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E00670: Basil of Caesarea in his homily On *Ioulitta (martyr of Kaisareia/Caesarea of Cappadocia, S00416), delivered during a feast at the saint's shrine in Caesarea (central Asia Minor), summarises her martyrdom story, and mentions a spring of sweet water at her burial site. The martyr is presented as a model of bravery for both women and men. Written in Greek at Caesarea (central Asia Minor) in the 370s.

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posted on 24.08.2015, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Basil of Caesarea, On Ioulitta (CPG 2849, BHG 972)

ΕΙΣ ΤΗΝ ΜΑΡΤΥΡΑ ΙΟΥΛΙΤΤΑΝ καὶ εἰς τὰ λειπόμενα τῆς προλεχθείσης ὁμιλίας τῆς περὶ εὐχαριστίας.

Ἡ μὲν ὑπόθεσις τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἐστὶ τὸ ἐπὶ τῇ μακαρίᾳ μάρτυρι γενόμενον κήρυγμα. Περιηγγείλαμεν γὰρ ὑμῖν τὴν ἡμέραν ταύτην, ὡς ὑπόμνημα ἔχουσαν τῆς μεγάλης ἀθλήσεως, ἣν ἐν γυναικείῳ σώματι ἀνδρειοτάτην καὶ πᾶσαν ἔκπληξιν ἐμποιοῦσαν τοῖς τότε παροῦσι τῷ θεάματι καὶ τοῖς εἰς ὕστερον ἐκ τῆς τῶν πεπειραμένων διηγήσεως δεχομένοις τὴν ἀκοὴν ἡ μακαριωτάτη γυναικῶν Ἰουλίττα ἤθλησεν, εἴπερ δὴ γυναῖκα προσαγορεύειν εὐπρεπὲς τὴν τῷ μεγαλοφυεῖ τῆς ψυχῆς τῆς γυναικείας φύσεως τὴν ἀσθένειαν ἀποκρύψασαν·

'On the Martyr Ioulitta, and on the remaining parts of an homily given earlier, on giving thanks.

The subject of our gathering is the lesson given on the blessed martyr. Indeed we singled out this day for you, because it preserves the memory of a great contest which Ioulitta, most blessed among women (if it is proper at all to call someone who concealed the weakness of womanly nature by the greatness of her soul a woman), fought in an entirely manly way, though in the body of a woman, and in a way that causes the general astonishment of both those present at the sight of it, and those hearing about it from the account of people who witnessed it. …'

The author summarises briefly the martyrdom account: Ioulitta is engaged in a trial against an avaricious local magnate who has usurped her property, by bringing false witnesses in courts and by bribing judges. Ioulitta presents her case to the court, but her opponent objects that she has no right to sue him, because she is Christian. The magistrate accepts the objection and orders an altar and incense to be brought forth. He orders the martyr to sacrifice, otherwise she will be deprived of the protection of the law. The martyr without hesitation declares that she prefers to be deprived of all her possessions and of her very life, rather than commit blasphemy. After repeated interrogations, the magistrate rules for all property to be removed from her, and condemns her to be burnt alive. As she is taken to the pyre, she encourages the women attending as follows:

