Longinus

LONGINUS

A sixth-century missionary, who, according to ecclesiastical historians, played an important role in bringing Christianity to the Nubian kingdoms both of NOBATIA and of ‘ALWA. Information about his life and activities is found in the work of his contemporary, John of Ephesus, and in the later writers Eutychius and AL-MAQRIZI. According to John of Ephesus, he was an Alexandrine who became a member of the Monophysite church of Antioch, and was subsequently dispatched to Constantinople as an envoy of Patriarch Paul of Antioch. He was apparently detained in Constantinople throughout the reign of JUSTINIAN, and subsequently under Justin was imprisoned for a time for his Monophysite sympathies.

Escaping from prison, he returned to Egypt in the year 567 and was thereupon ordered by the Patriarch THEODOSIUS I to undertake missionary work in the northern Nubian kingdom of Nobatia. His labors here had been preceded by those of JULIAN the Evangelist and of Theodore, who began the conversion of the Nobatians in 543, but there had been an interruption of missionary activity after 551. Longinus evidently found a great deal still to do, for he remained in Nobatia for six years.

In 575 Longinus returned to Alexandria to assist in the election of a new Monophysite patriarch. He became embroiled in a dispute between Syrian and Egyptian claimants and, having backed the wrong party, was forced into exile for several years on the Arabian Peninsula. In 580 he returned once more to Nobatia, and shortly afterward proceeded onward to the southern Nubian kingdom of ‘Alwa, whose king had previously sent him an invitation. Longinus was not able to travel directly up the Nile from Nobatia to ‘Alwa because of the opposition of the intervening kingdom of MAKOURIA, which had apparently adopted the Melchite Christian confession.

As a result the missionary was forced to travel through the Eastern Desert, in the company of a Beja camel caravan. After considerable hardships he arrived in ‘Alwa, where he was met by a royal deputation and conducted directly to the king. According to John of Ephesus the mission was a complete success, and the conversion of the whole kingdom was soon accomplished. Longinus then sent a report of his success to the king of Nobatia, with instructions that it should be forwarded to Alexandria. The recorded biography of Longinus closes on this triumphal note, and no information is given as to his subsequent career.

[See also: Nubia, Evangelization of.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Adams, W. Y. Nubia, Corridor to Africa, pp. 441-43. Princeton, N.J., 1977.
  • Gadallah, F. A. “The Egyptian Contribution to Nubian Christianity.” Sudan Notes and Records 40 (1959):38-43.
  • Monneret de Villard, U. Storia della Nubia cristiana, pp. 65-70.
  • Orientalia Christiana Analecta 118. Rome, 1938.
  • Vantini, G. Christianity in the Sudan, pp. 44-50. Bologna, 1981.

WILLIAM Y. ADAMS

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