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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Eraclius, Deacon of the Church of Hippo

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Eraclius (1) ( Heraclius , in the older editions Eradius ), deacon of the church of Hippo a.d. 425, had inherited considerable property, part of which he spent in raising a "memoria" of the martyr [See Stephen]; the rest he offered as a gift to the church. St. Augustine, fearing that the absolute acceptance of such a gift from so young a man might be the subject of future reproval or regret, caused Eraclius first to invest the money in land, which might be given back to him should any unforeseen reason for restitution arise. On becoming one of Augustine's clergy, Eraclius made his poverty complete by setting free a few slaves whom he had retained (Aug. Serm. 356, vol. v. 1387). In 426 Augustine was summoned to Milevis, to obviate some threatened dissensions. Severus, the late bishop, had designated his successor in his lifetime, but had made his choice known to his clergy only. This caused discontent, and the interference of Augustine was judged necessary to secure the unanimous acceptance of the bishop so chosen. Augustine, then in his 72nd year, was thus reminded of the expedience of securing his own church from similar trouble at his death, and he made choice of Eraclius, then apparently the junior presbyter of the church, to be his coadjutor and designate successor ( D. C. A. i. 228). Only, though he had himself been ordained bishop in the lifetime of his predecessor, Valerius, he now held that this had been an unconscious violation of the Nicene canon against having two bishops in the same church, and therefore resolved that Eraclius, while discharging all the secular duties of the see, should remain a presbyter until his own death. To obviate future dispute, he assembled his people (Sept. 26, 426) to obtain their consent to the arrangement, having the notaries of the church in attendance to draw up regular "gesta" of the proceedings, which those present were asked to subscribe ( Ep. 213, vol. ii. p. 788).

The capture of Hippo by the Vandals prevented the arrangements from taking effect, and Augustine does not appear to have had any successor in his see. Eraclius, in 427, held a private discussion with Maximinus, the Arian bishop, which led to a public disputation between Maximinus and Augustine (Coll. cum Max. viii. 650). Two sermons by Eraclius are preserved, the first of which, preached in Augustine's presence, is almost all taken up with compliments and apologies (v. 1523 and 72, Append. p. 131).


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Eraclius, Deacon of the Church of Hippo'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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