University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E05666: John Malalas in his Chronographia recounts that the emperor Constantine the Great, after a dream vision, founded the shrine of *Michael (the Archangel, S00181) of Sosthenion on the European side of the Bosphorus, near Constantinople, on the site of a pagan shrine. Written in Greek at Antioch (Syria) or Constantinople, in the mid-6th c.

online resource
posted on 2018-06-07, 00:00 authored by erizos
John Malalas, Chronographia, 4.9

Οἱ δὲ Ἀργοναῦται ἐκ τῆς Ἑλλησπόντου ἐξορμήσαντες κατέπλευσαν ἐπὶ τὰς Πριγκιπίους νήσους· κἀκεῖθεν ἀνῆλθον τὸν Χαλκηδόνος πλοῦν, περᾶσαι βουλόμενοι τὸν ἀνάπλουν τῆς Ποντικῆς θαλάσσης. καὶ ἐπολεμήθησαν πάλιν ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἀμύκου· καὶ φοβηθέντες τοῦ ἀνδρὸς τὴν δύναμιν κατέφυγον ἐν κόλπῳ τινὶ κατάλσῳ, δασυτάτῳ πάνυ καὶ ἀγρίῳ· καὶ ἐθεάσαντο <ὡς> ἐν ὀπτασίᾳ δύναμίν τινα ὡς ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ προσπελάσασαν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἀνδρὸς φοβεροῦ φέροντος τοῖς ὤμοις πτέρυγας ὡς ἀετοῦ, ὅστις ἐχρημάτισεν αὐτοῖς τὴν κατὰ τοῦ Ἀμύκου νίκην. οἵτινες θαρρήσαντες συνέβαλον τῷ Ἀμύκῳ· καὶ νικήσαντες αὐτὸν ἐφόνευσαν αὐτὸν καὶ εὐχαριστοῦντες ἔκτισαν ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ τόπῳ, ὅπου τὴν δύναμιν ἑωράκασιν, ἱερόν, στήσαντες ἐκεῖ ἐκτύπωμα τῆς παρ’ αὐτῶν θεαθείσης δυνάμεως, καλέσαντες τὸν αὐτὸν τόπον ἤτοι τὸ ἱερὸν αὐτὸ Σωσθένιν, διότι ἐκεῖ φυγόντες ἐσώθησαν· ὅστις τόπος οὕτως κέκληται παρὰ Βυζαντίοις ἕως τῆς νῦν. ὅπερ ἱερὸν μετὰ τὸ βασιλεῦσαι τὸ Βυζάντιον ἐθεάσατο ἀπελθὼν ἀσφαλίσασθαι αὐτὸ Κωνσταντῖνος ὁ μέγας βασιλεύς· ὃς γενόμενος χριστιανός, καὶ τῷ ἐκτυπώματι τῆς στήλης προσεσχηκὼς τῷ ἑστῶτι ἐκεῖ εἶπεν, ὅτι ἀγγέλου σημεῖον σχήματι μοναχοῦ παρὰ τοῦ δόγματος τῶν χριστιανῶν. καὶ ἐκπλαγεὶς ἐπὶ τῷ τόπῳ καὶ τῷ κτίσματι καὶ εὐξάμενος γνῶναι, ποίας ἐστὶ δυνάμεως ἀγγέλου τὸ ἐκτύπωμα παρεκοιμήθη τῷ τόπῳ. καὶ ἀκούσας ἐν ὁράματι τὸ ὄνομα τῆς δυνάμεως εὐθέως ἐγερθεὶς ἐκόσμησε τὸν τόπον, ποιήσας κατὰ ἀνατολὰς εὐχήν. καὶ ἐπωνόμασε τὸ εὐκτήριον, ἤτοι τὸν τόπον, τοῦ ἁγίου ἀρχαγγέλου Μιχαήλ.

