2. Genre and Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History: Toward a Focused Debate [1]

David J. DeVore
Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History is universally acknowledged as a watershed in historiographical presentation, the most innovative history since the fifth century BC: it quotes previous texts promiscuously, avoids placing orations into characters’ mouths, incorporates literary history, and lacks causal relations between successive episodes. But it is a priori doubtful that the Ecclesiastical History either fell from the sky, distinctively formed and alien to classical tradition, or that its lines of participation in Greek historiographical genres are untraceable. The text explicitly participates in an 800-year, diverse tradition of Greek historia, competing with the Greek historiographical tradition. [2] The term historia, of course, could designate anything from a synchronic geographical survey to a novelistic narrative, labeling numerous subgenres and combinations of genres; nonetheless, Eusebius’ title pointed to at least one of these groups of texts as precedent for its form, content, and/or rhetoric. [3]
Scholars have submitted a wide range of opinions as to what kind of history the Ecclesiastical History is. In 1892, Franz Overbeck argued that it presented the Christian past “als die Geschichte des Christenvolkes . . . gleich den anderen Völkern.” [4] In his influential Pauly-Wissowa article published in 1907, Eduard Schwartz pronounced that the historia in Ekklēsiastikē Historia “bedeutet die Sammlung von überliefertem Material.” [5] Timothy Barnes characterized the text in 1981 as combining both “a novel kind of national history” and “inevitably also a literary or philosophical history.” [6] More recent assessments have described the Ecclesiastical History as “a ‘media history,’ a special genre on a new topic,” [7] or as “a transgeneric cross” between historiography and apologetics. [8]
This smattering of generic pronouncements brings into the open a mostly latent debate about the genre of Eusebius’ new history. [9] As occurs with latent debates, scholars’ views depend on categories that resonate in quite separate spheres of texts’ operations. Volksgeschichte and “literary or philosophical history” classify a thematic subject; Materialsammlung names a method of research as manifested in mode of presentation; “media history” acts as an analogy that foregrounds the text’s modes of influencing its target audience; and “apologetic historiography” emphasizes how the author intends the text to influence his readers.
Such a range of published views has the virtue of drawing numerous readings and insights from the text. [10] Yet scholars’ disconnections about which traits determine a text’s genre have occluded a focused debate on the kind of text that the Ecclesiastical History is. To take the categories employed in the generic pronouncements above: the same text can cover a people, take the form of a collection of sources, employ “medial” modes of influencing audiences, lack connections between units, and function to defend a social group—even though the scholars quoted above surely disagree with one another about many aspects of the Ecclesiastical History. [11] Discussion of Eusebian historiography has not yet forged a common set of questions or heuristic categories that can allow points of disagreement to emerge with clarity. Scholars, in short, are talking past each other.
Of course, the object of study itself resists easy classification: the Ecclesiastical History’s universally acknowledged originality does not make easy work of generic identification. [12] We could sidestep the genre question altogether. In a commendable recent survey of Eusebius’ historiographical influences, Sébastien Morlet judiciously avoided assigning a genre to the Ecclesiastical History. [13] Yet even in such a circumspect assessment, a tension surfaces: Morlet’s conclusion conjoins an acknowledgment of Eusebian originality with the historian’s concomitant influence from “[le] genre historiographique antique.” [14] Eusebius’ history was innovative, yet he drew his methods from a long and rich generic tradition. Historiography is considered a genre, yet the Ecclesiastical History is sui generis. Indeed, rather than discuss Eusebius’ use of historiographical subgenres, Morlet points almost exclusively to specific Judean and Christian historical narratives (the Deuteronomistic history and Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible, Josephus’ histories, the Acts of the Apostles) as Eusebian models, as well as some texts within “l’historiographique païenne.” [15] Can we explain Eusebian historiography only in terms of specific paradigmatic texts, and not trace the Ecclesiastical History’s participation in contemporary historiographical genres? Put another way: Eusebius had no way of knowing that others would write ecclesiastical history with his text as their model: ekklēsiastikē historia could have simply remained the title solely for his text, not the designation of a new genre. If Rufinus, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and the rest had not written, where would we locate the Ecclesiastical History within Greek historiography?
In this chapter I argue that the field of genre studies can help in articulating how the Ecclesiastical History participated in discourses circulating and proliferating at the time of its composition and aim to promote a more explicit discussion of the genre of the Ecclesiastical History. To do so I not only apply concepts through which such a debate may take place, but also stake out a position on the genre(s) of Eusebian historiography. As a theoretical foundation, I first summarize a theory of genre, that of the Australian literary theorist John Frow, to highlight what genre does in literary texts. Second, I apply five criteria for generic classification formulated by John Marincola, a leading scholar of ancient historiography, to the Ecclesiastical History in order to decipher some of the generic choices that Eusebius made. I conclude by outlining how Eusebius’ choices in these five aspects of his text signaled his participation in carefully selected strands of the Greek historiographical tradition and shaped his construction of Christianity.

Genre Theory and Generic Cues: A Framework for Approaching Eusebian Genre

All instances of human communication assume and convey meaning only as related to other instances of communication, as they fit into webs of similar kinds of communications. As Bakhtin famously argued, every kind of verbal communication, from a simple command from one individual to another all the way up to the modern novel, draws much of its meaning from its association with a recognizable class of speech. [16] To apprehend the genre of an enunciation, the speaker or recipient must determine certain formal, thematic, and rhetorical elements, as well as social situation and physical setting, that surround the enunciation. [17] The recipients of any enunciation can understand how the enunciation is meant to be received and can enter into dialogue with the speaker (or, as some might view it, with the enunciation) only by presuming the kind of enunciation that is expressed.
As Bakhtin recognized, societies collude to order their enunciations into particular generic groupings. These groupings contain latent networks of background information shared between speakers and audiences, which speakers can use to color and empower their enunciations, and upon which audiences must draw to interpret them. Drawing upon theoretical work in linguistics and cognitive science, John Frow has composed a perceptive synthesis of genre theory. Frow conceptualizes genre as a linguistic means of organizing information, one among the clusters of categories (“schemata”) by which humans organize their knowledge of the world.
Cognitive science shows that our brains channel new knowledge into compartments containing the clusters of our previous knowledge. Information is thus processed as if through networks. In order to make new knowledge meaningful within the structures of our already-constructed worldview, we cluster related bodies of knowledge together, storing information through “associative networks, ‘knowledge nets,’ the nodes of which are ‘propositions, schemas, frames, scripts, production rules.’” [18] Thereafter, once new knowledge has been integrated into our cognitive networks:
Knowledge nets allow . . . for the activation on an ad hoc basis of relevant knowledges, distributing resources between a foreground of active meanings and a background of encyclopaedic knowledge and beliefs. I take these knowledge nets to be in part generically organised . . .
Frow 2006:85
If we conceptualize the cognitive processes of channeling, storing, and accessing knowledge as informational networks, then genres can be viewed as one of the network’s nodes, functioning as one of Frow’s “schemas, frames, scripts, production rules.” “Genre cues act rather like context-sensitive drop-down menus in a computer program, directing me to the layers and sub-layers of information that respond to my purposes as a speaker or a reader or a viewer.” [19] Thus, the recently fashionable concern with ancient practices of organizing knowledge must depend (at least in part) on an appreciation of the power of genre. [20] Furthermore, discussion of the Ecclesiastical History’s genre (rather than historical veracity or use of sources, as so often) encourages sensitivity to its fundamental role in the organization of knowledge in the late Roman Empire.
Frow’s articulation of genre as a frame for communicating information has several consequences relevant to understanding genre. First, genres will vary from reading community to reading community according to schemata available to and shared among each one. Any new literary work will show points of dialogue with kinds of speech salient in the author’s culture. In seeking to map out generic connections, therefore, we cannot assume any universal genres, but must look for the communicative schemata available to communities of authors and audiences. [21]
Second, unlike many prescriptive theories of genre, this theory of genre is fundamentally descriptive. [22] Genre becomes prescriptive only insofar as institutions within a society prescribe certain specific genres as normative. (To recognize such a practice is, of course, itself a descriptive act.)
Third, no literary genre is ever fully distinct from all other genres. As Bakhtin emphasized, speech genres in general, and individual texts in particular, absorb and incorporate many other genres into themselves. Similarly, if genres are the nodes of informational networks, then any network can create a node to channel information from any other network. [23]
Fourth, because speech genres result from individual societies’ shared and organically ordered kinds of speech, genres—especially complex ones instantiated in written texts—wield the potential to change considerably over time. [24] It is true that genres must appear somewhat stable in order for societies to order knowledge around them. Genres would thus seem to be a mechanism for cultural stability. But as semiotic entities, genres are inherently incapable of maintaining stability. [25] Accordingly, the transposition or deconstruction of old configurations and generic signs remain available to any agent as strategies for reworking a culture’s symbolic resources. [26] The historiographical tradition in which Eusebius participated had therefore undergone wide diversification, and thus offered many recognizable schemata through which he could impart his knowledge of the church.
Because genres are unstable and overlap with one another, the theory of genre employed here assumes that the schemata by which societies order their knowledge are in constant flux, a flux rooted in the reimagination and reconfiguration that each new text works upon the classes that it enters into. No text can “belong” to a genre, as if the genre is simply a class indistinct from all others. Whereas “belonging” indicates a fixed control that a classification exerts on a text, such control does not exist in practice, as texts are constantly reconfiguring each class’s boundaries. A more fruitful conceptualization of the relationship between text and genre is that texts “perform” the latent schemata available in genres, so that a textual performance creates a relationship of dialogue or participation with generic schemata. [27] Since literary texts encompass and recontextualize different kinds of speech genres, each new literary performance will transpose various available genres with one another. [28] Each text can therefore be said to participate in the various schemata: each new performance, in textual, visual, or social form, will therefore re-form, extend, and test audiences’ conceptions of their schemata, and thus change them. [29]
How should we identify the manifestation of Eusebius’ performances within the historiographical (and the wider Greek literary) tradition? Drawing on the later work of Gérard Genette, Frow points to the concept of generic cues (alluded to above):
The cues that alert us to what a text is doing are references to the text’s generic frame, and work by either explicit or implicit invocation of the structures and frames that we characteristically associate with that frame . . . They are the ways in which texts seek to situate themselves rhetorically, to define and delimit their uptake by a reader—and, conversely, they are the way in which readers make sense of these markers, and indeed notice them and respond to them in the first place. Textual cues are thus metacommunications, aspects of the text that somehow stand out as being also, reflexively, about the text and how to use it.
Frow 2006:114–115 [30]
The determination of a text’s genre is largely the detection of these generic cues, the formal, thematic, and rhetorical gestures that signify dialogue with salient groups of known texts. The next section will apply one method for revealing some of Ecclesiastical History’s generic cues.

