The anonymous Greek Life of *Symeon Stylites the Younger (stylite near Antioch, ob. 592, S00860) recounts his ascetic withdrawal, life as a stylite, and numerous miracles in life. It includes references to miracles and shrines of *John the Baptist (S00020), *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), and the *Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (S00103). Written in the late 6th or early 7th c., probably by a monk of the monastery and shrine of the 'Wondrous Mountain' near Antioch (Syria).
Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts
The Life of Symeon Stylites the Younger (CPG 7369, BHG 1689)
Prologue. Introduction to Symeon’s many miracles, which outnumber the grains of sand of the sea. The author will report all that he has heard from his predecessors and all that which he has witnessed himself. He is eschewing a fine style; his pious subject has no need of elaborate rhetoric.
(1) Two perfumers want to betroth their son John to a virgin Martha. Her parents are keen but she wants to maintain her virginity. She prays in a shrine of John the Baptist and is given a sign so she marries John and converts him to a pious way of life. (2) Martha is upset at the loss of her virginity and goes to the shrine of John the Baptist to ask how she can serve Christ. John appears to her in a vision and gives her a miraculous ball of incense. (3) Later she has another vision of John who tells her to lie with her husband and conceive a son whom she must call Symeon, who will be a priest of God; he gives her various instructions about how to raise him, including only feeding him from her right breast. She sleeps with her husband, falls pregnant, and gives birth. (4) She tries to feed Symeon from her left breast as well as her right, and it shrivels up. (5) Symeon is baptised aged two. (6) Whenever his mother eats meat/sacrificial meat [translation unclear] he refuses to drink her milk. When he is older she feeds him bread with honey and water. He refuses to enter hot water and soon she stops trying to bathe him. (7) When Symeon is five, there is a severe earthquake in Antioch in which his father is killed. He is separated from his mother but is rescued by a neighbour. Martha thinks he is dead but John the Baptist tells her where to find him. The neighbour tells her that he has fasted for almost the entire time. (8) Martha has a vision of herself offering Symeon to God. (9) Symeon has a vision of Christ and saints and heaven and hell; the Holy Spirit urges him to live a pious life.
(10) He has a vision of a man dressed in white who tells him to follow him. The man leads him into the deserted mountains. (11) He ascends the mountain and finds a small monastery led by a monk John, who lives on a pedestal. John has previously seen many visions about him. (12) John is overjoyed when Symeon appears. (13) Symeon will barely eat and John is very worried. Symeon advances in wisdom and asceticism. (14) One of the monks is struck by envy and plans to kill him, but his right hand shrivels up. On the point of death he confesses his sin and John asks Symeon to forgive and pray for him; Symeon does this and he is instantly cured. (15) God suggests to Symeon to stand on a pillar next to John’s. (16) Christ appears to him as a child and he talks to him. (17) Symeon says more psalms at night than John does and barely sleeps. John asks him to let the other monks sleep and to take care of himself and to eat more. Symeon resists this, defending his ascetic practice. (18) Symeon is enlightened by the Holy Spirit and has visions of the fantasies and temptations of the devil. (19) He has more visions. A patriarch appears to him and anoints him with oil. This is the start of Symeon’s ascetic life. His baby teeth fall out and he shows them to John and the monks and they glorify God. (20) A man with liver pains comes to the monastery and asks John to ask Symeon to heal him; John asks Symeon, but Symeon is upset and says that he should not be asked as he is a sinner. But he yields and cures the man by touching him, calling on God and making the sign of the cross. (21) He heals a demoniac. (22) He questions John about the devil’s plots; John tells him to stop asking questions but Symeon persists and Satan overhears. He sends tests to Symeon in the form of snakes. Symeon holds firm and makes the devil vanish. (23) The Devil removes Symeon’s cover from his column and stirs up a storm. John is very worried for Symeon and cries out to the monks to help, but the monks are struck by a devilish thought and refuse. John is upset but Symeon reassures him, and survives the night joyfully. John rebukes the monks.
(24) Symeon delivers a lengthy homily to the monks on the theme of reason as the master of the passions. John says that this was the Holy Spirit speaking, not Symeon. (25) Ephraim, patriarch of Antioch, has heard about him and comes to visit him, and tells the Antiochenes about him so that many come to visit. (26) Symeon wraps himself tightly in a rope, until he bleeds profusely and exudes a terrible stench. The monks discover the cause and John orders him to stop, but he repeatedly does the same again. The monks do not understand Symeon’s true virtue. (27) Symeon gives the monks a long sermon about the monastic life. (28) Everyone is impressed and several monks recount visions which they have seen about Symeon. (29) Symeon has a visionary tour of heaven. He advances in asceticism. (30) Symeon gives his clothes to a pauper, and does this many times, even in winter. John tries to persuade him to put on clothes but Symeon says that he is emulating the 40 martyrs of Sebaste. (31) He sits on his feet for a year until his legs fester and rot. The monks are alerted by the smell and John calls a doctor for him, but Symeon laughs and refuses to receive earthly treatment. God heals him. (32) John reproaches Symeon for asking questions about inappropriate matters, but Symeon asks God to give him the gift of grace so that he understands his commands. The Holy Spirit enters him like a lamp and he writes about various spiritual topics, explaining things hidden to many. John is convinced. (33) The monks are filled with fear and see a vision of three apses, thrones, and crowns, which they are told are for Symeon. (34) Symeon decides he needs a forty-foot column. When he is about to ascend, the patriarch of Antioch and the bishop of Seleucia come and ordain him deacon and help move him to the new column. He stays there for eight years, advancing in ascetic practices. (35) The devil tries to tempt him with sexual dreams but he wakes himself and prays to God; a priest appears him with a goblet of the Eucharist who says that he will be saved from dreams of the flesh.
