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E01175: The Greek Martyrdom of *Niketas the Goth (S00711), probably of the late 5th or 6th c., recounts the translation of the relics of a martyr from the Gothic regions beyond the Danube to Mopsuestia (south-east Anatolia) in the late 370s. Probably composed in Mopsuestia.

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posted on 05.03.2016, 00:00 by erizos
The Martyrdom of Niketas the Goth (BHG 1339)

Μαρτύριον τοῦ ἁγίου μεγαλομάρτυρος Νικήτα

1. Τῶν ἁγίων μαρτύρων καλὸν μὲν τὴν μνήμην ἐπιτελεῖν, καλὸν δὲ καὶ τὴν εὐσέβειαν μιμεῖσθαι καὶ τὰ ὑπομνήματα γράφειν, οὐχ ἵνα προσθήκην ἢ δόξαν λάβωσιν – τίνα γὰρ ἂν εἰς δόξαν προσθήκην λάβωσιν ὧν ἡ πρᾶξις ἐν ἑαυτῇ τὸ ἔνδοξον ἔχει; – ἀλλ’ ἵνα δοξασθῶσιν οἱ εὐφημοῦντες καὶ ζηλώσωσιν τὴν ἀρετὴν οἱ ἀκούοντες, ὅσοι πιστοὶ καὶ φιλομάρτυρες τὸν προπύλαιον τοῦτον καὶ σεβάσμιον ναὸν τοῦ ἁγίου μάρτυρος Νικήτα κατέλαβον καὶ τὴν ἐτήσιον αὐτοῦ ταύτην ἐορτὴν σὺν ἡμῖν πανηγυρίζουσιν· ἀλλ’ ἵνα μὴ διὰ τὴν ὁμωνυμίαν λογισμοῖς τινες μετεωρίζωνται, εἰδέναι χρή, ὅτι καὶ ἕτερος Νικήτας ἐν ἀρχαιοτὲροις σὺν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἀποστόλοις καὶ μάρτυσιν τοῦ Χριστοῦ συνηρίθμηται, ἐκ μὲν τῆς πρεσβυτέρας ὁρμώμενος Ῥώμης, συγχρονίσας δὲ Πέτρῳ τῷ προκρίτῳ τὼν ἀποστόλων, ἀδελφὸς δὲ γνήσιος Κλήμεντος γενόμενος, ἐπὶ Κομόδου τοῦ βασιλέως καὶ Φιλίππου ἐπάρχου ἐν Ῥώμῃ μαρτυρήσας τὸν στέφανον τοῦ μαρτυρίου ἐκληρώσατο.

2. Νικήτας τοίνυν ὁ ἅγιος, οὗ τὴν μνήμην ἐνθάδε σήμερον ἑορτάζομεν, βάρβαρος ἢν ἐκ τῶν πέραν τοῦ Ἴστρου ποταμοῦ τοῦ καλουμένου Δανουβίου προσοικούντων Γότθων κατ’ ἐκεῖνο καιροῦ, κἀκεῖθεν χάριτι κυρίου φωστὴρ τῇ Μωψεατῶν ἀνέτειλεν πόλει <καὶ> τῇ Κιλίκων χώρᾳ, ἀρετῇ δὲ βίου καί ἀνδρείᾳ ψυχῆς καὶ τῇ τοῦ γένους ὑπεροχῇ τὰς πρώτας εἶχεν παρὰ τοῖς βαρβάροις τιμάς, ἔχων τὴν είς Χριστὸν ἐλπίδα καὶ διδασκαλίαν ὀρθόδοξον παρὰ Θεοφίλου ἐπισκόπου τῶν Γότθων ὃστις παρών καθυπέγραψεν τῇ ἐν Νικαίᾳ ἁγίᾳ συνόδῳ ἐπὶ Κωνσταντίνου τοῦ εὐσεβώς γενομένου μεγάλου βασιλέως.