Interpreting the Ecclesiastical History’s Genres: Five Criteria

If “genre” refers to culturally contingent schemata for organizing communicated information, then we must locate the Ecclesiastical History within the genre(s) that were salient within Eusebius’ literary culture. The Greek historiographical tradition in which the Ecclesiastical History participated was rich and wide-ranging, and in it there was constant tension between the paradigmatic texts inculcated as models and the incentives of literary competition that encouraged innovation. [31] We therefore need criteria for assessing genre that reveal a text’s lines of connection with this historiographical tradition, viz. criteria that can expose its generic cues. Such criteria might serve as the common language needed to advance debate about the Ecclesiastical History’s genre.
Classicist John Marincola formulated just such a set of criteria a little over a decade ago, which seems not to have impacted the study of Eusebius as it could have. These criteria, Marincola writes, enable the scholar “to look at the totality of an historical work before forming conclusions about its nature and purpose.” [32] They are neither independent from one another, nor do they constitute a closed system: their use is heuristic, as ciphers for identifying the schemata that distinguish historiographical subgenres. Marincola’s criteria are: [33] (1) narrative or non-narrative, (2) focalization, (3) chronological limits, (4) chronological arrangement, and (5) subject matter. In what follows, I explain each criterion before applying it to the Ecclesiastical History.
What choices did Eusebius make in each of these areas of the Ecclesiastical History? The following exposition will reveal the outlines to Eusebius’ generic cues, allowing me in the final section of this chapter to draw a hypothesis about which genre(s) within Greek historiography Eusebius put into performance in the Ecclesiastical History.

Narrative or non-narrative?

Historians could “write an historical synchronic narrative or . . . a more diachronic descriptive method, or some combination of the two.” Chronography, Marincola notes, may have different narrative patterns from Zeitgeschichte, but they are both equally narratival; and while “descriptions of the lands or customs of a people are usually diachronic and ‘timeless,’” yet “these too can be concerned with causation and explanation, as seen most easily in Herodotus.” The Greek historiographical tradition offered several modes for narrating time and for explaining events, and the authorial decision of how to structure these (both for the text as a whole and for individual units) placed his text in a tradition immediately. [34]
For his part, Eusebius chose a narrative arrangement for the Ecclesiastical History, when he could have chosen to organize his history geographically—according to the events of each of the four apostolic sees, for instance—or thematically, like ethnographic historiai. Both modes of organization were common among Greek historians. [35] Eusebius’ narratival structure thus signaled participation in the more specific traditions of Greek narrative history, such as war monographs (like Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War or Josephus’ Judean War), histories of a specific people or place (like local histories, Xenophon’s Hellenica, Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ Roman Antiquities, Josephus’ Judean Antiquities, or Cassius Dio’s and Herodian’s Roman Histories), and “universal” (perhaps better termed “transnational”) histories (like Polybius’, Diodorus’, and Appian’s Histories).
On the other hand, Eusebius’ ecclesiastical narrative is notable for its sequential discontinuity. The reader rarely gets the impression that one event or personal notice has any causal relationship with preceding or coming events. This disjunction between events lies behind the repeated scholarly comment that the Ecclesiastical History is a “static history.” [36] It is necessary to note, however, that some subgenres of Greek historiography could shun causal connection between events. Certain kinds of local histories, including the “sacred histories” of temples, could avoid causal connectivity. [37] So too could Greek “lives” or biography, a genre with considerable overlap with history. [38] In short, Eusebius’ choice to write a narrative, but a discontinuous narrative, of the church’s past associated the Ecclesiastical History with certain strands of the Greek historical tradition.
Moreover, although the Ecclesiastical History is structured narrativally, many of its individual units are non-narrative. I refer here specifically to the many non-narratival “profiles” that Eusebius inserts to describe individual Christians, Judeans, “heretics,” and emperors. [39] In these profiles, the Eusebian narrator paints a generalized portrait of a character without regard for narrative sequence. [40] The character’s location of activity and/or ethnicity, ecclesiastical office or professional identification, connections with teachers, students, and other important individuals, written works (including sacred texts used), travels, virtues or vices, and circumstances of death appear frequently in these profiles. The Eusebian narrator will sometimes compile this data in his own voice, and sometimes through quotation of other texts. Take, for example, Eusebius’ profile of Julius Africanus:
At that time Africanus also, the author of the books entitled Kestoi, was well known (ἐγνωρίζετο). A letter of his, written to Origen, is extant; he was at a loss as to whether the story of Susanna in the book of Daniel was a spurious forgery. Origen makes a very full reply to it. Of the same Africanus there have reached us as well five books of Chronographies, an endeavor toiled at with accuracy (ἐπ’ ἀκριβὲς πεπονημένα σπουδάσματα). In these he says that he himself set out on a journey to Alexandria because of the great fame of Heraclas, who, as we have noted, was greatly distinguished for philosophical discourses and other Greek learning (διὰ πολλὴν τοῦ Ἡρακλᾶ φήμην, ὃν ἐπὶ λόγοις φιλοσόφοις καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις Ἑλλήνων μαθήμασιν εὖ μάλα διαπρέψαντα), and who was entrusted with the bishopric of the church there. Another letter of the same Africanus is extant, to Aristides, On the supposed discord between the Genealogies of Christ in Matthew and Luke. In it he establishes very clearly the harmony of the evangelists (ἐν ᾗ σαφέστατα τὴν συμφωνίαν τῶν εὐαγγελιστῶν παρίστησιν) from an account that came down to him, which by anticipation I set forth in the proper place in the first book of the present work.
HE 6.31, trans. Oulton, modified
Here the Eusebian narrator introduces Africanus through a temporal indication that synchronizes Africanus with contemporary Christian luminaries. The profile is ordered around a list of Africanus’ written works, presenting some details about the arguments and debates he sets forth in these. Although mini-narratives—epistolary exchanges with Origen and (as can easily be inferred) with Aristides, a visit to the brilliant Heraclas—hover under the profile’s surface, in itself the profile gives no indication of any specific chronological sequence of these events, nor does it indicate any causal relationships among them. Africanus’ literary production garners praise (his Chronographies are ἐπ’ ἀκριβὲς πεπονημένα, he proves the harmony of Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies σαφέστατα—as the Eusebian narrator had indicated by quoting this letter at length in HE 1.7). On this list of literary works the narrator hangs data pertinent to two themes: interactions with important contemporaries and the character’s researches into biblical history.
The Ecclesiastical History—particularly, but not exclusively, in books two through seven—deploys many such synchronic profiles of key individuals. It employs different structures for doing so, and sometimes (as in the cases of the apostle John, Irenaeus, Origen, and Dionysius of Alexandria) carries these profiles across several chapters. [41] While before Eusebius Greek narrative historians had paused their narratives to assess characters who participate in the narrated events, [42] it is difficult to find one who had so thoroughly interwoven characters’ profiles with the course of passing time. The Ecclesiastical History thus opens up a seam in the binary between narrative and non-narrative history: macroscopically narrative, its constituent units are regularly non-narrative. Eusebius’ use of the literary profile enables his history to straddle a border between two modes of historiographical organization.


