1. Birth – Family
Symeon’s time and place of birth are not known. It is clear, however, that he was not of armenian origin, as most teachers of the Paulicians, but a Byzantine. He may have been born in Constantinople, but there are no available evidence confirming that, apart from the fact that he owned a residence in the capital.
2. Upbringing – Education
Although no details about Symeon’s upbringing and education are known, one can assume that he continued his studies beyond the mere enkyklios paideia, since he was hired in the imperial service. The sources mention that he had received no theological education. As a result, he was easily influenced by the ideas of the Paulicians, which the Church condemned as heretic.
3.1. Symeon in the imperial service
Symeon served as a basilikos in the court of the Byzantine emperor Constantine IV (668-685) in Constantinople. When in 682 the emperor was informed of the teaching of the Paulician Constantine-Silouanos in Kibossa of Colonea, he immediately sent Symeon there, on orders to arrest all the Paulicians and their teacher.1 Constantine-Silouanos was to be stoned to death, while his students were to be handed over by Symeon to the local ecclesiastical authorities, in order to be catechized anew and return to the orthodox faith.
Symeon arrived at Kibossa and arrested all the Paulicians, along with their teacher, with the help of Tryphon, a local official. He then led them to the southern part of the walls of Colonea, to a place which was later called Soros (mean. «pile», from the pile of stones ready to be used for stoning), stood Constantine-Silouanos facing them and ordered them to stone him to death. The Paulicians, however, while pretending to obey Symeon’s order, tried not to harm their teacher. But Constantine-Silouanos’ foster son, Justus, who had been initiated to the heresy of the Paulicians by his foster father, fatally wounded and killed Constantine-Silouanos.
3.2. Symeon as a heresiarch
Following Constantine-Silouanos’ execution, Symeon interrogated the Paulicians before handing them over to the local ecclesiastical authorities. Being completely ignorant of theological issues, Symeon was deeply influenced by the faith of the Paulicians and was converted to it. As a result, when Symeon returned to Constantinople, he retired to his house and studied the doctrines of the Paulicians for three years, refraining from his duties in the imperial service.
In ca. 685, Symeon left Constantinople secretly and returned to Kibossa.2 He gathered the remaining Paulicians (those who had not renounced their faith despite their being catechized by the local church) and succeeded Constantine-Silouanos as their teacher. Imitating the latter, he renamed himself Titos, the name of Apostle Paul’s student and first bishop of Crete. Symeon-Titos remained in Kibossa and taught for three years.
In ca. 688, a conflict arose between Symeon-Titos and Justus, Constantine-Silouanos’ foster son.3 The latter, although he was personally responsible for the death of the first teacher of the Paulicians, had retained his place in ‘‘Makedonia”, the community of the Paulicians of Kibossa. The reason for his conflict with the teacher Symeon-Titos was their disagreement about the interpretation of an excerpt from the ‘‘Epistle to Colossians’’ of Apostle Paul. Justus expressed his doubts about the rightousness of the teachings of the Paulicians. When Symeon-Titos failed to provide him with a clear answer, Justus turned to the bishop of Colonea to receive an interpretation of the excerpt. Justus disclosed the teachings of Symeon-Titos and the names of all the members of the community to the bishop.
The bishop informed the emperor Justinian II (685-695, 705-711), who ordered the arrest and interrogation of all the Paulicians. He also ordered that all those who showed no remorse or those who had pretended that they had renounced their faith but had remained faithful, should be burned to death, along with their teacher. The bishop arrested Symeon-Titos and the Paulicians, led them to Soros (the same place by the walls of Colonea where Constantine-Silouanos had been stoned to death) and burned to death Symeon-Titos and many of his disciples.
Orthodox Byzantines judged Symeon-Titos negatively.4 In order to explain his conversion to the paulician doctrine, they considered Symeon-Titos inane and ignorant with regard to theological issues, thus an easy target for the fallacy of the Paulicians. They believed that his greatest fault was drawing new students to the community and they compared him to a cetos (the biblical sea monster, a pun on his «apostolic» surname Titos) that draws sailors to the bottom of the sea. This pun appears in Petrus Siculus, whose work is the most important source on the history of the Paulicians.5 Some other researchers express similar opinions, believing that Symeon-Titos, being a Byzantine and former imperial official, was able to draw a greater number of Byzantines to the community of the Paulicians than Constantine-Silouanos, who was of armenian origin. On the other hand, the Paulicians considered Symeon-Titos and all their teachers a match of Christ’s Apostles and refused to condemn him when arrested and asked to renounce their faith.