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fDACHHK 52 1-2200875-86

ISBN 0583-4961

YAK 29 j ,3(495,1)2)


Mitko B. Panov Ph.D.

Senior research fellow at the Institute of national histoT) - Skopje

"He lives for us, he intercedes for us with God and obtains for us what is good". the archbishop John of Thessalonica wrote describing the role which the cult of $1. Demetrius obtained among the citizens of Thessaionica in the ,Ih century. I The devotion of Thessalonicans to the cult of St. Demetrius, was so strong that the cleric John Stryrnbikon in 1337 rebuked the citizens because they honoured St. Demetrius more than the Christ himself.2 The deep connection between S1. Demetrius and the Thessalonicans can be understood if we analyse the phenomena of the cult, which embraced in itself the ancient traditions. Paganism and Christianity,

Inducing the data of the earliest martyrology. named Svriac Martyrology (c. 362) and Hieronym ian Martyrology (c. 431 -451). H. De le haye nam ing the town S i I'm i urn as a place were St. Demetrius was martyred, mark~d the beginning. of the long scholarly polemics about the origin of this Christian saint.' The scholars are still divided between Sinnium and Thessalonica. as places of Demetrius martyrdom as v ... ell as the origin of the cult itself.4

I P. Lemerle. Les plus anciens recueils des ;\/imc/es de saint Demetrius. l, Le texte (Paris. 1979), 51.

2 Acta et diplomata graeca medii aevi. ed. F. Miklosich et J. Miller. l t Vindobonae .. 1860.1. 175.

3 H. Delehaj e, Les legendes grecques des saintes mdliraires (Bruxelles, 1909). 10:'1-108.

4 For Thessaloruca as a place of origin of the cult of SI. Demetrius. see more recently J_ C.

Skedros, Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki. ("jl'ic Patron IIl1d Divine Protector. ./'- -II, ('{'nll/fies C£ (Harisburg, 1999), 7-40. r. L 0mxaptoll; 'l:tPIlW\' Ii 0f(J(laAOV\KT]: (E1ta\'E~tmO'l;; IltU; Kpt'tlKft;; €J;E"CaIJE~ "Cft;; 'Aylou tHIIl.T)"Cpioll ltUpaIiOOHO;I". Makedonika ( t 9761. 269-308. also argues that SL Demetrius in Thessalonica who suffered martyr death under the emperor Maximianus Galerius 011 26'h of October :;05 was a different person from the deacon Demetrius who was murdered 011 9111 April 304. when Galerius was a Caesar. For Sirmium as place of origin of the cult of SI. Demetrius. that preceded Thessalonica, see ell. Bapuunrh, r Ivoa [huntmpuja ('O-'I.l'IIC,.;O,' «ao ucmopucsu 1/360PIl (Eeorpan. 1953), 16-17: M. Vickers "Sirmium or Thessaloniki". A critical examination of the SI. Demetrius legend:'. Byzantinische Zeitschrtft 67/2 (1974) 337-350 C. Walter. -r"he lt'arrior Saints in Bvzantine Art and Tradition rAshgate. 2003). 69-70 suggests that the cult of St. Demetrius was established in 412/:; by the prefect


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There are strong arguments in favour of the view that the cult of S1. Demetrius originated in Sirrnium that preceded the cult created in Thessalonica in the mid-5th century Demetrius as a martyr from Thessalonica was not mentioned in the earliest martyrologies apart from Demetrius of Sirmium ("tv L1pfll<l:l Arll.l11"tptO~". "Sirmia Demetri diaconi") who is registered as early as 411 A.D. The archaeological findings also indicate that the church in Sirmium devoted !O St. Demetrius' was erected earlier than the church of S1. Demetrius in Thessalonica.'

In addition to the known arguments I will point to the neglected fact that in all surviv ing versions of Passions of St. Dernetri us. the authors did not mention the

Leontius both in Sirmium and Thessalonica. Rather original view was put forward by D. Woods. "Thessaloinica's Patron: Saint Demetrius or Emetrius':'" l lurvurd Theological Review 93 (2000). 221·34, who argiles that the cult or SI. Demetrius developed on the basis of the relics of the Spanish rnilitary martyrs Ss. Emeterius and Chelidonins which were transferred to Thessalonica in 379 to honor the emperor Theodosius I 1379-3951. The relics rested in their shrine, which gradually fell- into disrepair, unti I a prefect or J II~ ricum Leontius received an unexpected cure there in c. 4 I 2 '13, Allegedly he cleaned up the surrounding area and built a new church for the relics. which due t(1 the ill-preserved inscription. he identified the mart: I' as Demetrius rather than Emcterius. However. this thesis is quite speculative and does not give an explanation to the main question concerning the phenomena of the deep connection of Thessalonicans with SL Demetrius. It would be difficult to presume that the Thessalonicans could accept the foreign saint like Emetrius .. since it would be impossible to create a legend that will have a proper association" ith their religious traditions that also concerned their identitv. For other arguments that goes against \\OO(_b' hypothesis. see .I, Skedros. "Response to David \\ oods "Thessalonicas Patron: St. Demetrius 01 F.l11eteriu,,"". 1101"1"(/1"<1 n"',,/ogi"<1/ /(,.ne" 93" I JOOO) :!;:;-30, II ho sustain thaI the cult originated 'in Thessalonica while llolit:illO' that the origins of" St. Demetrius are "indeed obscure":

