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E04003: Socrates in his Ecclesiastical History records a tradition about *Alexandros the Paphlagonian (Novatian ascetic and martyr of Constantinople, ob. 350s, S01540), buried in a Novatian church, named after him, on the upper part of the Golden Horn in Constantinople. Written in Greek at Constantinople, 439/446.

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posted on 2017-09-11, 00:00 authored by erizos
Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, 2.38.11-13

The author recounts the persecution of the Homoousian communities (Catholic and Novatian) in Constantinople during the episcopate of Macedonius in the 350s.

11. Ταῦτα δὲ ἐγὼ παρὰ τοῦ μακροχρονιωτάτου Αὐξάνοντος ἤκουσα, οὗ καὶ ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ βιβλίῳ μνήμην πεποίημαι, ὃς πρεσβύτερος μὲν ἦν τῆς τῶν Ναυατιανῶν θρησκείας, 12. πεπονθέναι δὲ ἔλεγεν καὶ αὐτὸς οὐκ ὀλίγα παρὰ τῶν ἀρειανιζόντων κακά, οὔπω τηνικαῦτα τῆς τοῦ πρεσβυτέρου ἀξίας τυχών, ἅμα δὲ Ἀλεξάνδρῳ Παφλαγόνι συνασκοῦντι αὐτῷ εἰς εἱρκτὴν βεβλῆσθαι καὶ πληγὰς εἰληφέναι πολλάς. 13. Καὶ ἐνεγκεῖν μὲν τὰς βασάνους αὐτὸς ἔλεγεν, Ἀλέξανδρον δὲ ἐν τῇ εἱρκτῇ ὑπὸ τῶν πληγῶν τελευτῆσαι· ὃς τέθαπται νῦν ἐν δεξιᾷ εἰσπλεύσαντι τὸν Βυζάντιον κόλπον, ὃς καλεῖται Κέρας, πλησίον τῶν ποταμῶν, οὗ καὶ ἐκκλησία ἐστὶ τῶν Ναυατιανῶν Ἀλεξάνδρου ἐπώνυμος.

'I heard about these things from Auxanon, the very long-lived presbyter of the Novatian religion, of whom I spoke in the first book. He also said that he had himself endured quite a few severities from the Arians. Then not yet promoted to the dignity of presbyter, he was thrown into prison and received several blows, together with Alexandros the Paphlagonian, his companion in the monastic life. He said that he endured the tortures, but Alexandros died in prison from his injuries. He is now buried on the right of those sailing into the bay of Byzantium, which is called the Horn, close by the rivers, where there is a church of the Novatians named after Alexandros.’

Text: Hansen 1995.
Translation: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Alexandros, Novatian ascetic and martyr in Constantinople, ob. 351/360 : S01540

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 - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Acceptance/rejection of saints from other religious groupings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Heretics


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.


Socrates’ sympathy for and curiosity about sectarian groupings of his time, especially the Novatians, is one of the most distinctive aspects of his work. It cannot be excluded that Socrates was a Novatian, and he was certainly associated with Novatian clerics (his purported source of information is an elderly Novatian presbyter called Auxanon) through the circle of his master, the sophist Troilos or Side. Socrates is quite clear in his view of the Novatians as a rigorist schismatic community which was nonetheless orthodox in its beliefs and produced several holy men and miracles. They reportedly were in full agreement with the doctrines of the Council of Nicaea, but refused to restore communion with the Catholics, because of their old disagreements stemming from the Decian persecution. In Socrates' account of the 4th century dogmatic disputes, the Novatians are treated as the second Homoousian community of the era of Arian persecutions, almost of equal status as the Catholics. In this context, Socrates recounts the case of a martyred cleric who died during the violent events of the first episcopate of Macedonius of Constantinople. From Socrates' accounts, it appears that the Novatians of Constantinople and Anatolia practised the cult of the saints without substantive differences from the Catholics.


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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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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