Marincola defines this criterion, drawn from narratology, as “the focus or orientation or point of view from which one tells the story.” [43] The possible focalizers defined by Marincola range on a spectrum according to their size, from individuals, to cities, to nations, to the entire known world. Marincola further notes that the focalization often corresponds to the arrangement of the history, and in particular to its dating system (see “Chronological arrangement” below). [44]
The Ecclesiastical History is nearly always told as through the eyes of the “orthodox” Christian church (as bounded by Eusebius). As Marie Verdoner has recently argued in a superb article on the Ecclesiastical History’s implied audience, the Eusebian narrator not only assumes knowledge of Christian holy texts, but also accepts their sacred status; the narrator omits discussion of Christian doctrine out of an assumption that the reader knows it; and the narrator is so unabashedly partisan—lacking defensiveness!—on behalf of the Christians as to presume a positive opinion of Christianity on the part of the reader. [45] The narrator rarely allows the text to reproduce the perspective of non-Christians, the only common contexts for extra-Christian perspective being quotations of Judean authors and imperial edicts and rescripts. [46]
The Ecclesiastical History thus maintains an intra-Christian perspective on the events and personalities that it recounts. But as Marincola’s spectrum of focalizers indicates, a choice to limit a history’s perspective to the collective viewpoint of a single (even if translocal) community was nothing new in Greek historiography: national histories like Josephus’ Judean Antiquities and Cassius Dio’s Roman History display the same focalization. [47] It cannot be coincidence that the Eusebian narrator labels the church as a “nation” (ethnos, 1.4.2, 10.4.19; cf. 5.pref.2, 9.1.5); [48] his focalization through Christian eyes follows the conventional focalizations of other national histories narrated from the point of view of a member of the portrayed group, as in the Judean Antiquities. The “orthodox” Christian focalization of the text places the Ecclesiastical History right into the center of Marincola’s spectrum, mapping onto his category of perspective of a nation.

Chronological limits

Historians could choose to write starting at (or even before) their subject’s origins, or could write only about more recent times, or could pick an intermediate period, or some time in between. The chronological boundaries reveal what Hayden White famously called the “emplotment” of a history: “. . . it cannot be denied that historians ‘read’ the events of their history in a certain way, and if, for example, an historian sees his subject as glorious, he might begin and end differently from one who saw the same events as comic and inglorious.” In other words, “the choice of what time period to embrace carries with it consequences for the patterning of meaning produced by that work.” [49] As Marincola notes, a longer, universal history can follow a tighter plot, but also feature “greater adornment,” than a longer, national history.
Eusebius’ chronological limits are fairly straightforward: he begins his continuous narrative from the reign of Herod and birth of Jesus at HE 1.5. True, after his preface (1.1) the narrator launches into some temporally transcendent theological prolegomena about the nature of Christ. But this does not stretch the narrative’s chronological boundaries in any original way, for Herodotus and Thucydides (both of whose histories Eusebius knew) [50] had each written introductory “archaeologies” of protohistoric events that set the narratival tone for their respective war histories (Herodotus 1.1–4, Thucydides 1.2–19; and note also the internal “Sicilian Archaeology” at Thucydides 6.1–5). Eusebius’ extended introduction has some of the same functions as these exemplary historiographical introductions. [51] On the other hand, the text’s chronological boundaries are properly the reign of Herod and the author’s own time. [52]
As Marincola suggests, the choice of chronological boundaries has consequences for the emplotment of the Ecclesiastical History. Eusebius’ starting and ending points seem commonsensical for a narrative of the institution of the church, as Christianity was known to have arisen with the life of Jesus. Yet there is a tension here, since Eusebius spent much of his “archaeology” arguing that Christianity was no revolutionary phenomenon. Several clever strategies enable the narrator to finesse the all-but-acknowledged novelty of Christianity (cf. 1.4.2). This “Christian Archaeology” (HE 2.pref.1) finds temporally deep roots for Christianity in claims that its founder had a transtemporal existence and a strong Auswirkung on the glorious Hebrews of the past (HE 1.2, elaborated more fully in Eusebius’ Praeparatio Evangelica 7), in prophecies (HE 1.3), and in the claim that Christians were the real heirs of the ancient Hebrews (HE 1.4). After the narrative proper begins, the narrator creates legitimacy for Jesus as leader of the Hebrews: since Herod had appropriated the selection of Judean high priests, the Judean high priesthood no longer had a claim to act as God’s earthly representative (HE 1.6). [53] The Eusebian narrator’s insertion of an “archaeological” prolegomenon and a strained narrative of the end of the Judean high priesthood constitute external analepses [54] that create “preincarnate” origins for the Christian nation. Both techniques, drawing on previous historiographical traditions, allowed Eusebius to have it both ways, beginning at the foundations of Christianity, but projecting his nation’s origins much further back in time.

Chronological arrangement

Marincola points out how some Greek histories followed events annalistically, usually according to the sequence of holders of major offices. “One can also use kings or magistrates (κατ’ ἄρχοντας καὶ βασιλέας) to give structure, especially where these rulers themselves are the instigators or subject of historical actions . . . Another method of arrangement is to write according to area or category (κατὰ γένος), treating the events by theater of action within a multi-year time period.” [55] Each arrangement associated a new history with certain paradigmatic texts. And these arrangements were not mutually exclusive: even annalistic historians like Thucydides took their readers on thematic or analeptic digressions. [56]
Eusebius famously organized the Ecclesiastical History not by years, but by corresponding terms in office of Roman emperors on the one hand, and on the other of contemporary Christian bishops of (in order of their foundation) Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, and Alexandria. The reigns of emperors and the episcopates of leading bishops act as milestones between which the Eusebian narrator plants narratives or profiles of certain specified kinds of content.
Marincola associates chronological arrangement with historiographical focalization (see “Focalization” above), noting that “an annalistic arrangement clearly worked well for histories with a single focalization.” [57] Despite his singular focalization, Eusebius rejected such an annalistic chronology. I would suggest five possible reasons for this. First, Eusebius had a historiographical precedent for structuring a history according to the term in office of the institutional head: the books of Kings and Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible, though in many respects the Ecclesiastical History diverges from these texts. [58] Second, unlike (say) Athenian archons, Spartan ephors, or Roman consuls, Christian bishops did not hold their office on annual, or otherwise fixed, terms, nor did churches traditionally count the number of years that bishops held their offices. It was therefore difficult for Eusebius to recover precise dates for his bishops’ years in office in the first place, let alone synchronize them with the events that he narrated. Third, as most of the scanty narratival flowers that Eusebius picked from his meadow of sources (HE 1.1.3–4) lacked precise dates, an annular dating was impossible, though the Eusebian narrator supplies annual dates repeatedly. [59] To fudge the problem of his sources’ chronological imprecision, Eusebius could date events to within a single emperor’s reign—and sometimes his sources made even this impossible and it is transparent that his dating of an event represents a guess. [60] Fourth, Eusebius’ relatively paltry number of narratives and profiles may have made an annual dating system less desirable in the first place. For example, Eusebius notes just two events during Hadrian’s twenty-one-year reign (the Bar-Kochba revolt at HE 4.6, and Hadrian’s rescript warning against seeking Christians out at 4.9). If the Eusebian narrator had dated each event to the year, the reader might easily have seen how few events Eusebius had to report. Fifth, dating according to emperors’ and bishops’ time in office made it easier to insert non-narratival profiles into the text: the narrator could simply say “at this time” [61] and begin his description of a key individual from the past, without having to date events involving that figure precisely.
While Eusebius’ chronology is vaguer than that of most previous narrative histories of similar, “national,” focalization, the arrangement nonetheless communicated an “orthodox” Christian perspective in part by foregrounding the institutional figureheads of the nation—just as the Atthidographers had foregrounded an Athenian perspective through their archon-dates, and Roman historians a Roman perspective by consular dating. [62]

