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E00561: Greek epigram by Agathias Scholastikos, originally inscribed on the image, commemorating the dedication of an image to *Michael (the Archangel, S00181) by the high-ranking official Theodoros, thanking the saint for his promotions to magister and proconsul of Asia; set up in the narthex of the basilica of *John (the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042) at Ephesos (western Asia Minor). Written in the late 6th c. and recorded in the 10th c. Greek Anthology.

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posted on 2015-05-27, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Greek Anthology, Book 1 (Christian Epigrams), 36


εἰς εἰκόνα Θεοδώρου Ἰλλουστρίου καὶ δὶς ἀνθυπάτου, ἐν ᾗ γέγραπται παρὰ τοῦ ἀρχαγγέλου δεχόμενος τὰς ἀξίας· ἐν Ἐφέσῳ

ταῦτα ἐν Ἐφέσῳ γέγραπται ἐν τῷ νάρθηκι τοῦ Θεολόγου

Ἵλαθι μορφωθείς, ἀρχάγγελε· σὴ γὰρ ὀπωπὴ
ἄσκοπος, ἀλλὰ βροτῶν δῶρα πέλουσι τάδε.
ἐκ σέο γὰρ Θεόδωρος ἔχει ζωστῆρα μαγίστρου
καὶ δὶς ἀεθλεύει πρὸς θρόνον ἀνθυπάτων.
τῆς δ᾽ εὐγνωμοσύνης μάρτυς γραφίς· ὑμετέρην γὰρ
χρώμασι μιμηλὴν ἀντετύπωσε χάριν.

2. δῶμα I. Ephesos

'Agathias Scholastikos

On an image of Theodōros, man of illustris rank, twice proconsul, in which he is depicted receiving the insignia of his office from the archangel; in Ephesus

This is written in the narthex of the church of the Theologian [i.e. John the Evangelist]

Be merciful, archangel, for having been given an image! Indeed your face is invisible, but such are the gifts of mortals. For it is thanks to you that Theodōros has a magister’s girdle, and is honoured with the proconsul’s throne for a second term. This picture is witness of his gratitude, for it faithfully depicted your grace toward him in colours.'

Text and translation: Paton and Tueller 2014; translation adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Michael, the Archangel : S00181 John, Apostle and Evangelist : S00042

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Images and objects - Images described in texts


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Ephesus Constantinople

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

Ephesus Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia 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


Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Commissioning/producing an image

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous appointment to office

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Officials 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.


This is one of the epigrams attributed by their titles to the author Agathias Scholastikos (presumably Justinian’s historiographer Agathias of Myrina, c. 530-582/594). The dedicant Theodoros (Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire III, 'Theodoros 54') is a governor (proconsul) of the province of Asia, dedicating an image of Michael (mural, mosaic or panel painting) in the narthex of the basilica of John the Evangelist in Ephesos, as an expression of thanksgiving for the successes of his career – he was named a magister (= magister officiorum) and served two terms as proconsul of Asia. The proconsul offered his votive image to the figure he regarded as his own personal patron, but he dedicated it at the church of another saint, which, however, happened to be the most prominent sanctuary of the city of Ephesos. Like epigrams 33 and 34 (E00558, E00559), this one also 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 in the age before Iconoclasm, with a specific focus on images of incorporeal beings, namely the angels. Further reading: Cameron and Cameron 1966, 22-23 (for the identity and career of Theodoros); Speck 1987.


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). Epigraphic collections: Grégoire, H., Recueil des inscriptions grecques chétiennes d'Asie Mineure (Paris: Leroux, 1922) [=IGC], no. 100(2). Wankel, H. et al., Die Inschriften von Ephesos (Bonn: Habelt, 1979- ) [= I. Ephesos], 1354/1. Merkelbach, R., and Stauber, J., Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten. 5 vols. (Stuttgart: Teubner 1998-2004) [= SGO], 03/02/51. Further Reading: Cameron, Al. and Cameron, Av. “The Cycle of Agathias,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 86 (1966), 6-25. Andaloro, M., “La decorazione pittorica degli edifici cristiani di Efeso: La chiesa di Santa Maria e il complesso di San Giovani”, in: Pillinger, R., Kersten, O., Krinzinger, F., Russo, O. (eds.), Efeso paleocristiana e bizantina = Frühchristliches und byzantinisches Ephesos: Referate des vom 22. bis 24. Februar 1996 im Historischen Institut beim Österreichischen Kulturinstitut in Rom durchgeführten internationalen Kongresses aus Anlass des 100-jährigen Jubiläums der österreichischen Ausgrabungen in Ephesos (Denkschriften: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse 282, Archäologische Forschungen 3, Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1999), 55-57. Speck, P., “Ein Bild des Erzengel Michael in Ephesos (Anthologia Palatina I, 36),” in: A. Berger, L.A. Hunt, R.-J. Lilie, C. Ludwig and P. Speck (eds.), Varia II (Poikila Byzantina 6; Bonn: Rudolf Habelt, 1987), 355-362. 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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