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E00007: Theophylact Simocatta in his History describes the flight in 602 of the emperor Maurice with his sons to the shrine of *Autonomos (martyr of Nicomedia, S00016) near Nicomedia (north-west Asia Minor, close to Constantinople). Written in Greek at Constantinople in the early 7th century.

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posted on 2014-08-28, 00:00 authored by CSLA Admin
Theophylact Simocatta, History

λαίλαπος τοιγαροῦν γεγονυίας μεγίστης, ἐξαισίου τε νότου προσπνεύσαντος, μόλις ὁ Μαυρίκιος διασώζεται ἐπὶ τὸν νεὼν Αὐτονόμου τοῦ μάρτυρος, ὡς ἀπὸ σταδίων ἑκατὸν καὶ πεντήκοντα τῆς πόλεως Κωνσταντίνου τοῦ αὐτοκράτορος.

ὁ μὲν οὖν Θεοδόσιος ἀναζεύξας, ὁ Μαυρικίου παῖς τοῦ αὐτοκράτορος, εἰς τὸν ναὸν καταφεύγει Αὐτονόμου τοῦ μάρτυρος.

'Accordingly, since a tremendous squall arose and an abnormal south wind blew up, with difficulty Maurice reached safety at the church of the martyr Autonomos about one hundred and fifty stades from the city of the emperor Constantine.'

'And so Theodosios the son of the emperor Maurice fled on his return to the church of the martyr Autonomos.'

Text: de Boor and Wirth 1972. Translation: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Autonomos, martyr in Nicomedia, ob. 303-311 : S00016

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work

Theophylact Simocatta

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Church

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Seeking asylum at church/shrine

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Considerations about the veneration of saints


Theophylact Simocatta wrote his History in Constantinople probably in the late 620s. The period covered by his work is the reign of Maurice (582-602), and the main subjects of the historical narrative are the wars of the East Roman Empire with Persia, and with the Avars and the Slavs in the Balkans. Several digressions of hagiographical, chronographical, and geographical interest are inserted in the narrative. Using various earlier sources, Simocatta produces a positive account of Maurice, portraying him as a good emperor overthrown by a tyrant (Phocas). In fact, Maurice was very unpopular in his own times, but cleansing his memory was important to legitimise the rule of Heraclius (610-641), who presented his own coup against Phocas as avenging the murder of Maurice. A supporter and successful official of Heraclius’ regime, Simocatta apparently served this particular political agenda. Further reading: Whitby and Whitby 1986, xiii-xxx (introduction); Whitby 1988; Frendo 1988; Olajos 1988.


These passages come from Simocatta’s account of the dramatic events of the emperor Maurice’s fall in 602. The emperor disguised as a commoner flees from Constantinople during a riot on the night of 22 November 602, embarking on a dromon boat with his sons. After a storm, they reach the shrine of Autonomos, located at Prainetos (modern Karamürsel on the Gulf of Izmit), between Nicomedia and Helenopolis. Simocatta's information that the shrine lay at a distance of 150 stades (c. 28 km) from Constantinople does not correspond to the actual distance to Prainetos, which is considerably greater. It is unlikely that the shrine of Autonomos was the intended destination of Maurice’s flight. He was most probably sailing to Helenopolis, in order to take the Anatolian highway via Nicaea to Persia, where he would seek help from Khosrau II. Yet his ship was driven by the storm to Prainetos and, unable to travel due to arthritis, Maurice sought sanctuary at the shrine of Autonomos, while his eldest son Theodosios (Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire IIIB, 'Theodosius 13') continued the journey on his own (8.9.9-12). Thus Maurice and his younger sons were arrested by the men of the usurper Phocas (8.11.2). The fact that this happened while they were seeking sanctuary at a church probably assisted Simocatta's effort to portray Maurice's death as a quasi-martyrdom. The author claims that, shortly before being arrested, Maurice accepted the prospect of his death and called Theodosios back. The latter obediently returned to Autonomos’ shrine to meet his own death, while his father and brothers were taken to be murdered at Chalcedon (8.11.1-2; 8.13.3). Later sources claim that all the imperial family was murdered near the shrine (Chronicon Paschale 694; Theophanes 290). These passages of Simocatta are closely related to a lost set of texts concerning the death of Maurice and his family, which were written in the style of hagiography (E00050). Their information must have been drawn from orally transmitted stories, personal notes of people close to the emperor, a chronicle or official documents concerning the arrest and execution of the imperial family (see Olajos 1988, 152-153).


Edition: de Boor, C., and Wirth, P., Theophylacti Simocattae Historiae (Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana; Leipzig: Teubner, 1972). Translation: Whitby, M., and Whitby, M., The History of Theophylact Simocatta: An English Translation with Introduction and Notes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986). Further reading: Frendo, J.D.C., “History and Panegyric in the Age of Heraclius: The Literary Background of the Composition of the Histories of Theophylact Simocatta,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 42 (1988), 143-156. Foss, C., “St. Autnonomus and his church in Bithynia,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 41 (1987), 187-198. Janin, R., Les églises et les monastères des grands centres byzantins (Bithynie, Hellespont, Latros, Galèsios, Trébizonde, Athènes, Thessalonique) (Paris: Institut français d'études byzantines, 1975). Olajos, T., Les Sources de Théophylacte Simocatta Historien (Leiden: Brill, 1988). Whitby, M., The Emperor Maurice and his Historian: Theophylact Simocatta on Persian and Balkan Warfare (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).

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