Subject matter

As noted above, since Herodotus historia could include almost any aspect of the life of a person or people: “there are, of course, political and military deeds, but there are also cultural events and activities; the religious life of a state and its people, the customs of a people . . . ; and even the lives and characters of a state’s leaders, particularly important when a state is ruled by a single man or woman.” [63] Thematic content that we now separate into ethnography, “antiquarianism,” geography, biography (despite the declaration of Plutarch, Alexander 1), [64] political and war narratives, and even “paradoxography” (collections of marvels) all coexisted under the banner of historia in the ancient Mediterranean. Historians were always free to inject content from any of these thematic fields into their historiai.
More than just saying that he would narrate a history of a certain people, the Eusebian narrator famously (and, within the tradition of Greek historiography, idiosyncratically) [65] set forth the subjects of the Ecclesiastical History in the first, 167-word sentence of his history. In summary form, the topics are: [66]
  1. The successions (διαδοχάς) of the holy apostles to the implied author’s time.
  2. Events transacted throughout ecclesiastical history.
  3. Leaders and officials (ἡγήσαντό τε καὶ προέστησαν) in the most important church communities (παροικίαις).
  4. Ambassadors (τὸν θεῖον ἐπρέσβευσαν λόγον) of the divine Logos, orally or in writing.
  5. Innovators and introducers of knowledge falsely-called.
  6. The Judeans’ desserts for their plot against the Savior.
  7. Attacks on the divine Logos (πεπολέμηται) by the nations (τὰ ἔθνη).
  8. Martyrdoms in previous times and in the implied author’s own time.
  9. The rescue of the church by the Savior.
The Eusebian narrator clings closely to this list of topics for the duration of the text. [67] Some of these topics seem to correspond to the subject matter of genres outside of, or at least marginal to, the domain of historiography: the reference to “knowledge falsely so-called” (ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως) echoes the title of Irenaeus’ Examination and Refutation of Knowledge Falsely-Called (ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως, itself an echo of 1 Timothy 6:20) and thereby evokes the genre of Christian heresiological refutation; [68] while the last three topics allude to summaries of persecution in Christian apologetic speeches and to Christian martyr narratives.
The preface speaks, moreover, of major events transacted, and of portraits of ecclesiastical leaders and ambassadors—all subjects that one would expect in the history of a state. Of course, Eusebius uses some specifically Christian language to introduce these leaders of the church: proistēmi in participial form was a common generic term for Christian clergy. [69] The reader could thus expect to find specifically Christian officials transacting specifically Christian modes of “governance” in this narrative. [70]
In addition, it cannot be coincidental that the Eusebian narrator drops the verb polemeō to introduce his last three, martial topics. This corresponds to the generic cue sent in what I would call the History’s“second preface”:
Others who composed historical narratives would simply have handed down in writing victories in wars and trophies against enemies and the prizes of generals and the bravery of hoplites stained with blood and numerous murders for the sake of children and country and other advantage. Yet the narrative account by us of the community of God’s followers will record peaceful wars contested for peace itself in the soul, wars among them for the sake of truth rather than country and for religious devotion rather than even the most loved ones, on permanent stelae, proclaiming the resolve and sought-after prizes of athletes for religious devotion, trophies against demons, victories against unseen adversaries, and crowns in all these contests, to the perpetual remembrance. [71]
HE 5.pref.2–4, my translation
Here the narrator contrasts himself with “other historians” who busied themselves with recording wars. A rhetorical tactic drawing on a then-prevalent dichotomy between the material and psychical realms underpins the critique of Greek Kriegsgeschichte: the narrator does not flinch at the subject of war, but elevates his characters’ struggles to a higher plane. Eusebius must have made a strategic decision (pun intended) to place this second preface immediately before his lengthy reproduction of excerpts from the Acts of the Martyrs of Lugdunum and Vienna. [72] In this text, martyrs resist the pains and threats leveled against them by Satan (HE 5.1.5–6, 14, 16, 25–27, 35), remaining staunchly loyal to God through tortures and public humiliation.
While the martyrs of Lugdunum exemplify this new kind of Eusebian Kriegsgeschichte, [73] they (as well as the lengthy quotation of the Martyrdom of Polycarp, which had come shortly before at 4.15) are merely the most prominent martyrs in the Ecclesiastical History. Every book, from Book 2 through Book 8, records multiple martyrdom narratives. [74] The martyrdom narratives are spaced fairly evenly throughout the text, so that readers encounter frequent reminders that the church was under constant attack. As in the Martyrs of Lugdunum and Vienna, the reader is coaxed into seeing Satan’s agency behind the attacks on the church. Accordingly, the Eusebian narrator twice quotes Dionysius of Alexandria’s cries against the demons behind persecutions, and supports this identification of the church’s enemy by locating demons behind Christians’ trials during persecutions in his own voice. [75] Both the narrator’s own voice and his evocations of other Christian voices paint a Christianity in regular combat; and both the narrator’s and other voices depict a diabolical enemy frequently attacking the Christian nation, until the very end of the text. [76]
Another crucial piece of Eusebian subject matter emerges in the preface, namely the text’s emphasis on the intellectual achievements and achievers in the church’s past. The clause noting ambassadors of the divine Logos “orally or in writing” prefigures the Ecclesiastical History’s emphasis on literary history, as noted earlier in relation to Eusebius’ profile of Julius Africanus: one of the most frequent kinds of content in the profiles noted above are catalogues of literary texts written by Christian (and Judean, and sometimes “heretical”) authors. In the same clause, it should not be overlooked that the verb πρεσβεύω, whose participial form is usually translatable as “ambassadors,” could also signify “engagement,” “study,” or “interpretation” of a corpus of intellectual texts. [77] The intellectual reminiscences continue in the next clause with disparagement of “innovators of knowledge falsely so-called”: this mention of teachers of false doctrines (met in Eusebius’ profiles of and narratives involving “heretics”) promised further intellectual-historical thematization.
Eusebius’ very first clause suggested an additional intellectual-historical theme. It is true that since the second century Christian heresiologists had appealed to successions of bishops, who purportedly received the teaching of their predecessors in a chain of transmission back to Christ’s apostles, to confirm their claim to the correct teachings of Christ. But in previous historiographical literature, diadochē had signified both successions of rulers and the successions of the leaders of philosophical sects. [78] Eusebius could hardly have been unaware that he was invoking historiographical traditions that stressed succession when he chose as the first five words of his Ekklēsiastikē Historia: τὰς τῶν ἱερῶν ἀποστόλων διαδοχάς.

