The twelve and the twenty Anargyroi

From the early Byzantine period Panteleimon was also given the title Anargyros owing to the obvious parallels between his Life and the Kosmas and Damianos group. He was credited with healing and reviving a number of people, many of whom accompanied him to martyrdom. Kyros and John were also promoted as equal in stature to Kosmas and Damianos. It is evident from the stories of their posthumous miracles that this was done specifically to counter and eclipse the cult of the goddess Isis. From the sixth century onwards Sampson Xenodochos was also titled Anargyros and it is likely that by this time the notion of a group of heavenly physicians was quite well established. Indeed, Sampson emerged as the patron of the medical profession in Constantinople and presumably was viewed as presiding over a group of their saintly counterparts. The major Anargyroi correspond to the cultural units that made up the Byzantine world. They can be mapped out as Panteleimon in Nicomedia/Asia Minor, Kosmas and Damianos in Greater Syria, John and Kyros in Egypt and Sampson Xenodochos in Constantinople/Europe.

In the printed Greek texts there is evidence of at least two related traditions. In these we can find mention of a grouping of twelve Anargyroi saints and of another group of twenty that includes the former also. The twelve are: Aniketos, Diomedes, Damianos the Syrian, Hermolaos, John, Kosmas the Syrian, Kyros, Mokios, Panteleimon, Sampson, Thallelaios and Tryphon. The twenty number the above and also: Anthimos, Damianos the Arab, Damianos the Roman, Eutropios, Julian, Kosmas the Arab, Kosmas the Roman and Leontios. Sometimes Julian is left out to bring in Orestes or the widely venerated Photios/Photinos, the companion of Aniketos. In either form greater weight is given to the Byzantine heartlands of Asia Minor and Syria as opposed to outlying regions. The Russian Orthodox would at least add Agapit of the Kiev Caves to such lists and the Greek Catholics have ensured that Fabiola (d. 399) is closely associated with the Anargyroi. At least seven of the saints mentioned in this context are also styled great-martyrs and share the fame and veneration of both popular groups. It is not clear in which period Panteleimon, equally revered in the West as Pantoleon, overtook and replaced Sampson as the patron of the entire medical profession. Luke the Evangelist is generally included amongst the Anargyroi, as in Church tradition he is reputed to have been a physician.

Clearly, existing lists of Anargyroi in the printed Greek texts are governed as much by the conventions of numbering groups (twelve or twenty rather than thirteen or twenty-one) as by the perceived similarities between various surviving lives and legends of the Orthodox hagiographical tradition. The saints depicted in the ever popular group icons of the Anargyroi (the synaxis or gathering) clearly vary according to the commission or the icon-painter's preferences.

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