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E00226: The Greek Martyrdom of *Apollonios of Rome (martyr of Rome, S00106), of the late 2nd c., is reworked as the Martyrdom of the Apostle *Apollos, also called Sakkeas (Jewish convert and missionary in Ephesus, S00107), presenting Apollos as a martyr dying in Asia. Written in Greek, probably in the province of Asia (western Asia Minor), during Late Antiquity.

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posted on 2014-12-05, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Martyrdom of Apollos, also called Sakkeas (BHG 149)

Μαρτύριον τοῦ Ἁγίου καὶ πανευφήμου Ἀποστόλου Ἀπολλώ τοῦ καὶ Σακκέα
Κύριε εὐλόγησον.
Ἐπὶ Κομόδου βασιλέως γεναμένου διωγμοῦ κατὰ τῶν Χριστιανῶν, Περέννιός τις ἦν ἀνθύπατος τῆς Ἀσίας. Ἀπολλὼς δὲ ὁ ἀπόστολος, ἀνὴρ ὢν εὐλαβής, Ἀλεξανδρεὺς τῷ γένει, φοβούμενος τὸν κύριον, συλληφθεὶς προσήχθη.

'Martyrdom of the Holy and most illustrious Apostle Apollos, also called Sakkeas
Master, give a blessing.
When a persecution against the Christians took place under the emperor Commodus, a certain Perennios was proconsul of Asia. The Apostle Apollos, a pious man, Alexandrian by birth, fearing the Lord, was arrested and brought to court.'

1-10. Perennios asks Apollos if he is a Christian, which he accepts. He then asks Apollos to repent and to take an oath by the Genius of the emperor. Apollos replies with an apologia on the meaning of repentance and oath taking for Christians. Repentance from a righteous life is insane, while oath taking is forbidden to Christians who are expected always to speak truthfully. Perennios then asks him to sacrifice, and Apollos replies with an apologia about the meaning of sacrifice for Christians. Perennios gives him one day to reconsider and change his mind.

11-23. Three days later, Apollos is brought back to interrogation and is asked by Perennios if he has changed his mind, which he has not. Perennios asks of him to venerate the gods, according to the senatorial decree, in order to save his life. There follows a lengthy speech against the veneration of idols and the folly of various forms of idolatry.

24-28. Perennios insists that the senatorial decree does not allow Christians to live. Apollos replies with a speech on the superiority of the divine over human law, on the Christian notion of living in God and dying for God; Christians experience death every day, as they mortify themselves through abstinence of carnal pleasures.

29-34. Perennios then asks if he is willing to die, to which Apollos replies that he is not afraid of dying, because the most important thing is eternal life. Perennios admits that he does not understand, to which Apollos replies that understanding these things requires a (spiritually) seeing heart. A Cynic intervenes, reprimanding Apollos for his seemingly subtle but illogical talk. Apollos returns the remark.

35-42. Perennios states that the pagans also accept that the word of god is the creator of the soul and body of the righteous. Apollos now replies that this word is Jesus Christ, and he gives a brief exposition of the righteous life taught by him. Christ was nevertheless killed by ignorant men, just like Socrates and the prophets.

43-46. Perennios states that he would prefer to release Apollos, but the law of the emperor does not permit that. He orders the martyr’s legs to be broken, while Apollos gives thanks to God for Perennios’ decision to have him killed.

47a. Τοιοῦτον τέλος ἔνδοξον μαρτυρίου νηφούσῃ ψυχῇ καὶ προθύμῳ καρδίᾳ ἐνήρξατο ὁ ἁγιώτατος ἀθλοφόρος οὗτος ὁ καὶ Σακκέας. ἡ δὲ κυρία τῶν ἡμερῶν καθ’ ἣν παλαίσας τῷ πονηρῷ τὸ βραβεῖον τῆς νίκης ἐκομίσατο σήμερον ἐνέστηκεν. δεῦρο τοίνυν τοῖς ἐκείνου καλοῖς ἀνδραγαθήμασιν, ἀδελφοί, τὴν ἑαυτῶν ψυχὴν εἰς πίστιν ἐπιρρώσαντες ἐραστὰς ἑαυτοὺς τῆς τοιαύτης χάριτος καταστήσωμεν δι’ ἐλέους καὶ χάριτος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, μεθ’ οὗ τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ σὺν ἁγίῳ πνεύματι δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. ἀμήν.

