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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


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


In the 640s, Eleusios-Georgios of Sykeon composes the Life of *Theodoros (ascetic and abbot of Sykeon, ob. 613, S01619), recounting the life, ascetic feats, and miracles of its hero, and the foundation of the monastic centre of Sykeon in Galatia (central Anatolia). The text mentions several shrines and festivals of saints in cities and villages of Anatolia, and also in Constantinople and the Holy Land. Written in Greek at Sykeon. Overview entry

Evidence ID

E05291

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts

Georgios of Sykeon, Life of Theodoros, abbot of Sykeon and bishop of Anastasiopolis (CPG 7973 = BHG 1748)

Summary (names of other saints in bold):

I. Theodoros’ childhood

Origins and early years
1-4. Theodoros’ mother, Maria, grandmother, Elpidia, and aunt Despoinia, run an inn at Sykeon, a village located on the imperial highway, 12 miles from Anastasiopolis in Galatia. They practice prostitution. During the reign of Justinian, Maria sleeps with a visiting imperial official called Kosmas, and has a dream vision of a star coming down into her womb. A local holy man and the bishop of Anastasiopolis, Theodosios, interpret this as indicating the birth of a great person.

5. Theodoros is born. When he is six years old, his mother plans for him a career as an imperial official, but
*Georgios (soldier and martyr, S00259) appears to her and announces that he will be dedicated to God. At the age of eight, the boy is sent to a teacher to be educated.

6. The three women give up prostitution, and their hostel is frequented by imperial officials who are impressed by the excellent food produced by the pious cook Stephanos. He becomes Theodoros’ first spiritual father and frequently takes him to churches and services. As a schoolboy, Theodoros practices fasting, which worries his mother.

7. Theodoros prays at the shrine (μαρτύριον) of
Georgios, incited by the martyr who appears to him in a vision.

Age 12-14: First ascetic exercises and miracle
8. At the age of twelve, Theodoros is afflicted by the bubonic plague. He is miraculously healed at the shrine (εὐκτήριον) of *John (the Baptist, S00020) in the outskirts of Sykeon. At night, the Martyr Georgios wakes Theodoros up and leads him to pray at his shrine. As they walk in the dark, the martyr drives away demons with his sword.

9. Theodoros’ mother and relatives react against his prayers, but the martyr appears and threatens them with his sword. Theodoros is supported in his ascetic inclination by his beloved young sister, Blatta.

10. At the age of twelve, he spends a night at the church (ναός) of the martyr *
Gemellos (martyr of Ancyra, S01998), which was near his home. He has a vision of Christ encouraging him, and, during Lent, he practices reclusion and silence at his home.

11. The devil appears in the form of Theodoros’ friend, Gerontios, and tempts Theodoros. The Martyr Georgios appears and saves him.

12. Theodoros settles at the shrine of Georgios. He returns his golden girdle and jewels to his mother and refuses to return home.

13. He learns the Psalter by heart, after praying at the oratory (εὐκτήριον) of *
Christophoros (martyr of Pamphylia, S00616) near the village. He visits several churches, praying and singing to God, and attends all festivals of saints, such as the vigil (παννυχίς) of the *Heuretos/Heuretes (martyr, S02000) at Iouliopolis where he would go and return within a few hours, for he was a fast runner (see E05349).

14. He visits the holy hermit Glykerios who lived at Trapezai, ten miles from Sykeon. He requests his blessing to become a monk. As it was a period of drought, Glykerios invites Theodoros to pray with him for rain, standing outside by the apse of the local oratory (εὐκτήριος οἶκος) of
John the Baptist. Rain falls and Glykerios blesses Theodoros.

Age 14-18: Retreat at the shrine of Georgios
15. At the age of 14, Theodoros leaves his home for good and settles at the shrine of Georgios. His mother and relatives bring him bread and cooked poultry, but he leaves them outside to be eaten by the birds or passers-by. He only eats from food offered at the shrine.

16. Theodoros goes to a place which is haunted by Artemis and other demons, but nothing happens and he returns to the shrine. He digs a cavern under the church’s altar. On Epiphany, he attends the blessing of waters, and enters the river in the frost. His grandmother, Elpidia, supports him in his asceticism, but his mother does not. The bishop of Anastasiopolis, Theodosios, hears about the boy’s asceticism and is pleased.

17. A demon causes him to fall ill.
Georgios heals him, and promises him power over spirits.

18. Theodoros exorcises a possessed boy.

19-20. Theodoros retires to the higher parts of the mountain, where he disappears for two years. Only a deacon knows his secret and brings him food. At some point, however, worrying that the boy might die, the deacon discloses Theodoros’ retreat to his relatives. The people find him half dead and bring him back to the shrine of Georgios. His mother, grandmother, and relatives weep over him as if he were dead. He recovers, but refuses to return home.

21. Bishop Theodosius of Anastasiopolis visits Theodoros and, impressed by his extreme asceticism, ordains him a reader, subdeacon, deacon, and priest. The only dignity Theodoros is missing is that of a monk. He is only eighteen years old, and people criticise the bishop for ordaining such a young person, but he replies that the boy is worthy.

22. Georgios, the author of the text, has heard the stories about Theodoros’ childhood from the saint himself, and from his contemporaries. He has written it as an example for the edification of the young.


II. Theodoros as abbot of Sykeon

The foundation of the monastic centre of Sykeon
23. Theodoros establishes his dwelling on the rocky site of the shrine of Georgios. He desires to see the Holy Land.

