Roman the Melodist

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Saint Romanos the Melodist, a Greek hymn-writer called "the Pindar of rhythmic poetry," was born at Emesa (Hems) in Syria.

From the scanty notices of his life we learn that he resided in Constantinople during the reign of the Emperor Anastasius1. Having officiated as a deacon in the Church of the Resurrection at Beirut, he again moved to Constantinople, where he was attached to the churches of Blachernae and Cyrus.

According to legend, when he was asleep in the last-named church, the Theotokos appeared to him and commanded him to eat a scroll. On awaking (it was Christmas Day), he immediately went before the church and gave forth his famous hymn on the Nativity.

Romanos is said to have composed more than 8000 similar hymns or kontakia (Gr. κοντάκιον, "scroll") celebrating the feasts of the ecclesiastical year, the lives of the saints, and other sacred subjects. Some of the more famous are:

  • on the death of a monk (extremely impressive)
  • the Last Judgment
  • the treachery of Judas

the martyrdom of St Stephen


  • JB Pitra, Analecta Sacra, i. (1876), containing 29 poems, and Sanctus Romanus Veterum Melodorum Princeps (1888), with three additional hymns from the monastery of St John in Patmos. See also Pitra's Hymnographie de l'église grecque (1867)
  • Karl Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur (1897).

References and Sources

1 On the question whether Anastasius I (491-518) or II (713-716) is meant, see Krumbacher, who is in favour of the earlier date.

  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Retrieved from Romanos at Wikipedia