Cyrus of Alexandria

Cyrus of Alexandria (Arabic: المقوقسal-Muqawqis) was a Melchite patriarch of the see of Alexandria in the 7th century, one of the authors of Monothelism[1] and the last Byzantine prefect of Egypt. He died in Alexandria on March 21, 642.[2]

Bishop of PhasisEdit

In 620 he was appointed Bishop of Phasis in Colchis. In 626 the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, in the course of his Persian campaign, consulted him about a plan for bringing the Miaphysites of Egypt back to the Church, and to the support, of the empire. The monoenergist plan, suggested by Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople, consisted of agreeing on the Chalcedonian principle that there were two natures of Christ, while practically nullifying it by saying he had only one energy, hen thelèma kai mia energeia.[3] Cyrus supported this formula after being reassured by Sergius that it was endorsed by Pope Honorius I in Rome[4] and that it was opposed to neither the Fathers nor to Chalcedon and was destined to achieve great result. In return he was raised by Heraclius to the See of Alexandria in 630 in opposition to its Miaphysite Patriarch.

Patriach of AlexandriaEdit

Once a patriarch, Cyrus continued trying to unite Miaphysites and Chalcedonians around monoenergism, now evolving into monotheletism, the idea of one will. In a synod held at Alexandria in June 633, he proposed what is known as the Pact of Union, plèrophoria or "Satisfactio", an agreement in nine articles, the seventh of which is a bold assertion of monothelitism.[3] The Miaphysites (who were also called Theodosians or Severians) welcomed the agreement but remarked that Chalcedon was coming to them, not they to Chalcedon. Thousands of clergy, soldiers and ordinary people converted with Cyrus away from the miaphysite position at this time, but the change did not last.[4]

It was hoped that Pope Honorius I would be won over to the monothelete position. Cyrus attended another synod at Cyprus under Arkadios II in 636 along with 45 other senior clergy,[4] at which he served as moderator and permitted Monothelite opponents to submit their case to the Emperor. When Cyrus received the Emperor's Monothelite response, the Ecthesis, Cyrus signed it in 637. Ultimately the monothelete compromise proved ineffective, as it was condemned at the Lateran Council of 649[4] and soon fell into discredit under the contemptuous name of Byzantine Greek: enôsis hydrobaphès, lit. 'washy union'.

Military prefectEdit

When Caliph Umar the Great's general, 'Amr ibn al-'As known to the Romans as Amru, threatened the Prefecture of Egypt, Cyrus was made prefect and entrusted with the conduct of the war. Certain humiliating stipulations, to which he subscribed for the sake of peace, angered his imperial master so much that he was recalled and harshly accused of connivance with the Rashidun Caliphate; however, he was soon restored to his former authority, owing to the impending siege of Alexandria, but could not avert the fall of the great city in 640. He signed a peace treaty that surrendered Alexandria and Egypt on 8 November 641 before dying in 642.[5]


From Cyrus there are three letters to Sergius and the "Satisfactio", all preserved in the acts of the Roman Synod of the Lateran and of the Sixth Œcumenical Council (Mansi, X, 1004; XI, 560, 562, 964).

The first letter is an acceptation of the Ecthesis; in the second Cyrus describes his perplexity between Pope Leo and Sergius; the conversion of the Theodosians is narrated in the third.

The seventh article of the "Satisfactio" — the others are irrelevant — reads thus: "The one and same Christ, the Son, performs the works proper to God and to man by one theandric operation according to St. Dionysius".

Cyrus' chief opponents, St. Sophronius, died in 638 (Epistola synodica, Mansi, XI, 480), and St. Maximus, died in 662 (Epistola ad Nicandrum; disputatio cum Pyrrho, P.G., XCI, 101, 345), reproached him for falsifying the then much-respected text of Dionysius and substituting for (new). They showed, moreover, the inanity of his claim to the support of the Fathers, and explained how the Divine and human natures of Christ, sometimes styled one, because they belong to the same person and work in perfect harmony, can no more by physically identified than the natures from which they proceed. Historians are not agreed as to how Cyrus came by this. Some think that he was, from the outset, a Monophysite at heart. Others, with more reason, hold that he was led to this belief by Sergius and Heraclius.

Cyrus was posthumously condemned as a heretic in the Lateran Council of 649 (Denzinger, Enchiridion, 217, 219) and in 680 at the Third Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (Denzinger, 238; Mansi, XI, 554).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Abba Cyrus Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt University, 2007. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  2. ^ Bierbrier, Morris (2008). Historical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. Scarecrow Press. p. 56. ISBN 9780810862500.
  3. ^ a b Neil, Bronwen (2010). "Review of Sophronius of Jerusalem and Seventh-Century Heresy. The Synodical Letter and Other Documents". The Catholic Historical Review. 96 (2): 321–322. ISSN 0008-8080. JSTOR 27806548.
  4. ^ a b c d TANNOUS, JACK (2014). "In Search of Monotheletism". Dumbarton Oaks Papers. 68: 29–67. ISSN 0070-7546. JSTOR 24643755.
  5. ^ Bierbrier, Morris L. (2008). Historical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. Scarecrow Press. p. 56. ISBN 9780810862500. Retrieved 27 September 2019.


  • "Cyrus (631–641)". Official web site of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Missing or empty |title= (help)
Preceded by
George I
Greek Patriarch of Alexandria
Succeeded by
Peter IV