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E01669: Gregory of Nyssa in his Life of *Makrina (ascetic S00899), written in Greek in the early 380s, reports that Makrina has the mystical name 'Thekla', after *Thekla of Seleucia (follower of the Apostle Paul, S00092), due to a dream vision experienced by her mother during her birth. Written in Cappadocia (central Asia Minor).

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posted on 2016-06-27, 00:00 authored by erizos
Gregory of Nyssa, Life of *Makrina (CPG 3166, BHG 1012)

For the context of this passage, see E01660


εὐθὺς ἐν ταῖς πρώταις ὠδῖσι ταύτης γίνεται μήτηρ· καὶ ἐπειδὴ παρῆν ὁ καιρός, καθ᾽ ὃν ἔδει λυθῆναι τὴν ὠδῖνα τῷ τόκῳ, εἰς ὕπνον τραπεῖσα φέρειν ἐδόκει διὰ χειρὸς τὸ ἔτι ὑπὸ τῶν σπλάγχνων περιεχόμενον καί τινα ἐν εἴδει καὶ σχήματι μεγαλοπρεπεστέρῳ ἢ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ἐπιφανέντα προσειπεῖν τὴν βασταζομένην ἐκ τοῦ ὀνόματος Θέκλης· ἐκείνης τῆς Θέκλης, ἧς πολὺς ἐν ταῖς παρθένοις ὁ λόγος. ποιήσαντα δὲ τοῦτο καὶ μαρτυράμενον εἰς τρὶς μεταστῆναι τῶν ὄψεων καὶ δοῦναι τῇ ὠδῖνι τὴν εὐκολίαν, ὡς ὁμοῦ τε τοῦ ὕπνου αὐτὴν διαναστῆναι καὶ τὸ ἐνύπνιον ὕπαρ ἰδεῖν. τὸ μὲν οὖν ὄνομα τὸ κεκρυμμένον ἐκεῖνο ἦν. δοκεῖ δέ μοι μὴ τοσοῦτον πρὸς τὴν ὀνοματικὴν κλῆσιν ὁδηγῶν τὴν γειναμένην ὁ ἐπιφανεὶς τοῦτο προσφθέγξασθαι, ἀλλὰ τὸν βίον προειπεῖν τῆς νέας καὶ τὴν τῆς προαιρέσεως ὁμοιότητα διὰ τῆς ὁμωνυμίας αἰνίξασθαι.

‘Immediately, in her first pregnancy, she (Emmeleia) became her (Makrina’s) mother. When the due time came for her to be freed from her pangs in delivery, she fell into a sleep and saw that she was carrying in her arms the baby which was still contained by her womb; a man appeared, of a form and appearance grander than human, and addressed the girl she was carrying by the name of Thekla – that Thekla whose renown is great among the virgins. He did so and had her affirm three times, and vanished from her sight granting ease to her labour, so that she awoke from her sleep and saw in living what she had seen in her dream. That then was her secret name. But it seems to me that the apparition spoke that way not so much to guide the mother in the giving of a name, as to foretell the way of living of the girl and to indicate, by the sharing of the same name, the sharing of the same choice of life.’

Text: Maraval 1971
Translation: Silvas 2008


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Thekla, follower of Apostle Paul : S00092 Makrina the Younger, ascetic in Pontus, ob. 379 : S00899

Saint Name in Source

Θέκλα Μακρίνα

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint 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


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

Nȳsa Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Nyssa

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Explicit naming a child, or oneself, after a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Aristocrats


Gregory of Nyssa was born in the late 330s as one of the youngest of a leading Christian family of Cappadocia. His siblings included important figures of church life, namely Basil of Caesarea, the ascetic Makrina the Younger, and Peter of Sebaste. Gregory was trained in philosophy and rhetoric mainly by his brother Basil, who, in 371 or 372 ordained him bishop of the Cappadocian township of Nyssa. In 376, Gregory was deposed from his see, to which he was able to return in 378, and, from then onwards, he was one of the protagonists of church politics in the East Roman Empire. He played an important role during the Council of Constantinople (381) and was very close to the imperial family of Theodosius I. He was sent on missions to Armenia and Arabia in order settle problems in local churches. Gregory died after 394. He left a large literary heritage on philosophical, theological, ascetical, catechetical and homiletic works. Gregory probably wrote the Life of Makrina in winter 381/2, over three years after his sister’s death (which probably occurred on 19 July 378). The manuscript tradition of the text is analysed by Silvas 2008, 93-99. For a list of the 44 manuscripts see: (accessed 02/02/2017)


This passage recounts the birth of Makrina, and the remarkable dream vision experienced by her mother, Emmeleia. Besides attestating to the importance of the figure of *Thekla among the Christians of 4th-century Cappadocia, the passage is also remarkable, since Gregory seems to be aware of the practice of naming children after saints. Of course, in practice, the girl was named Makrina after her grandmother, rather than Thekla, as one would expect. For Gregory, Thekla remained Makrina’s mystical name, prefiguring her ascetic life. Thekla was indeed revered as a model among ascetics, and there was an extensive monastic community around her shrine in Seleucia.


Text and French Translation: Maraval, P. Grégoire De Nysse, Vie De Sainte Macrine. Sources Chrétiennes. Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1971. English translation, commentary, and bibliography: Silvas, Anna. Macrina the Younger, Philosopher of God. Turnhout: Brepols, 2008. Further Reading: Elm, S., Virgins of God: the Making of Asceticism in Late Antiquity, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994, 78-105. Ludlow, M., Gregory of Nyssa, Ancient and (Post)modern, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, 202-219. On Gregory of Nyssa: Dörrie, H., “Gregor III,” in Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum 12 (1983), 863-895. Maraval, P., ‘Grégoire, évêque de Nysse’, in Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques 22 (1988): 20–4. Silvas, A. M. Gregory of Nyssa. The Letters: Introduction, Translation and Commentary. Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 83. Leiden / Boston: Brill, 2007, 1-57.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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