~ v. Popovic. "Die Suddanubischen Provinzen in cia Sriit(fl1ti~(' vorn EJl(k des -I. his zur Mine des 5, Jahrhundcrts". /lie 1 (ilk("/" Slidos{L"III"11IH1S ill! r. hi, 8 .1(/11,.1111111/,.1"' Slid,,"'{CIII"IJI'I/ .luhrhuc]: 17 (Munchen. Berlin. IQ1\71. lon-I::!I. argues that the t'arl~ chr istian hasilic» discovered in Sirrnium can be avsociared with the church devoted 1(1 St. Demetrius erected b, the prefect Lenntius in -II::! 1-', \1. Jcrcmic. "Le~ temples pay en« d ... Sinnium". SI(Jrillill' L "I (2[)()61. 188-196. follows the assumption 1h,H St Demetrius church ill Sirmium was built in the first third or the s" century over the ruins of tile previous pagan temple,

, ~~, Vickers argues for the mid_,ll> cenrurj as a date for the building (,I the church SI Demetrius in Thessalonica (1\1. Vickers, "Sirrnium or Thessaloniki", ",~7-,~51: ldern. "I'ilihcentury bricksiamps from Thessa-loniki' the .11II1I1lI1 "I (! {he /1r;{;sl! Sc/;ou/ (1/ . uh« 11.\. (iX 11(73) 285-2Q4. Other scholars incline to the later dale of the erection of the church (If SI. Demetrius in Thessalonica, arguing lor the _,I<I quarter of the :,,10 ccmllr) 1 \\. L K leinbauer "Some observations 011 the dating of S. Demetrius in Thessaloniki" BI zantinon. :\ I 1 1 ()7() 1.'(,"4: ODB. I. 604-IlO<; I. the last quarter of the ."'1. century t J. Skedros. \,;illl Demeui II~. ~')-,;Q). 01 the beginning of the 6'h century U ,-1\ 1. Spieser, lhessaloniq,«: c{ xes m.nnuuenr» ,Ii, II' siccl; contribtuion II I'hl/de dunc ville pah;ochn;,icl/i/(' I Arhenes, Paris. 1')8-1, 16:\-21,-1): 1--. \1, Hatersley -Srnith. Bvzuntiue publi: architectur« between 1/1(' [ounh and emil elcvcnrh n'IIf1I/"1".\ 11), with ,/,ecial reference to {he (olin, 0/ 81~{/lIIille vlacedoni« Thessalonik i 19'>(11, Other

group of scholars inclining to the indigenous origin of the cult of 51. Demetrius in Thcssalon ica. are in opinion that theprefect Leontius in 412 13 actual I: erected the first three-aisled basilica ~11 Thessalonica upon the place of the primordial Church-Marty rion of the saint See r. I "\3l:'(lxaplOrJ; "'l:lPfllt,lI' ~ 0fooCtAuvilnj"·. 269-308.


emperor Maxirnanus ialcrius as responsible for the death of Demetrius. The Pos.liu prima which is accessible in Latin Iran lation made hy Anastasius Bibliathecurius and he Grech text published b~ H, Delehax e attribute the man) rial death or Demetrius to the emperor Maxirnianus ("irnpet"atOl" Maximial111s".- "Ore M(:(E,l~la\'();. o ~a()l/c£l)~~)_ The Pus. io altera which contain considerable more information regarding Demetrius martyr death. designate the concrete full name of the emperor as Maximianus l-lerculius (Mat,lfJ.lavOc; o Ka\ . PK"oU/cwt;l." The same identification i contained in rhe

letaphrastic text Pussio terti« (MaE,lpta\'o; (I K0:1 "EPKO'I)j,IOt;). II, The evident association or the emperor Maxirnianus Hercullius with the many rdom of Demetrius asserted in the I'assioncs can be taken a an argument lor explication of the new hypothesis concerning the origi n of the cult of St. Dernetri us. 11 is well-known fact that Maximianus Herculius had never been III Thessalcnica and therefore he could 1101 have been responsible for martyrdom or Demetrius in this tOWIl. The historical data attest that in the rime of the persecutions or Christians in rhe beginning of the 41h century. Thessalonica was the main seat or the caesar Maximianu: Galerius. \\-110 became em perot' in 30:", Accordingly the absence of the name of Galcri us ill POI. sions demonstrate that he actuallx did not murder Demetrius in Thessalouica. Hav inu in

