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E07916: Theodosius, in his On the Topography of the Holy Land, on a route from Jerusalem to Nazareth notes: Emmaus/Nicopolis, where Cleopas (pupil of Jesus, S00249), recognised the risen Jesus at supper, and later suffered martyrdom; the burial site of *George (soldier and martyr, S00259) at Diospolis, and the miracles that occur there; and the martyrdom of *Cornelius (the centurion baptised by Peter in Acts, S00301) at Caesarea of Palestine. Written in Latin, perhaps in Africa, 518/540.

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posted on 2020-06-21, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Theodosius, On the Topography of the Holy Land/'De situ terrae sanctae', 4

Extracts from §4, describing an itinerary from Jerusalem; first westwards to Joppa, then up the coast to Caesarea, before turning inland to Nazareth:

De Hierusalem usque in Silona, ubi fuit arca testamenti Domini, milia VIIII. De Silona usque Eammau, quae nunc Nicopolis dicitur, milia VIIII, in qua Emmau sanctus Cleopas cognouit Domnum in confractione panis: ibi et martyrium pertulit. De Emmau usque in Diospolim milia XII, ubi sanctus Georgius martyrizatus est; ibi et corpus eius est et multa mirabilia fiunt. ... De Ioppe ad Caesaream Palaestinae milia XXX; ibi baptizatus est domnus Cornelius a domno Petro et martyrizatus est.

'From Jerusalem to Shiloh, where the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord used to be, 9 miles. From Shiloh to Emmaus, which is now called Nicopolis, 9 miles; in this Emmaus saint Cleopas recognised the Lord at the breaking of the bread, and there he suffered martyrdom. From Emmaus to Diospolis 12 miles, where saint George was martyred; there too is his body and many wonders take place ... From Joppa to Caesarea of Palestine 30 miles: there Lord Cornelius was baptised by Lord Peter and was martyred.'

Text: Geyer 1965, 116. Translation: Wilkinson 2002, 105, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

George, soldier and martyr, and Companions : S00259 Cornelius, the centurion baptised by Peter in Acts : S00301 Cleopas, pupil of Jesus : S00249

