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E00015: Theophylact Simocatta in his History describes the miraculous flow of fragrant blood from the relics of *Euphemia (martyr of Chalcedon, S00017) at her church in Chalcedon (north-west Asia Minor, close to Constantinople), which the clergy collect and distribute to the people. The emperor Maurice (r. 582-602) doubts the miracle and attempts to suppress the cult, but the phenomenon persists with greater intensity. Written in Greek at Constantinople in the early 7th century.

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posted on 29.08.2014, 00:00 by CSLA Admin
Theophylact Simocatta, History 8.14

8.14.2-9
(2.) Χαλκηδὼν πόλις καθίδρυται ἐπὶ στόματος Πόντου, ἐς τὸ ἀντιπέρας τοῦ τῶν Βυζαντίων πολίσματος. ἐν ταύτῃ νεὼς ἵδρυται Εὐφημίας τῆς μάρτυρος, ἔνθα πρεσβύτης λόγος καθέστηκε τὸ πανίερον σῶμα ἐπὶ σηκῷ καθεστάναι τῆς μάρτυρος. (3.) γίνεται τοιγαροῦν καθ’ ἕκαστον ἐνιαυτὸν κατὰ τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ κατ’ αὐτὴν μαρτυρίου σημεῖον παραδοξότατον καὶ τοῖς μὴ τεθεαμένοις συλλήβδην εἰπεῖν ἀπιστότατον διὰ τὴν ὑπεροχὴν τῆς θείας ἐνεργείας ἐκείνης. (4.) τετρακοσίοις γὰρ ἤδη που ἐνιαυτοῖς ἐν τῷ τάφῳ ἐγκειμένου τοῦ σώματος, κατὰ τὴν προαγορευθεῖσαν ἡμέραν ἐπ’ ὄψεσι τῶν ὄχλων ὁ τῆς ἱερατικῆς τῶν αὐτόθι προεστὼς ἐκκλησίας σπόγγοις ἀπὸ σώματος τεθνεῶτος πηγὰς αἱμάτων ἀρύεται· (5.) καὶ ἴδοις ἂν ὡς ἀπό τινος σώματος νεοσφαγοῦς ἰχῶρσι τραυμάτων ἀναμεμιγμένα τὰ αἵματα, μύροις συγκεκραμένα αὐτοφυέσι τισίν, καὶ τούτων τὰς διανομὰς ἐπὶ σκευῶν ἐξ ὑέλου πεποιημένων μικρῶν τοῖς ὄχλοις τὸν ἱερέα ποιούμενον. (6.) εἰσέρχεται τοίνυν εἰς τὸν βασιλέα Μαυρίκιον ἔννοιά τις τῷ δυοκαιδεκάτῳ χρόνῳ τῆς αὐτοκρατορικῆς ἐξουσίας ῥαθυμίᾳ περὶ τὰ θεῖα ψυχῆς, καὶ σμικρολογεῖται τὰ θαύματα, καὶ ἀποδοκιμάζεται παρ’ αὐτῷ τὸ παράδοξον, καὶ ῥᾳδιουργικαῖς ἐπινοίαις ἀνθρώπων ἀνατίθησι τὸ μυστήριον. (7.) ἀπογυμνοῦται τοιγαροῦν τὸν ἀργύρεον κόσμον ὁ τάφος, καὶ περιφρουρεῖται ταῖς σφραγῖσι τὸ μνῆμα˙ οὕτω γὰρ τὸ τῆς ἀπιστίας θράσος ἠβούλετο. (8.) ἐπεὶ δ’ ἡ κυρία ἐπεδήμει ἡμέρα, βασανίζεται τὸ ἀπόρρητον, ἐξετάζεται τὸ μυστήριον, τὰ θαύματα δοκιμάζεται, καὶ γίνεται τῆς ἑαυτῆς δυνάμεως διὰ τῶν θαυμάτων ἀπαράγραφος μάρτυς, καὶ πάλιν μεμυρισμένων αἱμάτων ἀπὸ τοῦ μνήματος πηγάζουσι ποταμοί, καὶ βλύζει ταῖς ἐκπομπαῖς τὸ μυστήριον, καὶ πιαίνονται σπόγγοι εὐωδίας αἱμάτων, καὶ πολυπλασιάζει ἡ μάρτυς τὴν ἔκροιαν· οὐκ οἶδε γὰρ γνώσεως φθονῆσαι θεὸς ἀπιστούμενος. (9.) οὕτω μὲν οὖν ἡ μάρτυς ἐπαιδαγώγει τοῦ βασιλέως τὸ ἄπιστον …

'(2.) Chalcedon is a city situated at the mouth of the Pontus, on the opposite shore from the city of the Byzantines. At it, stands a church of the martyr Euphemia, where ancient report has established that the most holy body of the martyr is placed in a shrine [ἐπὶ σηκῷ]. (3.) Now every year on the day of her martyrdom, there occurs a most extraordinary phenomenon which is, in short, utterly incredible to those who have not witnessed it, on account of the superior nature of that divine activity. (4.) For, although the body has been resting in the tomb for about four hundred years now, on the aforementioned day, before the eyes of the throngs, the head of the local assembly of priests [= the bishop of Chalcedon or the abbot of the monastery] draws up with sponges founts of blood from the dead body. (5.) And you may see, as if from a newly slain body, the blood mingled with flux from wounds and blended with aromatics of some kind, that flow by themselves, and the priest performing the distribution of these to the throngs in little vessels made out of glass. (6.) Then, in the twelfth year of his imperial reign, the emperor Maurice, being in a state of spiritual idleness with regard to divine things, was possessed by a certain manner of thinking, and he belittled the miracles, rejected the wonder outright and ascribed the mystery to men’s crafty devices. (7.) Accordingly, the grave was stripped of its silver decoration, and the tomb was sealed off. For that was the will of insolent disbelief. (8.) But when the great day came, the secret was tested, the mystery examined, the miracles investigated, and through the miracles the martyr became an indubitable witness to her own power: once again rivers of aromatic blood sprang from the tomb, the mystery gushed with discharges, sponges were enriched with fragrant blood, and the martyr multiplied the flow. For, when God is disbelieved, he is not accustomed to begrudge knowledge. (9.) And so this way the martyr educated the emperor’s disbelief.'

