1902 Encyclopedia > Sozomen

(Salminius Hermias Sozomenus)
Historian of the Christian church
(c. 400 - c. 450 AD)

SOZOMEN, church historian. Hermias Salamanes (Salaminius) Sozomenus came of a wealthy family of Palestine, and it is exceedingly probable that he himself was born (not later than 400 A.D.) and brought up there, —in Gaza or the neighbourhood. What he has to tell us of the history of South Palestine was derived from oral tradition. His grandfather, as he himself tells us, lived at Bethel near Gaza, and became a Christian, probably under Constantius, through the influence of Hilarión, who among his other miracles had miraculously healed an acquaintance of the grandfather, one Alaphion. Both men with their families became zealous Christians and conspicuous for their virtues. The historian's grandfather became within his own circle a highly esteemed interpreter of Scripture, and held fast his profession even in the time of Julian. The descendants of the wealthy Alaphion founded churches and convents in the district, and were particularly active in promoting monasticism. Sozomen himself had conversed with one of these, a very old man. He was brought up under monkish influences; so he expressly states, and his history bears him out. As a man he retained the impressions of his youth, and his great work was to be also a monument of his reverence for the monks in general and for the disciples of Hilarión in particular. He became a lawyer and advocate in Constantinople, where as such he wrote his Ekklesiastike Historia about the year 440. The nine books of which it is composed begin with Constantine and come down to the death of Honorius (423); but according to his own statement the author intended to continue it as far as the year 439. From Sozomen himself (iv. 17), and statements of his excerptors Nicephorus and Theophanes, it can be made out that the work did actually come down to that year, and that consequently it has reached us only in a somewhat mutilated condition, at least half a book being wanting. A flattering and bombastic dedication to Theodosius II. is prefixed. When compared with the history of SOCRATES (q.v.), it is plainly seen to be a plagiarism from that work, and that on a large scale. Some three-fourths of the materials, essentially in the same arrangement, have simply been appropriated from his predecessor without his being so much as named even once, the other sources to which Sozomen was indebted being, however, expressly cited. All that can be said to the credit of Sozomen is that he has been himself at the trouble to refer to the principal sources used by Socrates (Rufinus, Eusebius, Athanasius, Sabinus, the collections of epistles, Palladius), and has not unfrequently supplemented Socrates from them, and also that he has adduced some new authorities, in particular sources relating to Christianity in Persia, Arian history, monkish histories, the Vita Martini of Sulpicius, books of Hilarius; the whole of the ninth book is entirely drawn from Olympiodorus.

It is difficult to discern the motive for a work which was merely an enlarged edition of Socrates. But it is probable that Sozomen did not approve of Socrates's freer attitude towards Greek science, and that he wished to present a picture in which the clergy should be still further glorified, and, above all, monasticism brought into still stronger prominence. In Sozomen everything is a shade more ecclesiastical—but only a shade—than in Socrates. Perhaps also he wrote for a different circle,— say, the monks in Palestine,—and could be sure that in it the work of his predecessor would not be known.

Sozomen is everywhere an inferior Socrates. What in Socrates still betrays some vestiges of historical sense, his moderation, his reserve in questions of dogma, his impartiality,—all this is wanting in Sozomen. In many cases he has repeated the exact words of Socrates, but with him they have passed almost into mere phrases. The inferiority of Sozomen to Socrates as an historian appears as much in the manner in which he transcribed him as in those passages where he introduces something new. The chronological scrupulosity of the earlier writer has made no impression on his follower; he has either wholly omitted or inaccurately repeated the chronological data. Ho writes more wordily and diffusely. In his characterizations of persons, borrowed from Socrates, he is more dull and colourless. After Socrates he has indeed repeated the caution not to be too rash in discerning the finger of God ; but his way of looking at things is throughout mean and rustic. Two souls inhabit his book : one, the better, is borrowed from Socrates ; another, the worse, is his own. Wherever he abandons his leader he frequently falls into mere retailing of stories, and prostrates him-self in reverence before the poorest products of the religious fantasy of a degenerating age. Evidence of a boundless credulity with regard to all sorts of monkish fables is to be met with everywhere. Raisings of the dead are quite common occurrences with him, and he repeatedly gives accounts of enormous dragons. In the finding of the bones of saints he takes the highest interest, and even be-lieves in the rediscovery of the tombs of the Old Testament prophets.

Where we still possess Socrates's account that of Sozomen very sel-dom has any consequence, but some of the additions he has made are instructive and important. The number of new acts of councils introduced by him is small. His monkish histories are as sources almost utterly valueless ; his account of the Christians in Persia absolutely swarms with mistakes. It must, however, be noted that for the period from Theodosius I. onward he has emancipated himself more fully from Socrates and has followed Olympiodorus in part, partly also oral tradition ; here accordingly his statements possess greater value.

Editions and Literature.—Socrates and Sozomen have been edited by Stephanos (Paris, 1544; Geneva, 1612), Valesius (Paris, 1659-73), Reading (Cambridge, 1720), Hussey (Oxford, 1853, 1860). They are also to be found in vol. lxvii. of Migne's Patrologia, and there is an Oxford school edition (1844) after Reading. Bright edited Socrates according to the text of Hussey in 1878. There are "Testimonia Veterum" in Valesius; and Nolte's papers in Tübing. Quartalschr., (1859) p. 518 sq., (1861) p. 417 sg., contain emendations in Hussey's text, and notes towards the history of the text and editions; see also Overbeck, in Theol. Lit. Ztung. (1879), No. 20.

Special studies have been made by Baronius, Miraeus, Labbé, Valesius, Halloix, Scaliger, Ceillier, Cave, Dupin, Pagi, Ittig, Tillemont, Walch, Gibbon, Schroeckh, Lardner. See also Voss, De Histor. Graecis; Fabricius-Harless, Biblioth. Gr., vol. vii.; Rössler, Bibliothek d. Kirchenväter; Holzhausen, De Fontibus quibus Socr., Soz., ac Theod. in scribenda Historia Sacra usi sunt, (Gottingen, 1825; Stäudlin, Gesch. u. Lit. d. K.-G., Hanover, 1827; Baur, Epochen (1825); Harnack, "Socr. u. Soz.," in Herzog-Plitt's Theol. Encykl. Detached details are given also in works upon Constantine (Manso), Julian (Mücke, Rode, Neumann, Rendall), Damasus (Rade), Arianism (Gwatkin's Studies of Arianism, 1882, gives a severe but trustworthy criticism of Rufinus and discusses the manner in which Socrates was related to him), the emperors after Julian (De Brogue, Richter, Clinton, the Weltgeschichte of Ranke, the Gesch. d. Kaiser Arcadius u. Theod. II., 1885, of Güldenpenning, and the Kaiser Theodosius d. Gr., Halle, 1878, of Iffland, the last-named work discussing the relation of Socrates to Sozomen), the barbarian migrations (Wietersheim, Dahn), the Goths (Waitz, Bessel, Kauffmann, and Scott's Ulfilas, 1885). Lastly, reference may be made to Rosenstein, Forsch. z. deutsch. Gesch., vol. i.,—Krit. Untersuch. üb. d. Verhältniss zu Olympiodor, Zosimus, u. Soz., Sarrazin, De Theodoro Lectore, Theophanis Fonte Praecipuo, 1881 (treats of the relation between Socrates and Sozomen, and of the completeness of the former's work); Jeep, Quellenuntersuch. z. d. griech. Kirchenhistorikern, Leipsic, 1884. (A. HA.)

The above article was written by: Prof A. Harnack.

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