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E03992: Socrates in his Ecclesiastical History refers to miracle-working bishops and holy men flourishing under Constantine. These are *Paphnoutios (ascetic of the Thebaid, S01542), *Spyridon (ascetic of Trimythous on Cyprus, S00790), and the Novatian ascetic *Eutychianos of Bithynia (S01543). Written in Greek at Constantinople, 439/446.

online resource
posted on 2017-09-06, 00:00 authored by erizos
Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, 1.11-13


After recounting the events of the Council of Nicaea, Socrates recounts the stories of Paphnoutios (1.11) and Spyridon (1.12), relying entirely on the account of Rufinus of Aquileia. In 1.13, he adduces the story of the Novatian Eutychianos, which he heard when he was very young from the Novatian presbyter Auxanon who was alive into the reign of Theodosius II. Eutychianos lived as an ascetic on the Bithynian Olympus, where he performed miraculous healings of souls and bodies. Auxanon was his monastic disciple. A member of Constantine’s bodyguard was arrested under the accusation of plotting against the emperor, and was imprisoned in the same area. Eutychianos was asked by the people to intervene with the emperor for his liberation. When he visited the prisoner, his fetters miraculously fell off. Later, Eutychianos met the emperor Constantine in Constantinople and achieved the man’s liberation.

Summary: Efthymios Rizos


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Paphnoutios, confessor and bishop in the Thebaid : S01542 Spyridon, bishop of Trimythous (Cyprus), ob. 348 : S00790 Eutychianos, Novatian ascetic in Bithynia : S01543

Saint Name in Source

Παφνούτιος Σπυρίδων Εὐτυχιανός

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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Acceptance/rejection of saints from other religious groupings

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Heretics Prisoners Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


Socrates ‘Scholasticus’ was born between 380 and 390 in Constantinople, where he probably spent his entire life. He was trained as a grammarian and rhetorician under the sophist Troilos of Side. From his work, Socrates emerges as a classically educated intellectual, and probably a member of the higher echelons of Constantinopolitan society. His only known work, the seven-volume Ecclesiastical History, was published between 439 and 446, very probably in 439/440. It covers the period from the accession of Constantine to 439, focusing on the Roman East and recounting the 4th century Christological disputes, the reign of Julian the Apostate, the conflicts that led to the deposition of John Chrysostom, and the beginnings of the Nestorian dispute. Socrates’ synthesis is defined by his loyalties to Nicene Orthodoxy, the Theodosian dynasty, and the Origenist tradition. He is markedly sympathetic to the Novatian community, of which he may have been a member, and is interested in recording information about several other sectarian Christian groups of his time. Although an Origenist, like John Chrysostom and his supporters, Socrates distances himself from the Johannite party. Socrates draws extensively on the Latin Ecclesiastical History of Rufinus of Aquileia for his account of the 4th century, which results in substantial overlaps between their works. In this database, we record only Socrates’ additions, and not the sections he reproduces from Rufinus. Alongside the recording of doctrinal disputes, successions of bishops, and victims of persecutions, Socrates was the first author to include a relatively systematic treatment of monasticism to the agenda of ecclesiastical historiography. It seems that he had access only to Greek and Latin sources, but not to the Syriac and other Aramaic hagiographies produced in this period in the East. The work of Socrates is the first of the three Orthodox ecclesiastical Histories published in Greek between 439 and 449. Within less than ten years of its publication, Socrates’ work was systematically reworked and expanded by Sozomen, and may have been known also to Theodoret of Cyrrhus. Socrates’ narrative overlaps extensively with both of these ecclesiastical histories. This boom in Greek ecclesiastical historiography may have been instigated by the publication in Constantinople of an Arian Ecclesiastical History by Philostorgius in 425/433, which survives in fragments.


This passage comes from the context of Socrates’ account of the Council of Nicaea, which is almost entirely derived from the Latin Ecclesiastical History of Rufinus of Aquileia. Rufinus and Socrates defend the Council of Nicaea partly by stressing the participation in it of numerous holy men and confessors (survivors of the recent persecutions). In 1.11 and 1.12, Socrates reproduces Rufinus’ account of Paphnoutios of the Thebaid and Spyridon of Trimythous in Cyprus (Rufinus, Eccl. Hist. 10.4-5), apparently the two most famous wonder-workers among the Fathers of Nicaea. The same account is also reproduced by Sozomen (1.10-11). Socrates seems to rely entirely on Rufinus, rather than being aware of the hagiographies of the two figures. Rufinus and Sozomen, however, must have known the Life of Spyridon. Theodoret of Cyrrhus in his Ecclesiastical History (1.6) gives a similar account of the Council of Nicaea, including a reference to Paphnoutios, but he omits Spyridon. Instead, he refers to holy bishops from Mesopotamia, namely Jacob of Nisibis and Paul of Neocaesarea. Socrates supplements the account of his source, Rufinus, with the story of the Novatian ascetic Eutychianos. Even though Eutychianos was not a participant of the Council of Nicaea, he is presented as a contemporary holy man of a community which shared the doctrines of the council. Socrates’ sympathy for sectarian groupings of his time, especially the Novatians, is one of the distinctive aspects of his work. It cannot be excluded that Socrates was a Novatian himself. He certainly befriended Novatian clerics in the circle of his master, the sophist Troilos or Side. Socrates regards the Novatians as a rigorist schismatic community, but perfectly orthodox in its beliefs and including several holy men. He therefore augments Rufinus’ account of the Council of Nicaea with his own stories about the Novatians. They reportedly were in full agreement with the doctrines of the Council, but refused to return to communion with the Catholics, because of old disagreements stemming from the Decian persecution. Throughout the 4th century, Socrates treats the Novatians as the second Homoousian community suffering Arian oppression alongside the Catholics. In the same context, he adds the story of Eutychianos of Olympus to those of Paphnoutios and Spyridon. Sozomen in his Ecclesiastical History keeps the story of Eutychianos, but he moves it to a chapter about the beginnings of the monastic movement. Sozomen presents Eutychianos as the first notable monastic holy man of Anatolia, acknowledging his Novatian identity (Sozomen 1.14. 9-11).


Text: Hansen, G.C., Sokrates, Kirchengeschichte (Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte NF 1; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1995). Translations: Zenos, A.C., "The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus," in: The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol. 2 (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 1-178. Périchon, P., and Maraval, P., Socrate de Constantinople, Histoire ecclésiastique (Sources Chrétiennes 477, 493, 505, 506; Paris: Cerf), 2004-2007. Further reading: Bäbler, B., and Nesselrath, H.-G. (eds.). Die Welt des Sokrates von Konstantinopel: Studien zu Politik, Religion und Kultur im späten 4. und frühen 5. Jh. n. Chr. Zu Ehren von Christoph Schäublin (Munich: K.G. Saur, 2001). 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. Nuffelen, P. van, Un héritage de paix et de piété: Étude sur les histoires ecclésiastiques de Socrate et de Sozomène (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 142; Leuven: Peeters), 2004. Treadgold, W.T., The Early Byzantine Historians (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). Urbainczyk, T., Socrates of Constantinople: Historian of Church and State (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997). Wallraff, M., Der Kirchenhistoriker Sokrates: Untersuchungen zu Geschichtsdarstellung, Methode und Person (Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte 68; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997).

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