The Henotikon (// or // in English; ἑνωτικόν "act of union") was issued by Byzantine emperor Zeno in 482, in an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the differences between the supporters of the Council of Chalcedon and the council's opponents. It was followed by the Acacian schism.
In 482 the Patriarchate of Alexandria passed to Peter III, who proved to be a supporter of the christological opinion commonly called monophysitism or more accurately miaphysitism, despite the condemnation of this opinion at the Council of Chalcedon. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Acacius, devised an eirenic formula of unity called the Henotikon, which Zeno promulgated without the approval of the Bishop of Rome or of a Synod of bishops. By this act, Zeno hoped to placate the increasingly miaphysite provinces of Egypt, Palestine and Syria, which were under increasing attacks by the Persian Sassanid dynasty.
The Henotikon endorsed the condemnations of Eutyches and Nestorius made at Chalcedon and explicitly approved the twelve anathemas of Cyril of Alexandria, but avoided any definitive statement on whether Christ had one or two natures, attempting to appease both sides of the dispute.
This act failed to satisfy either side. All sides took offence at the Emperor openly dictating church doctrine, although the Patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria were pressured into subscribing to the Henotikon. Those monophysites who had formerly followed Peter of Alexandria then abandoned him and clung to their doctrines. They were thenceforth called Akephaloi (headless ones), since they had lost their leader. After two years of prevarication and temporizing by Acacius, Pope Felix III of Rome condemned the act and excommunicated Acacius (484), although this was largely ignored in Constantinople, even after the death of Acacius in 489.
Zeno died in 491. His successor Anastasius I was sympathetic to the monophysites, and accepted the Henotikon. However, Anastasius's position was at odds with the predominantly Chalcedonian population of Constantinople, and Vitalian, a Chalcedonian general, attempted to overthrow him in 514. Anastasius then attempted to heal the schism with Pope Hormisdas, but this failed when Anastasius refused to recognize the excommunication of the now deceased Acacius. Vitalian tried to overthrow the emperor a second time, but he was defeated by loyal officers.
The schism caused by the Henotikon was officially settled in 519 when Emperor Justin I recognized the excommunication of Acacius and reunited the churches. However, the then-Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem still embraced miaphysitism, and their congregations came to be known in modern times as the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Meanwhile the incident did nothing to mend the growing rift between the churches of Constantinople and Rome, which would lead in the centuries to come to the East-West Schism.
- Aristeides Papadakis, "Peter Mongos", The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
- Cameron, Averil; Bryan Ward-Perkins; Michael Whitby (2000). Late Antiquity. ISBN 978-0-521-32591-2.
- Bury, John B. (1958). History of the Later Roman Empire. ISBN 978-0-486-20398-0.
- Richards, Jeffrey (1979). The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages, 476–752. ISBN 978-0-7100-0098-9.
- Kötter, Jan-Markus (2013). Zwischen Kaisern und Aposteln. Das Akakianische Schisma (485-519) als kirchlicher Ordnungskonflikt der Spätantike. ISBN 978-3-5151-0389-3.
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Henoticon
- Edward Walford, translator, The Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius: A History of the Church from AD 431 to AD 594, 1846. Reprinted 2008. Evolution Publishing, ISBN 978-1-889758-88-6 – contains a complete English translation of the Henotikon.