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E00396: Eusebius of Caesarea, in his Life of Constantine, reports that the emperor Constantine, shortly before his death in 337, prayed at a shrine of martyrs at Helenopolis in Bithynia (north-west Asia Minor), perhaps the martyrium of *Loukianos (martyr of Nicomedia, S00151). Written in Greek in Palestine. 337/339.

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posted on 22.04.2015, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Eusebius of Caesarea, Life of Constantine 4.61

Γίγνεται δ’ αὐτῷ πρώτη τις ἀνωμαλία τοῦ σώματος, εἴτ’ οὖν κάκωσις ἐπὶ ταύτην συμβαίνει, κἄπειτα τῆς αὐτοῦ πόλεως ἐπὶ λουτρὰ θερμῶν ὑδάτων πρόεισιν, ἔνθεν τε τῆς αὐτοῦ μητρὸς ἐπὶ τὴν ἐπώνυμον ἀφικνεῖται πόλιν. κἀνταῦθα τῷ τῶν μαρτύρων εὐκτηρίῳ ἐνδιατρίψας οἴκῳ ἱκετηρίους εὐχάς τε καὶ λιτανείας ἀνέπεμπε τῷ θεῷ. ἐπειδὴ δ’ εἰς ἔννοιαν ἥκει τῆς τοῦ βίου τελευτῆς, καθάρσεως εἶναι τοῦτον καιρὸν τῶν πώποτε αὐτῷ πεπλημμελημένων διενοεῖτο, ὅσα οἷα θνητῷ διαμαρτεῖν ἐπῆλθε ταῦτ’ ἀπορρύψασθαι τῆς ψυχῆς λόγων ἀπορρήτων δυνάμει σωτηρίῳ τε λουτρῷ πιστεύσας. τοῦτό τοι διανοηθείς, γονυκλινὴς ἐπ’ ἐδάφους ἱκέτης ἐγίγνετο τοῦ θεοῦ, ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ μαρτυρίῳ ἐξομολογούμενος, ἔνθα δὴ καὶ πρῶτον τῶν διὰ χειροθεσίας εὐχῶν ἠξιοῦτο.

'First a bodily indisposition came upon him, then illness supervened, and thereupon he went out to the hot water baths of his city, and from there to the city named after his mother. There he spent his time at the chapel (εὐκτήριον/euktērion) of the martyrs, and offered up supplicatory prayers and petitions to God. But when he became aware that his life was ending, he perceived that this was the time to purify himself from the offences which he had at any time committed, trusting that whatever sins it had been his lot as mortal to commit, he could wash them from his soul by the power of the secret words and the saving bath. Having perceived this, he knelt on the floor and made himself a suppliant to God, making confession in the martyrion itself, where also he was first accorded the prayers that go with laying-on of hands.'

Text: Winkelmann 2008. Translation: Cameron and Hall 1999.

History

Evidence ID

E00396

Saint Name

Loukianos, Antiochene priest martyred in Nicomedia, ob. 310/312 : S00151 Anonymous Martyrs : S00060

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

337

Evidence not after

339

Activity not before

337

Activity not after

337

Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Caesarea Maritima

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

Caesarea Maritima Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Eusebius of Caesarea

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family

Source

Eusebius wrote the Life of Constantine in the two years between the death of his hero (337) and his own (339), without finishing the work. The author portrays the first Christian emperor as an ideal ruler, sent from God, who ended the persecution of Christians and led the Roman Empire to the true faith. Based on imperial documents, legal texts and personal communication, the Life of Constantine, though clearly biased, is one of our fundamental sources of information on the reign of Constantine.

Discussion

The passage quoted here is one of our basic sources about the death of the emperor Constantine in May 337. Although rather indefinite in its details, it is the first extant reference to a martyr shrine in Helenopolis, a port-town of the Bithynian coast. According to Eusebius, after celebrating Easter in 337, and while preparing to campaign against Persia, Constantine fell ill and sought relief at the thermal baths ‘of his city’. By this, the author almost certainly refers to Pythia (today’s Termal, near Yalova), which was the main spa resort in the vicinity of Constantinople, remaining popular into our days. It was located in the mountains of coastal Bithynia within an area between Nicaea and Nicomedia, which, until the foundation of Constantinople, belonged to the city of Byzantium. Constantine turned this territory into a separate city which he named Helenopolis, after his mother. This explains why the ill emperor went to Helenopolis after taking the waters. Helenopolis, located on cape Drepanon (mod. Hersek), was a port-town probably built in order to facilitate the communication between Constantinople and Anatolia (see Mango 1994). The text of Eusebius reports that Constantine prayed at the local martyrium and received there the first rites of Christian initiation 'by the laying of hands' – very probably, he was proclaimed a catechumen. The text is an important testimony to the existence of a martyrium in Helenopolis already under Constantine. According to tradition, Cape Drepanon/Helenopolis was the burial site of the martyr Loukianos of Antioch, but it is not explicit if it was at his shrine that Constantine prayed. This lack of detail, however, may be ascribed to the unfamiliarity of Eusebius with the area, which is otherwise also evident in his geographically vague account.

Bibliography

Text: Winkelmann, F. (ed.), Eusebius Werke, Band 1, Teil 1: Über das Leben des Kaisers Konstantin (Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte; 2nd rev. ed.; Berlin / New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2008). Translations and Commentaries: Cameron, A., and Hall, S.G., Eusebius, Life of Constantine (Clarendon Ancient History Series; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999). Dräger, P., Eusebios, Über das Leben des glückseligen Kaisers Konstantin = (De vita Constantini) : griechisch/deutsch (Bibliotheca classicorum; Oberhaid: Utopica, 2007). Pietri, L., and Rondeau, M.-J. Eusèbe De Césarée, Vie De Constantin (Sources Chrétiennes 559; Paris: Editions du Cerf, 2013). Schneider, H., and Bleckmann, B., Eusebios von Caesarea. De vita Constantini = Das Leben des Konstantin (Fontes Christiani; Turnhout: Brepols, 2007). Tartaglia, L., Eusebio di Cesarea Sulla vita di Costantino (Quaderni di Koinōnia; Napoli: M. D'Auria, 1984). Further reading: Bardill, J., Constantine, Divine Emperor of the Christian Golden Age (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). Baynes, N.H., Constantine the Great and the Christian Church (Raleigh Lecture on History; London: Humphrey Milford for the British Academy, 1929). Burgess, R. W., "ΑΧΥΡΟΝ or ΠΡΟΑΣΤΕΙΟΝ? The Location and Circumstances of Constantine’s Death,” Journal of Theological Studies 50 (1999), 153–61. Drake, H. A., Constantine and the Bishops: the Politics of Intolerance (Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000). Mango, C., “The Empress Helena, Helenopolis, Pylae,” Travaux et Mémoires 12 (1994), 143-15. Woods, D., "Where Did Constantine I Die?" Journal of Theological Studies 48 (1997), 531–535.

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