3. Χρόνου δέ τινος παρῳχηκότος οἱ πέραν τοῦ Ἴστρου βάρβαροι, οἱ καλούμενοι Γότθοι, ἐμφύλιον πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς κινήσαντες πόλεμον εἰς δύο μέρη ἐτμήθησαν ὧν τοῦ ἑνὸς μὲν ἡγεῖτο Φριτιγὲνης τοῦ ἑτέρου δὲ Ἀθανάριχος. Ἐπικρατεστέρου δὲ τοῦ Ἀθαναρίχου φανέντος, Φριτιγὲνης προσφεύγει Ῥωμαίοις καὶ τὴν αὐτῶν κατὰ τοῦ ἀντιπάλου ἐπεκαλεῖται βοήθειαν. Γνωρίζεται οὑν ταῦτα τῷ βασιλεῖ Ῥωμαίων Οὐάλεντι καὶ κελεύει τοὺς ἑνιδρυμένους κατὰ τὴν Θρᾴκην στρατιώτας βοηθεῖν τῷ Φριτιγένῃ καὶ τοῖς μετὰ αὐτοῦ βαρβάροις κατὰ Ἀθαναρίχου καὶ τῶν σὺν αὐτῷ βαρβάρων. Καὶ στρατεύουσιν προηγούμενον ἔχοντες τὸ δεσποτικὸν καὶ τίμιον τοῦ σταυροῦ σημεῖον, καὶ ποιοῦνται νίκην κατὰ Ἀθαναρίχου πέραν τοῦ Ἴστρου τοὺς πολεμίους εἰς φυγήν τρέψαντες.

4. Αὔτη ἡ πρόφασις γέγωνεν χριστιανοὺς γεγονέναι τοὺς πολλοὺς τῶν βαρβάρων. Τότε δὲ καὶ Οὐρφίλας ὁ τῶν Γὸτθων ἐπίσκοπος πρῶτον μὲν ἑπόμενος Θεοφίλῳ ἐπισκόπῳ παρόντι καὶ ὑπογριάφοντι τῇ ἐν Νικαίᾳ συνόδῳ, συνθεμένῳ δὲ καὶ τῇ γενομένῃ ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει συνόδῳ γράμματα ἐφεῦρε γοτθικὰ καὶ τὰς θείας γραφὰς εἰς τὴν τῶν Γότθων γλῶσσαν μεταβαλὼν τοὺς λοιποὺς βαρβάρους μανθάνειν τὰ θεῖα λόγια παρεσκεύαζεν. Ἐπεὶ δὲ Οὐρφίλας οὐ μόνον τοὺς ὑπὸ Φριτιγὲνην ἀλλὰ καὶ τοὺς ὑπὸ Ἀθανάριχον ταττομένους βαρβάρους καὶ ἑαυτοὺς τὸν χριστιανισμὸν ἐδίδασκεν ὁ Ἀθανάριχος ὡς παραχαραττομένης τῆς πατρῴας θρησκείας πολλοὺς τῶν χριστιανιζόντων κολαστηρίοις ὑπέβαλεν. Προηγεῖτο δὲ αὐτῶν ὁ ἅγιος Νικήτας.

5. Οἱ πολλοὶ δὲ τῶν βαρβάρων ἁπλῇ τῇ πίστει τὸν χριστιανισιμὸν δεξάμενοι, ὑπὲρ τῆς εἰς Χριστὸν πίστεως τῆς ἐνθάδε ζωῆς κατεφρόνησαν μετὰ τὴν ὑπατείαν Γρατιανοῦ τὸ τρίτον καὶ Ἐκκυτίου, καθάπερ ἐν εκκλησιαστικαῖς ἱστορίαις δηλοῦται. Οἱ δὲ Ἀθαναρίχου τοῦ διαβόλου ὑπηρέται τὴν ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ πίστιν τε καὶ ἔνστασιν τῶν ἁγίων ὁρῶντες, ὠμοτέρως αὐτοῖς προσηνέχθησαν. Ἐπιλαβόμενοι γὰρ Νικήτα τοῦ ἁγίου μάρτυρος καὶ κατεάξαντες αὐτὸν σύραντές τε καὶ συντρίψαντες εἰς τὸ πῦρ ἔβαλον. Ὁ δὲ ἅγιος μάρτυς ὀρθὸν καὶ ἀκλινῆ πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν τὸν λογισμὸν ἔχων, οὕτως ἐτελειώθη καὶ τοῦ στεφάνου τῆς δικαιοσύνης ἀξιωθεὶς σὺν ἑτέροις πλείστοις βαρβάροις τὴν ἐν οὐρανοῖς πολιτείαν ἐκληρώσατο.

