Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius – Simeon the Stylite

illustration of Saint Simeon Stylites; from 'Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints'Article

In these times flourished and became illustrious Simeon, of holy and famous memory, who originated the contrivance of stationing himself on the top of a column, thereby occupying a spot of scarce two cubits in circumference. Domnus was then bishop of Antioch; and he, having visited Simeon, and being struck with the singularity of his position and mode of life, was desirous of more mystic intercourse. They met accordingly, and having consecrated the immaculate body, imparted to each other the life-giving communion. This man, endeavouring to realise in the flesh the existence of the heavenly hosts, lifts himself above the concerns of earth, and, overpowering the downward tendency of man’s nature, is intent upon things above: placed between earth and heaven, he holds communion with God, and unites with the angels in praising him; from earth, offering his intercessions on behalf of men, and from heaven, drawing down upon them the divine favour. An account of his miracles has been written by one of those who were eye-witnesses, and an eloquent record by Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus: though they have omitted a circumstance in particular, the memory of which I found to be still retained by the inhabitants of the holy desert, and which I learnt from them as follows. When Simeon, that angel upon earth, that citizen in the flesh of the heavenly Jerusalem, had devised this strange and hitherto unknown walk, the inhabitants of the holy desert send a person to him, charged with an injunction to render a reason of this singular habitude, namely, why, abandoning the beaten path which the saints had trodden, he is pursuing another altogether unknown to mankind; and, further, that he should come down and travel the road of the elect fathers. They, at the same time, gave orders, that, if he should manifest a perfect readiness to come down, liberty should be given him to follow out the course he had chosen, inasmuch as his compliance would be sufficient proof that under God’s guidance he persevered in this his |26 endurance: but that he should be dragged down by force, in case he should manifest repugnance, or be swayed by self-will, and refuse to be guided implicitly by the injunction. When the person, thus deputed, came and announced the command of the fathers, and Simeon, in pursuance of the injunction, immediately put one foot forward, then he declared him free to fulfil his own course, saying, ‘Be stout, and play the man: the post which thou hast chosen is from God.’ This circumstance, which is omitted by those who have written about him, I have thus thought worthy of record. In so great a measure had the power of divine grace taken possession of him, that, when Theodosius had issued a mandate, that the synagogues of which they had been previously deprived by the Christians, should be restored to the Jews of Antioch, he wrote to the emperor with so much freedom and vehement rebuke, as standing in awe of none but his own immediate sovereign, that Theodosius re-called his commands, and in every respect favoured the Christians, even superseding the prefect who had suggested the measure. He further proceeded to prefer a request to this effect, to the holy and aerial martyr, that he would entreat and pray for him, and impart a share of his own peculiar benediction. Simeon prolonged his endurance of this mode of life through fifty-six years, nine of which he spent in the first monastery, where he was instructed in divine knowledge, and forty-seven in the Mandra, as it is termed; namely, ten in a certain nook; on shorter columns, seven; and thirty upon one of forty cubits. After his departure, his holy body was conveyed to Antioch, during the episcopate of Martyrius, and the reign of the emperor Leo, when Ardabyrius was in command of the forces of the East, on which occasion the troops, with a concourse of their followers and others, proceeded to the Mandra, and escorted the venerable body of the blessed Simeon, lest the inhabitants of the neighbouring cities should muster and carry it off. In this manner, it was conveyed to Antioch, and attended during its progress by extraordinary prodigies. The emperor also demanded possession of the body; and the people of Antioch addressed to him a petition in deprecation of his purpose, in these terms: “Forasmuch as our city is without walls, for we have been visited in wrath by their fall, we brought hither the sacred body to be our wall and bulwark.” Moved by these considerations, the emperor yielded to their prayer, and left them in possession of the venerable body. It has been preserved nearly entire to my time: and, in company with many priests, I enjoyed the sight of his sacred head, in the episcopate of the famous Gregory, when Philippicus had requested that precious relics of saints might be sent to him for the protection of the Eastern armies. And, strange as is the circumstance, the hair of his head had not perished, but is in the same state of preservation as when he was alive and sojourning with mankind. The skin of his forehead, too, was wrinkled and indurated, but is nevertheless preserved, as well as the greater part of his teeth, except such as had been violently removed by the hands of faithful men, affording by their appearance an indication of the personal appearance and years of the man of God. Beside the head lies the iron collar, to which, as the companion of its endurance, the famous body has imparted a share of its own divinely-bestowed honours; for not even in death has Simeon been deserted by the loving iron. In this manner would I have detailed every particular, thereby benefiting both myself and my readers, had not Theodoret, as I said before, already performed the task more fully.

MLA Citation

  • “Simeon the Stylite”. Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius. 13 August 2018. Web. 3 August 2020. <>