File(s) not publicly available

E00718: Basil of Caesarea, in his Homily on the *Forty Martyrs (S00103), delivered during a festival of the saints at Kaisareia/Caesarea (central Asia Minor) recounts their story, insisting on the unity of their veneration, and recommending them as exemplars and intercessors for the troubled and the sick. Written in Greek in Caesarea in c. 373.

online resource
posted on 16.09.2015, 00:00 by erizos
Basil of Caesarea, Homily 19, On the Forty Martyrs (CPG 2863, BHG 1205)

Εἰς τοὺς ἁγίους τεσσαράκοντα μάρτυρας

1. Μαρτύρων μνήμης τίς ἂν γένοιτο κόρος τῷ φιλομάρτυρι; διότι ἡ πρὸς τοὺς ἀγαθοὺς τῶν ὁμοδούλων τιμὴ ἀπόδειξιν ἔχει τῆς πρὸς τὸν κοινὸν Δεσπότην εὐνοίας. Δῆλον γὰρ, ὅτι ὁ τοὺς γενναίους ἄνδρας ἀποδεχόμενος ἐν τοῖς ὁμοίοις καιροῖς οὐκ ἀπολειφθήσεται τῆς μιμήσεως. Μακάρισον γνησίως τὸν μαρτυρήσαντα, ἵνα γένῃ μάρτυς τῇ προαιρέσει, καὶ ἐκβῇς χωρὶς διωγμοῦ, χωρὶς πυρὸς, χωρὶς μαστίγων, τῶν αὐτῶν ἐκείνοις μισθῶν ἠξιωμένος. Ἡμῖν δὲ οὐχ ἕνα πρόκειται θαυμάζειν, οὐδὲ δύο μόνους, οὐδὲ μέχρι δεκάδος ὁ ἀριθμὸς πρόεισι τῶν μακαριζομένων· ἀλλὰ τεσσαράκοντα ἄνδρες, ὡς μίαν ψυχὴν ἐν διῃρημένοις σώμασιν ἔχοντες, ἐν μιᾷ συμπνοίᾳ καὶ ὁμονοίᾳ τῆς πίστεως, μίαν καὶ τὴν πρὸς τὰ δεινὰ καρτερίαν, καὶ τὴν ὑπὲρ τῆς ἀληθείας ἔνστασιν ἐπεδείξαντο. Πάντες παραπλήσιοι ἀλλήλοις, ἴσοι τὴν γνώμην, ἴσοι τὴν ἄθλησιν. […]

