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E03994: Sozomen in his Ecclesiastical History mentions the conversion of Armenia to Christianity after a vision experienced by the Armenian king *Trdat (S01508) in the early fourth century. Written in Greek at Constantinople, 439/450.

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posted on 06.09.2017, 00:00 by erizos
Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, 2.8

After recounting the conversion of the Iberians/Georgians

(1) Ἐφεξῆς δὲ καὶ διὰ τῶν ὁμόρων φυλῶν τὸ δόγμα διέβη καὶ εἰς πλῆθος ἐπέδωκεν. Ἀρμενίους δὲ πάλιν πρότερον ἐπυθόμην χριστιανίσαι. Λέγεται γὰρ Τηριδάτην τὸν ἡγούμενον τότε τοῦ ἔθνους ἔκ τινος παραδόξου θεοσημείας συμβάσης περὶ τὸν αὐτοῦ οἶκον ἅμα τε Χριστιανὸν γενέσθαι καὶ πάντας τοὺς ἀρχομένους ὑφ’ ἑνὶ κηρύγματι προστάξαι ὁμοίως θρησκεύειν. (2) Ἐφεξῆς δὲ καὶ διὰ τῶν ὁμόρων φυλῶν τὸ δόγμα διέβη καὶ εἰς πλῆθος ἐπέδωκε. καὶ Περσῶν δὲ χριστιανίσαι τὴν ἀρχὴν ἡγοῦμαι, ὅσοι προφάσει τῆς Ὀσροηνῶν καὶ Ἀρμενίων ἐπιμιξίας, ὡς εἰκός, τοῖς αὐτόθι θείοις ἀνδράσιν ὡμίλησαν καὶ τῆς αὐτῶν ἀρετῆς ἐπειράθησαν.

‘(1) Subsequently, the faith spread among the neighbouring races, yielding a great number of followers. As for the Armenians, I understand that they had embraced Christianity earlier [than the Iberians]. It is said that Tiridates, then leader of that nation, after an extraordinary divine manifestation which occurred near his house, became a Christian and commanded all his subjects by a single decree to follow the same religion. (2) Subsequently, the faith spread also among the neighbouring races, yielding a great number of followers. I believe that the first of the Persians to convert to Christianity were people who, in the context of the mingling of Osroeneans and Armenians, naturally met the local holy men and witnessed their virtue.’

Text: Bidez and Hansen 1995. Translation: E. Rizos.

History

Evidence ID

E03994

Saint Name

Trdat, first Christian king of Armenia : S01508

Saint Name in Source

Τηριδάτης

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

439

Evidence not after

450

Activity not before

300

Activity not after

450

Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Constantinople

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

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work

Sozomen

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family

Source

Salamenios Hermeias Sozomenos (known in English as Sozomen) was born in the early 5th c. to a wealthy Christian family, perhaps of Arab origins, in the village of Bethelea near Gaza. He was educated at a local monastic school, studied law probably at Beirut, and settled in Constantinople where he pursued a career as a lawyer. Sozomen published his Ecclesiastical History between 439 and 450, perhaps around 445. It consists of nine books, the last of which is incomplete. In his dedication of the work, Sozomen states that he intended to cover the period from the conversion of Constantine to the seventeenth consulate of Theodosius II, that is, 312 to 439, but the narrative of the extant text breaks in about 425. The basis of Sozomen’s work is the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates, published a few years earlier, which our author revises and expands. Like Socrates, Sozomen was devoted to Nicene Orthodoxy and the Theodosian dynasty, but his work is marked by stronger hagiographical interests, a richer base of sources, and different sympathies/loyalties. Sozomen probably lacked the classical education of Socrates, but had a broader knowledge of hagiographical and monastic literature and traditions, which makes him a fuller source for the cult of saints. Besides Greek and Latin, Sozomen knew Aramaic, which allowed him to include information about ascetic communities, monastic founders, and martyrs from his native Palestine, Arabia, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia, to which Socrates had had no access. Much like the other ecclesiastical historians of the fourth and fifth centuries, Sozomen focuses on the East Roman Empire, only seldom referring to the West and Persia.

Discussion

The second book of Sozomen’s Ecclesiastical History recounts aspects of the progress of Christianity after Constantine’s victory, including the building projects of Constantine and the spread of Christianity inside and outside the Roman Empire. In chapters 2.4 and 2.5, Sozomen recounts the Christianisation or destruction of pagan shrines under Constantine, whereas in chapters 2.6 and 2.7 he recounts the conversion of barbarian tribes, especially the Goths and the Iberians/Georgians. His account of the Iberian conversion reproduces the story recounted by the Ecclesiastical Histories of Rufinus and Socrates, but Sozomen adduces his own information about the conversion of Armenia and Persia, thus being the earliest Greek testimony of the foundation narrative of the Armenian Church and the legend of king Trdat. Sozomen is the first to date the conversion of the Armenians earlier than that of the Iberians/Georgians, which implies a period earlier than Constantine. Sozomen also associates the Armenian Church with the spread of Christianity into Persia, as a prelude to his long account of the Persian martyrs of the persecution of Shapur II.

Bibliography

Text: Bidez, J., and Hansen, G. C., Sozomenus. Kirchengeschichte. 2nd rev. ed. (Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte, Neue Folge 4; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1995). Translations: Grillet, B., Sabbah, G., Festugière A.-J. Sozomène, Histoire ecclésiastique. 4 vols. (Sources chrétiennes 306, 418, 495, 516; Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1983-2008): text, French translation, and introduction. Hansen, G.C. Sozomen, Historia ecclesiastica, Kirchengeschichte, 4 vols. (Fontes Christiani 73; Turnhout: Brepols, 2004): text, German translation, and introduction. Hartranft, C.D. “The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen, Comprising a History of the Church from AD 323 to AD 425." In A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Second Series, edited by P. Schaff and H. Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 179-427. Further reading: Chesnut, G. F. The First Christian Histories: Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Evagrius (Atlanta: Mercer University, 1986). Leppin, H. Von Constantin dem Grossen zu Theodosius II. Das christliche Kaisertum bei den Kirchenhistorikern Socrates, Sozomenus und Theodoret (Hypomnemata 110; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996). Van Nuffelen, P., Un héritage de paix et de piété : Étude sur les histoires ecclésiastiques de Socrate et de Sozomène (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 142; Leuven: Peeters, 2004).

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