An Alexandrian life

Achillas is less well-known than his contemporary Arius. But while one has gone down in history as one of the most notorious of all heretics, the other is honoured as one who kept the faith.

Achillas was, through and through, a man of Alexandria (pictured), where he was born some time in the 3rd century. The city was one of the theological centres of Christendom – which made it an attractive target for heretics. Sabellius showed up in the early 3rd century, teaching that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were all just different modes of one divine person.

Heresies and patriarchs

St Theonas, the “pope” of Alexandria, excommunicated Sabellius. His successor, Peter, had to contend with Meletius, who preached that those who had fallen away in persecution would have to be re-baptised. Peter also disciplined Arius.

Achillas succeeded Peter. As a former head of Alexandria’s catechetical school, Achillas was unlikely to be deceived by theological error. But he was able to be deceived by as smooth an operator as Arius.

Arius’s spark

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