The Life and Miracles of Thekla: A Literary Study

  Johnson, Scott Fitzgerald. 2006. The Life and Miracles of Thekla: A Literary Study. Hellenic Studies Series 13. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 3. History, Narrative, and Miracle in Late Antique Seleukeia: Thekla’s θαύµατα and their Collector

Introduction: Herodotean Precedent and the Autobiographical Rhetoric of Miracle-Collecting

The short history of paraphrase presented in the last chapter was not designed to be comprehensive but only to point to the widespread use of the form in early Christian and late antique literature. The issue of form is central, I argue, to a right understanding of the whole Life and Miracles as well as to the development of Byzantine genres such as the saint’s Life and the miracle collection. Biblical and Homeric paraphrase, as well as related literary forms like the cento, provide a literary historical context for the rewriting of the Acts of Paul and Thekla in the fifth century. Both paraphrase and cento can be seen, at least in their late antique forms, as developing first out of educational systems and, subsequently, out of a habit of rewriting characteristic of early Christian textuality. That the author of the LM situates himself amongst “une dynastie de professeurs” at Seleukeia comes as less of a surprise once the paraphrase genre is invoked as a literary background. [1]

In this third chapter the role played by the literary aspirations of the LM’s author will come to the fore. In an attempt to show how he has molded his materials with a definite theme or purpose in mind, the social reality which has been so often associated with local, Asclepian (or simply indigenous) healing must be queried. In no way should the results of this examination diminish our access to the reality “on the ground” in Seleukeia. Instead, these {113|114} results should enhance that access by bringing into focus the way reality is shaped by the author of the text. What I hope to make clear is that it is only through making a close examination of the Miracles, our chief conduit to that Seleukeian reality, that we can hope to achieve the social or anthropological high ground that a text like this one seems to offer.

With this in mind, I would like to begin by examining the rhetorical position adopted by the author in his preface to the Miracles. The author opens the Miracles (after a brief proem) with a citation from Herodotus, the father of classical historiography. This citation is the oracle given to Croesus in Book 1 of the Histories: “In crossing the Halys river Croesus will destroy a great kingdom” (Mir. preface 50; compare Herodotus 1.53). This oracle is used by the author of the Miracles to illustrate the opacity of pagan oracular wisdom. As he says, “in puzzles and riddles lies the whole honor of the oracles” (preface 36–37). He then proceeds to compare these devious oracles to the “healings and oracular sayings (ἰάματα καὶ θεσπίσματα)” of the saints, which he says are “wise, true, complete, holy, perfect, and truly worthy of the God who has given them” (preface 75–77).

Herodotus’ authorial persona is, therefore, at the forefront of the Miracles. This imitation, perhaps more properly called “emulation” (ζῆλος/ζήλωσις), [6] shows up as much in the organization of the miracle narratives as in the programmatic description of his project. His method of organization, placing story after story ad infinitum, is also characteristic of paradoxography, which shares this format with the Miracles and Herodotus, as will be shown in Chapter Four. [7] Without venturing now into a detailed comparison of these three, it is enough to note that the method of framing individual units of narrative has also been acknowledged for some time now to be a primary organizing principle in Herodotus’ Histories. As Henry Immerwahr explained in his 1966 book Form and Thought in Herodotus, Herodotus employs anticipating and summary statements at the beginning and end, respectively, of narrative units—a simple, “paratactic” style that has the potential to produce a complex overall narrative. [8] In Immerwahr’s words: {115|116}

This literary style serves as a method of organization which turns a mass of unrefined material into a manageable whole. It also serves the function of propelling the reader from one story to the next: without realizing what is happening, the reader is whisked away to another story, another country even, and only later realizes the important connections between the narrative units.

The Miracles employs a similar paratactic style in the formulaic introductions and conclusions found in each miracle. A key phrase for the introduction is something like the following from the opening of Mir. 42: “I should mention (μνημονευτέον) this miracle, of which I obtained the remembrance (μνήμην) only with some difficulty.” Likewise, these story-units often have formulaic closings, which serve to conclude the miracle as they push the reader on to the next one. For example, the conclusion to Mir. 13 (31–38) reads:

While I am still dazzled by the splendor of this miracle, another dazzling miracle, which happened once, astounds me (καταπλήττεται) by its beauty and persuades me to move quickly onto to itself, as beautiful as it is, as lovely as it is, and since, much more than the other miracles, it is able to enchant its listener and to proclaim more openly the grace and power of the martyr. Therefore, we should not delay, and to the miracle impatient that we spring forward, let us gratify it with swiftness. Of what a sort is it?

This pattern of formulaic beginning and formulaic ending does not occur so explicitly in every miracle, but the author is very regular in his framing of the stories. I will draw more attention to this technique again when I treat individual miracles in subsequent sections of this chapter.

Having thus shown how both Herodotus and the author of the Miracles achieve this paratactic style through similar means, let us consider other ways in which the model of Herodotus’ Histories could be at work in the writing of the Miracles. First, the author of the Miracles emulates Herodotus in the way he cites sources for the miracle stories. As noted in a recent article by Carolyn Dewald, Herodotus employs an “expert’s persona” which allows him to present {116|117} a “polyvocal” narrative from an authoritative position: “[Herodotus] sets up a division between what he knows and says in his own voice because he knows it, and the logoi or stories of others.” [10] This description could be accurately made of the author of the Miracles. For instance, Mir. 34 is a story about two thieves from Eirenopolis (in Isauria) who attempt to rape a virgin attached to the shrine at Seleukeia, and they attempt this in the very gardens of the holy shrine. When Thekla reaps punishment for this act of drunken hubris (since they were also drunk at the time, celebrating a recently stolen gold piece), the two thieves meet their end. In the final paragraph of this miracle the author appeals to the authority of his sources: “I learned this story from [the thieves’] fellow citizens, perhaps even from their own relations (τάχα δὲ καὶ [παρὰ] συγγενῶν)” (34.56–57). His appeal to the testimony of the thieves’ families promotes the sense of direct access to the authentic work of Thekla. At the same time, however, this appeal distances him from the testimony and allows him to report on the event as if he were a third, disinterested party. Like Herodotus, the author of the Miracles is highlighting at the same time both the quality of his testimony and the trustworthiness of his reporting.

So much for the incorporation of sources and others’ eyewitness testimony. How, then, does the author of the Miracles attempt to integrate Herodotus’ claim to autopsy and personal experience? This question proves to be somewhat more difficult to answer because Herodotus’ own practice varies throughout the Histories. In the middle of Book 2, for instance, Herodotus declares, “up to this point my narrative is the result of my own direct observation, reasoning, and research (ὄψις τε ἐμὴ καὶ γνώμη καὶ ἱστορίη)” (2.99). As John Marincola has pointed out, Book 2 of the Histories, the Egyptian λόγος, is by far the most “autobiographical” of all nine books, and for two reasons in particular: 1) we know Herodotus was attempting to supersede previous histories of Egypt, like that of Hecataeus, whereas there is no evidence that any other writer had written a history of the Greek war with Persia; 2) autopsy was impossible to achieve for the whole of the war itself, whereas the ethnography of Egypt found in Book 2 is much more geographical and anthropological—most significantly, Herodotus claims that Egypt has more “marvels” (θαυμάσια) than any other country (2.35). [11] Does this mean that Book 2 is essentially a different kind of ἱστορία than the rest of the Histories? In the sense that both the tools and subject matter seem to be different, the answer according to Marincola is definitely “yes”: in Book 2 Herodotus is polemicizing {117|118} against prior writers on Egypt and also attempting something more ethnographic or digressional which is less concerned with the overall narrative of the war between Greece and Persia. [12]

This last point has important repercussions for how we understand the Miracles’ author participating in the discovery of information about Thekla’s healings in Seleukeia and its environs. There are a number of autobiographical comments strung throughout the course of the Miracles, which, when examined in this historiographical light, serve further to solidify the rhetorical connection that the author is trying achieve between his work and that of Herodotus. For instance, in Mir. 31 Thekla appears to the author to encourage the progress of his miracle collection (συλλογή). This short miracle deserves to be quoted in full:

At the very moment when I was writing (ἐποιούμην γραφήν) about this miracle (θαύματος)—it is not good to keep silent any longer about what the martyr granted me—the following happened to me. {118|119} I had been neglectful in collecting (τοῦ συλλέγειν) and committing these events to writing (γράφειν αὐτὰ ταῦτα), I confess, and lazily did I grasp a writing tablet (δέλτου) and a stylus (γραφίδος), as if I had given up on my inquiry (ἔρευναν) and collection (συλλογήν) of miracles. It was when I was in this state and in the process of yawning (χασμιῶντι) that the martyr appeared to my sight (ἐν ὄψει) seated at my side, in the place where it was my habit to consult my books (πρὸς τὰ βιβλία ποιεῖσθαι συνουσίαν), and she took from my hand the notebook (τετράδα), on which I was transcribing (μετεγραφόμην) this latest story (ταῦτα) from the writing tablet (δέλτου). And she seemed to me to read (ἀναγινώσκειν) and to be pleased (ἐφήδεσθαι) and to smile (μειδιᾶν) and to indicate (ἐνδείκνυσθαι) to me by her gaze (βλέμματι) that she was pleased (ἀρέσκοι) with what I was in the process of writing, and that it is necessary for me to complete this work (πόνον) and not to leave it unfinished—up to the point that I am able to learn from each person what he knows and what is possible [to discover] with accuracy (ἀκριβείᾳ). So, after this vision (ὄψιν) I was consumed with fear and filled with desire once again to pick up my writing tablet and stylus and to do as much as she will command.

Of course, this type of supernatural experience is not at all what one reads in Book 2 of Herodotus, but the point to be made is that the author is, like Herodotus, placing himself at the center of the very subject matter he has set out to describe. As Gregory Nagy has commented on Herodotus’ narrative: “The search for original causes motivates not just the events being told but the narration itself.” [
16] The quest for the history of Thekla’s miracles at Seleukeia is distinctly portrayed as a quest for the completion of the miracle collection, with the author’s role in that quest at the very center of the portrayal. The suggestion in the passage above is that, if the author had continued to delay the completion of his literary task, then the Miracles would never come to light. Rather than simply declaring that this is a divinely ordained task, the author incorporates his own personal experience as the miracle collector (supernatural as it may be) into the history of the events he is recording. This autobiographical mode of historiography is undeniably Herodotean: the Egyptian λόγος in Book 2 of the Histories is here considered to be a model worthy of emulation. {119|120}

Herodotus is invoked, therefore, as a literary precedent in several different ways by the author of the Miracles. [17] To recap, first, at the beginning of the Miracles Herodotus is cited as a trustworthy account on a point of polemic: Croesus was the recipient of a devious oracle which led to his demise—what kind of god would intentionally trick his adherents? The fact that this is a misreading of Herodotus hardly matters. What matters is that Herodotus’ name is front and center at the beginning of the Miracles, a position which, from a literary point of view, signals to the attentive reader that Herodotus is going to be an interlocutor for this author. Second, the paratactic style of Herodotus’ narrative, especially Book 2, is repeatedly invoked. While it is important to note that by late antiquity there was an established sub-genre of historiography called paradoxography, which took this paratactic style as its modus operandi (see Chapter Four), the author of the Miracles has signaled his allegiance to Herodotus already in the preface to the Life, so the reader should be sensitive to the outworking of the author’s historiographical self-consciousness throughout the work. Finally, the author places himself at the center of the history of Thekla’s deeds and, consequently, at the center of their collection and promulgation, since Thekla’s activity is bound up with his efforts as well. This autobiographical mode of history writing is also characteristic of Herodotus and, as John Marincola has shown, particularly Book 2 of the Histories.

I would like to turn now to an examination of Thekla’s character in these miracles. Over the next several sub-sections I shall be examining closely two groups of miracles in particular: 1) the miracles which are primarily concerned with Thekla’s divine power, as displayed in her confrontations with local pagan gods as well as in her miracles of vengeance; and 2) the miracles of healing. This latter group is the one that usually attracts separate attention among scholars, but I hope to show that (despite my division for the sake of analysis) there is no good reason to divide the miracles from one another in any formal manner whatsoever. In other words, miracles of healing may be distinct from the vengeance miracles in terms of content, but there is no overarching structural difference between the two groups, either in terms of narrative or the overall picture of Thekla that is offered. {120|121}

Thekla’s Miracles of Divine Power: Supremacy, Vengeance, and Humanitarian Aid under the “All Seeing and Divine Eye” of the Martyr

Rhetorical conventions

While it is unusual that the martyr is the subject of the abuse—this only happens in one other miracle (Mir. 28)—in other ways this short miracle exhibits shared rhetorical characteristics of all of the miracles. The most important is the description of Thekla’s “all seeing and divine eye.” This epithet could be taken as representative of the way Thekla’s presence in Seleukeia is understood by the author of the Miracles: she never stops watching and never stops working miracles. As the author says later in the collection, “The final miracle, this will never come; there will never be a final miracle of the martyr” (Mir. 44.2–3). In the words of Mir. 22, this is because Thekla is always “watchful.” Interestingly, this unceasing gaze is only once described in terms of shepherding or assisting the helpless—orphans show up in Mir. 35—a tone or characterization which could have easily drawn upon biblical motifs from the Psalms, Isaiah, and the Gospels. Instead, Thekla’s gaze is directed at everything that is “her own” (cf. John 10:27). In the case of Mir. 22, “her own” takes the form of the consecrated “loot” (τὸ φώριον), but in human terms the impact of the theft would have fallen upon “her attendants and servants” (ὑπηρέται καὶ πάρεδροι), exactly whom she “visits” (ἐπιφοιτήσασα) to reveal the location of the stolen cross. Elsewhere, Thekla’s “own” is defined as the individuals who seek to honor her, such as the author of the Miracles himself: “she knows to help with the greatest gifts (τὰ μέγιστα) those who honor her a little (μικρά)” (Mir. 41.7–8).

