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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world


Theophylact Simocatta in his History describes the patrician Germanos seeking sanctuary at the shrine of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) in the Constantinople district of Cyrus in November 602, after being accused of conspiracy. Written in Greek at Constantinople in the early 7th century.

Evidence ID

E00045

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Major author/Major anonymous work

Theophylact Simocatta

Theophylact Simocatta, History 8.8.11, 13

(11.) ... τῷ δὲ δειλιναίῳ καιρῷ τοὺς ὑπασπιστὰς τοὺς ἑαυτοῦ συναθροισάμενος τῷ ἱερῷ τεμένει τῆς θεομήτορος προσεπέλασεν, ὃ Κῦρον τὸν ἐπὶ Θεοδοσίου τοῦ αὐτοκράτορος γεγονότα δείμασθαι λόγος καθέστηκεν ἀψευδής. ... (13.) ἡλίου δὲ κλίναντος ἠκηκόει Μαυρίκιος τῶν κεράτων τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου κάτοχον τὸν Γερμανὸν γεγονέναι.

'(11.) ... In the afternoon, he [Germanos] gathered his personal bodyguard and reached the holy shrine of the Mother of God, which unerring report has established was built by the Cyrus who lived under the emperor Theodosius. ... (13.) When the sun had set, Maurice heard that Germanos had taken hold of the horns of the altar [i.e. sought sanctuary].'

Text: de Boor and Wirth 1972. Translation: E. Rizos.

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Non Liturgical Activity

Seeking asylum at church/shrine

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Aristocrats
Soldiers

Source

Theophylact Simocatta wrote his History in Constantinople probably in the late 620s. The period covered by his work is the reign of Maurice (582-602), and the main subjects of the historical narrative are the wars of the East Roman Empire with Persia, and with the Avars and the Slavs in the Balkans. Several digressions of hagiographical, chronographical and geographical interest are inserted in the narrative. Using various earlier sources, Simocatta produces a positive account of Maurice, portraying him as a good emperor overthrown by a tyrant (Phocas). In fact, Maurice was very unpopular in his own times, but cleansing his memory was important to legitimise the rule of Heraclius (610-641), who presented his own coup against Phocas as avenging the murder of Maurice. A supporter and successful official of Heraclius’ regime, Simocatta apparently served this particular political agenda.

Further reading:
Whitby and Whitby 1986, xiii-xxx (introduction); Whitby 1988; Frendo 1988; Olajos 1988.


Discussion

The passage refers to the last days preceding the fall of the emperor Maurice in November 602. The patrician Germanos, father-in-law of Maurice's heir apparent Theodosios, is accused by the emperor of conspiracy and threatened with death. After failing to convince the emperor of his innocence during a hearing at the palace on 20 November, Germanos goes to his house and then to the church of Mary in the quarter of Cyrus (μονὴ τῆς Θεοτόκου [εἰς] τὰ/ τῶν Κύρου) for sanctuary. Simocatta uses a biblical expression drawn from 1 Kings 1:50 and 2:28 (τῶν κεράτων τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου κάτοχον), to refer to the act of seeking sanctuary. Germanos probably chose that church because of its closeness to his house and the pressing threat against his life. Apparently mistrustful of Maurice’s intentions, he took his retainers to the church and, when the emperor tried to persuade him to surrender, Germanos' bodyguards drove out the emperor's messenger. During the same night, Germanos fled to Saint Sophia.

One of the significant Marian shrines of Constantinople, housing the cult of a miraculous icon of Mary, her church in the Cyrus quarter was probably founded by the patrician Cyrus of Panopolis, Urban Prefect of Constantinople (426), Praetorian Prefect and consul (439-441) under Theodosius II (
PLRE II, 336-339: 'Cyrus 7'). It lay near the church of Saint Romanos in the Elevichos quarter (Ἅγιος Ῥωμανὸς ἐν τοῖς Ἐλεβίχου), south-east of the homonymous gate of the Theodosian walls. Simocatta is the earliest text mentioning it. His phrase λόγος καθέστηκεν ἀψευδής ('unerring report has established...') suggests that he records an oral tradition.

Bibliography

Edition:
de Boor, C., and Wirth, P., Theophylacti Simocattae Historiae (Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana; Leipzig: Teubner, 1972).

Translation:
Whitby, M., and Whitby, M., The History of Theophylact Simocatta: An English Translation with Introduction and Notes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986).

Further Reading:
Frendo, J.D.C., “History and Panegyric in the Age of Heraclius: The Literary Background of the Composition of the Histories of Theophylact Simocatta,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 42 (1988), 143-156.

Olajos, T.,
Les Sources de Théophylacte Simocatta Historien (Leiden: Brill, 1988).

Whitby, M.,
The Emperor Maurice and his Historian: Theophylact Simocatta on Persian and Balkan Warfare (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).

On the Kyriotissa:
Berger, A., “Roman, Byzantine, and Latin Periods,” in: C.L. Striker and Y. Doğan Kuban (eds.), Kalenderhane in Istanbul: The Buildings, Their History, Architecture and Decoration. Final Reports on the Archaeological Exploration and Restoration at Kalenderhane Camii 1966-1978 (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1997), 7-17.

Janin, R.,
La géographie ecclésiastique de l'empire byzantin. I: Les églises et les monastères de la ville de Constantinople. (2nd ed.; Paris, 1969), 193-195.


Record Created By

Efthymios Rizos

Date Last Modified

15/06/2020

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΘεομήτωρCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Efthymios Rizos, Cult of Saints, E00045 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E00045