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E07155: The Greek Life of *Markellos (abbot in Constantinople, ob. 470s, S01670) recounts the life and miracles of the third abbot of the Sleepless Monks (Akoimetoi) of Constantinople. Written in Constantinople, probably in 474/518.

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posted on 2018-12-11, 00:00 authored by Bryan, erizos
The Life of Markellos (BHG 1027z)


I. Origins and early years
1. The author begins his work by denigrating the futility of the Greek poets, affirming the importance of telling the story of holy men instead.

2-3. Markellos comes from a noble family of Apamea, studies at Antioch, and starts his monastic career under the holy man Promotos in Ephesus, where he supports himself by working as a calligrapher.

4-5. He joins the first community of Alexandros, founder of the Sleepless Monks (Akoimetoi) in Constantinople, next to the sanctuary of the martyr *Menas.

6-7. Markellos soon gains the respect of Alexandros for his spiritual virtues and his rigourous ascetic practices. Shortly before Alexandros’ death, Markellos leaves the monastery and visits other ascetics. After the death of Alexandros, Ioannes is elected as his successor. The community moves to the location of Eirenaion, opposite the Sosthenion on the Bosphorus [Shortly before Alexandros' death, the Akoimetoi had been expelled from Constantinople and moved to a site near the Pontic mouth of the Bosphorus].

8. Rather than being jealous of Ioannes, Markellos rejoices for him. At this time, Markellos is ordained deacon, and Ioannes recognises him as his successor. The holy man Makedonios, abbot of a neighbouring monastery, foretells that Markellos will become abbot and the fame of his holiness will spread across the earth.

9-10. During these years, the monastery goes through a period of poverty, but the monks remain charitable. Ioannes entrusts Markellos with the care of an old donkey used by the monks to move commodities to and from the mill. Markellos welcomes his duties, thus showing the extent of his humility.

II. Abbot of the Sleepless Monks
11-14. Ioannes dies and Markellos becomes abbot. Under his administration, the monastery flourishes. Thanks to a donation by a fellow monk, Pharetrios, he also restructures the monastery, making it more suitable for the growing number of monks and their charitable works. Thanks to his faithfulness to the monastic rule of the akoimetoi and his kindness, Markellos becomes a true leader and many religious communities look up to his example. His disciples found several monasteries.

15. One day, three bishops seek hospitality at the monastery. Besides giving them a place to spend the night, Markellos instructs the treasurer of the monastery – a greedy man named Ioulianos – to give them one piece of gold each. Shortly afterwards, a man donates ninety pieces of gold to the monastery. The greedy Ioulianos observes that they could have obtained more from God, had they donated more to the three bishops. Not only does this miracle prove the unselfish generosity of Markellos, but also the fact that God rewards generosity in multiple.

16-17. Markellos cures a dangerous ulcer in the mouth of a fellow monk through his prayers and mere touch. In a similar way, he also cures a monk named Stephanos, affected by severe constipation.

18. The greedy treasurer Ioulianos, later bishop of Ephesos, is affected by a disease which no physician is able to cure. Markellos reproaches him for his lack of faith, and heals him.

19. Markellos cures a Samaritan who suffered from an ulcer. He converts to Christianity, but four days later his illness regresses, and he revokes his conversion. Nevertheless, he returns to Markellos who cures him again, but the Samaritan refuses to renounce his paternal faith. Struck by his illness even more violently, he dies.

20. Other healings.

21. The wife of Eugenios, the deacon of a sanctuary dedicated to the apostle *Andrew (S00288) is about to give birth and is struck by a violent fever. Markellos blesses a loaf of bread and instructs Eugenios to put it on his wife’s chest. The child is immediately born and the woman’s fever stops. During the miracle, Markellos was not physically present, but the woman could see him standing by.

22. Markellos heals a fellow monk named Eudoxios. Markellos meet Sergios, abbot of a monastery near the Euphrates. While they pray, Sergios sees two angels helping the old Markellos to stand up. Markellos acknowledges Sergios’ holiness for having received such a vision. The encounter between the two holy men is compared to the legendary encounter of Ephraim the Syrian with Basil of Caesarea.

23. Markellos’ fame spreads. The monk Petros hears from an abbot called Elissaios that God has revealed to him Markellos’ holiness. When Markellos hears the news, he pays no attention, but focuses on the charitable work of the monastery. Markellos foretells the death of Petros.

24. Gaudiolos, abbot of an important monastery in Pontus, is very strict with his monks. The monk asks him to consider the example of Markellos’ benevolence. Gaudiolos replies that he cannot be compared to Markellos who is as holy as Moses.

25. Markellos performs miracles without his physical presence. He warns some monks, who were sailing, of an imminent storm, and heals a travelling monk.