Thus, her principal focus is upon defending and protecting those who are attached to her in some way: in Mir. 22 this means her “assistants” (presumably priests and virgins attached to her shrine), but in Mir. 44, it means the author, whom we know, from Mir. 12 and elsewhere, is not a monk (though he appears to become a priest in Mir. 41; see below). While her gaze is omnipotent in its scope, it focuses on those who are connected to her: in other words, there is a correspondence between those who need her, who honor her, and whom she looks out for. For the author of the Miracles this correspondence is one-to-one between his text and the assistance that Thekla provides for him. {122|123}

Dominance in Seleukeia

Related to this correspondence between those who need Thekla and those whom she helps is Thekla’s authority over the region of Seleukeia and Isauria/Cilicia generally. The verb ἐπιφοιτάω (“to visit, haunt”) is the most common verb used of Thekla’s activities “on the ground.” Thus, as in the passage quoted from Mir. 22 above, she “visits” her assistants directly after and in response to her “watching” the thief steal and hide the cross. In the Miracles there is a causal relationship between her omnipotent, divine vision (sometimes “listening”: e.g. Mir. 45.20–21), and the practical “haunting” which she performs, either visibly (as herself or in the guise of another), or in dreams.

The author of the Miracles takes pains to de-mythologize this ancient narrative, before bringing Thekla onto the scene to defeat Sarpedon. Instead of recalling the prominent role that the Trojan Sarpedon (son of Zeus and Laodameia) plays in the Iliad (e.g. 5.628–672; 12.290ff.), including his death at the hands of Patroklos (16.419–683), the author of the Miracles presents a much less grandiose history of Sarpedon’s arrival in Cilicia:

Some people are aware that he was once a stranger…wandering in search of his sister and putting in by sea at these parts here, and in ignorance of the territory and in ignorance of the current ruler—this was Kilix, his uncle and his father’s brother—he was killed because he had caused some pain and attracted the hostility of the inhabit- {123|124} ants, and he was buried by the breakwater at this shore. Thereafter, he received the name of daimon, and the reputation of an oracle and prophet, and on account of this was considered among foolish people to be a god.

Mir. 1.5–10

The author of the Miracles clearly has no gift for mythologizing. [
23] Indeed, he summarizes his iconoclastic approach to ancient mythology with the following statement: “the long passage of time produces many such ideas, and people accept them uncritically and create gods out of fables” (1.12–13). While it is true that in other mythological traditions Sarpedon does not die at the hands of Patroklos but lives on, long enough at least to settle in Asia Minor (Apollodorus 3.1.2; Diodorus Siculus 5.79.3; scholia on Iliad 16.673), [24] the author of the Miracles seems intentionally to eschew any details that would bring some repute to Sarpedon, and perhaps his habit of calling him “the Sarpedonian” serves as a polemical aside on popular opinion. [25]

Her final act against Sarpedon is to “silence him”—in fact the act quotes her direct speech: “Silence! Shut up!” (1.18)—a speech-act which accomplishes the spiritual work of the miracle. In concluding his account of Thekla’s attack on Sarpedon the author of the Miracles comments that the god simply “left,” abandoning those at his shrine (“whether one wants to call it a tomb or a temenos”) who patiently waited on him “devoting themselves to prayers and supplications.” Thus, the inability of Sarpedon to fulfill the hopes of his suppliants—essentially because he is an upstart man, not a god—is contrasted with Thekla’s authority in recapturing a land that was originally her own {125|126} possession. Finally, just before moving on to the second god to be dispatched (Athena), the author of the Miracles closes with a typical summary statement, which underlines the completion (and narrative autonomy) of this miracle: “This was the prelude of the miracles of the martyr, which no one disbelieves any longer, but instead those who are here see it, and all everywhere are amazed (θαυμάζουσι)” (1.23–25). The paratactic style, evident here in the very first miracle, emphasizes the one-to-one correspondence between the miracles that Thekla accomplished and those that are recorded in this collection.

The demise of Sarpedon’s sanctuary at the Sarpedonian cape, south of Seleukeia, is followed in Mir. 2 by Thekla’s conquering of the mountain sanctuary of Athena just to the north. With these two miracles Thekla acquires military dominance over the intermediary plain between the cape and the mountains, that is, the lowland area where the ancient city of Seleukeia and the hilltop shrine of Hagia Thekla were located. Thus, there is a very important theme being established in the first miracles: Thekla is autochthonous in Seleukeia, a status which mutually confirms and is confirmed by her divine power. As noted above (p. 65–66), it is the supernatural event of Thekla’s disappearance into the ground which provides the narrative transition between the Life and the Miracles halves of this work. By beginning the Miracles with these mythological, or even patriological, stories about Thekla’s physical dominance over the coastal territory of Isauria, the author is only continuing a theme which he began in the “previous composition” (τὸ προλαβὸν σύνταγμα), as he calls the Life in the preface (Mir. preface 7). From a narrative point of view, the exertion of her divine power in overcoming Sarpedon and Athena is only a logical outworking of the claim that she placed on this territory when it supernaturally opened up for her to disappear into, at the end of the Life.

There are two important aspects to this aside about Paul. First, calling Paul her διδάσκαλος is reminiscent of the description of their relationship in the Life: Paul is consistently invoked in that earlier work as Thekla’s teacher rather than as her “companion” (as in the second-century ATh). Thus, it is important to note that Paul’s distinctive character in the Life is carried into the Miracles. Second, mentioned along with the setting up of the temple in Seleukeia is that fact that Paul’s “own city” is Tarsus. As the author comments:

Paul is a guest of the Seleukeians, and the virgin Thekla a guest of the Tarsians. And great was the competition (ἅμιλλα) between these two cities—either one would travel up to the Apostle Paul for his panegyris, or would similarly go from there to the Apostle Thekla for her festival. Great was the rivalry (ἔρις) on this topic that was born among all of us. It was excellent and perfectly suitable for the Christian children and townspeople.

Mir. 4.8–13

This passage also continues a theme begun in the Life, but only in its concluding chapters (especially Life 27). In that earlier passage the author of the LM sets Seleukeia in comparison with Tarsus for the beauty of its surroundings and the quality of its people. However, here the emphasis is, as we might expect, on Thekla’s ownership (so to speak) of Seleukeia, in parallel with Paul’s ownership of Tarsus. The author jokes that this competition is all in good fun, {128|129} but the literary purpose of this aside is clearly to establish further the current theme, which is definitive for Thekla’s relationship to Seleukeia. Her divine power is linked to her control over the region, and, as becomes increasingly apparent as the reader progresses, the extent of Thekla’s power in the region corresponds to the extent of coverage the author of the Miracles gives her.

As proof that the author is aware of this problem, there is the miracle that Thekla performs on behalf of Iconium (Mir. 6). The author’s introduction to that miracle reads as follows:

But the virgin has not so exclusive a relationship [literally, “was not such”] concerning this city Seleukeia—that she would be its defender, protector, mother, and teacher—but at the same time be indifferent concerning other cities. She also rescued Iconium, the city that was so insolent to her and lit against her the exceedingly evil fire, but which had come into similar dangers as Seleukeia.

Mir. 6.1–5

Her compassion for Iconium is described as almost a stretch of her good character, since this city had already shown itself to be disreputable through {129|130} how it treated her in the Life (see pp. 40–42 above). Nevertheless, she condescends to visit it and delivers the city from a band of Isaurian brigands. This passage is reminiscent of the end of the ATh and the Life when Thekla returns to Iconium from meeting Paul in Myra. Instead of setting up residence there and converting her home city to Christianity she only visits her mother briefly, then pushes on to Seleukeia. There appears to be no wavering in this tradition—in other words, there is no alternative legend that has her staying in Iconium. Like the passage just quoted from Mir. 6, Thekla’s visit to Iconium at the end of the ATh/Life is almost a formality, and one which serves mainly to fix the reader’s attention on her much closer relationship with Seleukeia. Iconium is used in the Miracles as well as at the end of the Life only for the sake of contrast with the city she calls her own.

What emerges, therefore, from these first four miracles is that Thekla’s divine power is linked to her affiliation with, “assignment” to, or even ownership of Seleukeia and its environs. Thekla’s power extends only to this area, which corresponds to the area covered by the Miracles itself. In taking possession of this land from the pagan daimones, Thekla is characterized as taking back possession of a region which the author accords to Christ from a deeply rooted past. In his mind the pagan gods are intervening innovators who have arrived on the scene recently and need to be removed from power. How far back in time their rule is meant to extend is unclear. The author is primarily concerned with Thekla’s triumph and setting things aright: he only notes that “as soon as” (ἅμα) she appeared in Seleukeia, she defeated Sarpedon (Mir. 1.14). Beyond this the reader is not invited to inquire further into the muddy “past-times” history at work in the background. In contrast, however, the two main literary arguments of these initial stories appear unambiguous enough: 1) the autochthonous nature of Thekla’s character and 2) her power to contend with even the most revered and ancient of the pagan gods.

Hubris and its just punishments

Despite the programmatic nature of the first four miracles in the collection, Thekla’s power is not confined to those divine beings who might be considered her equal. Often throughout the Miracles she is portrayed as meting out justice on groups or individuals whose hubris leads them to act against a city, a church, or an individual whom Thekla considers her own. In a number of miracles Thekla defends cities and churches from the brigands for whom the Isaurian mountains were famous throughout classical and late antique history. Alongside these city-defense miracles stand a group of vengeance stories {130|131} in which individuals are vindicated for wrongs that they have suffered. The narrative focus in these latter miracles is on how the offenders meet their (often violent) deaths. Both groups, city-defense and individual-vindication, employ the rhetorical conventions noted above, but each shares certain internal characteristics as well, which it will be worthwhile to examine in more detail.

A pair of two city-defense miracles begins just following the miracles against the pagan gods. In Mir. 5, Seleukeia is protected against a surprise attack by the brigands. In Mir. 6 Iconium is preserved by Thekla when faced with a similar danger. Another pair, Mir. 26 and 27, concerns the defense of two Isaurian cities, Dalisandos and Selinous, which were beset by sieges also perpetrated by brigands from the mountains. In Mir. 28 one of Thekla’s churches, presumably the shrine at Hagia Thekla, is pillaged but is restored to its former glory once Thekla wreaks punishment on the brigands. This latter miracle demonstrates a combination of elements from the city-defense and individual-vindication miracles.

To begin with Mir. 5, the author opens this miracle by noting something rather curious, namely that Seleukeia at this time was not very well defended. “All that was necessary,” he says, “was for the brigands to desire her, and she would be in their hands” (5.4). Usually, as in Mir. 27, the city is already very well defended but comes under an impenetrable siege. In the case of Mir. 5, however, the author takes pains to describe the Seleukeians’ lackadaisical attitude and its consequences:

The inhabitants of the city tended to disbelieve most of the rumors circulating at that time, either sleeping or taking their leisure at the theater, and never suspecting at all that there was any immediate danger. Their enemies, on the other hand, were awake, passing the night without sleep, and were all but sharing already the possessions and slaves (σώματα) of Seleukeia’s inhabitants.

Mir. 5.4–9

If the defenselessness of the city is somewhat unusual, the picture of the uncivilized brigands biding their time while they feast their eyes upon their prey is a common description not just in the Miracles but also in most of the descriptions of Isaurian brigandage which have survived from the period. In 1990 Brent Shaw published a long study of the history of brigandage in Isauria and came to the conclusion that there was a very consistent picture of the brigands (or “bandits”) from this region: {131|132}

Having established this “pattern of appearance, of presentation” through numerous examples from Roman, and especially late antique, literature—such as Ammianus Marcellinus and the Miracles itself—Shaw comments that these literary Leitmotive should not be understood as mere rhetoric but have some basis in the self-presentation of the brigands on the ground. As he says, “They make perfectly good sense as essential attributes required of any man who wished to become a ‘leader’ in the sort of social structure that prevailed in Isauria throughout antiquity” (Shaw 1990:259–260).

Yet, what is naturally missing from Shaw’s social analysis is how the role of the brigands fits into the literary agenda of the Miracles. [36] Most importantly, when the reader comes to Mir. 5, it is not the brigands but Thekla who is in control of the Seleukeian plains. Surely any close reader must realize that the brigands’ authority in the region is being (to some degree) simply replaced by Thekla’s, and the description of the brigands’ actions, however authentic according to Shaw, is primarily serving the literary purpose of supporting the specific image of Thekla which this author is presenting. To take an example, once the enemy is rebuffed by Thekla’s miraculous defense of the walls in Mir. 5, the brigands are described as dumbfounded at their failure. Yet, crucially, {132|133} they know who it is who defeats them. As the narrator says, “And out of that blood-stained phalanx there are still some who highly praise the martyr in these events” (5.25–27). While the characterization of the brigands earlier in the miracle is indeed as a fearsome enemy that wields “the engines of war,” the emphasis of the miracle as a whole (and especially at the end) is on the brigands’ miraculous, vocal respect for Thekla after the fact. Indeed, in other miracles, the conversion of the offender (or bystander) is often described as “even more miraculous” than the miracle itself (e.g. Mir. 17). This rhetoric makes use of the brigands as a topos but eschews the responsibility of telling the complete truth. More important than comprehensive description for this author is making sure his readers know about the divine power of Thekla to overcome siege works.

Similar rhetoric is at work in Mir. 6, in which Thekla saves her home city of Iconium from the same type of attack. Yet the emphasis there is on the swiftness and pervasiveness of Thekla’s rebuttal. As the author says, “all [the attackers] were subject to the same danger and ruin. ‘No messenger escaped alive,’ as one might say in parody of Homer (ὁμηρίζων)” (6.10–12). The brigands are so utterly destroyed that it is almost as if they never existed. They are a prop for displaying Thekla in action, even while, as a locus of societal trepidation, they have an important role to play in communicating Thekla’s empathy to a local audience. Further, the miraculous works of Thekla in saving these two cities from certain demise are explicitly equated at the end of Mir. 6: “the one trophy is not much more common than the other, for both are the work of a sole hand, thought, and ability” (6.13–15). Thekla’s power is given no bounds. Like with the “all seeing and divine eye” which always watches over her region and people, the author of the Miracles is invoking again a sense of uniformity among Thekla’s miraculous activities. The paratactic structure serves to reinforce this uniformity in its pairing of equivalent or near equivalent miracles (e.g. Mir. 5 & 6; 26.47–53 & 27) and its repetitive method of framing stories of Thekla’s divine power.