6. Μαριανὸς δέ τις πιστότατος τῆς Μωψουπόλεως ἐπίσημος ὑπάρχων πολίτης προνοίᾳ θείᾳ τὸ κατ’ ἐκεῖνο καιροῦ ἐν τοῖς τόποις ἐκείνοις διάγων, φίλος γέγονεν τοῦ ἁγίου μάρτυρος Νικήτα διὰ τὴν εἰς Χριστὸν πίστιν τε καὶ ὁμολογίαν· καὶ μηδενὶ χρόνῳ τοῦ ἁγίου χωρισθῆναι σπουδάζων ἀλλὰ καὶ μετὰ τὸ μαρτύριον συνεῖναι αὐτῷ πιστῶς ἐπειγόμενος ἐπᾶραι αὐτοῦ το ἅγιον λείψανον ἐβουλεύσατο. Δεδιὼς δὲ τὴν Ἀθαναρίχου διαβολικὴν μανίαν, τὰ ἄλση κατέλαβεν ἐν ἀωρίᾳ τῆς νυκτός, ἐν οἷς καὶ τὰ ἅγια σώματα τῶν καλλινίκων ἔρριπτον μαρτύρων· γνωρίζειν τε σαφῶς μὴ προσδοκῶν ἐκ τοῦ πυρὸς τοῖς αἰσθητοῖς αὐτοῦ ὀφθαλμοῖς τὸ ποθούμενον αὐτῷ ἅγιον λείψανον, δέεται τοῦ δεσπότου Θεοῦ καὶ δὴ πνευματικῶς ἔγνω τε καὶ ἀπέλαβεν τοῦτο. Ἀστὴρ γὰρ προπορευόμενος ὡδήγησεν αὐτόν, μέχρις ὅταν ἐπὶ τοῦ τιμίου ἔστη λειψάνου· καὶ οὑτως συνεργίᾳ τοῦ παναγίου πνεύματος τὸ ἅγιον λείψανον τοῦ καλλινίκου Νικήτα πιστῶς ἀπολαβὼν καὶ ἐνστερνισάμενος αὐτὸ καθ’ ὃν καὶ ἐπεθύμει τρόπον, εὗρεν αὐτὸ ὥσπερ ἄρτον ὀπτηθέν· οὐ γὰρ κατετόλμησεν αὐτοῦ τὸ πῦρ, ὥσπερ οὐδὲ τῶν ἁγίων τριῶν παίδων, κἀν εἰ παρευθὺς αὐτὸς εἰς χεῖρας Θεοῦ τὸ πνεῦμα παρέθετο, ἀκέραιον δὲ αὐτον ἡ τοῦ Θεοῦ δύναμις διετήρησεν, καθάπερ ἡμᾶς ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἡ ἀψευδὴς πιστοῦται παράδοσις· ἥτις ὡς πατρῷα κληρονομία καὶ διαδοχή· τοῖς ἀπογόνοις πιστῶς διαφυλαττομένη διηγεῑται αὐτῶν τῶν ἀγαγόντων καὶ δωρησαμένων κοινῇ πᾶσιν ἡμῖν τὸ τίμιον τοῦ ἁγίου μάρτυρος λείψανον.

