Byzantine Stories Episode 2 – Symeon the Stylite

Symeon the Stylite (

Symeon the Stylite (

Church of Saint Simeon Stylites (wikipedia)

Church of Saint Simeon Stylites (wikipedia)

Pillar base at the church (wikipedia)

Pillar base at the church (wikipedia)

What the church would have looked like

What the church would have looked like

An image from the film Simon of the Desert (

An image from the film Simon of the Desert (

Plaque of Symeon (in the Louvre)

Plaque of Symeon (in the Louvre)

Symeon's enclosure in Syria

Symeon’s enclosure in Syria

We explore the life of Symeon the Stylite (c388-459 AD). A Syrian country boy, Symeon joined a monastery as a teenager and would go on to found his own establishment. There he built a pillar and spent decades standing on it praying to God. He also became a miracle worker and wise-man for local towns and villages. We learn about the stories told about Symeon but also ask what do they mean? How did he survive up there? Did he really perform miracles? (63 minutes)

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Categories: Byzantine Stories | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Byzantine Stories Episode 2 – Symeon the Stylite

  1. ArcticXerxes

    You mention that there is a map posted with this episode, but I don’t see it…

  2. yw

    Towards the end of the episode it was said Heraclius was given the title “skippio” by the senate. May I ask what it means and what is the actual spelling?

    Thank you for brining these amazing episodes to us!

  3. AGB

    Hi Robin, I am really impressed and delighted by the quality of this episode, and I wholeheartedly support the idea of episodes that focus on unique and interesting figures who might not otherwise merit substantial coverage in a state-centric narrative.

    But I must confess that I find the subject of extreme asceticism quite shocking and bizarre, and Simeon the Stylite truly one-ups John Chrysostom on that measure. I’ll not run off on a tangent here on a theological debate regarding whether a God who condemns suicide considers self-harm an act of devotion… Instead, I will simply state that I do not find it pleasant listening. (Informative, but still unpleasant!) Obviously, much of Roman and Byzantine history is quite grotesque to modern sensibilities. Yet something about deliberate self-harm really crosses a line for me in a way that the blindings, castrations, nose-slittings, and outright murder don’t. I’m not sure why. I suppose you could call it an arbitrary distinction between harming others and harming oneself.

    All this is to say that I would be much more interested in your Byzantine Stories series, going forward, if you selected historical figures other than ascetics. I appreciate and understand that they played a substantial role in the history of early Christianity and Roman communities of late antiquity, but I’ve had my fill of them now. Thanks.

    Finally, I recognize that I am one listener among many. If everyone else is enjoying the lives of ascetics, then certainly, by all means, continue covering them. I hope the previous paragraph doesn’t come across as imperious. I am just a humble listener submitting his personal reaction.

    • Thank you so much for the feedback. They definitely won’t all be self-harming ascetics. But there will be more Saints/Monks/Bishops/Priests as we have more stories from them than any other group. Next episode should be about something completely different…

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