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E04148: Socrates Scholasticus in his Ecclesiastical History mentions a visit of the emperor Valens (r. 364-378) to the shrine (martyrion) of *Thomas (the Apostle, S00199) in Edessa of Mesopotamia. He attempts to prevent Nicene Christians from worshipping at the shrine. Written in Greek at Constantinople, 439/446.

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posted on 2017-10-13, 00:00 authored by erizos
Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, 4.18.1-2

(18) 1. Λεκτέον δὲ οἷα καὶ ἐν Ἐδέσῃ τῆς Μεσοποταμίας ἐγίνετο. Ἐν γὰρ τῇδε τῇ πόλει Θωμᾶ τοῦ ἀποστόλου μαρτύριόν ἐστι λαμπρὸν καὶ περιφανές, συνεχεῖς τε ἐν αὐτῷ συνάξεις ἐπιτελοῦνται διὰ τὴν τοῦ τόπου ἁγιότητα. 2. Τοῦτο ἱστορῆσαι ὁ βασιλεὺς {Οὐάλης} θελήσας καὶ μαθὼν πᾶν τῆς αὐτῷ ἀπεχθοῦς αἱρέσεως εἶναι τῶν συνερχομένων τὸ πλῆθος, λέγεται τῇ χειρὶ πλῆξαι τὸν ὕπαρχον, διότι μὴ προενόησεν ἐξελάσαι κἀκεῖθεν αὐτούς.

‘But we must also mention what occurred at Edessa in Mesopotamia. There is in that city a splendid and famous shrine (martyrion) of Thomas the Apostle, where, on account of the holiness of the place, religious assemblies are constantly celebrated. The Emperor Valens wished to visit it, but, when he heard that the entire congregation of its visitors belonged to sect he detested, it is said that he hit the prefect with his own hand, because he had neglected to expel them also from that place.’

Text: Hansen 1995.
Translation: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Thomas, the Apostle : S00199

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

Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Officials 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.


This passage is one of the earliest attestations of the major shrine of Thomas in Edessa. The veneration of shrines of martyrs brought to the same spaces Christians of different doctrinal groups, despite the efforts of religious and secular leaders, like the Arian emperor Valens, to bar one group or another from entering a site.


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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