File(s) not publicly available

E01747: Gregory of Nyssa composes in the 380s his Encomion On *Theodoros (soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita, S00480) which he delivers during a yearly festival held at his tomb shrine, probably in Euchaita of Pontus (north Anatolia). He recounts the saint’s martyrdom. Written in Greek in Pontus.

online resource
posted on 17.07.2016, 00:00 by erizos
Gregory of Nyssa, On *Theodoros (CPG 3183, BHG 1760)

(page numbers are from the edition of Cavarnos, GNO X,1)

61. ΓΡΗΓΟΡΙΟΥ ΕΠΙΣΚΟΠΟΥ ΝΥΣΣΗΣ
ΕΓΚΩΜΙΟΝ ΕΙΣ ΤΟΝ ΑΓΙΟΝ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΜΑΡΤΥΡΑ ΘΕΟΔΩΡΟΝ

‘Gregory, bishop of Nyssa, Encomium on the holy great martyr Theodoros'

Ὑμεῖς ὁ τοῦ Χριστοῦ λαός, ἡ ἁγία ποίμνη, τὸ Βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, οἱ πανταχόθεν ἀστικοί τε καὶ χωριτικοὶ συρρεύσαντες δῆμοι, πόθεν λαβόντες τὸ σύνθημα τῆς ὁδοῦ πρὸς τὸν ἱερὸν τοῦτον ἐδημαγωγήθητε τόπον; τίς ὑμῖν τῆς ἀφίξεως τῆς ἐνθάδε σπουδαίαν οὕτω καὶ ἐμπρόθεσμον ἀνάγκην ἐπέθηκε; καὶ ταῦτα ὥρᾳ χειμῶνος, ἡνίκα καὶ πόλεμος ἠρεμεῖ καὶ στρατιώτης τὴν πανοπλίαν ἀποσκευάζεται καὶ πλωτὴρ ὑπὲρ καπνοῦ τίθησι τὸ πηδάλιον καὶ γεωργὸς ἡσυχάζει τοὺς ἀροτῆρας βοῦς θεραπεύων ἐπὶ τῆς φάτνης; ἢ πρόδηλον, ὡς ἐσάλπισε μὲν ἐκ τῶν στρατιωτικῶν καταλόγων ὁ ἅγιος μάρτυς, κινήσας δὲ πολλοὺς ἐκ διαφόρων πατρίδων πρὸς τὴν οἰκείαν ἀνάπαυσιν καὶ ἑστίαν ἐκάλεσεν, οὐκ εἰς πολεμικὴν εὐτρεπίζων παρασκευήν, ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὴν γλυκεῖαν καὶ μάλιστα δὴ Χριστιανοῖς πρέπουσαν συνάγων εἰρήνην; οὗτος γάρ, ὡς πιστεύομεν, καὶ τοῦ παρελθόντος ἐνιαυτοῦ τὴν βαρβαρικὴν ζάλην ἐκοίμησε καὶ τὸν φρικώδη τῶν ἀγρίων Σκυθῶν ἔστησε πόλεμον δεινὸν αὐτοῖς ἐπισείσας καὶ φοβερὸν ἤδη βλεπομένοις καὶ πλησιάσασιν οὐ κράνος τρίλοφον οὐδὲ ξίφος εὖ τεθηγμένον καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἥλιον ἀποστίλβον, ἀλλὰ τὸν ἀλεξίκακον καὶ παντοδύναμον σταυρὸν τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὑπὲρ οὗ καὶ αὐτὸς παθὼν τὴν δόξαν ταύτην ἐκτήσατο.

'You people of Christ, the holy flock, the royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9), who have streamed together from everywhere, both from cities and villages: by whom have you been incited to your journey, and led to this holy place? Who has instilled into you the urge to come here, so urgently and at this particular time? And that in wintertime, when even war quietens down, the soldier takes off his armour, the seaman hangs the oar above the fire, and the farmer takes rest, tending his plough-oxen at their trough? It is indeed clear that the holy martyr from the military ranks sounded the trumpet, and, urging many people from various regions, he has called them to this own resting place and home, not equipping them for war preparation, but gathering them together for peace, which is sweet and most fitting to Christians. For it was he, as we believe, who last year stilled the barbarian storm and who brought to an end the horrible war of the savage Scythians, brandishing against them, to their horror and fear, as they had come visibly close, not a triple-crested helmet or a well-sharpened sword sparkling in the sunlight, but the evil-barring and almighty cross of Christ, for whom he had suffered and obtained this glory.’

