University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E00553: Greek epigram, inscribed in the church and recovered in part through excavation, commemorating the rebuilding of the church of *Polyeuktos (soldier and martyr of Melitene, S00325) in Constantinople, by Anicia Juliana, 500/527; the church had originally been built by the empress Aelia Eudocia (r. 421-460). The epigram records that Anicia Juliana also built several churches of martyrs in the provinces. Recorded in the 10th c. Greek Anthology.

online resource
posted on 2015-05-27, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Greek Anthology, Book 1 (Christian Epigrams), 10

Εἰς τὸν ναὸν τοῦ ἁγίου μάρτυρος Πολυεύκτου

ταῦτα μὲν ἐν τῷ ναῷ ἔνδοθεν κύκλῳ περιγράφονται
Εὐδοκίη μὲν ἄνασσα, Θεὸν σπεύδουσα γεραίρειν,
πρώτη νηὸν ἔτευξε θεοφραδέος Πολυεύκτου·
ἀλλ᾽ οὐ τοῖον ἔτευξε καὶ οὐ τόσον· οὔ τινι φειδοῖ,
οὐ κτεάτων χατέουσα (τίνος βασίλεια χατίζει;)
ἀλλ᾽ ὡς θυμὸν ἔχουσα θεοπρόπον, ὅττι γενέθλην
καλλείψει δεδαυῖαν ἀμείνονα κόσμον ὀπάζειν.
ἔνθεν Ἰουλιανή, ζαθέων ἀμάρυγμα τοκήων,
τέτρατον ἐκ κείνων βασιλήϊον αἷμα λαχοῦσα,
ἐλπίδας οὐκ ἔψευσεν ἀριστώδινος ἀνάσσης,
ἀλλά μιν ἐκ βαιοῖο μέγαν καὶ τοῖον ἐγείρει,
κῦδος ἀεξήσασα πολυσκήπτρων γενετήρων·
πάντα γάρ ὅσσα τέλεσσεν ὑπέρτερα τεῦξε τοκήων,
ὀρθὴν πίστιν ἔχουσα φιλοχρίστοιο μενοινῆς.
τίς γὰρ Ἰουλιανὴν οὐκ ἔκλυεν, ὅττι καὶ αὐτοὺς
εὐκαμάτοις ἔργοισιν ἑοὺς φαίδρυνε τοκῆας,
εὐσεβίης ἀλέγουσα; μόνη δ᾽ ἱδρῶτι δικαίῳ
ἄξιον οἶκον ἔτευξεν ἀειζώῳ Πολυεύκτῳ.
καὶ γὰρ ἀεὶ δεδάηκεν ἀμεμφέα δῶρα κομίζειν
πᾶσιν ἀεθλητῆρσιν ἐπουρανίου βασιλῆος.
πᾶσα χθὼν βοάᾳ, πᾶσα πτόλις, ὅττι τοκῆας
φαιδροτέρους ποίησεν ἀρειοτέροισιν ἐπ᾽ ἔργοις.
ποῦ γὰρ Ἰουλιανὴν ἁγίοις οὐκ ἔστιν ἰδέσθαι
νηὸν ἀναστήσασαν ἀγακλέα; ποῦ σέο μούνης
εὐσεβέων οὐκ ἔστιν ἰδεῖν σημήϊα χειρῶν;
ποῖος δ᾽ ἔπλετο χῶρος, ὃς οὐ μάθε σεῖο μενοινὴν
εὐσεβίης πλήθουσαν; ὅλης χθονὸς ἐνναετῆρες
σοὺς καμάτους μέλπουσιν ἀειμνήστους γεγαῶτας.
ἔργα γὰρ εὐσεβίης οὐ κρύπτεται· οὐ γὰρ ἀέθλους
λήθη ἀποσβέννυσιν ἀριστοπόνων ἀρετάων.
ὅσσα δὲ σὴ παλάμη θεοπειθέα δώματα τεύχει
οὐδ᾽ αὐτὴ δεδάηκας· ἀμετρήτους γάρ, ὀΐω,
μούνη σὺ ξύμπασαν ἀνὰ χθόνα δείμαο νηούς,
οὐρανίου θεράποντας ἀεὶ τρομέουσα Θεοῖο.
ἴχνεσι δ᾽ εὐκαμάτοισιν ἐφεσπομένη γενετήρων
πᾶσιν, ἀεὶ ζώουσαν ἑὴν τεκτήνατο φύτλην,
εὐσεβίης ξύμπασαν ἀεὶ πατέουσα πορείην.
τοὔνεκά μιν θεράποντες ἐπουρανίου βασιλῆος,
ὅσσοις δῶρα δίδωσιν, ὅσοις δωμήσατο νηούς,
προφρονέως ἐρύεσθε σὺν υἱέϊ τοῖό τε κούραις·
μίμνοι δ᾽ ἄσπετον εὖχος ἀριστοπόνοιο γενέθλης,
εἰσόκεν ἠέλιος πυριλαμπέα δίφρον ἐλαύνει.