24. He visits all the shrines of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the monasteries of the desert, and the Jordan. At the monastery of
*Mary (mother of Christ, S00033) in Choziba, he is tonsured a monk, and returns to Galatia.

25. Theodoros’ mother marries an official and moves to Ancyra, taking with her a part of the family fortune. His grandmother, aunt, and sister stay at Sykeon and live in chastity. When his aunt Despoinia dies, she bequeaths her property to Theodoros, and he buries her at the church (ναός) of
Gemellos. His sister, Blatta, is sent to a monastery in Ancyra, where she dies three years later. His grandmother, Elpidia, gives up the inn, and is settled by Theodoros at the monastery of Christophoros. There she receives girls troubled by demons, some of whom become nuns. Theodoros hires a salaried servant.

26. Theodoros is joined by a man from a neighbouring village who becomes a monk, and by the young man Philoumenos, previously a teacher at the village of Mossyna. Philoumenos serves as a teacher, scribe, and choir master in the monastery. The author of the text, Georgios, was one of his pupils. Theodoros, Philoumenos, and the third monk run the monastery, and further monks join.

26a. At the village of Ergobrotis/Ergobroteos, Theodoros cleanses a haunted place, by closing himself up in a cave during the winter. The place becomes a site of healing, and people eat or drink of its earth, in order to be healed.

27-31. Theodoros asks the locals to make for him an iron cage, where he intends to practice his reclusion. The cage is set up at the church (ναός) of John the Baptist at Ergobroteos, and Theodoros spends there the whole time from Christmas to Palm Sunday. He spends long periods in the cage, bound in iron chains and fetters.

32. Theodoros’ grandmother, Elpidia, finishes the nunnery and dies.

33. His mother also dies, and Theodoros achieves the forgiveness of her soul by God.

Miracles in Galatia
34. Theodoros helps the steward of the church of Heliopolis to find his son who has escaped with the money of the church tribute.

35. He delivers a possessed woman who was under the spell of the sorcerer Theodotos of the village of Mazamia, in the territory of Mnizos. The exorcism is performed at the shrine (ναός) of the
*Archangel (probably Michael, S00181).

36. Theodoros delivers the village of Mazamia from a plague of locusts in July. They pray at the local church (καθολικὴ ἐκκλησία) of
*Eirenikos (martyr, S01999).

37-38. At the same village, the sorcerer Theodotos attempts to kill Theodoros, but is defeated. He converts to Christianity and is baptised after destroying his magical books and delivering all the victims of his spells.

First Expansion of the monastery (see E05283)
39. When he returns to his monastery, Theodoros falls severely ill and is about to die. Above him, there is an icon of *Kosmas and Damianos (brothers, physician martyrs, S00385), who appear and offer to intercede on his behalf. Theodoros is given some more time to live (see E05350).

40. He performs manifold miracles, especially cures and exorcisms. The visitors are so many that the church of Georgios cannot accommodate them. Theodoros builds a new church of
Michael the Archangel, flanked by smaller oratories of John the Baptist and Mary the Virgin. The church of Michael is constantly open to visitors, and services are celebrated for those waiting for healing or exorcism.

41. Theodoros shines by his virtue in the monastic community. He sends the monk Philoumenos to be ordained as priest and abbot by the bishop of Anastasiopolis, so that he [Theodoros] may focus on his asceticism.

42. The monastery grows in size and splendour. Theodoros sends his archdeacon to Constantinople to buy precious liturgical vessels. The archdeacon brings a chalice of pure silver, but it is miraculously revealed that the metal was defiled by its previous use – its metal had come from the vessels of a prostitute.

Miracles in Bithynia, Pontus and Ancyra
43. At the village of Bouzaion, in the territory of Krateia, evil spirits are accidentally released by workers digging on a mountain. Theodoros visits the place and forces them back into the earth.

44. The landowner (
ktetor) Theodoros from Herakleia of Pontus invites Theodoros to pray at the local church of Mary (οἶκος τῆς παναγίας Θεοτόκου), in order to deliver him and his house from evil spirits which have come out of a hole dug on his estate (see $E05352).

45. The notables (
protectores) of Ancyra invite Theodoros to help with a great pandemic which afflicts people and animals. On his way back to the monastery, his prayers render a dangerous passing of the river Siberis safe.

Notable Disciples
46. A possessed boy called Arsinos is brought to the monastery. Theodore allows a long time to pass before he delivers him from his spirit. The exorcism occurs, while they are walking towards the nunnery of Christophoros. The demon confesses to seeing the martyr coming to help.

47-48. Arsinos follows a life style of strict asceticism, and is joined by two other monks, Evagrios and Andreas. Some years later, they receive Theodoros’ blessing to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Evagrios joins the monastery (Lavra) of
*Sabas (the Sanctified, $S00910) in Palestine, whereas Arsinos and Andreas return to Galatia, and excel as ascetics, practising reclusion in cages, like Theodoros. Arsinos later becomes a stylite.

49. Other disciples include: Reparatos, a man of noble descent, who settles in Lycaonia; Elpidios who settles near Sinai; Leontios, who lives at the village of Permathaia and dies a martyr during the Persian invasion; Theodoros, later abbot of the monastery of
*Autonomos (martyr of Nicomedia, $S00016); Stephanos, abbot of the monastery of *Theodoros (the martyr of Amasea and Euchaita?, $S00480) near the river Psilis.

