Socrates Sozomenus And Sabinus

Socrates begins his Ecclesiastical History with the accession of Constantine in 306 (HE 1-2.1, 40.3), and he concludes ir with the seventeenth consulate of Theodosius in 439 (HE 7.48.8): it seems highly probable that he completed the work in the latter year.1

Socrates was born in Constantinople shortly before 380 (HE 5.24.9, cf. 5.16.9), and he drew much oral information from the aged Novatianist priest Auxanon, who in his youth had attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 (HE 1.13.2, cf. 10.5).2 Hence no doubt his full and excellent accounts of episodes in the career of Paul of Constantinople.3 The classic treatment of F. Geppert identified Socrates' main written sources as (1) Rufinus' Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius1 Life of Constantine, and Athanasius (all extant); (2) a brief chronicle compiled in Constantinople and lists of bishops, which together provided the chronological framework; and (3) two collections of documents which have not survived—the Synodicus of Athanasius and the Synagoge of Sabinus. Geppert also argued that Socrates used no fewer than fourteen subsidiary sources, of which four come into the reckoning for his account of the reign of Constantius—the lives of Eusebius of Caesarea by Acacius (HE 2.4) and of Eusebius of Emesa by George of Laodicea (HE 1.24.3; 2.9.1), Eutropius' Breviarinm, and a lost series of brief imperial biographies also used in the Origo Constantini Imperatoris and much later by Zonaras.4

Geppert's analysis retains its general validity even after nearly a century, but some of his identifications of specific sources are mistaken. In particular, the history which Socrates ascribes to Rufinus (HE 2.1.1) was probably the lost Greek Ecclesiastical History of Gelasius of Caesarea, supplemented by a Greek translation of what Rufinus added to his Greek exemplar in his Latin adaptation and continuation of Gelasius down to 395.* The Synodicus of Athanasius probably never existed: it is mentioned only in a sentence of Socrates' Ecclesiastical History which appears to be an interpolation (HE 1.13.12), and everything which Socrates (and Sozomenus) were supposed to have taken from it may be derived instead from Sabinus' Synagoge, which, though lost, is well attested.6 Moreover there is no need to posit yet another "Sammlung von Kaiserbiographien ... deren Original für uns völlig verloren ist' in order to explain the similarities of the Origo, Socrates, and Zonaras: they are sporadic and mainly factual, and they do not show a consistent parallelism of phraseology.7

Sozomenus composed his Ecclesiastical History some years after Socrates. Sozomenus' preface refers to a recent journey of the emperor Thcodosius across Bithynia to Heraclea Pontica in the heat of summer (HE pr. 13): this visit has usually been dated to 443, and the inference has usually been drawn that Sozomenus was writing in or shortly after that year.8 Both premise and conclusion are vulnerable. C. Roueche has shown that Theodosius' visit to Heraclea Pontica need not belong to 443,9 and Alan Cameron has noted that Sozomenus' praise of Pulcheria, particularly his statement that 'we shall find that she especially is responsible for the fact that new heresies are not victorious in our own day' (HE 9.1.9), implies that the last book at least was written in 450 after Pulcheria's return to power and favor in the last months of Theodosius' life.'0

