Palladius of Helenopolis, Historical Dialogue on the Life of John Chrysostom (BHG 870, 870e, 870f; CPG 6037), IX. 148-153
τελευταῖον βοήθημα, οἱ τῷ Ἰωάννῃ συνόντες ἐπίσκοποι, ἰσάριθμοι τῆς ἁγίας νηστείας, προσῆλθον τῷ βασιλεῖ καὶ τῇ βασιλίσσῃ ἐν τοῖς μαρτυρίοις μετὰ δακρύων, παρακαλοῦντες φειδοῦς τυχεῖν τὴν τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκκλησίαν, μάλιστα διὰ τὸ Πάσχα καὶ τοὺς μέλλοντας ἀναγεννᾶσθαι ἤδη μυσταγωγηθέντας, ἀπολαβοῦσαν τὸν ἱερέα.
‘As a last resort, the bishops on John's side, being equal in number to the days of the holy fast, presented themselves in tears to the emperor and empress at the shrines of the martyrs, and besought them that the Church of Christ be spared, especially for the sake of Easter and of those who had been catechised and were about to be reborn, by being allowed to keep her prelate.’
Text: Malingrey and Leclercq 1988
Translation: E. Rizos.
Saint NameMartyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)
Evidence not before408
Evidence not after410
Activity not before405
Activity not after405
Place of Evidence - RegionEgypt and Cyrenaica
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcAswan
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Aswan
Major author/Major anonymous workPalladius of Helenopolis
Cult activities - Liturgical Activity
- Other liturgical acts and ceremonies
Cult activities - PlacesMartyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits
Monarchs and their family
SourceThe Historical Dialogue of Palladios, bishop of Helenopolis, with Theodoros, deacon of Rome, on the Life and Conduct of the blessed John, bishop of Constantinople, called Chrysostom (‘the Golden Mouth’) survives in a single manuscript of the eleventh century (Laurentianus IX.14). There are two critical editions of the text, using different numerations (Coleman-Norton 1928; Malingrey and Leclercq 1988).
The identification of the author of our text with Palladios of Helenopolis, author of the Lausiac History, was doubted in the past, but is now accepted as certain. Born in 364 in Galatia in Asia Minor, Palladios joined monastic communities of Palestine and Egypt. In Egypt, he was associated with the Origenist disciples of Evagrios of Pontus. In c. 399, he left for Constantinople where he became closely associated with John Chrysostom. By AD 400, the latter ordained him as bishop of Helenopolis in Bithynia. Palladios stood by his new protector throughout John’s conflict with Pope Theophilos of Alexandria (401-404) over the affair of the Tall Brothers, former associates of Palladios from Egypt. One year after John’s exile in 404, Palladios visited Rome in order to plead on John’s behalf with Pope Innocent I (401-411). One year later (406), he was exiled to Syene (Aswan), where he received the news of John’s death in Pontus (407) and wrote the Historical Dialogue (in 408 or shortly later).
The Historical Dialogue is one of our main sources of biographical information on Chrysostom and some of his close associates, like Olympias. Its explicitly political and polemical character, however, makes this a special piece of hagiography. Written in 408 or shortly later, amidst the defeat of Chrysostom’s party and under the frustration caused by his recent death, this resentful book portrays its hero as a holy man surrounded by holy ascetics, and dying as a martyr, while demonising his enemies as deranged and vile men acting under the inspiration of the devil for the detriment of the Church. The work has the form of a dialogue between an anonymous eastern bishop and a deacon of Rome named Theodoros, purportedly taking place in Rome. Although the bishop is identified with Palladios in the title, and the setting is perhaps inspired by Palladios’ own visit to Rome in 405, the text is clearly not the actual record of a real meeting. The two discussants are fictitious protagonists of an imaginary visit to Rome by a representative of Chrysostom’s party, who clears John and his associates from all the accusations and rumours circulating about them, denounces Theophilos and his followers, lists those who sided with each of the two parties, and enumerates all those who were exiled or wronged for their support to John – including Palladios himself. The ultimate purpose of the book is to plead with the Church of Rome and Pope Innocent I (401-411) to break their communion with Theophilos and the bishops of the East, until an Ecumenical Council is convoked on the matter – presented as a statement of Theodoros in 20.429-439).
The structure of the text is as follows:
1–4. Prologue and subject of the purported dialogue. Historical context of the conflict in the East.
5–11. The Life of John Chrysostom.
12–19. Defence of John and his closest associates (16.174-17 focusing on the deaconess Olympias and the Egyptian ascetics Ammonios, Hierax, Isaak, and Isaak).
20. Enumeration of the exiled followers of John (including the author himself), and of the bishops siding with Theophilos in Anatolia, Syria, and Palestine. Conclusion.
DiscussionThis episode refers to an appeal of the bishops supporting John Chrysostom to the imperial couple, in an unsuccessful effort to prevent John’s imminent deposition and banishment (on the context, see Kelly 1995, 211-227). According to the text, the meeting took place on Holy Saturday 405, at an unnamed shrine of martyrs (martyria; plural in the text), very probably while the imperial couple were attending services of Holy Week. The celebration of the Passion of Christ at extramural shrines of martyrs was an established custom, as reported by Chrysostom in his homily On the Cross and the Cemetery (E02298). Meetings with the emperors during ecclesiastical festivals in Constantinople are recorded in various periods of history. Much like the public spectacles of the hippodrome, the appearance of the emperors at church festivals provided opportunities of direct contact between the sovereigns and the people, which were occasionally seized by aggrieved individuals.
Coleman-Norton, P.R., Palladii Dialogus de Vita S. Joannis Chrysostomi (Cambridge, 1928).
Malingrey, A.-M., and Leclercq, P., Palladios: Dialogue sur la vie de Jean Chrysostome (Sources Chretiennes 341; Paris, 1988), with French translation.
Barnes, T. D., and Bevan, G.A., The Funerary Speech for John Chrysostom (Translated Texts for Historians 60; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013).
Meyer, R.T., Palladius: Dialogue on the Life of St. John Chrysostom (Ancient Christian Writers 45; New York: Newman Press, 1984).
Moore, H., The Dialogue of Palladius concerning the Life of Chrysostom (London and New York, 1921).
Schläpfer, L., Das Leben des heiligen Johannes Chrysostomus (Düsseldorf: Patmos, 1966) (German).
Katos, D., Palladius of Helenopolis: The Origenist Advocate (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
Van Nuffelen, P., "Palladius and the Johannite Schism," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 64 (2013), 1-19.