Two Greek epigrams by George Pisides in the shrine of the Blachernae at Constantinople, celebrating the miraculous raising of the 626 siege of Constantinople with the help of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033). Recorded in the 10th c. Greek Anthology.
Literary - Poems
Greek Anthology, Book 1 (Christian Epigrams), 120-121
ἐν Βλαχέρναις. ἴαμβοι
Εἰ φρικτὸν ἐν γῇ τοῦ Θεοῦ ζητεῖς θρόνον,
ἰδὼν τὸν οἶκον θαύμασον τῆς Παρθένου·
ἡ γὰρ φέρουσα τὸν Θεὸν ταῖς ἀγκάλαις
φέρει τὸν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ τοῦ τόπου σέβας.
ἐνταῦθα τῆς γῆς οἱ κρατεῖν τεταγμένοι
τὰ σκῆπτρα πιστεύουσι τῆς νίκης ἔχειν·
ἐνταῦθα πολλὰς κοσμικὰς περιστάσεις
ὁ πατριάρχης ἀγρυπνῶν ἀνατρέπει.
οἱ βάρβαροι δὲ προσβαλόντες τῇ πόλει,
αὐτὴν στρατηγήσασαν ὡς εἶδον μόνην,
ἔκαμψαν εὐθὺς τοὺς ἀκαμπεῖς αὐχένας.
In Blachernae; iambs
If you seek the dread throne of God on the earth, marvel as you look at the house of the Virgin; for she who carries God in her arms carries him to the majesty of this place. Here those appointed to rule the earth believe that their scepters are made victorious; here the vigilant patriarch averts many catastrophes in the world. The barbarians, attacking the city, on seeing her alone at the head of the army, at once bent their unbending necks.'
εἰς τὸν αὐτὸν ναόν
Ἔδει γενέσθαι δευτέραν Θεοῦ πύλην
τῆς Παρθένου τὸν οἶκον, ὡς καὶ τὸν τόκον·
κιβωτὸς ὤφθη τῆς πρὶν ἐνθεεστέρα,
οὐ τὰς πλάκας φέρουσα τὰς θεογράφους,
ἀλλ᾽ αὐτὸν ἔνδον τὸν Θεὸν δεδεγμένη.
ἐνταῦθα κρουνοὶ σαρκικῶν καθαρσίων
καὶ ψυχικῶν λύτρωσις ἀγνοημάτων·
ὅσαι γάρ εἰσι τῶν παθῶν περιστάσεις,
βλύζει τοσαύτας δωρεὰς τῶν θαυμάτων.
ἐνταῦθα νικήσασα τοὺς ἐναντίους
ἀνεῖλεν αὐτοὺς ἀντὶ λόγχης εἷσ᾽ ὕδωρ·
τροπῆς γὰρ ἀλλοίωσιν οὐκ ἔχει μόνην,
Χριστὸν τεκοῦσα καὶ κλονοῦσα βαρβάρους.
'By the same author, on the same church
God needed to have a second gate, the house of the Virgin, as well as his birth from her. She appeared as an ark more filled with the divine than that of old, not bearing tablets inscribed by God, but holding God himself within it. Here are fountains of purification of the flesh; here is a redemption of errors of the spirit; there is no evil circumstance but from her gushes forth a miraculous gift to cure it. Here, when she overthrew the foe, she destroyed them with a cast of water rather than a spear. Not only once did she alter the course of history: she gave birth to Christ and put the barbarians to flight.'
Text and translation: Paton and Tueller 2014.
Cult building - independent (church)Non Liturgical Activity
Composing and translating saint-related textsMiracles
Miracle after deathProtagonists in Cult and Narratives
Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies
Miraculous interventions in war
Healing diseases and disabilities
Ecclesiastics - bishops
Monarchs and their family
SourceThe 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.
DiscussionThe author of these poems, George Pisides, was one of the foremost literary figures under Heraclius (610-641). A member of the clergy of Saint Sophia and personal friend of Patriarch of Constantinople Sergius I, George was a historian, but he is mainly remembered as a poet (PLRE IIIA, 'Georgius Pisides 54').
These epigrams were almost certainly inscribed in the basilica of Mary at the Blachernae after the successful defence of Constantinople against the invading Avars and Persians in 626. This was the first siege experienced by the East Roman capital, and its repulse was ascribed to a miracle of the Virgin Mary who was believed to have caused the destruction of the enemy’s fleet by a storm, after a procession of her icon on the walls. The basilica of the Blachernae, then still located outside the walls, was found intact after the barbarian attack.
The miracle marks a major point in the development of the cult of Mary as the protector of Constantinople, and one of the most notable cases of a war victory being ascribed to her intervention. Particularly notable is the special role ascribed to Patriarch Sergius I (610-638) in epigram 120, who, in the absence of the emperor Heraclius and the army, directed the defence of the capital, alongside Heraclius’ son Constantine and the patrician Bonos (see Janin 1969, 163).
BibliographyEdition 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).
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).
Further reading on the Greek Anthology:
Cameron, A., The Greek Anthology: From Meleager to Planudes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).
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., “Blachernai, church and palace of,” in: A. Kazhdan (ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 293.
Mango, C., “The origins of the Blachernae shrine at Constantinople,” in: Acta XIII Congressus Internationalis Archaeologiae Christianae. Split-Poreč 25.9. - 1.10.1994 (Vatican City, 1998), vol. 2, 61-76.
|ID||Name||Name in Source||Identity||S00033||Mary, Mother of Christ||ὴ Παρθένος||Certain|
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