.' ~

mind this clarification as well as the fact that all surviving texts of the P ISS ions were

written long after the creation of the CUlt, it is highly probable thai this apparent historical error occurred given that the authors of the Passion' of St. Demetrius were referring to the invented oral traduion thai was created and maintained in The salonica. Further elaboration II ill shov, that til is local oral tradition was acruallv the modified legend of the cull of St. Demetrius based upon the previous one in Sirmium which IVa' tailored to suit the religious needs of the citizens ofThessalonica. In actuality the nell legend ofSt. Demetriu vvas introduced in Thessalonica in the mid_Slh century. with the aim of showing Demetrius as a martyr from Thessalonica even though he was not martyred in thi ' tow 11. and the emperor Hercu I i LIS could rrot execute it So it is not that the simple error occurred with the accidental switch of Sirmium aile! Thessalonica at the earl) stage in the literary tradition, nor that that the authors of the Passions mistakenly designated Maximianus Herculius, instead or Galerius. a. i. rraditionallj maintained b- the scholar, The creation of the new CUll or SL Demetri us in Thessalonica in the mid_5'h century was well conceived act as 0 pari of the complex political and ecclesiastical polic: of Byzantium in the Balkan •.

Such an, explication requires an analysi of the religious and political situation in lllyricum in the first halfofthe 5th century. which can further clarify the motivation for the initiation of the new legend of St. Demetrius in Thessalonica. The Hunnic Invasion in the Balkan that resulted in destruction of Sirrnium in 441 was onl. a pretext for the transfer of the cult to Thessalcnica. I I The real reason was much deeper and was

'AASS. OCI. IV. 97-89. F(; 116, col. 1169.

~ H Delehaj e. legends grecques, 259-263. ~ A_A SS. oct. 1\', 90-95, PC,' 116, col, I 173.

III AAS .OC\. 1\'. 96-lO4. f'(; I t6. col. 1185,

[I The dominant opinion among scholars is that the transfer of the cull of SI. Demetrius from Sirmium to Thcssalonica was directly related to the movement of the prefecture of lllyricum to Thessalonica in 44) as a result of the destruction of Sirrnium See. F, Delehaye. Les


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politicallj motivated. With the promotion of the Papal \ icanaic in Thessalonica the R()J11an church managed already in 411 to acquire its ecclesiastical jurisdiction in lllyricum. That had made it impossible lor Byzantium to impose its 0\\11 ecclesiastical influence in the region. Thus in the ) ears that followed the Byzantine court was sturdily engaged in bringing Hly ricum under the jurisdiction or the church of Constantinople. Following this policy. the empemr Theodosius II (408-4~OI issued an edict in the year 411 that granted the patriarch (If Constantinople the primacy in the supervision of the eccles iastical affairs of lllyricum." oneiheless Theodosius II was SOOI1 forced to revoke thi: law. because of the strong reaction of the Papacy and the direct involvement of the western emperor Honorius (39:'-413l. Shortly afterwards in 424 Theodosius II issued another edict this Ii me on behal r of the "sacrosancra Thessalonicensis ecclesia' exempting it from the tax payments. I_; This move was an obvious attempt of Byzantium to incline the ecclesiastical leaders of Thessalonica on the side on the church of Can tantinople. It also demonstrate that Theodosius govemment was incapable of" affecting the domination of the roman Papacy in Thessalonica and in III~ ricurn.

Nevertheless the efforts of the Byzantine administration did not impinged the Roman ecclesiastical supremacy in l llyricurn. That was the principal motive that influenced the decision olTheodosius II, after gaining territorial concessions from the \\ estern emperor Valentinianus III (425-455). to transfer the seal of the prefecture of Hlyricum from Thessalonica 10 Sirmium in ":-;7!X.'" One of the main goals of this administrative reorganisation of" Byzantium was through Sirmiurn to secure in addition to the political the ecclesiastical authority in lllvricum. Sirmiurn as a former seat of l llyricurn provided the necessary legitimacy to become new political and religious centre or B. zantium in the region. Thus the sharp reaction or the Roman Church that immediaielj followed even before the official transfer of the prefecture wa~ understandable and focused on defending its legal rights and interests ill lllvricurn.'?

legende» grecques, 108·109: (1). Eapnui .. h, l~\"iJll C«. llu.vumpuj«, 16-17; M. Vickers. Sirmium or 7 hessaloniki, ~45·350. However their argument is based upon the assumption that Thessalonica only acqu ired the status of the seat of the prefecture of Ill) ricum in 441. However the analysis of the sources shows that Thessalonica became the permanent seat of the prefecture a great deal before 441. See. t\ I. B. Panov _ "Macedonia in the Pol itics of Theodosius 1'" Annuuauna II eUj1011C1-;OIll(1 naysa /I ,,:nllnpo (Cxonje. 2008). 105·119 (in prim). with the arguments for the year 392 as a date of official estab-lishment of the seat of prefecture of lllvricum in Thessalonica,

, I~ CTh. X VI 2.45.