All of this scene-setting serves to focus the narration on the main point of action, which is Thekla’s reversal of the brigands’ newly found fortune. The climax is told succinctly but not without reinforcing the sense that Thekla is fully in control of the region, despite appearances:

But the virgin, letting their boldness have sway a little—in allowing them to sail in, gather up and remove the holy adornment, load it up, disembark, and head home—this is how she played the game against them.

Mir. 28.19–22

The conclusion to Mir. 28 presents the brigands in a much weakened state, having been handed over by Thekla to a company of “Roman” soldiers which then proceeds to cut their throats. These soldiers are also fully aware of the role that Thekla has played in the capturing of the looters. According to the text, the soldiers sing and rejoice in triumph and then replace the stolen ornaments in Thekla’s church (even though Thekla has supposedly already done this in preceding paragraph). Their reaction is perhaps intended to offer an example of how the reader should react to the Miracles in general: “they reconsecrated the ornaments that belonged to the martyr, while also marveling (θαυμάζειν) and struck (καταπεπλῆχθαι) that she did not endure for long at all the boldness (τόλμης) of those brigands and offenders” (28.37–40). Thekla’s unwillingness “to endure” the hubris of her enemies is essential to the author’s conception of her role in Seleukeia: she always responds swiftly. This is because, first, the crime is worthy of a proper response and, second, her swiftness is concomitant with her power and ability to set wrongs right, especially when it concerns something dear to her (as all of these miracles do). The reaction of the witnesses is one of dumbfoundment—in this case, both the brigands and the soldiers were reduced to speechlessness due to their awe of Thekla’s power.

The appositeness of their response is highlighted at the end of the miracle. The author brings this story from the past into present day reality:

Do not endure them now, nor allow them to bring an attack in their great hubris and foolhardiness against us your infants (τροφίμων). {134|135} For our misfortunes are unbearable and intolerable. Already we all have inclined toward destruction and utter ruin. Churches (ἐκκλησίαι) have bowed the knee (κεκλίκασι), and also cities, fields, villages, and homes have bowed. Everyone everywhere mourns—all have turned towards the one hope still remaining: your intercession (πρεσβείαν) and the help of your bridegroom and king, Christ.

Mir. 28.40–48

As has been demonstrated by Shaw and others, the period from the late fourth to the early sixth century was a time of major upheaval in Isauria: from the insurgencies described by Ammianus, to the rise of Zeno, the revolt of Illus, and the wars of Anastasius I, southern Anatolia changed hands numerous times and was a source of frustration for the imperial army. [
38] The author of the Miracles is clearly aware of these struggles and their effect on the people of Seleukeia. The picture he paints is a dismal one, of churches and towns being put under subjection, one after another. His description of the situation is apocalyptic. He calls the faithful inhabitants “us your infants (τρόφιμοι),” perhaps in reference to apocalytpic passages in the Bible where the infant is an image of utter helplessness. [39] Rhetorically speaking, he has placed this flourish at a strategic point in the narrative: the story he has just told about Thekla’s swift, definitive vindication of her pillaged church should give the reader hope that Thekla will certainly act when provoked. “The enemies attacked and they were overturned, with not even one person being allowed to remain to tell” (28.53–56). Referring again to the passage from the Iliad (12.73) which he quoted in Mir. 6, he underlines the completeness of Thekla’s punishment: “No messenger escaped alive” (6.11–12). This also serves to confirm the uniformity of the punishment miracles, so that the shared rhetorical or literary features of this group appear well defined from the beginning to the end of the collection.

In the latter miracle, Symposios is not at all successful because, as the narrator says, “the undefiled and immaculate hand of the virgin was clearly protecting and guarding those letters like imperial seals (βασιλικὰ σήμαντρα)” (10.15–17). While this is surely another ex post facto interpretation, it is confirmed rhetorically by the vengeance of Thekla which follows her confounding of the erasure: “In the end [the worker Symposios had hired], who waged war against the godly letters fell off his ladder, broke his bones, and all at once paid the penalty for his audacity” (10.19–21). Thus, Symposios receives a harsh, immediate punishment from the martyr—in the form of the broken body of his hired worker. Without delay, the punishment inflicted on this worker serves to provoke Symposios’ conversion to the orthodox faith: “Immediately at that moment, having exchanged his false opinion, Symposios pronounced, breathed forth, confessed, publicly and visibly proclaimed, and was teaching the very formula [of the inscribed creed] which he had formerly attacked: the consubtantial Trinity” (10.21–25).

Within the space of two or three sentences the author of the Miracles has set up the story, described Symposios’ misdeed, shown how Thekla swiftly brought punishment, and, finally, concluded the miracle in the most miraculous way possible, with the offender’s own conversion. This pattern evokes the punishments of the brigands, who themselves testified to Thekla’s power (e.g. Mir. 5). One difference, however, between those group miracles and this one concerning an individual is that the groups are not usually converted but only bear witness to the identity and the supernatural power of the one performing the miracle. The benefit of focusing the narrative on an individual is that the author can more convincingly draw the miracle to its best possible conclusion: the offender himself is converted to Christianity. {136|137}

Some punishments of individuals, however, do not end with such a pleasant finale. The punishment of Pappos, for example, appears very harsh by comparison. In Mir. 35 Pappos is described as a βουλητής, a provincial administrator in charge of grain distributions to the military (35.1–3). His partner in this, Aulerios, suddenly dies, leaving a moderate inheritance to his children. Out of greed, however, Pappos seizes the inheritance and leaves Aulerios’ orphan children destitute. As the author poignantly observes, “Their misfortune was thus double, becoming orphans as well as loosing the few possessions that still belonged to them” (35.9–11). At this point Thekla intervenes, appearing to Pappos in a grim nightmare. She claims that Aurelios presented himself before Christ in heaven, “the emperor above all,” and condemned Pappos, pleading for divine retribution. In the end, Thekla proves to be both the messenger and agent of justice, as she predicts that one week from that day Pappos will die (35.15–26).

Pappos is not portrayed as indifferent to this news. On the contrary, he is stupefied by the nightmare (as are the brigands and Roman soldiers in Mir. 28), and in the end he finds the strength to repent of his “oppression” (συκοφαντία; cf. lxx Ecclesiastes 5:7 [5:8]). Nevertheless, without hesitation, on the appointed day Pappos meets his end (10.39–40). The author cannot resist concluding with a comment on the story’s widespread fame: “no one of those in our city, nor anyone in theirs [i.e. Isaurian Eirenopolis], was ignorant of the fate that comes from injustice (μετ’ ἀδικίας)” (10.41–42).

A few important points need to be observed regarding the conclusion of this miracle. First, the miracle takes place in Eirenopolis, approximately sixty-five miles to the west of Seleukeia. The author underlines the unity of reporting both there and in Seleukeia with regard to Pappos’ punishment as meted out by Thekla. Thus, by setting the miracle in Eirenopolis, the author projects a uniformity of opinion over the whole region. This narrative strategy makes the knowledge of the people correspond to the regional boundaries of Thekla’s spiritual activities: the cognitive uniformity between the individuals described and the collection itself cannot be emphasized enough, as it is central to the self-presentation of the Miracles as a whole. Second, Thekla’s divine power to extinguish the life of an offender like Pappos is complete and effective. Even though, as the narrator remarks, Pappos turned in the end (during his week of reprieve) to “ill-timed philanthropy” (ἄκαιρον φιλανθρωπίαν), his earlier greed was superlative and deserving of the punishment that he received.

Why would the author of the Miracles not take the opportunity here to make something out of Pappos’ conversion following his vivid nightmare? One answer is, of course, that the author recorded simply what he thought had {137|138} happened, but an author as concerned as he is with the consistency of Thekla’s portrayal surely has some idea of how each miracle connects to Thekla’s spiritual nature (even if it proves to be only a hazy conception). A better answer would be that the intended effect of Mir. 35 is to show the lengths to which Thekla will go in displaying her divine power and authority over the region. Confirmation of this comes at the end of the miracle in a framing section designed to push the reader on to the next miracle:

But come, turn away—I need to repeat this—from depressing miracles to more cheerful ones, from the oppressive ones to the more charming, in order that we might uplift our souls tense from fear, and we might warm them up with some stories (τισὶ διηγήμασιν) both sweeter and gentler. Therefore, let me again publicize (εἰς μέσον ἀγάγωμεν) the things which I have learned.

Mir. 35.43–48

In this passage the author categorizes his miracles into those that are depressing and those which are cheerful. Of course, as it is part of a framing device, this formulation should not be taken as definitive for the whole of the Miracles. Nevertheless, the author demonstrates a crucial awareness of the spectrum of responses that these miracles might bring, responses which are in turn related to the degrees of Thekla’s wrath as presented in the Miracles itself.

When taken as a whole, the vengeance miracles evince several defined rhetorical and literary characteristics. First, from a literary point of view, the vengeance miracles are related to the author’s depiction of Thekla’s divine power over the whole region of Isauria, as established through her epic battles with the pagan gods in Mir. 1–4. Essential to this depiction is the direct control Thekla exhibits over the cities in the plains between the mountains and the ocean—particularly Seleukeia (Mir. 5), but also Selinous (Mir. 27), Olba (Mir. 24.5), and the otherwise unknown Dalisandos (Mir. 26; see below). Yet a reader could assume that Thekla’s victory over Athena’s “Mt. Kokusion” is symbolic for Thekla’s ability to protect also cities like Iconium (Mir. 6) and Eirenopolis (Mir. 34 and 35), both of which are located some distance from the coast, within and beyond the mountains that were so infested by the brigands. Thus, among the vengeance miracles, the reader is offered a much wider compass for Thekla’s activities, yet it is a compass which is predicated on her symbolic victories over the pagan gods—the ultimate expressions of her power, perhaps—which are presented at the very beginning of the work. {138|139}

Second, the characterizations of those on whom Thekla metes out her punishments are very stylized. This stylization is used to great effect: it focuses the narration on the action which really constitutes each miracle. For example, in Mir. 35 Pappos’ stunned reaction to the nightmare in which Thekla condemned him to death is a device which builds the tension of the miracle. The reader wonders whether Pappos is going to be let off the hook or whether he will die on the day appointed, as Thekla predicted. Ultimately, maintaining the consistency of Thekla’s resolve is more important rhetorically to this author than any gain from Pappos’ repentance (which the author claims “was not by choice, but by necessity”; Mir. 35.38). The effect is to focus the narration on Thekla’s promise coming true, which proves so harsh and emotionally cold in the telling that the author must acknowledge the difference between Thekla’s action in this miracle and her more charming, compassionate work elsewhere.

Third and finally, there are important correspondences drawn between the collection itself and the events taking place in the miracles. For instance, in Mir. 28 the soldiers are amazed (θαυμάζειν) and astonished (καταπεπλῆχθαι) at the swiftness with which Thekla dealt with the brigands. Besides being a subtle aside on the inefficiency of the soldiers in real life to deal with the local insurrections threatening Seleukeia, this comment presents to the reader a model for the appropriate reaction to the telling of Thekla’s Miracles. The word θαῦμα and its cognates are programmatic for the Miracles as a whole, and there is some indication in the preface of the Miracles (preface 10) that θαύματα is to be considered the official title of this second half of the LM.

Humanitarian causes

Included in the Miracles are around six or seven stories in which Thekla is allowed to demonstrate her power to help people in ways beyond effecting their vindication following some misfortune. The group of vengeance miracles just discussed is much larger than this “humanitarian” group, by about two-to-one, yet the two groups are linked through the author’s depiction of Thekla’s power to produce unforeseen or supernatural outcomes in straightened circumstances. For example, in Mir. 15 a “well born and faithful” Cypriot man comes with his family and servants to Seleukeia to celebrate Thekla’s annual panegyris. They leave their boat at the dock, guarded only by two boys. Without warning, a fierce storm arises and pulls the boat out to sea, with the two boys still on it, trapped and with no means of escape. In a miraculous show of power and compassion, Thekla appears on the boat—“storm-tossed and about to be sunk”—seizes the helm, unfurls the sail (not something one would normally do in high winds!), and brings the boat to safety, while at the same time “reproving the storm” (15.26–33). She docks the boat at the very place from which it was pulled loose, and in the end, when the Cypriot man and his family return, they do not realize that anything has even happened until the two boys explain their adventure and Thekla’s intervention, and the pilgrims go away “marveling” (θαυμάζοντας) at the martyr and “glorifying” (δοξάζοντας) her (15.42–50).

It is important to recognize in this miracle the absence of any immediate personal need relating to an individual, either in terms of sickness or in terms of harm done by someone else. While it is true that the lives of the two boys are at stake, the miracle is performed, according to its narration, out of respect for the faithful Cypriot man (15.35–36). He comes to Thekla’s shrine at Seleukeia to pay her honor, so Thekla ensures that everything is as he left it when he returns to the dock from her panegyris. Yet, the conclusion of miracle shows there is more going on than Thekla’s concern for that one man. The boat, the locus or site of the miracle-working itself, appears to be the very means by which the boys return to Cyprus and report the miracle to their fellow Cypriots—though all that is explicitly said is that they reported it both in Seleukeia and Cyprus (15.42). In any case, this miracle is symbolic of Thekla’s power to insure that her own fame is widely spread: the miracle-working she does in Seleukeia effects its own dissemination, in the city and abroad. {140|141}

A characteristic of these humanitarian miracles is that their narration is often more elaborate and exciting than those of the punishment-vengeance type. This is true in the case just cited: the wind and waves of the storm in Mir. 15 are described in detail, which increases their perceived menace to the boat and the two frightened boys. A provisional interpretation of the typically intensified emotional component of the humanitarian miracles is that there is less “action” than in the vengeance or healing miracles. By action I do not mean Thekla’s appearances as much as the overturning of a helpless situation or the cure of a hopeless disease, the real meat of the Miracles in terms of its narration.

