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E00340: Five poems in Greek, ascribed to Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390), refer to the burial of several members of Gregory's family near a shrine of martyrs. Written in Cappadocia (central Asia Minor); recorded in the 10th c. Greek Anthology.

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posted on 13.03.2015, 00:00 by CSLA Admin
Greek Anthology, Book 8 (Gregory of Nazianzus, Epigrams ), 33, 76, 99, 165

Epigram 33: A poem for Gregory’s mother Nonna who died c. 374, and was buried at a martyr shrine in Nazianzus

Ψυχὴ μὲν πτερόεσσα πρὸς οὐρανὸν ἤλυθε Νόννης,
σῶμα δ’ ἄρ’ ἐκ νηοῦ Μάρτυσι παρθέμεθα.
Μάρτυρες, ἀλλ’ ὑπόδεχθε θύος μέγα, τὴν πολύμοχθον
σάρκα καὶ ὑμετέροις αἵμασιν ἑσπομένην,
αἵμασιν ὑμετέροισιν, ἐπεὶ ψυχῶν ὀλετῆρος
δηναιοῖσι πόνοις κάρτος ἔπαυσε μέγα.

'The soul of Nonna left on its wings for heaven, and from the temple we took her body and laid it beside the martyrs. Martyrs, accept this great offering, her long toiling flesh which followed [= the example of] your blood. Your blood indeed, for she extinguished the great might of the destroyer of souls, by her immense labours.'

Epigram 76: A poem for Gregory’s parents, Gregory of Nazianzus the Elder and Nonna, buried outside an unnamed martyr shrine in Nazianzus.

Ἀσπάσιοι χθόνα τήνδε φίλαις ὑπὸ χείρεσι παιδὸς
ἑσσάμεθ᾿ εὐσεβέος Γρηγορίου τοκέες·
ὃς καὶ γῆρας ἔθηκεν ἑοῖς μόχθοισιν ἐλαφρὸν
ἡμέτερον, καὶ νῦν ἀμφιέπει θυσίαις.
ἄμπνεε γηροκόμων καμάτων, μέγα φέρτατε παίδων
Γρηγόρι᾿, εὐαγέας Μάρτυσι παρθέμενος
σοὺς τοκέας· μισθὸς δὲ μέγαν πατέρ᾿ ἵλαον εἶναι,
πνευματικῶν τε τυχεῖν εὐσεβέων τεκέων.

'By the dear hands of our son, the pious Gregory, we, his parents, are clothed in this welcome earth. He also lightened our old age by his toil, and now tends us with his prayers. Take rest from your labour of tending the elderly, Gregory, best of sons, now that you laid your pious parents beside the martyrs. Your reward is to be yourself a great and kind father, and to have pious spiritual children.'

Epigram 99: A poem for Gregory’s brother Caesarius, who was buried in the same family tomb as his parents, Gregory of Nazianzus the Elder and Nonna.

Γείτονες εὐμενέοιτε καὶ ἐν κόλποισι δέχοισθε,
Μάρτυρες, ὑμετέροις αἷμα τὸ Γρηγορίου,
Γρηγορίου Νόννης τε μεγακλέος εὐσεβίῃ τε
καὶ τύμβοις ἱεροῖς εἰς ἓν ἀγειρομένους.

'Be propitious neighbours, martyrs, and receive in your bosom the blood of Gregorios, Gregorios and the famous Nonna, gathered together both in piety and in the holy tomb.'

Epigram 165: For Gregory’s young nephew Gregory

Γρηγόριον μήτρως, ἱερεὺς μέγας, ἐνθάδ᾿ ἔθηκε
Γρηγόριος, καθαροῖς Μάρτυσι παρθέμενος,
ἠΐθεον, θαλέθοντα, νεόχνοον· αἱ δὲ πάροιθεν
τῆς γηροτροφίης ἐλπίδες ἥδε κόνις.

'Gregorios, the high priest, laid here his nephew Gregorios, still in the first bloom of youth, entrusting him to the pure martyrs. This dust is what remains of his former hopes of being tended by him in his old age.'