(36) Symeon predicts John’s death, although he is very healthy. John praises Symeon to everyone and then dies. (37) Symeon becomes yet more ascetic and sees more visions. (38) He eschews sleep, and once stays awake for thirty days, until a holy voice tells him that he needs to sleep a little. Satan appears as a snake and tries to bite him—but Symeon chases him off. (39) Satan appears to him in many forms but is repelled. (40) Symeon has a vision of the heavens and Christ and the demons in various forms. Christ gives him a rod to drive away demons. Lots of the sick come to him and are cured. Three angels appear and write the names of the cured in a white book. (41) The angels appear in reality, not a vision, and serve him. One day they say that God has increased his power and they will not write the names any more. Anyone who invokes him will be saved, in all kinds of contexts. Symeon heals many blind people. (42) Symeon heals a mute, demon-possessed child brought by its mother. (43) He heals a Cappadocian man possessed by a demon. He gives a bit of his tunic to the man who takes it and uses it to heal some of his fellow countrymen, who come to Symeon and praise God. (44) He expels from a young man a demon which was making him eat his tongue. (45) He heals an Antiochene from a stomach problem, giving him a part of his clothing. (46) He brings a child back to life after his father comes to ask for his help. (47) He has a vision of Christ and saints and angels. The angels dress him in glory. The Devil is terrified. (48) He heals a demon-possessed woman. (49) A man plots to afflict an old man and his family with demons through drugs. An angel appears to the old man and tells him to take bread to Symeon to get his blessing and to touch him and to take a piece of his robe, and he does this and is protected. (50) So many people come to Symeon to be cured that he blesses sticks and gives them to his disciples to cure people. The sticks only work three times before Symeon needs to touch and bless them again—God arranged this so that the brothers would not become arrogant. (51) Wild beasts attack a man called George near the monastery; he calls on Symeon and God binds the jaws of the animals. (52) There are so many wild beasts around that people cannot travel, so they ask Symeon for help. Symeon says that God is angry because of the people’s many sins, so we must repent. From then on the wild beasts depart. (53) A young man is blinded by an evil spirit after looking at the sun; his parents invoke Symeon and he is cured. (54) A man with a swollen stomach calls on Symeon and sees him in his house, putting the gospels on his stomach. He is cured. (55) Symeon cures a maiden who has an inflamed foot and is possessed by a demon. (56) Lots of suppliants want to leave presents for Symeon, but Symeon refuses to take them. His disciples take the gifts in secret, but he perceives this and rebukes and threatens them.
(57) God reveals to Symeon that Antioch is going to be burnt down by the Assyrians, because its inhabitants are impious and make sacrifices to the demons. The Persians led by Khusro sack Antioch. Symeon prays for the people but God remains angry. He is given protection for himself and his monastery. His prayers prevent some deaths. Two monks flee the monastery and one is killed and the other captured. (58) He heals a retreating soldier with an injured thigh. (59) The Persians approach the monastery so Symeon prays and they withdraw. Another day they approach again and he prays and a dark cloud appears so they cannot see anything. Symeon shines and exudes perfume. (60) The devil makes his disciples afraid so they decide to flee and ask Symeon to come with them, but he refuses. The Persians approach, but Symeon prays to God and they flee. He spends three days alone, divine grace fills his tunic with myrrh, and two angels keep him company. Then his disciples return. (61) He saves many prisoners of war. (62-3) A captured monk and scholarios are saved after invoking Symeon. (64) One of the Persians strikes down an old blind beggar near the monastery. Symeon sends a helper to rescue him and cures him. The name of the saint spreads everywhere and many people come to him.
(65) He is disturbed by the crowds of people so plans to move onto the great neighbouring mountain, which is very barren and desolate and full of wild beasts. Christ appears to him and tells him to move onto the Wondrous Mountain, and shows him the stone he will stand on. (66) He tells the brotherhood about this and appoints an elder as guardian of the existing monastery. He rides a young horse up to the new site. He heals someone with a crippled foot. He arrives on the mountain and hears an army of angels and establishes himself there. The young horse will take no other rider and dies after three days. (67) Symeon, now aged twenty, settles himself on the rock on the mountain. Many supplicants come to his new abode, which upsets him, but he still cures them. (68) A lion almost attacks a suppliant on his way up the mountain, but he invokes Symeon and the lion withdraws. The suppliant tells Symeon and all the crowd about this, and the people are afraid and ask Symeon for help. Symeon sends a disciple to ask the lion to withdraw.
(69) God is angered and strikes the people with plague. Symeon asks God for mercy; God says that their faults are numerous, but grants him the power to cure those who invoke Him through Symeon’s name. Many people call on him, see him appear to them and are cured. (70) Lots of people are cured after lighting lamps in their houses in his name. Crowds of ill people come to him and are cured. (71) One day Symeon calls “us” [here the disciples are referred to in the first person for the first time] and tells them to pray for the church because the patriarch Ephraim is about to die. He has many ominous visions about Ephraim’s successor. His prediction of Ephraim’s death proves true. (72) The emperor Justinian decides to appoint Domninos, the leader of a poor house from the town of Lychnidos, as the new patriarch, without giving any reason for this. When he arrives in Antioch and sees the paupers by the city gate, he is disgusted and wants to have them driven out. The paupers appeal to Symeon, who has pity on them, and promises that they will not be moved. God smites the patriarch with a shameful illness so that he can no longer walk, and many people scorn him. (73) Symeon heals a man from the Persian borders possessed by a demon. The cured man sees Symeon in a vision adorned with a crown and surrounded by celestial armies. (74) Symeon heals a young man of demon possession and a diseased foot. (75) He heals a demon-possessed man, appearing to him in a vision with a fiery stick. (76) A man is bitten by a dangerous snake, but calls on the saint and puts his dust on his foot and is cured. (77) A poor man comes to Symeon in winter and asks for a gift; Symeon says he has nothing but his hair shirt but offers this. The man takes it so Symeon wears nothing for eight months, except for a little cloth.