2. Δεῦρο δὴ οὖν, εἰς μέσον αὐτοὺς ἀγαγόντες διὰ τῆς ὑπομνήσεως, κοινὴν τὴν ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ὠφέλειαν τοῖς παροῦσι καταστησώμεθα, προδείξαντες πᾶσιν, ὥσπερ ἐν γραφῇ, τὰς τῶν ἀνδρῶν ἀριστείας. Ἐπεὶ καὶ πολέμων ἀνδραγαθήματα καὶ λογογράφοι πολλάκις, καὶ ζωγράφοι διασημαίνουσιν, οἱ μὲν τῷ λόγῳ διακοσμοῦντες, οἱ δὲ τοῖς πίναξιν ἐγχαράττοντες, καὶ πολλοὺς ἐπήγειραν πρὸς ἀνδρίαν ἑκάτεροι. Ἃ γὰρ ὁ λόγος τῆς ἱστορίας διὰ τῆς ἀκοῆς παρίστησι, ταῦτα γραφικὴ σιωπῶσα διὰ μιμήσεως δείκνυσιν. Οὕτω δὴ καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀναμνήσωμεν τῆς ἀρετῆς τῶν ἀνδρῶν τοὺς παρόντας, καὶ οἱονεὶ ὑπ’ ὄψιν αὐτῶν ἀγαγόντες τὰς πράξεις, κινήσωμεν πρὸς τὴν μίμησιν τοὺς γενναιοτέρους καὶ οἰκειοτέρους αὐτοῖς τὴν προαίρεσιν. Τοῦτο γάρ ἐστι μαρτύρων ἐγκώμιον, ἡ πρὸς ἀρετὴν παράκλησις τῶν συνειλεγμένων. Οὐδὲ γὰρ καταδέχονται νόμοις ἐγκωμίων δουλεύειν οἱ περὶ τῶν ἁγίων λόγοι. Διότι οἱ εὐφημοῦντες ἐκ τῶν τοῦ κόσμου ἀφορμῶν τὰς ἀρχὰς τῶν εὐφημιῶν λαμβάνουσιν· οἷς δὲ ὁ κόσμος ἐσταύρωται, πῶς δύναταί τι τῶν ἐν αὐτῷ ἀφορμὴν παρέχειν εἰς περιφάνειαν; Οὐκ ἦν μία πατρὶς τοῖς ἁγίοις· ἄλλος γὰρ ἀλλαχόθεν ὥρμητο. Τί οὖν; ἀπόλιδας αὐτοὺς εἴπωμεν, ἢ τῆς οἰκουμένης πολίτας; Ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν ταῖς τῶν ἐράνων συνεισφοραῖς τὰ παρ’ ἑκάστου καταβληθέντα κοινὰ τῶν εἰσενεγκάντων γίνεται· οὕτω καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν μακαρίων τούτων ἡ ἑκάστου πατρὶς κοινὴ πάντων ἐστί· καὶ πάντες εἰσὶ πανταχόθεν ἀντιδιδόντες ἀλλήλοις τὰς ἐνεγκούσας. Μᾶλλον δὲ τί δεῖ τὰς χαμαὶ κειμένας περιζητεῖν, ἐξὸν τὴν νῦν αὐτῶν πόλιν, ἥτις ἐστὶν, ἐννοεῖν πόλις τοίνυν μαρτύρων ἡ πόλις ἐστὶ τοῦ Θεοῦ· ᾗ τεχνίτης καὶ δημιουργὸς ὁ Θεὸς, ἡ ἄνω Ἱερουσαλὴμ ἡ ἐλευθέρα, ἡ μήτηρ Παύλου, καὶ τῶν ἐκείνῳ παραπλησίων. Γένος δὲ τὸ μὲν ἀνθρώπινον ἄλλο ἄλλου· τὸ δὲ πνευματικὸν ἓν ἁπάντων. Κοινὸς γὰρ αὐτῶν πατὴρ ὁ Θεὸς, καὶ ἀδελφοὶ πάντες, οὐκ ἀπὸ ἑνὸς καὶ μιᾶς γεννηθέντες, ἀλλ’ ἐκ τῆς υἱοθεσίας τοῦ Πνεύματος εἰς τὴν διὰ τῆς ἀγάπης ὁμόνοιαν ἀλλήλοις συναρμοσθέντες. χορὸς ἕτοιμος, προσθήκη μεγάλη τῶν ἀπ’ αἰῶνος δοξαζόντων τὸν Κύριον, οὐ καθ’ ἕνα συναθροισθέντες, ἀλλ’ ἀθρόως μετατεθέντες. [...]


'On the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebastea

1. How could one who loves martyrs have enough of their memory? Indeed, bestowing honour to the good among our fellow servants contains the proof of our own faithfulness towards our common Master. For it is evident that he who acknowledges the brave, will not fall short of imitating them under similar circumstances. Bless the martyred person sincerely, so that you may become a martyr by intention, and may end up enjoying the same rewards as they, but without persecution, without fire, without flogging. But we are about to express our admiration not just for one man, nor only two, nor does the number of those to be blessed extend to ten; but forty men, as if having one single soul in divided bodies, in one harmony and concordance in the faith, united did they also demonstrate their perseverance in adversities, and endurance for the sake of truth. All of them similar to one another, equal in their disposition, equal in their martyrdom. For this reason, they were equally honoured with the crowns of glory. […]