Sozomenus was a native of Bethelca near Gaza (HE 5.15.14), who settled in Constantinople apparently after 425 (cf. HE 8.27.7). A lawyer like Socrates (HE 2.3.10), he decided to outdo his predecessor by composing a more literary Ecclesiastical History covering the period from the third consulate of the Caesars Crispus and Constantinus in 324 to the seventeenth consulate of Theodosius in 439 (HE pr. 19), Socrates had deliberately renounced rhetorical ornament in order to write in a plain and unadorned style, which he held to be appropriate for a Christian historian (HE 1.1.3; 3.1.4; 6 pr.). Sozomenus employed Socrates as his main source and rewrote him in a more elevated style, more in keeping with the traditions of serious pagan historiography." But, in addition to these systematic stylistic changes, Sozomenus often supplemented Socrates: he drew, for example, on his legal experience for an account of the legislation of Constantine which ranges beyond the laws included in the Theodosian Code (HE 1.8.13, 9.3).12 Sozomenus sometimes also mined more fully the self-same authors whom Socrates followed or quoted (Gelasius/Rufinus, Euscbius' Life of Constantine, and Athanasius). But some of the most valuable sections of Sozomenus' Ecclesiastical History are entirely independent of Socrates and Socrates' sources: for example, Sozomenus drew on Persian acta ntartyrum for an account of the persecution of Shapur (HE 2.9-14); he provides two long excursuses on monks and holy men (HE 3.14-16; 6.28-34, with many similarities to Palladius' Lausiac History and the Historia Monachorutn in Aegypto); and he used the lost history of Olympiodorus for the political narrative of events down to 425 which forms the structure of his unfinished ninth book.,J Several passages also show knowledge of the violently anti-Christian history of Eunapius of Sardis.14

For the reign of Constantius, an important source for both Socrates and Sozomenus was the Synagoge of Sabinus of Heraclea. Unfortunately, Sozomenus never names Sabinus—or any of his principal sources.IS Socrates, however, names Sabinus in some ten passages (HE 1.8.24-26; 1.9.28; 2.15.8-11; 2.17.10-11; 2.20.5; 2.39.8; 3.10.11; 3.25.18; 4.12.41; 4.22.1), which make it clear that Sabinus not only quoted (or omitted) conciliar documents, but also provided commentary. It is sometimes difficult, therefore, to tell whether Sozomenus' report of a document depends on the document itself as quoted by Sabinus or on Sabinus' digest of something which he did not quote.14 P. Batiffol demonstrated Sozomenus' constant recourse to Sabinus:17 the subsequent monograph by G. Schoo on the sources of Sozomenus unfortunately did not attempt to distinguish consistently between the passages where Sozomenus quotes or reports the contents of a document which he found in Sabinus and those where he merely reproduces Sabinus' narrative or his commentary on a document which he did not quote.18

For the most part, the narrative framework of Books Three and Four of Sozomenus' Ecclesiastical History faithfully follows Socrates and reproduces most of his grosser factual and chronological errors. Yet Sozomenus' account of the reign of Constantius has great intrinsic value because he has often supplemented Socrates. The following are some of the most important passages relating to ecclesiastical politics of the period 337-361 where Sozomenus demonstrates his independence of Socrates, usually by showing knowledge of documents not quoted by him or by supplying authentic details not found in his main source:1*

Book Three

5.1-6.7 The 'Dedication Council.'20 Sozomenus follows Socrates closely {HE

2.8.1-5), but adds three details: a claim that the creed was Lucian's; the names of eight bishops prominent at the council; and a note that Eusebius of Emesa voted with the rest. Sozomenus has presumably used Sabinus, who included the council's letter to Julius (Socrates, HE 2.17.10).

8.3 Brief summary of a letter sent by Julius of Rome to the eastern bishops:

apparently not the letter of 341 quoted by Athanasius (Apol. c. Ar. 21-35), but an earlier one to which Athanasius refers, probably written in 339 (Apol. c. Ar. 20.1).

8.4-8 Summary of the letter of the 'Dedication Council' to Julius of Rome.

Sozomenus clearly believed that this letter was written by a later council.

11.4-12.7 Hie Council of Serdica. Sozomenus shows detailed knowledge of three documents not quoted by Socrates: the synodical letters of both the eastern and the western bishops {CSEL 65. 48-67; 103-126: the latter also known from Athanasius, Apol. c. Ar. 42-47), and the letter of Ossius and Protogenes to Julius (EOMIA 1.644). He had probably already used the first of these documents to supply the charge on which Asclepas of Gaza had been deposed (8.1, cf. CSEL 65.55).

20.4,7-9 Leontius as bishop of Antioch (cf. Theodoretus, HE 1.22.1; 2.24.3).

