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E00768: Eusebius of Caesarea in his Life of Constantine claims that the first Christian emperor honoured the memorial days of the martyrs and encouraged state officials to do so around the empire. Written in Greek in Caesarea Maritima of Palestine, 337/339.

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posted on 2015-10-13, 00:00 authored by CSLA Admin
Eusebius of Caesarea, Life of Constantine, 3.1.5-6; 4.23.1

οἱ μὲν τοὺς τοῦ θεοῦ μάρτυρας αἰσχίσταις ὑπέβαλλον τιμωρίαις, ὁ δὲ αὐτοὺς μὲν τοὺς ταῦτα δεδρακότας μετῄει σωφρονίζων τῇ πρεπούσῃ τοῦ θεοῦ κολάσει, τῶν δ’ ἁγίων μαρτύρων τοῦ θεοῦ τὰς μνήμας τιμῶν οὐ διελίμπανεν.

'They subjected the martyrs of God to the foulest penalties; he pursued those who had done this, and chastised them with proper punishment from God, while he never ceased honouring the memorials of the holy martyrs of God.'

καθόλου δὲ τοῖς ὑπὸ τῇ Ῥωμαίων ἀρχῇ δήμοις τε καὶ στρατιωτικοῖς πύλαι πάσης ἀπεκλείοντο εἰδωλολατρίας, θυσίας τε τρόπος ἀπηγορεύετο πᾶς. καὶ τοῖς κατ’ ἔθνος δ’ ἄρχουσιν ὁμοίως τὴν κυριακὴν ἡμέραν νόμος ἐφοίτα γεραίρειν· οἱ δ’ αὐτοὶ νεύματι βασιλέως καὶ μαρτύρων ἡμέρας ἐτίμων καιρούς θ’ ἑορτῶν ἐκκλησίαις ἐδόξαζον, πάντα τε βασιλεῖ καταθυμίως τὰ τοιαῦτα ἐπράττετο.

‘At the municipal and military authorities throughout the Roman Empire, access was blocked to every form of idolatry, and every form of sacrifice was banned. Similarly, a law was addressed to the governors of each province to reverence the Lord's Day. At the Emperor's behest, these same persons both honoured the days of martyrs and dignified festal occasions with public gatherings, and all the things of this kind were carried out according to the emperor’s wish.’

Text: Winkelmann 2008.
Translation: E. Rizos (using Cameron and Hall 1999, 121, 161).


Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Caesarea Maritima

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Caesarea Maritima Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Eusebius of Caesarea

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Officials Soldiers


Eusebius wrote the Life of Constantine in the two years between the death of his hero (337) and his own (339), without finishing the work. The author portrays the first Christian emperor as an ideal ruler, sent from God, who ended the persecution of Christians and led the Roman Empire to prosperity and to the true faith. Based on imperial documents, legal texts and personal communication, the Life of Constantine, if clearly biased, is one of our fundamental sources of information on the reign of Constantine.


In these passages, Eusebius claims that the cult of martyrs and their festivals was one of the central aspects of Constantine’s imperially sponsored Christianity. Constantine allegedly honoured the feasts of the martyrs personally, and promoted their observance actively through the ranks of the municipal, military, and provincial administration. Emphasis on the cult of martyrs is also evident in Constantine’s Letter to the East, which is quoted by Eusebius (see E00767). Whether these claims are accurate or not, the fact that Eusebius, one of the leading bishops of the imperially sponsored church, was so interested in the cult of the martyrs demonstrates its paramount importance and considerable enhancement in the early 4th century.


Text: Winkelmann, F. (ed.), Eusebius Werke, Band 1, Teil 1: Über das Leben des Kaisers Konstantin (Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte; 2nd rev. ed.; Berlin / New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2008). Translations and Commentaries: Cameron, A., and Hall, S.G., Eusebius, Life of Constantine (Clarendon Ancient History Series; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999). Dräger, P., Eusebios, Über das Leben des glückseligen Kaisers Konstantin = (De vita Constantini) : griechisch/deutsch (Bibliotheca classicorum; Oberhaid: Utopica, 2007). Pietri, L., and Rondeau, M.-J. Eusèbe De Césarée, Vie De Constantin. Sources Chrétiennes 559. Paris: Editions du Cerf, 2013. Schneider, H., and Bleckmann, B., Eusebios von Caesarea. De vita Constantini = Das Leben des Konstantin (Fontes Christiani; Turnhout: Brepols, 2007). Tartaglia, L., Eusebio di Cesarea Sulla vita di Costantino (Quaderni di Koinōnia; Napoli: M. D'Auria, 1984). Further reading: Drake, H. A., Constantine and the Bishops: the Politics of Intolerance (Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000). Baynes, N.H., Constantine the Great and the Christian Church (Raleigh lecture on history; London: Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 1972).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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