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On front cover: The Icon of St. Theotim I of Tomis
ISBN: 978-606-8001-05-0


The Christian Mission on the Romanian Territory

during the First Centuries of the Church
1600 Years since the Falling Asleep in the Lord
of Saint Theotim I of Tomis

The Acts of the International Symposium

at the Center for Studies and Historic-Religious Researches
of the European South-East Area “Holy Apostle Andrew”,
Ovidius University, 27 November, 2007

Published with the blessing

of His Eminence, † TEODOSIE,
Archbishop of Tomis

Pontica Christiana
(No 1)

Descrierea CIP a Bibliotecii Naţionale a României
(1 ; 2007 ; Constanţa)
The actes of the international symposium "The
Christian mission on the Romanian territory during the
first centuries of the Church (1600 years since the Falling
Asleep in the Lord of Saint Theotim I of Tomis)" :
Constanţa, 2009 / Center for Studies and Historic-Religious
researches of the European South-East area "Holy Apostle
Andrew”, The Archdiocese Of Tomis ; published with the
blessing of His Eminence, Teodosie, archbishop of Tomis. –
Constanţa : Editura Arhiepiscopiei Tomisului, 2009
ISBN 978-606-8001-05-0


† Teodosie, Archbishop of Tomis,


Alexandru Ioniţă, St. Theotim I of Tomis and St. John

Chrysostom. Their Attitude towards the Truth
of Faith and towards the Civil Authorities ..........................9

Aleksander Minchev, The Mosaics of the Early Christian

Church at Djanavara by Varna ..........................................18

Georgi Atanasov, Sept martyrs de Dorostol qui ont

brûlé en l’année 304 .............................................................37

Doina Benea, A Christian Rush Light from

Tibiscum ................................................................................53

Victor H. Baumann, Old Christian Testimonies

at the Danube River’s Mouths………………………....….64

Mihail Zahariade, A Historical Commentary to a

Hagiographic Text: Passio Epicteti Presbyteri
et Astionis Monachi ………………………………………..83

Dan Elefterescu, Marin Neagu, Little Crosses from

Dobruja Found in the Collections of Lower
Danube Museum ………………………………………....112

Zaharia Covacef, Tiberiu Potârniche, Christian

Symbols on the Pottery Found in the Eastern
Sector of Capidava Fortress …………………………….121

Mitrea Ioan, The First Christian Communities from

the Central Area of Moldavia ……………………….......133
Dan Elefterescu, Two Gnostic Pieces from
Durostorum …………………………………………....…145

Ileana Ildiko Zahariade, Utilizing a Flask as a Piece

for Christian Ritual ..……………………………………..153

Nechita Runcan, Saint Nicetas of Remesiana’s

Missionary Work on the Right and the Left
Side of Danube River …………………………………….160

Mihai Ovidiu Căţoi, Le christianisme au Bas-Danube à

la veille de la Grande Persécution ……………………….186

Adriana Cîteia, Inscriptions with a Dogmatic

Character in the Scythia Minor’s Epigraphy …………..216

Claudiu Cotan, The Image of the Feminine

Monasticism in the Theological Works of
Saints John Chrysostom and John Cassian …………….229

Ionuţ Holubeanu, The Death Place of the Holy Martyr

Aetherius, Bishop of Cherson (The 4th Century A.D.) …241

Florin Tuscanu, Saint John Chrysostom’s Felonion –

A Gift of Great Price of the Episcopate of Roman …….253
Pontica Christiana 7


The Christianity of the Pontic area is as old as the Christianity

itself. The dissemination of the Christian faith in this part of the
Euro-Asiatic area is connected to the names of some Apostles of
our Savior Jesus Christ – Andrew, Phillip, John or Paul. By the
agency of the first one mentioned here, the very Church from the
left water’s edge of the Pontus was founded and she started to
assert herself as an integral part of the Apostolic Christian
On the occasion of 1600 years of time elapsed since the falling
asleep in the Lord of the holy Bishop Theotim I of Tomis (c.390-
c.407), there was organized in the city of Constanta an international
Symposium under the aegis of the Center for Studies and Historic-
Religious Researches of the European South-East Area “Holy
Apostle Andrew” of the Faculty of Theology within the scope of the
University “Ovidius.” On the occasion of this scientific event, the
participants have made presentations on the different aspects of the
life of the first Pontic Christian communities. It was an appropriate
occasion, seeing that St. Theotim I was the one who, by his service,
was a liaison element between Constantinople, the left side of
Pontus and the barbarian world.
Being driven by the desire for a much better affirmation and
knowledge of the ancient vestiges and documents with regard to the
ecclesiastical life of the Pontic area, the leadership of the Research
Center mentioned above has made the decision to organize
periodically this kind of symposia. At the same time, by the
agreement of those who participated in the first edition, there was
made the decision to publish the public speeches delivered by the
participants during the symposium into a volume symbolically
titled Pontica Christiana.
On this occasion, we greet the starting of this scientific project
and wish it a long life. At the same time, we hope that the studies
published in this editorial cycle, as its fruits, will be as valuable and
as useful as possible to all who are interested in going thoroughly
into the knowledge concerning the beginnings of the Church of the
Pontic area.

With hierarchical blessings,

Teodosie, Archbishop of Tomis,

Dean of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology
The University “Ovidius” - Constanţa
Pontica Christiana 9



by Alexandru M. Ioniţă

The Dobruja’s regions, and of the Romanian southeast sides in

general, are a land loaded with history belonging to all the
centuries. A lot of worlds have met here, each one with its color
and perfume, each one with its pains and beauties.
From the golden time of the “Hamangia’s thinker”, to the
glorious times of the Daco-Getae, to the refined Hellenist world of
the colonies found on the shores of the Black Sea, to the Romans
who were all the time thirsty of conquering, to Scythian, to
Sarmatians, Turks, Tartars, and Lippovans, the entire zone of the
Romanian southeast is full of history, breathes history, and makes
It is in this fabulous realm of culture and civilization that the
marvellous cave of the first called to apostleship by our Savior
Jesus Christ – St. Andrew – are found, as well as the caves from
the Dobruja’s Keyes, and the cave of St. John Cassian. In this area
are, also, the amazing rupestral little churches from Basarabi –
Murfatlar, in these places are palpable proofs about the existence of
some great basilicas with impressive architecture: Histria, Piatra
Frecăţei, Mangalia, and Constanţa, and here, also, is found the cave
La Movile for which the Americans from NASA came quite beside
themselves to see the first place uncovered so far on the blue planet
where life was discovered in an environment without oxygen, an
environment similar to the one which is found on the Mars planet.
Less spectacular than the mountain caves – which are full of
stalactite and stalagmite – the caves of Dobruja are equally
prominent and attractive, warmer, and more favorable to the living.

TP PT Translated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă
In this land gave fruits relics of saints and confessors of Christ’s
and of the Gospel’s, among them the four martyrs from Niculiţel,
Epictet and Astion from Halmyris – Murighiol, and many others
known and unknown.
All these things are the concrete proof for this plot of land,
given by God, of being inhabited, proof of our living here and of
the growth in Christ. Let us not forget that here, in Dobruja, begins
and is developed our presence in history as an ethnic group, as
Romanians and as Christians at the same time.
Reaching the age of sixteen centuries since the passing on of
St. Theotim I, archbishop of Tomis, is a good and appropriate
occasion to be together, to dialogue and to mutually enjoy in
common ideas and feelings, as well as to mark in our history the
celebration of the great feast of St. Andrew in this current year of
salvation 2007.
We rejoice at seeing again some dear people, we are glad to be
together lovers and researchers of the historic past, we are delighted
at the presence of all of you, and hope that our communications
which are going to be presented here will bring new lights for the
revealing of the truth.

* *

“To truly remember God is tantamount to remember life;

to forget about God means to die”. Of course, we recognized the
one who uttered and lived these words: St. Theotim I, archbishop
of Tomis at the balance of the 4th-5th centuries.

A lot of memorable pages have been written about this

personality of the Christian world; among their signatories we
mention here: Rev. Prof. Dr. Ioan G. Coman, Scriitori bisericeşti
din epoca străromână (Ecclesiastical writers from the aboriginal-
Romanian epoch), Bucharest, 1979, Rev. Prof. Dr. Ioan I.
Rămureanu, Actele martirice (The martyrly acts), vol. 11 of the
collection “Părinţi şi Scriitori Bisericeşti” (“Fathers and
Pontica Christiana 11
ecclesiastical writers”), Bucharest, 1981, and Prof. Dr. Emilian
Popescu, Sfântul Theotim I de Tomis (St. Theotim I of Tomis), in the
volume “Sfinţi români şi apărători ai legii strămoşeşti” (“Romanian
saints and defenders of the ancestors’ law”), Bucharest, 1987.
Even if they are uncertain, the dates concerning the biography
of this hierarch of Tomis, who shepherded sixteen centuries ago,
places him in the second half of the 4th century and the first decade

of the next one, if we keep in mind that Blessed Hieronymus speaks

about Theotim I as about someone who wrote some works and goes
on writing, and the fact that he was an intimate of St. John
Chrysostom with whom he had cordial relationships1. TP PT

Theotim I was a man and a hierarch of deep and choice

culture, admired by his contemporaries for his life and his writings,
for the decisive intervention favoring St. John Chrysostom at
Constantinople – who was accused of embracing Origen’s heresy –
for St. John of Damascus’ excerpts taken from Theotim’s works for
his work Sacred Parallels2. TP PT

He shepherded at Tomis, an Eparchy which has marked and

has placed at intervals the road of our historic becoming in ethnic,
cultural and spiritual plan. Tomis is the oldest eparchial seat from
our current country, and it held the first role in the concert of the
Romanian Eparchies during the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I
(491-518), when its jurisdiction was advanced to the Metropolis
rank, having under its jurisdiction fourteen eparchial seats. These
things are mostly in character with those quoted in the work
Synecdemus of Hierocles, which appeared before the better known
and quoted work Notitiae Episcopatum3. TP PT

Tomis as an eparchy and through its presiding hierarchs, in this

case Theotim I, played a pre-eminent role not only in the spreading
and the strengthening of Christianity, but in the maintaining and

TP Pr. Prof. Dr. Ioan G. Coman, Scriitori bisericeşti din epoca străromână,

Bucureşti, 1979, p. 186.


3 H. Honigmann, Le synekdemos d’Hierokles et l’Opuscule geographique de

Georges de Chypre, Bruxelles, 1939, p. 13-14.
continuation of the Roman world in the ranks of the indigenous
Daco-Getan-Roman and Hellenist population of Dobruja.
Theotim I was present very often in Constantinople where we
find him in the year 400 when he participated in a synod held here,
which was presided over by St. John Chrysostom and was attended
by 22 hierarchs. In the list of those who sign the documents
Theotim I is in the first place and this speaks about the esteem and
prestige he was enjoying. We find him in the same place in the year
403 when the Council of the Oak – a locality near Chalcedon –
takes place; today both localities belong to the former imperial
capital. There, in the prefect Rufin’s palace, St. Theotim I defended
the Constantinopolitan patriarch with warmth and courage, against
the accusation that he was favoring the monks who were embracing
Origen’s heresy, and who were banished from Egypt, as well as
from other aberrant accusations and intrigues woven to please the
Empress Eudoxia – the one who became the intransigent enemy of
the great minister of the Church and of the neighbors who was St.
Chrysostom, after having been a respectful admirer of his. Even if
Theotim I knew that the Emperor Arcadius, and his wife Eudoxia,
has already ruled against the Constantinopolitan hierarch, he has
not take into account anything but the truth and the love for God
which, as we know, and point it out, also, on this occasion, to
emphasize that the love for God is always fulfilled only through the
love for the neighbors. He defended with dignity the unchangeable
and referential values of our bodily living as an earnest deposit of
attaining to the state and level of consummation.
“I, Epiphanius, do not want to scorn the one who long ago fell
asleep in a beautiful manner, we talk about Origen, our note,
admired by St. John Chrysostom, who received the four Long
Brothers banished by Theophilus from Egypt, and do not dare to
carry out a blasphemy by condemning things which have not been
removed by our forebears”4. We do not believe that Theotim I was

***Actele martirice, Introductory study, translation, remarks and commentaries

by Pr. Prof. Ioan Rămureanu, in coll. “Părinţi şi Scriitori Bisericeşti”, Bucureşti,

1989, p. 349.
Pontica Christiana 13
the only one of all the opponents; however, the acts of the synod
quote only him, the one who was listened to as long as it was
coming from a “man very bright through his devotion and the
holiness of his life”.
Saint Theotim I has not disarmed neither has he fled while
having to face the migratory Huns, “a tribe more brutal than any
savage beast”5, and defended his shepherded ones through

kindness, through diplomacy and through wonder working. Despite

the fact that the Huns were wild by nature, he reasoned them out of
savagery to gentleness, by receiving them hospitably and offering
them gifts6. Theotim I even carried on a missionary activity among

them, and to this end he enjoyed the precious help given by St. John
Chrysostom; it is this activity that Blessed Hieronymus makes a
report on while he expresses himself in these terms: “The Huns
learn the Psalter, and the Scythia’s colds are warmed up by the
warmth of the faith”7. The Huns have admired and respected him,

and have not been shy to call him “the Romans’ god” for his
virtues8. TP PT

Through St. Theotim I, venerated and respected from the very

beginning on the days of twentieth of the month of April, the
Romanian Orthodoxy, the beginnings of which are closely and
fundamentally related to the places inhabited by us, revealed herself
in front of history, of culture, and of Christian civilization as loving
the truth and righteousness by defending the brightest hierarch of
the Byzantine Emperors’ capital.

* *

TP***Fontes Historiae Daco-romane, vol. II (De la anul 300 până la anul 1000),

Published by Haralambie Mihăescu, Gheorghe Ştefan, Radu Hâncu, Vladimir

Iliescu and Virgil C. Popescu, Bucureşti, 1970, p. 427.
TP***Sfinţi români şi apăratori ai legii strămoşeşti, Bucureşti, 1987, p. 167.

TP***Actele martirice..., p. 347.

TP***Fontes Historiae..., p. 427.
The son of the excellent mother Anthusa and of the
distinguished Secundus, the illustrious pupil of Libanius, and the
choicest disciple of his Christian professors and of the ascetics of
Antioch and of Syria, the incomparable priest and bishop who was
John Chrysostom is quite known, and the multitude of pages
dedicated to him persuade us not to insist on his biography.
However, for our communication it is necessary to emphasize that
St. John Chrysostom was in the time in which he spent his life the
best one of what the Church had at the time, the best one of what
the world had at that time. Driven by his qualities, he was
electrifying the multitudes and was drawing them to him, was
filling the churches, was building spiritually, was attesting and
illustrating in an admirable manner the presence of the Christian in
the world. As a priest in Antioch and as a bishop in Constantinople,
St. John Chrysostom – decisive and very conscious of his mission –
brought to a stop the habitual march of the time, and turned it to the
Gospel. He dominated spiritually the people of his time; he raised
himself well above their standards, and placed on them the seal of a
personality controlled by strength and a morally sovereign value.
Even if he is well above his epoch, St. John Chrysostom remains,
however, one of its men. The principles and the very mission of his
life were truly coming from Christ; but he was interpreting them,
was applying them, and was living them in Antioch and in
Constantinople during the reigning years of Theodosius I the Great
(379-395), and Arcadius (395-408), among the ideas and the men
of his time, good and bad, friends and adversaries, under situations
and conditions which were especially belonging to his epoch.
The imperial Byzantine court was decisive for the destiny of
St. John Chrysostom as a shepherd of souls. As the supreme
authority of the state and, through this, as the element that was
generating the atmosphere in which the hierarch of the capital was
working, the imperial Court was the one which brought about both
his glory and his downfall: it raised the Antiochian priest on the
highest See of the Orient and, after that, it gave him a push from the
peak of glory and of the dignity to the misery of exile and to an
untimely death.
Pontica Christiana 15
The Empress Aelia Eudoxia was for a while very close to St.
John Chrysostom, by participating in the processions organized by
him, displaying faith and humility, even going long distances on
foot, and displaying a great magnanimity towards the Church. Yet,
being ambitious and poorly advised, she carried out some
scandalous deeds for which it was a normal thing not to have the
approval of the hierarch. Despite his kindness and gentleness, St.
John Chrysostom proved himself to be adamantly opposed to the
sins which were destructive to the souls and were yielding social
suffering, sins which were committed by the Byzantine imperial
As the great defender of Christianity, and censor of the
superstitions and of immorality, St. John Chrysostom could not
have been convenient to the followers of the heathenism either; a
heathenism which was still influent and strong, despite the fact that
it was dying. By eulogizing the Christendom while comparing it
with heathendom, he brought about pain to the followers of the
latter one much more than the imperial laws promulgated against
If we add to these things, also, the dissatisfaction of the
Alexandrian hierarchs as far as the advancement of Constantinople
to the rank of first See of the Orient and equal to Rome is
concerned – through the Second Ecumenical Synod’s canons
(Constantinople, 381) – the things become much more delicate for
the one who had the courage to criticize kingly sins.
St. John Chrysostom was not a courtier bishop as,
unfortunately, were a lot in his time; suffice it to mention
Theophilus of Alexandria and Epiphanius of Salamina. Despite his
talent and his worth, St. John Chrysostom was not gifted with
political manners and he was not obliging, complaisant. He did not
know anything beyond the right and the duty. Had he not loved so
much his shepherded ones, whom he spared from arrests and from
every kind of persecutions at the cost of his quietness, and even at
the price of his life, St. John Chrysostom could have quaked the
imperial Court and the capital, maybe even the Empire.
By taking advantage of the weakness as well as of the
continuous nonage of the Emperor Arcadius and full of confidence
in his power and influence over him, the Goth general Gainas asked
for an Orthodox church to be given to his Arian fellows. It was only
a matter of time. St. John Chrysostom had to intervene and to stress
that the Arians have their church outside of the walls of the Capital.
Against Gainas’ complaint – that a Roman general who
brought so many services to the Empire cannot be forced to look
for God outside of the city – St. John Chrysostom had to remember
the barbarian – without sparing his haughtiness and without being
afraid of his power – how much he is indebted to the Empire which
raised him from the status of a simple man to the one of a high
official. The result was that the general Gainas and his ilk have
respected him as a saint and for no one else of the Empire they have
displayed so much consideration!
The one hated by the Empress Eudoxia and by the Alexandrian
hierarch, Theophilus, the one who was condemned by a passionate
synod and by a weak Emperor – St. John Chrysostom – was
encouraged and defended by the faithful people whose warmth and
affection he felt during the days of his anxieties and suffering. He
was deeply convinced that he and his faithful are a single body and
he was not deluding himself when he was stating that nothing can
separate him from them9. TP PT

They preserved their love for him in exile and beyond death;
they suffered for him from the state authorities as well as from his
successors who have not forgot him and have not given up.
However, some of his successors demanded strongly to have his
name registered again in the dyptichs and to have his bones brought
to Constantinople until they succeeded in doing that. In the year
438, at the command of Theodosius II, the son of Arcadius and of
Eudoxia, the body of the Great and Holy Hierarch who was grossly

TPProf. Teodor Popescu, Epoca Sfântului Ioan Gură de Aur, in “Ortodoxia”, IX

(1957), nr. 4, p. 533; Pr. Prof. Ene Branişte, Sfinţii Trei Ierarhi în cultul creştin,
in “Biserica Ortodoxă Română,” LXXVI (1958), nr. 1-2, p. 180.
Pontica Christiana 17
wronged was brought back to Capital – an event which is written
down in the calendar, also.
They retrieved forever his name, his rights and his honor while
raising their voices – in the very imperial church of the Holy
Apostles from Constantinople where Arcadius and Eudoxia are
interred, while facing the bones of the Hierarch and placing them in
the place where they belonged, in remembrance of him – at that
very moment they were raising their voices, saying: “Father, take
back your throne!”.



- rezumat -

Sfântul Theotim I, arhiepiscop al Tomsiului, şi Sf. Ioan Gură

de Aur, patriarhul Constantinopolului – au fost doi mari ierarhi ai
Bisericii drept măritoare şi propovăduitori ai Evangheliei, doi
apărători de excepţie ai autonomiei Bisericii.
S-au cunoscut şi s-au respectat. Ierarhul de Tomis l-a apărat cu
căldură şi curaj pe patriarhul constantinopolitan de aberantele
acuzaţii şi intrigi ţesute de Teofil al Alexandriei şi l-a curtea
Deşi nu credem să fi fost singurul, actele sinodului de la Stejar
(403) îl citează doar pe Theotim I, al cărui cuvânt era ascultat de
vreme ce venea de la un „bărbat strălucit prin cucernicia şi sfinţenia
vieţii sale”.



by Aleksander Minchev
(Bulgaria - Varna)

In the years 1915 and 1919, the eminent Bulgarian

archaeologist Hermin Shkorpil excavated south of Varna a very
interesting Early Christian church with mosaic floors1. It is situated

at a relatively distant site called “Djanavara”, located beyond the

Varna Lake, ca 4 km away of the ancient city of Odessos (fig. 1). A
unique set of three Early Christian reliquaries made of marble,
silver and gold discovered by him in a crypt beneath the church
altar, made this site very popular among the scholarly world2. TP PT

Unfortunately due to the unexpected death of H. Shkorpil soon

after the excavation was completed, the results remained
unpublished. There is no documentation left behind except a quite
popular description, part of a general museum report3. A not very TP PT

precisely made plan of the church was later published by V.

Ivanova in her profound study of the Christian churches and
monasteries in Bulgaria. In her publication she gave a very short

TPH. Shkorpil, K. Shkorpil, Twenty Years of Activity of the Varna Archaeological

Society, „Izvestiya na Varnenskoto arheologichesko druzhestvo”, Varna, VII,

1921, p. 59-61; R. F. Hoddinott, Early Byzantine Churches in Macedonia and
South Serbia, London, 1963, p. 219; Al. Mintschev (=Al. Minchev), Das frühe
Christentum in Odessos und seinem Territorium, in W. Shuller (Hrsg.), Die
bulgarische Schwarzmeerküste im Altertum (= Xenia XVI), Konstanz, 1985, p.
57-58; St. Doncheva, The Church at Djanavara Site: [Architectural]
Composition and Parallels, in “The Black Sea between East and West” (in
Bulg.), (ed. M. Lazarov), Varna, 2003, p. 126-133 and bibl.
TP H. Buschhausen, Die spätrömischen Metallscrinia und frühchristlichen

Reliquiare (=Wiener byzantinisch Studien, IX), Wien, 1971, p. 263-265, No C-1,

pl. C 1-3; Age of Spirituality. Catalogue of Exhibition (ed. K. Wetzmann), New
York, 1979, p. 631-632, No 569; Al. Minchev, Early Christian Reliquaries from
Bulgaria (4th- 6th century A.D.), Varna, 2003, p. 15-18, Nos. 1-3 and bibl.

TPH. Shkorpil, K. Shkorpil, op.cit., p. 59-61.
Pontica Christiana 19
th th
description and dated it to 4 -5 century A.D., according to

personal information submitted by K. Shkorpil. The mosaic

pavements found in three of the church premises were only
mentioned with no details given at all. There was also a promise for
a forthcoming general publication of the church and all finds in it,
prepared by him, which has never happened4. TP PT

Fig. 1 - Map of Northeastern Bulgaria showing the main

Early Byzantine cities and strongholds of the region

TPV. Ivanova, Ancient Churches and Monasteries in Bulgaria (4th c. A.D. -14th

century) (in Bulg.), in “Godishnik na Narodniya muzey (Yearbook of the

National Museum)”, Sofia, IV, 1922-1925, p. 460-461.
The few available general photos of the church taken during the
excavation do not provide more information either because they did
not show the pavements in details. Nevertheless, due to the
publication of V. Ivanova and because of its unusual planning and
structure, the church has been mentioned permanently ever since
1925 in various publications on Early Christian architecture and art
in both Bulgaria and abroad5. TP PT

Between 1997 and 2007, the author of this article re-excavated

the church including the three premises with mosaic pavements
discovered by H. Shkorpil, which were later deliberately covered
by soil never seen after. Apart from undertaking some in situ
conservation of the mosaics, another aim of the research was to
obtain up-to date information about the plan of the church, its
construction and dating, as well as taking general and detailed
photos of the mosaics of which design nothing was known before6. TP PT

The Djanavara church has a very unusual plan (fig. 2). It is a

single-nave edifice with four rectangular two-storied premises
projecting north and south of it, which served as defense towers as
well. It has also a short narthex and a colonnaded atrium, partially
preserved at the time of Shkorpil’s excavation, but now covered by
a fifty years - old forest and thus impossible to be cleared up again.
The church itself measures 31 by 28 m and has very thick walls
built in opus mixtum.
The most attractive architectural part is the semicircular apse,
which is not projecting out of the church as it is typical for all other
churches on the Balkans. On the contrary, it is but incorporated
within its solid made and very wide east wall – i.e. the apse became
part of the presbytery. The presbytery itself has had a marble

TPR. F. Hoddinott, op.cit., p. 219, fig. 148; A. L. Jacobson, About the Periods of

the Mediaeval Architecture in Bulgaria (5th-6th c. A.D.) (in Russ.), in “Kratkiye


soobshcheniya Instituta arkheologii”, 172, Moscow, 1984, p. 47-50; N. Chaneva-

Dechevska, Early Christian Architecture in Bulgaria 4th-6th c. A.D. (in Bulg.),

Sofia, 1999, p. 175-176, etc.

TPAl. Minchev, Two Mosaics with Eastern Motifs in the Region of Varna, in “The

Christian Idea in the European History and Culture” (ed. D. Ovcharov), Varna,
2001, p. 44-54.
Pontica Christiana 21
chancel screen and there are also traces of a marble plated floor in.
The base of a large marble ambo was found by H. Shkorpil in situ
west of the chancel, which of only a little fragment is still available.

Fig. 2 - Plan of the Djanavara Early Christian church with the location
of the discovered mosaic floors
Two identical spaces of circular plan with spiral-shaped
staircases inside were also incorporated within the eastern wall, on
both sides of the altar. They have access to the projecting east side
rooms and consequently to the sanctuary. Their staircases led to the
second floor of the church where the defense tower-spaces were
situated (fig. 3). In the structure of the apse there existed a three-
step synthronon, which speaks in favor of the possibility that this
church served as an Episcopal one for a certain Early Christian
community or congregation in this area)7. TP PT

The church was allegedly part of a much larger complex, most

probably a monastery. This suggestion was proved by the recent
excavation on the site outside of the church where remains of
additional structures were traced. They have been adjoined at a later
stage East, West and possibly North of the main building8. TP PT

Mosaic pavements executed in opus vermiculatum covered the

floors of only three of the four projecting spaces, namely the two
southern ones and the northeastern one while the nave and the forth
one, used as a baptistery with built-in cross-shaped baptismal font
have had most probably marble paving9. The mosaic decoration

was paved over a solid made stone-and-mortar base of 0.40 m

thickness, which is almost double in height to most other Early
Christian mosaics of the time. The tesserae used for the purpose
were of various colours. They have been cut-out of marble, (the
white and light grey ones) limestone (white and light beige), gneiss
(dark green) and terracotta (yellow and red). Their size varied from
0.8 x 0.8 to 1 x 1 cm. This multi-coloured material offered
possibility for applying interesting combination of patterns and
design compositions on the church floor of side rooms.
A few tesserae made of stone and glass, which differ in size and
material from the ones used in the floor pavements were found in
the debris over the floor of the nave and at the southern premises.

TPIbidem, p. 53-54 and the discussion there.

TPAl Minchev, Salvage Excavation of the Early Christian Church at Djanavara

Locality by Varna (in Bulg.), in “Arkheologicheski otkritiya i razkopki

(Archaeological Discoveries and Excavations) - 2007”, Sofia, 2008, p. 502-503.
TPIdem, Two Mosaics …, p. 47-54, figs. 5-11.
Pontica Christiana 23
They are much smaller (from 0.3 x 0.4 to 0.6 x 0.6 cm) and some of
them are made of coloured glass, which suggested that within the
edifice there were also some wall mosaics.

Fig. 3 - Recent situation and possible reconstruction

of the Djanavara church

Small plaster fragments painted in various colours (blue,

green, yellow and red) and a few specially shaped thin marble
plaques of Proconesian marble and green granite were also
discovered during the excavation of H. Shkorpil. They evidenced
for the existence of wall paintings or at least of painted walls and
opus sectile mosaics in the church too.

Fig. 4 - General design of the mosaic at the Northeastern room

The floors of all three premises with mosaic pavements are

showing various designs and use of tesserae of different colours.
Most probably, the mosaics were executed simultaneously by at
least two masters or groups of artisans, which used different
patterns when decorating the room floors.
The Northeastern projecting room is rectangular in shape (7.60
x 5.70 m) and its floor was discovered during the recent excavation
partially damaged by later intrusions. It has an ordinary in design
main mosaic panel, surrounded by a very sophisticated and
picturesque borders (fig. 4).The general decoration of its large
central panel consists of simple orthogonal pattern executed in
Pontica Christiana 25
white, green, yellow and red. It was outlined by a narrow cable
motif and framed by an wide border with elaborate design. The
entire border is covered by intersecting lozenges in elliptic- and
heart shapes with a lot of vine leafs and large grapes. They emerge
out of acanthus-shaped “baskets” depicted in three of the corners
(fig. 5). The grapes on the lozenges are doted in the centre (fig. 6),
which is an unusual way of depicting such motif on the Balkans10. I TP PT

could not trace in Bulgaria any other mosaic pattern identical to this
one. The only similar in design images of lozenges and dotted
grapes but executed in quite a different way are depicted on the
mosaic pavement of basilica No 2 of late 4th – early 5th century P P P P

A.D. excavated at the ancient city of Nicopolis ad Nestum by

Garmen, Distict of Blagoevgrad11. TP PT

On the other hand, much closer in design are several mosaics

in Israel. The intersecting lozenges (scrolls) with dotted grapes at
the early Byzantine Monastery of “St. Martyrius” in Ma’ale
Adumim of first half of 6th c. A.D. are very similar in their way of

execution to the one at Djanavara church12, as well as those at “St.


Stephen’s” basilica in Horvat Beer – Shema of late 6th c. A.D.13. P P TP PT

Similar scheme of intersecting lozenges in oval- or heart-shape are

typical decoration of Early Byzantine mosaics in the Near East in
general: in Tunis14, Jordan15, etc.

The same goes for the acanthus baskets and vine leafs, which
are depicted at Djanavara mosaic in two colours, divided by their
length. Similar in shape baskets or vessels, which are formed by
acanthus leafs of the same type as at Djanavara church were
depicted at several basilicas: at Beth Shean (ancient Scythopolis) in

TP Ibidem, p. 48-51, figs. 5-7 and discussion.

TP V. Popova-Moroz, 24 Ancient Mosaics from Bulgaria (in Bulg.), Sofia, 1987,

p. 46, fig. 21.

TP Y. Magen, The Monastery of St. Martyrius at Ma’ale Adumim, in “Ancient

Churches Revealed” (ed. Y. Tsafrir), Jerusalem, 1993, p. 173, pl. XI/a.

TP D. Gazit, Y. Lender, The Church of St. Stephen at Horvat Beer-Shema, in

“Anc. Chs. Rev.”, p. 274-275, figs. 1-3.

TP M. Gough, The Origins of Christian Art, London, 1973, p. 166, fig. 161.

TP M. Picirillo, The Mosaics of Jordan, Amman, 1993, p. 144, fig. 425.
Israel16, at Sabratha in Jordan17, both of them dated to the first half

of 6th century A.D. This is a serious reason to believe that


mosaicists of Eastern origin (maybe of a Syro-Palestinian one?)

were involved in completion of this particular mosaic floor of the
Early Christian church at Djanavara.
The shape of the Southeastern projecting room of the church is
also rectangular and of same dimensions as the Northeastern one
(7.60 x 5.70 m). Here the central panel pavement has a more simple
decoration (fig. 7). It consists of quatrefoils, formed by intersecting
circles (fig. 8). The mosaic is outlined by stair-shaped triangles
followed by wide border along the walls decorated by multi-
coloured ivy tendrils on white background18. Tesserae of the same TP PT

colours as those in the Northeastern room were used in this one too.
In the mosaic border the ivy leafs are also often depicted
divided by their length and sometime using two different colours,
usually green and red. In the border band along the South wall of
the room, there are also two chalices (or stemmed glasses) with
wine, depicted among the ivy twigs (fig. 9).
This might be an indication about this room being connected to
some Eucharistic rites practiced there. The representation of the ivy
leafs divided in two sections is not typical for the Balkan region,
but they are seen more often in the East. Both main patterns – the
octagonal one of the large panel and the ivy tendrils are widely
used in mosaic pavements of 5th-6th century A.D. in Bulgaria and

abroad and there is no need to list them here19. On the other hand, TP PT

chalices are scarcely represented on Early Christian floor mosaics. I

can point out for instance to a pair depicted in the main mosaic
panel of the 6th century A.D. church annex at Zipari, on the Island

of Kos in Greece20. TP PT

TP C. M. Dauphine, A Note of Laying Early Byzantine Mosaics in the light of

Inhabited Scrolls, in “Levant”, VIII (1976), p. 156, fig. 1.

TP Gough, op.cit., p. 166, fig. 161.

TP Al. Minchev, op.cit., p. 50-51, figs. 8-9.

TP Ibidem, p. 52 and bibl.

TP D. Parrish, An early Byzantine Mosaic Workshop Based on Cos: Architectural

Context and Pavement Design, in “Antiquitè tardive”, 9, 2001, p. 339, fig. 11.
Pontica Christiana 27

Fig. 5 - Detail of the mosaic border showing

the acanthus-shaped “vase” with lozenges

Fig. 6 - Detail of the mosaic border, showing intersecting lozenges

and grapes
Pontica Christiana 29
The Southwestern projecting room at Djanavara is almost
square in shape (6. 40 by 6. 10 m). Its floor is covered by mosaic
pavement of a simple but quite attractive polychrome design
(fig.10). The large square central panel shows a large square in
shape and colourfull chessboard pattern (fig. 11). The ancient
master used gneiss, limestone and terracotta tesserae of larger
dimensions (from 1 x 1 to 1.2 x 1.2 cm), carefully arranging them
on the panel in following diagonal rows of squares in red, green,
yellow and white. A narrow border of red and white triangles
outlined it all around. The room has an outer and much wider
border of ivy leaf tendrils executed in yellow, green and red on
white background (fig. 12), which made the entire decoration even
more picturesque21. TP PT

Both the patterns of the border and the central panel are quite
popular mosaic motifs in the Roman and Late Roman/ Early
Byzantine mosaics. They were found in many secular and religious
buildings. The chessboard pattern appears in several variations
since 1st century A.D. onwards up to 6th century A.D.22. I shall

mention just some of the chessboard patterns of Late Antiquity

excavated in Bulgaria: in a building at Djambaz tepe in Plovdiv of
4th-5th century A.D. and in a private residential house of the same

date at Stara Zagora – ancient Augusta Trajana23, in the basilica of


5th-6th century A.D. at Partizanska Street in Sandanski24, etc.


The chessboard patterns were widely used on floor pavements

during Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods. They appeared on

TP Al. Minchev, op.cit., p. 52-53, figs. 10-11.

TP J. Meder, Ranocršćanski mozaici na istočnom Jadranu, in “Ranocršćanski

mozaici u Jugoslaviji” (ed. L. Plesničar), Bitolj, 1980, p. 120, No. 1; H. Mitsuro,

Mosaics, in “Preliminary Report on Excavation of a Villa Romana at Cazzanello,
Tarquinia, Italy” (eds. M. Takano, S. Matsuyama), Tokyo, 1995 (= Annual
Report of the Institute of Cultural Exchange, 11, 1995), p. 106-109 and bibl.
TP Chr. Koranda, Geometrische Gliederungsschemata früchristlicher Mosaiken

Bulgariens, in “Jahreseheften des Österreichischen Archäologischen Institutes”,

Wien, 1991-1992, p. 86.
TP D. Stoyanova-Serafimova, Die früchristliche basilica in der Ul. Partizanska /

Sandanski, in “Mitteilungen zur christliche Archäologie”, Wien, 2000, p. 13-14,

fig. 5.
pavements edifices of various purposes and all around the Empire.
This statement has been proved by excavated mosaics in Greece: at
“Oluntos” basilica on the Island of Crete (end of 5th century P P

A.D.)25; at a private house on Olympiados Str. in Thessalonica of


late 4th – early 5th century A.D.26; in Italy: at the late 5th-eraly 6th

century A.D. basilica of St Apostles in Ravenna27 and at the Parma TP PT

cathedral of late 4th-5th century A.D.28; in Croatia: at the 6th century


A.D. basilica by Rab and at a villa urbana by Solin of 5th century P P

A.D.29. The chessboard pattern is available at Christian churches


also in France and throughout the Near East30. TP PT

If we consider the dating of most mosaic parallels mentioned

above and especially the most significant Eastern ones referring to
the mosaic in the Northeastern room, the mosaic pavement and the
Djanavara church itself should be dated to the first half of 6th P P

century A.D.
The entire floor pavement was made obviously after a
carefully and of fully consideration premeditated plan. The
execution quality of all mosaic floors as well as that of the inner
marble decoration evidenced for a sophisticated and expensive
project, which was fulfilled in a short period. Combined with the
lavishly made marble architectural stones and the painted wall
decoration inside the building, it is becomes clear, that this Early

TP St. Pelekanidis, P. Atzaka, Corpus mosaicorum Christianorum vetustiorum

pavimentorum Graecorum (in Greek). Thessaloniki, 1974, p. 115, No. 96, pl. 86.
TP P. Asimakopoulou-Atzaka (=Π. Ασηµακοπούλου-Ατζακά), Σύνταγµα των

παλαιοχριστιανικών ψηφιδωτών δαπέδων της Eλλάδος, ΙΙΙ (Μακεδονία-Θράκη). T T T T T

1. Τα ψηιδοτα δάπεδα της Θεσσαλονίκης, Thessaloniki, 1998, p. 248-249, No.


2.26, pl. 153d.

TP G. P. Galliet, L’evergetisme monumental Chrétien en Italie et à ses marges,

Paris, 1993, p. 43-47, pl. 34.

TP Ibidem, p. 55-58, pl. 45b.

TP J. Meder, op.cit., p. 12, fig. 1.

TP L. Balmelle et al., Le décor géometrique de la mosaïque romaine, Paris, 1985,

p. 172-173, pl. 114e; R. Ovadiah, A. Ovadiah, Hellenistic, Roman and early

Byzantine Mosaic Pavements in Israel, Roma, 1987, p. 77, No 111, pl. XCIII/3;
and bibl.
Pontica Christiana 31
Christian temple was one of the most impressive spiritual edifices
of its time in the environs of Odessos.

Fig. 7 - General design of the mosaic in the Southeastern room

The influence from the Oriental world to the general concept

of some of the Djanavara mosaic floors is clearly visible. They are
quite different to the value and basic elements of the Graeco-
Roman mosaic heritage traced in the region. There are some
important data like some motifs and way of execution of some
pavements, which help to assume that some artisans of Eastern
origin specialized in mosaic paving, completed its simple in general
but rather multiform floor decoration. They have arrived in Odessos
most probably from Syria, which was the main source for
immigrants to the city in the Early Byzantine period, quite a few of
them being followers of the monophysite doctrine. A large Syrian
religious community existed in the ancient city during 5th and 6th P P P P
century A.D., which has been confirmed by numerous grave
inscriptions of the same date. Some of them belonged to rich
families of merchants and ship-owners, while other ones mentioned
the presence of Christian priests of Eastern origin31. TP PT

Fig. 8 - Detail of the large mosaic panel showing intersecting circles

and rosettes

It is quite possible that namely this remote but no so distant

from the city of Odessos hilly area, offering an wonderful overview
to the Black Sea coast and Varna Lake, was chosen by members of
a monophysitic congregation for erecting of their large and unusual
in plan church. It is well known that at certain periods they were
persecuted by the official Church and therefore a hidden in the hills

TP Al. Minčev (=Al. Minchev), Die westliche Schwarzmeerküste und der Osten in

der Spätantike, in R. Pillinger (Hrsg.), Spätantike und frühbyzantinische Kultur

Bulgariens zwischen Orient und Okzident, Wien, 1986, p. 105-113 and bibl.
TP Idem, Das frühe Christentum…, p. 58; N. Chaneva-Dechevska, op.cit., p. 175-

176 and the discussion there.

Pontica Christiana 33
and forests place for praying was considered as a precaution for
some possible turbulent times to come in the future. Maybe the
church at Djanavara, which is so different from all other Christian
temples on the Balkans32, was designed according to the specific

rites used in their religious services, not very popular among the
other city congregations. The financial possibilities of the founders
or sponsors of this building and of the community in general
allowed inviting artisans and mosaicists from their land (or area), of
origin. This was done in order to have a lavishly decorated
Christian temple for their local fellow-believers, of which they all
would be proud.

Fig. 9 - Detail of the mosaic border showing ivy tendrils and a chalice

The reason about erecting the church at Djanavara site must

have been the continuous tide connections of the citizens of
Odessos and to some extend of the surrounding region with a
number of Early Christian centres and communities in Asia Minor
and the Near East. These were the areas where from, some queer
religious beliefs, a lot of artistic inspiration and new art trends were
introduced to this Western Black Sea coastal city and its vicinity.
The newcomers from the East left behind a strong impact on the
rather poor local traditions in mosaic art and enriched it in ideas of
composition, motifs and techniques used. Odessos and its artisans
were the transmission, which transferred some peculiar and rather
sophisticated mosaic designs to other towns and areas in the North-
Eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula.

Fig. 10 - General design of the mosaic in the Southwestern room

Pontica Christiana 35

Fig. 11 - Detail of the large mosaic panel showing chessboard squares

Fig. 12 - Detail of the mosaic, showing the chessboard pattern

and ivy tendrils of the border



- rezumat -

În vecinătatea cetăţii Odessos (azi Varna), la locul numit

Djanavara (fig. 1), au fost descoperite ruinele unei bazilici
paleocreştine. În trei dintre încăperile anexe ale edificiului (fig. 2),
pavimentul este acoperit cu mozaicuri. Deşi bazilica a fost excavată
pentru prima dată la începutul secolului al XX-lea, studiul de faţă
este primul în care sunt prezentate şi analizate mozaicurile de la
Mozaicurile bazilicii sunt executate în tehnica opus
vermiculatum. La executarea lor meşterii mozaicari s-au folosit de
un material multicolor. Sunt reprezentate motive vegetale – viţa de
vie cu ciorchini de struguri, mlădiţe de iederă cu frunze –, potirul,
inima şi diferite combinaţii geometrice (fig. 4-12). Pentru unele
dintre ele, cum ar fi ciorchinele de strugure sau potirul cu vin,
simbolistica creştină este evidentă.
Caracteristicile motivelor ornamentale realizate, precum şi
modul de execuţie al mozaicurilor au condus la concluzia că ele
sunt opera unor meşteri veniţi din Orient, cel mai probabil din Siria.
Se pare că ele au fost executate simultan de cel puţin doi meşteri
sau echipe de meşteri mozaicari.
Bazilica paleocreştină de la Djanavara (fig. 3) este datată în
prima jumătate a secolului al VI-lea d.Hr. Ea făcea parte dintr-un
complex eclesiastic mai vast, probabil o mânăstire. Este posibil să
fi aparţinut membrilor unei comunităţi monofizite.
Pontica Christiana 37

by Georgi Atanasov
(Bulgarie – Silistra)

Sous l’influence de son gendre Galerii, au début de l’an 304,

l’empereur Dioclétien (284 – 305) fait éditer le quatrième et le plus
radical édit contre les chrétiens, dans lequel est prononcée la peine
de mort pour ceux qui ne voudraient pas renoncer à leur foi33. Ni TP PT

avant, ni après cela, les chrétiens dans l’Empire romain ne sont pas
persécutés avec tant de cruauté, n’ont pas supporté tant de
souffrances et n’ont pas donné tant de victimes. Une pareille
tragédie a eu lieu aussi dans les communes basses chrétiennes dans
les provinces Scythie et Seconde Mysie, de laquelle témoignent
assez de sources agiographiques34. À côté des autres informations,

c’est un témoignage indirect du fait qu’ici l’histoire du

christianisme est plus ancienne. Son début ne peut pas être encore
précisé mais probablement dans les territoires du Bas-Danube et
plus spécialement à Durostorum, la théorie et la pratique
chrétiennes pénètrent dès la deuxième moitié du III-e s. Il paraît que
cela se réalise par l’intermédiaire des marchands et surtout des
soldats de l’Orient, au service militaire dans la XI-e légion Claudia

TP E. Stein, Histoire du Bas-Empire, t. 1. De l’Etat romain à l’Etat byzantin (284

– 476), Paris, 1959, p. 80 – 81; A. H. M. Jones, The later Roman Empire 284 –
602, Oxford, 1964, p. 71-82; M. Velkov (М. Поснов), История на
християнската църква, І, Sofia, 1993, с. 135–137.
TP J. Zeiller, Les origines chrétiennes dans les provinces danubiennes de l’Empire

romain, Paris, 1918, p. 28-30, 165-166; Н. Delehaye, Saints de Thrace et de

Mésie, Bruxelles, 1912, p. 265-268; Idem, Les origines du culte des martyres,
Bruxelles, 1933, p. 248-249; Em. Popescu, Martiri şi sfinţi în Dobrogea (II),
« Studii Teologice », XLI (1989), 4, p. 72-75; I. Rămureanu, Actele martirice, ,
Étude introductif, traduction, notes et commentaires par ..., coll. « Părinţi şi
Scriitori Bisericeşti », vol. 11, Bucureşti, 1982, р. 241-255.
qui y campait vers les années 105-10635. D’ailleurs, on a déjà prêté

attention au fait que dès les II-III s. les cultes orientaux

commencent à devenir populaires dans ces régions, respectivement
à Durostorum36. Spécialement parmi les soldats de la XI-e légion

Claudia c’est le culte vers le dieu Mitra qui jouit d’un bon accueil.
Dans ce sens, il n’existe pas d’obstacles insurmontables pour les
chrétiens de l’Orient de circuler et de diffuser leurs idées en
Dobroudja ainsi qu’à Durostorum. Il y a même des sources écrites
catégoriques et surtout des monuments épigraphiques concernant
les vagues périodiques d’émigrés de Syrie et d’Asie Mineure vers
le littoral de la Mer Noire et des villes du Bas-Danube37. Dans cette

liaison, on peut précisément affirmer que lors des grandes

persécutions des chrétiens dans les provinces de l’Orient, pendant
la deuxième moitié du III-e s., une grande partie d’entre eux
émigrent dans les territoires du Bas-Danube. À ce sujet, on cite un
panégyrique de 296, en l’honneur de Constance Chlore où l’on
soutient que le désert de la Thrace (pendant cette période
Dobroudja se trouve dans le diocèse de Thrace et elle est faiblement

TP R. Ivanov, G. Atanasov, P. Donevski (Р. Иванов, Г. Атанасов, П. Доневски),

История на Силистра, t. 1., Античният Дуросторум (History of Silistra, I-st

Volume, The Ancient Durostorum), Silistra-Sofia, 2006, p. 77-98, 166-185.
TP K. Patch, Durostorum, « Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen

Altertumswissenschaft » (=RE), V, 1905, s. 1863-1864; Ia. Todorov (Я.

Тодоров), Durostorum. Принос към античната история на Силистра, Sofia,
1927, p. 8 сл.; D. M. Pippidi. Scythica Minora. Recherches sur les colonies
grecques du littoral roumain de la mer Noire, Bucureşti-Amsterdam, 1975, p.
281-297; M. Taceva-Hitova (М. Тачева-Хитова), История на източните
култове в Долна Мизия и Тракия (V в. пр.н.е. – ІV в. от н.е.), Sofia, 1982, p.
TP V. Velkov (В. Велков), Градът в Тракия и Дакия през Късната

античност (ІV-VІв.), Sofia, 1959, p. 236; История на Добруджа, t. 1, Sofia,

1984, с. 145, 150–151; A. Mincev (А. Минчев), Ранното християнство в
Одесос и околностите му, «Известия на Народния музей - Варна », 22 (37),
1986, p. 31; A. Suceveanu, A. Barnea, La Dobroudja Romaine, Bucarest, 1991,
p. 243 – 245; Sur les influences architectorales syriennes a Dobrodja: R. Vulpe, I.
Barnea, Din istoria Dobrogei, vol. 2, Bucureşti, 1968, p. 475, fig. 34; G.
Atanasov, Ранновизантийски скални църкви и манастири в Южна
Добруджа, « Археология », 3, 1991, с. 33-41.
Pontica Christiana 39
peuplée) se remplit de gens qui viennent d’Asie et qui amènent
christianisme et lumière38. Il paraît que justement parmi eux il faut

chercher quelques-uns des premiers promoteurs du christianisme à

Durostorum et en Dobroudja.
D’après les sources, probablement 7 des 12 martyrs de
Durostorum ont trouvé la mort de martyr au temps du
gouvernement de Dioclétien, ce qui suppose qu’ils sont les victimes
des édits des années 303-30439. TP PT

1, 2. Saint Jules et Saint Isihii

Nous obtenons les informations de base, concernant ces

martyrs de Durostorum, de l’hagiographie de Saint Jules40, dont la TP PT

véracité est douteuse d’après certains chercheurs41. Mais on peut y


trouver de l’information authentique qui ne doit pas être négligée.

D’après le texte, au cours des grandes persécutions des chrétiens
(probablement vers l’an 304) le vétéran de l’armée romaine, Jules,
est arrêté et jugé par le substitut Maxim à cause de sa foi en Jésus

TP N. Iorga, Istoria Românilor, vol. II, Bucureşti, 1936, p. 34; V. Baumann,

Mărturii ale persecuţiilor religioase din zona Dunării de Jos in primele secole
ale erei creştine, vol. « Izvoarele creştinismului românesc », Constanţa, 2003, p.
TP G. Atanasov, Християнският Дуросторум, vol. « Дръстър. Доростолската

епархия през късната античност и средновековието (ІV-ХІV в.). История,

археология, култура, изкуство », Varna-Veliko Tarnovo, 2007, p. 15-22.
TP A. Harnack, Les actes latins de Julies, (Bibliographia hageographica Latina)

(=BHL), München, col. 4555-4556), « Analecta Bolandiana », 10, 1891, p. 50-

52. La supposition de V. Baumann que Saint Jules a été tué lors des persécutions
des chrétiens au temps de Sévère Alexandre en 228, ne repose pas sur des
arguments convaincants, voir : V. Baumann, op. cit., p. 101. Ici V. Baumann
mentionne aussi Saint Priscus, décédé lors des persécutions du temps de Valérien
vers les années 253-259 en le liant à Dinogetia ou bien à Durostorum. Dans les
sources authentiques Saint Priscus de Durostorum n’existe pas. Il y a un Saint
Priscus décédé de la mort des martyrs le 1 octobre mais il est lié à Tomis. Voir
Dix Mille Saints. Dictionnaire hagiographique, rédigé par les Bénédictins de
Ramsgate, Turnhout, Brepols, 1991.
TP Н. Delehaye, Saints de Thrace et …, p. 261; R. Constantinesco, Les martyrs de

Durostorum, « Revue des études sud-est européennes », V (1967), 1-2, p. 9.

Christ. Il ne nie pas qu’il soit chrétien et n’accepte à aucune
condition d’effectuer un sacrifice devant les idoles des dieux
païens. Il suit un écart lyrique dans lequel Jules décrit son service
militaire honnête et impeccable (évidemment dans la XI-e légion
Claudia) et sa participation dans sept guerres avant de prendre la
retraite. Les essais obstinés de Maxim de briser la volonté de Jules
avec des promesses d’argent et de profits restent sans résultat. En
vrai chrétien, il préfère déroger, aux lois écrites mais non pas aux
lois divines parce qu’il croit dans la gloire éternelle qu’on peut
atteindre par la mort de martyr. Enfin, le substitut Maxim donne
l’ordre : « Que Jules, qui ne désire pas se soumettre aux ordres du
roi, soit condamné à mort ». Sur le chemin vers l’échafaud à
Durostorum, où d’ordinaire on réalisait les exécutions, beaucoup de
chrétiens l’embrassaient, malgré ses avertissements qu’ils
s’exposaient à un grand danger. Un homme (chrétien) appelé Isihii,
qui était de même sous escorte, se tournent vers le condamné avec
les mots : Je te jure, Jules, remplis avec joie ton vœu et reçois la
couronne que Dieu a promis de donner à ceux qui croient en lui et
souviens- toi de moi parce que je vais te suivre. Et salue, je t’en
prie, frère Valentian, serviteur de Dieu, qui, grâce à sa grande foi,
est déjà arrivé auprès de Dieu.
Après cette rencontre courte et dramatique, Jules embrasse
Isihii et lui dit : Dépêche-toi de venir, mon frère. Et ton salut va
être transmis (pour Valentian – rem. G.A.). Enfin, Jules noue ses
yeux lui-même et se dirige vers l’échafaud où il est décapité.
L’auteur de l’hagiographie date la mort de martyr de Saint
Jules vers le 27 mai (probablement 304) tandis qu’à propos de la
décapitation de Saint Isihii rien n’est mentionné. Mais du contexte
on reste avec l’impression qu’il a été décapité peu après Jules. Et en
effet, d’après Hiéronym le Béat, le 15 juillet à Durostorum est tué
Saint Isihii42. Sous la date du 27 mai, il y manque le nom de Saint

Jules, ce qui provoque une confusion parmi les chercheurs.

D’ailleurs, d’après la même source, le 4 juillet est mentionné un

TP H. Delehaye, H. Quentin, Martyrologium Hieronymianum, Bruxellis, 1931, p.

241; Н. Delehaye, op.cit., p. 269.

Pontica Christiana 41
certain Saint Jules mais il n’est pas très sûr que ce soit un martyr de
Durostorum. Dans la hagiographie de Saint Jules, il est question
d’un Valentinian qui évidemment est connu par Isihii et
probablement est décédé de la mort de martyr peu avant la
décapitation de Saint Jules, c’est-à-dire avant le 27 mai. Vraiment,
dans le Synaxare du siège de patriarche de Tsarigrad et dans la
Ménologie de Vasilii II, on mentionne Saint Valentinian de
Durostorum43, qui est décapité le 24 avril, ça veut dire un mois

plutôt que Saint Jules et Saint Isihii.

3. 4. Saint Valentinian et Saint Passicrate

Ci-dessus j’ai indiqué que Saint Valentinian avec Saint

Passicrate sont mentionnés dans le Synaxare du siège du patriarche
de Tsarigrad. On peut y lire les suivants: Le même jour (24 avril –
rem.G.A.) on fête la mort des saints martyrs Passicrate et
Valentinian. Ils provenaient de Dorostol en Mysie, étaient des
chrétiens et soldats dans une légion, commandée par Avzolin44. TP PT

Pareil, mais rédigé, abrégé et un peu changé est le texte dans la

Ménologie de Vasilii II, où on peut lire que le 24 avril on glorifie:
Les martyrs chrétiens Passicrate et Valentinian de la ville de
Dorostol de Cappadoce. Ils étaient soldats mais chrétiens.45 C’est TP PT

leur refus de participer aux offrandes publiques païennes ce qui est,

à nouveau, la cause de leurs tortures et exécutions. On disait même
que Passicrate a craché sur les idoles. Leurs femmes aussi les
accompagnent dans leur mort de martyr. L’évocation du Saint
Valentinian dans la hagiographie de Saint Jules indirectement
montre que ces martyrs sont décapités lors des grandes persécutions
des chrétiens en 304. Évidemment, la mise de Dorostol en

TP Menologium Graecorum Basilii Porphyrogeniti, coll. « Patrologiae cursus

completus », Series graeca, ed. J.-P. Migne, vol. 117, Paris, 1894, col. 420;
Synaxarium Ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae (=Syn.Eccl.Const.), vol.
« Propylaeum ad Acta Sanctorum Novembris », opera et studio Hippolyti
Delehaye, Bruxellis, 1902, col. 627.
TP Syn.Eccl.Const., col. 627.

TP Menologium Basilii, col. 420.
Cappadoce est une erreur ennuyeuse et, en plus, la source plus sûre,
qui est le Synaxare, lie correctement la ville à la province de Mysie.
Cela est confirmé aussi par le fait que les auteurs savent bien qu’au
IV s. à Durostorum a campé une légion romaine.

5, 6, 7. Saint Marcian, Saint Nikandar, Saint Kalinik

Nombreuses sont les sources à propos de la vie et de la mort de

martyr, de Saint Marcian et Saint Nikandar mais en même temps
les chercheurs sont confrontés à beaucoup de contradictions,
inexactitudes et imprécisions ce qui empêche la restauration de la
réalité historique46. En se basant sur les hagiographies et les autres

documents, on peut généraliser que Marcian et Nikandar sont des

soldats de la XI-e légion Claudia. Lors d’une certaine fête païenne
ils refusent d’honorer les idoles, à cause de quoi sont arrêtés,
torturés et condamnés à être décapités. D’après la version grecque
et latine de l’hagiographie, cela est arrivé à Durostorum, le 27
juin47. Dans l’histoire des martyrs, de Hiéronym, ils sont de

nouveau liés à Durostorum (Dorostoli Martiani, Necandri), mais

leur fête est indiquée le 26 décembre48. Toujours là, à la date du 8

juin, à Durostorum, est mentionné un Marcian (Dorostoro civitate

natale Sancti Marci), et le 17 juin est indiqué Nikandаr avec le
Saint Isihii. Dans le Synaxare du siège du patriarche de
Constantinopolis ils sont inscrits de nouveau ensemble, le 8 juin
mais sans mentionner le nom de Durostorum49. Il suit le calendrier

syrien d’Edesa mais on y a mis Marcian à Tomis et les 8 et 10

juillet il est mentionné avec un grand groupe de martyrs parmi

TP Н. Delehaye, Saints de Thrace..., p. 268-271; R. Constantinesco, op. cit., p. 8-

10; G. Atanasov, Доростолските мъченици от 304 г., vol. « Духовна

Култура », 5, 2004, p. 7-8.
TP Bibliographia hageographica Graeca, München, col. 1194, 1330; BHL, col.

5260, 6070- 6073 d’après Н. Delehaye, Les origines du culte…, p. 248-249; Н.

Delehaye, Saints de Thrace…, р. 268-270.
TP H. Delehaye, H. Quintin, op. cit., p. 265, 335; Н. Delehaye, op.cit., р. 269-270.