(78) He foretells that Antioch is going to be hit by a terrible earthquake, but that people will be spared through the intervention of Mary, the saints, and Symeon himself. A series of earthquakes hits. Some pagans and astrologists say that the town will be completely destroyed. But on Saturday Symeon proclaims joyfully that the disaster is over, and the earthquakes stop. (79) A man is attacked by wild beasts and invokes Symeon and is saved. (80) Symeon cures a man who is tormented by three demons. (81) He heals someone with diseased feet. (82) He saves a woman who is possessed by a demon. (83) Lots of girls with suitors/fiancés decide, after seeing and hearing about Symeon and his miracles, to preserve their virginity for Christ. (84) He cures a young mute girl. (85) The renown of his miracles spreads everywhere. (86) He heals a demoniac by cutting his hands and sides invisibly. (87) He heals a paralysed demoniac in a similar fashion. (88) He heals someone with a shrivelled hand. (89) He heals someone with a paralysed hand. (90) Everyone who sees him is amazed and some say that the power of God is in him, but others are scandalised and ask where he has obtained the power to do this. He laments the wickedness of the people. His opponents are ashamed. (91) In the village of Sevēros demons throw a man, Jacob, off a pine tree over a cliff. He invokes Symeon who brings him safely to earth and chains up the demons. (92) Symeon cures a leper, and tells him to go and show himself to the priests who do not believe that it is possible for lepers to be cured. (93) His disciple Julian plans to take gold from the cured people; Symeon discovers this and rebukes him.
(94) The mountain is very deserted and barren. (95) His many visitors are troubled by the desolation of the mountain; God tells him to provide for them. Symeon sees an angel marking out the shape of a monastery and a church on the mountain. More visions. (96) Symeon tells his disciples to draw up plans for buildings according to the model he has been shown. God causes many Isaurians and others to come to seek healing; after being healed they stay to help build the monastery. They determine the periods for which they work and bring their own provisions. More people keep coming to take over from them. (97) Symeon’s disciples worry about sourcing water. Symeon prays and rain comes and they find cisterns dating from pagan times and set up aqueducts. Vast crowds keep arriving. (98) The brothers worry whether there will be enough water; Symeon gets one to test the water levels and they stay steady across four months of summer. (99) The devil sneaks into the foundations of one of the buildings so the workers have to stop, but Symeon drives him out. (100) Symeon arranges for the building of another cistern but the brothers decide to put a gate and lock on it to prevent the crowds using it. Symeon has a vision and tells brothers to unlock the gate. The brothers use it for all their needs and the crowds both use it there and take it away as a eulogia (‘blessing’) to their houses, and it never runs out. (101) He heals a woman, Juliana, and her sister. The sister brings her demon-possessed daughter to be cured but the mother has committed a sin so she is not cured. Symeon always examines thoughts because he does not only cure bodies but souls. The women decide to confess and Symeon’s mother Martha appears, and takes them to the saint and asks him to intercede for them. The girl is cured. (102) Symeon cures of paralysis a servant of Ephraim’s, who had spent three years lying in various churches and being attended by doctors. (103) He sees a vision of crowds of Iberians coming to him to be cured; this happens. Some stay with him in his monastery.
(104) God sees that the human race has destroyed His ways, and reveals this to Symeon. Symeon has a terrifying vision of destruction, and warns his disciples. He has more visions and prays to God to spare at least the just men of Antioch. His prayers have some effect. (105) He writes a troparion and tells the crowds to chant it. Martha comes to him and asks what is going to happen; he tells her and she is terrified. The next day there is a terrible earthquake, although some areas are preserved, according to Symeon’s vision. (106) He composes another troparion and tells the brothers to sing it. He has a vision of himself transported to Constantinople and is told that it will be destroyed in part. This happens. He is praised for his accurate prophecies. (107) The earth continues to shake. Martha comes to Symeon and asks him to dedicate a day to prayer. He chants another troparion. The Holy Spirit tells him to make all the monks pray and they do and the shaking stops.
(108) One of his very pious disciples, John, prays to God to be granted the skills to carve column capitals for the Church of the Holy Trinity. He is given this power. (109) God tells Symeon about John’s imminent death; Symeon is told that he and the other brothers have been inscribed in the Book of Life. Symeon tells John of this and he dies in two days. (110) A particular piece is needed for the construction of the column; Symeon predicts, accurately, that a demoniac will arrive with the missing part. (111) Again they need a particular piece of wood and Symeon correctly predicts that a man with a diseased foot will arrive with it. (112) They build the column. God appears to Symeon and consecrates the column. Symeon wants to ascend the column; he calls his most trusted disciples and asks them to keep the day of his ascent secret. (113) The Sunday after Pentecost he ascends the column. Before ascending he gives a sermon to the brethren and blesses and prays for them. Crowds come and he heals them. (114) He expels from a girl a demon which was causing constipation. (115) He heals a baby from Charandamā of constipation. (116) A priest from the village of Paradeisos, called Thomas, is jealous and anathematises Symeon. He becomes seriously ill. Eventually he asks Symeon for pardon and the saint sends him blessed bread and he is alleviated. (117) Parents of a blind boy take him to Symeon; on the way he is cured. (118) A woman called Theotekna from Rōsopolis in Cilicia is banished by her husband after failing to have a child. She has been possessed by a demon since childhood. She goes to Symeon and he expels the demon. Her husband takes her back and they have a baby. Theotekna puts up an icon of Symeon in her house, and this image performs healing miracles, including healing a woman with a continuous blood flow. (119) A woman from the village of Mylitai is cured of a blood flow after touching Symeon’s column from behind, imitating the haemorrhaging woman in the time of Christ. (120) Symeon cures an old man from a village called Magia of toothache; a new tooth grows. (121) He makes the brothers perform an all-night vigil.