2. So let us bring them in our midst with our narrative, and make all those attending share the benefit from them, exposing before everyone the feats of these men, as if in a painting. Indeed, both writers and painters very often describe brave acts of war, the former beautifying them in word, the latter engraving them on panels, and both arouse many to bravery. For what narrative discourse conveys by hearing, painting depicts silently by copying. In this way then let us too remind those present here of the bravery of these men, and, bringing as it were the events before their eyes, let us motivate towards imitation the braver and those who are more akin to them in their disposition. For the praise of the martyrs consists precisely of this: the encouragement of the assembly towards virtue. Indeed, speeches about saints by no means deign to conform to the norms of encomia [worldly laudatory panegyrics]: because eulogists pick the starting points of their eulogies from the affairs of this world. But how can something of the world give reasons for pride to men to whom the world has been crucified? The saints did not have only one home, because each one of them hailed from a different place. What then? Shall we call them men of no city, or rather citizens of the entire world? For just like contributions in collections, which, although offered by different individuals, become a shared possession of the contributors, similarly, for these blessed men, the home city of each is common to all. And all of them, from all places, share with one another the homes which produced them. But, more importantly, why should we seek for their homes which lie down here, when we can contemplate on their current city? The city of the martyrs is namely the city of God (Heb. 12:22); its craftsman and workman is God (Heb. 11:10); the upper Jerusalem, the free one, the mother of Paul and of those like him. In their humanity, they were of different origins, but, in the spirit, their belonged to one and the same race: for God was their common father, and all of them were brothers, not because they were born by the same father and mother, but because they were joined to one another by the adoption of the Spirit into the harmony of love. They were a proper chorus, a great addition to those who praise the Lord since all eternity, not gathered together one by one, but taken up as a group. […]'

3. They were distinguished soldiers enjoying the highest honours by the emperors, and renowned for their virtue. As the decree against Christians is published, many people appear weak and cede to the threat of torture and death. These men, however, openly confessed to Christians when the emperor published his decrees and demanded obedience.

4. Their names matter no more, since all are now declared by the Christian name. Their persecutor attempts to change their mind by flattering, promising them money and offices, and finally by threats. The martyrs reject everything, because none of the temporary goods of this world is greater than the perpetual happiness of the righteous in heaven.

5. Their persecutor is enraged and, considering the cold climate of the area and the fact that it was winter, he decides to let them stay naked outside in the city during a very cold night – a dreadful and very painful way to die. At that time the lake by the city was completely frozen.

6. The martyrs accept the condemnation with enthusiasm, take off their clothes, and encourage one another to endure one night’s suffering in order to win eternity. Their common prayer is to receive the crown of martyrdom all the forty of them together, but one of them is weakened, and abandons them, causing their distress. A man entrusted with their keeping is watching their martyrdom from a bath-house nearby, which has been prepared in order to tempt them to abandon their struggle.

7. He has a vision of powers coming down from heaven and distributing prizes to all the soldiers, except for one, and immediately takes off his clothes and joins the martyrs shouting that he is a Christian himself. He thus replaces the renegade who not only loses eternal life, but also dies immediately from the contact of his frozen flesh with the heat of the bath. The keeper turned martyr is compared to Matthias who replaced Judas, or to Paul who, from persecutor was turned into an apostle of Christ.

