Departmental Papers (Classical Studies)

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Book Chapter

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Private Worship, Public Values and Religious Change in Late Antiquity

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In Constantinople sometime in the 440s, the empress Pulcheria stood at the edge of an excavation trench. She was there under orders from none other than Saint Thyrsus, who had appeared to her in a dream and instructed her to find the relics of forty Christian soldiers who had perished on the ice of an Armeman Lake. Aided by clergy and palace officials she began a massive excavation, complete with its own public relations director, local church historian Sozomen, who recorded the event for prosperity. The excavation eventually uncovered a casket which, when opened, emitted the sweet odor of myrrh: the martyrs had been found. The day was proclaimed a public festival, the martyrs' relics were processed through the city streets, and, with the empress and bishop standing by, the Forty were laid to rest alongside the relics of Thyrsus himself. Thus were the Fort Martyrs of Sebaste enrolled among the capital's saintly citizens.

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Date Posted: 02 November 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.