File(s) not publicly available

E06497: Probably in the mid to late 7th century, an anonymous hagiographer composes the Greek Life of *Alypios (stylite and monastic founder in Hadrianopolis, ob. early 7th c., S02437) as a funeral oration (epitaphios logos). It presents its hero as an extraordinary stylite, describing his upbringing, career, struggles with demons, miracles, and death. Probably written at Alypios’ monastery near Hadrianopolis (Paphlagonia, northern Asia Minor). Overview entry

online resource
posted on 13.09.2018, 00:00 by erizos
Anonymous, Life of Alypios the Stylite (BHG 65)

For the full translation of the text, see: $E07158


Proem (the vita is composed in the genre of encomium, so the summary has been divided accordingly.): (1) The author acknowledges his duty to compose an account of Alypios’ deeds. He hopes that it will facilitate knowledge of this saint for future generations.

Family background: (2) Alypios is from the city of Hadrianopolis in the province of Paphlagonia. While Alypios’ mother is still pregnant with him, she receives a vision in a dream of a ram with lanterns hanging from its horns, and after his birth, another vision of the community honouring her son. Because of these signs and her husband’s death, she decides to dedicate her life to her son’s career.

Education: (3) Alypios’ mother entrusts her son to the bishop Theodore, who educates him in the words of Scripture. He shows remarkable progress. (4) After Theodore’s death, Alypios passes to the care of the next bishop, who is also named Theodore. His precocity soon leads to his appointment as steward and ordination as deacon.

Deeds: (5) Because Alypios has mastered the lesser commandments from his youth, all that remains is to sell all that he has, give it to the poor, and adopt a lifestyle of asceticism. (6) Alypios shares his plan to travel east with his mother because he desires her blessing. She immediately supports and co-operates with his plan, exhorting him with a speech. Mother and son embrace each other tenderly and make their separate ways. (7) Word quickly spreads of Alypios’ departure, which prompts the bishop to pursue him. Discovering the saint in Euchaita, he persuades him to return home. Alypios agrees and returns confidently after he has received approval in a dream. (8–9) Alypios investigates the area surrounding Hadrianopolis for a place suitable for his asceticism. He is guided to water on the top of a mountain by two nameless men in a dream, but he ultimately chooses a cemetery nearer to the city. In this place there is a pillar supporting a pagan statue upon which he will later practice his stylitism. (10–11) Alypios is required to accompany the bishop to Constantinople for reasons of business, but he absconds from his party in Chalcedon, hiding in the coastal shrine (martyrion) of *Bassa (probably the martyr of Edessa, S01796). He is visited by the martyr *Euphemia (martyr of Chalcedon, S00017) in a dream, and because of her patronage, constructs a modest martyrion in her honour near Hadrianopolis. (12) In preparation for mounting the pillar, Alypios enters a small cell for two years where he is attacked by demons. Euphemia’s martyrion is dedicated. (13) The saint’s popularity increases, prompting him to ascend his pillar and live as a stylite. (14) The new stylite is positively contrasted with martyrs. His wounding by a stone thrown by demons is given as an example.

(15) To defy the demons, he uses an axe to remove his pillar’s protective covering. The hagiographer then shifts his focus to Alypios’ mother, praising her both for her pious nature and for her essential role in fostering Alypios’ ascetic career. (16) She is entrusted with exchanging money in the city but gives all of it to the poor instead of returning it to her son. Alypios commends her for this deed. Another woman named Euphemia arrives and encloses herself near his column. (17) Euboula, the first abbess of the community, and Mary, Alypios’ sister, soon join them, followed by many other pious women. (18) Alypios applauds the women for their dedication to God, and because of the community’s growth, he has two monasteries constructed, one for each sex. (19) Alypios’ mother is hesitant to leave her place near her son’s column and join the nuns, but she complies after being warned in a dream that this transition is necessary. Her pious conduct and life are praised. (20) The monasteries’ choruses sing so sweetly that passers-by are often enchanted, unable to move until the song concludes.

(21) A brilliant luminary from the sky descends and rests above Alypios’ head during a fierce tempest. So dazzling was this miracle that onlookers believed that the pillar was engulfed in flames; so intense was the light that it could be seen in Constantinople. (22–23) The empress corresponds with Alypios through letters, and he predicts her death. The stylite's general goodwill to the world is described, including his powers of prophecy, healing, and diplomacy. His virtues are described in terms of the Beatitudes.