The Ecclesiastical History: Generic Participation and Generic Innovation

The previous section has yielded the generic cues embedded in the Ecclesiastical History; this section will outline the Greek genres to which those cues point.
That the Ecclesiastical History’s subject matter incorporates numerous elements from other prominent Christian literary genres poses no problem for, and even enhances, the text’s self-situation as a history. [79] The Eusebian narrator quotes regularly from apologetic texts such as Justin’s and Tertullian’s Apologies, and, as Verdoner has recently shown, employs standard apologetic techniques both to defend Christianity and to settle certain scores on internal Christian debates. [80] Heresiological cues define the borders between Christians and their enemies that lurk within the church. [81] Citations of memoirs and textual commentaries yield anecdotes about historical individuals and allow the narrator to trace the sacralization of Christian holy books. Eusebius incorporates excerpts from each of these genres, prevalent in pre-Christian literature and all having an apologetic or polemical purpose, into his text. As a consequence, some modern scholars have labeled Eusebius’ History as “apologetic history,” a label that is accurate as far as it goes. [82] Greek historiography had always evoked, absorbed, entered dialogue with, and competed with other genres and remained no less historiographical. [83] But such pronouncements that Eusebius created a completely new genre must not obscure his participation in Greek historiographical genres.
Marincola’s criteria for assessing an ancient history’s genre have revealed that many of the formal and thematic cues that structure the Ecclesiastical History hearken to a genre narrating the temporally progressing course of events involving a particular nation, “national historiography.” This associated Eusebius’ History with other Greek histories that told the story of a particular nation, such as Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ Roman Antiquities, Josephus’ Judean Antiquities, and Cassius Dio’s Roman History. [84] Like these texts, the Ecclesiastical History is structured as a narrative. Like the Judean Antiquities, it includes some discontinuities within that narratival structure, as it must juxtapose events from the same time that involve the same nation, but that are not causally related. Its chronological boundaries match those of these histories exactly: all relate events from the founding of the social group up to either the present, or some carefully chosen point in time. [85] The Eusebian chronological arrangement mirrors those of the national histories: where Dio dated events by consular year, Dionysius by Roman kings’ and then consuls’ years in office together with Olympian dates, and Josephus’ Judean Antiquities, like the histories of the Hebrew Bible, by the reign of whatever monarch was head of the state ruling the Jews, [86] Eusebius ordered his events and personalities with emperors’ reigns and bishops’ episcopates. As in these histories, the Ecclesiastical History’s narration is focalized through the perspective of its subject people, the Christian church, with only rare deviations. Much of the History’s subject matter—events, leaders, and external conflicts—also parallels that of national historiography.
Picking up on this last theme, the war monograph receives special attention and dialogue from the Eusebian narrator. To insert content from the domain of Kriegsgeschichte into a national history was obviously nothing new, nor is Eusebius’ participation in this historiographical genre any new revelation: over a century ago Franz Overbeck argued that the persecutions and martyrdoms, as well as the fate of the Judeans, correspond to the martial themes of national histories. [87] Focus on the woes of the Judeans, in Eusebius’ presentation of the earliest foes of the Jesus movement, would provoke no surprise in readers of a national history. However, that the Eusebian narrator lines up martyrdom narratives to compete with earlier Greek Kriegsgeschichte was a bold and original literary stratagem. Whereas most national histories did not narrate a single, continuous war, [88] the Ecclesiastical History depicts one continuous conflict, the church’s struggle with Satan and his demons, which persists from HE 2.13 until the end of the first edition of the History. [89] So martyrdoms, rather than traditional hand-to-hand combat, would be the struggle through which Christian warriors would defeat antagonists and win everlasting glory.
Finally, perhaps Eusebius’ most original generic move was to insert topoi that foreground intellectual achievement into a national history of Christianity. It is difficult to find a pre-Eusebian Greek national historian who, for example, inscribed catalogues of authors’ written texts into his history, or invested rhetorical capital into praising characters’ intellectual achievements. [90] There was, however, a subgenre of historia that communicated such subject matter, which can be called intellectual historiography.
A number of scholars have suggested intellectual (or philosophical) historiography (or biography) as a model for Eusebian historiography. [91] Just one scholarly treatment of the question longer than five pages has yet appeared; the generic cues that point toward intellectual historiography are numerous and unmistakable. First, as was hinted above, the first five words of the Ecclesiastical History—τὰς τῶν ἱερῶν ἀποστόλων διαδοχάς—evoke one particular Hellenistic historical subgenre of philosophical historiography, a series of texts entitled Successions of Philosophers. [92] Eusebius’ use of concurrent successions of bishops to structure his history mirrored the successions of philosophers used by philosophical historians to confirm the continuity of the great philosophical schools.
Second, Eusebius’ profiles invite comparison with intellectual biography: “lives” of intellectuals were often quite short and succinct, offering the most crucial details about a philosopher’s life. One can compare the profile of Julius Africanus above to one of the shorter biographies of Diogenes Laertius (writing middle of the third century):
Another of his [i.e. Cleanthes’ of Assos, a famous Stoic philosopher] hearers after Zeno’s death was Sphaerus the Bosporean, who, after displaying sufficient progress in arguments left for Alexandria to reside at the court of Ptolemy Philopator. Once when a conversation came up about the [Stoic] sage having opinions and Sphaerus said that he would not, the king wanted to test him. So he ordered waxen pomegranates to be presented to Sphaerus, and when Sphaerus was deceived, the king shouted out that Sphaerus had conceded to having a false apprehension. Sphaerus answered him readily: he had conceded not that the objects were pomegranates, but that it was plausible that they were pomegranates. Direct apprehension, he said, was a different thing from the plausible. When Mnesistratus accused him of denying that Ptolemy was king, he said that since Ptolemy was such a man as he was, he was a king. [A catalogue of 32 titles of philosophical and polemical books ensues.]
Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of the Famous Philosophers, 7.177–178
Diogenes Laertius begins with the homeland and teachers of Sphaerus of Bosporus. The connection to Zeno places Sphaerus in book 7 of the Lives and Opinions of the Famous Philosophers, in the “Stoic succession” (cf. Diogenes Laertius 7.37). The Laertian narrator stresses the biographical subject’s progress (προκοπήν), a key Stoic buzzword, similarly as Eusebius’ narrator had complimented Julius Africanus with the scholarly virtue of akribeia. Diogenes not only connects Sphaerus to his Stoic teachers (analogously to Eusebius’ association of bishops and teachers in diadochai), but also depicts him traveling to the court of another famous contemporary, king Ptolemy IV Philopator (r. 221–205 BC). Similarly, in HE 6.31, Eusebius’ profile of Julius Africanus had connected its subject with Heraclas of Alexandria by noting Julius Africanus’ journey to visit Heraclas. Diogenes’ anecdote about Sphaerus trying to save face and philosophical doctrine before Ptolemy, and then against Mnesistratus’ accusation, mirrors Eusebius’ citation of Africanus’ epistolary exchange with Origen, where (so the narrator implies) Origen corrects Africanus. A catalogue of Sphaerus’ writings concludes the Life; as HE 6.31 exemplifies, Eusebius also catalogues the writings of profiled individuals frequently. [93]
Third, I would underscore Eusebius’ use of the specific theme of literary history, in particular through the formal device of catalogues of written texts. As in Diogenes’ Life of Sphaerus, cataloguing a subject’s writings was a common strategy for intellectual historiographers. Sotion, the author of the prototypical Successions of Philosophers (ca. 200 BC), had included catalogues of texts written by the philosophers that he mentioned (frs. 6, 19, 24 Wehrli=Diogenes Laertius 2.85, 6.80, 8.7). Multiple catalogues of texts written by their subject authors had marked the philosophical lives of both Diogenes Laertius (passim) and Porphyry (Life of Plotinus 4–6, 24–26). Likewise, Eusebius’ cataloguing of literary texts fixed a Christian stake in the field of literary achievement.
Fourth, the above-noted perception that Eusebius wrote a “static history” also mirrors the structural practices of intellectual historiography. The intellectual histories that survive from near Eusebius’ time—along with Diogenes Laertius’ Lives and Opinions and Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus, we have Philostratus’ Lives of the Sophists, Porphyry’s Life of Pythagoras, which probably formed part of Porphyry’s Philosophical History, and Iamblichus’ On the Pythagorean Life—all marginalize or neglect the transformation of human groups and institutions, though Porphyry’s two Lives supply a meta-narratival arc in relating the lives of their respective biographical subjects. It was perfectly typical for texts focused on the deeds and character of particular individuals—especially an individual not involved with political affairs—to paint a static image of their subject matter. [94] Instead of narrating periods of change in a society, intellectual historiographers described the beginning and end of an intellectual’s life, and in between (or sometimes before and after these events) they would note friends, relatives, teachers, and other acquaintances, narrate anecdotes, present teachings and the habits of daily life, and quote texts written by or about their biographical subjects. Eusebius’ profiles, written as mini- (or in some cases not-so-mini-) “lives,” present virtually the same range of thematic content, using the same range of literary forms. [95]


I hope to have shown that genre studies are a useful tool for understanding and interpreting the Ecclesiastical History and to have suggested a useful theoretical framework for debate on the genre of this tricky text. Rather than employing static and universalistic generic categories, we should view genres as dynamic and contingent, and more specifically, as culturally specific schemata for organizing and presenting information within humans’ networks of knowledge. These schemata are constituted by certain formal, thematic, and rhetorical “cues,” embedded in each text or other media that point to the pathways between cognitive nodes. By deploying such cues, texts both participate in these genres, and reconfigure them for the use of future readers and writers.
Eusebius incorporated several genres, both historiographical and extra-historiographical, both pre-Christian and Christian, into his text: cues toward heresiology, apology, and martyr drama amalgamate and overlap with national, war, and intellectual historiography. The Ecclesiastical History thus sets previous historiographical genres into dialogue—and sometimes pits them into contests—with genres anchored in contemporary Christian discourse. [96] The innovative blend of these genres not only constructed a novel subgenre named after this seminal Ekklēsiastikē Historia (though Eusebius could not have expected this): since generic schemata draw associations between different realms of knowledge, Eusebius’ generic cues also became the ingredients for a new model of the Christian past. The product, if the generic associations presented here prove cogent, was a vision of a religious group whose past heroes constituted an ethnic nation, an intellectual sect, and an army against supernatural enemies.