Second pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and miracles of power over nature
50-51. Theodoros goes on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, during the time of a great drought in Palestine. Galatians inform the locals of his miraculous powers, and he is invited by the Patriarch to pray for rain. At Theodoros' instructions, a procession is held and after his prayers rain falls.

52-53. Similar miracles are performed in Galatia. He protects the village of Reake from a periodical hailstorm, and controls the flow of the river Kopas.

Connection with the emperor Maurice and second expansion of the monastery
54. Theodoros meets the future emperor Maurice and prophesies his accession to the throne. As emperor, Maurice exchanges letters with Theodoros, awards to the monastery an annual grant of 200 modii of wheat, and sends him a chalice and paten.

55-56. Theodoros spends the rest of his inherited fortune on the building of a new large church of Georgios, with three apses and chapels for
*Platon (martyr of Ancyra, $S00650), and for *Sergios and Bakchos (martyrs of Syria, $S00023, $S00079). Theodoros' miracles assist in the building (see E05283).

Theodoros’ episcopate (c. 585-596)
57. Theodoros prophesies that the new church will be dedicated by a bishop, which proves to be a reference to himself.

58. Timotheos, bishop of Anastasiopolis, dies, and the local clerics and notables request from the metropolitan of Ancyra that Theodoros be appointed as their bishop. Theodoros resists, but the Anastasiopolitans abduct him forcibly to Ancyra. Archbishop Paulos ordains him and the bishop of Kinna enthrones him at Anastasiopolis. He becomes an excellent bishop, whose presence inspires great virtue in the locals, leading Anastasiopolis to prosperity.

59. Theodoros consecrates the new church of
Georgios at his monastery, and returns to Anastasiopolis where he performs manifold miracles.

60. While praying at the chapel of
Platon in Sykeon, Theodoros heals a possessed woman, using holy oil.

61. Dometianos, deacon of the cathedral, is sceptical about Theodoros' miracles, till he witnesses the healing of a dumb child.

62-63. Theodoros visits Jerusalem for a third time, and decides to spend time at one of the local monasteries. He settles at the Monastery of
Sabas (Mar Saba), and refuses to return to his see, till the martyr Georgios appears and in a dream calls him back, promising to release him from his episcopal duties soon.

64-68. Theodoros and his companions arrive in Galatia, where he is received with enthusiasm, and performs various miracles, especially cures and exorcisms.

69-70. Workers and pilgrims who illicitly bring meat into the monastery of Sykeon are miraculously revealed. Meat is only consumed at three festivals of saints, when it is offered to the crowds (see E05349).

71. Theodoros is invited by the bishop of Germia to participate in the feast of the church of
Mary at the village of Mousge, between Germia and Eudoxias (see E05349). During the celebration, Theodoros exorcises a possessed woman.

72. He heals a boy on the verge of death at Sykeon.

73-74. Theodoros is visited by the holy man Antiochos, an African ascetic, and they acknowledge each other as great holy men.

75-76. Theodoros has a conflict with a magistrate, the
protektor Theodosios, a collector of tributes from ecclesiastical estates. Theodoros sympathises with the peasants who complain about Theodosios’ violent ways, and dismisses him from his duties. Theodosios assaults the bishop during a session of the city council at the bishop’s house, and Theodoros announces his decision to resign.

77. Certain people attempt to poison Theodoros, and he falls gravely ill, but is healed by a miracle of
Mary the Virgin.

78. Theodoros is accused of mismanagement, even though he keeps only 40 of the 365
nomismata of his episcopal salary, spending the rest on charity. He prays to Georgios that he may be allowed to resign. He announces his decision to the city council, and goes to Ancyra to hand in his resignation to the metropolitan.

79. Metropolitan Paulos rejects Theodoros’ resignation and refers the matter to Patriarch Kyriakos II of Constantinople (595-606). The latter decides that Theodoros should be allowed to step down from his see, but should retain his episcopal rank. Until the installation of the new bishop of Anastasiopolis, Theodoros settles at the oratory of the
Archangel (Michael) at Akrena, in the territory of Heliopolis.

80. While Theodoros celebrates the Eucharist there, a priest sees his face shining. Theodoros confides in him that he has a vision of a shining veil falling upon the Eucharistic gifts. After the election of a new bishop of Anastasiopolis, Theodoros returns to Sykeon.

Return to the monastery and visit to Constantinople (c. 596?)
81. Theodoros heals a severely disabled priest from Lycaonia.

82. Invited by the emperor Maurice, Patriarch Kyriakos II (c. 595-607), and the senate, he visits Constantinople. The imperial couple grant by decree the privilege of sanctuary/immunity (ἀσυλία/
asylia) to Theodoros’ monasteries, and subject them to the direct jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople.

83-97. Theodoros performs manifold miracles in Constantinople, mostly cures and exorcisms. He heals the son of the emperor Maurice from elephantiasis, and returns to his monastery.

Miracles and Acquisition of Relics of Georgios (see $E05361)
98-99. Miracles involving the taming of animals.

100. Theodoros wishes to acquire relics of the martyr
Georgios. It happens that Aimilianos, bishop of Germia, possesses relics of the saint’s head, a finger, tooth, and another piece. The saint appears to Aimilianos and instructs him to give them to Theodoros. The latter comes to Germia, and prays at the church of Michael the Archangel. Aimilianos leads him to the monastery of Mary the Virgin, called Aligete.

