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E04424: Procopius of Caesarea, in his On Buildings, reports that the emperor Justinian (r. 527-565) greatly strengthened the walls of Rusafa-Sergiopolis (north-east Syria) in consideration of the wealth and importance of the shrine of *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023). Written in Greek at Constantinople, in the 550s.

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posted on 2017-12-05, 00:00 authored by julia
Procopius, On Buildings, 2.9.3-6

3 Ἔστι δέ τις νεὼς Σεργίῳ ἀνειμένος ἐν τῇ Εὐφρατησίᾳ ἐπιφανεῖ ἁγίῳ, ὃν δὴ σέβοντές τε καὶ τεθηπότες οἱ πάλαι ἄνθρωποι Σεργιούπολίν τε ἐπωνόμασαν τὸ χωρίον, καὶ τειχίσματι βραχυτάτῳ περιβεβλήκεσαν, ὅσον τοὺς ἐκείνῃ Σαρακηνοὺς ἀποκρούεσθαι οἷόν τε εἶναι ἐξ ἐπιδρομῆς αὐτὸ ἐξελεῖν. 4 ἀδύνατοι γὰρ τειχομαχεῖν εἰσι Σαρακηνοὶ φύσει, καί τι αὐτῶν, ἂν οὕτω τύχοι, τείχισμα φαυλότατον καὶ πηλῷ σύνθετον ἐμπόδιον τῇ ὁρμὴ γίνεται. 5 ἀλλ’ ὕστερον ὁ νεὼς οὗτος κειμηλίων προσόδῳ δυνατός τε καὶ ἀπόβλεπτος διὰ παντὸς ἦν. 6 ὁ δὴ λογισάμενος Ἰουστινιανὸς βασιλεὺς τὸ πρᾶγμα εὐθὺς ἐν ἐπιμελείᾳ πεποίηται, τείχει τε ἀξιολογωτάτῳ ἐν τοῖς μάλιστα περιβέβληκε, καὶ ὑδάτων θησαυρίσας μέγα τι χρῆμα πλήθειν αὐτοῖς ἐσκευάσατο.

'3 There is a certain church (neōs) in Euphratesia, dedicated to Sergius, a famous saint, whom men of former times used to worship and revere, so that they named the place Sergiopolis, and they had surrounded it with a very humble wall, just sufficient to prevent the Saracens of the region from capturing it by storm. 4 For the Saracens are naturally incapable of storming a wall, and the weakest kind of barricade, put together with perhaps nothing but mud, is sufficient to check their assault. 5 At a later time, however, this church (neōs), through its acquisition of treasures, came to be powerful and celebrated. 6 And the Emperor Justinian, upon considering this situation, at once gave it careful attention, and he surrounded the church with a most remarkable wall, and he stored up a great quantity of water and thus provided the inhabitants with a bountiful supply.'

Text: Haury 1913. Translation: Dewing 1940.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Sergios, soldier and martyr of Rusafa : S00023

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

Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Resapha-Sergiopolis Thabbora Thabbora

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family


Procopius of Caesarea, (c. 500 – c. 560/561 AD) was a soldier and historian from the Roman province of Palaestina Prima. He accompanied the Roman general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian (527-565). He wrote the Wars (or Histories), On Buildings and the Secret History. On Buildings is a panegyric in six books. It lists, and sometimes describes, the buildings erected or renovated by the emperor Justinian throughout the empire (only on Italy is there no information). The bulk of these are churches and shrines dedicated to various saints; the Buildings is therefore a very important text for the evidence it provides of the spread of saintly cults by the mid 6th c. On Buildings dates from the early 550s to c. 560/561; a terminus post quem is 550/551 as the text mentions the capture of Topirus in Thrace by the Slavs in 550 and describes the city walls of Chalkis in Syria built in 550/551; a probable terminus ante quem is 558 when the dome of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople collapsed, which is not mentioned in the book; or before 560 when the bridge on the river Sangarius was completed, as Procopius reports on the start of works. On Buildings thus belongs to the later years of Justinian’s reign. The work is not finished and is probably Procopius’ last work. It glorifies Justinian, depicting him as a great builder and an emperor restlessly transforming the state, expanding and reforming it, destroying paganism, extirpating heresy, and re-establishing the firm foundations of the Christian faith (Elsner 2007: 35). More on the text: Downey 1947; Elsner 2007; Greatrex 1994 and 2013. Overview of the text: Book 1. Constantinople and its suburbs Book 2. Frontier provinces of Mesopotamia and Syria. Book 3. Armenia, Tzanica, and the shores of the Black Sea. Book 4. Illyricum and Thrace (the Balkans). Book 5. Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine. Book 6. North Africa, from Alexandria to central Algeria.