I' en, XI 1.:>3.

IJ For the administrative changes in lllyricum in the first half of the ~'h century, see M. B Panov, "lllyricum between East and West: administrative changes at the end of the fourth and the first half of the fifth century', PruceedinKs of the :1 i lnternational Congress of Byzantine Sri/dies. I! I. Abstracts of Communications (London. 2006). 3:>-34.

10 The pope Sixtus III in a letter addressed 10 the Proclus the patriarch of Constantinople from 437, clearly stressed that the church of Constantinople should comply with the ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Illyricum. Sixtus also demanded that in the future Proclus should not receive not a single bishop from Illyricum without the letter signed by the bishop of Thessalonica (Sixtus. Ep. 9, Ad PrOc!1I1ll Constantincpolitanum Episcopum PL. col 578 D.


However the Hunic invasion in the Balkans and destruction of Sirmium impinged the plans of Byzantium. Consequently already in 440/1, the seat of the prefecture of lllyricum was returned in Thesssalonica, after prefect of lllyricum Apremius fled from the endangered SirUJ11iulll.16 In reality the unsuccessful attempt of Byzantium to impose through the church of Sirrniurn the ecclesiastical counterbalance to the Roman vicariate in Thessalonica was a direct motive for Byzantine authorities to instigate the process of the creation of the cult of S1. Demetrius in Thessalonica ill the mid-Slh century, based on the legend ofSt. Demetrius in Sirrnium

Facing with the loss of Sirmium and with the unaffected supremacy of the Roman church in lllyricurn Byzantium changed its strategy. Through its prefects in Thessalonica, Byzantine court in the mid-Slh century commenced the creation of the cult of St. Demetrius as a W8.. of inclining the citizens and ecclesiastical leaders towards the church of Constantinople. Since all the versions of Passions directly refer to the prefect Leontius as responsible for the initiation of the cull of St. Demetrius we l11a% argue that the Byzantine administration was directly involved in the creation of the cult of the Saint in Thessalonica, as was initially in Sirmium, This assumption is based upon the episode of the prefect Marianus mentioned in the first Miracle or SI. Demetrius, who can easily be identified as a person responsible for the creation of the notion among the Thessalonicans about the miraculous capabilities of St. Demetrius.l~ The claim of Marianus that St. Demetrius occurred to him in a dream and that he \ as miraculously cured after being laid in the saints temple" is an apparent example how the Byzantine authorities instigated and popularised the cult of SL Demetrius in Thessalonica. Marianus was clearly responsible for the creation of an impression among Thessalonicans of the intimate connection between the Byzantine prefects and S1. Demetrius. Since Marianus is the first person mentioned in the Miracles performed by SI. Demetrius we can presume that he was serving as a prefect in Thessalonica at the same time or 110t long after the building of the church of St. Demetri us, IQ Apparently writing the First book of the Miracles in the second decade of the 7111 century, the archbishop John considered important to note specially the episode of the prefect Marianus as the first miracle made by SL Demetrius, since this story was maintained in the oral tradition in Thessalonica. Supporting this tradition, John made an reference to the existence of the mosaic outside the church of S1. Demetrius which according to him commemorated the healing of Marianus.2o Even though John

Sixtus was actually defending the legal rights of the Roman vicariate of Thessalonica in lllyricum in response to the administrative reorganization.

IQ ov. Just, Xl. 11.\4iracula. I: I § I 0-24.

1& It is very indicative that in the translated Latin version of this Miracle. Athanasius Bibliothecarius note that Marianuswas laid on the floor of the "small shrine near the stadium where they say that Demetrius lies", not in the temple (Anastasli Abatis. Opera omnia, P1. 129. col. 718).

19 M. Vickers, Sirmium or Thessalonica. 339·341 argues for the period of the fourth quarter of the s" century for the date or" -larianus alleged cure. <P. EapuwHn. '{voa Ce. Dnllllmpuja. 36, n. 12, maintains that Marianus was serving as a prefect of Illyricum in the beginning of the s" century, based upon his lower chronology of the origin of the cult?