101. During his stay, the bishop and people of Pessinus invite Theodoros to their city which is affected by drought. On the way, he delivers a garden from a plague of locusts, and at Pessinus he organises a procession which is followed by torrential rain which causes floods in the region. Theodoros returns to Germia, receives the relics of
Georgios from bishop Aimilianos, and returns to Sykeon.

102. Healing of Stephanos, bishop of Kadosia near Nicomedia. The bishop visits the monastery of Sykeon and is healed in the chapel of
Platon.

103. The priest Solomon of Heliopolis and his wife receive a cure. In thanksgiving, he dedicates an icon for the church of the
Archangel, where he has slept ($E05351).

104. During a famine, the monastery runs out of wheat. Theodoros places the remnants of the wheat under the altar of
Mary the Virgin, and soon a load of wheat arrives at the monastery.

Pilgrimage to the shrine of *Mary the Virgin at Sozopolis
106. Theodoros travels to the church of Mary the Virgin in Sozopolis in order to request his cure of an ailment of the eyes ($E05352). On the way, he heals an innkeeper by the bridge of Tautaendia.

107. At Amorion, he heals the son of a notable, the
illustris Ioannes.

108. At Sozopolis, Theodoros enters the church of
Mary. He heals a paralytic man who had lain there for a long period of time. The man was possessed, and the demon confessed that Theodoros had arrived with Georgios the Cappadocian to torment him. Theodoros prays before the miraculous Icon of Mary, where the myrrh flows ($E05332). Myrrh miraculously falls and anoints his face.

109. After spending forty days at Sozopolis, he returns to Sykeon, having visited the beneficiaries of his miracles at Amorion and Tautaendia, and the bishop of Germia, Aimilianos.

Miracles
110. Healing of two children brought to Sykeon by their mothers, two noble women from Ephesos.

111. Theodoros heals the nephew of Florentios, chief elder of the village of Sandos.

112-113. He heals a boy who has fallen into a boiling cauldron, during a festival held on the first Saturday after the feast of the Ascension. Aniketos, abbot of the monastery of
Theodoros in Briania, expresses his incredulity about the miracle, and is punished.

114-118. Exorcism of evil spirits which were accidentally unleashed from the earth at the villages of Sandos, Permetaia, and Eukrae.

The murder of the emperor Maurice (602) and miracles under Phocas (602-610)
119. Theodoros is miraculously notified of the murder of Maurice (602). He prophesies the imminent fall of the usurper Phocas and other hardships awaiting the current generation.

120. The
kouropalates Domnitziolos, nephew of Phocas, stops at the monastery on his way to a campaign against the Persians, and seeks the blessing and protection of Theodoros. After his safe return from the war, he endows the monastery generously.

121-124. Healing miracles.

125. A man from Cappadocia, called Georgios, is arrested under accusations of insurrection against Phocas. He requests to visit Theodoros, before being taken to Constantinople. While he receives Holy Communion from the saint’s hands, his fetters miraculously fall off.

126. During the feast of
Antiochos on 16 July (E05349), Theodoros celebrates the Eucharist at the saint’s oratory. The Eucharistic bread is seen miraculously rising above the paten.

127. Another vision related to the Eucharist is experienced by the patrician Photios during a liturgy performed by Theodoros. During a procession in a village, the processional crosses start to jump about by themselves, dismaying the locals. Interpreting the prodigy to his monks, Theodoros predicts hard and troubled times.

Second journey to Constantinople (c. 609/610)
128. The kouropalates Domnitziolos and Patriarch Thomas I (607-610) send a precious processional cross, fitted with relics of the True Cross, Golgotha, the Tomb of Christ, and the veil of Mary, to Theodoros (see $E05361). Terrified by the news about the prodigy of the jumping crosses, they invite Theodoros to Constantinople.

129. Healing of an imperial official from Upper Pylae in Bithynia.

130. The abbot of Sykeon, Philoumenos, dies. Ioannes is appointed as his successor, and Theodoros sets off for Constantinople.

131. Miracles at Upper Pylai.

132. Miracles on the boat from Pylai to Constantinople.

133. Theodoros heals the emperor Phocas from gout in the hands, and warns him about his fall, unless he stops murdering people. The emperor is enraged.

134. Patriarch Thomas persistently asks Theodoros about the meaning of the prodigy of the jumping processional crosses (§ 127). The holy man explains it as an omen of great evils for the state and the church – the shaking of the faith, apostasy, invasions, and desolation of churches.

135. Fearing that Constantinople might fall, Thomas asks Theodoros to spend his yearly seclusion in the city. Theodoros shuts himself up in the
diakonikon of the winter church of the monastery of *Stephanos (the first martyr? $S00030) (also known as the monastery of the Romans) at the Petrion. Thomas implores Theodoros to pray that God may grant him speedy release from the troubles threatening the empire. Indeed, soon the Patriarch dies.

136. The new Patriarch, Sergios (610-638), shows the same respect for Theodoros. Worrying that he is too young for his high office, Sergios is encouraged by Theodoros who prophesies for him a long and worthy patriarchate.

137. Theodoros condemns the practice of visiting public baths after taking Holy Communion.

138. At the Monastery of the Romans, Theodoros performs many miraculous healings and exorcises a demoniac.

139. The monks of the Petrion wish to have an image of Theodoros as a blessing ($E05351). They summon a painter who secretly produces an image of the holy man during his prayers. Before leaving the monastery, the monks reveal their act to Theodoros and ask of him to bless the icon, which he does.

