Saint NameStephen, the First Martyr : S00030
Saint Name in SourceΣτέφανος
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Literary - Poems
Evidence not before439
Evidence not after1900
Activity not before439
Activity not after1900
Place of Evidence - RegionAsia Minor
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcSafranbolu / Theodoroupolis
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Safranbolu / Theodoroupolis
Cult activities - Festivals
- Anniversary of relic invention/translation
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult Activities - MiraclesSpecialised miracle-working
Healing diseases and disabilities
Cult Activities - RelicsBodily relic - bones and teeth
Division of relics
Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries
Transfer, translation and deposition of relics
Privately owned relics
SourceA stone block. Seen and copied by Georges Doublet in or before 1889 in a church dedicated to Stephen the First Martyr in Safranbolu. A local deacon, Ierotheos, claimed that the inscription was a copy and the original was lost. Doublet edited the inscription with comments by Louis Duchesne. The church was later turned into a mosque, but the inscription was still being displayed on two blocks fixed on either side of the central door. The block on the left-hand side bore the inscription, carved in majuscules, and the block on the right-hand side displayed almost the same text (the last line was translated into the dialect of the Karamanlides Greeks), but in 19th c. minuscule. A photograph was taken by Chr. Kyriakopoulos and by Ms. Vildan Gök. The latter was forwarded by Dr. M.I. Tunai to Cyril Mango.
Dating: allegedly 439, based on the reference to the empress Eudocia's pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but probably late 19th c.
DiscussionThe inscription records a poem in honour of Stephen, the First Martyr, in six dodecasyllable verses, attributed to the empress Eudocia (421-460), wife of the emperor Theodosius II, but actually composed and carved in the late 19th c. Normally, we do not include such sources in our database, but the inscription was long been considered authentic by many prominent authors, including Pierre Maraval (see: Lieux saints et pèlegrinages d'orient..., 368), so it requires a brief discussion.
Georges Doublet, the first editor of the inscription, believed that the poem was an authentic work by the empress. His idea was accepted and developed by Louis Duchesne. Eudocia was indeed a skilful orator and herself composed a poem on *Kyprianos/Cyprian and *Ioustina of Antioch in Pisidia (see: E01166) and a poem inscribed in the baths of Gadara (see: SEG 32, 1502). In 438 she departed for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where she received relics of Stephen, the First Martyr, which she brought to Constantinople in 439, using them in part to assert her status at the imperial court. Doublet and Duchesne suggested that, on her way back, she visited Theodoroupolis (Safranbolu) and, having been healed from an affliction of her left foot, she founded there a church dedicated to Stephen, and presented it with some relics of the saint (appropriately from his foot).
The inscription has been referred to by many modern scholars, and most of them considered it as authentic – a brief account of their works is offered by Cyril Mango (2004: Livrea 1996; Hollum 1982, 186, note 52; Maraval 1985, 368; Hunt 1982, 233; Gorce 1962, 246, note 1; Halkin 1953, 96; Acta Sanctorum, November IV, 23; Leclercq 1922; Ramsay 1890, 21, 52-53, 319-322). Others, however, more or less firmly questioned its authenticity (Marek 1993, 191, no. 11; Klaus Belke in Tabula Imperii Byzantini, vol. 9, 268; Reinhold Merkelbach and Josef Stauber in Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten, no. 10/02/99; Denis Feissel in CEByz, 444). Cyril Mango finally provided decisive arguments that the inscription is a product of the 19th c. ellinismos.
First of all, Eudocia is very unlikely to have travelled as far to the north in Pontus as Safranbolu, especially with the relics of such an important figure as Stephen. She will surely have followed the so-called 'Pilgrim's Road', which led from Constantinople to Antioch via central Asia Minor. The ancient name of Safranbolu is unknown, but it was probably a very minor town, if not a village, and it seems very strange that the empress would have left there a portion of these precious relics. The poem itself does not look like a work by Eudocia. It was written in Byzantine dodecasyllable verses, a metre still unpopular in the first half of the 5th, and is of poor quality. Besides, the inscription does not occur in Andreas David Mordtmann's account of his visit to Safranbolu in 1856. He noted the existence of a church of Stephen, where the relic of the right foot of the saint was kept, but he said nothing about any inscriptions labelling the sanctuary.
Cyril Mango supposes that the inscription could have been composed after 1871, when a new, larger church, still dedicated to Stephen, was constructed in Safranbolu. It was probably the church visited by Doublet. In addition, Mango cited the information of an earlier critic of the authenticity of the inscription, a certain A. Gabrielides (1896). He wrote that the poem was most probably the work of a 'half-educated schoolmaster' and that it might have reflected a local legend, told to him by an old teacher. The legend says that the empress Eudocia who died in AD 460 visited the town in AD 515 (sic!, but note that the year 515 occurs also in the last line of the inscription) to recover from an illness. The town was under a certain governor Theodoros (so perhaps it was named Theodoroupolis after him, and not after the saint: a certain Theodore the κράντωρ/ruler is mentioned in the inscription). She brought with her the left foot of St. Stephen and quickly recovered. Grateful to the saint, she built him a church in the town, and offered it the holy relic. Gabrielides himself saw the relics kept in the church – these were the bones of the left knee, tibia, and foot. Mango adds that the real Eudocia did hurt her foot (though it is not specified which one) in Jerusalem, but was soon healed by Melania, who prayed to some unspecified relics on her behalf. The story is preserved in the original Life of Melania (see: EXXXXX) and in its metaphrastic version. Mango supposes that the latter could have been known to the author of our poem and could have been the basis for the legend.
Mango, C., "A fake inscription of the empress Eudocia and Pulcheria's relic of Saint Stephen", Νέα Ῥώμη. Rivista di ricerche bizantinistiche 1 (2004), 23-34 (after the photograph by Vildan Gök).
Livrea, E., "La slogatura di Eudocia in un'iscrizione paflagone", Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 113 (1996), 71-76.
Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten, no. 10/02/99 (the first three words).
Marek, Chr., Stadt, Ära und Territorium in Pontus-Bithynia und Nord-Galatia, (Istanbuler Forschungen 39, Tübingen: Wasmuth, 1993), 191, no. 11.
Doublet, G., "Inscriptions de Paphlagonie", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 13 (1889), 294-299, no. 1 (after his own copy and the examination of the stone).
Acta Sanctorum, November IV, p. 23.
Belke, K., Paphlagonien und Honorias (Tabula Imperii Byzantini 9, Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften), 268.
Gabrielides, A., "Περὶ τῆς ἐπαρχίας Νεοκαισαρείας", Ξενοφάνης 1 (1896), 132-133.
Gorce, D., Vie de Sainte Mélanie (SCh 90, Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1962) 246, n. 1.
Halkin, F., "Inscriptions grecques relatives à l'hagiographie, IX, Asie Mineure", Analecta Bollandiana 71 (1953), 96.
Hollum, K.G., Theodosian Empresses (Transformation of the classical heritage 3, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 186, note 52.
Hunt, E.D., Holy Land Pilgrimage in the Later Roman Empire, AD 312-460 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 233.
Leclercq, H., "Eukhaita”, DACL, vol. 5/2 (Paris 1922), 704-705.
Maraval, P., Lieux saints et pèlegrinages d'orient: histoire et géographie des origines a la conquête arabe (Paris: Cerf, 1985), 368.
Meimaris, Y., "Δύο ἐπιγραφὲς τῆς Αὐγούστης Εὐδοκίας (423-460 μ.Χ.) ἀπὸ τὴν Ἐμμάθα παρὰ τὰ Γάδαρα καὶ ἀπὸ τὰ Ἱεροσόλυμα", ΘΕΟΛΟΓΙΑ. ΕΠΙΣΤΗΜΟΝΙΚΟΝ ΠΕΡΙΟΔΙΚΟΝ ΕΚΔΙΔΟΜΕΝΟΝ ΚΑΤΑ ΤΡΙΜΗΝΙΑΝ 54 (1983), 395, note 16.
Ramsay, W.M., The Historical Geography of Asia Minor (London: John Murray, 1890), 21, 52-53, 319-322.
Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 444.
L'Année épigraphique (1996), 1415.