Comparison: (24) The author compares Alypios positively with Job. He endured trials that matched Job’s famous torments, but unlike Job, the stylite suffered them with no complaint or unkind word. Alypios’ decision to live a chaste, ascetic life also ranks him above the ancient man from Uz.

Epilogue: (25–26) The author asserts his personal acquaintance with the saint, referring to himself as one of the younger monks. He admits his initial misunderstanding of the pain that Alypios suffered near the end of his life but realizes that 'gold must be tested in the fire'. A final miracle of a young man healed by drawing near to the stylite’s tomb is recounted, and the vita concludes with a prayer to God.

Text: Delehaye 1923.
Summary: Charles Kuper.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Alypios, stylite and monastic founder of Hadrianopolis in Paphlagonia, ob. early 7th c. : S02437 Euphemia, martyr of Chalcedon : S00017 Bassa, martyr of Edessa in Macedonia under Galerius and her sons Theognis, Agapios and Pistos : S01796

Saint Name in Source

Ἀλύπιος Εὐφημία Βάσσα

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Hadrianopolis Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Exorcism Miracle during lifetime Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Miraculous sound, smell, light Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Relatives of the saint Monarchs and their family Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified


The Life of Alypios the Stylite stands as one of the few texts describing the life and career of a pillar-saint or stylite. According to the anonymous author, it was composed shortly after the saint’s death, which occurred during the reign of the emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641). This sets 610 as the terminus post quem, though a date in the mid or even late 7th century is plausible. Narrowing this down further is difficult because the author includes almost no historical detail that would help contextualise when Alypios died, and it is also uncertain just how soon after his death the text was composed. Like many hagiographies, the Life has more than one purpose. The author states his hope at the beginning that it will serve as a model of virtuous conduct for subsequent generations, but he also pursues many other aims. He provides a justification for the practice of stylitism in a non-traditional location and dedicates significant space to honouring the first female members of the community, to name two examples. There are no known translations of the Life of Alypios into any other language, but its impact persisted as late as the 12th or even early 13th century. It was presumably the sole source for the version of Alypios’ vita included in the Menologion of Symeon Metaphrastes in the 10th century (BHG 64), as well as for the contemporary encomium by the monk and priest Antonius (BHG 66d). It is worth noting that the 10th century author of the Life of Luke the Stylite presents Alypios as one of four canonical stylites from the past, the others being Symeon the Elder, Daniel, and Symeon the Younger. Finally, Alypios is the subject of another encomium by the 12th and early 13th century monk, Neophytus the Recluse (BHG 66). Delivered on 26 November, Alypios’ feast day, the speech contains a brief version of the saint’s career, while also commemorating Neophytus’ mother Eudoxia, who had died on that day, and his father Athanasius, who died in August. The Life of Alypios survives in three known manuscripts: (A) National Library of France, Greek 1059, 188v–206 (11th c.); (B) Vatican Library, Greek 807, 269v–278v (10th c.); and (C) Vatican Library, Greek 808, 421v–439 (11th c.). All three are readily accessible online via the DVL and Gallica portals respectively. Hippolyte Delehaye prepared the edition of this vita, using A as the basis of his text.


