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E04052: Sozomen in his Ecclesiastical History recounts the transfer of the head of *John (the Baptist, S00020) to Constantinople: discovered by Macedonianist monks in Palestine, and brought to a village in the territory of Chalcedon (north-west Asia Minor, near Constantinople) under Valens, probably in the late 360s or 370s, it was deposited at Hebdomon (suburb of Constantinople) under Theodosius I, after 381. Written in Greek at Constantinople, 439/450.

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posted on 18.09.2017, 00:00 by erizos
Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, 7.21

(1) Ὑπὸ δὲ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον διεκομίσθη εἰς Κωνσταντινούπολιν ἡ Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ κεφαλή, ἣν Ἡρῳδιὰς ᾐτήσατο παρὰ Ἡρῴδου τοῦ τετράρχου. λέγεται δὲ εὑρεθῆναι παρὰ ἀνδράσι μοναχοῖς τῆς Μακεδονίου αἱρέσεως, οἳ τὰ μὲν πρῶτα ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις διέτριβον, ὕστερον δὲ εἰς Κιλικίαν μετῳκίσθησαν. (2) ἐπὶ δὲ τῆς πρὸ ταύτης ἡγεμονίας Μαρδονίου μηνύσαντος, ὃς τῆς βασιλικῆς οἰκίας μείζων ἦν εὐνοῦχος, προσέταξεν Οὐάλης εἰς Κωνσταντινούπολιν αὐτὴν κομισθῆναι. καὶ οἱ μὲν ἐπὶ τοῦτο ἀποσταλέντες ἐπιθέντες ὀχήματι δημοσίῳ ἦγον· ὡς δὲ εἰς τὸ Παντείχιον ἧκον (χωρίον δὲ τοῦτο Χαλκηδόνος), οὐκέτι προσωτέρω βαδίζειν ἠνείχοντο αἱ τὸ ὄχημα καθέλκουσαι ἡμίονοι, καὶ ταῦτα τῶν ἱπποκόμων ἐπαπειλούντων καὶ τοῦ ἡνιόχου χαλεπῶς τῇ μάστιγι κεντοῦντος. (3) ὡς δὲ οὐδὲν ἤνυον (ἐδόκει δὲ πᾶσι καὶ αὐτῷ τῷ βασιλεῖ παράδοξον εἶναι καὶ θεῖον τὸ πρᾶγμα), ἀπέθεντο ταύτην τὴν ἱερὰν κεφαλὴν ἐν τῇ Κοσιλάου κώμῃ· ἔτυχε γὰρ ἐκ γειτόνων οὖσα καὶ Μαρδονίου τούτου κτῆμα. (4) περὶ δὲ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον ἢ τοῦ θεοῦ ἢ αὐτοῦ τοῦ προφήτου κινοῦντος ἧκεν εἰς τήνδε τὴν κώμην Θεοδόσιος ὁ βασιλεύς, βουλομένῳ τε τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ τὸ λείψανον λαβεῖν μόνην φασὶν ἀντειπεῖν Ματρώναν, ἣ παρθένος μὲν ἦν ἱερά, εἵπετο δὲ αὐτῷ διάκονος καὶ φύλαξ· ἀνθισταμένην δὲ παντὶ σθένει βιάσασθαι οὐχ ἡγήσατο δεῖν, ἀντιβολῶν δὲ ἐδεῖτο συγχωρεῖν. (5) ἐπεὶ δὲ μόλις εἶξεν ἀνήνυτον εἶναι νομίσασα τῷ κρατοῦντι τὴν ἐπιχείρησιν κατὰ τὸ συμβὰν ἐπὶ τῶν Οὐάλεντος χρόνων, περιλαβὼν τῇ ἁλουργίδι τὴν θήκην ἐν ᾗ ἔκειτο ἔχων ἐπανῆλθε, καὶ πρὸ τοῦ ἄστεως Κωνσταντινουπόλεως ἔθετο ἐν τῷ καλουμένῳ Ἑβδόμῳ, μέγιστον καὶ περικαλλέστατον τῷ θεῷ ἐνθάδε ναὸν ἐγείρας. πολλὰ δὲ πολλάκις λιπαρήσας Ματρώναν καὶ κεχαρισμένα ὑποσχόμενος οὐκ ἔπεισε μεταθέσθαι τῆς δόξης· ἦν γὰρ τῆς Μακεδονίου αἱρέσεως. (6) καίτοι γε Βικέντιος πρεσβύτερος, ὁμόδοξος ὢν αὐτῇ καὶ τὴν σορὸν τοῦ προφήτου ἐπίσης θεραπεύων καὶ περὶ ταύτην ἱερώμενος, ἠκολούθησεν αὐτίκα καὶ τοῖς ἀπὸ τῆς καθόλου ἐκκλησίας ἐκοινώνησεν, ἀπώμοτον μέν, ὡς λέγουσιν οἱ τὰ Μακεδονίου φρονοῦντες, ποιησάμενος μήποτε μεταθήσεσθαι τῆς αὐτῶν δόξης, τὸ δὲ τελευταῖον εἰς τὸ προφανὲς ὁρίσας, ὡς εἰ ἕλοιτο ὁ βαπτιστὴς ἀκολουθῆσαι τῷ βασιλεῖ, καὶ αὐτὸν κοινωνήσειν αὐτῷ μηδὲν διαφερόμενον. (7) ἐγένετο δὲ οὗτος Πέρσης τὸ γένος, ἐπὶ δὲ τῆς Κωνσταντίου βασιλείας διωγμοῦ καταλαβόντος τοὺς ἐν Περσίδι Χριστιανοὺς φεύγων ἅμα Ἀδδᾷ τῷ αὐτοῦ ἀνεψιῷ εἰς Ῥωμαίους ἦλθεν. (8) ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν κλήρῳ ἐγκατελέγη καὶ εἰς πρεσβυτέρου προῆλθεν ἀξίαν· Ἀδδᾶς δὲ γήμας μέγιστα τὴν ἐκκλησίαν ὠφέλησε παῖδα καταλιπὼν Αὐξέντιον, ἄνδρα περὶ τὸ θεῖον πιστότατον καὶ περὶ φίλους σπουδαῖον, ἐμμελῆ δὲ τὸν βίον καὶ φιλόλογον καὶ πολυμαθῆ τῶν Ἕλλησι καὶ τοῖς ἐκκλησιαστικοῖς συγγραφεῦσιν ἱστορημένων, μέτριον δὲ τὸ ἦθος καὶ βασιλεῖ καὶ τοῖς ἀμφ’ αὐτὸν ἐπιτήδειον καὶ λαμπρᾶς ἐπειλημμένον στρατείας. ἀλλὰ τοῦδε μὲν πολύς ἐστι λόγος παρά τε εὐδοκιμωτάτοις μοναχοῖς καὶ σπουδαίοις ἀνδράσι, οἵπερ αὐτοῦ ἐπειράθησαν. (9) ἡ δὲ Ματρώνα μέχρι τελευτῆς ἐν τῇ Κοσιλάου κώμῃ διέτριβε· διεβίω δὲ ἱεροπρεπῶς μάλα καὶ σωφρόνως ἱερῶν παρθένων ἡγουμένη· ὧν εἰσέτι νῦν πολλὰς περιεῖναι ἐπυθόμην, τῆς ὑπὸ Ματρώναν παιδεύσεως ἄξιον φερούσας ἦθος.