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[ back ] 1. John DeVore, Hal Drake, Tom Hendrickson, Scott McGuiness, Alex Roberts, Megan Hale Williams, and the editors each read this paper at various stages and offered a multitude of helpful suggestions. I also thank John Dillery, Susanna Elm, and Rebecca Lyman for their generous help in shaping my thinking about the topics in this article, and the editors for the opportunity to publish it.
[ back ] 2. See Perrone 1996:520–521, and Verdoner 2007:88–92; note also Calderone 1980:145–148. It is important to note that, unlike previous scholars of Eusebian historiography (e.g. Chesnut 1986, chapter 2), I exclude Latin histories and historiographies from discussion in this chapter. Although Eusebius probably knew some Latin—see HE 4.8.8, and note that almost all civic inscriptions in Caesarea Maritima before Constantine’s reign were inscribed in Latin (Eck 2001:50–51, 55–61)—there is no evidence that he had any knowledge of literature written in Latin (see Carriker 2003:18, 18n53).
[ back ] 3. As the greatest scholar of Greek historiography, Felix Jacoby, recognized in organizing his Fragmente der griechischen Historiker so as to include “virtually all Greek nonfictional prose” (in the words of Hägg 2001:192), though Jacoby did not include philosophy, medicine, or mathematical texts.
[ back ] 4. Overbeck 1892:42. The most sustained reading of the text as a national history is Beggs 1999.
[ back ] 5. Schwartz 1907:1395; note also Schwartz 1938:116 (“Materialsammlung”).
[ back ] 6. Barnes 1981:128.
[ back ] 7. Mendels 1999:2–3.
[ back ] 8. Verdoner 2007:91–92.
[ back ] 9. Verdoner 2007 is already a step toward sharpening this debate.
[ back ] 10. Note also the generic (or quasi-generic) characterizations of Momigliano 1963:90–91; Gödecke 1987:24–26; Timpe 1989:196; Morgan 2005:196.
[ back ] 11. Another problem with these generic pronouncements is that, except for Schwartz’s thesis that the Ecclesiastical History represented Materialsammlung, all of them marginalize narrative form.
[ back ] 12. There are other obstacles to a tight debate. For example, the different disciplines whose scholars study Eusebius (theology and religious studies, Roman and late antique history, both political and cultural, and classical philology) do not facilitate unified discussion.
[ back ] 13. Morlet 2005.
[ back ] 14. Morlet 2005:14.
[ back ] 15. Morlet 2005:11 (on the Hebrew Bible, merely citing Winckelmann 1991:65); 9, 11–12 (Josephus); 12–13 (Acts of the Apostles); 5–10 (“la tradition historiographique païenne”). However, note also Morlet 2005:8. The assumption that Eusebius was writing in the tradition of Greek historia is reflected in Morlet’s choice of Eusebian models to survey: non- or para-historiographical models for the Ecclesiastical History, like apologetic oratory, martyrdom acts, and Irenaeus’ Examination and Refutation of Knowledge Falsely So-Called, are omitted from his discussion. Yet surely there are more illuminating generic distinctions within Greek-language historical writing than the religio-ethnic identity of historical texts’ individual author-narrators.
[ back ] 16. Bakhtin 1986:60–102. See also Frow 2006, chapters 2 and 4.
[ back ] 17. For definitions and elaboration of these terms, see Frow 2006:7–9, 72–77.
[ back ] 18. Frow 2006:85; quotation from Kintsch 1998:74 [non vidi].
[ back ] 19. Frow 2006:84. Perhaps a more helpful metaphor would be that genre cues acts like hyperlinks, linking the brain to other information related to the phenomenon at hand and to apply that knowledge in understanding the new information. Genre, among other schemata, channels new information into certain categories of older knowledge.
[ back ] 20. See, for example, the essays in König and Whitmarsh 2007.
[ back ] 21. See Frow 2006:12–17, 124–139.
[ back ] 22. Pace the influential Cairns 1972, e.g. p. 31. According to Cairns, ancient authors clung rigidly to their generic models.
[ back ] 23. History resulted from a dialogue between epic narrative and geo-ethnographical literature, Athenian tragedy from mimesis meeting choral lyric. More complex genres naturally draw upon and refract simple ones. See Bakhtin 1981, chapter 2.
[ back ] 24. A point made by Conte 1992:108–109; Marincola 1999:281–282, 299; Frow 2006:2, 124, 137–139. Cf. Bakhtin 1986:60, 64, 78–81.
[ back ] 25. A point that has sunk into genre studies thanks to Fowler 1982. As William Sewell (2005:164–174, especially 165–167) points out, signs always carry their own networks of denotations and connotations, which vary among different groups within a society, at different times. For this reason, Sewell posits, the constellation of symbols that make up a society’s culture can only possess a “thin coherence”: that is, symbols are coherent enough to enable human agents to communicate, but are flexible enough for new configurations of symbols to transform a cultural system.
[ back ] 26. On “transposition” of existing cultural structures, see Sewell 2005, chapter 4, especially 129–143.
[ back ] 27. “Texts are acts or performances which work upon a set of generic materials. The relationship is one of elaboration rather than of derivation or determination” (Frow 2006:23–24).
[ back ] 28. I draw the term “transpose” from Sewell 2005:140–143, who modifies its usage in the work of Pierre Bourdieu.
[ back ] 29. First pointed out by Derrida 1980, especially pp. 55–66. See also the elaboration of Frow 2006:17–28.
[ back ] 30. Frow goes on to offer some examples of generic cues: “They may stand out in very obvious ways, like the laugh track on a television sitcom or the moral appended to a fable; or they may be elements which seem to take on a particular weight in our reading, and to be indicative of what kind of thing this is.” (Frow credits Genette 1987 [non vidi] at p. 105 as the foundation for his thinking about generic cues.)
[ back ] 31. For a discussion of how Greek educational practices under the Roman Empire created a virtual “canon” of historiographical texts, see Nicolai 1992, especially pp. 250–339. See also Gibson 2004. Theorizing genres as loci of competition in the Roman Empire is Conte 1992.
[ back ] 32. Marincola 1999:302.
[ back ] 33. Marincola 1999:302–309. For examples of their application, see Marincola 1999:309–320.
[ back ] 34. Marincola 1999:302–303.
[ back ] 35. Strabo’s Geography, for example, was a synchronic text that served as a companion to his diachronic pan-Mediterranean history (see 1.23). Other historians incorporated “timeless” ethnographies into their narrative histories: most famous are Herodotus’ digressions, whereas Diodorus Siculus had begun his trans-Mediterranean history with geographically organized ethnographic surveys of the peoples that his narrative would discuss.
[ back ] 36. For example, Barnes 1981:131–132; Twomey 1982:202–204; Timpe 1989:191–192; Winckelmann 1991:107; Carotenuto 2001:xix–xx; Morgan 2005:195–196; Morlet 2005:13; Willing 2008:487–488.
[ back ] 37. For local histories, see the classic Jacoby 1949, pp. 86–99; and the more recent Clarke 2008, chapters 3, 4, and 6. For “sacred history,” see e.g. Higbie 2003 and Dillery 2005.
[ back ] 38. On the tense but kindred relations between biography and history, see Dihle 1986 (passim) and Dihle 1998:124–130. Note also Cooper 2004 on the complex relationship between Plutarch’s Lives and narrative history.
[ back ] 39. Aside from the so-called “Life of Origen,” the profiles in the Ecclesiastical History have received little scholarly attention as formal units; the most extensive study of them is the neglected Alexandre 1998. See also Grant 1980:76–77; Carotenuto 2001:102–106; cf. Morlet 2005:8.
[ back ] 40. Throughout this essay I use “the Eusebian narrator” or “the narrator” to denote the textual voice that narrates the Ecclesiastical History, and “Eusebius” to refer to the author of the History; narratological theory posits that we cannot identify the two as the same entity. See Bal 1997:19–31.
[ back ] 41. John 3:18.1–3; 3:20.9; 3:23; 3:24.7–14, 17; 3:31.2–3. Irenaeus 4.21; 4.25; 5.4; 5.5.8; 5.8; 5.20; 5.24.18; 5.26. Origen 6.2–6; 6.8; 6.14.10–6.19; 6.21.3–4; 6.23–25; 6.27; 6.30; 6.32; 6.33.2–4; 6.36–37; 6.39.5. Dionysius of Alexandria 6.35; 6.40; 6.45–46; 7.4–7.9; 7.11; 7.20–26; 7.28.3.
[ back ] 42. For example, Thucydides 2.65 on Pericles; 6.15 on Alcibiades; 7.86.5 on the Nicias; 8.68.1 on Antiphon.
[ back ] 43. Marincola 1999:303 (with diagram). For a more specific definition and discussion of its implications, see Bal 1997:142–161.
[ back ] 44. Marincola’s criteria are interrelated on several points.
[ back ] 45. Verdoner 2010: p. 368 (sacred texts); p. 367 (omission and tacit consensus with implied audience on dogma); pp. 369–370 (the narrator’s presumption of ideological consensus with readers). Note also Morlet 2005:11.
[ back ] 46. Quotations of Judean authors: Philo at 2.6.1–2 and 2.17 (on which see Inowlocki 2004); Josephus at 1.5.3–6, 1.8.4–15, 1.10.4–5, 1.11.4–9, 2.5.2–6, 2.6.3–4, 2.20.1–3, 2.23.20–21, 2.26, 3.6, 3.8. Imperial edicts and rescripts: 4.9, 4.13, 7.13, 8.17, 9.1.3–6, 9.7.3–15, 9.9A, 10.5–7. Other focalization through non-Christians: a famous quotation of Porphyry at 6.19.4–8, and a quotation of Hegesippus narrating the martyrdom of James the brother of Jesus uses multiple focalizations (2.23.14–17).
