Socrates of Constantinople

Socrates of Constantinople, also known as Socrates Scholasticus, was a Greek Christian church historian, a contemporary of Sozomen and Theodoret, who used his work. He was born at Constantinople c. 380. Even in ancient times nothing seems to have been known of his life except what can be gathered from notices in his Historia Ecclesiastica ("Church History"), which departed from its ostensible model, Eusebius of Caesarea, in emphasizing the place of the emperor in church affairs and in giving secular as well as church history.

Socrates' teachers, noted in his prefaces, were the grammarians Helladius and Ammonius, who came to Constantinople from Alexandria, where they had been pagan priests. A revolt, accompanied by an attack on the pagan temples, had forced them to flee. This attack, in which the Serapeum was vandalized and its library destroyed, is dated about 391.

Socrates of Constantinople provides the following account of the destruction of the temples in Alexandria, in the fifth book of his Historia Ecclesiastica, written around 440:

Ecclesiastical History

Book III. 2,3:

In the great city of Alexander a disturbance arose from the following cause. There was a district in the city, long waste and neglected, a receptacle for stores of rubbish, whereing the Greeks of old used to celebrate Mithraic rites and perform human sacrifice. This vacant site Constantine had long previously assigned to the Alexandrian Church. Georgius however wishing to build an oratory thereon gave orders for it to be cleared. In the course of the work a shrine was found at a considerable depth, in which were hidden the mystical emblems of the Greeks; and these comprised many human skulls, both ancient and new, whose owners were reported to have been slain in olden times, when the Greeks practiced divination by the entrails and offered magical sacrifices with sorcery and deception. The Christians therefore finding these in the shrine of Mithras hastened to turn the mysteries of the Greeks to open ridicule before all. They forthwith formed a procession and exhibited the naked skulls to the populace. When the Greeks of Alexandria saw this they were inflamed with wrath, regarding it as an intolerable insult; and availing themselves of any weapon to hand they made an attack upon the Christians, and by various means destroyed many of them. Some they slew with swords, others were killed with clubs or stones, and others strangled with cords; others again they crucified, employing this manner of death in mockery of the cross; and the greater number they wounded. Then also as is the wont in such circumstances they did not spare even their nearest relatives, but friend smote friend, and brother brother, and parents their children, and all turned to mutual slaughter. The Christians therefore abandoned the cleamsing of the Mithraeum. And others dragged Georgius from the church, bound him to a camel and tore him asunder, and burned both of them together. The king therefore indignant at the murder of Georgius wrote a letter and upbraided the people of Alexandria.


Born about 400 AD, Sozomen is said to have been a Palestinian Christian and to later have studied and practiced in Constantinople.

Historia Ecclesiastica

Book V. 7:

The following even took place in connection with their so-called Mithraeum. this place which had long been wast was granted by Constantine to teh Alexandrian Church. When Georgius was clearing it for the erection of a house of prayer a shrine was disclosed, wherein were found images and instruments of those who formerly practiced there initiatory rites. These were regarded by those who saw them as ridiculous and bizarre; and the Christians exhibited them publicly in procession in mockery of the Greeks. The latter gathered a crowd together and set upon the Christians, arming themselves some with swords or stones, others with any weapon to hand; and they slew many, crucifying some by way of insult to their religion, and inflicting wounds on most of them. The Christians therefore left unfinished the work they had begun; and the Greeks with the connivance of the queen of Julian killed Georgius. The king himself moreover bears testimony of the truth of this.