‘Then the Argonauts set out from the Hellespont and sailed to the Princes' Islands. From there they followed the route to Chalkedon, wishing to pass through the strait. to the Pontic Sea. They were attacked next by Amykos and, afraid of his forces, fled into a wooded bay which was densely forested and wild. They saw in a vision a being coming towards them as though from heaven, a tremendous man with wings on his shoulders, like those of an eagle, who foretold to them victory over Amykos. So they were encouraged and attacked Amykos. When they had conquered and killed him, in thanksgiving they founded a shrine in the place where they had seen the apparition. They set up there an image of the being which they had seen and called the place, namely the shrine, Sosthenion, since they had fled there and been saved. The place has kept this name to the present day.
After Byzantion became the imperial capital, Constantine the great emperor visited this shrine, intending to close it. He had become a Christian and, observing the form of the statue which was standing there, he said that it represented an angel in the guise of a monk of the Christian faith. He was astounded by the site and the building and, wishing to know to which angelic being the image belonged, he slept in the place. He heard the name of the being in a dream and immediately woke up and adorned the place, offering a prayer towards the East. He named the oratory, and of course the place, as that of the holy Archangel Michael.’

Text: Thurn 2000. Translation: Jeffreys, Jeffreys, and Scott 1986 (numbered as 4.13, according to the Dindorf edition), modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Michael, the Archangel : S00181

Saint Name in Source


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

Syria with Phoenicia Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Antioch on the Orontes

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

Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work

John Malalas

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Verbal images of saints

Cult Activities - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family


The Chronographia of John Malalas (c. 490–c. 570) is a Christian chronicle of universal history, from Adam to the death of Justinian I (565). It appears to have been composed in two parts, the earlier of which focuses on the history of Antioch and the East, ending in c. 528 or 532. The second part focuses on the urban history of Constantinople up to the death of Justinian. Malalas is likely to have pursued a career in the imperial administration at both Antioch and Constantinople, writing the two parts of his chronicle while living in these two cities. Malalas was widely used as a source by Byzantine chroniclers and historians, including John of Ephesus, John of Antioch, Evagrius Scholasticus, the Paschal Chronicle, John of Nikiu, John of Damascus, Theophanes, George the Monk, pseudo-Symeon, Kedrenos, Zonaras, Theodore Skoutariotes, and Nikephoros Kallistou Xanthopoulos. The text of the chronicle is preserved in a very fragmentary form, based on quotations in other sources (notably the Paschal Chronicle and Theophanes), and on a Slavonic translation which follows a more extensive version of the original text. It is believed that we now have about 90% of the text. On the composition and manuscript tradition of the text, see Thurn 2000, and:


The shrine of Michael on the Bosphorus is also named as a Constantinian foundation by Sozomen (E03993), but the foundation story which reveals its pagan origins, like those of many coastal shrines of the Bosphoros and Constantinople, is first recorded here by Malalas and reproduced by John of Antioch (ed. Roberto, 26.3, 10). Based on the description of the image which attracted Constantine's interest, Cyril Mango (1984) has suggested an identification of the predecessor cult of Michael as that of the popular Anatolian deity Attis. The late antique and Byzantine name Sosthenion is a corrupt form of the classical toponym Leosthenion. The sources mention two major shrines of Michael at the neighbouring sites of Anaplous and Sosthenion on the European coast of the Bosphorus, which flank the narrowest and most dangerous part of the strait. Anaplous is now mostly identified with Kuruçeşme, while the name of Sosthenion survives as Istinye. The development of pagan cults in this region, and their continuity into Christian times, was probably related to the very perilous conditions for the ships sailing through the strait.


Text: Dindorf, L., Ioannis Malalae Chronographia (Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae; Bonn, 1831). Thurn, J., Ioannis Malalae Chronographia (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 35; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2000). Translation: Jeffreys, E., Jeffreys, M., and Scott, R., The Chronicle of John Malalas: A Translation (Sydney, 1986). On Malalas: Carrara, L., Meier, M., and Radtki-Jansen, C. (eds.), Die Weltchronik des Johannes Malalas. Quellenfragen (Malalas-Studien 2; Göttingen: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2017). Jeffreys, E., Croke, B., and Scott, R. (eds.), Studies in John Malalas (Sydney, 1990). Meier, M., Radtki-Jansen, C., and Schulz, F. (eds.), Die Weltchronik des Johannes Malalas: Autor, Werk, Überlieferung (Malalas-Studien 1; Göttingen: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016). Treadgold, W.T. The Early Byzantine Historians (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 235-256. Further reading: Janin, R., "Les sanctuaires byzantins de Saint Michel," Échos d’Orient 33 (1934), 28-52. Janin, R., La géographie ecclésiastique de l'empire Byzantin. I 3: Les eglises et les monastères de la ville de Constantinople. 2nd ed. (Paris, 1969). Mango, C., "St. Michael and Attis," Δελτίον της Χριστιανικής Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας 12 (1984), 39-62.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager