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E04619: Procopius of Caesarea, in his On Buildings, reports that the emperor Justinian (r. 527-565) rebuilt from its foundation, and on a much larger scale, the church of *John (the Apostle and Evangelist, S00040) outside the city of Ephesus (western Asia Minor); the new church is said to have closely resembled the church of the *Apostles (S00084) in Constantinople (E04334). Written in Greek at Constantinople, in the 550s.

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posted on 2018-01-15, 00:00 authored by julia
Procopius, On Buildings, 5.1.4-6

4 Χῶρόν τινα πρὸ τῆς Ἐφεσίων πόλεως ἐν ὀρθίῳ κείμενον ξυνέβαινεν εἶναι, λοφώδη οὐ γεώδη οὐδὲ δυνατὸν ἀφεῖναι καρπούς, εἴ τις πειρῷτο, ἀλλὰ σκληρόν τε καὶ τραχὺν ὅλως. 5 ἐνταῦθα νεὼν οἱ ἐπιχώριοι ἐν τοῖς ἄνω χρόνοις Ἰωάννῃ τῷ ἀποστόλῳ ἀνέθηκαν, θεολόγος δὲ τὴν ἐπίκλησιν ὁ ἀπόστολος οὗτος ὠνόμασται, ἐπεὶ τά γε ἀμφὶ τῷ θεῷ ἄμεινον αὐτῷ ἢ κατὰ ἀνθρώπου δεδιήγηται φύσιν. 6 τοῦτον δὴ τὸν νεὼν Ἰουστινιανὸς βασιλεὺς βραχύν τε ὄντα καὶ καταπεπονηκότα τῷ μήκει τοῦ χρόνου καθελὼν ἐς τὸ ἔδαφος, ἐς τοσόνδε μεθηρμόσατο μεγέθους καὶ κάλλους, ὥστε δή, ξυνελόντα εἰπεῖν, ἐμφερέστατος καὶ παντάπασιν ἐνάμιλλος τῷ ἱερῷ ἐστιν ὅπερ ἐν πόλει τῇ βασιλίδι τοῖς ἀποστόλοις ἀνέθηκε πᾶσιν, ὥσπερ μοι ἐν τοῖς ἔμπροσθεν δεδήλωται λόγοις.

'4 There chanced to be a certain place before the city of Ephesus, lying on a steep slope hilly and bare of soil and incapable of producing crops, even should one attempt to cultivate them, but altogether hard and rough. 5 On that site the natives had set up a church (neōs) in early times to the Apostle John; this Apostle has been named "the Theologian," because the nature of God was described by him in a manner beyond the unaided power of man. 6 This church (neōs), which was small and in a ruined condition because of its great age, the Emperor Justinian tore down to the ground and replaced by a church so large and beautiful, that, to speak briefly, it resembles very closely in all respects, and is a rival to, the shrine (hieron) which he dedicated to all the Apostles in the imperial city, which I have described above.'

Text: Haury 1913. Translation: Dewing 1940.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042 Apostles, unnamed or name lost : S00084

Saint Name in Source

Ἰωάννης οἱ ἀπόστολοι πάντες

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

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 impressive ruins of the church mentioned by Procopius still stand on the southern slope of what today is called the Ayasoluk Hill, where John is said to be buried, outside the city walls. Under Constantine, a first memorial to John was built on this site (E00716), which Justinian (r. 527-565) replaced with the magnificent basilica described here (Foss 1979, 36). The construction of the Justinianic church possibly began by 548 and was completed by 565 (Krautheimer and Ćurčić 1986, 242).


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. Foss, C., Ephesus After Antiquity: A Late Antique, Byzantine and Turkish City (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979). 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. Krautheimer, R., and Ćurčić, S., Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture. 4th ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986). Thiel, A. Die Johanneskirche in Ephesos (Wiesbaden, 2005).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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