'On the church of St. Polyeuktos the Martyr.

These lines are written all around inside the church.
Empress Eudokia, in her zeal to honour God, first built a church of divinely inspired Polyeuktos. But she did not build it as great and beautiful as this; not from any economy or lack of possessions — what does a queen lack? — but because her prophetic heart told her that she would leave a progeny who would know better how to adorn it.
Thence Iuliana, the glory of her blessed parents, inheriting their royal blood in the fourth generation, did not cheat the hopes of that queen who gave birth to noble children, but raised this from a small church to its present size and beauty, increasing the glory of her many-sceptred ancestors. For all that she completed she made more excellent than her parents, keeping the true faith of a mind devoted to Christ.
Who has not heard of Iuliana, that in her care for piety she glorified even her parents by finely laboured works?
She alone by her righteous sweat built a worthy house for immortal Polyeuktos; for she too learned ever to bring blameless gifts to all the athletes of the heavenly king. Every country, every city, proclaims that she made her parents more glorious by better works. Where do we not see that Iuliana has raised marvellous churches for the saints? Where do we not see the signs of your pious hands—yours alone? What place has not learned that your mind is filled with piety? The inhabitants of the whole world sing your labours, which will be remembered forever.
For the works of piety are not hidden; oblivion does not quench the labours of industrious virtue. You yourself do not know how many buildings dedicated to God your hand has made. For you alone, I think, have built countless churches all over the world, ever revering the servants of God in heaven.
Following all the finely labouring footsteps of her ancestors, she has made her race immortal, ever treading the whole path of piety. Therefore, servants of the heavenly king, all to whom she gives gifts, all for whom she built churches, preserve her gladly, with her son and his daughters; and may the ineffable pride of an industrious progeny remain as long as the Sun drives his fiery chariot.'

Text and translation: Paton and Tueller 2014.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Polyeuktos, soldier and martyr of Melitene, ob. 250/260 : S00325

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Literary - Poems


  • 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

Greek Anthology

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Monarchs and their family Aristocrats


The Greek Anthology is a collection of Greek epigrams from dating from the Archaic period to the 9th century AD. It was initially compiled by Meleager of Megara (100-90 BC), whose collection was edited and expanded by Philip of Thessalonica (under Nero), Agathias of Myrina (AD 567/8) and finally by Konstantinos Kephalas (c. AD 900). The word epigram literally means an inscription. Although most Greek inscriptions were in prose, the word came to be specifically connected to those written in verse, and eventually to include poetic texts which were not necessarily inscribed. From the earliest period of Greek literature, epigrams were mostly sepulchral or dedicatory: they either memorialised the dead or marked the dedication of an object to a god. Book 1 of the Greek Anthology contains Christian epigrams from Late Antiquity to the 9th century. It was compiled c. 880-900, containing a considerable number of poems copied directly from monuments. The scholar responsible for the transcriptions may have been Gregorios Magistros, a colleague of Kephalas. Epigrams 1-17 and possibly others were taken down from inscriptions at Constantinople and two of them, namely No. 1 (inscription from the bema arch of St. Sophia) and No. 10 (inscription from the church of St. Polyeuktos) have been found in situ, thus confirming the accuracy of the entries in the Anthology.