20 Mtracu!o. J: 1 § 23.


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reluciantlv spoke favourablv for the Byzantine prefects in elaborating the earl iest miracles of "l, Demetrius he vva: obviouslv followinu the oral tradition that was created and maintained from the mid-:'i'h ceniur« The extensive description of the first miracle oncerning tarianus additionally supports this assumption. Thus the contents of the Miracle" indicate that the cult in The .salonica was gradually developed and that the B~ zaniine adrn inistration was directly involved In its creation. The analysis uf the novel X I issued of the emperor J ustinian I 527-.-65) from 535. can further support this assumption. Following the policy of Theodosius II, Justinian in his ovel XI deliberatelx undermined and disregarded the position of Thessalonica as the ecclesiastical centre in lllyricum. Ju tinian wrote that .. the bishopric dignity" of Thessalonica followed on I) after the transfer of the prefecture from S irrnium in 440/41 underlying that the bishop of Thessalonica "gained c~rtain advantage not because of his authority, but b) the shadow 01" the prefecture··.-I This approach of Justinian I. under tandable from the Byzantine perspective. since in that time Thessalunica represented the interests of the Roman Papacy. Actually Ju tinian I was trying. to provide a legal basis for h is own intention to transfer the seal of the prefecture frOI11 Thessalonica' to the newly founded Archbishopric Justiniana Prima ill 535. That was possible on I) through the complete ignorance of the previous status of Thessalonica as a political seat of lllyricum and the main ecclesiastical centre in the rcgion.';:~ However the attempt of Justinian to transfer the prefecture from Tnessalonica to Justiniana Prima failed and he was soon forced to concede the ecclesiastical influence of the Roman church even in the newly founded Archbishopric. Generally speaking the No1't!lXJ is a clear indication of the importance of the role that the Byzantine prefects acquired in the ecclesiastical affairs in I llyricum. This argument can further explain the direct involvement or the Byzantine prefects in the process of the creation of the cult of St. Demetrius in Thessalonica, The further confirmation can be found in the second Miracle where John mentions certain military commander of the prefecture of lllyricum. who was miraculously cured by SI. Demetrius. In this miracle. John clearly emphasize thai it was this commander who argued with the citizens that even though the city of Thessalonica had many protectors, it was St. Demetrius that was "chosen by the Christ as the first of all··:~J This episode clearly reflects the intention of Byzantium through its administrative and military representatives to p pularize the cult creating al the same time the notion among the citizens of Thess alonica regarding the cia. e connection between St. Demetrius and the Byzantine authorities. However it was John ha ing the authority a. an archbi hop who was directly responsible for the creation of an intimate and lasting ties between St. Demetrius and the citizens representing him as thei r patron saint in the troubled times.

10V. lust .. XI: ". .. Thessalonicensis episcopu 110n sua auctoritate .. sed sub umbra

praefecturae meruit aliquern praercgativam".

22 For detailed analysis on the political and ideological policy of Justinian compared to the policy of Thecdosius II. see M. B. Panov. "Justinijana Prima - Tesalonika - Sirmium: Paraleli porne]u pelitikata na Justi-riijan I H Tecnocaj 11". J:WCHlfh· lUI {IHJI. 5 1/1-1 (Cxonje, 10071. 7- 14; Idem, ··JycTHHHjaHa llpHMa BO nOmlTH'I-KO-Hneo OWKaTa xoauenunja lIa JYCTlIHlljaH··. r «onje no. Hei), aemuwcomo If . vooepuomo epe. \/-e, ed. 1',,1. Ei. Ilaaos .. J. ,[loHe B, 3. Cre{pKOC KH (CKonje.1009J.19-33.

1, .11i/'('/cllla. 1:2 .. 25.

COq(JgB{{I:be,i~Q,#(l,KY.llll1oW IlO cB.lluM/Ul1puja BO COJlYH.. BU3tIlWUlICkti:i1H~'eI'U{Ujl;?' ,

The conclusion that imposes itself is that in the rnid-S'" century the new 'legend of St. Demetrius was initiated in Thessalonica that was in fact a modification of the previous one from Sirmium. Traditional scholarly approach regarding the origin of the cult is too reliable on the explanation of the actual contents of the Passions and the persons involved. Their efforts were mainly focused on identification of the prefect Leontius mentioned in the Passions as a person responsible for the building of the church in Sirmium or in Thessalonica. The compromised solution proposed by C. Walter that Leontius should be identified as a person who established the cult of Demetrius, both in Sirmium and Thessalonica having the authority as a prefect is unconvincing.i" Walter's suggestion does not provide an explication for the principal mati ve of the prefect Leon ti us in in i t iati ng the cult of S1. Demetri us and moreover it is hard to believe that he was capable for implementing the complex religious programme at the same time in Thessalonica and Sirmium.

If we assert that the legend of the cult of S1. Demetrius was fabricated in Thessalonica, based on the original legend in Sirmium, the modification reasonably affected also the elaboration of the original story concerning the involvement of Leontius. All the versions of the Puss ions point to the fact that it was the prefect Leontius who thought that it was necessary 10 erect a church because of his personal experience due to the healing capacities of the place where Demetrius has cured him. This story was conveniently adapted into the new legend in Thessalonica to meet the religious needs of the citizens. Subsequently the notion was created that it was Thessalonica where Leomi us erected the first church in honour of 51. Demetrius. One interesting data from the Metaphrastic text of Puss-ion or 51. Demetrius which is the unique source thai refers to the origin of Demetrius himsel f. can further explicate thi. hypothesis." Obviously relying on the earlier sources. Meraphrastcs \\ rote that "\\ irh regard to the parents or Demetrius, he was from important and most famous race himself originating from the ancient Macedoniaus" .2~ This reference disc lose that Demetrius was actually a real historical person. probably born in Thessalonica, and of Macedonian origin, but suffered martyr death in Sirmium. The clarifying of the origin of Demetrius is important for understanding the gro\\ ing popularity of the cult among the Thessalonicans. the majority of which were Macedonians in the time when the cult

