So'cratesdesignated in the title of his Ecclesiastical History So'crates SCHOLASTICUS, from his following the profession of a scholasticus or pleader, was, according to his own testimony (Hist. Eccles. 5.24), born and educated in the city of Constantinople, in which also he chiefly or wholly resided in after life. When quite a boy (κομιδῆ νέος ὢν) he studied (Hist. Eccles. 5.16) under the grammarians Ammonius and Helladius, who had been priests at Alexandria, the first of the Egyptian Ape, the second of Jupiter, and had fled from that city on account of the tumults occasioned by the destruction of the heathen temples, which took place, according to the Chronicon of Marcellinus, in the consulship of Timasius and Promotus, A. D. 389 [AMMONIUS GRAMMATICUS]. From these data Valesius calculates that Socrates was born about the beginning of the reign of Theodosius the Great (A. D. 379) : his calculation is based on the assumption that Socrates was placed under their charge at the usual age of ten years, and that he attended them immediately after their removal from Alexandria to Constantinople; and it is confirmed by the circumstance that Socrates writing of some dissensions among the Macedonians and Eunomians of Constantinople about A. D. 394 H. E. 5.24), mentions as one reason for his particularity in speaking of these, and generally of events which had occurred at Constantinople, that some of them had occurred under his own eyes; a reason which he would hardly have urged in this place had it not applied to the particular events in question; and had he been younger than Valesius' calculation would make him, he would hardly have been old enough to feel interested in such matters; indeed he must, on any calculation, have given attention to them at a comparatively early age. And had he been much older than Valesius makes him, he must have commenced his attendance on his masters after the usual age, and then he would hardly have said that he went to them κομιδῆ νέος ὢν, " when quite young." Valesius suspects from the very high terms in which Socrates speaks of the rhetorician Troilus, and the acquaintance he shows with his affairs, that he studied under him also, which may be true. Beyond this, little sees to be known of the personal history of Socrates, except that he followed the profession of a pleader at Constantinople, and that he survived the seventeenth consulship of the emperor Theodosius the Younger, A. D. 439, to which period his Ecclesiastical History extends (H. E. 7.48). In fact, he probably survived that date several years, as he published a second edition of his history (H. E. 2.1), and had opportunity between the first and second editions to procure access to several additional documents, to weigh their testimony, and to re-write the first and second books. Photius, in his brief notice of Socrates and his history (Biblioth. Cod. 28), and Nicephorus Callisti (H. E. 1.1) in a still briefer notice, do not speak of his profession of a scholasticus or pleader; from which some have inferred (e. g. Hamberger, apud Fabric. Biblioth. Graec. vol. vii. p. 423, note g.; comp. Ceillier, Auteurs Sacrés, vol. xiii. p. 669), that the title of his work is inaccurate in giving him that designation : but we think that no such inference can be justly drawn from the omission of so unimportant a circumstance in notices so brief as those of Photius and Nicephorus. The general impartiality of Socrates may be taken as an indication that he was not an ecclesiastic ; while his literary habits and his balancing of evidence (e. g. H. E. 2.1) are in harmony with the forensic pursuits in which the title scholasticus shows him to have been engaged. Another much disputed point is, what were his religious opinions, or, to state the question more accurately, did he belong to the church claiming to be " Catholic," and which comprehended the bulk of the Homoöusian or orthodox community, or to the smaller and " schismatical" body of the καθαροί, " Puritans" or Novatians. From the general accordance of the Novatians with " the Church " in religious belief and ecclesiastical constitution, the only difference between the two bodies being the sterner temper and stricter discipline of the dissenting community [NOVATIANUS], it is difficult to trace any decisive indications in the writings of Socrates to which body he gave his adherence. The testimony of Nicephorus Callisti (H. E. 1.1) would be decisive, had it been the testimony of a contemporary, and more impartial in tone. He speaks of him as " Socrates the pure (καθαρός, i. e. Puritan) in designation, but not also in principle." To the testimony of Nicephorus we may oppose the silence of earlier writers, as Cassiodorus (De divinis Lection. 100.17, and Praefat. Historiae Tripartiae), Liberatus (Brexiar. 100.2), Theodore Anagnostes or Lector (Epistola Histor. Eccles. praefixa), Evagrius (H. E. 1.1), some one or other of whom would have probably mentioned his being a Novatian, had he really belonged to that sect. (See the Veterum Testimonia collected by Valesius, and prefixed to his edition of Socrates.) It is argued that he has carefully recorded the succession of the Novatian bishops of Constantinople ; has spoken of these prelates in the highest terms, and has even recorded (H. E. 7.17) a miracle which occurred to Paul, one of them; and that he appears to have taken a peculiar interest in the sect, and to have recorded various incidents respecting them with a particularity which would hardly be expected except from a member of their body. But these things, as Valesius justly contends, may be accounted for by his avowed purpose of recording events occurring in Constantinople more minutely, because he was a native and resident of that city (H. E. 5.24), and by sympathy with the stricter morality of the Novatians, or by some family connection or intimate friendship with some of their members (comp. Socrat. H. E. 1.13). When, however, Valesius adduces as positive evidence of his adherence to the " Catholic " church, that he repeatedly mentions it without qualification as " the church," and classes the Novatians with other sectaries, he employs arguments as little valid as those which, just before, he had refuted. Socrates, though a Novatian, might speak thus in a conventional sense, just as Protestants of the present day often speak of " Catholics," or " Catholic church," Dissenters of " the church " or " the church of England," and persons of reputedly heterodox views of " Orthodoxy " or " the Orthodox : " such terms, when once custom has determined their application, being used as conventional and convenient without regard to the essential justness and propriety of their application. The question of the Novatianism of Socrates must be regarded as undetermined; but the preponderance of the various arguments is in favour of his connection with the " Catholic church."
