Pope Clement I (called CLEMENS ROMANUS to distinguish him from the
Alexandrian), is the first of the successors of St. Peter of whom anything
definite is known, and he is the first of the "Apostolic Fathers ".
His feast is celebrated 23 November. He has left one genuine writing, a
letter to the Church of Corinth, and many others have been attributed to
According to Tertullian, writing c. 199, the Roman Church claimed that
Clement was ordained by St. Peter (De Praescript., xxxii), and St. Jerome
tells us that in his time "most of the Latins" held that Clement
was the immediate successor of the Apostle (De viris illustr., xv). St.
Jerome himself in several other places follows this opinion, but here he
correctly states that Clement was the fourth pope. The early evidence shows
great variety. The most ancient list of popes is one made by Hegesippus
in the time of Pope Anicetus, c. 160 (Harnack ascribes it to an unknown
author under Soter, c. 170), cited by St. Epiphanius (Haer., xxvii, 6).
It seems to have been used by St. Irenaeus (Haer., III, iii), by Julius
Africanus, who composed a chronography in 222, by the third- or fourth-century
author of a Latin poem against Marcion, and by Hippolytus, who see chronology
extends to 234 and is probably found in the "Liberian Catalogue"
of 354. That catalogue was itself adopted in the " Liber Pontificalis
". Eusebius in his chronicle and history used Africanus; in the latter
he slightly corrected the dates. St. Jerome's chronicle is a translation
of Eusebius's, and is our principal means for restoring the lost Greek
of the latter; the Armenian version and Coptic epitomes of it are not to
be depended on. The varieties of order are as follows:
Linus, Cletus, Clemens (Hegesippus, ap. Epiphanium, Canon of Mass).
Linus, Anencletus, Clemens (Irenaeus, Africanus ap. Eusebium).
Linus, Anacletus, Clemens (Jerome).
Linus, Cletus, Anacletus, Clemens (Poem against Marcion),
Linus, Clemens, Cletus, Anacletus [Hippolytus (?), "Liberian
Linus, Clemens, Anacletus (Optatus, Augustine).
At the present time no critic doubts that Cletus, Anacletus,
are the same person. Anacletus is a Latin error; Cletus is a shortened
(and more Christian) form of Anencletus. Lightfoot thought that the transposition
of Clement in the "Liberian Catalogue" was a mere accident, like
the similar error "Anicetus, Pius" for "Pius Anicetus",
further on in the same list. But it may have been a deliberate alteration
by Hippolytus, on the ground of the tradition mentioned by Tertullian.
St. Irenaeus (III, iii) tells us that Clement "saw the blessed Apostles
and conversed with them, and had yet ringing in his ears the preaching
of the Apostles and had their tradition before his eyes, and not he only
for many were then surviving who had been taught y the Apostles ".
Similarly Epiphanius tells us (from Hegesippus) that Clement was a contemporary
of Peter and Paul. Now Linus and Cletus had each twelve years attributed
to them in the list. If Hippolytus found Cletus doubled by an error.(Cletus
XII, Anacletus XII), the accession of Clement would appear to be thirty-six
years after the death of the Apostles. As this would make it almost impossible
for Clement to have been their contemporary, it may have caused Hippolytus
to shift him to an earlier position. Further, St. Epiphanius says (loc.
cit. ): " Whether he received episcopal ordination from Peter in the
life-time of the Apostles, and declined the office, for he says in one
of his epistles 'I retire, I depart, let the people of God be in peace',
(for we have found this set down in certain Memoirs), or whether he was
appointed by the Bishop Cletus after he had succeeded the Apostles, we
do not clearly know." The "Memoirs" were certainly those
of Hegesippus. It seems unlikely that he is appealed to only for the quotation
from the Epistle, c. liv; probably Epiphanius means that Hegesippus stated
that Clement had been ordained by Peter and declined to be bishop, but
twenty-four years later really exercised the office for nine years. Epiphanius
could not reconcile these two facts; Hippolytus seems to have rejected
The date intended by Hegesippus is not hard to restore. Epiphanius implies
that he placed the martyrdom of the Apostles in the twelfth year of Nero.
Africanus calculated the fourteenth year (for he had attributed one year
too little to the reigns of Caligula and Claudius), and added the imperial
date for the accession of each pope; but having two years too few up to
Anicetus he could not get the intervals to tally with the years of episcopate
given by Hegesippus. He had a parallel difficulty in his list of the Alexandrian
||Africanus (from Eusebius)
||Real Dates A D
If we start, as Hegesippus intended, with Nero 12 (see last column),
the sum of his years brings us right for the last three popes. But Africanus
has started two years wrong, and in order to get right at Hyginus he has
to allow one year too little to each of the preceding popes, Sixtus and
Telesphorus. But there is one inharmonious date, Trajan 2, which gives
seven and ten years to Clement and Euaristus instead of nine and eight.