140. Theodoros visits the house of the patrician and
kouropalates Domnitziolos, where he blesses his wife and promises that she will have three sons, which indeed happens. He also exorcises a possessed slave girl. Emperor and Patriarch bid the holy man farewell, and he returns to his monastery.

Miracles, spiritual guidance, and justice
141. Theodoros saves the village of Skoudris, where there is a monastery of Michael (the Archangel), from the disastrous floods of a stream.

142. Theodoros meets the ruthless consul Bonousos (Bonosus), at the church of
Gemellos near the road station, and urges him to change his evil ways.

143. Theodoros heals the villagers of Apoukoumis, who have been poisoned by consuming meat contaminated by demons.

144. Theodoros also delivered the same village from regular outbreaks of disastrous hailstorms.

145. He performs several similar miracles at other villages, wherever there is a natural calamity, pest, or disease of animals. Theodoros’ blessing settles disputes between married couples, heals childlessness and disease.

146. He prevents people from seeking the services of surgeons and physicians, and instead advises them to visit thermal spas or use plasters.

147. Theodoros provides excellent spiritual guidance. He often mediates for the return of fugitive slaves to their masters, insisting that the latter should not punish them. Masters who do not comply get miraculously punished or die.

148. The punishment of Megethios, a cruel landowner from Ancyra.

149. Punishment of Daniel, a landowner from the village of Sandos, who abused his wife.

150. Theodoros mediates and helps settle a dispute between Apoukoumeon and Alion. The villagers of Alion do not comply and suffer the destruction of their crops by a storm.

151. Punishing miracle involving Alexandros, representative of the governor Ioannes. Moral exhortations by the author to his audience.

Unrest following the fall of Phocas (610)
152-153. Theodoros foretells a change in the imperial regime, and a few days later the murder of the emperor Phocas is announced while the festival of *Sergios and Bakchos was being celebrated on 10 October. Theodoros also foretells the failure of a revolt by Phocas’ brother, Komentiolos, and the Persian invasion which led to the occupation of Caesarea in Cappadocia.

Third visit to Constantinople and miracles in Bithynia (also see $E05291)
154. The emperor Heraclius and Patriarch Sergios invite Theodoros to Constantinople. While Heraclius is in Caesarea, Theodoros stays at the Patriarchate, and receives the people in the left (south) gallery of Saint Sophia, performing manifold miracles. He heals a paralysed boy, and the patrician Niketas.

155. Heraclius returns from Caesarea and meets Theodoros who blesses his new-born son, Constantine. The holy man sets off for Galatia. On his way, he visits the stylite Karinos, and exorcises a haunted tree.

156. A great crowd receives him at Nicomedia. He arrives at Optatianae, outside the east walls of Nicomedia, and settles at the shrine of
*Anthimos (martyr of Nicomedia, $S00124), where he performs various miracles, healing people under a plane tree, and celebrating services at the shrine.

157. Responding to an invitation by the abbot, Theodoros sets off for the monastery of
Autonomos. At Eribolum, he heals a possessed child who is brought to the shrine (martyrion) of Theodoros. At the oratory (eukterion) of Georgios at the emporium of Herakleion at Latomion, the local deacon has a vision instructing him to decorate the church in order to welcome Theodoros. The holy man enters the chapel, prays and offers incense. At Myrokopin, he visits the oratory (eukterion) of Mary the Virgin, and meets a blind woman who stays there. She reports that the doors of the shrine were miraculously opened before his visit, and that she could see a great light. Theodoros arrives at the monastery of Autonomos where he venerates the katathesis of the martyr and celebrates the liturgy with the monks.

158. Crowds from Helenopolis and Pylai hasten to meet Theodoros at the monastery of
Autonomos. He performs various prodigies, helping the sick, peasants, and fishermen. On his way back to Nicomedia, he celebrates a service the church of Mary at Diolkides, and is ferried across the gulf by a fisherman’s vessel which was thought to be haunted. He blesses his nets and a massive quantity of fish is caught. On the opposite coast, he calls at the emporium of Elaia, and prays at the local oratory of the martyr *Herakleios ($S02002). He then returns to Nicomedia.

159. Further miracles at Optatianae.

160. After miracles at the localities of Hebdomon, Dekaton (shrine [εὐκτήριος οἶκος] of *
Dionysios [$S02001]), and Galos (road stations in Bithynia), Theodoros returns to Sykeon.

Mass exorcism at Germia
161. The bishop of Germia, Ioannes, commissions the construction of a cistern and, while digging for it, several ancient tombs are accidentally opened, unleashing demons who possess several people. The locals invite Theodoros who agrees to come to Germia, since he had anyway vowed to visit the shrine of the Archangel Michael. He arrives at the city, prays at the church, and meets the bishop and notables. He settles in the gallery of the church, where he receives the possessed and reproaches the demons. He instructs the locals to hold a procession (λιτή), and prays on the site of the open tombs. With his face shining, he commands the spirits to leave the possessed bodies, invoking the Virgin Mary, the Archangel Michael, and the martyr Georgios. A mass-exorcism follows. Theodoros instructs the locals to bury the dug up site whence the demons had come. A Eucharist and public feast of thanksgiving are held.

The death of Theodoros
162. In early November, Theodoros celebrates a liturgy at the chapel of Mary, after which he has a vision of her giving him a ring. He recounts the dream to his disciples, without interpreting it. On 9 November, he celebrates the feast of the dedication (ἐγκαίνια) of the church of the Archangel and falls ill (E05349). He lies unconscious in his cell for thirteen days, then suddenly wakes and reproaches the monks for neglecting their canon of psalmody. From that point on, he gets weaker and refuses food and any kind of care. He tells his disciples that during his period of unconsciousness he had experienced the heavenly state. He exorcises two possessed men from Ancyra.

