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E00030: Theophylact Simocatta in his History describes how in 593/4, the Persian king Khosrau II vowed to send offerings to the shrine of *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023) at Rusafa/Sergiopolis (north-east Syria) if he had a child with his Christian wife. After the birth of his son, the king sent offerings accompanied by a letter. Written in Greek at Constantinople in the early 7th century.

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posted on 08.09.2014, 00:00 by CSLA Admin
Theophylact Simocatta, History 5.14

(1.) τρίτῳ δὲ ἔτει καὶ ἠντιβόλει τὸν δραστικώτατον ἐν Περσίδι Σέργιον παῖδα ἐκ τῆς Σειρὲμ δοθῆναι αὐτῷ. μετ’ οὐ πολὺ δὲ τούτου γεγονότος αὐτῷ, δώροις καὶ αὖθις γεραίρει τὸν εὐεργέτην εἰκότως. ἐπιστολὴν δὲ ἐξέπεμψεν Ἑλληνικῇ συμφράσει χρησάμενος. εἶχε δὲ ἡ ἐπιστολὴ ἐπὶ λέξεως οὕτως. (2.) “Τῷ μεγαλομάρτυρι Σεργίῳ Χοσρόης, βασιλεὺς βασιλέων. ἐγὼ Χοσρόης, βασιλεὺς βασιλέων, υἱὸς Χοσρόου, τὰ δῶρα τὰ μετὰ τοῦ δίσκου ἐξέπεμψα οὐκ εἰς θέαν ἀνθρώπων, οὐδὲ ἵνα ἐκ τῶν λόγων μου τὸ μέγεθος τοῦ πανσέπτου σου ὀνόματος γνωσθῇ, ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸ γνωσθῆναι τὴν ἀλήθειαν τῶν γενομένων καὶ τὰς πολλὰς χάριτας καὶ εὐεργεσίας ἃς ἔσχον παρὰ σοῦ· εὐτυχία γάρ μοί ἐστιν, ἵνα τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα ἐμφέρηται τοῖς ἱεροῖς σου σκεύεσιν. (3.) ἐν τῷ εἶναί με ἐν τῷ Βεραμαῒς ᾐτησάμην παρὰ σοῦ, ἅγιε, ἐλθεῖν εἰς τὴν βοήθειάν μου καὶ ἐν γαστρὶ συλλαβεῖν Σειρέμ. καὶ ἐπειδὴ ἡ Σειρὲμ Χριστιανή ἐστι κἀγὼ Ἕλλην, ὁ ἡμέτερος νόμος ἄδειαν ἡμῖν οὐ παρέχει Χριστιανὴν ἔχειν γαμετήν. (4.) διὰ οὖν τὴν ἐμὴν πρὸς σὲ εὐγνωμοσύνην διὰ τοῦτο τὸν νόμον παρεῖδον, καὶ ταύτην ἐν γυναιξὶν ἡμέραν ἐξ ἡμέρας ἐν γνησιότητι ἔσχον καὶ ἔχω, καὶ οὕτω συνεῖδον νῦν δεηθῆναι τῆς σῆς ἀγαθότητος ἐν γαστρὶ συλλαβεῖν αὐτήν. (5.) καὶ ᾐτησάμην καὶ συνεταξάμην ἵνα, ἐὰν ἐν γαστρὶ συλλάβῃ Σειρέμ, τὸν σταυρὸν τὸν φορούμενον παρ’ αὐτῆς πέμψω τῷ πανσέπτῳ σου οἴκῳ. καὶ τούτου ἕνεκεν κἀγὼ καὶ ἡ Σειρὲμ τὸν σκοπὸν τοῦτον ἔχομεν, ἵνα εἰς μνημόσυνον τοῦ ὀνόματός