Text and Translation: Paton 1916-1918; translation modified.


Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Nazianzos Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Nazianzus

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Burial ad sanctos

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Women Aristocrats Children


The Greek Anthology is a collection of Greek epigrams from dating from the Archaic period to the 9th century AD. It was initially compiled by Meleager of Megara (100-90 BC), whose collection was edited and expanded by Philip of Thessalonica (under Nero), Agathias of Myrina (AD 567/8) and finally by Konstantinos Kephalas (c. AD 900). The word epigram literally means an inscription. Although most Greek inscriptions were in prose, the word came to be specifically connected to those written in verse, and eventually to include poetic texts which were not necessarily inscribed. From the earliest period of Greek literature, epigrams were mostly sepulchral or dedicatory: they either memorialised the dead or marked the dedication of an object to a god. Book 8 consists entirely of epigrams by Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329-390). Since most of them are sepulchral, they were included as an appendix to Book 7, which contains sepulchral epigrams from the Classical period. Gregory was born in c. 330 to a wealthy Christian family in Cappadocia. He was educated at Nazianzos, Kaisareia/Caesarea, Athens, and Alexandria, and in 361 he returned to Nazianzos where he was ordained priest by his father, Gregory the Elder, who was bishop of Nazianzos. He was ordained bishop of Sasima in Cappadocia by Basil of Caesarea in 372, but stayed in Nazianzos, administering the local community after the death of his father. After retreating as a monk in Isauria for some years, he moved to Constantinople in 379, in order to lead the struggle for the return of the city to Nicene Orthodoxy. Two years later, the Arians were ousted by the emperor Theodosius I, and Gregory became bishop of Constantinople. In 381, he convened the Council of Constantinople, at the end of which he resigned his throne and retired to Cappadocia where he died in 390.


Epigrams 33 and 76 belong to a series of 68 poems (epigrams 12-78 of the Greek Anthology) dedicated to the memory of Gregory's parents. Epigram 99 is one of the 15 (85-100) dedicated to Gregory's brother, Caesarius, who was probably buried in the same mausoleum. Epigram 165 is dedicated to a nephew of Gregory, who died very young, and was perhaps buried in the same family tomb. The epigrams suggest that Gregory's family had a mausoleum near a shrine of martyrs, but it is unknown if any of these poems was actually inscribed on the monument. Gregory presents the burial of his relatives as an offering to the martyrs, and draws a parallel between the ascetic life of his mother and the suffering of the saints, as a fight against the devil.


Edition and Translation: Paton, W.R., The Greek Anthology. 5 vols. (Loeb Classical Library; London, New York: Heinemann/Putnam's, 1916-1918). Paton, W.R., rev. Tueller, M.A., The Greek Anthology, Books 1-5, 2nd ed. (Loeb Classical Library; London, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2014). [With updated bibliography] Other editions: Beckby, H., Anthologia Graeca (Munich: Ernst Heimeran Verlag, 1957). Conca, F., Marzi, M., and Zanetto, G., Antologia Palatina. 3 vols. Vol. 1 (Classici Greci; Turin: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 2005). Waltz, P., Anthologie Grecque (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1928). Further reading on the Greek Anthology: Cameron, A., The Greek Anthology: From Meleager to Planudes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993). Further reading on the poetry of Gregory of Nazianzus: Simelidis, C., Selected Poems of Gregory of Nazianzus (Hypomnemata. Untersuchungen zur Antike und ihrem Nachleben; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2009). Vertoudakis, B.P., Το όγδοο βιβλίο της Παλατινής Ανθολογίας. Μία μελέτη των επιγραμμάτων του Γρηγορίου Ναζιανζηνού (Athens: Kardamitsa). Further reading on the epigrams: Duval, Y. Auprès des saints corps et âme. L’inhumation « ad sanctos » dans la chrétienté d’Orient et d’Occident du IIIe au VIIe siècle. Paris : Etudes Augistiniennes, 1988, 69-73.

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