A different, literary interpretation might be that the humanitarian miracles are devices meant to tie the larger structure together: for instance, Mir. 15 comes between a very long, complicated miracle about the healing and conversion of Hypsistios and a series of shorter healing miracles involving disconnected individuals. Mir. 15 thus serves as an interstitial miracle which transitions from a long narrative to a series of shorter paratactic narratives and brings variety to this series of miracles which is otherwise dominated by healing.

This story should be classed among Thekla’s humanitarian miracles because her appearance at Dalisandos is described as a tribute to the public devotion the city showed on her behalf: “just as the city magnificently honors her, it obtains from her a miracle which was even more magnificent” (26.3–6). In fact, the miracle verges on becoming an ekphrasis of the city of Dalisandos:

For in it there are many lofty, thick, blossoming trees with beautiful fruit, where many very lovely springs (πηγαί), and of very cold water, run out from under each plant and rock, so to speak, and which run down and encircle the temple itself; and there is a sweet breeze to the place, both crisp and delightful; and the song of the birds from above: [all of which] is both exceedingly marvelous (μάλα θαυμασία) and sufficient to enchant (ἱκανὴ καταθέλξαι).

Mir. 26.17–23 (cf. Odyssey 10.213)

In narrative terms, this evocative and deliberate digression serves very well to connect three healing miracles dealing with diseases of the eye (Mir. 23; 24; 25) to three miracles of protection dealing with Isaurian brigands (Mir. 26.47–52; 27; 28). As noted, the end of Mir. 26 provides the first of these city-defense miracles. Mir. 26, therefore, confirms the interpretation offered above that the humanitarian displays of Thekla’s power—here couched in explicit terms of performance and display—offer a rest for the reader, something to unify distinct sections of the work, as well as delighting and distracting from the occasional monotony of vengeance and healing.

In Mir. 45 concerning Xenarchis, Thekla gives the remarkable gift of literacy, and by doing so is presented primarily as a helper for someone in need—the narrator says that Xenarchis “pleased the martyr” and that it was Thekla who “listened and acted,” emphasizing again Thekla’s attentiveness to those who are devoted to her. Secondarily, Thekla’s power is invoked as something which works instantaneously and without warning:

Some pious person, whether man or woman I’m unable to say, made a gift of a book to Xenarchis, bearing it by hand. The book was the Gospel…She untied the book and, opening it, she bent over it, as if to contemplate it or perhaps to kiss it. As soon as she trained her eyes on the letters, she began to read, and so fluently and without hesitation that all the women around her were astonished (ἐκπλαγῆναι) and invoked that passage from the Gospel: “How does she know letters without having learned them?”

Mir. 45.5–7; 15–19 (cf. John 7:15)

Thekla’s divine power is instantaneous, and once again the reader sees the correct model for response modeled before his eyes. “Astonishment” (ἔκπληξις) is, in the Miracles at least, the result of a supernatural occurrence, but, more specifically, it is the result of the completeness, swiftness, and {143|144} “unhesitating” nature of Thekla’s acts of divine power. Thus, the appearance of the supernatural in nature is not, in itself, the catalyst of this response; rather the catalyst is the specific way in which Thekla manifests her concern for those under her care. The “astonished” reaction of the Roman soldiers in Mir. 28 to the swiftness with which Thekla dispatched the brigands is uniform with the reaction of the bystanders here in Mir. 45.

Furthermore, their astonishment is, in the passage quoted above, given the imprimatur of the Gospel: the bystanders at the Feast of the Tabernacles in John 7 were amazed (ἐθαύμαζον) at Jesus’ “learning” (literally, “letters”; γράμματα). Is this allusion to be read as merely decoration for the miracle story or are we to assume this is direct imitation and that the miracle is modeled on the Gospel? There is no simple answer since the literary relationship between the two texts is complex. First, Thekla has been shown in the rest of the Miracles to work wonders which can only be the result of authoritative, divine power, and she is said to have been assigned this region by Christ himself. Yet the citation from John is applied to Xenarchis: it is Xenarchis that is being likened to Jesus, not Thekla. There is no question that this example shows the facility with which the author employs scriptural motifs, which has been noted by Dagron. [46] However, there is more going on here than the author making a show of his scriptural knowledge. Note in particular that the author’s emphasis in Mir. 45 is not on the one-to-one relationship between the Xenarchis (or even Thekla) and Jesus. Instead, his emphasis is on the proper response that a bystander should have to what is clearly an authentic display of divine action in natural, even circumstantial, experience. The reader is, I would argue, supposed to appropriate the allusion to John 7 in an empathetic way: in other words, those astonished by Jesus’ learning are, in an effectively modeled fashion, correct in their wonder. This is, of course, an unsophisticated reading of John in the sense that the Jews at the Feast of Tabernacles are being derided in that passage for recognizing Jesus’ authority but not acknowledging his divinity. Nevertheless, the resonance appropriated in Mir. 45 of the correct, popular response to divinity and divine miracles crosses literary boundaries: “wonder” (θαῦμα) and “astonishment” (ἔκπληξις) are the only responses available when Thekla’s divine power is at work in the world.

In concluding this section, let us consider the final miracle in the whole collection, Mir. 46, which concerns a woman named Dionysia. In one important concern, this miracle can be read as atypical of the stories in Miracles: Thekla never actually performs a miracle. In this way it could be linked with {144|145} her flying across the sky in a chariot in Mir. 26. Both are exhibits of Thekla’s divine power but through display rather than action. However, a distinction should be drawn between them in that the display of Thekla’s power in Mir. 46 is very intimate and personal, witnessed only by one person, whereas the chariot scene in Mir. 26 is theoretically open for all to see (though the author emphasizes that it is only those willing to climb the mountain who will catch a glimpse of her).

Mir. 46 begins with Dionysia having just “renounced” (ἀποτάττεσθαι) her husband, children, household—“in a word, everything”—to become a female monk and live at the shrine of Thekla. The night after she does this Thekla is said to “sleep with her (συγκαθευδῆσαι) and embrace her [literally, ‘grasp her tightly’; περιδεδρᾶχθαι] for the duration of the night” (46.1–4). The only witness to this event is a certain Susanna, the “bedmate” (σύγκοιτον) of Dionysia, who the author claims is the one who told him this miracle. Susanna relates that when she saw Thekla sleeping alongside Dionysia, “sleeping in-between them,” she was “amazed” (θαυμάζειν) and “astonished” (καταπεπλῆχθαι) out of fear of the martyr. Once again, the emphasis of this miracle is on the proper response to Thekla’s divine power: Susanna, a trustworthy source for the details of the miracle, also exhibits, in her very testimony, the cognitive, emotional, and even physical characteristics of so many individuals and groups in the Miracles.

It would be wrong, I think, to interpret this miracle in a sexual way: if anything Mir. 46 serves as an example of Christian female companionship of the sort that one sees at work, on the male side, in John Moschus’ Spiritual Meadow (c. 600). Nevertheless, there is a clear sensuality in how the miracle is retold by Susanna, ostensibly in her own words (46.6–7). During the night Susanna sits up several times in bed, “leaning on her elbow and gazing at the martyr” (46.8–9). Likewise, the martyr’s presence makes her “lost in her thoughts—for she was carefully watching her” (46.11–12). The visual theme is continued when Thekla finally leaves their bed: at the end of the night Susanna saw the martyr “slink off (ὑποδραμοῦσαν) back to her bedchamber (θάλαμον), where it is said she sunk down (καταδῦναι)” (46.14–16).

Mir. 46 provides, therefore, a convenient point for summation because it has certain characteristics common to the miracles of divine power. To reiterate, these miracles comprise the majority of stories in the Miracles as a whole and they have nothing to do with illness, incubation, or healing. Instead, they are meant to display the supernatural, divine power or authority of Thekla over the region and people of Seleukeia and its environs. They emphasize the appropriate response to both the miracles experienced in the text and the Miracles as a text to be read. In fact, one of the most intriguing elements of this collection is the repeated, sometimes subtle assertion that the Miracles and Thekla’s miraculous activities in Seleukeia are coterminous. This is at the very least true in a spatial sense, but there are indications—such as the bookends of Thekla’s disappearance in Life 28 and Mir. 46—that it is true in a temporal sense as well. “Wonder” and “astonishment” are repeatedly invoked not just on account of the events themselves but on account of how rapid, complete, and effective Thekla’s power proves to be: there is a tone of the superlative in all of these miracles.

Finally, the appearances of Thekla in person are common. This is an important point for the sake of comparison and contrast with Asclepian literature, but it is also important for understanding this author’s conception of Thekla’s presence in Seleukeia. In Mir. 46 Thekla appears in as intimate a fashion as possible; she sleeps alongside one of her own and embraces her. Yet in Mir. 26 she is depicted in very distant, impersonal, and lofty (even mythical) terms riding like Apollo on a fiery chariot across the sky over Dalisandos. In this dichotomy there is a clear, perhaps subconscious, invocation of the union of two natures, divine and human, in Christ—despite a demonstrable resistance on the part of this author to equating the miracle working of Thekla and Jesus (e.g. in Mir. 45). Thekla, in her divine power and authority, can also appear (significantly, at the very end of the Miracles) in the most personal and physical form possible. {146|147}

Narrative Healing: Thekla as Healer-Evangelist and Patroness-littérateur

Healing by prescription

Mir. 8 thus also concerns Dexianos, though it is told in a very different way from Mir. 7. The two provide an instructive contrast between different styles of narration within Thekla’s healing miracles. In this miracle Dexianos is riding on a skittish horse that bucks the bishop off, a fall which results in his broken leg. Once again, the reader is immediately assured that Thekla provided him with help, this time because “she had great care for our man” (8.4–5). The pairing of Mir. 7 and 8 is further solidified by the author’s statement that in both cases Thekla accomplished “the exact same miracle (θαῦμα).” As in the vengeance miracles, the uniformity of Thekla’s miracle-working activity is once again underlined in this passage.

However, in Mir. 8 the source of the cure is not explicitly mentioned, though the oil has been signaled already in Mir. 7. Instead, the statement that both miracles were “identical” (ἴσον)—ambiguous as it is—leads to a comment on how Thekla makes use of common materials in her cures. The oil is thus clearly in mind when he concludes his accounts of Dexianos with this more theoretical passage:

These events were not the result of any complicated drug, which is exactly the reason she is admired (θαυμάσειε)! When she makes known what those who are suffering must do, she does not lead her suppliants to rare and expensive remedies (φαρμακείας); instead, to common and readily available remedies, so that effecting their salvation (σωτηρίαν; i.e. healing) comes even easier than the procuring of the remedy prescribed (τοῦ μηνυθέντος) is speedy. The result is that her power is exhibited in the use she makes of common ingredients, and efficacy is rightly reckoned to the one handing out the prescription rather than to that which is prescribed (τοῦ προσταχθέντος).

Mir. 8.6–14

This passage seems to be a comment on the methods of ancient doctors, who were known for their elaborate and extreme methods (cf. Mir. 12). It is difficult {148|149} to gauge the precise import of this rhetoric since we obviously do not have the writings (if there were any) of the doctors in Seleukeia competing with Thekla for patients. Yet, in the context of the Miracles as a whole, the statement at the beginning of this passage that Thekla deserves to be admired (θαυμάζειν) for her preference for readily available ingredients fits well with the rhetoric we have observed thus far. Thekla achieves the miraculous using as little effort (in human terms) as possible: in fact, the less effort she can be shown to have used in a particular cure or act of vengeance, the more divine her status in the eyes of this author. According to his rhetoric here, the lack of fancy prescriptions is actually a sign of Thekla’s superiority in the game of healing. This is, of course, a reversal of ancient logic, and one wonders whether the author is here consciously polemicizing against Aelius Aristides’ Hieroi Logoi. Perhaps local medical practices were still relatively isomorphic with what Aelius describes, so that the Miracles can be said to be engaging real practices on the ground in Seleukeia. Mir. 12 would seem to confirm this hypothesis, since it describes the author’s own experience, but the rhetoric here in Mir. 8 (as well as in Mir. 12, as we shall see) is highly argumentative and selective, so it is very difficult to tell how accurate his picture of ancient medicine really is.

The miracles that lead up to that supremely programmatic Mir. 12 all concern priests and bishops. Thus, Mir. 7 through Mir. 11 deal with the various difficulties and resolutions of Dexianos, Menodoros, Atlantios, Symposios, and Aurelios. The last of this group, Aurelios, is healed in Mir. 11 of a very specific disease, “hog’s bumps” (χοιράδες), which appears to be the ancient name for the glandular disease Scrofula. [50] Aurelios, a fellow citizen and kinsman of Symposios (Mir. 10), caught this disease when he was just a boy. According to the story, the bumps seized his neck and grew “to an immense size” as they proceeded almost to choke him (Mir. 11.7–10). Continuing the polemic against medicine begun in Mir. 8, the author here includes the salient information that the doctors (ἀσκληπιάδες) attempted to apply their knowledge to the disease but only in vain, since the malignancy of the disease was too great. Next, that “excellent physician of physicians,” Sarpedon, was called upon by Aurelios’ grandmother, yet even he, the text says, was unable to provide a remedy (θεραπεία) for the boy. In typical fashion, Thekla now comes onto the scene and her assistance is assured:

The martyr, the true help (ἀληθῶς ἀρωγός), the effective assistant (ἐνεργὴς βοηθός), who is always zealous regarding every good service, first mocked the old woman, then took pity on the boy as {149|150} even her own nursling and as a child of faithful parents—as was her custom—and she hastened on to the remedy (θεραπείαν).

Mir. 11.17–21

Thekla is characterized in this passage as a surrogate mother—presumably the parents of the boy were dead—which is a unique role for her in the Miracles, especially considering her war-like persona in Mir. 1–6. Yet her “mocking” attitude is not unique and appears elsewhere, such as in her taunting of Sarpedon in Mir. 1, and the author’s description of her “haste” in completing the remedy is so common, as noted above, that it should perhaps be considered a standard element of every miracle, more significant in its absence than its inclusion.

Before examining how the success of the poultice is described, there are a few points to make about the prescription itself. Most important is the emphasis on proportionality and direct contact. The wool equals Aurelios’ exact height and, consequently, can serve as a something like a substitute for the boy—yet pure, healthy, and untainted. The physical husk of this substitute, {150|151} the wool, is then burnt away, leaving only its essential elements. Finally, the potion is applied directly to the infected area, as if the poultice were simply replacing the inflamed area, reconstituting a healthy neck. The correspondence between the sick boy and the poultice is therefore one-to-one.