TP Syn.Eccl.Const., col. 739
Pontica Christiana 43
lesquels se trouve aussi Nikandar . De nouveau dans l’histoire de

martyr de Hiéronym, le 5 juin, sont inscrits Marcian, Nikandar et

un certain Apolonii, mais cette fois ils sont liés à Alexandrie en
Égypte. Il existe aussi d’autres versions latines et grecques de la
hagiographie, d’après lesquelles dans un groupe avec d’autres
saints, Marcian et Nikandar atteignent la mort de martyr en Égypte,
respectivement les 5 et 7 juin51. Enfin, quelques sources tardives

localisent les exploits de Marcian et Nikandar à Athène et à

Vénafro en Campania- Italie du sud52. TP PT

À cause des contradictions évidentes dans les sources, certains

auteurs sont enclins à considérer l’histoire de martyrs de Saint
Marcian et de Saint Nikandar comme inventée. Mais d’après moi,
H. Delehaye déchiffre assez bien ce rébus complexe53. Il admet TP PT

avec raison qu’il n’y a rien d’étonnant dans le fait que les deux
martyrs soient liés non seulement à Durostorum mais à Tomis
aussi. Évidemment, en suivant les sources primaires (notamment le
texte de Hiéronym le Béat), ils sont décapités à Durostorum, le 17
juin. Leur célébration à Tomis, la capitale de la province Scythie
(Dobroudja) peut être le résultat du transfert d’une partie de leurs
reliques de Durostorum à Tomis, un certain temps après leur mort
de martyrs. On a déjà indiqué que d’une pareille manière, les
reliques du Saint Dasii probablement ont été transportées dans
l’Axiopolis voisin (de nouveau en province de Scythie). Dans les
deux cas peut-être, le prétexte en est la construction d’églises parce
que pendant cette période, il devient obligatoire que les temples
soient fondés sur les reliques de saints. Si l’on poursuit les données
du Calendrier d’Edesa et du Synaxare, cet événement s’est passé
le 8 juin.
Beaucoup plus difficile à expliquer est la vénération de
Nikandar et Marcian en Égypte. D’après H. Delehaye, il est
possible qu’il s’agisse de répétition d’une erreur faite par Hiéronym
au V-e s. qui a confondu Tomis en Dobroudja avec Thmuis en
TP Н. Delehaye, op.cit., р. 269.

TP Ibidem.

TP Ibidem.

TP Ibidem, p. 270-272.
Égypte et de cette façon artificielle, le culte est transporté des
Balkans en Afrique du nord. Après cela, pendant les siècles
suivants, ses adeptes involontairement approfondissent cette erreur
et aux noms de Nikandar et Marcian sont rajoutés aussi les noms de
saints égyptiens locaux.
Quant à leur vénération en Italie du sud (Vénafro) et en Grèce
(Athènes), les sources sont très tardives et probablement il s’agit de
légendes ou bien d’erreurs lors de différentes compilations. Mais il
n’est pas exclu qu’avec le transfert des reliques de Durostorum,
vers la fin du VI-e s., des parties en soient transportées jusqu’à la
Grèce du sud et l’Italie du sud. J’ai déjà mentionné comment après
l’invasion des Avares en 579, les reliques des martyrs de Dorostol,
Saint Dasii arrivent jusqu’à l’Italie et celles des Saints Maxime,
Dada et Kvintilian jusqu’à Constantinople. On peut y ajouter
l’analogie avec le martyr africain Saint Felix dont le culte, dans de
pareilles conditions est transmis avec ses reliques à Nola – Italie du

La histoire commune des martyrs

On a vu que la mort de martyr de Saint Nikandar et de Saint

Marcian à Durostorum est soutenu indirectement par d’autres
sources aussi. Lors d’une comparaison attentive des documents, on
voit clair que, d’une part, la mort de Saint Jules est liée au martyr
de Saint Isihii et de Saint Valentinien. D’autre part, on a marqué ci-
dessus que dans une autre source est enregistré un lien entre Saint
Isihii et Saint Nikandar. Cela suppose qu’il existe une histoire
commune de martyr de Saint Jules, Saint Isihii, Saint Valentinien,
Saint Passicrate, Saint Marcian, Saint Nikandar et il n’est pas exclu
qu’elle inclut aussi Saint Kalinik54. Plus tard (à l’occasion de la

dispersion des reliques pour la construction de temples à

Durostorum au IV-e s.?) cette histoire est divisée en plusieurs
hagiographies dans lesquelles, par couples, sont présentés Saint
Jules et Saint Isihii, Saint Valentinien et Saint Passicrate, Saint

TP PT Ibidem, p. 25-272; G. Atanasov, Християнският Дуросторум..., p. 30-31.
Pontica Christiana 45
Marcian et Saint Nikandar. Dans les textes, il est catégoriquement
souligné qu’eux, ils sont tous des soldats dans la légion résidant à
Durostorum et qu’ils sont jugés et décapités pour une seule raison –
refus de participer et de confesser le culte païen obligatoire. Lors de
la corrélation des sources différentes (très importants dans cette
direction sont les renseignements dans la hagiographie de Saint
Jules) probablement, tout d’abord, le 24 avril, sont décapités Saint
Valentinien et Saint Passicrate. Après eux, le 27 mai est décapité
Saint Jules. Le 15/17 juin suit Saint Isihii et enfin, le 27 juin Saint
Marcian et Saint Nikandar. À ce groupe, peut être, on doit ajouter
aussi Saint Kalinik, qui serait décapité le dernier, le 28 juillet.
À la différence de Saint Maxim, Saint Dada, Saint Kvintilian et
Saint Dasii, l’exécution de ce groupe de martyrs serait en 304, donc
après le dernier édit de Dioclétien d’après lequel envers les
chrétiens (surtout les soldats) on ne doit pas faire aucune preuve de
tolérance et d’indulgence. D’ailleurs, de la hagiographie de Saint
Jules on comprend qu’il s’agissait d’une persécution de grande
envergure, laquelle au printemps de l’an 304 s’étend sur l’Empire
tout entier. On a aussi l’impression que le christianisme a beaucoup
d’adeptes à Durostorum parce que sur le chemin vers l’échafaud
beaucoup de gens montrent leur amour et leur compassion pour
Saint Jules. Pour mettre fin à cet enthousiasme dans la légion et
pour exécuter l’ordre de l’Empereur, le gouverneur local agit
résolument et pour donner un exemple aux autres, punit les soldats
– chrétiens les plus assidus. Il n’est pas exclu que cette activité
exemplaire soit provoquée par les inspections des forteresses du
Bas-Danube, par l’empereur Dioclétien au printemps de l’an 304,
lors desquelles à deux reprises il visite Durostorum55.TP PT

Dans la hagiographie de Saint Jules commentée ci-dessus, il est

indiqué aussi qu’au temps des persécutions en 304, à Durostorum il
existait un endroit spécial56, où au cours de quelques mois sont

décapités 7 chrétiens. Où se trouve cet endroit spécial il n’est pas

précisé, mais en tout cas, du contexte on comprend qu’il n’est pas

TP PT V. Velkov, Цит. съч., p. 29.
TP PT A. Harnack, op. cit., p. 51-52.
hors de la ville ou bien dans les limites de la légion. Pendant les
dernières années, lors des fouilles archéologiques à Silistra, on a
étudié un couple de basiliques basses chrétiennes (épiscopales ?)
avec un castel épiscopal et non loin d’eux une troisième basilique57. TP PT

Celles-ci sont situées au centre de la ville antique tardive entre le

camp de la légion et le castel sur le littoral du Danube (fig. 1 - L,
M, H). En connaissant la pratique affirmée que les basiliques basses
chrétiennes soient édifiées sur des lieu sacrifiés avec le sang des
martyrs58 et après qu’on ait compris que l’une des basiliques du

couple de basiliques épiscopales /?/ est relativement ancienne (les

monnaies et la céramique montrent un terminus post quem après la
deuxième moitié du IV-e s.) il n’est pas exclu qu’elle soit édifiée
notamment sur un pareil lieu sacré. Après tout, à la fin des IV-e –V-
e s., la pratique de fonder les temples épiscopales aussi sur des
lieux liés au culte des martyrs dans les villes antiques tardives est
affirmée fermement59. TP PT

La tombe avec l’anneau paléochrétien de Silistra

Au cours des actions de bâtiment en 1988 dans la partie sud-est

de Silistra, dans les limites de la nécropole antique (fig. 1 – F) et
dans une proximité immédiate de la frontière bulgaro-roumaine, on
a découvert une fosse ovale, creusée profondément dans le terrain.
Au fond de la fosse on a trouvé des os qui ont brûlé, de quatre

TP G. Atanasov, op.cit., p. 96-107; Idem, Le palais des évêques de Durostorum

des V-e – VI-e siècles, « Pontica », XXXVII – XXXVIII, 2004 – 2005, p. 275 –
287; Idem, Zur topographie des frühchrislichen Durostorum (Silistra) im IV-VI
Jahrhundert, « Mitteleilungen zur Chrislichen Archäologie », 1, 2008 (sous
TP André Grabar, Мartyrium. Recherches sur le cult de reliques et de l’art

chrétien antique et Moyen age, vol. I., Paris, 1946, p. 28 еtc.

TP W. Muller-Wiener, Bischofsrezidenz des 4.-7. Jahrunderts im Östlichen

Mittelmeer-Raum, « Actes du XI-e Congrés International d’archéologie

chrétienne », I, Roma, 1989, s. 704.
Pontica Christiana 47
individus humains . On y a découvert un anneau d’or massif avec

un camée. Sur le camée est représentée une ancre, flanquée de deux

poissons. Sous l’ancre il y a une inscription en langue grecque
ZHGAW (ou bien ZHGALI) (fig. 2, 3). C’est exactement cette
trouvaille intéressante et précieuse qui nous aide à préciser la date
de la tombe massive et elle nous suggère les événements au cours
desquels la tombe est faite. En première place, je voudrais poser un
accent sur la sémantique et la popularité de l’ancre et des poissons
dans la culture et la symbolique paléochrétiennes. D’après l’apôtre
Pierre, l’ancre signifie la vie dans le Royaume de Dieu – la vie avec
le Christ en béatitude et pour l’éternité. St. Ignatio l’accepte
également dans ce sens, qui la lie en principe à la foi et à
l’espérance, la déterminant symboliquement61. Les poissons sont le

symbole traditionnel du Christ parce que derrière l’abréviation

IXΘΥΣ (en grec -poisson) les premiers chrétiens lisent la formule
Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς Θεοῦ Υἱὸς Σωτὴρ - Jésus Christ, Fils de Dieu
et Sauveur62. En même temps il n’existe pas un texte antique qui

peut nous donner un déchiffrement exact de la combinaison de

l’ancre, flanquée de poissons. Quand même, nous connaissons la
parabole évangélique de Jésus Christ qui régale 5000 de ses adeptes
avec deux poissons (Mathieu; 14, 17-21). Les compositions
connues les plus anciennes dans lesquelles sont combinés une ancre
et des poissons, sont sur une plaque de marbre et sous une épitaphe
des catacombes de Priscilla à Rome du II-e s.63 La tradition des

gravures de l’ancre et des poissons continue sans interruption sur

TP G. Atanasov, Anneau d’or avec camée du tombe des martyr de Durostorum de

début dе IV s., « Funerary Practices in Europe, Before and After the Roman
Conquest (3-rd century BC – 3-rd century A.D.) », Sibiu, 2008 (sous presse).
TP F. Cabrol, H. Leclerсq, Ancre, « Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de

liturgie » (=DACL), 1, Paris, 1924, col. 1909-2117; Real-Encyclopädie der

christlichen Altertümer (=RECA), I, 1883, s. 53 – 54.
TP F. Dölger, IXΘΥΣ, « Antike und Christentum », I, Münster, 1929, s. 5; DACL,

XIV, Paris, 1953, col. 1246; RECA, I, s. 516 – 518.

TP E. Bock. R. Goebel, Die Katakomben, Stuttgart, 1930, s. 20-21, taf. 156; F.

Cabrol, H. Leclercq, op. cit., col. 2015-2017, fig. 569, 571; F. Dölger, IXΘΥΣ.
Die Fisch – Denkmäler in der frühchristlichen Plastik Malerei and Kleinkunst,
Münster, 1927, taf. 170.
des épitaphes qui datent des III-e – IV-e s.64. Cette scène est

présentée le plus souvent sur des gemmes et des camées des III-e –
IV-e s.65. Il s’agit de centaines de monuments du Proche Orient, de

l’Europe du Sud et de l’Afrique du Nord et leur énumération est

inutile. Je vais mentionner seulement quelques des analogues les
plus proches de la trouvaille de Silistra, comme des anneaux des
III-e – IV-e s. qui se trouvent dans des collections du Musée
Britannique, du Cabinet des médailles à Paris, du Musée de Tourin,
du Crimée et des exemplaires d’Egypte dans la collection de
Garucci66. Comme sur le camée de Silistra, souvent sous les ancres

des monuments énumérés il existe des textes grecs et latins – des

noms, des formules gnostiques etc. On ne peut pas facilement
déchiffrer le texte ZIGAW qui accompagne l’ancre et les poissons
du camée de Silistra. Dans sa première moitié peut être se cache le
mot ZIG/EC/ - ZHGEC – forme de la conjonction du verbe Zάω67 TP PT

(vivre, deuxième personne du singulier) et on peut le traduire

comme „Je vais vivre”, „Que tu vives!”, „Vis!”. Le plus souvent
nous voyons cette forme dans l’expression ζήγες ἐν Θεῷ (Vis en
/avec Dieu). On peut supposer que sur les places limitées des
gemmes et des camées, les textes de cette sorte sont abrégés. Et si
nous ajoutons au texte sous l’ancre, la sémantique des poissons et
de l’ancre, nous pouvons proposer le déchiffrement suivant Vis
avec espoir, foi et espérance en Jésus Christ – le fils de Dieu et
notre Sauveur68. Il est remarquable qu’à une étape donnée, on

commence à remplacer l’ancre par la croix et cela peut être la

TP F. Cabrol, H. Leclercq, op. cit., col. 2015-2017, fig. 568-570.

TP O. Dalton, Catalogue of Early Cristian Antiques in the British Museum,

London, 1901, p. 6, pl. II; F. Dölger, op.cit., s. 262-264., taf. 208; DACL, VI,
Paris, 1924, col. 799-826.
TP DACL, VI, col. 802, 820, 824-826, № 4928, 4955, 4974, 4975, 4979, fig. 49,

84, 85, 86, 88; P. Finney, The Earliest Christians of Art, New York-Oxford,
1994, fig. 6, 69; V. Iu. Iurockin (В. Ю. Юрочкин), Древнейшие изображения
креста господня. В: Православные древности Таврики, Kiev, 2002, p. 21-28,
рис. 10.
TP Sur une formule pareille in: RECA, I, s. 51.

TP Le text еtaite consulte par prof. Em. Popescu et prof. V. Gerasimova.
Pontica Christiana 49
période après la fin du IV-e s.. Aux II-e – III-e s. et même vers la
première moitié du IV-e s. les chrétiens ignorent la croix dans les
arts plastiques l’acceptant comme l’arbre des tortures69. Vu cela, je

pense que la date la plus convaincante de l’anneau avec le camée de

Silistra est vers la fin du III-e s. – le début du IV-e s. Le fait que
l’anneau était découvert dans la tombe de personnes tuées, brûlées
et enterrées à la hâte, suppose qu’il s’agit de la mort violente des
premiers chrétiens. Ceux sont des chrétiens parce qu’un d’eux porte
à sa main un anneau avec un symbole chrétien incontestable.
Malgré que ces personnes soient tuées, elles sont enterrées dans la
nécropole de la ville. Cela signifie qu’à Durostorum on observait la
loi romaine qui garantissait le droit de tombe et de funérailles
même aux criminels70. TP PT

Il est difficile d’avoir une idée exacte de la période de

l’exécution des quatre martyrs mais en tout cas ça devait être avant
l’an 311, quand Galère publie l’édit de tolérance envers les
chrétiens. Mais il manque tout équipement martyrial ou
commémoratif, ce qui laisse entendre que la tombe de ces chrétiens
reste inconnue pour leurs descendants. Dans le cas contraire, après
le triomphe du christianisme en 313, au cours de la construction en
masse de martyriums au-dessus des tombes des martyrs, ce lieu ne
serait pas omis. Cela suppose que la décapitation des quatre martyrs
a eu lieu au moins une décennie avant l’an 313. Mais leur
identification ne peut être qu’hypothétique. Lors de l’examen des
hagiographies des martyrs de Dorostol, nous constatons que trois
parmi eux sont décapités, un à un (Saint Dasii, Saint Émilian, Saint
Jules, Saint Isihii et Saint Kalinik), trois ensemble (Saint Maxime,
Saint Dada et Saint Kvintilian) et quatre par couples – Saint
Marcian avec Saint Nikandar et Saint Valentinian avec Saint
Passicrite.71 Ci-dessus il a été question que d’après les sources

TP A. Frolov, Le culte de la relique de la Vraie Croix à la fin du IV-em et au

début du VII-em siècles, « Byzantinoslavica », XXII, 2, 1961, p. 322-323.

TP H. Delehaye, Les origines …, р. 48-49; A. Grabar, op.cit., p. 49; R.

Krautheimer, Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture, vol. « The Pelican

Hystory of Art », 4, 1981, p. 33 – 37.
TP G. Atanasov, Християнският Дуросторум..., p. 49-55.
écrites, les derniers deux martyrs (Saint Valentinian et Saint
Passicrite) sont décapités et enterrés avec leurs épouses, le 24 avril
304. Mais, si ce sont justement ces quatre martyrs qui sont enterrés
dans la tombe avec l’anneau d’or de la nécropole de Durostorum,
on ne peut que le supposer.



- rezumat -

În studiu sunt analizate informaţiile aghiografice referitoare la

unii dintre martirii creştini care au pătimit la Durostorum în timpul
persecuţiei lui Diocleţian (304). În acest important oraş de la
Dunărea de Jos a staţionat începând cu anii 105-106 legiunea XI
Claudia. La începutul secolului al IV-lea, mulţi dintre soldaţii
romani îmbrăţişaseră credinţa creştină. La Durostorum sunt
cunoscuţi şapte soldaţi ai legiunii XI Claudia care au fost
martirizaţi pentru credinţa lor: Sfinţii Mucenici Iuliu, Isihie,
Valention, Pasicrat, Marcian, Nicandru şi Calinic. Autorul
corelează informaţiile din documentele aghiografice referitoare la
locul de pătimire al acestor mucenici cu descoperirile arheologice
de la Durostorum.
Una dintre cele mai importante descoperiri de la Durostorum
este mormântul a patru mucenici incineraţi. Este posibil ca
osemintele descoperite în acest mormânt comun să fi aparţinut
Sfinţilor Marcian, Nicandru, Valentinian şi Pasicrat.
Pontica Christiana 51

Fig. 1 - Le plan de Durostorum paléochrétienne de IV s.

A. Le camp de legion
B. Canabe
C. Vikus
D. Castle
F. La tombe avec l’anneau paléochrétienne

Fig. 2 - La tombe avec l’anneau paléochrétienne

Fig. 3 et 4 - Anneau d’or avec camée

Pontica Christiana 53



by Doina Benea

On the occasion of the archaeological researches done at the

west of the great Roman camp from Tibiscum in the S II/1996
section, at the 1,25-1,50 m in depth, a clay rush-light was
uncovered1. That section was drawn from north to south, close to

the west side of the Roman camp’ principia; at that time, it was
identified via decumana of the Roman camp as well as a small
portion of the first wooden barrack placed at the north side of its
headquarters. However, only a limited portion of the barrack was
uncovered, 2,75 m in length. The edifice was built of wooden
beams, made even with adobes covered with tiles. Inside the
barrack, in the debris layer, there was uncovered, also, among other
materials a rush-light which constitutes the subject of this paper.
The residing level belongs to the great Roman camp and can be
dated between the second half of the second century (the year 165
post quem, respectively)2, and the beginning of the third century

(Septimius Severus’ reign), that is, in the first level of destruction

of the great Roman camp from Tibiscum3. TP PT

The rush-light is made of a fine brick-colored paste,

containing a fine degreasing substance. On the whole surface of the
rush-light there are groove traces of red color, grooves which can
actually be seen on a few spots. Before being burned, the piece was

TPTranslated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă

TPThis piece was described in our work, Dacia sud-vestică în secolele III-IV (II).

Interferenţe spirituale, Editura de Vest, 1999, pp. 72-75.

TPInscripţiile Daciei romane, vol. III/1, Bucureşti, 1977, 130 honorary altar

uncovered in principia of the Roman camp from Tibiscum and dated in the year
165 by Prof. I. I. Rusu, based on the Emperor’s title.
TPFor the evolution of the fortresses from the place called Cetate (Fortified

Town), see our work D. Benea, P. Bona, Tibiscum, editura Museion, 1994, p. 29-
poured into a mould with some decoration elements added on the
margin. (Sizes: length: 7 cm; diameter: 5,8 cm; height: 2,6 cm).
Conservation status: the beak, and partially the margin, are broken.

Description: a flat rush-light with a round body and the beak


drawn away, the lamellar ear having a central incision; the plain
margin was decorated with some dots and oblique lines and
incisions; these incisions make up a triangular ornamental camp in
which three dots have been arranged alternately, followed by an
incised cross which is inside another column. This succession of
triangles in which alternately can be seen incised crosses and three
dots are arranged as follows: the triangles, having inside the sign of
the Cross, are disposed away, toward the margin of the border, and
inside the triangles, which are close to the disc, there are three
triangles in a clear order, first one on the top, and the other two on
the bottom. If we take into consideration both the size of the
triangles and the shape of the rush-light, we notice that the
decoration elements have been repeated 12 times, of which,
apparently, 7 to the left of the onlooker, (unfortunately, the piece is
broken here), and after the lamellar ear, to the right, there are 5
more groups of two triangles each. The incised decoration was done
before the burning. The border is limited by the disc which is

slightly deepened through an incised concentric nervure. The disc is

ornate with a rosette, the decoration being realized in a mould, as I
pointed out above. It was made of a rosette with 13 petals, of which
only 12 are still extant, while one of them seems to be destroyed by
a fissure as far back as in antiquity.
At the bottom of the basin, which is limited by a round border
thrown out into bold relief, at the center, there is an incised cross,
made, also, before the burning of the rush-light.
Typologically, the rush-light can be counted among the rush-

lights with a round and flat body, circular disc, lamellar ear and the
beak drawn away4. This kind of lamps can usually be dated about

D. Benea, Lampes romaine de Tibiscum, in “Dacia”, 34, 1990, pp. 142-143; D.

Alicu, Die römischen lampen von Sarmizegetusa (I). Die Funde der Jahre 1882-
1976, Zalău, 2006, type VII (with complete bibliography), type XI, pl. XXXVI,
8; XXXVII. It is possible for this rush-light to have a Greek origin which was
Pontica Christiana 55
the II-III centuries. An analogy is offered by a piece discovered at
Tomis on a rush-light with a beak in form of rope5. The dating of TP PT

this kind of pieces can be placed in the II-III centuries A.D., also.
A typological framing of our piece in a much more accurate
way is not possible since the upper part of the beak is destroyed and
it doesn’t allow us to identify the separating elements from the disc,
elements which are usually defining in accurately establishing the
date. Based on the stratigraphic context, this piece can be dated
sometime between the second half of the second century and the
beginning of the third century, as I mentioned above.
The discovery from the Roman camp of Tibiscum is the first
piece of this kind – to the best of our knowledge – from the Roman
Dacia territory, with such representation. The ornamental motifs
found on the rush-light suggest to us a novel significance of the
piece which probably was not used only as a source of lighting, but
it could have had a distinct cultic usage. The rosette decoration on
the disc appears represented usually on the round rush-lights6. On TP PT

the border of the piece, unfortunately only partially preserved, the

incised decoration suggests at first sight an ornamental succession
without a distinct symbolic value. However, the manner by which
the decoration motifs have been conceived must have a particular
The triangle with the base set on the exterior of the rush-light’s
margin is made in such a way as to represent an equilateral triangle.
By this, in fact, the triangle reflects number 37. The triangle’s

symbolism overlays the symbolism of the number three8. The TP PT

depiction of the sign of the cross inside the triangle signifies the

much simplified both as ornamentation and as workmanship by and large during

the Roman era.
TPC. Iconomu, Opaiţele greco-romane, Constanţa, 1967, nr. 550.

TPD. Ivanyi, Die pannonischen Lampen. Eine tzpologischer Übersicht, Budapest,

TPJ. Chevalier, A. Gheerbrant, Dicţionar de simboluri, vol. III, Bucureşti, 1995,

s.v. Trei, pp. 367-372.

TPIbidem, s.v., Triunghi, pp. 382-384.
Christian character of the piece and implicitly the representation of
the Holy Trinity.
On the other hand, the triangles with the bases to the border of
the rush-light appear to be slightly deformed, representing the
reflection of the first ones, and, in this case, the three dots have the
same significance – the Christian Holy Trinity (one God
worshipped in three Persons Who do not differ among Themselves:
Father, Logos, and Holy Ghost)9. The symbol of the Holy Trinity is

represented by the equilateral triangle.

In this way, the idea that the incised decoration elements have
been done by a knowledgeable individual, at the request of the
sleeping partner, comes to mind. In any case, they prove the
knowledge of the fundamental Christian dogma of the Holy Trinity.
Both the Cross incised inside the triangle and the three dots have

the same significance, they emphasize the Christian character of the

piece. However, at the first sight, the symbolism given on the
border of the disc was understood only by those who knew the
Christian religion. For all the others, such a piece could represent a
distinct form of decoration of a thing of common usage. We can
assert that we deal here with a dissimulation of the Christian
character of the lamp. Even for the modern man, this dissimulation
could not be easily recognized. Yet, what stresses the Christian
character of the piece is the Cross on the basis of the rush-light’s

basin, which usually cannot be seen.

The rush-light uncovered in a barrack of the great Roman
camp from Tibiscum belonged to a Christian soldier. Moreover,
probably its manufacturing could have been made by someone who
knew the symbolism of the representations found on the piece
which we deal with. The lamp had a religious value for its owner,
also, not only as a thing of common use for the illumination of the
room in which he lived. The dating of the piece based on the
archaeological context in which it was discovered is early if U U

compared with any other Roman Dacia’ discoveries from the same

TP PT Ibidem, s.v. Treime, p. 372.
Pontica Christiana 57
The representation of the cross inside the triangle is not unique
at Tibiscum. On the occasion of a poll done in 1983 in a zone
which is found at the west of the Edifice VII, it was discovered in
the military quarters a fragment of a small caolin mug with a
grooved body. This piece was used in a living room10. On the TP PT

bottom of the mug’s stand (diameter: 3,5 cm) was depicted a cross
with uneven arms inside a triangle. These graphic signs have been
incised after the burning. In this case we may say that we are faced
with a Christianization of the vessel. Based on the stratigraphic

context, this piece can be dated as far back as the beginning of the
third century11. The little vessel, having reduced sizes similar to a

glass, could have been used in the liturgical service for the warm
water. At any rate, the writing of the cross inside the triangle proves
the knowledge of the dogma of the Holy Trinity by the faithful
The two discoveries from Tibiscum are the earliest Christian
testimonies that suggest the existence of some Christian
communities at the end of the second century and the beginning of
the third century; the small caolin mug could have been certainly
used in the liturgical service. At the beginning of the organized
Church, the inventory used consisted of a glass and a plate or tray12. TP PT

There is no proof of other pieces being used during the early

Christianity. The evolution of the two types of vessels is not clearly
made visible by archaeology. There appeared some representations
of the chalice painted on the walls of the Christian catacombs in
Rome13. The chalice evolved from a simple glass to the great sizes

of the shape known to us today. The utilization of a simple small

mug made of clay seems to be possible, also.
A similar representation of the Holy Trinity, but given in a
different manner, comes from Moesia Inferior, from Tomis. A rush-
light uncovered in the inventory of a tomb from the second half of

TP D. Benea, Dacia sud-vestică...II, p. 203, catalogue, nr. 16.

TP Ibidem, op. cit., p. 80-81.

TP H. Leclercq, s.v. Calice, in “Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de

liturgie”, 3, 1, Paris, 1921, col. 1595-1624.

TP Ibidem.
the third century had three times depicted, on the bottom of the
basin, the sign of a crux monogrammatica; well, the writing on the
same line of the signs is another way of representing the Holy
Trinity: God – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost14. The three crosses

represent the Holy Trinity whose dogma took shape in the first
century, and whose final consecration was done at the first synod in
Nicaea, and reconfirmed at the second synod of Constantinople
The presence of the oriental elements in the Roman camp is
due to the troops stationed here – cohors I Sagittariorum – but they
are due particularly to a unit of Palmireni sagitari. The latter ones
have been brought to Dacia by Hadrian during the 117/118 year
events; they have been actually from Syria, the city of Palmyra, but
ethnically they were Arameans. Later on, during the reign of
Antoninus Pius or Marcus Aurelius, their nationes unit was made
into a numeri, that is, irregular auxiliary units. Organized in this
way, they made three distinct military bodies, one of which was
permanently stationed until this province was abandoned by the
Romans. The two other units remained at Porolissum and Optatiana
(Sutor)15.TP PT

At Tibiscum, they behaved as worshippers of their own

traditional cults such as: Malachel, Bel, Sol Ierhabolus, as well as
of I.O.M., which indicates their integration into the provincial
environment16. It is, also, possible, that the new religious Christian

faith, as any other oriental religion, to have reached this land very
early, much earlier than any other areas of the province17. TP PT

TP A. Rădulescu, V. Lungu, Le Christianism en Scythie Mineure à la lumiere des

derniers découvertes archèologiques, in “Actes du XIe Congres International

d’Archeologie Chretienne. Lyon 1986”, Vatican, 1989, p. 2565-2567.
TP D. Benea, Numerus Palmyrenorum Tibiscensium. Contribuţii la istoria

trupelor de palmyreni din Dacia, in “Apulum”, Muzeul Unirii Alba Iulia, 18,
1980, p. 132-140.
TP Idem, Die palmyrenische Truppen aus der Provinz Dakien. Organisierung

,Struktur, Entwicklung, kulturelle Integration, Istoria aşezărilor de tip vici

militares din Dacia Romană, Timişoara, 2003, p. 147-156.
TP It is possible to see such forms of manifestation even at Porolissum, where a

Palmyrens unit was stationed.

Pontica Christiana 59
Bearing in mind the aspect of the piece, (paste, shape,
ornamental motifs, rosette), the rush-light seems to be a local,
provincial product. Despite this, thus far we hesitate to consider the
rush-light a product of the Tibiscum laboratories; but it may belong
to those from Ulpia Traiana, a center known for the production of
lamps as well as of other pottery products.
The Tibiscum rush-light, besides other discoveries made in the
south-west of Dacia (at Dierna, for instance), does prove the
penetration of the Christian faith under the influence of human
relationships, noticeable in the Empire’s provinces, quite early. For
the time being, the discovery from Tibiscum is the earliest one of
Dacia, and is dated sometime between the second half of the second
century A.D. and the beginning of the third century. It seems, also,
that similar pieces appeared in some other places of the province of
Dacia, at Romula, for instance18. TP PT

The phenomenon of penetration is not either slower or faster if

compared with some other oriental cults, a fact eloquently
ascertained in Dacia, where some oriental cults are documented
through a single or multiple epigraphic mention, or through votive
monuments representing the allegiance of the individual to a
certain cult.
The Christian religion was spread much less through written
works. The favorite form was represented by small talismans with
concealed representations of the faith: fish, peacocks, anchors, etc,
even the Cross incised on some objects, put in less visible places,
usually at the bottom of the vessels.

TP PTInformation given by Mr. G. Popilian at the “National Session of
Archaeological Reports from Călăraşi (1998)”.

Fig. 1 a, b – Tibiscum. The rush-light with Christian signs

Pontica Christiana 61

Fig. 2 a, b – Tibiscum
The rush-light with Christian signs

Fig. 3 – Tibiscum
Fragment of a small caolin mug having the sign of the Cross incised inside a
triangle, uncovered in the military vicus.
Pontica Christiana 63


- rezumat -

Este prezentat un opaiţ de lut descoperit într-una dintre

barăcile castrului mare de la Tibiscum. Tipologic, opaiţul se
încadrează în categoria opaiţelor cu corpul rotund, plat, disc
circular, toartă lamelară şi cu ciocul tras în afară. Este prima piesă
de acest fel descoperită pe teritoriul Daciei Romane. Se datează în
intervalul cuprins între a doua jumătate a secolului II d.Hr. şi
începutul secolului III d.Hr..
Piesa a fost executată în tipar. Înainte de ardere a fost
împodobită cu diferite incizii. Între ele se numără şi semnul crucii.
Restul reprezentărilor – triunghiul echilateral şi punctele (perechi
de câte trei) – sunt interpretate ca simboluri ale Sfintei Treimi.
Aceste reprezentări sugerează că opaiţul nu slujea doar ca sursă de
iluminat, ci avea şi rol cultic distinct. Locul descoperirii opaiţului
sugerează că proprietarul său a fost un soldat creştin.
Piesa întăreşte presupunerea existenţei la Tibiscum a unor
comunităţi creştine la cumpăna veacurilor II-III d. Hr..



by Victor H. Baumann

0.0 The north of Dobruja is considered as a huge depot of

archaeological testimonies which point out the most diverse aspects
of the Danubian Roman world. Numerous fortresses and
strongholds, rural settlements and necropolises, represent a
remarkable cultural patrimony. A special category of archaeological
discoveries moots the phenomenon of early penetration of early
Christianity at Lower Danube. The commercial relationships of the
Greek cities from the Dobruja’s shore of the Black Sea, with both
the Aegean and the Asia Minor inhabitants, as well as the great
number of Roman soldiers at the Lower Danube – a lot of them
proceeding from regions of the Near Orient, who have been
converted early to Christianity – justify the assertion which claims
that the new Christian religion was known in the Danubian area as
far back as the first centuries of the Christian era. With this
meaning, the archaeological discoveries from Noviodunum – a
Roman center renowned for the flourishing transit commerce which
was carried on at the crossing of the right side of the fortress, as
well as from the Noviodunum territory – enrich the Christian
archaeology with new proofs of the Christian beginnings at the
north-east border of the Roman Empire.
1.0 The oldest Christian presence at Noviodunum is presently
rendered evident by a rushlight, type 18 Kuzmanov, from the end of
the first century and the beginning of the second century A.D.1 TP PT

(MIA Tl. – inv. 43.274). The importance of this discovery derives

from the symbolism of the decoration found on the concave disc of
the rush-light, on which we find two stylized dolphins brought into
opposition and which are supported by a crux commissa, cross like

TP PT Translated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă
TP PT Ghiorghi Kuzmanov, Anticni lampi, Sofia, 1992, p. 19, nr. 63-66.
Pontica Christiana 65
letter T, overturned, a well-known symbol during early
Christianity2. The dolphin, by and large assimilated to the fish in

the Paleo-Christian symbology3, is the bearer of the defunct to the


netherworld in the pagan funeral symbolism, and its presence on

the Roman rushlights seems to be normal if we consider, also, the
usage of this kind of objects in the funeral ritual. The usage of
triangle in the oversimplified rendering of the heads and of the
decoration on the bodies of marine animals are suggesting to us,
however, the extremely early presence of the Holy Trinity concept,
in which the triangle’s symbology is identified with the one of the
number4. The decoration, noticeable for experts, reflects, in this

case, the knowledge of the fundamental dogma of the Holy Trinity

as far back as the first century A.D. We are faced with an imported
product, or, rather, an object brought by one of the followers of the
new Christian ideology, either soldier or merchant who came to
Noviodunum from the territory in which the new religion knew a
fast dissemination.
Among the archaeological discoveries that point out the early
penetration of Christianity in the region from the Danube River’s
mouths, this rushlight’s presence is extremely precious inasmuch as
it proves that the Christian symbol of the Cross is prior to the third
century in these regions which are remote from the early
Christianity’s birthplace5. TP PT

1.1 In the second century, Noviodunum had become a genuine

Roman city6, cosmopolitan, as was the case with all of the border

TP“Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie” (=DECA), Paris, III, 2,

col. 3061-3062.
TPH. Leclercq, s.v. Dauphin, DECA, col. 293-295. See also C-tin Băjenaru, Un

opaiţ cu simboluri paleocreştine descoperit la Tomis, in “Pontica”, 25-26, 2002-

2003, p. 220.
TPJ. Chevalier, A Geerbrant, Dicţionar de simboluri, vol. III, Bucureşti, 1995, p.

TPSee N. Zugravu, Geneza creştinismului popular al românilor, Bucureşti, 1997,

p. 177 – cf. V. Grossi, s.v. Croix, Crucifix, DECA, I, p. 592-594: catacombs

crosses from the end of the second century and monument crosses of Palmyra
(176), Medula – Syria (197-198) and Dura Europos – Syria (232).
TPClaudius Ptolemaeus, Geographia, III, 10, 2, 5, (ed. C. Müller).
cities, with a motley population, particularly interested in the great
profits brought about by the trade with the populations from the
other side of the river7. Africans, Oriental-Greeks, Anatolians,

Italians, and Galo-Romans, soldiers, merchants, tradesmen and

farmers, Roman citizens and pilgrims from the Oriental and
Occidental provinces, were coming across each other next to the
great fortress of the classici from Noviodunum8. Hence, it is normal

for a series of artifacts, coming from this archaeological area, to

have had a strictly personal character, and, as such, to reflect the
ideas and religious concepts of those to whom they belonged. This
is true about the objects with a Christian character, among which
the Paleo-Christian gems, particularly the Gnostic ones, take hold
of a particular place.
Such a gem of red onyx was fortuitously uncovered in the
vicinity of the fortress in 19919 (MIA – Tl, inv. 42.962). The

composition, apparently pastoral, has the image of a tree engraved

in a central zone, and on the trunk of the tree, upward, there is a
thick snake coiled up three times, and the snake seems to protect
the tree, becoming one and identifying itself with the tree. The
upper side of the tree is crowned with a crown covered with leaves.
At left there is a he-goat straightened up on the hind legs, with the
muzzle raised to the leaves crown of the tree. At the right side of
the composition there is a huge cock engraved, with strong legs and
open wings. The symbolical character of the composition engraved
on the gem is quite obvious. But are there reflected in this
symbology some concepts of the early Christianity? To this effect,
let us try to discern the secret meaning of the symbols.

TPSee in this sense, V. H. Baumann, Începuturile vieţii romane la Noviodunum, in

“Peuce”, N.S., 6, 2008, Pl. III Teliţa – Amza 1988. Horreum.

TP G. Simion, Rituri şi ritualuri practicate în necropola romană de la

Noviodunum, in “Pontica”, 27, 1994, p. 90-105.

TPThis gem was published recently by G. Simion in “Peuce”, N.S., 3-4, 2005-

2006, p. 176, nr. 5, in an article titled Gemele din colectia ICEM Tulcea, p. 173-
182. The author deciphered in the engraving a bucolic scene and considered that:
“The artistic realization and the technique are mediocre, and this fact persuades
us to date it in the II-III centuries A.D.”
Pontica Christiana 67
In the lay-out scope of the gem there are three elements which
are perfectly individualized: the snake, coiled up three times on the
tree in the center, which is flanked at the right by the cock and by
the billy goat at the left; consequently, there are two elements
joined edge to edge to a central element. The tree seems to be an
olive tree, whose top crown is made up of three branches. In the
first Christian centuries, the artistic description of the olive, and of
the olive branch as expression of the cosmic tree partial totem,
respectively10, belongs to the series of the most frequent messianic

symbols of the non-Semitic Christians, besides the vine with

grapes, the fish and the dolphin11. In this case, the symbology of

sacred numbers by the presence of figure three is relevant to the

Paleo-Christian mytho-philosophy. In the process of transforming
the early Church into a universal Church, the oldest tendency of it
consisted in the assimilation and revalorization of symbolism as
well as of scenarios which were biblically, orientally or heathenly
originated12. In this context takes place, also, the assimilation of

the World’s Tree’s symbolism – an archaic symbol that was widely

disseminated in all ancient religions. It has to be pointed out that, in
the Gnostic soteriology, a part of the divine soul, that is, of Light, is
imprisoned in the body of the living beings and in the vegetable
species. The trees contain particularly a great amount of divine soul
= Light and they served as Christ’s cross during his passion13. The TP PT

snake is an archetypal and totalizing symbol14, truly a symbolic


model, an embodiment of primordial matter made up of water and

earth as the Cosmos itself. “In this ideational context, the snake is
consubstantial with the cosmic tree, with the earth and the water.

TP R. Vulcănescu, Mitologie română, Bucureşti, 1987, pp. 89-90.

TP F. Tristan, Primele imagini creştine, Bucureşti, 2002, p. 46 & 93. Even in the

Judaic religion the olive tree is looked at as a messianic tree – see, J. Chevalier,
A Gheerbrant, op.cit., p. 462.
TP M. Eliade, Istoria credinţelor şi ideilor religioase, vol. 2, Bucureşti, 1986, p.

TP Ibidem, p. 379 (Jesus Patibilis).

TP I. Evseev, Dicţionar de simboluri şi arhetipuri culturale, Timişoara, 1994, p.

For this reason, we find it in the early iconography of the world,
coiled up on the cosmic tree...”15. At the same time, the snake is the

incarnation of the supreme reason, of divine Logos, or of Satanic

intelligence, as in the biblical Paradise, ideational concept
assimilated, also, by the followers of the Gnostic sect of perati,
who believed that, quite alike the snake which, by coiling up can
bite its tail, in the same way, the divine Logos, present in the
snake’s body, comes back to himself16. The ophit or naasian TP PT

Gnostics assign to the biblical snake even the role of humanity’s

deliverer17. The cock, the embodiment of cosmic and spiritual light,

is a solar symbol in mythologies, and in the Christian symbology it

signifies the light and supreme intelligence which proceed from
God, sometimes they being identified with the Savior. Associated
with the courage, the cock is a magic bird, protector against any
kind of evil and vested with the gift of knowing the secrets of life
and death18. In the Greek mythology, the she-goat and the he-goat

were “demoniac creatures” which furthered fecundity and

fertility19; hence, the ritual of sacrificing the he-goat. As a

demoniac and lewd animal, representing the wickedness and

brutality, the he-goat is the opposite of the lamb from the Christian
mythology, which had remodeled the demonological profile of the
she-goat and the he-goat, transforming them in the tools of the
devil20. Therefore, we consider that the Noviodunum gem,

described above, represents an exceptional Paleo-Christian

document and an excellent realization of the early Roman era. It
presents a Gnostic composition with symbols from a soteriological
scenario destined to emphasize to the initiates the release by the

TP R. Vulcănescu, op. cit., p. 522.

TP Cf. I. Evseev, op. cit, p. 180.

TP See V. Kernbach, Dicţionar de mitologie generală, Bucureşti, 1989, p. 206

(s.v. gnostici). The denomination of naasian sect of this Gnostic group comes
from the name of the snake in the Hebrew language.
TP Cf. I. Evseev, op. cit., p. 43.

TP R. Vulcănescu, op. cit., p. 518.

TP Ibidem, loc. cit.
Pontica Christiana 69
Light, (the divine soul), of its part imprisoned in the body of living
beings and in the vegetable matter.
1.2 The presence of Gnostic gems in the Danubian Roman
centers is one more proof of the oriental cults’ spreading by the
agency of those who came from the oriental provinces of the
Empire21. Among them, there are, also, the bearers of the Christian

religion, under all aspects known by the new religion inside or

outside of the early Church22. The truth of this assertion can be

exemplified with the aid of an older discovery, made at the

southern border of the Noviodunum territory in the Alba locality,
where there is a center of Roman settlement, archaeologically
certified23. In the numismatic collections of the Museum of History

and Archaeology from Tulcea, there is a hoard of Roman imperial

denarii, uncovered in the Alba locality four decades ago, which
remained unpublished24. The hoard was formed in the first half of

the third century A.D. and contains monetary issues from Septimius
Severus, Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabal, and Severus Alexander, the

TP See G. Simion, op. cit.

TP O. Marucchi, Manuale di archeologia cristiana, Roma, 1933, p. 197. In

accordance with Z. Kosidowski (Povestirile Evangheliştilor, Bucureşti, 1983, p.

149), the new religion appeared immediately following the death of Jesus inside
the frame of a phenomenon of syncretistic fusion of Judaic and Greek elements,
and in the period from the year 36 A.D. (the Hellenists’ revolt) to 70 A.D., (the
destruction of Jerusalem), it represented the border which separates the history of
the Church in two distinct stages: in the Judeo-Christian phase and in the
universal phase, of spreading of Christianity in the Greek-Roman world.
TP Open ground researches made in the year 1984 by a group of museographers

from the Museum of History and Archeology of Tulcea, made up of V. H..

Baumann, Elena Lăzurcă, I. Vasiliu and D. Dobre, have localized at Alba and its
surroundings more centres of habitation from different historical epochs, quite
significant being the one of the Roman epoch from the territory occupied by a
human settlement, and the mediaeval one from the south-west border of the
locality. The locality is mentioned by Radu Vulpe in his work Din istoria
Dobrogei, vol. II, Bucureşti, 1968, the second map, the information being taken
over by Al. Suceveanu, in Viaţa economică în Dobrogea romană, secolele I-III
e.n., Bucureşti, 1977, p. 61 and figures 1 and 3.
TP The information was supplied by Dr. Gavrilă Simion, and we thank him for his

years 193-235 A.D.25. The 118 denarii of the hoard were

accompanied by a silver ring with a gem setting26. The gem, an TP PT

onyx of yellowish-red color, is a jewel engraved by excision with a

fantastic personage which is represented cruciform. The personage,
a humanoid, is endowed with a fusiform body, covered to the
bottom side with a pleat mantle, and with the waist wrapped three
times in a wide sash. Two open palms, oversized, in a praying
attitude, go away directly from the middle of the waist, being
propped up by two staffs with four vegetable symmetrical
protuberances. On the upper side, the head is render as a cylinder,
provided with two flagging ears and ophthalmic eyes, very much
protruded, and covered with a kind of bonnet as a lid; the personage
doesn’t have a mouth. The whole composition, in a praying
attitude, is propped up by a pedestal. Doubtlessly, we are faced
with a very rare Gnostic gem which represents Achamoth (Greek
Aχαμώθ; Hebrew: hahachmoth = wisdom, illumination)27, TP PT

which, in the mytho-philosophy of Valentinian Gnostics, is a

hypostasis of divine Wisdom (Sophia) born without the
participation of the masculine principle and, as such, it is a
shapeless, unfinished and un-harmonized substance, existing
outside of the divine beings. Achamoth is the captive spiritual
substance that contributed to the creation of material cosmos with
the seven Heavens, with the Earth, and the Man, being for the
Valentinian Gnostics the “Mother of Light”28. Considering that the

true human being is of divine origin and nature, but that it is

hostage in the material body, the Valentinian Gnostics were
militating for a purely spiritual “rebirth”, having the certainty of

TP These determinations are done by Cristina Opaiţ, before 1990. Inv. nr: 10.835-

10.877; 11.206-11.241; 11.406-11.449; 39.502-39.507. Most pieces come from

Severus Alexander’s reign, pointing out that the burial of the hoard took place
immediately after his death, during the reign of Maximinus Thrax.
TP Inv. nr. 11.217.

TP V. Kernbach, op. cit., p. 1 (s.v. Achamoth) – cf. Irenaeus, Contra ereticilor, I,

TP Gnostic sect founded by Valentinus, native of Egypt, who died in the year 161

A.D. (apud V. Kernbach, op.cit., p. 11).

Pontica Christiana 71
salvation through gnosis . The cruciform representation of the

primordial matter, of vegetable elements from its palms and of the

head like a column, points out the phenomenon of assimilation by
the Christian gnosis of the Valentinians of the Cosmos Tree’s
symbolism, which is an archaic symbol universally well-known.
The image of the Cross as Tree of good and evil is originated, as
the Cosmic Tree, in the biblical tradition, the heavenward column
which assures the “salvation” of the Universe, perpetual renewal,
and cosmic regeneration30. After gemma abraxea uncovered in

tower 5 from Dinogetia31, and the gem from Noviodunum,


engraved with a griffon with a bird-like body and a snake tail coiled
up around a cruciform object32, the two Gnostic gems presented

above prove that, in the first centuries after Christ, the Christian
world was divided; this calls equally for the research of Gnostic
vestiges, besides the other Paleo-Christian vestiges. To this –
hopefully – correct conclusion, we are guided by the fact that, in
the Alba treasure, hidden during the Emperor Maximin the
Thracian, about whom we know that he was an avowed enemy of
Christians33, and that he confiscated the incomes of the middle and

lower classes of the population from provinces, the ring with

Gnostic symbols was brought in, also. The possessor, very probably
the owner of a villa rustica, must have been one of those exponents

TP Esoteric teachings (secrete, dedicated to initiates), mentioned, also, in

Evanghelia după Marcu (cf.4:10 sq.; 7:17 sq.; 10:10 sq) and by Clement of
Alexandria who remarked that his teacher kept “the true tradition of blessed
teachings which came in their entirety directly from the holy apostles Peter,
Jacob, John, and Paul, being transmitted from father to son [and which] came to
us by God’s grace,” and which constitute the Gnostic tradition (apud M. Eliade,
op. cit., p. 358).
TP M. Eliade, op. cit., p. 388.

TP Published by Gh. Ştefan in “Dacia”, 7-8 (1937-1940), pp. 419-421, fig. 28

(drawing), and taken over by Em. Popescu in Inscripţii greceşti şi latine din sec.
IV-XIII, Bucureşti, 1976, p. 258, nr. 241A.
TP I. Barnea, Al. Barnea, Săpăturile de salvare de la Noviodunum, in “Peuce”, 9

(97-106), p. 102. The gem was attributed to Christian Gnostics by V. H.

Baumann, in Sângele martirilor, Constanţa (Bucureşti), 2004 (2005), p. 35.
TP R. Vulpe, op. cit., p. 227.
of Gnostic sects which had as basis the Christian doctrine, even if
they did not recognize the revealed truths34. Being considered

Christians by the Roman authority, the Gnostics were persecuted,

and had to endure the same reprisals, as all other followers of this
2.0 The existence of some Christian practitioners in the
Noviodunum territory in the II-IV centuries A.D., is, however,
rendered evident by the Paleo-Christian archaeological vestiges
uncovered in the rural sites from the area of Telita locality and by
the burnt off bones of the two martyrs found in the lower area of
the martyrly crypt from Niculiţel, and, obviously, by the great
number of martyrs attested at Noviodunum by the hagiographic
sources35. We add to these vestiges a round bronze piece with the

borders rounded off to inside, uncovered by chance in 2001 in the

ancient civilian settlement from the south-east vicinity of
Noviodunum fortress36. The piece has a diameter of 6,5 cm. and is

decorated on the margin and on the inside concave register with six
stylized bunches of grapes, most often triangular, made of five
round grapes each, separated by six vine leaves. The central part,
deeper, is decorated by a crux quadrata, with even arms, having at
the end round grapes identical to those from the bunch of grapes’
composition. The cross is perforated in the middle by a catching
orifice, since the piece is provided on the inner surface with small
bronze rings, soldered, with three of the initial four preserved,
destined to catching some small bronze chains for the catching of a
small recipient, probably a vigil lamp. On the body of the piece are
noticed traces of silver. The discreet ornament and the plating of
the objects points out the importance given to it and,
simultaneously, it urges us to include it among the Paleo-Christian
objects with liturgical character from the Noviodunum territory,
which may be chronologically enframed – with the necessary

TP M. Rusu, Paleocreştinismul în Dacia romană, in “Ephemeris Napocensis”, 1,

1991, (81-112), p. 93.

TP See V. H. Baumann, op. cit., p. 37; 59; 112.

TP MIA Tulcea, inv. nr. 45.625.
Pontica Christiana 73
precautions – at the end of the third century and the first half of the
fourth century A.D.
2.1 Who are these Christians, owners of the objects uncovered
by our archaeological researches? From Clement the Roman’s
accounts from the end of the first century A.D., and from the
Epistle to Diognet37, we learn that, together with the other

inhabitants, the Christians live “as everyone’s fate came”,

following the indigenous residents’ habits both in clothing and in
foods and in other way of living, but display a wonderful life which
is recognized by all as unheard-of,... participate in as citizens, but
enduring everything as strangers. During the first centuries after
Christ, the Christians do not confess their faith, and cannot be
distinguished from the other segments of the population, but
sometimes they could be identified. An example, to this meaning, is
offered by the inhumation tomb from Barbosi (M-7) uncovered in
1978, dated with coins from Claudius the Goth (a. 268-270 A.D.),
in which it was found a gold chaplet with the inscription Innocens,
name which, in accordance with some well-informed researches38, TP PT

express the moral qualities of the defunct, justifying the hypothesis

of his Christian affiliation. While accepting the veracity of this
hypothesis, we bring back for discussion a funeral inscription from
the second century A.D., uncovered in the year 1956 at
Noviodunum39 which sounds as follows:

TP Clement Romanul, Omilie numită a doua epistolă către Corinteni, II, 3, p. 95;

Epistola către Diognet, V, 4-5, in coll. “Părinţi şi Scriitori Bisericeşti”, vol. 1,

Bucureşti, 1979, p. 340.
TP S. Sanie, Civilizaţia romană la est de Carpaţi şi romanitatea pe teritoriul

Moldovei (sec. II i.e.n. – III e.n.), Iaşi, 1981, p. 220-221. See, H. I. Marrou, in
Actes du colloque Ineternational sur l’onomastique latine, Paris, 1977, p. 433-
TP The inscription was initially published by I. Barnea and B. Mitrea in

“Materiale”, 5, 1959, p. 469-470, fig. 8 and after that taken over on the occasion
of realization of the corpus with inscriptions from Dobruja, by Emilia Doruţiu-
Boilă, Inscripţiile din Scythia Minor, vol. 5, Bucureşti, 1980, pp. 288-289, nr.
278, without commentary.
“D(is) M(anibus)/Maria Ing/enua vix (it) /an(nis) L et Au/fidius
Aq/[vila]...”. As I made more precise at other time40, the presence

of Aufidius at Noviodunum points out the aspect of this zone’s

early colonization with ethnically oriental-Greek elements of recent
Roman citizenship at the beginning of the second century A.D.41. It TP PT

is impossible for the name Maria Ingenua not to be shocking, a

name which has deep significances in the Christian onomatology
throughout the centuries. Certainly, we are facing one of the first
funeral monuments from the Istro-pontic province which belonged
to a Christian family. The lack of any Christian symbol from the
monument, and the worshipping of the underground gods, does not
contradict the above assertion since, in the second century A.D., the
Christian Church was fully organized, and the followers of the new
religion did not seek to be different from their fellow citizens42. As TP PT

in the case of the family of the Moesia fleet veteran’s, Caius Iulius,
settled in the village from Valea Amzei, from the vicinity of the
Telita locality, from the Noviodunum territory, contemporary to the
Aufidius Aqvila’ + Maria Ingenua’ family, we are faced with
personages who embraced the early Christianity, the latter one
native of Anatolia, and the others with genuine Roman names are,
possibly, Romanized natives43. TP PT

To the end of the second century A.D., another veteran, a

centurion of a Roman cohort, Aufidius Phebus, probably a native
from Anatolia, also, was a farmer on the Valea Capaclia, at 5 km.
south-west of the great city of Noviodunum’s classici44. The TP PT

TP V. H. Baumann, Ferma romană din Dobrogea, Tulcea, 1983, pp. 95-97.

TP See Em. Doruţiu-Boilă, op. cit., p. 252, cf. A. Aricescu, in “Pontica”, 6, 1973;

Idem in Actes de la XII-e Conference <<Eirene>>, p. 695, the author is

considering that the name of Aufidius from the Dobruja’s inscriptions are due to
the governor of Cappadocia & Galata from the year 100-101, Aufidius Umber.
TP See supra, note 25.

TP V. H. Baumann, Autour de la pénétration de l’ancien christianisme aux

Bouches du Danube, Hristianskov Nasavdiv Bizantii i Rusii, Simferopol, 48-60;

Idem, Vestigii paleocreştine descoperite în mediul rural autohton de pe Valea
Teliţei, Jud. Tulcea, in vol. “Studia Historica et Theologica. Omagiu Profesorului
Emilian Popescu”, Iaşi, 169-183.
TP V. H. Baumann, Ferma romană …, p. 95-97.
Pontica Christiana 75
funeral hillock of the family, placed close to the farm, contained ten
tombs, with interments done sometime from the middle of the
second century A.D.45. The archaeological researches of 1971

showed a micro-necropolis of early Roman era, with incineration

tombs from the second century, arranged in accordance with a
certain ritual, together with a sarcophagus, in the western half of the
hillock, and with interment tombs from the first half of the third
century A.D., placed at the eastern half. Our attention is drawn by
two of the four inhumation tombs, namely those with the defunct
put directly in the grave with the body stretched and the arms close
to it46. One of these tombs belongs to a woman, buried with some

personal objects: a bone comb, a silver filigree bracelet, and a

chaplet of the type “with the foot turned under”. which dates the
tomb in the middle of the third century A.D.. The second tomb,
similar to the preceding one, belongs to a man and the inventory
was missing. The archaeological researches made on the Valea
Capaclia set down that villa rustica from this valley was destroyed
at the middle of the third century by the devastating invasion of the
Goths and Carps led by Kniva47. from the years 249-250 A.D., and

this is an indication on the post quem moment of the inhumation of

the two defuncts. In the third century, the inhumation is spread and
in the following century is noticed a higher weight of the
inhumations with the arms close to the body, a phenomenon which
is brought about probably by the custom of covering the corpses
with shrouds, and burying them with the “mummies” such as,
otherwise, they are depicted in the Christian representations from
the third and fourth century of the “Lazarus Resurrection”48. In the TP PT

TP G. Simion, Descoperiri noi pe teritoriul noviodunens, in “Peuce”, 6, 1977, pp.

123-136; see, also, our commentary; V. H. Baumann, op. cit., pp. 67-69.
TP With regards to the funeral rites and rituals from the II-III centuries A.D., see

Nelu Zugravu’s commentary, Geneza creştinismului…, p. 251, with the

bibliography at p. 276, note 283.
TP V. H. Baumann, op. cit., pp. 68-69.

TP N. Zugravu, op. cit., loc. cit. – Cf. G. Filoramo, s.v. Eschatologie, in

“Dictionnaire Encyclopédique du Christianisme Ancien”, vol. 1 (A-I), Les

Editions du Cerf, imprime en Belgique, 1990, pp. 847-852.
same period, the plain inhumations, without inventory, or with a
poor inventory, in rectangular graves, are multiplied. Certainly, all
these criteria, vis-à-vis the lack of Christian symbols, have a high
degree of probability. The two inhumation tombs from Valea
Capaclia seem to suggest the presence of some Christians, and, in
this sense, the most plausible indication consists of their laying
down in the eastern zone of the hillock; this could reflect an
extension of the sacred funeral area, a frequent phenomenon in the
early Roman world era, when the Christian cemeteries are born and
are developed as a continuation of the pagan ones49. TP PT

In the Noviodunum territory, these farmers native from

Anatolia, Romanized oriental-Greeks descendants of some veterans
as the former cohort centurion, Aufidius Phoebus, were attracted by
the new Christian religion, that could have been practiced in family,
in a period in which these practices were running counter to the
imperial cult, or had not had the chance to be noticed as yet, due to
the cult exclusiveness specific to Christianity. Let us not forget that,
at Niculiţel, first martyrly tomb was built on a villa rustica type of
property, the two adult males who endured martyrly death by being
burnt at the stake, having been brought to Niculiţel and deposed in
a private crypt, placed in the vicinity of a tomb of incineration in a
stony vessel from the end of the second century A.D.50. This action TP PT

could have been realized only in two situations: a) if the incinerated

martyrs were members of the farmer’s family; b) if the farmer was
a Christian, or a sympathizer of the Christian religion. At the
beginning of the fourth century A.D., both hypotheses could have
been real, since Christianity had strongly penetrated the entire
Roman society from the region of the Danube River’s mouths. We
estimate, however, that only after the enacting of the Edict of
Mediolanum of 313 A.D., the Niculiţel farmer brought on his
property the martyrly remnants from the Noviodunum necropolis,
what makes more plausible the second hypothesis.
TP N. Zugravu, op. cit., p. 250.

