The term exarch first entered the ecclesiastical language as a title for a [[metropolitan]] with jurisdiction not only for the area for which he was a metropolitan, but also over other metropolitans. The [[First Ecumenical Council]] (held in 451), which gave special authority to the [[see]] of Constantinople as being "the residence of the emperor and the Senate," did not use the term "patriarch", but in its ninth canon still spoke only of "exarchs".
The title patriarch came about when the Imperial government proposed an organization for a universal Christendom that was composed of five patriarchal [[see]]s (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, known as the [[pentarchy]]). This was done under the auspices of a single universal empire as formulated in the legislation of Emperor Justinian, especially in his Novella 131. Having received formal ecclesiastical sanction at the [[Quinisext Council|Council of Trullo]] (held in 692), the name "patriarch" became the official title for the Bishops of these sees. The title "Exarch" remained the proper style for metropolitans who ruled over the three remaining (political) [[diocese]]s of Diocletian's division of the Eastern Prefecture. These were the Exarchs of Asia (at [[Ephesus]]), of Cappadocia and Pontus (at Caesarea), and of Thrace (at Heraclea Sintica). Later the advance of the stature of Constantinople put an end to these exarchates, and they fell back to the state of ordinary metropolitan sees (Fortescue, Orthodox Eastern Church, 21-25). But the title of exarch was still occasionally used for any Metropolitan (so at Sardica in 343, can. vi).
The principle was established that, since no addition should be made to the fixed number of five patriarchs of the pentarchy, any bishop with authority over other bishops who was not dependent on any one of these five should be called an exarch. Thus, since the [[Church of Cyprus]] was declared autocephalous (at Ephesus in 431), its Primate received the title of Exarch of Cyprus.