ROMANOS, called ὁ μελῳδός Greek hymn-writer, “the Pindar of rhythmic poetry,” was born at Emesa (Horns) in Syria. From the scanty notices of his life we learn that he resided in Constantinople during the reign of the emperor Anastasius.[1] Having officiated as a deacon in the church of the Resurrection at Berytus, he removed to Constantinople, where he was attached to the churches of Blachernae and Cyrus. According to the legend, when he was asleep in the last-named church, the Virgin appeared to him and commanded him to eat a scroll. On awaking (it was Christmas Day), he immediately mounted the pulpit, and gave forth his famous hymn on the Nativity. Romanos is said to have composed more than 1000 similar hymns or contakia (Gr. κοντάκιον, “scroll”) celebrating the festivals of the ecclesiastical year, the lives of the saints and other sacred subjects—on the death of a monk (extremely impressive); the last judgment; the treachery of Judas; the martyrdom of St Stephen; Simeon Stylites; paschal arrd pentecostal hymns. The MS. of the hymns, written by his own hand, was said to have been preserved in the church of Cyrus, in which he was buried and celebrated as a saint on the 1st of October. Prof. C. Krumbacher, who has edited the works of Romanos from the best (the Patmos) MSS., regards him as the greatest poet of the Byzantine age, and perhaps the greatest ecclesiastical poet of any age.

Editions: J. B. 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); C. Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur (1897); and Hymns.

  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.