[ back ] 47. Moreover, as T.J. Luce showed more than twenty years ago, ancient historians were expected to show partiality to their implied authors’ native people, land, city, and family (Luce 1989, especially 20–21). To focalize a narrative from the perspective of one’s own people permitted historians’ prejudice to color the narrative.
[ back ] 48. On the Christian self-conception as a “nation” or “ethnic” or “racial” group, see e.g. Lieu 2004 and Buell 2005; on Eusebius’ own presentation of the place of Christians in the contemporary Greek world, see Johnson 2006:198–233.
[ back ] 49. Marincola 1999:304 (citing White 1988, chapter 1), 305.
[ back ] 50. See Eusebius’ Theophany 2.68–69; I owe this reference to Wallace-Hadrill 1960:184–185, who rightly notes Eusebius’ knowledge of Thucydides. Pace Carriker 2003:151–152, who misses these references from the Theophany.
[ back ] 51. Eusebius himself uses the term “archaeology” (which in historiography meant “account of prehistory”) to summarize HE 1 at HE 2.pref.: ὡς ἐν προοιμίῳ διαστείλασθαι τῆς ἀρχαιολογίας τῶν τῆς ἡμετέρας διδασκαλίας. See Morlet 2006 on HE 1.2–4, though he does not compare the passage to the Herodotean and Thucydidean exemplars.
[ back ] 52. His revisions of the HE notwithstanding. On the composition of the Ecclesiastical History, see Burgess 1997 (whose compositional theory of the HE has now forced Barnes to abandon his own earlier and widely accepted compositional theory: see Barnes 2009:6–7).
[ back ] 53. The only scholar I know of who has commented on this problem is Mendels 2001:204–205. To quote Mendels: “Eusebius deduced from the fact recorded by Josephus that Herod ceased to nominate High Priests from the legitimate Zadokite line, that Jesus’s eternal High Priesthood was henceforward realized (1.6.9–11). Eusebius is mistaken here since the Hasmonean rulers were not legitimate high priests.” To me it hardly seems plausible that such a well-informed biblical scholar as Eusebius had simply failed to do his homework about the high-priestly succession under the Hasmoneans (not to mention Antiochus IV’s previous meddling with the institution!). More likely Eusebius presumed Jesus’ and the apostles’ legitimacy as successors to the divine authority of the high priesthood and therefore selected facts from his sources that he could manipulate into a narrative of Christians’ legitimate accession to Judean institutions. See also Beggs 1999:106–113.
[ back ] 54. A narratological term. An analepsis designates “any evocation after the fact of an event that took place earlier than the point in the story where we are at any given moment” (Genette 1972:40); an “external analepsis” denotes an “analepsis whose entire extent remains external to the extent of the first narrative” (Genette 1972:49).
[ back ] 55. Marincola 1999:305–306; “κατὰ γένος” quotes Diodorus’ description of how Ephorus organized his forty-book narrative history from the return of the Heracleidae to the present day (FrGH 70 F 11=​Diodorus 5.1.4).
[ back ] 56. See Rood 1998, chapter 5, and Dewald 2005, on the intricacies of Thucydides’ temporal narration.
[ back ] 57. Marincola 1999:306.
[ back ] 58. Cf. Morlet 2005:11, following Winckelmann 1991:65, on Eusebius’ debts to biblical historiography.
[ back ] 59. For example, 2.24, 3.7.4, 3.13–15, 4.2.1–2, 4.5.5, 4.6.3, 4.10, 4.11.6, 5.pref.1, 5.9, 5.22, 6.2.2, 6.21.1–2, 6.26, 7.28.3.
[ back ] 60. Whether due to inadequate information or because of his own agenda, Eusebius got the dates of some events horribly wrong. One famous example is the martyrdom of Pionius, which Eusebius dates to the reign of Lucius Verus (4.15.47), but which internal evidence shows must be dated to Decius’ principate. The classic study of the Martyrdom of Pionius is Robert 1994.
[ back ] 61. Cf. Julius Africanus’ profile above, which begins with the words ἐν τούτῳ καί, “in this time also.”
[ back ] 62. Simonetti 1997:54–55, compares Eusebius’ bishop-dates with consular dates in Roman historiography.
[ back ] 63. Marincola 1999:307.
[ back ] 64. See the references in note 39 above.
[ back ] 65. The most comparable “list of topics” that I have been able to find in the prefaces of surviving pre-Eusebian Greek histories is in Dionysius’ Roman Antiquities 1.8.2, which offers a brief array of themes (foreign and internal wars, forms of government, and customs and laws). See also Appian’s Roman History pref.14–15, which sets down the subject of each book that he is about to narrate, whereas the Eusebian narrator offers a list of topics that are interwoven throughout the ten books of the text. Cf. also e.g. Diodorus 1.4.5–7; Josephus, AJ 1.5, 13–14 (but note the fuller projected list of topics for the Judean Antiquities at Judean War 1.17); and, in a parahistorical text, Philostratus, Apollonius of Tyana 1.4.3. Unlike the list of topics for the Ecclesiastical History, none of these topical lists is the first sentence of the history in which it appears. Morlet 2005:5n21 offers Polybius 1.2.8 as a comparandum, but this short notice merely announces that Polybius’ Histories will tell how Rome gained power and how a reader could learn from history. Eusebius’ first sentence makes no such explicit gesture about how the text’s subject would edify his readers; indeed, the Ecclesiastical History presumes the importance of the church without argument (cf. Verdoner 2010).
[ back ] 66. There are different ways of enumerating the topics in Eusebius’ present: Overbeck 1892, p. 42 lists (and Overbeck 1898, p. 8 recapitulates) four topics, yet Overbeck 1898, p. 25 lists five; Grant 1980 is structured according to five topics read in HE 1.1.1–2; while six topics are noted in Schwartz 1907:1396–1401, Barnes 1981:129, Twomey 1982:21, and Willing 2008:487. For my list, I select the accusative noun phrases that are the grammatical objects of the object infinitive παραδοῦναι (1.1.2).
[ back ] 67. While some (notably Grant 1980, chapter 11 and Barnes 1981:129) have argued that the canon of Christian sacred texts is a separate theme (Grant 1980:126 cites HE 3.3.3 on this point), I prefer to see this theme as merely a special case of “ambassadors of the divine Logos.” Other passing Eusebian interests that do not fit into either of these themes include miracles (see HE 3.39.9, 5.3.3, 5.5, 5.7, 5.28.8–12, 6.6.6, 6.9.1–3, 6.11.2, 6.29, 6.44, 7.17, 9.9.3–4, Martyrs of Palestine (Greek, part of the first edition of the HE) 4.14–15, 9.12; on miracles in the Ecclesiastical History, see Sirinelli 1961:375–378, Grant 1980:151–153, and Gödecke 1987:60–70; pace Chesnut 1986, p. 47 and Morgan 2005, pp. 199 and 201), and buildings and monuments related to the church (e.g. HE 2.12.3, 2.13.3, 2.23.18, 3.9.2, 7.18–19, 7.32.29, 10.4; cf. also 5.pref.4, 10.2.2).
[ back ] 68. Of course heresiology was also a Jewish genre: see e.g. Boyarin 2004, chapters 5 and 6. The extent to which Eusebius may have engaged with Jewish heresiology in the Ecclesiastical History must remain an open question at this point. Ulrich 1999:14–27 has conjectured that Jewish-Christian dialogue was strong in Eusebius’ Caesarea on the basis of Talmudic evidence and Origen’s sermons. However, it is difficult to lend much historical credibility on third-century Caesarea even to the Yerushalmi, much less to the Bavli, and Origen delivered his sermons to a broader audience than that of Eusebius’ literary compositions.
[ back ] 69. Lampe 1968 s.v. προΐστημι no. 6.
[ back ] 70. Note also that Eusebius refers to the church as a politeuma in his “second preface,” HE 5.pref.3.
[ back ] 71. ἄλλοι μὲν οὖν ἱστορικὰς ποιούμενοι διηγήσεις, πάντως ἂν παρέδωκαν τῇ γραφῇ πολέμων νίκας καὶ τρόπαια κατ’ ἐχθρῶν στρατηγῶν τε ἀριστείας καὶ ὁπλιτῶν ἀνδραγαθίας αἵματι καὶ μυρίοις φόνοις παίδων καὶ πατρίδος καὶ τῆς ἄλλης ἕνεκεν περιουσίας μιανθέντων· ὁ δέ γε τοῦ κατὰ θεὸν πολιτεύματος διηγηματικὸς ἡμῖν λόγος τοὺς ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς τῆς κατὰ ψυχὴν εἰρήνης εἰρηνικωτάτους πολέμους καὶ τοὺς ἐν τούτοις ὑπὲρ ἀληθείας μᾶλλον ἢ πατρίδος καὶ μᾶλλον ὑπὲρ εὐσεβείας ἢ τῶν φιλτάτων ἀνδρισαμένους αἰωνίαις ἀναγράψεται στήλαις, τῶν εὐσεβείας ἀθλητῶν τὰς ἐνστάσεις καὶ τὰς πολυτλήτους ἀνδρείας τρόπαιά τε τὰ κατὰ δαιμόνων καὶ νίκας τὰς κατὰ τῶν ἀοράτων ἀντιπάλων καὶ τοὺς ἐπὶ πᾶσι τούτοις στεφάνους εἰς αἰώνιον μνήμην ἀνακηρύττων. (The resourceful translation of εἰρηνικωτάτους πολέμους must be credited to Williamson 1965:192.) Note that Eusebius refers to the Great Persecution as “the war against us” at HE 8.13.9 (a reference that I owe to Ferguson 2005:39).
[ back ] 72. As both Perrone 1996:526 and Beggs 1999:257–258 astutely note.
[ back ] 73. Cf. Mühlenberg 2002:200, who perhaps goes too far in asserting that “Euseb . . . benutzt [miterzähltes Leid], um die politische Militärgeschichte als historiographische Gattung zu diskreditieren.”
[ back ] 74. See 2.9, 2.23, 3.32, 3.36, 4.15, 4.17, 5.1, 5.21, 6.4–5, 6.39–42, 7.11–12, 7.14, and most of 8, not to mention the Greek Martyrs of Palestine, included after HE 8 in the first edition; cf. 3.18–20.
