Do we know how many bishops attending the Council of Nicaea were actual victims of the Roman perscutions?

The Council of Nicaea opened on May 20, 325 AD.

The First Council of Nicaea, the first general council in the history of the Church, was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great upon the recommendations of a synod led by Bishop Hosius of Corduba in the Eastertide of 325, or rather convened by Hosius and supported by Constantine.

Constantine had invited all 1,800 bishops of the Christian church within the Roman Empire (about 1,000 in the East and 800 in the West), but a smaller and unknown number attended. Eusebius of Caesarea counted more than 250, Athanasius of Alexandria counted 318, and Eustathius of Antioch estimated "about 270" (all three were present at the Council). Later, Socrates Scholasticus recorded more than 300, and Evagrius, Hilary of Poitiers, Jerome, Dionysius Exiguus, and Rufinus each recorded 318. This number 318 is preserved in the liturgies of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church. - First Council of Nicaea

The Roman perscutions ended with the Edict of Milan in February 313 AD.

Do we know how many of the bishops, who attended the Council of Nicaea were persecuted by Roman authorities prior to 313 AD? Someone once told me that some of the bishops who attended the Council had been previously tortured and even mutilated in the Roman Persecutions. There is simply 12 years between the two!

2 Answers 2


Not much is known about those bishops who suffered persecution and also attended Nicaea. The last general persecution under Diocletian was about 20 years prior to the council. One name stands out as bishop who reportedly did suffer as a confessor: Paphnutius of Upper Thebes.

Saint Paphnutius, an Egyptian monk who became a bishop, endured torture for the faith, and participated at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea in its confirmation of Christ's divinity. While there is no record of Paphnutius' early life, it is known that he – like many other men of his day – became a disciple of the monk Saint Anthony of the Desert, whose direction of a community of fellow hermits marked the beginning of traditional Christian monasticism.

Potamon of Heraclea and Paul of Neocaesarea are also mentioned as having attended with visible "marks of persecution" on their bodies, but this report is not as well attested as in Paphnutius' case. Other famous attendees included Alexander of Alexandria, Antiochus of Memphis (Egypt), Macanus of Jerusalem, Eusebius of Caesarea, Eustathius of Antioch (Syria), Magnus of Damascus, Januarius of Jericho, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Eutychius of Smyrna, Menophantes of Ephesus, Artemidorus of Sardis, Theognis of Nicaea and Spyridon of Cyprus. However, it seems that only St. Paphnutius (possibly also Potamon of Heraclea and Paul of Neocaesarea) was known to have previously suffered persecution for his faith as a Christian.

  • Thanks for this, but I am sure others were too.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 16:25
  • @KenGraham I too was surprised at how few are known. I see that you found Nicholas of Myra. So at least one more than those I listed. Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 19:07

Do we know how many bishops attending the Council of Nicaea were actual victims of the Roman perscutions?

We will certainly never know how many bishops who participated in the Council of Nicaea were somehow persecuted in the last of the Roman perscutions. All we really know is that some of them had suffered by the hands of the Roman persecutors in one why or another.

Most of the bishops present were Greeks; among the Latins we know only Hosius of Cordova, Cecilian of Carthage, Mark of Calabria, Nicasius of Dijon, Donnus of Stridon in Pannonia, and the two Roman priests, Victor and Vincentius, representing the pope. The assembly numbered among its most famous members St. Alexander of Alexandria, Eustathius of Antioch, Macarius of Jerusalem, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Eusebius of Caesarea, and Nicholas of Myra. Some had suffered during the last persecution; others were poorly enough acquainted with Christian theology. Among the members was a young deacon, Athanasius of Alexandria, for whom this Council was to be the prelude to a life of conflict and of glory. - The First Council of Nicaea

St. Nicholas of Myra Was put into prison during the persecution of Diocletian, he was released after the accession of Constantine.

Bishop of Myra in Lycia; died 6 December, 345 or 352. Though he is one of the most popular saints in the Greek as well as the Latin Church, there is scarcely anything historically certain about him except that he was Bishop of Myra in the fourth century.

Some of the main points in his legend are as follows: He was born at Parara, a city of Lycia in Asia Minor; in his youth he made a pilgrimage to Egypt and Palestine; shortly after his return he became Bishop of Myra; cast into prison during the persecution of Diocletian, he was released after the accession of Constantine, and was present at the Council of Nicaea. - St. Nicholas of Myra

St. Paphnutius Suffered persecution and also attended the Council of Nicaea.

The most celebrated personage of this name was bishop of a city in the Upper Thebaid in the early fourth century, and one of the most interesting members of the Council of Nicæa (325). He suffered mutilation of the left knee and the loss of his right eye for the Faith under the Emperor Maximinus (308-13), and was subsequently condemned to the mines. At Nicæa he was greatly honoured by Constantine the Great, who, according to Socrates (Church History I.11), used often to send for the good old confessor and kiss the place whence the eye had been torn out. He took a prominent, perhaps a decisive, part in the debate at the First Œcumenical Council on the subject of the celibacy of the clergy. It seems that most of the bishops present were disposed to follow the precedent of the Council of Elvira (can. xxxiii) prohibiting conjugal relations to those bishops, priests, deacons, and, according to Sozomen, sub-deacons, who were married before ordination. Paphnutius earnestly entreated his fellow-bishops not to impose this obligation on the orders of the clergy concerned. He proposed, in accordance "with the ancient tradition of the Church", that only those who were celibates at the time of ordination should continue to observe continence, but, on the other hand, that "none should be separated from her, to whom, while yet unordained, he had been united". The great veneration in which he was held, and the well known fact that he had himself observed the strictest chastity all his life, gave weight to his proposal, which was unanimously adopted. The council left it to the discretion of the married clergy to continue or discontinue their marital relations. Paphnutius was present at the Synod of Tyre (335). - Paphnutius

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