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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Two Greek epigrams, probably from inscriptions in the church, commemorating the rebuilding and dedication of a church to *Theodore (soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita, S00480) by the 5th c. patrician Sphorakios, near his palace in Constantinople, after surviving a fire; a memorial portrait of Sphorakios is apparently dedicated in the same church. Recorded in the 10th c. Greek Anthology.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence


Literary - Poems

Major author/Major anonymous work

Greek Anthology

Greek Anthology, Book 1 (Christian Epigrams), 6-7

Εἰς τὸν ναὸν τοῦ ἁγίου Θεοδώρου ἐν τοῖς Σφωρακίου

Σφωράκιος ποίησε φυγὼν φλόγα μάρτυρι νηόν.

'On the church of St. Theodore in the property of Sphōrakios

Sphōrakios having escaped from a fire built this temple to the Martyr.'

Εἰς τὸν αὐτόν, ἐν ᾧ τὸ λογάριον εὑρέθη

Σφωράκιε, ζώοντι φίλα θρεπτήρια τίνων
γήθεεν Ἀντόλιος, σὸς ἀνεψιός· οἰχομένῳ δὲ
αἰεί σοι γεραρὴν τελέει χάριν, ὥστε καὶ ἄλλην
εὗρε καὶ ἐν νηῷ σ᾽ ἀνεθήκατο τὸν κάμες αὐτός.

'On this same church (where the treasure was found)

Sphōrakios, your nephew Anatolios rejoiced in repaying, during your life, your kindness in bringing him up [or: 'in paying for his education']. Now that you have departed, he still pays you honours of gratitude, so that he devised another way to honour you, and placed you in the church that you yourself built.'

Text and translation: Paton and Tueller 2014; translation adapted.

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Non Liturgical Activity

Construction of cult buildings


Miraculous protection - of people and their property

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



The Greek Anthology is a collection of Greek epigrams from dating from the Archaic period to the 9th century AD. It was initially compiled by Meleager of Megara (100-90 BC), whose collection was edited and expanded by Philip of Thessalonica (under Nero), Agathias of Myrina (AD 567/8) and finally by Konstantinos Kephalas (c. AD 900).

The word epigram literally means an inscription. Although most Greek inscriptions were in prose, the word came to be specifically connected to those written in verse, and eventually to include poetic texts which were not necessarily inscribed. From the earliest period of Greek literature, epigrams were mostly sepulchral or dedicatory: they either memorialised the dead or marked the dedication of an object to a god.

Book 1 of the
Greek Anthology contains Christian epigrams from Late Antiquity to the 9th century. It was compiled c. 880-900, containing a considerable number of poems copied directly from monuments. The scholar responsible for the transcriptions may have been Gregorios Magistros, a colleague of Kephalas. Epigrams 1-17 and possibly others were taken down from inscriptions at Constantinople and two of them, namely No. 1 (inscription from the bema arch of St. Sophia) and No. 10 (inscription from the church of St. Polyeuktos) have been found in situ, thus confirming the accuracy of the entries in the Anthology.


These epigrams were probably inscribed in the church of Theodoros in the quarter of Sphōrakios, which was located immediately west of Saint Sophia, and was served by the clergy of the Great Church. The church does not survive, but it must have stood very close to the basilica of the Chalkoprateia.

Several sources ascribe the foundation of the church to the patrician
Sphōrakios who, according to the Patria (3.30), flourished under Arcadius and Theodosius II (395-450). Flavios Sphōrakios served as comes domesticorum peditum (450-451) and became eastern consul in 452 (PLRE II, 'Sporacius 3'). This was one of several churches built by aristocrats within their palaces in Constantinople in the 5th and 6th centuries.

These two epigrams are fully discussed by Mango 1986, 25-26; see also Janin 1969,

The first epigram informs us that the church was a votive offering by
Sphōrakios after he survived a fire, which he apparently ascribed to the protection of the saint. The miracle is also described in the Encomium and Miracles of Theodore, written by Chrysippus of Jerusalem sometime in the third quarter of the fifth century (E04625, Miracle 12), which informs us that the church (small and insignificant before the fire) stood next to the palace of a rich but virtuous man (here not named), who was able to save his house by invoking the help of Theodoros, who was then seen leaping around the building tackling the flames. This fire was very probably an event recorded in 465.

The second epigram, by
Sphōrakios’ nephew Anatolios, is less than clear in its meaning. It may have been sepulchral, in which case it would suggest that Sphōrakios was buried in the church. During the 5th century, it would have been unusual, though not impossible, to bury an important man in a private intramural church. Alternatively, the text may refer to the dedication of a memorial portrait, possibly a painting in the church. The note in the title concerning the treasure was added by a Byzantine editor of the Anthology. It refers to a story described in the Patria (3.30), according to which a treasure hidden in the gallery of the church was discovered by a visitor from Rome who read the Latin inscription marking the spot, under Leo VI (886-912).


Edition and Translation:
Paton, W.R., rev. Tueller, M.A., The Greek Anthology, Books 1-5, 2nd ed. (Loeb Classical Library; London, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).

Other editions:
Beckby, H., Anthologia Graeca (Munich: Ernst Heimeran Verlag, 1957).

Conca, F., Marzi, M., and Zanetto, G.,
Antologia Palatina. 3 vols. Vol. 1 (Classici Greci; Turin: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 2005).

Waltz, P.,
Anthologie Grecque (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1928).

Furrther reading on the Greek Anthology:
Cameron, A., The Greek Anthology: From Meleager to Planudes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).

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

Mango, C., "Epigrammes honorifiques, statues et portraits à Byzance," in:
Aphieroma ston Niko Svorono (Rethymno: University of Crete, 1986), vol. 1, 23-35. Reprinted in Mango, C., Studies on Constantinople, Aldershot: Ashgate, 1993.

Record Created By

Efthymios Rizos

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00480Theodore, soldier and martyr of Amaseia and EuchaitaΘεοδώροςCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
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