22 Letter of the Council of Jerusalem, 346 (quoted from Athanasius, Apol. c.

23-24 Letters of Ursacius and Valens to Julius and Athanasius (quoted from

Book Four

3 Sozomenus shows knowledge of the Passion of the Holy Notaries

(BHGi 1028y). Although the Passion names Philippus as the prefect who executed Martyrius and Marcianus, Sozomenus leaves him anonymous.

5 Account of the cross which appeared over Jerusalem on 7 May 351, based on Cyril of Jerusalem's letter to Constantius (BHG3 413 = CPG 3587).

6.2 The theological views of Photinus.

6.12 Excerpt from the 'dated creed': apparently not from Socrates, since the text of Sozomenus agrees with the corresponding section of the creed of Nike as quoted by Theodoretus (HE 2.21.3-7) against Socrates (HE 2.37.23-24) and Athanasius (Syn. 8.7). Like Socrates, Sozomenus misdates the creed to 351 (6.6), but he presumably took his brief quotation from Sabinus, whereas Socrates reproduces the whole document from Athanasius.

8.4 Report of the Council of Antioch which deposed Athanasius shortly before 350. Though not explicitly attested elsewhere, this council should be accepted as historical.21

9.6-9 Athanasius sends envoys to the court of Constantius in 353. Sozomenus*

source is the original of the Historia acepbala (1.7).

10.8-11 George in Alexandria (cf. Hist. ac. 2.2-6).22

11.4-10 Report of the interview between Constantius and Liberius after his arrest in 355: Sozomenus appears to be summarising the document quoted by Theodoretus (HE 2.16).

12.4-7 Report of the letter of a council held at Antioch by the newly elected Eudoxius to Ursacius, Valens, and Germinius (winter 357/8).

13.2-3 Letter of George of Laodicea (early 358).

14 Letter of Constantius to the church of Antioch (late 357).

16.14-20 Report of correspondence between Constantius and Basil of Ancyra.

17.1 Report of Constantius* letter to the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia.

22 The Council of Seleucia. Sozomenus closely follows Socrates, but he adds some details omitted by him, such as the speech of Eleusius (22). Sozomenus refers to the bypomnemata of the council as if he had consulted them himself (28).

23 Negotiations at court after the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia.

24-25 Report of the decisions of the Council of Constantinople which deposed Macedonius, Eleusius, and others. Sozomenus' report is considerably fuller than the parallel report in Socrates {HE 2.42-43.6).

28 Meletius as bishop of Antioch. Sozomenus again gives a much fuller account than Socrates (cf. Theodoretus, HE 2.31).

For most of the documents whose source is not extant, consultation of Sabinus is the most probable explanation of Sozomenus' knowledge.23 However, it is sometimes not at all easy, especially in his narrative of events preceding :he Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia, to be certain whether Sozomenus is paraphrasing a document (either at first or second-hand) or supplementing his sources by ratiocination and imaginative reconstruction.24


Theodoretus wrote his Ecclesiastical History in the late 440s.1 He thus wrote after Socrates, whose work he appears to have known and occasionally used,2 but before Sozomenus, who was still working on his Ecclesiastical History in 450.3 Theodoretus has a low reputation as a historian and has been denounced as 'without question by far the least significant in the series of Greek ecclesiastical historians.'4 That is a mistaken estimate—of Theodoretus as a literary artist no less than of his value as a source of information. Theodoretus' interests were primarily dogmatic rather than historical, and he transformed the raw materials of his Ecclesiastical History to suit his own purposes more thoroughly than either Socrates or Sozomenus.3

Theodoretus consciously set out to supplement Gelasius and Socrates (HE 1.1.2), and some significant documents and other writings which he quotes or paraphrases have not survived independently.6 He appears to have taken pains to differ from his predecessors as far as possible. For example, he completely omits Socrates' detailed and colorful accounts of how Paul of Constantinople was expelled from the imperial capital:7 instead, he begins by alleging that popular support made it impossible to summon Paul to Serdica, then passes to his deposition, deportation to Cucusus, and death, illustrated by a brief quotation from Athanasius (HE 2.5, cf. Fug. 3.6).®

