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Saba or Saba Hamartolus or St. Saba

Σάβας), or SABAS, a celebrated Greek ecclesiastic of the fifth century. He was a native of Mutalasca, a village in Cappadocia, where he was born, as his biographer, Cyril of Scythopolis, records, in the seventeenth consulship of the emperor Theodosius II., A. D. 439. His parents, named Joannes and Sophia, were Christians, and persons of rank. His father being engaged in military service at Alexandria, he was left at Mutalasca, under the care of Hermias, his maternal uncle; but the depraved character of his uncle's wife led to his removal and his being placed under the care of another uncle, Gregorius, his father's brother, who resided in the village of Scandus, in the same neighbourhood. His two uncles having a dispute about the guardianship of the boy, and the management of his absent father's property, he was placed in a monastery, called Flavianae, about twenty miles from Mutalasca, where he was trained up in the strictness of monastic observance, to which he so heartily devoted himself, that when, upon his uncles' reconciliation, he was invited to leave the monastery and take the charge of his father's property, he refused, quoting the declaration of Jesus Christ, that "no man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of Heaven." His biographer Cyril represents his removal to his uncle Gregory's house, and afterwards to the monastery, as his own acts, which, from his tender age (he being only five years old at his father's departure), is hardly probable, though it may have been the consequence of his own wish. In the monastery of Flavianae he spent ten years.

When in his eighteenth year Saba was seized with the desire of visiting Jerusalem, and of leading a solitary life in the wilderness near that city; and having obtained permission, though with difficulty, from his archimandrite or abbot, he set out and reached Jerusalem in A. D. 457, toward the close of the reign of the Eastern emperor Marcianus. After rejecting the invitations of several monastic communities to settle among them, he withdrew to the wilderness east of the city, and would have placed himself in the monastery of which Euthymius, the most eminent of the monks of Palestine, was the abbot; but Euthymius rejected him, as too young, and recommended him to the care of another abbot, Theoctistus, to be by him further trained in monastic severities. While under the care of Theoctistus, he was allowed to accompany one of the monks who had private business at Alexandria ; and in that city he was recognised by his parents. who appear to have been strangely ignorant, if not regardless of their child. They would have had him engage in military service, in which his father, who had assumed the name of Conon, had risen to an important command. Saba, as might have been expected, refused to comply with their wishes, and returned to his monastery. After a time he accompanied Euthymius into the wilderness of Ruba, near the Jordan, and then into the wilderness south of the Dead Sea, and appears to have been present with him at his death, in or about A. D. 573.

After the death of this eminent person, Saba withdrew altogether from his monastery into the wilderness near the Jordan; and from thence removed to a cave near "the brook that flows from the fountain of Siloam," where in his forty-fifth year (A. D. 483 or 484) he began to form a community from those who now resorted to him, and founded the "Laura" or monastery, known afterwards as Magna Laura, the inmates of which soon amounted to a hundred and fifty. In his fifty-third year, A. D. 491 or 492 (Cyrill. Scythop. Sabae Vita, 100.19), not his forty-fifth, as Cave affirms, he received ordination as presbyter. He was the founder of some other monastic societies beside that of Magna Laura; and was appointed by the Patriarch of Jerusalem archimandrite of the anchorets of Palestine. But the peace of these solitaries was disturbed by the seditious proceedings of some of them; and by the disputes occasioned by the revival and progress of Origenistic and other opinions [ORIGENES] regarded by Saba as heretical. In his seventy-third year (A. D. 512) Saba was sent, with some other heads of the anchorets of Palestine, by Elias I., patriarch of Jerusalem, to avert the displeasure of the Eastern emperor Anastasius, who, in consequence of the great monophysite schism, was at variance with the patriarch. The great reputation of Saba secured for him a gracious reception at court, and several gifts and favours from the emperor: the gold he distributed among the monasteries of which he was the founder or the virtual superior. His interposition, however, did not divert the imperial patronage from the Monophysites, or prevent the ultimate deposition (A. D. 513) of the patriarch Elias, who strenuously opposed them. Saba, who supported the same party (that of the Council of Chalcedon) as Elias, in conjunction with Theodosius, another eminent archimandrite of Palestine, superior of the Coenobites, persuaded Joannes, the successor of Elias, to break the engagement to support the Monophysite party, which had been the condition of his elevation: they also supported him in defying the imperial mandate. For this contumacy, Joannes, Saba, and Theodosius, would probably all have suffered banishment, had not the troubles excited by Vitalianus the Goth (A.D. 514) diverted the emperor's attention. [ANASTASIUS I.] In A. D. 518, Saba, now in his eightieth year, visited the expatriarch Elias, in his place of exile, Aila, the modern Akaba, at the head of the gulf of Akaba, an arm of the Red Sea. Soon after this, the accession of Justinus I. to the empire having overthrown the ascendancy of the Monophysites, Saba was sent by the patriarch Joannes, to publish in the cities of Palestine the imperial letter, recognizing the Council of Chalcedon. In his ninety-first year (A. D. 529 or 530) he undertook another journey to Constantinople, where he obtained from Justinianus I., now emperor [JUSTINIANUS I.], a remission of taxes for Palestine, in consideration of the ravages occasioned by a revolt of the Samaritans, an incident worthy of notice, as furnishing one of the few links in the obscure history of that remarkable people. He received also many gifts for his monasteries. Saba died in his monastery, the Magna Laura (A. D. 532), in his ninety-fourth year.

