Montanus a celebrated heresiarch of the early Christian Church, the supposed founder of a sect named after him Montanists (q.v.), was a Phrygian by birth, and, according to Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. 5:16), made his first public appearance about A.D. 170, in the village of Ardabar, on the confines of Phrygia and Mysia, of which place he is believed to have been a native (comp., however, the bishop of Lincoln's [Kaye] Tertullian, page 13 sq.). He was brought up in heathenism, but appears to have embraced Christianity (about 170) with all the fanatical enthusiasm for which his countrymen were noted. Neander endeavors to explain his character and tendencies on the supposition of his possessing an essentially Phrygian temperament, and the little we know concerning him renders this highly probable. The frenzy, the paroxysms, the fierce belief in the supernatural, that marked the old Phrygian priests of Cybele and Bacchus, are repeated under less savage, but not less abnormal conditions, in the ecstasies, somnambulism, and passion for self-immolation of the Montalists. According to some of the ancient writers, Montanus was believed by his followers to be the Paraclete, or Holy Spirit. But this is an exaggeration, for he, falling into somnambulistic ecstasies, came simply to consider himself the inspired organ of the Paraclete, the Helper and Comforter promised by Christ in these last times of distress. He, however, certainly claimed divine inspiration for himself and his associates. They delivered their prophecies in an ecstasy, and their example seems to have introduced into the Church the practice of appealing to visions in favor of opinions and actions, of which practice Cyprian and others availed themselves to a great extent (comp. Middleton, Free Inquiry, page 98, etc.). His principal associates were two prophetesses, named Prisca, or Priscilla, and Maximilla. The doctrines which Montanus, if he taught at all as a leader of a sect, disseminated are now clearly seen to have been in general agreement with those of the Church catholic of the 2d century, and the fact that Tertullian at one time became the most brilliant exponent of the Montanists would go far to confirm such a position. But the austerity of manner, the strictness of discipline, and the doctrine of a permanent extraordinary influence of the Paraclete, manifesting itself by prophetic ecstasies and visions, opened wide the door to all manner of fanatical extravagances, and brought reproach upon the name of founder and sect alike. Ecclesiastical writers of succeeding centuries have in consequence brought more or less reproach upon the name of Montanus by accusations of immorality and crime, and he is even said to have ended his days violently. But there is no authority for such statements, if we may believe Schwegler, Der Montanismus u. die christliche Kirche des zweiten Jahrh. (Tub. 1841, 8vo). He insists upon it that "there is nothing of historical value in the life of this man at our command" (page 242), and believes that "the person Montanus is of no significance in the examination and elucidation of what is known as Montanism," and would go ven so far as to " doubt the historical existence of this apocryphal character" (page 243). There is certainly ground for such a position in the fact that in their earliest days the Montanists were never spoken of under that name, but were generally called, especially by Tertullian and Eusebius, after the name of the country in which they originated, Cataphrygians, or after the name of the place to which they assigned special sanctity, Iepuzzians (comp.
Epiphan. Haer. 48, 14). Bishop Kaye, in his Tertullian (page 28 sq.), takes it for granted that Mcnatanus was a historical character, and awards to him the dignity of founder of the Montanists. The learned bishop even believes, depending upon Tertullian's work, "that the effusions of Montanus and his female associates had been committed to writing," and that "Tertullian, believing that Montanus was commissioned to complete the Christian revelation, could not deem him inferior to the apostles, by whom it was only obscurely and imperfectly developed." See references to the article SEE MONTANISTS.