The Life of Alypios the Stylite is an important witness to the practice of stylitism during a time in late antiquity when it was a recognizable, if extraordinary, mode of ascetic behavior. Mounting a pillar, although ostensibly an extreme anchoritic lifestyle, almost required the formation of a corresponding cenobitic community both because of the logistics of caring for the stylite’s welfare and in order to manage the many visitors that this conspicuous form of self-denial was known to attract. The vita navigates this apparent paradox, presenting Alypios as both a hermit who battles with demons and as a public holy man who guides his monastic community and works miracles for all. The Life of Alypios is composed as an encomium, and this genre impacts how the narrative of Alypios’ career and the formation of his community is structured. The major divisions of the encomium are the following: proem (prooimion, προοίμιον), family background (genos, γένος), education (anatrophē, ἀνατροφή), deeds (praxeis, πράξεις), comparison (sunkrisis, σύγκρισις), and epilogue (epilogos, ἐπίλογος). Many of these can be further subdivided, and this can be seen most clearly in the sections comprising Alpyius’ deeds. First, Alypios’ early career through the ascension of his column is narrated (5–14). Then, the focus of the vita shifts to the formation of the monastic community that arose around Alypios’ column. The pious women who joined this community, especially the saint’s mother, are given pride of place here (15–20). Finally, some of Alypios’ miracles (thaumata, θαύματα) are recounted, an important element of most hagiographies (21–23). One of the most remarkable aspects of this text is its extended treatment of the female members of the community, particularly its focus on Alypios’ mother. These sections are noteworthy for two reasons: 1) they constitute a quarter of the entire vita although having only a tangential connection to Alypios; 2) despite the assertion that the community consists of two monasteries, one for women and the other for men, the author describes the former in detail and almost completely ignores the latter. This seems to suggest that the female half of the double monastery was larger, more important, and better known than its male twin, or at least, this is how the author wished to portray it. Literary influences might also contribute to our understanding of these sections. The other famous stylite of the 6th century was Symeon the Younger, about whom a sizeable amount of literature is extant. Most relevant here are the extended treatment that Symeon’s mother Martha receives in her son’s vita and the fact that she was also the subject her own independent vita. In both cases, Martha is portrayed as playing a significant role in the history of the monastery that arose around Symeon’s column. Though none of the texts associated with either community explicitly refers to the other, the two were undoubtedly aware of each other and probably viewed each other as rivals of a sort. It is attractive, therefore, to read the sections devoted to the women of Alypios’ community not only as a reflection of historical reality but also as a literary response to Martha’s importance as promoted in the texts associated with Symeon’s community, texts that have been traditionally dated a few decades before the Life of Alypios. The absence of explicit references to previous stylites notwithstanding, the author of the text shows great familiarity with motifs developed in earlier stylite literature more generally and expands upon them. One particularly striking example is how the vita plays with the status of the stylite’s body: is Alypios a living statue, a liturgical object, or a sacrificial victim? In a tour de force of late antique portraits of stylites, the author even describes the saint’s ascent of his column as an act of self-monumentalization (heauton stēlōsas, ἑαυτὸν στηλώσας). Literary passages like this are corroborated by material culture: the ubiquity of monumental statues on columns as well as artistic depictions of stylites where the saint’s body coalesces with the pillar itself, ambiguously existing as both architecture and person. This rich dialogue between the literary and visual languages has much to say about how stylites were perceived and venerated in this period, and the Life of Alypios is an essential part of reconstructing this conversation.


Editions and translations: Delehaye, H, Les saints stylites (Subsidia Hagiographica 14; Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1923), 148–169 (Greek text). Kuper, C.N., "The Life of Alypios the Stylite (BHG 65)," English translation with notes. Published in this database: E07158 Further reading and bibliography: Delehaye, H., Les saints stylites (Subsidia Hagiographica 14; Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1923). Halkin, F., Inédits byzantins: d'Ochrida, Candie et Moscou (Subsidia Hagiographica 38; Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1963). Hinterberger, M., “Byzantine Hagiography and its Literary Genres: Some Critical Observations,” in: S. Efthymiadis (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography: Volume II, Genres and Contexts. (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014), 25–60. Kristensen, T.M., “Using and Abusing Images in Late Antiquity (and Beyond): Column Monuments as Topoi of Idolatry,” in: S. Birk, T.M. Kristensen, and B. Poulsen (eds.), Using Images in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2014), 268–282. Ousterhout, R., “The Life and Afterlife of Constantine’s Column,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 27 (2014), 304–326. Ritter, M., “The end of late antiquity in Paphlagonia: disurbanisation from a comparative perspective,” in: K. Winther-Jacobsen and L. Summerer (eds.), Landscape Dynamics and Settlement Patterns in Northern Anatolia during the Roman and Byzantine Period (Geographica Historica 32; Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2015), 119–131. Schachner, L.A., “The Archaeology of the Stylite,” in: D.M. Gwynn and S. Bangert (eds.), Religious Diversity in Late Antiquity. (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 329–97. Stang, C.M., “Digging Holes and Building Pillars: Simeon Stylites and the “Geometry” of Ascetic Practice,” Harvard Theological Review 103:4 (2010), 447–470. Stramara, D.F., Jr. “Double Monasticism in the Greek East, Fourth through Eighth Centuries,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 6:2 (1998), 269–312.

Usage metrics