61. A crowd of visitors from several regions has gathered to celebrate the memory of a soldier martyr, which is celebrated in winter. The saint is ascribed with having stopped a barbarian invasion during the previous year.

62. The martyrs enjoy a state of extreme honour, as their souls are in heaven and their bodily remains are held in great honour on earth, unlike the corpses and tombs of people who have died a common death.

63-64. Theodoros’ shrine is a beautifully built and decorated church, including a painted representation of his martyrdom, and his reliquary. People venerate it and take dust from it (see $E01748). No king or general has ever enjoyed such honours as this poor young recruit.

65-66. Theodoros comes from the East, and is brought to Anatolia by his military unit which is spending the winter there, when the persecution of Christians is decreed. Theodoros confesses his faith so openly and fearlessly that he is brought to trial before the provincial governor (ἡγεμὼν/praeses) and the military commander (ταξίαρχος/dux), who ask him why he disdains the decrees of the emperor Maximian. Theodoros bravely replies that he does not accept the false gods, and is ready to be tortured and die for Christ. A soldier mocks him, asking if his god has a son, like men do, but Theodoros returns the mockery referring to the mother of the gods.

67. The persecutors give Theodoros a period of leave to reconsider, during which he goes to Amaseia and sets fire to the temple of the Mother of the Gods. He publicly boasts his act in the town and is arrested and brought to trial.

68. As his answers are brave, his judges attempt to allure him with promises of high office and archpriesthood. Theodoros laughs at this, declaring that he regards pagan archpriests as the most miserable of all people, and deploring the fact that even the emperors dishonour their regal office by their pontifical title, turning themselves into cooks and butchers by their participation in sacrifices.

69. Enraged, the persecutors reproach Theodoros for his disrespect and blasphemy against the emperors. The martyr is tortured, but he endures bravely, singing Psalm 33. He is taken to gaol where miraculous visions of lights and singing crowds are seen around the saint during the night.

69. After several other events, Theodoros is condemned to be burned alive, and he thus leaves to the Church the legacy of his martyrdom’s memory, and his wonderworking shrine which is constantly flooded with visitors.

70-71. The sermon finishes with a long invocation for Theodoros to visit invisibly the festal assembly and to protect the region against the threat of invasion. He is urged to invite in his prayers on behalf of the area the founders of the local Churches, namely the apostles *Peter, *Paul, and *John the Evangelist.

Text: Cavarnos 1990, 59-71. Translation and summary: Efthymios Rizos

History

Evidence ID

E01747

Saint Name

Theodore Tiro, martyr of Amaseia (Helenopontus, north-eastern Asia Minor), ob. 306 : S00480

Saint Name in Source

Θεόδωρος

Type of Evidence

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

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

379

Evidence not after

390

Activity not before

379

Activity not after

390

Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Euchaita

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

Euchaita Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Nyssa

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

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Descriptions of images of saints

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies Miraculous interventions in war

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Crowds

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Contact relic - dust/sand/earth Public display of relics

Source

Gregory of Nyssa was born in the late 330s as one of the youngest of a leading Christian family of Cappadocia. His siblings included important figures of church life, namely Basil of Caesarea, the ascetic Makrina the Younger, and Peter of Sebaste. Gregory was trained in philosophy and rhetoric mainly by his brother Basil, who, in 371 or 372 ordained him bishop of the Cappadocian township of Nyssa. In 376, Gregory was deposed from his see, to which he was able to return in 378, and, from then onwards, he was one of the protagonists of church politics in the East Roman Empire. He played an important role during the Council of Constantinople (381) and was very close to the imperial family of Theodosius I. He was sent on missions to Armenia and Arabia in order settle problems in local churches. Gregory died after 394. He left a large literary heritage on philosophical, theological, ascetical, catechetical and homiletic works. On the manuscript tradition of this oration, see: Heil, Cavarnos, and Lendle 1990, cxxxv-clxxii (J. P. Cavarnos) For a catalogue of the 96 manuscripts: http://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr/notices/oeuvre/3819/ (accessed 03/02/2017)