σου, ἅγιε, τοῦτον τὸν σταυρὸν κρατῶμεν. (6.) καὶ συνείδομεν ἀντ’ αὐτοῦ τὴν τιμὴν αὐτοῦ, μὴ συντείνουσαν περαιτέρω τῶν τετρακισχιλίων τριακοσίων στατήρων μιλιαρισίων, πεντακισχιλίους στατῆρας ἐκπέμψαι. (7.) καὶ ἐξ οὗ τὴν τοιαύτην ἐν ἐμαυτῷ ἔσχον αἴτησιν καὶ ταῦτα διελογισάμην, ἕως οὗ ἐφθάσαμεν εἰς τὸ Ῥησωνχοσρών, δέκα ἡμέραι πλέον οὐ διῆλθον, καὶ σύ, ἅγιε, οὐ διὰ τὸ εἶναί με ἄξιον ἀλλὰ διὰ τὴν σὴν ἀγαθότητα, ἐφάνης μοι ἐν ὁράματι τῆς νυκτός, καὶ τρίτον εἶπές μοι ὅτι ἡ Σειρὲμ ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχει. (8.) κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ ὁράματι τρίτον ἀνταπεκρίθην σοι λέγων, καλῶς, καλῶς. καὶ διὰ τὴν σὴν ἁγιωσύνην καὶ ἐλεημοσύνην, καὶ διὰ τὸ πάνσεπτόν σου ὄνομα, καὶ διὰ τὸ εἶναί σε δοτῆρα τῶν αἰτήσεων, ἐκ τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης ἡ Σειρὲμ τὸ εἰθισμένον ταῖς γυναιξὶν οὐκ εἶδεν. (9.) ἐγὼ δὲ οὐκ ἐδίστασα εἰς τοῦτο, ἀλλὰ τοῖς λόγοις σου ἐπίστευσα, καὶ ὅτι ἅγιος εἶ καὶ ἀληθινὸς δοτὴρ τῶν αἰτήσεων. μετὰ τὸ ταύτην τὰ γυναικεῖα μὴ ὑπομεῖναι, ἐκ τούτου ἔγνων τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ ὁράματος καὶ τὴν τῶν παρὰ σοῦ ῥηθέντων ἀλήθειαν. (10.) παραυτὰ οὖν ἔπεμψα τὸν αὐτὸν σταυρὸν καὶ τὴν τούτου τιμὴν ἐν τῷ πανσέπτῳ σου οἴκῳ, κελεύσας ἐκ τῆς τούτου τιμῆς δίσκον ἕνα καὶ ποτήριον ἓν γενέσθαι εἰς λόγον τῶν θείων μυστηρίων, ἀλλὰ μὴν καὶ σταυρὸν [γενέσθαι καὶ] πηχθῆναι ὀφείλοντα ἐπὶ τῆς τιμίας τραπέζης, καὶ θυμιατήριον, τὰ πάντα χρυσᾶ, καὶ ἀμφίθυρον Οὐννικὸν κεκοσμημένον χρυσίῳ. (11.) τὰ δὲ λοιπὰ μιλιαρίσια εἶναι τοῦ ἁγίου σου οἴκου, ἵνα διὰ τῆς τύχης σου, ἅγιε, εἰς πάντα, ἐξαιρέτως δὲ εἰς τὴν αἴτησιν ταύτην εἰσέλθῃς εἰς βοήθειάν μου καὶ Σειρέμ. καὶ ὃ διὰ τῆς πρεσβείας σου γέγονεν ἡμῖν τῷ ἐλέει τῆς σῆς ἀγαθότητος, καὶ τῷ θελήματί μου καὶ Σειρὲμ εἰς τέλεον προέλθοι, ἵνα κἀγὼ καὶ ἡ Σειρὲμ καὶ πάντες οἱ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ εἰς τὴν σὴν δύναμιν ἐλπίζωμεν καὶ εἰς σὲ ἔτι πιστεύωμεν.” (12.) Ἐς τάχος τοιγαροῦν ὡς τὸ τέμενος ὁ ἀποσταλεὶς ἀφικνεῖται, τὰ δὲ δῶρα τὰ τοῦ βασιλέως ἅμα τοῖς γράμμασιν ἐν τῇ ἱερᾷ περιέθετο τραπέζῃ.

