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E00558: Greek epigram, ascribed to Neilos Scholastikos, an otherwise unattested author, from an image of *Michael (the Archangel, S00181), describing the depiction of an angel as an act of daring, which, however, can induce spiritual gain. Of uncertain date; recorded in the 10th c. Greek Anthology.

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posted on 2015-05-27, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Greek Anthology, Book 1 (Christian Epigrams), 33


εἰς εἰκόνα τοῦ ἀρχαγγέλου

Ὡς θρασὺ μορφῶσαι τὸν ἀσώματον. ἀλλὰ καὶ εἰκὼν
ἐς νοερὴν ἀνάγει μνῆστιν ἐπουρανίων.

'Neilos Scholastikos

On an image of the archangel [Michael]

How daring it is to give form to the incorporeal! But yet an image beckons us to spiritual recollection of heavenly beings.'

Text and translation: Paton and Tueller 2014.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Michael, the Archangel : S00181

Type of Evidence

Images and objects - Images described in texts Inscriptions - Poems Literary


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

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

Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work

Greek Anthology

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Considerations about the validity of cult forms

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Commissioning/producing an image


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 date of this epigram and the identity of the dedicant or the author of the text are unknown. Like epigrams 34, and 36, it contains a reference to the 'undepictability' of the angel, and an attempt to justify the production of an icon as an object promoting pious devotion. These epigrams provide an important testimony of considerations on the legitimacy of depictions, very probably from the age before Iconoclasm, with a specific focus on images of incorporeal beings, namely the angels.


Edition and Translation: Paton, W.R., rev. Tueller, M.A., The Greek Anthology, Books 1-5, 2nd ed. (Loeb Classical Library; London, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2014). Other editions: Beckby, H., Anthologia Graeca (Munich: Ernst Heimeran Verlag, 1957). Conca, F., Marzi, M., and Zanetto, G., Antologia Palatina. 3 vols. Vol. 1 (Classici Greci; Turin: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 2005). Waltz, P., 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). Cline, R. Ancient Angels: Conceptualizing Angeloi in the Roman Empire, Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2011, 158 ff.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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