1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sozomen

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SOZOMEN, the name of a famous 5th-century church historian. Hermias Salamanes (Salaminius) Sozomenus (c. 400–443) came of a wealthy family of Palestine, and it is exceedingly probable that he himself was born 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, he tells us, lived at Bethel, near Gaza, and became a Christian, probably under Constantius, through the influence of Hilarion, who had miraculously healed an acquaintance of the grandfather, one Alaphion. Both men with their families became zealous Christians. 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 tells us that he was brought up under monkish influences 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 Hilarion in particular. After studying law in Beirut he settled down as an advocate in Constantinople, where he wrote his Εκκλησιαστική Ἱστορία about the year 440. The nine books of which it is composed begin with Constantine (323) and come down to the death of Honorius (423); but according to his own statement he intended to continue it as far as the year 439 (see the Dedication of the work). 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 mutilated condition, at least half a book being wanting (Güldenpenning, Theodoros von Kyrrhos, p. 12 seq., holds that Sozomen himself suppressed the end of his work). A flattering and bombastic dedication to Theodosius II. is prefixed. When compared with the history of the ecclesiastical historian 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 been appropriated from his predecessor without his being named, the other sources to which Sozomen was indebted being expressly cited. But it is to his credit 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 used some new authorities, in particular sources relating to Christianity in Persia and to the history of Arianism, monkish histories, the Vita Martini of Sulpicius, and works of Hilarius. The whole of the ninth book is drawn from Olympiodorus.

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 monasticism brought into still stronger pro- minence. In Sozomen everything is a shade more ecclesiastical—but only a shade—than in Socrates. Perhaps also he wrote for the monks in Palestine, and could be sure that the work of his predecessor would not be known.

Sozomen is 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 chronological scrupulosity of the earlier writer has made no impression on his follower; he has either wholly omitted or inaccurately repeated the chronological data. He 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. Evidence of a boundless credulity with regard to all sorts of monkish fables is to be met with everywhere. 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; and here his statements possess greater value.

Sozomen also wrote an Epitome of History from the Ascension of Christ to the defeat of Licinius (323) which is not now extant (see his History, i. 1).

For bibliography see the article on the church historian, Socrates. Most of the editions and discussions named there cover Sozomen as well (the volume of Hussey's edition containing Sozomen appeared in i860). The latest English translation, revised by Hartranft, is published in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, vol. ii. In addition see Nolte in the Tübing. Quartalschr. (1861), p. 417 sqq.; C. de Boor, " Zur Kenntniss der Handschriften der Griech. Kirchenhistoriker," in Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, vi. 478 sqq.; Sarrazin, " De Sozomeni historia num integra sit," in the Commentationes philologae jenenses, i. 165 sqq.; Rosenstein, " Krit. Untersuchungen über d. Verhaltniss zwischen Olympiodor, Zosimus und Sozomen," in Forsch. z. deutschen Gesch., vol. i. ; Batiffol, " Sozomène et Sabinos," in Byzant. Zeitschr. vii. 265 sqq.  (A. Ha.; A. C. McG.)