This endorsement of a single doctor’s ability to solve a serious medical problem runs counter to the other appearances of doctors in the Miracles. As already noted, the doctors at the beginning of Mir. 11 are unsuccessful, as is Sarpedon. Likewise, in Mir. 18 a pagan (literally, “Greek”) woman Aba, who broke her leg riding on a mule, was disappointed by “some Jews,” “some enchanters” (ἐπαοιδοί; related to the “doctors”?), and even “Sarpedonios,” none of whom were able to heal her leg. Yet, “either on their own counsel or by her own prompting,” as the text says, the woman was moved to the shrine of Thekla, where she was healed. (At the end of this miracle comes another {151|152} denunciation of “expensive” and “precious” remedies [18.38–41].) In addition, at the beginning of Mir. 38, the grammarian Alypios is described as being “abandoned” by the doctors and “himself reckoning the illness stronger than any human assistance.” In this hopeless state, he seeks out the martyr’s shrine, whom he considers to be “the only place of refuge for illnesses of this kind,” that is, illnesses which have no human solution (38.1–8). Finally, in a miracle concerning a little boy whose eye is filling with pus (Mir. 24), Thekla’s remedy (slicing open the eye) is compared to the skill with which a doctor would use a scalpel (24.41–42). However, instead of wielding a scalpel herself, she has an angry crane puncture the boy’s eye with its bill. Not unaware of the different registers of miracle-telling, the narrator claims that this was accomplished “in sport rather than in earnest” (24.21).

The latter miracle highlights an underlying theme in all of the miracles in which Thekla offers a prescription or trumps local doctors. Namely, Thekla’s healings of sick individuals are effortless for her. They require no strain or discomfort on her part; in fact, she appears to make no sacrifice at all (except perhaps the one she already made in her two abortive martyrdoms in the ATh). The prescriptions can be very brief, such as the one for Dexianos in Mir. 7, or they can be elaborate, such as the one given to Aurelios’ grandmother in Mir. 11. Additionally, the application of the prescription can be told with varying degrees of detail. In Dexianos’ case that detail is very limited, especially for his broken leg in Mir. 8, where the cure is not discussed at all: “these two were identical.” In Mir. 11, however, the application is more involved and is complicated by the fact that the grandmother appears to have made too little of the poultice. The doctor’s role is not directly related to Thekla’s appearance to the grandmother, and there is no mention that the doctor gave credit to Thekla.

This is, in fact, atypical among the Miracles: in nearly every miracle in which bystanders or third-parties are involved, such as the Roman soldiers in Mir. 28 or Aurelios’ grandmother in Mir. 11, they acknowledge that it is Thekla who accomplish the miracle, thereby reconfirming the testimony of the collector. The absence of the doctor’s recognition of Thekla’s work is possibly related to the fact that Thekla appeared to the grandmother in person, instead of in a dream, the validity of the latter being more open to challenge than a direct epiphany. In other words, this miracle contains so direct a manifestation of Thekla’s presence that the doctor’s verbal or notional affirmation is rendered unnecessary. Nevertheless, despite this lack of formal acknowledgment, the narrator remarks parenthetically, “it was the martyr, I think, who {152|153} put this idea into his head” (τῆς μάρτυρος οἶμαι καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ νοῦν ἀγαγούσης; Mir. 11.46–47). Clearly an ex post facto device, this remark serves the purpose of keeping the martyr’s presence firmly in the reader’s mind, even though her direct action has not been logically linked to the doctor’s handiwork. From a literary point of view the lack of logical coherence may be considered a fault of the text, but the complexity of Mir. 11 adds depth to the miracles by prescription while still maintaining a sense of consistency (albeit imposed) about Thekla’s healing work in Seleukeia.

Healing leading to conversion

The miracles by prescription just discussed are a unique group in the Miracles as a whole because they include a description of the special method by which Thekla accomplishes each miracle. This is not true for many of the miracles: as we have seen, some she simply accomplishes by willing them (e.g. Mir. 8). These less detailed miracles serve the rhetorical purpose of reinforcing in a short compass the picture painted by the longer miracles and programmatic passages, the preface and epilogue in particular. However, among the healing miracles there is another subgroup which might be called “healing miracles leading to conversion.” This group is notable for its additional narrative goal, that of bringing superior praise to Thekla for converting people to Christianity. This is a small group of miracles in total number simply because Thekla is most often depicted caring for those already under her care or petitioning her for help, such as Dexianos in Mir. 7–8, Bassiane in Mir. 19, Pausikakos in Mir. 23, and the author himself in Mir. 12, 31, and 41. The group of miracles leading to conversion nonetheless has special significance for the Miracles because conversion is more than once lauded as the supreme miracle which Thekla accomplishes.

For example, Mir. 17 concerns Leontios, a Christian craftsman who was decorating the interior of a wealthy gentleman’s house in Syrian (not Pisidian) Antioch. [53] While “exercising his talent,” as the text says (17.9), setting marble slabs (μαρμάρων καὶ πλακῶν) around the walls, the scaffolding collapses, and he shatters his leg so badly that he was reckoned as dead (17.13–15). (Indeed, the text says that the others who fell with him died immediately as a result of their fall—he was the only one to survive.) Maximinos, Leontios’ patron, is grieved by this fall not only because of the loss of Leontios’ art but because Leontios himself was “a good, excellent, and peaceable man” (17.15–18). In a desperate state, Leontios asks Maximinos if he can travel to Seleukeia to seek {153|154} the help of Thekla at her “martyrion.” Maximinos allows this but smirks as if he doubts in the power of Thekla to do anything. [54] When Leontios arrives in Seleukeia he is healed within three days at the martyrion: “Leontios was delivered of his illness and his foot was returned to strength—the broken bone was again rejoined” (17.25–26). Without delay Leontios returns to Antioch to show Maximinos that he has been healed. As he gazes (θεασάμενος) at Leontios’ reformed leg, Maximinos is “astonished” (ἐκπλαγῆναι), “not only at the miracle itself (τὸ θαῦμα μόνον),” the text says, “but at its swiftness (τὸ τάχος).” On account of this miracle Maximinos himself becomes a Christian, which was “the intention of Thekla in accomplishing the miracle (θαῦμα)” (17.32–33). Finally, to end the miracle, the author tells how Thekla effected Leontios’ cure (θεραπεία). The scene returns, therefore, to Seleukeia and to Thekla’s martyrion. During the night, while Leontios was sleeping, he martyr visits him (φοιτήσασα) and steps on his injured leg, “very forcefully” the text adds. Leontios leaped up at the pain and began walking, then running, and immediately he returns to Antioch (17.36–45). [55]

A number of points could be made about this miracle in terms of how it fits in with the other miracles in the collection. The absence of any (initial) description of the cure itself, for example, is typical in the sense that several miracles are told without graphic details, but it is atypical in the sense that most miracles which happen explicitly at the shrine (here “martyrion,” elsewhere “temple” or even “temenos”) do normally include at least a moderate amount of detail regarding the cure (e.g. Mir. 23 and 24). In other words, if the set-up is told in detail, then there is usually a detailed narrative of the climax. This formula comes true at the end of the miracle, in the conclusion to the author’s modest attempt at ring composition: Leontios’ experience in Thekla’s martyrion is told in excruciating detail. Unlike Thekla’s prescription miracles, in this case she takes matters into her own hands. Very few of the healing miracles, in fact, are accomplished through direct contact with the patient, a characteristic of the Miracles which is in contrast to many of the Asclepian texts that will be discussed below in Chapter Four (esp. pp. 197–210). This direct, physical mode of healing is much more typical of the seventh-century Miracles of Artemios, for example, in which the saint is often depicted grabbing {154|155} or treading on the infected testicles of his suppliants. [56] Finally, Mir. 17 is also atypical in the way it describes Maximinos’ doubt in Thekla’s abilities: usually the doubter will attribute the miracle to Sarpedon (e.g. Mir. 40). But the use of dramatic irony in this passage, with its description of Maximinos’ knowing (yet ignorant) grin, is certainly one of the more effective uses of any literary device in the Miracles.

Crucial to the argument of Mir. 17 is Maximinos’ conversion, which occupies the central place within the ring composition of Leontius’ healing. It is clear from its placement as well as from the way it is told that Maximinos’ miraculous acceptance is preeminent, even though Leontios’ experience is (in the end) told in more detail. Maximinos’ response of “astonishment” at Leontios’ renewed leg is common for bystanders of every miracle, as demonstrated in numerous examples above. What is new in this case the narrator’s comment that Thekla “took care ahead of time” (προμηθουμένη) to bring Maximinos to conversion (17.32). In this way it is revealed Thekla’s chief purpose behind Leontios’ healing is to lead this wealthy citizen of Syrian Antioch to Christ, which was her intention from the beginning (17.32–33). Once again there is a correspondence between Thekla’s miracle working and the text itself. The centrality within Mir. 17 of Maximinos’ conversion is emphasized by the author through its placement at the center of the two narratives about Leontios; but it is also Thekla’s stated opinion in the miracle that Maximinos was her a central part of her aims in healing of Leontios. Thus, in the very telling of a miracle which places Maximinos at the center, Thekla is “overheard” (so to speak) to have intended Maximinos to be at the center all along. The practical/literary and notional/spiritual coincide in his conversion.

Isokasios’ healing is told in a very straightforward, typical style for the Miracles: he falls ill (no details); he seeks out a place of “tranquility” (ἠρεμία), which he only finds at Thekla’s shrine; while sleeping she brings him a prescription (again, no details), which he carries out and is healed. At the end of the miracle, however, the point is clearly made: “While chastising his unbelief, she did not withhold her assistance” (39.13–15). Thus, Thekla’s failure to convert Isokasios is rhetorically transformed into a positive quality of hers: she refuses to withhold help from those who seek her out. There are too few examples in the Miracles of individuals who do not know Thekla prior to her assistance to prove whether this quality of Thekla’s character holds true all the time. One assumes it does not, since Pappos repents after being chastised by Thekla in Mir. 35 but is killed anyway for his sin against the orphaned children of Aulerios. Nevertheless, the point is made clearly enough in this and the following miracle that Thekla’s compassion extends (in principle, at least) to those who are not Christians to begin with, and even to those who choose not to become Christians after their healing (unwise as it is). {156|157}

Finally, in concluding the miracle, the narrator attempts to draw the reader’s attention back to the work of Thekla: “I assign (λογιούμεθα) this healing to the power of the martyr, but your attribution I assign to your foolishness (ἀμαθίᾳ). But, this latter point is to me of little importance compared to the former” (40.31–33). The author’s rhetorical coup de grâce in Mir. 40 is to undercut his own attacks on Aretarchos’ lack of wisdom and to reemphasize the work of the martyr in healing a serious illness. For the reader this provides the continuity he has come to expect in terms of miracle-framing: this passage performs the role of a closing summary. Moreover, to reinforce his emphasis on the martyr’s work in Mir. 40 the author includes, as Mir. 41, a healing which Thekla worked for himself: she heals his ear at a critical time right before he is supposed to speak publicly at her panegyris. Thus, his criticism of an ungrateful sophist in Mir. 40 is contrasted with the self-conscious modeling of the correct response to Thekla’s compassionate healing in Mir. 41. Both concern prominent pubic speakers, but, of the two, only the author has the wisdom to assign the work to the omnipotent martyr. Furthermore, {157|158} the author depicts himself as engaged in the work of praising Thekla herself, whereas Aretarchos has the air of both narcissism and idolatry.

Compared to some of the punishment miracles, in which Thekla is often depicted as severe and unyielding (e.g. Mir. 35), the martyr’s response to Isokasios and Aretarchos, as prominent unbelievers, is very tolerant and even tacitly condoning (despite the author’s antagonistic rhetoric). Two points should be emphasized: 1) she still heals them and 2) the author of the Miracles still includes these miracles. Nevertheless, Mir. 39 and 40 have the rhetorical value of showing Thekla at work outside her normal role, yet still within the Seleukeia region: this underlines her spiritual dominance, even if some individuals still cling to powerless daimones like Sarpedon.

By way of concluding this section on healing leading to conversion, mention should be made of Mir. 14, the only miracle in which Thekla actually compels someone to convert to Christianity. Thus far we have seen two methods of dealing with conversions in the Miracles: the first, most normal and proper method is that a bystander like Maximinos in Mir. 17 will witness Thekla’s work and be so “astonished” that the only open recourse is to convert; second is the tolerance Thekla shows to those who are unrepentant, such as Isokasios and Aretarchos—even though they remain unbelievers, Thekla is to be praised because she healed them anyway (more a rhetorical use of conversion than a description of how it happens). The third and final method by which the author of the Miracles deals with conversions to Christianity is to show Thekla as an inflictor of disease and suffering for the very purpose of bringing a non-believer to Christ. This is what happens in Mir. 14 when the devoted Christian wife of Hypsistios, a “noble and illustious” man from neighboring Claudiopolis, prays earnestly to Thekla that her husband would become a Christian. [60] The text says that Thekla marveled (θαυμάσασα) at her faith and proceeded to accomplish the miracle out of pity. She accomplishes Hypsistios’ conversion first by bringing disease upon him, which was designed to “soften the ignobility (τὸ ἀγεννής) and relentlessness (ἀμείλικτον) of his soul” before she applied the remedy (θεραπεία; Mir. 14.19–21).