TP V. H. Baumann, Cercetări recente la Bazilica paleocreştină din satul Niculiţel

(Judeţul Tulcea), in “Peuce”, 10 (1), 1991, pp. 121-125; 10 (2), p. 147-156;

Idem, Sângele…, Constanţa (2004), Bucuresti, (2005), p. 119; 125.
Pontica Christiana 77
The discovery of these Christian testimonies in the area of
Danube River’s mouths stresses the unity in diversity of the new
religion at its beginnings, as well as the historical continuity of a
worship phenomenon of whose beginnings we catch only a glimpse
at Noviodunum, as early as the first century A.D.



- rezumat -

Nordul Dobrogei se constituie într-un depozit uriaş de mărturii

arheologice de epocă romană, mărturii care evidenţiază cele mai
diverse aspecte ale romanităţii dunărene. În acest sens, descoperirile
arheologice de la Noviodunum, centru roman renumit pentru
înfloritorul comerţ de tranzit ce se desfăşura prin vadul din dreptul
cetăţii, ca şi cele din teritoriul noviodunens, îmbogăţesc arheologia
creştină cu noi dovezi asupra începuturilor creştine la fruntariile de
nord-est ale Imperiului roman. O categorie aparte a descoperirilor
arheologice pune în discuţie fenomenul pătrunderii timpurii a
creştinismului la Dunărea de Jos. Existenţa unor practicanţi creştini
în teritoriul noviodunens în secolele II-IV p.Chr. este evidenţiată de
vestigiile arheologice paleocreştine descoperite în siturile rurale din
zona localităţii Teliţa şi de oasele calcinate a celor doi martiri aflaţi
în zona inferioară a criptei martirice de la Niculiţel şi, evident, de
numărul mare al martirilor atestaţi la Noviodunum de către
izvoarele hagiografice.
Cea mai veche prezenţă creştină la Noviodunum este
evidenţiată, în prezent, de un opaiţ tip 18 Kuzmanov, de la sfârşitul
secolului I şi începutul secolului al II-lea p. Chr (MIA Tl.-
inv.43.274). Prezenţa acestui opaiţ este deosebit de preţioasă,
întrucât dovedeşte că simbolul creştin al Crucii este anterior
secolului al III-lea şi în aceste ţinuturi, depărtate de patria
creştinismului primar.
In secolul al II-lea, Noviodunum devenise un veritabil oraş
roman, cosmopolit, ca mai toate oraşele de graniţă, cu o populaţie
pestriţă, interesată, mai ales, de câştigurile mari pe care le aducea
negoţul cu populaţiile de dincolo de fluviu. Africani, greco-
orientali, anatolieni, italici şi gallo-romani, militari, negustori,
meseriaşi şi fermieri, cetăţeni romani şi peregrini din provinciile
răsăritene şi din cele apusene se întâlneau lângă marea cetate a
classici-lor de la Noviodunum. Este firesc, deci, ca o serie de
artefacte provenite din această mare zonă arheologică să fi avut un
caracter strict personal şi, ca atare, să reflecte ideile şi concepţiile
religioase ale acelora cărora le aparţineau. Este şi cazul gemelor şi
talismanelor, descoperite la Noviodunum sau teritoriul său.
Prezenţa gemelor gnostice în centrele romane dunărene este încă o
dovadă a vehiculării cultelor orientale prin intermediul celor veniţi
din provinciile orientale ale Imperiului. Printre aceştia s-au aflat şi
purtători ai credinţei creştine, în toate aspectele pe care le-a
cunoscut noua religie în interiorul sau în afara Bisericii primitive.
Fiind consideraţi creştini de către autoritatea romană, gnosticii au
fost persecutaţi şi au suportat aceleaşi represalii, ca toţi ceilalţi
adepţi ai acestei religii.
Descoperirea acestor mărturii creştine în zona Gurilor Dunării
evidenţiază unitatea în diversitate a noii religii, la începuturile sale,
dar şi continuitatea istorică a unui fenomen cultual ale cărui
începuturi le întrezărim la Noviodunum, încă din secolul I p.Chr..
Pontica Christiana 79

Fig. 1 – Paleo-Christian rushlight

from the end of the first century A.D.

Fig. 2 – Gnostic gem of red onyx

from the second half of the second century A.D.

Fig. 3 – Gnostic gem of orange onyx in silver setting – the ring of the monetary
treasure from Alba from the first half of the third century A.D.
Pontica Christiana 81

Fig. 4 – Censer lid of bronze, from the end of the third century and the beginning
of the fourth century A.D.

Fig. 5 – Niculiţel-Badilă. The plan of the funeral hillock researched in the years
Pontica Christiana 83


by Mihail Zahariade

After the enthusiasm and the abnegation hardly describable in

words for those who have not witnessed the birth of the project
aiming at systematic and long range research at the Murighiol site,
(Tulcea county), re-identified and certified in the meantime by a
thorough demonstration to have been the ancient city of Halmyris51, TP PT

Translated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă

TP It is worth noting that the original name of the present day commune was

Murighiol, deriving from the Turkish Mur = purplish-blue and ghiol = lake until
1983. After that year, the name of the locality was changed by the then
authorities into Independenţa. The commune took again its old name, Murighiol
only shortly after 1989, which it preserves it until present day. On Halmyris see:
C. Moisil, Cetăţi romane la Dunărea de Jos pe braţul Sfântu Gheorghe, in
“Buletinul Comisiei Monumentelor Istorice” (=BCMI), II, 1909, p. 83-92; idem,
Unde a fost vechiul Halmyris, BCIM, IV, 1910, p. 93-94. Al. Suceveanu, M.
Zahariade, Un nouveau vicus sur le territoire de la Dobroudja romaine, in
“Dacia”, N.S., XXX, 1986, 1-2, p. 109-120; M. Zahariade, Vexillation in
northern Dobroudja, in “Dacia”, N.S., XXX, 1986, 1-2, p.173-176; Al.
Suceveanu, M. Zahariade, Du nom antique de la cité romaine tardive
d'Independenţa (dép. Tulcea), in “Dacia”, N.S., XXXI, 1987, 1-2, p. 87-96; M.
Zahariade, Al. Suceveanu, A. Opaiţ,. C. Opaiţ,. Fl. Topoleanu, The Early and
Late Roman Fortification at Independenţa, Tulcea county, in “Dacia”, N.S.
XXXI, 1987, p. 97-106; Al. Suceveanu, Aşezarea getică şi cetatea romană de la
Independenţa (jud.Tulcea), in “Revista de Istorie”, XLI, 1988, 6, p. 597-608; M.
Zahariade, An Early and Late Roman fort at Independenţa, Tulcea county, in vol.
“Roman Frontier Studies 1989. Proceedings of the XVth International Congress

of Roman Frontier Studies”, Canterbury 1989, Exeter 1991, p. 211-223; idem,

New Epigraphical Finds in the Roman Fort of Independenţa, Tulcea county,
“Dacia”, N.S., 34, 1990, p. 259-266; idem, Inscripţia de fundaţie din timpul
primei tetrarhii de la Halmyris (Murighiol, jud. Tulcea), in “Pontica”, 29, 1996,
p. 173-186; idem, The Halmyris Tetrarchic Inscription, in “Zeitschrift fur
Papyrologie und Epigraphik”, 119, 1997, p. 228-236; M. Zahariade, M. K.
Phelps, A Settlement and Fort near the Mouth of the Danube: interim report, in
“Journal of Roman Archaeology”, 15, 2002, p. 230-245; Al. Suceveanu, M.
in the year 2000, and again in 2001, we got the stroke of luck to
uncover such a wanted and predicted basilica by Hypolite
Delhaye52; this happened exactly in the presbytery’s area of a

bicameral crypt, which, following the archaeological, epigraphic,

and anthropologic expertise, was proved to have belonged to some
Christian martyrs53. Keeping in mind that the Christian martyrs

known in Halmyris from the only hagiographic text of a significant

dimension were named Epictetus and Astion54, the discovery TP PT

proved to have been, at that that time, so much more surprising, as

Zahariade, Fl. Topoleanu, Gh. Poenaru Bordea, Halmyris I, Monografie

arheologică, Cluj Napoca, 2003.
TP H. Delehaye, Les martyres Epictète et Astion, in “Academie Roumaine.

Bulletin de la section historique”, tome XIV, 1928, p. 5: “Halmyris éleva sans

doute une basilique à ses martyres. Nous souhaitons que les archéologues
roumains, digne émules du très regretté Vasile Pârvan, soient assez heureux pour
la découvrir”.
TP M. Zahariade, The Halmyris Episcopal basilica and the martyrs’ crypt, in “Il

Mar Nero”, V, 2001/2003, 143-168; idem, Despre începuturile creştinismului de

la Dunărea de Jos: Martyrium-ul de la Halmyris, in vol. “Izvoarele
creştinismului românesc”, Constanţa, 2003, p. 115-126; M. Zahariade, O.
Bounegru, The Basilica Episcopalis and the Martyrs’ Tomb from Halmyris, in
vol. “Studia Historica et Theologica. Omagiu profesorului Emilian Popescu”,
Iaşi, 2003, p. 157-159.
TP The known basic published critical editions of the text are the following: Vitae

partum, sive, Historiae eremiticae libri decem: auctoribus suis et nitori pristine
restituti ac notationibus illustrate, opera et studio Heriberti Rosweydi,
Antwerpiae, 1615, 211-224; Vita sanctorum Epicteti Presbyteri et Astionis
monachi. Vitae Sanctorum exprobatis authoribus et mss. Codicis, Promo quidem
per R. P. Fr. Laurentium Surium carthusianum editae. Nunc vero multis
Sanctorum vitis auctorae emendatae, et notis marginalibus illustratae, VII, Köln
1618, p. 148-155; De SS. Epicteto presb. et Astione Monacho. Martyribus
Almiridensibus in Scythia, in “Acta Sanctorum Julii”, Ex Latinis&Graecis,
aliarumque gentium Monumentis, fervata Primigenia veterum Scriptorum phrasi,
Collecta, Digesta, Commentariisque & Observationibus illustrate a Conrado
Janningo, Joanne Bapt. Sollerio, Joanne Pinio e Societate Jesu Presbyteris
Theologis, Tomus II, Venetiis MDCCXLVII; Julii VIII. Vita Sanctorum Epicteti
Presbyteri et Astionis Monachi, in coll. “Patrologiae cursus completus”, Series
latina (=PL), ed. J.-P. Migne, vol. LXXIII, Paris, 1879, novissimae corrigendae
et recensente at Rosweydus’ edition. Novissime corrigente et recensente / Apud
Garnier Fratres, editores et J.-P. Migne successores, Parisiis [France], 1879.
Pontica Christiana 85
there were expressed, either in a low tone or overtly, some doubts
on the authenticity of the hagiographic text, and even on the
identity of the two individuals55. TP PT

At that time, the discovery shocked and, as a consequence, was

followed by some of the most dissimilar reactions, running from
ecstasy, promises, or doubts to surprisingly aggressive efforts and
shockingly directed against the undersigned, the author of the
discovery, aiming at removing him from the management of the
archeological site of Halmyris56. TP PT

I mentioned all these, since I consider the events of the year

2001-2002 my first martyrdom. The second conclusion can be
drawn from the very discovery. At the moment it was done, morally
speaking, I consider myself doomed to turn to good account this
precious and exceptional source of information both from an
archaeological point of view – by adding a book to the Halmyris
monographic series – and from an historic-philological view point,
by a rigorous introspection of the text that describes the martyrdom
of the two. It is what I try to present in a synthesized and partial

TP The first to cast doubts on the authenticity and value of the text was even H.

Delehaye in Saints de Thrace et de Mésie, in “Analecta Bolandiana” (=An.

Boll.), XXXI, 1912, p. 273-274: “[…] La Vie de ces deux solitaires venus
d’Orient jusque’en Mesie n’est qu’un tissue de prodiges et épisodes singuliers
[…]. Nulle part on ne decouvre la moindre attaché historique, et l’agencement
comme le ton sont ceux des romans d’imagination […]”. J. Zeiller, Les origines
chrétiennes dans les provinces danubiennes de l’Empire romain, Paris 1918, p.
119; idem, Die altchristliche Kirchenprovinz Skythien (Tomis), in “Strena
Buliciana”, Zagreb-Split, 1924, although H. Delehaye, Les martyres…, p. 4-5
makes an honourable revision of his previous pessimistic view on the text; see
also R. Netzhammer, Epiktet und Astion. diokletianische Märtyrer am
Donaudelta, Zug, 1937, p. 3-22.
TP C. Vilău, N. Amihulesei, Monument martiric paleocreştin scos la lumină din

cetatea Halmyris, in “România Liberă” of August 22-nd, 2001; Creştinismul

timpuriu pe meleagurile româneşti - Descoperire arheologică de importanţă
majoră, in “Dimineaţa” of August 23-rd, 2001; D. Arhire, Senzaţională
descoperire la Murighiol, in “Acum” of August 20-th, 2001; D. M., Mormintele
a doi martiri găsite la Murighiol, in “Ziua” of August 23-rd, 2001; L. Budin,
Cripta cu martiri de la Murighiol - ameninţată de ploi şi de hoţii de vestigii, in
“Adevărul” of August 31-st, 2001.
form; In what follows I will be trying to approach in a synthesized
and partial form only some aspects from a much ampler and more
detailed monographic study dedicated to the text which regards the
martyrdom of the priest Epictetus, and his younger disciple, the
monk Astion. There are two more reasons which made me to set
out on this endeavor: the reality of existence of a painted fresco
having in the middle an inscription in the Greek language which,
despite the text’s quite precarious state, at least the name of one of
the two martyrs, Astion, can be clearly visible, and finally, but not
lastly, the recent anthropological analysis of the two human
skeletons, carried out with a remarkable probity and competence by
Nicolae Miriţoiu and Andrei Soficaru from the Anthropological
Institute “Dr. Rainer” in Bucharest, and followed by important
conclusions regarding the concordance between the text and the
respective human bone remains57. TP PT

As the one who was relatively recent introduced to such a vast,

specialized and rigorous realm, I am ready to take upon myself the
smirks and sneers, as well as the harsh criticisms of the specialists.
Howlers and blunders which I assume myself might have still
remained, and I deeply apologize to the readers.
From the wide range of problems brought up by the
hagiographic text, I will subject to discussion the following three
- the historical identification of the characters with a key role
in the development of the events;
- the trial of the two martyrs;
- the circumstances in which some sketchy notations together
with a possible and very probable official court report could
have been later coagulated in a first basic manuscript,
which, after being re-copied in the middle-Ages, became the
prototype first published by Rosweydus and found in

TP N. Miriţoiu, A. Soficaru, Osteobigraphical Study of the Human Remains

Discovered in the Crypt of Murighiol (Antique Halmyris) Basilica, in “Il Mar

Nero”, V, 2001/2003, p. 169-192.
Pontica Christiana 87
unclear circumstances, in the archives of the church of the
Savior from Utrecht.

The Personages

There are a number of eight persons on whom the entire

account is based (Epictetus, Astion and his parents, Alexander and
Marcellina, Latronianus, Vigilantius, the bishop Evangelicus, and
the priest Bonosus). They can be categorized after frequency and
social importance with which they appear recorded in the text:
A. The degree of implication in the events:

I. Epictetus: I – III 30
II. Astion: I 5-III 30; IV 44-46
III. Latronianus: III 19-31; IV 32
IV. Vigilantius: III 22; IV 32-49
V. Alexander & Marcellina: I 5; 10-11; III 25-26; IV 33-49
VI. Evangelicus: IV 47
VII. Bonosus: IV 48

B. The official position they held and the social rank:

I. Latronianus: dux Scythiae ; dux provinciae
II. Vigilantius: quaestionarius (within the frame of the
administrative structure from Halmyris)
V. Alexander, Marcellina, Astion: characters (family) with
a high social position in the province (Bithynia?) in
which they resided: Alexander-pater: primarius urbis;
Marcellina-mater: de illustrium genere et Iuliani
senatoris extitit filia; Astion- filius
III. Evangelicus: bishop at Tomis (possibly bishop of the
province Scythia): Pontifex et praepositus sanctarum
Dei ecclesiarum; Christi pontifex; sacerdos Domini
IV. Bonosus: sanctus presbyter within the scope of a
structure of previous local incipient Christian organizing
VI. Epictetus: presbyter

Epictetus/Ἐπίκτητος  is a very well known name as far back as

the Greek classic period so that we will not discuss the name as
such58. In the text discussed, this name holds an exclusive

representation in the first chapter, paragraphs 1-4. After the episode

of his meeting with Astion he still remains the main character, even
if in the course of the account the Astion’s parents – Alexander, the
father, and Marcellina, the mother – are also involved. Epictetus
dominates the entire scene of the first part of the text; he is the one
who takes all the important decisions; he decides to leave their
original province for Scythia; he bestows on Astion, and teaches
him the practice to heal miraculously, but harshly disciplining him
both when he left the surroundings without notifying him and
especially when he has great doubts – quite probably – with regards
to the faith; likewise, he is the main interlocutor of the duke during
the inquiry and he insisted that Astion should be the first one to be
executed. From the point of view of the eventful development, it is
quite surprising to see that after execution, the name of Epictetus
appears only one single time, at the end of the text (IV 49), while
Astion becomes the main character.

Under the form mentioned in the hagiographic text, this name
appears in a quite exceptional way. There are some diverse
different readings of the name mentioned just in inscriptions:
Derveni: Ἀστιουνεῖος > Ἀστιουνεύς59. TP PT

Limoghardi (Narthacium) (Thessalia-Achaia Ftiotis): A list with

names inscribed on three columns: ACTIWN: Ἀστίων60. TP PT

TP W. Pape, G. E. Benseler, Wörterbuch der griechischen Eigennamen,

Braunschweig, 1862-1870, s.v. Ἐπίκτητος; Lexicon of Greek Personal Names,, I p. 13 s.v.
TP Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum (=SEG), 37, 1987, 549 (inscription on

a krateros; ca. 300 B.C.).

TP Inscriptiones Graecae (=IG) IX2, 91; N. Georgiadis, Θεσσαλία, Athena, 1880,

p. 213 ; B. Latîşev, in “Bulletin Hellénique”, VI, 1882, p. 588, 3 tab VI. col. III r.
70: ACTIWN: Ἀστίων.
Pontica Christiana 89

Ἀστίνος (Euboia) 4th/3rd century before Christ61. P P P P TP PT

Athena: Ἀστύονομος (352/351 before Christ)62. TP PT

Ἀστούν: frequent in Thessaly (Pelasgiotis) at: Atrax (3rd century P P

before Christ)63; Kranon (3rd-2nd centuries before Christ)64; Larissa


(4th century before Christ)65; Pherai (about 300 before Christ)66;


The Variant: Ἀστούνειος (Larissa)67; TP PT

In Roman period: Astio68. TP PT

The authorities appear to be represented by the duke

Latronianus and by the military judge Vigilantius. As a
consequence, in the course of the law suit Latronianus hold the key
role of the 3rd chapter. Latronianus is the one who inspects the

public works, convicts and orders the execution of the two

Christians and, as the text tells us, dies inside the praetorium after a
crisis of great rage.

The name is quite known but not widespread. Latronianus’
ancestors could be identified in one of the two branches of
important characters of the military and administrative life of the

*The Variant #1:

Flavius Iulius Gemellus Latronianus: between clarissimi pueri
who has sung at the secular games (204)69; cos. suff., (ὑπατικός) TP PT

TP IG, XII, 246 B. 113.

TP IG, II 2, 1696, 22.

TP SEG, 44, 554.

TP IG, IX2, 459, 9; SEG, 23, 437, 13.

TP SEG, 30, 567.

TP SEG, 25, 664 I, 59; 29, 552.

TP SEG, 41, 568.

TP Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (=CIL), VI, 7. 1.

TP Année Épigraphique (=AE),1932, 70.
(immediately after the year 231)70; legatus Augusti pro praetore.

Germaniae Inferioris (231)71; praefectus Urbi (ἔπαρχος  TP PT

Ῥώμης)72 (before 243); pontifex73; the father-in-law of Tib.


Pollienus Auspex, cos. order in 244 and the grandfather of Polliena

Honorata, the daughter of Ti. Pollienus Armenius Peregrinus (cos.
ord. 244)74. TP PT

*The Variant #2: Haterius Latronianus, tribunus militum legionis

II Adiutricis, the son of Haterius Saturninus, legatus Augusti pro
praetore Pannoniae Inferioris, (161-164) mentioned at
Aquincum75; together they dedicate an altar to Dis Militaribus;

fistula plumbea: [Ha]teri Latroniani76 TP PT

At Halmyris, in the martyrdom’s text, there appears a certain

Dux Scythiae: the end of the years 80es and the beginning of the
90es of the 3rd century P P

Latronianus dux (Acta : II 18-20; 23; IV 49);

Dux (Acta : III 21);
Dux provinciae istius (IV 41)
Latronianus (Acta : III 21; IV 32);
Tyrannus Latronianus (Acta : III 22, 27).
III 19: Per triduum opera publica et imperialia ministeria quae
ibidem erant pervidisse (at Halmyris);
III 19: He arrests both Epictetus and Astion;

TP Inscriptiones Ggraecae ad Res Romanas Pertinentes (=IGR), III, 618=ILS,

8841; Alföldi, Fasti Hispanienses. Senatorische Reichsbeamte und offiziere in

den Spanischen Provinzen des römisches Reiches von Augustus bis Diopkletian,
Wiesbaden, 1969, p. 55.
TP CIL, XIII, 8017.

TP IGR, III, 618.

TP IGR III, 618; CIL, XII, 3220.

TP IGR, III, 618.

TP CIL, III, 3473.

TP CIL, XV, 21,7467.
Pontica Christiana 91
III 19-31: He leads the trial against Epictetus and Astion and he
sentences them to death;
IV 32: he dies at Halmyris: violenter spiritum exhalavit. (!?)

Subsequent mentions, possibly about the same character:

Sicily: [Res]titutori libertatis [et] fundatori public[cae se]curitatis
d(omino) n(ostro) L[icin]iano Licin[io] pio felici invicto Aug[usto],
Domitius Latronianus, v[ir clarissimus], corr(ector) p[rovinciae
Siciliae d]evotus n(umini) maiestatiqu(e) eius77. TP PT

Τ]ῆς  πρὸς  πάντας  ἀνθρώπους  /  εχνοίας  πειραθέντες  / 
ἀνυπερβλήτου  χρηστό/τητος  μεταρχόντες  /  Δομιτίου 
Λατρονιανοῦ  /  τοῦ  λαμπροτατοῦ  ἐπανορθωντοῦ  /  βουλὴ 
καὶ ὁ δῆημος / εχνοίας ... / ... χάριν78.  TP PT

‐Eusebius:  καὶ  σοὶ  γράψσαι  ἐνομίσαμεν  ἳνα  λαβὼν  παρὰ 

τοῦ λαμπροτάτου Λατρωνιανοῦ τοῦ κονρήκτορος Σικελίας 
δημόσιον ὄχημα79. TP PT

-Carthago (year 319): D(omino) n(ostro) Constantino Fl(avio)

maximo, pio, felici, invicto, Augusto, Domitius Latronianus, v(ir)
c(larissimus), proco(n)sul p(rovinciae) A(fricae) et Vettius Piso
Severus, v(ir) c(larissimus), cur(ator) reip(ublicae)
Kart(aginensium) numini eius semper dicatissimi . TP PT

From an ephemeral initial role, and with a late appearance as the
events unfolded, Vigilantius acquires an absolute importance in the

TP CIL, X, 7284, on winter time 313/314; Ch. Tissot, Fastes de la province

romaine d’Afrique, Paris 1885, 211-212; A. Pallu de Lessert, Fastes des

provinces Africaines (Proconsulaire, Numidie, Maurétanie) sous la Domination
romaine, t. II. Bas Empire, Paris, 1969, p. 32.
TP IG, XIV, 296.

TP Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, X 5, 21-24 (letter to Constantine, January of 


TP CIL, VIII, 1016=12465; Ch. Tissot, op.cit., p. 211-212; Pallu de Lessert,

op.cit., p. 33.
second part of the text and becomes the main character. Acta E&A:
III 22; IV 32: IV 33: IV 34; IV 35; IV 36: IV 37: IV 38: IV 39: IV
40: IV 42; IV 43: IV 44: IV 46: IV 47:

In Acta E&A, (III 22), Vigilantius appears with the office of

quaestionarius (unus … ex quaestionariis) at Halmyris. He is
probably one of the official persons who have arrested E&A at the
order of Latronianus: imperat aliquos ex quaestionariis ut post solis
occasum pergerent ad habitaculum Sanctorum et comprehensos
eos, ferro vinctos, perducerent in custodiam carceris.
- Possibly, he participates in the trial of E&A in its initial
- Interrogates E&A: III 22.
- He becomes converted to Christianity: III 22: ego
Christianus sum, o tyranne Latroniane […]
- He buries the bodies of E&A
- He gives hospitality to Astion’s parents, Alexander and
- He gives hospitality to the bishop Evangelicus
- He leaves off for Asia Minor (?) together with Astion’s

The name is known in the Empire being born by other

important personages soon after the events from Halmyris:
- comes domesticorum (equitum?)81 and magister equitum (409) in

Occidens82; TP PT

-metropolitan bishop in Larissa (Thessaly) (446), he participated in

the synod from Ephesus (449)83; TP PT

TP Zosimos, Historia Nova, V, 36, 3 (408).

TP Zosimos, Historia Nova, V 47, 2-3; 48, 1 ; A. H. M. Jones, J. Morris, J. R.

Martindale, The Posopography of the Later Roman Empire, vol. I, A. D. 260-

395, Cambridge, 1971, p. 1165.
TP J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, Florentiae,

1761, t. V, col. 1273 C; t. VI, col. 610A; 846A; 930A; Council of Chalcedon, in
Mansi, op.cit., t. VI, col. 567C; 942C; Florentiae, 1762, t. VII, col. 100B; 139D;
Pontica Christiana 93
-born in Aquitania Secunda; priest in Barcelona and in Bethlehem

in 39685; TP PT

- a barber in the 5th or 6th century, he appears on a mosaic at


Aquileia, as a donor of a great amount of money for the renovation

of the martirium’s floor S. Cantianus86. TP PT

With an incidental role, which is, however, of a major

importance for the whole aspect of events at Halmyris, there come
into view the two ecclesiastical faces, Evangelicus, quite probably,
the bishop of Scythia, and Bonosus with an obscure role, but
because of his office, with some important historic implications, as
we will see below.

IV 47: Christi pontifex; sacerdos Domini; pontifex et praepositus
sanctarum dei ecclesiarum.
Evangelicus appears as having likely been the bishop of the early
Christian community at Tomis.

IV 47: sanctus presbyter Bonosus
IV 48: sanctus ac venerabilis presbyter Bonosus

Possibly, the leader of the Christian community from

Halmyris, already extant prior to the event, according to the
assertion of Latronianus III 21: “Nam eo quod de illa maledicta
perfidia estis, et ego novi, et universi circumstantes”.

188 A; 681A; 724C; 729A; 731D; W. Ensslin Real Encyclopädie , VIII A, 1958,
2132 nr. 2.
TP Hieronymus, Contra. Vigiliantii. 1.

TP Hieronymus, Contra. Vigilantii. 11; W. Ensslin, Real Encyclopädie VIII A,

1958, 2132 nr. 3 s.v. Vigilantius.

TP PCBE 2, 2296.
The trial of Epictetus and Astion

Unlike many other cases in which the progress of the trials of

some Christians is described in a detailed manner, by supplying
facts on the place of origin of the accused, the exact date of
execution, and even interesting ideological and dogmatic
controversies, as it happens in the case of martyrs Pionius and
Dasius87, the text concerning Epictetus and Astion leaves much to

be desired from these points of view.

The arrival of the duke Latronianus at Halmyris

The event represents a key moment not only in the progress of

the trial, but in the subsequent events, also. But there is a notable
contradiction in the frame of the narrative’s structure – for which is
obviously responsible the final redactor of the manuscript – a
contradiction which is tied to the way in which the duke of the
province arrived at Halmyris. The arrival of the highest provincial
military authority, as the duke was, at Halmyris should have been
likely announced and expected. It is exactly what already comes out
from the redactor’s introduction, in the frame of the narrative, of an
entire passage which fancies the conversation between a puer niger
and Astion in which the last one is notified by the arrival of the

TPG. Lanata, Processi contro cristiani negli atti dei martiri, Torino, 1989, 2nd

ed; J. Zeiller, Légalité et arbitraire dans les persécutions contre les chrétiens,
An. Boll., LXVII, 1949 , p. 49-54; H. Musurillo, The Acts of the Christian
Martyrs. Early Christian Texts, Oxford 1972, passim; H. Gregoire, Les
persécutions dans 1'Empire romain, in “Mémoires de l’Académie royale de
Belgique”, 46, Brussels, 1950; V. Monachino, Il fondo giuridico delle
persecuzioni nei primi due secoli, Roma, 1955; repr. from La scuola
cattolica, 8, 1951-1953; For particular cases see: Passio beati Philae episcopi
de civitates Thmui, 2-5; H. Musurillo, op.cit., p. 345-349 (Phileas);
Μαρτὺριον  τοῦ  Ἀγίου  Δασίου, 8-10; see also F. Cumont, Les Actes de
Saint Dasius, An. Boll., XVI, 1897, p. 369-372; T. M. Popescu, Martiriul
Sfântului Dasius, I Textul, in vol. “Prinos I.P.S. Nicodim”, Bucureşti, 1946, p.
224-230 (Dasius).
Pontica Christiana 95
high commandant and by the fact that he and Epictetus will have to
II 18: “[...] Confesso tua, Astion,magnas meas contrivit hodie vires,
et una oratio vestra me inermem in omnibus reddidit ac desolatum.
Ideoque egressus hinc, intrabo in cor Latroniani ducis, et
excitaboeum adversum vos celeriter [...]”.
It is a wondrous figure of speech which on one hand becomes
the echo of an announced visit and on the other hand adds a new
episode to the consistent dossier of the so-called <<anti-black
sentiment>> in the patristic writings as it was noticed by Ph.
Mayerson some time ago88. Thanks to the conditions of an

announced and expected visit, the adverb subito, employed by the

redactor in the next chapter which is concerned with the arrival of
Latronianus at Halmyris, can not mean anything else but the fact
that he will have arrived before the announced date:
III 19: “[...] subito advenit Latronianus dux in Almyridensium
civitatem [...]”.

The accusations. It seems to me that an entire set of charges was

already prepared for the two individuals even before the arrival of
the duke, structured on the criminal and ideological fields.

II 18
Ingressi estis ut quidam latrones sive malefici in provinciam ipsius
III 19
quod malefici sunt et magi

II 18
multos homines a cultura deorum ipsius per veneficia vestra
avertentes, Deo vestro sociatis.

TP Ph. Mayerson, Anti-black sentiment in the “Vitae Patrum”, in “Harvard

Theological Review”, 71, 1978, p. 304-311.

III 19
multos per sua veneficia averterent iam a sacrificiis deorum

There are, therefore, four important charges:

1. they entered the province illegally, as bandits
2. they are malefactors
3. they are sorcerers
4. they turned people from the faith in the pagan gods and from the
sacrifices brought to them to the benefit of their God.

The initial appearance of the two at Halmyris obviously would

have not gone unnoticed to the local authorities, but it was
permitted, and this fact by itself proves that they resided for 17
years in Halmyris, in accordance with a passage from the text,
without having to suffer, apparently, any consequence for their
faith. In fact, in the moment of their arrival at Halmyris, the
Christians were still under the incidence of the decree of tolerance
of Gallienus from 262, which secured the ideological peace for
forty years, otherwise highly praised by Eusebius as a period of
glory for the Christians89. TP PT

The illegal entry in the province seems to be certified by one

of the early passages of the text I 9: “[…] They arrived at Halmyris
where no one was able to identify them or their country […]” (in
Almyridensium civitatem devenerunt, ubi nullus erat, qui eos vel
eorum patriam posset agnoscere).

TP Euseb. Hist. Eccl., I, 1-6 praises explicitly a period of glory and liberty for the

Christianity. The original edict has not survived, but Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., VII,
13) preserves a letter Gallienus sent to some bishops who, presumably in order to
overcome bureaucratic reluctance, requested confirmation that they could built
churches without any hindrance, preach to the barbarians and Greeks, while the
Christians could hold the highest positions in the state; see also P. McKechnie,
The First Christian Centuries. Perspectives on the Early Church, Downers
Grove, Illinois, 1995, p. 134.
Pontica Christiana 97
The taking into custody

The arrest of Epictetus and Astion was a routine operation

executed by the military judges.
III 19 “[...] imperat aliquos ex quaestionariis, ut post solis occasum
pergerent ad habitaculum sanctorum et comprehensos eos ferro
vinctos perducerent in custodiam carceris [...]”.

It took place after an official denunciation of the local

authorities (quidam de officio) addressed to the duke of the
province, based on the formulated accusations, on the forth day
(quarta die) after the duke inspected the public working: “[...]
quarta die nuntiaverunt ei quidam de officio de beatissimis Viris,
dicentes ei [...]”.
The arrest took place in the evening, at their domicile, and they
have been chained and accompanied to the prison by the same
quaestionarii. The taking in for questioning, done as a consequence
of some official accusations could take place, when they were not
spontaneous – as was the case of Dasius at Durostorum, who was
detained by his own comilitiones – by various military officers as it
happened in the case of Fructuosus, Augurus and Eulogius. They
were arrested by the beneficiaries (beneficiarii) who were most
commonly those who committed the imprisonment90. However, E TP PT

& A have been arrested by the questionarii, and the information is

important the more so as it is unique in the hagiographic
literature91. TP PT

TP Passio Iulio Veterani 1, 3; Iulius veteranus has been arrested by the prefect’s

officials (officiales); H. Musurillo, op.cit., p. 262; Dasius was kept in custody in

the dungeon by his own comrades in arms (στρατιώταις) and brought before
the civilian governor by a detachment (τάζεως) (Μαρτύριον  τοῦ  Ἀγίου 
Δασίου, 5. 3; 6.1); H. Musurillo, op.cit., p. 277.
TP A. Berger, Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman Law, Transactions of the

American Philosophical Society N. S. vol. 43, part 2, Philadelphia 1953, s. v.

The unfolding of the Trial

The trial of Epictetus and Astion, the circumstances of the act

of execution included, events which were narrated in no less than
12 paragraphs, is structured in conformity with the scheme which is
common to the greater part of the martyrs’ acts92, containing as a

general rule some stages that follow the same pattern (fig 1):
-the bringing of the accusations before the panel of judges
presided by the civil governor;
-the interrogatory; this procedure aimed at the identifying of the
-the attempt to convince the accused to give up their faith
through two methods: verbally, by counter-arguments;
physically, by the application of bodily tortures;
-the retort of the accused ones either by refusing to
communicate or, on the contrary, by incitement to an
ideological debate;
-the sentence;
-the execution.

It should be clearly mentioned that at the elucidation of some

steps and aspects of the problems connected to the progress
concerning the interrogatory, particularly the tortures and the
execution, have been recently brought some significant
contributions by the archaeological researches of the team made of
Miriţoiu and Soficaru93. Thus, even if the age of E&A at the

moment when they have been interrogated is not found in the

structure of the proper progress of the trial, however, it apparently
was communicated to the investigators in one way or another, as it
clearly results from the information offered by the manuscript’s
redactor: sexagenarian in the case of Epictetus and triginta quinque
(thirty five) in the case of Astion.
TP G. Lanata, op.cit., p.10-21; L. Grig, Making Martyrs in Late Antiquity,

Liverpool, 2004, p. 59-77; H. Delehaye, Les Passions des Martyrs et les genres
littéraires, Bruxelles, p. 176-182.
TP See note 7.
Pontica Christiana 99
The age of the two individuals was confirmed, even nuanced by
the anthropological expertise of the two above mentioned
anthropologists, whose analysis revealed also the physical tortures
applied to the arms, to the feet, to the body and to the head and,
finally, the execution through beheading. All the anthropological
observations confirm the progress of some of the important stages
of the trial. There is also an interesting aspect of the circumstances
in which the two Christians have been brought before the court
showing an exceptional concordance between the text and the
anthropological expertise.
The Christian redactor of the manuscript explains the reaction
of Latronianus through the fact that he could not look at them
because they were shining like the sun and their faces were
illumined by the grace of the Lord:
III 20: [...] cumque exibiti, coram eo astarent, mox, ut vidit eos, a
pavore nimio totius obriguit [...].
[...] non enim poterat intendere in sanctos, eo quod instar solis,
prae nimia gratia, quam gerebant, fulgebant facies eorum [...].

The anthropological expertise carried out on the skeleton

number 1 identified an individual as being 64-67 years old, + - 3
years, normally belonging to Epictetus. It shows some typical
characteristic traces of a chronic arthropathy with the ankylosis of
an expanded sector of the axial skeleton and an articular
degenerative disease (osteoarthritis). These accumulated diseases
bring about a dramatic contortion of the spinal column with
important consequences on the position and the walk of the
respective individual94. The surprise of this unusually repulsive

posture of Epictetus could have provoked the state of shock to

Latronianus the narration speaks of, almost a heart collapse (coram
eo astarent).

As a comprehensive commentary on the trial covers an entire

paragraph of the monographic analysis of the Passio, in what

TP PT N. Miriţoiu, A. Soficaru, op.cit., 172-173.
follows I shall discuss the quality of judge of the duke Latronianus
during the trial of E & A. The quality of Latronianus is clearly
designated as the one of Dux provinciae istius (IV 41) as well as the
one of iudex (III 19) which is mentioned only once at the very
beginning of the trial. This term, apparently usual, which is applied
to the highest provincial military official, raises a critical problem
for the early Diocletianic imperial administration based on the
principle of the separation of the powers.
According to this principle, the cases which belonged to the
criminal justice and their solution was normally entrusted to the
civil governor of the province, praeses provinciae, who bears, less
frequently, the title of rector provinciae95. We render below a few

well known e.g. of praesides who specifically sentenced Christian


Culcianus (Clodius Culcianus) in the trial of Phileas, bishop of

Thmui in Augustamnica.
Prima, tortured by soldiers of the legion (ὑπὸ  τῶν 
λε[γιω]ναρίων) (305)
Probus, praeses Pannoniae in the trial of St. Iraeneus (the spring of
Βάσσος ληγᾶτος – praeses in Moesia Secunda (February 303)
Maximus, praeses in Moesia Secunda in the trial of Iulius
Veteranus (304)
Montanus, interrogatus a praeside in Mauretania Caesariensis
Fortunatus, praeses Mauretaniae Tingitanae in the trial of
Marcellus, but he is only an intermediary to an official of high rank,
Agricolanus, agens vice praefectorum praetorio at that time in

TP PTJean-Michel Carrié, Le gouverneur romain à l’époque tardive, in “Antiquité
tardive” (=AT), 6, 1998, p. 17-30; Ch. Roueché, The functions of the governor in
Late Antiquity: some observations, AT, 6, 1998, 31-36; M. Horster, Ehrungen
Spätantiker Statthalter, AT, 6, 1998, 37-59; N. Gascou, Ducs, praesides, poètes
et rhéteurs au Bas-Empire, AT, 6, 1998, p. 61-64.
Pontica Christiana 101
Mauritania Tingitana, in the trial of Fructuosus, Augurus and
Eulogius (January 259)96. TP PT

Some civil governors appear accompanied by the term iudex

either under the form iudex competens (term found in the
Justinian’s legislation, but in the last run considered a terminology
which is adequate to the tetrachic epoch), and less frequently iudex
pedaneus, who was no one else but the temporary substitute of the
governor for exceptional situations97. At any rate, the most cases of

legislative or texts on martyrs with proved authenticity indicate as

supreme judge of the cause a civil authority, whether this was
represented by the provincial governor, or by the high rank
officials, among whom the proconsul, praefectus urbis, praetor,
praefectus praetorio, or a procurator. As it was noticed, Diocletian
made of praeses a judge of first instance for all the civil and
criminal causes from the province98. After 294, and even before this

year, praesides should participate in person in justice cases and not

to delegate, except when it was strictly necessary, the cases to the
iudices pedanei. A distinction between iudices and duces was
already done in a panegyric of 289, which seems to signify that the
separation of civil and military powers has begun to take place99. TP PT

The term iudex was certainly in use at late 3rd –early 4th century and

is not a later invention of the redactor, but it is unusually applied to

the military commander of the province, Latronianus, dux Scythiae.
Would have been possible that Latronianus infringed upon the
prerogatives of the civil governor of the province of Scythia? I
think that such a hypothesis must be demised from the very
beginning. One might think that in an early period of the Tetrarchic

TP Euseb. Hist. Eccl., IX, 11, 4. (6); Passio beati Philae episcopi de civitate

Thmui, 1.1 (Culcianus); Passio sancti Irenaei episcopi Sirmiensis 2.1 (Probus);
Μαρτύριον  τοῦ  Ἀγίου  Δασίου, 6 (Bassus); Passio Iuli Veterani 2.1
(Maximus); Acta Marcelli 2. 2 (Fortunatus).
TP Ch. Roueché, op.cit., p. 35; J. M. Carrié, op.cit., p. 20-22.

TP S. Corcoran, The Empire of the Tetrarchs, Oxford, 1996, p. 234-253; J. M.

Carrié, op.cit., p. 22-25.

TP J. M. Carrié, op.cit., p. 22.
administrative reforms, Latronianus could have concentrated in his
hands the military and civil powers with the title of dux. In strict
technical terms, Latronianus could have held, at least temporarily,
the office and the title of dux et praeses, which is an exceptional,
although not a singular situation. Such a reunion of powers occurs
in Arabia where the duke holds two governmental offices, officium
ducis and officium praesidis100. Flavius Bonus, the duke in Arabia,

to whom Libanius addressed a letter101, must have held the


combined military and civilian powers. A law in Codex Justinianus

refers to a much earlier situation, in 382, when Matronianus had
held the offices of dux et praeses Isauriae102. In 393, Silvanus held

the offices of dux et corrector in Tripolitania, possibly temporarily,

as the last term is known as designating the office of praeses103. TP PT

The drawing up and transmission of the manuscripts

As shown above, Passio Epicteti and Astioni is known from

the today existing 15th century manuscript in the archives of the

Church of the Savior from Utrecht. It served as an initial prototype

for the first critical edition of the Dutch erudite Herbert Rosweyde
in the first edition of the collection of Vitae Patrum in 1615104. TP PT

Later editions and the monumental scholarly collection of the lives

of the Saints coordinated by Ioannes Bollandus, Acta Sanctorum,
resumed the basic text with new and indispensable
commentaries105. Serious doubts, either in a veiled manner or

trenchantly, have been expressed quite a few times on the

authenticity and value of the text, starting prudently even with the
first editor and ending with the great Bollandist scholar Hypolite

TP Notitia Dignitatum, Oriens, XXXVII 36-52: Officium autem habet viri

spectabilis ducis Arabiae et praesidis habet ita.

TP Lib., Or. 50, 18-19; PLRE, I p. 351. s.v. Flavius Bonus.

TP PLRE, I, p. 1109 s.v. Matronianus 2.

TP PLRE, I, p. 1187 s. v. Silvanus.

TP Em. Popescu, Christianitas Daco-Romana. Florilegium studiorum, Bucureşti,

1994, p. 93.
TP Cf. note 4.
Pontica Christiana 103
Delehaye. The same scholar who in 1912 had asserted that the text
on E &A “n’est qu’un tissu de prodiges et d’épisodes singuliers [...]
nulle part on ne decouvre la moindre attache historique, et
l’agencement comme le ton sont ceux des romans
d’imagination[...]” and that “[...] Halmyris, ville assez peu designée
par elle-même à l’attention des lettres d’allors”106, had the power in

1928 to recognize his previous committed mistake of doubting the

authenticity of an account of a special value, and to restore the true
value of the text in light of the Syriac breviary107. A thorough

introspection into the structure of the text reveals clear elements of

the main source of information which became later the basis of the
original manuscript.
An initial manuscript, which we conventionally named it A,
must have existed more than certainly. It mirrors in later
manuscripts a series of astonishingly accurate information of
administrative, geographic, topographical and historical nature.
Such real details could have been hardly if not impossible
conceived by a possible external and much later redactor who
presumably would have invented the entire story. The only initial
sources that could have provided so many elements from different
fields of social life must have been an eye witness. The
topographical and architectural elements narrated in the text have
been archaeologically identified. Below there is the list of the terms
used in the text that found archaeological, topographical, or late 3rd P P

century confirmation in the sources:

The territory: Scythia: Scytharum fines; Scytharum regio;

Scytharum terra; provincia.

Administrative personnel and administrative structures: dux,

quaestionarius, imperialia ministeria.

Halmyris: civitas Almiridensium, urbs Almiridensium.

TP PT Cf. note 5.
TP PT H. Delehaye, Les martyres …, p. 4-5.

Fortress in neighborhood: (aliam civitatem quae in proximo

habetur) (Salsovia?).

Geographical: Danubius mentioned in the text four times when

Astion goes to bring water from the river.

Functional architectural structures: opera publica, nimia altitudo

(referring to the walls and the towers of the fortified town); mansio;
praetorium; carcer / vinculatorium; portus.

Military structures: epibatae, navis, speculator.

The existence of some initial written information seems to

have been originated from the Halmyris milieu. They could have
come from two sources; an official one, resulted from the minute of
the panel of judges, and another one from a semi-official source
whose author seems to have been someone more directly and more
closely involved with E & A. We go on by dealing first with the
last variant.
In a passage chronologically placed after the execution of the
two martyrs, Vigilantius explains to the bishop Evangelicus (illi), in
a chronological order, the entire unfolding of the events:
exponentes illi per ordinem, cuncta, quae acta fuissent. The
information could have come from the very hand of Vigilantius
who wrote this in his notations. In such a situation we could
consider Vigilantius as the most probable author of a written report
on the events, which could have resulted into an initial sketch.
The trial must have started as a plain questio status, an
examination of the involved individuals by questions addressed to
the accused, as results from the other trials in which some other
Christians have been indicted108. Such type of questions is uttered

TP The inquires seem to follow a certain modus operandi according to the

procedure e.g: Acta Dasii, 6: Which is your station and what is your name?; In
the martyrdom of Justinus the following questions are addressed: 2.1: what kind
of life do you live?; 2. 3: what doctrine do you practice ?; 2.5: which are the
Pontica Christiana 105
by Epictetus in order to determine Astion not to answer them (III
19: Quod genus? Quae nomina vestra? Ex qua provincia estis ?
Unde huc venistis ?109). TP PT

As I tried to prove above, Vigilantius was one of the local

inquirer (unus ex quaestionariis) who interrogated E &A at this
stage. Subsequently, the law suit was changed into a criminal one,
and could be further directed by the military judges (quaestionarii),
who were attached to the duke’s staff. Vigilantius could have been
present at the trial, but possibly without a direct implication in the
juridical act, as his hold an official but local office. In this stance he
could write down some notes.
A second basic question is what kind of information the final
redactor of the account had on the events previous to the trial? He
involuntarily discloses himself at the end of the fourth paragraph
from of the first chapter by offering an informal involuntary
statement: pauca de multis in transcursu pertrinxisse (“from the
exposure we slightly selected only some aspects of the many
ones”). A source could have been the sketchy narration of the
events written by Vigilantius, who, as we are told, was previously
involved in a grave conflict with the authorities by confessing
openly his conversion to the Christian faith. Vigilantius had a
meeting with the two accused as clearly results from the following
passage: III 22. “[...] Et perveniens ad beatissimos Martyres in
custodia carceris, signaculum vitae ab eis promeruit percipere
[...]” (“and coming [Vigilantius] at the prison at the blessed
martyrs, he highly deserved to receive the sign of life (of the
cross)”). This key passage shows that with this occasion, the two
could have supplied Vigilantius with a series of details tied to their
activity prior to the trial, information which were vaguely and quite
probably not in their entirety inserted in the final form of the text.
However, what is dubious – without getting here into details – is

doctrines you prefer?; 3.1: where do you meet together?; 4. 7: where are your
parents (addressed to Euelpistus)?
TP Latronianus addressed the following inquires (III 21): “[…] Quae sunt

vocabula vestra, quod genus, seu de quali provincia vos estis oriundi, nobis in
conspectus huius multitudinis explanate […]”.
that, unlike E & A, who have not confessed ostentatiously their
Christian faith until the time of the trial in front of the inquirers and
the duke, a stance that led to torture and execution, Vigilantius,
who cried overtly out loud “ego Christianus sum”, what would
have brought about automatically the incarceration and his
interrogation, does not seem to have suffered any reprisals from the
authorities, which proves that the provisions of the decree of
tolerance issued by Gallienus were still in force.
Another source of the initial manuscript, most likely the main
one, could have been the official report of court. The declarations
of the defendants have been certainly noted down by the notaries
found in the dukes’ service, as it results from the presentation of the
ducal bureaucratic structure in Notitia Dignitarum. They hide
among the great number of ceteros officiales110. There is an explicit

passage in Acta Pionii showing that the answers of those

interrogated were written down by the notaries: “then he
interrogated him to write down the spoken words, while a notary
noted down everything” (γράφοντος τοῦ νοταρίου πάντα)111. TP PT

Yet, in accordance with the text, E & A obstinately refused to

respond to the duke’s questions112. However, there is no certainty

that the two Christians have not given up within the span of 35 days
of intense and savage tortures. The weak link seems to have been

TP On the bureau of the duke of Scythia see: M. Zahariade, Moesia Secunda,

Scythia şi Notitia Dignitatum, Bucureşti 1988, p. 50-51.

TP Acta Pionii, 9. “Then they interrogated him for record, while a notary wrote

down everything”. (γράφοντος τοῦ νοταρίου πάντα)

TP There are many, in fact most of known cases, when the martyrs responded the

asked questions; e. g. Acta Dasii 6: Dasius answers the question of the praeses
Moesiae Secundae on is his station and what is his name. He also said that he is a
soldier but also “Of my name I shall tell you that I have the excellent one of
Christian”; Acta Pionii 9. 1: Which is your name? Pionius answers (ἀπεκρίθη):
Pionios ; 2. Are you a Christian (Χριστιανὸς εἶ;)?. Answer: Ναί (Yes); Carpus
was interrogated by the proconsul Asiae (ἀνθύπατος); the
interrogatory contained as first questions: 2. which is your name (τίς  καλεῖ);
answer: I am Christian; he also gives the name. Paulus answers the questions; 24:
are you senator ?; answer : I am a citizen; 26. where from? Answer: Thyatira.
Pontica Christiana 107
Astion, for previous to Latronianus’ arrival at Halmyris, he began
to have some serious doubts (turpis quaedam cogitatio in via [...]
mentem subito invasit). The text does not tell us what exactly
ignominious thoughts means, but these have made Epictetus
extremely angry to the point that he severely admonished Astion.
Moreover, it appears quite dubious Epictetus’ behavior on the
gallows, moments preceding the execution, when he insisted that
Astion be the first to be executed by the speculator (the office was
non-commissioned in the Roman army). Epictetus invokes veterana
calliditas serpentis (“the ancient cunningness of the snake”) which
satis subtilis et circumventosa est (“quite subtle and concealed”).
Were there any doubts in Epictetus’ mind as to Astion’s weakness,
that he will have denied his faith during his last moments of life? If
we compare the two passages we may jump to this conclusion and
subsequently to the probability that Astion could confess to the
inquirers something of his past and of his relations with Epictetus.
The court report, even if it will have been very poor in data
about the past of the two convicted, it was still sent to the capital of
the province, Tomis, where it was included into the imperial
archives from there and could have remained until late in the 6th P P

century. A considerable number of martyrological acts which are

known to us are largely based on the official documents from the
time of the interrogatories: the Scillicitani martyrs, Cyprian, Iulius,
Maximilian, Carpus, Iustinus, Phileas, Apollonius, Bassus, Dasius,
Fructuosus, Euplus, Irenaeus, Apollonius and the list could
continue113. Yet, perhaps the greater part of information used by the

final redactor in case of E & A could have come from the official
court report, as a consequence of some questions at which the
accused had to answer nonetheless; however, the confession of our
ignorance in this case is preferable to some speculations.
What is certain is the fact that the sources found at the final
redactor’s disposal must have been one or two written texts, and we
presume these to have been:

TP H. Delehaye, Les legends…, 105-109; idem, Les passions des martyres…, p.

125-131; H. Musurillo, op.cit., p. III-VI.

1. The official minute of the panel of judges written by notaries,
which arrived officially at Tomis, in the imperial archives;
2. A sketch of the events and activity of the two previously to
the arrest; it was likely written by the questionarius
Vigilantius during the trial and the execution, and after the
death of the two, until to a point when himself and the priest
Bonosus sailed off back to Asia Minor together with Astion’s
parents, Alexander and Marcellina. That Vigilantius and
Bonosus have been taken to Asia Minor by the Astion’s
parents appears clearly from an interesting passage at the very
end of the narration: “tam eum quam presbyterum Bonosum
ducentes secum ad propriam civitatem”. The document
written by Vigilantius could have arrived at Tomis thanks to
bishop Evangelicus who, possessing the sketch of the events
left Halmyris after a sojourn of eight days.

Thus, in the terms of the modern analysis of the transmission

of the manuscripts, we may have:
Manuscript a: official court report of the trial resulted from the
duke’s offices.
Manuscript b: the sketch of the events written by Vigilantius based
on the testimonies of the two and of his own notes.
A = the basic manuscript finally written up very most likely at the
end of the 4th century.

Consequently, the documents a and b could serve as basis for

the writing of a single manuscript A by an author who remained
thus far anonymous. Who could have been this author is difficult to
accurately say, but the most qualified candidate seems to be
Theotimus I, in Tomis, between c. 390-407, who is one of the
illustrious characters of his time, a personality of great prestige
inside and outside the Empire, a friend of St. John Chrysostom, on
Pontica Christiana 109
whose well known vast culture, as well as on his preparedness in
the field of dogma and Christian theory, author of countless
theological writings, we do not want to insist here114. It is only from

this thinker of the Church that the entire series of insertions of

dialogues, religious controversies, passages on how we should live
our true faith, on Christian behavior, and quotations from the
Apostles in the narration about E & A, could come. And not in the
last run, due, also, to his literary skill and to his masterly fountain
pen we possess today a coherent document concerning the progress
of events which are, most importantly, based on real information.
It is difficult to know under what circumstances the Mss A
could have been taken from Tomis. We know that in the 6th century P P

an intense correspondence took place between the pope Vigilus and

the bishop of Tomis, Valentinianus in the politico-religious context
of the fourth and fifth decades of the same century, a context which
was quite troubled since the imperial authority represented by the
Emperor Justinian himself came into a dogmatic conflict with the
pope Vigilus, a conflict in which bishop Valentinianus was a
reliable ally of the pope, and the argumentation should have been
thoroughly done115. But this is just an assumption, which will be

confirmed or infirmed by the future research.

TP Em Popescu, op.cit., p. 111-123 (=Idem, Bretanion şi Gerontius (Terentius),

două mari personalităţi ale Tomisului în secolul al IV-lea, in „Studii Teologice”,

XL (1988), 2, p. 116-122.
TP I. Pulpea, Episcopul Valentinian de Tomis, in “Biserica Ortodoxă Română”,

65 (1947), 4-9, p. 200-212.

Passio Epicteti presbyteri et Astionis monachi

- rezumat -

Studiul este un comentariu asupra câtorva probleme istorice,

juridice şi de transmisie a manuscriselor ridicate de textul
martirologic referitor la cei doi creştini veniţi din Asia Mică şi
prezenţi timp de 17 ani, în deceniile opt şi nouă la sfârşitul
secolului III la Halmyris, preotul Epictetus şi discipolul său Astion.
Comentariul se concentrează pe următoarele aspecte desprinse din
textul martirologic:
-identificarea istorică a personajelor cu rol cheie în desfăşurarea
-structura pasajelor referitoare la procesul intentat de autorităţile
imperiale romane celor doi martiri;
- împrejurarile în care s-a putut coagula forma finală a textului
care mai apoi a stat la baza viitorului manuscris care, recopiat, a
ajuns în împrejurări neclare până astăzi în arhivele bisericii
Mântuitorului din Utrecht.
Pontica Christiana 111

Fig. – An ancient representation of a martyrdom




by Dan Elefterescu, Marian Neagu

This short note presents a number of seven little crosses,

uncovered by chance on the Dobruja territory and which are found
in the collections of the Călăraşi museum.
First piece of this catalogue was uncovered by chance on the
shore of the Danube River in the area of the Roman-Byzantine
fortress from Izvoarele (the new toponym of the Pârjoaia locality)1. TP PT

The station is well-known in the specialty literature through the

numerous Christian artifacts uncovered by chance throughout the
years2, and Emilian Popescu pleaded, in a 1980 study, for the

existence in this area of a bishopric3. TP PT

Little cross. Fig. I.1

Very good condition of conservation.

TPTranslated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă

TPThe lack of some systematic researches leaves open the discussion as well as

the pro and con arguments on the localization of the Moesia’ Sucidava in this
TP V. Culică, Croix romano-byzantines decouvertes a Pârjoaia (district

d’Adamclisi, region de Dobrogea), in “Dacia”, N.S., IX, 1965, p. 419-425; Idem,

Obiecte cu caracter creştin din epoca romano-bizantină găsite la Pârjoaia –
Dobrogea, in “Pontice”, II, 1969, p. 355-371; Idem, Antichităţile creştine de la
Izvoarele (jud. Constanţa), in “Biserica Ortodoxă Română”, XCIV (1976), 7-8,
p. 3-13; I. Barnea, V. Culică, Une amulette paleochretienne de Dobroudja, in
“Epigraphica. Travaux dedies au VII-e Congres d’epigraphie grecque et latine.
Constantza, 9-15 septembre 1977”, 1977, p. 249-254. From this area comes out,
also, the most complete Eucharistic service uncovered on the Romania’s territory
(A. Rădulescu, T. Cliante, Tezaurul de la Sucidava – Izvoarele (Jud. Constanta),
in “Pontica”, XIX, 1986, p. 156; Idem, Le tresor de Sucidava en Mesie Seconde,
in “Revue Archeologique”, 1988, fascicule 2, p. 380).
TPEm. Popescu, Organizarea eclesiastică a provinciei Scythia Minor în secolele

IV-VI, in “Studii Teologice”, XXXII (1980), 7-10, p. 590-605.

Pontica Christiana 113
Lead little cross, obtained by pouring. The horizontal arms are very
short. The ring was made on the same mould; it is very thick and
strongly egg-shaped. The only ornamental element is represented
by a simple frame.
H act. = 23,1 mm; l = 12,3 mm.
Inv. 27753. Pârjoaia, passim fortuitous discovery by Tănase Florea.
Bibliography: Unpublished.
Analogies: From the 5th-7th century settlement of Botoşana, district

of Suceava, comes to us a mould for the casting of small objects.

