Theophilos the Indian

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Theophilos the Indian, also known as Theophilus Indus[1] (Greek: Θεόφιλος) (died 364), also called "the Ethiopian", was an Aetian or Heteroousian[2] bishop who fell alternately in and out of favor with the court of the Roman emperor Constantius II.[3] He is mentioned in the encyclopedia Suda.[4]

He came from an island in the Indian Ocean, which has been identified as Socotra,[5] the island Divus which could be the Maldive Islands,[6] or an island at the mouth of the Indus.[7] Theophilos came to the court of Constantine I as a young man and was ordained a deacon under the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia. He was later exiled because Constantius believed him to be a supporter of Constantius' rebellious cousin Gallus. Famed for his ability as a healer, Theophilus was later recalled to court to heal Constantius' wife, the empress Eusebia, which he is reputed to have done successfully.[8] He was exiled again for his support of the disfavored theologian Aëtius whose Anomoean doctrine was an offshoot of Arianism.[9]

Theophilus was ordained a bishop [10] and around 354 AD, Emperor Constantius II sent Theophilus on a mission to south Asia via Arabia, where he is said to have converted the Himyarites and built three churches in southwest Arabia. He is also said to have found Christians in India.[11] In about 356, the Emperor Constantius II wrote to Ezana of the Kingdom of Aksum requesting him to replace the then Bishop of Aksum Frumentius with Theophilos, who supported the Arian position, as did the Emperor. This request was ultimately turned down.

On his return to the empire he settled at Antioch.[12]

One of the churches which Theophilus had founded in Arabia during the 4th century was built at Zafar, Yemen and likely destroyed in 523 by the King of Himyar Dhu Nuwas, who had shifted the state religion from Christianity to Judaism. Later in 525, Theophilus' church was restored by the Christian King Kaleb of Axum following his successful invasion on Himyar.[13]


  1. ^ Berkey, Jonathan P. (2003). The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800. Cambridge University Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-521-58813-3.
  2. ^ Caesarea, St Basil of (2014). Against Eunomius. CUA Press. p. 33. ISBN 9780813227184.
  3. ^ Elm, Susanna (2012). Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church: Emperor Julian, Gregory of Nazianzus, and the Vision of Rome. University of California Press. p. 239. ISBN 9780520951655.
  4. ^ Suda Encyclopedia, theta 197
  5. ^ Strauch, Ingo, "Foreign Sailors on Socotra," Hempen Verlag, 2012.
  6. ^ Philostorgius in his Ecclesiastical history (book III, chapter 4) tells that Theophilos was born in the "island of Divus", which is supposed to be the Maldive Islands or maybe Ceylon
  7. ^ Philostorgius in his Ecclesiastical history (book III, chapter 4, Footnote 43 p.444 n.1) writes this island is said to lie in the Indian Ocean, near the mouth of the Indus, and to have been known also under the name of Diva, Divu, and Devu.
  8. ^ Philostorgius. "Chapter 7." Ecclesiastical history/Epitome of book IV.
  9. ^ Alexander Kazhdan, Leslie S. B. MacCoull. "Theophilos the Indian." The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Retrieved 13 December 2007
  10. ^ Woods, D., "Three Notes on Aspects of the Arian Controversy, c.354 – 367 CE", Journal of Theological Studies, New Series, Vol. 44, No. 2 (October 1993), pp. 604–619
  11. ^ Tsai, Kathryn (Dr). A Timeline of Eastern Church History. Divine Ascent Press, CA, 2004. ISBN 0-9714139-2-4
  12. ^ Woods, D., "Three Notes on Aspects of the Arian Controversy, c.354 – 367 CE" in Journal of Theological Studies, New Series, Vol. 44, No. 2 (October 1993), pp. 604–619
  13. ^ Bowersock, G.W (Dr). The Throne of Adulis: Red Sea Wars on the Eve of Islam. Oxford University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-19-973932-5

Further reading[edit]

  • Andrade, Nathanael J. (2018). The Journey of Christianity to India in Late Antiquity: Networks and the Movement of Culture. Cambridge University Press.
  • Fiaccadori, Gianfranco (1984). "Teofilo indiano, Parte I: le origini". Studi Classici e Orientali. 33: 295–331. JSTOR 24182870.
  • Fiaccadori, Gianfranco (1985). "Teofilo indiano, Parte II: il viaggio". Studi Classici e Orientali. 34: 271–307. JSTOR 24182847.