Once the disease has taken its effect and the doctors have proved themselves useless (14.26), Thekla comes to the man “in a waking vision (ὕπαρ)”; and “not in a dream (ὄναρ),” the narrator hastens to add. She appears in the form of a “little girl” (εὐσταλὴς κόρη), a comment which serves to introduce a digressive ekphrasis on Thekla’s appearance (14.33–45). Leaving aside the {158|159} author’s digression for the moment, her epiphany before Hypsistios is told in a swift novelistic style: she enters the room and sits on his bed; Hypsistios only notices her when she makes “a slight noise with her foot”; he shouts at her and asks who she is; then she boldly announces herself and commands him to get baptized if he wants to end the sickness. The command to be baptized is followed by a litany of doctrinal statements additionally to be believed if Hypsistios wants to get well:

Since you have learned who I am, and having already paid enough of a penalty for your faithlessness, stand up, go out, be baptized, participate in the mysteries, worship, confess the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the uncreated and consubstantial Trinity that created all things, either known (νοητά) or perceived (αἰσθητά) or seen or unseen, that bears and drives all these things, that manages and rules all things. Confess in addition to these things the divine presence in the flesh (μετὰ σαρκός) and the sojourn of the only-begotten (I am speaking of his taking-on-of-flesh (σάρκωσιν; i.e. incarnation) and birth through the virgin and Theotokos Mary), the cross, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension. Straightaway you will cleanse your body along with your soul, and you will inhabit well this earth, and you will live well, and well you will migrate (μεταστήσει) to heaven, where you will view Christ the king thereafter in great immediacy (σὺν πολλῇ τῇ παρρησίᾳ).

Mir. 14.55–68

As has been noted already (e.g. pp. 33–35), Trinitarian language of this type is scattered throughout the LM. Incarnational language, such as in the second half of this passage, is less common but obviously reflects better the contemporary debates surrounding the councils of Ephesus (AD 431) and Chalcedon (AD 451). What is important in narrative terms here is that the author has taken the opportunity of the ill Hypsistios to offer a litany of theological terminology which he clearly believes is central to faith. This includes a reference to the Theotokos, as well as to his eschatological vision of the afterlife as a vision of Christ “with great immediacy” (cf. 1 John 4:17 for eschatological παρρησία). [
61] At {159|160} the end of the miracle, the author emphasizes the completeness of Hypsistios’ experience after Thekla has disappeared: he gains “faith,” “grace,” “initiation,” and “to be good health on top of all these” (14.71–73). These features of his new found strength in Christ are described as the gifts that Thekla left him with, the most important of which, the text says, is “becoming a Christian” (χριστιανὸν γενέσθαι).

In Mir. 14, as also in Mir. 17, the conversion of Hypsistios (Maximinos in Mir. 17) is the central narrative goal of Thekla’s healing work. Unlike Mir. 17, however, Hypsistios is inflicted with his disease by Thekla, who elsewhere is always depicted as the healer. However, Hypsistios is healed at the end of the miracle, and Thekla makes it clear earlier in her speech that he deserves his disease because she has “always been mistreated and abused” by him, though the reader learns nothing else about these abuses. Yet, despite these caveats, the implication of the miracle is that Thekla has the power not just to remove sickness but also to inflict it. Once again, Mir. 35 concerning Pappos serves as a touchstone because, even though he repented of his sin, Thekla still killed him without mercy.

Thus, the miracles about healing leading to conversion all have a different message, but at the same time they can be grouped together because they employ the rhetorical commonplace of conversion. Mir. 14 is unique in the group because of its length and it is in direct contrast to the tolerance she shows Isokasios and Aretarchos (Mir. 39 and 40). One gets the sense that the latter two may have been too prominent (or too close to the author?) to receive a waking vision of Thekla such as what appeared before Hypsistios. In any case, the topic of conversion proves to be fruitful for the author of the Miracles because it provides the narrative structure for two of the longest miracles in his collection (Mir. 14 and 17) as well as the necessary locus for sophistic antagonism in Mir. 39 and 40, which in turn propels a key story in Mir. 41 concerning his close relationship with Thekla. It is appropriate at this point, therefore, to consider the miracles that happened to the author himself and how they reinforce the picture of Thekla’s literary patronage which he established in the Miracles’ preface.

Authorial encounters with Thekla

There are two miracles, Mir. 12 and 41, in which the author himself figures prominently as the subject of Thekla’s power to heal. Mir. 12 is the longer of the two and is made up of a complex series of two independent stories spread {160|161} over three dream sequences. Mir. 41 is more straightforward and concerns the healing of the author’s ear just before he is about to speak at Thekla’s panegyris. Both miracles make implicit arguments for Thekla’s approval and patronage of the author’s project of publishing her miracles. Like the programmatic passages in the preface and the epilogue, these two miracles serve to orient the reader with regard to Thekla’s involvement with the collection: both emphasize that without her assistance the author would not have succeeded in collecting and presenting the Miracles. The afflictions which the author suffers in these two stories impinge directly on his ability to communicate the message that she has inspired and commissioned him to communicate. Moreover, at the same time as the author is arguing that his collection of Thekla’s miracles is the result of her miraculous intervention, he is also arguing that, in order for Thekla’s miracles to achieve their goal, they must be collected and disseminated. Furthermore, he insists in his preface and epilogue that this dissemination also depends on her divine power. Thus, the correspondence between the Miracles as a literary collection and Thekla’s power to work θαύματα is reinforced multiple times in different rhetorical contexts, not least in the healing miracles which concern the author directly.

As just noted, Mir. 12 is composed of two independent stories spread over three successive dream sequences. In the first story, the author is healed of an inflammation of his index finger (12.1–40). The inflammation is called “anthrax” (literally, “coal”) and proves too malignant for the doctors (ἰατροί) to cure by their “art” (τεχνή) and their “drugs” (φάρμακα). Instead, they decide that to save his life they must amputate the offending finger, and they promise to return the next day to do just that. In between their decision and the impending amputation—in a state of “terror and tears”—the author has his first dream (ὀνειροπολέω). In this dream he is sleeping in the atrium of the healing shrine when a swarm of wasps appears and begins to attack him “brandishing their stingers like spears.” Suddenly Thekla appears and, taking hold of the edge of her cloak and wrapping it around her hand, chases the wasps and tramples them under her feet. The author wakes to find that he has been miraculously healed from his inflammation. The doctors’ response is a conflicted one, as the texts explains:

The doctors arrived with zeal and they held the knife in their hands, and they were discussing amongst themselves, as is typical, but they went away marveling (θαυμάζοντες) with me at the martyr, singing her praises, and possibly discreetly complaining about her, because, {161|162} on account of her examination (ἐπίσκεψιν) and cure (ἰατρείαν), they were unpaid.

Mir. 12.35–40

Several points could be made about the author’s depiction of the doctors in this passage. Most important for the present discussion, however, is the narrative progression of the miracle: the doctors’ inability to effect a cure results in a drastic prescription on their part which Thekla’s compassionate intervention renders unnecessary. Moreover, this passage is unique in the Miracles because Thekla’s work appears to imitate that of the doctors instead of simply being more effective. The actual miracle of physical healing, fantastical in its dream-narration, is by the end of the story couched in traditional, pragmatic medical terminology: Thekla has made her “examination” (ἐπίσκεψις) and she has effected a “cure” (ἰατρεία). In addition, the passages scattered throughout the Miracles which condemn the complicated and expensive remedies of the doctors should also be brought to bear on an interpretation of this miracle. Most importantly, the picture of the failure of the doctors’ φάρμακα here reinforces the rhetorical stance taken in those other, more directly polemical passages. This miracle is not very polemical towards the doctors at all but is consistent nonetheless with the author’s comparisons between their φάρμακα and Thekla’s simpler prescriptions, such as clay from the Cilician coast (Mir. 18). As noted earlier in this chapter, such comparisons are meant to heighten Thekla’s divine status: the power of the healer is in inverse proportion to the sophistication and expense of the remedy.

In the second dream of Mir. 12 the author is approached by “some black manikin” (ἀνθρωπίσκος τις αἰθίωψ) named Zamaras and handed a dark bronze tremissis. He states that this dream seemed to forebode something: “I took this [tremissis] unwillingly and not with pleasure, I confess; for this dream (ὄναρ) seemed not a prophecy (μάντευμα) of anything good at all” (Mir. 12.62–63). The author wakes up to find out he has been excommunicated by the local bishop, Basil, whom he claims had it in for him all along and whom he earlier slanders by calling him a “youngster” (μειράκιον; 12.44) and “little boy” (παιδάριον; 55). He finds out by means of “a white Zamaras” (i.e. Basil himself, whom he now openly calls a drunkard). This Zamaras/Basil comes to him and excommunicates him personally, but without even a single co-accuser present (and with a “foul and rude phrase, I do not lie”; 14.71). The author claims that the public reaction to his excommunication was vociferous, with several prominent individuals coming to his defense, including a certain saintly “Thomas” and the author’s own parents (14.76, 85). In the midst of this clamor and confusion, however, he comes to the realization that the events of his dream about Zamaras were “symbols (σύμβολα) and a premonition (προάγγελσις) of the present events” (Mir. 12.89–91).

Moreover, once this narrative structure is taken into account, it is not even clear at the end of the miracle that the grim vision of the black Zamaras is to be taken as a portent of evil. As the author remarks just before his culminating third dream, the events of the second dream were “symbols” and a “premonition” of what actually happened. Indeed, he goes on to say that, on the basis of his reappraisal of the second, foreboding dream, that the events of that dream “would eventually relieve the evil” (12.90–91).

The narrative of Mir. 12, therefore, is told both as a circle and as a progression. It is told as a circle in the sense that Thekla’s healing of the author’s finger and her vindication of his rightful position in the Seleukeian church frame the actual injustice done to the author: in other words, Thekla’s attention to his personal needs is both the starting and ending point of his excommunication narrative. At the same time, Mir. 12 is told as a progression in the sense that the author only comes to realize the significance of the second, middle miracle once its events have come true. The validity of the “premonition,” as he calls it, thus encourages him that Thekla is ultimately behind these events. Of course, the narrative purpose behind both the circular (or ring) structure as well as the psychological progression of the author’s cognizance is to emphasize that Thekla was never very far away from these events. While there is no hint of what we might call Providence in Mir. 12, the portrayal of Thekla is consistent with (and perhaps paradigmatic for) the other miracles in his collection, both of healing and vengeance. In particular, the assumption that no event escapes her “all seeing and divine eye” (Mir. 22) is cleverly worked into this miracle using a complex series of two miracles told over the course of three dream sequences. All the while the author is also making use of multiple structural patterns. Moreover, the author makes use of his own healing as an internal topos to speak about something else, namely Thekla’s patronage of his project and the omnipotent and pervasive power of Thekla against sickness and evil. Like when Leontios is healed in Mir. 14 for the sake of Maximinos’ conversion, Mir. 12 is not an isolated healing story but one which points the reader to a larger argument about the character of Thekla. Mir. 12 is also very significant for this overall project, not just because it programmati- {165|166} cally concerns the author’s own authority in the community, but because it is the longest and most sophisticated attempt, narratively speaking, to represent a specific vision of Thekla, which is carefully constructed throughout the whole of the Miracles.

Turning now to a much less sophisticated miracle that concerns the healing of the author, Mir. 41, I would like to show in conclusion how his unique vision of Thekla comes to the fore later in the collection, once all the facets of Thekla’s divine power to punish and heal have been met by the reader. Mir. 41 comes at the end of a four-miracle grouping that concerns the dealings of Thekla with local literati. This grouping is introduced by a transition in Mir. 37 in which the author personifies “Letters” (οἱ λόγοι) and claims that they are complaining about having been ignored in the previous miracles. [69] This literary device provokes three healing miracles dealing with Alypios the grammarian (Mir. 38), Isokasios the rhetor (literally, “sophist”; Mir. 39), and Aretarchos the rhetor (“sophist”; Mir. 40). The latter two miracles have been discussed at length above. What is important to note is that this series of literati culminates with the author of the Miracles in Mir. 41 being healed of an ear infection just before Thekla’s annual panegyris, at which he is slated to speak. Thus, the progression of the miracles just prior to Mir. 41 places the attention on the author as part of (perhaps as the chief of) a prominent coterie of literati and public speakers in Seleukeia and neighboring cities. Moreover, while Alypios in Mir. 38 is clearly a believing Christian, the intervening miracles concerning Isokasios and Aretarchos make it clear that both refused to convert to Christianity, and Aretarchos even attributes his healing to Sarpedon. Mir. 41, therefore, emerges as the capstone of a series of “literary” miracles that are bookended by two longish healings which happen to devotees of Thekla, framing in turn two healings performed by Thekla for pagans. The author’s comparison and contrast method of collection is clearly visible in this arrangement, with his ultimate emphasis being placed on his own experience as Thekla’s chosen conduit for the dissemination of her Miracles.

The healing itself is told in the simpler style of Dexianos’ healing from Mir. 7, with just a brief dream sequence in which Thekla appears to the suppliant. The description of the illness, however, is somewhat more expressive: “My whole ear was inflamed, but it was producing strong pains internally and pushing vigorously against the very base of my skull, on account of {166|167} which it was causing a loud internal throbbing” (41.10–13). The author writes in addition that the illness (τὸ πάθος) was so severe that it might have cost him not only his speaking engagement but perhaps also his life (41.14–15). At this point Thekla intervenes, appearing (ἐφιστῆσαι) at night and shaking his ear vigorously with her hand. “She brought the whole affair to an end,” as he says, “when a little pus [flowed out]” (41.19). [70] Because of Thekla’s timely intervention, the author is able to go ahead with his speech. He says that he made his appearance at the “tribunal” (δεκτήριον), “which is what one calls the place where the orators (οἱ λέγοντες) appear, otherwise called the ambo or the speaker’s platform (ἀκροατήριον)” [71] —indeed, he spoke from this platform, he says, because he was not yet (οὔπω οὔτε) numbered “among those who speak in the churches” (41.19–24). This is a reference, most likely, to a certain lay-reader status in the Seleukeian church, a status to which he refers in the epilogue as well (epilogue 31–41), and the δεκτήριον appears to have been a platform set up outside the church where lay encomia could be presented at the panegyris. [72]

The miracle ends with a very important summary of the author’s perception of his relationship with Thekla. In the end, she made it possible for him to give the speech on her behalf, a speech during which he garnered admiration (θαῦμα) for what he said, even though he modestly acknowledges that it was not an admirable (θαυμαστός) speech (41.24–27). He claims that at some point (perhaps after the speech?) he was judged worthy to become a member of “the council of elders (τῆς ἱερατικῆς γερουσίας) and the catalogue (τοῦ καταλόγου) of preachers and teachers,” and during his tenure in this esteemed company Thekla was constantly present alongside him (41.27–29). He says that she continued “almost constantly” to “appear” to him (ἐπιφαινομένη) “at night” (νύκτωρ) and was in the habit of offering him (ὤρεγεν) a book (βιβλίον) or a papyrus (χάρτης). Each of these gifts, he says, appeared to be “a sign (σύμβολον) of her absolute approval (πλείστη εὐδοκίμησις) of me” (41.30–31). He adds at the very end of Mir. 41 that if he is going to speak but Thekla does not appear to him in this way, then the inverse meaning—that she disapproves—is just as clear. Yet, despite this final self-effacing caveat, the emphasis {167|168} in Mir. 31 on the author’s patron-client relationship with Thekla is as explicit as at any other place in the Miracles.