8. Next morning, while still alive, the martyrs are given up to be burned, and their remains are thrown into the river.

8. Καὶ οὕτως, ἡμέρας ἀρχομένης, ἔτι ἐμπνέοντες τῷ πυρὶ παρεδόθησαν, καὶ τὰ τοῦ πυρὸς λείψανα ἐπὶ τὸν ποταμὸν ἀπεῤῥίφη· ὥστε διὰ πάσης τῆς κτίσεως διεξελθεῖν τῶν μακαρίων τὴν ἄθλησιν. Ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἠγωνίσαντο, τῷ ἀέρι ἐνεκαρτέρησαν, τῷ πυρὶ παρεδόθησαν, τὸ ὕδωρ αὐτοὺς ὑπεδέξατο. Ἐκείνων ἐστὶν ἡ φωνή· Διήλθομεν διὰ πυρὸς καὶ ὕδατος, καὶ ἐξήγαγες ἡμᾶς εἰς ἀναψυχήν. Οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ τὴν καθ’ ἡμᾶς χώραν διαλαβόντες, οἱονεὶ πύργοι τινὲς συνεχεῖς, ἀσφάλειαν ἐκ τῆς τῶν ἐναντίων καταδρομῆς παρεχόμενοι, οὐχ ἑνὶ τόπῳ ἑαυτοὺς κατακλείσαντες, ἀλλὰ πολλοῖς ἤδη ἐπιξενωθέντες χωρίοις, καὶ πολλὰς πατρίδας κατακοσμήσαντες. Καὶ τὸ παράδοξον, οὐ καθ’ ἕνα διαμερισθέντες τοῖς δεχομένοις ἐπιφοιτῶσιν· ἀλλ’ ἀναμιχθέντες ἀλλήλοις, ἡνωμένως χορεύουσιν. Ὢ τοῦ θαύματος! Οὔτε ἐλλείπουσι τῷ ἀριθμῷ, οὔτε πλεονασμὸν ἐπιδέχονται. Ἐὰν εἰς ἑκατὸν αὐτοὺς διέλῃς, τὸν οἰκεῖον ἀριθμὸν οὐκ ἐκβαίνουσιν· ἐὰν εἰς ἓν συναγάγῃς, τεσσαράκοντα καὶ οὕτω μένουσι, κατὰ τὴν τοῦ πυρὸς φύσιν. Καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνο καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἐξάπτοντα μεταβαίνει, καὶ ὅλον ἐστὶ παρὰ τῷ ἔχοντι· καὶ οἱ τεσσαράκοντα καὶ πάντες εἰσὶν ὁμοῦ, καὶ πάντες εἰσὶ παρ’ ἑκάστῳ. Ἡ ἄφθονος εὐεργεσία, ἡ μὴ δαπανωμένη χάρις· ἑτοίμη βοήθεια Χριστιανοῖς, ἐκκλησία μαρτύρων, στρατὸς τροπαιοφόρων, χορὸς δοξολογούντων. Πόσα ἂν ἔκαμες, ἵνα ἕνα που εὕρῃς ὑπὲρ σοῦ δυσωποῦντα τὸν Κύριον; Τεσσαράκοντά εἰσι, σύμφωνον ἀναπέμποντες προσευχήν. Ὅπου δύο ἢ τρεῖς εἰσι συνηγμένοι ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ Κυρίου, ἐκεῖ ἐστιν ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν. Ὅπου δὲ τ

History

Evidence ID

E00718

Saint Name

Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, ob. under Licinius (314-324) : S00103

Saint Name in Source

Τεσσαράκοντα μάρτυρες

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom Literary - Sermons/Homilies

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

371

Evidence not after

379

Activity not before

371

Activity not after

379

Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Kaisareia/Caesarea in Cappadocia

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

Kaisareia/Caesarea in Cappadocia Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Basil of Caesarea

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Considerations about the veneration of saints

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Crowds

Source

Born around 330 to an aristocratic Christian family of Neokaisareia/Neocaesarea of Pontus Polemoniacus (Anatolia), Basil was educated in Kaisareia/Caesarea, Antioch, and Athens. After his studies, he spent time in the monasteries in Egypt, before returning to Pontus, where he organised an ascetic community on his family estate. In the 360s, Basil was ordained in Kaisareia/Caesarea, and, on 14 June 370, he was consecrated bishop there. He died on 1 January 379. Basil was a prolific writer, composing homilies, theological, ascetic, and liturgical works. We also have nearly 370 of his letters. Four of his homilies refer to the martyrs, all apparently delivered in the 370s. However, we can assume that the bishop preached homilies also on other martyr feasts, which have not come down to us. The Homily on the Forty Martyrs is thought to date from 373. For the manuscript tradition (280 manuscripts), editions, and translations of this text, see: Fedwick, P.J., Bibliotheca Basiliana Universalis. 5 vols. Vol. II, 2 (Corpus Christianorum; Turnhout: Brepols, 1996), p. 1110-1115. http://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr/notices/oeuvre/7401/

