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E04530: Procopius of Caesarea, in his On Buildings, reports that the emperor Justinian (r. 527-565) built or renovated numerous forts in the western Balkans, five of them named after saints. Written in Greek at Constantinople, in the 550s.

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posted on 2017-12-28, 00:00 authored by erizos
Procopius, On Buildings, 4.4.3


In a long passage, Procopius enumerates forts (phrouria) either built or restored by the emperor Justinian in the dioceses of Macedonia and Dacia; five of them are named after saints.

In Epirus Nova there were 32 new forts and 26 restored ones, one of the former was named 'Saint Sabianos' (ὁ ἅγιος Σαβιανός; listed right after Dyrrachium) and one of the latter 'of Saint Stephen' (τοῦ ἁγίου Στεφάνου).

In Epirus Vetus, there were 12 new forts and 13 restored ones, amongst which there was one 'of Saint Sabinus' (τοῦ ἁγίου Σαβίνου); whilst between the cities of Justinianopolis and Photiκe, there were 11 forts, two listed as 'of Saint Donatus' (Καὶ ἀπὸ Ἰουστινιανοπόλεως καὶ Φωτικῆς· φρούρια δύο τοῦ ἁγίου Δονάτου).

Of very nearly 300 more named forts in the other provinces of the dioceses of Macedonia and Dacia, none are named after saints.

For Justinian's forts in Thrace, some also named after saints, see $E04562.

Text: Haury 1913. Summary: J. Doroszewska.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Donatus, bishop of Euroia (Epirus), ob. 387 : S01274 Stephen, the First Martyr : S00030 Sabinos/Sabianos, saint honoured in Epirus : S02324

Saint Name in Source

Δονάτος Στέφανος Σαβίνος Σαβιανός

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 Named after Saint

  • Towns, villages, districts and fortresses

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 fourth book of the Buildings, which recounts the numerous building works of Justinian's government in the Balkan provinces, appears to be partly unfinished. Procopius never visited Illyricum or Thrace in person, hence his information about these regions relied on information drawn from official records of their administration. The description of the regions follows the geography of administration, and much of the text consists of lists of names, suggesting that the book is unfinished. By Justinian's times, the Balkans had become a heavily fortified landscape comprising hundreds of small fortified settlements, villages, fortresses, and refuges. This landscape dominates Procopius' account of the area, but most of the toponyms he mentions cannot be located with any confidence on the ground. Some toponyms contain names of saints, which probably suggests that they protected shrines. The existence of small forts enclosing churches has been archaeologically documented in the Balkans. The fort of Hagios Stephanos was presumably named after *Stephen (the First Martyr, S00030). The author also mentions two fortresses named after the wonder-working *Donatus, bishop of Euroia (S01274), one of the most renowned saints of the western Balkans, in the broader area of his shrine, between Photike (near today's Paramythia, Greece) and Hadrianopolis-Justinianopolis (near Dropull, Albania). (On the location of Photike, see: Elsie 2000, 36; Hammond 1967, 659; Sakellariou 1997, 183; Triantaphyllopoulos 1991; Samsari 1994, 18). It is less clear who Sabinos/Sabianos was, after whom two forts were named. The first one, unusually given in the nominative, appears right after Dyrrachium on the list, and may indeed have been near the capital of Epirus Nova. The other one appears in the southern province of Epirus Vetus. Sabinos may well have been a local saint of Dyrrachium. The memory of local cults from Illyricum is extremely poor, and he could have been a saint whose shrine and cult disappeared after the end of antiquity.


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. Elsie, R., "The Christian Saints of Albania," Balkanistica: American Association for South Slavic Studies 13 (2000), 35-57. 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. Funke, P., Moustakis, N., and Hichschulz, B., "Epeiros," in: M.H. Hansen, and T.H. Nielsen (eds.), An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). 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. Hammond, N.G.L., The Geography, the Ancient Remains, the History and the Topography of Epirus and Adjacent Areas (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967). Sakellariou, M.V., Epirus, 4000 years of Greek History and Civilization (Athens: Ekdotikē Athēnōn, 1997). Samsari, D.K., Η ρωμαϊκή αποικία της Φωτικής στη Θεσπρωτία της Ηπείρου. Ιστορικογεωγραφική και επιγραφική συμβολή (Ioannina, 1994). Traiantaphyllopoulos, D.D., "Donatus of Euroia: Remarks on his Cult and on the Topography of Epirus Vetus," in: Resümees der Plenumsvorträge und Kurzreferate 12. Internationaler Kongress für christliche Archäologie. Bonn, 22.-28. September 1991 (Bonn 1991).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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