In fact, this assertion of “absolute approval” recalls the short Mir. 31 in which Thekla appears to the author to encourage him to press on in his work. As discussed above, Thekla indicates her approval in Mir. 31 by taking a notebook (τέτρας) from his hand and reading it (ἀναγινώσκειν); she also smiles and indicates with her “gaze” (βλέμμα) that she is pleased (ἀρεσκεῖν) with his work. By contrast, in Mir. 41, which comes only five miracles from the end of the work, Thekla is depicted as handing him a book instead of taking one away. Admittedly the context is different—the former relates to his miracle collection, the latter to his public speaking—but it might still be argued that this subtle change is perhaps a symbol that the author knew that he was nearing the completion of his work. The taking of the τέτρας in Mir. 31 could thus symbolize the unfinished state of the text which needs Thekla’s miraculous intervention to produce the finished product, now a βιβλίον, delivered by Thekla herself in Mir. 41.

From a narrative point of view, however, this interpretation falters on the organization of the collection—why would he not place Mir. 41 right at the end of the Miracles, instead of before a few (more or less) inconsequential miracles? Therefore, in place of this more grandiose picture of the construction of the Miracles, the narrative unit of Mir. 41 requires the reader keep close together the healing of the author’s ear, on one hand, and the general approval of his speech at her panegyris on the other. Of course, Mir. 12 offers a model for this more modest interpretation: the healing comes at the very beginning, highlighting by its narrative sequence Thekla’s prior approval of the author, and only later offering details about the author’s public role and relation to the ecclesiastical authorities in Seleukeia. When taken together, therefore, the two miracles that deal with Thekla’s direct healing of the author, first his finger (Mir. 12) then his ear (41), self-portray an author who is conscious of the ever-shifting status that he has with relation to the “bishop” (Mir. 12) and the “elders, preachers, and teachers” (41). Indeed, at times he can be explicitly nasty towards some of these figures: Basil as a “youngster” (μειράκιον) in Mir. 12 and Porphyrios as an “ill-mannered bear-pig (ἀρκόχοιρον) of low birth” in the epilogue (epilogue 24–25). [73] Nevertheless, the literary inspiration he draws from Thekla’s personal healing miracles on his behalf is immense. In both Mir. {168|169} 12 and 41 the healing is linked through the internal narrative structure of these miracles to the author’s self-confidence among those who would seek either to exclude him from the church or who may in some way be his competition, like the pagan rhetors of Mir. 39 and 40 or perhaps the other speakers at Thekla’s panegyris.

Conclusion: Literary Collection and Spiritual Correspondence

The two healing miracles that concern the author himself demonstrate more clearly than any other parts of the Miracles that the miracle collection and Thekla’s divine power to heal and wreak vengeance are, in the final analysis, corresponding entities. This correspondence appears in the Miracles in a number of ways.

First, the author’s programmatic rhetoric in the preface, the epilogue, and Mir. 31 display the Miracles as a quest for its own completion. The role that Thekla plays for the author is to encourage the publication of his work as well as to propel its dissemination afterwards (Mir. epilogue 8–15). The paratactic style serves this quest very well in its ability to move the reader speedily on from one miracle to the next.

Second, the author places himself at the center of the Miracles through the autobiographical literary mode that he adopts in Mir. 12, 31, and 41. In emulation of Herodotus, the author uses these autobiographical miracles to buttress his claims elsewhere that the testimony on which he relies is trustworthy. Thus, by combining the first person account of Thekla’s healing of his finger and his ear (Mir. 12 and 41) with the third person “omniscient” accounts of others’ experiences of Thekla’s miraculous power, he weaves a web of authenticity in which the alternating first and third person modes reinforce one another. The authenticity and comprehensiveness of his reporting strengthens the correspondence between the miracles Thekla accomplished and the miracles he has included: in other words, “what you see is what you get.”

Third, and finally, the author has chosen a specific physical area and type of person which he intends to cover in the Miracles. By no small coincidence, this is the same area over which Thekla achieves mastery in performing miraculous feats of vengeance and healing for her suppliants. Topographically speaking, Thekla reclaims in the Miracles her divinely assigned authority over the whole region around Seleukeia: from the Sarpedonian cape and shrine in the south (Mir. 1), to Mt. Kokusion in the north (Mir. 2), and to numerous cities extending as far to the west as Eirenopolis (Mir. 19 and 34), and as far to the east as Tarsus and even Antioch (Mir. 29 and 17). Thus, the coastline of {169|170} southeastern Turkey, and especially the estuary of the Kalykadnos, is safely under her watchful eye. In terms of suppliants she only really helps those in prominent positions—the reader is never told why. Only occasionally does she work a miracle for someone who is explicitly poor (e.g. Mir. 23). Moreover, it is intriguing that these occasional pro bono miracles always include a statement about how Thekla cares for the poor. Surely this rhetorical stance means that the Miracles itself was intended for an educated, elite audience: all the miracles deal with wealthy or prominent people except for those which are labeled otherwise. Those whom Thekla helps are the very people intended to read the collection.

This multi-faceted and subtle correspondence highlights the artificiality, or simply the literary quality, of the text, especially in its organization and subject matter. Thus, there are clear groupings of miracles, such as the opening fights against daimones (Mir. 1–4) and the closing miracles for the literati (Mir. 38–41). These groups show the author moving from one theme to another, not very systematically but, nonetheless, in a way that eschews any idea that this is a “random sampling” of Thekla’s miracles in Seleukeia. Likewise, the choice of location and class of people generally points to a special interest on the part of the author. This is not at all to say that he simply wrote the Miracles from scratch—there are enough narrative anomalies in the stories and a healthy variety of narrative patterns which suggest that he truly was making a “collection” (συλλογή). Rather, the correspondence between the Miracles as a text and {170|171} Thekla’s spiritual activity in Seleukeia underlines the author’s role in shaping the source material into what is ultimately an audacious and complex literary work aimed at drawing together multiple strands of experience and legend for the benefit his home city.

What needs to be emphasized most of all, from this point of view, is that the author’s choices in rewriting and organizing the (now lost) sources of his collection have a distinctive, literary impact on the view of Seleukeia with which a reader, ancient or modern, is presented. The author attempts to offer that reader a consistent picture of Thekla, and crucial to reading the text aright is understanding that her consistency depends on the author’s conception of her role in the production of the collection itself. When a reader is confronted with so intimate a relationship between author and saint, he or she must keep in mind that the saintliness of Thekla is bound up with the author’s conception of his own career and literary work. Thekla and the author of the Miracles mutually construct one another: the author in showing his devotion by collecting and publishing her “life and works”; Thekla in showing her approval through vindicating, healing, and encouraging the author in his pious endeavor. The Miracles of Thekla, therefore, offers a distinctive portrait of its author while attempting to present a new and distinctive portrait of his patron saint. The literary choices summarized and explained above do, in fact, offer a window on the plain of Seleukeia in late antiquity, but this window is the one through which the author himself has decided that we should look. {171|}


[ back ] 1. Quotation from Dagron 1978:129; the whole gamut of professions is represented: γραμματιστής, σοφιστής, and ῥήτωρ (Mir. 38–40). See Kaster 1988 for the grammarian’s profession (passim), the meaning of γραμματιστής compared with γραμματικός (447–452), and, most importantly, his prosopographical entries for the individuals named in the Miracles: Alypius (239; no. 5), Isocasius (301–302; no. 85), Olympius (321; no. 108), and Solymius (431; no. 259).

[ back ] 2. Suffice it to say that at Histories 1.91 Herodotus himself explains that the oracle was only misleading because Croesus was not clever enough to ask which empire would be destroyed.

[ back ] 3. See pp. 175–179.

[ back ] 4. Perhaps it is best at this point to refrain from categorizing the LM as historiography per se, since its author—by his own admission a writer and public speaker (Mir. 41)—is clearly drawing on multiple sources for inspiration, perhaps especially on unnamed or altered biblical texts. On this latter point, see Dagron 1978:156–157.

[ back ] 5. For a selective list of references to Homer in the Miracles, see Dagron 1978:157. It should be noted that the author of the LM does acknowledge Thucydides in the preface to the Life (preface 29), though the latter seems to have had little if any influence on either the Life or the Miracles, unless one considers the invented speeches of the Life to be specifically Thucydidean. It is more likely, however, that those speeches stem simply from a general historiographical self-consciousness on the part of our author.

[ back ] 6. For the various meanings of the terms ζῆλος or ζήλωσις in classical Greek, see LSJ s.v. The idea of ζῆλος as “rivalry” or “imitation,” and not its basic meaning of “jealousy,” is found in Plato (Menexenus 242a) and Aristotle (Rhetoric 1388a30), but its uses in the Second Sophistic come closer to the practice suggested above: e.g. Pseudo-Longinus 13.2 (cf. Maximus of Tyre 7.9) and Hermogenes On Types of Style (213–214, trans. Russell and Winterbottom 1972:562).

[ back ] 7. In addition to sharing the language of “wonder” (θαῦμα).

[ back ] 8. Paratactic is the adjective from “parataxis” (παράταξις), which is the arrangement of sentences or narrative units side by side rather than in subordination to one another (ὑπόταξις): see Smyth 1956:485–487 and Immerwahr 1966:46–78, with standard references to Norden, Fraenkel, and others.

[ back ] 9. Immerwahr 1966:59.

[ back ] 10. Dewald 2002:269. See also an earlier article on this topic, Dewald 1987.

[ back ] 11. Marincola 1987.

[ back ] 12. For an attempt to integrate Book 2 more closely with the rest of the Histories, see Benardette 1969.

[ back ] 13. Myres 1953:96–97 simply refuses to attempt to incorporate Book 2 in his overall structural analysis. For a more positive solution, see, again, Benardette 1969.

[ back ] 14. But in a sense paradoxography is not necessary for this argument, since the author of the LM has already cited Herodotus in the prefaces of both halves of his work.

[ back ] 15. Marincola 1987:127.

[ back ] 16. Nagy 1987:184.

[ back ] 17. As mentioned above, Homer is variously invoked throughout the Miracles, and Dagron has suggested on this basis that the Life and Miracles is its author’s Iliad and Odyssey (1978:19). The comparison is not without good evidence, though the Miracles fits the Odyssey much better than the Life fits the Iliad. The point to be made, however, is that these classical models of major literary undertakings—Iliad, Odyssey, and Herodotus’ Histories—are assumed points of contact with the ancient world. The same analogy could be made, with equal or greater significance, for the canonical pair of Luke-Acts, which is cited twice in the preface to the Life (though admittedly absent from the preface to the Miracles).

[ back ] 18. I quote here a standard interpretation of the Life and Miracles: “The most spectacular instance of the Christian appropriation of Asclepius is found in the mid fifth century in the cult of Saint Thecla in Seleucia . . . Thecla wore the mantle of Asclepius, now in the guise of a female saint” (Cox Miller 1994:117; quoted in full on p. 173 below).

[ back ] 19. Crisafulli and Nesbitt 1997. Cf. Déroche 1993.

[ back ] 20. For πανδερκής as an attribute of divine/heavenly vision, see also ὀφθαλμὸς κραδίης πανδερκής at Nonnus Paraphrase of John 12.41 (referring to Isaiah’s vision in the temple; Isaiah 6).

[ back ] 21. As noted in Chapter One, ἱερόσυλος is applied to Thekla in the Iconian arena (ATh 28) in its broader, later sense of Roman sacrilegium, as opposed to the more restricted, original meaning of “temple-robber” here.

[ back ] 22. Dagron 1978: 291n2 suggests this is either hendiadys, as translated above, or an opposition between oral and written sources (thus, “inquirers and books”). Μυθολογεύω is used by Homer (Odyssey 12.450) and μυθολόγημα is used by Plato (e.g. Laws 663e); thus, both are standard Greek terms. However, the verb μυθολογέω is used by later authors to speak of specifically Homeric myth-telling (Longinus 34.2). The use of μυθολόγημα here most likely retains the resonance of the latter verb.

[ back ] 23. As Dagron notes (1978:86), the author makes Europa, who is Sarpedon’s mother according to Apollodorus, into his sister, making Sarpedon the nephew of Kilix (i.e. the eponymous founder of Cilicia). Thus, if he knows this later version of the myth (see below), then he is here intentionally drawing the attention away from Lycia (Sarpedon’s traditional homeland) to Seleukeia.

[ back ] 24. Of course, the tradition that Sarpedon came from Lycia is in the Iliad itself (e.g. 12.310–321), and Gregory Nagy (1990:122–142) has demonstrated that the language used to describe Sarpedon’s death and subsequent retrieval by Death and Sleep (at the command of Apollo and Zeus) has its roots in the Anatolian (Hittite) and Indo-European traditions of immortalization, specifically as it relates to the verb ταρχύω (Iliad 16.456 = 16.674).

[ back ] 25. Other instances of Σαρπηδόνιος include Mir. 11.12, 18.30, and 40.15 (cf. 40.30). As an adjective modifying a noun, Σαρπηδόνιος shows up as early as Aeschylus (Suppliants 869: Σαρπηδονία ἄκρα), but as a substitute for a proper noun, either for “Sarpedon” or “Sarpedonian Apollo,” it does not occur until the first century AD, when Diodorus Siculus claims (32.10.2) that there is a temple (ἱερόν) to “Sarpedonian Apollo” at Seleukeia. This usage is also found in Zosimus (1.57.2): “in Cilician Seleukeia they made use of the temple/oracle (ἱερόν) of Apollo called ‘Sarpedonian’.”

