File(s) not publicly available

E00753: The Greek Martyrdom of *Sabas the Goth (S00489) recounts the martyrdom of a Christian in the lands beyond the Danube on 12 April 372, and the subsequent transfer of his relics to Kaisareia/Caesarea in Cappadocia (central Asia Minor). The text was probably originally written in the 370s as a letter addressed to Basil of Caesarea who received the relics in Cappadocia (see E00748).

online resource
posted on 30.09.2015, 00:00 by erizos
Martyrdom of Sabas the Goth (BHG 1607)

The text has the format of a letter starting with the phrase:

Η Ἐκκλησία τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἡ παροικοῦσα Γοτθία, τῇ Εκκλησία τοῦ Θεοῦ τῇ παροικούσῃ Καππαδοκία καὶ πάσαις ταῖς κατὰ τόπον τῆς ἁγίας καθολικῆς Ἐκκλησίας παροικίαις, ἔλεος, εἰρήνη, ἀγάπη Θεοῦ Πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ πληθυνθείη.

‘The Church of God dwelling in Gothia, to the Church of God dwelling in Cappadocia, and to all the communities of the Holy Catholic Church living in each place; the mercy, peace and love of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be multiplied.’

Sabas is an orthodox believer, devout and pious since his youth. He lives in poverty, abstinence, and prayer. During a persecution of Christians, when the Gothic chieftains attempt to compel Christians to eat sacrificial meat, the pagans of his village offer to protect the Christians by preparing for them non-sacrificed meat to consume publicly. Sabas refuses to participate in the plot, and encourages the rest to do the same. He is therefore temporarily exiled from the village, but is soon allowed to return.

Another persecution breaks out, and now the pagans of the village offer to sacrifice and take an oath before the persecutors declaring that there are no Christians in the village. Sabas protests that he is a Christian and does not wish anyone to swear about him. So the pagans declare that there is only one Christian in the village, and hand over Sabas, but the persecutors dismiss him once they hear that he has no property but his clothes.

A third persecution breaks out. Sabas decides to go to another town, in order to celebrate Easter with the presbyter Gouththikas. On his way, he is stopped by a huge radiant man who orders him to return and join the presbyter Sansalas, but Sabas replies that Sansalas has fled to the Roman territories. A sudden snowfall closes his way, and Sabas realises that it is the will of God that he should return. He indeed goes home and to his surprise finds Sansalas who has returned to the Gothic lands for Easter. They celebrate together, and three days after Easter, they are arrested by a group of Gothic bandits led by Atharidos, son of the chieftain Rhōthesteos. They take them away, the presbyter held in a wagon, and Sabas being dragged naked, and tortured along the way. Nevertheless, no trace of wounds can be seen on Sabas’ body when they arrive. They tie him on two axles and flog him until late in the night. During the night a woman comes and unties him, but he does not flee.

Next day, the Goths bring sacrificial meat which both Sansalas and Sabas refuse to eat. Sabas asks who has sent the meat, and, on hearing that it was Atharidos, he declares that this man, like the meat is unholy. This enrages one of the Goths who throws a pestle onto Sabas’ breast, but the latter declares that it caused him not the slightest pain. Atharidos orders Sabas to be executed, and he is taken to be drowned in the river Mousaios. The martyr asks what has happened to the presbyter and why he is not being martyred, but they tell him that this does not concern him. He is taken to the river, offering thanks on the way, where his executioners throw him into the water and press him down with a piece of timber until he dies. He is 38 years old, and martyred on 12 April AD 372. The text finishes as follows:

Τότε κατάγουσιν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ ὕδωρ εὐχαριστοῦντα καὶ δοξάζοντα τὸν Θεὸν (μέχρι τέλους γὰρ ἐλειτούργησεν αὐτῷ τὸ πνεῦμα) καὶ ῥίψαντες αὐτὸν καὶ ἐπιθέντες αὐτῷ ξύλον κατά τοῦ τραχήλου, ἐπίεζον εἰς τὸ βάθος καὶ οὓτως διὰ ξύλου καὶ ὓδατος, ἄχραντον ἐφύλαξεν τῆς σωτηρίας τὸ σύμβολον, ὢν ἐτῶν τριάκοντα ὀκτῴ. Ἐτελειώθη δὲ πέμπτη τοῦ σαββάτου τῇ μετὰ τοῦ Πάσχα, ἥτίς ἐστιν πρὸ μιᾶς εἰδῶν Ἀπριλλίου ἐπὶ Οὐαλλεντινιανοῦ καὶ Οὐάλεντος Αὐγούστων ὑπατεύοντος Μοδέστου καὶ Ἀρινθέου.