On the preserved object we have the negative of a little cross with
even arms (crux quadrata), widened at the ends, and the ring is
identical with the one of our piece4. Some little crosses made with

the mould from Straulesti were thickened with a ring, also5. TP PT

Taking into consideration the fact that, for the little crosses
from Izvoarele there was the suggestion to be dated in the 5th and P P

6th centuries – the last term being stressed by the circumstance that,

at the beginning of the 7th century the settlement was incontestably


forsaken6 - following the strong Avar invasion of 587 A.D.7, and


the analogy with the moulds from Botoşana and Străuleşti, we

suggest the same chronologic framing for our piece.
The next six pieces come from Durostorum, from the Danube
shore, more exactly, from the Roman settlement of Ostrovit, Farm 4
(code 62547.01). That area is particularly known in the 2nd and 3rd P P P P

TPDan Gh. Teodor, Cele mai vechi urme creştine din Moldova, in “Mitropolia

Moldovei şi Sucevei”, L (1974), 7-8, fig. 2 and 4, 3; I. Barnea, Arta creştină în

România. t. I (Secolele III-VI), Editura Institutului Biblic şi de Misiune al
Bisericii Ortodoxe Române, Bucureşti, 1979, fig. III, 2; Silvia Teodor, Dan G.
Teodor, Botoşana, in “Enciclopedia Arheologiei şi Istoriei Vechi a României”,
vol. I, Bucureşti, 1994, p. 199, fig. 51.
TPC. Ştirbulescu, Tipar, in “Paleocreştinism şi creştinism pe teritoriul României –

secolele III-XI”, Expoziţie organizată de Muzeul Naţional de Istorie a României,

Bucureşti, 2002, nr. 67, VI-th century, p. 57.
TPV. Culică, op.cit., p. 12.

TPIdem, Plumburi comerciale din cetatea romano-bizantină de la Izvoarele

(Dobrogea) I, in “Pontica”, VIII, 1975, p. 217.

centuries8 as a strong center of production, the habitation of this

settlement being extended, even if less dense, to the fourth century9. TP PT

From the same area come to us numerous pottery chips, as well as

remnants of hearths and furnaces which doubtlessly prove the
existence of a settlement in the ninth-tenth century10. TP PT

The fortuitous discovery of some artifacts in the 18th-19th P P P P

centuries (see, for that matter, the discovery, on the same shore, of
a clay pipe, and a lid of a medication box)11, and the intense usage

of the river’s bank by the riverside residents, sets for us the task to
concede to a slight possibility of significant error while dating some
of our pieces.

2/Little cross. Fig. I.2.

Good condition of conservation.
Simple little cross cut out of an ancient bronze sheet, with slightly
triangular arms, unevenly manufactured, without ornaments. At the
end of the upper arm there is an aperture for fastening, eccentrically
H=28,9 mm; l=25,6 mm.
Inv. 21739 Durostorum, passim, open ground research by Dan

TP For bibliography see: Dan Elefterescu, Two gnostic pieces from Durostorum,

from this volume.

TP Paul Damian (responsible), Adela Bâltâc, Christina Ştirbulescu, Ionuţ Bocan,

Virgil Apostol, Nicoleta Nedelcu, Ani Ologu, Valentin Bottez, Dan Elefterescu,
George Dumitru, Ostrov, com. Ostrov, Jud. Constanţa (Durostorum). Point:
Farm 4, in “Cronica cercetărilor arheologice din România, Campania 2004,
2005”, p. 249-251.
TP C. Muşeţeanu (responsable), P. Damian, M. Simion, R. Cârjan, D. Elefterescu,

A. Bâltâc, Ostrov, com. Ostrov, Jud. Constanţa, (Durostorum). Point: Farm 4,

in “Cronica cercetărilor arheologice din România, Campania 1996, 1997” and C.
Muşeţeanu (responsible), P. Damian, A. Bâltâc, C. Ştirbulescu, R. Cârjan, I.
Achim, M. Simion, D. Elefterescu, Ostrov, com. Ostrov, Jud. Constanta
(Durostorum). Point: Farm 4, in “Cronica cercetărilor arheologice din România,
Campania 1998, 1999”.
TP D. Elefterescu, Un capac de teriac descoperit la Durostorum, manuscript.
Pontica Christiana 115
th th
Dating: 5 -6 (?) centuries A.D.

Analogies: An almost identical piece is found in the museum of
Dalgopol (Bulgaria)12. We have some analogies on the ampouls of

Egypt13. TP PT

3/Little cross. Fig. I.3.

Good condition of conservation.
One of the vertical arms is missing (it was bent and broken). It
seems to me that the breaking was intentionally done, the other arm
being bent.
Simple little cross, cut out of an ancient bronze sheet, with slightly
triangular arms, with no ornaments. The missing arm was probably
the upper arm, to which the fastening system was attached.
H act. = 20,9 mm; l = 22,9 mm.
Dating: 4th-6th (?) centuries A.D.

Inv. 21737. Durostorum, passim, open ground research by Dan

Analogies: A closely similar representation is found on a rush-light
uncovered at Sisak, rush-light dated in the 4th-5th centuries A.D.14. P P P P TP PT

4/Little cross. Fig. I. 4.

Good condition of conservation.
The upper arm is broken at the point of bending for the acquiring of
the supporting system and it was soldered with tin. During the
restoring process, the soldered piece came apart.

TP L. Lazarov, Historical museum - Dalgopol, Katalog, 2001, nr. 153, possible

vigil lamp element, dating from 5th-6th centuries (?); given the uncertain

conditions of discovery, the author doesn’t exclude the possibility of dating as

late as 7th century), p. 69.

TP C. Metzger, Les ampoules a eulogie du musee du Louvre, Paris, 1981, fig. 5,

fig. 73, nr. 89 and fig. 77, nr. 93.

TP B. Vikic-Belancic, Anticke Sveetiljke u Arrheoloskom Muzeju u Zagrebu,

Zagreb, 1976, nr. 301, pl. XVII.5 and XXIV.18, p. 41.

Plain little cross, cut out of an ancient bronze sheet, the arms
slightly triangular, with no ornaments; the supporting system was
acquired by the bending of an extension of the upper arm.
H act. = 32,2 mm; l = 19 mm.
Inv. 21738. Durostorum, passim, open ground research by Dan
Dating: 10th-11th century A.D.

Analogies: We can make a relative assimilation with two little
crosses from the small treasure uncovered during the 1953
campaign of Histria (dated in the 6th century A.D)15. But much

more similar, both typologically and chronologically, is the piece

from Czar Asen16. TP PT

5/Little cross. Fig. I.5.

Good condition of conservation.
Vertical arms are missing.
Little cross of Latin type (crux immissa), acquired by casting.
On the facet the arms are bordered by a strongly profiled frame,
and, in the middle, inside a flattened and deepened circle, there is a
small cross with even arms (crux quadrata). The central ornament,
egg-shaped, could indicate another position of the piece (in fact,
that the lateral arms are missing), but in this case, we have to
concede to the lack of a fastening system, which is hard to accept.
On the back, in the middle, is St. Andrew’s cross (crux decussata).
H act. = 13,2 mm; l = 24,6 mm.
Dating: 10th-11th centuries A.D.

Inv. 21735. Durostorum, passim, open ground research by Dan

Analogies: An almost identical piece was uncovered at Scala in
Bulgaria17. In another town of Bulgaria, at Srediste (Silistra

TP Şantierul Arheologic Histria (r. Istria, reg. Constanţa), in “Studii şi cercetări

de istorie veche”, V, 1-2, fig. 15; I. Barnea, op.cit., pl. 96.

TP G. Atanasov, The Christian Durostorum-Drastar, Varna, 2007, pl. LXXI. 312.

TP Ibidem, pl. LXXI, 318 identical.
Pontica Christiana 117
region) , we have a piece of the same type. For the Greek cross in

the middle, but with the arms more visibly rounded, we have
numerous analogies on the small canteens of clay, very often found
in the 4th-6th centuries, so called εὐλογίαι (blessings) of St. Mena

(ampoules a eulogie or eulogies de St. Mena) of Egypt19 and Asia TP PT

Minor20. TP PT

6/Little cross. Fig. I.6.

Good condition of conservation.
The upper arm as well as the right arm are missing.
Little cross of Latin type (crux immissa) acquired by casting.
On the facet quite possible (see the integrity condition of the piece)
the image of Jesus crucified. On the obverse in the middle a small
cross with even arms (crux quadrata), and ornaments in the shape
of letter X on the arm (ornaments acquired probably by outlining
with a sharp object), by probably imitating the form of letter X
(ornament acquired by casting) from the two pieces of the same
stylistic group uncovered at Păcuiul lui Soare21. It seems to us more

than probable that we have to deal in fact with two or four

representations of St. Andrew’s cross (crux decussata).
H act. = 24,5 mm; l = 14,7 mm.
Dating: 10th-11th centuries A.D. P P P P

Inv. 21759. Durostorum, passim, open ground research by Dan


TP Ibidem, pl. LXXI. 319.

TP C. Metzger, op.cit., fig. 44-49, nr. 49-54, fig. 60, nr. 74.

TP Ibidem, fig. 8, fig. 79, nr. 96 and fig. 117, nr. 140.

TP P. Diaconu, S. Baraschi, Păcuiul lui Soare. t. II. Aşezarea medievală (secolele

XIII-XV), Bucureşti, 1977, first piece a fragment, fig. 101. 4; fig 101. 13 and the
second piece, completely preserved, having catching ring, fig. 102. 7 a, b, p. 131,
this piece being published by I. Barnea, also (I. Barnea, Şt. Ştefănescu, Din
istoria Dobrogei, vol. III, Bucureşti, 1967, fig. 128. 1 a, b, p. 401). We mention
that the dating of the pieces from Păcuiul lui Soare is later (13th-14th centuries

Analogies: Similar pieces, belonging to the same stylistic group,
have been uncovered at Păcuiul lui Soare22, Vetren23 and Popina24.

7/Little cross. Fig. I.7.

Condition of conservation is relatively good.
Upper arm is broken.
Plain little cross, probably with even arms, cut out of a very
thin ancient bronze sheet, with slightly triangular arms, with no
ornaments. In the middle there is a circle acquired by pressing with
the help of a punch. It is possible (see the thinness of the piece) to
have to deal here with a cruciform ornamental element intarsiated.
The general aspect of the piece indicates its manufacturing outside
of a workshop, probably even by the beneficiary, from a reused
little bronze sheet, which quite probably came out from the bottom
of a small box for ointments of medical or cosmetic use dating from
the 2nd-3rd centuries A.D.25; the small ornamental circle comes out

of it, also.
H act. = 13,1 mm; l = 21 mm.
Inv. 21736. Durostorum, passim, open ground research by Dan
If we take into account the way of acquiring, the fact that, in
the course of time, the corrosion process can make the metal more
breakable and harder to be cut, and if we concede to a Christian
significance of the piece, we may consider to be probably faced
with the earliest little cross uncovered in the area. Unfortunately,
since the area was permanently close to some human settlements,
with the permanent movement of the riverside residents, the
conservation condition of the piece, which preserved a relatively
high degree of malleability, makes – we believe – impossible a
credible dating of this piece.

TP P. Diaconu, S. Baraschi, op.cit., fig. 101. 13; G. Atanasov, op.cit., pl. LXXII.

TP G. Atanasov, op.cit., fig. 101 and pl. LXXII. 350.

TP Ibidem, fig. 102 and pl. LXXII. 348.

TP D. Elefterescu, Calimari romane de la Durostorum, paper, Pontica 2006.
Pontica Christiana 119



- rezumat -

Sunt prezentate un număr de şapte cruciuliţe, din care una din

plumb (descoperită la Izvoarele) şi şase din bronz descoperite în
urma unor cercetări de suprafaţă la Durostorum (Ostrov - Ferma 4),
piese aflate în colecţiile Muzeului Dunării de Jos Călăraşi.

Fig. I
Pontica Christiana 121



by Zaharia Covacef, Tiberiu Potârniche

Capidava was one of the fortresses placed on the Lower

Danube limes, which has been organized during the rule of Trajan
Emperor. Since the dawn of its existence, Capidava has been an
important city placed on this border because of its position on the
Roman road. At the same time, Capidava has been developed as an
important military and civil centre. The epigraphic documents bring
to light information regarding the beneficiarii headquarters1 and the TP PT

customs house2, as well as the large territorium of this fortress3.


During the Dominate, besides its military and economic

importance this city has been as well an important centre for the
dissemination of the Christian ideas4 within its own territory and

beyond the limes. The long centuries of persecution against the

Christians, reaching their culmination in February 303 – January

TPTranslated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă

TPGr, Florescu, R, Florescu, P. Diaconu, Capidava, I, Monografie arheologică,

Bucureşti, 1958, p. 17-19; R. Vulpe, I. Barnea, Din istoria Dobrogei. II. Romanii
la Dunărea de Jos (=DID), Bucureşti, 1968, p. 151; A. Aricescu, Armata în
Dobrogea romană, Bucureşti, 1977, p. 41, 81, 85; Em. Doruţiu-Boilă, Inscripţiile
din Scythia Minor. V. Capidava – Troesmis – Noviodunum, Bucureşti, 1980.
TPCapidava. I, p. 17 – 19; DID, II, loc.cit.; A. Aricescu, loc.cit.; Al. Suceveanu,

Viaţa economică în Dobrogea romană. Sec. I-III e.n., Bucureşti, 1977, p. 140;
ISM, V; Oct. Bounegru, Observaţii privind vămile Dobrogei romane, in „Anuarul
Institutului de Istorie şi Arheologie „A. D. Xenopol””, XVII, 1980, Iaşi, p.582.
TP Capidava. I, p. 19-21; Al. Suceveanu, în Al. Suceveanu, Al. Barnea, La

Dobroudja romaine, Bucarest, 1991, p. 51-52, 81-82.

TPThe fortress is mentioned by Hierocles, Synecdemus, 637, 10, amongst the 15

poleis in Scythia, and in Not. Episc., by De Boor, p. 531, is mentioned as

episcopate. See R. Vulpe, Histoire ancienne de la Dobroudja, Bucarest, 1938;
Capidava.I, loc.cit.; DID, II, p. 383, 469, 480, 505; Em. Popescu, Inscripţiile
greceşti şi latine din secolele IV-XIII descoperite în România, Bucureşti, 1976, p.
219-237; Ion Barnea, Les monuments paléochretiens de Roumanie, Pontificio
Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana, Rome, 1977, p. 11.
3045, when numerous martyrs were executed for their faith6, did not

stop the propagation of the Christianity. Constantine the Great

realized that the new religion could become an important ally of the
State and granted unrestrained freedom to this movement through
the Mediolanum (Milan) Edict enforced in 312-313 A.D.7. As soon TP PT

as the imperial authorities have officialy accepted it, the

Christianity quickly spread out. The Christian symbols and images
placed on various objects (official, personal, or household items)
are the most obvious representations known so far. The cross sign
is an outstanding one.
In the pages below we are going to take into discussion a
number of items selected from the findings identified in the eastern
sector of the fortress of Capidava. The items are quite different in
terms of their utility (even with regards to the material they are
made of), i.e. lamps, bronze or bone vesture accessories, personal
items, stamped decoration common pottery.
As for the lamps the cross sign is placed as decoration either
on the handle on the groove in front of the burner, or on the disc, or
– much more interestingly – as trademark of the producer in this

TPR. Remondon, La crise de l’Empire romain de marc-Aurèle à Anastase, Paris,

1964, p. 116-149.
TPChiril, Chindeas and Dasius at Axiopolis – Em. Popescu, op.cit., p. 206; Zotic,

Attalos, Camasis and Filipos at Niculiţel – V. H. Baumann, Basilica cu

„martyrion” din epoca romanităţii târzii, descoperită la Niculiţel (jud. Tulcea),
in „Buletinul Monumentelor Istorice”, XLI, 1972, nr. 2, p. 17-26; idem, Sângele
martirilor, Constanţa, 2004, p. 83 -132; I. Barnea, Martyrionul de la Niculiţel, în
„Biserica Ortodoxă Română” (=BOR), XCI (1973), nr.1-2, p. 218-228; I.
Rămureanu, Martirii creştini de la Niculiţel descoperiţi în 1971, BOR, XCI
(1974), 7-8, p. 975-1011; or Epictet and Astion at Halmyris – M. Zahariade, O.
Bounegru, Despre începuturile creştinismului la Dunărea de Jos, in „Izvoarele
creştinismului românesc”, Constanţa, 2003.
TPE. Stein, Histoire de Bas-Empire. I. De l’Etat romain à l’Etat byzantin (284-

476), Paris, 1959, p. 92-93; DID, II, p. 381-384; I. Barnea, O. Iliescu, Constantin
cel Mare, Bucureşti, 1982, p. 813-826.
Pontica Christiana 123
case being applied on the bottom . The chronology places these

items within the limits of the 5th - 6th centuries A.D.


Another category of objects decorated with the cross sign

includes vesture accessories9. First of all we take into consideration

the cast bronze buckle belonging to „Sacidava” type, decorated

with a cross sign fretworked on the shield. Mention must be made
also of a circular bracket made of bronze, decorated with the
chrismon cross. Included in the same category of vesture
accessories is a girlde-plate made of bone, decorated with an even-
armed cross. We also consider vesture accessories the small coin-
purses with handles decorfated with various symbols, including the
cross sign. Also, most likely suitable to be included in the same
category of the personal items is a fragmentary knife-hilt made of
bone and decorated with two cross signs. The findings included in
this group can be dated within the same period of time (5th - 6th P P P P

centuries A.D.); perhaps the girlde plate mentioned above could

belong to a slightly earlier period of time (the 4th century A.D.). P P

The most interesting findings are the stamped pottery items

included in the luxury ceramics category. Unfortunately, most of
such findigs are fragmentary. In terms of technique and decoration
pattern, the stamped pottery found in Capidava (and throughout
Scythia Minor, as well) is integrated in the Oriental area of the
Roman Empire, which is quite natural, as long as it belonged to this
zone, from economical and cultural point of view.
The earliest findings decorated with the palm-leaf are included
in the first group established by Hayes10. Only two items uncovered TP PT

so far could be considered as typical for this group. The first one is
decorated with nine palm-leaves placed in the central part of the
item in a radial pattern, combined with concentric circles

TP Zaharia Covacef, Christian symbols on objects discovered at Capidava, in

„Roman Frontier Studies. Proceedings of the XVIIth International Congress of P P

Roman Frontier Studies”, Zalău, 1999, p. 813-826.

TPIdem, Accesorii vestimentare, de toaletă şi podoabe, descoperite în sectorul de

est al cetăţii Capidava, in „Pontica”, 28-29, 1995-1996, p. 95-120.

TP African R. S. Style A (III), J. W. Hayes, Late Roman Pottery, London, 1972, p.

347, pl. XV, a.

sometimes overlapping the leaves and suggesting peacock feathers.
The range of concentric circles, either overlapping or not the leaves,
is framed between two strips made each of two incised circles. The
second item is a small fragment on which the preserved decoration
is one palm-leaf and one rosette.
Very good analogies of these items have been found in
Tomis11, Histria12, Topraichioi13, as well as in Athens14 and

Antiochia15. TP PT

The stamped pottery decorated with palm-leaves placed in a

radial pattern and combined with small auxiliary motifs was dated
between 360 and 450 A.D.; for Africa this pottery was dated in the
4th century A.D.16. The stratigraphic context of the findings

discovered in Capidava results in dating the items in the early 5th P P

century A.D.
The second group of items consists in pottery stamped with
animal or plant motifs placed in a circular pattern and framed
between concentric circular strips, either linear or truckled17. A TP PT

number of pottery fragments found in the eastern sector of

Capidava fosrtress seem to belong to this category. One of these
fragments is decorated with the back legs and tail of an animal that
looks like a rabbit (?); this stamp is repeated along a strip placed
between several linear circles drawn towards the bottom of the vase
and truckled circles on the upper side. There are other stamps

TP M. Munteanu, Gh. Papuc, La céramique romaine tardive à décor estampé, in

„Pontica”, 9, 1976, p. 148.

TP Em. Popescu, Ceramica romană târzie cu decor ştampilat descoperită la

Histria, în „Studii şi Cercetări Istorie Veche”, 16, 1965, 4, p. 701, fig. 2/9 – sec.
III-V p. Chr.
TP A. Opaiţ, Einige Betrachtungen zur spätrömischen Keramik mit rotem

Überzug, in „Dacia”, NS, 29, 1985, fig.1/8.

TP H. S. Robinson, The Athenian Agora. Results of Excavations. V. Pottery of the

Roman Period, Princeton, New Jersey, 1959, nr. 289, pl. 36.
TP F. O. Waagé, Antioch on the Orontes. IV. 1. Ceramic and Islamic Coins,

Princeton, 1948, p. 53, fig. 32.

TP J. W. Hayes, op.cit., p. 347-349.

TP Ibidem, p. 347-348.
Pontica Christiana 125
representing a duck, a bull, flowers, and a number of indistinct
The pottery belonging in this category was found in all centres
investigated so far, i.e. Histria18, Tomis19, Halmyris20, Tropaeum

Traiani21, Capidava (other sectors)22, Iatrus23, Athens24, or


Antiohia25. TP PT

The second group was dated between 450 and 490 A.D.26. TP PT

The third group is much better represented, consisting in

pottery items decorated with one stamp placed in the centre of vase,
using as main motif the cross represented in various shapes and
The cross sign is preserved in its entirety only on two pottery
fragments found in the eastern sector of Capidava site. One
fragment is decorated with the double-contour Greek cross
surrounded by four concentric circles, also identified on the items
discovered in Tomis27, Histria28, Isaccea29 and Halmyris30. The

TP Em. Popescu, op.cit., p. 703-706, fig.4 and fig. 5.

TP Gh. Papuc, Ceramica romană târzie cu decor ştampilat descoperită la

Edificiul roman cu mozaic din Tomis, in „Pontica”, 6, p. 155-177, fig. 8/1-6, fig.
9-13; M. Munteanu, Gh. Papuc, op.cit., p. 149, pl. II.
TP Fl. Topoleanu, Ceramica romană târzie cu decor ştampilat descoperită la

Halmyris, in „Peuce”, 12, 1996, p. 145, pl. I/5, 6, p. 147, pl. III/16, pl. IV/17, 18;
idem, Ceramica romană şi romano-bizantină de la Halmyris (sec.I-VII d.Ch.),
Tulcea, 2000, p. 65-66, nr. 120-127, pl. XIII-XIV.
TP Ioana Bogdan-Cătăniciu, Alexandru Barnea, Ceramica şi descoperiri mărunte,

in vol. „Tropaeum Traiani. I. Cetatea”, Bucureşti, 1979, p.186, fig. 160/2. 5.

TP Ioan C. Opriş, Ceramica romană târzie şi paleobizantină de la Capidava în

contextul descoperirilor de la Dunărea de Jos (sec. IV-VII p.Ch.), Bucureşti,

2003, p.151-153, pl. LVI, 355, 370, 376.
TP Sven Conrad, Stempelverzierte Keramik aus dem Kastell Iatrus (Moesia

Secunda), in „Rei Cretariae Romanae Fautorum Acta”, 36, 2000, p. 222-223,

Abb. 7.
TP H. S. Robinson, op.cit., p. 116, M 350.

TP O. F. Waagé, op.cit., fig. 33.

TP J. W. Hayes, op.cit., p. 349.

TP Gh. Papuc, op.cit., p.180, fig. 23/4 – 7.

TP Em. Popescu, op.cit., p. 707, fig.7/3 – 6.

TP Fl. Topoleanu, Noi descoperiri arheologice la Isaccea, in „Peuce”, IX, 1984,

p. 192, pl.V/8, pl. X/10.

second complete stamp represents a double-ribbed tall cross with
pendants under the side arms; apparently, this type of cross was
placed on other fragments as well. This representation has
numerous analogies, out of which we only mention Tomis31, TP PT

Histria32 and Halmyris33. The cross-stamped pottery found in


Capidava and other centres as well is dated in the late 5th and the 6th

centuries A.D.34. TP PT

Fig. 1 – The plate at the time of discovery

TP Fl. Topoleanu, Ceramica, 2000, p. 67, pl. XV.

TP Gh. Papuc, op.cit., p. 187, fig. 20/1, 2, 4, 6 and fig. 19/7; M. Munteanu, Gh.

Papuc, op.cit., p. 151, pl. III/8 a, b, c and pl. IV/9, 10.

TP Em. Popescu, op.cit., p.710, fig. 9/1 and fig. 11/2 – 4.

TP Fl. Topoleanu, op.cit., 2000, p. 67 – 68, pl. XV.

TP Tomis: Gh. Papuc, loc.cit – 470 – 580 A.D.; Histria – Em. Popescu, loc.cit. –

sec. VI p. Chr.; Halmyris: Fl. Topoleanu, loc.cit. – the 2nd half of the 6th cent.

A.D.; J. W. Hayes, op.cit., p. 365: „double-contoured cross – between 470 and

380; the pendant cross – around 500”.
Pontica Christiana 127

What we intend to discuss, however, is the most recent finding

included in this category, i.e., a plate, which is unique first of all
because it was found in its entirety.
A large number of items – a rich inventory of pieces, some of
which are unique – has been found after clearing the debris in room
C.11 of the Edifice (consisting of six rooms) down to the tread level
on which there are signs of a series of violent fires. Certain items
are quite rare, including a plate found in the doorway, broken, but
complete (Figure 1).

Fig. 2 – The restored plate

The plate (no.inv. 45465) is made of dense brick-red clay, with

varnish of the same colour. The item has traces of secondary
burning and iron oxide from the overlapping debris (Figure 2). The
dimensions of the plate are: height 6,5 cm; d.max. 39,3 cm;
d.bottom 17,4 cm; height of the ring-shaped foot 0,8 cm. The plate
has a rounded rim, 1,1 cm thick and 0,7 cm high, well-profiled
outside and inside, with two incised circle (36,5 cm and 35,5 cm
diameter). Like other pottery belonging to this category, the plate is
not very deep. In the centre, in the middle of three concentric
circles incised at about 1 cm distance in-between each other (16,8
cm, 15,8 cm, and 14,6 cm diameter) a stamp was applied (Figure
3), consisting of two tall crosses (the cross placed on the right of
the human representation is 9 cm and the one on the left is 8,5 cm
tall: the breadth is 3,5 cm). The crosses are twinned with double
contour and extremities of the arms slightly widend. It is worth
mentioning that the cross that is placed on the right of the human
representation goes beyond the inner circle that frames the whole
scene. The central person is dressed in dalmatica, with two strips of
fabric hanging with distinct folds over his shoulders. The
representation is a frontal one, with the left leg slightly advanced.
His right hand is placed over his chest, and the left one holds a rod
with a cross on its top close to his body. He is bareheaded, and the
hair is rendered by a number of vertical incisions. As the image is
quite dimmed, we cannot see whether he wears sandals or is
With regards to the pottery type, it belongs to African Red Slip
Wares category, shapes Hayes 104 or 10535 dated between the mid-

6th and early 7th centuries. The same shapes are found in Histria36,

Capidava37, Yassi Ada38; for other centres the shape can be


Beyond any doubt, the human representation stamped on the
plate is a „Saint”39 framed by the twinned crosses. The Christian

TP J. W. Hayes, op.cit., p. 160-169, fig. 30/2 (Forms 104 A), fig. 31/7, 13 (Form

TP C. Muşeţeanu, Adela Bâltâc, Céramique, in Al. Suceveanu, Histria XIII. La

basilique épiscopale, Bucarest, 2007, p. 209, nr. 36, 37 (Form Hayes 105)
TP Ioan C. Opriş, loc.cit.

TP George F. Bass, The Pottery, in George F.Bass and Frederick H. van

Deorninck, Jr., Yassi Ada. I. A Seventh-Century Byzantine Shipwreck, Texas,

1982, p. 167, P.5 (Form Hayes 105).
TP J. W. Hayes, op.cit, p. 265-267.
Pontica Christiana 129
antropomorphic subjects occur on the luxury pottery found in
numerous centres. Thus, a fragmentary plate has been found not
long ago in Histria, Having the representation of the emperor
Constantine the Great and two of his sons40. Five fragmentary TP PT

pottery items with human representations are mentioned in the

Tomis site41; the most interesting one is the fragment with the

stamped representation of a „person dressed in a toga as long as to

reach his knees, his hands up in the air”, which must have been „the
image of a priest in praying attitude”42. In Halmyris, „the TP PT

decoration belonging to the third type – Antropomorphic Motifs”

has only been found on a North-Africa Pottery item43. TP PT

The closest analogies of pottery stamped with Christian

antropomorphic motifs are found in the fragmentary items found in
Capidava in Sector III44. TP PT

The first one is a plate that was entirely restored, decorated

with a double-contoured twinned Latin cross framed by two male
front busts45. The second fragment preserves the images of two

male front busts on both sides of „an imperial representation

(Christ?) having in his right hand a sceptre (a spear?) and in the left
hand the globe”; above the head of the central representation there
is a pigeon46. Finally, other two fragments belonging to Hayes Type

103 or 104 preserve „the lower part of a male barefooted person of

the „saint” type dressed in dalmatica”47, and, respectively, part of

the bust preserved with the strip of the dalmatica and the head of
another male person48. TP PT

TP Sc. Lambrino, Empereur pré-byzantin figure sur une coupe en terre-cuite, in

„Revista Istorică Română”, I, 1931, p. 63-76; Em. Popescu, op.cit., p. 701-703,

fig. 3/1, 2, 3; J. W. Hayes, op.cit., p. 265.
TP Gh. Papuc, op.cit., p. 177.

TP Ibidem, dated between 470 and 580.

TP Fl. Topoleanu, op.cit., p. 62, no. Catalog 171.

TP Ioan C. Opriş, op.cit., p. 147 – 150, nos. 342, 343, 348, 349.

TP Ibidem, p. 147-148, no. 342, pl. LI (photo and drawing).

TP Ibidem, p. 148, no. 343, pl. LII (photo and drawing)

TP Ibidem, p. 149, no. 348, pl. LIII (drawing).

TP Ibidem, p. 150, no. 349, pl. LIII (drawing).

Fig. 3 – Detail of the central seal

From the point of view of shape and technique, the plate found
in the room C.11 of the Edifice discovered in the eastern sector of
Capidava belongs to African Red Slip Ware type 104 or perhaps
105. The decoration belongs to the style E (ii). Thus, a „saint”
representation identical to the representation found on this plate has
also been identified on a plate exhibited in „Saint Sophia” Museum
in Istanbul and discovered in the proximity of Örengeri locality
(Cilicia)49. The saint type 234 is quite common for the pottery

belonging to 103 B and 104 Forms. The cross belongs to the type
323, and the style E (ii), described as 9 cm high and decorated with
two large circles on both arms, is present on pottery items
belonging to 104 A, C Forms. The complete image is identical to
that found on the plate discovered in Capidava: the saint dressed in
dalmatica with the episcopal sceptre in his right hand and placed

TP PT J. W. Hayes, op.cit., p. 265-266, type 234, fig. 51 d.
Pontica Christiana 131
between two twinned tall crosses is also found on the plate
exhibited in „Saint Sophia” Museum in Istanbul50. TP PT

The late style E (ii) uses stampes with human representation,

twinned crosses and other representations within freestyle
compositions and is mainly found on large plates.
The dating suggested for this style51 is between 530 and 600. It

is well known that Capidava was burnt in the attacks during the late
6th century A.D., which confirms the date proposed by

It is worth emphasizing that the investigated sectors of
Capidava revealed a large number of pottery items belonging to
ARS Ware Category decorated with E (ii) style motifs; these vases
have been found either complete or restorable. This underlines the
role and position of the fortress between the 4th and the 6th P P P P

centuries. The identical plates found in Capidava and

Constantinople certify the tight relationships between the two



- rezumat -

După o scurtă introducere referitoare la locul şi rolul cetăţii

Capidava în istoria Dobrogei antice, autorii se opresc asupra unei
serii de descoperiri, diferite din punct de vedere al utilităţii şi chiar
al materialului din care sunt realizate, unite însă prin simbolistica
creştină a decorului. Este vorba despre opaiţe, accesorii
vestimentare din bronz şi os, obiecte de uz personal, vase ceramice
cu decor stampat.
Pe toate aceste piese semnul crucii este simbolul cel mai
utilizat. La vasele ceramice cu decor stampat decorul se diversifică,

TP Ibidem, p. 265-266, type 234, with the bibliographic analogies for the „Saints”

and p. 278, type 323, fig. 57 f for the cross.

TP Ibidem, p. 229.
alături de cruce fiind utilizate şi alte simboluri – animaliere sau
vegetale - cu semnificaţie creştină.
Este prezentată apoi, şi discutată, cea mai recentă descoperire
din această ultimă categorie de materiale: un platou care se
constituie într-un unicat, în primul rând prin faptul că vasul a fost
găsit în întregime. Platoul, cu un diametru de 39,3 cm, înalt de 6,5
cm, are aplicată în centru o ştampilă reprezentând un sfânt cu cârjă
episcopală încadrat de două cruci gemate, înalte. Tematica
antropomorfă creştină apare pe ceramica de lux din numeroase
centre; în acest sens sunt citate descoperirile de la Histria, Tomis,
Halmyris, Capidava şi din alte centre din lumea egeo-
Analogiile aduse în discuţie oferă şi încadrarea cronologică a
platoului – între anii 530-600. Se subliniază faptul că în sectoarele
cercetate de la Capidava au apărut numeroase exemplare de
ceramică aparţinând categoriei African Red Slip Ware, decorate cu
motive din stilul E(ii), vase întregi sau întregibile. Acest fapt
evidenţiază rolul şi poziţia cetăţii în secolele IV-VI; legăturile sale
cu Constantinopolul, care reies şi din faptul că două platouri
identice provin din cele două centre.
Pontica Christiana 133



by Ioan Mitrea

The central area of Moldavia containing, broadly speaking, the

geographical unity of the sub-Carpathian mountains of Moldavia,
and the contact area of the middle basin of the Siret River with the
Central Moldavian Plateau and the Totowa’s Hillocks, over which
was superposed in great part, as far back as its founding, the
authority of the Episcopate of Roman, proved to be one in which
the most ancient Christian communities of the Carpatho-Dniester
space have been built with great pains and have been made
More than one decade ago, facing a rich corpus of the
archaeological discoveries regarding the beginnings and the
evolution of Christianity at the east side of the Carpathians
Mountains, His Eminence Daniel, then-Metropolitan of Moldavia
and Bucovina, who is now the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox
Church, concluded that the propagation of Christianity at the east
the Carpathians has spread out “as far back as the early dawns of
the first millennium after Christ”1. In line with this important

assertion, a few years later, the regretted Metropolitan, His

Eminence Nestor Vornicescu, in one of his articles published
posthumously, rendered manifest that Christianity, the new
religion, “took hold of our ancestors as far back as the apostolic
epoch”, and that for the Dacian-Roman population, “the
Christianity constituted from its first centuries not only an ordinary
fact of faith, it was a fact with deep spiritual, social, and historical
implications, a decisive historic and cultural phenomenon, thus
proving the capacity of this population to maintain an intense
TP Translated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă

TP Patriarch Daniel Ciobotea, Instead of Preface, in the volume Dan Gh. Teodor,

Creştinismul la est de Carpaţi de la origini şi până în secolul al XIV-lea, Iaşi,

1991, p. 8.
spiritual life”2. In full agreement with the results of the historic-

archaeological researches from the last decades regarding the

dissemination of Christianity to the Dacian-Roman world, whose
members started to be called Romanians in the course of the 8th-9th P P P P

centuries3, the learned hierarch asserted that “unlike some other


neighboring nations, in the history of whom is recorded an accurate

date of their official Christianization, we received the Christian
faith on the space of time comprising the first centuries of the
Christian era, a process which took place both through individual
conversions and through the missionary work, and this course was
carried out simultaneously with the process of Romanian nation’s
ethnogeny”4. Indeed, there is no certain date on the Christianization

in droves of the Romanian nation, as was the case with all of our
neighbors, through a decision made by a political power, but the
new religion was spread gradually, from one individual to the next,
from one family to the next, and from one community to the next.
The thesis of the popular Christianity of the autochtonous people,
called first Dacian-Romans and later Romanians, is found on a
solid scholarly argumentation5. TP PT

In the Dacian world’s space, the Dacian-Roman world’s space,

and then in the space of the ancient Romanian world’s space, the
Christianity found a favorable soil in order for it to be able to take
roots. These favourable conditions can be explained on one hand by
the affiliation of this world to the area of the Roman – and later –
the Roman-Byzantine civilization, and on the other hand, by the
psychological state of this world, which was always in danger,
especially during the time of great migrations. Inside the ranks of a
population which was always disturbed by the migratory peoples,

TPMetropolitan Nestor Vornicescu, Scrieri patristice apărute în Biserica noastră

(sec. III-VII), in “Adevărul literar şi artistic”, IX, no. 519, 23rd of May 2000, p.

TP Ioan Mitrea, De când începe istoria românilor?, in “Acta Moldaviae

Meridionalis”, XV-XX/1, Vaslui, 1993-1998, p. 7-11.

TPN. Vornicescu, op.cit., p. 10.

TPNelu Zugravu, Geneza creştinismului popular al românilor, Bucureşti, 1997,

Pontica Christiana 135
the earliest Christianity “with its human loading capacity” found a TP PT

favorable ground. The beginnings, the evolution, and the

popularization of Christianity in the space of the ancient Dacia have
accompanied and have decisively influenced the process of the
Romanians’ ethnogeny. The popular Christianity, this “conciliatory
and meek Christianity, practiced in the Latin language” has
essentially contributed not only to the preserving of the Roman
world in the Carpathians, but to the fulfillment of this Roman
world, also”7, thus marking decisively the evolution of this historic

process of transforming the Dacian-Romans into Romanians. In

fact, to speak about the ethnogeny of the Romanians is tantamount
to speak about the beginnings of Christianity and its evolution in
Dacia. The Romanian people “was born spontaneously, and
naturally as a Christian nation, all at once with the formation of its
Roman world’s character, at whose completion the popular
Christianity brought its most important contribution”8, as was TP PT

written by the great historian Radu Vulpe.

The evolution of Christianity in the ranks of an autochtonous
population from the ancient space of Dacia and, in its context, from
the Carpatho-Dniester regions, in which the central region of
Moldavia is organically integrated, the region which is the main
concern of this paper, has spread out in different rhythms from one
area to the next and from one century to the next. The pursuing of
the paleo-Christian objects, from the Christianity’s beginnings to
the half of the first millennium after Christ, shows us that their
number decreases from the south to the north and from the west to
the east, from the Carpathians to the Dniester River, respectively9. TP PT

TPGuido A Mansuelli, Civilizaţiile Europei vechi, Bucureşti, 1978, p. 82.

TPC. Daicoviciu, O senzaţională descoperire arheologică in Transilvania, in the

volume “Dacica. Studii şi articole privind istoria veche a pământului românesc”,

Cluj, 1969, p. 525.
TP Radu Vulpe, Romanitate şi Creştinism – coordonate ale etnogenezei

româneşti, in the volume “De la Dunăre la Mare. Mărturii istorice şi monumente

de artă creştină”, Galaţi, 1979, p. 21.
TPDan Gh. Teodor, Creştinismul la est de Carpaţi de la origini şi până în secolul

al XIV-lea, Iaşi, 1991, p. 155-166; Ioan Mitrea, Începuturile şi generalizarea

creştinismului în spaţiul carpato-nistrean, in “Cronica Episcopiei Huşilor”, VI,
The most ancient discoveries of paleo-Christian proofs in the
central area of Moldavia come down to the beginnings of the new
religion’s manifestation. If the ornament found on the ceramic lid
from Brad-Bacău – a painted fish respectively, uncovered during
the last Dacian period, and dated sometime between the first
century and the beginning of the second century after Christ, which
is considered with a great deal of probability to be a Christian
symbol – would become a scientific certainty, we could find
ourselves facing the most ancient discovery of Christian character
from this area, from the entire Carpatho-Dniester space,
respectively10.TP PT

For the first four Christian centuries, in the central area of

Moldavia, also, as well as in the entire Carpatho-Dniester space, we
have discoveries of isolated paleo-Christian proofs, much more
numerous from one century to the next, without having to talk
about village communities Christianized in large numbers11. After TP PT

the edict from Milan, of the year 313, by which Constantine the
Great granted liberty to the Christians, and especially after the edict
of Theodosius of the year 395, by which the Christianity became
the only official religion of the Roman state, the new faith will
know a new vigour, in the north-Danubian areas, inclusively, areas
which were still considered a Roman territory for a long while. This
new vigour is felt, also, in the east-Carpathian areas of the ancient
Dacia. But we cannot talk about prevalently Christian village
communities in the central part of Moldavia and, on a larger

2000, p. 139-161; Gheorghe Postică, Civilizaţia medievală timpurie din spaţiul

pruto-nistrean (secolele V-XIII), Editura Academiei Române, Bucureşti, 2007, p.
TP Vasile Ursachi, Episcopia Romanului. Cercetări arheologice, Editura

Filocalia, 2008, p. 8-9.

TP Silviu Sanie, Civilizaţia romană la est de Carpaţi şi romanitatea pe teritoriul

Moldovei (sec. I i.e.n.-III e.n.), Iaşi, 1981, p. 219-222; Dan Gh. Teodor, op.cit., p.
75-81; I. Ioniţă, Importante descoperiri în perioada de formare a poporului
român în aşezarea de la Iaşi-Nicolina, in “Arheologia Moldovei”, X, 1985, p.
40-43; Ioan Mitrea, op. cit., p.141-143.
Pontica Christiana 137
geographic level, in the entire Carpatho-Dniester space, seeing the
actual stage of researches, before the 5th-6th centuries12. P P P P TP PT

If from the beginnings of Christianity to the middle of the 5th P P

century after Christ in the entire east-Carpathian space of Romania

we have thus far about 45 localities13 in which paleo-Christian TP PT

materials, from the 4th-5th centuries, were found, more accurately


from the second half of the 5th century, starting with the downfall of

the power and the domination of the Huns in the year 454 after
Christ, to the end of the 6th century, there are known only 38

archaeological sites in which elements of Christian character have

been found14. TP PT

In the central area of Moldavia, the first certain Christian

communities, from the 5th-6th centuries, have been identified at

Bacău-Curtea Domnească, Ştefan cel Mare-Bacău, Davideni-

Neamţ, Borniş and Borşeni-Neamţ15. In these works is mentioned TP PT

the entire bibliography concerning the discoveries from the

archaeological sites specified by name in this paragraph.
Of all the sites in which archaeological researches of great
amplitude took place in the central area of Moldavia, the most
important Christian community from the 5th-6th century was P P P P

identified at Davideni-Neamţ, where on a terrace found in the

beautiful valley of Moldavia, quite a few researches of great
TP Ioan Mitrea, Comunităţi creştine din secolele V-VII în regiunea sub-carpatică

a Moldovei, in “Pontica”, XXVIII-XXIX, 1995-1996, p. 227-232; Idem, Noi date

privind creştinismul în Moldova în secolul al VI-lea, in “Cronica Episcopiei
Huşilor”, VI, 2000, p. 329-338; Idem, Romanitate şi creştinism în secolele V-VI
în lumea satelor din spaţiul carpato-nistrean, in “Zargidava – revista de istorie”,
I, Bacău, 2002, p. 17-44.
TP Dan Gh. Teodor, op. cit., p. 155-160; Ioan Mitrea, op. cit., in “Zargidava”, I, p.

17-44, at which we add some discoveries done after the year 2002, some of them
TP Dan Gh. Teodor, op. cit., p. 157-166; Ioan Mitrea, op. cit., in “Zargidava”, I, p.

TP Ioan Mitrea, Regiunea centrală a Moldovei dintre Carpaţi şi Siret în secolele

VI-IX e.n., in “Carpica”, XII, 1980, p. 113; Dan Gh. Teodor, op. cit., p. 157-166;
Ioan Mitrea, Secolul al VI-lea în istoria creştinismului la est de Carpaţi. Date
arheologice şi concluzii istorice, in “Carpica”, XXIX, 2000, p. 27-38; idem, op.
cit., in “Zargidava”, I, p. 17-44.
amplitude took place for about a century, having as a result the
discovery and the research of the largest village from the east-
Carpathian space, containing 74 dwelling places from the 5th-8th P P P P

century, the highest point of this community’s development being

situated chronologically in the 5th-6th centuries16. Speaking of the

settlement from the 5th-6th century we mention that it has 36


dwelling places, which have been exposed and searched, and in

which a rich and diverse inventory was found, an inventory which
is able to render evident a Romanic and Christian autochtonous
community, in which from the second half of the 6th century some P P

Slavic elements will be infiltrated and will become sedentary; they

were torn off from the mass of the Slavic groups which were then
migrating to the Lower Danube.
In the case of this paper we will be concerned just with the
proofs regarding the Christian character of this village community,
which is representative not only for the central area of Moldavia,
but for the whole Carpatho-Dniester space, also.
In the first place we mention that in Davideni have been found
numerous pieces of Christian character or with Christian symbols.
Yet, what is impressive is not as much the number of paleo-
Christian pieces as it is the value of some of them, a few of them
being unicum not only in the east-Carpathian space, but in the
whole north-Danubian territory, also.
At Davideni have been uncovered some ceramic fragments
which come from jar vessels, of autochtonous character, which had,
usually on the shoulder, small crosses with equal arms, imprinted in
the raw paste, before being burned. In one of the dwelling places a
small cross of bronze with equal arms flattened to the outside part
has been uncovered; it is beautifully adorned with granules, and it
had a gem, probably a semi-precious stone, embedded in the
middle, which is lost today. This small cross, the Maltese type, was
manufactured by a local craftsman or by an itinerant artisan who
TP PTIoan Mitrea, Comunităţi săteşti la est de Carpaţi în epoca migraţiilor.
Aşezarea de la Davideni în secolele V-VIII, Editura “Constantin Matasă”, Piatra
Neamţ, 2001, p. 400. Here are found all the data concerning the discoveries from
Davideni, with which we are concerned in this paper.
Pontica Christiana 139
came from the south side of the Danube River, having as an
additional proof the discovery of fragmented casting mould of clay
marl in which were cast such cult pieces. The discovery of a little
spoon of bronze used at the administering of the Holy Eucharist at
Davideni is very important. The little cross, which is the first one of
this kind from the Carpatho-Dniester space dating from the 6th P P

century, corroborated with the presence of the little spoon for the
Holy Eucharist, allows us to assert that these two cult objects have
belonged to a missionary-priest who preached the Christian faith in
the bosom of the Davideni community. We mention, also, that a
Christian symbol, a sculptured little cross respectively, was
executed on the bow of the handle of a bone comb, of small size, a
miniscule comb. The comb was adorned with incised circles,
having a dot in the middle, a decorative motif symbolizing a fish
eye (or dove eye), hence a Christian symbolic element.
In the long run, we mention a piece of a scientific value as well
as of an outstanding cultic significance, which represents a unicum
for the epoch of Christianity’s popularization in the Carpatho-
Dniester space and, on a larger scale, in the north-Danubian space
as a whole. We are talking about the discovery of a bronze fibula of
a Roman-Byzantine type, which is characteristic to the 6th century

and which has reproduced by incision on the bow the image of a

human head with a nimbus (halo). The lines which frame the
human image with a halo, suggesting the “frame” of a small
picture, have been adorned with small granules. This frame
surrounds the human image with a halo, clearly marking the limits
of the sacred from the profane. On the human image, depicted in a
few millimeters, the handicraftsman artist has fancied, to the detail,
all the anatomic component parts, the eyes, the nose, the mouth,
and the beard, respectively. The space with “frame”, in which the
human image with a halo was realized is bordered by two registers
in which have been realized at the casting time, also, some
ornamental motifs consisting in concentric circles, representing,
probably, a fish eye or a dove eye, which are Christian symbolic
The first certainty, regarding the piece from Davideni, is that
we are in the presence of the image of a Saint, and not the image of
a Byzantine Emperor as it could be believed. Who is the saint
represented in this image? Could it be the image of Christ or the
head of Saint John the Baptist? It is our conviction that we are in
the presence of the representation of the image of our Savior Jesus
Christ. In the north-Danubian space we do not know, as yet, any
analogies. The piece from Davideni is thus far a unicum.
For the image with an aureole we have two analogies at the
south of the Danube River, in the area of the Byzantine Empire. On
a ceramic fragment from an imported north-African vessel, dated
from the 6th century before Christ, and uncovered at Dyrrhachium,

appears a portrait of an individual having the head encircled by a

halo (Christ?), being accompanied by an incised cross at the left
side of the portrait.17 On a flat fibula, from the 6th century after

Christ, uncovered at Odarc (Dobric) in Bulgaria, appears a human

image with a halo (Christ?) bordered by birds (doves?)18. TP PT

Consequently, the human image with a halo found on the fibula

from Davideni is, also, found both on the ceramic fragment
uncovered at Dyrrhachium, and on the bronze fibula from Odarc
(Dobric). It is possible that the four concentric circles arranged
around the image with a halo, found on the fibula from Davideni, to
symbolize four birds (doves?), also, as it does on the fibula from
Odarc. We must not lose sight of the fact that the three discoveries,
having a human image with a halo, are dated in the 6th century, very P P

probably they may be dated more accurately in the middle of the 6th P P

century after Christ.

The Byzantine iconography from the Justinian’s epoch, the
Byzantine Emperor who reigned from 527-565, and who
contributed to the consolidation of Christianity, is rich in
representing the portrait of Christ. In some cases, Christ’s image is
beardless. But quite frequent are, also, the portraits in which Christ
is represented bearded. Such as, for instance, in a church built by

TP PT Ibidem, p. 141 and the note 68 with the bibliography.
TP PT Ibidem, p. 141 and the note 69 with the bibliography.
Pontica Christiana 141
Justinian at the Mount Sinai, to the middle of the 6 century, in a

beautiful mosaic, the portrait of Christ is rendered bearded19, as it TP PT

appears on the fibula from Davideni, also.

We add to the above lines, also, the observation that naturally
the first representations of some saints will have had Christ as “the
first seed”. Later on, in many more representations from the
medieval age, Christ in the midst of the Apostles is the only One
represented with a halo.
Taking into consideration those mentioned above, we
appreciate as very probable the presence of the image of our Savior
Jesus Christ on the Roman-Byzantine fibula from Davideni. In this
case we could have here the most ancient representation of the
image of Christ from the north-Danubian space. If we take into
consideration that in the old Slavic language the term ikona (from
the Greek word εἰκόνα), means image, we can say that in a certain
respect at Davideni we have the most ancient minute icon, with the
image of Christ, from the north-Danubian territory of the ancient
The rich material with a Christian significance from Davideni
allows us to assert that here, in the 5th-6th centuries, has resided a

Roman village community in which the Christianity was dominant,

that is, it was fully popularized. If we add, also, to the Davideni
community, the communities from Borniş and Borşeni, the county
of Neamţ, as well as those found at Bacău-Curtea Domnească and
Ştefan cel Mare, the county of Bacău, we may talk about the first
Christian communities from the central area of Moldavia.
In the east-Carpathian space, the Christianity was spread
gradually from the south to the north and from the west to the east,
becoming general all at once with the completion of the process of
the Romanian people’s ethnogeny. In some marginal areas, as those
extremely north-eastern and eastern, very probably, the Christianity
was imposed somewhat later, towards the end of the first

TPCharles Delvoye, Arta bizantină, I, Bucureşti, 1976, p. 139. In some other

images with Christ crucified, our Savior is represented bearded, also. Compare,
op. cit., figure 36.
millennium after Christ, in the context of the process of making
Romanian all the communities from these areas.



- rezumat -

În articol sunt prezentate cele mai vechi dovezi ale răspândirii

creştinismului din regiunea centrală a Moldovei. Din secolele I-IV
d.Hr. avem dovezi izolate. De comunităţi creştine, în această
regiune, putem vorbi doar din secolele V-VI. Reprezentativă în
acest sens este aşezarea de la Davideni-jud. Neamţ, unde a fost
dezvelit cel mai mare sat din secolele V-VII din spaţiul est-carpatic,
cu o populaţie dominant creştină. Sunt prezentate numeroasele
piese creştine descoperite aici, între care una cu totul remarcabilă.
Este o fibulă romano-bizantină, din sec. al VI-lea, pe care a fost
gravat chipul unui sfânt, foarte probabil imaginea lui Hristos. Dacă
ipoteza se va confirma, am avea la Davideni cea mai veche
reprezentare a chipului lui Hristos din regiunile nord-dunărene.
Pontica Christiana 143

Fig.1 – Davideni
Paleo-Christian objects uncovered in the settlement from the 5th-6th centuries.

Fig. 2 – A fragment from the Roman-Byzantine fibula, from the 6th century, with

the representation of Christ’s portrait (increased about 5 times).

Pontica Christiana 145


by Dan Elefterescu

The subject under discussion consists of two small Gnostic

pieces made of lead, recovered by chance on the Danube River
shore in the area of the Roman settlement from Ostrov – Farm 4.
The settlement (code 62547.01) is found on the territory of Ostrovit
Society, S. A. at the km 132, N.R. 3A (Bucuresti-Constanta) at
approximately 3.5 km far from the Ancient city of Durostorum1, TP PT

and reflects a large amount of archaeological material that proves

an intense clay, bronze, lead, gold, bones, and very likely glass
processing2. TP PT


1/Ring. Drawing board 1.a.

Conservation condition is relatively good.
Flattened and deformed.
Gross workmanship, obtained by pouring into a mould with
blunted details; the ring is thin and reflects a deformed rectangular
TPTranslated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă

TP For a more detailed bibliography of the area see C. Muşeţeanu, Ateliere

ceramice romane de la Durostorum, Bucureşti, 2003.

2. C. Muşeţeanu, D. Elefterescu, Teracote de la Durostorum reprezentând-o pe
Venus, in “Pontica”, XVIII, 1985, p. 185-191; C. Muşeţeanu, op.cit.; D.
Elefterescu, Figurative bronzes from Durostorum, in “The antique bronzes:
typology, chronology, authenticity - The Acta of the 16th International Congress
of Antique Bronzes, Bucharest, May 26 th-31st, 2003”, Bucureşti, 2004, p. 151-
161; Idem, Statuete votive din plumb de la Durostorum, in “Pontica”, XXXVII-
XXXVIII, 2004-2005, p. 221-238.
TPC. Muşeţeanu, D. Elefterescu, Teracote de la Durostorum reprezentând-o pe

Venus, in “Pontica”, XVIII, 1985, p. 185-191; C. Muşeţeanu, op.cit.; D.

Elefterescu, Figurative bronzes from Durostorum, in “The antique bronzes:
typology, chronology, authenticity - The Acta of the 16th International Congress
of Antique Bronzes, Bucharest, May 26 th-31st, 2003”, Bucureşti, 2004, p. 151-
161; Idem, Statuete votive din plumb de la Durostorum, in “Pontica”, XXXVII-
XXXVIII, 2004-2005, p. 221-238.
profile. The chaton is rectangular in shape, with rounded borders.
On its facet, en-framed by two lines (the upper one is plain, while
the lower one is pearled) is found the inscription IAW. On its
laterals, possibly, two starlets. The dorsal side of the chaton
presents an alveolate form like a finger, which has avoided the
stressing of the ring, anyway too frail, while it has been worn. The
frailty of the ring has posed the issue of its usage and wearing time.
If we take into account the frailty of this object, we have to concede
that, theoretically speaking, we may have to deal here with a
pouring pattern (for checking the pattern). In this case, we wouldn’t
have dealt with a pouring into a used clean pattern, neither a
removal of the burr so carefully done.
Chaton’s dim: L =13.62 mm; W = 6.20 mm; thickness =1.68 mm;
Letters’ H: 1.8 mm.
Inv. 39472. Beach, passim 1976. Open ground researches by Dan
Analogies: Bulgaria, unknown place3. TP PT

2/Amulet – pendant. Drawing board 1b.

Conservation condition is good.
The small ear is missing (we mention that it was broken after
its discovery, during the handling).

Poured into a bivalve pattern with well shaped details; circular.

On its obverse, en-framed by a circle which opens to its ear, there is
the inscription IAW/TPC (letter P is inverse, with the loop to the
left). On its reverse, bordered by 17 pearls, is found the inscription
Ø =13 mm; thickness=1.50 mm. Letters’ H on the obverse=2.3
mm; Letters’ H on the reverse=2.1 mm.
Inv. 39475. Beach, passim 1976. Open ground researches by Dan

TPN. Markov, In the tracks of the ancient magic. (55 late antiquity amulets from

several private collections), Sofia, 2005, B4, an almost identical piece, whose
chaton was preserved and regarded as “an amulet in the shape of the eye”, had on
its back, quite similar to our piece, a thin casting line which was thought to
represent a “vulva”, late dating (3rd-4th centuries), p. 54.
Pontica Christiana 147
4 5
Analogies: Ratiaria , Viminacium .

Fig. 1a

Relatively speaking, many known pieces are attributed to

Basilide of Alexandria’s Gnostics, most of them being magic gems
or small plate amulets.

TPIbidem, B7, even if they do not come from the same pattern, they certainly have

the same prototype, the 2nd-4th centuries, p. 58.


TPT. Dimitrijević, A Gnostic amulet Abraxas, in “Viminacium”, 10, 1988, p. 17-

20, fig. 1-3, even if they do not come from the same pattern, they certainly have
the same prototype.
The quasi-totality of the pieces discovered and published in
our country, excepting the two small gold plaques from Dierna6, TP PT

belong to the kind of gems with inscriptions or with fantastic

representations (gemmae aabraxeae)7. Such a gem was discovered

even in a tomb from Durostorum (Silistra) in 19738. TP PT

Some Gnostics lead amulets discovered in Bulgaria have been

recently published by Nikolay Markov9. TP PT

Besides these, there are also known some Gnostic pieces made
of lead, in the shape of the plates with inscriptions in Gnostic style
(see, for instance, the lead sheet of the great demoniac adjuration,
uncovered in a grave from Hadrumentum (Africa))10. TP PT

With great reticence, first and foremost due to our lack of

knowledge in this field, we suggest as goal of their engendering
their usage as funeral appointments. In this case, we consider that

TP D. Benea, A. Şchiopu, Un mormânt gnostic de la Dierna, in “Acta Musei

Napocensis” (=Acta M.N.), XI, 1974, p.115-125 and Inscripţiile Daciei Romane,
Vol. III, Ed. Academiei, 1977, nr. 42; N. Vlassa, O nouă plăcuţă de aur gnostică
de la Dierna, Acta M.N., XIV, 1977, p. 205-219. Inscripţiile Daciei Romane,
Vol. III, Ed. Academiei, 1977, nr. 43.
TPPorolissum, black jasper. On one side it presents a fantastic effigy, on the other

side an EICA text (É. Lakó, N. Gudea, Despre o gemă gnostică cu inscripţie din
Muzeul de Istorie şi Artă din Zalău, in “Acta Musei Porolissensis”, III, 1979, p.
449-451); Orlea (Sucidava), green jasper, on the obverse there is
ABPAC/ABPACAZ, on the reverse* (Inscripţiile Daciei Romane, Vol. II, Ed.
Academiei, 1977, nr. 317 with bibliography); Romula, agate, on the obverse
there is a fantastic effigy, on the reverse there is A/BP/ACA/Z (Ibidem, nr. 492
with bibliography); Col. Capşa-Istrate (uncertain localization, possibly even
outside the country) black jasper. On one side, there is a monstrous image; at the
head two stars. On the border, there is the inscription ABPACAZ. On the reverse
there is Α/ΒΛΑΝ/ΑΘΑΝΑ/ΑΒΑΧΑ/ΡΕΥ, and around it, on a frame * IAW
MAPIA (Ibidem, nr. 661, with bibliography).
TP I. Popović, P. Donevski, Gold and silver jewelry from Durostorum burials,

Svishtov, 1999, p. 29-30. M.5 cornalian gem attached to a gold medallion. On

one side it is a fantastic effigy, on the other, an inscription (?) ΘΕΟ (?)
S/MS/RSOST. (?) S/SOTH(?). (?) Tomb dated on monetary basis (bronze coin
probably from Probus), in the second half of the 3rd cent., p. 29-30.