Discussion

Basil’s homily on the Forty Martyrs of Sebastea is thought to have been delivered during a festival held at the martyrium of the Forty in Kaisareia/Caesarea. It is the earliest datable testimony to the rise of one of the most popular cults of Anatolia. Basil’s narrative of the martyrdom has much in common with the narration of the Greek Martyrdom of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (E01303), a version of which may have been Basil’s source. Many of the narrative elements present in Basil’s homily were taken up in the later hagiographical tradition. Basil does not name the place of his heroes’ martyrdom, but it is evident that he follows the legend about their martyrdom in Armenia, near Sebasteia/Sebaste. It seems that the cult of these saints spread with the distribution of their relics and ashes (Bernardi 1968, 83-84). This homily contains no direct reference to them – indeed it provides no evidence about the location and nature of the Caesarean shrine of the Forty Martyrs – but it alludes to the existence of several shrines dedicated to them in Cappadocia. It is probable that these shrines were founded by the distribution of the martyrs’ ashes and relics, which must have taken place with the blessing of the bishop of Sebasteia/Sebaste. From 357/8 to 379/80, that city was administered by Eustathios, who was a mentor and close friend of Basil of Caesarea, and their good relations (broken from 373/4 on) may have encouraged the transfer of relics as gifts to various communities in Cappadocia. Basil’s family was one of the recipients in the 350s, when they founded a shrine on their estate in Pontus (see E01298). The shrine of Caesarea/Kaisareia may also have been founded in the same context (Maraval 1999, 197-198). Locality and universality in the cult of these martyrs are a central theme in the homily. As he does in his homily on *Gordios of Kaisareia/Caesarea (E00671), Basil plays on the rules of encomiastic writing, stating that it makes no sense to look for the martyrs’ hometown (as one does in a normal encomium), since the martyrs were born in different places. What matters, according to Basil, is their unity in martyrdom and in their veneration and invocation as a group, since the martyrs are citizens of heaven, regardless of their earthly homes. This argument may be Basil’s way to circumvent what must have been a troublesome issue in the early steps of the development of the cult of the Forty Martyrs, namely the origins of various members of the group. It seems that several places in Cappadocia and Pontus claimed connection with this or that of the Forty Martyrs – some of these claims are indeed reflected in the Testament of the Forty Martyrs (E00255). Basil’s insistence on the unity of the martyrs as a group and on the prevalence of their heavenly city over their earthly homes probably reflects the effort of the church to give a definitive shape to a group of local cults, developing under the influence of local rivalries, by turning them into a single group cult with loose or no local associations at all. This is an important event in the history of the cult of saints, since, for most martyrs of this period, association with a place or city was an important aspect of cult. One should notice the contrast of Basil’s argument on the non-importance of the Forty Martyrs’ earthly origins, with his own homily on the local Caesarean martyr Gordios, where the same author focuses on the special reverence and popularity of that martyr, precisely because he was both born and martyred in the city of Kaisareia/Caesarea (E00671). Another central idea in our text is the imitation motif and the presentation of the martyrs as examples of virtue, which are central in Basil’s understanding of the cult of saints, and feature very prominently in all his hagiographical homilies. This homily, however, also contains an extensive reference to the role of the martyrs as intercessors and helpers in sickness and trouble.

Bibliography

Text: Migne, J.-P., Patrologiae cursus completus: series graeca 31 (Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1857), 489-508. Bones, K., Bousoulas, E., and Papachristopoulos, K. (eds.), Βιβλιοθήκη Ελλήνων Πατέρων και Εκκλησιαστικών Συγγραφέων. Vol. 54 (Athens: Αποστολική Διακονία της Εκκλησίας της Ελλάδος, 1976). Translation: Allen, P., "Basil of Caesarea," in: J. Leemans, et al. (ed.), 'Let us die that we may live': Greek Homilies on Christian Martyrs from Asia Minor, Palestine and Syria, (c. AD 350-AD 450) (London: Routledge, 2003), 67-77. Further reading: Bernardi, J., La prédication des pères Cappadociens (Université de Paris, Sorbonne, 1968), p. 82-84. Girardi, M., Basilio di Cesarea e il culto dei martiri nel IV secolo. Scrittura e tradizione (Bari, 1990), 121-136. Limberis, V., Architects of Piety: The Cappadocian Fathers and the Cult of the Martyrs (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). Maraval, P., "Les premiers développements du culte des XL Martyrs de Sébastée dans l’Orient byzantin et en Occident," Vetera Christianorum 36 (1999), 193–211. Rousseau, P., Basil of Caesarea (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 184-189.

