Saint NameElisha, Old Testament prophet : S00239
John the Baptist : S00020
Saint Name in SourceἘλισσαῖος
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)
Evidence not before425
Evidence not after433
Activity not before361
Activity not after363
Place of Evidence - RegionConstantinople and region
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcConstantinople
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Constantinople
Major author/Major anonymous workPhilostorgius
Cult activities - PlacesBurial site of a saint - sarcophagus/coffin
Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, ScepticismDestruction/hostile attempts to prevent veneration of relics
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesPagans
Cult Activities - RelicsBodily relic - bones and teeth
SourcePhilostorgius was born in Borissus of Cappadocia in c. 368, and lived from the age of twenty in Constantinople, where he became a follower of the Anomaean theologian Eunomius. His twelve-volume Ecclesiastical History, now largely lost, appeared between 425 and 433. In 402/3 a continuation of the Church History of Eusebius of Caesarea had been produced in Latin by Rufinus of Aquileia, who recounted the period from the Council of Nicaea to the death of Theodosius I in 395. Rufinus presented Nicene Christianity as the Orthodox faith which was oppressed by the Arian emperors and restored by Theodosius I (379-395). Philostorgius offered a radically different, pro-Arian, reading of the 4th century theological disputes, portraying Nicene heroes like Athanasius of Alexandria and Basil of Caesarea in a negative manner. His work may have triggered the mid 5th century boom in Greek ecclesiastical historiography, represented by the Nicene ecclesiastical histories of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret of Cyrrhus.
Philostorgius’ original text is only known from a summary in the 9th century Bibliotheca of Photius, and from fragments in a later version of the Greek Martyrdom of Artemios (E06781). A partial reconstruction of Philostorgius’ Ecclesiastical History, based on Photius and the fragments, has been produced by Joseph Bidez and Friedhelm Winkelmann. Winkelmann’s text is available in English translation by Philip R. Amidon.
Philostorgius is also the author of the Martyrdom of *Loukianos of Antioch (E00).
DiscussionThe story of the destruction of the shrine of John the Baptist, and the humiliation of his relics, is known also from Rufinus of Aquileia (Ecclesiastical History, 11.28), who reports that some of the relics lay at the Palestinian city of Sebaste and were rescued by monks. Rufinus adds that the monks sent the relics to Athanasius in Alexandria (E04543). The tomb of Elisha was also known to Jerome who reports that it lay together with the tombs of John the Baptist and the Prophet Obadiah at Sebaste (Ep. 108.13).
It is unknown whether the relics of John’s head, reportedly brought to Constantinople by Macedonianist/Arian monks under Valens, were somehow related to this story (E04052). It is perhaps no coincidence that our author, who, as a resident of Constantinople, must have known John's shrine at Hebdomon, chooses not to talk about it.
Bidez, J., and Winkelmann, F., Philostorgius, Kirchengeschichte; mit dem Leben des Lucian von Antiochien und den Fragmenten eines arianischen Historiographen. 3rd. ed. (Griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller 21; Berlin, 1981).
Translations and commentaries:
Amidon, P.R., Philostorgius, Church History (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007).
Bidez, J., et al., Philostorge, Histoire ecclésiastique (Sources chrétiennes 564; Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 2013).
Mango, C., "The Empress Helena, Helenopolis, Pylae," Travaux et Mémoires 12 (1994), 143–158.
Marasco, G., Filostorgio: cultura, fede e politica in uno storico ecclesiastico del V secolo (Studia ephemeridis "Augustinianum" 92; Rome: Institutum patristicum Augustinianum, 2005).
Treadgold, W.T., The Early Byzantine Historians (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 126-134.