Evagrius Scholasticus

Evagrius Scholasticus, an ecclesiastical historian, who wrote six books, embracing a period of 163 years, from the second Council of Ephesus AD 431 to the 12th year of the emperor Maurice I, AD 594.

He was born at Epiphania in Coelesyria in either 536 or 537, but accompanied his parents to Apamea for his education, and from Apamea seems to have gone to Antioch, the capital of Syria, and entered the profession of the law. He received the surname of Scholasticus, a term then applied to lawyers (Du Cange, Glossarium), gained great favor with Gregory the Patriarch of Antioch, and was chosen by him to assist in his judgments. He seems to have won general esteem and goodwill, for on his second marriage the city was filled with rejoicing, and great honors were paid him by the citizens. He accompanied Gregory to Constantinople, and successfully advocated his cause when he was summoned to answer there for heinous crimes. He also wrote for him a book containing "reports, epistles, decrees, orations, disputations, with sundry other matters," which led to his appointment as quaestor by Tiberius II Constantine and by Maurice I as master of the rolls, "where the lieutenants and magistrates with their monuments are registered " (Evagr. vi. 23). This is his own account of his promotion.

His death must have occurred after 594, in which year he wrote his history at the age of 58 (iv. 28). His other works have perished. The history was intended as a continuation of those of Eusebius, Socrates Scholasticus, Sozomen, and Theodoret. He sought all sources of information at his command - the writings of Eustathius the Syrian, Zosimus, Priscus, Joannes Rhetor, Procopius of Caesarea, Agathus, and other good authors - and resolved to bring their scattered information together "that the famous deeds which slumbered in the dust of forgetfulness might be revived; that they might be stirred with his pen, and presented for immortal memory" (Pref. to his Hist.).

Despite his unnecessarily inflated style, he largely attained his end. He is a warm, often an enthusiastic writer, orthodox in his sentiments, and eager in his denunciations of prevailing heresies. Jortin indeed has condemned him as "in points of theological controversy an injudicious prejudiced zealot" (Remarks on Eccl. Hist. ii. p. 120); but Evagrius was a lawyer, not a theologian, and we must look to him for the popular rather than the learned estimate of the theological controversies of his time. His credulous enthusiasm led him to accept too easily the legends of the saints, but in other respects he shews many of the best qualities of an historian. Not a few original documents, decrees of councils, supplications to emperors, letters of emperors and bishops, etc. are preserved in his pages, forming most important authorities for the events to which they relate. Goss (in Herzog) especially praises his defence of Constantine against the slanders of Zosimus. In his general arrangement he follows the reigns of the emperors of the East from Theodosius II to Maurice; but the arrangement of details is faulty. There is often great spirit in the narrative, an excellent specimen of which is his account of the Council of Chalcedon (ii. 18). The work is chiefly valuable in relation to the Nestorian and Eutychian sects, and the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon.

The first edition of his History is that of Valesius, with notes (Paris, 1673) reprinted at Cambridge in Historia Ecclesastica Scriptores cum notis Valesii et Reading, and republished by the Clarendon Press. The latest and best edition is by Bidez and Parmentier (Lond. 1849) in Byzantine Texts edited by J. B. Bury. See also Krumbacher's Gesch. der Byz. Lit. 2nd ed. There is a fair English translation by Meredith Hanmer (Lond. 1619) along with a translation of Eusebius and Socrates, and more recent ones published by Bagster in 1847 and in Bohn's Lib. (Bell).


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