[ back ] 26. For this argument, see Dagron 1978:85–87.

[ back ] 27. See Strabo 14.5.4, as noted by Dagron 1978:86n3. Also noted by Dagron (86n4) is the following passage, interesting for the light it sheds on Sarpedon’s shifting associations: “In Cilicia there is the temple (ἱερόν) and oracle (μαντεῖον) of Sarpedonian Artemis” (Strabo 14.5.19). Of course, another “Sarpedonian” shrine could have existed elsewhere in Cilicia or Isauria other than the one mentioned in the Miracles. Nevertheless, the number of separate references to Sarpedon’s Cilician connections point to his lasting association with this region over a millennium (i.e. Aeschylus to the Miracles).

[ back ] 28. The change from the name Kokusion (“the mount of shrieking”; κωκύω?) can be dated, according to Dagron (1978:84), to he reign of the Hellenistic monarch Seleukos I Nicator (after c. 295 bc), to whom the town of Seleukeia owes its name as well (Cohen 1995:369–371). However, the reference to Kokusion here must be the cause of local memory, since the name Κωκύσιον does not appear anywhere else in Greek literature according to the TLG (search performed by the author on April 15, 2005). Dagron’s evidence is numismatic and epigraphic (1978:84n3) and is thus not contained in the TLG.

[ back ] 29. As Dagron notes (1978:84–85), the epithet κανίτις or κανῆτις (genitive κανήτιδος at Mir. 2.3) is a local title for Athena probably derivative of κανής (“mat of reeds”). Thus, this iteration of Athena’s persona is as the divine protector of “basket weavers,” the regional equivalent, Dagron posits, of the Athenian κανηφόροι, girls who carried woven reed baskets in religious processions. It would be more helpful, however, if this epithet could be linked with the perennial, indigenous name for this region, Κῆτις (Life 27.31; Mir. 19.3; cf. Ramsay 1890:363–367), but these two names appear philologically distinct, the former being exclusively Greek and not Hittite or Luwian in origin, as is the latter.

[ back ] 30. Dagron assumes this means that the church on the site of Athena’s sanctuary held relics of the martyrs (1978:293n2), but since relics are not mentioned elsewhere in the LM, it is perhaps better to understand this Christian occupation in a literary sense and to link it, as I have done, to Thekla’s physical (and epic) conquering of the region for Christ. A relic of Thekla’s is mentioned in a late antique, Greek extension to the ATh (see Appendix 1), so there is no doubt that relics were present at the site—all the more reason, perhaps, to draw attention to the significant absence of relics in the LM.

[ back ] 31. Dexianos was bishop of Seleukeia in the 430s and is elsewhere characterized as an upright man and a friend to the author and to Thekla herself (e.g. Mir. 7, 8; cf. Mir. 32).

[ back ] 32. Archaeologists claim to have found a temple to Zeus in Seleukeia proper (modern Silifke), but their attribution rests solely on the “evidence” of this miracle (Hild and Hellenkemper 1990:404; Hill 1996:241; cf. Dagron 1978:82–83).

[ back ] 33. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, Sarpedon is given credit by characters in the Miracles on two occasions (Mir. 11 and 40), over and against Thekla, who was the true source of their healing. This suggests an ongoing struggle (or confusion) between Sarpedon and Thekla for control of the locals’ thaumaturgical imaginations.

[ back ] 34. Shaw 1990:259. Lenski 1999 argues that Shaw is incorrect that Isauria resisted Roman control throughout antiquity. From the mid first century to the mid third century AD, according to Lenski, Roman influence can be seen in Isauria in many different aspects of social life.

[ back ] 35. Shaw 1990:252–255.

[ back ] 36. Of course, this is not the goal of his essay, but there is a mishandling of some essential details from the LM—e.g. on page 245: “The compilation, usually attributed to Basil of Caesarea …” should read “Basil of Seleukeia,” who is also named in Mir. 12 in an adversarial scene (for issues of authorship see, again, Dagron 1974); and “Thekla, a Cilician woman” should read “a Lycaonian woman” or “an Iconian woman.”

[ back ] 37. On Laistrygonia, see Dagron 1978:121n1 (cf. Odyssey 10.80–132).

[ back ] 38. Shaw 1990:259: “The clear and unmistakable implication of all these imperial measures is that Isauria remained, till the mid seventh century, a zone of permanent dissidence within the empire and hardly, as some would have it, a region now brought within the confines of imperial power.” He is referring to A.H.M. Jones’s assertion that Anastasius I was finally able to pacify the region in the late fifth century (Jones 1964:1.230–231).

[ back ] 39. Later in this miracle (28.61–65) he alludes to the biblical stories of Jonah and Nineveh (Jonah 3) and Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18–19), further solidifying the prophetic tone that he adopts in this passage.

[ back ] 40. As for the formula which had been inscribed, the author of the Miracles says only the following: “the letters are affixed in fine pebbles of gold, proclaiming to all men the consubstantiality (τὸ ὁμοούσιον) of the holy and superlative Trinity” (10.6–8). Elsewhere, however, the author speaks of the Trinity in distinctive language characteristic of the Cappadocian Fathers (Mir. 14.55–65; see also pp. 32–35 above).

[ back ] 41. For this reference to Macedonia, see p. 163–164 below. There is also one brief miracle that occurs in Constantinople (Mir. 9.71–87), but this is in protection of a priest who had gone to the imperial city on official Seleukeian business.

[ back ] 42. At the beginning of Mir. 30. the author presents a topographic etymology of the name Dalisandos: according to him it is a contraction of Damalisandos/Damalisanda, formed from the pair Δαμαλίς and Σάνδας/-ης/-ων. The latter is the name of a Cilician deity known to Ammianus Marcelinus (14.8.3) as the founder of Tarsus, assimilated to Heracles on local coins from the city (Agathias 2.24.8). Δαμαλίς was known to have been a female heroine associated with Heracles. For these and more references to this toponym, see Dagron 1978:371n3.

[ back ] 43. The exact location of ancient Dalisandos is unknown. Dagron suggests, on the basis of epigraphical studies, that it was in the valley of the Kalykadnos, just to the northwest of Seleukeia, thus deeper into the Isaurian mountains and away from the coast (Dagron 1978:357n1). Also to be noted, however, is that the author of the Miracles remarks that Dalisandos has been lost to the historical record in his own time: “Dalisandos is a city, or rather, is only the image and name of a city that has been discarded into obscurity and anonymity, but it at one point gained notoriety for itself on account of the martyr” (26.2–3).

[ back ] 44. For Egeria’s visit to Seleukeia, see pp. 1–4 above.

[ back ] 45. In fact, the syntax of the author’s final sentence of this first conclusion is very convoluted and not at all comparable to the more inspired rhetoric of the epilogue. The first conclusion serves mainly as a litany of holy persons whom the author is embarrassed that he has not had time to speak about. Perhaps he ultimately found the time and decided to add the miracles about Xenarchis and Dionysia, the latter of whom is named in Mir. 44 as one of those he had thus far failed to mention. In any case, the author is more concerned about “holy people” in these final three miracles than he has been up to this point.

[ back ] 46. Dagron 1978:156 and passim.

[ back ] 47. The suggestion may be, instead, that she sleeps in the church that was built over the spot where she disappeared, as described in Life 28.

[ back ] 48. I have translated δαίμων here as “demon” (instead of “daimon” as I did with the pagan gods in the last section) because the supernatural being that the author is describing is in this miracle is very obviously of a different nature and rank.

[ back ] 49. On the use of the imagery of smell in liturgical poetry from this period, see Ashbrook Harvey 2002 and Johnson 2002b.

[ back ] 50. See LSJ s.v.

[ back ] 51. This passage could reasonably be compared to the secret, spiritual naming of Macrina as “Thekla” before she was born, as told in Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Macrina (2.21–34, ed. Maraval 1971:144–148). Davis 2001:201–208 collects the namesakes of Thekla in late antique Egypt, both Greek and Coptic.

[ back ] 52. The epithet βέλτιστος frequently appears in the Miracles as an ironic reference to an individual’s standing in the community. It is used for Sarpedon, the old woman, and the doctor in this miracle, as well as for the Pythian Apollo (Mir. preface 63) and others. It is a tool for distancing the author from the reputation of his characters in the community.

[ back ] 53. For the location, see Dagron 1978:25, 110–111.

[ back ] 54. As Dagron notes, Leontios’ request suggests that he was Maximinos’ slave, or at least bound to him in some way (Dagron 1978:337n4).

[ back ] 55. The text says that he returned to Antioch by land, “saying farewell to the sea, to boats, and to waves” (17.44–45). Dagron groups this with other comments in the Miracles about preferring land travel to sea travel, the shining exception being the Cypriot pilgrim in Mir. 15 (Dagron 1978:110–111).

[ back ] 56. See Crisafulli and Nesbitt 1997.

[ back ] 57. Saturninus was the comes domesticorum under Theodosius II. The emperor sent Saturninus to Jerusalem to execute, in AD 444, the companions of the exiled empress Eudocia-Athenaïs, namely, the priest Severus and the deacon John. The latter two were charged with professing heretical doctrinal views. As Dagron notes, some sources claim that Eudocia avenged their deaths by killing Saturninus himself (Dagron 1978:323n2).

[ back ] 58. Plato Republic 10.616e (as noted by Dagron 1978:395n1).

[ back ] 59. The sophist Gorgias (c. 485–c. 380 BC) was very influential in classical Greece as a thinker and a stylist. His style is parodied by the character Agathon in Plato’s Symposium (194e–197e), and he was considered generally to be a skeptic on the communicative power of words. See OCD s.v. “Gorgias (1).”

[ back ] 60. Hypsistios’ wife’s prayers are compared to Hannah’s in 1 Samuel 1:1–20, though the author of the Miracles characterizes praying for children as “the demand of Jewish vulgarity.”

[ back ] 61. The reference to the Theotokos here is surprising given that the author has demonstrated his apathy towards contemporary theological issues elsewhere in the LM (see pp. 221–226 below). He adds nothing to these debates, except to tie the term to Christology, which was its fifth-century setting (see Lampe s.v., definitions C–D). Thus, the appearance of the term Theotokos here is primarily significant as a demonstration that the author is not unaware of contemporary Christological issues, though he chooses elsewhere not to involve his text in them.

[ back ] 62. See pp. 197–210 below.

[ back ] 63. Nevertheless, two points should be noted: first, as I emphasized in the Introduction, most of Thekla’s miracles are not about healing at all; second, incubation is not the standard method of healing for Thekla when she does chose to heal a suppliant. Regarding the latter point, take for instance Mir. 12, 38, and 39, three miracles which involve local Isaurian or Cilician literati and which appear to present scenes of incubation. None of these explicitly takes place in an incubation setting, even though visions, healings, and prescriptions are variously invoked. Thus, 1) in Mir. 12 the author of the LM only has a dream that he is sleeping in the church; 2) it is unclear whether Alypios in Mir. 38 does in fact sleep in the church; and 3) Isokasios’ healing in Mir. 39 does not take place in Seleukeia. Therefore, despite superficial connections with incubatory healing, it could be argued that the LM has nothing to do with incubation at all.

[ back ] 64. This is an allusion to Paul’s dream in Acts 16:9: “At night a vision (ὅραμα) came to Paul. A Macedonian was standing, exhorting him, and saying, ‘Come to Macedonia and help us!’” The author of the Miracles adds the phrase “it befitted her since she was in a hurry” perhaps to forestall the charge of plagiarism, emphasizing the reality of the situation over his skill at allusions (Dagron 1978:323n17). Yet, in the context of Thekla’s association with Paul in the Life, plagiarism was probably not a serious concern for this author: her quick disappearance has more to do with the pace of the narrative and the author’s desire to press on to his vindication and the resolution of the story. As seen in the first miracle recounted in Mir. 12, he could dwell at length on Thekla’s dream-activities when he so desired.

[ back ] 65. Dagron 1978:321n16. See also Ashbrook Harvey 2002.

[ back ] 66. Krueger 2004:79–92.

[ back ] 67. For the sake of a fruitful interpretation, one must insist that the author is in control of the amount of biographical material that he allows to be known in Mir. 12—unless he is somehow incapacitated or being careless. Therefore, it is appropriate to assume that the rhetorical value of Thekla’s healing, as told at the beginning of the miracle, was strong enough in the author’s mind to offset the negative effects of the rest. Of course, as readers we do not have to assent to the success of this wager. Thus, another plausible interpretation might be that he is too obviously trying to restore a damaged reputation, with the prominence of Thekla’s healing being an overt use of the rhetoric of patronage. While I think this latter interpretation (basically Krueger’s) is to a great degree true, the narrative logic of Mir. 12 exhibits more sophistication than has previously been noticed.

[ back ] 68. The “three days” as a reference to the time Jesus spent in the tomb is rhetorically valuable for the author’s self-presentation as suffering for a righteous cause. Furthermore, this allusion highlights the literary nature of the miracle itself.

[ back ] 69. He also states somewhat cryptically in Mir. 37 that “Letters” are worthy of the blessing of the “institution of the chorus” (χοροστασία; perhaps “public recitation”?). The meaning of this statement is unclear since there are no other indications that these miracle were designed to be read out.

[ back ] 70. The author at this point makes a rather sacrilegious analogy, as Dagron notes (1978:399n6), between the unblocking of his ear and the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb in the Gospels (e.g. Matthew 28:2).

[ back ] 71. In Christian texts the term ἀκροατήριον is employed as meaning both “speaker’s platform” (see Lampe s.v. where this text is cited as evidence) and “audience hall” (for which see Acts 25:23 and BDAG s.v.).

[ back ] 72. As noted by Dagron 1978:399n7.

[ back ] 73. The term ἀρκόχοιρος is a neologism meaning “bear-pig,” not in the sense of invoking a mutant animal but in the sense of combining descriptively the viciousness of the bear and the ignobility of the pig (Dagron 1978:411n3).