The epigram of Anicia Iuliana (c. 462-527) in the rebuilt basilica of Polyeuktos in Constantinople provides evidence for the history of one of the most monumental churches in Constantinople. The church stood in the quarter of Olybrios, within the palatial quarter of central Constantinople, initially known as the Constantinianae, and later as Theodosianae. This quarter contained the residences of several members of the Theodosian imperial house, including Anicia Iuliana (Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire II, 'Anicia Iuliana 3'). The wording of the epigram in the Anthology was confirmed by the discovery of substantial parts of the inscription in situ among the ruins of the church of Saint Polyeuktos at Saraçhane in Istanbul. The text was carved on sumptuously sculpted pieces of marble which decorated the nave of the church. According to the text, the founder of the first church was Iuliana’s great-grandmother, the East Roman empress Eudokia (r. 421-460), wife of Theodosius II (Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire II, 'Aelia Eudocia 2'). It must have been founded after Eudocia's proclamation as augusta in 423 and before her banishment to Jerusalem in 443. The reasons for Eudokia’s devotion to the soldier martyr Polyeuktos of Melitene are unknown. Eudokia's daughter Eudoxia married Valentinian III, western emperor 425-455, by whom she had two daughters, Eudocia and Placidia. All three were captured by the Vandals during the sack of Rome by Gaiseric in 455 and taken as hostages to Carthage. In about 461, Eudoxia and Placidia were released and went to Constantinople (Eudocia was forced to stay in Carthage and marry Gaiseric's son Huneric). According to Greek Anthology 1.12 (E00555), Eudoxia founded the church of *Euphemia in Constantinople in gratitude for her release from captivity. In Constantinople, Placidia married Anicius Olybrius, a Roman senator to whom she had been betrothed before the sack of Rome, and who had moved to Constantinople to escape the sack. Anicia Iuliana was their daughter, born c. 462. In 472, Olybrius returned to Rome (without his wife and daughter), and was briefly West Roman emperor before dying a few months later. Anicia Iuliana lived in Constantinople throughout her life, marrying a leading general, Flavius Areobindus. The rebuilding of the church of Polyeuktos by Anicia Iuliana made it one of the grandest sacred buildings of the capital. The grandiloquent celebration of Iuliana’s imperial lineage in the epigram may suggest a period towards the end of the reign of Anastasius or after the accession of Justin I (518), when she hoped in vain to have her husband enthroned as emperor. While the Theodosian house had ceased to be the reigning dynasty in 457, its progeny continued to live in their palaces in central Constantinople and to make challenging statements of their nobility and power. The statement of the text that Iuliana built churches all over the world may imply that her activity as a patron of building extended in the provinces – perhaps in areas where her family had estates.


Edition and Translation: Paton, W.R., rev. Tueller, M.A. (ed. and trans.) The Greek Anthology, Books 1-5, 2nd ed. (Loeb Classical Library; London, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2014). Other editions: Beckby, H. (ed.) Anthologia Graeca (Munich: Ernst Heimeran Verlag, 1957). Conca, F., Marzi, M., and Zanetto, G. (eds.) Antologia Palatina. 3 vols. Vol. 1 (Classici Greci; Turin: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 2005). Waltz, P. (ed.) Anthologie Grecque (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1928). Further reading on the Greek Anthology: Cameron, A. The Greek Anthology: From Meleager to Planudes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993). Further reading: Bardill, J. "Église Saint-Polyeucte à Constantinople : nouvelle solution pour l'énigme de sa reconstruction", J.-M. Speiser (ed.), Architecture paléochrétienne (Gollion [Vaud]: Infolio, 2011), 77-103 and 155-158. Bardill, J. “A New Temple for Byzantium: Anicia Juliana, King Solomon, and the Gilded Ceiling of the Church of St. Polyeuktos in Constantinople,” in: W. Bowden, A. Gutteridge and C. Machado (eds.), Social and Political Life in Late Antiquity (Late Antique Archaeology 3; Leiden: Brill, 2006), 339-370. Bulletin épigraphique (2013), 510. Harrison, R.M. A Temple for Byzantium: The Discovery and Excavation of Anicia Juliana's Palace-Church in Istanbul (London: Harvey Miller, 1989). Holum, K. G. Theodosian Empresses: Women and Imperial Dominion in Late Antiquity. The Transformation of the Classical Heritage 3. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982. Janin, R. La géographie ecclésiastique de l'empire byzantin. I: Les églises et les monastères de la ville de Constantinople. (2nd ed.; Paris, 1969), 405-406.

Usage metrics