Text: de Boor and Wirth 1972. Translation: Whitby and Whitby 1986, modified.

History

Evidence ID

E00015

Saint Name

Euphemia, martyr in Chalcedon, ob. 303 : S00017

Saint Name in Source

Εὐφημία

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

610

Evidence not after

640

Activity not before

582

Activity not after

602

Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Constantinople

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work

Theophylact Simocatta

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Other liturgical acts and ceremonies

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Scepticism/rejection of miracles

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miraculous effluent Miraculous behaviour of relics/images

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Monarchs and their family Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Bodily relic - blood Myrrh and other miraculous effluents of relics Reliquary – institutionally owned

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Other Precious material objects

Source

Theophylact Simocatta wrote his History in Constantinople probably in the late 620s. The period covered by his work is the reign of Maurice (582-602), and the main subjects of the historical narrative are the wars of the East Roman Empire with Persia, and with the Avars and the Slavs in the Balkans. Several digressions of hagiographical, chronographical and geographical interest are inserted in the narrative. Using various earlier sources, Simocatta produces a positive account of Maurice, portraying him as a good emperor overthrown by a tyrant (Phocas). In fact, Maurice was very unpopular in his own times, but cleansing his memory was important to legitimise the rule of Heraclius (610-641), who presented his own coup against Phocas as avenging the murder of Maurice. A supporter and successful official of Heraclius’ regime, Simocatta apparently served this particular political agenda. Further reading: Whitby and Whitby 1986, xiii-xxx (introduction); Whitby 1988; Frendo 1988; Olajos 1988.

Discussion

This passage comes from the last chapters of the eighth book of Simocatta’s History. It belongs to a set of notes given by way of a general assessment for the reign of Maurice, after the account of his fall and execution. Simocatta generally aims to portray Maurice as a good monarch who was punished for his human weaknesses and errors, and repented of them. His incredulity towards the miracles of Euphemia, dated by Simocatta to the twelfth year of his reign (593), occurred in a period ‘of spiritual idleness with regard to divine things’ (ῥαθυμία περὶ τὰ θεῖα ψυχῆς) and under the influence of ‘a certain manner of thinking’ (ἔννοιά τις). H. Grégoire plausibly suggested that Simocatta inserted the story in this particular context, in order to present the emperor's incredulity as a sin that foreshadowed his death at Chalcedon in 602 (Grégoire 1946). The miracle, also mentioned by Evagrius in a slightly different way (Ecclesiastical History 2.3 (41)), occurred at Euphemia’s shrine in Chalcedon (Janin 1969, 223-228). Her relics were kept in what Simocatta calls a σηκός (sekos). This may either refer to the chapel or a reliquary/coffin. Evagrius gives more details and talks of a silver coffin venerated in a separate chapel (E00374). The relics produced a liquid of ‘blood mingled with flux from wounds and blended with aromatics of some kind, that flow by themselves’ (ἰχῶρσι τραυμάτων ἀναμεμιγμένα τὰ αἵματα, μύροις συγκεκραμένα αὐτοφυέσι τισίν). In other words, the substance was not man-made, but it oozed out miraculously. Simocatta's description could suggest that the relic was publicly exposed on the feast-day, when the liquid was wiped by the bishop with sponges and collected in small glass vessels. By contrast, Evagrius states that the effluent was taken from the closed coffin of the saint, and that it appeared irregularly and unpredictably, rather than on a particular date (see E00374). The emperor Maurice regarded the miracle as charlatanism by the local clergy and attempted to suppress the practice by sealing off the shrine (μνῆμα, mnema) and by confiscating its silver. It is unknown for how long the miracle had been happening before Maurice. His incredulity may suggest that it was not well-established. The incident is a remarkable case of imperial hostility towards a dubious cult, even though it was performed by clergy of the imperial church at a prominent shrine of the broader area of Constantinople. Simocatta's source for this was very probably oral information, perhaps from the clergy of Chalcedon (Olajos 1988, 90, 153).

Bibliography

Edition: de Boor, C., and Wirth, P., Theophylacti Simocattae Historiae (Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana; Leipzig: Teubner, 1972). Translation: Whitby, M., and Whitby, M., The History of Theophylact Simocatta: An English Translation with Introduction and Notes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986). Further reading: Frendo, J.D.C., “History and Panegyric in the Age of Heraclius: The Literary Background of the Composition of the Histories of Theophylact Simocatta,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 42 (1988), 143-156. Olajos, T., Les Sources de Théophylacte Simocatta Historien (Leiden: Brill, 1988). Whitby, M., The Emperor Maurice and his Historian: Theophylact Simocatta on Persian and Balkan Warfare (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988). On Euphemia: Grégoire, H., “Sainte Euphémie et l’empereur Maurice,” Le Muséon 59 (1946), 295-302. Janin, R., La géographie ecclésiastique de l'empire byzantin. I: Les églises et les monastères de la ville de Constantinople. (2nd ed.; Paris, 1969), 223-228.

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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