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E01101: A Greek homily On Martyrs and Against the Arians, of the 380s, probably incorrectly ascribed to Gregory of Nazianzus (as his Oration 35), is composed for an unnamed festival of martyrs, revived after a long period of neglect due to ecclesiastical conflicts. Probably delivered in Constantinople.

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posted on 2016-01-31, 00:00 authored by mtycner
Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 35, On the Martyrs and against the Arians (spurious) (CPG 3010.35, BHG 1185)

Εἰς τοὺς μάρτυρας, καὶ κατὰ Ἀρειανῶν.

Α. Τί τοσοῦτον ἔστιν εἰπεῖν ὅσον τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς πάρεστι βλέπειν; Τίς δὲ λόγος τῶν φαινομένων ἀγαθῶν ἰσοστάσιος; Ἰδοὺ πρόκειται τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν τὸ ἀπιστούμενον θέαμα, ὃ ἰδεῖν μὲν πολλάκις ηὐξάμεθα, κρεῖττον δὲ ἦν ἢ κατ’ εὐχὴν τὸ ποθούμενον. Πάλιν ἐνταῦθα μαρτύρων τιμαί, πολὺν ἤδη τὸν πρὸ τούτου χρόνον ἀμεληθεῖσαι· πάλιν ἱερέων Θεοῦ συνδρομαί· πάλιν χοροστασίαι καὶ πανηγύρεις πνευματικαί. Ὁ σύλλογος πολυάνθρωπος ἑορτάζειν, οὐχ ὁπλομαχεῖν προθυμούμενος. Ὢ τοῦ θαύματος· ἔῤῥιπται τῶν χειρῶν τὰ ὅπλα, λέλυται ἡ παράταξις, ἀμελεῖται ὁ πόλεμος. Οὐκέτι αἱ φωναὶ τῶν ἀλαλαζόντων ἀκούονται· ἀντὶ δὲ τούτων ἑορταὶ καὶ εὐφροσύναι καὶ εἰρηνικαὶ θυμηδίαι τὴν πόλιν πᾶσαν περιχορεύουσι, τὴν πάλαι μὲν οὖσαν τῶν μαρτύρων μητέρα, πολὺν δὲ τὸν ἐν τῷ μέσῳ χρόνον ἄμοιρον γενομένην τῆς ἐπὶ τοῖς τέκνοις τιμῆς. Ἀλλὰ νῦν «ἀπέχει πάντα καὶ περισσεύει», καθώς φησιν ὁ Ἀπόστολος. Εὖγε, ὦ μάρτυρες· ὑμέτερος καὶ οὗτος ὁ ἆθλος, ὑμεῖς νενικήκατε τὸν πολὺν πόλεμον, εὖ οἶδα. Μόνα καὶ ταῦτα τῶν ὑμετέρων ἱδρώτων τὰ κατορθώματα. Ὑμεῖς ἠγείρατε τῇ εἰρήνῃ τὸ τρόπαιον, ὑμεῖς τοὺς ἱερέας τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐφ’ ἑαυτοὺς ἐφειλκύσασθε, ὑμεῖς τοὺς χορευτὰς τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος τῷ συλλόγῳ τούτῳ προεστήσασθε. Ὢ πόσην πεπόνθασι τὴν ζημίαν οἷς ὁ χρόνος τῆς ζωῆς μέχρι τοῦ νῦν οὐ διήρκεσε θεάματος, ἵνα τῶν σκυθρωπῶν εἰς κόρον ἐλθόντες τῶν ἀγαθῶν τῆς εἰρήνης ἀπελαύσειεν! (…………)

'Oration 35
‘On the Martyrs and against the Arians’

