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The Influence of Eusebius’ Chronicle on the Apologetic Treatises of Cyril of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo



In the early fifth century, both Cyril of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo used Eusebius of Caesarea's Chronicle in the writing of their respective apologetic treatises – Against Julian for Cyril and The city of God for Augustine. The present study compares the use that these two authors made of their predecessor and argues for two continuities between these acts of reception: the use of synchronisms between biblical and non-biblical history and the tracing of Mosaic monotheism through time. In both these respects, Cyril and Augustine were carrying forward themes of Christian apologetic that reached back to the second-century apologists.


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1 Wilken, Robert L., ‘Cyril of Alexandria's Contra Iulianum’, in Klingshirn, William E. and Vessey, Mark (eds), The limits of ancient Christianity: essays on late antique thought and culture in honor of R. A. Markus, Ann Arbor, Mi 1999, 44.

3 On the apologetic tradition in late antiquity see especially Edwards, Mark J., Goodman, Martin, Price, Simon and Rowland, Chris (eds), Apologetics in the Roman Empire: pagans, Jews, Christians, Oxford 1999.

4 Eusebius’ Chronicle has mostly perished in its original Greek form and must be reconstructed using various sources. For the Armenian translation of the treatise, which covers most of the two books of the original, see Aucher, Joannes Baptista, Eusebii Pamphili Caesariensis Episcopi Chronicon Bipartitum, Venice 1818. The Armenian version was translated into German in Karst, Josef, Die Chronik des Eusebius aus dem armenischen übersetzt, Leipzig 1911. For Jerome's Latin translation and continuation of the second book see Helm, Rudolf, Die Chronik des Hieronymus, GCS xlvii, Berlin 1956. The surviving Greek fragments are included alongside Jerome's Latin and a Latin translation of the Armenian in Schoene, Alfred, Eusebi Chronicorum libri duo, Berlin 1866, 1875. On the Chronicle see especially Grafton, Anthony and Williams, Megan Hale, Christianity and the transformation of the book: Origen, Eusebius, and the library of Caesarea, Cambridge, Ma 2006, 133–77. On the wider context out of which the work emerged see Burgess, R. W. and Kulikowski, Michael, Mosaics of time: the Latin chronicle traditions from the first century BC to the sixth century AD, Turnhout 2013. Eusebius’ Chronicle is discussed at pp. 119–26.

5 Augustine wrote The city of God between 413 and 427 in response to the sack of Rome in 410. Cyril's Against Julian was once thought to date from the 430s/440s but has recently been redated to the period 416–28; cf. Riedweg, Christoph and Kinzig, Wolfram (eds), Kyrill von Alexandrian I: Gegen Julian, I: Buch 1–5, GCS, NF xx, Berlin 2016, pp. cixcxvi.

6 Hiller, E., ‘Eusebius und Cyrillus’, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie xxv (1870), 253–62; Frick, C., ‘Die Quellen Augustins im 18. Buch seiner Schrift De civitate Dei’, Programm des Gymnasiums Höxter cccxxxii (1886), 974. The edition of City of God used here is De civitate dei, ed. B. Dombart and A. Kalb, Turnhout 1955, and the translation is by Babcock, William and Ramsey, Boniface, The city of God, Hyde Park, NY 2012–13. The text of Contra Iulianum used is from Riedweg and Kinzig, Kyrill von Alexandrien, and all translations are the joint work of myself and Aaron P. Johnson, with whom I am currently preparing an English translation of the entire treatise.

7 Alden A. Mosshammer pointed out that Cyril's ‘excerpts constitute the earliest Greek witness’ to the Chronicle: The Chronicle of Eusebius and Greek chronographic tradition, Lewisburg, Pa 1979, 279.

8 On the relation of book i to the rest of the treatise see William J. Malley, Hellenism and Christianity: the conflict between Hellenic and Christian wisdom in the Contra Galilaeos of Julian the Apostate and the Julianum, Contraof St Cyril of Alexandria, Rome 1978, 245–8.