(122) Some of the brothers worry that there is not enough grain and ask Symeon to let them take gifts from suppliants. He rebukes them and prays and the granary is miraculously filled with grain. The grain lasts for three years. (123) Satan incites one of the brothers, the Isaurian Angoulas, to agitate the others to complain about Symeon’s refusal to accept gifts and offerings. Symeon rebukes them. Angoulas responds very rudely. Symeon tells him that he knows that the devil is speaking through him. He has several visions and discovers that because of the brothers’ bad behaviour grace has left the granary store and that the brothers are in danger of famine. He tells them to pray, and they do and repent, and the grain expands again for a while. (124) The saint has a vision and warns the brothers that they are going to be afflicted with tests. He reads to them from the book of Job. He tells them that Satan has been granted a power against them for a while. God tells Satan to strike the good and the children; Satan says that he will start with Symeon. God warns him off this but Satan persists, and says he will incite his disciples against him. God agrees to this. The Holy Spirit tells Symeon that Satan has no power against him. (125) Satan hurls himself on Symeon’s column, and threatens him. He tries to attack him but Symeon is protected by grace. The Devil disappears but makes Symeon’s beard fall out. God makes his beard regrow. The Devil provokes turmoil and disbelief among the brothers and the crowds and makes the leaders of nearby villages angry about pasturing rights. But Symeon’s intercession wins out and many pagans and barbarians convert and the people are appeased and enter into peace with the saint. (126) Then comes the time of tests which the Devil has obtained from God; he strikes Antioch. Martha asks Symeon to pray, which he does; he stops the disturbance in some areas but not everywhere. Symeon sees everything in visions; then people come to the monastery and recount what has happened. (127) Martha again asks Symeon to intercede for the Antiochenes. Symeon sees himself at the south-west gate of Antioch, preventing the Devil from destroying the whole city. Then Satan moves to Symeon’s monastery. Symeon resists him. The devil withdraws to Kassyōtē but says that he will return. Men from Kassyōtē come and tell him that many there have died. Symeon summons the brothers and tells them that the time of tests is imminent. (128) Satan tells Symeon that he will begin his attack through the one who always obeys him—Angoulas. Symeon tells the brothers this and Angoulas retorts rudely. Then he is struck down by a serious illness, as are the other brothers; some of the more thoughtless die. (129) One of Symeon’s best loved disciples, Konon, dies of the plague. Symeon prays several times for him to be brought back. Initially this does not work and he calls reproachfully on Mary, John the Baptist and the other saints. Martha and the brothers are scared. Symeon has a great apocalyptic vision of a trial by the column and Konon is restored to life.
(130) An Iberian priest comes to Symeon and asks for a bit of his hair as a phylactery. Symeon grants this and he takes it home and puts it inside a cross and cures many people with it. The devil makes the local priests denounce him as a magician to the bishop. The bishop believes this and punishes the priest. The priest prays to Symeon for help and the bishop falls severely ill. He realises why this has happened and asks the priest for forgiveness. He is healed and the shrine continues. (131) Persians are raiding nearby and want to pillage the shrine. The priest runs out to hide. When he goes back he finds that the Persians are all dead. (132) Symeon’s disciples and friends want him to accept priesthood, in this time of the diffusion of heretics. Symeon insists that he is unworthy. (133) He hears a voice from heaven telling him to become a priest. (134) He has a vision of Dionysios, bishop of Seleucia, coming to him and ordaining him. The next day the bishop does come and ordain him. (135) He has visions relating to the Eucharist. (136) He heals an Iberian who has swallowed a snake while drunk. (137) He heals a deaf, mute and possessed girl and her blind father. (138) He helps many women who are unable to produce milk for their babies. (139) He helps many women suffering from abnormal pregnancies. (140) He helps many infertile women. (141) People from the part of Antioch called Apatē bring a tall pagan to Symeon who has a serious illness. Symeon tells him to anathematise Aphrodite and idols and to accept the Trinity to be cured. He refuses for three days and gets still more ill but then accepts Christianity and is cured. (142) Symeon cures a girl with diseased hands and feet. (143) He heals a man who was mute and paralysed, after making him renounce paganism. (144) This man has an ill son; he and his wife bring him to the saint but on the way he dies. The father believes that Symeon can restore him to life, but at the entrance of the monastery an Antiochene magistrianos tries to prevent them from taking the corpse in, saying that no-one can be resurrected. Symeon learns of this, and brings the child back to life. (145) He cures a man who had been ill for thirty-five years. (146) He cures a girl who had been mute from birth. Her parents are planning to marry her but she dies in peace. (147) He cures an old man who has been possessed by demons and subjected to satanic visions and is behaving extremely dangerously. (148) He cures an ass whom the previous man had attacked under the influence of the demon. (149) A child falls down a big hole but invokes Symeon so his parents manage to rescue him and find him unharmed. (150) Symeon cures a girl from Laodicea who had been deaf since birth. (151) In Constantinople, Constantine, a silentarios, the son of a patrician, is prevented by a demon from lying with his wife. He sends a messenger to Symeon to ask for help, and Symeon predicts accurately the moment at which the problem is solved. (152) Symeon cures the diseased leg of the son of a widow. (153) He cures someone with a fetid gangrenous foot who has been ill for forty years and whom the doctors cannot cure. (154) He cures a woman’s diseased breast. (155) He cures a mute man. (156) A blind man is cured by Symeon after a vision of Symeon as a shining youth.
