Victor I, Pope, St.
VICTOR I, POPE, ST.
Pontificate: 186 or 189 to 197 or 201. Most sources agree that Victor reigned ten years, although the liberian catalogue assigns nine years. Eusebius begins his reign in 189. Under Victor, an African, the Latin element in Rome grew at the expense of the Greco-Oriental. In the easter controversy Victor sought to impose the Roman tradition of observance of the feast on a Sunday over the Oriental quartodeciman observance on 14 Niŝān. Earlier, Pope Anicetus and polycarp had discussed the differences without result. Upon Victor's initiative synods met throughout the Christian world, and the bishops all agreed with the Roman tradition, except those in Asia led by Polycrates of Ephesus. Victor threatened excommunication, but his fellow bishops, especially St. irenaeus, pointed out that the Quartodeciman tradition was an ancient one observed by illustrious churches, and that the dispute was not about a matter of essential importance. Victor's response to this is not known.
The Victor-Polycrates controversy provides the first evidence of a move by the Roman church to influence the affairs of foreign patriarchs. Victor's insistence on the primacy of Rome would shape much later papal history. That the Asians could ignore him with impunity and that Irenaeus could rebuke him, prove that his assertion of universal authority was not widely accepted outside Rome. Jerome (Vir. ill. 34) notes that Victor composed a work on the controversy, but his suggestion that Victor was the first ecclesiastical author to write in Latin is to be doubted.
Victor did excommunicate the Adoptionist Theodotus of Byzantium. Victor is the first bishop of Rome known to have dealt with the imperial household. He drew up a list of names of Christians suffering in the mines of Sardinia who were freed through the good offices of Marcia, the Christian concubine of Commodus. Victor is the last bishop reported by the Liber pontificalis to have been buried near Peter in the Vatican, but modern excavations do not confirm the report.
Feast: July 28.
Bibliography: eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, 5:22–24, 28. É. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., (Paris 1903–50) 15:2862–63. h. jedin, Handbuch der Kirchengeschichte (Freiburg 1962–) 1:411. e. ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (New York 1997), 2.1159. j. n. d. kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986). ch. pietri, "Les origines de la mission lyonnaise: remarques critiques" Christiana Respublica: Eléments d'une enquête sur le christianisme antique (Rome 1997) 1165–85.
[e. g. weltin]