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E00316: Eusebius of Caesarea, in his Ecclesiastical History, reports that, during the persecution of Diocletian, several people were martyred in Nicomedia (north-west Asia Minor), including *Dorotheos (S00242), *Gorgonios (S00978), and their companions, a certain *Petros (S01119), and the bishop *Anthimos (S00124). Their bodies are thrown into the sea lest Christians worship them as gods. Written in Greek in Palestine, 311/325.

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posted on 2015-02-23, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 8.5-6

When the imperial decree against the Christians is published in Nicomedia, and while both Diocletian and Galerius are resident in the city, an unnamed notable Christian publicly seizes and tears apart a copy of the edict, for which he is arrested and executed (8.5). The most famous of all the martyrs of Nicomedia is a group of young members of the imperial household, vaguely described as βασιλικοὶ παῖδες (basilikoi paides, probably imperial slaves), around a certain Dōrotheos and Gorgonios, who are tortured and hanged (8.6.1 and 8.6.5). A certain Petros refuses to sacrifice and is therefore tortured to death. (8.6.2-4). The bishop of the local church, Anthimos, is beheaded, while several others are beheaded, burnt or drowned in the sea, after a fire in the palace is falsely ascribed to arson by Christians (8.6.6).

(7.) τοὺς δέ γε βασιλικοὺς μετὰ θάνατον παῖδας, γῇ μετὰ τῆς προσηκούσης κηδείας παραδοθέντας, αὖθις ἐξ ὑπαρχῆς ἀνορύξαντες ἐναπορρῖψαι θαλάττῃ καὶ αὐτοὺς ᾤοντο δεῖν οἱ νενομισμένοι δεσπόται, ὡς ἂν μὴ ἐν μνήμασιν ἀποκειμένους προσκυνοῖέν τινες, θεοὺς δὴ αὐτούς, ὥς γε ᾤοντο, λογιζόμενοι. καὶ τὰ μὲν ἐπὶ τῆς Νικομηδείας κατὰ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἀποτελεσθέντα τοῦ διωγμοῦ τοιαῦτα·

'(7.) After their death, the royal servants [probably Dorotheos, Gorgonios and their companions] were commended to the earth with proper funeral, but immediately the so-called rulers thought that they had to dig them up afresh, and throw also them into the sea, lest some people might worship them as gods – as they believed – if they were to lie in the graves. Such were the events in Nicomedia at the beginning of the persecution.'

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


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anthimos, bishop and martyr in Nicomedia, ob. 303/311 : S00124 Dōrotheos and Gorgonios, martyrs in Nicomedia, ob. 304 : S00242 Gorgonios, martyr at Nicomedia : S00978 Petros, martyr at Nicomedia, ob. 303 : S01119

Saint Name in Source

Ἄνθιμος Δωρόθεος Γοργόνιος Πέτρος

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

Considerations about the veneration of saints

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Slaves/ servants

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


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 is mostly 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.


Eusebius provides an extensive account of the persecution in Nicomedia, about which he seems to have had relatively extensive information. It is plausible to assume that anti-Christian violence was particularly intense in that city, both because it was the imperial residence where Diocletian’s edict was first issued, and because it probably had a large and prominent Christian community. As a result, Nicomedia had an unusually high number of local martyr cults. Of the figures singled out by Eusebius, the bishop Anthimos had a fully-developed and popular cult in Nicomedia and a rich hagiography. The names of Dorotheos and Gorgonios are mentioned in the Martyrdom of Indos, Domna and the Forty Thousand Martyrs of Nicomedia. Eusebius’ story about the throwing of the relics into the sea, lest they are worshipped by the Christians, appears frequently in early martyr-related texts – e.g. the Martyrdoms of *Polycarp (E00087), the *Martyrs of Lyon and Vienne (E00216), and the *Forty of Sebaste (E01303) etc. It clearly reflects the fact that the veneration of remains of martyrs was a well-established reality by the time of Eusebius. Nevertheless, the author still feels the need to add a clarification concerning the nature of this veneration: the Christians do not worship their martyrs as gods, as pagans probably think. Apologetic statements concerning the veneration of relics probably addressed criticism from both within and outside the church in the early stages of the development of the cult of saints. They disappear after the 4th century.


Edition: Schwartz, E., Mommsen, T., and Winkelmann, F. (eds.), 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.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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