7. Φασὶν δὲ ὅτι καὶ ἐν γλωσσοκόμῳ φιλοπόνως ἀποθέμενος Μαριανὸς ὁ φιλόχριστος διακομίζει ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ φιλοχρίστῳ Μωψουπόλει μετὰ τήν προγεγραμμένην ὑπατείαν Γρατιυνοῦ τὸ τρίτον καὶ Ἐκκυτίου. Μαρτυρεῖ δὲ καὶ συμφωνεῖ τοῖς χρόνοις μετὰ καὶ τῆς ἐκκλησιαστικῆς ἱστορίας καὶ <τὰ> οἰκειακὰ συμβόλαια Μαριανοῦ τοῦ μακαριωτάτου σῳζόμενα μέχρι καὶ νῦν. Τοῖς δὲ τὸν χρόνον φιλοπόνως πειρωμένοις ἐξετάζειν καὶ τοῦτο ὡς ἐν βραχεῖ λόγῳ γνωριζέσθω. Ἡ Μόψου φιλόχριστος πόλις μηκέτι συμμαχοῡσα φόρον δὲ Ῥωμαίοις ἀρξαμενη ἐν ὑπατείᾳ Καίσαρος τοῦ πρεσβύτου καὶ Λεπίδου ἐχρημάτισεν ἐλευθέρα· καὶ ἦν αὐτὴ ἐπὶ τῶν ὑπάτων τούτων κατὰ τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας ἀριθμόν ἔτος πρῶτον τῆς ἑκατοστῆς ὀγδοηκοστῆς δευτέρας Ὀλυμπιάδος· ἐν δὲ τῷ αὐτῷ πρώτῳ ἔτει καὶ Ἰούλιος Καῖσαρ μόναρχος εὑρέθη Ῥωμαίοις, ἀφ’ οὗ καίσαρες· προσθετέον δὲ καὶ τῆς γενικῆς τῶν ἀνθρώπων σωτηρίας τὸ κεφάλαιον. Ἔτους γὰρ πεντακισχιλιοστοῦ καὶ πεντακοσιοστοῦ πρώτου γενέσεως τοῦ κόσμου, ἡ κατὰ σάρκα γέννησις τοῦ δεσπότου Θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ φιλανθρώπως ᾠκονομήθη ἐν ὑπατείᾳ Ὀκταβιανοῦ τὸ τρισκαιδέκατον καὶ Σιλουανοῦ· ἦν δὲ ἔτος τῇ Μωψουπὀλει [ὄγδοον καὶ] τεσσαρακοστόν. Ἠνικα τοίνυν ὁ ἅγιος Νικήτας ἐμαρτύρησεν καὶ τήν Κιλίκων κατέλαμψεν χώραν ἦν ἔτος τῆς Μωψουπόλεως ἕκτον καὶ εἰκοστὸν καὶ τετρακοσιοστόν. Τοῦ δὲ ἁγίου Νικήτα τὸ τίμιον λείψανον οἴκοι τοῦ διασώσαντος, μᾶλλον δὲ διασωθέντος, ἀπετέθη μέχρις ὃταν οἱ κατὰ τὸν Οὐάλεντα τὸν βασιλέα χρόνοι καί ἡ τῶν Ἀρειανῶν αἵρεσις ἐπαύσατο σημεῖά τε πολλὰ καὶ ἐν αὐτῷ εἰργάσατο τῷ οἴκῳ. Ὁπόταν δὲ ἡ κατὰ τῶν ἁγιωτάτων ἐκκλησιῶν ἐπαύσατο ζάλη καὶ ἡ θεοφιλὴς γέγωνεν εἰρήνη, τότε τῶν ἀντίχειρα τοῦ λειψάνου τοῦ ἁγίου πίστει κρατήσαντες, κατατίθενται τὸ τίμιον σῶμα τοῦ ἁγίου Νικήτα μετὰ δόξης καί τιμῆς ὑπὸ τὸ ἅγιον θυσιαστήριον τοῦ πολυυμνήτου αὐτοῦ ναού, τὸ πᾶσιν τοῖς δεομένοις βοηθοῦν καὶ τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς ἱώμενον, μηνὶ σεπτεμβρίῳ πεντεκαιδεκάτῃ, ὅθεν καὶ τὴν ἁγίαν αὐτοῦ ἑορτὴν καὶ ταύτην τὴν ἡμέραν πανηγυρίζοντες τὸν δεσπότην ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἱκετεύομεν κατὰ νοῦν ἔχοντες τοὺς ἁγίους αὐτοῦ καὶ καλλινίκους μάρτυρας οὓς καὶ πρεσβευτὰς ὄντας πρὸς αὐτὸν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἀνυμνοῦμεν.

