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E04016: Socrates in his Ecclesiastical History reports that, under the bishop of Constantinople Atticus (406-425), the body of *Sabbatios (Novatian bishop of Constantinople, ob. 406/425, S01680) was brought by a group of Novatians from Rhodes to Constantinople and venerated there. Atticus ordered that it be secretly removed from its tomb, thus causing the veneration to stop. Written in Greek at Constantinople, 439/446.

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posted on 2017-09-12, 00:00 authored by erizos
Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, 7. 23.

9. (…) Οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰς δεισιδαιμονίας τινῶν ἐκκόπτειν ἐσπούδαζεν. 10. Πυθόμενος γοῦν ποτὲ τοὺς διὰ τὸ Ἰουδαϊκὸν Πάσχα Ναυατιανῶν χωρισθέντας, τὸ σῶμα τοῦ Σαββατίου ἐκ τῆς Ῥόδου μετακομίσαντας (ἐν αὐτῇ γὰρ τῇ νήσῳ περιορισθεὶς ἐτελεύτησεν) καὶ θάψαντας ἐπὶ τῷ τάφῳ εὔχεσθαι, πέμψας διὰ τῆς νυκτὸς εἰς ἕτερον τάφον τὸ τοῦ Σαββατίου σῶμα κρυβῆναι ἐκέλευσεν. Οἱ δὲ συνήθως ἐλθόντες καὶ ἀνορωρυγμένον τὸν τάφον εὑρόντες τοῦ λοιποῦ σέβειν τὸν τάφον ἐπαύσαντο.

‘He [Atticus] was also keen on stopping the superstitions of certain persons. Thus when he heard that those who had separated themselves from the Novatians, on account of the Jewish Passover, had brought the body of Sabbatios from Rhodes—for he had died in exile in that island—and that they buried it and prayed at the tomb, he sent his people by night, ordering that the body be buried in some other tomb. When the others arrived at the place and found the tomb dug up, they ceased to venerate it.’

Text: Hansen 1995.
Translation: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Sabbatios, Novatian bishop, ob. early fifth c. : S01680

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

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/desecration of saint's shrine

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Jews Heretics

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


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 draws a positive portrait of bishop Atticus of Constantinople, primarily due to his presumed tolerant stance towards the heterodox communities of Constantinople (unlike his harsher predecessor, John Chrysostom). One of the good things ascribed to Atticus by Socrates was his intervention for the suppression of the cult of the Novatian bishop Sabbatios. This man had previously caused a dispute within the Novatian community about the date of Easter (Socr. 7.5). Socrates, who is highly sympathetic towards the Novatians, regarded his innovation as heretical, and approved of Atticus' intervention to suppress the cult of Sabbatios. This is yet another attestation of the fact that the Novatians of Constantinople practised the cult of relics in much the same way as 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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