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E00317: Eusebius of Caesarea, in his Ecclesiastical History, reports that, during the persecutions of Diocletian, numerous Christians died as martyrs in Melitene, Syria, Palestine, Phoenice, Egypt, Africa, Arabia, Cappadocia, Mesopotamia and Pontus. He names the martyrs *Philoromos (martyr of Alexandria, S00126), *Phileas (bishop of Thmuis, martyr of Alexandria, S00125), and *Adauκtos (martyr of Rome, S00421). Written in Greek in Palestine, 311/325.

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posted on 2015-02-23, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 8.6-8.12


During an uprising in Melitene in Asia Minor, and in Syria, large numbers of Christian clerics are arrested and there is hardly any space left for criminals in the gaols (8.6.7-9).

After the first edict against the Christians is issued, several others follow, and countless suffer martyrdom and tribulations in every region, especially in Africa, Egypt and the Thebaid. Many from these provinces were martyred in other regions as well (8.6.10).

Eusebius reports having witnessed the martyrdom of a group of unnamed Egyptian Christians who died in Palestine and in Tyre of Phoenicia. They were thrown to the beasts, but, as if protected by some invisible power, none of the beasts could approach or harm them, even though they attacked and killed common criminals. In the end, the Christians are slaughtered by the sword and their bodies are thrown to the sea (8.7).

Thousands suffer various cruel tortures and death in Egypt and the Thebaid. Eusebius witnessed several of these martyrdoms himself, and praises the courage of the martyrs, some of whom willingly presented themselves to the courts, confessing Christ (8.8–9). Special honour should be recognised for those who do not avoid martyrdom even though they are rich, prominent, and educated, such as Philorōmos, an imperial official in Alexandria (8.9.6-7), and Phileas, the learned bishop of Thmuis in Egypt, both of whom were beheaded (8.9.7). Eusebius quotes a letter of Phileas sent from prison (8.10).

A Christian township in Phrygia is besieged by soldiers and burnt down with all its inhabitants (8.11.1). Adauktos, an Italian nobleman and imperial official is martyred after a brave confession (8.11.2). Several suffer cruel martyrdoms in Arabia, Cappadocia, Mesopotamia, Alexandria, and Antioch (8.12). A noble lady with her two daughters are arrested in Antioch. In order to avoid being forced to prostitution, they throw themselves into a river (8.12.3-4). Two other maidens in Antioch are thrown into the sea (8.12.5). Many suffer various tortures and die in Pontus (8.12.6)

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


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060 Phileas, bishop of Thmuis, martyred in Alexandria, ob. 303/313 : S00125 Philorōmos, martyr in Alexandria, ob. 303/313 : S00126 Felix and Adauctus, martyrs of Rome : S00421 Prosdoke, Bernike and Domnina, mart

Saint Name in Source

Φιλέας Φιλόρωμος Ἄδαυκτος

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


Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Caesarea Maritima

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

Caesarea Maritima

Major author/Major anonymous work

Eusebius of Caesarea

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts


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.


After his extensive account of the persecution at Diocletian’s residence city of Nicomedia (see E00317), Eusebius puts together his information about anti-Christian violence and martyrdoms in various other regions under Diocletian. The geographical range of this account is particularly interesting, as it reflects a pattern evident from the rest of his work: Eusebius’ contacts and sources concern mainly Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and secondarily other regions, such as North Africa, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Rome. In most of the text, Eusebius enumerates various types of torture and executions the martyrs were subjected to, without mentioning names. It is unclear if his information is based on letters or other types of martyrdom account. Eusebius’ account of the arrests and martyrdom of clerics in Melitene and in Syria places the persecution in the context of an uprising in these regions (8.6.7-9). No such event is recorded by other sources. It is possible that Eusebius confuses his information with events taking place under the Syrian-based Empire of Palmyra, which included Cappadocia and its legions. Alternatively, he may indeed be referring to an otherwise unrecorded situation of unrest in the same region in the aftermath of its reconquest by Aurelian. Later tradition honoured several soldier martyrs from the legions of Cappadocia, Armenia and Syria – famously, the *Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (S00103), *Polyeuktos of Melitene (S00325), and *Sergios (S00023) and *Bakchos (S00079). None of these figures is known to Eusebius. Eusebius claims to be writing his account about the Egyptian martyrs in Palestine and Phoenicia as an eyewitness, and stresses the miraculous protection of the martyrs in the arena, since the beasts beasts do not dare to approach or harm them. Strangely, the story of this miracle is not included in any of the extant versions of the Martyrs of Palestine. The author names three martyrs in this section, Philorōmos of Alexandria and Phileas, bishop of Thmuis, whose stories were combined into one martyrdom account in Greek (BHG 1533). Eusebius’ generic reference to Adauktos is very interesting, since the author fails to give even the place of his martyrdom, only stating that he was an Italian nobleman and official. He may be referring to the Roman martyr *Adauctus, whose remains were venerated at the Catacomb of Commodilla. If so, this is one of the very rare cases of a Roman martyrdom known to Eusebius, and it is striking how limited his information is. Finally, Eusebius’ story about the unnamed Antiochene lady and her two daughters probably refers to the martyrs *Prosdoke, Bernike, and Domnina (S01008), about whom John Chrysostom wrote homilies in the late 4th century (E02568, E02569).


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.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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