(157) Some impious men in Antioch go around blaspheming in various ways, some claiming that the movement of the stars is causing the earthquakes, and some believing in automatism, others in Manichaeism. Some of them hear about Symeon’s miracles and go to challenge him. But they cannot withstand his grace and withdraw. They try to think of ways to plot against him. (158) An Antiochene whom he delivers from a demon puts up an icon of the stylite in a public place. Some of the impious persuade a soldier to throw it down but he falls down himself—this happens three times. (159) The Holy Spirit enters a prostitute and makes her rebuke them for their sinful efforts. The icon stays in its place in honour. (160) Symeon hears about this and asks God to send someone to punish the unbelievers. He sees himself in Constantinople in the imperial palace, where a man is given power over the East. He then sees him in Antioch, followed by the Jordan, punishing many men. He explains this vision to his disciples. (161) Within four months Amantios, the fearful leader, comes to Antioch, punishing wrongdoing so severely that even the guiltless are scared of him. Symeon has another vision about him. Amantios investigates and finds most of the leading men of Antioch engaged in Hellenism and Manichaeism and astrology and other heresies. He punishes them with imprisonment, fines and burning of books. (162) Symeon is told in a vision that God is refuting the pagans. He sees himself healing a paralysed beggar. (163) A pauper comes to Symeon and asks him for some of his dust, which he customarily gives to the poor for their upkeep, and he takes it and uses it to help cure a paralytic. (164) Symeon tells the monks about another vision, of Amantios at a tribunal interrogating the prisoners. The next day Amantios decrees various punishments, including a few deaths, although he releases many. Only one is kept in prison, who has caused lots of agitation during popular disorders. (165) Three people come to Symeon to tell him that this prisoner has done them kind charitable deeds, so Symeon prays for him, and he is freed.
(166) In Lent he tells the brothers the revelations that he received as a child about the need to fast. (167) He cures a man whose genitals have swollen up after he was deceived by a demon pretending to be his wife. (168) He heals a man from Caesarea in Cappadocia, the relative of Longinus who became a patrician, from a terrible hernia. One of the brothers, Angoulas, makes rude and sceptical comments. (169) A hermit monk in Laodicea becomes disheartened and wants to visit Symeon. Symeon tells him not leave his cell, but after a few days a demon makes him leave and have intercourse with a woman. He goes to Symeon and repents leaving his cell but does not confess his sexual sin. Symeon discerns his sin and reproaches him, whereupon he repents. (170) A monk collapses of thirst while climbing the mountain; Symeon discerns this and sends two monks to revive him. (171) There is a very harsh winter. Symeon tells the brethren that this represents the present epoch. But in the future the good will be rewarded and the bad punished. He promises them a sign to make them believe; the terrible weather briefly stops and the sun shines hotly as if in summer. (172) While some Isaurians are working in the monastery there is a terrible storm; they flee but Symeon tells them to keep working and successfully orders the rain to stop. (173) There is a shortage of charcoal; Symeon accurately predicts that a man will arrive the next day with two mules carrying charcoal. (174) Symeon miraculously discerns that his brothers are behaving inappropriately and reproaches them. (175) A monk is sent to buy salt but embezzles some of the money; Symeon discerns this and reproaches him. (176) A bear comes into the gardens of the lower monastery and touches a fruit, but Symeon prevents him from eating it. Symeon tells the brothers that any beast which enters the garden will be struck by an invisible blow—this happens to a wild boar. (177) He cures a demoniac called Theodore and saves him from a storm. (178) He prevents a leopard from eating one of his disciples. (179) A widow comes to Symeon and asks him to avenge an injustice she has suffered. He discerns that she is lying, accuses her, and she confesses. (180) A man with one blind eyes comes to Symeon to ask him to help him find twelve pieces of gold which had been stolen from him. Symeon heals his eye and tells him that this is a more valuable gift than gold. But the gold is also miraculously restored to him. (181) He helps a woman whose possessions have been stolen; the thief is struck by a demon and repents. (182) A boar causes trouble in the monastery’s fields, causing the brothers to complain to Symeon. In the night a lion kills the boar. (183) People are afraid of the lion and ask Symeon to send it away, so he does but sometimes brings it back to do tasks like dealing with wild beasts. (184) Two pagans who have been cured by the saint are bringing him two sheep in thanks, but the lion attacks the sheep and kills them. The men go to the saint, weeping, but he tells them to confess why this happened; they admit that they were considering selling the sheep instead of giving them to him. (185) The lion breaches discipline and attacks a calf. Symeon curses it and it falls off a precipice and dies.
(186) The bloodthirsty pagan phylarch of the pro-Persian Saracens, Alamoundaros (Al-Mundhir), has been terrorising the East. At a meeting between Byzantine ambassadors and Khusro he boasts about the damage that he has done to the Christians. He comes to the Byzantine frontier. Symeon has a vision. (187) Symeon reports that he saw himself near the frontier of the Persian and Greek Saracens, in the middle of the Greek camp of Arethas. At Symeon’s prayer, the Holy Spirit threw a ball of fire at Alamoundaros and knocked him down. The following week news reaches Antioch of the defeat of Alamoundaros, and some Greek soldiers come to Symeon and say that they were saved after praying to him. (188) A young pagan is possessed by a demon, stays in the oratory of the Isaurians, and repents. A blind man is cured by Symeon. (189) The blind man cures the former pagan by invoking Symeon. The healed man burns his idols. (190). This man gets engaged to the daughter of a pagan. At the wedding everyone is smitten by demons for failing to get Symeon’s blessing. They repent and are cured. (191) Symeon heals many people from Cappadocia. (192) He heals some suppliants from the village of Koubramōn in the region of Seleucia in Isauria, including a young mute girl. (193) He heals a young mute girl from Daphne, whose father is extremely sceptical but subsequently repents. (194) A man called Babylas is much mocked because he is entirely bald. Symeon gives him some of his dust and tells him to smear it on his body, but the man does not believe that this will make his hair regrow so does not do it. (195) A deacon called Epiphanios from the same village falls very ill after plotting against the saint. He asks for forgiveness and is healed, along with his children. (196) Epiphanios goes to stay at the monastery, bringing one of his children with him. The devil pushes the child off the roof of the building where Symeon’s hairs are stored, and he falls down and dies, but Symeon brings him back to life. (197) Epiphanios persuades Babylas to ask Symeon for help again. Babylas goes to Symeon and his hair grows back. (198) A paralysed man is cured by oil lit in honour of the name of Symeon. (199) Symeon heals a man with swollen genitals. (200) He heals a young woman who is tormented by a demon. (201) He helps some men from the land of the Ishmaelites recover a lost mule.
