University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E02274: Sozomen in his Ecclesiastical History recounts the transfer in 352 of the remains of *Babylas (bishop and martyr of Antioch, S00061) to the suburb and pagan shrine of Daphne. The local oracle is silenced, and in 362/3, the emperor Julian orders that the martyr be removed. The pagan temple is miraculously destroyed. Written in Greek at Constantinople, 439/450.

online resource
posted on 2017-01-26, 00:00 authored by erizos
Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, 5.19. 1-17.

(1-11) Julian has come to Antioch, preparing for a Persian campaign. His relations with the locals are tense. There is a suburb at Antioch, called Daphne, which is famous for its beauty. They say that this is the site where Apollo transformed Daphne into a laurel tree, and therefore the site is popular among the licentious young. The site also has an important oracular shrine of Apollo, founded by king Seleucus I (305-281 BC), which is said to have predicted to the later emperor Hadrian his rise to the throne (AD 117-138).

(12.) … ἐπεὶ δὲ Γάλλος ὁ Ἰουλιανοῦ ἀδελφὸς Καῖσαρ καταστὰς παρὰ Κωνσταντίου ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ διῆγε, Χριστιανὸς ὢν καὶ ἐς τὰ μάλιστα πρεσβεύων τοὺς ὑπὲρ τοῦ δόγματος μεμαρτυρηκότας, ἔγνωκεν Ἑλληνικῆς δεισιδαιμονίας καὶ ὕβρεως (13.) ἀκολάστων ἀνθρώπων τοῦτον ἐκκαθᾶραι τὸν χῶρον. ὑπολαβὼν δὲ ῥᾳδίως περιέσεσθαι, εἰ εὐκτήριον ἐνθάδε ἀντικαταστήσειεν οἶκον, μετέθηκεν εἰς Δάφνην τὴν λάρνακα Βαβύλα τοῦ μάρτυρος, ὃς εὖ μάλα λαμπρῶς ἐπε- (14.) τρόπευσε τὴν Ἀντιοχέων ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἐμαρτύρησεν. ἐξ ἐκείνου δὲ λόγος μὴ χρησμῳδῆσαι συνήθως τὸ δαιμόνιον· ἐδόκει δὲ τὰ μὲν πρῶτα τοῦτο παθεῖν ὡς θυσιῶν ἀμοιροῦν καὶ θεραπείας ἧς πρότερον ἠξίωτο, ἔδειξε δὲ τὰ μετὰ ταῦτα, ὡς ἐκ γειτόνων γενόμενος ὁ μάρτυς οὐ ξυνεχώρει τοῦτο (15.) ποιεῖν. καὶ γὰρ Ἰουλιανοῦ μόνου κρατοῦντος τῆς Ῥωμαίων οἰκουμένης, σπονδῶν καὶ κνίσσης καὶ ἀφθονίας θυμάτων μετέχων οὐδὲν ἧττον ἠρέμει, καὶ τὸ τελευταῖον χρήσας ἤλεγξε καὶ αὐτὸς τῆς προτέρας σιωπῆς τὴν αἰτίαν. (16.) ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἐβεβούλευτο ὁ βασιλεύς, περὶ ὧν οἱ ἐδόκει, πειραθῆναι τοῦ ἐνθάδε μαντείου, παραγενόμενος εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν ἀναθήμασι καὶ θυσίαις φιλοτίμως ἐτίμα τὸ δαιμόνιον καὶ ἐδεῖτο περὶ ὧν ἐσπούδαζε μὴ ἀμελεῖν. ὁ δὲ περιφανῶς μὲν ὡδὶ οὐκ ἐδήλωσε μὴ δύνασθαι χρησμῳδεῖν διὰ Βαβύλαν τὸν μάρτυρα γειτνιῶντα τῇ θήκῃ· νεκρῶν δέ, ἔφη, ἀνάπλεών ἐστι τὸ χωρίον, (17.) καὶ κατὰ τοῦτο κωλύεσθαι προϊέναι τοὺς χρησμούς. πολλῶν δὲ καὶ ἄλλων κειμένων ἐν Δάφνῃ νεκρῶν συμβαλὼν ὁ βασιλεὺς τὸν μάρτυρα μόνον ἐμποδὼν γίνεσθαι τοῖς χρησμοῖς, προσέταξε μετακινηθῆναι τὴν θήκην. συνελθόντες οἱ Χριστιανοὶ εἵλκυσαν τὴν θήκην ἐπὶ τὴν πόλιν ὡσεὶ στάδια τεσσαράκοντα, οὗ νῦν ὁ μάρτυς κεῖται, δεδωκὼς ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ τὴν προσηγορίαν (18.) τῷ τόπῳ. φασὶ δὲ τότε ἄνδρας καὶ γυναῖκας καὶ νέους καὶ παρθένους, γέροντάς τε καὶ παῖδας, οἳ τὴν σορὸν εἷλκον, παρακελευομένους ἀλλήλοις παρὰ πᾶσαν τὴν ὁδὸν διατελέσαι ψάλλοντας, πρόφασιν μὲν τῇ ᾠδῇ τοὺς ἱδρῶτας ἐπικουφίζοντας, τὸ δὲ ἀληθὲς ὑπὸ ζήλου καὶ προθυμίας κεκινημένους τῷ μὴ τὴν αὐτὴν γνώμην ἔχειν αὐτοῖς τὸν κρατοῦντα περὶ τὸ θεῖον. (19.) ἐξῆρχον δὲ τῶν ψαλμῶν τοῖς ἄλλοις οἱ τούτους ἀκριβοῦντες, καὶ ξυνεπήχει τὸ πλῆθος ἐν συμφωνίᾳ καὶ ταύτην τὴν ῥῆσιν ἐπῇδεν· «ᾐσχύνθησαν πάντες οἱ προσκυνοῦντες τοῖς γλυπτοῖς καὶ οἱ πεποιθότες τοῖς εἰδώλοις.»