It is chronologically possible for Theodoretus to have read or consulted the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, and it has been argued that he used it.9 However, the fragmentary preservation of Philostorgius makes derivation difficult to prove, especially since it seems clear that Theodoretus drew directly on an important source of Philostorgius not used by Socrates—the lost ecclesiastical history written in the later 360s, whose unknown author has traditionally been styled 'the anonymous Arian historian,' but whose viewpoint was distinctively homoean.10

Theodoretus' individuality as a historian of the Christian church in the fourth century reveals itself in features such as his obvious and frequent interest in Antioch: for example, he preserves a long and extremely valuable quotation from Eustathius on the Council of Nicaea (HE 1.8.1-4 = Eustathius, frag. 32 Spanneut)" and a fuller account of the maltreatment of Christians in Antioch under Julian than can be found in other narrative sources (HE 3.10-19, cf. 22: an episode at Beroea not independently recorded). Adducing quotations in later Greek writers, L. Parmentier demonstrated that Theodoretus took much of his information about Antioch and the career of Eunomius from Theodore of Mopsuestia's lost work against Eunomius.12

The following passages of Book Two, which covers the reign of Constantius, either preserve information relevant to ecclesiastical politics which has no analogue in Rufinus and Socrates or which diverges from these earlier accounts of the same events:13

1.1 The length of Athanasius' sojourn in Trier (two years and three months).

7.1-8.52 The Council of Serdica, from 'ancient accounts.' Theodoretus and the version preserved in Cod. Ver. LX (58), fols. 81-88r, alone preserve the credal statement omitted from the versions of the letter of the western bishops quoted by Athanasius (Apoi. c. Ar. 44-49) and Hilary (GS£L 65.103-128).

8.54-10.2 The embassy of bishops escorted by Flavius Salia, the plot of Stephanus of Antioch, and his consequent disgrace and deposition. Theodoretus' account, which is much fuller than that given by Athanasius (Hist. Ar. 20), appears to reflect local knowledge or traditions.

14.13 Brief extract from a lost work of Athanasius consoling virgins who had suffered violence in Alexandria in 357 (CPG 2162).

16 'Dialogue of the emperor Constantius and Liberius, bishop of Rome' (1-27), and his exile (28/9). Sozomenus (HE 4.11.3-10) summarises this dialogue, which also survives in Syriac (Vatican Library, Syr. 145, fols. 65v-67'). Theodoretus' account of Liberius' exile may also owe something to Athanasius (Hist. Ar. 35-40).

17 Liberius' return to Rome.

19-21 Letters of the Council of Ariminum to Constantius and of Constantius to the council, and the creed of Nike. The three documents quoted all stand in Athanasius (Syn. 10,55,30) and Socrates (HE 2.37-54-87,41.8-16), who quotes them from Athanasius. But Theodoretus' text often diverges in linguistic details: it derives, therefore, from an independent Greek translation of the lost Latin originals (possibly by way of Sabinus).

23 Quotation of Athanasius, Ep. ad Afros 3-4.M

24-26,3 Leontius and Eudoxius as bishops of Antioch (24.2 quotes Athanasius, Fug. 26.3).

26.4-11 Council of Seleucia.,s

27-28 Council of Constantinople, with quotation of its letter to George of Alex andria, presumably taken from Sabinus.

29 The career of Eunomius, mainly repeated from Theodoretus' earlier work Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium (4.3 [PG 83.417-422]).

30 The siege of Nisibis by the Persian king Shapur, largely quoted from Theodoretus' Historia Reiigiosa (1 \PG 82.1304/5]).

It is symptomatic of the narrative confusion which prevails in Theodoretus' account of the reign of Constantius, no less than in that of Socrates,16 that he places Shapur's third siege of Nisibis at the end of the reign of Constantius after the Council of Constantinople, thus implying a date of 360 or 361 for an event which occurred a decade earlier.

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