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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Simeon Stylites

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Simeon (12) Stylites, a.d. 388–460. Simeon was, according to Theodoret, originally an enclosed anchorite, and raised his cell to avoid the honours paid to him (cf. Reeves on church of St. Doulough, pp. 8–11, with Evagr. H. E. i. 21). The fashion rapidly spread even to the sects, as we learn from Joannes Moschus ( Prat. Spirit. cxxix.; cf. Ceill. xi. 701 that the 6th-cent. Monophysites had pillar saints. Sometimes both parties had opposition Stylites in the same district. Evagrius tells us that Simeon's pillar was only three feet in circumference at the top, which would barely afford standing ground. Assemani has depicted Simeon's column in his Life of the saint with a railing or kind of wooden pulpit at the summit. Some such structure must have been there, not only to prevent his fall, but also for him to write the epistles he sent broadcast to emperors, bishops, and councils on all pressing questions. He was born at Sisan, a village on the borders of Cilicia and Syria, and when about 16 embraced the monastic life. From 413 to 423 Simeon dwelt in an enclosed cell near Antioch, where his austerities speedily attracted a number of followers, who formed a society called the Mandra. In 423 he built a low pillar, which he gradually raised, till in 430 it was 40 cubits high; there, with his neck manacled by an iron collar, he spent his last 30 years of life engaged in perpetual adoration, save when he was bestowing advice about mundane matters. His extraordinary life made a great impression; large numbers of Arabians, Armenians, and other pagans were converted by him, while emperors, bishops, and pilgrims from distant lands, even Spain and Britain, consulted him most reverently. An object of deepest reverence all through life, at the news of his approaching death great crowds assembled (July 459) round his pillar to receive his last words. On Aug. 29 he was seized with a mortal illness, and died Sept 2, 459. His body was transported with great pomp to Antioch, attended by bishops and clergy, and guarded by the troops under Ardabryius, commander of the forces of the East. The emperor Leo sent letters to the bp. of Antioch demanding It to be brought to Constantinople. The people of Antioch piteously reminded Leo, "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," and were permitted to retain it; but this did not avail to protect the city against capture by the Persians. Simeon wrote many epistles on current ecclesiastical matters: (1) one Evagrius mentions ( H. E. i. 13), to the emperor Theodosius against restoring their synagogues to the Jews. It effectually incited the emperor to intolerant courses. He withdrew the concession and dismissed the official who advised it. (2) An epistle to Leo, on behalf of the council of Chalcedon, and against the ordination of Timotheus Aelurus (ii. 10). (3) Evagrius gives ( ib. ) extracts from one to Basil of Antioch on the same topic. (4) An epistle to the empress Eudocia on the same (Niceph. xv. 13 ), by which she was converted from Eutychian error. (5) Eulogius of Alexandria mentions his profession of the Catholic faith, which Cave conjectures to have been identical with (2) (cf. Phot. Biblioth. cod . 230). Besides these, there is extant a Latin version of a sermon, de Morte Assidue Cogitanda , which in the Biblioth. Patr. is usually ascribed to our Simeon. Lambecius, on the authority of a MS. in the imperial library at Vienna, ascribes it to Simeon of Mesopotamia ( Comm. de Biblioth. Caesarea, vol. viii. lib. v. col. 198 D, ed. Kollar). Evagrius (i. 13) describes the appearance of Simeon's relics in his time, and also (i. 14) a visit he paid to the monastery and pillar of Simeon. The pillar was then enclosed in a church, which no woman was ever allowed to enter, and where supernatural manifestations were often seen. Count de Vogüé ( Syrie Centrale, t. i. pp. 141–154, Paris, 1865–1877) describes fully the present state of the church, and shews Evagrius's minute accuracy.


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Simeon Stylites'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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