8. Ἑτέρῳ δὲ λοιπὸν οὐδενὶ γέγονεν εὐχέρεια τοῦ τιμίου μεταλαβεῖν λειψάνου. Ὁ γὰρ εἰρημένος τῆς ὁσίας μνήμης Αὐξέντιος ἐπίσκοπος ὢν τῆς Μώψου ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ γενόμενος γοῦν τίμιον ἀνεγεῖραι ναὸν τῶν ἁγίων καὶ μεγάλων μαρτύρων Ταράχου, Πρόβου καὶ Ἀνδρονίκου, καί τοῦτον περιχαράξας πρὸ των τειχῶν τῆσδε τῆς Μωψουπόλεως, γέγονεν ἐν τῇ Ἀναζαρβαίων μητροπόλει, ἐν ᾗ καὶ αὐτοὶ οἱ ἅγιοι μάρτυρες ἐτελειώθησαν καί κατετέθησαν καὶ λείψανα τῶν ἁγίων μαρτύρων ᾔτησέν τε καὶ ἔλαβεν, εἰ καὶ μετ’ αὑτῶν ἡ ἔνδοξος γέγονεν τούτων κατάθεσις· ἀντίδωρον δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς παρέχειν ὑποσχώμενος ἅγιον λείψανον τοῦ ἁγίου Νικήτα πᾶσαν ἔθετο σπουδήν πληρώσαι τὴν ὑπόσχεσιν. Καὶ ἤδη τὰ πρὸς τὴν χρείαν ἐργαλεῖα καὶ τεχνίτας λαβὼν πονήσας τε πολλὰ σὺν τοῖς παραγενομένοις ἐκ τῆς μητροπόλεως ἐπὶ τοῦτο κληρικοῖς, τὸ μὲν ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον ἐπικείμενον τῇ ἁγίᾳ θέσει μάρμαρον ἀνέστησεν καὶ τὸ ἅγιον πάντες ἐθεάσαντο σῶμα, οὕτως ὄν, ὡς ἀνωτέρω ἡ διήγησις ἐδήλωσεν, ἐπᾶραι δὲ αὐτοῦ παντελῶς οὐδεὶς ἠδυνήθη. εἷς γὰρ τῶν συνελθόντων τεχνιτῶν προπετευσάμνεος καὶ ἁψάμενος αὐτοῦ καὶ προσδοκήσας ἀφελέσθαι ἐξ αὐτοῦ μερίδα, ἔμεινεν ἔχων αὐτὴν τὴν ἁψαμένην χεῖραν ξηράν· σεισμός τε ἐπιγενόμενος πολὺς καὶ ἀστραπαὶ φοβερῶς διατρέχουσαι καὶ βροντῶν ἦχος διεκώλυσεν μεταλαβεῖν τινα τοῦ ἁγίου λειψάνου. Αὐξέντιος δὲ ὁ ὁσιώτατος φόβῳ συνεχόμενος ἐκτενῶς τε προσευξάμενος αὐτὴν τὴν ξηρανθεῖσαν χεῖραν τῷ ἁγίῳ λειψάνῳ πιστῶς προσήγαγεν καὶ ἀπέλαβεν αὐτὴν ὑγιῆ· διὸ μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου σπουδάσαντες σκεπάσαι τὸ ἅγιον λείψανον καὶ τὸ μάρμαρον ἐπιθεῖναι, διέρρηξαν τοῦτο κατά τινα μέρη, γνώρισμα φέρον μέχρι καὶ νῦν τῶν τότε συμβεβηκότων διὰ τὴν ταῦτα τῶν πιστευόντων ἡμῶν πληροφορίαν καὶ κατάνυξιν.

9. Τὰ δὲ θαύματα τοῦ ἁγίου μάρτυρος Νικήτα πολλά τε ὄντα καὶ διάφορα καταλειπτέον τοῖς παθοῦσιν αὐτὰ ἐκδιηγεῖσθαι· τίς γὰρ ἂν γένοιτο τῶν ἱαθέντων ῥητορικώτερος; ἀληθείας γὰρ έργον οὐ φράσεώς ἐστιν ἑγκαλλώπισμα τὸ παρὸν μαρτύριον· ἀνάγκη δὲ πᾶσα καὶ συγχωρεῖν τοῖς θαύμασιν τοῦ ἁγίου τὸ κατὰ παντὸς ἔχειν λόγου τὰ νικητήρια, εἰς δόξαν τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος· νῦν καὶ ἀεὶ καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν.



