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Socrates Scholasticus

Socrates Scholasticus (c.380 - c.450) was a Greek Christian church historian, born at Constantinople.

Even in ancient times nothing seems to have been known of the life of Socrates except what was gathered from notices in his "Church History."

His birth and education are related in Hist. eccl. V. xxiv. 9; his teachers were the grammarian Helladius and Ammonius Grammaticus, who came to Constantinople from Alexandria, where they had been pagan priests (V. xvi. 9). A revolt, dated about 390, accompanied by an attack upon the pagan temples in Alexandria, had forced them to flee.

That Socrates later profited by the teaching of the sophist Troilus, is not proven; no certainty exists as to his precise vocation, although it may be inferred from his work that he was a layman. On the title-page of his history, he is designated as a scholasticus or lawyer.

In later years Socrates traveled and visited among other places Paphlagonia and Cyprus (cf. I. xii. 8, and II. xxxviii. 30).

His "Church History"

Socrates' work on church history, Historia ecclesiastica was first edited in Greek by Robert Estienne, on the basis of Codex Regius 1443 (Paris, 1544); a translation into Latin by Johannes Christophorson (1612) is important for its various readings. The fundamental edition, however, was produced by Valesius (Paris, 1668), who used Codex Regius, a Codex Vaticanus, and a Codex Florentinus, and also employed the indirect tradition of Theodorus Lector (Codex Leonis Alladi).

The history covers the years 305-439, and was finished about 439, in any case during the lifetime of Emperor Theodosius II -- that is, before 450. The purpose of the history is to give a continuation of the work of Eusebius of Caesarea. It relates in simple language what the Church has experienced from the days of Constantine to the writer's time.

Ecclesiastical dissensions occupy the foreground; for when the Church is at peace there is nothing for the church historian to relate (VII. xlviii. 7). The fact that, besides treating of the Church, the work also deals with Arianism and with political events is defended in the preface to book V.

Socrates seems to have owed the impulse to write his work to a certain Theodorus, who is alluded to in the proemium to book II as "a holy man of God" and seems therefore to have been a monk or one of the higher clergy.

The later historians Sozomen[?] and Theodoret drew upon his work for their own histories.

English Translations

English translations of his writings can be found in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.



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