October 7, 2023

On the Fortification of Sergiopolis (Procopius)

Writing in c.560 AD, the historian Procopius describes the fortification by the emperor Justinian I (527-65) of the Syrian city of Sergiopolis, formerly Resapha, the central site for the veneration of Saint Sergius, since it is where the martyrdom of Saints Sergius and Bacchus took place. He writes in The Buildings (2.9.3-9):

There is a certain church in Euphratesia, dedicated to Sergius, a famous saint, whom men of former times used to venerate and revere, so that they named the place Sergiopolis, and they had surrounded it with a very humble wall, just sufficient to prevent the Saracens of the region from capturing it by storm. For the Saracens are naturally incapable of storming a wall, and the weakest kind of barricade, put together with perhaps nothing but mud, is sufficient to check their assault. At a later time, however, this church, through its acquisition of treasures, came to be powerful and celebrated. And the Emperor Justinian, upon considering this situation, at once gave it careful attention, and he surrounded the church with a most remarkable wall, and he stored up a great quantity of water and thus provided the inhabitants with a bountiful supply. Furthermore, he added to the place houses and stoas and the other buildings which are wont to be the adornments of a city. Besides this he established there a garrison of soldiers who, in case of need, defended the circuit-wall. Chosroes, indeed, the King of the Persians, made a great effort to capture the city, sending a great army to besiege it; but because of the strength of the defences he accomplished nothing and abandoned the investment.

See also: Sergiopolis, the Site of the Martyrdom of Saints Sergius and Bacchus

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