26. During a famine in Constantinople, the grain of the monastery is miraculously preserved undiminished.

27. He raises the dead monk Paulos.

28. He exorcises five possessed men.

29. Markellos receives several relics of *saints, from Persia (S02756) and Illyricum. Markellos believed in the existence of divine grace in pieces of the saints’ remains. The Holy Spirit indicated when someone was bringing him relics on a specific day, including the relics of *Oursikinos/Ursicinus (probably the martyr of Illyricum, S02519).

Τοιγαροῦν καὶ ὁ θεός, αὐτοῦ τῇ ἀγαθῇ ταύτῃ συμπράττων ἐπιθυμίᾳ, πολλοὺς ἦγεν πολλαχόθεν κομίζοντας αὐτῷ μέρη ἁγίων σωμάτων—καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς Περσῶν καὶ Ἰλλυρίων χώρας—, κἀκεῖνος μετὰ τῆς προσούσης τιμῆς καὶ θεραπείας αὐτὰ ἐδέχετο, καλῶς μαθὼν καὶ πιστεύων ὅτι τοῦ ἁγιασμοῦ τῶν ψυχῶν μετέχει καὶ τὰ σώματα, καὶ ὅτι τῇ ἐργασαμένῃ ψυχῇ καὶ τὸ ὑπηρετῆσαν ὄργανον κοινωνεῖ τοῦ τε ἁγιασμοῦ καὶ τῆς βασιλείας, ὅθεν καὶ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ ἁγιάζονται οἱ δεχόμενοι μετὰ πίστεως. Πολλάκις τῷ Μαρκέλλῳ τὸ ζωοποιὸν Πνεῦμα ἔδειξεν ὅτι τῆσδε τῆς ἡμέρας ἀφίξεταί τις κομίζων αὐτῷ ἅγια λείψανα· διὸ καὶ αὐτὸς παρεσκευάζετο καὶ παρεσκεύαζεν τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς εἰς ὑποδοχὴν τῶν ἀφικνουμένων ἁγίων, καὶ προαπήντα πόρρωθεν καὶ ὑπεδέχετο, ὥστε καὶ τοὺς κομίζοντας σφόδρα διὰ τὴν αὐτοῦ πρόγνωσιν καταπλήττεσθαι. Καί ποτε ἦλθέν τις πρὸς αὐτὸν λείψανα κομίζων ἅπερ ἔλεγεν εἶναι τοῦ ἁγίου μάρτυρος Οὐρσικίνου. Καὶ ὁ Μάρκελλος ἐδέξατο μὲν παραχρῆμα καὶ τὴν εἰωθυῖαν ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς ἐπετέλεσεν ἑορτήν, ἑστὼς δὲ ἐν τῇ νυκτερινῇ λειτουργίᾳ ἐνεδοίασεν πρὸς βραχὺ μή ποτε ἄρα οὐκ ἔστι τὰ λείψανα ἐκείνου τοῦ μάρτυρος. Ἅμα δὲ τῷ κατὰ διάνοιαν αὐτὸν ἐνδοιάσαι, προστρέχει τις αὐτῷ τῶν συλλειτουργούντων τὴν νυκτερινὴν λειτουργίαν καὶ ἐμβοήσας μέγα, «Μὴ ἐνδοίαζε, φησίν, πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν· τὰ λείψανα γὰρ τὰ κομισθέντα σοι τοῦ μάρτυρός εἰσιν Οὐρσικίνου». Ταῦτα εἰπὼν ἐκεῖνος, αὐτὸς μὲν πρηνὴς τοῖς ποσὶν τοῦ ἁγίου προσέπεσεν, οὐκέτι δὲ τοῦ λοιποῦ Μάρκελλος ἐνεδοίασεν, ἀλλὰ πάντα ὅσα αὐτῷ προσεκομίζετο ἁγίων λείψανα μετὰ τῆς ὁμοίας τιμῆς καὶ θεραπείας ἐδέχετο.

‘But God himself, endorsing [Markellos’] good enthusiasm for these matters, incited many people from many places to bring to him pieces of holy bodies – even from the lands of Persia and Illyricum – and he received them with due honour and veneration. For he was well aware of, and believed in the fact that the bodies also partake in the sanctification of the souls, and that an instrument which has served a soul that has laboured shares in the latter’s sanctification and kingdom. Hence those who receive them with faith are sanctified by them in turn. Several times, the life-giving Spirit indicated to Markellos that this day someone would arrive and bring him some holy relics. For this reason he used to prepare himself and the brethren for the reception of the saints arriving, and would come a long way out to meet and welcome them from afar, so that those carrying them were mightily surprised by his foresight. Once there came a man, and brought to him relics which, as he said, belonged to the holy martyr Oursikinos. Markellos immediately accepted them, and held the customary celebration for them. Yet, as he was standing at the nocturnal service, he hesitated for a short while, thinking that the relics could perhaps not belong to that martyr. As soon as the hesitation entered his thought, one of his fellow celebrants at the night service rushed towards him and cried out loud, saying: “Have no doubt about the truth. For the relics which have been brought to you belong to the martyr Oursikinos.” Having said these words, the man fell prostrate by the saint’s feet. As for Markellos, he hesitated no more, but accepted with equal honour and veneration whatever relics of saints were brought to him.'