9 Cyril, Contra Iulianum i.5.

10 Ibid.ii.1.

11 Ibid.i.4. On Cyril's rhetorical casting of the debate between Christians and pagans as one between competing ‘teachers’ of wisdom see Crawford, Matthew R., ‘Cyril of Alexandria's Contra Iulianum, imperial politics, and Alexandrian philosophy (c. 416–28)’, in Parry, Ken and Anagnostou-Laoutides, Eva (eds), Eastern Christianity and late antique philosophy, Leiden 2020, 110–32.

12 Cyril, Contra Iulianum i.4, citing Bacchylides, Paean, fragment 5.1; cf. Clement, Stromata 5.68.5. Later in the treatise Cyril cites Clement's Stromata and Protrepticus (Contra Iulianum iii.21; vi.30; vii.19; x.21), so it may be that already here in book i he turned to Bacchylides under the influence of the earlier Alexandrian.

13 Cyril, Contra Iulianum i.5.

14 Ibid.i.6.

15 Ibid.i.7–9.

16 The two passages from Alexander Polyhistor (FGrHist 273 F79) occur at Eusebius, Chronicle i, pp. 31, 38–9 (Aucher edn); pp. 10, 12 (Karst edn), while the two passages from Abydenos (FGrHist 685 F3; F4) are at Eusebius, Chronicle i, pp. 48–50, 51–2 (Aucher edn); pp. 16, 17 (Karst edn).

17 What Cyril added to the Eusebian material is a brief report about the origin of the name Serapis at Contra Iulianum i.16, which he probably drew from Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus iv.48.2–6; cf. Hiller, ‘Eusebius und Cyrillus’, 256.

18 Cyril, Contra Iulianum i.10; cf. Jerome, Chronicon, p. 20a–b (Helm edn). The Armenian version of Eusebius’ second book is missing for the first 343 years after Abraham's birth, so one has to rely solely on Jerome's Latin translation for this section.

19 The fourth column represented the Egyptians, who Eusebius said were being ruled at this time by the Thebans.

20 Cyril, Contra Iulianum i.11.

21 Hiller suggested that Cyril's reason for using this method was that he simply did not like working with large numbers: ‘Eusebius und Cyrillus’, 259.

22 Cyril, Contra Iulianum i.11.

23 For the information in the above cited paragraph see Eusebius, Chronicle ii, p. 98 (Aucher edn); p. 158 (Karst edn) (= Jerome, Chronicon 40b [Helm edn]); p. 100 (Aucher edn); p. 159 (Karst edn) (= Jerome, Chronicon 41a–b [Helm edn]); p. 102 (Aucher edn); p. 160 (Karst edn) (= Jerome, Chronicon 42b [Helm edn]); pp. 102–4 (Aucher edn); p. 160 (Karst edn) (= Jerome, Chronicon 43b [Helm edn]).

24 Cyril, Contra Iulianum i.13.

26 Ibid.i.14.

27 Ibid.i.16.

28 Ibid.i.17.

29 On Panodorus and Annianus see Mosshammer, The Chronicle of Eusebius, 77–8; Adler, William, Time immemorial: archaic history and its sources in Christian chronography from Julius Africanus to George Syncellus, Washington, DC 1989, 72105; Adler, William and Tuffin, Paul, The chronography of George Synkellos: a Byzantine chronicle of universal history from the creation, Oxford 2002, pp. lxiiilxix; and Mosshammer, Alden A., The Easter computus and the origins of the Christian era, Oxford 2008, 357–84.

30 Eusebius, Chronicle ii, p. 112 (Aucher edn); p. 164( Karst edn); Jerome, Chronicon p. 48b (Helm edn).

31 Κάδμος Θηβῶν ἐβασίλευσεν, οὗ θυγάτηρ Σεμέλη, ἐξ ἧς ὁ Διόνυσος, ὡς αὐτοί φασιν ἐκ Διός: Cyril, Contra Iulianum i.12 (p. 25 Riedweg edn); Κάδμος Θηβαίων ἐβασίλευσεν, οὗ τῆς θυγατρὸς Σεμέλης υἱὸς ὁ Διόνυσος ἐκ μοιχείας, ὃν Ἕλληνες Διός φασι μυθικῶς: Syncellus, Ecloga chronographica, p. 185 (Mosshammer, A. A., Georgius Syncellus: ecloga chronographica, Leipzig 1984). Hiller provided a detailed list of the agreements of Cyril's notices with Schoene's edition of the Armenian version of the Chronicle, a list of the agreements with the Latin tradition and a list of instances in which Cyril stands alone: ‘Eusebius und Cyrillus’, 260–2.

