Symmachus was elected pope on November 22, 498. The archpriest of Santa Prassede, Laurentius, was elected pope, that same day, by a dissenting minority faction with Byzantine sympathies. Laurentius was supported by Emperor Anastasius, but the Gothic King Theodoric the Great, in the end, ruled against him and in favor of Symmachus.
At a synod held at Rome on March 1, 499, Symmachus bestowed on Laurentius the diocese of Nocera in Campania. The synod also ordained that any cleric who sought to gain votes for a successor to the papacy during the lifetime of the pope, or who called conferences and held consultations for that purpose, should be deposed.
In 501, senator Festus, supporter of Laurentius, accused Symmachus of various crimes including fornication, though he had a regular lover, Condritia, but the pope refused to appear before the king to answer the charges, asserting that the secular ruler had no jurisdiction over him. A synod (Synodus Palmaris) called by Theodoric on 23 October 502 amid tumult and disorder exonerated Symmachus, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, which offers full details save those of the charges. In fact, the bishops did not clear Symmachus of any of the charges against him, instead ruling that, as pope, no human court could try him; the judgment of pope Symmachus, according to the synod, must be left to God alone. Theodoric installed Laurentius in the Lateran Palace as pope. The schism continued for four years until Theodoric, deciding that the adherents of Laurentius were too pro-Byzantine, withdrew his support of Laurentius and had him removed from Rome, and opposition to Symmachus eventually was stilled.
The pope contributed large sums for the support of the Catholic bishops of Africa who were persecuted by the rulers of the Arian Vandals. He also aided the inhabitants of upper Italy who suffered from the invasions of barbarians.
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