The city of Sergiopolis, a former Roman military camp by the name of Rusafa, was developed at the beginning of the 6th c. under the reign of the emperor Anastasius (r. 491-518), who elevated the city to metropolitan rank; from that moment Rusafa came to be known as Anastasiopolis. However, it was also called Sergiopolis, because Anastasius strongly supported the cult of Sergios and his important shrine in the city (Key Fowden 1999, 65, 92). Scholars agree that the restoration works at Rusafa that are attributed to Justinian by Procopius should primarily be dated to the final years of Anastasius' rule and thus credited to that emperor; but this does not exclude the possibility they were finished by Justinian (Key Fowden 1999: 94). Further reading: Croke and Crow 1983; Karnapp 1976; Key Fowden 1999; Ulbert 2000; Whitby 1986, 724.


Edition: Haury, J., Procopii Caesariensis opera omnia, vol. 4: Περι κτισματων libri VI sive de aedificiis (Leipzig: Teubner, 1962-64). Translations and Commentaries: Compagnoni, G.R., Procopio di Cesarea, Degli Edifici. Traduzione dal greco di G. Compagnoni (Milan: Tipi di Francesco Sonzogno, 1828). Dewing, H.B., Procopius, On Buildings. Translated into English by H.B. Dewing, vol. 7 (London: William Heinemann, New York: Macmillan, 1940). Grotowski, P.Ł., Prokopiusz z Cezarei, O Budowlach. Przełożył, wstępem, objaśnieniami i komentarzem opatrzył P.Ł. Grotowski (Warsaw: Proszynski i S-ka, 2006). Roques, D., Procope de Césarée. Constructions de Justinien Ier. Introduction, traduction, commentaire, cartes et index par D. Roques (Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2011). Veh, O., and Pülhorn, W. (eds.), Procopii opera. De Aedificiis. With a Commentary by W. Pülhorn (Munich: Heimeran, 1977). Further Reading: Croke, B., and Crow J., "Procopius and Dara," Journal of Roman Studies 73 (1983), 143-159. Downey, G.A., “The Composition of Procopius’ ‘De Aedificiis’," Transactions of the American Philological Association 78 (1947), 171-183. Elsner, J., “The Rhetoric of Buildings in De Aedificiis of Procopius”, in: L. James (ed.), Art and Text in Byzantine Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 33-57. Greatrex, G., “The Dates of Procopius’ Works,” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 18 (1994), 101-14. Greatrex, G., “The Date of Procopius Buildings in the Light of Recent Scholarship,” Estudios bizantinos 1 (2013), 13-29. Karnapp, W., Die Stadtmauer Von Resafa in Syrien (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1976). Key Fowden, E., The Barbarian Plain: Saint Sergius Between Rome and Iran (Berkeley & Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 1999). Ulbert, T., "Procopius, De Ædificiis. Einige Überlegungen zu Buch II, Syrien," Antiquité Tardive 8 (2000), 137-147. Whitby, M., "Procopius' Description of Dara (Buildings II, 1-3)", in: P. Freeman and D. Kennedy (eds), The Defence of the Roman and Byzantine East: Proceedings of a Colloquium Held at the University of Sheffield in April 1986, vol. 2 (Oxford: British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, 1986), 737–83.

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