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E00118: Eusebius of Caesarea quotes a letter from Gaius of Rome (late 2nd c.) to the Montanist leader Proklos, which mentions the tombs in Rome of the Apostles *Peter (00036) in the Vatican and *Paul (S00008) on the Via Ostiensis. Quoted in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, written in Greek in Palestine in 311/325.

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posted on 30.10.2014, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 2.25.5-7

This passage follows on from a discussion by Eusebius of the emperor Nero (2.25.1-4), in which he quotes a statement by Tertullian (Apologeticum 5, in Greek translation) that Nero was the first emperor to persecute Christians.

(5.) ταύτῃ γοῦν οὗτος, θεομάχος ἐν τοῖς μάλιστα πρῶτος ἀνακηρυχθείς, ἐπὶ τὰς κατὰ τῶν ἀποστόλων ἐπήρθη σφαγάς. Παῦλος δὴ οὖν ἐπ’ αὐτῆς Ῥώμης τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀποτμηθῆναι καὶ Πέτρος ὡσαύτως ἀνασκολοπισθῆναι κατ’ αὐτὸν ἱστοροῦνται, καὶ πιστοῦταί γε τὴν ἱστορίαν ἡ Πέτρου καὶ Παύλου εἰς δεῦρο κρατήσασα ἐπὶ τῶν αὐτόθι κοιμητηρίων πρόσρησις, (6.) οὐδὲν δὲ ἧττον καὶ ἐκκλησιαστικὸς ἀνήρ, Γάϊος ὄνομα, κατὰ Ζεφυρῖνον Ῥωμαίων γεγονὼς ἐπίσκοπον· ὃς δὴ Πρόκλῳ τῆς κατὰ Φρύγας προϊσταμένῳ γνώμης ἐγγράφως διαλεχθείς, αὐτὰ δὴ ταῦτα περὶ τῶν τόπων, ἔνθα τῶν εἰρημένων ἀποστόλων τὰ ἱερὰ σκηνώματα κατατέθειται, φησίν· (7.) «ἐγὼ δὲ τὰ τρόπαια τῶν ἀποστόλων ἔχω δεῖξαι. ἐὰν γὰρ θελήσῃς ἀπελθεῖν ἐπὶ τὸν Βασικανὸν ἢ ἐπὶ τὴν ὁδὸν τὴν Ὠστίαν, εὑρήσεις τὰ τρόπαια τῶν ταύτην ἱδρυσαμένων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν.»

'(5.) And thus he [Nero] – for he was declared the first opponent of God and among the greatest ones – was excited to slaughter the apostles. And so Paul is reported by him [Tertullian] to have been beheaded in the same city of Rome, and similarly Peter to have been crucified. A tradition about the local cemeteries, which has prevailed into our times, confirms the story of Peter and Paul, (6.) and no less does a churchman called Gaius who lived under Zephyrinus, bishop of the Romans. In his correspondence with Proclus, head of the Phrygian sect [= Montanists], he says precisely these things about the places where the holy bodies of the said apostles are buried: (7.) "I can show the memorials (τρόπαια = tropaia) of the apostles. If you wish to go to the Vasikanon [=the Vatican] or to the Ostia road [= Via Ostiensis], you will find the memorials of those that founded this church".'

Text: Schwartz et al. 1999. Translation: Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008

Saint Name in Source

Παῦλος Πέτρος

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

Palestine Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Caesarea Maritima Rome

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

Caesarea Maritima Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Major author/Major anonymous work

Eusebius of Caesarea

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines


Eusebius lived in Caesarea Maritima in Palestine between c. AD 260 and 340. He was a pupil and friend of the martyred Christian intellectual Pamphilus. Under Constantine, he emerged as one of the most influential Christian figures of the Roman Empire, and was ordained bishop of Caesarea. Written between 311 and 325, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History is the first literary work to employ the methodology and objectives of classical historiography – which, since Herodotus and Thucydides, had traditionally focused on military and political events – in a novel field, the history of the Christian community. The first paragraphs of the work outline its chronological framework and thematic range: it is a narrative of events in the life of the Christian community from the times of Christ and the Apostles to the times of Eusebius (c. AD 260-340); it records the leaders of the most important communities (i.e. successions of bishops in Alexandria, Antioch, Rome and Jerusalem); it records the most notable exponents of Christian doctrine and their works, and also the main heresies and their proponents; it finally records persecutions and people that suffered and were martyred during them. The Ecclesiastical History is mostly a synthesis of quotations and summaries from other sources, for which Eusebius often gives concrete references. Thus his work preserves excerpts from early Christian texts which do not survive any more in their full form. Eusebius’ source material is mostly Greek texts, originating from Christian communities in Anatolia, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. These areas constitute the main geographical range of his narrative, while his information about Christianity in the European provinces of the Roman Empire (except Rome) and North Africa is very limited. The text survives in several Greek manuscripts, in a Latin translation by Rufinus, and in Syriac and Armenian translations.


This is probably the earliest mention of the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul in Rome, since Eusebius quotes an otherwise lost letter of Gaius of Rome (c. AD 200) to the Montanist bishop Proklos in Phrygia. Eusebius refers to the oral tradition about the location of the tombs as evidence for the veracity of the stories concerning the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul in Rome. What is even more interesting, however, is the possible reason why Gaius refers to the apostolic tombs in his correspondence with the heresiarch. Although the context of the phrase is missing, it is possible that he uses the presence of the apostles’ tombs as a proof the apostolic roots and credentials of authority and orthodoxy of the Roman church. This is suggested by the fact that Proklos in his reply points out that Phrygia can also demonstrate the possession of the apostolic tomb of *Philip (S00109) and his daughters in Hierapolis (see E00218). If our hypothesis is true, this seems to be the earliest attested example of apostolic tombs being used as proofs of authority in the context of doctrinal disputes between Christian communities. Neither of these statements says enough about the veneration of these tombs, but they do demonstrate that their later flourishing cults can perhaps be traced to traditions as early as c. AD 200. Eusebius’ source for this text is probably a published corpus of the correspondence between Gaius and Proklos, known as Dialogue.


Edition: Schwartz, E., Mommsen, T., and Winkelmann, F., Eusebius Werke II: Die Kirchengeschichte. 3 vols (Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1999). Translations: Lake, K., Oulton, J.E.L., and Lawlor, H.J., Eusebius of Caesarea: The Ecclesiastical History. 2 vols (Loeb Classical Library 153; London and Cambridge, Mass: W. Heinemann and Harvard University Press, 1926). Williamson, G.A., and Louth, A., Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine (London: Penguin, 1989). Further reading: Chesnut, G. The First Christian Histories: Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Evagrius. Atlanta: Mercer University, 1986.

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