SOCRATES (c. 380-456)
A church historian. Socrates was a native of Constantinople, where he lived and obtained his education. He ultimately became a lawyer and earned the title Scholasticus. He is best known as a church historian and seems to have started where EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA left off. Thus his history is probably the most important compendium after Eusebius’, though it has been said that he made use of the historical work of RUFINUS, which must have appeared only a short time before.
His work was planned in seven books, each dealing with an imperial reign, beginning with DIOCLETIAN in 305 and covering the period to 439. After writing its first version, Socrates became better acquainted with the works of Saint ATHANASIUS, whom he admired, and this led him to produce a second and definitive version, which is the one extant today.
On the whole, Socrates’ history is lucidly written, and his objectivity of judgment is uncontested. His accounts of the ecumenical councils are based on the documentary collection of Sabinus of Heraclea, and he is more versed in events connected with Constantinople. Though a good historian of the church, he displays no special interest in the theological controversies of his time.
His history attracted attention from the earliest days of printing, its first edition appearing at Paris in 1544, by Stephanus; later versions were by Valesius at Paris in 1688 and by W. Reading at Cambridge in 1720. It was reproduced by J. P. Migne at Paris in 1859 and by W. Bright at Oxford in 1878. It appeared in English translation by A. C. Zenos, in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Series, in 1890.
- Milligan, W. “Socrates.” In DCB 4. New York, 1974.
AZIZ S. ATIYA