TPN. Markov, op.cit., B1-2 and B6.

TP Cf. D. Benea, A. Şchiopu, op.cit., p. 122, note 38 and N. Vlassa, Interpretarea

plăcuţei de aur de la Dierna, Acta M.N., XI, 1974, p. 126.

Pontica Christiana 149
they didn’t have the time to be used, the discovery area being quite
far from the necropolises as well as from the tomb groups from that

Fig. 1b

Taking into consideration that the magic gems are dated in the
2nd-3rd cent.11, a period of time during which the settlement from

Durostorum-Ostrov (Farm 4) reaches the upper limit of growth, we

en-frame our pieces inside these historical limits, most probably in

TP I. Barnea, Abrasax (abraxas), in “Enciclopedia Arheologiei şi Istoriei Vechi a

României”, Bucureşti, 1994, p. 20.

the first half of the third century, when the faith of the Gnostics
reached remarkable proportions, touching all the provinces. This is
the period when, as pointed out by D. Benea, “the Gnostic religion
brings to bear a visible influence on the early Christianity, on its
ideology”12.TP PT

We assert this regardless of whether or not these pieces have

been permanently or occasionally worn, or whether they had
funeral destinations; moreover, if we admit to the utmost a
negative, even derogatory goal (see, by the way, the maleficent
significance of the material)13, these pieces clearly and undoubtedly

certify the presence of Gnostics in the area. We assert this bearing

in mind that pieces modestly made on a stand without an inherent
value could not be taken over and passed on outside of experts’
circle, of those who know, or at least recognize the message. We
cannot agree with the assertion of the late Nicolae Vlassa made in
one of his articles of 198014 with regards to a gem found in the

Constanta museum, and we quote, “Otherwise, the obviously magic

character of the object is defining it, par excellence, as a talisman
acting ‘for the bearer’, with magical virtues, working for the one
(and not only for the one) for whom it had been conceived from the
moment of manufacturing”, adding also that the assertion was used
for the chronological en-framing of the pieces; on the contrary, we
consider that it is exactly this magic character that could have
constituted sometimes the reason for the passing on to an endeared

TP D. Benea, A. Şchiopu, op.cit., p. 123-124.

TP It is both known and recognized that there is a clear connection between magic

destination and the fact that, as pointed out by N. Vlassa, “throughout the history
of ancient magic (and especially in the Semite-Greek-Alexandrian, Gnostic and
Paleo-Christian magic), the lead was considered, par excellence, a maleficent
metal, being under the sign of Saturn and Mars”. (N. Vlassa, O nouă..., p. 218
and J. Marqués-Riviére, Amulettes, talismans et pantacles, Paris, 1938, p. 306, cf.
N. Vlassa, Interpretarea...).
TP N. Vlassa, Interpretarea unei geme magice greco-egiptene, Acta M.N., XVII,

1980, p. 493, the stranger seems to us the assertion on “Christianized” gem,

especially as it practically conceals a good chapter of the author, whose
conclusions were stressed in a previous article (Idem, Două noi piese
paleocreştine din Transilvania, Acta M.N., XIII, 1976, p. 229-230).
Pontica Christiana 151
person, to a descendant in the family, or to a rival or a successor.
This kind of situations entitles us to believe that, in principle, they
can lead in the course of time to the losing or even (to the)
changing of the meanings, beside the possibility of using the gems
only for their artistic value, and automatically to make less certain
the assertion about the existence of some followers of this cult
based only on such discoveries. This assertion was corroborated
(sic) by the same author in one of his articles in 1974: “It was
shown the almost impossible perseverance by which the Gnostic
tradition was perpetuated – over the Byzantine era – and deeply
during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, being particularly
applied to the manufacturing of occult amulets and talismans. But,
in such case, it does not seem to be impossible for a share of
amulets, gems, and talismans - defined as being Gnostic – which
are found in the great collections referring to a museum, to come
really from periods which are sensitively subsequent to the Ancient
era”15. TP PT



- rezumat -

Obiectul acestei scurte comunicări îl constituie două mici piese

gnostice, descoperite fortuit pe plaja Dunării în zona unei aşezări
romane de la Ostrov- Ferma 4.
Aşezarea (cod sit 62547.01), se aflată pe teritoriul societăţii
Ostrovit S.A., în dreptul Km.132, D.N. 3A (Bucureşti-Constanţa),
la aproximativ 3,5 km de anticul Durostorum, foarte bogată în
resturi materiale ce dovedesc o intensă activitate de prelucrare a
lutului, bronzului, plumbului, aurului, osului şi, foarte probabil, a
sticlei. Cele două piese, din plumb, un inel cu inscripţie IAW şi un
mic medalion având pe avers, încadrată de un chenar circular ce se

TP PT Idem, Interpretarea…, p. 139-141.
deschide în dreptul torţii, inscripţia IAW/ ° / TPC (P-ul invers, cu
bucla spre stânga, iar pe revers, mărginită de 17 perle inscripţia
ABPA / CAZ), certifică, credem, indubitabil (datorită în primul
rând materialului şi execuţiei) existenţa în zonă a unor adepţi ai
acestui cult în prima parte a secolului III d. Ch..

Fig. 2
Pontica Christiana 153


by Ileana Ildiko Zahariade

During the 2003 archaeological investigations at the west side

of the Halmyris fortified town the area conventionally labeled “the
barracks sector” (fig. 1), among other artifacts yielded in the edifice
nr. II (a considerable quantity of kitchen and fine pottery,
fragmentary glass, nails, bricks, and fragmentary tiles) a number of
34 ceramic fragments of similar paste and decoration have been
uncovered. The find was made close to the central pylon of the
barrack, against the entrance of the main room in the building (fig.
2), on the third floor level, chronologically corresponding to the
eighth and ninth decades of the sixth century. From this view point
it is worth mentioning that the fragments have been found in
connection with a coin datable to the reign of Justin II and Sophia
The assembling of the fragments resulted in the composition of
a vessel representing a flask belonging to the well known and
widely spread category of ampulla, used for water, but particularly,
wine consumption. The conservation degree is 80% (fig. 3).
The piece is made of dark brownish red color paste, and shows
an exceptional compactness; the vase was very well burnt what
conferred the piece a significant hardness. Both halves of the piece
are slightly bended on the outside for the purpose of obtaining a
larger volume. The mouth of the flask is lost; the handles, even if in
a fragmentary condition, have been preserved in their entirety. The
dimensions of the vessel which was completed and restored are as
the height on vertical ax = 24 cm;
the diameter = 20,5 cm;
the width on horizontal ax = 10 cm;

TP PT Translated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă
the diameter of mouth = 3,5 cm.
The decoration is conceived as a repetition of concentric circles and
wavy ornamentation executed in the same manner.
A careful examination of the inside surfaces, during the
washing and preparation for assemblage operations, revealed no
traces of enzymes; such traces were found, on the other hand, on
the inside part of some surfaces on which insertions of burnt
resinous substances have been discovered. The handles and the
visible black spots from the mouth of the vessel, as well as from the
adjacent zones proved that we do not deal here, as in most of the
cases, with a global influence on the receptacle due to a
devastating, spread fire in the barrack; on the contrary, they are a
consequence of specific and local use of a fire-hazardous substance
which brought about the marks of burning. Hence, the process
proceeds from the burning on the inside of the receptacle of a resin
that, in its turn, brought about the blackening of the receptacle from
the smoke1. TP PT

The intense employment of the incense by burning it inside the

receptacle brought about the covering with a thick layer of soot on
its outside, both on the lateral and on the upper side. The lower side
of the receptacle, which was flatter, presents on the outside a slight
difference due to the repeated heating, while on the inside there are
big spots of melted incense and un-melted grains of incense.
It is obvious that we are dealing with a secondary utilization of
this receptacle. On its insides, bits of incense which later were burnt
have been placed that leads to the conclusion that the receptacle
was used secondarily for ritual purposes, most probably inside the
barrack nr. II or, at any rate, in the barracks area. The row of

TP PTThe collected substance is without doubt Boswelia carteri of Burseraceae
family gathered from bushes that are specific to warm areas: Somalia, Ethiopia,
Egypt, India, and China. The incense arbor (thuris arbor) is a shrub of small size,
native of North Africa and Middle East. Its secretion, thus (incense), appears in
the old manuscripts under the name of olibanum <Olium Libanum (oil from
Lebanon), but its quality is inferior to the secretion collected from Boswelia
Pontica Christiana 155
barracks from on the west side of the defense wall lies in next to the
Episcopate basilica, of which it is separated by a narrow street.

Fig. 1 – The Bishop's basilica and the barracks sector

The incense, as a natural spice, was utilized for religious

purposes, in medicine and perfumer’s trade, but most often it is
employed in the religious rituals, as it is mentioned many times as
far back as the biblical times2. TP PT

A chemical analysis of the substance from the inside face of

some fragments is in progress, and, undoubtedly, it will be
conveyed in writing to the academic community. In this case, it
would be hard to imagine the employment of some substitutes of
resin which came from the local environment, and which is
otherwise improper to some arbor species. One might consider the
provenance of the incense rather to from the incense arbor as an
import substance for the Christian rituals of the Episcopate’s
church. The importation of expensive substances and spices from
the Egyptian-Arab regions in which they grew was one of the
commercial activities at Halmyris. The fact is confirmed by a
passage which describes the life and martyrdom of Epictet and
Astion. One of the judges (questionarius), Vigilantius, recently
converted to Christianity, secretly picked up the lifeless bodies of
the two martyrs and, while preparing himself to bury them, “he
sprinkled them with very expensive spices and with myrrh”3. TP PT

The two handles show slight traces of grooves on the dorsal

side (fig. 4), as a consequence of the fact that the receptacle was
suspended and balanced during the ritual for a long time.
The question is, however, why the ecclesiastical service did
not utilized an the well known receptacle commonly termed
turibulum, and particularly intended for such operations? Who
performed this expiation ritual?

TPThe censing or incensing as religious practice is found in many rituals from

Babylonians to Hebrews, from Christians and Buddhists.

TPPassio Epicteti presbyteri et Astioni monachi, IV, 33, in: Acta Sanctorum, Julii

II: <<[...] Vigilantius cum omni domo sua et cum aliis Christianis, occulti tulit
corpora sanctorum martyrum: et perfundes ea myrrha et aromatibus
pretiossisimis, in loco congruo et aptissimo cum hymnis et psalmis, et cum
magna devotione sepelevit [...]>>
Pontica Christiana 157

Fig. 2 – The nr. 2 barrack where the ceramic pieces have been retrieved

Fig. 3 – The flask fragments that were recovered

Important damage at the Episcopal Church took place around
587/5884. After that date, the building seems to have been seriously

devastated and ceased to function. The martyrs’ crypt was pillaged

and destroyed. On the top of the corridor that once led to the
mortuary room, now filled with debris, a burial of a woman
belonging to a foreign non-Christian small community. One might
question if after that date, the church structures at Halmyris were
still functioning in normal conditions. However, the need to
maintain the Christian rite and ritual for the local population as well
as the absence of an adequate set of instruments, could brought
about the use of some objects like the above mentioned flask for the
continuation of the Christian life in some primitive forms.



- rezumat -

Descoperirile din zona cazărmilor de pe latura de vest a cetăţii

de la Halmyris au adus la lumină, în cadrul unui bogat material
arheologic constând din ceramică, cuie din fier, sticlă şi un grup de
fragmente dintr-un vas care prezintă caracteristici specifice.
Cercetarea lotului ceramic şi asamblarea fragmentelor disponibile
au dus la reîntregirea unui vas de tip ampulla, o ploscă utilizată de
obicei la purtarea apei sau vinului. Cercetarea din punct de vedere
chimic a resturilor naturale încă detectabile pe pereţii vasului a dus
la concluzia că acesta a fost reutilizat în mod secundar, foarte
probabil în scopuri liturgice, ca recipient unde se ardea tămâie.
Reutilizarea acestui vas în scopul arderii tămâiei ar duce la
concluzia că basilica episcopală precum şi structurile bisericeşti nu
mai funcţionau la sfârşitul secolului 6, când nu mai era posibilă
folosirea unui instrumentar bisericesc clasic.

TPInformation received from the author of the digging, for which I am fully

Pontica Christiana 159

Fig. 4 – The piece that was completed again with traces of burning



by Nechita Runcan

I. Biobibliographical details

St. Nicetas of Remesiana carried on a rich missionary activity

in the second half of the fourth century and the beginning of the
fifth century among the Daco-Romans from the right and the left
side of the Danube River, in a region found at the borders that
separate two cultures – Greek and Latin – revealing himself as a
genuinely erudite hierarch as well as a true shepherd who displayed
warm love to his spiritual children.
Precious information on the life and activity of St. Nicetas is
offered by the priest Gennadius of Marseille1 (492-505), Flavius

Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus2 (c.490-c.583) and particularly by


Saint Paulinus of Nola3 (353-431). The name of Nicetas is derived


TPTranslated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă

TPGhenadius of Marseille, Liber de viris illustribus, XXII, ed. E. C. Richardson,

in “Texte und Untersuchungen zur Gesichichte der altchristlicher Literatur,”

XIV, 1, harausgegeben von O. Gebhardt und A. Harnack, J. C. Hinrichs’sche
Buchhandlung, Leipzig, 1896, p. 70, apud Ştefan C. Alexe, Sfântul Niceta de
Remesiana şi ecumenicitatea patristică din secolele IV şi V, doctoral dissertation,
in “Studii Teologice” (=ST), XXI (1969), 7-8, p. 467. Information on the life and
work of Ghenadie of Marseille see at Remus Rus, Dicţionar enciclopedic de
literatură creştină din primul mileniu, Ed. Lidia, Bucureşti, 2003, p. 302-303.
TP Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus, De institutione divinarum litterarum,

cap. XVI, in coll. “Patrologiae cursus completus”, Series latina (=PL), ed. J.-P.
Migne, Paris, 1856, vol. LXX, col. 1132C, apud Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 467.
Information on the life and work of Cassiodor see at Remus Rus, op.cit., p. 124-
125; Cassiodor, Istoria bisericească tripartită, translated by Liana and Anca
Manolache, in coll. “Părinţi şi Scriitori Bisericeşti” (=PSB), vol. 75, Bucureşti,
TPSancti Pontii Meropii Paulini Nolani, Carmen XVII et XXVII, ed. G. de Hartel,

in “Corpus Scritorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum” (=CSEL), vol. XXX, Pars II,

Pontica Christiana 161

from the Greek noun νικητής4 and it was preserved in manuscripts,


in the vulgar Latin, under the corrupt forms of Nicaeas, Niceas,

Nicetas, Nicetus and Nicetius5. TP PT

Sometimes, Nicetas of Remesiana was apt to be confused with

Nicetas of Aquileia6 or with Nicetius of Trier7.

At the beginning of the 20th century, first complete edition of

the theological works written by the bishop Nicetas of Remesiana
was published through the endeavor of the British scholar A. E.
Burn, the one who wrote an extensive Introduction8 to St. Nicetas’ TP PT

works. In the year 1964, Mgr. D. Dr. Klaus Gamber, the Liturgical
Institute of Regensburg’s leader, brought to light a new edition of
St. Nicetas of Remesiana’s works9. TP PT

The city of Remesiana, where Nicetas had his eparchial See,

was situated on the great military road that was traversing the

Vindobonae (Vienna), 1894, p. 81-94 and 262-291, apud Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p.
467. References concerning St. Paulinus of Nola’s life and work see at: Remus
Rus, op.cit., p. 654-655. F. Lagrange, Histoire de Saint Paulin de Nola, 2 vol.,
Paris, 1877, 1882; Pierre Fabre, Essais sur la chronologie de l’oeuvre de St.
Paulin de Nole, Paris, 1948; I. G. Coman, Patrologie, Bucureşti, 1956, p. 267-
270; J. Tixeront, Precis de Patrologie, ed. a 13-a, Paris, 1942, p. 331-334; P.
Fabre, St. Paulin de Nole et l’amintie chretienne, Paris, 1949; J. Quasten,
Patrology, ed. by Angelo di Berardino, vol. IV, Christian Classics, Allen, Texas,
1998, p. 296-307; S. Constanza, Paulin de Nola, in “Dictionnaire
Encyclopédique du Christianisme Ancien”, Les Editions du Cerf, tome 2, 1990,
p. 1954-1956.
TPSee: A. E. Burn, Nicetas of Remesiana, His life and works, Cambridge, 1905,

Introduction, p. XXXIV.
TPO. Bardenhewer, Les Pères de l’Eglise, leur vie et leur oeuvres, t. II, Paris,

1945, p. 342, note 1.

TPŞt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 467; Petrus Braida, Dissertation in S. Nicetam, article in

J. P. Migne, PL, vol. LII, Paris, 1856, col. 875-1134.

TP Remus Rus, op.cit., p. 602; P. Volk, Nicetius of Trier, in “New Catholic

Encyclopedia”, vol. X, New York, 1967, p. 441.

TPSee in this sense: A. E. Burn, op.cit., with an ample introduction and a rich

TP See Klaus Gamber, Nicetas von Remesiana: Introduction ad competentes,

Fruhchristliche Katechesen aus Dacien, in coll. “Textus Patristici et Liturgici”,

quos edidit Institutum Liturgicum Ratisbonense, Fasc. I, Verlag Friderich Pustet,
Regensburg, 1964, 181 pages.
central part of the province Illyria and connected the Western
Europe to Constantinople. Founded by the Roman Emperor Trajan
(98-117), this city was named at its beginning Respublica
Ulpianorum10 and was found at approximately 30 km east of the

city of Naissus (Nis), close to Nisava River11. TP PT

From an administrative point of view, Remesiana belonged to

Dacia Mediterranea, placed between Dacia Ripensis and Dardania;
yet, from an ecclesiastical point of view, in St. Nicetas’ time,
Remesiana belonged to the Metropolis of Thessalonica12. TP PT

The main external source, as far as St. Nicetas’ life is

concerned, is made up by St. Paulinus of Nola’s Poems XVII and
XXVII. The poetic style employed by St. Paulinus to express his
love for a dear friend makes more difficult the deciphering of the
historic facts, but it doesn’t exclude them13. Beyond this drawback,

the geographic, ethnographic, and ecclesiastical directions were,

doubtlessly, known to Paulinus, from St. Nicetas’ accounts, since
he talked much with Paulinus about his missionary activity both on
the right and on the left side of the Danube River, as well as about
his ecumenical journeys.
Saint Paulinus was moved by the missionary activity of St.
Niceta; moreover, he was honored to have this great hierarch as his
guest at Nola; in fact, he wanted to celebrate St. Nicetas’ visit in a
distinct way. In this sense, in the lines of Poem XVII, which
displays a rare tenderness, St. Paulinus is accompanying his friend
with his mind at Nicetas’ return to his remote Dacia, by allowing

TP Milan Şesan, Iliricul între Roma şi Bizanţ, in “Mitropolia Ardealului” (=MA),

V (1960), 3-4, p. 202-224; Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 468.

TP Today on the hearth of the ancient Roman fortress Remesiana is found the

Serbian village Bela Palanka, known, also, under the Turkish name Mustafa
Pasha Palanka. (See for this matter: Mircea Păcurariu, Istoria Bisericii Ortodoxe
Române, vol. I, Ed. a II-a, Bucureşti, 1991, p. 132.
TP Ioan Rămureanu, Creştinismul în provinciile romane dunărene ale Iliricului la

sfârşitul secolului IV. Sinodul de la Sirmium din 378 şi sinodul de la Acvileea din
381, ST, XVI (1964), 7-8, p. 437-459; Jacques Zeiller, Les origines chrétiennes
dans les provinces danubiennes de l’Empire Romain, Paris, 1918, p. 16; Şt. C.
Alexe, op.cit., p. 468.
TP P. Fabre, op.cit., p. 224.
Pontica Christiana 163
his heart to talk. Paulinus’ feelings are sincere, and this truth points
out that Poem XVII was not a courtesy letter,14 as a follow-up to

Nicetas’ first visit to Nola, and the things which are recounted are
known from the long conversations between the two friends15. TP PT

As accurate historic events from the life of the great

missionary, who was Niceta, we keep in our minds the two visits
made by him to Nola in the years 398 and 402,16 as well as the TP PT

mentioning of his name by the pope Innocent I, in the years 409

and 414.
The critique of specialty17 holds that Nicetas was born in the

year 338 A.D., and that he lived approximately 80 years, until about
the year 414; even before the year 367 he was the bishop of
Remesiana. St. Nicetas was contemporaneous with the most
important Fathers of the Church from the second patristic period,
such as: St. Basil the Great, St. Athanasius, St. Ephraim the Syrian
(373), St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory the Theologian, St.

TP Ibidem.

TP The phrase “Romanis merito admirandus” shows that Nicetas traveled to

Rome, where he made a beautiful impression. We believe that in that place he

knew St. Paulinus, who invited him to Nola on St. Felix feast day (January 14).
During his first journey, St. Nicetas remained at Nola, to the summer. S. Paulini
Nolani, Carmen XVII..., v. 26-28, p. 81-96, apud Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 468.
TP Concerning the dating of the two visits to Nola, the opinions are divided. Thus,

P. Fabre, in his work Essais…, p. 138-139, considers that Nicetas’ first visit to
Nola took place in the year 400, and the second one, in the year 403; while
Joannes Baptista Le Brun, in Vita Sancti Paulini Nolani Episcopi, Prolegomena,
PL, LXI, 80 AB, 90 and Antonio Pagi, in Critica historico-chronologica in
universos Annales ecclesiasticos... Caesaris Cardinalis Baronii, Tomus
Secundus, Antverpiae, MDCCXXVII, p. 13, 53, considers that the two visits took
place in the year 398, and 402, respectively. The opinion of the last two ones is
shared, also, by A. E. Burn, op.cit., p. XXXV, and by Ubaldo Mannucci,
Instituzioni di Patrologia ad uso delle Scuole Teologiche, Parte II (Epoca post
Niceta), Terza edizione riveduta, Roma, 1932, p. 198. We adopt the opinion of
the last four researchers mentioned in this note.
TP See, in this sense, A. E. Burn, op.cit., p. XXXV; J. Zeiller, op.cit., p. 550; D.

M. Pippidi, Niceta din Remesiana şi originile creştinismului daco-roman, in

“Contribuţii la istoria veche a României”, ed. a II-a revăzută şi adaugită,
Bucureşti, 1967, p. 502-553; Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 469; I. G. Coman, op.cit., p.
Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, Blessed
Augustine, Blessed Hieronymus (420), and others, who illuminated
the second half of the fourth century and, some of them, the first
quarter of the fifth century.
We do not know with certainty St. Nicetas’ place of birth, his
education, as well as his activity until he was elevated to the
hierarchical dignity. However, St. Paulinus of Nola, in his Poem
XVII: De reditu Nicetae episcopi, calls Remesiana “the home
land”, “the city”, “the parental city”, and “parental home” of

We should not be taken aback by the employment of Latin

language, both in writing and in speaking, by the bishop of
Remesiana, if we keep in mind that he was doing missionary work
in a geographical area where Latin language was contending for
pre-eminence with Greek language. On the other hand, the
theological problems and the ecclesiastical activity were calling for
the Orthodox missionary workers to know the two languages. A
certainty is that Nicetas knew the Greek language, also19, even if he

wrote only in the Latin language. We believe that he was fluent

even in the language spoken by the un-Latinized aborigines among
whom he carried on missionary work20. The goal of Nicetas’

journey to Rome is not known. St. Paulinus does not mention

anything about the reason for the journey or its duration; he speaks,

TP Sancti Pontii Paulini Nolani, Carmen XVII, v. 55-56, p. 187-188, 195, 319-320.

The historian Constantin C. Giurescu, in Istoria Românilor, vol. II, ed. a II-a,
Bucureşti, 1935, p. 197, asserts that Nicetas was a Daco-Roman by birth. The
same thing is emphasized by Vasile Pârvan in his work Contribuţii epigrafice la
istoria creştinismului dacoroman, Bucureşti, 1911, p. 171 and note 769; as well
as A. L. Tăutu, Izvoarele de mâna întâi despre Sf. Nichita Remezianul, in
“Cultura Creştină”, anul XIV, Blaj, 1925, nr. 9, p. 324.
TP See: A. E. Burn, op.cit., p. 31-32; and Wilhem August Patin, Nicetas bischof

von Remesiana als Schriftsteller und Theologe, München, 1909, p. 29, 48-65,
apud Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 470, note 72.
TP For this matter, can be consulted Eugen Lazovan’s study, Aux origines du

christianisme Daco-Scythique, published by Franz Altheim in Geschichte her

Hunnen, vol. IV, Berlin, 1962, p. 146-165, apud Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 470, note
Pontica Christiana 165
however, about his friend’s return to his “homeland” who is
accompanied in his long, dangerous trip21, to his remote Dacia by

his thoughts and prayers. Nicetas will travel as far away as the
arctic Dacians, and, rocked by the Aegean Sea’s waves to
Thessalonica, and from there, challenging the tiredness of a
walking trip, he will wander through the Phillip’s plains of
Macedonia, will arrive at the Tomis city, and farther to Scupi, the
capital of Dardania, next to Remesiana22. TP PT

II. The missionary area of St. Nicetas

Saint Paulinus of Nola shows bishop Nicetas as a great

missionary who carried on a work of Christian education to “more
nations”. He changed the savage hearts, teaching the “barbarians”
to sing hymns of praise to Christ and to live harmoniously. “In an
unknown region of the world, the barbarians learn through you to
sing to Christ with a Roman heart and to live genuinely in serene
peace”23. The phrase “corde romano” = “with a Roman heart”,

indicates not only the fact that St. Nicetas was preaching in Latin
language; it indicates, also, his outstanding work of Latinizing

TP See, in this sense: Blessed Hieronymus, Epistola LX, 16, Ad Heliodorum,

CSEL, LIV, 1, Vienna, 1910, p. 570-571, written at the beginning of the year
398, in which the author wrote down the following lines: “The soul is terrified
seeing the misfortunes of our time. It is more than twenty years since Roman
blood is shed between Constantinople and the Alps every day... The Goths,
Sarmatians, Quazians, Allans, Huns, Vandals, and Marcomanni, keep
devastating, pillaging and kidnapping. How many women, how many virgins of
God, and how many noble individuals have not been humiliated during these
wars? Bishops have been imprisoned; priests as well different clergy have been
murdered. Churches have been destroyed; within Christ’s altars horses have
been sheltered, and the relics of the martyrs have been profaned”.
TP For more details and elaboration, concerning St. Nicetas’ missionary area, see:

V. Pârvan, op.cit., p. 163-164; I. G. Coman, “Aria misionară” a Sfântului Niceta

de Remesiana, in “Biserica Ortodoxă Română” (=BOR), LXVI (1948), 5-8, p.
338-340; D. M. Pippidi, op.cit., p. 506-507.
TP S. Paulini Nolani, Carmen XVII, v. 261-264, p. 93: Orbis in muta regione per

te / barbari discunt resonare Christum / corde Romano placidamque casti /

vivere pacem.
among “barbarian peoples” who were spending their lives at wars,
by stealing and pillaging, and this kind of living was for that time
(4th and 5th centuries), tantamount to an act of culture and

civilization. With the heavenly fire of the Christian faith, Nicetas

was warming the frozen hearts of the inhabitants of the Danubian
river regions, where “Boreas ties the rivers with ice”. The harsh
Bessi, who are even harsher than the ice, foolhardy warriors, were
learning to assign a value to work and to peace. The pagans, who
were renowned for murders and robberies, and who were living
through mountains, after listening to Nicetas’ sermons, have
become monks and started living as sons of peace. Due to his
missionary work, St. Nicetas became a skilful teacher of the un-
educated ones24. TP PT

Saint Paulinus indicates, also, the regions and the populations,

the “father” of whom could be called bishop Nicetas of Remesiana,
while saying: “You are called father by the whole region of Bora;
at your preaching, the Scythian is subdued and the one who is
embittered relinquishes his savage impulses because of your
teaching. The Getae and the two kind of Dacians run to you: the
ones who farm the in-land and those who wear sheep fur caps and
breed rich droves of cattle on the fertile banks”25, (of the Danube

River, our note).

The above specifying becomes extremely precious for the
consolidation of the “apostolic and missionary area” of St. Niceta.
Thus, Vasile Pârvan, the erudite archeologist, came to the

TP Ibidem, v. 218-244, p. 93. Information on the Bessi population see at G.

Cankova-Petkova, La survivance du nom des Besses au Moyen-Age, in

“Linguistique Balkanique”, VII, 1962, p. 93-96; I. I. Rusu, Limba Traco-Dacilor,
ed. a II-a, Bucureşti, 1967, p. 172-174.
TP S. Paulini Nolani, Carmen XVII, v. 245-252, p. 92-93. Concerning the various

interpretations of this text from Poem XVII of St. Paulinus of Nola: “te patrem
dicit: plaga tota Borrae, / ad tuos fatus Scythia mitigatur et sui discors fera te
magistro pectora ponit, et Getae currunt et uterque Dacus / qui colit terrae
medio vel ille / divitis multo bove pilleatus accola ripae”, at the populations
reached by the St. Nicetas of Remesiana’s missionary work, see also: V. Pârvan,
op.cit., p. 165-167; I. G. Coman, op.cit., p. 314-342, 346-350; D. M. Pippidi,
op.cit., p. 512-514.
Pontica Christiana 167
conclusion that St. Nicetas of Remesiana – of Daco-Roman descent
– preached the Christian teaching “on the banks of the Danube
River”, being “the apostle of Daco-Romans; on the right and the
left side of Danube”26. Besides Paulinus’ testimonies, he based his

assertion, also, on the information provided by Gennadius of

Marseille, who advises us that St. Nicetas worked out a Latin
Catechism, written in a clear and plain tongue, which was required
for his mission, only fragmentarily preserved, but which shows St.
Nicetas’ qualities as an active and experienced missionary.
Vasile Pârvan’s conclusion was taken over and backed up by
other historians and researchers. For instance, the historian Nicolae
Iorga mentions Nicetas among the “apostles” of the regions on the
left side of the Danube River27. With the same meaning, Radu

Vulpe speaks clearly about St. Niceta, “whose apostolic activity

had decisive consequences on the Christianization of the Roman
population from the Carpathian Dacia, ruled over by barbarians,
and he extended his activity as far as Tomis”28. Constantin C.TP PT

Giurescu appreciates, also, St. Nicetas’ missionary work, as

follows: “Scholarly man, author of many religious writings, close
friend with St. Paulinus of Nola (Italy), who calls him his ‘teacher
and father (magister et pater), tested and impassioned missionary,
Nicetas of Remesiana converted the Daco-Romans (un-
Christianized, as yet), on the both banks of the Danube River, as
well as Goths and Bessi, to Christianity. He preaches and writes in
the Latin tongue for almost a half of a century and could rightfully
be counted as our national apostle; the more so as, especially he
was by birth a Daco-Roman”29. TP PT

While displaying a judicious criticism on the internal and

external sources concerning St. Nicetas’ missionary area, the
patristic scholar, I. G. Coman, strengthens the assertions made by
the above mentioned historians and researchers, by reaching this
conclusion: “We do not have a peremptory, undeniable, palpable
TP V. Pârvan, op.cit., p. 162-176.

TP Nicolae Iorga, Istoria Românilor, vol. II, Bucureşti, 1936, p. 101-105.

TP Radu Vulpe, Histoire ancienne de la Dobroudja, Bucarest, 1938, p. 351.

TP C. C. Giurescu, Istoria Românilor, vol. II, ed. a IV-a, Bucureşti, 1942, p. 223.
testimony about St. Nicetas’ work on that side (on the left side of
Danube). However, St. Paulinus of Nola’s indication, corroborated
with other literary and archaeological documents mentioned above,
justifies, to a great extent, the hypothesis of the Dacian bishop’s
activity at the north of Danube, also”30. TP PT

Some other archaeologists, historians, and researchers, such as:

Ion Barnea,31 Ioan Rămureanu32, D. M. Pippidi33 etc., have been

busy themselves with St. Nicetas’ “missionary work’s problem” on

the Danube’s banks. In fact, the archaeological discoveries made
later,34 do not contradict, on the contrary, they confirm the

TP I. G. Coman, op.cit., p. 356; Idem, Patrologie, p. 237; In the same sense see,

also, S. Berger, Nicétas, apôtre des Daces, in “Encyclopédie des Sciences

Religieuses”, publiée par Lichtenberger, t. IX, Paris, 1880, p. 621: “it fit de
nombreuses missions au’ dela du Danube, et reussit y a repandre l’Evangile”; J.
Zeiller, op.cit., p. 557; P. de Labriolle, L’Eglise et les Barbares, in Augustin
Fliche et Victor Martin, Histoire de l’Eglise, vol. IV, part II, Paris, 1930, p. 370;
E. Lozovan, Unité et dislocation de la Romanie orientale, in “Orbis”, Bulletin
International de Documentation Linguistique, t. III, nr. 1, Paris, 1954, p. 137: “Le
christianisme daco-roman est d’origine missionnaire; sa période de diffusion
s’étend entre 375-450. L’apôtre ‘dace’ St. Nicétas de Rémésiana représente la
liaison traditionnelle entre l’Italie, l’Illyricum et la Dacie”.
TP Ion Barnea, Vasile Pârvan şi problemele creştinismului în Dacia Traiană, ST,

X (1958), 1-2, p. 93-105.

TP I. Rămureanu, Sinodul de la Sardica din anul 343. Importanţa lui pentru

istoria pătrunderii creştinismului la geto-daco-romani, ST, XIV (1962), 3-4, p.

TP D. M. Pippidi, Nicetas di Remesiana e le origini del crestianesimo daco-

roman, in “Revue Historique du Sud-Est Européen”, XXIII, 1946, p. 113, 115;

Cf. M. Macrea, Răspândirea creştinismului la daco-romani, in “Istoria
României,” vol. I, Bucureşti, 1960, p. 633; Emilian Vasilescu, Noi dovezi ale
continuităţii elementului autohton în Dacia, BOR, LXXXIV (1966), 9-10, p.
TP Concerning the origins of Christianity in the Trajan’s Dacia, in the light of the

archaeological discoveries in the middle of the 20th century, one may consult: I.

Barnea, Contribuţii la studiul creştinismului în Dacia, in “Revista Istorică

Română” (=RIR), XIII, 1943, p. 32-42; Idem, Opaiţe creştine din Scythia Minor,
RIR, XIV, fasc. II, 1944, p. 166-177; D. Tudor, Prima basilică descoperită în
Dacia Traiană, Iaşi, 1948; C. Daicoviciu, În jurul creştinismului din Dacia, in
“Studii”, revistă de ştiinţă, filosofie, arte, I, Bucureşti, 1984, p. 122-127; I. I.
Rusu, Materiale arheologice paleo-creştine din Transilvania, ST, X (1958), 5-6,
Pontica Christiana 169
conclusions reached by Vasile Pârvan in his work, Epigraphic
contributions to the Daco-Roman Christianity, concerning St.
Nicetas’ missionary work.
Some studies and linguistic researches35, concerning the basic

word stock of the Romanian language, cross off the register that a
large number of Latin Christian terms entered our Romanian
language cultural heritage during the Latinizing of the population
on both sides of Danube. This important fact substantiates that the
Christian teaching was spread at north of Danube in the Latin
language in the same period of time, also. By examining St. Nicetas
of Remesiana’s writings, we find out that numerous words and
expressions used by him entered the basic word stock of the
Romanian language36. The great missionary used, also, many

Latinized Greek words, that entered the Romanian language’s

vocabulary37. TP PT

Consequently, if we take into account St. Paulinus of Nola’s

information, the missionary character of early Christianity, the
plain style – understood by everybody – of St. Nicetas’ writings, his
sacerdotal deportment, his apostolic zeal in preaching the Gospel to
numerous populations – some of them being un-Christianized, but
found among the native Daco-Romans – and if we take into
account, also, the fact that “the Danube did not divide the

p. 311-340; Emilian Popescu, Descoperirile arheologice de la Lazu, in “Studii

Clasice”, VII, 1965, p. 251-261.
TP See, in this sense, I. Rămureanu, op.cit., p. 180; V. Pârvan, op.cit., p. 1 & 85;

Al. Graur, Încercarea asupra fondului principal lexical al limbii române,

Bucureşti, 1954, p. 48-108; Idem, Fondul principal al limbii române, Bucureşti,
1957, p. 31-66; S. Popovici, Fondul principal de cuvinte al limbii române, in
“Limba română” (=LR), II, 1953, 1, p. 21-27; D. Macrea, Despre originea şi
structura limbii române, LR, III, 1954, 4, p. 11-30; Ioan Ionescu, Privire asupra
cuvintelor cu sens religios din fondul principal lexical al limbii române, in
“Mitropolia Olteniei”, VIII (1956), 6-7, p. 343-359; M. Şesan, Creştinismul în
limba dacilor, MA, III (1958), 5-6, p. 384-388; Al. Rosetti, Istoria limbii
române, vol. I (Limba Latină), ed. a IV-a, Bucureşti, 1956, p. 46-57.
TP Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 478.

TPH. Mihălcescu, Influenţa grecească asupra limbii române până în secolul al

XV-lea, especially the chapter Elenismele limbii latineşti din provinciile

dunărene, Bucureşti, 1966, p. 39-40.
inhabitants on the two banks of it; on the contrary, it united
them”38, we may conclude that the bishop of Remesiana’s

missionary zeal stretched out its blessings, also, to the surroundings

inhabited in those tormented times by our ancestors, either directly,
or by the agency of his helping monks and collaborators.

III. St. Nicetas’ zeal in search of perfection

One of the features of St. Paulinus’ friendship with St. Nicetas

is his admiration for the missionary work of the great hierarch of
Remesiana. Paulinus is moved and impressed by Nicetas’ effort to
perfect himself, to draw nearer to God. The numerous biblical
quotations in the above mentioned poems demonstrate the fruitful
theological dialogue39 between the two real friends and hierarchs.

In the Poem XVII, St. Paulinus makes more precise that

Nicetas was spending his life as a true monk; “fleeing the world to
the heavenly canopy”, and climbing the rungs of the cross. He was
rightfully called a “vanquisher of the body”, since he was striving
to live “in Christ”, by uninterrupted spiritual exercises, and
illuminated by a strong faith40. Due to the saintliness of his life as

well as to his upright character, Paulinus associated St. Nicetas –

during his second visit to Nola – with St. Felix, offering to both of
them the dedication of his anniversary poem, which was offered
every year by the poet to St. Felix. Nicetas is presented as a master
of the area, behaving himself as St. Felix41. Paulinus urges twice

the bishop of Remesiana to fill in for St. Felix. At the end of the
second visit to Nola, Paulinus asks St. Nicetas to pray for him in an
unusual way: “I implore you to lift up fervent prayers for me, from
the bottom of your heart, filling in for Felix!”. In this manner,
Nicetas was speaking and acting for St. Felix, not only by his faith,
but by the image of his soul, being in high love and favor with St.

TP V. Pârvan, op.cit., p. 201: “The Danube was never a heinous enemy, which

would have separated the brothers; it was a good friend, which united them”.
TP P. Fabre, Saint Paulin …, p. 226

TP S. Paulini Nolani, Carmen XVII, v. 149-160, p. 88-89.

TP Ibidem, v. 357 and the following, p. 278.
Pontica Christiana 171
Paulinus of Nola . We do not have precise data as far as St.

Nicetas’ life’s end is concerned. In the year 414 he was still living,
being remembered by the bishop of Rome, Innocent I, in one of his
Letters43. In the Orthodox Mineion, on September 15, is mentioned

Nichita the Roman, and on April 3, Nichita the Confessor. In the

calendar of sanctity is mentioned, also, St. Nicetas of Remesiana,
on the day of June 2444. TP PT

In the Balkan Peninsula, the great missionary Nicetas was

venerated as a saint even after the Serbs had settled in his former
eparchy. In the year 1308, a monastery having Nicetas as its patron
saint was restored and endowed with a village which was inhabited
by Vlachs by the Serbian King Stefan Uroš II Milutin (1282-
1321)45. The echo of St. Nicetas’ missionary work was preserved

over the centuries in the memory and language of our people. This
way, Nicetas is mentioned to this day in the Transylvanian
Christmas carols46 as a saint who watches over the houses through

his ecclesiastical night services, for which he wrote the book De

vigiliis, vigils which have been so successfully organized by him as

TP P. Fabre, op.cit., p. 227.

TP A. L. Tăutu places the date of St. Nicetas’ death after the year 420, since

Gennadius of Marseille places him in his Catalogue after Ticonius, who died in
the year 423, and the bishop of Rome, Celestin, does not mention him in a letter
of the year 424, addressed to the bishops of Illyria. See A. L. Tăutu, op.cit., p.
TP See the article of A. L. Tăutu, Niceta ori Nichita Remesianul, in “Buna

Vestire,” I, 1962, nr. 4, p. 32.

TP Gh. I. Moisescu, Şt. Lupşa, Al. Filipescu, Istoria Bisericii Române, manual

pentru Institutele teologice, vol. I, Bucureşti, 1957, p. 73.

TP The popular piety invoked St. Nicetas of Remesiana’s name in many ways.

Thus, a “Children’s Prayer” presents the great hierarch standing in the middle of
the house “where he reads, and prays, is astir and watches”, “de cu seară / pân’
la cinioară, / de la cinioară pân’ la cântători / de la cântători pân’ la revărsat de
zori, / defending the Christian nation of “the evil, untamed demons”. Two
versions of this prayer see at: G. Dem. Teodorescu, Poezii populare române,
Bucureşti, 1885, p. 188-189. A third version of this prayer, in which the house
appears as a stronghold, due to St. Nicetas’ presence, was collected from the
area of Suceava, and published by Sim. Fl. Marian, Legendele Maicii Domnului,
Bucureşti, 1904, p. 126.
to determine the removal of the Latin name of the bird which sings
by night – luscinia – from the Romanian language and the replacing
of it by the word privighetoarea (nightingale)47. TP PT

Thus, we may conclude that St. Nicetas lives in the second half
of the 4th century and the first quarter of the 5th century, in a region

which was connecting the eastern world to the western world.

Ethnically speaking, he was a Daco-Roman who used Latin tongue
both in his missionary and literary-theological work.
The two journeys to Italy, his friendship with Paulinus of Nola,
his exceptional missionary work, doubled by a rich cultural activity
among many un-Christianized populations from the Danubian area,
as well as the holiness of his life, are placing St. Nicetas among the
great holy Fathers of Patristics, known for their ecumenical activity.

IV. St. Nicetas of Remesiana’s contribution to the progress

of Patristic literature

Besides oral sermon, St. Nicetas availed himself, in his

missionary activity, of the written works, also. Some of these works
are lost, others have been preserved fragmentarily, and some others
have been wholly preserved. St. Nicetas’ theological and literary
inheritance which came to us shows the author as one of his time’s
scholars. The historian Gennadius of Marseille praises the plain and
clear style of Nicetas’ theological writings. A century later,
Cassiodorus, who was well versed in Nicetas’ work, was
appreciating it in his turn in eulogistic terms: “If someone wants to
learn, briefly, something about the Father and the Son and the Holy
Spirit, and he does not want to get tired from the extensive reading,
let him read the book written by bishop Nicetas about faith; and
filled with the Christian teaching’s brilliance, he will be led,
through an advantageous brevity to the divine contemplation. This
(book) is associated with St. Ambrose’s work to emperor Gratian.
O, unpriced goodness and power of the Creator, the heavens are
open, the Holy Trinity, being made manifest, has radiated in the

TP PT Nicolae M. Popescu, De la priveghere la privighetoare, Bucureşti, 1943, p. 19.
Pontica Christiana 173
hearts of the faithful and the heathens, who held an alien honor,
destroyed by the Lord, was scattered”48. TP PT

Missionary and apostolic soul, St. Nicetas was, also, a great

theologians and man of letters, enjoying a remarkable prestige, as
follows from a manuscript codex from the 9th century: “Then it has P P

to be briefly said how could be understood the Symbol of Faith

itself, as it was expounded by the teachers of the Holy Church of
God, that is, the Blessed Athanasius, Hilary, Nicetas, Hieronymus,
Ambrose, Augustine, Gennadius, Fulgentius, Isidore and others, or
as we have been taught by our venerable teachers and
forebears”49. TP PT

The work which made St. Nicetas an illustrious theologian was

a catechism, elaborated for those who were preparing themselves to
receive the holy Mystery of Baptism, called either Libelli
instructionis50 (The teaching booklets), or Instructio ad

competentes51 (Teaching for catechumens). Gennadius of Marseille


kept a copy of this catechism in his hand, leaving inside it a written

note by which he summarized its content52. TP PT

By content and by the goal of writing, St. Nicetas’ works can

be classified in two categories: some are catechetical and some
others are practical. Here are the works which belong to the first
category: De diversis appellationibus; The Catechism described by
Gennadius; De ratione fidei; De Spiritus Sanctus potentia; De
Symbolo and De agni paschalis victima. To the second category
belong the following works: Ad lapsam virginem libellus; De
vigiliis servorum Dei; De psalmodiae bono; and the hymn Te Deum
laudamus53. TP PT

TP Cassiodorus, De institutione …, col. 1132C, apud Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 481.

TP Here we are talking about the work titled Ordo de catehizandis rudibus which

is found in a manuscript codex from the 9th century titled “Monacensis cod. Lat.

6325, sec. IX, f. 139;” See: Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 482.

TP A. E. Burn, op.cit., p. XLII and p. 137, note 1.

TP K. Gamber, op.cit., p. 182.

TP See this note at: I. G. Coman, Operele literare ale Sfântului Niceta de

Remesiana, ST, IX (1957), 3-4, p. 201.

TP Ibidem.
1. De diversis appellationibus (On the different names of our
Lord Jesus Christ), is a dogmatic treatise, written as a sermon, on
the names given to our Savior in the Holy Scripture. The writing
has a polemical tone against the Arians; in fact, it is a “dogmatic
sermon” with moral application. The sermon is plain, clear and
methodical, being very well knitted together, with a unitary
content54.TP PT

2. The preserved fragments from St. Nicetas’ catechism deal

with the necessity of those who are coming to Baptism to be
catechized; it talks about what kind of human beings come to
Baptism as well as about the effects of Baptism. The catechism is
addressed to all people alike in order for all to become new
creatures, abandoning the old man and his sinful deeds and putting
on the new man, who is made new by knowing the One Who
created him. The one, who wants to come to Baptism and is taught
on the faith, must learn the Symbol of Faith, which has to be recited
daily before going to bed, and he has to ponder over it every hour.
It is, also, called for him to utter the Lord’s Prayer and to
strengthen himself (to cross himself) with the sign of the cross
against the devil55.TP PT

The instruction given by St. Nicetas on the importance of the

Symbol of Faith in the spiritual life of the faithful brings to mind
some other renowned catechists who were contemporaneous with
him as St. Ambrose56, Blessed Augustine57or Peter Chrysologus58.

3. The treatise De ratione fidei, (On the reason of faith),

divided in seven chapters, struggles against Sabellianism,
Fotinianism, and particularly Aryanism. This work was written as a

TP Ibidem, p. 220.

TP A. E. Burn, op.cit., p. 8.

TP See: Ambrozie de Milan, Des sacraments, Des Mysteres, l’explication du

Symbole, texte établi, traduit et annoté par Dom Bernard Botte, in “Sources
Chretiennes”, nr. 25 bis, Paris, 1961, p. 56.
TP Fer. Augustin, De Symbolo, Sermo ad catechumenos, I, 1, PL, vol. XL, col.

TP Petrus Chrysologus, Sermo LVIII, PL, vol. LII, col. 361B.
Pontica Christiana 175
commentary, by which St. Nicetas answered the request of some
faithful to strengthen them in faith59. TP PT

4. The treatise De Spiritus Sancti potentia (On the power of the

Holy Spirit) is directed towards Macedonians who were denying
the divinity of the Holy Spirit. While presenting the Orthodox faith
concerning the teaching on the Holy Spirit, St. Nicetas brings
foundations of the Holy Scripture and the decisions of the First
Ecumenical Synod of the year 325 from Nicaea, as argumentation.
St. Nicetas’ clear and logic exposition, the interrelation of ideas, as
well as the end-summary, make this work to look as a true
catechism concerning the consubstantiality of the Holy Spirit with
the Father and the Son60. TP PT

5. De Symbolo is one of the oldest interpretations of the

Symbol of Faith and a convincing proof of St. Nicetas’ catechetical
mastership. Even if sometimes he is inspired by St. Cyril of
Jerusalem’s catechetical lectures, this treatise may be considered
today as a standard of excellence for the explanation of the Symbol
of Faith. In being substantial, clear, systematic and attractive, the
treatise was one of the most spread and appreciated missionary
means in the ancient Church61. TP PT

6. De agni paschalis victima (On the oblation of the paschal

Lamb) is a letter attributed to St. Nicetas by Gennadius of
Marseille. The work tries to give reasons for the date of the
celebration of Pascha, suggesting that it should not be celebrated
either prior to the 11th day of April’s calends (March 22) or after the

11th day of May’s calends (April 21). In the last quarter of the 4th

century, the Christians were closely concerned with the date of

Pascha. Even St. Ambrose, while busying himself with the date of
Pascha, suggested the same calendar interval for its celebration (in
the year 387)62. Some style similarities with some other writings of

TP A. E. Burn, op.cit., p. 18.

TP I. G. Coman, op.cit., p. 206.

TP Ibidem, p. 210.

TP St. Ambrosius, Epistola XXIII (12), Dominis fratribus dilectissimis episcopis

Aemiliani constitutis Ambrosius episcopus, PL, vol. XVI, col. 1069-178, apud Şt.
C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 487.
the bishop of Remesiana, makes secure the hypothesis that the work
belongs to St. Niceta.
Among the practical writings, by which St. Niceta, as a true
spiritual shepherd and skilful missionary, was taking care of his
spiritual flock, we mention:
7. Ad lapsam virginem libellus (To a fallen virgin), which was
moved about under more titles: “Liber de lapsu virginis
consacratae”, “Epistula Nicetae episcopi de lapsu Susannae
devotae et sacratae”, “Epistula ad virginem lapsam”, “De lapsu

In this work, St. Nicetas writes about a nun, called Susana,

who fell into sin with a reader, thus breaking the vow of chastity.
While commiserating her condition, the author reminds her of the
diligence from which she had fallen off and the gravity of sin. The
tone, even if it is restrained, becomes rhetorical. From the text of
the work, the idea of “communion of the saints” can be easily
recognized. We may recognize, also, in its author, St. Niceta, the
hymnologist and the animator of singing the Psalms in Church, and
at vigils. Both the similarity of style and the tone of explanation,
are reminding us, doubtlessly, of St. Nicetas’ works De diversis
appellationibus and De psalmodiae bono64. TP PT

8. De vigiliis servorum Dei (On the vigil of God’s servants) is

a sermon, which shows St. Nicetas as a keeper of the cultic
tradition in Church. In the nine chapters of the work, the author
talks about the nightly religious vigil, recently introduced as an
ecclesiastical service on Friday night and Saturday night65. While TP PT

concluding the talk On the vigil..., Nicetas makes known the next
work: “But on the piety of the hymns and the Psalms, how much
God loves them and how He receives them, I would talk a little

TP I. G. Coman, op.cit., p. 224-225.

TP Dom Germain Morin, L’<<Epistula ad Virginem lapsam>>, de la collection

de Corbie, opuscule inédite de la fin du IV-e siècle, in “Revue Bénédictine”

(=RB), 14, Paris, 1897, p. 193-202; F. Cayre, Precis de Patrologie, Paris, 1934,
p. 519.
TP A. E. Burn, op.cit., p. 59.
Pontica Christiana 177
now, if a specific reason would not ask for another volume; I will
deal with these issues, God helping, in the next book”66. TP PT

9. De psalmodiae bono (On the good psalmodizing) was

preserved in two versions, an original one and a later one, with
some appendices and omissions. Even if it was edited in the year
1723, under the name of Nicetius of Treves, the later Patristics
scholars reached the conclusion that its author is St. Nicetas of
Remesiana. Both the ecclesiastical practice in the East and the
West, as well as the references of some Fathers and ecclesiastical
writers as St. Basil the Great, Blessed Augustine and John Cassian
as far as the celebration of vigils and the public singing of Psalms
in church are concerned place the work at the end of the 4th P P

century67. TP PT

The two talks: De vigiliis servorum Dei and De psalmodiae

bono inspired always and everywhere – by the advices and the
ideas they are made up of – both the monastic circles and all the
Christians who give glory to God through religious hymns. They
represent, also, a source of inspiration for the behavior of the
faithful inside the Church.
10. Te Deum laudamus (We praise You, God) is an illustrious
hymn for God’s glorification, written in the Latin tongue. It
embellished the ecclesiastical services throughout the centuries. It
should not be confused with the well-known service called “Te-
Deum” which is offered today in churches on the occasion of some
solemn ceremonies.
The oldest known mentioning of the hymn Te Deum is found
in The guiding rules for monks from the year 512, written by
Caesar of Arelate (+542), then in the letter of the bishop Cyprian of

TP Ibidem, p. 67-68.

TP See, in this sense, A. L. Tăutu, Ritul Sfântului Niceta episcop al Remesianei, in

“Buna Vestire”, III, 1964, nr. 1, p. 32; A. E. Burn, op.cit., p. 55-82; C. H. Tuner,
Nicetas of Remesiana, De vigiliis, in “Journal of Theological Studies” (=JThS),
Published Quarterly, London-Oxford, 1921, vol. XXII, nr. 88, p. 305-320; Idem,
Nicetas of Remesiana, II: Introduction and text of De psalmodiae bono, JThS,
1923, vol. XXIV, nr. 95, p. 225-252.
Toulon to the bishop Maximus of Geneva, dated between the years
524-53368.TP PT

The hymn Te Deum’s text is found in various manuscripts,

without having shown the author. Some critics, commentators,
historians, and Patristics scholars confirm Nicetas’ paternity69 on TP PT

the hymn Te Deum’s text. We add here that Cyprian of Toulon’s

letter, which makes clear that in the first half of the 6th century the

hymn was already spread and known, denies the hypothesis of

Nicetius of Treves’ paternity on the Te Deum’s hymn.
Among the arguments which plead in favor of the bishop of
Remesiana’s paternity on the Te Deum’s hymn, besides the
mentioning of the Irish manuscripts, we write down the following:
The hymn cannot be attributed to St. Ambrose or to other authors of
hymns, because they wrote hymns in the rhythmic meters, not in
the rhythmic prose, the style in which was written the Te Deum
hymn. Also, a note from an old Psalter, printed in the year 1555, in
London, after older manuscripts, and which contains Canticum
beati Niceti episcopi, provides a suggestive explanation on the Te
Deum’s paternity: ‘Some say that Blessed Ambrose, while he was
baptizing the Blessed Augustine, started (singing) We praise Thee,
and Blessed Augustine answered (singing) another verse; and in
this way they composed this hymn. This is not true, but they sang
(the hymn) which was into use, written earlier by the Blessed
Nicetas bishop of Vienna; Cassiodorus approved of this (song) on

TP Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 491-492.

TP G. Morin, Te Deum, RB, VII, 1980, p. 151-159; Idem, Nouvelles recherches

sur l’auteur du Te Deum, RB, XI, 1894, p. 48-77, 337-345; A. E. Burn, An

Introduction to the Creeds and to the Te Deum, London, 1899; G. Morin, <<Le
Te Deum>> Type anonyme d’anaphore latine prehistorique, RB, XXVII, 1907,
p. 180-223; J. Zeiller, op.cit., p. 552-553; A. E. Burn, The hymn Te Deum author,
London, 1926; H. Leclercq, Te Deum, in “Dictionnaire d’Archéologie et
Liturgie”, vol. XV, Paris, 1953, col. 2028-2048; L. Duchesne, Histoire ancienne
de l’Eglise, tome III, V-e édition, Paris, 1929, p. 181; Maurice Frost, Two Texts
of the Te Deum laudamus, JThS, 1938, vol. XXXIX, nr. 156, p. 388-391; I. G.
Coman, op.cit., p. 220-224; Berthold Altaner, Précis de Patrologie, adapte par H.
Chirat, Paris, 11961, p. 549; Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 492-498.
Pontica Christiana 179
the occasion of learning the Holy Scripture” . The placing of

Nicetas’ bishopric in Vienna is a mistake of the note’s author, as

was the case with the error concerning the correct spelling of St.
Nicetas’ name71. TP PT

Some books of St. Nicetas’ (De psalmodiae bono and De

vigiliis) show the great missionary as an impassioned of liturgical
songs and this fact is confirmed by Paulinus of Nola, also72. The TP PT

use of some biblical verses in the talk De psalmodiae bono proves

that there is a close connection between this work and the Te Deum
Some researchers suggested the opinion that the Te Deum
hymn was in circulation in the ancient Church, as far back as the
2nd century, under different forms, and that St. Nicetas of

Remesiana would have given the final version to it73. TP PT

The Te Deum hymn is written in rhythmic prose and contains

three parts: praise to the Father, a profession of the Holy Trinity,
and an invocation to the Son, at which it was added later, a morning
prayer74. TP PT

The dogmatic ideas of the Te Deum’s hymn prove that this

work was written to the end of the 4th century when the Trinitarian

problem as well as the Christological one, were in a fully debated

theological analysis.

TP A. E. Burn, Nicetas of Remesiana..., p. CI.

TP I. G. Coman, op.cit., p. 220.

TP S. Paulini Nolani, Carmen XVII, v. 90-92, 98, 109-116, 261-262; Carmen

XXVII, v. 315-316; 500-502, p. 85, 86-87, 93, 276, 284.

TP See, in this sense, J. Quasten, Niketas von Remesiana. missionsbischf in

Dacien, in “Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche”, vol. VII, Freiburg im Breisgau,
1935, p. 570; K. Gamber, Das Te Deum und sein Autor, RB, 74, 1964, p. 318-
TP S. Salaville, Les texts grecs du Te Deum, in “Echos d’Orient”, t. XIII, Paris,

1910, p. 208-2132. The text of the Te Deum’s hymn was translated into the
Romanian language, also, by: Ghenadie Enăceanu, Istoria Te-Deumurilor în
Biserica creştină şi specialmente în cea română, BOR, XIII (1884), 11, p. 830-
850; and 12, p. 942-964; I. G. Coman, op.cit., p. 223-224; Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p.
St. Nicetas’ writings, even if they are short, are clear, as was
required by his catechetical activity. The topics he treated are based
on evidences from the Holy Scripture, Holy Tradition, reason, and
life. The writings of the great Christian missionary from the
Danube River are penetrated by the warmth of the fatherly love of
the spiritual shepherd, who calls his spiritual sons “brothers”, and
“dearly beloved”. The literary-theological heritage acquired by the
Church from the indefatigable missionary who was Nicetas of
Remesiana, is considered even today as a real source of inspiration
for priests and catechists.