‘When Gallus, the brother of Julian, having been made Caesar by Constantius, was residing at Antioch, being a Christian and most devoted to those who had been martyred for the faith, resolved to purge the place of the pagan superstition and the outrages of the profligates. And having decided that he would achieve his goal most easily, if he erected there a rival house of prayer, he moved to Daphne the sarcophagus of Babylas, the martyr, who had presided over the church of Antioch in the most splendid manner, and suffered martyrdom. It is said that from that point on, the demon ceased to utter its customary oracles. Initially, it was thought that this happened because the demon had been deprived of sacrifices and of the cult he had previously enjoyed. Yet the subsequent events demonstrated that, once the martyr had arrived nearby, he would not allow the demon to act. For, when Julian became sole ruler of the Roman Empire, even though the demon received libations, smoke of sacrifices, and plenty of victims, he kept quiet none the less. And, when he eventually uttered his last oracle, he himself indicated the cause of his silence: for, when the emperor decided to consult that oracle about matters he was concerned with, he visited the shrine and generously honoured the demon with dedications and sacrifices, and besought him not to delay his answer to his urgent enquiries. The demon, of course, did not openly admit to being unable to provide an oracle, because of Babylas the martyr lying nearby in his sarcophagus, but he said that the place was full of corpses, and that this hindered the production of the oracles. Now, although many other dead people rested at Daphne, the emperor understood that the only obstacle for the oracles was the martyr, and he commanded that his sarcophagus be removed. The Christians gathered and dragged the sarcophagus to the city, along a distance of about forty stades, to where the martyr now rests and has therefore given his name to the site. They say that men and women, youths and maidens, old men and lads drew the sarcophagus, urging one another to keep singing all along the way. Their excuse was that they were relieving their toil by their singing, but the true reason was that they were aroused with zeal and excitement over the fact that the sovereign did not share their religious beliefs. Those directing the rest led the psalmody, and the crowd responded in one voice, singing this phrase in refrain: Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols. (Psalm 97:7)’

(1.-4.) Enraged, Julian decides to punish the Christians. The Praetorian Prefect Salustius, arrests a number of Christians, and tortures a young man called Theodoros who, although fiercely tormented, gives no signs of suffering. The prisoners are freed, and, after his torturing, Theodoros tells other people that he indeed felt almost no pain, because he could see a young man relieving his wounds and pain with cold water.

(5.) Ὁ μὲν δὴ μάρτυς Βαβύλας ἐκ τῆς εἰρημένης αἰτίας κατῳκίσθη ἐν Δάφνῃ καὶ πάλιν μετετέθη· οὐκ εἰς μακρὰν δὲ τούτου γενομένου ἀπροόπτως ἐμπεσὸν πῦρ τῷ νεῷ τοῦ Δαφναίου Ἀπόλλωνος πᾶσαν τὴν ὀροφὴν καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ ἄγαλμα κατέφλεξε, γυμνοὺς δὲ μόνους τοὺς τοίχους καὶ τοὺς περιβόλους εἴασε καὶ τοὺς κίονας, οἳ τὰ προπύλαια καὶ τὸν ὀπισθόδομον ἀνεῖχον. ἐδόκει δὲ τοῖς μὲν Χριστιανοῖς κατὰ αἴτησιν τοῦ μάρτυρος θεήλατον ἐμπεσεῖν τῷ δαίμονι πῦρ· οἱ δὲ Ἕλληνες ἐλογοποίουν Χριστιανῶν εἶναι τὸ δρᾶμα. (6.) ταύτης δὲ τῆς ὑπονοίας κρατούσης ἄγεται εἰς δικαστήριον ὁ τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος ἱερεὺς ὡς φανερώσων τὸν τολμήσαντα τὸν ἐμπρησμόν· δεσμώτης τε γενόμενος καὶ πολλὰς ὑπομείνας πληγὰς χαλεπῶς τε αἰκισθεὶς οὐδένα κατεμήνυσεν· ᾧ δὴ μάλιστα ἰσχυρίζοντο οἱ Χριστιανοὶ μὴ κατ’ ἐπιβουλὴν ἀνθρωπείαν, ἀλλὰ κατὰ θείαν μῆνιν ἐνσκῆψαι τῷ νεῷ οὐράνιον πῦρ.