Ἡ δὲ πρὸς οὐδὲν οὕτω τῶν κατὰ τὸν βίον τερπνῶν ἠπειγμένως ἔδραμεν, ὡς ἐπὶ τὴν φλόγα ἦλθεν ἐκείνην, προσώπῳ καὶ σχήματι, καὶ οἷς ἐφθέγγετο, καὶ τῇ ἐπανθούσῃ φαιδρότητι, τῆς ψυχῆς τὸ περιχαρὲς ἐμφαίνουσα· παρακαλοῦσα τὰς παρεστηκυίας τῶν γυναικῶν, μὴ καταμαλακίζεσθαι πρὸς τοὺς ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐσεβείας πόνους, μηδὲ τὴν τῆς φύσεως ἀσθένειαν προφασίζεσθαι. Ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ φυράματος, λέγουσα, τοῖς ἀνδράσιν ἐσμέν. Κατ’ εἰκόνα Θεοῦ γεγόναμεν, ὡς καὶ οὗτοι. Ἀρετῆς δεκτικὸν τὸ θῆλυ ὁμοτίμως τῷ ἄῤῥενι παρὰ τοῦ κτίσαντος γέγονε. Καὶ τί γὰρ ἢ συγγενεῖς τοῖς ἀνδράσι διὰ πάντων ἐσμέν; Οὐ γὰρ σὰρξ μόνον ἐλήφθη πρὸς γυναικὸς κατασκευὴν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὀστοῦν ἐκ τῶν ὀστέων. Ὥστε τὸ στεῤῥὸν, καὶ εὔτονον, καὶ ὑπομονητικὸν, ἐξ ἴσου τοῖς ἀνδράσι καὶ παρ’ ἡμῶν ὀφείλεται τῷ Δεσπότῃ. Ταῦτα εἰποῦσα, πρὸς τὴν πυρὰν ἥλατο· ἡ δὲ περισχοῦσα τῆς ἁγίας τὸ σῶμα, ὥσπερ τις θάλαμος φωτεινὸς, τὴν μὲν ψυχὴν ἐπὶ τὴν οὐράνιον χώραν, καὶ τὴν πρέπουσαν αὐτῇ λῆξιν ἀνέπεμψε, τὸ δὲ τίμιον σῶμα ἀκέραιον διεσώσατο τοῖς προσήκουσιν· ὅπερ ἐν τῷ καλλίστῳ προτεμενίσματι τῆς πόλεως κείμενον ἁγιάζει μὲν τὸν τόπον, ἁγιάζει δὲ τοὺς εἰς αὐτὸν συνιόντας. Γῆ δὲ ἡ κατευλογηθεῖσα τῇ ἐπιδημίᾳ τῆς μακαρίας, ἐκ τῶν οἰκείων λαγόνων ὕδατος φύσιν χαριεστάτην ἀνῆκεν· ὥστε τὴν μάρτυρα ἀντὶ μητρὸς γενομένην οἷόν τινι γάλακτι κοινῷ τιθηνεῖσθαι τοὺς ἐν τῇ πόλει. Τοῦτο καὶ ὑγιαίνουσι φυλακτήριον, καὶ τρυφῶσι σωφρόνως ἡδονῆς χορηγία, καὶ ἀῤῥωστοῦσι παραμυθία· τὴν τοῦ Ἑλισσαίου χάριν εἰς Ἱεριχουντίους, ταύτην εἰς ἡμᾶς παρασχομένης τῆς μάρτυρος, τὸ ἁλμυρὸν τῆς κοινῆς φύσεως τῶν περὶ τὸν τόπον ὑδάτων εἰς γλυκεῖαν καὶ ἁπαλὴν καὶ προσηνῆ πᾶσιν αἴσθησιν διὰ τῆς εὐλογίας μεταβαλούσης. Οἱ ἄνδρες, μὴ καταδέξησθε γυναικῶν ἐλάττους ὀφθῆναι πρὸς τὴν εὐσέβειαν. Αἱ γυναῖκες, μὴ ἀπολειφθῆτε τοῦ ὑποδείγματος· ἀλλ’ ἀπροφασίστως τῆς εὐσεβείας ἀντέχεσθε· ἔργῳ πεῖραν λαβοῦσαι, ὅτι πρὸς οὐδὲν ὑμῖν τῶν ἀγαθῶν τὸ ἐλάττωμα τῆς φύσεως ἐμποδίζει.

Πολλὰ περὶ τῆς μάρτυρος εἰπεῖν ὡρμημένον, χθὲς ἡμῖν κινηθεὶς λόγος, ἀτελὴς καταλειφθεὶς, τὴν ἐπὶ πλεῖον ἐν τούτοις διατριβὴν οὐκ ἐπιτρέπει. Δυσχερὴς δέ τις ἐγὼ φύσει πρὸς πᾶν τὸ ἀτέλεστον. …

‘For none of the pleasures of life did she hurry towards as urgently as she approached that flame, demonstrating the rejoicing of her soul by her face and expression, and by what she was saying, and by the cheerfulness blooming over her. And she encouraged those of the women present there not to show cowardice with regard to suffering for the true faith, nor to use the weakness of their nature as an excuse. "We are of the same material as men," she said. "We have been made according to God’s image like them. The female sex has been made by the Creator equally receptive of virtue to the male one. For what are we, if not members of the same race as men in every way? Not only flesh was taken for the making of woman, but also bone from bones. Consequently, firmness, vigour, and endurance are equally required from us by the Lord as from men." Having said these things, she jumped onto the pyre which surrounded the body of the saint like some sort of luminous chamber, and it sent her soul up to the heavenly land, and to the end it deserved, whereas the body it preserved intact for her people. Resting at the most beautiful suburb (protemenisma) of the city, it sanctifies the place, and also sanctifies those gathered at it. And the earth, filled with blessing by the presence of the blessed one, has gushed forth from its guts a most wonderful kind of water, so that the martyr like a mother nurses the inhabitants of the city with some sort of common milk, as it were. This is at the same time protection for the healthy, a source of pleasure for those enjoying themselves in moderation, and solace for the infirm. Indeed the martyr has granted us the same grace which Elisha granted to the people of Jericho, as she transformed by her blessing the saltiness which is naturally common for waters in this region, into a sweet, mild and agreeable taste for all. Men, do not deign to be seen inferior to women in piety. Women, do not fall short of this example, but hold firmly to piety without excuses, since you have learned in practice that the shortcoming of your nature by no means hinders you from virtue.

