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E00824: Basil of Caesarea, in his Letter 169 of 374, to Gregory of Nazianzus, reports on the scandal caused by a deacon during an ecclesiastical festival held at the village of Ouēnesa near Kaisareia/Caesarea of Cappadocia (central Asia Minor). Written in Greek at Kaisareia.

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posted on 2015-10-30, 00:00 authored by CSLA Admin
Basil of Caesarea, Letters (CPG 2900), Letter 169

‘Basil to Gregory’

Basil warns Gregory about the conduct of an unruly deacon, Glykerios, who had fled to Gregory’s see. Glykerios was a peasant ordained by Basil to the diaconate in the village of Ouēnesa (Venesa) near Kaisareia/Caesarea. Disobeying both the local priest and the bishops over him (Basil and the local chorepiscopos), Glykerios apparently set up some kind of a female monastery directed by himself, and caused a scandal by joining a dancing party with some of his virgins, which took place during a local festival:

(………..) Καὶ τέλος, ἵνα τι λόγῳ ἐπιτιμηθῇ μικρὸν παρ’ ἡμῶν καὶ τοῦ χωρεπισκόπου πρὸς τὸ μὴ καταφρονεῖν αὐτὸν (καὶ γὰρ καὶ τοὺς νέους ἐγύμναζεν εἰς τὴν αὐτὴν ἀπόνοιαν), πρᾶγμα διανοεῖται λίαν τολμηρὸν καὶ ἀπάνθρωπον. Συλήσας τῶν παρθένων ὅσας ἠδύνατο καὶ νύκτα τηρήσας δραπέτης γίνεται. Πάνυ σοι δεινὰ ταῦτα φανεῖται. Σκόπει καὶ τὸν καιρόν. Ἤγετο μὲν ἡ ἐκεῖσε σύνοδος καὶ πολὺ πανταχόθεν, ὡς εἰκός, ἐπέρρει τὸ πλῆθος. Ὁ δὲ ἀντεξῆγε τὸν ἑαυτοῦ χορὸν νέοις ἑπόμενον καὶ περιχορεύοντα καὶ πολλὴν μὲν κατήφειαν κινοῦντα τοῖς εὐλαβέσι, πολὺν δὲ γέλωτα τοῖς ἀκρατέσι καὶ τὴν γλῶσσαν ἑτοιμοτέροις. (…………)

(………..) And at last, in order to avoid receiving some slight verbal rebuke from us and from his chorepiscopos so that he should cease treating us with contempt (for he proceeded to train the young men also to the same folly), he is now planning an exceedingly daring and abominable thing. Having stolen from us two as many of the virgins as he could, and having watched for a night, he has become a fugitive. These things will seem quite dreadful to you. Consider also the occasion he chose. The local festival was being held, and a great crowd from all sides, as was natural, was gathering. And he led out his own troop in turn, following young men and dancing about them, and causing great shame to the pious, but much laughter to the boisterous and the more glib-tongued. (…………)’

Text: Courtonne II, 1961, 104-105.
Translation: Deferrari, vol. 2, p. 438-443 (modified).


Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

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

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Peasants


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.


The occasion is described as a Christian festival attracting a great crowd. The word used for the festival (σύνοδος/synodos) is regularly used by the Cappadocians for feasts of martyrs, and this may have been a rural feast in the memory of a local saint.


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. Vol. 2 (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press, 1928). Way, A.C., Saint Basil. Letters, Volume 2 (186‒368) (Fathers of the Church 28; Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1955). 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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