‘So, for the said reason, the martyr Babylas was installed at Daphne and removed again. Not long after that, fire suddenly fell upon the temple of Apollo of Daphne and burned down the roof and the very statue of the god, leaving only the bare walls and columns which supported the porch (propylaia) and the back chamber (opisthodomos). The Christians believed that this God-sent fire struck the demon at the request of the martyr, whereas the Hellenes [pagans] ascribed the calamity to the Christians. As this suspicion gained ground, the priest of Apollo was brought to court, in order to reveal the person who had dared commit the arson. Yet, although he was fettered and suffered many beatings and cruel tortures, he did not name anyone. Hence the Christians were greatly strengthened in their view that it was not by human deed but by the wrath of God that fire from heaven was inflicted upon the temple.’

Text: Bidez and Hansen 1995. Translation: Efthymios Rizos


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Babylas, bishop and martyr in Antioch, and his companions, ob. late 3rd c. : S00061

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Procession

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Other

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Scepticism/rejection of the cult of saints

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Punishing miracle Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Pagans Monarchs and their family Officials Crowds

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


Salamenios Hermeias Sozomenos (known in English as Sozomen) was born in the early 5th c. to a wealthy Christian family, perhaps of Arab origins, in the village of Bethelea near Gaza. He was educated at a local monastic school, studied law probably at Beirut, and settled in Constantinople where he pursued a career as a lawyer. Sozomen published his Ecclesiastical History between 439 and 450, perhaps around 445. It consists of nine books, the last of which is incomplete. In his dedication of the work, Sozomen states that he intended to cover the period from the conversion of Constantine to the seventeenth consulate of Theodosius II, that is, 312 to 439, but the narrative of the extant text breaks in about 425. The basis of Sozomen’s work is the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates, published a few years earlier, which our author revises and expands. Like Socrates, Sozomen was devoted to Nicene Orthodoxy and the Theodosian dynasty, but his work is marked by stronger hagiographical interests, a richer base of sources, and different sympathies/loyalties. Sozomen probably lacked the classical education of Socrates, but had a broader knowledge of hagiographical and monastic literature and traditions, which makes him a fuller source for the cult of saints. Besides Greek and Latin, Sozomen knew Aramaic, which allowed him to include information about ascetic communities, monastic founders, and martyrs from his native Palestine, Arabia, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia, to which Socrates had had no access. Much like the other ecclesiastical historians of the fourth and fifth centuries, Sozomen focuses on the East Roman Empire, only seldom referring to the West and Persia.


This account is one of the most detailed versions of the story of the removal of Babylas' tomb from Daphne. Sozomen reproduces the accounts of the ecclesiastical histories of Rufinus (10.36-37) and Socrates (3.18-19; E02293), adding more details. The stories is expanded further by Theodoret in his Ecclesiastical History (3.10-11). The same events are also recounted by Philostrorgius (7.8).


Text: Bidez, J., and Hansen, G. C., Sozomenus. Kirchengeschichte. 2nd rev. ed. (Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte, Neue Folge 4; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1995). Translations: Grillet, B., Sabbah, G., Festugière A.-J. Sozomène, Histoire ecclésiastique. 4 vols. (Sources chrétiennes 306, 418, 495, 516; Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1983-2008): text, French translation, and introduction. Hansen, G.C. Sozomen, Historia ecclesiastica, Kirchengeschichte, 4 vols. (Fontes Christiani 73; Turnhout: Brepols, 2004): text, German translation, and introduction. Hartranft, C.D. “The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen, Comprising a History of the Church from AD 323 to AD 425." In A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Second Series, edited by P. Schaff and H. Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 179-427. Further reading: Chesnut, G. F. The First Christian Histories: Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Evagrius (Atlanta: Mercer University, 1986). Leppin, H. Von Constantin dem Grossen zu Theodosius II. Das christliche Kaisertum bei den Kirchenhistorikern Socrates, Sozomenus und Theodoret (Hypomnemata 110; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996). Scorza Barcellona, F. “Martiri e confessori dell’etaÌ di Giuliano l’Apostata: dalla storia alla leggenda,” in F.E. Consolino (ed.), Pagani e cristiani da Giuliano l'Apostata al sacco di Roma. Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi (Rende, 12/13 novembre 1993) (Soveria Mannelli, 1995), 53-83. Teitler, H.C. “Ammianus, Libanius, Chrysostomus, and the Martyrs of Antioch,” Vigiliae Christianae 67 (2013), 263-88. Teitler, H.C. The Last Pagan Emperor: Julian the Apostate and the War against Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). Van Nuffelen, P., Un héritage de paix et de piété : Étude sur les histoires ecclésiastiques de Socrate et de Sozomène (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 142; Leuven: Peeters, 2004).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager