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E07081: The Greek Life of *Agapetos (bishop of Synaos/Synnada, ob. 4th c., S02696) recounts the life and manifold miracles of its hero, whom it portrays as a monastic, former Christian soldier, confessor of the persecution of Licinius, and bishop of Synaos (west central Asia Minor). Several of the miracles recounted are very similar to accounts from lives of other 4th c. miracle-working bishops. Middle Byzantine in its extant form, the text is probably based on a late-antique model, written in Cyzicus or Synaos.

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posted on 2018-11-08, 00:00 authored by erizos
Life of Agapetos of Synaos (BHG 35)


Origins and early asceticism at Synaos
1-4. Agapetos is from Cappadocia. He joins a large monastery of c. 1000 men, near Synaos. As his relatives were looking for him (the time was the reign of Diocletian and Maximian), he is temporarily entrusted by his abbot to a bishop. Some time later, he returns to his hermitage and excels in asceticism. He starts to perform miracles, kills a dragon, and heals a virgin.

Soldier and confessor under Licinius
5. The emperor Licinius hears that Agapetos is very strong and therefore recruits him into the army against his will. Agapetos performs miracles as a soldier, healing people and exorcising the daughter of his commander.

6. Agapetos is slandered to Licinius for neglecting his military duties. He proves his valour before the emperor.

7. He is accused of sorcery to his comes. The officer accepts the saint’s explanations of his miracles.

8. A sorcerer appears in the regiment, who causes a flying dragon to appear. Agapetos’ prayers defeat the false miracle.

9. During a military drill, he exorcises fellow soldiers who are possessed.

10. He finds an unburied dead man and decides to bury him. Money is miraculously provided to him, in order to purchase the necessary cloth for the burial.

11. He is arrested, imprisoned, and tormented alongside the martyrs *Viktorinos, Dorotheos, Theodoulos, and Agrippas [martyrs of Synaos, S02697] and others, but he survives.

Bishop of Synaos
12. After the victory of Constantine, Agapetos is released from gaol. He achieves this after exorcising a possessed servant of the emperor.

13. Returning to his monastery, he first visits the city of Synaos and enters a church, where a service is being held. The bishop attempts three times to drive him out, but each time he returns. Recognising his virtue, the bishop ordains him to the priesthood.

14. Agapetos lives for some time at his monastery, and, after the bishop dies, he is elected as his successor.

15. He visits Constantinople and his virtue is admired by the emperor Constantine.

16. On his way back, he miraculously calms a storm at sea. He returns to his city and undertakes to build a church for the aforesaid martyrs (Viktorinos, Dorotheos, Theodoulos, and Agrippas). The site is precipitous, inaccessible, and difficult to build on, but Agapetos causes it to be miraculously levelled. A beautiful shrine is built.

17. Agapetos participates in the election of a metropolitan of Cyzicus in Hellespontus.

18-21. He has prophetic charisma. He reveals the sins of a woman from Nicomedia, and those of a deacon from Heraclea in Thrace, causing their repentance. He combines strictness with leniency, and is held in awe by his flock and clergy.

22. By his prayers, he causes a river to change its course. He had been asked for this by the bishop of Silanda [a similar miracle is known from the Life of Gregory the Miracle Worker].

23. He is strict and just as a judge.

24. He resolves conflicts among monks, referred to him by the bishop of Lampsacus.

25. He raises a Jew from the dead, causing the conversion of his family.

26. He causes a dead man to speak and reveal that he had paid off his debts [similar to an episode from the Life of Spyridon of Trimythous].

27. He exorcises the possessed daughter of an important man in Constantinople. She was possessed by a demon expelled by Agapetos from some other person. The demon demanded that Agapetos come to Constantinople [miracle similar to the Life of Aberkios of Hierapolis].

28-29. He miraculously averts pests of locusts and mosquitoes in a lake near Synaos.

30. Miraculous flooding of a field which had been promised to the church, until the donor changed his mind.

31. Agapetos miraculously stops a storm which threatened a church under construction.

32. He encourages a nunnery to accept back a repentant nun who had left because of a sin.

33-35. He heals people, makes prophecies, and administers the church in an exemplary way.

