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E02817: Four bishops of the province of Euphratensis (north-east Syria) in 434 address a letter to the empresses Eudocia and Pulcheria, complaining about the illegal appropriation of the shrine of the martyr *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023) by the Patriarch of Antioch John I. Probably written in Greek in Hierapolis-Bambyke; preserved in Latin translation in the 6th-century Synodicon of Rusticus.

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posted on 2017-05-17, 00:00 authored by erizos
Acts of the First Council of Ephesus (Rusticus the Deacon, Synodicon)

Letter by Alexander, Theodoretus, Abbibus, Helias, Mara, David, and Acylinus, bishops of Euphratensis, to the empresses, which they wrote reporting about the various wrongs committed against them by the bishop of Antioch.

Peruasit uero et martyrium sancti et boni uictoris Sergii martyris, quod sub Hierapolitana erat ecclesia, et nouiter illic contra morem ordinauit episcopum, cuius nec latet iniquitas, sed omnibus nota est. ob hoc compulsi sumus deo amicissimos clericos ac monachos destinare cum praesentibus litteris, per quas uestram quaesumus pietatem ne despiciatis ecclesias dei, sed edoceatis de his quae contra nos fiunt iniquitatibus piissimum et amicum Christi principem nostrum, suadatis uero ut iubeat eius imperium iniquas ordinationes uacare, episcopos uero nostrae prouinciae secundum sanctorum beatorumque partum regulas ordinationes celebrare, basilicam uero sancti et boni uictoris Sergii martyris secundum pristinum morem sub ecclesia eius esse metropolis, ad quam et magnum id ipsum templum fabricatum est et illi altissimi muri et alia intra eandem munitionem aedificia. decet enim pietatem uestram et hanc iniquitatem remouere et sanctorum beatissimorum partum regulas roborare, quorum orationibus uestrum munitur imperium.

‘[……] But he [John, Patriarch of Antioch] also took over the shrine of the holy and good victor Sergius the martyr, which was under the Church of Hierapolis, and he recently ordained a bishop there, against custom, whose injustice cannot be hidden but is known to all. Because of this, we were compelled to send these clerics and monks, most dear to God, with the present letter by which we beseech your piety not to overlook the Churches of God, but to inform our most pious and God-loving sovereign of the injustices committed against us, and urge his imperial majesty to order that unjust ordinations be invalidated and that the bishops of our province celebrate ordinations according to the rules of the holy and most blessed Fathers; and that the basilica of the holy and good victor Sergius the martyr be, according to the original usage, under the church of this metropolis, by which both the great shrine itself was built and also those very high walls and the other buildings within the same enclosure. It indeed befits your piety both to remove this injustice and to corroborate the rules of the most blessed Fathers, by whose prayers may your imperial majesty be protected.’

Text: Schwartz, ACO 1.4.1, pp. 162-163.
Translation: Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Sergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 303-311 : S00023

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters Canonical and legal texts


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Hierapolis Euphratensis

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

Hierapolis Euphratensis Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Women Monarchs and their family


This letter belongs to the Latin Acts of the Council of Ephesus (431), as they were codified by the Roman deacon Rusticus in his Synodicon (‘Book of the Councils’) in 564. Rusticus supplements the acts proper of the council with several documents concerning the aftermath of the council and the conflict between the supporters and opponents of Nestorius. The letter discussed here is one of a series of letters written by the pro-Nestorian bishops of Euphratensis under the leadership of their metropolitan, Alexander of Hierapolis, complaining against their Patriarch, John I of Antioch (429-441). John tried to support Nestorius in 431, but two years later he accepted the decisions of the Council of Ephesus and reconciled himself with Cyril of Alexandria. Alexander of Hierapolis and the other bishops of Euphratensis interrupted their communion with John, who ordained two bishops in Euphratensis, including one at the recently-established shrine of Sergios in Rusafa. This text is a letter of complaint against these actions, addressed to the empresses Pulcheria and Eudocia, sister and wife of the emperor Theodosius II. It almost certainly dates from 434, shortly before Alexander of Hierapolis was banished to Egypt (435). The extant text is a translation from a Greek original, as suggested by a number of linguistic features in the text. The Synodicon Rusticus was one of the deacons who accompanied Pope Vigilius (537-555) to Constantinople in 547. He opposed Justinian’s religious policy on the Three Chapters and, after the Council of 553, he was exiled to Egypt. He returned to Constantinople in 564, where he produced the Synodicon (‘Book of the Councils’), a massive codification of the acts of the Councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451), based on documents from the library of the Sleepless Monks (Akoimetoi) in Constantinople (see Spataro 2007; Petri 2010).


This passage is the first and only contemporary attestation of the building of the shrine of Sergios at Rusafa. It confirms that the shrine was built by the metropolitan of Hierapolis, Alexander, most probably in the 420s or early 430s, and was usurped by the Patriarch of Antioch John I just after 433. It thus attests to an early stage in the development of the shrine of Rusafa: a complex of buildings, enclosed by a high precinct, built by the metropolitan of the province, Alexander of Hierapolis, under whose direct jurisdiction the shrine was planned to function. The interest of the Patriarch of Antioch suggests that the cult of Sergios was already flourishing. John removed Rusafa from the church of Hierapolis and promoted it to a bishopric. The foundation of the basilica of Rusafa is mentioned also in the Greek passio of Sergios (E02791).


Text: Schwartz, E. (ed.) Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum I: Concilium universale Ephesenum. Vol. 4.1, Berlin/Leipzig: De Gruyter, 1922, 162-163. Further reading: Key Fowden, E. The Barbarian Plain. Saint Sergius between Rome and Iran, University of California Press: Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 1999, 26-27. On Rusticus: Petri, S. La disputatio contra Acephalos di Rustico. Studi sulla tarda antichita 5. Pisa: Fabrizio Serra Editore, 2010. Spataro, R. Il diacono Rustico e il suo contributo nel dibattito teologico postcalcedonese, Roma, 2007.

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