‘(1) About this time, the head of John the Baptist, which Herodias had asked of Herod the tetrarch, was transferred to Constantinople. It is said that it was discovered by monks of the sect of Makedonios, who originally dwelt at Constantinople, and were later resettled in Cilicia. (2) Under the previous emperor, Mardonios who was the chief eunuch of the palace had made this discovery known, and Valens commanded that the relic be brought to Constantinople. The men appointed for the task took it on a state carriage and set off. When they arrived at Panteichion, which is a settlement in the territory of Chalcedon, the mules drawing the carriage refused to advance further, even though the drivers kept threatening them and the driver was scourging them terribly with the lash. (3) Yet they would not move at all, and everyone, including the emperor himself, thought that the incident was extraordinary and of divine provenance; so they deposited this holy head at the village of Kosilaos, which happened to be nearby and belonged to the said Mardonios.

(4) Now during the period we are talking about here, the emperor Theodosius, induced by God or by the Prophet himself, arrived at this village. As he intended to take away the relic of the Baptist, they say that the only person who opposed him was Matrona, a consecrated virgin who was serving as its minister and guardian. As she was resisting with all her strength, he thought it inappropriate to use coercion and instead begged her for permission.

(5) She consented very reluctantly, believing that the emperor would fail in his endeavour, as it had happened with Valens. The emperor wrapped the chest where the relic was resting with his purple cloak, and departed with it. He deposited it outside the city of Constantinople at the place called Hebdomon, where he erected a very large and beautiful shrine. As for Matrona, although he besought her profusely and persistently, promising splendid rewards, he failed to persuade her to change her religious views. For she adhered to the sect of Makedonios.