‘Martyrdom of the holy great martyr Niketas

1. It is good to celebrate the memory of the holy martyrs, good to imitate their piety, and to write their accounts (hypomnēmata), not that they may acquire some additional repute or glory (for what kind of an addition in glory could they receive, whose conduct has reached the fullness of glory? [quoting Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 15, 2]), but so that those who sing their praises may be glorified, and that the audience may be inspired to emulate their valour – all those faithful and martyr-loving people who have filled this venerable temple of the holy martyr Niketas, which stands by the gates, and celebrate with us this his yearly festival. But, in order to prevent some from having doubts in their thoughts, it is necessary
Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

Categories

Keywords

History

Evidence ID

E01175

Saint Name

Niketas the Goth, martyr in the Danube region, ob. 372 : S00711 Niketas, companion of the apostles and martyr in Rome : S01488

Saint Name in Source

Νικήτας Νικήτας

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts Literary - Sermons/Homilies

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

400

Evidence not after

600

Activity not before

378

Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Mopsuestia

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

Mopsuestia Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Acceptance/rejection of saints from other religious groupings

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Punishing miracle Healing diseases and disabilities Miraculous sound, smell, light Bodily incorruptibility Saint aiding or preventing the translation of relics Miraculous behaviour of relics/images

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Aristocrats Merchants and artisans

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Bodily relic - arm/hand/finger Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics Construction of cult building to contain relics Privately owned relics Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Division of relics

Source

The text is preserved in a manuscript of the 10th/11th century, in the National Library in Paris (Par. Gr. 520, p. 10-15). A metaphrastic version, very close to our text, has been published in the Acta Sanctorum (Sep. V, 15, p. 40-43).

Discussion

The text purports to be a homily composed to be delivered before a congregation in the basilica housing the sarcophagus of Niketas, outside the gates of Mopsuestia. The entire text gives the impression of being a collation of sections borrowed from different sources – primarily the ecclesiastical history of Socrates or Sozomen, and sources on the local history of Mopsuestia, both oral and written. The text seems to be work of a learned local figure of Mopsuestia, writing very probably in the late 5th to 7th centuries. Perhaps the most striking aspect of our text is its lack of a concrete narrative about the martyrdom of the saint. Our author has a rich material, oral and documentary, on the acquisition of the relic by Marianos, its arrival at Mopsuestia, and the miracle which prevented its removal from the basilica. Yet he evidently has no concrete narrative about the martyrdom of the Niketas, which he just mentions in very general terms. Instead of a narrative of the arrest, tortures and death, the author focuses on the context within which the martyrdom of Niketas took place, namely the persecution of Athanaric, about which information is derived from a general ecclesiastical history. It is unknown if Mopsuestia preserved a story to produce even a rudimentary passio about Niketas – as opposed to the beautiful passio neighbouring Kaisareia/Caesarea of Cappadocia had received together with the relics of *Sabas the Goth (see E00753). A major reason for the peculiar treatment of the subject by our author is Niketas’ ethnicity which may have caused the suspicion of some worshippers: the Goths were Arian heretics, so how could one venerate one of their martyrs? The author quotes extensively from the ecclesiastical history of Socrates (4.33), altering his source so as to claim that, at the time of the martyr’s death, the Gothic Christians were in full communion with the Orthodox Church. He repeats that Niketas was converted by the first bishop of the Goths, Theophilos, who, together with Ulphilas, was one of the Fathers of Nicaea (Socrates 2.41.23). The note about the martyr *Niketas of Rome in paragraph 1 (derived from the Clementine writings), and paragraph 7, concerning chronology, seem to be secondary interpolations into the text. If the original document is indeed homiletic and addressing a broad audience, these notes are clearly addressed to the learned reader, and must have been added later. Paragraph 7 provides a terminus post quem for the text: this is the dating of Christ’s birth to Anno Mundi 5501, according to the chronology established by the Alexandrian monk Annianos in the AD 410s. This system was used by 6th-century hagiographers in the East, notably by Cyril of Scythopolis. The reference to Auxentios of Mopsuestia at the beginning of paragraph 8 is also noteworthy. The text calls him ‘the said Auxentios’, but his name is not previously mentioned in our text. This could suggest that paragraph 8 is derived from some other source. Two bishops of Mopsuestia are known by this name. One was a highly revered figure of the early 4th century, said to have been a confessor. According to Philostorgius, he resigned his career at the army of Constantius Chlorus after refusing to make an offering of grapes to Dionysus (Philostorgius, Ecclesiastical History 5.2 = Suda A 4450, Auxentios; see Amidon, P. R., Philostorgius Ecclesiastical History, Atlanta, 2007, p. 76). If he is the figure meant in the miracle story, the reference is historically inaccurate, since Auxentios died in c. 360, namely before the alleged arrival of the relic of Niketas in Mopsuestia. In such a case, the connection of his name with the episode of the miracle will be a local legend associating one local saint with the miracle of another. Another Auxentios of Mopsuestia is known to have signed the acts of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 (Lequien, Oriens Christianus II, 892-893). From a historical point of view, he is likelier to have been the figure of our story.

