Birth Date:
First half of fifth century
Death Date:
Second half of fifth century
Southern part of the region of Cyrrhus.

Domnina had a mother and brother on whose property she lived. Living at home was a tradition belonging to pious virgins of third- and fourth-century Syria, as first documented in Pseudo-Clement's Epistles on Virginity.

Social Status:

Domnina's family was wealthy enough that they were able to support her, providing her with food, shelter, and alms through the extent of her life. They also made generous contributions to their local church and offered food and supplies to those who traveled to see Domnina (Philotheos historia. English. 1985, XXX.1, 3).

Religious Roles:

Hermit and ascetic.

Ecclesiastical Relationships:

Every day at sunrise and sunset, Domnina went to her local shrine to offer "hymnody to the Master of the universe." She urged her family to spend their fortune on it (Philotheos historia. English. 1985, XXX.1).

Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus visited Domnina and says Domnina sent him rolls, fruit, and soaked lentils when came to town (Philotheos historia. English. 1985, XXX.3). At this time, Theodoret was a known supporter of Nestorios.

Literary Works:

Our only documentation of Domnina's life is provided by Theodoret of Cyrrhus in his Philotheos historia. English. 1985. 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).

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, he records the lives of three women: NULL and NULL (XXIX) and Domnina (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." (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:

Theodoret' Philotheos historia. English. 1985 offers few concrete details about Domnina's life, and those which he does offer are focused on her ascetic practices. She was inspired by the holy man Maron, whom Theodoret mentions earlier in his text. Domnina set up a small hut in the garden outside her mother's house (XXX.1). She only ate lentils soaked in water. She wore a cloak that covered her entire body, including her face, and she frequently wept (XXX.2). She had frequent contact with men and women and "ministered" to those who came to see her. Theodoret states that she recommended that they "stay with the shepherd of the village and [sent] them all they need herself" (XXX.3). This comment suggests that individuals made pilgrimages to come and see her.

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. Domnina's life is 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. Domnina's life were not translated into Syriac (to our knowledge), but is preserved in the Arabic and Georgian manuscript tradition (Philotheos historia. French & Greek. 1977).

Published primary sources:

Philotheos historia. English. 1985, XXX; Philotheos historia. French & Greek. 1977, XXX; Epistles on Virginity; Two Epistles Concerning Virginity. Pseudo-Clement's "Epistles on Virginity" provide cultural and religious background for Theodoret's discussion of Domnina, but do not mention Domnina.

Dina Boero