c~ C. Walter, The Warrior Saints, 69-70. However Waller recognizes that is far from being a clear how a deacon in Sirmiurn was metamorphosed into a consul in Thessaloniki. explaining it as a just "another of those 'chemical operations' of early hagiography": However, there is another aspect that arises from the l'assio altern. Sitch as that Demetrius .... as represented simultaneously as high official and the preacher of the word of God among the Christians. This can be explained with the result of the modification of the original legend that fused the representation of SI. Demetrius as a preacher or deacon in Sirmium with the administrative function that was correlated with the invented legend in Thessalonica.

2< G. l". F. Tafel. Do Thessatonico eiusqu« ilgl"O lIi.l".I"1'1"/II/;o f.!i!of:!Ulphiw (Berlin. 18~9). ~27, commenting this data from Metaphrastes, wrote that "the genus of Demetrius is connected with the ancient Macedonians", But Tafel only indicated this source. giving no further elaboration on the issue.

~" Simeone vletaphraste, Passio tertia S. Dernetrii M .. N;/". 116. col. 1185: "T6 yf 111\' fl~; lllCO\' £l1icr'l)lo:; 11\'. xni 1~\" fi-; 10U; cil-w 10U 1£\'U1I-; ti\'O.qlI.1pm· ttov MaKf.1iO\·W\ fl1Hp!J"f<J1Cnu;·'.


TJIACHUK 52 J-l1()()8

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was created.27 This can alsoexplain the phenomena of tbe intimate and oo.clufiing association of S1. Demetrius with the Macedonians and the Macedonian traditions, that was continuously designated in the medieval sources." The Byzantine prefects and the ecclesiastical leaders in Thessalonica were well acquainted with the genesis of S1. Demetrius and that could be the reason why they integrated the ancient traditions in the cult, with the aim of adjusting it for the affinities of the citizens. For that purpose S1. Demetrius was in some \\lay represented as a substitution of the previous popular pagan cult Cabirus.i" The substitution of the previous pagan hero Cabirus with the new Christian hero - St. Demetrius. which represented their traditions and identity, was acceptable for Thessalonicans in the period of global religious transition. In this context C. Mango is accurate in his argument that in Byzantium "the gap left by paganism wasfilled by the cult of saints on both a practical and an imagi native lever' and that the Cult of saints created a new mythology. Mango further ciarny that more "popular saints in the Byzantine pantheon were fictious figures from a distant past or so transformed as to have lost any historical dimension" 30 This explanation is appl icable for the origin of the cult of St. Demetrius in Thessalonica.

We may assume that the ecclesiastical leaders in Thessalonica were also interested in i ntegrati ng all citizens into the Christian faith. So it is quite probable that besides the Byzantine prefects. the ecclesiastical leaders in Thessalonica were involved in inspiring the creation of the SI. Demetrius legend and helped its popularisation among the citizens of Thessalonica. To iustitutionalise this new ecclesiastical policy towards Thessalonica, Byzantium initiated the building of the church devoted to SI. Demetrius

c' For the analysis of the sources that refer to the ethnic constellation in Thessalonica and xtacedonia. see 1\1. 5. Flauoa. "AHTWIKlne i\·laKeLloHWI BO paua BlnaHT)1ja·· .. \{w.:e()tnl/!ia IW. "e(1 811 saumucnuorn «auonce.un 1/ Laponcuunu. YIII.I/a t Cxonje. 2008). :'3-44.

2" Tilt' Byzantine satire Till/arion. written in the 1 ~'h Century. directly associated SI.

Demetrius with Macedonians, saving that "the dny of S1. Demetrius in Thessalonica is a great festival as the Panarhinei in Athens or Panionii in Miletus: it is a grand Macedonian celebration whereby not only the 1\ lacedonian people gather. btl! people of all sorts and from all directions:

Greeks from di ffereru regions of Helada. the j\iliziall tribes thai are settling the area lip to lsrar, and the regions of Scythias, Campanians. ltalicas. Iberians. l.uzitanians and Celts from beyond the A Ips" (/J0('1l11lt'l1f.1 /1/1 the Sl/"I/ggle or III(' .t lacedonian people {ill" independence and IUII/UIIU! stute, I (Skopje, t (81). I ~ I.).