36-39. Miracles deciding the ownership of a goat, exorcisms, and healing.

40-41. Miraculous protection of villages from flooding rivers.

42-47. Exorcisms, prophecies, teaching, and other remarkable incidents.

48-49. Miracles related to the building of a church.

50. Miracles.

51. Agapetos participates in the election of Parthenios as bishop of Lampsacus.

52. He calms the sea and saves a boat.

53. Various miracles.

54. His prayers cause the collapse of a hill which was depriving his church of light.

55. He heals a woman who bore a snake in her womb.

56. While discussing with another bishop, Agapetos faints and has a vision.

57-58. Agapetos dies after visiting his monastery and instructing the local monks. People gather for the funeral and attempt to remove pieces from his clothes and body. His body effects miracles.

59. Prayer for the current emperor.

Text: Papadopoulos Kerameus 1907.
Summary: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Agapetos, bishop of Synaos and Cyzicus, ob. 4th c. : S02696 Viktorinos, Dorotheos, Theodoulos, Agrippas martyrs of Synaos, ob. 320 : S02697 Viktorinos, martyr of Nicomedia : S00975

Saint Name in Source

Ἀγαπητός Βικτωρῖνος, Δωρόθεος, Θεόδουλος, Agrippas

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Synnada Synaos

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

Synnada Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia Synaos Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Acceptance/rejection of saints from other religious groupings

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle after death Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Healing diseases and disabilities Miracles causing conversion Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Exorcism Power over life and death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Pagans Jews Soldiers Monarchs and their family Peasants


For the manuscript tradition, see:


In its extant form, the text is a metaphrasis (late 10th century rewriting of an earlier text), preserved in the imperial menologium. Yet, it preserves the narrative of an important text of central Anatolian hagiography. The most unusual feature of this story is the remarkably complex figure of its hero, whose career includes stages as a monastic, soldier, confessor, and miracle working bishop of Synaos under Constantine. For an episcopal life, the text is curiously silent on matters of orthodoxy, and fails to mention the Council of Nicaea. The reason is very probably that the historical Agapetos was a non-Nicene bishop. His life was recounted in a lost part of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, which is summarised by Photius (Philost. 2, fr. 8). There, we are told that Agapetos was indeed a former soldier who became bishop of Synnada in Phrygia (not of Synaos as claimed by our text), and he is described as a miracle worker who raised the dead and converted many pagans. Our text evidently preserves a form of that hagiography, presenting the hero in a doctrinally neutral manner. (We should not confuse this figure with another Agapetos of Synnada, mentioned by Socrates in his Ecclesiastical History [7.3], who was a Macedonianist bishop of that city in the early 5th century). Several of the miracles recounted are familiar from lives of other 4th century miracle-working bishops (notably Gregory the Miracle Worker, Spyridon of Trimythous, Aberkios of Hierapolis, Athenogenes of Pedachthoe, and others), indicating that these texts developed into a distinct sub-genre, and were produced under intense cross-fertilisation. Certain categories of miracles appear to have become relatively standard for episcopal wonder-workers, such as the protection of villages from floods and rivers, the killing of dragons, the settling of disputes among debtors and lenders, and the averting of natural calamities. Bishops are also frequently associated with the construction of a church, which is the central event of Agapetos' episcopate at Synaos. He is said to have built the shrine of his fellow prisoners and eventually martyrs, Viktorinos, Dorotheos, and Theodoulos, whose story and hagiography is not known to have survived. It is possible that Agapetos was buried at that shrine, even though the text is not clear about the location of its hero's burial. A problematic aspect of the text is its reference to Synaos, the location of which is uncertain. Given the fact that Agapetos was known as bishop of Synnada to Philostorgius, it seems possible that 'Synaos' is the result of an error.


Text: Papadopoulos-Kerameus, A., Varia Graeca Sacra (St Petersburg, 1907), 114-129. Further reading: Destephen, S., Prosopographie Chrétienne du Bas-Empire 3. Diocèse d'Asie (325-641) (Paris, 2008), 75-79.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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