Hierotheos the Thesmothete

Hierotheos the Thesmothete (Greek: Ἱερόθεος ὁ Θεσμοθέτης) is the reputed first head and bishop of the Christian Athenians. The title thesmothete means ruler, or junior archon, of Athens (literally "rule-setter").


Little is known of Hierotheos (Ἰερόθεος "sanctified by God"); church tradition holds that he was one of the learned men in the city of Athens. He was instructed in Christianity by the Apostle Paul, who baptized and ordained him around the year 52 AD. Hierotheos frequently visited and instructed St. Dionysius the Areopagite. There is disagreement as to whether Hierotheos was actually a priest or bishop; some traditions describe Dionysius as the first bishop of Athens.[1] The fifth century Neoplatonist Pseudo-Dionysius spoke of Hierotheos. However, Pseudo-Dionysius adopted the earlier Dionysius as a pseudonym and literary device and thus he did not in fact know the original Hierotheos and the description of Hierotheos and his works that Pseudo Dionysius supplied was either purely fictional or a veiled tribute to a fifth-century contemporary of Pseudo-Dionysius. Thus there was an Hierotheos and there was also a Pseudo-Hierotheos.

According to Pseudo-Dionysius (On the Divine Names, 3:2), Hierotheos was an accomplished hymnographer:

"He was wholly transported, wholly outside himself and was so deeply absorbed in communion with the sacred things he celebrated in hymnology, that to all who heard him and saw him and knew him, and yet knew him not, he seemed to be inspired of God, a divine hymnographer."[2]

In more recent years, some have pointed that the name Hierotheos is unique in Greek literature, nor is included in the extremely wide list of proper name known from papyri. The only record of this name is found in a Greek inscription from Athens.[3]

Hierotheos and the Dormition of the Theotokos[edit]

Hierotheos was reportedly present during the dormition of the Theotokos (Mary, the Mother of God),[4] and he stood in the midst of the apostles and comforted them with spiritual songs and hymns which he sang accompanied with musical instruments.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Public Domain Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Christian Athens". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ Daily Reading, October 4, 2005, The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
  3. ^ On the problem of Hierotheos' name and the more wide question of the author of the Corpus Dionysiacum, see Carlo Maria Mazzucchi, Damascio, autore del Corpus Areopagiticum, e il dialogo ΠEPI ΠOΛITIKHΣ EΠIΣTHMHΣ, in Aevum 80, n° 2, 2006, pp. 299-334, esp. p. 324. Mazzucchi proposes the name of Damascius as the author of the corpus and suggests that Hierotheos is a fictional character, whose name was dragged by an unknown soldier died in 409 BC and who was included in a funerary inscription (IG, I, p. 206 n° 454 = IG minor, I, p. 252 n° 957 = IG3, II, p. 782 n° 1191) found in Athens near the Academy.
  4. ^ The Role of Hierotheus at the Dormition Archived 2010-11-24 at the Wayback Machine, Taylor Marshall
  5. ^ Public Domain Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Hierotheus". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Catholic Church titles
New creation Bishop of Athens Succeeded by