on dating Eutropia's journey through the Holy Land
In his survey of church-building Eusebius now returns to the subject of Palestine and the church built at the oak of Mamre, near Hebron, where Abraham received his three divine visitors (Gen. 18: 1-33), and thus the site of another theophany; since the building activity here involved destroying an existing temple, the account also serves to connect this section with what follows. The procedure adopted by Constantine is similar to that described by Eusebius for the Holy Sepulchre: the Emperor writes both the Marcarius and the other bishops of Palestine and to the civil authorities (51.2, cf. 53.2), instructing them to cooperate. The Comes Acacius (53.2) is to clear the area of pagan statues and worship, and then consult the bishops about building a church on the site. Eusebius can include a copy of the Emperor's letter of instructions because he was recipient of it himself (51.2 'he also dispatched to the author of the present history a reasoned admonition, a copy which I should, I think, add to the present work'), Though the letter is addressed by name to Marcarius, it is also sent to the other bishops including himself (52.1), and Eusebius accepts joint responsibility for Constantine's rebuke (51.2 'he took us to task'); Rubin, 'Church of the Holy Sepulchre', 88, unneccessarily sees this as further indication of Eusebius' hostility to Marcarius. Constantine had been told of the pagan worship on the site in letters from Eutropia, the mother of Fausta (52.1), who evidently also visited Palestine; Rubin, 'Church of the Holy sepulchre', 90, places her visit between the defeat of Licinius and the Council of Nicaea (see also Walker, Holy City, Holy Places, 276), and the reference to her becomes more comfortable if the visit took place before the death of her daughter Fausta in 326. Rubin ingeniously argues that Eusebius deliberately includes the letter so as to expose his rival Marcarius, who, however, was soon to assume the role of guide to Constantine's own mother Helena ('Church of the Holy sepulchre'. 88-91, accepted by Walker, Holy City, Holy Places, 276n.); it seems more likely that he includes the letter in order to make his dossier of Constantinian documents as complete as possible. Marcarius is not named by Eusebius, but this is in accordance with his normal practice (see e.g. on IV.61.2-3). Constantine's letter is placed out of chronological context here, which serves to reduce the importance of Eutropia (below, on 52.1-53.3). The church itself followed a form now familiar in general terms: a large basilica with an atrium, in this case surrounding the well, the altar of Abraham, and the oak-tree (Hunt, Holy Land Pilgrimage, 15, with earlier bibliography; Ovadiah, Corpus of Byzantine Churches, 131-3).
Averil Cameron and Stuart G. Hall (translators), Eusebius, Life of Constantine (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), pp. 299-300.
with reference to Z. Rubin, "The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Conflict between the Sees of Caesarea and Jerusalem" in Jerusalem Cathedra, 2 (1982), 79-105.