NOVATIANUS, Roman presbyter, and one of the earliest antipopes, founder of the sect of the Novatiani or Novatians, was born about the beginning of the 3d century. On the authority of Philostorgius (II. E., viii. 15), he has often been called a native of Phrygia, but perhaps the historian intended by this nothing more than to indicate the Montanistic complexion of Novatian's creed. Of the facts of his life very little is known, and that only from his opponents. His conversion is said to have taken place after an intense mental struggle ; he was baptized by sprinkling, and without episcopal confirmation, when on a sick-bed in hourly expectation of death ; and on his recovery his Christianity retained all the stern and gloomy character of its earliest stages. He was ordained to the priesthood at Rome by Fabian, or perhaps by an earlier bishop; and during the Decian persecution he maintained very strenuously the severer view of the church's disciplinary function, which would have excluded -for ever from ecclesiastical communion all those (lapsi) who after baptism had ever sacrificed to idols, - a view which had frequently found expression within the church previously, and which had indeed been the occasion of the schism of Hippolytus. Bishop Fabian suffered martyrdom in January 250, and, when Cornelius was elected his successor in March or April 251, Novatian objected to the new bishop on account of his known laxity on the above-mentioned point of discipline, and allowed himself to be consecrated bishop by the minority who shared his views. He and his followers were excommunicated by the synod held at Rome in October of the same year. He is said by Socrates (II. E., iv. 28) to have suffered martyrdom under the emperor -Valerian. After his death the Novatians, in spite of much opposition, increased, and spread rapidly to almost every province of the empire ; they called themselves KaBapot, or Puritans, and insisted on rebaptizing their converts from the Catholic view. The eighth canon of the council of Nice provides in a spirit of considerable liberality for the readmission of the clergy of the KaOapot to the Catholic who held similar views.
Novatian was the first Roman Christian who wrote to any considerable extent in Latin. Of his numerous writings three are extant : (1) a letter written in the name of the Roman clergy to Cyprian in 250 ; (2) a treatise in thirty-one chapters, De Trinitate; (3) a letter written at the request of the Roman laity, De Cibis Judaicis. They are well-arranged compositions, written in an elegant and vigorous style. The best editions are by Welchman (Oxford, 1724) and by Jackson (London, 1728) ; they are translated in vol. ii. of Cyprian's works in the Ante-Nicene Theol. Libr. (Edinburgh, 1869). The Novatian controversy can be advantageously studied in the Epistles of Cyprian.