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E04194: Philostorgius in his Ecclesiastical History reports that sacrifices, the burning of lamps and frankincense, and prayers for deliverance were offered before the statue of *Constantine (emperor, ob. 337, S00186) in Constantinople. The author denounces the cult. Written in Greek at Constantinople, 425/433.

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posted on 2017-10-20, 00:00 authored by erizos
Philostorgius, Ecclestical History, 2.17

(Summary in Photius)

Οὗτος ὁ θεομάχος καὶ τὴν Κωνσταντίνου εἰκόνα, τὴν ἐπὶ τοῦ πορφυροῦ κίονος ἱσταμένην, θυσίαις τε ἱλάσκεσθαι καὶ λυχνοκαΐαις καὶ θυμιάμασι τιμᾶν, καὶ εὐχὰς προσάγειν ὡς θεῷ καὶ ἀποτροπαίους ἱκετηρίας τῶν δεινῶν ἐπιτελεῖν τοὺς Χριστιανοὺς κατηγορεῖ.

‘Our enemy of God [Philostorgius] accuses the Christians of worshipping with sacrifices (thysiai) the image of Constantine set up upon the porphyry column, of paying homage to it with lamp lighting and incense, or praying to it as a god, and of offering it supplications to avert calamities.’

Text: Bidez and Winkelmann 1981.
Translation: Amidon 2007, 35.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Constantine the Great, emperor, ob. 337 : S00186

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)



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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Censing

Cult activities - Places

Other (mountain, wood, tree, pillar)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Uncertainty/scepticism/rejection of a saint

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Praying before an image

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Oil lamps/candles


Philostorgius was born in Borissus of Cappadocia in c. 368, and lived from the age of twenty in Constantinople, where he became a follower of the Anomaean theologian Eunomius. His twelve-volume Ecclesiastical History, now largely lost, appeared between 425 and 433. In 402/3 a continuation of the Church History of Eusebius of Caesarea had been produced in Latin by Rufinus of Aquileia, who recounted the period from the Council of Nicaea to the death of Theodosius I in 395. Rufinus presented Nicene Christianity as the Orthodox faith which was oppressed by the Arian emperors and restored by Theodosius I (379-395). Philostorgius offered a radically different, pro-Arian, reading of the 4th century theological disputes, portraying Nicene heroes like Athanasius of Alexandria and Basil of Caesarea in a negative manner. His work may have triggered the mid 5th century boom in Greek ecclesiastical historiography, represented by the Nicene ecclesiastical histories of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret of Cyrrhus. Philostorgius’ original text is only known from a summary in the 9th century Bibliotheca of Photius, and from fragments in a later version of the Greek Martyrdom of Artemios (E06781). A partial reconstruction of Philostorgius’ Ecclesiastical History, based on Photius and the fragments, has been produced by Joseph Bidez and Friedhelm Winkelmann. Winkelmann’s text is available in English translation by Philip R. Amidon. Philostorgius is also the author of the Martyrdom of *Loukianos of Antioch (E00).


Philostorgius’ reportedly disapproving reference to the acts of popular devotion taking place at the column of Constantine should be juxtaposed to the positive expressions of the slightly later ecclesiastical history of Theodoret of Cyrrhus who regards the same devotions as a proof Constantine’s righteousness and favour with God (E04152). This contrast is of particular interest with regard to the attitude of different doctrinal groups towards the cult of the saints. Philostorgius, a Eunomian, appears to be more critical than the Nicene Orthodox Theodoret.


Text: Bidez, J., and Winkelmann, F., Philostorgius, Kirchengeschichte; mit dem Leben des Lucian von Antiochien und den Fragmenten eines arianischen Historiographen. 3rd. ed. (Griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller 21; Berlin, 1981). Translations and commentaries: Amidon, P.R., Philostorgius, Church History (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007). Bidez, J., et al., Philostorge, Histoire ecclésiastique (Sources chrétiennes 564; Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 2013). Further reading: Bassett, S., The Urban Image of Late Antique Constantinople (Cambridge, 2004), 200-204., LSA-2457 (U. Gehn). Mango, C., "The Empress Helena, Helenopolis, Pylae," Travaux et Mémoires 12 (1994), 143–158. Marasco, G., Filostorgio: cultura, fede e politica in uno storico ecclesiastico del V secolo (Studia ephemeridis "Augustinianum" 92; Rome: Institutum patristicum Augustinianum, 2005). Treadgold, W.T., The Early Byzantine Historians (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 126-134.

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