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E05497: The Miracles of Saint Thekla recounts how *Thekla (follower of the Apostle Paul, S00092) healed him from a disease called anthrax, and how, later on, she removed from him the excommunication imposed on him by Basil, bishop of Seleucia. Written in Greek at Seleucia ad Calycadnum (southern Asia Minor) in the 470s.

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posted on 21.05.2018, 00:00 by julia
Miracles of Saint Thekla, 12

The author recounts here a miracle performed by Thekla on behalf of himself. Once, he discovered that his index finger was afflicted with an illness called by physicians 'anthrax' or 'coal'. It was a burning-hot inflammation which caused pain that was severe and uncontrollable. He was afraid, since he knew that the disease often killed its victims, and the doctors, although they applied various medicines, were not able even to alleviate the pain. Thus, they decided to amputate the finger, in order to save the rest of the author's body.

Τοῦτο οὗτοι μὲν ἐβουλεύοντο, ἐγὼ δὲ μετὰ δέους καὶ δακρύων ὠνειροπόλουν. Νὺξ δὲ ἦν ἔτι, τὸ μέσον τῆς βουλῆς καὶ τῆς τομῆς. Μικρὸν δὲ ὅσον ἀποκαθευδήσας αὐτὸ τὸ περίορθρον καὶ καθ’ ὃν ἀπολήγει μὲν ἔτι καιρὸν ἡ νύξ, ἄρχεται δὲ ἡ ἡμέρα, ὡς καὶ δοκεῖν ἄμφω ἀνακεκρᾶσθαι, φωτὶ μὲν σκότος, σκότει δὲ φῶς, καὶ δὴ ὁρῶ σφῆκας πολλούς τε καὶ δεινοὺς καὶ τὰ κέντρα ἠρκότας καὶ ὥσπερ αἰχμὰς προτείνοντας κατ’ ἐμοῦ, ὁρῶ δὲ καὶ τὴν παρθένον ἐπεισελθοῦσαν οὗ ἐκάθευδον. Ἐδόκουν δὲ ἐν τῇ τῆς ἐκκλησίας αὐλῇ καθεύδειν τῇ καὶ τὴν φιάλην καὶ τὸ ἐπ’ αὐτῇ βλύζον ὕδωρ ἐχούσῃ καὶ τὴν πλάτανον ὑφ’ ᾗ καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ ῥεῖ, ἐπεισελθοῦσαν δὲ καὶ θεασαμένην τὸν κατ’ ἐμοῦ τῶν σφηκῶν πόλεμον, καὶ λαβομένην ἄκρου τοῦ ἱματίου τοῦ τὴν κεφαλὴν μετὰ καὶ τοῦ λοιποῦ σκέποντος σώματος καὶ περιστρέψασαν τῇ χειρί, τὸν πολὺν ἐκεῖνον ὅμαδον τῶν σφηκῶν ἀποσοβῆσαί τε καὶ καθελεῖν καὶ συμπατῆσαι τοῖς ποσί, καὶ ἐμὲ πάντων ἐκείνων ἐλευθερῶσαι τῶν δεινῶν πολεμίων. Καὶ ἡ μὲν ὄψις ἡ γεγονυῖά μοι αὕτη· τῆς δὲ ἡμέρας ἤδη φανείσης καὶ ὑπολάμπειν ἀρχομένης, ἐγὼ μὲν ἀπηλλάγμην τῶν ἀγρίων ἐκείνων πόνων καὶ ἀλγηδόνων, ὡς καὶ μειδιᾶν καὶ γάννυσθαι ἐπὶ τῇ μακαρίᾳ ὄψει.

'They decided upon this course of action, while I, with fear and weeping, had a dream. It was still night, midway between their decision and the amputation. Having fallen asleep only a little before dawn (at the point when night is coming to an end and the day is beginning, so that both appear mixed together, dark with light, light with dark), I saw many terrible wasps brandishing their stingers, pointing them at me like spears. But next I saw the virgin entering the place where I was sleeping. (I seemed to be sleeping in the atrium of the church, which has a fountain and water gushing into it, as well as a plane tree under which the water flows.) After entering and witnessing the wasps' attack against me, taking the top part of her himation [i.e., cloak], which covered her head as well as the rest of her body, and swinging it around with her hand, she scared away the great swarm of wasps, destroyed them, trampled them with her feet, and set me free from all those terrible enemies. This is the vision which happened to me. But when daylight appeared and began to shine, I found I had been delivered from that fierce pain and suffering, so that I was even smiling and gladdened at the blessed vision.'

