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E00772: Basil of Caesarea, in his Letter 252 of 376, invites the bishops of the Pontic Diocese (central and northern Asia Minor) to visit Kaisareia/Caesarea (central Asia Minor) for the festival of its martyrs *Eupsychios (S00470) and *Damas (S00471), according to an old custom, in order to help him with preaching on the day. Written in Greek at Kaisareia of Cappadocia.

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posted on 13.10.2015, 00:00 authored by erizos
Basil of Caesarea, Letters (CPG 2900), Letter 252

ΕΠΙΣΚΟΠΟΙΣ ΤΗΣ ΠΟΝΤΙΚΗΣ ΔΙΟΙΚΗΣΕΩΣ

Μαρτύρων τιμαὶ πᾶσι μὲν περισπούδαστοι τοῖς ἐπὶ Κύριον ἠλπικόσιν, ἐξαιρέτως δὲ ὑμῖν τοῖς ἀρετῆς ἀντιποιουμένοις οἳ διὰ τῆς πρὸς τοὺς εὐδοκίμους τῶν ὁμοδούλων διαθέσεως τὴν πρὸς τὸν κοινὸν Δεσπότην εὔνοιαν ἐπιδείκνυσθε, ἄλλως δὲ καὶ διὰ τὸ συγγενές τι ἔχειν τὸν ἐν ἀκριβείᾳ βίον πρὸς τοὺς διὰ καρτερίας τελειωθέντας. Ἐπεὶ οὖν ἐπισημότατοι μαρτύρων Εὐψύχιος καὶ Δάμας καὶ ὁ περὶ αὐτοὺς χορὸς ὧν ἡ μνήμη δι’ ἔτους παρὰ τῆς πόλεως ἡμῶν καὶ τῆς περιοικίδος δὲ πάσης τελεῖται, ὑπομιμνήσκει ὑμᾶς τὸν ἴδιον ἑαυτῆς κόσμον ἡ Ἐκκλησία διὰ τῆς ἡμετέρας φωνῆς παρακαλοῦσα τὴν ἀρχαίαν ἀπολαβεῖν τῆς ἐπισκέψεως ὑμῶν συνήθειαν. Ὡς οὖν ἐργασίας μεγάλης προκειμένης ὑμῖν ἐν λαῷ ἐπιζητοῦντι τὴν παρ’ ὑμῶν οἰκοδομὴν καὶ μισθῶν ἐν τῇ τιμῇ τῶν μαρτύρων ἀποκειμένων, δέξασθε ἡμῶν τὴν παράκλησιν καὶ ἐπινεύσατε πρὸς τὴν χάριν μικρῷ πόνῳ μεγάλην ἡμῖν εὐεργεσίαν παρεχόμενοι.

‘To the Bishops of the Pontic Diocese

The veneration of martyrs must be eagerly sought after by all who hope in the Lord, and especially by you who lay claim to virtue, and who display your loyalty to our common Master, by your disposition towards the distinguished among your fellow-servants. And otherwise also because life under discipline has something akin to those who have been consummated through perseverance. Since, then, Eupsychios and Damas and the chorus of their followers are most celebrated martyrs, whose memory is celebrated yearly by our city and all the surrounding country, our Church reminds you of its own special dignity, requesting through our voice to enjoy the ancient custom of your visit. Therefore, since a great task lies before you among the people who are seeking edification from you, and a reward is in store for you by the veneration of the martyrs, accept our summons and give your assent to the favour we ask, thus rendering us a great kindness for little trouble.’

Text: Courtonne vol. 3, p. 93.
Translation: Deferrari vol. 2, 18-21 (modified).

History

Evidence ID

E00772

Saint Name

Eupsychios, martyr in Kaisareia/Caesarea of Cappadocia : S00470 Damas, martyr in Kaisareia/Caesarea of Cappadocia : S00471

Saint Name in Source

Εὐψύχιος Δάμας

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

376

Evidence not after

376

Activity not before

376

Activity not after

376

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

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Meetings and gatherings of the clergy

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

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 Pontus. 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, ascetical, and liturgical works. His 369 letters form a major corpus on ecclesiastical politics and the broader history of Anatolia and the Christian East. On the manuscript tradition, editions and translations of this text, see: Fedwick, P.J., Bibliotheca Basiliana Universalis. 5 vols. Vol. I (Corpus Christianorum; Turnhout: Brepols, 1993), 560-561. http://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr/notices/oeuvre/5913/

Discussion

This letter is an encyclical addressed by Basil to the bishops of the Pontus (central and north Anatolia), by which he invites them to participate in the celebration of the festivals of the Caesarean martyrs *Eupsychios and *Damas. From other letters of Basil, it becomes clear that the celebration of festivals at martyria with the participation of several neighbouring bishops was a common practice. Our text suggests that it was a custom for bishops from all the Pontus to gather at Kaisareia/Caesarea for the feasts of the two martyrs. Elsewhere (E00818), Basil states that the feast of Eupsychios was on 7 September, which is also confirmed by the 10th-century Synaxarium of Constantinople (AASS Nov. Prop. p. 23) and the Martyrologium Hieronymianum. According to the ecclesiastical historian Sozomen, Eupsychios was martyred under Julian (Ecclesiastical History 5.11.7). The Synaxarium of Constantinople (p. 932) places the feast of Damas on 28 August, describing him as a priest martyr (ἱερομάρτυς/hieromartys), without giving any other information about him. Elsewhere, Basil mentions feasts of martyrs on 5 and 2 September. It is probable that a feast of *Mamas was celebrated on 1 or 2 September (E00719). It seems that early September was a period of several feasts of martyrs in Caesarea and was thus established as the main festival of the local church. It is thus probable that this was the main festival of the church of Caesarea in the 4th century. Indeed, the Martyrologium Hieronymianum records on 8 September a collectio ceserea cappadocie et totius terreturii, probably meaning a general festal gathering of the whole area, held at Caesarea. From this and other letters (E00818), it appears that the invitation of neighbouring bishops to the festivals of martyrs was meant to assist the local bishop in directing worship for an unusually large congregation of pilgrims. According to Basil, the bishops were expected to give several sermons, which was indeed a central aspect of the liturgy on the feasts of martyrs in this period. From other letters of Basil, we learn that feasts of martyrs were also an opportunity for bishops to meet and discuss ecclesiastical matters (see E00818), and oftentimes they could even become the theatre of personal conflicts (E00774). It is probable that such festivals were instrumental in asserting the privileges of certain ecclesiastical sees, and in organising ecclesiastical administration.

Bibliography

Text edition and French Translation Courtonne, Y., Saint Basile. Lettres. 3 vols (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1957-1966). Text and English Translations Deferrari, R.J., Saint Basil, the Letters. 4 vols. (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press, 1928). Way, A.C., Saint Basil. Letters, Volume 1 (1‒185) (Fathers of the Church 13; Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1951). Further Reading: Courtonne, Y., Un témoin du IVe siècle oriental: saint Basile et son temps d'après sa correspondance (Collection d'études anciennes; Paris: Les Belles lettres, 1973), esp. 356-359. Radde-Gallwitz, A., "The Letter Collection of Basil of Caesarea," in: C. Sogno, B.K. Storin, and E. Watts (eds.), Late Antique Letter Collections: A Critical Introduction and Reference Guide (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017), 69-80. Rousseau, P., Basil of Caesarea (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

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