V. Ecumenical meaning of St. Nicetas of Remesiana’s

missionary work

The missionary work of St. Nicetas of Remesiana, carried on

both the right and the left side of the Danube River, included on the
same footing all the faithful “from among all nations” found along
the Danubian limes, thus contributing to their spiritual unification.
St. Nicetas “lived and shepherded” in a region which was
connecting the two worlds – Greek and Latin – with distinct
spiritual profiles, but on their way of drawing near to each other
and even of unification due to the historical conditions created at
the balance between the 4th and the 5th centuries. The Christianity

contributed to this work of unification, also, since it was preached

with zeal “to the nations”, as a fulfillment of the commandment
given by our Savior Jesus Christ: “Go you, therefore, and make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28: 19).
The great missionary hierarch of Remesiana was anchored in
the ecumenical realities of his time, dedicating his whole being to
the work of evangelization. His missionary work, of a broad
ecumenical breathing, led by St. John Chrysostom from
Constantinople, and sustained by St. Theotim I from Tomis on the
banks of the Lower Danube and in the Pontic Dacia, was
accomplished with great apostolic fervor by St. Niceta, also, both in
Dacia Ripensis and Mediterranea as well as at the north side of
Pontica Christiana 181
Danube. The common characteristic between St. Nicetas and
Theotim of Tomis is represented by the lasting harmony between
the intellectual activity and the practical living of faith.
Good theologian, always preoccupied to learn from the
treasure of the patristic theological literature from the 4th century,

both from East and West, Nicetas devised his work after filtering
out through his personality whatever he accumulated through a vast
reading, and after he pondered over the teaching of the Holy
Scripture and Holy Tradition with a cleansed soul75. TP PT

St. Nicetas’ missionary work was not carried on under

particularly favorable circumstances. The heresy of Arius had
countless supporters in the Danubian area, and the heretical
teaching of Macedonius was equally dangerous. We add to these
two great heresies some other heretical currents (Sabellianism,
Monarchianism, the Ebionites, the Manicheans, the Marcionites),
inherited from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, which were not stamped

out as yet76. TP PT

St. Nicetas’ attitude toward heresies was based on his lasting

connection with the Holy Scripture, and with the Holy Fathers who
participated in the First Ecumenical Synod in Nicaea of 325 A.D.77. TP PT

TP Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 502.

TP Ibidem, p. 502-503.

TP With regards to the Orthodoxy’s struggle against Aryanism as well as the

fighting against all heresies during the First Ecumenical Synod (325), see: Ilie
Beleuţă, Istoricul Sinodului Ecumenic de la Niceea, in “Revista Teologică”,
XXV (1925), 10-11, p. 296-311; 12, p. 364-371; XXVI (1926), 1, p. 3-10; I.
Rămureanu, Lupta Ortodoxiei contra arianismului de la Sinodul I ecumenic până
la moartea lui Arie, ST, XIII (1961), 1-2, p. 13-31; Traian Valdman, Vechea
organizare a Bisericii şi Sinodul I ecumenic, ST, XXII (1970), nr. 3-4, p. 260-
273; I. Rămureanu, Sinodul I ecumenic de la Niceea. Condamnarea ereziei lui
Arie. Simbolul Niceean, ST, XXIX (1977), 1-2, p. 15-60; N. Popovici, Primul
sinod ecumenic ţinut la Niceea în anul 325, Arad, 1925; P. Gh. Cotoşman,
Geneza arianismului. Puncte de sprijin pentru arianism în teologia creştină
anterioară, Caransebeş, 1930; Nicolae Corneanu, Moartea ereticului Arie în
lumina documentelor vremii, in vol “Studii patristice”, Timişoara, 1984, p. 239-
244; Sfântul Athanasie cel Mare, Trei cuvinte împotriva arienilor, PSB, vol. 15,
Bucureşti, 1987, p. 157-401; Şerban Popescu, Hotărârea Soborului de la Niceea
cu privire la data prăznuirii Paştilor, in “Predania”, nr. 6-7, 1-15 mai, 1937, p.
Even if St. Nicetas has not left behind him any written
commentary on the Holy Scripture, as was the case with St. Basil
the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, Blessed Augustine,
and others, he treasured as much as they did both the Old and the
New Testament.
St. Nicetas’ exegesis of the biblical texts is purely Orthodox;
he chose the most appropriate quotations for arguing the truths of
faith against the heresies for the building up of his faithful78. TP PT

Practically speaking, the teaching shared with his catechumens, was

presented as a summary of the Holy Scripture. Besides the biblical
word, the Apostolic Tradition is the second source of inspiration for
the truths of faith with a binding character for the listeners. In
accordance with St. Nicetas’ vision – in order for one to be able to
share in an ecumenical consensus, one has to be well informed on
the teaching of the Church Fathers and to be in agreement with
them. In St. Nicetas’ view, the deviation from the line of tradition
brings about aberration, as was the case with the Macedonians who,
at the beginning, have believed “as it was taught”79. The keeping

of the Apostolic Tradition is the visible sign of belonging to the true

An essential characteristic of St. Nicetas of Remesiana was his
missionary zeal. In this respect, he is counted among the great
missionaries of his time, by making his activity’s way to other
populations on the right and the left side of the Danube, not only to
the Daco-Romans who were inhabiting his eparchy.
In order for him to realize the pastoral-missionary success,
Nicetas organized the monastic life. Inside the monasteries, he
found numerous disciples and collaborators who sustained him in
his mission. There is no other way to explain the Christianization of
some populations settled among Daco-Romans, “on the whole
region struck by Boreas, in the lower Danube region”, as St.
Paulinus of Nola made it clear. Nicetas has not expected all these

23-24 (republished, ed. Deisis, Sibiu, 2001, p. 111-112); Ionel Ene, Sinoade şi
Sinodali (I), Buzău, 2001.
TP Şt. C. Alexe, op.cit., p. 503.

TP Ibidem, p. 504.
Pontica Christiana 183
“heathens” to come to Remesiana to be Christianized; he himself
together with his disciples, traveled to them, far from the quietness
of his eparchial See80. TP PT

In his missionary work, Nicetas used, with great success, the

ecclesiastical public singing. His preaching on the usefulness of
singing the Psalms is telling with respect to the use of public
singing for the bringing near of the faithful as well as their
communion in a single praise lifted to God.
The worthy missionary of Remesiana was cultivating the
public singing in Church in a time in which other missionaries,
also, as St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of
Nyssa, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Ambrose, and Blessed
Augustine were proceeding in the same way in their eparchies. The
singing of the hymns becomes a missionary method highly
efficient, since it subdues the haughty and savage soul and draws
near the man to God and to his neighbors81. TP PT

St. Nicetas’ journeys to Rome and to Nola are inscribed in the

ecumenical honors list of the missionary work, since they made the
connection between the Christian world of East to the Christian
world of West. Beyond the reasons which determined St. Nicetas to
make the two long journeys – which required both vigor and
courage – we hold their indubitable fruits. St. Nicetas went to Nola
with a rich missionary experience, acquired under difficult
circumstances, experience which he had to confront with the
ecclesiastical practice in Italy. His ecumenical dialogue with
Paulinus is beneficial for both of them. Paulinus is informed that on
the banks of the Istros (Danube) is carried on an intense activity of
Evangelizing interwoven with a fruitful action of Romanizing the
“barbarian populations” found among Daco-Romans82. TP PT

TP Ibidem.

TP Ibidem. See, also, the work: Şt. C. Alexe, Foloasele cântării bisericeşti în

comun după Sâantul Niceta de Remesiana, BOR, LXXV (1957), 1-2, p. 165-182.
TP S. Paulini Nolani, Carmen XVII, v. 261-264, p. 93: “the barbarians were

learning to sing to Christ with a Roman heart and to live in the serene peace of
virtue, in an unknown region of the world”.
St. Nicetas’ missionary work has impressed Paulinus deeply,
and the patristic personality of the Danubian missionary roused his
admiration, expressed in praising words. In his turn, St. Nicetas
became acquainted with the liturgical life as well as with the
theology from Nola; was getting in touch with the great number of
believers who came to St. Felix’s feast (whose relics were found in
this little town); was enlightened on the building style as well as on
the ecclesiastical painting; had the occasion to make some
comparisons and to enrich his knowledge with new things and
ideas. To use a metaphorical phrase, we may say that at that
moment “the East and the West of Europe were together”83. TP PT

On the other hand, the two friends were men of letters, also.
Their discussions were directed to the theological problems that
were stirring the Christianity at that time as well as to some
theological works (St. Martin’s life, authored by Supliciu Sever;
The Dialogues of the same author, etc.), which were circulated in
the province of Illyria and even in Rome. In this way, Nicetas had a
great role as a connecting element between the eastern piety
literature, as well as the western one. St. Nicetas’ works have been
intensely circulated in the central and western Europe, and tied
these geographical spaces to the Eastern side of the continent. They
were quoted and appreciated by Isidor of Seville, by Gennadius of
Marseille and by Cassiodorus84. TP PT

Through his missionary and literary activity, through his

ecumenical journeys, through his piety, St. Nicetas fully
contributed to the creation of the climate of harmony and
knowledge, of mutual appreciation, between the Eastern and the
Western Church. St. Nicetas’ missionary work had as the central
point of his preoccupations the friendship as well as the
appreciation of the human being, having as basis the Holy

TPŞt. C. Alexe, Sfântul Niceta …, p. 505.

TP I. G. Coman, Contribuţia scriitorilor patristici din Scythia Minor – Dobrogea

la patrimoniul ecumenismului creştin în secolele al IV-lea – al VI-lea, in

“Ortodoxia”, XX (1968), 1, p. 12-21; Gheorghe A. Nicolae, Învăţătura despre
Duh în tratatul “De Spiritus Sancti potentia” al Sfântului Niceta de Remesiana,
in “Ortodoxia”, XVI (1964), 2, p. 240-248.
Pontica Christiana 185
Scripture’s teachings, the love for the Church and a lofty
ecumenical spirit, made manifest by his desire to contribute to the
unification, the consummation, and the salvation of the faithful who
were living throughout the world.
St. Nicetas’ missionary activity has an outstanding
contribution to the consolidation of the ecumenicity of the Church
from the 4th and 5th centuries – besides the missionary and

theological works of the hierarchs and ecclesiastical writers from

the same period – of Scythia Minor, and can bring remarkable
services to the contemporary ecumenical spirituality.



- rezumat -

Sfântul Niceta de Remesiana a desfăşurat o bogată activitate

misionară, în a doua jumătate a secolului al IV-lea şi începutul
secolului al V-lea, în dreapta şi stânga Dunării, hotarul dintre două
culturi – greacă şi latină –, manifestându-se ca un autentic ierarh
erudit, scriitor patristic, mare misionar şi catehet, dar şi ca un
adevărat păstor cu dragoste caldă faţă de fiii săi duhovniceşti.
Unul dintre reprezentanţii de seamă ai ecumenicităţii patristice
din secolele IV-V, Sfântul Niceta de Remesiana poate fi considerat,
prin viaţa sa, activitatea misionară şi opera sa teologică, un
precursor al dialogului intercreştin şi interreligios actual.


by Mihai Ovidiu Căţoi

En 335, lors de la consécration de l’église du Saint Sépulcre,

Eusèbe de Césarée remarquait la présence à Jérusalem des « beaux
et jeunes rejetons de Dieu » de Moesia et de Pannonie, ou des
Thraces „qui ornaient toute l’assemblée par leur présence”1. Il TP PT

s’agissait des Eglises chrétiennes de ces régions, et l’affirmation du

père de l’Histoire ecclésiastique est devenue normative pour les
chercheurs modernes, qui sont parvenus à la conclusion qu’au Bas-
Danube l’enseignement chrétien n’est arrivé que vers la fin du IIIe P P

siècle et s’y est développé à partir de l’époque de Constantin le

Grand, sa présence avant cette époque n’ayant été que sporadique et
inconsistante2. Des débuts de la religion chrétienne au Bas-Danube

se sont occupés presque tous les historiens qui ont étudié l’Histoire
romaine dans ces régions. La meilleure approche de ce sujet est

TPTraduction française Măriuca Alexandrescu

TPEusèbe de Césarée, Viaţa lui Constantin cel Mare (Vie de Constantin), IV.43.3.

Étude introductif par Prof. dr. Emilian Popescu; traduction et notes par Radu
Alexandrescu, coll. « Părinţi şi Scriitori Bisericeşti » (=PSB), vol. 14, Bucureşti,
1991, p. 176-177; Dans la citation mentionnée, nous avons gardé le texte tel qu’il
apparaît dans l’édition citée de PSB. La traduction moins adaptée du point de vue
littéraire et plus proche du texte grec: „Μακεδόνες  μὲν  γὰρ  τὸν  τῆς 
παρ᾽αὐτοῖς  μητροπόλεως  παρέπεμπον,  Παννόνιοί  τε  καὶ  Μυσοὶ  τὰ 
παρ᾽αὐτοῖς ἀνθοῦντα κάλλη τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ νεολαίας  ... καὶ Θρᾷκες τὸ 
πλήρωμα τῆς συνόδου κατεκόσμουν”, dit que „les Macédoniens ont envoyé
(à Jérusalem, n.n.) des métropolites de chez eux, les Pannons et les Mèses (ont
envoyé, n.n.) leurs fleurs, le beau peuple jeune de Dieu”, tandis que les „Thraces
complétaient le plein de l’assemblée”.
TP „Normatif” à ce sens, voir l’affirmation de Pârvan: „dans les provinces de

culture latine du Danube, le christianisme ne prend pas de racines avant la fin

du IIIe siècle”. „le christianismen’a pas eu besoin ici de commencer en grec …,
mais il commença d’emblée en latin”; V. Pârvan, Contribuţii epigrafice la istoria
creştinismului daco-roman, Bucureşti, 1911, p. 9-10.
Pontica Christiana 187
constituée probablement par le célèbre ouvrage de Zeiller , suivi TP PT

bien plus tard par l’ouvrage de Popović4, mais ceux-ci ne dépassent


pas, en grandes lignes, l’assertion d’Eusèbe. La présente étude se

propose d’analyser quelques témoignages dont nous disposons,
pour voir en quelle mesure l’affirmation d’Eusèbe présente ou non
la situation réelle du christianisme au Bas-Danube, notamment au
IIIe siècle.

Ce n’est pas le cas d’insister davantage sur la crise religieuse

qu’avait traversé l’Empire Romain au IIIe siècle. Toutefois, en

observant ce qui s’était passé pendant cette période et évoquant

quelques exemples sporadiques, on ne peut ignorer qu’à Noricum,
Marc Aurèle (161-180) fait appel aux dieux traditionnels5, TP PT

Caracalla (211-217) construit au Quirinal un énorme Serapeum en

l’honneur de Zeus Serapis Helios6, Elagabalus (218-222) essaie de

soumettre tous les cultes au dieu Elaha Gabal7, Dèce (249-251) TP PT

TPJacques Zeiller, Les origines chrétiennes dans les provinces danubiennes de

l’Empire Romain, Paris, 1918. Zeiller a fait l’analyse en tenant compte

notamment des sources littéraires et son ouvrage reste valable dans ses grandes
lignes. Le dossier établi à cette occasion constitue la base de l’exposé des
chercheurs Yvette Duval et Luce Pietri sur l’expansion du christianisme aux trois
premiers siècles dans les provinces danubiennes et l’Illyricum; cf. Yvette Duval,
Luce Pietri, Histoire du Christianisme des origines à nos jours (H.Chr.), vol. II.
Naissance d’une chrétienté (250 – 430), Paris, 1995, p. 148-154.
TPRadomir Popović, Le christianisme sur le sol de l’Illyricum Oriental jusqu’à

l’arrivée des slaves, Thessaloniki, 1996. Bien qu’il eut à sa disposition une
gamme bien plus large de sources archéologiques, il ne dépasse pas en
conclusions l’ouvrage de Zeiller. L’auteur cité ne suit pas le phénomène chrétien
au long du Danube, ne visant que le territoire actuel de la Serbie et du
Monténégro, c’est-à-dire le Diocèse de Dacia (qui administrait les provinces:
Moesia Prima, Dacia Ripensis, Dacia Mediterranea, Dardania, Praevalitana) et la
province Macedonia Saecunda, du Diocèse de Macédoine.
TPPour une analyse détaillée des sources qui relatent cet évènement, voir: John

Helgeland, Christians and the Roman Army from Marcus Aurelius to

Constantine, « Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt » (=ANRW), 23, 1,
1979, p. 766-773.
TPRobert Turcan, Cultele orientale în lumea romană, Bucureşti, 1998, p. 111.

TPL. Pietri, H.Chr., II, p. 161.

TPClaude Lepelley, H.Chr., vol. I. Le Nouveau Peuple (des origines à 250), Paris,

2000, p. 258; R. Turcan, op.cit., p. 204 et suiv.

revient aux dieux traditionnels, Trébonianus Gallus (251-253), à
l’occasion de l’épidémie de peste de 252, ordonne des sacrifices
généraux en l’honneur d’Apollo8, Aurélien (270-275) entreprend

une ample réforme religieuse, rendant officiel le culte de Deus Sol

Invictus9, Dioclétien (284-305) et les autres tétrarques déclenchent

la persécution contre les chrétiens, considérés inimici deorum et

hostes religionum publicarum10. Ce sont tout autant de tentatives de

sauver la religion traditionnelle de l’Etat romain, et qui, à un certain

moment, eurent un double effet: d’une part, l’amplification du
sentiment d’incertitude, d’autre part, le développement du
syncrétisme entre les courants philosophiques, la mythologie
traditionnelle et les théologies des dieux orientaux ; une nouvelle
spiritualité prend alors naissance, qui évolue vers Unus Incognitus,
dont le nom provenait de l’ancien paganisme (Zeus, Iupiter), de
l’Orient (Baal, Bel), ou des théologies cosmologiques (Helios,
Sol)11. TP PT

Nelu Zugravu a constaté que, tant au Danube qu’en Dacie

trans-danubienne, dans la période de la Principauté, on rencontre un
paganisme très actif, le phénomène s’y manifestant avec la même
ampleur et intensité que dans tout le monde romain12. Mais, en TP PT

l’analysant du point de vue psychologique, on peut constater que la

multiplication de dédicaces en l’honneur d’un nombre extrêmement
diversifié de déités est le résultat non seulement du paganisme actif,
mais aussi de la crise religieuse que traversa l’empire depuis les
dernières décennies du IIe siècle jusqu’à la Grande Persécution. Il

est bien connu que, dans les moments de crise prolongée, les gens
tendent à faire de plus en plus appel à la divinité pour mieux

TPL. Pietri, op.cit, p. 161.

TP Pour les réformes religieuses du temps d’Aurélien, voir: Eugen Cizek,

L’empereur Aurélien et son temps, Paris, 1994, p. 175-193; Alaric Watson,

Aurelian and the third century, London, New York, 1999, p. 188-198.
TP Lactance, De mortibus persecutorum, XI.6. Traduction, étude introductif, notes

et commentaires par Claudiu T. Arieşan, Timişoara, 2000, p. 104.

TP Luce Pietri, Jacques Flamant, H.Chr., II, p. 30-31.

TP Nelu Zugravu, Geneza creştinismului popular al românilor, Bucureşti, 1997,

p. 90-97.
Pontica Christiana 189
surmonter les épreuves. En fait, en multipliant le nombre de
temples, d’autels, de dédicaces votives, les fidèles portaient à la
connaissance des dieux qu’ils avaient respecté le serment fait en
leur nom. Si l’on considère ainsi le phénomène, ces gestes religieux
semblent suggérer que les gens essayaient de manière de plus en
plus obsessive d’attirer l’attention des dieux protecteurs. Mais, ces
déités étaient soit mécontents de l’attitude de leurs adorateurs, soit
devenus incapables de leur assurer le salut spirituel, la paix et le
bien être interne de l’Etat.
Du moins, comme état d’esprit général, on peut constater une
coïncidence entre cette multiplication du nombre d’autels païens au
IIIe siècle et les affirmations de certains auteurs chrétiens,

consignées au milieu du même siècle. Le poète Commodian note

que „Luget in aeternum, quae se iactabat aeterna”13, St. Cyprien14

perçoit la sensation de vieillissement du monde (mundo senescente)

que vivaient les Romains, et Origène15, commentant en parallèle

l’Evangile selon Matthieu et les témoignages liées à la propagation

de l’enseignement du Sauveur, se réfère à saeculi consummatione16. TP PT

Le monde romain vit dans un état avancé d’incertitude, les dieux

traditionnels, impuissants ou courroucés, refusaient de résoudre les

TP Commodianus, Carmen Apologeticum, v. 923, coll. « Corpus Scriptorum

Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum » (=CSEL), XV, recensuit et commentario critico

instruxit Bernhardus Dombart, Vindobonae, 1887, p. 175. „pleure pour toujours
celle qui paraissait éternelle” (Rome, n.n.)
TP Cyprien de Carthage, Ad Demetrianum, IV, coll. « Patrologiae cursus

completus », Series latina (=PL), ed. J.-P. Migne, Paris, vol. IV, col. 547B; les
enfants naissent déjà vieux (canos videmus in pueris, capilli deficiunt antequam
crescant); la vie ne s’achève pas à la vieillesse mais commence par la vieillesse
(nec aetas in senectute desinit, sed incipit a senectute); le tout évolue vers une fin
qui ne se présente pas très heureuse (quando totus ipse jam mundus in defectione
sit et in fine).
TP Series veteris interpretationis commentariorum Origenis in Matthaeum, coll.

« Patrologiae cursus completus », Series graeca (=PG), ed. J.-P. Migne, Paris,
vol. XIII, col. 1653 C-1656 B.
TP Pour le commentaire de ce passage, voir aussi Mihai Ovidiu Căţoi, Tertullian

şi Origen, izvoare ale creştinismului românesc?, vol. « Studia historica et

theological. Omagiu Profesorului Emilian Popescu » (=SHT), Iaşi, 2003, p. 148-
problèmes auxquels l’Empire était confronté, et tout cela se passait
autour de la date du Millénium de Rome.
C’est dans ce contexte plus vaste que vint de se frayer un
chemin, de plus en plus clairement, l’idée d’un nouveau
commencement, un message nouveau d’espérance dans le
rétablissement de l’unité de l’empire, tel que les spécialistes l’ont
défini, un novum saeculum17. Il est probable que la dégradation

accélérée de Rome ait engendré dans les milieux traditionnalistes

l’idée aussi de l’éradication de l’incroyance chrétienne en tant que
mesure régénératrice. Ce novum saeculum, tel qu’il était conçu par
certains empereurs du IIIe siècle et notamment par les tétrarques,

excluait en principe la présence chrétienne dans l’empire. Mais la

suite a démontré que la nouvelle ère allait avoir le christianisme en
position centrale et que le vieillissement du monde a abouti à sa
consommation dans les formes connues jusqu’alors.
Parallèlement à la dégradation de la vie religieuse romaine, le
christianisme connaît un développement constant. Si à la fin du Ier P P

siècle, les Juifs priaient Dieu que les Nazaréens (noserim – les
chrétiens) soient effacés du livre de vie et exclus des rangs des
justes, puisqu’il n’y a pas d’espoir de salut pour les apostats, à son
tour, la Grande Eglise se définit comme descendante du Véritable
Israel et efface le judaïsme de l’histoire du salut18. Le IIe siècle est,

dans le christianisme, le siècle des apologies, c’est alors

qu’apparaissent les grandes personnalités qui expliquent et
interprètent de manière accessible pour tous le message de
l’Evangile; Ariston de Pella, Justin le Martyre, Minucius Felix,
Athénagoras l’Athénien, Tatien l’Assyrien, Méliton de Sardes,
Tertullien considèrent qu’il est de leur devoir d’offrir les réponses
et de combattre les accusations à l’adresse des chrétiens. Ce n’est
pas le cas d’entrer dans le détail de ces polémiques, mais il faut
remarquer le fait que certaines de ces apologies étaient adressées

TP E. Cizek, op.cit., p. 60, et n. 41.

TP Le christianisme étant considéré plutôt comme une secte juive et non comme

une religion à part; Marguerat, H.Chr., I, p. 217-218.

Pontica Christiana 191
directement à Marc Aurèle, comme celles d’Athénagoras ou de
Au IIIe siècle, l’Eglise devient mieux connue dans les milieux

impériaux romains, et je ne pense pas seulement à Iulia Mamaea19 TP PT

qui, se trouvant en Antioche et entendant parler de la renommée

d’Origène, encore jeune à l’époque20, envoya des officiers de sa

garde personnelle pour le lui amener, afin de „goûter à ses

connaissances théologiques unanimement admirées par tous”21. TP PT

Depuis le début du siècle, Septime Sévère (193-211) promulgua

plusieurs lois, dont une (202) visant le prosélytisme juif et chrétien,
dans une tentative d’interdire ces manifestations religieuses22. TP PT

L’auteur de l’Histoire Augusta dit qu’à peine entré dans la cité de

Rome, l’empereur Elagabal consacra au dieu Elagabalus un temple
au Palatin, près de la résidence impériale. Il essayait de cette
manière de soumettre à ce dieu le culte de la déesse Dea Mater, le
feu des Vestales, les boucliers sacrés et tous les objets de culte
traditionnels romains. On y apprend aussi qu’il avait eu l’intention
de transférer sur Elagabalus les préceptes religieux des Juifs, des
Samaritains et des chrétiens, de sorte que tous les mystères puissent
être gardés par les prêtres du dieu oriental23. La même source nous

apprend que Sévère Alexandre (222-235) avait dans son laraire

personnel une statue du Christ, près d’une d’Abraham et une autre
d’Orphée24, qu’il a maintenu les privilèges accordés aux Juifs et à

TP La mère de Sévère Alexandre (222-235).

TP Il s’agit des années 224-225.

TP Eusèbe de Césarée, Istoria Bisericeaescă (Histoire ecclésiastique), VI. XXI. 3-

4. Traduction, étude introductif, notes et commentaires par T. Bodogae, PSB, vol.

13, Bucureşti, 1987, p. 245-246.
TP Vita Aeli Spartiani Severus, XVII. 1, « Scriptores historiae avgvstae »

(=S.H.A.): In itinere Palaestinis plurima iura fundavit. Iudaeos fieri sub gravi
poena vetuit. Idem etiam de Christianis sanxit.
TP S.H.A., Antonius Heliogabalus Aeli Lampridi, III 4-5. Dicebat praeterea

Iudaeorum et Samaritanorum religiones et Christianam devotionem illuc

transferendam, ut omnium culturarum secretum Heliogabali sacerdotium teneret;
TP S.H.A., Alexander Severus Aelii Lampridii, 29. 1-2. Antequam de bellis eius et

expeditionibus et victoriis loquar, de vita cottidiana et domestica pauca

permis aux chrétiens aussi d’exister25, ou bien qu’il voulait élever

un temple au Christ, en le reconnaissant ainsi comme dieu26. En TP PT

échange, Maximin le Thrace (235-238) a déclenché une persécution

contre les chrétiens, visant notamment „les chefs de l’Eglise, qu’il
considérait coupables de la rapide propagation de l’enseignement
évangélique”. Il est intéressant de retenir que la raison de cette
persécution, qu’Eusèbe mentionne selon le témoignage d’Origène,
ce fut la haine de Maximin „à l’égard de la maison d’Alexandre,
qui était formée surtout par des gens pieux”27. Le cas de Philippe TP PT

l’Arabe (244-249) est déjà bien connu et les chercheurs modernes

sont de plus en plus enclins à croire l’information selon laquelle il
primus de regibus Romanis Christianus fuit28. TP PT

Après une période assez trouble dans la vie de l’Eglise29, qui TP PT

débute par le règne de Dèce30, Gallien publie en 260 un rescript par


lequel il arrêtait la persécution contre les chrétiens, en rétablissant

disseram. Usus vivendi eidem hic fuit: primum ut, si facultas esset, id est s<i>
non cum uxore cubuisset, matutinis horis in larario suo, in quo et divos principes
sed optimos electos et animas sanctiores, in quis Apollonium et, quantum
scriptor suorum temporum dicit, Christum, Abraham et Orfeum et huiusmodi
ceteros habebat ac maiorum effigies, rem divinam faciebat.
TP Ibidem, 22; Iudaeis privilegia reservavit. Christianos esse passus est.

TP Ibidem, 43; Christo templum facere voluit eumque inter deos recipere.

TP Eusèbe, op.cit., VI, XVIII ; p. 251.

TP Ibidem, VI, XXXIV; p. 255; Jean Chrysostome, Cuvânt la Fericitul Vavila şi

împotriva lui Iulian şi către elini, VI-VII, vol. « Predici la sărbători împărăteşti şi
Cuvântări de laudă la sfinţi », Bucureşti, 2002, p. 311-315. A remarquer que S.
Jean n’évoque que le moment où a lieu la rencontre des deux et ne dit rien de
l’affinité supposée de l’empereur pour la foi chrétienne; Jérôme, De Viris
Illustribus, LIV, Bucureşti, 1997, p. 50. L’analyse détaillée de toutes les sources
littéraires antiques concernant ce sujet, ainsi que des principales interprétations
modernes pro et contra, voir Irfan Shahîd, Rome and the Arabs. A prolegomenon
to the study of Byzantium and the Arabs, Washington D.C.; Dumbarton Oaks,
1984, p. 65-93.
TP Les édits de persécution de la VIe décennie du IIIe siècle.

TP A remarquer que cet empereur aussi déclencha la persécution contre l’Eglise

„à cause de la haine qu’il portait à Philippe”, cf. Eusèbe, op.cit., VI. XXXIX, 1;
p. 257.
Pontica Christiana 193
la situation antérieure aux édits de 250 et de 257 , politique suivie

aussi par ses successeurs Claudius (268-270) et Aurélien (270-

275)32. Le rescrit de Gallien est très important pour le

christianisme, et son geste doit être considéré avec une plus grande
attention. La critique moderne est d’avis qu’au moment de la
promulgation de l’édit, toutes les autres lois antichrétiennes
antérieures furent abrogées, de sorte que pour persécuter les
chrétiens, il faudrait donner d’autres lois. Les communautés
chrétiennes deviennent sujettes de droit et les évêques sont ceux qui
les représentent devant la loi; le christianisme vit en tant que religio
licita à l’intérieur d’un Etat officiellement païen33. Ce n’est qu’avec

les réformes de Dioclétien que l’Eglise connaîtra une nouvelle

période de grands troubles: la Grande Persécution.
De tout ce que nous avons exposé ici, on peut observer qu’au
IIIe siècle, quoiqu’il y eût des moments où le christianisme ait

vraiment souffert, ils furent relativement de brève durée et

provoqués soit par le refus des chrétiens de se soumettre aux ordres
de participer aux sacrifices commandés par le pouvoir impérial, soit

TP Ibidem, VII, XIII; p. 284-285. La persécution de Valérien représente un

épisode très sanglant et un pas en avant par rapport aux mesures prises par
Maximin le Thrace ou par Dèce, puisqu’à cette occasion on confisque les biens
des églises et des chrétiens haut placés. C’est aussi le premier empereur qui
semble avoir voulu extirper le culte chrétien et ses fidèles, mais, capturé par
Sapor, il ne put mener à bout son plan.
TP Lactance l’inclut dans la galerie des persécuteurs, affirmant que

lorsqu’Aurélien fut assassiné, ses édits n’avaient pas eu le temps d’arriver dans
les provinces lointaines. A son tour, Eusèbe note l’existence de certaines rumeurs
au sujet d’une imminente persécution antichrétienne, qui, en échange, n’a pas eu
lieu. Dans ce cas, il est possible que ce soit une décision prise après la réforme
religieuse qu’il avait entreprise et par laquelle le culte de Sol Invictus fut surposé
à tous les autres cultes de l’Empire. Si, au début, Aurélien se montra bienveillant
à l’égard des chrétiens, leur refus de reconnaître le nouveau dieu officiel, avec
lequel le christianisme se trouva d’ailleurs en conflit au cours des décennies
suivantes, détermina l’empereur de projeter ou même de promulguer de
nouveaux édits de persécution, qui ne furent plus appliqués. Lactance, op.cit., VI;
Eusèbe, op.cit., VII, XXX, 20-21, p. 306; E. Cizek, op.cit., p. 188-190.
TP Marta Sordi, I raporti fra il Cristianesimo e l’impero dai Severi a Gallieno,

ANRW, 32, 1, 1979, p. 371-374.

a cause de la rancune personnelle d’un empereur à l’égard de son
prédécesseur. La différence est grande par rapport à la Grande
Persécution, car au temps de Dioclétien, les chrétiens furent
officiellement déclarés inimici deorum et hostes religionum
publicarum34. D’autre part, les autorités impériales et l’appareil

administratif de l’Etat étaient assez bien familiarisés avec la

doctrine chrétienne, connaissaient le mode d’organisation de
l’Eglise35 et dans certains cas étaient eux-mêmes chrétiens.

L’attitude des empereurs a créé les prémisses d’un développement

constant du christianisme dans l’empire au IIIe siècle, et cette vague

ne pouvait pas contourner les régions danubiennes, du moment que

la crise païenne non plus ne les avait pas épargnées. Dans ce
contexte, nous voulons relever quelques détails en mesure de
nuancer les relations entre chrétiens et païens dans les régions
danubiennes à la veille de la Grande Persécution et de mettre dans
une nouvelle lumière l’intensité du christianisme dans cette région.
Le premier élément que nous voulons évoquer c’est le récit
qu’en fait Lactance du début de la Grande Persécution, notamment
du motif de son déclenchement. Il nous dit qu’en réalité, l’auteur
moral de la persécution ne fut ni Dioclétien, ni Galère (293-305 –
caesar; 305-311 – augustus), mais la mère de ce dernier, Romula,
qui „était une femme d’au-delà du Danube, qui avait passé le fleuve
pour se réfugier dans la Nouvelle Dacie, à cause des invasions des
Carpes ”36. Mais d’où venait tant de haine contre les chrétiens de la

part de cette Romula? Le même auteur précise qu’elle était

„adoratrice des dieux des montagnes” (deorum montium cultrix)37, TP PT

TP Lactance, op.cit., XI.6, p. 104.

TP A ce sens, on peut rappeler l’épisode où Paul de Samosate fut obligé de quitter

le siège épiscopal et la résidence de l’Eglise d’Antioche seulement après que

l’empereur Aurélien „ donne une décision favorable dans le sens que celles-ci
soient attribuées à ceux qui resteront en correspondance avec les évêques
chrétiens d’Italie et de l’Eglise de Rome”. Eusèbe, op.cit., VII, XXX, 18-19, p.
TP Lactance, op.cit., IX.2, p. 97. Il faisait partie de l’élite administrative qui s’est

réfugiée de la Dacie quand Aurélien décida la retraite stratégique de l’armée et de

l’administration au sud du Danube.
TP Ibidem, XI.1, p. 103.
Pontica Christiana 195
et les interprétations données à ce syntagme considèrent qu’il
s’agirait de l’une des déités Silvanus, Diana ou Liber Pater38. De TP PT

même, on y apprend qu’elle était „très superstitieuse” (admodum

superstitiosa)39, et que „presque chaque jour elle offrait des repas

rituels en l’honneur des dieux et donnait à manger à ses paysans”

(dapibus sacrificabat paene cotidie ac vicanis suis [s.n.] epulas
De l’autre part, les chrétiens répondaient à ces sacrifices païens
„par des jeûnes et des prières” (ieiuniis et orationibus insistebant).
Devrons-nous comprendre que l’on se trouve déjà au milieu d’un
conflit entre les dianatiques (les futurs « zănateci ») et les chrétiens
? D’après la manière dont Lactance expose la situation, la réponse
semble être affirmative. Mais est-ce que cette situation concernait
que les réalités environnantes de Romula, à savoir sa relation avec
vicanis suis, parmi lesquels il y avait aussi des chrétiens, ou bien
serait-ce une « réalité conflictuelle » beaucoup plus étendue? Il
semble que l’implication personnelle, passionnée même, de Galère
dans le déclenchement et le développement de la persécution
générale est un bon argument dans le sens de « l’irritation » que les
chrétiens provoquaient aux autorités impériales dans la région du
Bas-Danube. Néanmoins, il ne faut pas oublier que, suite aux
réformes administratives et militaires que l’Empire a connues vers
la fin du IIIe siècle, Galère administrait toutes les provinces

romaines du sud du Danube, depuis la Mer Noire jusqu’à Noricum.

En ces circonstances, l’approche qu’il proposait à ses collègues
tétrarques ne serait-elle pas la conséquence des réalités chrétiennes
auxquelles il se confrontait dans les provinces administrées par lui,
espérant que, par une action étendue, directe et en force, le
problème chrétien pourrait être solutionné dans tout l’Empire?
En tout premier lieu, on ne doit pas ignorer le fait que les
évènements mentionnés par Lactance se passaient dans une

TP Voir les commentaires sur ce thème et la bibliographie de la n. 66, Ibidem, p.

TP Syntagme qui, a notre avis, devrait être compris comme très pieuse ou très

attachée aux dieux qu’elle vénérait.

habitation rurale: vicus40. Lactance dit que Romula invitait „vicanis

suis” aux sacrifices qu’elle offrait aux dieux. Selon d’autres

sources, Galère donna à ce vicus de la Dacia Ripensis le nom de
Romulianum, en l’honneur de sa mère et c’est là qu’il fut enterré
lui-même41. Les fouilles archéologiques ont identifié la localité

Romulianum à Gamzigrad, près de Zaječar dans la partie orientale

de la Serbie et il s’agit d’une résidence impériale d’été. C’est là que
furent découvertes les ruines de deux temples païens, l’un consacré
à Cybèle, l’autre à Hercules42. Or, la présence des chrétiens aux

cours impériales n’est déjà plus une surprise, à cette date-là. On

peut analyser de manière comparative, certes, toutes proportions
gardées, la situation de Romulianum et celle de Nicomédie, où les
premiers martyrs Dorothé, Pierre et Gorgone étaient praepositi
cubiculi au palais impérial43. Peu avant le déclenchement de la

persécution, ce furent quelques dignitaires chrétiens qui ont

perturbé un sacrifice des haruspices auxquels participait Dioclétien
aussi, à Antioche en Syrie, ce qui mit en colère l’empereur, qui
commanda que „tous ceux qui se trouvent dans le palais participent
au sacrifice, et si quelqu’un refuse, qu’il soit fouetté” 44. TP PT

Revenant à la présence du christianisme dans les habitations

non urbaines proches du Danube, on constate que la situation de
Romulianum n’est pas singulière. Les découvertes archéologiques
récentes et les martyrologes attestent la présence de la religion
chrétienne dans d’autres habitations rurales aussi, dans des sites
datables au IIIe siècle ou à la fin de ce siècle. Et j’évoquerai

seulement quelques exemples, comme ceux de Barboşi (dép.

TP Lactance, op.cit., X,1, p. 100.

TP Cf. Auctor incertus, Epitome De Caesaribus, Libellus de vita et moribus

imperatorum breviatus ex libris S. Aurelii Victoris, 39, « Ortus Dacia RipensiH H

ibique sepultus est; quem locum Romulianum ex vocabulo Romulae matris


appellarat »;

TP Cf. Popović, op.cit., p. 110-112.

TP Eusèbe, op.cit., VIII.VI.1-6.

TP Lactance, op.cit., X.2. L’évènement survint dans la période 298-301, quand

Dioclétien est resté en Orient.

Pontica Christiana 197
45 46
Galaţi) , Teliţa (dép. Tulcea) , Ozobia (près de Durostorum,

Bulgarie)47, ou Gildoba, localité non-identifiée de la Thrace48, que


l’on peut situer, paraît-il, près de Durostorum49. De même, près de TP PT

Golesh (dép. Silistra, Bulgarie) entre les cités de Durostorum et de

Tropaeum Traiani, fut édifié au début du IVe siècle un martyrium P P

autour duquel s’est développée une habitation que les archéologues

bulgares50 tendent à identifier à l’antique cité de S. Cyrille51.

Dans les régions danubiennes, le christianisme devenait une

réalité de plus en plus considérable dans le paysage quotidien et,
vers la fin du IIIe siècle, pénétrait également dans les zones rurales

qui entouraient des cités. C’est dans ce contexte plus large qu’il
faudrait peut-être considérer l’attitude de Romula (admodum
superstitiosa) et de son fils Galère (non minus superstitiosum) à
l’égard des chrétiens. En tout cas, ce qui paraît assez clair c’est que

TP Silviu Sanie, I.T. Dragomir, Începuturile creştinismului în sudul roman al

Moldovei, vol. « De la Dunăre la Mare. Mărturii istorice şi monumente de artă

creştină » (=DDM), éd. II-ème, Galaţi, 1979, p. 117-122.
TP V.H. Baumann, Vestigii paleocreştine descoperite în mediul rural autohton de

pe Valea Teliţei, judeţul Tulcea, SHT, p. 169-183. A Teliţa, au point Amza, se

trouve une habitation géto-dace, autochtone, qui évolue aux II-IIIe siècles, pour P P

parvenir au IVe siècle au niveau maximum de son développement. Les plus


anciens vestiges chrétiens dans ce site datent depuis la fin du IIe siècle et le début P P

du suivant, ayant les analogies les plus proches à Barboşi.

TP Où sont enterrés les martyrs Maximus, Quintilianus et Dadas; cf. J. Zeiller,

op.cit., p. 110; Em. Popescu, Satul în Scythia Minor (Dobrogea) în epoca

protobizantină, vol. « Omagiu lui Virgil Cândea la 75 de ani », coordonateur
Paul H. Stahl, Bucureşti, 2002, p. 144; dans le dernier article cité, l’auteur
rappelle aussi les villae rusticae de Gedina (Gizidina), toujours près de
Durostorum, et la villa d’Adamantus près de Tomis, mais que nous ne prenons
pas en compte pour le moment, puisque les évènements qui s’y sont passés
dépassent chronologiquement la période de la Grande Persécution.
TP In Tracia civitate Gildoba Iuli, cf. Hippolyte Delehaye, Saints de Thrace et de

Mésie, « Analecta Bollandiana » (=An.Boll.), XXXI, Bruxelles, 1912, p. 241.

TP Voir la discussion à H. Delehaye, op.cit., p. 269, n. 2.

TP Georgi Atanasov, The Christian Durostorum – Drastar, Varna, 2007, p. 397-

TP Martyrisé dans la cité d’Axiopolis, en Scythie Mineure. Pour le culte de

S.Cyrille à Axiopolis, voir Em. Popescu, Martiri şi sfinţi în Dobrogea (II),

« Studii Teologice » (=ST), XLI (1989), 4, p. 66-67.
le début de la Grande Persécution, tel qu’il est crayonné par
Lactance, se fonde sur le conflit entre les chrétiens et les autorités
impériales d’une province danubienne (Dacia Ripensis) où, selon
les recherches modernes, le christianisme venait à peine de faire ses
premiers pas à la fin du IIIe siècle52.

Dans un autre ordre d’idées, la Grande Persécution a fait un

nombre impressionnant de martyrs au Danube, mais, à notre avis,
ce n’est pas le cas de les mentionner chacun à part53. Déjà, l’évêque

Eusèbe était mort en martyr au temps de Valérien, à Cibalae (le 28

TP L. Pietri, H.Ch., II, p. 177 : „les provinces qui se trouvaient placées sous le

contrôle du César Galère ne semblent pas avoir connu un déchaînement plus

particulier de violence. Il est vrai que dans les régions danubiennes, le
christianisme n’avait encore fait que peu d’adeptes”. Après avoir fait une liste
des martyrs attestés avec certitude tant par passio que par des découvertes
archéologiques, à savoir: à Poetovio, l’évêque Victorinus, à Salona, l’évêque
Domnio, le diacre Septimus, les laics Anastasius et Asterius, à Sirmium, l’évêque
Irénée, le diacre Démétrios et le laic Sinerotas, le chercheur ajoute seulement
que: „On pourrait certainement allonger encore la liste de quelques noms fournis
par d’autre passions ou par des martyrologes”.
TP Parmi les chercheurs qui se sont occupés de ce sujet, on peut rappeler: H.

Delehaye, op.cit., p. 161-300; J. Zeiller, op.cit.; Ion Barnea, O inscripţie creştină

de la Axiopolis, ST, VI, 1954, 3-4, p. 219-228; Idem, Un martyrium descoperit la
Niculiţel, « Studii şi Cercetări de Istorie Veche », 24, 1973, 1, p. 123-126; Idem,
Arta Creştină în România, vol. I, Bucureşti, 1979, p. 6-12; Radu Vulpe, Ion
Barnea, Din Istoria Dobrogei, vol. II, Romanii la Dunărea de Jos, Bucureşti,
1968, p. 378-381; Ene Branişte, Martiri şi Sfinţi pe pământul Dobrogei de azi,
DDM, p. 34-62; Ioan Gh. Coman, Scriitori bisericeşti din epoca străromână,
Bucureşti, 1979; Em. Popescu, Martiri şi sfinţi în Dobrogea (I), ST, 41, 3, 1989,
p. 39-65; Idem, Martiri... (II), p. 64-77; Nestor Vornicescu, Una din primele
scrieri ale literaturii române vechi. « Pătimirea Sfinţilor Epictet şi Astion » de la
cumpăna secolelor III-IV, Craiova, 1990; Idem, Primele scrieri patristice în
literatura română. Secolele IV-XVI, Craiova, 1992; Mircea Păcurariu, Istoria
Bisericii Ortodoxe Române, vol. I, Bucureşti, 1992, p. 83-91; Em. Popescu,
Christianitas daco-romana. Florilegium studiorum, Bucureşti, 1994, p. 92-99;
100-106; 107-110; Ioan Rămureanu, Actele Martirice, PSB, vol. 11, Bucureşti,
1997; Nicolae Dănilă, Martyrologium Daco-Romanum2, Bucureşti, 2002.

Toujours ici on peut rappeler l’apparition du volume Sfinţi români şi apărători ai

legii strămoşeşti (=SR), Bucureşti, 1987, ainsi qu’une récente approche du sujet
à: Victor Henrich Baumann, Sângele Martirilor, Constanţa, 2004, p. 41-63.
Pontica Christiana 199
avril) . En échange, après l’édit du 23 février 303, on découvre

qu’au long du Danube eurent à souffrir les représentants d’une

hiérarchie ecclésiastique bien structurée. On y rencontre ainsi les
évêques Irénée à Sirmium (le 25 mars)55, Quirinius à Siscia (le 4 TP PT

juin), Olympius en Thrace (le 12 juin), Lupus à Novae (le 23

août)56, Philippe à Adrianopolis (le 22 oct.), Cyrillus (le 9, 11

juillet, le 1er août)57 et Ephrème 58 à Tomis, les prêtres Montanus


(le 26 mars) et Romulus59 (le 21 août) à Sirmium, Sévère à


Adrianopolis (le 22 oct.). Il y a aussi des diacres : Démétrios (le 26

mars, le 9 avril, les 8, 26 oct.) et Timothé (le 15 mai) à Sirmium,
Gaianus vénéré en Thrace et en Dacia Ripensis (le 10 avril),
Donatus, vénéré dans les cités de Cibalae, Singidunum et Sirmium
(le 21 août), Hermès à Adrianopolis (le 22 oct.)60, ainsi que des TP PT

hypodiacres, comme c’est le cas de Léon à Noviodunum (le 30

juin), lecteurs, Maxime à Durostorum (les 13, 28 avril), Pollion à
Cibalae (le 28 avril, le 29 mai), la diaconesse Laurentia, vénérée

TP N. Dănilă, op.cit., p. 30; „In Cibalis civitate provinciae Pannoniae Inferioris

sanctorum martyrum Eusebii episcopi sub Valeriano imperatore, et Pollionis

lectoris sub Diocletiano”.
TP I. Rămureanu, op.cit., p. 205-224.

TP Vasile Sibiescu, Sfântul Mucenic Lup, SR, p. 192-193; N. Dănilă, op.cit., p. 51:

„In Novis civitate provinciae Moesiae Inferioris sancti Lupi episcopi et

martyris”; dans Martirologium Romanum,, il apparaît: „Item sancti Luppi

Martyris, qui, ex servili conditione, Christi libertate donatus, martyrii quoque

corona dignatus est”. Sinaxarium Ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae (=SECp), ed.
H. Delehaye, Bruxelles, 1902, p. 917, le 23 août n’est mentionné que: τοῦ ἀγίου 
Λοῦππου. Au sujet du culte rendu à l’évêque martyr Lupus à Novae et aux
alentours, vers la fin du VIe siècle, voir l’évènement relaté par Théophilacte
Simocata, Istorie Bizantină, VII, 2, 17-19, ed. Haralambie Mihăescu, Bucureşti,
1985, p. 137.
TP N. Dănilă, op.cit., p. 66.

TP Em. Popescu, Martiri... (I), p. 58;

TP Vénéré dans les cités de Cibalae, Singidunum şi Sirmium.

TP Le cas d’Adrianopolis est très intéressant, car le même jour on fait mémoire de

l’évêque Philippe, du prêtre Sévère et du diacre Hermès.

dans les cités de Héraclée et de Bérée (le 1er sept.)61, ou l’exorciste

Hermès (le 31 déc., le 4 janvier), vénéré à Bononia et Ratiaria62. TP PT

On peut constater, à parcourir cette liste, que l’Eglise était bien

organisée en ces régions, disposant d’une hiérarchie supérieure
(évêques, prêtres et diacres), la hiérarchie inférieure aussi étant
attestée (hypodiacres, lecteurs63, diaconesses64, exorcistes65). Elle

ne se distingue pas structurellement des autres centres du monde

chrétien66 de l’époque. Laissant de côté les erreurs qui ont pu

intervenir dans les martyrologes au long du temps, on ne peut

toutefois pas ignorer la réalité qui en résulte: cette structure
ecclésiastique, à solide organisation hiérarchique, ne saurait être
une réalité récente à la fin du IIIe siècle. Pour parvenir à ce niveau,

les communautés auraient besoin de deux générations au moins.

Les premières formes d’organisation stable de l’Eglise au Danube
remontent, selon toutes ces données, jusqu’à la première moitié du
IIIe siècle. En même temps, le nombre si grand de martyrs nous

TP Le martyrologe parle de 40 femmes qui sont mortes martyrisées, étant

commémorées le 1er septembre. Elles furent martyrisées au temps de Licinius, en

319-324, mais il paraît que Laurentia était depuis longtemps diaconesse, quoique
l’on ne puisse pas affirmer qu’elle détenait cette dignité depuis l’époque de la
Grande Persécution; N. Dănilă, op.cit., p. 85.
TP Les données de cette liste sont extraites, là où il n’y a pas d’autre mention, de

l’ouvrage : ibidem.
TP H. Leclercq, Lecteur, « Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie »

(=DACL), 8,2, Paris, col. 2241 – 2269.

TP Pour pouvoir faire partie du diaconat féminin, la candidate devait être vierge

ou veuve d’un seul homme. Les diaconesses s’occupaient de l’évangélisation au

foyer, assistaient au baptême des femmes adultes et leur administraient l’onction,
soignaient les femmes malades. C’est une forme de service diaconal spécifique à
l’Orient, que l’Occident n’a pas connu. H. Leclercq, Diaconesses, DACL, 4, 1,
col. 725-733; M.G. Bianco, Diaconesses, « Dictionnaire Encyclopédique du
Christianisme Ancien » (=DECA), tome 1, Les Editions du Cerf, 1990, p. 669-
TP H. Leclercq, Exorcisme, DACL, 5, 1, col. 964-978.

TP Par exemple, au milieu du IIIe siècle, dans l’Eglise de Rome il y avait : un

évêque, 46 prêtres, 7 diacres, 7 hypodiacres, 42 accolytes, 52 exorcistes, lecteurs

et portiers; cf. Eusèbe, op.cit., VI, XLIII, 11. A remarquer qu’à Rome, on ne
rencontre pas le diaconat féminin qui était attesté en Thrace.
Pontica Christiana 201
révèle un organisme mûri, avec des membres qui assument leur foi
de manière intégrale, sans tenir compte des conséquences.
Un autre détail sur lequel nous voulons nous arrêter concerne
la situation des soldats martyrisés dans les cités proches du Danube.
Eusèbe nous dit que « la persécution commença d’abord parmi les
frères qui étaient dans l’armée »67. Son récit et celui de Lactance

concordent sur ce point : Eusèbe affirme que de nombreux soldats

ont quitté l’armée et qu’il était bien rare que ceux qui appliquaient
l’ordre aillent jusqu’à des mesures radicales, par crainte de
provoquer « tout à coup une guerre contre tous »68. Lactance note

que lors des discussions qui ont précédé la persécution, Dioclétien a

longuement insistée qu’il suffisait d’interdire cette religion « aux
gens de la cour et aux soldats seulement »69. Selon le témoignage

d’Eusèbe, les militaires chrétiens furent mis dans la situation soit de

renier la foi chrétienne, soit de quitter l’armée, en perdant ainsi les
avantages matériaux obtenus pendant le service militaire ou ceux
que leur conférait le grade. L’intention est claire de ne pas
déstabiliser l’empire par des mesures radicales et l’épuration des
chrétiens des structures administratives et militaires était une
mesure de protection.
Si l’on analyse de manière comparative la mise en pratique de
ces décisions dans les différentes régions de l’Empire, on observe
que Dioclétien recommandait une application assez prudente et
progressive des mesures répressives contre les chrétiens, en
commençant par l’armée et l’entourage de la cour, et que seulement
ensuite elles soient étendues à tous. On comprend que ce fut le
grand nombre de chrétiens des provinces orientales qui le détermina
à prendre cette attitude, car « il est dangereux de troubler la paix de
tout le monde et de verser le sang d’une multitude »70. Tandis qu’en TP PT

Occident, „très cordial et bienveillant à l’égard de tous, Constance

TP Ibidem, VIII.1.7, p. 314.

TP Ibidem, VIII.4.4, p. 318.

TP Lactance, op.cit., XI.3, p. 104; „satis esse si palatinos tantum ac milites ab ea

religione prohiberet”. Ces mesures discriminatoires à l’adresse des chrétiens

furent prises dans la période 299-301; cf. L. Pietri, H.Chr., II, p. 175.
TP Lactance, op.cit., XI.3, p. 104.
ne prit nullement part à la guerre qui était menée contre nous” 71. TP PT

Tout de même, „pour ne pas avoir l’air de désapprouver les ordres

des supérieurs, il admit que l’on démolisse les petites églises, c’est-
à-dire des murs (conventicula, id est parietes) que l’on peut refaire
à tout moment, tandis que le véritable temple de Dieu, celui qui se
trouve en l’homme, il le garda intact”72. Au-delà de l’option

personnelle du césar, sur laquelle tant Lactance qu’Eusèbe insistent

pour des raisons faciles à deviner (Constance Chlore est le père de
Constantin le Grand), il est à remarquer néanmoins que le nombre
plus réduit des chrétiens en Occident tempéra l’intensité des
mesures répressives, qui se limitèrent à des actions d’ordre général.
Si dans l’ouvrage d’Eusèbe apparaissent de nombreuses
ἐκκλησίαι et προσευκτήρια démolies au début de la persécution
en Orient, Lactance dit qu’en Gaule les mesures ne visèrent que la
démolition des murs de quelques conventicula (lieux de
rassemblement de petits groupes).
Dans les régions administrées par Galère, la situation présente
certaines particularités qui doivent être consignées. Avant tout, les
historiens ecclésiastiques Eusèbe et Lactance ne parlent pas de
ἐκκλησίαι, προσευκτήρια ou conventicula qui auraient été
démolies et ne consignent ni même en passant des martyrs au
Danube. Les Martyrologes, en échange, mentionnent, comme nous
l’avons déjà montré plus haut, un nombre relativement grand de
chrétiens qui ont souffert dans presque toutes les cités danubiennes.
De même, les sources nous laissent comprendre que l’on peut
parler d’une purification préalable de l’armée de ses éléments
chrétiens, le cas d’ Aurélius Gaius qui achève sa carrière militaire
comme optio comitum imperatoris dans la Légion I Iovia
Scythica73, créée et établie par Dioclétien à Noviodunum, étant

suggestif à ce sens. Néanmoins, n’ont pas quitté l’armée tous les

soldats chrétiens. Nous voulons évoquer à ce sujet le cas de Pierre

TP Eusèbe, op.cit., VIII, XIII, 13, p. 331.

TP Lactance, op.cit., XV.7, p. 115.

TP Em. Popescu, Un militar creştin în armata Scythiei Minor la sfârşitul secolului

al III-lea, « Teologie şi Viaţă », IX (LXXV), 1999, 1-6, p. 33.

Pontica Christiana 203
le soldat, vénéré à Tomis et celui des martyrs de Durostorum:

Iulius le Vétéran75, Marcianus, Nicandre76, Pasicrates, Valention77


Hésychius78, soldats dans la Légion XI Claudia, et Dasius79. Tous


TP Les 1er et 27 août; cf. N. Dănilă, op.cit., p. 51.

TP I. Rămureanu, Sfântul Mucenic Iuliu Veteranul, SR, p. 135-137; Passio sancti

Julii Martyris, à G. Popa-Liseanu, Dacia în autorii clasici, Bucureşti, 2007, p.

178-182; J. Helgeland, op.cit., p. 788 considère que Iulius n’est pas mort à
Durostorum. Il affirme que: „In the Martyrdom of Dasius, definitely placed in
Durostorum, the judge was titled a legatus, indicating that Diocletian had not
reformed that province by 303, the same year as the death of Julius. However,
Julius was tried before a praeses, but since we have shown in the case of Dasius
that the legate, Bassus, was a civil official (the legatus legionis as a title had
ceased to exist thirty years previously), there could not have been two systems of
civil authority in same year in the same town. Booth Bassus and Maximus were
governors; Dasius appeared before Bassus and Julius appeared before Maximus.
Therefore, Julius did not die in Durostorum”. Dans le passage où il se réfère à
Dasius, le chercheur américain ne connaît pas la bibliographie traitant de la
posssibilité que Dasius ait été martyrisé à Axiopolis, tel qu’il semble résulter des
fouilles archéologiques, ce qui solutionnerait en grande mesure la question de
l’existence des deux systèmes d’autorité civile, les villes mentionnées faisant
partie de deux unités administratives distinctes. De même, la mise en question de
la véridicité du martyre de Iulius à Durostorum implique également la situation
d’autres martyrs vénérés dans la même cité. Il s’agit des saints Marcianus,
Nicandre, Pasicrates, Valention şi Hésychius, en vertu de la relation directe qui
existe entre leurs actes martyriques. Les chercheurs sont d’avis qu’initialement il
n’y eut qu’un seul acte martyrique, séparé ultérieurement en trois parties
distinctes (H. Delehaye, op.cit., p. 268-269; J. Zeiller, op.cit., p. 114). Or, les
synaxaires et les martyrologes placent assez clairement le lieu de la passion des
saints Pasicrates, Valention, Marcianus, Nicandre et Hésychius à Durostorum.
TP Pour Marcianus et Nicandre, voir I. Rămureanu, Sfinţii Nicandru şi Marcian,

SR, p. 138-139. M. Păcurariu, op.cit., p. 86, mentionne, à côté de Marcianus et

Nicandre, autres 47 soldats, le 8 juin.
TP Pour Pasicrates et Valention, voir I. Rămureanu, Sfinţii Pasicrate şi Valention,

SR, p. 133-134.
TP I. Rămureanu, Sfântul Isihie, SR, p. 140.