Then the doctors came with the knife in their hands to make the amputation, but then went away, astonished at the miracle and praising the martyr, although they perhaps were a little disappointed because of losing their payment for the surgery.

This miracle was followed by another one. The author and narrator recounts how Basil [bishop of Seleucia] was consecrated bishop and started to plot against him (the author), since he with some few others opposed this election which they considered profane and destructive. So Basil even fabricated a charge and excluded the narrator from the divine mysteries. The narrator had a premonitory vision of this trial: a black pygmy approached him while he was sleeping and held out to him a coin called a 'tremisis' , which also was black and dark. The narrator took this in his dream unwillingly. At this point the dream ceased, but the recipient considered it a bad omen. Basil indeed imposed upon him the sentence of excommunication. This verdict caused a great tumult in the city, since everyone was amazed at the shamelessness of the deed. The relatives and friends of the narrator were already preparing for battle against Basil and his ally Eubolos. But the narrator restrained them, thinking that a reasonable discussion would be a better solution. Then he again had a vision.

Δευτέρας γοῦν ἡμέρας ἤδη μοι οὔσης ἐπὶ τῇ ἀκοινωνησίᾳ καὶ τῆς νυκτὸς ἐπιλαβούσης, καὶ πολλὰ μὲν ἀποδακρυσαμένῳ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, πολλὰ δὲ καὶ ἐπιβοησαμένῳ τὴν μάρτυρα, μικρὸν δὲ καὶ ἀποκαθευδήσαντί μοι μετὰ τὰς λιτάς—πῶς εἴπω τὸ φρικτὸν ἐκεῖνο καὶ μακάριον θέαμα; —ἐφίσταταί μοι ἡ μάρτυς ἐν κορικῷ σχήματι καὶ τριβωνίῳ λευκῷ ἐκ τῶν μεταφρένων μὲν ἐπὶ τὰ στέρνα περιηγμένῳ, αὐτόθι δὲ λοιπὸν ἐμπεπορπημένῳ, καὶ λαβομένη μου τῆς δεξιᾶς χειρὸς ἐντίθησί μοι ὅπερ Βασίλειος οὐκ οἶδα εἰ καλῶς ἀφείλετο· «Ἔχε καὶ θάρρει, τέκνον—ἐπιφθεγξαμένη μοι—, καὶ ἴσθι δὲ ὡς ἐπὶ Μακεδονίαν ἐπείγομαι νῦν γυναικὶ κινδυνευούσῃ βοηθήσουσα.» Καὶ γὰρ ἐπ’ ἐκείνοις ταῦτα προσέθηκε. Καὶ ἡ μὲν ταῦτα εἰποῦσα ἀπέπτη—καὶ γὰρ ἐπειγομένῃ ἐῴκει—, ἐγὼ δὲ διαναστὰς τὴν μὲν χεῖρα ἐξαισίου τινὸς εὐωδίας εὗρον πεπληρωμένην, αὐτός τε οὖν ἀνεθάρρησα καὶ τοῖς παραγεγονόσι τῶν φίλων εἶπον εὐθὺς ὡς· «Σήμερον, κἂν μὴ βούληται, Βασίλειος λύσει τὴν ἀκοινωνησίαν.» Ὃ δὴ καὶ ἐγένετο· τῆς γὰρ τρίτης ἡμέρας ἐπιγενομένης, μεταπεμψάμενός με ὁ Βασίλειος λύει τὴν ἐπ’ ἐμοὶ ψῆφον, τῆς μάρτυρος καὶ ἄκοντα πρὸς τοῦτο συνωθούσης αὐτὸν ἀοράτως τε καὶ ᾗ νόμος αὐτῇ ποιεῖν.

'I was already in the second day of my excommunication and night was falling. After making many tearful entreaties to God, and crying out repeatedly to the martyr, I had barely fallen asleep after my prayers when – how should I describe that awesome and blessed night? – the martyr stood at my side in the dress of a girl, with a white tribonion [cloak] wrapped around her, from her back to her chest, then fastened there [at the shoulder] with a pin. And taking my right hand, she gave me that very thing of which Basil had wickedly deprived me. "Take this and be courageous, my child," she said to me, "and know that I am hastening now to Macedonia to help a woman in danger." For she added these last words to her speech [cf. Acts 16:9]. Having uttered them, she flew away – indeed, she seemed to be in a hurry. But I stood up and found my hand filled with an extraordinary fragrance. I took renewed courage and immediately said to my friends who were present: "Today, whether he wants to or not, Basil will revoke the excommunication." This is exactly what happened. When the third day arrived, Basil summoned me and revoked the sentence against me; the martyr, against Basil's will, invisibly pressured him to do this, as is her custom.'

