A passage from Evagrius Scholasticus

From book 3, chapter 32, slightly modernised: 

“THERE were other things which caused secret vexation to [the emperor] Anastasius. For when Ariadne wanted to invest him with the purple, Euphemius, who held the archiepiscopal see, withheld his approval. He agreed only when Anastasius presented to him an agreement, written in his own hand, and secured with fearful oaths.  This promised that he would maintain the faith inviolate, and would introduce no innovations into the holy church of God, if he obtained the sceptre.  This document he also deposited with Macedonius, the keeper of the sacred treasures. He adopted this measure because Anastasius had generally the reputation of holding the Manichaean doctrine.

When, however, Macedonius ascended the episcopal throne, Anastasius wanted the agreement returned to him, affirming that it was an insult to the imperial dignity, if the before-mentioned document, in his own hand-writing, should be preserved.  When Macedonius resolutely opposed the demand, and firmly protested that he would not betray the faith, the emperor pursued every insidious device for the purpose of ejecting him from his see.

Accordingly, even boys were brought forward as informers, who falsely accused both themselves and Macedonius of infamous practices. But when Macedonius was found to be emasculate, they had recourse to other contrivances. In the end, by the advice of Celer, commander of the household troops, Macedonius secretly retired from his see.”

This writer is hostile to Anastasius.  But the kinds of allegations levelled by the cynical against priests to discredit their moral authority do not change, it seems. 

In the Eastern Roman civil service, certain posts were reserved for eunuchs.  Macedonius’ parents had designed him for such a career, thereby giving him an unusual advantage in such infighting.  But don’t some of the canons of the ecumenical prohibit eunuchs from being priests?

3 Responses to “A passage from Evagrius Scholasticus”


  1. Maureen

    This comes up in a few things I’ve read — that eunuch priests were common in the Byzantine Empire, at least in Justinian’s day, and that several of the Patriarchs of Byzantium were eunuchs.

    They then failed to explain how this worked, why it was allowed, and when it got disallowed. Very frustrating.

  2. Roger Pearse

    Yes, isn’t that frustrating? I don’t myself, I have to say.

    Of course the idea that certain government positions would only be available to eunuchs is one that might be reintroduced with advantage, in some respects!

  3. Byzantium and modern politics at Roger Pearse

    [...] course there are other things we might learn.  In a previous post I discussed the career of the Patriarch Macedonius, and attempts by his political foes to level [...]