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E01833: Gregory of Nyssa in his Letter 20 of c. 379, describes the private villa of his friend, Adelphios Scholastikos, at Ouanota in Cappadocia (central Asia Minor), mentioning an unfinished oratory dedicated to martyrs. Written in Greek in Cappadocia.

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posted on 2016-09-03, 00:00 authored by erizos
Gregory of Nyssa, Letters (CPG 3167), Letter 20

Πρὸς Ἀδέλφιον σχολαστικόν

(8-10) εἶτα πόρρωθεν ἡμῖν οἷόν τις πυρσὸς ἐκ φρυκτωρίας μεγάλης ἡ τῶν οἰκοδομημάτων χάρις ἐπέλαμπεν, <ἐν> ἀριστερᾷ μὲν εἰσιόντων ὁ εὐκτήριος οἶκος τοῖς μάρτυσιν ἡτοιμασμένος, οὔπω μὲν τὸ τέλειον τῆς δομήσεως ἔχων ἀλλ’ ἔτι τῷ ὀρόφῳ λειπόμενος, λάμπων δὲ ὅμως· κατ’ εὐθὺ δὲ ἦν τῆς ὁδοῦ τὰ τῆς οἰκήσεως κάλλη, ἄλλο πρὸς ἄλλο τι τῶν κατὰ τρυφὴν ἐπινενοημένων μεμερισμένα, πύργων προβολαὶ καὶ συμποσίων παρασκευαὶ ἐν εὐρυχώροις τε καὶ ὑψορόφοις πλατάνων στίχοις πρὸ τῶν θυρῶν στεφανοῦντες τὴν εἴσοδον, εἶτα περὶ τοὺς οἴκους οἱ Φαιάκιοι κῆποι.

‘To Adelphios, the scholastikos'

(......) Then from afar, like some flare on a great beacon-tower, the loveliness of the buildings shone out upon us. On the left as we entered was the oratory which has been built to the martyrs. Its structure was not yet complete, for it still lacks a roof, yet it is resplendent all the same. Straight ahead of us on the road were the beauties of the house, each one of them being dedicated to a different contrivance of delight, tower terraces and banqueting preparations among spacious and high-arched rows of plane-trees, crowning the entrance before the gates, and then, around the buildings, the Phaeacian gardens. (......)’

Text: Maraval 1990
Translation: Silvas 2007 (modified)


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anonymous martyrs : S00060

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


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

Ouēnesa Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Nyssa

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Aristocrats Officials


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. On the manuscript tradition of this letter, see: Maraval 1990; Silvas 2007.


Adelphios, the addressee of this letter, was a learned Cappadocian of high social rank, who became provincial governor (consularis) of Galatia in AD 392. He is also known from Letter 204 of Gregory of Nazianzus and perhaps also from Libanius’ letter 1049 (or 969). It is difficult to date the letter precisely. A. Silvas dates it to c. 379. Gregory writes this letter during a visit to Adelphios’ country estate at the village of Ouanota on the River Halys (the site has been identified as modern Avanos near Nevşehir, and may be identical with a locality Basil of Caesarea mentions as Ouenesa [E00824]). The letter is an ekphrasis (rhetorical description) of the sumptuous villa of Adelphios, offered to the addressee, who was absent during Gregory’s visit, as a literary gift of thanks for his hospitality. Gregory mentions an unfinished oratory dedicated to unnamed martyrs, probably on the grounds of the estate and not far from the residential complex. The building of shrines for martyrs on the grounds of private estates is widely attested in the correspondence and other writings of the Cappadocian Fathers (E01766, E00399, E01299).


Text and French translation: Maraval, P., Grégoire de Nysse, Lettres ; introduction, texte critique, traduction, notes et index. Sources chrétiennes 363. Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1990, 288-301. English Translations: Silvas, A. M. Gregory of Nyssa. The Letters: Introduction, Translation and Commentary. Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 83. Leiden / Boston: Brill, 2007. German translation: Teske D., Gregor von Nyssa, Briefe. Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur 43. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1997. Further reading: Limberis, V., Architects of Piety: The Cappadocian Fathers and the Cult of the Martyrs (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 68-96 (with earlier bibliography). 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. Radde-Gallwitz, A. "The Letter Collection of Gregory of Nyssa." In Late Antique Letter Collections. A Critical Introduction and Reference Guide, edited by Cristiana Sogno, Bradley K. Storin and Edward Watts, 102-112. Oakland: University of California Press, 2017. 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