Text: Dagron 1978. Translation: Johnson 2012. Summary: J. Doroszewska.

History

Evidence ID

E05497

Saint Name

Thekla, follower of the Apostle Paul : S00092

Saint Name in Source

Θέκλα

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

470

Evidence not after

476

Activity not before

450

Activity not after

476

Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Seleucia ad Calycadnum

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

Seleucia ad Calycadnum Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Miraculous sound, smell, light Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Other specified miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics – unspecified Heretics Physicians

Source

The anonymous text known under the title of The Life and Miracles of Thekla was written in the city of Seleucia-on-the-Calycadnum in the province of Isauria in southern Asia Minor around 470. It was certainly written before c. 476, which is approximately when Thekla's shrine outside Seleucia (modern Meriamlik/Ayatekla in Turkey) was monumentalised by the emperor Zeno (r. 474-491), since this activity is not mentioned in the text. The text consists of two parts: the first half is a paraphrased version of the second-century Acts of Paul and Thekla, a text which was widely known in Late Antiquity and translated into every early Christian language; this early text was rendered by our author into Attic Greek, and contains many minor changes to the original story, with one major change at the end: instead of dying at the age of 19 years, Thekla descends into the earth and performs miracles in and around the city of Seleucia in a spiritual state. The second half, from which this passage is drawn, comprises a collection of forty-six miracles, preceded by a preface and followed by an epilogue. It is written in a high literary style which distinguishes it among other hagiographical texts, which were typically composed in a low style of Greek. The text was for a long time attributed to a 5th century bishop, Basil of Seleucia (fl. c. 448-468); but in 1974 Dagron demonstrated conclusively that the Miracles could not have been authored by Basil, since there is an invective directed against him in chapter 12. The anonymous author is himself the subject of a few miracles, including miraculous interventions on his behalf in ecclesiastical disputes.

Discussion

Curiously enough, Basil of Seleucia (bishop c.. 448-468) was the author whom The Life and Miracles of Thekla was attributed to, even though in this chapter he is fiercely criticised, unless it is an interpolation. The confusion may result from a passage in Photios who claims Basil wrote a versification of 'the deeds, contests, and victories of the protomartyr Thekla' (Bibliotheca, cod. 168 = 2.159-61, ed. Henry) which presumably was another work on Thekla's life and deeds. Basil was appointed bishop of Seleucia between the years 432 and 447. He fluctuated in the events leading up to the Council of Chalcedon in 451, from accepting the archimandrite Eutyches' condemnation at the Synod of Constantinople in 448 to voting for his rehabilitation at the Second Council of Ephesus in 449, then signing Leo's Tome in 450.

Bibliography

Edition: Dagron, G., Vie et miracles de sainte Thècle (Subsidia hagiographica 62; Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1978), with French translation. Translations: Johnson, S.F., Miracles of Saint Thekla, in : S.F. Johnson and A.-M. Talbot, Miracle Tales from Byzantium (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 12; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), 1-201. Festugière, A.-J., Collections grecques de Miracles: sainte Thècle, saints Côme et Damien, saints Cyr et Jean (extraits), saint Georges (Paris: Éditions A. et J. Picard, 1971). Further reading: Barrier, J., et al., Thecla: Paul's Disciple and Saint in the East and West (Leuven: Peeters, 2017). Dagron, G., “L'auteur des Actes et des Miracles de Sainte Thècle,” Analecta Bollandiana, 92 (1974), 5–11. Davis, S., The Cult of Saint Thecla: A Tradition of Women's Piety in Late Antiquity, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). Honey, L., “Topography in the Miracles of Thecla: Reconfiguring Rough Cilicia,” in: M.C. Hoff and R.F. Townsend (eds), Rough Cilicia: New Historical and Archaeological Approaches, Proceedings on an International Conference held at Lincoln, Nebraska, October 2007 (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2013), 252–59. Johnson, S.F., “The Life and Miracles of Thecla, a literary study” (University of Oxford, doctoral thesis, 2005). Kristensen, T.M., "Landscape, Space and Presence in the Cult of Thekla in Meriamlik," Journal of Early Christian Studies 24:2 (2016), 229-263.

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