TP I. Barnea, O inscripţie..., p. 219-228; I. Rămureanu, Actele..., p. 237-250. Il y a

également assez d’arguments pour placer le lieu du martyre de Dasius dans la

cité d’Axiopolis, cf. Em. Popescu, Martiri... (II), p. 65-66; Le principal élément
qui détermine les chercheurs, notamment ceux de l’étranger, de placer le martyre
de Dasius à Durostorum c’est l’inscription trouvée sur son sarcophage à Ancona.
Or, le fait qu’il fut amené (ἐνεχθεὶς) de Durostorum, n’implique pas
ceux-ci sont morts „pendant la persécution” (tempore
persecutionis)80, c’est-à-dire après la promulgation du premier édit

du 23 février 303.
Nous ne prenons pas en compte la présence des cinq martyrs
de Tropaeum Traiani, dont les reliques furent découvertes dans la
crypte de la basilique « simple » (A). Nous ne possédons pas de
détails concernant leurs noms et la date de leur martyre81. Le fait TP PT

que la cité de Tropaeum Traiani n’apparaît pas mentionnée dans les

martyrologes soulève un point d’interrogation quant au lieu de leur
passion et le plus probable, dans ce cas, c’est que l’on a affaire à un
transfert ultérieur de leurs reliques, puisque l’église où ils furent
déposés a été édifiée au temps d’Anastasius (491-518)82. TP PT

nécessairement qu’il ait été martyrisé là-bas. J. Zeiller, op.cit., p. 115, a observé
que dans l’acte martyrique de Dasius se trouvent des échos des polémiques
trinitaires du IVe siècle. Comme une hypothèse, il ne serait pas exclu que les
reliques du saint aient été translées d’Axiopolis dans le contexte du départ de
Durostorum de l’évêque arien Auxentius, pour affermir la communauté
chrétienne orthodoxe de cette cité. Toujours comme une hypothèse, on pourrait
prendre en compte la possibilité que les reliques de Saint Dasius fussent portées à
Durostorum afin de leur assurer une meilleure protection dans cette cité, dans la
période trouble que traversait la région à partir des dernières décennies du IVe
siècle. En fait, selon l’avis de Cumont, leur translation à Ancona s’était faite
toujours pour les protéger des invasions barbares de la fin du VIe siècle. Pour la
bibliographie principale à ce sujet, voir: F. Cumont, Les actes de saint Dasius,
An. Boll., 16, 1897, p. 5-16; G. Mercati, Per la storia dell’urna di S. Dasio
Martire, « Rendiconti », IV (S.III 1925-1926), Roma, 1926, p. 59-74; Renate
Pillinger, Das Martyrium des Heiligen Dasius (Text, Übersetzung und
Kommentar), Wien, 1988, p. 29-53.
TP G. Popa-Liseanu, op.cit., p. 178.

TP N. Dănilă, O importantă descoperire arheologică la Tropaeum Traiani,

« Biserica Ortodoxă Română », CI (1983), 1-2, p. 91-97. On a établi cependant,

suite à la reconstitution du visage d’un crâne, et à l’analyse anthropologique,
qu’il s’agissait de soldats actifs, âgés de 25-30 ans, et la date la plus probable de
leur mort s’inscrit dans le contexte de la Grande Persécution. Păcurariu avance
l’hypothèse que ces 5 martyrs auraient fait partie du groupe des 47 mentionnés à
avoir été martyrisés à côté de Marcianus et Nicandre; cf. M. Păcurariu, op.cit., p.
TP I. Barnea, Arta..., I, p. 156.
Pontica Christiana 205
L’armée fut une des principales voies de pénétration du
christianisme au long du Danube au IIIe siècle. Outre ce que nous P P

avons déjà énuméré, on peut prendre en considération également

les liens qui pourraient être établis avec la présence du vétéran
Caius Iulius83, dans le contexte des découvertes de facture

paléochrétienne de Teliţa (Amza)84, avec l’existence à Niculiţel,


dans le territoire noviodunien, des deux martyrs85 dans la crypte TP PT

d’en bas du martyrium, avec la présence de détachements de l’unité

classis Flavia Moesica dans le castre de Barboşi86, où les premières TP PT

antiquités de facture chrétienne datent du début du IIIe siècle87 et P P TP PT

avec le cas de Valerius Thiumpus de Troesmis88. N’oublions pas TP PT

non plus la boucle de ceinture en bronze, la gemme en pierre rouge

et la lampe à huile en céramique décorées de symboles chrétiens,
découvertes à Noviodunum, et dont la datation in situ ou par
analogies remonte aux II-IIIe siècles89, ainsi que le fragment de vase

découvert à Carsium90, sur lequel fut inscrit en rouge un


monogramme91. En amont, sur le Danube, à Novae, dans les


TP Vétéran de l’unité classis Flavia Moesica, ayant le quartier général toujours à

Noviodunum; V. H. Baumann, Vestigii..., p. 169-170.

TP Dont l’ancienneté remonte au seuil des siècles II et III. V. H. Baumann,

Sângele..., p. 37.
TP Il n’est pas exclu, dans ce cas, qu’il s’agisse de deux des trois martyrs

mentionnés par les martyrologes comme ayant souffert la passion au temps de

Dèce. Cf. Em. Popescu, op.cit., p. 71; N. Dănilă, Martyrologium..., p. 69, n. 8.
TP S. Sanie, Barboşi, « Dicţionar de Istorie Veche a României (Paleolitic – sec.

X) », elaboré par un collectif dé collaborateurs sour la direction dé Prof. Univ.

Dr. Doc. D. M. Pippidi, Bucureşti, 1976, p. 81.
TP Sanie, Dragomir, op.cit., p. 117-122.

TP Em. Popescu, Inscripţiile greceşti şi latine din secolele IV-XIII descoperite în

România, Bucureşti, 1976, p. 246-249, nr. 236; voir aussi la discussion à

Alexandru Madgearu, A note on the Christians’ presence in the sacer comitatus
before 313 A.D., « Aevum », LXXV, 1, 2001, p. 111-116.
TP V. H. Baumann, op.cit., p. 34-36.

TP Constantin Nicolae, O monogramă creştină de la Carsium (Hârşova, jud.

Constanţa), « Pontica », XL, 2007, p. 401-406.

TP Selon les recherches de Bagatti, on peut parler de l’existence d’un art chrétien

antérieur à la période de Constantin, les motifs les plus fréquents étant: la croix
(gammata, decussata, graeca), le palmier et la colombe. Dans la liste des
symboles étudiés par lui ne se retrouvent pas les monogrammes, mais il précise
canabae qui s’étaient développées autour du castre, furent
également découvertes 12 pièces à motifs décoratifs paléochrétiens,
datables au IIIe siècle92. Toutes les locations mentionnées ont

comme dénominateur commun la présence attestable des éléments

Au Danube, après la promulgation de l’édit du 23 février 303,
la persécution ne tient plus compte ni de la prudence, ni du nombre
de victimes, ni de leur état social. La mesure débute en force, les
chrétiens de l’armée sont emprisonnés et tout de suite exécutés, les
anciens soldats sont arrêtés et condamnés. Cette application
immédiate de l’édit dans les régions danubiennes est très bien
illustrée, à notre avis, par le groupe de martyrs de Durostorum dont
font partie Iulius le Vétéran, Marcianus, Nicandre, Pasicrates,
Valention şi Hésychius. Certains chercheurs considèrent qu’ils
furent martyrisés en 304. Mais il y a deux détails très clairs
concernant l’année de leur passion, à savoir 303. Compte tenu du
fait qu’initialement il y eut un seul acte martyrique93 qui se divisa

ultérieurement en trois parties, qui gardent encore des traces de leur

unité, l’ordre dans lequel ils furent exécutés c’est: Pasicrates et
Valention, le 24 avril94, Iulius le Vétéran le 27 mai95, Marcian et

que l’étude a été entreprise à partir des découvertes faites en Palestine. Il conclut
en affirmant que „non è improbabile che nuove ricerche mettano ancora alla
luce nuovo materiale e in altri luoghi”. P.B. Bagatti O.F.M., Resti cristiani in
Palestina anteriori a Constantino?, « Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana », 26,
1950, p. 117-131.
TP Nicolae Gudea, Daniel Chiu, Descoperiri creştine timpurii (până la 313 p.

Chr.) în provinciile romane din jurul Daciilor. (Contribuţii la istoria

creştinismului timpuriu (preconstantinian), « Studia Universitatis Babeş-Bolyai,
Theologia Catholica », L, 1, 2005, p. 39-40.
TP H. Delehaye, op.cit., p. 268-269; J. Zeiller, op.cit., p. 114.

TP SECp., 626-627: „Οὗτοι  ὑπῆρχον  ἐκ  Δοροστόλου  τῆς  Μυσίας  ἐν 

λεγεῶνί τινι στρατευόμενοι”.
TP Cf. Martirologium Romanum, „Dorostori, in Mysia inferiore, passio beati

Julii, qui, tempore Alexandri Imperatoris, cum esset veteranus et emeritae

militiae, comprehensus est ab officialibus, et Maximo Praesidi oblatus; quo
praesente, cum exsecraretur idola, et Christi nomen constantissime confiteretur,
capitali sententia punitus est; voir aussi G. Popa-Lisseanu, op.cit., p. 178-180.
Pontica Christiana 207
96 97
Nicandre, le 8 juin , Hésychius le 15 juin . Or, si pour tempus

persecutionis, qui apparaît dans l’acte martyrique de Iulius le

Vétéran, on peut affirmer que le terme a quo est le 23 février 303,
au moment où Maximus praeses lui offre decennalium pecuniam,
en échange du sacrifice, les choses deviennent plus nuancées,
puisqu’il s’agit des dons offerts aux soldats lors des decennalia
fêtées par Galère et Constance Chlore en 30398. Par conséquent, ilTP PT

paraît qu’ils ont subi le martyre dans la première moitié de 303 (24
avril-15 juin), c’est-à-dire tout juste après la promulgation de l’édit
de persécution.
Malgré la dureté initiale de la persécution, les chrétiens
continuaient à exister dans l’armée99 et dans les cités du limes

TP Cf. N. Dănilă, op.cit., p. 38-39, „In Durostoro civitate provinciae Moesiae

Inferioris sanctorum martyrum Marciani, (Nicandri), Muciani, Heli, Luciani,

Zotici”; cf. SECp., 738-739: „Καὶ  ἄθλησις  τῶν  ἀγίων  Χριστοῦ  μαρτύρων 
Νικάνδρου καὶ Μαρκιανοῦ”.
TP Cf. N. Dănilă, op.cit., p. 39 „In Durostoro civitate provinciae Moesiae

Inferioris sancti Hesychii martyris et militis”.

TP J. Helgeland, op.cit., p. 787.

TP Dasius a refusé de participer aux cérémonies religieuses payennes en tant que

roi des Saturnales, posture où il se trouva suite à un tirage au sorts, et de là le

conflit qui aboutit à son martyre. Les chercheurs estiment que la date de son
martyre est le 20 nov. 303, suite aux calculs faits à partir des renseignements
offerts par l’acte martyrique: „le Saint martyre est mort ayant la tête coupée, le
20 du mois de novembre, un vendredi, à quatre heures, étant le 24e jour de la P P

lune céleste” (Cf. Ibidem, p. 783, n. 287). Antérieurement, Zeiller fit lui aussi
une ample analyse de cette datation, en suivant le vendredi, 20 nov., 24e jour du
cycle lunaire. Il constata qu’entre 300 et 304 il y a un vendredi, le 20 nov. 302,
mais que ce n’est pas le 24e jour du cycle lunaire. Le 24e jour lunaire

conviendrait à un 20 nov. de 303, mais ce n’était pas un vendredi, mais un

samedi. Pour cette raison, le chercheur considère que, si Dasius est mort en
novembre, son martyre n’eût aucun rapport avec la Saturnale, ce qui soulève bien
de questions quant à la véridicité de l’acte martyrique (J. Zeiller, op.cit., p. 114-
115). Pour la possibilité de la participation des chrétiens aux festivités religieuses
au sein de l’armée romaine, voir Em. Popescu, Un militar..., p. 36-37. En même
temps, il se peut que le nombre de soldats chrétiens fût plus grand, car les
martyrologes enregistrent un nombre considérable de martyrs hommes dans les
cités danubiennes, où étaient disloquées d’importantes unités militaires.
danubien100. En définitive, lorsque le 30 avril 311, Galère publiait

l’édit d’arrêter la persécution, probablement suite à des

consultations avec Licinius, il ne fit autre chose que reconnaître sa
défaite. Le programme de la réforme religieuse souhaitée par la
tétrarchie échouait lamentablement devant le sang des martyrs,
tandis que l’Eglise voyait augmenter son prestige et son autorité.
Cette fois-ci, les chrétiens recevait de la part de l’empereur
persécuteur l’ordre de „Deum suum orare pro salute nostra et rei
publicae”101. TP PT

Il n’est pas exclu qu’à cet échec ait contribué un autre élément
aussi: si, dans le cas des grandes métropoles, les condamnés étaient
presqu’inconnus au grand public, qui savourait le spectacle des
chrétiens livrés aux gladiateurs, aux bêtes sauvages ou soumis aux
tortures, dans les petites cités de frontière, les habitants, chrétiens
ou païens, étaient conviés à un spectacle macabre où étaient
exécutés des amis, des parents, des voisins ou des camarades
d’armes, en général des personnes proches ou bien connues en
vertu des relations interhumaines quotidiennes, personnes tuées
pour la seule raison d’avoir confessé une autre foi. Evidemment, on
ne peut pas exclure le délice avec lequel certains spectateurs
goûtaient ces représentations, même dans ces petites cités de
frontière. Mais il est bien possible que dans certains cas la solidarité
humaine ait vaincu les ordres impériaux.
Un détail intéressant à ce sens nous est fourni par l’acte
martyrique de Iulius le Vétéran102, qui nous dit qu’au moment où le

saint était porté au lieu d’exécution, tous sont venus l’embrasser

(osculabantur eum omnes). On se demande si „omnes” désigne
seulement les chrétiens, ou se réfère aussi aux autres habitants
païens de la ville. D’ailleurs, du dialogue entre Maximus et Iulius
on peut constater que l’enquêteur n’était pas désireux de verser son

TP Voir à ce sens le grand nombre de martyrs laics vénérés dans les cités du Bas

Danube: Tomis, Noviodunum, Dinogeţia, Axiopolis, Durostorum, etc.

Evidemment, le culte de certains d’entre eux provenait d’autres cités du monde
romain, mais il s’agit également de martyrs locaux. Voir N. Dănilă, op.cit.
TP Lactance, op.cit., XXXIV, 5, p. 182.

TP G. Popa-Liseanu, op.cit., p. 179.
Pontica Christiana 209
sang. Bien plus, la disponibilité du païen de recevoir le châtiment
divin pour le péché du chrétien d’avoir sacrifié aux dieux103 (si TP PT

putas esse peccatum, me assequatur) apparaît assez surprenante si

l’on tient compte des ordres impériaux centraux. On peut dire que
l’enquêteur, loin de fraterniser avec la cause chrétienne, ne fait
autre chose qu’appliquer la loi telle qu’elle était promulguée, sans
faire preuve de zèle personnel dans l’éradication du „fléau
chrétien”. Dans ce cas, l’application de l’édit se fait de manière
impersonnelle : Iulius, n’acceptant pas de se soumettre aux ordres
impériaux, qu’il reçoive la peine capitale (Julius, nolens praeceptis
regalibus adquiescere, capitalem accipiat sententiam). Une attitude
relativement semblable on rencontre dans le cas de l’enquête de
Dasius, lorsque Bassus lui propose à trois reprises de sacrifier aux
dieux. Après ces propositions répétées, il lui laisse même un délai
de réflexion de deux heures pour changer éventuellement d’idée, et
c’est la fermeté inébranlable de Dasius (Σὺ  ποίησον  ἅπερ  σοι 
προστέτακται) qui détermine le légat romain de prononcer la
condamnation et l’exécution.
A tout cela, il faut ajouter les résultats des récentes recherches,
selon lesquelles on constate un déséquilibre d’intensité entre la
partie orientale et celle occidentale du Bas-Danube, dans le sens
que l’Orient est mieux représenté du point de vue de la présence
chrétienne par rapport aux cités en amont de Durostorum, où l’on
retrouve des traces de plus en plus réduites104. Ce n’est qu’à

Sirmium que l’on enregistre un grand nombre de martyrs du temps

de la Grande Persécution, étant pratiquement la seule cité qui puisse
se comparer à Tomis à ce chapitre105. La présence de Galère à

Sirmium, où il avait sa résidence, ne devrait probablement non plus

être ignorée quand on évalue le nombre des martyrs de cette cité ou
ceux vénérés par la communauté locale. En échange, parmi les

TP Même en secret, tel qu’on a proposé à Iulius.

TP Em. Popescu, La mission chrétienne aux premiers siècles dans le sud-est

européen (aperçu historique), vol. « Aspects of Spiritual Life in South East

Europe from Prehistory to the Middle Ages », Iaşi, 2004, p. 246.
TP N. Dănilă, op.cit., p. 79-82.
localités où le christianisme avait une plus faible intensité se trouve
Romulianum, là où la mère de l’empereur fut „irritée” par la
manière dont les chrétiens répondaient à ses gestes religieux.
Comme une conclusion de ce que nous avons présenté plus
haut, on peut déduire que, tandis qu’au IIe siècle le christianisme au

Danube n’est pas suffisamment bien attesté par des sources claires,
au siècle suivant, il connaît un développement constant, parvenant
même à perturber l’équilibre religieux de la région. Les
martyrologes nous offrent, à la fin du IIIe siècle, l’image d’une

Eglise bien organisée du point de vue hiérarchique, avec des fidèles

capables d’accepter le martyre comme réaction aux mesures
impériales. Au moment du déclenchement de la Grande
Persécution, on ne peut pas parler du christianisme au Danube
comme d’une majorité religieuse, mais non plus comme d’un
phénomène récent, à peine apparu. En considérant la structure de
l’Eglise dans ces régions et l’attitude de ses fidèles, nous
découvrons un organisme bien mûri; le christianisme a sa place
bien délimitée et il est accepté comme réalité religieuse au Danube.
Si en 335, lors de la consécration de l’église du Saint Sépulcre,
Eusèbe faisait la respective affirmation, il la faisait en comparaison
avec l’ancienneté des autres Eglises, de Cappadoce, de Syrie, de
l’Arabie, de l’Egypte, etc., et, pourquoi pas, en méconnaissant les
réalités danubiennes. Il est à retenir que, dans son ouvrage, il ne
mentionne le nom d’aucun martyr de cette région, bien que les
martyrologes en abondent. C’est ainsi que peut très bien s’expliquer
pourquoi les Eglises de ces régions sont, pour lui, « de jeunes
rejetons », du moment qu’il semble n’en prendre connaissance
qu’après la Paix de l’Eglise.
En tout cas, ces „jeunes rejetons” étaient bien attachés au corps
de l’Eglise et s’affermissaient en se nourrissant de cette vigueur des
martyrs qui pouvaient être rencontrés à tout pas dans les cités du
Bas Danube. Sans forcer l’idée ou la licence poétique de
Pontica Christiana 211
l’inscription de Niculiţel , les évènements survenus au début du

IVe siècle dans les cités danubiennes nous permettent de


comprendre que, dans la période antérieure, tant l’Eglise que les

cultes païens se revendiquaient réciproquement la vigueur (ἰχώρ)
pour nourrir le sentiment religieux de leurs propres fidèles. Donc, à
la veille de la Grande Persécution, le christianisme au Danube est
un phénomène intense et stable qui, malgré les violences qu’il dût
subir, a résisté et s’est développé dans la période suivante, sans être
contraint de vivre „un second commencement”. Il est vrai que le
nombre des chrétiens n’était pas si grand pour déterminer une
manière prudente d’aborder la persécution, mais le phénomène était
suffisamment mûr pour devenir un élément irritant à l’adresse des
cultes traditionnels et déstabilisateur de l’équilibre religieux. A la
veille de la Grande Persécution, on peut parler d’une ancienneté du
christianisme au Danube d’au moins quelques générations.



- rezumat -

Studiul de faţă porneşte de la afirmaţia lui Eusebiu de

Cezareea care, în anul 335, cu prilejul sfinţirii Bisericii Sfântului
Mormânt, Eusebiu de Cezareea consemna la Ierusalim prezenţa
„frumoaselor şi tinerelor mlădiţe ale lui Dumnezeu” din Moesia şi
Pannonia, sau a tracilor „care împodobeau cu prezenţa lor întreaga
adunare” (Eusebiu, V.C., IV.43.3) şi îşi propune să urmărească
dacă şi cât de exactă este afirmaţia părintelui istoriei bisericeşti, cu
privire la vechimea creştinismului la Dunărea de Jos.
Mai întâi, se aduce în discuţie dezvoltarea pe care a înregistrat-
o creştinismul în imperiu în secolul al III-lea, paralel cu criza

TP ὦδε κὲ ὦδε ἰχώρ  μαρτύρων voir le commentaire de l’inscription à V. H.

Baumann, op.cit., p. 108; pour toute la bibliographie sur le complexe de

Niculiţel, voir Ibidem, p. 206-214.
religioasă a lumii romane, în care îşi face loc, din ce în ce mai mult,
ideea unui nou început, un nou mesaj de speranţă pentru reînnoirea
unităţii imperiului; aşa cum l-au definit specialiştii, un novum
saeculum. De asemenea, se face o privire specială asupra relaţiei
creştinismului cu împăraţii romani sau familiile acestora. S-a avut
în vedere aici atitudinea faţă de noua religie a unora ca Elagabal,
Iulia Mamaea, Severus Alexander, Filip Arabul, Gallienus sau
Aurelian, dar şi motivele persecuţiilor lui Maximin Tracul, Decius
sau Valerian. Concluziile primei părţi a studiului sunt că: a)
autorităţile imperiale şi aparatul administrativ de stat erau destul de
familiarizaţi cu preceptele noii religii, cunoşteau modul de
organizare al Bisericii şi, în unele cazuri, chiar erau creştini; b)
atitudinea împăraţilor a creat premizele unei dezvoltări constante a
creştinismului în imperiu în secolul al III-lea, iar acest val nu putea
ocoli regiunile dunărene, de vreme ce nici criza păgânismului nu le
Discuţia asupra situaţiei creştinismului la Dunărea de Jos în
secolul al III-lea se concentrează pe analiza câtorva amănunte care
se desprind din mărturiile literare existente. Urmărind relatarea lui
Lactantius despre începutul Marii Persecuţii, el ne spune că, de
fapt, autorul moral al persecuţiei nu au fost nici Diocleţian şi nici
Galerius, ci mama acestuia din urmă, Romula, care „era o femeie de
dincolo de Dunăre, ce trecuse fluviul spre a se refugia în Noua
Dacie, de când cu năvălirile carpilor”. Motivul invocat de către
autorul antic este acela că sacrificiilor ei aproape cotidiene în
cinstea zeilor munţilor (dapibus sacrificabat paene cotidie ac
vicanis suis epulas exhibebat), creştinii din aceeaşi localitate îi
răspundeau cu post şi rugăciune (ieiuniis et orationibus insistebant).
Localitatea în care se întâmplau acestea se numea Romulianum şi a
fost identificată arheologic la Gamzigrad, lângă Zaječar în partea de
răsărit a Serbiei, fiind vorba de o reşedinţă imperială de vară. Pe
lângă faptul că ne aflăm într-o regiune în care, potrivit cercetării
istorice moderne, la acea dată, creştinismul abia dacă făcuse primii
paşi, fiind lipsit de consistenţă, relatarea lui Lactantius atestă
prezenţa noii religii în reşedinţa imperială din provincia dunăreană,
situaţie similară cu de la Nicomidia, evident, păstrând proporţiile.
Pontica Christiana 213
În acest caz, s-ar putea crede că motivul pentru implicarea
personală atât de zeloasă a lui Galerius în declanşarea şi susţinerea
persecuţiei l-a constituit „iritarea” pe care prezenţa creştinilor au
produs-o autorităţilor imperiale tradiţionaliste la Dunăre. Pe de altă
parte, intervenţia dură pe care el o susţine în întregul imperiu
denotă faptul că se confrunta cu o realitate creştină destul de intensă
în provinciile pe care le administra.
În sprijinul acestei idei au fost aduse două argumente. Primul
se concentrează asupra numărului mare de martiri menţionaţi în
Martirologii în cetăţile dunărene. Avem de a face cu o Biserică
foarte bine structurată şi întâlnim, episcopi Irineu la Sirmium,
Quirinius la Siscia, Olympius în Tracia, Lupus la Novae, Filip la
Adrianopolis, Cyrillus şi Efrem la Tomis, preoţi Montanus şi
Romulus la Sirmium, Severus la Adrianopolis. Înregistrăm, de
asemenea, diaconi: Dimitrie şi Timotei la Sirmium, Gaianus cinstit
în Tracia şi Dacia Ripensis, Donatus cinstit în cetăţile Cibalae,
Singidunum şi Sirmium, Hermes la Adrianopolis, dar şi ipodiaconi,
cum este cazul lui Leon la Noviodunum, lectori, Maxim la
Durostorum, Pollion la Cibalae, diaconiţa Laurentia, cinstită în
cetăţile Hieracleea şi Beroe, sau exorcistul Hermes, cinstit în
Bononia şi Ratiaria. Această structură bisericească, temeinic
organizată ierarhic, nu poate fi o realitate recentă, abia apărută la
sfârşitul secolului al III-lea. Pentru a se dezvolta la acest nivel,
comunităţile aveau nevoie de cel puţin 2 generaţii. Totodată,
numărul mare de martiri ne dezvăluie un organism matur, având
membri care-şi asumă integral credinţa fără să ţină seama de
Al doilea argument pus în discuţie se referă la prezenţa
creştinismului atestat arheologic în aşezările rurale de-a lungul
Dunării în situri databile în sau către sfârşitul secolului al III-lea. Se
face referire aici doar la câteva exemple, cum ar fi cele de la
Barboşi (jud. Galaţi), Teliţa (jud. Tulcea), Ozobia (lângă
Durostorum, Bulgaria), Gildoba, localitate neidentificată din
Tracia, care se pare că poate fi plasată în apropiere de Durostorum,
sau cea din apropierea actualei localităţi Golesh (dep. Silistra,
Bulgaria) situată între cetăţile Durostorum şi Tropaeum Traiani,
unde, la începutul secolului al IV-lea, se construieşte un martyrium
în jurul căruia se dezvoltă o aşezare, pe care arheologii bulgari
înclină să o identifice cu antica cetate a Sf. Chiril. La sfârşitul
secolului al III-lea, creştinismul făcea, se pare, pasul către aşezările
rurale din jurul oraşelor dunărene.
Analiza continuă cu expunerea situaţiei soldaţilor creştini care
au fost martirizaţi în cetăţile dunărene. În discuţie s-a luat în studiu
cazul lui Petru soldatul, cinstit la Tomis, pe acela al martirilor de la
Durostorum: Iulius Veteranul, Marcianus, Nicander, Pasicrates,
Valention Hesychius, soldaţi în Legiunea XI Claudia, şi Dasius. Tot
în aceeaşi discuţie au mai fost incluse şi legăturile ce pot fi făcute
cu soldatul creştin Aurelius Gaius care îşi încheie cariera militară ca
optio comitum imperatoris în Legiunea I Iovia Scythica, înfiinţată şi
aşezată de Diocleţian la Noviodunum, cu prezenţa veteranului
Caius Iulius, în contextul descoperirilor de factură paleocreştină de
la Teliţa (Amza), cu existenţa la Niculiţel, în teritoriul noviodunens,
a celor doi martiri din cripta de jos din martyrium, cu prezenţa unor
detaşamente ale unităţii classis Flavia Moesica în castrul de la
Barboşi, unde primele antichităţi de factură creştină datează la
începutul secolului al III-lea şi cu cazul lui Valerius Thiumpus de la
Troesmis. În amonte pe Dunăre, la Novae, în canabae care s-au
dezvoltat în jurul castrului, s-au descoperit, de asemenea, un număr
de 12 piese purtând decoraţii paleocreştine, databile în secolul al
III-lea. Toate aceste locaţii enumerate mai sus au ca numitor comun
prezenţa atestabilă a elementelor militare.
Dacă, din Orient, Diocleţian îndemna la o aplicare prudentă şi
progresivă a măsurilor represive împotriva creştinilor, începând cu
armata şi curtenii, pentru ca abia ulterior măsurile să fie extinse
asupra tuturor, în Occident Constanţiu Chlor a dispus să fie
dărâmate nişte clădiri mici, (conventicula), fără să înregistreze
victime umane. La Dunăre, deşi este atestată purificarea prealabilă
a armatei, persecuţia nu ţine seama nici de prudenţă, nici de
numărul victimelor, nici de starea lor socială. Măsura debutează
imediat după promulgarea Edictului, creştinii din armată sunt
închişi şi executaţi la scurt timp după aceea, sunt arestaţi şi
condamnaţi şi veteranii. Această aplicare imediată a ordinului este
Pontica Christiana 215
foarte bine ilustrată de grupul de martiri de la Durostorum, dar
constatăm că autorităţile locale însărcinate cu punerea în practică a
deciziei centrale nu erau foarte zeloase în ceea ce priveşte aplicarea
ei. Înregistrăm aici insistenţa cu care Bassus l-a sfătuit pe Dasius,
de trei ori, să aducă jertfă, iar după ce a fost refuzat de atâtea ori îi
mai lasă încă două ore de gândire până să pronunţe sentinţa finală.
În celălalt caz, observăm disponibilitatea lui Maximus de a nu-l
omorî pe Iulius, sau, mai mult, de a primi pedeapsa divină pentru
păcatul creştinului de a fi jertfit zeilor (si putas esse peccatum, me
assequatur), chiar şi în ascuns, aşa cum a propus.
În concluzie, sursele analizate ne oferă, la sfârşitul secolului al
III-lea, imaginea unei Biserici dunărene bine organizate din punct
de vedere ierarhic, cu credincioşi dispuşi să-şi asume credinţa până
la martiriu. În momentul declanşării Marii Persecuţii, la Dunăre nu
se poate vorbi de creştinism ca despre o majoritate religioasă, însă
nici ca despre un fenomen nou, abia apărut. Privind structura pe
care Biserica o are în aceste regiuni şi analizând atitudinea
credincioşilor săi, descoperim un organism matur; creştinismul îşi
are locul lui bine delimitat şi este acceptat ca realitate religioasă.
Dacă în 335 Eusebiu făcea respectiva afirmaţie, el avea în vedere
comparaţia cu vechimea celorlalte biserici din Capadocia, Siria,
Arabia, Egipt, etc., dar şi, de ce nu, dintr-o necunoaştere a
realităţilor dunărene. De reţinut faptul că, în lucrarea sa, el nu
menţionează numele nici unui martir din această regiune, în vreme
ce în martirologii se întâlnesc din abundenţă. Astfel se poate
explica foarte bine de ce pentru el bisericile din aceste părţi sunt
„tinere mlădiţe”, câtă vreme se pare că el află despre ele abia după
Pacea Bisericii. În ajunul Marii Persecuţii, însă, creştinismul la
Dunăre este un fenomen intens şi stabil care, în ciuda violenţelor la
care a fost supus, a rezistat şi s-a amplificat în perioada imediat
următoare. Probabil că numărul creştinilor nu era atât de mare încât
să fie luată în calcul o abordare prudentă a persecuţiei, dar
fenomenul era suficient de puternic şi matur încât să devină
element destabilizator al echilibrului religios. În ajunul Marii
Persecuţii, se poate vorbi despre o vechime a creştinismului la
Dunăre de cel puţin câteva generaţii.



by Adriana-Claudia Cîteia

In the Christian spirituality the art of the word has an ultimate

role; it conditions the perpetual missionary, the spreading of the
Word to all the nations. The message of the Gospel must be
transmitted, heard, assimilated. The role of teaching, of preaching,
and of directing the conscience is incumbent upon the ecclesiastical
institution, in a context conditioned by the tradition (paradosis) and
oriented to the acquiring of salvation. Between the speaker and the
listener a psichagogical relation is born. The function of the
transmitted truth consists not in the endowing of the topic with any
aptitudes (as in the relation of pedagogical type), but in the
modifying of the manner of being of the subject. This is the object
of the director of conscience: missionary, priest, bishop. In the
Christian psychagogy, the weight of the truth and the genuine way
of speaking does not stress on the conscience of the director of
conscience; it does stress on the conscience of the one who lives
metanoia. From this point of view, the Christian psychagogy is
fundamentally opposed to the Greco-Roman one, which acts
conjointly with the pedagogy. The psycagogized soul expounds a
truth by which its manner of being is transformed. The Christian
community reflects the totality of individual transformations, in
accordance with the doctrine. In the Hegelian conception1, in the TP PT

subsistent community, the Church is the form of organizing which

allows the subjects to reach the Truth and to appropriate it. The
organizing stage is followed by the ecumenical stage in which the
Truth is transformed in doctrine. But the decisive stage in the
evolution of Christianity is the one of guarding and transmitting the

TP PT Translated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă
TP PT Prelegeri de filosofia religiilor, Bucureşti, 1997, p. 492.
Pontica Christiana 217
doctrine, mission which is incumbent upon the ecclesiastical
Born in a Christian community, the individual is induced to
appropriate the truth of faith, the first step being Baptism. Baptism
cancels or attenuates the pain of the individual’s lack of
suitableness to God. If we start with Wittgenstein’s2 hypothesis that TP PT

the world is the totality of actions3, which have as correspondent


real clauses, the world should be tackled as a holon made up of

“atomic clauses”. An instance of such a clause would be “God is
Trinity”, a fundamental clause from the Christian ontology’s
perspective, or “God is the Creator”, in which the composing
elements are God-the Trinity, and the world, and they make the
predication possible. The limits of the world’s creation are the
limits of its enunciation, and this conclusion is in full agreement
with the text of Genesis. The world – and implicitly the reality –
means in a biblical spirit what is spoken. To say and to be are

1. ζωή αἰώνιος4 TP PT

Individual and congregational context

On an inscription from the 5th-6th centuries uncovered in


Callatis5, this conventional phrase can be read: ζωῆς  αἰωνίου 


ἀπολαύσε[ω]ς = “in the hope of resurrection and the blessedness

of eternal life”. The hope of resurrection is epigraphically attested
in the conventional phrase σταυρὸς  θανάτου  καὶ 
ἀναστάσεως6, also engraved on a marble block uncovered next

TPTractatus logico-filosoficus, 1. 1., Bucureşti, 1997.

TPThe actions being states of things that exist.

TPThis commentary was made on the inscriptions from the corpus published by

Em. Popescu, Inscripţiile greceşti şi latine din secolele IV-XIII descoperite în

România (=IGLR), Bucureşti, 1976.

TPIbidem, 173.
to Adamclisi and dated from the 5th and 6th centuries. The coming

out from the darkness of death and the full entering into the light of
eternal life becomes possible through Christ’s sacrifice and
resurrection. It is a resurrection which must be collectively
understood and which is correlated with Parousia, a resurrection
which gives forever to the Christian community’s history a new
The Nativity from the Holy Virgin (the epigraphic
conventional phrase ΧΜΓ)7 and the Resurrection, the two moments

that prove Christ’s theanthropy, represent the premise of a “general

resurrection”. The Christian acquires everlasting life (ζωή 
αἰώνιος), through Christ’s Resurrection and through a life lived in
accordance with Christ’s model. The coordinates of the Christian
life both at the individual level and at the community level must
have been brought about by the “everlasting life’s perspective”,
perspective which can explain at the local level, as well as at the
Empire’s level, the relationship with the political authority and the
acceptance of martyrdom. Christ’s Resurrection offered to the
community of the first centuries the certainty in the eternal
happiness expressed also in the inscription uncovered in Callatis.
The faith in resurrection and the blessedness of life after death have
been the foundation of the Apostles’ missionary activity and
implicitly of the ecumenism of the first centuries after Christ. It is
not a matter of resurrection to earthly life (as was the case of
Lazarus or of the son of the widow from Nain); it is a matter about
the perspective of eternal life which brings about and explains the
Christians’ attitude towards the historical reality, and which clears
away the tragedy of irrevocably final death or the privileges of the
initiates in the mystery religions.

Ecclesiological valences

The conscience of Christ’s presence in Church, conscience

which defines the community of believers, regardless of the spatial-
TP PT IGLR, 139-144; 187, 243, 316, 321, 323, 324, 332, 341.
Pontica Christiana 219
temporal coordinates, raised a series of questions with regards to
the connection of eternity (αἰώνιος), with the temporal-historical
coordinates; and the connection between Time and Eternity, which
is an opposing connection in the dialectical theology, and which in
modern times led to the pre-formal time’s theory destined to make
possible the connection of the divine plan with the human plan. The
Resurrection has marked the beginning of the “new time”, a
consummate time, “full”, the fact of Resurrection being a
continuous present8. TP PT

In his first discourse against the Arians9, St. Athanasios TP PT

complements the image of resurrection with the one of life’s

victory against death, in the broader context of Christ’s work of
redemption and deification of the human nature10. TP PT

New Testament’s context

Having been originated in the New Testament, the adjective

αἰώνιος is applied in general to eternal life as the reward for the
Christian, but it is applied, also, to judgment and punishment11. In TP PT

the New Testament12 αἰώνιος is the word of eternity, employed


with regards to the eternal covenant whose Mediator is Christ

(Hebrews 13, 20: ἐν αἴµατι διαθήκης αἰωνίου). It is, also, used with
regards to the eternal abodes in which the Christian shall enter
(Luke 16, 9: δέξωνται  ὑμᾶς  εἰς  τὰς  αἰωνίους  σκηνάς; II
Corinthians 5, 1: οἰκίαν ‐ αἰώνιον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς − They may
receive you into an everlasting home; a house – eternal in the
TPD. Stăniloae, Iisus Hristos sau restaurarea omului, Bucureşti, 1998, p. 376-378.

TP Vita Sancti Athanasii Archiepiscopi Alexandrini, in coll. “Patrologiae cursus

completus”, Series graeca (=PG), ed. J.-P. Migne, vol. XXV, Paris, 1884, col.
129 D- 132 A.
TP V. Lossky, După chipul şi asemănarea lui Dumnezeu, Bucureşti, 1998, p. 93.

TP Matthew 18, 18; Mark 3, 89; Luke 16, 9; Romans 16, 25; II Corinthians 4, 17;

II Thess. 1, 9;; 2, 16; I Timothy 6, 16; II Timothy 2, 10; Acts, 14, 6.

TP Romans 1, 20; Jude 6; Platon, Timaios, 37 D; F. E. Peters, Termenii filosofiei

greceşti, Bucureşti, 1995, p. 23; A. Cohen, Talmudul, Bucureşti, 2000, p. 55; P.

Florenski, Stâlpul şi temelia Adevărului, Bucureşti, 1997, p. 133.
heavens). The noun designates the everlasting redemption of the
Christian through Christ (Hebrews 9, 15: οἱ  κεκλημένοι  τῆς 
αἰωνίους  κληρονομίας  − that they who are called may receive
the promise of the eternal inheritance); it is associated with the
nouns “hope” and “salvation” (II Timothy 2, 10; Titus 3, 7:
κατ᾽ἐλπίδα ζωῆς αἰωνίου).
The most important employment of the word is the one related
to the syntagm ζωή  αἰώνιος. If we accept to translate the word
αἰώνιος with the word “eternity”, and translate the word
καιρός with the collocation “divine time”, in contrast with the
“human time” - χρόνος, the syntagm ζωή  αἰώνιος becomes
synonym with the divine life. The eternal life is a divine promise -
ἡ  ἐπαγγελία  (Titus 1, 2: the conventional phrase ἐπ᾽ἐλπίδι 
ζωῆς αἰωνίου; I John 2, 25: τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον), a divine
gift - χάρισμα (Romans 6, 23; I John 5, 11: ὅτι  ζωὴν  αἰώνιον 
ἔδωκεν  ἡμῖν  ὁ  Θεός). Αἰώνιος is the constant and indivisible
eternity which is found beyond the temporal enstases; it is the
perpetual present of the verb “to be” in the New Testament which
refers to the divine life exclusively. In Hebrews 13, 20 it is
employed with regards to the eternal Covenant whose Mediator is
Jesus: ἐν αἵματι  διαθήκης  αἰωνίου. In Luke 16, 9 and II
Corinthians 5, 1 it is used in regards to the eternal dwelling places
which are prepared for the Christians: δέξωνται  ὑμᾶς  εἰς  τὰς 
αἰωνίους  σκηνάς. It is the attribute of redemption and of
inheritance which can be attained by any Christian through faith.
Αἰώνιος is the attribute of Christ’s Kingdom, in accordance with II
Peter 1, 11: ἡ εἴσοδος εἰς τὴν αἰώνιον βασιλείαν.
The most important employment of the syntagm ζωή 
αἰώνιος (Titus 1, 2; I John 2, 25), is, however, the gift of eternal
life (Romans 6, 23). The syntagm designates Christ in I John 5, 20,
and is inextricably connected to the Christian ethics. The verb of
the Christian discipline is in accordance with Romans 6, 22:
Pontica Christiana 221

καταρτίζειν = to obey, to listen, even to sacrifice oneself (John

12, 25), the perfect model being Jesus.
In order for the early Christians to become familiar with the
history of salvation, some Biblical pericopes were read during the
divine service (the Old and the New Testament), rule which was
valid for the Liturgy, also, while the reading of the un-canonical or
heretical books being prohibited (Canon 59 of Laodiceea; and 24 of
Carthage). Some writings were not accessible to all of the faithful,
and not necessarily as an expression of ultra-clericalism, but out of
regard for the ability of comprehending of the layman which was
depending on his preparedness (85 Apostolic Canon). The 68
Canon of the 6th ecumenical Council prohibited the selling of the

Gospels to those who would not have used them for holy reasons.
In accordance with the 19 Canon of Laodiceea the oral
preaching followed the reading of the texts chosen from Scripture.
The duty of the bishops and the priests to preach was specified for
the first time in the 58 Apostolic Canon, and taken again in the 19
Canon of the 6th Ecumenical Synod. “The heads of the Churches

must teach every day, but particularly on Sunday, all the clergy and
people, the words of right faith, gleaning the ideas, the reasons of
truth from the divine Scripture, and without going beyond the
boundaries which are already regulated, or beyond the tradition of
the God-bearing fathers... Since the people, knowing through the
teaching of the above mentioned fathers what is good and what is to
be desired, as well as what is not useful and must be laid aside, will
straighten their life to doing better, and will not be caught by the
passion of ignorance, but being attentive to the teaching, they will
brace themselves to not undergo something worse, and being afraid
of the imminent torments they will work out their salvation”13. TP PT

In conformity with the Canons, the lay people as well as those

who belong to the clergy degrees with insufficient preparedness are
not allowed to preach (Canon 64 of the 6th Ecumenical Council).

The preaching in a foreign eparchy is prohibited, also, without the

TP PT I. N. Floca, Drept Canonic Ortodox (=DCO), vol. II, Bucureşti, 1990, p. 156.
local bishop’s blessing (Canon 20 of the 6th Ecumenical Council; P P

Canons 3, and 11 of the Synod of Serdica).

Catechetical Importance

In his Introduction to the Gospel14 Eusebius of Caesarea


analyzes the effects of the Gospel on the human behavior, proving

the changes in the way of life of the society by the agency of faith.
In his conception, the ecclesiology and the soteriology are two
facets of the spiritual ascension, the context in which this is realized
being the parish – the local ecclesial community. Thus, the salvific
work of the Church was realized in small Eucharistic centers. The
parish, in its hypostasis of missionary field presupposes the
cooperation between the clergy and the laity. The epigraphic
Christian vocabulary points out exactly the solidity of this
connection; it is the proof of assimilating the biblical word at the
laity’s level; he acknowledges in the 5th – 6th centuries the existence

of a spirit of the Church which is present in each and every

Christian’s aspirations, as well as the affiliation to “a single clerical
body”. “The Old and Universal Church is one as far as her being is
concerned, as far as her beginning is concerned and as far as her
superiority is concerned”15. In a different manner, the affiliation to

the Holy Universal Church is expressed epigraphically, also, in the

epitaph of the cantor Heraclidis16. TP PT

Consequently, the inscription of the Syrian jurist proves the

affiliation to a Christian community whose local values and ideals
coincide with those of the Universal Church, which are expressed
TP Em. Timiadis, Preot, parohie, înnoire, Bucureşti, 2001, p. 84.

TP Clemens, Stromata, 7, 17, PG, vol. IX, Paris, 1857, col. 552 = Em. Timiadis,

op. cit., p. 80-89.

TP IGLR, 45: Ἐνθάδε κα −

τάκιταὶ Ἡρακλί −
δης ἀναγνώσ −
της τῆς ἁγίας
καὶ καθολικῆς ἐκ −
Pontica Christiana 223
in a common conventional language, brought about by being
familiar with the Scripture and by the hope of salvation and of
eternal life. We have to remind in this sense of the traditional
connections of the Scythian Christianity with the Syrian one17, as TP PT

well as the importance of the Syrian catechetical school of Tatianus

who realized a Syrian translation of the Bible – “Peschitho”18. TP PT

The bishops, the priests, and the deacons were obliged to

“teach the people the true faith, gleaning the ideas and the reasons
for the truth from the divine Scripture” (Canon 19 of the 6th P P

Ecumenical council). For the members of the hierarchy divinely

instituted, who were not teaching the people the right faith, there
were prescribed sentences for suspension or prohibition to exercise
the sacerdotal service (58 Apostolic Canon; 21 I Ecumenical
Synod; 19 Canon of Laodiceea; 19 of the 6th Ecumenical Synod).

The lay people are forbidden to preach in public (Canon 64 of the

4th Ecumenical Council). However, the hierarchy had the liberty to

regulate the manner by which the lay people can be included in the
catechetical work (Canon 26 of Laodiceea).
The priests were obliged to catechize the faithful of all ages
(The 10th Canon of the 7th Ecumenical Council was commending

the priests to read “the divine Scriptures to children and to

housewives, because they obtained the parish for this reason”19. TP PT

Through the 7th Canon of the Second Ecumenical Council and the

95th Canon of the sixth Ecumenical Council is set down the


listening to the Scriptures before the Baptism in Church.

Indubitably, the bishops of Tomis, who were defenders of the
Nicene truths of faith (see the example of Bretanion and his
successors), have known and applied these canonical norms, and
even if we do not have the proof of a catechetical school in Scythia
Minor, the Christian epigraphy proves the good knowledge of the
Holy Scripture as a result of the missionary activity, especially by

TP I. Barnea, Relaţiile provinciei Scythia Minor cu Asia Mică,, Siria şi Egiptul, in

“Pontica”, V, 1972, p. 255.

TP Gh. Remete, Contrbuţii la sudiul istoriei bisericeşti universale, I, Alba Iulia,

2001, p. 136.
TP DCO, II, p. 23.
the agency of the local ecclesiastical hierarchy, if we take into
account the canonical norms which forbid, under sanctions, the
clergy who belong to a certain ecclesiastical unit (bishops included)
to preach in other units which are not under their jurisdiction
without the accord of the hierarchy of those units. (For bishops –
the punishment was the suspension, the deposing or even the
defrocking – the 35th Apostolic Canon; 2nd, and 11th of Serdica; 20th

of the 6th Ecumenical Synod)20.


2. ΧΜΓ21, ΜΘ.22

Being originated in the New Testament23, the above mentioned TP PT

conventional phrases, frequently used in Histria, Tomis and

Callatis, in the Christian inscription from the 4th -6th centuries, P P P P

make the connection between the Tradition and the dogmatic

polemics from the 5th and 6th centuries. The greater parts of the

inscriptions which contain this abbreviation are, however, of Syrian

and Egyptian provenance, and they can be correlated with the
Christological disputes as well as with those regarding the Virgin
In the Christology of Nestorius, Christ has a single
πρόσωπον, but the unity between Christ’s natures is designated
by the term συνάφεια − connection, proximity
(ἀκολουθεία) − in a prosopon of the unity (πρόσωπον  τῆς 
ἑνώσεος, which does not belong exclusively either to the Logos or
to the man, it belongs to the compound24. TP PT

As in the case of the Trinity, the discussion can be reduced to

the relationship between nature (φύσις) and hypostasis. The

TP Ibidem, p. 20-26.

TP IGLR, 139-144, 187, 243, 316 B, 321, 323, 324, 332, 349.

TP IGLR, 74, 308, 309, 329, 331, 358, 385, 386.

TP Matthew 1, 18; 2, 11; 13, 55; = Mark 6, 3; Acts 1, 14: καὶ Μαριὰ τῆ μητρὶ 

τοῦ Ἰησοῦ.
TP A. Kniaziev, Maica Domnului în Biserica Ortodoxă, Bucureşti, 2000.
Pontica Christiana 225

conventional phrase ΧΜΓ posits the existence of two distinct

natures in a single hypostasis (see the conventional phrase from
Chalcedon), the unity of the natures being apofatically expressed in
the Chalcedon’s conventional phrase by four adverbs: ἀσυγχύτως
(unmingled), ἀτρέπτως (unchanged), ἀδιαιρέτως (undivided),
ἀχωρίστως (unseparated)25. TP PT

The synod from Ephesus, even if it did not define directly a

dogma on the Mother of the Lord, asserted the Marian title
Θεοτόκος, the unity of the natures being accomplished through
In the conventional phrase of the unity from Ephesus the term
συνάφεια was replaced by the term ἕνωσις.
After Ephesus and Chalcedon (451) the divine character of the
Lord’s Mother’s maternity was not brought up again into
discussion, the post-Chalcedon synodic movement being focused
on the problems regarding Monophysitism. However, in the context
of the hesitations with regards to the virginity in partu and post
partum, it has to be mentioned the attribute Aeiparthenos
introduced at the 5th Ecumenical Synod from Constantinople (553)

in the 2nd and the 6th Canons of the anathemas against the Three

Chapters (term which was confirmed at the Lateran Council in

64226. TP PT

Consequently, the conventional phrases ΧΜΓ and ΜΘ prove

the knowledge of Scripture in a period in which the Empire was
confronted with the Nestorian heresy. The 2nd Canon of the Synod

from Ephesus removes from the ecclesiastical hierarchy the bishop

who shared or the one who intends to share in the heresy of
Nestorius, while the following Canon reinstates the clergy who
were removed from the priesthood by Nestorius27. TP PT

TP V. Lossky, Teologia mistică a Bisericii Răsăritului, Bucureşti, 1998, p. 172-

TP Al. Kniaziev, op. cit., p. 86.

TP C. Dron, Canoanele, text şi interpretare, vol. II (Sinoadele ecumenice),

Bucureşti, 1935, p. 131-132.

The dogmatic definition of the Synod from Ephesus is
concentrated on the notion of hypostatical unity – explanatory in
this sense being the conventional phrase of St. Cyril μία  φύσις 
τοῦ θεοῦ λόγου σεσαρκώμενη.
In the conventional phrase from Ephesus the term
ἐνίποστας (which designates the existence in an alien hypostasis)
was conferring to the term “hypostasis” the meaning of
“substance”, designating the real unity of humanity with the
divinity in Jesus Christ.
The synonymy of the terms prosopon-ipostasis of the
Trinitarian theology is, also, reasserted, synonymity which includes
to a certain degree the term φύσις in St. Cyril’s theology.
In the light of the affirmations from Ephesus, Mary becomes
the Mother of the incarnate Logos and implicitly of the Body of
Christ in the Church28. TP PT

The conventional phrase ΧΜΓ (ΜΧΓ), which is specific to the

Syrian Christian epigraphy could make up one more proof on the
continuation of the relationships with Syria29, but we should not

forget that during the examined period, both Egypt and Syria were
contaminated by the radical and Eutichian Monophysitism30. TP PT

It results from the 1st Canon of the Third Ecumenical Synod


that a great number of bishops could not participate (this is not the
case with the Tomis bishop, Timothy, however) for ecclesiastical
reasons – being probably attracted either by the Nestorian heresy,
or by the Pelagius’ heresy which was preached by Celestius, or was
due to the political context, brought about by the barbarian attacks.
In the Christian terminology which deals with immortality, the
meanings of the heathen words are given a new significance,
enriched, starting from some given patterns: the New Testament’s
pattern until the 4th century, the canonical pattern of the 5th century,

TP Al Kniaziev, op. cit., p. 91.

TP The presence of a single bishop to the end of the 5th century could be related to

the Syrian and Egyptian model, a hypothesis sustained by epigraphic and

archaeological proofs.
TP I. Rămureanu, Istoria Bisericească Universală, vol. I, Bucureşti, 1990, p. 375.
Pontica Christiana 227
the institutional pattern, etc. In the Christian philosophy, the
language’s limits are sensed periodically, and they are overcome
periodically at the same time with the development of the faculty of
comprehending some abstract, meta-logical notions: self-emptying,
hypostasis, theandrism, etc. The Christian language with its
achieving-symbolical valences intended to create some thinking
habits, some intellectual configurations with a totalizing character,
attempt which was slowed down by the intervention of the Arian,
Nestorian, and Monophysite challengers, who were unable to tackle
the meta-ontological plan. As a matter of fact, the post-Nicene
heretical movements had the role to stop the process of abstrusing
Christ’s message, by the agency of a more and more abstract
The employment of the Christian language, and, as a matter of
fact, of any language, depends on a sub-adjacent logic structure.
The specific constructions express specific forms of life, historical
contexts. Thus, the language becomes a social, practical activity31. TP PT



- rezumat -

Studiul analizează din punct de vedere dogmatic inscripțiile 

ζωή αἰώνιος, ΧΜΓ, ΜΘ. 
Pe o inscripţie din secolele V-VI descoperită la Callatis se
poate citi formula ζωῆς αἰωνίου ἀπολαύσε[ω]ς = în nădejdea
învierii şi a fericirii vieţii veşnice. Speranţa învierii este atestată
epigrafic şi în formula σταυρὸς  θανάτου  καὶ 
ἀναστάσεως gravată pe un bloc de marmură descoperit în
apropiere de Adamclisi şi datat în secolele V-VI. Ieşirea din
întunericul morţii şi intrarea deplină în lumina vieţii veşnice devine

TP PT G. Lăzăroiu, Gândire, limbaj, realitate, Bucureşti, 1999, p. 22.
posibilă prin intermediul sacrificiului şi învierii christice. Este o
înviere care trebuie înţeleasă colectiv şi care este corelată cu
Parousia, o înviere care dă istoriei comunităţii creştine un sens cu
totul nou.
De sorginte neotestamentară, formulele ΧΜΓ,  ΜΘ, utilizate
frecvent la Histria, Tomis şi Callatis, în inscripţiile creştine din
secolele IV-VI, fac legătura dintre Tradiţie şi polemica dogmatică
din secolele V-VI. Majoritatea inscripţiilor care cuprind această
abreviere sunt însă de provenienţă siriană şi egipteană, şi pot fi
corelate cu disputele christologice şi cele privitoare la Fecioara
Formulele ΧΜΓ şi ΜΘ demonstrează cunoaşterea Scripturii,
într-o perioadă în care Imperiul se confrunta cu erezia nestoriană. 
Pontica Christiana 229



by Claudiu Cotan

In the first centuries of Christianity, the feminine monasticism

occupied a secondary aspect as far as the asceticism and the history
of monachism in general is concerned. We may say that in the
ancient Christianity the monasticism is pre-eminently of masculine
structure. The organizing of monasticism by Pachomius in Egypt
and the display of the coenobitic monasticism have contributed to
the spreading of the feminine monasticism both in Orient and
Occident, at the beginning, particularly, as an aristocratic
phenomenon. The feminine monasticism emerges in cities as
Constantinople where St. John Chrysostom advises spiritually the
community of Olympias1, or Rome where Blessed Hieronymus

organizes the group of pious women gathered in Marcela’s house,

on the Aventio street, and, also, in Bethlehem, where with the help
of Paula and of her daughter Eustachia, he erected a monastery for
monks and another one for women. The monastic feminine
experience coordinated by St. John Chrysostom and Olympias
constituted a distinct example for the future of the feminine
monasticism. Theodoret of Cyr in the Ecclesiastical History
dedicates the last chapter to the feminine ascetical experience,
pointing out that the women are able to display the same piety and
religious fervor as the men. Certainly, Theodoret of Cyr was
inspired by the Egeria’s Itinerary2 and by the Lausiac History of

TPTranslated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă

TPSee: Gilbert Dagron, Les moines et la ville. Le monachisme à Constantinople

jusqu’au concile de Chalcédoine (451), in “Travaux et Mémoires”, 1970, pp.


TPSee: Marin Branişte, Însemnările de călătorie ale pelerinei Egeria (sec. IV), in

“Mitropolia Olteniei”, XXXIV (1982), 4-6.

Palladius3, in the elaborating of his work. In these historical

documents there is an allusion to the Roman aristocrats Paula and

Melanie, who were acting in Palestine, and to Olympias and the
feminine community of Constantinople. True, these aristocratic
women who were dedicated to asceticism had St. Thecla as their
first model, but closer to their time was St. Macrina whose life,
eulogistically presented by St. Gregory of Nyssa, became the first
biography of a Christian female and “the manifesto of the feminine
monasticism”4. The spiritual activities of these aristocratic women

are similar, especially those of Olympias at Constantinople and of

Paula at Bethlehem. They established their ascetical community
next to the church, Olympias as an extension of St. Sophia’s
church, and Paula at the church of the Nativity of our Lord at
Bethlehem. Near Olympias were living 250 women
(konbikonlariai), information which appears at Theodoret of Cyr,
also. In the ascetical community of Constantinople are known
Elisanthia, Martyria and Palladia, as those closest to deaconess
Olympias. Some historians and patrology scholars opine that
Olympias’s monastery was “a real school of the deaconesses”5. TP PT

The pilgrimages to the Holy Lands are true exercises in spiritual

living, and the patristic notes that were preserved recorded with
great accuracy the way of living and spiritual spending of the
Christians at the end of the 4th century6.

TP Paladie, Istoria lausiacă (Lavsaicon), translation, forward and remarks by

Dumitru Stăniloae, Bucureşti, 2007.

TPRamón Teja, Mar Marcos, Modelos de ascetismo femenino aristocrático en la

época de Juan Crisóstomo: Constantinopla y Palestina, in “Giovanni


Crisostomo. Oriente e Occidente tra IV e V secolo. XXXIII Incontro di studiosi

dell’antichità cristiana. Roma, 6-8 maggio, 2004”, Institutum Patristicum
Augustinianum, Roma, 2005, p. 632.
TPIbidem, p. 623.