Ἐκκλησιαστή ἱστορία, Historia Ecclesiastica, of Socrates extends from the reign of Constantine the Great to that of the younger Theodosius, A. D. 439, and comprehends the events of a hundred and forty years, according to the writer's own statement (H. E. 7.48), or more accurately of a hundred and thirty-three years, in one of the most eventful periods of the history of the Church, when the doctrines of orthodoxy were developed and defined in a succession of creeds, each step in the process being occasioned or accompanied and followed by commotions which shook the whole Christian community and rent it into sects, some of which have long since passed away, while others have continued to exist. Three general councils, the first Nicene, the first Constantinopolitan, and the first Ephesian are recorded in the history, and two others, the second Ephesian, ἡ λῃστπική, and the Chalcedonian, were held at no great interval from the period at which it ends. The interest and importance of the period may be further inferred from the fact that we have three histories of it by contemporary writers (Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret) which have come down to us in a complete form, and which furnished materials for the Historia Tripartita of Cassiodorus [CASSIODORUS; EPIPHANIUS, No.11], and that we have fragments of another (that of Philostorgius) written about the same period. Of these histories that of Socrates is perhaps the most impartial. In fact he appears to have been a man of less bigotry than most of his contemporaries, and the very difficulty of determining from internal evidence some points of his religious belief, may be considered as arguing his comparative liberality. His history is divided into seven books. Commencing with a brief account of the accession and conversion of Constantine the Great, and the civil war of Constantine and Licinius, the author passes to the history of the Arian controversy, which he traces from its rise to the banishment of Athanasius, the recal and death of Arius, and the death, soon after, of Constantine himself, A. D. 306-337 (Lib. i.). He then carries on the history of the contentions of the Arian or Eusebian and Homöousian parties during the reign of Constantius II. A. D. 337-360 (Lib. ii.). The struggle of heathenism with Christianity under Julian, and the triumph of Christianity under Jovian (A. D. 360-364), then follow (Lib. iii.). The renewed struggle of the Arians and Homöousians under Valens, A. D. 364-378 (Lib. iv.) : the triumph of the Homöousian party over the Arian and Macedonian parties, in the reign of Theodosius the Great A. D. 379-395 (Lib. v.) : the contention of John Chrysostom with his opponents, and the other ecclesiastical incidents of the reign of Arcadius A. D. 395-408 (Lib. vi.) : and the contentions of Christianity with the expiring remains of heathenism, the Nestorian controversy, and the council of Ephesus, with other events of the reign of the younger Theodosius, A. D. 408 to 439, in which latter year the history closes, occupy the remainder of the work. This division of the work into seven books, according to the reigns of the successive emperors, was made by Socrates himself (Comp. 2.1). In the first two books he followed, in his first edition, the ecclesiastical history of Rufinus; but this part, as already mentioned, he had to write for his second edition. The materials of the remaining books were derived partly from Rufinus, partly from other writers, and partly from the oral account of persons who had been personally cognizant of matters, and who survived to the time of the writer. Socrates has inserted a number of letters from the emperors and from prelates and councils, creeds, and other documents which are of value, both in themselves, and as authenticating his statements. He aimed not at a pompous phraseology, οὐ φράσεως ὄγκου φποντιζοντες (Lib. 1.1), but at perspicuity (Lib. 3.1), and his style, as Photius remarks (Biblioth. Cod. 28), presents nothing worthy of notice. The inaccuracy with respect to points of doctrine with which the same critic charges him (ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν τοῖς δόγμασιν οὐ λίαν ἐστὶν ἀκριβής may be taken as a corroboration of what has been said concerning the comparative liberality of his temper. His diligence and general impartiality are admitted by the best critics, Valesius, Cave, Fabricius, &c. " His impartiality," says Mr. Waddington (Hist. of the Church, part 2.100.7, ad fin.), " is so strikingly displayed as to render his orthodoxy questionable to Baronius, the celebrated Roman Catholic historian; but Valesius, in his life, has clearly shown that there is no reason for such a suspicion. We may mention another principle which he has followed, which, in the mind of Baronius, may have tended to confirm the notion of his heterodoxy--that he is invariably adverse to every form of persecution on account of religious opinions--διωγμὸν δὲ λέγω τὸ ὁποσοῦν ταράττειν τοὺς ἡσυχάζοντας--` and I call it persecution to offer any description of molestation to those who are quiet.' Some credulity respecting miraculous stories is his principal failing."