Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 895
Emperor Constantine III is sieged in Arles (Gaul) by the general Gerontius. Gerontius escapes the army of the Emperor Honorius who eventually defeats Constantine III. Constantine escapes to the church and is ordained a presbyter. Then he is sent with his son Julian to Italy, and both are murdered during the journey, AD 411. Account of Hermias Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, ca AD 443-448.
Μετὰ δὲ τὴν νίκην ἀντιπεραιωθείσης αὖθις πρὸς τὴν πόλιν τῆς Ὀνωρίου στρατιᾶς, μαθὼν Κωνσταντῖνος ἀνῃρῆσθαι τὸν Ἐδόβιχον αὐτὸς ἑαυτῷ τὴν ἁλουργίδα καὶ τὰ τῆς βασιλείας σύμβολα ἀπέθετο· καὶ καταλαβὼν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν χειροτονεῖται πρεσβύτερος. ὃρκους τε πρότερον λαβόντες οἱ ἒσω τειχῶν ἀνοίγουσι τὰς πύλας καὶ φαιδοῦς ἀξιοῦνται πάντες. καὶ τὸ ἐξ ἐκείνου πάλιν τὸ τῇδε ὑπήκοον εἰς τὴν Ὀνωρίου ἡγεμονίαν ἐπανῆλθε καὶ τοῖς ὑπ’αὐτὸν ἄρχουσιν ἐπείθετο. Κωνσταντῖνος δὲ ἅμα Ἰουλιανῷ τῷ παιδὶ παραπεμφθεὶς εἰς Ἰταλίαν, πρὶν φθάσαι κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν κτίννυται. οὐ πολλῷ δὲ ὕστερον ἀδοκήτως ἀναιροῦνται Ἰοβιανός τε καὶ Μάξιμος οἱ προειρημένοι τύραννοι καὶ Σάρος καὶ ἄλλοι πλεῖσται ἐπὶ τούτοις ἐπιβουλεύσαντες τῇ Ὀνωρίου Βασιλείᾳ.
(ed. G. Ch. Hansen 1960: 406)
After this victory the troops of Honorius again laid siege to the city. When Constantine heard of the death of Edobichus he cast aside his purple robe and imperial ornaments, and repaired to the church, where he caused himself to be ordained a presbyter. Those within the walls, having first received oaths, opened the gates, and their lives were spared. From that period the whole province returned to its allegiance to Honorius, and has since been obedient to the rulers of his appointment. Constantine, with his son Julian, was sent into Italy, but he was waylaid and killed. Not long afterwards Jovianus and Maximus, the tyrants mentioned above, Saros, and many others who had conspired against Honorius, were unexpectedly slain.
(trans. Hartranft 1890: 426-427)


Constantine III was a Roman general who was elevated as the emperor in Britain in AD 407. He crossed to the continent and there his armies led by Iustinianus and Nebiogastes, and later by Edobichus and Gerontius were fighting with Sarus, lieutenant of Stilicho whom he eventually force to retreat to Italy. In AD 408 he established his capital in Arles, and after the next war he won with the Roman armies of Honorius he was recognised as co-emperor. Later however he had to deal with the revolt of his own general Gerontius. Gerontius defeated the forces of Constantine III's son Constans in Vienne in AD 411, and consequently besieged Constantine III in Arles. The general of Honorius, Constantius defeated Gerontius and continued the siege of Arles. The remaining supporters of Constantine in Gaul abandoned him to endorse the rebel Jovinus. Constantine surrendered, and was ordained presbyter, imprisoned, and finally killed (Blockley 2008: 129-130; Drinkwater 1998).

Place of event:

  • Gaul
  • Arles

About the source:

Author: Hermias Sozomen
Title: Ecclesiastical History, Church History, Historia ecclesiastica, Ἐκκλησιαστικὴ ἱστορία
Origin: Constantinople (East)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Sozomen was born in Bethelea near Gaza in Palestine probably ca AD 380. We do not know the year of his death, but the last book of his work written probably in AD 448 is incomplete, thus the death might have hindered its completion. The Ecclesiastical History has nine books relating the history from the rule of Constantine (AD 324-337) to the seventeenth consulate of Emperor Theodosius II (AD 439). Originally the work was preceded by the two-book compendium of the history of the Church of the first three centuries, but they did not survive to our times (Sabbah 1983: 7-31). Sozomen was a contemporary of the other ecclesiastical historian Socrates, and it is usually accepted that it was he who used the work of his collegue, although he had different approach and method (for a detailed comparison with further readings see Sabbah 1983: 57-87).
J. Bidez, G.Ch. Hansen eds., Sozomenus, Historia ecclesiastica, Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte 50, Berlin 1960.
Ch.D. Hartranft rev., The ecclesiastical history of Sozomen, [in:] A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene, second sereis, eds. P. Schaff, H. Wace, vol. 2, New York 1890
A.-J. Festugière trans., J. Bidez ed., Hermias Sozomen, Histoire ecclesiastique, Sources Chrétiennes 306, 418, 495, 516, Paris 1983, 1996, 2005, 2008.
G.Ch. Hansen trans., Hermias Sozomenos, Historia ecclesiastica Kirchengeschichte I–IV, Turnhout 2004.
R.C. Blockley, "The Dynasty of Theodosius”, [in :] Cambridge Ancient History, ed. A. Cameron, P. Garnsey, v. 13, 2008, 111-137.
J.F. Drinkwater, "The Usurpers Constantine III (407-411) and Jovinus (411-413)”, Britannia 29 (1998), 269-298.
G. Sabbah, Introduction, [in:] A.-J. Festugière trans., J. Bidez ed., Hermias Sozomen, Histoire ecclesiastique, Sources Chrétiennes 306, Paris 1983.


Social origin or status - Monarchs and their family
Family life - Offspring
Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Reasons for ordination - Involuntary ordination
Act of ordination
Public functions and offices before ordination
Relation with - Children
Relation with - Monarch and royal/imperial family
Conflict - Violence
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: M. Szada, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER895,