163. At Christmas, Theodoros celebrates the liturgy with his monks, and announces to them that he has accomplished his ascesis, and this year he will not practice his customary reclusion. He instructs them to keep his yearly memorial, but they do not realise that he refers to his imminent death (E05349).

164. Despite his frailty, Theodoros perseveres in the rigourous rule of psalmody and services, and instructs his monks to do the same. A lengthy discourse summarises his admonitions to the monks.

165. The author of the text, then not even 18 years old, decides to start writing Theodoros’ life.

166. Leading his army to Antioch, on his campaign against the Persians, the emperor Heraclius visits Theodoros at Sykeon. The holy man offers him apples and wheat-flour as a blessing, which the emperor promises to collect when he returns. After Heraclius’ departure, Theodoros secretly tells Georgios that the emperor’s refusal was a bad omen, indicating the failure of his campaign. He also predicts the duration of Heraclius’ thirty-year reign.

167. Theodoros has dream visions of the martyr
Georgios offering him a stick and a horse for a long journey. He tells his monks that he is about to leave for the Archangels, and they believe that he means a pilgrimage to Germia. During Holy Week and Easter Week, Theodoros sends gifts to all the churches and shrines of Sykeon and its area, celebrates services, and visits the female convent of the martyr Christophoros, a shrine of Georgios, and a monastery of the martyr *Kerykos ($S00007) (see $S05283).

168. He instructs Ioannes, the abbot of Sykeon, and other monks to keep his commandments and the monastic tradition he has established, so that no good will be missing from the monastery. He crosses himself and lies to rest. Next day, people come from Germia to accompany him on his presumed pilgrimage, but he dies, while the all-night vigil is celebrated.

169. The monks attempt to remove the iron fetters from his legs, but they miraculously remain attached onto his body. They dress the body with the episcopal vestments and place it before the altar of the church of
Georgios, where they celebrate the liturgy of the First Sunday after Easter. The news reaches Constantinople. Patriarch Sergios celebrates Theodoros’ memorial at Saint Sophia, and declares the day as a yearly feast. Theodoros died on 22 April, which was the eve of the feast of Georgios. Thus, Theodoros’ body lay in state in the church, while the festal vespers and vigil of the patronal feast were celebrated (see $S05283).

170. The author of the
Life is Eleusios-Georgios. He was born after his parents had received the blessing of Theodoros. He was educated at the monastery, and joined it as a monk at the age of 12. He witnessed many of the saint’s miracles himself, and heard of many from others. Theodoros died in the third year of the reign of Heraclius (613), on 22 April, on the Sunday of Easter Week.

Text: Festugière 1970. Summary: E. Rizos.
Liturgical Activities

Eucharist associated with cult
Procession
Service for the saint

Festivals

Saint’s feast

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)
Cult building - monastic
Burial site of a saint - unspecified
Place associated with saint's life
Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Activities accompanying Cult

Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)

Use of Images

Praying before an image
Commissioning/producing an image
Public display of an image
Private ownership of an image

Non Liturgical Activity

Composing and translating saint-related texts
Prayer/supplication/invocation
Saint as patron - of an individual
Saint as patron - of a community
Vow
Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Pilgrimage
Visiting graves and shrines

Miracles

Miracle during lifetime
Miracle at martyrdom and death
Miracles experienced by the saint
Punishing miracle
Healing diseases and disabilities
Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money)
Apparition, vision, dream, revelation
Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves
Miracle with animals and plants
Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies
Miraculous behaviour of relics/images
Exorcism

Relics

Bodily relic - bones and teeth
Bodily relic - entire body

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits
Ecclesiastics - abbots
Women
Children
Ecclesiastics - bishops
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Foreigners (including Barbarians)
Merchants and artisans
Relatives of the saint
Monarchs and their family
Officials
Soldiers
Peasants
Demons
Merchants and artisans
Aristocrats

Cult Related Objects

Crosses
Precious material objects

Source

The text is preserved in three manuscripts of the 10th and 11th centuries (Biblioteca Marciana 359; Patmos Monastery Library 254; Athens National Library 1014).

The extant text is no earlier than the death of Heraclius in 641, since the author records the fulfilment of Theodoros’ prophecy about the emperor’s thirty-year reign (166. 30-36). The author, however, also tells us that he started composing the text shortly before Theodoros’ death in 613, when he was still a teenager (165). Indeed, in his first appearance in the narrative (2. 21-27), the author requests his audience’s prayers on account of his young age. The twenty chapters which refer to the childhood of Theodoros (3-22) form a separate section with its own epilogue (22) where the author states that he wrote this part as a form of special teaching for the young. This might suggest that the whole childhood section, or at least its epilogue, were composed, when the author was at an advanced age. This is also suggested by the fact that the author introduces himself and talks about his sources in both the epilogue of the childhood section (22), and the final epilogue (170).


Discussion

The Life of Theodoros of Sykeon is one of the three hagiographies concerning 6th century founders of monastic houses in Anatolia (alongside those of *Nikolaos of Sion and *Alypios the Stylite). It provides an account of the life of the founder and a foundation narrative of a major monastic centre in the outskirts of Sykeon, a village and road station of Galatia, midway between Iuliopolis and Lagania/Anastasiopolis. Several parts of the book reveal that it was primarily meant to be read before a community of monks and priests, conceivably at Sykeon. The admonitions which Eleusios/Georgios puts in the mouth of Theodoros in chapters 164 and 168 are the saint’s spiritual testament for the monastic communities of Sykeon, which can be seen as the overarching purpose of writing the text as a whole.