47b. Ἐμαρτύρησεν ὁ τρισμακαριώτατος Ἀπολλὼς ὁ καὶ Σακκέας πρὸ ἕνδεκα καλανδῶν Μαΐου κατὰ Ῥωμαίους, κατὰ δὲ Ἀσιανοὺς μηνὸς ὀγδόου, κατὰ δὲ ἡμᾶς βασιλεύοντος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας.

'47a. Such a glorious end of a martyrdom did this most holy victor (who is also known as Sakkeas) endure, with a sober spirit and willing heart. The great day on which he fought the Evil One and obtained the prize of victory is today. So, by his handsome feats, let us, brethren, strengthen our souls in the faith and make of ourselves lovers of such a grace, by the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ, with whom glory and the power be to God the Father with the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

47b. The thrice-blessed Apollos, also called Sakkeas, was martyred eleven days before the calends of May, according to the Roman calendar, and in the eighth month, according to the Asian one. According to us, during the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever.’

Text: Musurillo 1972. Translation and summary: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Apollonius, martyr in Rome under Commodus, ob. 180/185 : S00106 Apollos, Jewish convert and missionary in Ephesus and Corinth, 1st c. : S00107

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Ephesus Rome

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Ephesus Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Aristocrats Officials


The Martyrdom of the Apostle Apollos also called Sakkeas is almost certainly a reworked and altered version of the early Martyrdom of Apollonios of Rome, which was known to Eusebius of Caesarea ($E00213). It survives only in the 11th century codex Parisinus Graecus 1219, a collection of hagiographical readings, mostly concerning the Apostles.