2') According to the written sources Thessalonicans honoured Cabirins with "bloody hands" (lui i Firmici Materni VC De erore pn~rmmnllli religiorum. ed. K Ziegler l Lipeiae. MCMV Ill). .\ I. 27. l.actanrius also refers that "Privatim vero singul i populi genus aut urbis suae conditores. seu vi ri fort itud i Ileinsignes eraru. seu foern i nae casri fall' m i rabi I es, summ a venerarione coluerunt: UI Aegyptii Is-idem, ~:!m!ri Jubarn, Macedones Cabirum, Poeni Uranurn, Latin! F annum. Saoi ni Sane Lim, Rom an i Quit inum I l.uci i Caec il ii F irmian i Lactanrii Diviniarnm lnsttnuionnm. XV. PL v I. col. 0194.'\-0 IlJ5A J. E Lucius, /Jie .·i/?/iingf des Heiligenkults. Tubingen I ~04. 214-228. was first who argued for the close relation of the cult of SI. Demetrius with the previous pagan hero Cabirus. This hypothesis. was also elaborated by Ch. Edson. "Cults of Thessalonica' Harvard Theological Review. 41 (1948). 188-204. who noted that it is "very possible thai the cult of Cabirus contributed elements !O the characteristic form which the worship of Saini Demetrius assumed in the later Christian city"

'0 C.~Mallg(l "New Religiou. Old Culture", in: The Oxford Historyof Byzanuum: Oxford 2002,113-114.


Coaooalllbeiiio flO KYJliiioiii HlI C8.!lUMuiiipuja 80 COJlYH: 8UaOHIUUCK.O UH8eHl~uia? that was implemented in the middle or second half of the s" century. Accordingly the story was introduced that the remains of the body of the Saint were beneath the place were the church was build. As a result, in the oral tradition that was gradually created· in Thessalonica from the mid_5th century, Sirmium was simply altered in the legend of St. Demetrius and replaced with Thessalonica. The fabricated oral tradition has gradually developed affecting not only the story of martyrdom of Demetrius but also the involvement of the prefect Leontius who was represented as responsible for the building of the church of S1. Demetrius initially in Thessalonica. In the further elaboration of the new legend, the notion was created that the relics of S1. Demetrius were preserved in Thessalonica, because S1. Demetrius prevented Leontius in his intention to take the relics to Sirmiurn. To strengthen this notion, the ecclesiastical leaders also supported the oral legend claiming that Thessalonica was the first town were the church was built in honour of St. Demetrius and that the relics were beneath the church.

The analysis of the Passions additionally reveals certain traces of the modification of the original legend from Sirmium. The texts gives an impression of evident closeness between Thessalonica and Sirmium regarding SI. Demetrius that comprise the story of the famous gladiator Lyaeus (known in Sirmium before Thessalonica) as well as the building of the church devoted to St. Demetri us in both cities by the same prefect Leontius. There is another neglected data in the Passions that indicates that the original legend in Sirrniurn was modified with the aim of its appropriation in Thessalonica. The authors of the Passions note that Leontius "deciding to depart for lilyricum" from Thessalonica, wanted to take with him "some of (he re I ics of the martyr in order to place them in a church which he intent to built there in the saint's name ... 3l Evidently with the positioning of Sirmium in Illyricum the authors or the Passions were referring to Sirrniurn as the seat ofthe prefecture lllyricurn. This notion is further reinforced b) the reference that Leontius came in Thessalonica horn lliyricum where he returned later. which geographically dislocate Thessalonica from the prefecture of lllyricum. This misinterpretation could occur only if the authors of the Passions were referring to the oral tradition in Thessalonica that was in lact the adapted version of the legend of S1. Demetrius in Sirrnium. The obvious connotation of Sirmium as a seat or the prefecture of lllyricum noted in Passions, actually correspond to the period when the cult of S1. Demetrius was transferred to Thessalonica, namely shortly after the seat of the prefecture of lllyricum was returned from Sirrnium in 440/1. To give a sense of authenticity of the invented legend another elements were added in the local oral tradition in Thessalonica such as the known topographical places (stadium. baths) where Demetrius was allegedly martyred. Galerius was not mentioned in the SI. Demetrius' martyrdom. since his role in the city was well known

'among Thessalonicans. This can give explanation why the emperor Maximianus Herculius was designated ill the two versions of the Passions as responsible for the martyrs death of SI Demetrius. Because there was no relics and tomb of Demetrius in

) I Passio Alrera, AASS, oct. IV. 90-95. /'(; 116, col. I 182-3 Supposedly Leontius managed to take away only a bloodstained chlarnys and a part of his orarion. To make the legend more authentic, the star) goes on thai Demetrius supposedly helped l.eontius in crossing the swollen Danube river.


rJl_~CHlik 52 1-22008

Thessalceiea, the impression was disseminated among the citizens, that the relics and the tomb were underneath the newly build church.32 Therefore all the authors of the Passions and the Miracles of St. Demetrius, were referring to the legend that was initiated by Byzantium and gradually created and orally circulated in Thessalonica from the mid-S'" century. This explanation can also give an answer to the old scholarly problem concerning the martyrdom and the absence of the relics and the tomb of S1. De rnetri us in Thessalon ica 33