Saba was a man of great energy. He acted an important part in that turbid period of ecclesiastical history, and fearlessly threw himself into the agitation arising from the great Monophysite schism ; nor does age seem either to have diminished his ardour or restricted his exertions.


Early in the seventeenth century (A. D. 1603, also in 1613 and 1643) there was printed at Venice, in folio, an office book, or Liturgy of the Greek Church, entitled, τῆς ἐκκλησιαστικῆς ἀκολουθίας τοῦ χρόνου ὅλου, Typia um, Javvente Deo, continens lstegrum Officii Ecclesia.,Iici Ordinewn per totum Annm. It is a compilation, the first work in which is described by Cave as, "Typicon τῆς ἐκκλησιαστικῆς ἀκολουθίας, Sanctae Laurae in Hierosolymis, quod et in aliis Monasteriis Hierosolymitanis aliisque Ecclesiis obtinet exv Praescripto S. Sabae Capita lix. complezum" (Hist. Litt. Dissert. Secunda de Libris Eccles. Graecor.). This Typicon he elsewhere describes as written by S. Saba, and used in all the monasteries of Jerusalem; and states that having been corrupted and almost lost in the various invasions and disturbances of Palestine, it was restored by Joannes Damascenus. But Oudin considers that the work is at any rate much interpolated, and that it probably is not the work of Saba nt all; but has received his name, because conformed to the usage of his monastery. His supposition that the Typicon was a forgery of Marcus, surnamed Hamartolus (Peccator, the Sinner), is improbable [MARCUS, No. 16]. The title of the work in Greek, as given in a Vienna MS. cited by Oudin, Τυπικὸν τῆς ἐκκλησιαστικῆς ἀκολουθίας τῆς ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις ἁγίας Λαύρας τοῦ ὁσίου καὶ θεοφόρον πατρὸς ἡμῶν Σάββα, Typicon, s. Ordo Officii Ecclesiastici Monasterii Hieroslymitani Sancti Patris nostri Sabae, indicates, not that the work was written by S. Saba, but only that it is conformed to the practice of his monastery.

Further Information

Cyrillus Scythopol. S. Sabae Vita, apud Coteler. Eccles. Graec. Monumenta, vol. iii.; Cave, Hist. List. ad ann. 484, vol. i. p. 457, and vol. ii. Dissert. Secunda, p. 38, &c., ed. Oxon. 1740-1743; Fabric. Bibl. Gr. vol. x. p. 319; Oudin, Commentar. de Scriptorib. Eccles. vol. i. col. 1394; Tillemont, >Mém. vol. xvi.

Confusion with other figures named Saba

There were some other persons of the name of Saba (Phot. Biblioth. cod. 52; Fabric. l.c.), but they do not require notice.


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