As with all biographies of monastic founders, the text provides evidence for the veneration of its hero, but also for various cults of other saints, which appear in the backdrop of the hero’s life account, and the foundation of the monastic house. The figures of the saints who are venerated at Theodoros’ monasteries (George, Michael, Platon, Antiochos, Sergios and Bakchos, John the Baptist, the Virgin Mary, Christophoros) are mentioned, but the protagonist is the founder, and the main subject is the house’s development and the founder’s life. The monastery of Sykeon is dedicated to George and is visited by pilgrims who receive cures at it. This, however, is not associated with the presence of relics of the martyr – Theodoros acquires relics of George much later (101) – but with the personal grace of the living holy man, Theodore, who performs miracles and cures in the name of Saint George and the other saints of his monastery (161). The dissociation of devotional practices from the cult of relics is an important attestation to the maturity of the cult of saints as a whole in this period. Similarly, the text contains a number of references to icons of saints, which are associated with miracles (39, 108, 139) (E05350; E05351; E05332), including what is possibly the earliest documented myrrh-producing image of the Virgin Mary in Sozopolis of Pisidia (E05332), and several references to feasts (E05349) and local shrines (E05283).

The foundation of the monastic centre of Sykeon

Theodoros was born around AD 530 (he was afflicted by the bubonic plague of the early 540s, at the age of twelve). Showing ascetic inclinations already as a child (the author describes the teenager Theodoros as an accomplished ascetic), he was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 18, and settled at a chapel of George near his native village. Much like his slightly earlier contemporary, Nikolaos of Sion, Theodoros embarked on his monastic career after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and was tonsured at the monastery of the Virgin of Choziba in Palestine (24).

The formative phase of his monastic foundation is recounted in chapters 23-33. At the beginning of his ascetic career (around 550 or later), his aunt and mother, who had hitherto run the local inn of the imperial highway, died and he inherited their fortune (25, 33). The monastic community of Sykeon was organised into a male monastery based at the church of Saint George, and a female one at Saint Christopher’s (25, 32). Theodoros adopted his distinctive style of asceticism, marked by prolonged periods of reclusion and silence in an iron cage (from Christmas to Palm Sunday), and iron-wearing (
siderophoria) (27-31). He acted as the spiritual father and abbot (ἀρχιμανδρίτης) of both houses, and appointed a separate prior/superior (ἡγούμενος) for the male house (41). His grandmother seems to have been the superior of Saint Christopher’s nunnery (25, 32).

His reputation gradually grows, and he performs his first public prodigies at neighbouring villages and towns (Heliopolis, Mnezos; 34). As the clientele of his monastery develops, Theodoros builds a second, larger church for the pilgrims, and buys precious liturgical vessels (39-42). His next miracles take place at the cities of Krateia, Heraclea, and Ancyra, where he was invited by local notables (43-45), and, in the early 580s, Theodoros meets the future emperor Maurice who endows the monasteries of Sykeon generously, after his accession in 582 (54). Theodoros undertakes an enlargement of his central monastic church of George (55-56).

He is soon elected bishop of Anastasiopolis, an office which he reluctantly exercises for eleven years (c. 585-596) (57-80), retaining his position as abbot of Sykeon (64. 22-23). Facing the burden of administrative cares and conflicts with the notables of Anastasiopolis, he steps down from his see (75-78). His resignation is accompanied by some remarkable privileges: Patriarch Cyriacus II of Constantinople (595-606) allows Theodoros to leave his see, retaining his episcopal rank (in c. AD 596), while the emperor Maurice awards the right of sanctuary/immunity (ἀσυλία) to the monasteries of Sykeon, and exempts them from the jurisdiction of the bishop of Anastasiopolis (82).

After his resignation, Theodoros remains a highly influential figure, roaming the villages, offering his mediation for the settling of disputes, defending the peasants against greedy and violent landowners, and delivering communities and individuals from pests, diseases, and calamities. At the same time, his privileged relationship with the imperial authorities endures two violent changes of regime, in 602 and 610. During the turbulent reign of Phocas (602-610) and the early years of Heraclius (610-641), Theodore plays a stabilising role, protecting his region and various individuals from the violence of the time (e.g. 142, 152-153). Throughout these events, the holy man of Sykeon appears to act on his own initiative or at the invitation of various influential people, with no interference by the local bishop of Anastasiopolis or the metropolitan of Galatia. By the end of his life, he is a true celebrity known by the name of his monastery, ‘the Lord Sykeon’ (ὁ κύρις Σικεών; 156.36, 157.29).

The cult of Georgios
The
Life is a major source for the cult of the popular martyr Georgios/George, whose shrine and cult form the centre of Theodoros’ asceticism and monastic foundation, and who invisibly guides and assists Theodoros in his asceticism and miracles. Nothing is said about the legend and identity of the martyr, except that he was a Cappadocian – Georgios is called Γεώργιος Καππάδοξ by the exorcised demons (108.8; 161.156; 161.205). We are told that he has a sword (8; 9) and that his feast was celebrated on 23 April (169), which leaves no doubt that this is the popular soldier martyr. Interestingly, however, the association of Georgios/George with the shrine of Lydda-Diospolis in Palestine seems to be unknown to the author or ignored by him. When Theodoros goes to the Holy Land he does not visit what became his saint’s most famed shrine, Lydda. He acquires relics of the saint’s head, finger, tooth, and another piece from his friend, the bishop of Germia Aimilianos (100) (E05361). As said above, it is noteworthy that Theodoros turns a chapel of the countryside outside his village into an attraction for pilgrims, constantly invoking the power of Saint George, even though the shrine possesses no relics for almost fifty years, till after Theodoros’ resignation from the bishopric of Anastasiopolis in c. 596.

