Anthimos III of Constantinople

1. Birth – career

Anthimos was born on the island of Naxos. He was a deacon in the ecumenical patriarchate when Neophytos of Smyrna held the patriarchal throne (1789). In 1791 he was appointed Megas Archidiakonos, received the honorific office of portaris, while in April 1797 he became protosynkellos.

2. Metropolitan of Smyrna

In May of the same year he was elected metropolitan of Smyrna, where he succeeded Gregorios V, who subsequently received the patriarchal title for the first time. In Smyrna he first arrived as metropolitan on June 11th 1797. The inhabitants of Smyrna dubbed him Vdellas or Avdellas, because his eyebrows were shaped like a leech (vdella) Anthimos saw to the repair of the church of St. Fotini, which was severely damaged during the revolt that came to be known as “Rempelio”, while he supervised the construction of the church of St. Constantine and st. Helen in Bunarbaşı (1799), the church of the St Apostles (Peter and Paul) in Koukloutzas (1801) and of the church of St. John the Theologian in the Apano Machalas quarter (1804). He also supervised the renovation of the church of St Theodore Stratelates in Agria of Old Phocaea (1802).

Anthimos showed special care for the education of the city’s Greek Orthodox community. He reconstituted the Greek School of Apano Mahalas, while he sought to consolidate the operation of the Philological Gymnasium. During this period P. Rodokanakıs, F. Kapparıs, X. Toumtzoglou, K.M. Koumas and the renowned scholar Konstantinos Oikonomos were the commissioners of the Gymnasium. Anthimos, however, clashed with Oikonomos, and as a result the latter launched frequent attacks against him in his writings.

While Anthimos held the metropolitan throne of Smyrna, the Ottoman authorities made frequent ‘forays’ against the dıocese and other churches in the city. The reason behind this ‘persecution’ was his friendship (as in the case of Gregorios V) with the ruler of Wallachia Konstantinos Georgiou Chantzeris, who was beheaded in February of 1799. Anthimos made great efforts and in several occasions diverted considerable sums of money to the powerful political circles of Constantinople (Istanbul), managing not only to have these attacks stop, but also to secure the issuance of the ‘commandments’ of the then sultan Selim III concerning the protection of Smyrna’s churches.

When the Greek War of Independence broke out Anthimos was arrested (31st of March 1821) and was led to Constantinople, where he remained incarcerated for 7 months. In October 1821 the holy synod elected him metropolitan of Chalcedon and in July of 1822 he succeeded the late Eugenios (1821-1822) to the patriarchal throne.

3. Ecumenical patriarch

The period of Anthimos’ patriarchate was especially hard due to the continuation of the Greek War of Independence. According to Manouil Gedeon,1 Vasiliki, the famous wife of Ali paşa Tepelenli surrendered herself to him, together with her brother Simos and the chieftain Thanasis Vagias.

During his time in office, Anthimos managed to preserve the autonomy of the Cyprus Archbishopric, as well as its privileges; these were critical times, for the Ottomans had conducted executions of prelates and notables on the island, while certain members of the synod pushed for the abolishment of the Archbishopric. During the same period he refused to allow the English Protestant missionaries to publish a translation of the Holy Writ in the “vulgar language” using the patriarchal printing press, notwithstanding the fact that they were supported by certain members of the upper clergy (like e.g. Ilarion of Tirnovo, who had served as abbot in a dependency of the Sinaitic community in the Balat quarter of Constantinople, and the synod member Chrysanthos of Serres).

Apparently this affair was the cause of Anthimos’ removal from office in July of 1824. His stance caused his opponents inside the holy synod (including some lay members) to coalesce: under the leadership by Ieremias they accused the patriarch of fomenting the Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire (an accusation related with Anthimos’ decision to accept the payment of a debt owed by the two Serbian metropolises, of Belgrade and Užice, to the ecumenical patriarchate by the leader of the Serbian Uprising, Miloš Obrenović).

4. After the patriarchal term

Anthimos at first sought refuge at Skoutari and was subsequently exiled to Kaisareia of Cappadocia, where he remained locked up in the monastery of St. John Prodromos. In December of 1825 he was finally given permission to settle in Smyrna, where he occupied a small apartment in the Apano Machalas quarter. In 1831 and 1833 he served as a locum tenens of the metropolitan throne of Smyrna. During his stay at Smyrna, Anthimos regularly attended church services. He finally passed away in August of 1842 in the hospital of the Greek Orthodox community (known as the Greek Hospital, while he bequeathed his entire estate to the churches and the city’s charitable institutions. The then metropolitan of Ephesus and future ecumenical patriarch Anthimos VI officiated at his solemn funeral. Anthimos was buried in the church of St John the Theologian. A large painting portraying him survived until the advent of the Asia Minor Catastrophe in the room of the board (epitropikon) of the said temple.

5. Evaluation

Manouil Gedeon writes of patriarch Anthimos III: “Anthimos of Smyrna, was a flamboyant man in terms of his physique, but rather buoyant in his spirit; he was devout and god-fearing, and he adored the holy chants and the ecclesiastical liturgies. He was moderately educated, but in his speech he was gentle and sweet. This is why the Christian flock loved him extremely, and they thronged the patriarchal temple during the matutinal and the nocturnal ceremonies, and in Saturday’s vespers, and on every festive occasion; they took great enjoyment in the lengthy chants, through which the choristers sought to please the patriarch and the people”.2 Zacharias Mathas says of Anthimos III: “A man of flimsy education, but of sweet disposition, a regular church-goer and a man of the people, although sometimes he was too keen to curry favour of the mob. Yet, considering the dreadful conditions which prevailed during his time in office, what worth-while deeds could he have carried out? His mildness and his comportment did, indeed, help greatly for, over time, the Turkish wrath was mollified”.3

1. Γεδεών, Μ., Πατριαρχικής Ιστορίας Μνημεία (Athens 1922), pp. 7-11, 36-39.

2. Γεδεών, Μ., Πατριαρχικής Ιστορίας Μνημεία (Athens 1922), pp. 7-11.

3. Μαθάς, Ζ., Κατάλογος ιστορικός των πρώτων επισκόπων και των εφεξής Πατριαρχών της εν Κωνσταντινουπόλει Αγίας και μεγάλης του Χριστού Εκκλησίας 2 (Athens 1884), p. 288.