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E04008: Socrates in his Ecclesiastical History, reports that, in 405/408, the emperor Arcadius visited the shrine and walnut tree in Constantinople where *Akakios (soldier and martyr of Byzantion, S00468) was hanged. The site is described as standing in the courtyard of a large residential building; the emperor's prayers are believed to have saved the inhabitants from a violent death. Written in Greek at Constantinople, 439/446.

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posted on 2017-09-11, 00:00 authored by erizos
Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, 6.23

1. (...) Τελευτᾷ δὲ οὐ πολὺ μετὰ τὴν Ἰωάννου τελευτὴν <καὶ> ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἀρκάδιος, ἀνὴρ πρᾷος καὶ ἡσύχιος καὶ πρὸς τῷ τέλει τῆς ζωῆς θεοφιλοῦς δόξαν κτησάμενος ἐξ αἰτίας τοιᾶσδε. 2. Ἐν τῇ Κωνσταντινουπόλει οἶκός ἐστιν μέγιστος, Καρύαν ἔχων ἐπώνυμον. Ἔστι γὰρ ἐν τῇ αὐλῇ τοῦ οἴκου δένδρον καρύα, ἀφ’ ἧς κρεμασθῆναι λόγος τὸν μάρτυρα Ἀκάκιον καὶ τελειωθῆναι· δι’ ἣν αἰτίαν καὶ οἰκίσκος τῷ δένδρῳ παρῳκοδομήθη εὐκτήριος. 3. Τοῦτον ἱστορῆσαι {ὁ βασιλεὺς} Ἀρκάδιος βουληθεὶς εἰς αὐτὸν παρεγένετο, εὐξάμενός τε αὖθις ἀπεχώρει. 4. Πάντες δὲ οἱ περιοικοῦντες τὸν εὐκτήριον οἶκον ἐπὶ τῷ θεάσασθαι τὸν βασιλέα συνέτρεχον. 5. Καὶ οἱ μὲν ἔξω τῆς οἰκίας γενόμενοι προκαταλαβεῖν τὰς παρόδους ἐσπούδαζον, ἀφ’ ὧν φανερώτερον τότε τοῦ βασιλέως τὸ πρόσωπον καὶ τὴν περὶ αὐτὸν δορυφορίαν ἡγοῦντο θεάσασθαι, ἄλλοι δὲ ἐπηκολούθουν, ἕως ἅπαντες σὺν γυναιξὶν καὶ παιδίοις ἐκτὸς τοῦ οἴκου ἐγένοντο. Καὶ μετὰ τοῦτο εὐθὺς ὁ περικείμενος τῷ εὐκτηρίῳ μέγιστος οἶκος ἅπας κατέπεσεν. 6. Ἐκ δὴ τούτου βοὴ σὺν θαύματι ἐπηκολούθει, ὡς ἡ τοῦ βασιλέως εὐχὴ τοσούτους τῆς ἀπωλείας ἐρρύσατο.

‘Not long after the death of John [Chrysostom], the Emperor Arcadius died also. He was a meek and quiet man, and toward the close of his life he acquired a reputation of being a person dear to God, for the following reason. There is in Constantinople an immense house known as the Walnut Tree, because in its court there is a walnut tree on which the martyr Akakios is said to have been hanged and died. For this reason, a small oratory was built next to it. One day, the emperor Arcadius, wishing to visit it, arrived there and, after praying, he left. All those who lived around this oratory vied to see the emperor. Some came out of the house and rushed to take the side streets whence they thought that they would get a better view of the face of the emperor and his entourage, while others followed in his train, until everyone, including women and children, left the building. Immediately afterwards, the entire vast building surrounding the oratory collapsed. This was followed by commotion and astonishment at the fact that the emperor's prayer had rescued so many people from death.’

Text: Hansen 1995.
Translation: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Akakios, martyr in Byzantion : S00468

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 - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miraculous protection - of people and their property

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family


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.


The shrine of Akakios at the Walnut Tree (Ἅγιος Ἀκάκιος ἐν τῇ Καρύᾳ) was located near the Golden Horn, probably not far from the basilica of the saint, which hosted his tomb, and was according to tradition a Constantinian foundation. As this account suggests, until the first decade of the 5th century, this shrine had the form of a small oratory in the courtyard of a residential complex. In the late 6th century, a church was built on the site (Patria of Constantinople, 3.116; Janin 1969, 13). Akakios' hanging on the Walnut Tree probably belongs to an version of the saint's legend which was omitted from his hagiography. The extant martyrdom account describes the saint's execution as beheading, without mentioning the hanging at all (E05363). Socrates' account implies that Arcadius performed something like a miracle, which is part of the author's effort to draw a positive portrait of the emperor, cleansed from the memory of his role in the deposition of John Chrysostom. It is clear that Chrysostom's supporters regarded the deaths of Eudoxia and Arcadius as divine punishment for their injustice towards John. Socrates, however, was not sympathetic to the Johannites and their schism. He recognised the moral integrity of Chrysostom, but disapproved of his strictness towards the Novatians, and he also thought very highly of Chrysostom's successors on the throne of Constantinople, whom the Johannites regarded as equally guilty of Chrysostom's deposition and death. It is remarkable that the other church historian, Sozomen, who plagiarised Socrates' work, chose to omit the story, perhaps because he was much more sympathetic towards the Johannite party.


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). Janin, R., La géographie ecclésiastique de l'empire Byzantin. I 3: Les eglises et les monastères de la ville de Constantinople (Paris, 1969). 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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