Saint Name in Source

Georgius Cornelius Cleopas

Type of Evidence

Literary - Pilgrim accounts and itineraries


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa Palestine with Sinai

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

Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death


Nothing certain is known about Theodosius beyond his name, which is preserved with the title of his work in some of its manuscripts; in its present form the work lacks any kind of introduction or postscript that might shed light on him and his purpose in writing. However, as he wrote in Latin, we can safely assume that he came from the West. The only possible clue to a more precise geographical location comes in §14 (E07925), where he refers to Arianism as religio Wandalorum, 'the religion of the Vandals', which might point to his being from Africa. The date of his text can be placed with some confidence between the years 518 and 540. This is because Theodosius mentions two completed major building projects by the emperor Anastasius (r. 491-518) - a church at the site on the Jordan where John baptised Jesus (§20, see E07914), and military works at Dara (§29) - and tells us in §28 (E07934) that the praepositus Urbicius died sub Anastasio imperatore, 'under the emperor Anastasius', a phrasing that would be very strange if Anasatasius were still alive; but, at the same time, Theodosius does not mention any of the building-projects of the emperor Justinian (r. 527-565), such as his great church, the Nea, in Jerusalem, dedicated in 543. The reference to 'the religion of the Vandals' might point to a date before 534 (the fall of their kingdom in Africa). The work is held together by its interest in sites that would interest a pious Christian; but is otherwise chaotic. It opens with a number of itineraries in the Holy Land, all starting out from Jerusalem, listing the distances between places, noting why they would be of interest, and all involving several days travel (§1-5); it then moves to a listing of sites in and around Jerusalem itself (§6-11). Thereafter, and for the rest of the book (§12-32), any semblance of structure disappears: in §12-16 we are transported without warning to a seemingly random collection of distant holy places (such as the Crimea, and Memphis in Egypt); in §17-22 some sense of order briefly returns, with chapters about sites in and around Jerusalem and eastwards to the Jordan valley; but from §22 onwards it is hard to see any logic in the ordering of the chapters. Sometimes we are back in Jerusalem, but most of the time we are flitting across the east Christian world, as far afield as Ephesus and Persia. In some passages, particularly those that describe sites in Jerusalem and down into the Jordan valley, there is enough detail to show that Theodosius had almost certainly himself visited the places he describes, but this is certainly not the case in his literary forays to distant places, and much less clear in the itineraries that open the work (§1-5), which are little more than lists of places, with the distances between them and a brief reference to the biblical events that took place there. These itineraries have been studied in detail by Tsafrir (1986), who suggests that they were constructed with the help of a map specifically created for Christian pilgrims. [Tsafrir's article, though focused on the itineraries, offers an excellent introduction to Theodosius' overall text, and has very helpful maps to illustrate the itineraries.] As with all the pilgrim texts from the Holy Land, it has been difficult to decide what to include, and what to exclude from our database, focused as it is on the 'cult of saints'. We have necessarily excluded the vast number of sites associated exclusively with the life and miracles of Jesus, and have, of course, included all obvious references to cult sites of Christian saints: their graves, churches, and references to important places in their lives, such as their place of martyrdom. A problem, however, arises when our pilgrims write about sites associated with figures from the Old Testament, since in time many of these certainly acquired Christian cult, but it is generally impossible to tell whether our pilgrims regarded these figures as saints in the Christian tradition, whose power and aid they might invoke, or whether they record the holy sites associated with them through a broader and looser biblical curiosity and veneration. The compromise position we have taken with regard to these Old Testament figures is to include all references to places associated with them where our Christian writers record miraculous occurrences or where there was a church or oratory, and also all references to their graves (though with these latter there is often no explicit reference to Christian cult).


The story of the risen Christ meeting two of his followers on the road to Emmaus and then eating with them, at which point they first recognise him, is told in Luke 24: 13-34; Luke names one of the disciples as Cleopas. Theodosius goes on to say that Cleopas later suffered martyrdom - we do not know whether this tradition is shared elsewhere. This passage is important as the earliest attestation of the cult of George at Diospolis/Lydda. The Martyrdom of George is set in a geographically imprecise pagan land and says nothing about Diospolis in the large majority of its recensions (see E06147), and it is very possible that Diospolis only laid claim to his body at quite a late date. Indeed, when Paula visited Diospolis in the 380s, no mention of George features in the account of her visit, while reference is made to Paul the Apostle's healings in the town (E06491). It would, however, be a mistake to take this as incontrovertible negative evidence of the cult of George at Diospolis in the late fourth century, since in Jerome's account of Paula's travels she only ever visits biblical sites. Theodosius' evidence, with its reference to 'many wonders' (i.e. miracles) proves that George's cult was well established at Diospolis by the end of the fifth century. In the later sixth century, the Piacenza pilgrim also visited the grave, and also made reference to the many miracles occurring there (E00468). The martyr Cornelius referred to by Theodosius at Caesarea (with no explicit reference to a cult site) was the centurion converted by Peter the Apostle in Acts 10 (though, as with Cleopas, with no reference to subsequent martyrdom). The Piacenza pilgrim, when in Caesarea, visited the grave of Cornelius, as well as those of two other martyrs of the city (E00528).


Edition: Geyer, P. (ed.), Theodosii De situ terrae sanctae, in Itineraria et alia geographica (Corpus Chistianorum, series Latina 175; Turnhout: Brepols, 1965), 113-125. [A reprint of Geyer's edition for Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Wien 1898.] Translation: Wilkinson, J., Jerusalem Pilgrims before the Crusades, 2nd ed. (Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 2002), 103-116. Further reading: Tsafrir, Y., "The Maps Used by Theodosius: On the Pilgrim Maps of the Holy Land and Jerusalem in the Sixth Century C. E.",Dumbarton Oaks Papers 40 (1986), 129-145.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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