The main body of the text is a reworked version of an ancient martyrdom account which circulated in the late 2nd and 3rd centuries, and reached Eusebius of Caesarea. The original story was about the Roman notable, probably senator, Apollonios, who was tried and beheaded in Rome under Commodus, after giving a learned apologia of the Christian faith. The Martyrdom of Apollonios of Rome, does not survive in its original form, but was summarised by Eusebius of Caesarea (E00213), and versions of it survive in the Greek text discussed here and in an Armenian version, perhaps written in the 5th century. The main body of our text is a rewritten version of the early martyrdom account of Apollonios, preserving a substantial part of the original text, but probably abridging and mixing up its elements. Readily recognisable secondary additions are the preface and § 47. The hand of the Middle Byzantine menologium author is recognised in the opening liturgical formula κύριε εὐλόγησον (kyrie eulogēson = 'Master, give your blessing') and in the rhythmic prose style of the preface paragraph. The whole text is written taking care that each manuscript line should contain about 15 syllables. The narrative of our text preserves much of the original text, but it probably confuses parts of the structure. It is believed that the original narrative included separate sections on Apollonios’ interrogation by Perennios, and on his trial and apologia before the Senate. Instead, the martyr here is presented as defending himself only before Perennios. The narrative ends abruptly with Perennios ordering the legs of the martyr to be broken, which is presented as the martyrdom proper. This episode, however, belongs to an early section of the original text, in which Perennios imposes the punishment of the breaking of legs (crurifragium) on Apollonios’ accuser who is a slave of the martyr (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5.21.3). As mentioned above, the original martyrdom ended with the beheading of Apollonios, which is still preserved in the Armenian version. The epilogue of the text (§ 47a) reveals that, in its current form, it was meant to be publicly read before a congregation on the feast day of the saint. The date of this paragraph is difficult to establish. It differs from the Middle Byzantine preface in the absence of rhythmic prose, and may therefore be earlier. The author of 47a probably also added 47b which gives the date of the feast of Apollos-Sakkeas (21 April), following a formula we encounter at the end of the martyrdoms of the Smyrnaean martyrs *Polycarp and *Pionios, i.e. mentioning the date in the Julian and the Macedonian calendar locally used in the province of Asia (E00056, E00096). It seems that all these texts, referring to martyrs from the province of Asia, were compiled together in a single hagiographical collection, possibly on the initiative of the metropolitan bishopric of Ephesus, in order to be used by the churches of the province of Asia. The local outlook of this collection is perhaps reflected by the fact that they describe the Macedonian calendar as Asian, even though it was in use in most of the former Hellenistic provinces of the Eastern Mediterranean. The use of Macedonian dating is also suggestive of an early, late antique, date for this addition. The preface and title introduce two substantial alterations to the original story of Apollonios. The first is the replacement of the name and identity of the senator Apollonius by that of the 'Apostle Apollos', apparently the figure of an Alexandrian Jew mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (18:24-28, 19:1) and in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. The name Apollos is now also accompanied by the cognomen Sakkeas (see below). Another alteration is that Apollonius’ judge Perennios (most probably the historically known Praetorian Prefect of Rome Tigidius Perennis) is here called proconsul of Asia, which makes Asia the theatre of the narrative, replacing Rome. The purpose and origins of the cognomen Sakkeas (Σακκέας) are obscure. One of the editors of the text, Klette, suggests that Apollonios was misidentified as the Alexandrian philosopher Ammonios Sakkas, tutor of Plotinus and perhaps Origen (on whom, see Hadot, 2002). Sakkas was variously associated and misidentified with Christian figures of the 3rd century. An identification with him would fit with the information of the Acts that Apollos was Alexandrian, which is also stated in the preface of our text. On the other hand, the word Sakkeas is also reminiscent of the term σακκοφόρος (sakkophoros = 'sackcloth-wearer'), name of an obscure sectarian group in late antique Anatolia (Mitchell 1993, 102). If Sakkeas indeed alludes to sakkophoros, it could possibly echo the appropriation of the cult of a heretical martyr. Given that the preface is most probably Middle Byzantine, it is difficult to know when these alterations took place. The addition of Sakkeas must be very early, because the title of the Armenian version calls the martyr ‘Apollonios the Ascetic’, thus interpreting Sakkas as 'sackcloth-wearer'. The Armenian translator, however, is unaware of the identifications of Apollonios with Apollos the Apostle, and of Perennis as a proconsul of Asia. Instead, he calls Perennis 'Prefect Terentius', and indicates Rome as the location of his martyrdom. The identification of the saint with the New Testament figure, in particular, could well be Byzantine, since it is only mentioned in the preface which, as mentioned above, is Middle Byzantine. The purpose of these transformations seems to be the adaptation of Apollonios’ martyrdom as a tale of local relevance for an Anatolian readership. According to the Acts of the Apostles, Apollos was an itinerant Jewish preacher who met Paul the Apostle at Ephesus and was converted by him to Christianity. This may explain why he was chosen to replace Apollonius of Rome: the Apostle Apollos could perhaps be presented as a figure of local interest. The same can also be said about the transformation of Perennis into a proconsul of Asia. The author who reworked the martyrdom of Apollonios into that of Apollos-Sakkeas was evidently closely accustomed with other examples of martyr hagiography from the province of Asia. This transformation is important for the history of the cult of saints, because it demonstrates that an updating of this kind was often required in order to turn a martyrdom account into a popular hagiographical story and cult.


Text and translation: Musurillo, H. The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford Early Christian Texts; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 90-105. Edition, Commentary and German Translation: Klette, E.T. Der Process und die Acta S. Apollonii (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der Altchristlichen Literatur; Leipzig: J.C. Hinrich’sche Buchhandlung, 1897). Further reading: Acta Sanctorum, 18 April: Apollonius. Delehaye, H. Les passions des martyrs et les genres littéraires (2ed.; Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1966), 92-93. Hadot, P. “Ammonius Saccas,” in: H. Cancik, H. Schneider and C.F. Salazar (eds.), Brill's New Pauly. 15 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 2002), vol. 1, 589-590. Harnack A. "Der Process des Christen Apolllonius," in Sitzungsberichte der K. K. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, 1893, pp. 721-746. Mitchell, S. Anatolia: Land, Men, and Gods in Asia Minor. Volume II: The Rise of the Church (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993). Mommsen, T. "Der Process des Christen Apollonius unter Kommodus," in Sitzungsberichte der K. K. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, 1893, 497-503. Rebillard, E. Greek and Latin Narratives About the Ancient Martyrs (Oxford Early Christian Texts; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 31.

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