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E02741: Gregory of Nazianzus, in his First Oration against Julian, of 361/363, reports that the emperor Julian the Apostate and his brother, Gallus, built a shrine for martyrs during their youth; the work sponsored by Julian was miraculously rejected and destroyed. Written in Greek at Nazianzus (central Asia Minr).

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posted on 2017-04-27, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 4, Against Julian I, 24-26 (CPG 3010. 4)

ΚΔʹ. Μαρτύρων τε μνήμασι πολυτελεστάτοις, καὶ ἀναθημάτων φιλοτιμίαις, καὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ὁ θεῖος φόβος χαρακτηρίζεται, τὸ φιλόσοφον καὶ φιλόχριστον κατεμήνυον· ὁ μὲν, καὶ κατ’ ἀλήθειαν εὐσεβῶν· καὶ γὰρ ἦν, εἰ καὶ τὴν φύσιν θερμότερος, ἀλλ’ οὖν γνήσιος εἰς εὐσέβειαν· ὁ δὲ, τὸν καιρὸν ἐξωνούμενος, καὶ κρύπτων ἐν ἐπιεικείας πλάσματι τὸ κακόηθες. Τεκμήριον δέ· καὶ γὰρ οὐκ ἂν δυναίμην παραδραμεῖν τὸ συμβὰν θαῦμα, σφόδρα τε ὂν μνήμης ἄξιον, καὶ πολλοὺς παιδεῦσαι τῶν ἀσεβῶν δυνάμενον.

ΚΕʹ. Ἔκαμνον μὲν τοῖς μάρτυσιν, ὅπερ εἶπον, ἀμφότεροι, καὶ ἀντεφιλοτιμοῦντο λαμπρῶς ἀλλήλοις, καὶ χειρὶ πολλῇ καὶ δαπάνῃ τὸν οἶκον ἐγείροντες· ἐπεὶ δὲ οὐκ ἐκ τῆς αὐτῆς προαιρέσεως, οὐδὲ εἰς ὅμοιον πέρας προέβαινεν ἀμφοτέροις ὁ πόνος· τοῦ μὲν γὰρ τὸ ἔργον ἠνύετο, καὶ κατὰ λόγον ἐχώρει, τοῦ πρεσβυτέρου λέγω τῶν ἀδελφῶν, οἷα τοῦ Θεοῦ τὴν ἐπίδοσιν ἑτοίμως προσιεμένου, κατὰ τὴν Ἄβελ θυσίαν, ὀρθῶς καὶ προσενεχθεῖσαν καὶ διαιρεθεῖσαν· καὶ ἦν ὥσπερ πρωτοτόκου τις καθιέρωσις ἡ ἐπίδοσις· τοῦ δὲ, φεῦ τῆς ἐντεῦθεν ἤδη τῶν ἀσεβῶν ἀτιμίας τὰ ἐκεῖθεν μαρτυρομένης, καὶ μικροῖς μηνύμασι τὰ μεγάλα προκηρυττούσης, ὥσπερ τὴν Κάϊν θυσίαν ὁ τῶν μαρτύρων Θεὸς ἀπεπέμπετο.

ΚϚʹ. Καὶ ὁ μὲν ἐπόνει, ἡ δὲ γῆ τὸ πονηθὲν ἀπεσείετο. Καὶ ὁ μὲν ἐφιλονείκει μᾶλλον, ἡ δὲ ἀπηξίου δέχεσθαι θεμελίους τοῦ σαθροῦ πρὸς εὐσέβειαν, οἷα βοῶσα τὸν ἐσόμενον ἐξ ἐκείνου σεισμὸν, καὶ τιμῶσα τοὺς μάρτυρας τῇ περὶ τὸν ἀσεβέστατον ἀτιμίᾳ. Τοῦτο τὸ ἔργον προφητεία τις ἦν τῆς ὕστερον τοῦ ἀνδρὸς αὐθαδείας καὶ ἀπονοίας, καὶ τῆς εἰς μάρτυρας ἀτιμίας, καὶ περὶ τοὺς ἁγίους οἴκους παρανομίας· τοὺς μὲν ἄλλους λανθάνουσα, τὸν δὲ διώκτην πόῤῥωθεν προδιώκουσα, καὶ τὰ τῆς ἀσεβείας ἐπίχειρα προσημαίνουσα.

‘24. They displayed their love of wisdom and their love of Christ by extremely sumptuous monuments for martyrs, by demonstrations of largesse in offerings, and by all other things by which fear of God is expressed. The one of them did so out of sincere piety, for although he was more quick-tempered in character, nevertheless he was genuine in his piety. The other was just buying time, concealing his wickedness under a mask of kindness. There is a proof to that – I indeed could not possibly pass by the wonder which took place back then, for it greatly deserves to be remembered and can instruct many of the impious.

25. So, as I have said, they were both labouring in the service of the martyrs and were eminently vying with one another in erecting their shrines at a great expense of work and money. Yet, since it did not proceed from the same motive, their effort did not lead to the same outcome either. For the work of the one was accomplished and progressed according to plan – I am talking about the elder brother – as though God was readily welcoming his offering, like Abel's sacrifice which was offered and carved in the right way. And this offering was indeed, in some sort, the consecration of a first-born. As for the other one – alas for the disgrace of the impious which already in this world attests to the other and forewarns of great things through trivial signs! – the God of the Martyrs rejected it like the sacrifice of Cain.

26. And he continued his efforts, but the earth shook off the product of his toils. And he insisted further on, but it did not deign to accept the foundation stones of a man who was shaky in the faith, roaring, as it were, about the turbulence that was going to be caused by him, and honouring the martyrs by dishonouring the utterly impious one. This incident was a kind of presage of the later insolence and madness of the man, of his disrespect for the martyrs and of his offence against the holy shrines. It escaped the notice of the others, but it was following the persecutor long in advance and foreshadowed the rewards of his impiety.’

Text: Migne 1857.
Translation: E. Rizos


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060 Mamas, martyr in Kaisareia/Caesarea of Cappadocia : S00436

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • 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)

Nazianzos Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Nazianzus

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Saint aiding or preventing the construction of a cult building

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Pagans Monarchs and their family


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. Gregory published his two polemical treatises against the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363) after the emperor had declared his adherence to the pagan religion. They belong to the author's earliest rhetorical works, written shortly after his ordination to the priesthood.


This account reflects one of several hostile legends about Julian, which apparently circulated already during the emperor's lifetime. A version of the story is also recounted by Sozomen (E03590) who adds the information that the event took place, while Gallus and Julian lived as young men in Caesarea and undertook to build the shrine of the martyr *Mamas. The two testimonies suggest that the legend was of Cappadocian origins. The legend was unknown to (or ignored by) the ecclesiastical historian Socrates, but it was reproduced by Theodoret of Cyrrhus (Ecclesiastical History 3.2).


Text: Migne, J.-P., Patrologiae cursus completus, series Graeca 35 (Paris, 1857), 532-664.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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