The cult of Theodoros
The text finishes by stressing the close connection between Theodoros and his patron martyr, Georgios, which was expressed by the former’s death on the eve of the martyr’s festival. Nothing is said about the burial or posthumous miracles of Theodoros, and there is no reference to the transfer of his relics to Constantinople. A later text of the saint’s hagiographical dossier, the enkomion by Nikephoros (BHG 1749), reports that the saint’s relics were transferred to the capital by Heraclius and deposited at the monastery later known as Saint George of Sykeon, in the Deuteron quarter, near the Holy Apostles. Given the fact that our text (which post-dates the death of Heraclius) ignores this event, the chronological accuracy of ascribing the transfer to Heraclius is open to question. Yet it seems that the relics and cult of the two main figures venerated at Sykeon did find their way to the capital, which very probably favoured the survival of Theodoros’ hagiography after the monastic centre of Sykeon itself declined (see Kaplan 1993, reprinted in Kaplan 2011).

A rich source for Anatolian society
The Life's narrative unfolds in a well-connected region, traversed by the imperial roads crossing Galatia. Theodoros’ career and the rise of the monastic centre of Sykeon are marked by his strong connections to the centre of imperial and ecclesiastical power in Constantinople, and to the monastic centres of Palestine. He visits Constantinople three times, and meets in person the emperors Maurice, Phocas, and Heraclius, and the Patriarchs Cyriacus II, Thomas, and Sergius. In Constantinople, his hosts receive his spiritual assistance, and he acquires from them privileges for his monasteries. The text reflects the dominant role of Constantinople in the ecclesiastical administration of Anatolia, but also the spiritual prominence of Jerusalem and the monasteries of the Judaean desert, which are the clear source of inspiration for Theodoros’ monasticism. He and his disciples embark on their careers as ascetics after pilgrimages to the Holy Land (24, 47-48). He was tonsured at the monastery of Choziba (24), and kept connections with the Lavra of Sabas (24, 47-48, 62-63). For his visits to the Holy Land, Theodoros is not invited by others, as he is to Constantinople, but is driven by his own desire to visit and pray.

The
Life is highly aware of hierarchies in society and space. Administrative divisions into civic territories and ecclesiastical jurisdictions define its landscape, with cities being the base of administration and landownership. The text remarks that, during a pandemic of demonic attacks at Germia, the wealthier free men (ἐλεύθεροι) of the town kept their possessed children hidden at home, whereas the poorer populace (λεπτὸς δῆμος) crowded the shrine of Saint Michael with their sick (161.10). The text mentions landowners (κτήτορες) and officials (προτίκτορες, δομέστικοι, ἰλούστριοι) who are almost always based at cities (Ancyra, Anastasiopolis, Heraclea Pontica, Amorium, Ephesus, Nicomedia, and Germia; 44, 45, 58, 75, 76, 107, 110, 148, 161; one landowner is mentioned at the village of Sandos: 114, 149). The bishop’s house at Anastasiopolis is the base from which the bishop runs the city and manages ecclesiastical revenue, with the assistance of local ktetores.

Finally, this text is also a major source for popular beliefs and culture in 7th century Anatolia. It stands out by the way it uses demons as a means of interpreting almost every trouble in life, including diseases, disabilities, accidents, and other misfortunes. It echoes a quite developed system of demonological ideas, including the apparently firm belief that demons live in the ground and in tombs, from where they can be accidentally unleashed by digging. This physical understanding of the nature of demons is evident in several of Theodoros' miracles. The dwelling places of demons are described as old cemeteries and shrines, thus reflecting the backdrop of a landscape dotted with the material remains of pre-Christian Antiquity.


Bibliography

Text:
Festugière, A.-J. Vie de Théodore de Sykéon. 2 vols. (Subsidia Hagiographica 48; Brussels, 1970), with French translation and commentary.

Translation:
Dawes, E., and Baynes, N.H., Three Byzantine Saints: Contemporary Biographies (London, 1948) (partial translation).

Further reading:
Brown, P.R.L., "The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity," Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971), 80-101.

Kaplan, M., "Les sanctuaires de Théodore de Sykéôn," in : C. Jolivet-Lévy, M. Kaplan, and J.-P. Sodini (eds.), Les saints et leur sanctuaire à Byzance. Textes, images et monuments (Byzantina Sorbonensia 11; Paris, 1993), 81-94.

Kaplan, M.
Pouvoirs, église et sainteté. Essais sur la société byzantine (Classiques de la Sorbonne 3; Paris, 2011).

Mitchell, S.,
Anatolia: Land, Men, and Gods in Asia Minor. Volume Ii: The Rise of the Church (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993), 122-150.

Rosenquist, O.,
Studien zur Syntax und Bemerkungen zum Text der Vita Theodori Syceotae (Uppsala, 1981).


Record Created By

Efthymios Rizos

Date Last Modified

21/01/2020

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