32 Adler, Time immemorial, 100–1.

33 There are still other sources that attest to a Christian interest in chronology in Alexandria during late antiquity. The oldest portion of the Latin chronicle known as the Excerpta Latina Barbari hails from Alexandria in the third century, though it continued to be updated with new material through the reign of Justinian: Burgess, R. W., ‘The date, purpose, and historical context of the original Greek and the Latin translation of the so-called Excerpta Latina Barbari’, Traditio lxviii (2013), 156. The translation of this text can be found in Garstad, Benjamin, Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius an Alexandrian world chronicle, Cambridge, Ma 2012. Mention should also be made of the sixth-century fragments of the so-called Alexandrian world chronicle, which proceeds up to the year 392 and includes a famous image of Theophilus standing atop a statue of Serapis: Bauer, Adolf and Strzygowski, Josef, Eine alexandrinische Weltchronik: Text und Miniaturen eines griechischen Papyrus der Sammlung W. Goleniščev, Vienna 1905; Burgess, R. W. and Dijkstra, Jitse H. F., ‘The “Alexandrian world chronicle”, its consularia and the date of the destruction of the Serapeum (with an appendix on the list of praefecti augustales)’, Millennium Jahrbuch x (2013), 39113. In addition, there survives a single parchment sheet dated to the end of the fifth century which contains a chronicle that is related to the two previously mentioned sources: Burgess, R. W. and Dijkstra, Jitse H. F., ‘The Berlin “Chronicle” (P.Berol. Inv. 13296): a new edition of the earliest extant late antique consularia’, Archiv für Papyrusforschung und verwandte Gebiete lviii (2012), 273301 at p. 286 for the dating.

34 Augustine, ep. xxiv.

35 See Altaner, B., ‘Augustinus und Eusebios von Kaisareia: eine quellenkritische Untersuchung’, Byzantinische Zeitschrift xxxxiv (1951), 34; Courcelle, Pierre, Late Latin writers and their Greek sources, trans. Wedeck, Harry E., Cambridge, Ma 1969, 200–1; Croke, Brian, ‘The originality of Eusebius’ chronicle’, American Journal of Philology ciii (1982), 198; Bartelink, Gerard, ‘Die Beeinflussung Augustinus durch die griechischen Patres’, in den Boeft, J. and van Oort, J. (eds), Augustiniana Traiectina: communications présentées au colloque international d'Utrecht, 13–14 novembre 1986, Paris 1988, 18; and Vessey, Mark, ‘Augustine among the writers of the Church’, in Vessey, Mark and Reid, Shelley (eds), A companion to Augustine, Chichester 2012, 246–9.

36 So Courcelle, Late Latin writers and their Greek sources, 200.

37 Augustine, De doctrina christiana ii.39.59.

38 Frick, ‘Die Quellen Augustins’, 9–74, cited approvingly in Altaner, ‘Augustinus und Eusebios’, 3.

39 Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii.1.

40 Ibid.xviii.2.

41 Ibid.xviii.8; cf. Jerome, Chronicon 31b (Helm edn).

42 Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii.5; cf. Jerome, Chronicon 28b (Helm edn).

43 Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii.8; cf. Jerome, Chronicon 39a (Helm edn).

44 Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii.13; cf. Jerome, Chronicon 49b, 58b, 52b (Helm edn).

45 Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii.19; cf. Jerome, Chronicon 62a–b (Helm edn).

46 Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii.21–2.

47 Ibid.xviii.42–4; cf. Jerome, Chronicon 129 (Helm edn); Cyril, Contra Iulianum i.16.

48 Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii.31.

49 Cyril, Contra Iulianum i.13.

50 Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii.4.

51 ‘The central achievement of the Canon lay in its vivid display of synchronisms’: Grafton and Williams, Christianity, 143.

52 Theodoret, Graecarum affectionum curatio ii.43–50.

53 Ibid.v.63–4. Text from Canivet, Pierre, Théodoret de Cyr: Thérapeutique des maladies helléniques, I: (Livres I–VI), SC lviii.1, Paris 2000, 246–7. Translation (modified) taken from Halton, Thomas, Theodoret of Cyrus: a cure for pagan maladies, New York 2013, 128.

54 ‘The new history could not suppress the old. Adam and Eve and what follows had in some way to be presented in a world populated by Deucalion, Cadmus, Romulus and Alexander the Great. This created all sorts of new problems. First, the pagans had to be introduced to the Jewish version of history. Secondly, the Christian historians were expected to silence the objection that Christianity was new, and therefore not respectable … It soon became imperative for the Christians to produce a chronology which would satisfy both the needs of elementary teaching and the purposes of higher historical interpretation. The Christian chronographers had to summarise the history which the converts were now supposed to consider their own … The convert, in abandoning paganism, was compelled to enlarge his historical horizon: he was likely to think for the first time in terms of universal history’: Momigliano, Arnaldo, Alien wisdom: the limits of Hellenization, Cambridge 1975, 110.

55 Feeney, Denis, Caesar's calendar: ancient time and the beginnings of history, Berkeley, Ca 2007, 23.

56 Ibid. 20.

57 On the Jewish and Christian use of the argument from antiquity see especially Pilhofer, Peter, Presbyteron kreitton: der Altersbeweis der jüdischen und christlichen Apologeten und seine Vorgeschichte, Tübingen 1990. For the role it played in the development of Middle Platonism see Boys-Stones, G. R., Post-Hellenistic philosophy: a study of its development from the Stoics to Origen, Oxford 2001.

58 On the use made of synchronisms by another contemporary Christian author see Nuffelen, Peter Van, Orosius and the rhetoric of history, Oxford 2012, 4653.

59 Chesnut, Glenn, The first Christian histories, 2nd edn, Macon, Ga 1986, 76, 137. Chesnut claimed that Eusebius’ Chronicle reduced to only two columns after the time of Christ, one for Rome and one for the Church. In fact, however, after the disappearance of the Jewish column in 70 ad, there is only one column, that for Rome. This is true for both the Latin and Armenian versions of the work.

60 For a reading of Eusebius that pushes against the common view of him as merely a ‘court theologian’ see Johnson, Aaron P., Ethnicity and argument in Eusebius’ ‘Praeparatio evangelica’, Oxford 2006, 153–97. Johnson concluded (p. 197) that ‘Christ, not Augustus – the Church, not Rome – are the pivotal players and determining forces in Eusebius’ political theology’.

61 Grafton and Williams, Christianity, 141; Feeney, Caesar's calendar, 28–32. See also Burgess, Richard W. and Witakowski, Witold, Studies in Eusebian and post-Eusebian chronography, Stuttgart 1999, 81, and Burgess and Kulikowski, Mosaics of time, 124–5.

62 Cyril, Contra Iulianum i.21.

63 Ibid.i.10.

64 Ibid.i.28.

65 Ibid.i.30.

66 Ibid.i.40.

67 Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii.37.

68 Ibid.xviii.8, 12, 14, 16, 19, 24.

69 Jerome, Chronicon, Eusebii interpretata praefatio, p. 19 (Helm edn).

70 Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii.54.

71 Johnson, Ethnicity and argument, 124–5.

72 See Grafton and Williams, Christianity, 175, and Burgess and Kulikowski, Mosaics of time, 123–4.

73 See Droge, Arthur J., Homer or Moses? Early Christian interpretations of the history of culture, Tübingen 1989, 4972.

74 Ibid. 82–96.

75 On Tatian as a ‘barbarian’ philosopher see Crawford, Matthew R., ‘Tatian, Celsus, and Christianity as “barbarian wisdom” in the late second century’, in Ayres, Lewis and Ward, H. Clifton (eds), The emergence of the Christian intellectual in the second century, Berlin 2020, 4580.

76 ‘The foundations of Christian historiography had been laid long before the time of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge’: Momigliano, Alien wisdom, 109.

77 Tatian, Oratio ad Graecos 35–41.

The Influence of Eusebius’ Chronicle on the Apologetic Treatises of Cyril of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo



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