later, to serve the needs of visitors, with the consent of the Muslim rulers, and this post still exists today.

The same question could reasonably be asked of other sees.  Name any ancient see.  Now consider: just where would I find a reliable list of bishops?  Ideally with primary source references?  Surely this must exist?


11 thoughts on “Where do I find a list of the Melkite patriarchs of Alexandria?

  1. One can find a very good annotated translation of the Life of John the Almsgiver (as he is also known) in Norman Baynes & Elizabeth Dawes, Three Byzantine Saints (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1977 with later reprintings). There it is combined with the Life of Daniel the Stylite and The Life of Theodore of Sykeon (which is abridged).

  2. I share your frustration! Your best bet would be the list of Melkite patriarchs in DHGE, in the article ‘Alexandrie’. I have a more detailed list which I would be happy to let you have if you corresponded with me directly.

  3. A critical edition of Leontius’ Life of John the Almsgiver was published in Buenos Aires in 2011; apparently it is a significant improvement on Festugière’s 1974 edition. It includes a Spanish translation and an extensive introduction on the history and versions of the text, narrative technique, language, style, John as a historial figure, themes of the Vita, theological context, etc. The research group in charge has done a lot of work on Leontius over the last decade or so. It is available at the IA:

  4. @David: the DHGE would be the Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, I take it? A lot of volumes online here, I see.


    Vol. 2 is here https://archive.org/details/dictionnairedhis0002unse, Alexandrie on p.289, section xvi of which (p.366) gives a list. Which duly identifies John the Almoner/Merciful as … John III! Because there are two Coptic Patriarchs named John after John I Talaia. Still, a good reference! Thank you.

    Thank you for the kind offer of your own very comprehensive list! Here I’m looking at what is published.

    @Diego: Thank you very much indeed for information about that Spanish language edition of Leontius, and the link! That’s wonderful to have!

    @Paul: That website is new to me, but thank you!

  5. A lot of Wikipedia articles about individual Catholic dioceses have a big old list of bishops in them. Sometimes you have to hop around articles as dioceses changed name, but it is actually pretty impressive.

  6. Roger, the Melkite patriarchs if Alexandria are the same as the Greek Orthodox patriarchs of Alexandria and you can find a list of them in Wikipedia under List of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchs of Alexandria.

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