‘What words can compare to all that is before our eyes to see? What sermon can do justice to these manifest blessings? Behold, here lies before our eyes this incredible sight which we so many times prayed to see, but the actual object of our desire surpassed whatever we could imagine in our prayers. Once again, the veneration of the martyrs takes place here, after a long period of neglect before our time! Once again God’s priests come together! Once again there is spiritual dancing and celebration! A great throng has gathered eagerly together, not to take up arms but to hold festival! What a wonder! Weapons fall off the hands; the ranks are broken; war is given up. The din of battle-cry is no longer to be heard; instead, celebrations, joyfulness and peaceful exuberance dance all around this city which in times past was the mother of the martyrs, but in the meantime has been deprived of her children’s honours. But now, in the words of the Apostle, she has received full payment and has more than enough (Phil. 4.18). Kudos, martyrs! Even this feat is yours! It was certainly you who won this great war! These achievements can only be the result of your toils! You raised the trophy to peace! You gathered the priests of God around you! You stood before yourselves the dancers of the Holy Spirit in this gathering! What a great loss it has been for those whose life did not last to this present wonder, that they might reach the end of dark times and enjoy the blessings of peace! (…………)’

Text : Moreschini, C., & Gallay, P. (1985). Grégoire de Nazianze. Discours 32-37. Introduction, texte critique et notes. Paris: Cerf, 228-239.
Translation : E. Rizos


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anonymous martyrs : S00060

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Nazianzus

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Appropriation of older cult sites

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Gregory was born in c. 330 to a wealthy Christian family in Cappadocia. He was educated at Nazianzos, Kaisareia/Caesarea, Athens, and Alexandria, and in 361 he returned to Nazianzos where he was ordained priest by his father, Gregory the Elder, who was bishop of Nazianzos. He was ordained bishop of Sasima in Cappadocia by Basil of Caesarea in 372, but stayed in Nazianzos, administering the local community after the death of his father. After retreating as a monk in Isauria for some years, he moved to Constantinople in 379, in order to lead the struggle for the return of the city to Nicene Orthodoxy. Two years later, the Arians were ousted by the emperor Theodosius I, and Gregory became bishop of Constantinople. In 381, he convened the Council of Constantinople, at the end of which he resigned his throne and retired to Cappadocia where he died in 390. Oration 35 is now regarded by most scholars as an inauthentic work of Gregory of Nazianzus. This conclusion is based on stylistic features and on the fact that this oration is absent from the most important branch of the manuscript tradition of Gregory’s orations. The text, however, was very probably written in Gregory’s times or shortly after. For the text and its manuscript tradition (27 manuscripts), see: Moreschini and Gallay 1985 and


Even though the attribution to Gregory of Nazianzus has correctly been rejected, the context of events mentioned by this sermon could fit with the situation in Constantinople in the 370s and 380s. Until the accession of the emperor Theodosius I in December 380, the dissident Nicene congregation of Constantinople had no access to the major congregational churches and martyr shrines of the city, which were controlled by the Arian bishop of Constantinople, Demophilos. This sermon seems to echo the immediate aftermath of the establishment of the Nicene party in the leadership of the Church of Constantinople. It was perhaps written and preached during the first celebration of a festival of martyrs in their shrine after the restoration of stability in the ecclesiastical regime of the capital. This leads us to think of the time after the end of the Council of Constantinople in 381, perhaps under Gregory's successor, Nektarios. The author states that this festival had been neglected for several years due to a long period of strife in the local ecclesiastical community. It is unknown if this is accurate, or if what he means by neglect was the exclusion of the Nicene Christians from the celebration. It seems that the bishop regarded the revival of the festival as important, and he had most probably actively promoted it. He states that he had been praying for this day to come, and that the turnout was beyond his hopes and expectations. His talk was apparently given before a large clerical and lay audience from several churches, gathered in the martyrs’ church for the festival. He makes of the gathering an expression of the renewed unity and peace of the local church, legitimizing his own position as its leader. He ascribes the unexpected success to the martyrs whom he presents as guarantors of the unity and peace of the church. The rest of the sermon is a philippic against the Arians, describing the preceding period as a war. Of special interest are the author's rhetorical references to the spiritual dancing of the festival. It could reflect the real festal celebrations which regularly accompanied the feasts of saints.


Text, French translation, and comments: Moreschini, C., & Gallay, P. (1985). Grégoire de Nazianze. Discours 32-37. Introduction, texte critique et notes. Paris: Cerf, 228-239. English translation: Vinson, M.P., St. Gregory of Nazianzus: Select Orations (Fathers of the Church 107; Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2003), 216-219. Further reading: McGuckin, John A. St Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography. Chrestwood, New York: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001. Daley, Brian. Gregory of Nazianzus. London, New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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