Dionysius, Areopagita

was born at Athens, and educated there. He went afterwards to Heliopolis in Ægypt where, if we may believe some writers of his life, he saw that wonderful eclipse which happened at our Saviour’s passion, and was urged by some extraordinary impulse to cry out, “Ant Deus patitur, aut cum patiente dolet;” Either God himself suffers, or condoles with him who does. At his return to Athens he was elected into the court of Areopagus, from whence he derived his name of Areopagite. About the year 50 he embraced Christianity, and, as some say, was appointed first bishop of Athens by St. Paul, and consecrated by his hands. Of his conversion we have this account in Acts xvii.: Paul, preaching at Athens, was brought before the Areopagus, to give account of himself and his doctrine. He harangued in that court, taking occasion to speak against the prevailing idolatry of the place, from an altar which he found with this inscription, “To the unknown God.” The event | of which preaching was, as the sacred historian tells us, that “certain men clave unto him, and believed; among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” He is supposed to have suffered martyrdom; but whether under Domitian, Trajan, or Adrian, is not certain.

The works ascribed to this Dionysius, printed at Cologne in 1536, at Antwerp, 1634, and at Paris, 1644, 2 vols. fol. are generally allowed to be spurious, and probably were written in the fifth or sixth century, as they abound with the mystical trifles of the Plotinian school. 1

1 Cave. Dupin. Larclner’s Works. —Saxii Onomast.