Cyra
ID:
 
1556
 
Birth Date:
 
Second half of 4th century
 
Death Date:
 
First half of 5th century
 
Country:
 
Syria
 
Town:
 
Beroea (modern Aleppo)
 
Town:
 
Beroea (modern Aleppo)
 
Location of Work:
 
Beroea (modern Aleppo)
 
Social Status:
 

Cyra was a noblewoman and retained her wealth in order to support her ascetic lifestyle (Theodoret of Cyrrhus : the bishop and the holy man, 111).

 
Communities:
 

Cyra and NULL founded a community outside Beroea. According to Theodoret, they lived in a small hut and walled up the doors with clay and stones. They constructed a window through which they took food and spoke with the women who came to see them. Only Marana spoke to visitors; Cyra never spoke. They wore iron weights and cloth mantels which covered their face, neck, chest, hands, and feet. They lived in the hut for 42 years. Their maidservants who also wished to share in this lifestyle built huts around Cyra and Marana's hut. Some also lived in the open air. (Philotheos historia. English. 1985, XXIX.1-7).

 
Religious Roles:
 

Hermit and ascetic.

 
Ecclesiastical Relationships:
 

Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus says he visited Marana and Cyra and that because of their respect for the episcopal office they greeted him (Philotheos historia. English. 1985, XXIX.5). At this time, Theodoret was a known supporter of Nestorios.

 
Literary Works:
 

Our only documentation of Marana's and Cyra's lives is provided by Theodoret of Cyrrhus in his Religious History. Theodoret (393-466?) was a native of Antioch and before becoming bishop he lived in a monastery outside of Apamea. He served as bishop of Cyrrhus from 423-449, when he was deposed and exiled by the “Robber” Council of Ephesus. He was restored to his position as bishop by Pope Leo I and the Emperor Marcian, but in exchange was compelled to end his long-standing support of Nestorios at the Council of Chalcedon (451) (Theodoret of Cyrrhus, 1991).

Theodoret’s Religious History recounts the biographies of approximately 30 monks living in Northern Syria in the 4th and 5th centuries. The text dates to either 440 or 444. In the final two chapters (XXIX and XXX), he records the lives of three women: NULL and Cyra (XXIX) and NULL (XXX).

Theodoret states that he includes women among his text because, "despite having a weaker nature, they display the same zeal as the men and free their sex from its ancestral disgrace." (Philotheos historia. English. 1985, XXIX.1). The female lives are short and include scant historical details. In the Religious History, Marana, Cyra, and Domnina are not leaders of their community like their male counterparts. Nevertheless, Theodoret expresses admiration and respect for these women and their quest for holiness. While these short lives may appear as an afterthought in Theodoret's text, their presence gives us a glimpse into the lives and religious practices of early monastic women (Theodoret of Cyrrhus : the bishop and the holy man, 110-111).

 
Misc Info:
 

Marana and Cyra made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and to the shrine of Thecla in Isauria. In both cases, Theodoret claims that they took in no food (Philotheos historia. English. 1985, XXIX.7-8).

 
Manuscript sources:
 

There are 41 extant Greek Manuscripts of the Religious History found in 10 different countries. These manuscripts range in date from the 9th to the 19th century. Marana's and Cyra's lives (XXIX) are in most of the existing Greek manuscripts, with the exception of a few where the final pages of the manuscript have disappeared.

Theodoret's manuscripts were also translated into Syriac, Arabic, and Georgian. Marana and Cyra's lives were not translated into Syriac (to our knowledge), but are preserved in the Arabic and Georgian manuscript tradition (Philotheos historia. French & Greek. 1977, 1977).

 
Secondary sources:
 

Theodoret of Cyrrhus; Theodoret of Cyrrhus : the bishop and the holy man, see Ch. 9, "Women in the Religious History," 103-114; Histoire du texte.

 
Contributor:
 
Dina Boero