30. Markellos shows contempt for riches. He spends bequests on charity.

31. Markellos foresees the fire which destroyed Constantinople during the reign of Leo I.

32. The powerful patricians Ardabur and Aspar are in conflict with a man named Ioannes who seeks refuge in Markellos’ monastery. Ardabur has the monastery besieged, but, during the night, a crown of fire and a luminous cross appear in the sky above the monastery. Terrified, the soldiers leave.

33-34. Markellos has a vision of a lion defeating a dragon, foretelling the deaths of Ardabur and Aspar. They have a dispute with the emperor Leo, but reach an agreement which is crowned by the marriage of Aspar’s second son, Patrikios, with Leo’s daughter. Patrikios, an Arian, is made Caesar, i.e. heir apparent to the throne. The orthodox, under the leadership of Markellos and bishop Gennadios, gather and protest at the h


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Markellos, abbot of the Sleepless monks in Constantinople, ob. 5th c. : S01670 Andrew, the Apostle : S00288 Ursicinus, martyr of Illyricum : S02519 Persian martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S02756

Saint Name in Source

Μάρκελλος Ἀνδρέας Οὐρσικῖνος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives


  • 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

Eirenaion on the Bosphorus

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

Eirenaion on the Bosphorus Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Cult activities - Places

Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle after death Miracles causing conversion Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Power over life and death Miraculous protection - of people and their property Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Invisibility, bilocation, miraculous travels Exorcism Healing diseases and disabilities Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Monarchs and their family Aristocrats Soldiers

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries


For the manuscript tradition, see:


The hagiography of the third abbot of the Akoimetoi (Sleepless Monks) is one of the major monastic hagiographic works of late antique Constantinople. The story is set in the decades following the death in the 430s of the founder of the Sleepless order, Alexandros. The precise date of Markellos’ death is not given, but it clearly post-dates the murder of Aspar and Ardabur in 471, which the holy man is said to have foretold. The historical Markellos probably became abbot of the Akoimetoi in the 440s: he signed the deposition of the heresiarch Eutyches in 447, and later also participated in the Council of Chalcedon. Despite the proven participation of Markellos in Chalcedon, it is striking that his Life contains no references to the doctrinal dispute and the council. This indicates that the Life was produced in a period when Chalcedon was not regarded as orthodox, namely under Zeno’s Henotikon (promulgated in 482) which was valid during the reigns of Zeno and Anastasius (till 518). The former’s reign (474-491) seems to be a likelier context for the agenda of the Life of Markellos. The text ends with a story which can be read as concealed expression of loyalism to his regime: Markellos’ presumed prophecy of the murder of Aspar and Ardabur (471), provides a legitimation for the crime which opened the way for the rise of Zeno. This is presented as an act decided by God, in order to prevent the rise of an Arian emperor. In conclusion, it seems that the Life of Markellos was produced shortly after the death of its hero, and is slightly earlier than or contemporary with the Life of Daniel the Stylite (E04560). One of the most interesting parts of the text is paragraph 29, recounting how Markellos collected several relics of martyrs, including the Illyrian martyr Oursikinos, and unnamed Persian martyrs. This passage contains a brief apologetic statement concerning the presence of divine grace in partitioned relics, which may reflect scepticism and debate concerning the veneration of relics in this period.


Text: Dagron, G., "La vie ancienne de saint Marcel l’Acémète," Analecta Bollandiana 86 (1968), 287-321. Translation and commentary: Baguenard, J.-M., Les moines Acémètes. Vies des saints Alexandre, Marcel et Jean Calybite (Spiritualité Orientale 47; Abbaye de Bellefontaine, 1988). Further reading : Déroche, V., and Lesieur, B., "Notes d’hagiographie byzantine. Daniel le Stylite – Marcel l’ Acémète – Hypatios de Rufinianes," Analecta Bollandiana 128 (2010), 283-295. Efthymiadis, S., and Déroche., V., "Greek Hagiography in Late Antiquity (Fourth-Seven Centuries)," in: S. Efthymiadis (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography. Vol. 1: Periods and Places (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), 35-94, p. 59. Hatlie, P., The Monks and Monasteries of Constantinople, ca. 350-850 (Cambridge, 2007).

Continued Description

ippodrome. Some people can see an angel by Markellos’ side. Soon after, Aspar and his sons are assassinated.35. A certain Loukianos, the son of an important member of the senate, joins Markellos’ monastic community, and is very fond Markellos. Markellos promises him that, after his death, he will ask God to reunite them as soon as possible. Eight days after Markellos’ death, Loukianos dies.36. Praise of Markellos’ virtues.Text: Dagron 1968.Summary and translation: Efthymios Rizos, Lavinia Cerioni.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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