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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus.: The Emperor falls sick and dies.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXXIX.—The Emperor falls sick and dies.

A year having passed, the Emperor Constantine having just entered the sixty-fifth year of his age, was taken with a sickness; he therefore left Constantinople, and made a voyage to Helenopolis, that he might try the effect of the medicinal hot springs which are found in the vicinity of that city. Perceiving, however, that his illness increased, he deferred the use of the baths; and removing from Helenopolis to Nicomedia, he took up his residence in the suburbs, and there received Christian baptism. 258 After this he became cheerful; and making his will, appointed his three sons heirs to the empire, allotting to each one of them his portion, in accordance with the arrangements he had made while living. He also granted many privileges to the cities of Rome and Constantinople; and entrusting the custody of his will 259 to that presbyter by whose means Arius had been recalled, and of whom we have already made mention, he charged him to deliver it into no one’s hand, except that of his son Constantius, to whom he had given the sovereignty of the East. After the making of his will, he survived a few days and died. Of his sons none were present at his death. A courier was therefore immediately despatched into the East, to inform Constantius of his father’s decease.



It was the belief of many in the earlier ages of the church that baptism had a certain magical power purging away the sins previous to it, but having no force as regards those that might follow; this led many to postpone their baptism until disease or age warned them of the nearness of death; such delayed baptism was called ‘clinic baptism,’ and was discouraged by the more judicious and spiritual-minded Fathers, some of whom doubted its validity and rebuked those who delayed as actuated by selfishness and desire to indulge in sin. The church, however, encouraged it in the cases of gross offenders. Cf. Bingham, Eccl. Antiq. IV. 3, and XI. 11, and Bennett, Christian Archæology, pp. 407 and 409.


Cf. Euseb. Life of Const. IV. 63, and Rufinus, H. E. I. 11. The story is, however, doubtful, as Valesius observes. It is more likely that some one of the lay officials of the government, or, as Philostorgius says, Eusebius of Nicomedia, was entrusted with this will, and not a mere presbyter. That it was probably Eusebius of Nicomedia becomes the more probable when we consider that that bishop also probably baptized Constantine.

Next: The Funeral of the Emperor Constantine.

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