'(1.) In the third year [AD 593/4] he [Khosrau II] entreated Sergios, the most efficacious one in Persia, that a child by Seirem [Khosrau’s Christian wife, Shirin] might be granted to him. Shortly afterwards, this happened for him, and once again he naturally honoured his benefactor with gifts. Using the Greek language he dispatched a letter; and the letter was as follows, word for word:
(2.) "To the great martyr Sergios, Chosroes, king of kings. I, Chosroes, king of kings, son of Chosroes, have dispatched the gifts accompanying the paten not for the sight of men, nor so that the greatness of your most holy name be known from my words, but in order that the truth of the events be known and the many favours and benefactions which I had from you. For it is good fortune for me that my name should be carried on your holy vessels. (3.) During the time when I was in Berthamais [the region of Beth Aramaye in Lower Mesopotamia], I petitioned from you, o Holy One, to come to my aid and that Seirem conceive in her womb. And since Seirem is a Christian and I a Hellene [= pagan], our law does not grant us freedom to have a Christian wife. (4.) So, on account of my gratitude to you, for this reason I disregarded the law and I held and hold her from day to day among my wives as legitimate, and thus I resolved now to beseech your goodness that she conceive in her womb. (5.) And I petitioned and ordained that, if Seirem should conceive in her womb, I would send to your most revered house the cross that she wears. And with regard to this, both I and Seirem have the intention to keep this cross in remembrance of your name, o Holy One. (6.) And we resolved instead of it to send five thousand pieces of silver as equivalent of its value, although this does not exceed four thousand three hundred pieces. (7.) And from the time when I had the said petition in my mind and made these calculations, until the time we came to Resonchosron [a Persian palace near the Diyala river], not ten more days had passed, and you, o Holy One, not because I am worthy, but because of your goodness, you appeared to me in a dream and thrice declared that Seirem had conceived in her womb. (8.) And in the same dream, I thrice answered to you and said, “Very well, very well”. And because of your holiness and charity, and because of your most revered name, because you are the granter of petitions, from that day Seirem did not know what is customary for women [i.e. her periods ceased]. (9.) I was in no doubt of this, but trusted in your words, and believed that you are holy and a true granter of petitions. Once she did not experience womanly ways, from that I recognised the power of the vision and the truth of the things you had said. (10.) So straightway I sent the same cross and its value to your most revered house, giving orders that from its value one paten and one chalice should be made for the sake of the divine mysteries, but also that a cross had to be made and fixed upon the honoured altar, and a censer, all of them golden, and a Hunnic curtain [ἀμφίθυρον] adorned with gold. (11.) And the remaining silver pieces should belong to your house, so that by your fortune, o Holy One, you may come to the assistance of me and Seirem in all things, but especially in this petition. And what has come to us through your intercession by the mercy of your goodness, may it also advance to completion at the wish of myself and Seirem, so that both I and Seirem and everyone in the world may have hope in your power and still trust in you.”
(12.) Accordingly, the emissary quickly came to the shrine and placed the king’s gifts along with his message on the holy altar.'

