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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

The Miracles of *Artemios (39) recount how *Artemios (martyr of Antioch under Julian, S01128) healed a certain George (the same George as in Mir. 38 and 40), appearing to him on the island Plateia. Written in Greek in Constantinople, 582/668; assembled as a collection, 658/668.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles

Miracles of Artemios (BHG 173), 39

Ὁ αὐτός, ὁ προρρηθεὶς Γεώργιος, ἡνίκα τῆς τῶν ἁγίων ἔτυχεν ἐπισκέψεως, συνεχρωτίζετό τινι μοναχῷ διάγοντι εἰς
τὴν Πλατεῖαν νῆσον, <ἐν ᾗ> τιμᾶται ἡ δέσποινα ἡμῶν ἡ Θεοτόκος καὶ οἱ ἅγιοι Τεσσαράκοντα Μάρτυρες. τούτῳ θαρρεῖ τὰ περὶ αὑτὸν Γεώργιος καὶ τὰ περὶ τῶν τεκόντων, καὶ ᾔτει ἐλευθερῶσαι αὐτὸν ἐκ τῶν βιωτικῶν· ὁ δὲ γνοὺς τὸν λογισμὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἑωρακὼς σεμνῶς αὐτὸν διάγοντα ἐρασμίως τε ἔχοντα μονάσαι, ἔλαβεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ νήσῳ εἰς τὰ ἴδια.

'The same person, the aforementioned George, after he received the saints' visit, came into contact with a monk living on the island of Plateia where our Lady the Mother of God is venerated as well as the sainted Forty Martyrs. To him, George confided information about himself and his parents and begged him to liberate him from worldly matters. The monk, after he realised his intention and observed him living piously and possessing a desire to become a monk, received him into his own household on the island.'

In the meantime his parents came to island and tried to take him back home by force, but in vain. So they left him on the island and departed. The infamous patriarch Sergios ordained George a priest when he 22 years old. Then George fell severely ill, so many people attempted to persuade him to go to Constantinople to seek a cure from physicians. But he kept refusing, deciding to rest his hope only in God. And God sent Artemios to him. The saint appeared to him at the hour of evening vespers. He asked the sick man about his problem, introducing himself as an imperial physician. He examined the man's intestines and belly and told him to trust in God who would cure him. Then he started to enter the church. George said that he would hold a banquet of fellowship, and sent some people to fetch the supposed physician's companions from their boat at the seashore. They returned saying that they found nobody. They also tried to find the physician in the church, but there too there was nobody. So George, now strong and healthy, woke up to search with his own eyes, and found no-one. He then realised that he had seen Artemios and witnessed a miracle performed by him.

Text: Papadopoulos-Kerameus 1909. Translation: Crisafulli and Nesbitt 1997, 200-203. Summary: J. Doroszewska


The Miracles of Artemios is a collection of 45 miracle-stories, effected by the saint at and around his burial and cult site in the church of St. John the Baptist in the Oxeia quarter of Constantinople. Artemios was an Alexandrian dux and martyr of the reign of Julian, who has an independent Martyrdom (E06781). The Miracles does not include this passio, although the stories on occasion show some acquaintance with it. Nothing is known of the cult before the period described in the Miracles.

Miracles’ vignettes stretch from (at least) the reign of Maurice (582-602) to that of Constans II (641-668). The current text was compiled in the period 658-668: the terminus post quem is provided by the last datable event mentioned within the text (Mir. 41: 4 October 658) and the terminus ante quem by the fact that Constans is there described as still alive (as he is too in Mir. 23).

The text is not, however, the product of a single pen, but seems instead to be a compilation of several parts. Those narratives at the beginning and end of the collection (Mir.
1-14, 42-45) are short, somewhat unembellished, healing narratives of a more-or-less standardised kind; while those of the central section are far more elaborate and varied, and seem to fall into rough thematic doublets or groups. One such group is conspicuous because all of its miracles (24-31) conclude with some sermonettes on secular medicine. The most obvious explanation for this basic dissonance is that the collection as we have it has been composed from at least three different parts: first, an earlier, more simple collection which opens the text; second, an original composition in the central section (where the addition of the sermonettes to some miracles perhaps indicates the exploitation of another, pre-existent collection of miracles); and third, a final addition of the four concluding miracles.

Besides pre-existent collections of written material preserved within the shrine itself, the text also draws, no doubt, on the oral traditions then circulating amongst the shrine’s clientele. The text itself describes in vivid terms the community of clerics and lay devotees who gathered around the shrine, in particular for its weekend vigil, and several such persons are the protagonists of individual miracles. One such person is an anonymous devotee of the saint’s vigil who features in two long and detailed miracles (Mir. 18, 22); another is George, a cleric and devotee of Artemios, who features as protagonist in three different miracles (Mir.
38-40). It seems clear, then, that the compiler draws from the oral accounts, or perhaps even written records, which the saint’s clerics and devotees produced, and which provide these central miracles with their vivid detail and insight. Indeed, although the compiler of the collection is anonymous, it is reasonable to suppose that he is also a lay devotee of the saint, and perhaps even one of those persons who feature prominently in the text.

Through descriptions of this vigil, and other scattered details, we are offered an unparalleled perspective both on the layout of the church of St. John—which can be reconstructed in some detail—and on the practices of Artemios’s devotees. The saint’s cult was an incubatory healing cult, in which the sick came to the shrine and slept overnight, in the hope of a miraculous cure. The collection underlines the importance of performing ‘the customary rites’ in advance of a cure, which seems to mean the dedication of a votive lamp and other offerings. The weekly vigil is also presented as especially efficacious, for on this night it was possible to sleep in and around the crypt where the tomb which contained the saint’s relics was sited (see e.g. Mir. 17).

