The Kosmas and Damianos triangle

The main Anargyroi are surely the three pairs of 'Kosmas and Damianos' who are distinguished by being termed the Syrians, the Romans and the Arabs. An amount of confusion has always been engendered by them all bearing the same names. Unsurprisingly, scholars have argued that this triplication of pairs simply represents conflicting traditions about one pair - almost certainly the Syrians entombed in Kyrros/Hagiopolis. The Roman Catholics now appear to hold an approximation of this view and the Roman Martyrology commemorates just one pair, a conflation of the Syrians and the Arabs. The belief in an extra pair active in Rome is now thought to have arisen after relics were translated to the West at a relatively early date. However, the Orthodox Churches continue to commemorate all three pairs with gusto. It is argued that the

Romans and Arabs emulated their earlier Syrian counterparts and, out of respect, adopted their names.

The Syrians Kosmas and Damianos are still the focus of much popular devotion amongst Eastern Christians, but not to the point of entirely eclipsing the Romans or the Arabs. In parts of Macedonia the feast of the Roman Kosmas and Damianos is the occasion for gatherings in honour of all the healing saints. More widespread is the custom of commemorating all the Anargyroi (the Synaxis) on the feast-day of the Arabs Kosmas and Damianos. In Greece today this is marked by celebrations at a modern shrine in Ilioupolis on the outskirts of Athens.

In Greek folklore the Syrians Kosmas (often called Kosmianos) and Damianos, have arguably supplanted the ancient Greek deity Asklepios. In folk tales they are characterized as being the first Christian healers. A cave chapel at the Acropolis of Athens and a monastery at Ermioni in Argolis are among many examples of shrines dedicated to the saints on ruins of temples of Asklepios. Most are by springs or wells that have probably been considered sacred since ancient times. Pilgrims or those hoping for help or a specific cure traditionally slept overnight in churches of the saints, received guidance in their dreams, and customarily left votive offerings if convinced that they had indeed been healed. Incubation and related customs point to the likelihood that Kosmas and Damianos inherited certain aspects of pre-Christian cults, at least in Greek-speaking regions. Their enduring popularity is evident in the multiplicity of churches and chapels dedicated to the saints, the naming of towns, villages and neighbourhoods in their honour and the christening of infants invoking the protection of their names. Amongst the Greeks men called Anargyros/Argyris or women called Anargyro/Argyro/Iro generally observe their name-days on the feast-day of Kosmas and Damianos.

Dating from at least 1293, the Vassara Monastery in Lakonia remains an important centre of pilgrimage to the Anargyroi in Greece. Repeatedly damaged during Turkish punitive actions in the Ottoman centuries it is now adorned by works of the iconogra-pher Photis Kontoglou.

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