Bibliography

Text and Comments: Delehaye, H., "Saints de Thrace et de Mésie," Analecta Bollandiana 31 (1912), 209-215, 281-287. Further reading: Messis, Ch., and Papaioannou, S., “Histoires ‘gothiques’ à Byzance: le saint, le soldat et le Miracle de l’Euphemie et du Goth (BHG 739),” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 67 (2013), 15-48, esp. 16-17.

Continued Description

to know that there was also another Niketas, among the more ancient figures, who has been counted among the apostles and martyrs of Christ: he was a native of the Elder Rome and a contemporary of Peter, the head of the apostles, and having been martyred under the emperor Commodus and Philippos, Prefect of Rome, he was honoured with the crown of martyrdom.2. Now, Niketas, the saint whose memory we celebrate here today, was a barbarian of the Goths who during that time used to live beyond the river Ister, also called Danube. And from there, he rose, by the grace of the Lord, as a luminary for the city of Mopsuestia and for the land of Cilicia. Due to the virtue of his conduct, the bravery of his soul, and the prominence of his lineage, he held the highest dignities among the barbarians. He received the hope in Christ and orthodox doctrine from Theophilos the bishop of the Goths, who had attended and signed at the holy council in Nicaea, under Constantine, the pious emperor.3. After the passing of a long time, the barbarians beyond the Ister, the so-called Goths, started a civil war among themselves, and were divided into two parties, one led by Fritigern, the other by Athanaric. As Athanaric prevailed, Fritigern resorted with the Romans and requested their help against his rival. These things then were announced to Valens, emperor of the Romans, and he ordered the soldiers stationed in Thrace to help Fritigern and his barbarians, against Athanaric and the barbarians with him. And they campaigned, led by the dominical and venerable sign of the cross, and achieved victory against Athanaric beyond the Ister, turning the enemies to flight.4. This became the reason for many of the barbarians to become Christians. And then, Ourphilas [= Ulphilas], the bishop of the Goths (who initially followed bishop Theophilos who had attended and signed the council of Nicaea, and signed the Council which took place at Constantinople) invented Gothic letters and translated the divine Scriptures into the language of the Goths, and trained the barbarians in learning the divine words. Now, because Ourphilas taught Christianity not only to the barbarians under Fritigern, but also those siding with Athanaric, Athanaric subjected many of the Christian converts to tortures for altering their ancestral religion. Saint Niketas was their foremost.5. Most of the barbarians accepted Christianity by simple faith, and disregarded this life for the sake of the faith in Christ, after the consulship of Gratian (for a 3rd term) and Equitius [= AD 374], as reported in the ecclesiastical histories. Now, as the men of Athanaric, being servants of the Devil, saw the faithfulness and courage of the saints for the sake of Christ, they assailed them even more ruthlessly. For they seized the holy martyr Niketas, they broke, dragged and shattered him, and threw him into the fire. And the holy martyr, with his mind upright and unshakeably attached to God, was thus consummated. And having been honoured with the crown of righteousness, he was granted the heavenly citizenship together with several other barbarians.6. Now a certain man of great faith called Marianos, who was a prominent citizen of Mopsuestia, by divine providence was living in those parts during that time. And he became a friend of the holy martyr Niketas, due to his faith and confession in Christ. And caring not to be parted from the saint at any time, but hastening faithfully to be in his company even after his martyrdom, he decided to take his holy relic. Fearing the devilish madness of Athanaric, he went very late at night into the woodland where they threw the holy bodies of the victorious martyrs. And, expecting to be unable to recognise with certainty the holy relic of his desire by the sense of his eyes, due to [the damage caused to it by] the fire, he prayed the Lord God, and he recognised and collected it with spiritual help: a star namely was leading him, going forth till it stood above the precious body. And thus, with the help of the All Holy Spirit, he collected with faith and embraced the holy body of the victorious Niketas and found it as he had desired, baked like a bread – because the fire had not dared to harm it, just like the holy Three Youths [Daniel 3 19-25]. Even though he immediately gave up his spirit to the hands of God, the power of God kept him intact, as truthful tradition confirms down