ACHILLAS, saint and eighteenth patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (311-312) (feast day: 19 Ba’unah). Achillas succeeded PETER I, who lost his life toward the end of the persecutions begun by DIOCLETIAN. He was a contemporary of emperors Galerius (305- 310) and Licinius (308-324). During the term of Licinius, the church had a respite from persecutions after the abdication of Diocletian. Previously ordained a presbyter by THEONAS with Pierius, he was placed at the head of the CATECHETICAL SCHOOL after Pierius either went to Rome or was martyred in Alexandria. Apparently he distinguished himself so much in Greek philosophy and theological science that Athanasius later described him as "the Great" (Historia ecclesiastica 7.32).
Achillas inherited from Peter I the troubles of the church in the Melitian heresy and schism at Lycopolis in Upper Egypt, and the heresy of ARIUS in Alexandria. However, after his accession, a considerable number of supporters of Arius prevailed upon him to lift the sentence of EXCOMMUNICATION and ANATHEMA imposed by his predecessor on the future heresiarch. Thus, Arius was not only forgiven but also granted the priesthood of the Church at Bucalis, the oldest in Alexandria. This appears to be the only major event of Achillas short episcopate, which according to the History of the Patriarchs (Vol. 1, Pt. 2, p. 401) lasted only six months. His early death was ascribed by the faithful to his breach of the command of his predecessor Peter in regard to Arius. He is commemorated in the Copto-Arabic SYNAXARION.
AZIZ S. ATIYA
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