Almost all of the cures occur within the church of St John itself, or else upon those who have spent some time there and then withdrawn. The principal mode of healing is a miraculous dream, sometimes in combination with the application of holy oil taken from the tomb’s lamps, or a wax-salve imprinted with the image of the saint. Almost all of the miracles concern healing, but also of a particular kind. For Artemios was a specialist in diseases of the male genitals and groin, which dominate the entire collection. Sick women at the shrine could expect a vision of the martyr *Phebronia, who appears in several places as Artemios’ female equivalent (Mir. 6, 23, 24, 38, 45).

In contrast to equivalent collections, Artemios does not collaborate with secular doctors, or depend on quasi-Hippocratic cures. Indeed, one of the most striking features of the text is the series of sermonettes which punctuate the central miracles and denounce in virulent terms the inadequacies of contemporaneous Hippocratic medicine (Mir. 24-31).

The text was compiled at a moment of high drama for the eastern Roman Empire, in which its territorial holdings, and revenues, had been dramatically reduced through the Arab conquests. This context is however strikingly absent from the collection, which instead paints a picture of vivid and thriving urban life, in particular amongst the capital’s middle classes, who make up the vast majority of the saint’s devotees. Nevertheless, it has been suggested the text offers a powerful political metaphor related to the perceived disease of the body politic: that the cure for all ailments, whether derived from sin or from natural causes, is not to turn to other men, but rather to propitiate and to trust in God.


This miracle is linked with Mir. 38 (E04254) and Mir. 40 (E04255) by virtue of the protagonist: George who is a 9-year old boy and is a reader in the church of the Forerunner in Constantinople (Mir.38); later he becomes a deacon (Mir.40).

Plateia is one of the Princes Islands in the Sea of Marmara near Constantinople. According to Janin (1975: 67), in the middle of Plateia there was a monastery of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, connected to a church dedicated to the Theotokos.

The patriarchate of Sergios was from 610 to 638. He was condemned at the Council of 680.


Papadopoulos-Kerameus, A., Miracula xlv sancti Artemii, in idem, Varia graeca sacra [Subsidia Byzantina 6] (St. Petersburg: Kirschbaum, 1909): 1-75.

Crisafulli, V.S., and J.W. Nesbitt,
The Miracles of St. Artemios. A Collection of Miracle Stories by an Anonymous Author of Seventh Century Byzantium (Leiden, New York, Köln: Brill, 1997).

Further reading:
Alwis, A., “Men in Pain: Masculinity, Medicine and the Miracles of St. Artemios,”
Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 36. (2012), 1–19.

Busine, A.,“The Dux and the Nun. Hagiography and the Cult of Artemios and Febronia in Constantinople,”
Dumbarton Oaks Papers 72 (2018), 93–111.

Déroche, V., "Pourquoi écrivait-on des recueils de miracles? L’exemple des miracles de saint Artémios," in C. Jolivet-Lévy, M. Kaplan, J.-P. Sodini, (eds),
Les saints et leur sanctuaire à Byzance: textes, images, monuments (Paris, 1993), 95-116.

Deubner, L.,
De incubatione capita quattuor scripsit Ludovicus Deubner. Accedit Laudatio in miracula Sancti Hieromartyris Therapontis e codice Messanensi denuo edita. (Lipsiae: Teubner, 1900).

Efthymiadis, S., "A Day and Ten Months in the Life of a Lonely Bachelor: The Other Byzantium in Miracula S. Artemii 18 and 22,"
Dumbarton Oaks Papers 58 (2004), 1-26.

Grosdidier de Matons, J., “Les Miracula Sancti Artemii: Note sur quelques questions de vocabulaire,” in E. Lucchesi and H.D. Saffrey (eds),
Mémorial André-Jean Festugière: Antiquité, Paienne et Chrétienne (Geneva: Cramer, 1984), 263-266.

Haldon, J., “Supplementary Essay: The Miracles of Artemios and Contemporary Attitudes: Context and Significance,” in Crisafulli and Nesbitt,
Miracles of Artemios 33-75.

Kaplan, M., “Une hôtesse importante de l’église Saint-Jean-Baptiste de l’Oxeia à Constantinople : Fébronie,” in D. Sullivan, E.A. Fisher, S. Papaioannou (eds),
Byzantine Religious Culture: Studies in Honor of Alice-Mary Talbot (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 31–52.

Krueger, D.,
Writing and Holiness: The Practice of Authorship in the Early Christian East (Phildelphia, PA, 2004), 63-70.

Mango, C., “History of the Templon and the Martyrion of St. Artemios at Constantinople,”
Zograf 10 (1979), 40–43.

Rydén, L. “Gaza, Emesa and Constantinople: Late Ancient Cities in the Light of Historiography”, in L. Rydén, J.O. Rosenqvist (eds),
Aspects of Late Antiquity and Early Byzantium (Uppsala: Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, 1993).

Rydén, L., “Kyrkan som sjukhus: om den helige Artemios' mirakler,”
Religion och Bibel 44 (1987), 3-16.

Simon, J., “Note sur l’original de la passion de Sainte Fébronie,”
Analecta Bollandiana 42 (1924), 69–76.

Record Created By

Julia Doroszewska, Phil Booth

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristCertain
S00103Forty Martyrs of SebasteCertain
S01128Artemios, martyr of Antioch under the emperor JulianἈρτέμιοςCertain

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