Constantius II in the Ecclesiastical Historians

James Michael Hunt, Fordham University


This dissertation investigates accounts of Constantius II in the fifth-century ecclesiastical histories composed by Rufinus, Philostorgius, Socrates Scholasticus, Sozomen, and Theodoret. These histories are narratives of intertwining imperial and Church affairs. Consequently, they are an important complement to other sources like Julian the Apostate, Ammianus Marcellinus, and Athanasius. Specifically, these histories demonstrate the interconnection between politics and Constantius' religious policies, his close involvement with life in Constantinople, his relations with his brother and imperial colleague, Constans, Christian evangelization's connections to imperial policy, and the nature of the short-lived solution he imposed on the Church's Arian controversy. By focusing on the career of Constantius II in the church historiographical tradition this study complements other studies of Constantius II in ancient literature, both classical and Christian. By identifying differences and considering sources, it illuminates interrelations among live separate histories written within a forty year period. It demonstrates that these sources are not uniform in their presentations. More specifically, it accounts for the story, first reported by Rufinus, of the presbyter who allegedly won over Constantius to Arianism, delineates Sozomen's refutation of Socrates on the emperor's heresy and wickedness, and considers Philostorgius' so called 'official versions' of critical events and his testimony on the Caesar Gallus. It also demonstrates the frequency with which these historians rely on non-Athanasian sources as evidence that their critiques of Constantius II are not merely parrotings of that Alexandrian prelate. Finally, by weighing the Church-historical depiction against fourth century sources this dissertation places in context historiography and judgments of Constantius II in the Theodosian age. The historiographical debate about Constantius II in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. was ongoing. Like fourth-century sources, the ecclesiastical historians present a not unfriendly, if ambivalent, depiction of Constantius II who, if he did not champion orthodoxy as he might have, was nevertheless widely popular and genuinely pious and who was wronged by his subordinate/rival/successor Julian.

Subject Area

Biographies|Classical Studies|Theology

Recommended Citation

Hunt, James Michael, "Constantius II in the Ecclesiastical Historians" (2010). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3431914.