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Anonymous Copyists (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 6.23)

Role: Copyists

Gender: Male

Date:  Mid-third century CE

Place: Alexandria

Language:  Greek

Literary Genre: Bios, History; Narrative

Title of Work:  Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History

Reference:  Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.23.1–2 cf. Jerome, Vir. ill. 56; 61.3

Original Text:

Ἐξ ἐκείνου, δὲ καὶ Ὠριγένει τῶν εἰς τὰς θείας γραφὰς ὑπομνημάτων ἐγίνετο ἀρχή, Ἀμβροσίου παρορμῶντος αὐτὸν μυρίαις οὐ προτροπαῖς ταῖς διὰ λόγων καὶ παρακλήσεσιν αὐτὸ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀφθονωτάταις τῶν ἐπιτηδείων χορηγίαις. 2 Ταχυγράφοι τε γὰρ αὐτῷ πλείους ἢ ἑπτὰ τὸν ἀριθμὸν παρῆσαν ὑπαγορεύοντι, χρόνοις τεταγμένοις ἀλλήλους ἀμείβοντες,  βιβλιογράφοι τε οὐχ ἥττους ἅμα καὶ κόραις ἐπὶ τὸ καλλιγραφεῖν ἠσκημέναις· ὧν ἁπάντων τὴν δέουσαν τῶν ἐπιτηδείων ἄφθονον περιουσίαν ὁ Ἀμβρόσιος παρεστήσατο·  (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.23.1–2)

English Translation:

From that time, Origen also began commentaries on the divine writings, with Ambrose urging him on, not only with the kind of encouragement and exhortation that comes in words, but also with a plentiful supply of what was required. For more than seven shorthand writers were with him when he dictated, relieving each other on a schedule, and just as many scribes, along with maidens trained in calligraphy. Ambrose generously supplied what was required for all of them. (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.23.1–2)

Text: Eduard Schwartz, Eusebius Kirchesngeschichte (Repr.; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021) Translation: Modified from Jeremy Schott, The History of the Church: A New Translation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2019)


Seven enslaved copyists or “scribes” (βιβλιογράφοι) were furnished to the mid-third-century Christian teacher, philosopher, and polymath Origen of Alexandria by his patron Ambrose (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.18.1–2). That Ambrose “supplied” these anonymous workers suggests that they were enslaved and were “gifted” in the same way as Roman elites gifted literate workers to one another. 

The specific role of these workers is difficult to pin down, especially, given that Eusebius distinguishes them both from the female calligraphers who were also, presumably, copyists involved in book production and the shorthand writers (tachygraphers, Ταχυγράφοι) who took dictation at speed. 

Keywords: Alexandria; Christian; Literate Worker; Origen

Related Entries: Anonymous Female Calligraphers (Eusebius, HE 6.23.1-2); Anonymous Shorthand Writers (Eusebius, HE 6.23)


Haines-Eitzen, Kim. Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

How to Cite:

Coogan, Jeremiah and Candida Moss. “ “Anonymous Copyists (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 6.23)”” Ancient Enslaved Christians. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. <>



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