(202) A pious scholastikos, John, goes to Symeon to ask for advice. Symeon predicts that God has ordained the patriarchal see of Constantinople for him. The scholastikos asks who will be emperor after Justinian. (203). Symeon tells him that it will be Justin, but that John should keep this a secret. John goes to Constantinople and tells Justin about the prophecy, so they become close friends. (204) Symeon tells the brothers to pray for the Church of Antioch, because he has had a vision foretelling Domninos of Antioch’s death and replacement by an excellent Palestinian. This happens: Domninos dies and is succeeded by Anastasios. (205) Later the patriarch of Constantinople, Eutychios, is deposed. Justinian appoints John to succeed him. (206) After Justinian’s death Justin becomes emperor, as Symeon has foretold. Justin is very devoted to Symeon. (207) Symeon cures Justin’s sick daughter. (208) Justin falls ill and writes to Symeon; Symeon tells him that he will be cured as long as he does not use any wicked remedies. But Empress Sophia is persuaded to bring Timothy, a Jewish sorcerer, to take care of Justin. Patriarch John tries but fails to prevent this. (209) Symeon sees what is happening in a vision and writes to John to say that a great punishment will fall upon Justin if he does not desist. John cannot persuade Sophia and Justin. (210) Symeon has a vision foretelling Justin’s humiliation and writes to John about it. (211) A few days later they hear that Justin has become mad. On the point of death Justin crowns Tiberius as emperor.
(212) A young child with a diseased foot is cured when his mother takes him to Symeon. His father is sceptical and the disease is transferred to him. He goes to Symeon and confesses and is cured. (213) Symeon cures a woman of blindness and her daughter of a genital problem. (214) The women’s neighbour is a hard man who lies and hurls abuse against Symeon’s miracles. He is possessed by a demon and goes to be cured by Symeon, but remains obdurate until Symeon inflicts on him a mouldy and worm-infested right hand. He ultimately repents and is cured. (215) A man comes from Mount Cassius to visit Symeon but eats some of the offering that he is bringing on the way. When he sees Symeon he is paralysed by fear, but Symeon makes him confess and he is freed. (216) A similar miracle about a certain Kyriakos from Bitagōn who eats carom beans that he finds on the road. (217) There is a great drought. Many come to pray to Symeon, and those who listen with faith find that their water sources produce lots of water. But some wicked men spread the accusation that Symeon has foretold that there will be no rain that year. He denies this, prays, and it begins to rain heavily. (218) He heals an elderly widow after her son appeals to him. (219) In the fortress of Soura an insolent young soldier mocks a leper, who prays to God. The first soldier is struck by leprosy, but ultimately repents and goes to Symeon and is cured. (220) The skrinarios Theodore has leprosy and goes to Symeon but is too ashamed to reveal his condition in front of the crowd. Symeon perceives this, makes him undress, and subsequently heals him.
(221) Symeon exposes one of the Antiochene notables, who comes to his monastery and tries to skip the queue for communion, as a secret demon worshipper and committer of many sins. He makes him repent. (222) A notable from Epiphania comes to Symeon to give him aloe wood. When burnt it emits a terrible stench. Symeon rebukes the man and forces him to confess his sins and repent. (223) John, a priest and oikonomos of the Church of Apamea, visits Symeon’s monastery with his family. Symeon exposes his impieties and blasphemies and idol-worship and makes him repent. (224) Anastasios, an Antiochene scholastikos, slanders Symeon, denying that God performs miracles through him. Symeon is initially patient but later sends him an angry letter; upon receipt of this Anastasios is seized by a demon and thrown down and dies in the public portico. (225) A deacon from Antioch, John, keeps blaspheming against Symeon. Symeon sends a message to tell him that he will be possessed by a demon for the rest of his life to make him humble. He is possessed by a demon and asks Symeon for forgiveness. Symeon stops it for forty days but refuses to stop it permanently, saying that it is good for him. (226) The Goth Bikentios, after seeing Symeon’s miracles, converts from Arianism to orthodoxy. Symeon cures his tooth problem. He asks Symeon how to be saved and Symeon tells him to hate the enemies of God, who are the Jews and those who deny that Christ is the Son of God. So Bikentios goes and attacks these people. Then Symeon tells him just to hate them in his heart. (227) Symeon cures an Isaurian, Konon, when doctors are planning to amputate his foot. (228) Symeon heals an Isaurian, Thomas, after he steals three grapes from the monastery field and is transformed into a different, terrifying person. (229) George, a young man, is possessed by a demon after opening an old tomb in the hope of finding treasure. His wife abandons him and their baby. He seeks help from Symeon, who drives the demon out of the man into his wife so that she learns pity. They are reconciled and Symeon expels the demon. (230) He heals a man, Babylas, of blindness, and his family of their illnesses. He transforms the low-quality wine of various struggling wine merchants into high-quality wine, by putting his dust into it. (231) He performs numerous miracles in favour of a priest from a village called Basilea and his children. The priest’s patrons are unbelievers and mock him; they lose all their riches. (232) Symeon sends some of his disciples to Constantinople. Theodore the praetorian prefect asks one of them for Symeon’s help to cure him of a secret malady. He is healed despite some initial concern. (233) A scholastikos, Evagrios, from Epiphania but resident in Antioch, has blasphemous thoughts after he loses his daughter to plague but a pagan neighbour’s children have not died. The Holy Spirit informs Symeon so he writes to Evagrios, who comes to him and begs for pardon. (234) A man with a diseased hand goes to Symeon for healing. On his way home he meets a brick-layer from Cilicia who says that Symeon is an imposter and magician. The hand disease transfers to this sceptical man. He spends all his money trying but failing to find a cure and has to go to Symeon and repent. (235) Dorotheos, one of Symeon’s disciples, saves a boat he is travelling on from being shipwrecked