Pope Anterus


Pontificate: Nov. 21, 235 to Jan. 3, 236. The Libe pontificalis says Anterus was a Greek, son of a Romulus, and that he was interested in collecting acts of martyrs. Its report that he was a martyr is untrustworthy. The Liberian catalogue says that he "fell asleep," and he does not appear in lists of martyrs. Little is known of his pontificate. He was the first pope buried in the bishops' crypt of the Cemetery of Callistus; apparently the body of pontianus, his predecessor, was buried there later. His feast does not appear in ancient calendars or Roman books of the liturgy before the ninth century.

Anterus was the son of Romulus, born in Petilia Policastro, Calabria, Italy. He is thought to have been of Greek origin,[6] and his name may indicate that he was a freed slave. He succeeded Pope Pontian, who had been deported from Rome to Sardinia, along with the antipope Hippolytus. He created one bishop, for the city of Fondi.

Some scholars believe Anterus was martyred, because he ordered greater strictness in searching into the acts of the martyrs, exactly collected by the notaries appointed by Pope Clement I. Other scholars doubt this and believe it is more likely that he died in undramatic circumstances during the persecutions of Emperor Maximinus the Thracian.

He was buried in the papal crypt of the Catacomb of Callixtus, on the Appian Way in Rome. The site of his sepulchre was discovered by Giovanni Battista de Rossi in 1854, with some broken remnants of the Greek epitaph engraved on the narrow oblong slab that closed his tomb; only the Greek term for bishop was legible. His ashes had been removed to the Church of Saint Sylvester in the Campus Martius and were discovered on 17 November 1595, when Pope Clement VIII rebuilt that church.

Pope Anterus is remembered in the Catholic Church on 3 January and in the Russian Orthodox Church on 18 August.
Photo By: "Anterus" by Unknown - ("Pope's Photo Gallery"). Licensed un
Pope Pontian was arrested by the soldiers of Emperor Maximinus the Thracian in the early fall of 235. He was sent to his death in the mines of Sardinia along with Hippolytus, the writer and theologian, who had been his nemesis. Shortly before leaving, Pontian chose to keep the Church orderly by abdicating his position as the bishop of Rome on September 28 of that year. As was common, the people and clerics of Rome elected another bishop soon after. Anterus took over the bishopric of Rome on November 21, 235.

Anterus, our nineteenth pope, was born around 170AD in Petilia Policastro, Calabria, by tradition. This is a town on the eastern sea coast of southern Italy, in the modern province of Crotone. That area was settled by Greeks, hence, Anterus was considered to be Greek. The Liber Pontificalis says that his father's name was Romulus, but he may have been a freed slave and Romulus was actually his owner.

The new pope did not last very long. He died on January 3, 236, making his reign only a few weeks. It is difficult to believe that he had any long lasting effect on the Church. However, he did nominate one bishop to the town of Fendi.

An Epistle of Pope Anterus is a long work with some pious passages. But certain mistakes and contradictions, including a date of April, prove it is a forgery and not to be considered his.

Some older sources claim that Anterus was killed because he wanted stricter regulations in the writing of acts of martyrs, which he wished to archive. Others say that he probably died of natural causes. Anterus has the distinction of being the first pope to be buried in the cemetary of Callixtus, having been buried before Pontian's body came back from Sardinia and buried in the same place.

We know with certainty that he was buried there because, in 1854, his burial spot, with a damaged epitaph, was found by Giovanni Battista de Rossi, an archealogist. Only the Greek word for "bishop" was legible. His body had already been transferred to the Church of St Sylvester. The labeled ashes were found in that church in 1595 where Pope Clement VIII was reconstructing the ruined church.