[ back ] 75. Dionysius: 6.41.2, 7.10.4; the narrator’s voice: 5.21.2, 6.39.5, 8.1.6, 9.3, 9.10.2, 10.4.13–15. But cf. the caveat on the agency behind the persecutors (as opposed to the agency behind the experience of the persecuted) at Morgan 2005:203: “It is notable that with two exceptions Eusebius does not attribute Emperors’ behaviour to divine influence, and he never attributes it to the devil.”
[ back ] 76. On the “spiritual”-militaristic aspects of the Ecclesiastical History, see above all Gödecke 1987, especially pp. 109–166, and Morgan 2005; on the place of daimonology in Eusebius’ thought in general, see Sirinelli 1961, chapter 8. [ back ] Note also that Eusebius’ “heretics” are depicted as Satan’s or daimons’ puppets (e.g. 2.13.1–3, 3.27) even more constantly than persecutors, on which see Willing 2008:436–452.
[ back ] 77. I owe this insight to Inowlocki 2006:94 who notes that PE 11.1.2 clearly means “interpret” by πρεσβεύω. See LSJ s.v. πρεσβεύω I.2.b, whose examples for this usage include the prefatory remarks of Diogenes Laertius’ Lives and Opinions of the Famous Philosophers (1.18) and Philostratus in the Lives of the Sophists (484), both of which use πρεσβεύω to denote intellectuals’ engagement with the object of their studies.
[ back ] 78. See Wehrli 1978 and Giannatasio Andria 1989 for the reliquiae of texts that chronicle the “successions of famous philosophers.”
[ back ] 79. As noted in Part I, all complex genres can absorb other genres: as a genre concerned with representing realities, history worked best when it absorbed the genres conventionally tasked with conveying these realities.
[ back ] 80. Verdoner 2007.
[ back ] 81. See the comprehensive treatment of Willing 2008.
[ back ] 82. As Verdoner 2007 concludes after a sophisticated argument with close readings; for similar conclusions, see also Gödecke 1987:24–26, Burgess 1997:488–495, and Ulrich 2005. Interestingly, in her article, Verdoner seems to imply that Eusebius was innovative in “crossing” the two “genres” of apologetics and historiography in the Ecclesiastical History. (“Genre” is in scare quotes to acknowledge the ongoing debate about whether “apologetic” can legitimately be called a textual genre: see e.g. the nuanced Petersen 2009.) In constructing her argument, Verdoner makes no attempt to associate the Ecclesiastical History with previous “apologetic histories”: in particular, she does not cite the stimulating Sterling 1991, who argued that a tradition of “apologetic historiography” underlay national histories from the early Hellenistic period up to Luke-Acts and the Judean Antiquities of Josephus.
[ back ] 83. This can be seen in the very first words of the first Greek historiographical text, Hecataeus’ Genealogies (Demetrius, On Rhetoric 12=Jacoby 1923, fr. 1a: “Hecataeus of Miletus tells the myths in the following way. I write these things as they seem true to me, for the tales of the Greeks are, as they appear to me, multiple and ridiculous.” (Ἑκαταῖος Μιλήσιος ὧδε μυθεῖται· τάδε γράφω, ὥς μοι δοκεῖ ἀληθέα εἶναι· οἱ γὰρ Ἑλλήνων λόγοι πολλοί τε καὶ γελοῖοι, ὡς ἐμοὶ φαίνονται, εἰσίν.)
[ back ] 84. Of this trio, Eusebius had read Dionysius of Halicarnassus (see Carriker 2003:147) and Josephus’ Judean Antiquities. The evidence for Eusebius’ knowledge of Dio presented by Carriker 2003, pp. 153–154 is quite weak.
[ back ] 85. Cassius Dio’s Roman History went up to the narrator’s present day; Josephus’ Judean Antiquities went up to the beginning of the Judean War in AD 66, where Josephus’ already-published Judean War took over the narrative; Dionysius’ Roman Antiquities went up to the beginning of the First Punic War (1.8.2), at which point Polybius’ already-published history began.
[ back ] 86. Dio’s dating system: Millar 1964:39–40; Dionysius’: Schultze 1995. I have been unable to find a study of the Judean Antiquities’ chronology; my own, admittedly cursory, study shows that Josephus dates by Judahite judges and kings (with events told according to reigns, not according to year within reigns, since Josephus’ biblical sources rarely placed events in specific regnal years) until the fall of the Judahite monarchy to Babylon, and under the Hasmoneans; whenever there were no supreme, native Judahite kings, Josephus’ chronological frame relied on a combination of Greek, Judean priestly, and Roman imperial terms in office.
[ back ] 87. Overbeck 1892, especially pp. 42–43.
[ back ] 88. Appian’s Civil Wars comes closest among surviving Hellenophone histories before Eusebius, though it depicts a series of interrelated but separate wars rather than a single, continuous war.
[ back ] 89. On the dating of the various editions of the Ecclesiastical History, I accept the consensus now emerging around the hypothesis of Burgess 1997, that the first edition of the text, containing what are now books 1–9 with a shortened version of the Martyrs of Palestine comprising most of book 8, was published around AD 313.
[ back ] 90. However, on Greek local historians’ notices of literary figures in their texts, see Clarke 2008:68–72, 77–81, 87–88, 224–227. Unfortunately, Greek local historiography survives almost exclusively in the works of later historians, so it is difficult to judge how the local historians arranged their intellectual history. Moreover, Eusebius probably decided to use intellectual historical topoi in a national history independently of any knowledge of these local historians—Carriker 2003 shows no evidence that Eusebius read any of the local historians cited by Clarke as including literary or intellectual history in their local histories.
[ back ] 91. The only study of the History’s intellectual biographies is Alexandre 1998. Other scholars who have emphasized the Ecclesiastical History’s generic cues to intellectual biography are Momigliano 1962:140–141 and 1963:90–91; Carotenuto 2001:102–106; and Markschies 2007:230–235. Briefer gestures at the connection include Barnes 1981:128 (quoted at the beginning of this chapter); Schwartz 1938:117; Grant 1980:46–47; Twomey 1982:30–32; Perrone 2005:418; Morlet 2005:8. Arguing (without adducing any concrete evidence) against Eusebius’ affinities with the genre are Timpe 1989:178–179 and Beggs 1999, especially pp. 36–39. (Incidentally, I expand the scope of Momigliano’s “history of the philosophical schools” [Momigliano 1962:140] into “intellectual historiography” because the genre was not applied solely to philosophers, as Philostratus’ Lives of the Sophists attests.)
[ back ] 92. See note 79 above. The Successions subgenre had not simply fallen into obscurity: within the century before Eusebius, Diogenes Laertius had incorporated this genre into his Lives and Opinions of the Famous Philosophers. (See especially Delattre 2006; note also Eunapius, Lives of the Philosophers and Sophists 454.)
[ back ] 93. Both Diogenes Laertius and Eusebius draw on a subgenre of “bio-bibliography” that went back at least to the famous Tablets of the Hellenistic Alexandrian scholar and poet Callimachus. For a discussion and the reliquiae of this text, see Asper 2004:49–50 (with frs. 493–499).
[ back ] 94. The classic analysis of Leo 1901:15–16 and 316–318, made this point. Note also the comment of Wehrli 1973 (emphasis mine) on Hellenistic philosophical biography: “Ein gemeinsames Merkmal beinaher aller erhaltenen Biographien besteht darin, dass ihnen eine durchgehende Erzählung des Lebensablaufes fehlt, dass sie vielmehr ein im wesentlichen statisches Bild der Persönlichkeit und ihrer Lebensweise (bios) zu vermitteln suchen.” Conversely, the Lives of Diogenes Laertius that treat intellectuals involved in politics—e.g. the Lives of Solon, Plato, and Demetrius of Phaleron (Diogenes Laertius 1.45–66, 3, 5.75–85)—have the most pronounced narrative arcs.
[ back ] 95. This analysis has supported Momigliano’s opinion as expressed in a much-read 1963 article (“Pagan and Christian Historiography in the Fourth Century A.D.”): “As he was dealing with a Church that represented a school of thought, there was much he could learn in the matter of presentation from the histories of philosophic schools which he knew well. These dealt with doctrinal controversies, questions of authenticity, successions of scholarchs . . . At the same time, Eusebius certainly had in mind Jewish-Hellenistic historiography, as exemplified for him and for us by Flavius Josephus. In Josephus he found the emphasis on the past, the apologetic tone, the doctrinal digression, the display (though not so lavish) of documents: above all there was the idea of a nation which is different from ordinary pagan nations.” While I cannot concur with all of Momigliano’s assertions in this remarkable (for anyone but Momigliano) burst of insight, his wide knowledge of historiography blazed a useful path for inquiry here that has gone shockingly underexplored.
[ back ] 96. This conclusion nuances the thesis of Perrone 2005:420 that Eusebius’ work reveals “the author’s intention of distancing himself from the literary genres of paganism,” repeated at Perrone 1996:526–527, and joined by Verdoner 2007:88–92.