by persuading the crew to invoke Symeon and by putting Symeon’s dust on the boat. (236) Symeon heals the ship’s captain’s young son. (237) Symeon helps eight Armenian workers recover their money after it falls into the Orontes. (238) A young child calls upon Symeon and is saved from a wolf who has captured him. (239) A priest from the village of Kassa is inspired by a demon to anathematise Symeon. He is bound by demons and loses the ability to perform the liturgy. He is mocked and loses his money. His congregation threaten to expel him, so he goes to Symeon and seeks pardon and is cured. (240) Symeon predicts to two of his disciples that after his death another disciple, Angoulas, will become a traitor and a Judas and cause blasphemies. The narrator notes that this became true soon after Symeon’s death. (241) He heals a man from Amanos of three demons and various maladies. (242) He heals a man with deformed feet. (243) He frees a young woman from a demon. She enters the monastic life. Many young women stay pure because of Symeon. (244) He heals a mute girl. (245) He heals a demoniac. (246) He heals a paralytic. (247) He heals a withered hand. (248) He heals a paralysed hand. (249) He heals someone’s diseased feet. (250) He heals a blind person. (251) He heals a young blind man who initially has little faith. (252) He heals a paralysed woman. (253) He heals some Iberians suffering from leprosy. (254) Summary of Symeon’s many miracles—all kinds of healings. (255) The different ways in which Symeon works miracles. (256) When Symeon is about to die he summons his disciples and reveals mysteries to them. He has been fed mystically every Sunday since childhood. Gives final advice to the disciples. (257) Ten days later he dies after the evening psalmody. (258) Summary of how long he spent on different columns and his age. Although dead he still works miracles through his body. (259) Conclusion and final prayer.
Summary: Lucy Parker
Cult building - monasticRejection, Condemnation, Sceptisism
Other (mountain, wood, tree, pillar)
Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)
Destruction/humiliation of imagesUse of Images
Scepticism/rejection of miracles
Private ownership of an imageNon Liturgical Activity
Public display of an image
Composing and translating saint-related texts
Visiting/veneration of living saint
Miracle during lifetimeRelics
Miraculous power through intermediary
Miracles causing conversion
Fertility- and family-related miracles (infertility, marriages)
Healing diseases and disabilities
Miracle with animals and plants
Apparition, vision, dream, revelation
Miraculous protection - of people and their property
Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future)
Miraculous interventions in war
Bodily relic - nails, hair and bodily productsProtagonists in Cult and Narratives
Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes
Contact relic - water and other liquids
Ecclesiastics - bishopsCult Related Objects
Ecclesiastics - abbots
Foreigners (including Barbarians)
Relatives of the saint
Monarchs and their family
Merchants and artisans
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Ampullae, flasks, etc.
SourceThe author of the Life of Symeon Stylites the Younger is most probably an anonymous monk of Symeon’s monastery on the ‘Wondrous Mountain’. John of Damascus claims that the Life was written by Arcadius, archbishop of Cyprus in the first half of the seventh century, but this is found in no other reference to, or manuscript of, the Life. The date of the text is not certain. The earliest of the nine extant Greek manuscripts dates from the late ninth century, but the Life certainly predates this, as it had already been translated into Syriac in the early ninth century (828-9). The other derivative forms of the Life which survive or are attested to have existed (including Georgian and Arabic translations, and Greek metaphrases and abbreviations) are less useful in establishing its original dating. More helpful are two eighth-century citations of the Life, one in the Acts of the Second Council of Nicaea (787), and the other in the third discourse of John of Damascus on images, probably dating from the early eighth century. Thus—unless one is persuaded by the arguments about widespread later interpolations to these iconophile texts—external evidence situates the Life within, at the latest, 150 years of Symeon’s death in 592.
Vincent Déroche has suggested that it was written during the reign of Phokas (602-10), since its author never refers to Phokas’s murdered predecessor Maurice despite evidence elsewhere that Symeon enjoyed close relations with him. This argument is appealing, but not conclusive, particularly given that the author is equally silent on the reign of Tiberius. In many chapters of the Life the author presents himself as an eye-witness to the events described, but such claims are widespread in hagiography and should not necessarily be taken as reliable. Nonetheless, it does seem likely that the text was written fairly soon after the stylite’s death. The Life contains references to outbreaks of hostility towards Symeon within the monastery, as well as a polemic against a monk, Angoulas, who allegedly caused a scandal in the monastery shortly after Symeon died. It is difficult to see why the author would be so interested in these conflicts, and in particular in blackening the name of Angoulas, were he not a monk of the monastery who had some experience of this conflict after their leader’s death.
The Life contains various signs that its author may have been drawing on or compiling earlier sources. Some miracle stories seem to be repeated at different points in the work; some characters are introduced on multiple occasions as if for the first time. One of the sources may well be a record of Symeon’s sermons; there are close textual links between some passages in the Life and the independent sermon collection which survives attributed to Symeon (Van den Ven 1957), and it is probable that the version preserved in the Life is dependent upon the sermon collection (Parker 2016). Other sources are difficult to identify, but it seems likely that he could have used earlier records of Symeon’s miracles. One text which he does not appear to have known is the Ecclesiastical History of Evagrios Scholastikos, even though Evagrios discusses Symeon’s piety and miracles. One of the miracles recounted by Symeon’s hagiographer (c.233) is also reported in Evagrios (VI.23), but the accounts seem to be independent.