Although I intended to talk at length on the martyr, the fact that the sermon I started yesterday was left unfinished, does not allow me to dwell on this subject any more. By character, I somehow cannot stand anything incomplete. …'

There follows a lengthy sermon on prayer and thanksgiving.

Text: Migne 1857-1866. Summary and translation: E. Rizos.

History

Evidence ID

E00670

Saint Name

Ioulitta, martyr in Kaisareia of Cappadocia, ob. early 4th c. : S00416

Saint Name in Source

Ἰουλίττα

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom Literary - Sermons/Homilies

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

360

Evidence not after

380

Activity not before

360

Activity not after

380

Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Kaisareia/Caesarea in Cappadocia

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

Kaisareia/Caesarea in Cappadocia Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Basil of Caesarea

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Women

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Source

Born around 330 to an aristocratic Christian family of Neokaisareia/Neocaesarea of Pontus Polemoniacus (Anatolia), Basil was educated in Kaisareia/Caesarea, Antioch, and Athens. After his studies, he spent time in the monasteries in Egypt, before returning to Pontus, where he organised an ascetic community on his family estate. In the 360s, Basil was ordained in Kaisareia/Caesarea, and, on 14 June 370, he was consecrated bishop there. He died on 1 January 379. Basil was a prolific writer, composing homilies, theological, ascetic, and liturgical works. We also have nearly 370 of his letters. Four of his homilies refer to the martyrs, all apparently delivered in the 370s. However, we can assume that the bishop preached homilies also on other martyr feasts, which have not come down to us. For the manuscript tradition (145 manuscripts), editions, and translations of the Homily on Ioulitta, see: http://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr/notices/oeuvre/7138/

Discussion

It seems that this homily was composed and delivered during a service held on the feast day of Ioulitta. The venue of the assembly must have been the shrine of the saint, which Basil describes as being in the most beautiful suburb of the Cappadocian capital, using the word προτεμένισμα (protemenisma). Given Basil’s highly rhetorical and archaizing style, it remains unclear whether there was a church or other building at the shrine. It certainly included a sacred spring. The opening phrases of the text suggest that the festival was not a widely observed date, but was established by Basil’s own decision. This means that Basil was already a bishop, with the power to define the calendar of the local church. According to Basil, a κήρυγμα (kerygma) on the martyr, which has already been delivered (γενόμενον, genomenon), was the cause of the gathering. Once again, the wording is ambiguous. Κήρυγμα (kerygma) may mean a public announcement or a sermon. Is this Basil’s sermon, or a solemn reading of the hagiography of Ioulitta? Or does he refer to a public announcement of a special, festal service? On the one hand, if the martyrdom account was read during the service, its summary by the bishop would seem like an unnecessary repetition. On the other hand, the hagiographic narrative occupies a very small part in the actual sermon, the main body of which is concerned with other subjects (continuing an unfinished sermon from an earlier assembly). This suggests that the story of the Ioulitta had been exposed in a sufficient way, possibly by a solemn hagiographic reading preceding the sermon of the bishop. Whatever the case, Basil’s account appears to stem from an early martyrdom account, containing trial acts, which has not survived. The structure is reminiscent of some of the earliest known martyrdoms (e.g. those of *Pionios or *Apollonios of Rome), with a plausible plot for a trial, starting as an ownership dispute and ending with the execution of the accuser (Ioulitta appears to have been the initial accuser in the trial) under the power of anti-Christian laws. Basil treats the story of Ioulitta as an example for female courage with regard to the faith, despite the alleged weakness of the female nature (ἀσθένεια τῆς φύσεως). Basil points out that the presence of her relic is a source of particular blessing for the city. He has no doubt that the spring of sweet water flowing at the martyrium is a miraculous sign of this grace, given the scarcity of good drinking water in the volcanic region of Caesarea/Kaisareia.

Bibliography

Text: Migne, J.-P., Patrologiae cursus completus: series graeca 31 (Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1857), 237A-261A4. Bones, K., Bousoulas, E., and Papachristopoulos, K. (eds.), Βιβλιοθήκη Ελλήνων Πατέρων και Εκκλησιαστικών Συγγραφέων. Vol. 54 (Athens: Αποστολική Διακονία της Εκκλησίας της Ελλάδος, 1976). Manuscript tradition, editions, and translations: Fedwick, P.J., Bibliotheca Basiliana Universalis. 5 vols. Vol. II, 2 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1996), 1100-1103. Further reading: Bernardi, J., La prédication des pères Cappadociens (Université de Paris, Sorbonne, 1968), 77-80. Girardi, M., Basilio di Cesarea e il culto dei martiri nel IV secolo. Scrittura e tradizione (Bari, 1990), 85-95. Limberis, V., Architects of Piety: The Cappadocian Fathers and the Cult of the Martyrs (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 203-204. Rousseau, P., Basil of Caesarea (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 185.

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