Revista Studii Teologice


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"Despre localizarea mănăstirii Halmyrissos din Vita Sancti Hypatii"

On the location of Halmyrissos Monastery mentioned in Vita Sancti Hypatii

Autor(i): diac. Mihai Ovidiu CĂŢOI

Vita Sancti Hypatii mentions a monastery named Halmyrissos, very vaguely located in Thracia. Despite the fact that the work has been long studied by specialists, they fail to approach the geographic location of this monastic settlement, although there are sufficient internal elements for a discussion on this topic. Some clarifications have been necessary prior to addressing the location of Halmyrissos monastery: a) which Thracia administrative unit is mentioned in Vita Sancti Hypatii; b) establishing a broad chronology of the Thracian period in St. Hypatios̉ life. Regarding the first point, it has been ascertained that by Thracia the author means the imperial territory between Constantinople, the Aegean sea and the Danube, with no precise western boundary. In this case, it is Thracia Diocese, and the standard location of Halmyrissos monastery in the vicinity of Constantinople is no longer certain, but a mere working hypothesis.
The broad chronology has placed Hypatios̉ birth around the year 366; he left home in the year 384 (at age 18), and joined the community headed by Jonas around the year 386. Jonas had been released from army between 383 and 386, prior to his meeting Hypatios, and after the latter joined the community, the fortified monastery started to be built, and was completed at a moment between 386 and 395. To the same period also belonged the repeated Barbarian attacks, as Rufinus was still alive at the time of Jonas̉ intervention, according to the account given in chapter 6. The details concerning the monastery location have been analyzed in the order in which they are mentioned in Vita Sancti Hypatii, as follows:
1. Jonas left Constantinople and settled on a mountain (εἰς τὸ ὄρος), where he built a hut (3.5). Hypatios also mentions «a mountain» when, together with Timothy and Moschion, he decides to leave Eleutherius’ property in Constantinople and withdraw to a monastery (8.3). Other details provided in the work suggest that the monastery was not located in a mountainous area, as peculiar to hagiographic literature, but at most among hills or on a rough terrain, probably rocky, but allowing for agricultural works.
2. The town in the proximity of the monastery has been generally identified with the imperial capital and thus it was generally accepted that the monastery must be sought at some distance from Constantinople. The analysis reveals that it was located near a town that that was not the capital, but was situated at a certain distance from Constantinople, while the text does not state how far from it.
3. Crucial details, essential for locating Halmyrissos monastery, are provided by the statement at 3.11: «because the Huns dwelt nearby and would easily plunder those places, strongholds were built there» (Διὰ γὰρ τὸ τοὺς Οὕννους γειτνιάζειν καὶ ῥᾳδίως πραιδεύειν τούς τόπους καστέλλια ᾠκοδομοῦντο).
4. Equally important is the description of the Barbarian attack (6.1-2) and, in most cases, experts have analyzed the excerpt by corroborating it with the information concerning the proximity of Huns, concluding that it related to the disruptions caused by the rebellion of the Goths led by Alaric in 395.
The excerpt regarding the Barbarian attack needed clarification in several re-gards. Firstly, the analysis was undertaken from the perspective of the work’s main concern: the spiritual evolution of Hypatios. Chapters 6 and 7 express the same idea: a true servant of God will help anyone, under any circumstances. In this case, chapter 6 is dedicated to Jonas and constitutes the best example his disciple could receive. Thus, due to the personal relationships he maintained at the imperial court, the archimandrite «spoke boldly» (ἔλεγεν … μετὰ παρρησίας; 6.4) and «openly» (ἐλέγχειν εἰς πρόσωπον; 6.7), helping people he did not know, without fear of the possible trouble he could have from the aristocrats. In his turn, Hypatios is called by God to exert the virtue of humility by helping his father (chapter 7), with whom he was still in conflict. In this case, the episode evinces the spiritual evolution of Hypatios, which demonstrated the actual change occurred within him.
Another aspect regarding the Barbarian attack was the far-fetched identi-fication Huns = Barbarians = Alaric’s Goths rebelling in 395, accepted by most experts. The present analysis has separated these notions, clearly distinguishing between the elements of Callinicos’ account: the proximity of Huns (3.11) and the Barbarian attack (6.1-2), on the one hand, and other events occurring in the diocese of Thracia (the Goths’ settling, according to the 382 treaty, their rebellion in 395), on the other hand, as the Huns are the main, but not only, Barbarian reality mentioned by Callinicos in Vita S. Hypatii, while the Goths never appear in this work as an ethnic, military or religious notion, either expressly stated or implied. Also, Jonas’ intercession before the authorities demonstrates that the described attack belonged to a series of local events, ignored by the central authorities, which cannot be accepted in the case of the Goths’ rebellion in 395. Then, the 395 rebellion cannot account for the gradual impoverishment of the monastery area, because this event affected violently the areas where it occurred.
5. Following the bold intercession of hegoumenos Jonas before the aristocrats in the capital, «ships were loaded with wheat and dried vegetables» (6.5), in order to be distributed to the local people affected by Barbaric incursions. Sending these shipments becomes another essential detail in the discussion, because it suggests that the monastery must be sought in the close vicinity of a sea shore or river bank, around an operational harbour.
6. The last detail to be discussed is the monastery’s name: Halmyrissos (Ἁλμύρισσος; 7.1). As there is no known place to match exactly the form recorded by Callinicos, it can be one of several locations in the Balkan Peninsula with a close etymology: Halmyros, Saltys (Σάλτυς), Saltupyrgos (Σαλτουπύργος), Halmydessus/ Salmydessus, Halmyris.
Beside the direct mentions, an indirect detail has been discussed, namely the personality of Jonas which, in our opinion, enjoys a local influence, or at most a regional one. His renown in Constantinople is based only on his personal relationships among the civil aristocracy, and not on the renown of his deeds among the representatives of central church hierarchy. Whatever the explanation, his absence from the memory of the capital’s monastic circles, as a founder, suggests he was quite remote from that area. In this case, Halmyrissos monastery was located at a significant distance from the capital, and this distance is revealed by the very intervention aimed at solving local problems, caused by the repeated Barbarian attacks, ignored by the central decision-makers. Thus, because of the distance from Constantinople his activity remained unknown, ignored or forgotten by his contemporaries, and he was preserved in the memory of posterity only due to Callinicos account.
Given the above elements, I consider that Halmyrissos monastery, mentioned in Vita Sancti Hypatii could be located in the religious setting of Scythia Minor, within the rural territory pertaining to Halmyris/Salmorus (Ἁλμυρίς) town; it was established here during the second half of the 4th century, not as a transient event, but as a natural development of Christianity in the area, at a time when the Church of Scythia was headed by personalities such as bishops Bretanion, Gerontius (Terentius) and Theotim I. However, this hypothesis can be definitively accepted only upon archaeological confirmation.

Pagini: 91-126