Continued Description

εσσαράκοντα, τίς ἀμφιβάλλει Θεοῦ παρουσίαν; Ὁ θλιβόμενος ἐπὶ τοὺς τεσσαράκοντα καταφεύγει, ὁ εὐφραινόμενος ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς ἀποτρέχει· ὁ μὲν, ἵνα λύσιν εὕρῃ τῶν δυσχερῶν· ὁ δὲ, ἵνα φυλαχθῇ αὐτῷ τὰ χρηστότερα. Ἐνταῦθα γυνὴ εὐσεβὴς ὑπὲρ τέκνων εὐχομένη καταλαμβάνεται, ἀποδημοῦντι ἀνδρὶ τὴν ἐπάνοδον αἰτουμένη, ἀῤῥωστοῦντι τὴν σωτηρίαν. Μετὰ μαρτύρων γενέσθω τὰ αἰτήματα ὑμῶν. Οἱ νεανίσκοι τοὺς ἡλικιώτας μιμείσθωσαν· οἱ πατέρες, τοιούτων εἶναι παίδων πατέρες εὐχέσθωσαν· αἱ μητέρες, καλῆς μητρὸς διήγημα διδαχθήτωσαν [...]. 8. 'And so, as the day began, while they were still breathing, they were delivered over to the fire, and the remains of the fire were thrown into the river. Thus, the contest of the blessed ones passed through the entire creation. They suffered on earth, they persevered in the wind; they were delivered over to the fire; the water received them. Theirs is the saying: We went through fire and water, and you have led us out into relief (Ps. 65:12). They are those who surrounded our land, like a continuous row of towers, proffering security against attack by the enemies, not confining themselves to one place, but being hosted by many villages, and having honoured many lands (by their presence). And the amazing thing is that they visit those who receive them not separated one by one, but joined to each other they dance together. What a miracle! They neither come short in number, nor do they admit of excess. If you divide them into a hundred, they do not exceed their own number; if you subsume them into one, they still remain forty like that, according to the nature of the fire. Indeed fire passes over to him that comes to kindle something from it, but, at the same time, it remains intact with the one who has it in the first place. Similarly, the forty are both all together and, at the same time, in the company of each one individually. They are the bounteous benevolence, the unsquandered grace, the ready help for Christians, an assembly of martyrs, an army of victors, a chorus of those giving praise. How much effort would you expend in order to find one who would importune the Lord on your behalf? There are forty of them sending up a unanimous prayer! Where there are two or three gathered together in the name of the Lord, there he is in the midst of them (Matt. 18:20). But where there are forty, who doubts the presence of God? The distressed person takes refuge in the Forty, the rejoicing one runs off to them – the former to find release from hardship, the latter to protect his prosperity. Here a pious woman is found praying for her children, begging for the safe return of her husband who is away, or for the salvation of a sick person. Let your petitions be with the martyrs. Let young men imitate those of their own age; let fathers pray to be fathers of such children; let mothers learn from the story of a good mother [...].' 8. The homily ends with the story of the mother of one of the martyrs. As most of them are already dead and taken to be burned, one of them is still alive, and is kept till he changes his mind. His mother lifts him with her own hand puts him onto the wagon to be taken to the fire with the rest, thus proving herself to be a worthy mother of a martyr.Text: PG 31, 508–26. Translation: E. Rizos.

Usage metrics

Categories

Keywords

Licence

Exports