The creation of the cult of St. Demetrius and the building of the church in his honour in Thessalonica was obviously a key element of the new religious policy of Byzantium aimed at acquiring its own influence in the ecclesiastical affairs in Thessalonica and in Illyricum. It was a successful one, because the Thessalonicans willingly embraced the new cult as their own, since Demetrius was represented as their fellow citizen .. The weakening of the role of Thessalonica in the policy of the Roman Church in ! llyricum, which is noticeable in the second half of the s" century, can also be associated with the new Byzantine policy that resulted in the creation of the cult of St. Demetrius in Thessalonica, Paradoxically it was the cult of St. Demetrius that in the 61h_ 1th century period inspired the local patriotism of the citizens of Thessalonica and expressed the ir separati st tendencies with regard to the Byzantine authori ti es. 34 I n the centuries that followed the cult of St. Demetrius for Thessalonicans became not only the issue of re I igio us practice, but a Iso a question of ident i ty. It was certainly not the original intention of Byzantium when it initiated the creation of the cult of S1. Demetrius in Thessalonica in the mid-Sib century.

:;, It was the archbishop John who clearly expressed his ignorance of the existence of the relics and the tomb of SI. Demetrius in Thessalonica, noting that "even at the present time lt is nol known clearly where the tombs of those who were martyred in Thessalonike are hidden. except for the tomb of S1.. Matrona", emphasized John (Mira'lIla. 1:5 §50). In the first miracle John also wrote that prefect Marianus was escorted to what is called ciborium of St. Demetrius "where some say his relics repose under the earth" {il tiracula, I: I §2:!). The same connotation is present in the six th m iracle where John noted that "i tis said that it (ci borium) contains the martyr's tomb" (\timcilla. 1:6 § 55) D_ Woods. "Thessaloinica's Patron", 221-34, notice that the central-cult site for 51. Demetrius at a prominent location within the walls of Thessalonica. was unusual. since the Romans did not allow burials within the walls of their towns. That was the reason why the Christians had always buried their dead, including their martyrs in cemeteries outside thetowns,

-'-' P. Lemerle. "Saint-Demetrius de Thessaronique et les problernes du martyrion et du transept," sct I 77 ( 195J), 660-694; Idem. Commentaire. 205·209, 218, raises doubts that the lomb and the relics of SI. Demetrius were in Thessalonica. C. Bakirtzis, "Pilgrimage to Thessalonike: The tomb of SI. Demetrios", D()jJ 56 (2002), 175-192. suggest that the created notion of the lack of relics was aimed at protecting the city against the physical removal of the saint and his CLiIt to Constantinople. C. Walter, Warrior Saints. 79, argue that the Saint's relics were somewhere underneath the basilica but that they were inaccessible. He explains that Passions were intended to explain why the sanctuary of 81. Demetrius in Thessalonica was build on a site potentially so little adapted to the foundation of Christian sanctuary J Skedros. Saint Demetrius. 87-8S. asserts thai the bones of S1. Demetrius were not available for veneration. but he does not make it clear whether the relics had ever really existed.

-'4 R..I Macrides. "Subversion and LoyaJity in the Cult of SI. Demetrius". Byzantinoslavica. 51/2 ( ]990 J. 189- J 97.


('oaoael1fDeilio H{{ KymlloiTi HlI C(j, flll.AHlillpllja 6(/ COJlYH' I1l1aOH11IIICKlI IIHI.JeHI(llj17 :'

To summarize, therefore, Demetrius was a real historical person. most probably born in Thessalonica, but martyred in Sirrnium, Following the martyrs tradition the Byzantine prefect Leontius initiated in Sirmium the bui lding of the church dedicated to SL Demetrius that was implemented in the first third of the Slh century, This act was an adequate response of Byzantium to the imposition of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Roman papacy in lllyricum through the promotion of the vicariate in Thessalonica in 412, I n the mid_Slh century. after the transfer of the seat of the prefecture of lllyricurn back in Thessalonica, Byzantine authorities initiated the creation of the new legend of St. Demetrius, which was modified and adjusted for the needs of Thessalonicans. To this end, ancient religious traditions were merged into the new Christian cult, representing S1. Demetrius as a substitution of the previous pagan hero Cabirus, The oral legend that was gradually developed from mid_51ll century was later incorporated in the written tradition, The fact that prefect Marianus was mentioned by archbishop John in the first Miracle of St. Demetrius is a clear indication ofthe direct involvement of Byzantine authorities in the process of creation of the legend and the cult in Theessalonica. The aim of Byzantium was through the creation of the cull of St. Demetrius in Thessalonica to gain local support in acquiring its ecclesiastical influence in lllyricurn. In actuality it was the rivalry between the churches of Rome and Constantinople for the ecclesiastical domination in lllyricum. that inspired the creation of the cult of St. Demetrius in Thessalonica,


T.HACHHK 5] 1-] 2008

MU(IIKO 6. Iloua«



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