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

History

Evidence ID

E00030

Saint Name

Sergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 305-311 : S00023

Saint Name in Source

Σέργιος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

620

Evidence not after

640

Activity not before

593

Activity not after

594

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

  • Procession

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Vow

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Fertility- and family-related miracles (infertility, marriages) Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Pagans Foreigners (including Barbarians) Monarchs and their family Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Chalices, censers and other liturgical vessels Crosses Ex-votos 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.

Discussion

The story of Khosrau II’s second vow and offerings to the shrine of Sergios in Rusafa/Resapha belongs to a set of notes that follow Simocatta’s account of the events of Khosrau’s restoration to the Persian throne with the assistance of the emperor Maurice in 591. Khosrau II prays Sergios to help him have a son from his Christian wife Shirin (Seirem), which is soon granted. He therefore sends a quantity of silver and a set of precious offerings to the shrine as thanksgiving, explaining the reasons of his dedication in a letter. The king describes in detail the time, place and subject of his vow, his initial promise to dedicate his wife’s personal cross, and his later decision to keep Shirin’s cross and to make instead an offering of silver of a greater value. He then describes his dream vision of Sergios announcing the conception of his son, always giving meticulous details on time and place. He finally gives an account of his offering to the shrine, which is eventually more generous than initially promised: the king dedicates both his wife’s cross and the silver he later promised. Of the latter he has a set of precious artefacts produced for the altar of the church (cross, chalice, paten, censer and an ἀμφίθυρον, which may be a gold-embroidered curtain). A similar structure is repeated in Khosrau’s first votive letter quoted by Simocatta and Evagrius (E00025, E00028). Just as in the first votive letter of Khosrau, this text also makes use of the pagan term τύχη, probably in a sense synonymous to the Greek δαίμων or the Latin genius, denoting a spirit or deity and its power. This letter, however, also betrays heavier Christian influences: the phrases διὰ τῆς σῆς πρεσβείας ('by your intercession') and εἰς λόγον τῶν θείων μυστηρίων ('for the sake of divine mysteries') seem to come from a Christian hand. The same applies to expressions of humility such as οὐ διὰ τὸ εἶναί με ἄξιον ἀλλὰ διὰ τὴν σὴν ἀγαθότητα ('not because I am worthy but because of your goodness') and εὐτυχία γάρ μοί ἐστιν, ἵνα τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα ἐμφέρηται τοῖς ἱεροῖς σου σκεύεσιν ('for it is good fortune for me that my name should be carried on your holy vessels'). The language and syntax of the text present similarities to a letter of Khosrau addressed to the people of Martyropolis, which was inscribed on the walls of that city (fragments of the inscription survived until the early 20th century). It seems that both his dedicatory letters to Rusafa and the one to Martyropolis were composed in, or translated into, Greek by the same scribe, perhaps a Hellenised Syrian or Armenian member of the Persian royal chancery (on the language of the texts and the inscription of Martyropolis, see Mango 1985). Simocatta’s source for these events and for the text of the letter of Khosrau is probably the lost history of John of Epiphania. A version of the letter text quoted here can also be found with minor variants in Evagrius' Ecclesiastical History (E00028), but Simocatta's and Evagrius' accounts have a notable difference: Evagrius states that the text of Khosrau’s letter was inscribed on the paten. It is very probable that the king initially sent the money and letter to the Patriarch of Antioch, with instructions for the precious liturgical vessels to be produced in the Syrian capital. At that point the text of the royal letter was probably carved on the golden paten. Evagrius' narrative is probably more reliable, since he had access to the archives of the Patriarchate of Antioch and most probably witnessed the delivery of the gifts himself, writing his account only one or two years later. Evagrius was a contemporary and relative of Simocatta's main source, John of Epiphania. Both Evagrius and John worked for the Patriarch of Antioch, Gregory, and had direct access to documents of the Patriarchate (Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire IIIA, 'Evagrius', 'Ioannes 162'). Both of them probably witnessed the delivery of Khosrau's gifts at Antioch and Rusafa, and wrote their accounts shortly after. It is now widely accepted that Theophylact Simocatta, writing thirty years later, consulted only the text of John of Epiphania; consequently the differences between his and Evagrius' version reflect the differences between Evagrius and John. Simocatta dates the dedication of the gifts to the 'third year'. If this refers to the third year after Khosrau's restoration to the throne, the date must be calculated as 593/4. Yet it seems likelier that this actually means his third regnal year, namely 592, which fits also with Evagrius' version, who states that Khosrau's second dedication followed shortly after the first one (E00028). The cult of Sergios was popular among the Christian Ghassanid Arabs of the desert and the Christians of Persia, one of whom was Shirin, Khosrau II’s favourite wife and mother of his favourite son Mardanshah. The episode demonstrates the role of Rusafa-Sergiopolis as a major contact point between the East Roman and Persian Empires (see Fowden 1999). It was indeed a unique case of a city combining the functions of a fortified stronghold of military defence and of a Christian pilgrimage centre of the highest renown on the borders between the two empires (cf. E### [01460? 02073?]). Khosrau's two votive dedications can be seen as gestures of gratitude towards his benefactors, the Roman Empire and its supernatural protectors. The impression they made on the Romans is reflected in the fact that three authors, Evagrius, John of Epiphania and Theophylact Simocatta quoted his letters in full. Further reading: Higgins 1955; Fowden 1999, 133-141; Mango 1985; Olajos 1988, 82-95; Peeters 1947; Peeters 1951; Whitby 1988, 235, 240-241; Whitby and Whitby 1986, 186.

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: Fowden, E.K., The Barbarian Plain: Saint Sergius Between Byzantium and Iran (Transformation of the Classical Heritage 28; Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1999). 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. Higgins, M.J., “Chosroes II’s offerings at Sergiopolis,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 48 (1955), 89-102. Mango, C., “Deux études sur Byzance et la Perse Sassanide,” Travaux et Mémoires 9 (1985), 91-118. Olajos, T., Les Sources de Théophylacte Simocatta Historien (Leiden: Brill, 1988). Peeters, P., “Les ex-voto de Khosrau Aparwez à Sergiopolis,” Analecta Bollandiana 56 (1947), 5-56. Peeters, P., “Les ex-voto de Khosrau Aparwez à Saint Serge de Rosapha,” Mémoires de l’ Académie des inscriptions et des Belles Lettres 44 (1951), 99-119. Whitby, M., The Emperor Maurice and his Historian: Theophylact Simocatta on Persian and Balkan Warfare (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).

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