Socrates, Byzantine Historian

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Byzantine Church historian; b. Constantinople, c. 380; d. c. 450. Socrates, known also as Socrates Scholasticus, was educated by the pagan grammarians Helladius and Ammonius; he became a lawyer in Constantinople and is the first known layman in the field of ecclesiastical historiography. At the request of Theodore, identified only as "a sacred man of God," he continued Eusebius's Historia ecclesiastica in seven books beginning with the year 305 and ending with 439. Each book covers the reign of an emperor and takes into account secular history and events in Constantinople, as well as matters of purely ecclesiastical interest.

Socrates's Historia ecclesiastica has been preserved in a second edition. It uses as its sources eusebius of caesarea; the treatises and letters of St. athanasius, gregory of nazianzus, rufinus of aquileia; conciliar acts collected by the Macedonian Sabinus of Heraclea; lists of bishops; and letters of prelates and emperors. The first edition of the first two books (only fragments in an Armenian translation survive) was drastically revised when the inaccuracies of Rufinus were detected.

Socrates's work is particularly valuable because of verbatim quotation of sources. His Historia ecclesiastica, completely extant, is an objective account, uninvolved in theological controversy, nonpartisan and fair in its treatment of heresies (especially the Novatianists, see nova tian and novatianism), yet in full accord with orthodox teaching. The work of Socrates was the chief source for his younger contemporary sozomen, for theo dore lector of the early 6th century, and for the Epiphanius-Cassiodorus Historia tripartita of the later 6th century.

Bibliography: j. quasten, Patrology 3:532534. r. hanslik, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart 3 6:127128. l. szy manski, The Translation Procedure of Epiphanius-Cassiodorus in the "Historia Tripartita" (Washington 1963). Handbuch der Kirchengeschichte 1:22. The Armenian Adaptation of the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus, tr. r. w. thomson (Sterling, VA 2001).

[h. dressler]