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E00279: Eusebius of Caesarea, in his Ecclesiastical History, mentions the martyrdoms of *Priskos, Malchos, and Alexandros (martyrs of Caesarea Maritima, S00240), and of an unnamed Marcionite woman at Caesarea of Palestine, under Valerian (r. 253-260). Written in Greek in Palestine, 311/325.

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posted on 2015-02-05, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 7.12


Under Valerian, three men, Priskos, Malchos and Alexandros die thrown to the beasts at Caesarea. They come from the countryside and present themselves willingly to the judge, wishing to be martyred. A certain Marcionite woman is said to have suffered martyrdom alongside them.

Text: Schwartz et al. 1999. Summary: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anonymous Martyrs : S00060 Priskos, Malchos and Alexandros, martyrs in Caesarea Maritima, ob. 253/260 : S00240

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Caesarea Maritima

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

Caesarea Maritima Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Eusebius of Caesarea

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Acceptance/rejection of saints from other religious groupings


Eusebius lived in Caesarea Maritima in Palestine between c. AD 260 and 340. He was a pupil and friend of the martyred Christian intellectual Pamphilus. Under Constantine, he emerged as one of the most influential Christian figures of the Roman Empire, and was ordained bishop of Caesarea. Written between 311 and 325, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History is the first literary work to employ the methodology and objectives of classical historiography – which, since Herodotus and Thucydides, had traditionally focused on military and political events – in a novel field, the history of the Christian community. The first paragraphs of the work outline its chronological framework and thematic range: it is a narrative of events in the life of the Christian community from the times of Christ and the Apostles to the times of Eusebius (c. AD 260-340); it records the leaders of the most important communities (i.e. successions of bishops in Alexandria, Antioch, Rome and Jerusalem); it records the most notable exponents of Christian doctrine and their works, and also the main heresies and their proponents; it finally records persecutions and people that suffered and were martyred during them. The Ecclesiastical History is mostly a synthesis of quotations and summaries from other sources, for which Eusebius often gives concrete references. Thus his work preserves excerpts from early Christian texts which do not survive in their full form. Eusebius’ source material consists mostly of Greek texts, originating from Christian communities in Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. These areas constitute the main geographical range of his narrative, while his information about Christianity in the western provinces of the Roman Empire (except Rome) is very limited. The text survives in several Greek manuscripts, in a Latin translation by Rufinus, and in Syriac and Armenian translations.


Evidently recording local memory from his own city of Caesarea, Eusebius mentions here one of the few concrete martyrdom stories from the persecution of Valerian (253-260). It clearly was not an event experienced by Eusebius himself, but was very probably in the memory of the previous generation. Its early date explains why this story is not included in the Martyrs of Palestine, a text recounting events occurring during Eusebius' own lifetime, during the persecutions of the Tetrarchs. The story provides a good example of the practice of voluntary martyrdom. It is remarkable that Eusebius acknowledges also the martyrdom of the Marcionite woman, without naming her. This may suggest that, although the event was remembered, and the fact of the her being a martyr was acknowledged, the memory of this heterodox martyr was not kept within the Catholic community of Caesarea. This may also be related to the fact that the memory of martyrs very much centred on their tombs. Different denominations very probably maintained different cemeteries, thus affecting their access to information about the martyrs honoured by other religious communities. These individuals are known only from this reference of Eusebius, and there has survived no hagiography about them.


Edition: Schwartz, E., Mommsen, T., and Winkelmann, F., Eusebius Werke II: Die Kirchengeschichte. 3 vols. (Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte NF 6/1-3; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1999). Translations: Lake, K., Oulton, J.E.L., and Lawlor, H.J., Eusebius of Caesarea: The Ecclesiastical History. 2 vols. (Loeb Classical Library; London and Cambridge, MA: Heinemann and Harvard University Press, 1926). Williamson, G.A., and Louth, A., Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine (London: Penguin, 1989). Further reading: Chesnut, G. The First Christian Histories: Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Evagrius. Atlanta: Mercer University, 1986. Frend, W.H.C., Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church (Oxford: Blackwell, 1965), 421-429. Ste. Croix, G.E.M. de, Christian Persecution, Martyrdom and Orthodoxy (ed. M. Whitby and J. Streeter) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 153-200.

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