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E04689: Procopius of Caesarea, in his On Buildings, reports that the emperor Zeno (r. 474-491) expelled the Samaritans from Mount Garizin, near the city of Neapolis in Palestine, and built on its summit a church of *Mary Theotokos, Mother of God (S00033), but only lightly (and ineffectually) fortified it; Justinian (r. 527-565) rendered it impregnable with a new wall. Written in Greek at Constantinople, in the 550s.

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posted on 25.01.2018, 00:00 by julia
Procopius, On Buildings, 5.7.1-17


Procopius recounts the story of the Samaritans' worship on Mount Garizin in Palestine, near the city of Neapolis. They never built a temple there, because it was the mountain itself they venerated. He continues by referring to the gospel story of a conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. Jesus responded to the woman's questions about the worship of the mountain by saying that the time would come when the Samaritans would not worship there any more, but that true worshippers would worship God in that place; as was to happen.

Then Procopius switches to events during the reign of the emperor Zeno, when the Samaritans fell upon the Christians gathered in their church in the city of Neapolis while celebrating Pentecost, and slew many of them. The emperor Zeno expelled the Samaritans from Mount Garizin and built at its top a church (ekklesia) of Mary Theotokos, defended by a wall, but only a weak one. He also established a garrison of soldiers, placing a large number in the city below, and ten men at the church.

Later, during the reign of Anastasius, some Samaritans secretly climbed the mountain, entered the church, and slew the guards. The governor of the district, Procopius of Edessa, arrested the authors of the outrage and put them to death. But despite these events, the fortifications of the church were not strengthened until the emperor Justinian surrounded the original slight wall with another more impressive one, and by these means made the place impregnable. He also restored five other Christian shrines which had been burned down by the Samaritans.

Text: Haury 1913. Summary: J. Doroszewska.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Saint Name in Source


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

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Other liturgical acts and ceremonies

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Jews Monarchs and their family Soldiers Officials


Procopius of Caesarea, (c. 500 – c. 560/561 AD) was a soldier and historian from the Roman province of Palaestina Prima. He accompanied the Roman general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian (527-565). He wrote the Wars (or Histories), On Buildings and the Secret History. On Buildings is a panegyric in six books. It lists, and sometimes describes, the buildings erected or renovated by the emperor Justinian throughout the empire (only on Italy is there no information). The bulk of these are churches and shrines dedicated to various saints; the Buildings is therefore a very important text for the evidence it provides of the spread of saintly cults by the mid 6th c. On Buildings dates from the early 550s to c. 560/561; a terminus post quem is 550/551 as the text mentions the capture of Topirus in Thrace by the Slavs in 550 and describes the city walls of Chalkis in Syria built in 550/551; a probable terminus ante quem is 558 when the dome of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople collapsed, which is not mentioned in the book; or before 560 when the bridge on the river Sangarius was completed, as Procopius reports on the start of works. On Buildings thus belongs to the later years of Justinian’s reign. The work is not finished and is probably Procopius’ last work. It glorifies Justinian, depicting him as a great builder and an emperor restlessly transforming the state, expanding and reforming it, destroying paganism, extirpating heresy, and re-establishing the firm foundations of the Christian faith (Elsner 2007: 35). More on the text: Downey 1947; Elsner 2007; Greatrex 1994 and 2013. Overview of the text: Book 1. Constantinople and its suburbs Book 2. Frontier provinces of Mesopotamia and Syria. Book 3. Armenia, Tzanica, and the shores of the Black Sea. Book 4. Illyricum and Thrace (the Balkans). Book 5. Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine. Book 6. North Africa, from Alexandria to central Algeria.