TP Daniel Benga, “Pelegrinatio” la Muntele Sinai în Antichitatea creştină, in

“Anuarul Facultăţii de Teologie Ortodoxă din Bucureşti” (=AFTB), V (2005);

Idem, Pregătirea pentru Botez şi botezul catehumenilor în Ierusalim, după
descrierea pelerinei Egeria şi după catehezele mistagogice ale Sfântului Chiril,
AFTB, I (2001), p. 257-288.
Pontica Christiana 231
Similar to the monastery built by Olympias, where the only
male allowed to enter the buildings was the spiritual adviser, St.
John Chrysostom, was the monastery erected by St. Paula at
Bethlehem under the spiritual coordination of Blessed Hieronymus.
Paula’s community was made up of noble women, but it had
women who belonged to other social conditions, also. In these
communities the singing of Psalms and the manual labor were of
great consequence. An important role in the organizing of the
female monasticism was incumbent on St. John Chrysostom. Thus,
we conclude that the feminine monasticism was and still is being of
great consequence in the life of the Church7. In accordance with

Elena Giannarelli, there are remarked three Christian models

embodied in the religious life of the Christian women. The virgin
woman who is represented by St. Macrina, the widow woman,
represented by St. Melanie, and the mother woman, represented by
St. Monica, Blessed Augustine’s mother8. All these models

represent directions of the manifestation of the female monasticism.

If St. John Chrysostom’s involvement in the feminine
monasticism’s organizing is well known particularly from his
correspondence with Olympias while he was in exile9, and from the TP PT

. See: E. Giannarelli, La tipologia feminile nella biografia e nell’aujtobiografia

cristiana del IV secolo, Roma, 1980; M. Carpinello, Libere donne de Dio Figure
femminili nei primi secoli cristiani, Milan, 1997.
TPCristian Bădiliţă, Figures et biographies de femmes aux IV et V siècles, in vol.

“Giovanni Crisostomo...”, p. 627.

TPFrom St. John Chrysostom there were preserved 236 letters addressed to more

than 100 individuals. Among them, 17 are distinguished, as being the most
artistic and as size, the most ample, three of them (VII, VIII, IX), being real
treatises of theology and “moral” life. All of the 17 letters are addressed to
“Olympias, the deaconess”. He name appears in some of the Holy Fathers’
writings as Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostom.
About the friendship between St. John Chrysostom and Olympias speaks, also,
Palladius, bishop of Helenopolis, a monk who was a follower of Origen,
banished by Theophilus of Alexandria from the Egypt’s desert, and who took
refuge in Constantinople. He left here and arrived at Rome where he intercedes
for St. John Chrysostom. Apprehended in 406, he is exiled in South Egypt where
he writes his famous Dialogue to defend St. John Chrysostom’s virtues and to
rehabilitate his memory, in which the deaconess Olympias is mentioned with
theological references on the spiritual life lived by the women
devoted to asceticism, on St. John Cassian’s activity in this
direction and his straight theological references to this matter, very
few things are known. In spite of this, we know that St. John
Cassian founded the Occidental monasticism both for males and for
females, by establishing the two monasteries of Marseille, where he
carried out the principles and the Canons of the Eastern
monasticism10. TP PT

The image of the virtuous woman is often present in the

biblical exegesis of St. John Chrysostom starting with the very holy

distinct consideration (chapter XVII). Based on Palladius’ information, in the

middle of the 5th century The Life of this righteous mother was written.

Information on the deaconisses’ activity are recounted in the Apostolic

Constitutions, III, 15, VIII, 19-20, where the deaconisses are ordained for the
catechization of the baptism of women. At the end of the 4th century a series of

rich aristocratic women will renounce their riches and families to devote
themselves to the founding and leading of the feminine ascetical communities.
St. Macrina founded such a community on her family of Cappadocia’s property,
and through her ascetical activity can be placed among the Cappadocian Fathers.
Melanie the Roman spiritually advised by Rufinus founds a monastery for nuns
on the Mount of Olives, next to the monastery for monks, led by Rufinus (375).
St. Melanie the Roman played a decisive role in the life of Evagrius Ponticus,
whom she advised to embrace monasticism to leave for Egypt. She led, also, to
monachism her niece, Melanie the Younger, who founded a monastery in
Jerusalem. St. Paula, also, participates in the erecting of a monastery for nuns in
Born before 365, Olympias inherited a huge wealth, but he received a choice
religious education from Theodosia, who was the biological sister of bishop
Amphilochius of Iconium, and the cousin of St. Gregory the Theologian.
Theodosia housed St. Gregory the Theologian in Constantinople, in 378, when as
bishop, he started the fighting against Aryanism. It would seem that Theodosia
was married to one of Olympias’s older brother, who died an untimely death.
(see: Sfântul Ioan Gură de Aur, Cuvioasa Olympias diaconiţa: o viaţă, o
prietenie, o corespondenţă, translation, remarks, introductory study by I. I. Ică
jr., Sibiu, 1997 – Introductory study).
TP Ionuţ Tudorie, Saint Jean Cassian et son pelerinage a Bethlehem (382-385), in

“Romanian Principalities and the Holy Places along the Century”, Ed. Sofia,
Bucureşti, 2007, p. 203-217.
Pontica Christiana 233
Virgin Mary . Otherwise, St. John Chrysostom by his whole

activity is an example of asceticism, of prayer and of hierarchical

service, he being himself a model for the Christian world12. In TP PT

Commentaries to the Epistle to Ephesians (homily XIII), St. John

Chrysostom presents exactly the asceticism of the young aristocrat
females who renounce this world’s goods to completely devote
themselves to serve both Christ and men: “Maidens who had not
turned twenty years of age; maidens who were spending their time
in drawing rooms and in shade, drawing rooms full of spices, who
were sleeping on new and delicate bed linens, as they were delicate
human beings; maidens who because of the continuous care
became sickly, who all day did not have any other concern than to
beautify themselves, to dress with clothes embroidered with gold,
and to enjoy the greatest voluptuousness; maidens who did not help
even themselves with anything, since they had a lot of attendants
ready to help them; maidens who had much finer and much softer
clothes than the body, with their fine shirts continuously ornate
with roses and other sweet-smelling flowers; well, behold, all of a
sudden, such virgins kindled by Christ’s fire, laying aside all the
slothfulness and their previous frivolous life, forgetting about
caressing as well as about their tender age, as much as some brave
fighters, undressing themselves of those caressing, have thrown
themselves courageously in the fight against the devil... I myself
have heard some of these delicate maidens, who got accustomed so
much with such a harsh life as to dress their bodies with clothes
made of the harshest hair, to walk barefooted and to sleep on
bedding made of branches of tree; and what is much more than
these, that they keep vigil at night and no longer use spices or
anything else of the previous time, and even their head is almost
neglected, by plaiting their hair in a plain manner and without airs,

TP José Cebrián Cebrián, Javier Gil Lascorz, Ramón Panach Rosat, Alicia Soler

Merenciano, La figura de la mujer en las "Homilías sobre San Mateo" de Juan


Crisóstomo, in vol. “Giovanni Crisostomo …”, pp. 335-353.


TP See: J. N. D. Kelly, Golden Month, the Story of John Chrysostom – Ascetic,

Preacher, Bishop, New York, 1995; See: Wendy Mayer, Paulin Allen, John
Chrysostom, London, 2000.
only enough to avoid falling in ugliness. Their only meal is the
supper, being composed not only of greengrocery or bread, but of
flat cake, seeds, chick pea, olives and figs; finally, a continuous
extreme poverty and occupations much harder than the ones of the
house attendants. And why? Because they take care of the sick,
carry the beds of the sick, wash their feet, and many of them cook.
Behold how many things can be carried out by the fire and the love
of Christ”13. St. John Chrysostom’s care for the young virgins, for

their spiritual ascent goes through all of his moral works. The
female monasticism has its role and it must be built and guarded
from trials: “The maidens must not travel a lot and not in excess;
they are not allowed to utter vain words, words without meaning; it
is not fit for them to know dishonor and flattering not even in name.
For this reason they need a very good protection and a lot of help.
The enemy of holiness, the devil, always attacks, and especially
attacks them and waits close to them ready to devour them (I Peter
5: 8), if they somehow would slip and fall. Besides the devil, the
men, many men plot against them; and the maidens have to carry a
double struggle: they are attacked from without, and are annoyed
from within, also”14. TP PT

If at St. John Chrysostom the care for the feminine

monasticism is obvious, by expounding it and offering spiritual
advices for the mental building of the maidens, we can assert that
St. John Cassian, through establishing the monastery for nuns of
Marseille, as well as through his theological work, particularly the
one dedicated to monastic life, shows his preoccupation for the
spiritual life of monks and nuns, without making a distinction
between the advices and directions given to the monks or nuns,
considering, probably, that these are valid both for the masculine
and feminine monasticism. St. John Cassian knows very well the

TP Ioan Gură de Aur, Comentarii la Epistola către Efeseni, Omilia XIII, pp. 133-

TP Idem, Tratat despre preoţie, III, 13, in vol. “Despre preoţie”, Bucureşti, 1987,

pp. 83-84.
Pontica Christiana 235
monastic life , even from his native places and he learned in his

family what means to be pious16. His culture is justified by an


education received in the urban centers of Histria, Tomis or Callatis

where, together with his friend Germanus came into contact with
the universal didactic curriculum of his time. Due to the
geographical and historical conjuncture, Cassian knows the Latin
language spoken by the people as well as the Greek language used
in the Pontic cities17. Interestingly enough, in the pilgrimage carried

on with Germanus, he is accompanied, also, by one of his sisters.

This pilgrimage contains Bethlehem, Skete, Kelia, and the desert of
Nitria, as well as Constantinople, Rome, and, after Marseille in
Gaul, almost the entire Mediterranean basin. As it seems, in
Bethlehem they have not known the renowned monastery
established there by Blessed Hieronymus in 386. In Bethlehem,
Palladius spends one year, also, probably in the same monastery
where St. John Cassian had arrived. It is worthy of noticing that
after the experience acquired in seven years spent among the monks
of Egypt, St. John Cassian returns to Palestine in 392 where he
certainly heard of the feminine ascetical community founded by
Blessed Hieronymus and Paula. I consider that he preserved this
example of monastic community, took it over, and applied it to
Marseille, where he erected the monastery for nuns led by his sister.
In Constantinople, where he arrives probably in the year 400,
he becomes an intimate of St. John Chrysostom, participating in the
great hierarch’s drama, the one who ordained him a deacon.
Together with Theotim I of Tomis, he is a defender of the bishop of

TP Emilian Popescu, Sfântul Ioan Cassian, viaţa şi învăţătura lui, in coll.

“Teologie şi Spiritualitate”, nr. 15, Iaşi, 2002; Idem, Monahismul timpuriu pe

teritoriul României, in “Analele ştiintifice ale Universitatii Al. I. Cuza din Iaşi”,
1994, pp. 95-110; Ioan Rămureanu, Mişcarea audienilor în Dacia Pontică şi
nord-dunăreană (sec. IV-V), in “Biserica Ortodoxă Română”, XCVI (1978), 9-
10, pp. 1052-1060.
TP See: D. A. Menager, La patrie de Cassian, in “Echos d’Orient”, 123/1921, pp.

330-358; Henri-Irénée Marou, La patrie de Jean Cassian, in “Orientalia Cristiana

Periodica”, nr. 2/1947, pp. 588-596.
TP Ionuţ Alexandru Tudosie, Sfântul Ioan Cassian şi pelerinajul său la Betleem

(382-385), in “Studii Teologice”, LIX (2007), 2, p. 72.

Constantinople, and places Scythia Minor in the middle of some
strong theological and historical disturbances18. The two Scythian

theologians are together defenders of St. John Chrysostom in his

controversies with Theofil of Alexandria and the imperial court as
well as sustainers of Origen’s theology in its Orthodoxy’s limits19. TP PT

TP Bishop Theotim I of Tomis, mentioned in Acta Sanctorum on April 20, was

“ethnically a Scythian”, according to the information offered by Sozomen and

was known for the piety and the holiness of his life. Blessed Hieronymus in his
work De viris illustribus confesses that Theotim was shepherding in Tomis,
having a fruitful patristic-literary activity and that he published in the form of a
dialogue and in the style of old eloquence short and “comatic” works. Writing in
Greek language, he was addressing his faithful of Tomis who were mostly
Greeks. These works had particularly a moralizing content. From St. John of
Damascus’ work, Sacra Parallela, in which are preserved short fragments of
Theotim’s writings, we learn that he wrote a homily with regards to our Savior’s
words: “But when you will bring your gift to the altar...” having a moralizing
character. It seems that Theotim authored a work Special writing addressed to
the monks, he himself being a monk, and as a bishop, he had under his
supervision monasteries from Scythia, where St. John Cassian and Germanus
probably passed by. Considering the way by which he defends St. John
Chrysostom and the fact that in Sacra Parallela, St. John of Damascus places
him among the great Cappadocians, we have to conclude that St. Theotim was a
good theologian and was knowledgeable of Origen and his works. Among St.
John Chrysostom’s defenders from the Council of the Oak, only Theotim and his
plea are presented, which proves that he was enjoying much authority among the
bishops. Theotim was probably carrying in his bag Philokalia of Origen’s works,
which was circulated at the time and was much appreciated. Theotim’s friendship
with St. John Chrysostom was probably due to their affinities and the missionary
work undertaken by the bishop of Tomis at the Lower Danube, missionary work
that was encouraged by the archbishop of Constantinople.
TP Origen had been condemned in 232 by Demetrius of Alexandria, but Theotim

did not take into account this thing. The quarrel between Hieronymus and
Rufinus on the theology of Origen and its condemnation of Epiphanius created
the premises for Origen’s condemnation. It is probable that Theotim appreciated
Origen as much as the great theologian of Alexandria was appreciated by St.
Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian who had collected and had published
the first philokalia with texts on perfection from Origen’s works. For St. John
Cassian as well as for the bishop Theotim, St. John Chrysostom was representing
the personification of Orthodoxy. The theology of Origen was condemned by
men as Theofil of Alexandria, Hieronymus and Epiphanius, but it was defended
by John of Jerusalem, Rufinus, Didymus the Blind, Evagrius Ponticus and others
Pontica Christiana 237
But they are, also, the defenders of the monastic life, which they
certainly know from Scythia, where the monks, who were Audius’
disciples, were still active20.TP PT

After his settling in West, St. John Cassian, at the request of

some friend hierarchs, creates two reference works on the monastic
life: De institutis cenobiorum et de octo principalium vitiorum
remediis, and Conlationes Sanctorum Patrum XXIV, as well as a
dogmatic work, De incarnatione Domini contra Nestorium. Libri
VII21. In the two works dedicated to monasticism, he takes over the

Egyptian ascetic life elements, and places them in the climate and
the social environment of his time. Cassian is representing a new
type of monasticism. He finds out that the Christian life of his time
was degraded, and states that its remedy can be realized through
monastic life. Thus Cassian transfers to the occidental world
Pachomius’ conception with regards to an organized monachism
and considers his contemporaries, Hieronymus, Augustine, and
Martin of Tours to be mediocre ascetics. In his works Cassian starts
from the external posture of the monk and touches on the spiritual

(see: I. G. Coman, Însemnări asupra lui Theotim de Tomis, in “Glasul Bisericii”

(=GB), XVI (1957), 1, p. 47; Ilie Georgescu, Viaţa creştină în vechiul Tomis, in
“Mitropolia Moldovei şi Sucevei”, XXXVIII (1962), 1-2, p. 25.
TP The monasticism penetrates in Scythia Minor through the monk Audius exiled

here by the Emperor Constantine II. After passing the Danube, he went further to
Goths, where he developed a fruitful missionary work and succeeded in
establishing numerous many monasteries. Audius was known for his strictness
and his missionary zeal, being a harsh critic of the disorder in Church. His
disciples were organized in a sect, known as the anthropomorphic disciples of
Audius. St. Epiphanius manifests a certain sympathy towards these austere
monks whom he considers to be more schismatic than heretic. (Pr. Mircea
Nişcoveanu, Contribuţia Sfântului Ioan Cassian la cunoaşterea monahismului
din secolele IV-V, în lumina ecumenismului creştin, GB, XXXI (1972), 5-6, p.
TP The work The Incarnation of the Lord, against Nestorius, elaborated at the

request of Leo, the future pope, defends the veneration of the Mother of the Lord.
Cassian considers Nestorius’ heresy as a resurgence of Pelagianism (see: Claudio
Moreschini, Enrico Norelli, Istoria literaturii creştine vechi greceşti şi latine,
vol. II, t. 2 (De la Conciliul de la Niceea la începuturile Evului Mediu),
translation by Hanibal Stănciulescu, Ed. Polirom, Bucureşti, 2004, p. 88).
perfection. He does not divide his advices in advices addressed to
the monks and advices dedicated to the nuns; however, his advices
concern the ascetic life as a whole and the consummation of man.
Cassian writes his vast work in the year 419-426 between the walls
of the two monasteries which have been erected by him at
Marseille, of which the one for nuns was led by his sister. It is
possible for him to have been influenced in building the monastery
for nuns by the examples set by other Fathers of the Church: St.
John Chrysostom, Blessed Hieronymus, and Rufinus who, in the
company of some women of great moral and spiritual behavior, laid
the foundations of a feminine monasticism which, unlike others, is
brought by Cassian from Orient to Occident. If Blessed
Hieronymus and Rufinus make their way to Palestine, where they
establish monasteries for nuns, Cassian takes the opposite road,
establishing a monastery for nuns in Gaul, which is coordinated by
him as the spiritual Father, most certainly, imitating the model
created by St. John Chrysostom.
Palladius mentions many times the monasteries for nuns from
the desert of Egypt in his known work, The lausiac history: “There
was, also, a monastery for nuns, inhabited by four hundred of nuns,
having the same order, the same life, being different from others
only through clothing. And the women were found beyond the river,
and the ones for men, on the opposite shore”22. Palladius reminds,

also, of the known Melanie the Elder: “Thrice blessed Melanie was
ethnically speaking either Spanish or Roman. She was the daughter
of a consul, Marcelinus, and the wife of a husband with a
distinguished service, whom I do not know well. Becoming a widow
when she was twenty-two years old, she was worthy of God’s love.
And without having said anything – since she would have been
hampered – during the reign of Valens, who was the then Emperor,
she took care to have a tutor appointed for her son, and taking all
of her goods and loading them into a sailing vessel, she leaves for
Alexandria, accompanied only by some attendants and a few female
attendants. After selling and exchanging her goods in gold coins in

TP PT Paladie, op.cit., p. 74.
Pontica Christiana 239
Alexandria, she entered the Nitria’s mountain, meeting the fathers
who were around Pamvo and Arsenios, Serapion the Great and
Pafnutios the Hermit and Isadore, the bishop confessor of
Ermopolis, and Dioscorus. And she stayed at them one half of a
year, wandering through the wilderness and visiting all the
saints”23. TP PT

In the same way are presented the two disciples of Olympias,

Candida and Ghelasia: “Olympias was followed, looking at her as
to a mirror, by Candida, the general Trojan’s daughter. She lived
with diligence, and attained to the peak of piety, honoring the
churches and the bishops. She catechized her own daughter and
presented Christ with her as a virgin or as a gift of her faith... In
her ardor, she kept close to her the very righteous mother Ghelasia,
who was bearing with piety the yoke of virginity”24. Having been

contemporaneous with St. John Cassian, certainly the things

experienced and seen by Palladius in Egypt and Palestine, have
been known by John Cassian, also; this is proved once more by the
spiritual experience acquired by the latter one in the two holy
places. It was this experience which helped him to form an image
on a model of monastic life which is common to both men and
women who have as the single goal their consummation. He
practiced this model in Marseille where he erected the two
monasteries together with his sister. By his accomplishments, he
remained forever in the conscience of the universal monasticism.

TP PT Ibidem, p. 98.
TP PT Ibidem, p. 112.

- rezumat -

Monahismul feminin apare în oraşe mari precum

Constantinopolul, unde Sfântul Ioan Gură de Aur îndrumă
duhovniceşte comunitatea Olimpiadei, sau Roma, unde Fr. Ieronim
organizează grupul femeilor pioase adunate în casa Marcelei, pe
Aventio, dar şi la Betleem, unde cu ajutorul Paulei şi a fiicei sale
Eustachia a construit o mănăstire de călugări şi alta pentru femei.
Teodoret de Cir s-a inspirat în alcătuirea lucrării sale Istoria
bisericească din Itinerariul Egeriei şi Istoria lausiacă a lui Paladie.
În aceste documente istorice se face referire la aristocratele romane
Paula şi Melania, ce activau în Palestina, şi la Olimpiada şi
comunitatea feminină din Constantinopl. Este adevărat că aceste
aristocrate dedicate ascetismului aveau ca model mai întâi pe Sfânta
Tecla, dar mai apropiat de vremea lor pe Sfânta Macrina a cărei
viaţă, prezentată elogios de Sfântul Grigore de Nyssa, a devenit
prima biografie creştină a unei femei cu o contribuţie specială la
evoluţia ascetismului feminin. Activităţile duhovniceşti ale acestor
femei aristocratice sunt asemănătoare, mai ales cele ale Olimpiadei
la Constantinopol şi Paulei la Bethleem. Şi-au instalat comunitatea
ascetică lângă biserică, Olimpiada într-o prelungire a bisericii
Sfânta Sofia, iar Paula la biserica Naşterii Domnului din Bethleem.
Dacă Sfântul Ioan Gură de Aur în abordarea sa teologică se ocupă
şi de oferirea îndrumării duhovniceşti comunităţii monahale
formate în jurul Olimpiadei, cu siguranţă o asemenea preocupare a
avut-o şi Sfântul Ioan Cassian, călăuzitorul duhovicesc al al
mănăstirii de călugăriţe din Marsillia condusă de sora sa.
Pontica Christiana 241


(the 4th century A.D.)

- an issue of historic geography* - TP PT

by Ionuţ Holubeanu

Many of the documents referring to the lives of the saints are

crammed with erroneous historic information, which raised
problems to the researchers who kept busy with studying them.
There are multiple things that brought about this situation.
Sometimes we may deal with late insertions in the ancient Christian
documents; at other times, the erroneous historic information is due
to the old distortion, during the process of copying the old
manuscripts of the proper name or of the toponym that are
mentioned in documents; yet, in other cases, because of the lack of
authentic information, the lives of some saints have been redacted
late, following the pattern of other contemporary saints. These are
just some of the causes which brought about the distortion of the
historic truth for many of the Christian saints of the earliest Church.
But the scholars who are concerned about the Christian
hagiography made some progress in this realm, by elucidating some
of the historic untruths that penetrated into the lives of the saints
throughout the centuries.
This study is dedicated to the holy Martyr Bishop Aetherius of
Cherson. We will have in view first the problem of his martyrdom’s
context, and particularly of the place in which he laid down his life
for Christ. We deem that this scientific step is necessary because, in
the Romanian ecclesial historiography, the place where this holy
martyr has suffered torture was expounded differently by some
research workers.
The richest information about the holy Bishop and Martyr
Aetherius are found in the Synaxarium Ecclesiae

TP PT Translated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă
Constantinopolitanae, on the day of 7 or 6 March. They are
founded on a tradition of the Church of Jerusalem. In accordance
with this tradition, Bishop Hermon of Jerusalem (300-314) has sent
some Christian hierarchs to the regions of Pontus Euxinus – at
Chersones and in Scythia – at the beginning of the 4th century: P P

Basilevs and Ephraim, Evghenios, Agathodoros, Kapiton, Elpidios

and Aetherius. All of them ended their lives in the riverine regions
of the Black Sea as confessors of the faith in Christ1. TP PT

About the last one of these hierarchs, some Romanian

researchers maintained that he suffered his martyrdom at the Lower
Danube, by being drowned by Goths in the Danube River. The one
who put forward this theory was the researcher Constantin
Erbiceanu (+1899). In a vast study on the Bishop Ulfilas of the
Goths, he stopped briefly on the case of Bishop Aetherius of
Cherson. Erbiceanu cites a passage of the Greek Synaxarium of St.
Nicodemus the Hagiorite (the seventh day), maintaining that: “[St.
Aetherius] after going ... to Byzantium to give thanks to the
Emperor [Constantine the Great], at his return through today’s
Dobruja, by land, was caught by the barbarians and was thrown by
the unbelievers in the Danube River, on the 7th day of this month

[March] (ἐρρίφθη  ἀπὸ  τοὺς  ἀπίστους  εἰς  τὸν  ποταμόν 

Δούναβιν  κατὰ  τὴν  ἕκτην  τοῦ  παρόντος  Μηνός). This
barbarian nation – kept maintaining C. Erbiceanu – are the Goths,
who at the time were occupying both the Cherson and the Trajan
Dacia in which they were spread as far as the Danube. On the side
beyond the Olt River it was the Gepids who had settled. A part of
them went to Scythia Minor (Dobruja) where they caught Aetherius
on the bank of the Danube River, [who], willing to pass to Trajan
Dacia, was drowned”2. TP PT

PT Ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae (=Syn.Eccl.Const.), in
“Propylaeum ad Acta Sanctorum Novembris”, opera et studio Hippolyti
Delehaye, Bruxellis, 1902, col. 513-518.
TP Constantin Erbiceanu, Ulfila, viaţa şi doctrina sa, in “Biserica Ortodoxă

Română” (=BOR), XXII (1898-1899), nr. 3, p. 290.

Pontica Christiana 243
It ensues from Constantin Erbiceanu’s passage that the Bishop
of Cherson was coming back from Constantinople to his residence
city by land, and not by sea, wandering through the Roman-
Byzantine provinces from the west of the Black Sea. St. Aetherius
would have been caught by Gepids, a Gothic tribe, exactly on the
province Scythia Minor’s territory, a territory found between the
Danube and the Sea, today’s Dobruja. By his manner of expression,
Erbiceanu gives the impression that Aetherius was intending to go
over the Danube River not at the point which is found at the south
of Bessarabia, by which he could have arrived at Cherson, but
towards Wallachia, in order for him to arrive to the Dacian
territories which were occupied by the Romans during the emperor
Trajan (98-117)3. Such an intention would reveal a missionary goal.

But it is a simple presumption of the Romanian researcher, since it

makes no reference to any document.
Constantin Erbiceanu’s point of view was taken over later by
another Romanian researcher, Ene Branişte. In two studies
dedicated to the Christian martyrs from the Scythia Minor’s
territory (Dobruja), he reminds us of the case of Bishop Martyr
Aetherius. Based on a Menaion published in the Romanian
language4, Branişte asserts that the Bishop Aetherius, “after

preaching over there [at Cherson], wanting to go to the emperor

from Constantinople, was caught by pagans and thrown in the
Danube River, therefore being martyred on the Dobruja’s bank of
the Danube River, on the seventh day of March”5. The main TP PT

difference between Erbiceanu and Branişte consists of the fact that

the first one asserts that the Bishop of Cherson was coming back


TPIt is the matter of the Menaion in the Romanian language (Minei), the month of

March, the 7th day, ed. IV, Bucureşti, 1967, pp. 48-49.

TPEne Branişte, Martiri şi sfinţi pe pământul Dobrogei de azi, in vol. “De la

Dunăre la Mare. Mărturii istorice şi monumente de artă creştină2” (=DDM), P P

Galaţi, 1979, p. 39, nr. 6; Idem, Sfinţi mărturisitori şi martiri cinstiţi de

strămoşii noştri pe pământul românesc dintre Dunăre şi Mare, în lumina
mărturiilor istorice, epigrafice şi arheologice, in vol. “Arhiepiscopia
Tomisului şi Dunării de Jos în trecut şi astăzi” (=ATDJ), Galaţi, 1981, p. 121.
from Constantinople, while the second one asserts that he was
going to that city. However, the place of Aetherius’ catching is the
same: Scythia Minor. The place and the manner of his murder by
the pagan barbarians are, also, the same: he was drowned in the
Danube River6. TP PT

The last researcher who embraced the hypothesis of bishop

Aetherius being drowned in the Danube River by the barbarians is
the researcher Nechita Runcan. In one of his recent books, he
reminds us of the points of view of his predecessors, without
making them complete, but without combating them, also. He
especially follows on the heels of the presumption spread abroad by
C. Erbiceanu in accordance with which Aetherius would have died
being murdered by the Goths while he was about to go over the
Danube River to Dacia that was occupied by the Emperor Trajan7. TP PT

No other Romanian researcher, who kept either expressly or

tangentially busy with the Christian martyrs from the Lower
Danube during the great persecutions8, reminds of the theory spread

TPIn the second study on the Christian martyrs from the place which is between

the Danube and the Sea, E. Branişte makes, however, some big confusions. In
identifying Aetherius who was murdered by the barbarians with the Aetherius
who participated in the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381), he
maintains that this one was, in fact, Bishop of Tomis, and not of Chersonesos.
But his opinion is totally wrong, since the see of Tomis was represented at the
Second Ecumenical Council of 381 by Bishop Gerontius. See E. Branişte, op.cit.,
p. 121.
TPNechita Runcan, Două milenii de viaţă creştină neîntreruptă în Dobrogea,

Constanţa, 2003, p. 68.

TPAmong those who kept busy with the Christian martyrs from the Lower Danube

during the great persecutions, the following are making themselves conspicuous:
Vasile Pârvan, Contribuţii epigrafice la istoria creştinismului daco-roman,
Bucureşti, 1911; Radu Vulpe, Histoire ancienne de la Dobroudja, Bucarest,
1938; Gheorghe I. Moisescu, Ştefan Lupşa, Alexandru Filipaşcu, Istoria Bisericii
Române, vol. I, Bucureşti, 1957; Niculae Şerbănescu, 1600 de ani de la prima
mărturie documentară despre existenţa Episcopiei Tomisului, BOR, LXXXVII
(1969), 9-10, 966-1026; idem, Pătrunderea şi dezvoltarea creştinismului în
Scythia Minor, DDM, p. 23-33; Epifanie Norocel, Pagini din istoria veche a
creştinismului la români, Buzău, 1986; Ioan Rămureanu, Sfinţi şi Martiri la
Tomis-Constanţa, BOR, XCII (1974), 7-8, p. 975-1011; idem, Noi consideraţii
privind pătrunderea creştinismului la traco-daco-geţi, in “Ortodoxia”, XXVI
Pontica Christiana 245
abroad by Constantin Erbiceanu concerning the place where bishop
Aetherius was tortured. This is so, even if some of them employed,
and even quoted Ene Branişte’s studies, the one who looked like
Erbiceanu’s follower when he dealt with some other martyrs of
Scythia Minor9. Among all of the Romanian researchers, only

Vasile Pârvan10 and Ioan Rămureanu11 mention in their studies the


name of Bishop Aetherius, as a participant in the Second

Ecumenical Council, together with the Bishop Gerontius of Tomis.
The very fact that all of them, as well as their followers, have
ignored Erbiceanu’s assertions in accordance with which the holy
Martyr Bishop Aetherius had died by being drowned in the Danube
River, should be looked at as a tacit disapproval of this
hypothesis12. TP PT

(1974), 1, p. 164-178; Emilian Popescu, Creştinismul pe teritoriul României

până în secolul al VII-lea, în lumina noilor cercetări, in “Mitropolia Banatului”,
XXXVII (1987), 4, p. 34-49 (= Idem, Christianitas daco-romana, Bucureşti,
1994, p. 74-91); idem, Martiri şi sfinţi în Dobrogea, (I), in “Studii Teologice”,
XLI (1989), 3, p. 39-65; Mircea Păcurariu, Viaţa creştină şi organizarea
bisericească în ţinuturile Tomisului şi Dunării de Jos de la începuturi până
în anul 1864, ATDJ, p. 11-30; idem, Istoria Bisericii Ortodoxe Române, vol. I,
Bucureşti, 1991; idem, Sfinţii daco-romani şi români, Iaşi, 1994; Nelu Zugravu,
Câteva consideraţii privind martirii din Scythia Minor, in “Memoria
Antiqvitatis”, XX, 1995, p. 239-247; idem, Geneza creştinismului popular al
românilor, Bucureşti, 1997; Adrian Rădulescu, Ion Bitoleanu, Istoria Dobrogei,
Constanţa, 1998; Virgil Lungu, Creştinismul în Scythia Minor în contextul vest-
pontic, Sibiu-Constanţa, 2000; Victor H. Baumann, Mărturii ale persecuţiilor
religioase din zona Dunării de Jos în primele secole ale erei creştine, in vol.
“Izvoarele creştinismului românesc” (=ICR) Constanta, 2003, p. 99-113; idem,
Sângele martirilor, Constanţa, 2004. P

See also Em. Popescu’s case, Creştinismul..., p. 41, note 25 (=Idem,

Christianitas..., p. 81, note 25) who was familiar with and quoted E. Branişte’s
study Martiri si sfinţi pe pământul Dobrogei de azi.
TP V. Pârvan, op. cit., p. 71.

TP I. Rămureanu, Sfinţi şi Martiri..., p. 981.

TP This scholarly step was brought about, also, by Nechita Runcan’s giving his

whole mind to this theory lately.

As to the foreign researchers who kept busy in their studies
with the case of Bishop Aetherius – V. Latyshev13, J. Zeiller14, A.

A. Vasiliev15, C. Zuckerman16, L. G. Khrushkova17 – not even one


of them shares in the hypothesis of drowning in the Danube River

by the barbarians of the Bishop of Cherson. Jacques Zeiller, who
kept busy exactly with the spreading of the Christian faith in the
Danubian provinces of the Roman Empire, mentions Bishop
Aetherius in his work. However, he places the death of the Bishop
of Cherson at the north of Black Sea, at the mouth of the Dnieper’s
River emptying into the sea18. Zeiller bases his assertion on

information offered by the Emperor Constantine VII

Porphyrogenitus (945-959) in his work De Administrando Imperio
The solving of the problem concerning the place where Bishop
Aetherius have been tortured is possible on the basis of the
information offered by the old Byzantine documents. His name is
mentioned in three documents: in the Synaxarium Ecclesiae
Constantinopolitanae, in the acts of the Second Ecumenical
Council from Constantinople, and in the work De Administrando
Imperio by Constantine Porphyrogenitus. The richest information,
as it was already made more precisely, is found in the Synaxarium
Ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae. It is based on the tradition of the
Church of Jerusalem. In the oldest different reading of the
Synaxarium, there is preserved quite succinct information. But, in
this ecclesiastical document’s manuscripts that are chronologically
closer to us, the text has undergone some alterations, by being

TP V. Latyshev, The Lives of the Sainted Bishops of Cherson, Study and Texts, in

“Zapiski Imperatorskoi Akademii Nauk”, VIII, 3, (1906).

TP Jacques Zeiller, Les origines chrétiennes dans les provinces danubiennes de

l’empire romain, Paris, 1918.

TP A. A. Vasiliev, The Goths in the Crimea, Cambridge, 1936.

TP C. Zuckerman, The Early Byzantine Strongholds in Eastern Pontus, in

“Travaux et Mémoires”, 11, (1991), 527-553.

TP L. G. Khrushkova, Tauric Chersonesus (Crimea) in the 4th-5th centuries:

suburban martyria, in “21st International Congress of Byzantine Studies”,


London, 2006.
TP J. Zeiller, op.cit., p. 411.
Pontica Christiana 247
enlarged upon. However, for a much better understanding of the
theme which is dealt with here, in the lines below, there will be
expounded the different readings of the text with regards to Bishop
Aetherius, as they are found in the oldest preserved manuscripts of
the Synaxarium from Constantinople.
In the original text of the Constantinople document, on the day
of March 7, are found the following precise details: “Μετὰ  δὲ 
ταῦτα ἀπεστάλη ἐξ Ἱεροσολύμων Αἰθέριος˙ καὶ ἰδὼν τοῦ 
λαοῦ  τὸ  ἄγριον  προσῆλθε  τῷ  μεγάλῳ  Κωνσταντίνῳ,  ἐν 
τῷ  Βυζαντίῳ  τότε  βασιλεύσαντι,  καὶ  ᾐτήσατο  αὐτὸν  καὶ 
ἐδιώχθησαν  ἐκ  τῆς  χώρας  Χερσῶνος  οἱ  εἰδωλολάτραι. 
Κτίσας  δὲ  ὁ  ἅγιος  ἐκκλησίαν,  πάλιν  προσῆλθε  τῷ 
βασιλεῖ  ἐπὶ  τὸ  εὐχαριστῆσαι˙  καὶ  δεξιωθεὶς  παρὰ  τοῦ 
βασιλέως  καὶ  ἱερὰ  λαβὼν  ἐπανήρχετο  πρὸς  Χερσῶνα. 
Καὶ ἐν τῷ ἐνανέρχεσθαι ὑπὸ ἐναντίου ἀνέμου ἀπερρίφη 
εἰς τὸν Δάναπριν ποταμὸν καὶ ἐκεῖ τελευτᾷ”19 (=And after TP PT

[all] of these, Aetherius was sent from Jerusalem. And seeing the
savageness of the people, he went to Constantine the Great, who
was reigning in Byzantium at the time, and asked for his help, and
so the idolaters have been chased away from the region of
Chersonesos. Then, the saint established a Church, and went again
to the Emperor to give him thanks. And after his bidding farewell to
the Emperor, he took the holy ones, and went again to Chersonesos.
But while he was going back he was thrown in the Danapris River
by a contrary wind and he died at that place).
In Codex Bibliothecae Nationalis Parisiensis 1587, a
manuscript which is signed by a certain priest named John and
which is dated in the 12th century, the following different reading is

found: “Χρόνοις  δὲ  ὕστερον  αὐθις  Αἰθέριος  ἐξ 

Ἱεροσολύμων  ἀπεστάλη  ἐπίσκπος˙  ὃς  τὸ  ἀγριαῖνον  τοῦ 
λαοῦ καὶ δυσπειθὲς κατιδὼν ἀπῆρεν πρὸς τὸ Βυζάντιον, 
τῷ  βασιλεῖ  κατ᾽αὐτῶν  ἐντευξόμενος˙  ἤδη  γάρ  ὁ  μέγας 

TP PT Syn.Eccl.Const., the day of March 7, paragraph 1, col. 517-518.

Κωνσταντῖνος  ἦν  διιθύνων  τὴν  Ῥωμαίων  ἀρχήν.  Τῆς  δὲ 

ἐντεύξεως  αὐτοῦ  κατὰ  νοῦν  αὐτῷ  γενομένης  καὶ  διὰ  τῆς 
τοῦ βασιλέως χειρὸς ἀπελασθέντων μὲν τῶν ἀπίστων τῆς 
πόλεως,  ἀντεισαχθέντων  δὲ  καὶ  εἰσοικισθέντων  ἀνδρῶν 
εὐσεβῶν καὶ τοῦ μακαρίου Αἰθερίου εἰς εὐχαριστίαν αὖθις 
ἐπὶ  τὸ  Βυζάντιον  σταλέντος  καὶ  ἐν  τῷ  ἐπανιέναι 
ἀπορριφέντος  κατὰ  τὸν  Δάναπριν  ποταμόν,  κἀκεῖ 
μαρτυρικῶς  τὸν  δρόμον  τελέσαντος  τῇ  ἕκτῃ  τοῦ  μαρτίου 
μηνός”20 (= And later, it was sent again from Jerusalem the Bishop

Aetherius, who, after seeing the savageness and ruthlessness of the

people, has left for Byzantium, asking for the [help] of the Emperor
against them; because at the time it was Constantine the Great who
was leading the Roman Empire. His request was answered in
accordance with his desire, and with the help of the Emperor’s
power, the unbelievers have been driven away from the city, and in
their stead some true believers have been brought and settled in that
place; and the blessed Aetherius was sent afterwards to Byzantium
to give thanks and, while he was going back, was thrown in the
Danapris River, and he ended his journey, martyrly, in that very
place, on the sixth day of the month of March).
Finally, in a different manuscript of the 12th century – CodexP P

Bibliothecae Universitatis Messanensis 103 –, the following

clarification comes out: “ἀπερρίφη  κατὰ  τὸν  Δάναπριν 
ποταμὸν  εἰς  νῆσον  Ἄλσον  καλουμένην,  ἐν  ῇ  καὶ  τελευτᾷ 
μηνὶ μαρτίῳ ς́”21 (=it was thrown in the Danapris River towards

the island called Alsos, where he died, also, in the month of March,
the 6th day). P P

As one may notice, from a chronological point of view, in all

of the different readings of the Synaxarium, Aetherius is placed in
the first half of the 4th century during the reign of the Emperor

TP PT Ibidem, the day of March 6, synaxaria selecta, D, col. 513-516.
TP PT Ibidem, the day of March 6, synaxaria selecta, C, col. 515-516.
Pontica Christiana 249
Constantine the Great (306-337). His martyrdom took place while
he was coming back from Constantinople. His journey to that city
was motivated by his desire to give thanks to the Emperor for the
help he received in spreading the Christian faith in the Chersonesos
region. As far as the place where he was tortured is concerned, in
all of the different readings of the Constantinople document is
clearly made more precise that Aetherius died by being drowned in
the Danapris River (Δάναπρις). This is the old name of the
Dnieper River. An additional elucidation concerning the place of
Chersonesos Bishop’s suffering is found, as we already noticed
above, in Codex Bibliothecae Universitatis Messanensis 103. In
this document, the place of his ordeal is identified in a very clear
manner: “εἰς νῆσον Ἄλσον καλουμένην” (=towards the island
called Alsos).
An island is mentioned, also, as Bishop Aetherius’ place of
suffering the torture in the work De Administrando Imperio of the
Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus (945-959). While stating in
detail the route that is followed by the Russians in their way from
Kiev to Constantinople, the Byzantine Emperor mentions twice the
island of St. Aetherius with the following elucidations: “…ἕως οὗ 
καταλάβωσιν  εἰς  τὴν  λίμνην  τοῦ  ποταμοῦ  στόμιον 
οὗσαν,  ἐν  ᾗ  ἐστιν  καὶ  ἡ  νῆσος  τοῦ  Ἁγίου  Αἰθερίου.  ... 
Ἐπει  δὲ  τὸ  στόμιον  τοῦ  τοιούτου  ποταμοῦ  ἐστιν  ἡ 
τοιαύτη  λίμνη,  καθὼς  εἴρηται,  καὶ  κρατεῖ  μέχρι  τῆς 
θαλάσσης, καὶ πρὸς τὴν θάλασσαν κεῖται ἡ νῆσος τοῦ 
Ἁγίου  Αἰθερίου...”22 (= [the Russians] arrive at a place that is

found at the mouth of the River [Dnieper], where there is an island

of St. Aetherius. ... The mouth of this River is a lake, as I have
already said, and it is elongated to the sea; and at the sea is found
St. Aetherius’ island).

TP Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De administrando imperio, 9, 78-101, in vol.

“Fontes Historiae Daco-Romanae” (=FHDR), vol. II, Bucureşti, 1970, p. 658-

As it can be noticed, the name of Bishop Aetherius in
tangentially mentioned in this document. He was at the time, in the
middle of the 10th century, the toponym of an island situated at the

point where is the mouth of Dnieper’s River emptying in the Black

Sea. This information, based on the local traditions of the time, is
the key for accurately establishing the place where this Martyr
Bishop had suffered torture. The account practically coincides with
the information offered by the Synaxarium of Constantinople, in
accordance with which Aetherius died by being drowned in the
Dnieper River, at the mouth of its emptying into the Sea straightly
close to an island.
Indeed, at the north of the Black Sea, at the point where the
Dnieper River is emptying into the Sea, there is an island which is
called today Berezan. In point of fact, the researchers identified it
with the island mentioned in the old Byzantine documents with the
name Alsos or the island of St. Aetherius23. Hence, this island was

the place where the Martyr Bishop Aetherius of Chersonesos

suffered torture. Even the fact of changing the name of this island
from the island Alsos to the island of St. Aetherius confirms both
the existence and the spreading among the Christian believers, at
the time, of the tradition, in accordance with which, in that place
this Bishop of Chersonesos laid down his life for Christ’s sake.
Finally, a Bishop of Chersonesos named Aetherius is
mentioned, also, in the acts of the Second Ecumenical Council held
in Constantinople in the year 381. Some researchers24 have TP PT

identified him with the homonym Bishop who suffered torture by

being drowned in the Danapris River. The accepting of this
hypothesis calls for the reappraisal of dating the period during
which the Martyr Bishop Aetherius has shepherded at Chersonesos.
It cannot be, at any rate, a matter which deals with the period of
reigning of Constantine the Great. In this case, the mentioning of
the name of the great Emperor and Christian saint in the

TPMihăescu, FHDR, note 3, p. 659.

TPJ. Zeiller, op.cit., p. 411; I. Rămureanu, Sfinţii şi Martirii..., p. 981; E. Branişte,

Sfinţi mărturisitori..., p. 121; K. Zuckerman, op.cit., p. 548-549.

Pontica Christiana 251
Synaxarium of Constantinople would be an addition which
penetrated into the tradition of the Church of Jerusalem and which
is recorded in the document of the Church of Constantinople.
However, the hypothesis of the existence of two homonym
hierarchs of Chersonesos, who shepherded in different periods,
should not be excluded either: the first one, the Martyr Bishop, in
the first half of the 4th century; the second one, who participated in

the Second Ecumenical Council, towards the end of the same

century (381). This kind of situation could be encountered at some
other bishoprics of the Empire. In this sense, we take into account
the case of the ecclesiastical See from Tomis, at the west of the
Black Sea, where we are faced twice with hierarchs bearing the
same name: St. Theotim I (390-407) and Theotim II (457), as well
as John I (448) and John II (c.530-c.550)25. TP PT

In the case of Chersonesos, however, for the time being, this

hypothesis cannot be either confirmed or infirmed, based on any
other document.
It only remains to be identified the cause which determined the
erroneous location, by some researchers, of the place of martyrdom
of the Bishop Aetherius of Chersonesos. As it was already made
clear, C. Erbiceanu, the one who spread abroad this hypothesis,
based himself on a passage form the Synaxarium published in the
Greek language by St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite. In his study,
Erbiceanu, probably driven by the desire to reinforce his assertions,
inserted the quotation on which he based his theory, in the Greek
language, also: “ἐρρίφθη  ἀπὸ  τοὺς  ἀπίστους  εἰς  τὸν 
ποταμόν  Δούναβιν  κατὰ  τὴν  ἕκτην  τοῦ  παρόντος 
Μηνός” (= it was thrown by the unbelievers in the Dounavis River
on the seventh [day] of this month). Indeed, it is shown in this
quotation as the place of death of Bishop Aetherius the name of the

TP PTFor a long time, it was believed about the Bishops John I and John II from
Tomis to be one and the same person. It was Florian Duţă who, recently proved
that, in reality it is a matter of two different hierarchs, who shepherded one
century away from each other. See: Florian Duţă, Noi consideraţii asupra
identităţii teologilor sciţi: “Ioan, episcop de Tomis”, ICR, p. 245-267.

Danube (Δούναβις) and not the one of the Dnieper River

(Δάναπρις). Knowing that the name of the river is not mentioned
under this form in any of the manuscripts of the Constantinople
Synaxarium, most probably we are faced here with a mistake that
penetrated into the edition of St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite. The
coming out of this error could be due to a mistake of copying or
“correction” by ignorance made by one of the copyists who
transcribed this hagiographic passage throughout the time. Such a
manuscript could have been employed, subsequently, by
Nicodemus the Hagiorite, while redacting his Menaion.


– o problemă de geografie istorică –

- rezumat -

În acest studiu este analizată problema locului de pătimire a

Sfântului Episcop Mucenic Aetherius al Chersonului. Despre
acesta, unii cercetători români au emis ipoteza că ar fi fost înecat în
fluviul Dunărea, la începutul secolului al IV-lea, de către barbarii
goţi. Informaţiile din cele mai vechi documente păstrate despre
acest episcop al Chersonului dovedesc, însă, că el a murit înecat în
fluviul Nipru (Δάναπρις), la gura de vărsare în Marea Neagră, în
dreptul insulei Alsos (azi Berezan, în Ucraina).
Pontica Christiana 253



by Aurel Florin Tuscanu

The year 2007 was declared throughout the Christian world

“The year of St. John Chrysostom”, since 1600 years went by from
the passing on of this great Holy Father of the Church to eternal
life. In the treasury of the Episcopate of Roman is preserved a
liturgical vestment about which it is said to have belonged to St.
John Chrysostom, and this object is considered the most precious
cultic object found in the Eparchial Museum. The felonion about
which it is said to have belonged to St. John Chrysostom is today
the most precious liturgical object preserved in the treasury of the
Episcopate of Roman. In conformity with the tradition, this felonion
would have been sent from Constantinople to Moldova in the 15th P P


First documentary mention in regards to this felonion dates

from the year 1653 when the patriarch Macarius of Antioch has
visited Moldavia and made a stop at Roman. His archdeacon, Paul
of Aleppo, companion and chronicler of the patriarch, in his well
known and interesting notes concerning what he has seen during his
sojourn in Moldavia, pre-eminently wrote down some aspects of
the ecclesiastical life of the time.
After stating what forced the patriarch to have a rest at Focşani
on his way from Jassy to Walachia, the chronicler writes that the
patriarch had to return to Roman, to meet with the new reigning
prince of Moldavia, Gheorghe Ştefan, who was there temporarily:
“The Patriarch had no choice but go to the Chief (Lord) of the
Roman Police, Roman being one of the reigning Prince’s
residences, also, and which was not seen by the Patriarch, as yet

TP PT Translated into English language by Rev. Dr. Dumitru Măcăilă
(...) We have met with him (the reigning Prince) and offered him
four gifts, namely: a pair of embroidered cushions, a little bottle
with Chrism, a carpet and two kinds of soap (...) and after the
Liturgy of St. Michael’s feast, the Lord of the Police gave a banquet
to our Lord Patriarch”26. TP PT

In Roman, the Patriarch Macarius has delayed for

approximately three weeks. On the day of November 13, 1653, on
St. John Chrysostom’s feast, he was in the Eparchial Cathedral of
Roman. Paul of Aleppo offers some details with regards to the
religious ceremony celebrated on that day:
“We participated here in the feast of Chrysostom, at which a
lot of people have gathered together. The Bishop (Anastasie, 1644-
1658, our note), was vested with the felonion of John Chrysostom,
as was the custom all the years, on the day of this saint. That
vestment was sent as a gift by a Patriarch of Constantinople to
Stephen the Older (reigning Prince of Moldavia, 1394-1399), who
gave it to the said Episcopate with the right of heredity, to be
preserved in the great monastery of Parascheva”27. Consequently,

in the year 1653 the felonion was found at the Episcopate of

Roman. Indubitably, Paul of Aleppo will have asked for
information in regards to this vestment, that is, since what time was
it kept there, where does it come from, who donated it, under what
kind of circumstances it got here, and particularly the fact that St.
John Chrysostom was born in Antioch.
The answers would have been unclear, excepting some oral
testimonies that were kept by way of oral tradition, such as: that it
proceeds from Constantinople, and belonged to St. John
Chrysostom, and that it was donated by one of the patriarchs to the
capital city of the reigning Prince of Moldavia, Stephen the Older28. TP PT

Some historians, who were concerned about the history of

the Episcopate of Roman (Rev. Scarlat Popescu), believe that the
vestment would have been dedicated to Stephen the Great, since

TP ***Călători străini despre Ţările Române, vol. V, Bucureşti, 1976, p. 103.

TP Ibidem, p. 104.

TP Scarlat Popescu, Episcopia Romanului, Roman, 1984, pp. 363-365.
Pontica Christiana 255
this reigning Prince became mythical, dressed in a legendary halo,
and everything which was precious and old was attributed to him.
However, the first historian, who busied himself thoroughly with
St. John Chrysostom’s felonion found in Roman, was the
academician bishop Melchisedec Ştefănescu, in the second half of
the 19th century. Most certainly, the hierarch has seen the vestment

and has gathered documentary evidence until the year 1874 when
he published first volume of The Chronicle of Roman and of the
Episcopate of Roman; he was knowledgeable of what Paul of
Aleppo wrote down in his journal, since these notes had been
previously published by B. P. Hasdeu.
Bishop Melchisedec writes down some extremely important
observations, such as that this precious thing is preserved up to date
at the Episcopate, being placed into a sealed glass box.
Unfortunately, no historical document which would attest to the
origin of the felonion was preserved, besides what the archdeacon
Paul of Aleppo tells us in the year 1653.
Unlike the Antiochian chronicler, who had learned about the
provenance of the felonion – that it would have been offered by the
patriarch of Constantinople to the reigning Prince of Moldavia
Stephen the Older, the academician bishop mentions that the local
tradition, (in the 19th century), has it that this vestment was sent

together with other gifts to “Alexander the Good and to

Metropolitan Joseph (I Muşat) of Moldavia by the Emperor
Paleologus of Constantinople”, and that Alexander gave it to his
Monastery, Holy Friday (our holy righteous mother Parascheva)
from Roman, where his mother, the princess Anastasia, was buried,
but he makes complete by writing down that “this tradition is of no
value”. True, the tradition does not have value as a historic
document, but it is strong, and because of this it should not be
In the 15th century, during Alexander the Good’s reign and

after his reign, there have been brought to Moldavia from the
besieged Constantinople, from the Mount Athos and from other
localities and Balkan monasteries, various cultic objects, some of
them extremely precious, in exchange for some aids.
Unfortunately for the cultic objects which belong to the so-
called minor arts, as was, for instance, the epitaph from St.
Nicholas church of Jassy, admired in the year 1653 by the same
foreign traveler, Paul of Aleppo, who left the indication that the
precious woven material was a gift from John Cantacuzino for
Athos, probably for the Vatoped Monastery – we do not have any
accompanying documents to attest their origin, as happened to the
felonion attributed to St. John Chrysostom from the Episcopate of
Roman29. TP PT

The byzantinist Al. Elian considers possible and real the

bringing to Moldavia, in the 15th century of some icons and some

other cultic objects by the monks from South30.


In accordance with the tradition, the icon of the Mother of our

Lord from the Neamţ Monastery and the icon of St. Ana from the
Bistriţa Monastery have been sent to the reigning Prince Alexander
the Good and to his wife by the Byzantine Emperor John the VIIIth P P

the Paleologus and by the Empress Ana.

At the same time, under unclear circumstances, the felonion of
St. John Chrysostom could have arrived at Roman, also.
If this vestment would have been received a few decades prior
to being seen by Paul of Aleppo, the ministers from the Episcopal
Cathedral of Roman would have known by all means under what
kind of circumstances it came to be here.
Consequently, there are reasons which lead to the conclusion
that the felonion had been sent to Roman at a much earlier time – at
the time of its coming being accompanied by the tradition which
was saying that it belonged to St. John Chrysostom.

TP Al. Elian, Moldova şi Bizanţul în sec. al XV-lea, in vol. “Cultura

moldovenească în timpul lui Ştefan cel Mare”, Bucureşti, 1964, p. 167.

TP Ibidem.
Pontica Christiana 257

Fig. 1 – St. John Chrysostom's felonion from Roman

After studying it thoroughly, the experts established some

diverse hypotheses, but maybe a laboratory analysis will persuade
about the accurate period when it was made.
The first presentation of the felonion, accompanied by two
drawings (on all sides) was left behind him by the bishop
Melchisedec, in his work, The Chronicle of Roman, vol. I, 1874:
“On the top side, the felonion has a triangular form. Both sides, the
front part and the back part have the same length of two and a half
cubits, and the parallel width is of four cubits and a cm. On the top
side, it has a round opening, around the neck, trimmed with a yarn
edging, overcast with craftsmanship, and with two red galloons for
fastening. From the neck’s opening, a cut goes down to the lower
part of the garment, trimmed on the both sides with a yellow yarn
edging, wide of a finger, both front parts are brought together by
gold buttons. The loose lower parts of the garment are trimmed
around with edgings which have the same shape with the one from
the neck. The front part is made of seams, with silk and good yarn,
in three colors: red, green and blue. The camp is a thin matter
made of silk, having as bottom base a tow fabric with the edgings
attached to it. However, the thin cloak was destroyed by the time;
so much so that today the edgings are only on the cloak. The
overcast ornaments are nothing else but two kinds of crosses,
overcast with great proportion and elegance. And the part which is
over the backbone has an overcast ornament, with a round shape
surrounded by gold edging and with pearls, in the middle having
the image of the Savior Christ while He is blessing”.
A new research and presentation is made at the end of the 20thP P

by Marina Ileana Sabados in her album dedicated to the Episcopal

Cathedral of Roman, as well as by the Church historian, Rev.
Scarlat Popescu, in his extensive monograph dedicated to the
Episcopate of Roman.
The liturgical vestment in the shape of a cloak which closes on
the front side is made of white silk, and the double is made of
common hemp cloth.
Pontica Christiana 259

On the background of the woven material appear dominant

motifs: the clover with four petals and the rectangular cross of
galloon, made of gold yearn and yellow silk. The great number of
crosses from the felonion’s camp brought about, also, its nickname
of “polistavrion”. On the back side of the vestment was applied
subsequently an embroidered medallion which presents the Savior
Christ, the Omnipotent One, while He is blessing. This is
embroidered with gold yarns, of silk and pearls, being enframed
into a circle.
The top fringe of the felonion, in a circular shape, is trimmed
with an edging overcast, also, with gold yarns and red silk.
Unlike the felonions used in the liturgical service during the
19th-20th centuries, this felonion has something specific, it is to be

closed on the front side, from the breast to its loose lower part, with
golden buttons. The edging of the circular opening on the top is
repeated both at the loose lower part and at the closed fringes from
the front side31.


The felonion attributed to St. John Chrysostom aroused, if not

controversial opinions on its origin, at any rate, the admiration of
those whose attention was drawn by it throughout the centuries.
The local tradition has it that this vestment would have been
one of the gifts sent to Alexander the Good and to the Metropolitan
Joseph by one of the Constantinople’s Emperors belonging to the
Paleologus family; and Alexander would have donated it to his
monastery, St. Parascheva, of the Episcopate of Roman (where his
mother, the princess Anastasia, was interred).
During the journey of the Patriarch of Antioch, Macarius,
through Moldavia, (1653), his archdeacon, Paul of Aleppo, wrote
down about the existence of this liturgical vestment from Roman in
his journal, by gathering documentary evidence from the
information taken from the local tradition of the Episcopate32. TP PT

Preserved with piety along the time, with a pious respect

continuously fed by its noble legend “St. John Chrysostom’s
felonion” is a “polistavrion” to which was applied later, in the
middle of the backbone, on the top, a small embroidered medallion
which represents Jesus the Great High Priest, while He is blessing.
This piece is of inestimable historic and artistic value,
stylistically being similar to the Moldavian pieces of embroidery
from the most prollific period, the 15th- 16th centuries33.

TP Melchisedec Ştefănescu, Cronica Romanului şi a Episcopiei de Roman, vol. I,

Bucureşti, 1874, p. 269-270. In this work, there are some details concerning St.
John Chrysostom’ felonion from Roman.
TP “Anuarul Eparhiei Romanului”, 1936, p. 58-60.

TP Marina Ileana Sabados, Catedrala Episcopiei Romanului, Roman, 1990, p.

Pontica Christiana 261

- rezumat -

Anul 2007 a fost declarat în toată lumea creştină „Anul Sf.

Ioan Gură de Aur”, deorece s-au împlinit 1600 de ani de la trecerea
din această lume la cele veşnice a acestui mare Sfânt Părinte al
Bisericii. În tezaurul Episcopiei Romanului se păstrează un veşmânt
liturgic despre care se spune că a aparţinut Sfântului Ioan Gură de
Aur, acesta fiind considerat cel mai valoros obiect de cult din
Muzeul Eparhial. Felonul, despre care se spune că a aparţinut Sf.
Ioan Gură de Aur, este astăzi cel mai valoros obiect liturgic păstrat
în tezaurul Episcopiei Romanului. Potrivit tradiţiei, acest felon ar fi
fost trimis de la Constantinopol, în Moldova, în secolul al XV-lea.