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E00352: The Greek version of the Martyrdom of *Karpos, Papylos and Agathonike (martyrs of Pergamon, S00051),of the 2nd/3rd c., recounts the interrogation and martyrdom of three Christians in Pergamon (western Asia Minor). The text mentions a miraculous vision and the collection of the saints’ relics in its last part, which seems to have been altered in a secondary phase. Probably written in Pergamon.

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posted on 2015-03-26, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Martyrdom of Karpos, Papylos and Agathonike (Greek version) (BHG 293-294)


(§§ 1-23) While the proconsul is in Pergamon, Karpos and Papylos are brought before him. Karpos is interrogated first, confesses to being a Christian and refuses to offer sacrifice. He talks at length against the pagan gods, rebuking them as lifeless idols, and describing their works as demonic deception. The proconsul has him tortured.

(§§ 24-35) Next, the proconsul interrogates Papylos, who confesses being from Thyatira, and having many spiritual children as a Christian. He refuses to sacrifice, and is tortured.

(§§ 36-41) The proconsul orders both of them to be burnt alive, and the martyrs are brought quickly to the amphitheatre for execution. Papylos is bound and executed first, while Karpos is brought to the stake after him. Before being burnt, he smiles, to the surprise of the spectators. He states that he saw the glory of the Lord and addresses the people saying that Christians are men like everyone else, but endure all tribulations in order to be prepared for God’s judgement. Offering a prayer of thanksgiving, he dies.

(§§ 42-46) A certain woman called Agathonike, seeing the glory mentioned by Karpos, decides to offer herself to martyrdom. The crowd discourages her, because she has a son to take care of. Yet she takes off her clothes and throws herself on the stake, and, after a short prayer, she dies.

(§ 47) The Christians secretly collect the relics of the martyrs and bury them.

Text: Rebillard 2018.
Summary: Efthymios Rizos


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Karpos, Papylos and Agathonike, martyrs in Pergamon : S00051 Karpos, Papylos and Agathonike, martyrs in Pergamon : S00051 Karpos, Papylos and Agathonike, martyrs in Pergamon : S00051

Saint Name in Source

Κάρπος Παπύλος Ἀγαθονίκη

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

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Pergamon Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miracle at martyrdom and death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Pagans Women Aristocrats

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified


The text most probably stems from one of the earliest known Christian martyrdom accounts which circulated in Anatolia already in the 3rd century, alongside the Martyrdoms of *Polycarp, *Pionios, and Apollonios and the *Martyrs of Lyon and Vienne. All these texts, including the Martyrdom of Karpos, Papylos and Agathonike were known to Eusebius of Caesarea, who dated the events they describe to the late 2nd century ($E00014). For the manuscript tradition of the text (4 manuscripts), see: (accessed 07/04/2017)


The structure of the text follows a pattern familiar from the other early martyrdoms from Asia (Polycarp, Pionios and Apollonios): it is a synthesis of different sections, including two lengthy apologetic speeches by Karpos (§§ 3-19), and a much more succinct interrogation of Papylos (§§ 24-35). The speeches of Karpos are probably a secondary addition to the original text, and they are absent in the Latin version (see E00353). The author is clearly preoccupied to give Karpos the main role in both the interrogation and the final martyrdom scene (§§ 38-41). Karpos is a heroic figure who smiles while being nailed on the stake, has a vision and bravely addresses the crowd. By contrast, Papylos just prays quietly and gives up his soul (§ 37). The story of Agathonike is introduced in a rather ambiguous way, presenting her death as a voluntary descent into martyrdom after a vision. This part may be an attempt to fill a lacuna in the source text of the author. The original structure of the story of Agathonike is probably reflected in the Latin version of the martyrdom (E00353), where she is presented as a follower of Karpos and Papylos, arrested with them, and interrogated after them. Filling a gap in his source text, the author of the Greek text perhaps devised Agathonike’s vision (§ 42), which is the only reference to a miracle in our text. The reference to the collection of the martyrs’ relics must also be a secondary addition, since it is missing in the Latin version, and follows a formula known from several other martyrdom accounts (§ 47).


Text and translation: Delehaye, D. "Les Actes des martyrs de Pergame." Analecta Bollandiana 58 (1940), 142-176. Musurillo, H. The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford Early Christian Texts; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), xv-xvii, 22-29. Rebillard, E. Greek and Latin Narratives About the Ancient Martyrs (Oxford Early Christian Texts; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). Further reading: Delehaye, H., Les passions des martyrs et les genres littéraires (2ed.; Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1966), 99-102.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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