Evidently he felt bound to insert a traditional date- and in fact we see
that Trajan 2 was the date intended by Hegesippus. Now we know that Hegesippus
spoke about Clement's acquaintance with the Apostles, and said nothing
about any other pope until Telesphorus, "who was a glorious martyr."
It is not surprising, then, to find that Africanus had, besides the lengths
of episcopate, two fixed dates from Hegesippus, those of the death of Clement
in the second year of Trajan, and of the martyrdom of Telesphorus in the
first year of Antoninus Pius. We may take it, therefore, that about 160
the death of St. Clement was believed to have been in 99.
Origen identifies Pope Clement with St. Paul's fellow-labourer, Phil.,
iv, 3, and 80 do Eusebius, Epiphanius, and Jerome- but this Clement was
probably a Philippian. In the middle of the nineteenth century it was the
custom to identity the pope with the consul of 95, T. Flavius Clemens,
who was martyred by his first cousin, the Emperor Domitian, at the end
of his consulship. But the ancients never suggest this, and the pope is
said to have lived on till the reign of Trajan. It is unlikely that he
was a member of the imperial family. The continual use of the Old Testament
in his Epistle has suggested to Lightfoot, Funk, Nestle, and others that
he was of Jewish origin. Probably he was a freedman or son of a freedman
of the emperor's household, which included thousands or tens of thousands.
We know that there were Christians in the household of Nero (Phil., iv,
22). It is highly probable that the bearers of Clement's letter, Claudius
Ephebus and Valerius Vito, were of this number, for the names Claudius
and Valerius occur with great frequency in inscriptions among the freedmen
of the Emperor Claudius (and his two predecessors of the same gens) and
his wife Valeria Messalina. The two messengers are described as "faithful
and prudent men, who have walked among us from youth unto old age unblameably
", thus they were probably already Christians and living in Rome before
the death of the Apostles about thirty years earlier. The Prefect of Rome
during Nero's persecution was Titus Flavius Sabinus, elder brother of the
Emperor Vespasian, and father of the martyred Clemens. Flavia Domitilla,
wife of the Martyr, was a granddaughter of Vespasian, and niece of Titus
and Domitian; she may have died a martyr to the rigours of her banishment
The catacomb of Domitilla is shown by existing inscriptions to have been
founded by her. Whether she is distinct from another Flavia Domitilla,
who is styled "Virgin and Martyr", is uncertain. (See FLAVIA
DOMITILLA and NEREUS AND ACHILLEUS) The consul and his wife had two sons
Vespasian and Domitian, who had Quintilian for their tutor. Of their life
nothing is known. The elder brother of the martyr Clemens was T. Flavius Sabinus, consul in 82, put to death by
Domitian, whose sister he had married.
Pope Clement is rep resented as his son in the Acts of Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, but this would make him too young to have known the Apostles.
Of the life and death of St, Clement nothing is known. The apocryphal
Greek Acts of his martyrdom were printed by Cotelier in his "Patres Apost." (1724, I, 808; reprinted in
Migne, P. G., II, 617, best edition
by Funk, "Patr. Apost.", II, 28). They relate how he converted
Theodora, wife of Sisinnius, a courtier of Nerva, and (after miracles)
Sisinnius himself and four hundred and twenty-three other persons of rank.
Trajan banishes the pope to the Crimea, where he slakes the thirst of two
thousand Christian confessors by a miracle. The people of the country are
converted, seventy-five churches are built. Trajan, in consequence, orders
Clement to be thrown into the sea with an iron anchor. But the tide every
year recedes two miles, revealing a Divinely built shrine which contains
the martyr's bones. This story is not older than the fourth century. It
is known to Gregory of Tours in the sixth. About 868 St. Cyril, when in
the Crimea on the way to evangelize the Chazars, dug up some bones in a
mound (not in a tomb under the sea), and also an anchor. These were believed
to be the relics of St. Clement. They were carried by St. Cyril to Rome,
and deposited by Adrian II with those of St. Ignatius of Antioch in the
high altar of the basilica of St. Clement in Rome. The history of this
translation is evidently quite truthful, but there seems to have been no
tradition with regard to the mound, which simply looked a likely place
to be a tomb. The anchor appears to be the only evidence of identity but
we cannot gather from the account that it belonged to the scattered bones.
(See Acta SS., 9 March, II, 20.) St. Clement is first mentioned as a martyr
by Rufinus (c. 400). Pope Zozimus in a letter to Africa in 417 relates
the trial and partial acquittal of the heretic Caelestius in the basilica
of St. Clement; the pope had chosen this church because Clement had learned
the Faith from St. Peter, and had given his life for it (Ep. ii). He is
also called a martyr by the writer known as Praedestinatus (c. 430) and
by the Synod of Vaison in 442. Modern critics think it possible that his
martyrdom was suggested by a confusion with his namesake, the martyred
consul. But the lack of tradition that he was buried in Rome is in favour
of his having died in exile.
From the Catholic Encyclopedia,
copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc.