The Third Five Ranks

Protekdikos / Ekdikos
Πρωτέκδικος / Ἐκδικος

Protekdikos / Ekdikos
Πρωτέκδικος / Ἐκδικος

The rank of protekdikos or ekdikos was ecclesiastical and created to fill the need for protecting the legal rights of the Church. At first, it was a civilian rank during the second century bce in the Roman Republic. We might think of this legal representative as the Public Defender of the town. In the early Church, the ekdikos was called “the Defender of the Churches” or monasteries and was commissioned to defend its legal rights with the civil authorities and to protect the poor and the weak in all his endeavors as the representative of the bishop who had appointed him. He was also called the “Ecclesiastical Legal Representative,” retained by the Church to defend its property and rights in civilian courts. Ordinary priests and monks were unable to perform these roles because of their lack of training. The trials courts were called the ekdikeion.

In the Byzantine Church of Constantinople, the ekdikos enjoyed a high position and special esteem. The Fourth Synod in Chalcedon decreed (Canons 2, 25, and 26) that each diocese must engage assistant secretaries so as to live up to its mission and an ekdikos according to the dispensation of the Church, in order not to run the risk of losing ecclesiastical property and lowering the clergy’s prestige due to irresponsibility. In every legal action, the ekdikos should be a good defender of the rights of the Church and of its property.

The rank of ekdikos became clearer in the Churches of Constantinople and Rome. In Constantinople, he was called the Ecclesiastical Legal Representative. There were four, but each had different duties: a) a Protekdikos or Chief, a legal representative who defended clergymen in criminal cases, b) an ecclesiastical legal representative who defended clergy in civil and penal cases, c) an ecclesiastical legal representative of the Holy Sanctuary (he was a clergyman with the title of archpriest – protopapas) who defended the rights of the Church before civil authorities, and d) an ecclesiastical legal representative who defended ecclesiastical property against rich and great landowners. The legal representative frequently appeared as a judge in petty cases and acts of ordained persons. The legal representatives of the Church of Constantinople were usually laymen, but there were some presbyters with this rank. Later, even deacons held this rank.

In the Church of Rome, between the tenure of Popes Innocent (d. 417) and Gregory the Great (d. 604), the ecclesiastical legal representative or public defender acquired canonical status. His duties included: defending the rights of the Church, administering the donations to the poor, hearing petitions and complaints brought to the Bishop of Rome, and overseeing property in the provinces donated to the Church of Rome. The ecclesiastical legal representatives in the Church of Rome were laymen with some ecclesiastical responsibilities, but always well educated. In the city of Rome, there were seven legal representatives, defensores ecclesiae. The chief was called Primicerius Defensor (First Defender), and the rest had an area assigned to them to defend the rights of the Church within their geographical boundaries. In the Church of Rome, the ecclesiastical legal defenders formed and maintained courts, placita or malla, over which they presided as judges and tried cases with some relationship to the church and also defended the secular interests of the monasteries.

Justinian I decreed that the legal representative was an authorized adviser of the Church for its legal cases and was given authorization for legal procedures. In other legislation, Justinian I set aside a separate office for marriage applications. In the later Byzantine period, there were two distinct administrators who oversaw the contractual arrangements regarding marriage. One oversaw the families of senators and high officials of the military and civilian government who were required, before contracting for a marriage, to make legal arrangements of the dowry and prenuptial gifts. And the other regulated the rest of society for whom there was no formal marriage certificate. Legislation required the first group to appear before the legal representative of the Church and, in the presence of two clergymen, to sign a dated marriage certificate as a confirmation that they agreed to live together. This marriage certificate was then placed in the archives of the Church.

The legal representatives varied in number and, where there was more than one, the chief was called protekdikos (first legal representative), responsible for all legal cases of the church, cooperating at all times with other legal representatives and his coworkers. During the reign of Justinian, there were in Hagia Sophia ten legal representatives and the first or chief was called protekdikos.

This rank survived the fall of Constantinople and continues today under the title of Legal Adviser of the Church. Today, according to the interpretation of the Holy and Great Church of Christ, the rank of ekdikos or legal representative belongs in the first place of the third set

Hieromnemon – Ἱερομνήμων

The rank of hieromnemon is an ecclesiastical one bestowed by the Ecumenical Patriarch upon those who render superior service for the work and mission of the Church. It had its beginnings in ancient times in both Greece and Rome, where it was associated with pagan worship. The hieromnemon was the head of public ritual and was responsible for the arrangement and preservation of the archives of the temple that he served. The duties of the hieromnemon varied. Some were archival keepers. Aristotle placed them in the same category with registrars of public documents and documents of individuals. Others were financial officials. In Thasos, there is an inscription that mentions a hieromnemon who presided over the public treasury. Others were in charge of holidays and maintained the property of the temple. In Chalcedon, there was a hieromnemon who was responsible for political and religious matters of his city. In the pre-Constantinian seaport of Byzantium, a public official of the district bore the title of hieromnemon, and the year he served was named after him according to their laws. Similar evidence appears on coins. Throughout ancient Greece, the hieromnemon was a rare position with special privileges and honors. The office first became important during the sixth century bce with the alliance between the amphiktyones in the city of Anthele of Thermopylae. The representatives of the cities taking part in the alliance were called hieromnemon. They were usually twenty in number but varied occasionally, and their duties were determined according to legislation signed in 330 bce stating the purpose of the alliance. The length of their term differed with each city’s legislations.

In ancient Rome, the term was equivalent to Pontifex Maximus, the highest religious official in Rome. Theodore Birtfeels suggests that the term pontifex referred to a specialist in magic arts, that is, the one who bridged the cases of the Roman people. K. Latte disputes this in his study and considers that the word pons meant a journey, and an extension of its meaning came to refer to the priest who was informed about increasing and improving ceremonies in public worship. In ancient Rome, the pontifices consisted of a special advisory group to help the religious and public leader of worship with his priestly duties. At first, the pontifices were three in number, but later their numbers were increased until finally during the reign of Augustus Caesar (27–14 bce) there were sixteen. They presided over public worship and came from aristocratic families of patricians. The leader was called Pontifex Maximus. Prior to 212 bce, he was elected by 17 of the Italian clans. He was the leader of all the flamines (priests) of the empire and of the vestal virgins. Beginning with Augustus, the emperor himself occupied the position of Pontifex Maximus. Gratian, a Christian, (367–383) was the first emperor who refused to accept the post of Pontifex Maximus in 375. Scholars of world religions have tried to prove that the postions of hieromnemon in Greek religion and of Pontifex Maximus in the Roman religion were identical and continued through Christian times. Further, they consider that the hieromnemon and the flamines found their identity in the Christian priesthood.

In earliest Christianity, the officiating clergyman was called a presbyter, which is an elder. When translated into Latin, the presbyter was eventually called sacerdos (priest). In the New Testament, all Christian principles concerning the priesthood were raised to a new and higher level with Christian revelation. The concept of Jesus as the Great High Priest finds its full expression in the Epistle to the Hebrews, who is “called of God, a high priest after the order of Melchisedec.” Here Jesus’ priesthood is aligned with the Judaic priesthood and the Judaic sacrifice is replaced by His own sacrifice. His priesthood is made known in His priestly prayer. Even though He is the sacrificer in the sacrifice, He is also the victim, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Accordingly, even if Jesus remains the High Priest, His priesthood is totally sufficient, because “through Him, we both have access by one spirit unto the Father.” The priesthood according to Christian teaching is a calling from God to a position of responsibility or, rather, a privilege, and the word priest means a liturgist before the altar of God. The concept of the priesthood entails a progressive unfolding. The word priest first appeared in connection with Christian rites in second century. In this context, the priesthood is understood as an ancient organization of the Christian Church in Palestine similar to the Jewish Synagogue, which is governed by a board of presbyters. The board of presbyters in its developed form presents authority in administration and in its teaching and liturgical duties, which were manifeststed earlier in the Jewish priesthood. 

In the early Byzantine period of the Christian Church, the title of hieromnemon was bestowed upon deacons, and later presbyters. After the Fall of Constantinople and the dissolution of the empire, the title was bestowed upon laymen as well. Today, the hieromnemon is comparable to the sacristan, in that he takes care of the matters of the church he serves. In Byzantine times, the hieromnemon performed the duties of the archivist and was responsible for the canons of the Church. He participated in the election of the bishop of his district. He accompanied the bishop-elect and assisted him as a deacon. The hieromnemon as a presbyter could, in the absence of the bishop, consecrate a new church and could ordain readers.

The rank of hieromnemon belongs according to the interpretation regarding offices of the Holy and Great Church of Christ in the second place of the third set of five offices. 


The one Responsible for the Epigonation
 – Ὁ ἐπὶ τῶν γονάτων,
φορῶν τὸν πατριάρχην τὸ ἐπιγονάτιον

The Officer of the Epigonation (ὁ έπí τῶν γονάτων) held an ecclesiastical rank that was bestowed by the Patriarch as well as by regional bishops to those distinguished for their devotion and piety towards God and the Church. He accompanied the hierarch during his visits to the churches of his district and, during the hierarchal preparation for the Divine Liturgy, handed him the epigonation to wear. This was a special distinction for the one who possessed this rank, in view of the fact that various writers compared the epigonation with the sword of the authority of Jesus, symbolizing His victory over death, correlating it with the phrase of the psalmist David: “gird your sword upon your thigh, O most mighty… and in thy majesty ride prosperously… thy throne O God is forever and ever the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter,” which is an indication of his power and strength in the Church.

According to an ancient tradition, the epigonation was handed to the hierarch during his ordination (when this vestment was restricted to hierarchs). Immediately after the Creed, he came forward after the blessing of the presiding hierarch. At that moment, we find the particular reason for the handing over of the epigonation by its caretaker to the celebrating hierarch, because it reminded him about the extent of his authority and his great responsibility for his high priesthood. At the end of the Divine Liturgy, the Officer of the Epigonation held the tray with the antidoron for the hierarch to distribute to the faithful in the church as a blessing. This was also an indication of his position as spiritual leader of the Church with the responsibility for the moral and spiritual edification of the faithful. The Officer of the Epigonation informed the bishop about matters and problems of the church and city he was visiting at the time. On behalf of the bishop, he heard petitions and complaints of the people that he reported to the bishop with suggested solutions. He determined also the bishop’s schedule during his visit to cities. The Officer of the Epigonation belongs to the third place in the third set of offices. 


Hypomimneskon – Ὑπομιμνῇσκων

The rank of hypomimneskon or hypomnemon is an ecclesiastical one in the Orthodox Church. It was bestowed upon deacons or presbyters and, very rarely, upon laymen. Among his duties, the hypomimneskon heard requests and petitions of the people regarding issues as well as their correspondence with the bishop. He presented petitions to the bishop, discussed them with him, and suggested answers and solutions. The hypomimneskon also brought to the attention of the bishop various legal matters that needed a hearing and decision by the spiritual court. The hypomimneskon was a trusted adviser of the bishop and reminded him about matters relating to the liturgical order of the Church or the behavior of clergy. He followed the bishop on his visitations and sat near him during diocesan meetings, giving him pertinent information with details concerning topics under discussion. In the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the hypomimneskon reminded the Patriarch during the absence of the hieromnemon about divine services on the following day and about his social obligations. The rank of hypomimneskon belongs, according to the interpretation of the Holy and Great Church of Christ, in the fourth place of the third set of five ranks.

Didaskalos – Διδάσκαλος

The didaskalos (teacher) is a title, as well as an ecclesiastical position that has always existed in the Christian Church. It was also an ancient position. The first teachers and schools appeared very early in Hellenic history. The first teachers mentioned are Phoenix (twelfth century bce), the teacher of Achilles, King of the Myrmidons whom he followed to the Trojan War, and Cheiron the Wise (twelfth century bce) who was initiated in the science of medicine. Evidence for the first schools in Greece appear in Mytilene (600 bce), Astypalaea Island (496 bce), Chios Island (494 bce), Troizina (480 bce), and Mycale (413 bce). There were three kinds of teachers in those schools: grammarians, lyrists, and teachers of physical education.

In Athens, there were schools of higher learning with distinguished teachers: (a) the School of Isocrates, founded in 309 bce, with rhetoric as the core of his curriculum, (b) the Academy of Plato, founded in 385 bce, as the forerunner of the university of the future with courses in physics, mathematics, astronomy, history and philosophy, and (c) the Lyceum of Aristotle, founded in 335 bce, considered the greatest research center of antiquity with a curriculum of zoology, botany, cosmology, astronomy, physics, mathematics, history, theology and music. 

During the imperial period, Roman emperors brought numerous teachers from Greece to Italy for the promotion of education. For example, Julius Caesar gave immediate Roman citizenship to any Greek teacher who wanted to move to Rome. Octavius exempted teachers from the decree concerning expulsion of undesirables from Rome. Vespasian founded a school of rhetoric in Rome with the instruction of Greek and Latin, appointing Quantilius as director. Hadrian founded the famous Atheneum School in Rome, where great contemporary scholars taught. Marcus Aurelius established grants for two new schools in Athens, one a school for philosophy with four academic chairs, and the other a school of rhetoric with two academic chairs. In Athens, emphasis was always placed upon philosophy and literature, whereas in Rome, the study of legal thought and legal theory was made more systematic. 

In Judea during the Hellenistic period, there was an intensive effort for the education and moral uplifting of youth. During the times of Jesus Christ and even earlier, there were teachers who taught in private and in public buildings. Luke the Evangelist mentions that, as a child, Jesus was found in the temple “seated in the midst of teachers.” In this context, a teacher was also the interpreter of the Law and was called the Teacher of the Law. In the Gospels, the title “teacher” was granted to Jesus as an honor, and his disciples called him Rabbi, which was a distinction of honor Jews had for their teachers and spiritual leaders. Other Jews also called him Rabbi. 

The education system of the Greco-Roman world greatly facilitated the spread of Christianity. Because of their involvement with sacred studies and literature, Christian teachers were thought to have divine Spirit and divine knowledge and consequently were called the “spiritual ones.” The teachers were assigned the responsibility to teach catechumens and to prepare them for holy baptism. James the Apostle reminds us in his epistle about the great responsibilities on the shoulders of those who undertake the mission of teaching and catechizing people. The first group of teachers is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles: “There were in the church, in Antioch certain prophets and teachers.”

The bishop in the early church was the teacher who was obliged not only to be able to teach but to make a strong effort for the spiritual and moral education and edification of his flock. As a result, he paid a great deal of attention to his choice of assistants and teachers whom he considered among his most select coworkers. He trained and educated them before sending them out to teach the people about the new religion. This method was called catechesis. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) was considered the greatest teacher and catechist of his times. St. Augustine gathered the most intelligent and capable clergy and other youth whom he educated so as to take over the responsibility of the church in Africa. This is why he is considered one of the great teachers. Because teaching began with bishops, as a natural consequence, schools started to make their appearance. 

The Catechetical School in Alexandria founded by Pantainos in 170 ce was the first Christian theological school with great teachers such as Clement of Alexandria, Heraclas, Alexander, Dionysios, Pierios, Theognostos, Peter, and Didymus the Blind. But, the most prominent teacher of all in the School of Alexandria was Origen (c. 185–254). Origen was a great biblical scholar and paved the way for subsequent scholar theologians (including St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Basil the Great, and St. Maximus the Confessor) who would grapple with the most complex questions of Christian doctrine and teaching

With the official acceptance of Christianity by the Empire, Theodosios II and Justinian I forbade teaching by pagans and, as a consequence, the philosophical school of Athens, the Academy of Plato, was closed as the process of education shifted to Christian instruction. In the middle Byzantine period, Alexios I appointed his own teachers in the churches of Constantinople with specific instructions that they educate the people concerning Christianity and that they should preach in the churches every Sunday. The formation of this educational program has come to be called the Patriarchal School or Patriarchal Academy in modern scholarship. Alexios paid for the salary of these teachers from the public treasury, emphasizing the importance he placed on education. 

By the middle and later Byzantine periods, prominent academic positions in this Patriarchal School Church of Constantinople had specific titles, including: διδάσκαλος τοῦ Εὐανγελίου (Teacher of the Gospel) which was also called the διδάσκαλος οἰκουμενικός, διδάσκαλος τοῦ Ἀποστόλου (Teacher of the Apostles), and the διδάσκαλος τοῦ ψασλτῆ (Psalms). Finally, as a propaedeutic to theological studies the Patriarchal school also had a μαΐστωρ τῶν ῥητόρων as well as many other subordinate teachers. 

The rank of didaskalos belongs according to the interpretation of the Holy and Great Church of Christ in the fifth place of the third set of five offices.