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E00025: Theophylact Simocatta in his History describes how in 590 the deposed Persian king Khosrau II vowed to dedicate a precious cross to the shrine of *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023) at Rusafa/Sergiopolis (north-east Syria) if the saint assisted him to regain his throne. He fulfilled his vow in 591. Written in Greek at Constantinople in the early 7th century.

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posted on 2014-09-01, 00:00 authored by CSLA Admin
Theophylact Simocatta, History 5.1.7-8 and 5.13.1-7

(7.) εἰσῆλθε τοίνυν αὐτὸν δεισιδαιμονία ὁσίας θρησκείας τινός, καὶ πάλιν πρὸς τὸν ἐπὶ πάντων θεὸν τὸν νοῦν μετεκόμισεν, καὶ ἠντιβόλει τὸν ἀοίδιμον ἐν μάρτυσι Σέργιον, ὃν καὶ τὰ νομαδικὰ πρεσβεύειν ἔθνη εἰώθασιν, συλλαμβάνειν τῶν πόνων αὐτῷ, (8.) ἀπαρχάς τε τροπαίων καθυπισχνεῖτο προσφέρεσθαι τοῦ κυριακοῦ πάθους τὸ ἐπίσημον σήμαντρον (σταυρὸς δὲ τοῦτο ἀναγορεύεται), τεκτονεύεσθαί τε τοῦτον χρυσήλατον, μαργαρίτην τε περιβαλεῖν αὐτῷ καὶ τῶν Ἰνδικῶν λίθων τοὺς διαυγεῖς· εὐσεβέστερον γὰρ ποτνιώμενον ὑπὸ τῆς ἀνάγκης ὁ καιρὸς αὐτὸν ἐξειργάζετο.

(1.) … ἐς νοῦν τοίνυν βαλόμενος ὁ τῶν Περσῶν βασιλεὺς τὴν ἄνωθεν αὐτῷ τῆς ἐπικουρίας γεγονυῖαν ῥοπήν, τῷ ἐν μάρτυσιν ἐπιφανεστάτῳ Σεργίῳ σταυρὸν ἐκ χρυσοῦ πεποιημένον λιθοκόλλητον δῶρον ἐξέπεμπεν, (2.) ὃν δῆτα Χοσρόης ὁ Καβάδου τὸ ἄστυ παραστησάμενος, λαφυραγωγήσας ἐν τοῖς τῶν Περσῶν ἀνακτόροις ἀπέθετο, ἔτι τῶν Ῥωμαϊκῶν σκήπτρων Ἰουστινιανοῦ τοῦ αὐτοκράτορος ἐπιβαίνοντος. ἐν τούτῳ γοῦν τῷ σταυρῷ ἕτερον Χοσρόης ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς ἐξ ἀπέφθου χρυσοῦ σταυρὸν ἐτεκτήνατο τὴν αἰτίαν ἐντυπώσας ἐν αὐτῷ τοῦ ἀναθήματος. (3.) ἐπιστολὴν δὲ δὴ Ἑλληνικοῖς γράμμασιν ἅμα τῷ κειμηλίῳ ἐς τὸ λεγόμενον Βαρβαρικὸν παρεπέμπετο. ὑπεγέγραπτο δὲ τῇ ἐπιστολῇ καὶ βασιλικὴ ὑποτύπωσις. τὰ δὲ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς ἐν τούτοις δῆτα ἐτύγχανεν ὄντα· οὐκ ἀμείψω γὰρ τῆς λέξεως τὸ ἀρχέτυπον. (4.) “Τοῦτον τὸν σταυρὸν ἐγὼ Χοσρόης βασιλεὺς βασιλέων, υἱὸς Χοσρόου, ὅτε ἐκ διαβολικῆς ἐνεργείας καὶ κακουργίας τοῦ δυστυχεστάτου Βαράμ, υἱοῦ Βαργουσνᾶς, καὶ τῶν σὺν αὐτῷ καβαλλαρίων εἰς Ῥωμανίαν ἀπήλθομεν, καὶ διὰ τὸ ἔρχεσθαι τὸν δυστυχῆ Ζαδεσπράτην ἐκ τοῦ στρατοῦ εἰς τὸ Νισίβιος ἐπὶ τῷ ὑποσῦραι τοὺς καβαλλαρίους τοῦ μέρους τοῦ Νισίβιος εἰς τὸ ἀντᾶραι καὶ συνταράξαι ἐπέμψαμεν καὶ ἡμεῖς καβαλλαρίους μετὰ ἄρχοντος εἰς τὸ Χαρχάς, (5.) καὶ διὰ τῆς τύχης τοῦ ἁγίου Σεργίου τοῦ πανσέπτου καὶ ὀνομαστοῦ, ἐπειδὴ ἠκούσαμεν δοτῆρα εἶναι αὐτὸν τῶν αἰτήσεων, ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ ἔτει τῆς βασιλείας ἡμῶν, μηνὶ Ἰανουαρίῳ ἑβδόμῃ, ᾐτησάμεθα, ὡς, ἐὰν οἱ καβαλλάριοι ἡμῶν σφάξωσι τὸν Ζαδεσπράτην ἢ χειρώσωνται, σταυρὸν χρυσοῦν διάλιθον εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ πέμπομεν διὰ τὸ πάνσεπτον αὐτοῦ ὄνομα. (6.) καὶ τῇ ἐνάτῃ τοῦ Φεβρουαρίου μηνὸς τὴν κεφαλὴν τοῦ Ζαδεσπράτου ἤνεγκαν ἐπὶ ἡμῶν. ἐπιτυχόντες οὖν τῆς αἰτήσεως ἡμῶν, διὰ τὸ ἕκαστον ἀναμφίβολον εἶναι, εἰς τὸ πάνσεπτον αὐτοῦ ὄνομα τὸν σταυρὸν τὸν παρ’ ἡμῶν γενόμενον, μετὰ τοῦ πεμφθέντος σταυροῦ παρὰ Ἰουστινιανοῦ βασιλέως Ῥωμαίων εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ, καὶ τῷ καιρῷ τῆς ἀμιξίας τῶν δύο πολιτειῶν ἐνεχθέντος ἐνταῦθα παρὰ Χοσρόου, βασιλέως βασιλέων, υἱοῦ Κοάδου, τοῦ ἡμετέρου πατρός, καὶ εὑρεθέντος ἐν τοῖς ἡμετέροις θησαυροῖς, ἐπέμψαμεν ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ τοῦ πανσέπτου Σεργίου.” (7.) Ὁ μὲν οὖν σατράπης κατὰ τὸ διατεταγμένον αὐτῷ ἀπέδοτο τὸν σταυρὸν τά τε γράμματα τοῦ βασιλέως.