Discussion

This sermon is the earliest recorded attestation of the cult of the soldier martyr *Theodoros/Theodore, who later became one of the most popular military saints of the Christian East. It is believed that Gregory composed and delivered this sermon in 380 or during that decade. The importance of the text is manifold. - It provides the earliest attestation of the hagiographical legend of Theodoros, bearing many similarities to, but also differences from, the Martyrdom of Theodoros the Recruit. (E02052) - Gregory thanks and implores Theodoros for his protection against invasion, describing him as a soldier and defender before and after death. Thus this text records the emergence of a distinctive category of saints: the soldier martyrs. (see E01749) - The text contains a lengthy deliberation on the theology and practice of the cult of relics, and a short description of the shrine of Theodoros. (see E01748) The sermon was given during a service held at the shrine of Theodoros, on his feast-day. Although not mentioned by the author, it is generally assumed that the venue was the shrine of the martyr at the village of Euchaita, west of Amaseia in Pontus. Gregory reports that the feast was held in winter, which may suggest that it was the later attested celebration of Theodoros in February. Despite the harsh Anatolian winter, the feast seems to have attracted a major regional pilgrimage, attended also by bishops of other areas, like Gregory himself. An additional reason for the great pilgrimage was apparently the turmoil caused by a barbarian attack. Gregory does not give details about this event (he calls the invaders by the classicising term ‘Scythians’), but his sermon is believed to refer to the uprising and marauding attacks of Gothic groups in the early years of the reign of Theodosius I. Jean Daniélou dates the sermon to 7 February 381 (Daniélou 1955, 355-356).

Bibliography

Text: Heil, G., J. P. Cavarnos, and O. Lendle, eds. Gregorii Nysseni Opera X.1: Gregorii Nysseni Sermones Ii. Leiden: Brill, 1990, 59-71 (J. P. Cavarnos). Translation: Leemans, J., 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, 82-90 (J. Leemans). (with introduction and further bibliography) Further reading: Bernardi, J. La prédication des pères Cappadociens, Paris : Université de Paris, 1968, 301-307. Daniélou, J. (1955), ‘Chronologie des sermons de Grégoire de Nysse’, Revue des Sciences Religieuses 29.4, 346-372. Haldon, J., A Tale of Two Saints: The Martyrdoms and Miracles of Saints Theodore 'the Recruit' and 'the General', (Translated Texts for Byzantinists 2; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2016). Leemans, J. "Hagiography and Historical-Critical Analysis: The Earliest Layer of the Dossier of Theodore the Recruit (Bhg 1760 and 1761)." In Martyrdom and Persecution in Late Antique Christianity: Festschrift Boudewijn Dehandschutter, edited by Johan Leemans. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium, 333-51. Leuven: Peeters, 2010. Limberis, V., Architects of Piety: The Cappadocian Fathers and the Cult of the Martyrs (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 56-62. Walter, C. (1999) ‘Theodore, Archetype of the Warrior Saint’, Revue des Études Byzantines 57: 163–210. idem, The warrior saints in Byzantine art and tradition, Aldershot : Ashgate, 2003. Zuckerman, C. (1991) ‘The Cappadocians and the Goths’, Travaux et Mémoires 11: 473–86. On Gregory of Nyssa: Dörrie, H., “Gregor III,” in Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum 12 (1983), 863-895. Maraval, P., ‘Grégoire, évêque de Nysse’, in Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques 22 (1988): 20–4. Silvas, A. M. Gregory of Nyssa. The Letters: Introduction, Translation and Commentary. Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 83. Leiden / Boston: Brill, 2007, 1-57.

Usage metrics

Categories

Keywords

Licence

Exports