St. Anacletus succeeded Linus
to become the second bishop
. Like his predecessor, he occurs in the ancient succession list of Irenaeus
and also in the history of Eusebius
(Iren., Adversus haereses
3.3.2; Historia Ecclesiastica
3.13;3.15;3.21;5.6). These suggest he occupied the episcopal office
from around A.D. 79 to around A.D. 91. Our knowledge of these early pontifical figures is slight, and as the previous write-up under this heading has noted, scholars have often questioned the very existence of Anacletus. They were most troubled by the name. Anacletus is a Greek adjective meaning "blameless," and some thought it derived from Paul's statement, in Tit. 1:7
, that a bishop be blameless ("For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God: not proud, not subject to anger, nor given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre....") In fact, however, the name also seems to have been given, on occasion, to slaves
The Liber Pontificalis
and the fourth-century Liberian Catalogue
distinguish two popes, Anacletus and Cletus, where our earlier and better sources mention only the former. Cletus, of course, is only a shortened form of Anacletus, and there is little reason to suppose that Cletus was a distinct figure.
In the Liber Pontificalis
we find this unreliable biography of "Cletus" (Latin text from L. Duchesne
, Le Liber Pontificalis
, Paris, 1955, vol. I, p. 122):
Cletus, natione Romanus, de regione Vico Patricii, patre Aemiliano, sedit ann. XII m. I d. XI. Fuit autem temporibus Vespasiani et titi, a consulatu Vespasiano VII et Domitiano V usque ad Domitiano VIIII et Rufo consulibus. Martyrio coronatur. Hic ex praecepto beati Petri XXV presbiteros ordinavit in urbe Roma. Qui etiam sepultus est iuxta corpus beati Petri, in Vaticanum, VI kal. mai. Et cessavit episcopatus dies XX.
In English (my translation):
Cletus, a Roman by birth, from the neighborhood of the Vicus Patricius, was bishop for twelve years, one month and eleven days. This was in the times of Vespasian and Titus, from the seventh consulate of Vespasian and the fifth of Domitian (A.D. 77) to the ninth consulate of Domitian and of Rufus (A.D. 83). He was crowned a martyr. According to the precept of the blessed Peter, he ordained twenty-five priests in the city of Rome. He was buried next to the body of the blessed Peter, in the Vatican, on the sixth day before the Kalends of May (26 April). And the episcopate was vacant for twenty days.
Of course, this biography
is mostly legendary; there is no other evidence for Anacletus' martyrdom
or for the ordinations assigned to him. The number twenty-five is suspicious, as Duchesne notes (p. 122, n. 3), for it accords with the number of titular churches
in Rome at the end of the fifth century
(the date that this section of the LP was probably composed).
The LP biography of "Anacletus" is substantially different (text from Duchense, p. 125):
Anaclitus, natione Grecus, de Athenis, ex patre Antiocho, sedit ann. VIIII m. II d. X. Fuit autem temporibus Domitiani, a consulatu Domitiano X et Sabino usque ad Domitiano XVII et Clemente consulibus. Hic memoriam beati Petri construxit et conposuit, dum presbiter factus fuisset a beato Petro, seu alia loca ubi episcopi reconderentur sepulturae; ubi tamen et ipse sepultus est, iuxta corpus beati Petri, III id. iulias. Hic fecit ordinationes II per mens. decemb., presbiteros V, diaconos III; episcopos per diversa loca numer VI. Et cessavit episcopatus dies XIII.
Translation (mine, again):
Anacletus, Greek by birth, from Athens, whose father was Antioch, occupied the episcopate for nine years, two months and ten days. This was in the times of Domitian, from the tenth consulate of Domitian and Sabinus (A.D. 84) to the seventeenth consulate of Domitian and Clement (A.D. 95). He constructed and built a memoria of the blessed Peter, since he had been made a priest by the blessed Peter, along with other places where bishops might be buried. And he was buried next to the body of the blessed Peter, on the third day before the Ides of July (13 July). He conducted two ordinations in the month of December, (and consecrated) five priests and three deacons, and six bishops in various (sees). And the episcopate was vacant for thirteen days.
These contradictory biographies simply underscore how little we know. We cannot say for certain whether Anacletus was of Greek or Roman origin, precisely when he occupied the episcopal see
at Rome, or even what it really meant to be a bishop in the first century of Christianity