'(7.) Then reverence for a certain holy religion came upon him [Khosrau II], and he again transported his mind to the supreme God. He supplicated Sergios, famous among the martyrs – whom even the nomad tribes are accustomed to revere – to assist him in his troubles. (8.) He solemnly promised to offer as first-fruits of victory the famous symbol of the Lord’s Passion (this is designated a cross) to fashion it from beaten gold and cover it with pearls and radiant Indian stones. For in his necessity the occasion made him implore more piously.'

After Khosrau's victories in 591:

'(1.) ... Then the king of the Persians called to mind the decisive assistance he had received from above, and he dispatched as a gift to Sergios, most illustrious among martyrs, a gem-studded cross made of gold, (2.) which Chosroes the son of Kabades, when he reduced the city, had taken as booty and deposited in the palace of the Persians, while the emperor Justinian was still master of the Roman sceptres. So on this cross, Chosroes fashioned at its head another cross of pure gold and inscribed on it the reason for the offering. (3.) He sent a letter written in Greek letters, along with the treasure, to the Barbarikon, as it is called [the region of Rusafa]. And the royal emblem was also signed on the letter. The contents of the letter were in fact in the following terms, for I shall not alter the original wording: (4.) "This cross do I give, Chosroes, king of kings, son of Chosroes. When we departed to Romania [the Roman Empire] on account of the devilish operations and wickedness of the most ill-starred Baram son of Bargusnas [the usurper Bahram Chobin] and of his associate cavaliers, and because the ill-starred Zadesprates was coming from the army towards Nisibis in order to seduce the cavaliers of the district of Nisibis to revolt and participation in the turmoil, we also sent cavaliers with an officer to Charchas. (5.) And by the spirit of the most holy and renowned Saint Sergios, when we heard that he was the granter of petitions, in the first year of our reign, on the seventh of January, we petitioned that, if our cavaliers should slaughter or arrest Zadesprates, we would send a gold-bejewelled cross to his house for his most holy name. (6.) And on the ninth of February they brought us the head of Zadesprates. Now, since we were granted our request, and so that both parts might be fully satisfied, [we dedicated] to his most holy name the cross made by us together with the cross sent to his shrine by Justinian, emperor of the Romans; this was brought here in the time of estrangement between the two states by Chosroes our father, king of kings, son of Koades, and was discovered in our treasury; these we sent to the house of the most holy Sergios." (7.) And so the satrap delivered the cross and the king’s letter according to his instructions.'

Text: de Boor and Wirth 1972. Translation: Whitby and Whitby 1986, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Sergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 305-311 : S00023

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Greek

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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous interventions in war

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Foreigners (including Barbarians) Pagans

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Crosses Ex-votos


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.


The story of the Persian king Khosrau II’s vows and offerings to the shrine of Sergios in Rusafa/Resapha belong to a set of notes that follow Simocatta’s account of the events of Khosrau’s restoration to the Persian throne. With the assistance of the emperor Maurice, the deposed Persian monarch campaigns against the usurper Bahram and his supporters (5.1.7-9) in 590/1 and, in a moment of ‘reverence for holy religion’, he requests the assistance of Sergios, vowing to dedicate a precious cross at his shrine in Resapha. Together with the stories of *Golinduch (E00018) and Khosrau's prophetic dream vision of *Mary (E00041), this episode probably serves Simocatta’s effort to justify Maurice’s controversial decision to help Khosrau II, which must have been remembered with bitter feelings after the latter’s conquests of Roman lands in the 610s. Simocatta probably aims to convince his readership that, despite Khosrau's later ingratitude, his restoration to the throne was a cause that had divine support. At the same time, under the impact of Heraclius’ successes against Persia in the 620s, stories like this may have also echoed contemporary Roman hopes that Persia would eventually be conquered and converted to Christianity. Simocatta’s source for these events is probably the lost history of John of Epiphania, who was a contemporary of Evagrius Scholasticus and used the same sources. Both Simocatta (reproducing John of Epiphania) and Evagrius quote very similar versions of the votive letters of Khosrau II, but the two accounts have notable differences in details. For a discussion of the texts and bibliography, see E00028.


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. 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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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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