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E01903: Basil of Caesarea in his Homily 14, On the drunkards, delivered in the 370s, reproaches women of his congregation for drinking and dancing at the shrines of martyrs around Kaisareia/Caesarea of Cappadocia (central Asia Minor) on Easter Sunday. Written in Greek at Caesarea.

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posted on 2016-10-10, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Basil of Caesarea, Holimy 14, On the drunkards (In ebriosos) (CPG 2858)

[......] Γυναῖκες ἀκόλαστοι, ἐπιλαθόμεναι τοῦ φόβου τοῦ Θεοῦ, τοῦ πυρὸς τοῦ αἰωνίου καταφρονήσασαι, ἐν ἡμέρᾳ τοιαύτῃ, ὅτε αὐτὰς ἐχρῆν διὰ τὴν ἀνάμνησιν τῆς ἀναστάσεως καθῆσθαι ἐν τοῖς οἴκοις, καὶ ἔννοιαν λαμβάνειν τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης, καθ’ ἣν ἀνοιγήσονται μὲν οἱ οὐρανοὶ, ἐπιφανήσεται δὲ ἡμῖν ὁ κριτὴς ἐξ οὐρανῶν, καὶ σάλπιγγες Θεοῦ, καὶ ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν, καὶ κρίσις δικαία, καὶ ἀντίδοσις ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὸ ἔργον αὐτοῦ· ἀντὶ τοῦ ταῦτα ἔχειν ἐν τοῖς διαλογισμοῖς, καὶ καθαίρειν μὲν ἑαυτῶν τὰς καρδίας ἀπὸ πονηρῶν ἐνθυμήσεων, ἐξαλείφειν δὲ τοῖς δάκρυσι τὰ προημαρτημένα, ἑτοιμάζεσθαι δὲ πρὸς τὴν ἀπάντησιν τοῦ Χριστοῦ κατὰ τὴν μεγάλην ἡμέραν τῆς ἐπιφανείας αὐτοῦ, ἀποσεισάμεναι τὸν ζυγὸν τῆς δουλείας τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ῥίψασαι ἀπὸ τῶν κεφαλῶν τὰ τῆς εὐσχημοσύνης καλύμματα, καταφρονήσασαι τοῦ Θεοῦ, καταφρονήσασαι τῶν ἀγγέλων αὐτοῦ, καταναισχυντήσασαι πάσης ἄῤῥενος ὄψεως, σοβοῦσαι τὰς κόμας, σύρουσαι τοὺς χιτῶνας, καὶ τοῖς ποσὶν ἅμα παίζουσαι, ὀφθαλμῷ ἀσελγεῖ, γέλωτι ἐκκεχυμένῳ πρὸς ὄρχησιν ἐκμανεῖσαι, πᾶσαν νέων ἀκολασίαν ἐφ’ ἑαυτὰς προσκαλούμεναι, ἐν τοῖς πρὸ τῆς πόλεως μαρτυρίοις χοροὺς συστησάμεναι, ἐργαστήριον τῆς οἰκείας αὐτῶν ἀσχημοσύνης τοὺς ἡγιασμένους τόπους πεποίηνται. Ἐμίαναν μὲν τὸν ἀέρα τοῖς ᾄσμασι τοῖς πορνικοῖς, ἐμίαναν δὲ τὴν γῆν τοῖς ἀκαθάρτοις ποσὶν, ἣν ἐν ταῖς ὀρχήσεσι κατεκρότησαν, θέατρον ἑαυταῖς νεανίσκων ὄχλον περιστησάμεναι, σοβάδες ὄντως καὶ παράφοροι παντελῶς, μανίας οὐδεμίαν ὑπερβολὴν ἀπολείπουσαι. Ταῦτα πῶς μὲν σιωπήσω; πῶς δὲ κατ’ ἀξίαν ὀδύρωμαι; Οἶνος ἡμῖν τῶν ψυχῶν τούτων τὴν ζημίαν ἐποίησεν· οἶνος, τὸ παρὰ Θεοῦ δῶρον εἰς παραμυθίαν τῆς ἀσθενείας δεδομένον τοῖς σωφρονοῦσιν· ὅπλον δὲ νῦν γενόμενον ἀκολασίας τοῖς ἀσελγαίνουσιν [......].

‘[......] Dissolute women who forgot about the fear of God and disdained the eternal fire on such a day, when they should have stayed at home on account of remembering the Resurrection, and should have contemplated that day when the heavens will open and the Judge will appear to us from heaven, and there will be trumpets of God, and resurrection of the dead, and just judgement, and reward for everyone according to his work! Instead of keeping these things in their thoughts, cleansing their own hearts from evil thoughts, wiping off their past sins by their tears, and preparing themselves to meet Christ on the great day of His epiphany, they shook off the yoke of Christ’s service, and threw off the covers of decency from their heads. They scorned God, scorned his angels, and embarrassed every male person’s eyes by shaking their hair, dragging their tunics and playing with their legs. With lustful eyes and unconstrained laughter, they were excited to dancing, inviting onto themselves all sorts of licentiousness from the young. Setting up dancing parties at the martyrs’ shrines [martyria] outside the city, they turned the hallowed sites into factories of their own indecency. They defiled the air with their whorish songs, defiled the ground with their dirty feet, hitting it in their dances, exposing themselves to the spectacle of the mob of the youngsters, rocking and shaking around, and missing no excess of madness. How can I keep silent about these things? How can I deplore them as they deserve? It was wine that caused to us this spiritual damage. Wine! The gift given from God to the prudent for consolation in infirmity, but now turned into a weapon of licentiousness for the lewd [.......].’

Text: Migne, Patrologia Graeca 31, 447-448.
Translation: E. Rizos


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • 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 - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

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

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Condemnation of other activity associated with cult

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops


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. We also have nearly 370 of his letters. Four of his homilies refer to the martyrs, all apparently delivered in the 370s. For the manuscript tradition, editions, and translations of this text, see: Fedwick, P.J., Bibliotheca Basiliana Universalis. 5 vols. Vol. II, 2 (Corpus Christianorum; Turnhout: Brepols, 1996), p. 1063-1067.


This sermon was given by Basil during his episcopate in Caesarea, in the 370s. The bishop reproaches his flock for having indulged in excessive drinking and feasting on Easter Sunday, disregarding their spiritual preparations during Lent. It seems that dancing parties were set up at the shrines in the countryside surrounding the city. It offers yet another lively attestation of the drinking and dancing parties into which feasts of martyrs quite often developed. The concern of ecclesiastical leadership with such excesses is amply attested in this period. One source, the Life of Gregory the Miracle-worker by Gregory of Nyssa, states explicitly that the Christianisation of public feasting and merriment was one of the original purposes for which the cult of martyrs was established (see E01883).


Text: Migne, J.-P., Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graeca 31 (Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1857), 447-448.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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