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E02529: The Homily (memrā) on *Shmona and Gurya (martyrs in Edessa, S00081) is written in Syriac during the late 5th/early 6th c. by Jacob of Serugh (c. 451-521). It retells the story of the conversion and martyrdom of Shmona and Gurya, while celebrating the martyrs' steadfastness.

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posted on 2017-03-08, 00:00 authored by sminov
Jacob of Serugh, Homily on Shmona and Gurya

Willingly accepting suffering "for love of God's Son's sake', the martyrs are presented as 'walls of our country, which became for us a shelter from all robbers' (pp. 96-97 of Cureton's translation). In the following exposition of the martyrs' life and death, the author refers to the main narrative elements of their martyrdom as found in the Martyrdom of Shmona and Gurya ($E00167) (pp. 98-104). The poet puts a particular emphasis on the image of the martyr as one of the key figures in the conversion of Edessa to Christianity: 'By your deaths, oh ye blessed men, Edessa waxed rich, for well ye ornamented her with your crown and suffering. Ye are her beauty, her bulwark ye, her salt ye are likewise; her wealth, her store, her boast, and all her treasury. Ye are the stewards of her faith; for by your suffering the bride ye did array with beauty' (p. 105).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Shmona and Gurya, martyrs in Edessa, ob. 309/10 : S00081

Saint Name in Source

ܓܘܪܝܐ ܘܫܡܘܢܐ

Type of Evidence

Liturgical texts - Hymns Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Syriac

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region


Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Serugh Edessa Edessa Ἔδεσσα Edessa

Major author/Major anonymous work

Jacob of Serugh

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Chant and religious singing

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts


The Homily on Shmona and Gurya is a poetic celebration of the martyrdom of two Christians, who were executed in the city of Edessa in 309/11. An original Syriac composition, it was almost certainly produced by the West-Syrian poet Jacob of Serugh (c. 451-521). From the presentation of the saints' story in the Homily one can conclude that Jacob derived his information about the martyrs from the Syriac Martyrdom of Shmona and Gurya (E00167). The Homily belongs to the literary genre of memrā, a narrative poem that employs couplets all in the same syllabic meter. Such poems, which appear to have been recited rather than sung, were presumably used in the liturgy, though there is no evidence from Late Antiquity of exactly how it happened. There is not yet a critical edition of the Homily. Its Syriac text was published for the first time by Cureton on the basis of a single manuscript, British Library, Add. 17158, dated to the 6th or 7th c. (see Wright 1870-1872, vol. 2, 681-683). The Homily is attested in several others manuscripts, such as Damascus Patr. 12/13, Jerusalem, St Mark Monastery 156, Vatican syr. 117 and several others (see Vööbus 1973-1980, vol. 2, 128-129, 164-165, 176-177). Syriac text: Cureton 1864, 96*-107*; English translation: Cureton 1864, 96-106. For general information on Jacob and his oeuvre, see Brock 2011; Lange 2004; Alwan 1986.


The Homily presents so far the only specimen of the liturgical commemoration of Shmona and Gurya from Late Antiquity. Similarly to several other of Jacob's homilies dedicated to saints, it contains neither references to the saints' miracles nor appeals for his intercession.


Main editions and translations: Cureton, W., Ancient Syriac Documents Relative to the Earliest Establishment of Christianity in Edessa and the Neighbouring Countries, from the Year after Our Lord’s Ascension to the Beginning of the Fourth Century (London / Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, 1864). Further reading: Alwan, K., “Bibliographie générale raisonnée de Jacques de Saroug († 521),” Parole de l’Orient 13 (1986), 313-384. Brock, S.P., “Ya‘qub of Serugh,” in: S.P. Brock, A.M. Butts, G.A. Kiraz and L. van Rompay (eds.), Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2011), 433-435. Lange, C., “Jakob von Sarug, † 521,” in: W. Klein (ed.), Syrische Kirchenväter (Urban-Taschenbücher 587; Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 2004), 217-227. Vööbus, A., Handscriftliche Überlieferung der Mēmrē-Dichtung des Ja‘qōb von Serūg. 4 vols (CSCO 344-345, 421-422, Subs. 39-40, 60-61; Louvain: Secrétariat du CorpusSCO, 1973, 1980). Wright, W., Catalogue of Syriac Manuscripts in the British Museum, Acquired since the Year 1838. 3 vols (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1870-1872).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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