(6) By contrast, Vikentios, a presbyter of her creed, who also used to worship and serve as a cleric by the coffin of the Prophet, immediately followed the emperor and entered into communion with the Catholic Church. Indeed, although he had taken an oath, as the Macedonianists affirm, never to swerve from their creed, in the end he openly declared that, if the Baptist had decided to follow the emperor, he also would enter into communion with him unreservedly. (7) He was a Persian and, when a persecution befell the Christians of Persia, during the reign of Constantius, he fled together with his nephew, Addas, and moved to the Roman Empire. (8) He joined the clergy and advanced to the office of presbyter. As for Addas, he married and rendered great service to the Church, for he has left a son named Auxentios who is a man highly devoted to our religion and faithful to his friends, proper in his lifestyle, a keen scholar well versed in the writings of both pagan and ecclesiastical authors, and also a moderate character. He is very close to the emperor and his entourage and has been appointed to a splendid office in the imperial service. The monks and zealous people who have known him speak of him very highly.

(9) As for Matrona, she lived at the village of Kosilaos to the end of her life. She lived a very godly and pious life, leading a community of consecrated virgins, many of whom, I understand, are still alive, displaying a conduct worthy of their training under Matrona.’

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

History

Evidence ID

E04052

Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020

Saint Name in Source

Ἰωάννης ὁ Βαπτιστῆς, Προφήτης

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

439

Evidence not after

450

Activity not before

360

Activity not after

391

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 - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miraculous behaviour of relics/images Saint aiding or preventing the translation of relics Miracles causing conversion

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Heretics Animals

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - head Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics Privately owned relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries

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

Sozomen records meticulously the transfers of relics that took place under the Theodosian emperors, suggesting that this was an important aspect in the religious policy of these emperors. The miraculous revelations of relics are treated as signs of divine benevolence and events which promote the good name of the Christian faith. The story about the head of the Baptist is intended to provide a supernatural confirmation of Theodosius’ orthodoxy. John’s head refused to enter Constantinople under the Arian Valens and stopped in the outskirts of Chalcedon. It was willing, however, to follow the orthodox emperor Theodosius. The head follows an interesting itinerary before arriving to the capital. It was discovered by Macedonianist monks, and kept by them at a monastery on the private estate of the eunuch Mardonios, imperial chamberlain. The site of that shrine is the otherwise unattested site of Kosilaos near Panteichion (today’s Pendik in Anatolian Istanbul). Theodosius houses it at a church which he builds at Hebdomon (Bakırköy). The shrine consisted of two churches, a basilica dedicated to John the Evangelist, and a rotunda of John the Baptist (Patria of Constantinople, 3. 144-145). Sozomen mentions its foundation by Theodosius I also in 8.4.14-15. The Paschal Chronicle dates the deposition of the head at Hebdomon to 17 February 391 (564.13-19, E###). The role of monastic communities in spreading the relics and cult of John is remarkable. Jerome of Stridon (Ep. 108.13; E###), and the church historians Rufinus of Aquileia (E04543) and Philostorgius (E04196) report that the tomb of John was venerated by the Christians at Sebaste of Palestine, together those of the prophets Elisha and Obadiah. The bones were reportedly burned and scattered by the pagans under Julian the Apostate (361-363), but collected by monks. Rufinus reports that these relics were sent to Athanasius in Alexandria (E04543). Palladius of Helenopolis mentions that relics of John were kept by monks on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (see E03329). Sozomen's acknowledgement of the heterodox identity of the monks who brought the relic to Constantinople is interesting. Although the author does not share Socrates’ sympathy for the Novatians, he is still interested in the histories of the dissident communities and their leaders, adding information and hagiographical anecdotes concerning the Novatians and Macedonianists. This is one of several episodes echoing his personal contacts and appreciation for the Macedonianist ascetic communities. At the end of the account, Sozomen indirectly acknowledges his source for this story, Auxentios, the grandson of the former Macedonianist priest and Persian émigré Vikentios who had witnessed the acquisition of John's head by Theodosius I. Sozomen's affectionate words for Auxentios suggest that they knew each other from their work in the imperial service and their connections to monastic cycles.

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). Cronnier, E. Les inventions de reliques dans l’Empire romain d’Orient (IVe-VIe s.) (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016). Janin, R. La géographie ecclésiastique de l'empire Byzantin. I 3: Les eglises et les monastères de la ville de Constantinople (Paris, 1969). 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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