Εἶτα ἐξελκύσαντες αὐτὸν ἐκ τοῦ ὗδατος οἱ φονεῖς, ἀφῆκαν ἄταφον, καὶ ἀνεχώρησαν. Ἀλ᾽ οὔτε κύων οὔτέ τι θηρίον τὸ σύνολον ἤψατο αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ διὰ χειρὸς τῶν ἀδελφῶν συνεστάλη καὶ ἀπετέθη τὸ λείψανον, ὅπερ Οὔνιος Σωρανὸς, ὁ λαμπρότατος Δούξ τῆς Σκυθίας, τιμῶν τὸν Κύριον, ἀποστείλας ἀξιοπίστους ἀνθρώπους, ἐκ τοῦ βαρβαρικοῦ εἰς τὴν Ρὡμανίαν μετήνεγκεν καὶ χαριζόμενος τῇ ἑαυτοῦ πατρίδι δῶρον τίμιον, καὶ κάρπον πίστεως ἔνδοξον, εἰς τὴν Καππαδοκίαν, πρὸς τὴν ὑμετέραν ἀπέστειλεν θεοσέβειαν, διὰ θελήματος τοῦ Πρεσβυτερίου, οἰκονομοῦντος τοῦ Κυρίου τὰ πρὸς χάριν τοῖς ὑπομένουσιν αὐτὸν καὶ φοβουμένοις ἀδελφοῖς. Ἑπιτελοῦντες οὖν, ἐν ᾗ τὸν στέφανον ἀγωνισάμενος ἀπείληφεν ἡμέρα, σύναξιν πνευματικὴν, καὶ τοῖς ἐπέκεινα ἀδελφοῖς σημάνατε, ἵνα ἐν πάσῃ καθολικῇ καὶ ἀποστολικῇ Ἐκκλησίᾳ ἀγαλλιάσεις ἐπιτελῶσιν, δοξάζοντες τὸν Κύριον τὸν ἐκλογὰς ποιούμενον τῶν ἰδίων δούλων αὐτοῦ. Προσαγορεύεται πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους· ὑμᾶς οἱ σὺν ὑμῖν δεδιωγμένοι προσαγορεύουσιν. Τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ πάντας ἡμᾶς εἰσαγαγεῖν τῇ ἑαυτοῦ χάριτι καὶ δωρεᾷ εἰς τὴν ἐπουράνιον βασιλείαν, δόξα, τιμὴ, κράτος, μεγαλωσύνη σὺν Παιδὶ μονογενῆ, καὶ ἁγίῳ Πνεύματι, εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμὴν.

'Then they took him down to the water, still thanking and glorifying God (until the very end his soul performed worship), threw him in and, pressing a beam against his neck, pushed him to the bottom and held him there. So made perfect through wood and water, he kept undefiled the symbol of salvation, being thirty-eight years of age. His consummation took place on the fifth day of the Sabbath after Easter, which is the day before the Ides of April, in the reign of Valentinian and Valens the Augusti, during the consulship of Modestus and Arintheus (12 April 372).

Then his executioners pulled him out of the water and went away leaving him unburied; but neither dog nor any wild beast at all touched his body, but it was gathered up by the hand of the brethren and his remains laid to rest. These Ounios Soranos, vir clarissimus, dux of Scythia, one who honoured the Lord, sending trustworthy men transported from barbarian land to Romania. And favouring his own native land with a precious gift and a glorious fruit of faith, he sent the remains to Cappadocia and to your Piety, carrying out the wishes of the college of presbyters, the Lord ordaining matters to please the brethren who obey and fear him. Therefore, celebrate a spiritual assembly on the day in which he fought and earned the crown, and announce also to the brethren further afield, in order that they may perform joyful celebrations in the entire catholic and apostolic church, praising the Lord who chooses the elect from among his own servants. Salute all the saints; those who, with you, are being persecuted, salute you. To him who can gather all of us by his own grace and bounty into his kingdom in heaven be glory, honour, power and majesty, with his only-begotten Son and Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.'

Text: Delehaye 1912. Translation: Heather and Matthews 1996. Summary: E. Rizos

History

Evidence ID

E00753

Saint Name

Sabas the Goth, martyr, ob. 372 : S00489

Saint Name in Source

Σάβας

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom Literary - Letters

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

372

Evidence not after

400

Activity not before

372

Activity not after

375

Place of Evidence - Region

Balkans including Greece Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Tomis Kaisareia/Caesarea in Cappadocia

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

Tomis Drizypera Δριζύπερα Drizypera Büyük Karıştıran Kaisareia/Caesarea in Cappadocia Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Acceptance/rejection of saints from other religious groupings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Officials Soldiers Foreigners (including Barbarians)

Cult Activities - Relics

Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics

Source

The text survives in two manuscripts, in the libraries of St. Mark’s at Venice (10th/11th c.) and the Vatican (early 10th c.). The first critical edition is by Delehaye 1912.

Discussion

In its extant form, our text has the format of a general epistle addressed by the church of Gothia to the churches in Cappadocia and the whole world. Both the beginning and the end of the text are written in conscious emulation of the 2nd or 3rd century Martyrdom of *Polycarp (cf. E00035). It is possible that these formulae are later interpolations into the text, dating from a time when the original letter was adapted as a regular hagiographic reading in Asia Minor. The Roman Christians were indeed greatly interested in stories of martyrs produced by contemporary persecutions in Persia and the barbarian lands of the north, regarding them as manifestations of a pure, ancient Christianity, far from the bleak reality and divisions of the free Roman Church. The spirit of this ‘early Christian revival’ is clearly behind the conscious effort of our text to emulate the Martyrdom of Polycarp, and, to judge from Basil’s letters, it deeply moved its Cappadocian readers. In roughly the same period, the relics of another Gothic martyr, *Nikētas (S00711), were transferred to Mopsuestia in Cilicia (see E01175). These are among the earliest recorded cases of relic translations to remote places. The better documented case of Sabas is particularly interesting, since it can be shown to have occurred almost immediately after the death of the martyr, being directly followed by the production of hagiography and the establishment of a feast. The text states that the whole body was sent from Scythia, stressing the role of Soranos as performing a generous benefaction towards his own homeland. Still, however, the text does not clarify if there were other motives for this transfer, and one may wonder why the Christians of Scythia did not wish to keep the relic. Another interesting aspect of the text is that it does not acknowledge any role to the bishop of Tomis, but only mentions the lower clerics, especially the presbyter Sansalas, companion of Sabas in captivity, but not in martyrdom. The silence of the text about the fate of Sansalas could suggest that this man survived the persecution and played a role in recovering the relics and establishing the cult of Sabas.

Bibliography

Text: Delehaye, H., “Saints de Thrace et de Mesie,” Analecta Bollandiana 31 (1912), 161-300, esp. 215-221. Translation and commentary: Heather, P., and Matthews, J., The Goths in the Fourth Century (Translated Texts for Historians 11; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1991), 110-117. Further reading: Delehaye, H., Les passions des martyrs et les genres littéraires (2ed.; Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1966), 105-109. Leemans, J., "The Martyrdom of Sabas the Goth: History, Hagiography and Identity," in: P. Gemeinhardt and J. Leemans (eds.), Christian Martyrdom in Late Antiquity (300–450 AD): History and Discourse, Tradition and Religious Identity (Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte 116; (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2012), 201-223. Thompson, E.A., The Visigoths in the Time of Ulfila (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 64–77.

Usage metrics

Categories

Keywords

Licence

Exports