DiscussionThe Life of Symeon is exceptionally long for a late antique hagiographic work, and contains so many miracle accounts that it is has sometimes been described as a miracle collection rather than a saint’s life. It does, however, describe the progression of the saint’s life from his parentage and infancy, to his entrance to the monastic life and ascetic development, to his ascent onto progressively higher columns and his decision to relocate from the ‘Lower Monastery’ to the new site on the ‘Wondrous Mountain’. The Life is very ambitious and wide-ranging in its scope: it covers major events and disasters not only in Antioch (including plague, earthquakes, and Persian invasion) but also across the East (such as the incursions of Al-Mundhir the Persian Arab leader) and in Constantinople (such as Justin II’s descent into madness). It provides the only account of an anti-pagan purge by the governor of the East Amantios in Antioch. Some of these reports arguably have an apologetic tone; the hagiographer has to explain why Symeon has failed to defend the Antiochenes, and even the monks of his own monastery, from natural disasters, disease and invasion.
Symeon’s cult has sometimes been presented as a Chalcedonian counterpart to the supposed Miaphysite takeover of the shrine of *Symeon Stylites the Elder at Qalaat Semaan, but there is no evidence for this in the text. The only references to heresies are vague or outdated: we encounter an Arian but no Miaphysites. The text seems, if anything, to have an irenic attitude towards Christological controversy. The hagiographer does, however, claim that there were many pagans in Antioch at this time, particularly among the city’s upper echelons.
The Life presents a picture of a highly developed cultic site at Symeon’s monastery on the Wondrous Mountain. Symeon is said to have performed miracles through diverse means, including touch, saliva, pieces of his clothing, batons which he blessed and his disciples could use three times to cure the sick, his ‘dust’, his eulogiae (tokens with his image made from this dust), blessed water and bread. Two icons of the saint in Antioch are said to have performed miracles (although it has been argued that these passages are later interpolations). Symeon frequently appears in visions and dreams to suppliants in their houses to announce or effect cures. Occasionally these visions involve the saint giving seemingly bizarre instructions, in a manner resembling the miracles of Asklepios. The text refers to a building within Symeon’s monastery where his hairs were stored, presumably to be distributed as thaumaturgic blessings. It also refers in passing to his dust being distributed to the poor for their upkeep.
The text contains references to the cults of other saints, like John the Baptist (par. 1-3), the 40 Martyrs (30), and Mary (78, 129).
BibliographyEditions and translations:
Van den Ven, P. La Vie ancienne de S. Syméon Stylite le Jeune (521-592) (Subsidia Hagiographica 31) Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 2 vols, 1962-70. Volume I contains the edition, volume II a French translation and commentary.
Cremonesi, C. ‘Sacrifice and Ascesis: the Taboo of Meat and the Holy Child’, in V. Mehl and P. Brulé eds., Le sacrifice antique: vestiges, procédures et stratégies Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2008, 253-64.
Déroche, V. ‘Quelques interrogations à propos de la Vie de Syméon Stylite le Jeune’, Eranos 94 (1996), 65-83.
Déroche, V. ‘Tensions et contradictions dans les recueils de miracles de la première époque Byzantine’, in D. Aigle ed. Miracle et karāma: hagiographies médiévales comparées, Bibliothèque de l'École des hautes études. Sciences religieuses 109, Hagiographies médiévales comparées, 2 Turnhout: Brepols, 2000, 145-166.
Déroche, V. 2004. ‘La forme de l’informe: la Vie de Théodore of Sykéôn et la Vie de Syméon Stylite le Jeune’, in P. Odorico and A.A. Panagiotis (eds.) Les Vies des saints à Byzance, genre littéraire ou biographie historique?, Paris: Centre d'études byzantines, néo-helléniques et sud-est européennes, Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, 2004, 367-385.
Festugière, A.J., ‘Types épidauriens de miracles dans la Vie de Syméon Stylite le Jeune’, The Journal of Hellenic Studies 93 (1973), 70-73.
Harvey, S.A. ‘The Stylite’s Liturgy: Ritual and Religious Identity in Late Antiquity’, Journal of Early Christian Studies, 6.3 (1998), 523-539.
Millar, F. ‘The Image of a Christian Monk in Northern Syria: Symeon Stylites the Younger’, in C. Harrison, C. Humfress and I. Sandwell eds., Being Christian in Late Antiquity: a Festschrift for Gillian Clark, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, 278-96.
Nasrallah, J. ‘Une Vie arabe de Saint Syméon le Jeune (521-592)’, Analecta Bollandiana 90 (1972), 387-9.
Parker, L. Symeon Stylites the Younger and his cult in context: hagiography and society in sixth- to seventh-century Byzantium, Unpublished D.Phil. Thesis, University of Oxford, 2016.
Van den Ven, P. ‘Les écrits de S. Syméon Stylite le Jeune avec trois sermons inédits’, Le Muséon 70 (1957), 1-55.
|ID||Name||Name in Source||Identity||S00020||John the Baptist||Ἰωάννης||Certain||S00033||Mary, Mother of Christ||Certain||S00103||Forty Martyrs of Sebaste||Τεσσαράκοντα μάρτυρες||Certain||S00860||Symeon the Younger, stylite near Antioch, ob. 592.||Συμεὼν||Certain||S00864||Martha, mother of Symeon Stylites the Younger, ob. late 6th c.||Μάρθα||Certain||S00865||Konon, brother of Symeon the Stylite, the Younger||Κόνων||Certain|
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