The episode of Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman referred to by Procopius is in the Gospel of John 4:20-21. It is an exceptional reference to the Bible in Procopius (Rubin 1954, 68-69; Adshead 1996, 36). The city of Neapolis is the site of the present-day city of Nablus in the northern West Bank, approximately 50 km north of Jerusalem; it is located between Mount Garizim and Mount Ebal. The Samaritans identified Mount Garizim with the holy Mount Moria, where Abraham made his sacrifice. The Samaritans did in fact build a temple on Mount Garizim, modelled on the Temple in Jerusalem; but it was completely destroyed in 128 (or 113-111) BC. In the 2nd century AD, the emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138) built in the same place a temple of Zeus Hypsistos ('the highest'). The remains of both the Samaritan temple and this temple to Zeus have been discovered on the hill of Tell er-Ras, neighbouring Mount Garizim on the North. It seems that, after the demolition of their temple, the Samaritans treated the very mountain as a sanctuary, which was equipped with an altar and a cultic district, but no proper cult buildings. Around this district a city was raised in the Hellenistic times that was surrounded with a wall. The sacred district was divided off by a 7 m. high wall. In this very place, the emperor Zeno built in 484 the church of Mary Theotokos in place of the former Samaritan synagogue (Magen 1993, passim). Archaeological excavations at the site were conducted already in the 30s of the 20th century, and discovered the remains of the church and some inscriptions (E04415). Procopius of Edessa whom Procopius calls the governor of the district was a prefect of Samaria. He was killed in 555 during another revolt of the Samaritans which is not mentioned here (Cameron 1985, 92).


Edition: Haury, J., Procopii Caesariensis opera omnia, vol. 4: Περι κτισματων libri VI sive de aedificiis (Leipzig: Teubner, 1962-64). Translations and Commentaries: Compagnoni, G.R., Procopio di Cesarea, Degli Edifici. Traduzione dal greco di G. Compagnoni (Milan: Tipi di Francesco Sonzogno, 1828). Dewing, H.B., Procopius, On Buildings. Translated into English by H.B. Dewing, vol. 7 (London: William Heinemann, New York: Macmillan, 1940). Grotowski, P.Ł., Prokopiusz z Cezarei, O Budowlach. Przełożył, wstępem, objaśnieniami i komentarzem opatrzył P.Ł. Grotowski (Warsaw: Proszynski i S-ka, 2006). Roques, D., Procope de Césarée. Constructions de Justinien Ier. Introduction, traduction, commentaire, cartes et index par D. Roques (Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2011). Veh, O., and Pülhorn, W. (eds.), Procopii opera. De Aedificiis. With a Commentary by W. Pülhorn (Munich: Heimeran, 1977). Further Reading: Adshead, K., “Procopius and the Samaritans,” in: P. Allen and E. Jeffreys (eds.), The Sixth Century, End or Beginning? (Byzantina Australiensia 10; Brisbane: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 1996), 35-41. Cameron, A., “Procopius 7,” in: J.R. Martindale (ed.), The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, vol. 2: A.D. 395-527 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980). Cameron, A., Procopius and the Sixth Century (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985). Downey, G.A., “The Composition of Procopius’ ‘De Aedificiis,” Transactions of the American Philological Association 78 (1947), 171-183. Elsner, J., “The Rhetoric of Buildings in De Aedificiis of Procopius,” in: L. James (ed.), Art and Text in Byzantine Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 33-57. Feissel, D., “Les édifices de Justinien au témoignage de Procope et de l'épigraphie,” Antiquité Tardive 8 (2000), 81-104. Gray, P.T.R., “Palestine and Justinian's Legislation on Non-Christian Religions,” in: B. Helpern and D.W. Hobson (eds.), Law, Politics and Society in the Ancient Mediterranean World (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993). Greatrex, G., “The Dates of Procopius’ Works,” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 18 (1994), 101-14. Greatrex, G., “The Date of Procopius Buildings in the Light of Recent Scholarship,” Estudios bizantinos 1 (2013), 13-29. Magen, Y., “Mount Gerizim and the Samaritans,” in: F. Manns and E. Alliata (eds.), Early Christianity in Context: Monuments and Documents (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1993), 91-148. Rubin, B., Procopius von Kaisareia (Stuttgart: Druckenmüller, 1954 = Paulys Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft, Neue Bearbeitung, Stuttgart 1957, vol. 23.1, col. 273-599).

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