to the present day. This is faithfully kept and recounted as an ancestral legacy and succession to the offspring of the men who brought and presented to all of us the precious body of the martyr.7. And they say that the pious Marianos placed it into a coffin and brought it to the Christ-loving city of Mopsuestia, after the aforementioned third consulship of Gratian and Equitius. This chronology is attested and confirmed also by the private documents of Marianos, of blessed memory, which are preserved down to the present. Now should anyone attempt to investigate the date systematically, let them also be aware of the following few things: the Christ-loving city of Mopsuestia, not yet being an allied city of the Romans, but having started to pay tribute to them, was a free city under the consulship of Caesar the Elder and Lepidus [= 46 BC]. Under these consuls, it was in the status of freedom, in the first year of the 182nd Olympiad. It was also in the same first year that Julius Caesar, from whom the Caesars take their name, became monarch in the Romans. Now we need to add also the chapter of the universal salvation of men: in the year 5501 from the creation of the world, the birth of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ in the flesh took place, during the consulship of Octavian (for a 13th term) and Silvanus [= 2 BC]; this was the year 48 in the era of Mopsuestia. Now, when Saint Niketas was martyred and shone in the land of Cilicia, it was the year 426 of the era of Mopsuestia [=378]. As for the precious body of Saint Niketas, it was deposited in the house of its rescuer (or rather rescued one), until the times of the emperor Valens and the heresy of the Arians reached their end, and it worked several miracles in that house. And when the turmoil of the most holy churches was over and godly peace prevailed, having kept with faith the thumb of the relic of the saint, they buried with honour and glory the precious body of Saint Niketas, which helps everyone and heals the sick, under the altar of this highly praised temple, in the month of September on the fifteenth day. Hence we celebrate both his holy feast and this day, and supplicate our Lord Jesus Christ, keeping in mind his holy and rightly victorious martyrs whom we praise, for they are intercessors with him on our behalf.8. And nobody else has had the possibility of acquiring something of the precious relic ever since. Now, the said Auxentios, of blessed memory, who was bishop of Mopsuestia, desired to build a noble shrine of the holy and great martyrs Tarachos, Probos, and Andronikos. And he demarcated its site before the walls of Mopsuestia, and visited the metropolis of Anazarbos where these holy martyrs were consummated and deposited, and he requested and received relics of the holy martyrs, and it was with these [relics] that their glorious deposition [katathesis] was made. Now he promised to provide a holy relic of Saint Niketas as a return gift, and took every care to fulfil his promise. So he soon gathered the necessary tools and workers and made a great effort, and, in the company of the clerics who had come from the metropolis for the purpose, he lifted the marble which lay over the holy burial on the altar, and everyone saw the holy relic being just like our account described it above. Yet absolutely no one was able to set hand on it, because one of the workmen gathered there made haste and touched it, intending to remove a piece from it, but he was left with his hand, which had touched it, paralyzed. And there being a great tremor, and lightning flashing terribly, and the sound of thunders, it prevented anyone from touching the holy relic. Now the most holy Auxentios, overtaken by fear, prayed for a long time and brought with faith the paralyzed hand (of the worker) towards the holy relic, and he took it back healed. And so, as they hastened with fear and trembling to cover the holy relic and to place the marble back onto it, they broke it in some parts, and until the present day it bears witness to the things that happened back then, so that we who believe these things may be assured and uplifted.9. As for the miracles of the holy martyr Niketas, since they are many and manifold, we should leave them to be recounted by those who have experienced them. For who could be more eloquent than the very persons who have been healed? Indeed, this shrine is a reality of truth, not an elegant story made up of words. And it is absolutely necessary to let the miracles of the saint prevail over any kind speech, for the glory of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.’Text: Delehaye 1912, pp. 209-215. Translation: Efthymios Rizos

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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