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E05350: The Life of *Theodoros (abbot of Sykeon, ob. 613, S01619), by Eleusios-Georgios of Sykeon, recounts that, while its hero was gravely ill, he lay underneath an icon of *Kosmas and Damianos (physician martyrs, S00385) at the monastery of Sykeon. The saints appeared in the likeness of the image and cured him. Written in Greek at Sykeon (central Asia Minor), in the 640s.

online resource
posted on 2018-04-19, 00:00 authored by erizos
Georgios of Sykeon, Life of Theodoros, abbot of Sykeon and bishop of Anastasiopolis (CPG 7973 = BHG 1748)

Theodoros falls gravely ill and sees the angels coming to take his soul.

39. 4-14. Ἦν δὲ ἐπάνωθεν αὐτοῦ ἑστῶσα εἰκὼν τῶν ἁγίων καὶ θαυματουργῶν Κοσμᾶ καὶ Δαμιανοῦ. Καθ’ ὁμοίωσιν οὖν τῆς λατρείας ἐκείνης ὤφθησαν αὐτῷ οἱ εἰρημένοι ἅγιοι, καὶ ἐγγίσαντες αὐτῷ ὡς ἐπὶ τῇ συνηθείᾳ τῶν ἰατρῶν τοὺς σφυγμοὺς ἐδοκίμαζον καὶ πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἔλεγον ἐν ἀπογνώνσει αὐτὸν ὑπάρχειν διὰ τὸ πεσεῖν αὐτοῦ τὰς δυνάμεις καὶ διὰ τοὺς ἐλθόντας ἐπ’ αὐτὸν οὐρανόθεν, καὶ ἤρξαντο αὐτὸν ἐρωτᾶν λέγοντες· «διὰ τί κλαίεις καὶ άδημονεῖς, ἀδελφέ;» Ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς· «διὰ τὸ ἀμετανόητόν με εἶναι, κύριοί μου, καὶ διὰ τὸ μικρὸν ποίμνιον τοῦτο, ὅτι νεοκατήχητον καὶ ἀδιοίκητόν ἐστι, πολλῆς ἐπιμελείας δεόμενον.»

‘There stood above him an icon of the holy and wonderworking Kosmas and Damianos. The said saints, then, appeared to him in the likeness of that offering and, having approached him, they took his pulse, as doctors do, and told one another that his situation was critical, because his strength had failed and because of those who had arrived for him from heaven. And they started asking him, saying: “Why are you crying and agonising, brother?” He replied: “Because I have not accomplished by repentance, my lords, and on account of this little flock, for it is recently converted, has no leader, and needs a lot of tending.”'

The two saints offer to intercede on his behalf, so that more time may be granted for him to live. They ask of the angels to wait, and leave to make their petition to Christ. They return and announce to the angels and Theodoros Christ’s decision to prolong the holy man’s life.

Text: Festugière 1970.
Translation: Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Kosmas and Damianos, brothers, physician martyrs of Syria : S00385

Saint Name in Source

Κοσμᾶς, Δαμιανός

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Praying before an image

Cult Activities - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


The text is preserved in three manuscripts of the 10th and 11th centuries (Biblioteca Marciana 359; Patmos Monastery Library 254; Athens National Library 1014). The extant text is no earlier than the death of Heraclius in 641, since the author records the fulfilment of Theodoros’ prophecy about the emperor’s thirty-year reign (166. 30-36). The author, however, also tells us that he started composing the text shortly before Theodoros’ death in 613, when he was still a teenager (165). Indeed, in his first appearance in the narrative (2. 21-27), the author requests his audience’s prayers on account of his young age. The twenty chapters which refer to the childhood of Theodoros (3-22) form a separate section with its own epilogue (22) where the author states that he wrote this part as a form of special teaching for the young. This might suggest that the whole childhood section, or at least its epilogue, were composed, when the author was at an advanced age. This is also suggested by the fact that the author introduces himself and talks about his sources in both the epilogue of the childhood section (22), and the final epilogue (170).


The Life of Theodoros contains a number of references to the use of images in the devotion to the saints, thus offering some important attestations to practices and beliefs in the two centuries preceding Byzantine Iconoclasm. The narrative of this passage describes a dream vision where the saints are recognised by their similarity to their depiction, an icon at the place where the ill Theodoros lay. The image is defined as εἰκών, a word which our text consistently uses for religious icons (cf. 8.6), as opposed to images of living persons (portraits of Theodoros of Sykeon, while still alive) which are called by the words ζωγραφία (drawing) and ὁμοίωμα (portrait) (see E05351). This suggests that εἰκών had acquired a narrower association with religious paintings. Besides this, however, our text also refers to the icon of the two medical saints as λατρεία which very probably means 'offering'. This is an otherwise unattested use of this word in the sense of a votive object.


Text: Festugière, A.-J. Vie de Théodore de Sykéon. 2 vols. (Subsidia Hagiographica 48; Brussels, 1970), with French translation and commentary. Translation: Dawes, E., and Baynes, N.H., Three Byzantine Saints: Contemporary Biographies (London, 1948) (partial translation). Further reading: Brown, P.R.L., "The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity," Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971), 80-101. Kaplan, M., "Les sanctuaires de Théodore de Sykéôn," in : C. Jolivet-Lévy, M. Kaplan, and J.-P. Sodini (eds.), Les saints et leur sanctuaire à Byzance. Textes, images et monuments (Byzantina Sorbonensia 11; Paris, 1993), 81-94. Kaplan, M. Pouvoirs, église et sainteté. Essais sur la société byzantine (Classiques de la Sorbonne 3; Paris, 2011). Mitchell, S., Anatolia: Land, Men, and Gods in Asia Minor. Volume Ii: The Rise of the Church (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993), 122-150. Rosenquist, O., Studien zur Syntax und Bemerkungen zum Text der Vita Theodori Syceotae (Uppsala, 1981).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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