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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 emperor Maurice sleeping in Saint Sophia, hoping to receive divine guidance through a dream, in the autumn of 590, prior to his expedition to Anchialus (eastern Balkans). The next day he attended the Eucharist at the church of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) at Pege, just outside Constantinople. Written in Greek at Constantinople in the early 7th century.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Major author/Major anonymous work

Theophylact Simocatta

Theophylact Simocatta, History 5.16.7-8

(7.) τυχεῖν δὲ γλιχόμενος καὶ θείας τινὸς ἐποπτίας συστρατευσομένης αὐτῷ ἐπὶ τὸ μέγα τῆς θρησκείας κατεπαννυχίζετο τέμενος τὸ ὑπὸ Ἰουστινιανοῦ ᾠκοδομημένον τοῦ αὐτοκράτορος· ἐς προσηγορίαν δὲ τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ σοφίας τὸ ἱερὸν ἀνατέθειται. (8.) μηδεμιᾶς τοιγαροῦν ὄψεως ἐνυπνίων ἐπιφανείσης αὐτῷ, λιταζόμενος ἅμα τῷ λαῷ εἰς τὴν πρὸ τοῦ ἄστεος τῆς θεομήτορος οἰκίαν διημέρευε μυσταγωγούμενος, καὶ τῆς θεανδρικῆς μετελάγχανε πανδαισίας· ὁ δὲ νεὼς πρὸς τῆς Πηγῇ καταλέγεται.

'(7). Since he [the emperor Maurice] was also eager to obtain some divine guardianship to accompany him on campaign, he spent the night at the great shrine of our religion, the one built by the emperor Justinian: that sanctuary is dedicated to the name of the Wisdom of God. (8.) Accordingly, since no dream vision appeared to him, he spent the day at the house of the Mother of God outside the city, joined in prayer by the people and attending the mysteries, and he partook of the banquet of the Incarnate God [received communion]. The church is known as the one "at the Spring" [Pege].'

Text: de Boor and Wirth 1972. Translation: Whitby and Whitby 1986, modified.

Liturgical Activities

Other liturgical acts and ceremonies

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Non Liturgical Activity

Visiting graves and shrines

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics – unspecified
Monarchs and their family
Other lay individuals/ people


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.


After the end of Maurice’s campaign to restore Khosrau II to the Persian throne, Simocatta’s narrative turns to events in Europe, where the Avars had recently sacked Anchialus (Pomorie, Bulgaria) on the Pontic coast of Thrace. Maurice decides to campaign there in person, and sleeps at Saint Sophia hoping to receive a dream vision which, however, does not occur. He next visits the extramural church of the Virgin ‘at the Spring’ (the Pege Church), a shrine built under Justinian near the Theodosian Walls, where he prays and attends the Eucharist. Maurice's failure to obtain divine guidance through his prayers is presented as one of several bad omens foreshadowing his unfortunate campaign.


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

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.

Janin, R.,
La géographie ecclésiastique de l'empire byzantin. I: Les églises et les monastères de la ville de Constantinople. (2nd ed.; Paris, 1969), 223-228.

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).

Record Created By

Efthymios Rizos

Date Last Modified


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:
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