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E04562: Procopius of Caesarea, in his On Buildings, reports that the emperor Justinian (r. 527-565) either built, or renovated numerous fortresses in the diocese of Thrace (eastern Balkans), five of them named after saints. Written in Greek at Constantinople, in the 550s.

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posted on 2018-01-08, 00:00 authored by erizos
Procopius, On Buildings, 4.7.16; 4.11.20

ἐπὶ Σκύθας δὲ τὸ λοιπὸν βαδιοῦμαι· ἔνθα δὴ φρούριον πρῶτον Κυρίλλου ἁγίου ἐπώνυμον ἐστιν, οὗπερ τὰ πεπονηκότα τῷ χρόνῳ ἀνῳκοδομήσατο οὐκ ἀπημελημένως Ἰουστινιανὸς βασιλεύς.

'Now I shall proceed with Scythia. The first fortress there is called after Saint Kyrillos. The emperor Justinian, not without care, rebuilt those parts of it which had been damaged by time.'

In a long paragraph, Procopius lists 180 forts (phrouria) either built, or restored by the emperor Justinian in the diocese of Thrace in the eastern Balkans. Four are named after saints: two 'of saint Theodore' (Τοῦ ἁγίου Θεοδώρου)' (presumably the soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita, S00480), both in the province of Haemimontus; one 'of saint Ioulianos' (Τοῦ ἁγίου Ἰουλιανοῦ) (of uncertain identification; perhaps the martyr of Cilicia or Emesa? ), also in Haemimontus; and one 'of saint Traianos' (Τοῦ ἁγίου Τραϊανοῦ) (S01841) in the province of Thracia.

For Justinian's forts in the western Balkans, a few also named after saints, see E04530.

Text: Haury 1913. Summary: J. Doroszewska.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Ioulianos, martyr of Ankyra : S00766 Ioulianos/Julianus, martyr of Emesa, ob. 283 : S01259 Ioulianos/Julianus, martyr of Cilicia : S00305 Ioulianos/Julian, martyr of Nicomedia under Maximian : S01840 Traianos, saint honoured in Thrace : S01841

Saint Name in Source

Ἰουλιανὸς Ἰουλιανὸς Ἰουλιανὸς Ἰουλιανὸς Τραϊανός Θεόδωρος Κύριλλος

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 only site which can be identified with some confidence is the fortress of Kyrillos, apparently named after a martyr of Axiopolis on the Danube (Cernavoda), possibly housing his central shrine. This fortress is mentioned by Procopius right after 'crossing' the borders between Moesia Inferior and Scythia Minor, which places it indeed in the territory of Axiopolis, the first Danubian town of Scythia Minor, north-east of Durostorum. Kyrillos of Axiopolis and his companions are recorded both in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum (E04808, E04790) and the Syriac Martyrology (E01493), which record his festivals on 26 April, and on 9 and 12 May. The cult of Kyrillos/Quirillus and his companion Kyndaias/Quindeus is also attested through an inscription from Cernavoda (E###). The locations of the fortresses of Haemimontus and Thracia have not been identified, and the identity of their eponymous saints is also uncertain. Traianos, after whom a fortress is called in Thrace, may be an otherwise unrecorded local saint (Soustal 1991, 482). In the province of Haemimontus, we find a fortress dedicated to a certain Ioulianos (a local saint, or one of the popular martyrs of Cilicia and Emesa?) and two named after a Theodoros (Soustal 1991, 288, 475). The latter is likely to be the Anatolian soldier martyr, whose cult was popular in the Balkans as well. The location of these sites is unknown. In the lists, they appear near the toponyms Burdipta and Burtudizo, both of which are recorded by the Antonine Itinerary as stations of the great military road of Thrace (often called the Diagonal Way) in the broader area of Hadrianopolis.


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: Beševliev, V., Zur Deutung der Kastellnamen in Prokops Werk "De Aedificiis" (Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 1970). 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. 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. Soustal, P., "Thrakien (Thrake, Rhodope und Haimimontos)," in: Tabula Imperii Byzantini, vol. 6 (Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1991). Stephenson, P., Byzantium's Balkan Frontier: A Political Study of the Northern Balkans, 900-1204 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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