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E00571: The Piacenza Pilgrim records his visit, first to Barbalissos (on the Euphrates) with the tomb of *Bacchus/Bakchos (soldier and martyr of Barbalissos, S00079), and then to Suras, where Bacchus and his 'brother' *Sergius (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023) suffered; the pilgrim states that Sergius rests 12 miles further on, at Tetrapyrgion. Account of an anonymous pilgrim, written in Latin, probably in Placentia (northern Italy), c. 570. In the second recension of the text, Sergius is replaced by *George (soldier and martyr, S00259), whose grave is said to be at Tyre (in Phoenicia, on the coast).

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posted on 2015-05-27, 00:00 authored by robert
Pilgrim of Piacenza, Itinerarium 46

First recension
Exinde descendimus in Mesopotamiam in ciuitatem Chalcida. Deinde uenimus in Carran, ubi natus est Abraham, et descendentes nos inde uenimus in ciuitate Barbarisso, ubi requiescit sanctus Bakhos, frater sancti Sergii. Deinde uenimus in ciuitate Suras, per qua ciuitate media descendit fluuius Eufrata, qui in ipso loco per ponte transitur. In ipsa passi sunt sanctus Sergius et sanctus Bacchus, et ad duodecim milia intus in heremo inter Saracenos requiescit sanctus Sergius in ciuitate Tetrapyrgio.

'From there we went on into Mesopotamia, to the city of Chalcis, and thence to Haran, where Abraham was born. Going on from there we arrived to the city of Barbalissus, the resting-place of saint Bacchus, the brother of saint Sergius. From there we went to the city of Suras. Through the middle of it runs the River Euphrates which is crossed at this point by a bridge. In this city saint Sergius and saint Bacchus suffered martyrdom. Twelve miles further on in the desert, in Saracen country, is the resting place of saint Sergius in the city of Tetrapyrgion.''

Second recension
Exinde descendimus Mesopotamiam in ciuitate Chalcida. Inde uenimus Carran, ubi natus fuit Abraham, et inde uenimus in ciuitate Barbarisso; ibi requiescit sanctus Bachos, frater sancti Giorgii. Inde uenimus in ciuitate Suran, per qua media ciuitate descendit fluuius Eufrates, qui ibidem per ponte transitur. In ipsa ciuitate passi sunt sanctus Bacchus et sanctus Georgius. Sed sanctus Georgius in ciuitate Tyro requiescit.

'From there we went on into Mesopotamia, to the city of Chalcis, and thence to Haran, where Abraham was born. Going on from there we arrived to the city of Barbalissus, the resting-place of saint Bacchus, the brother of saint George. From there we went to the city of Suras. Through the middle of it runs the River Euphrates which is crossed there by a bridge. In this city saint Bacchus and saint George suffered martyrdom. But the resting-place of saint George is Tyre.'

Text: Geyer 1898, 191 and 218. Translation: Wilkinson 2002, 150.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Bakchos, martyr in Barbalissos (Syria), ob. c. 303-311 : S00079 Abraham, Old Testament patriarch : S00275 George, martyr in Nicomedia or Diospolis, ob. c. 303 : S00259 Sergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 303-311 : S00023

Saint Name in Source

Bakhos Abraham Giorgios Sergius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Pilgrim accounts and itineraries


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Piacenza Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia Thabbora Thabbora

Major author/Major anonymous work

Pilgrim of Piacenza

Cult activities - Places

Place associated with saint's life

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


This Itinerary was written by an anonymous pilgrim to Palestine who started and finished his journey in Placentia. He visited the East probably not long after the earthquake in 551, since he presents the destruction of Berytus (modern Beirut) in this year as a relatively recent event. He certainly visited Palestine before the Persian invasion in 614, since in his account Jerusalem is under Roman administration. The Itinerary is extant in two recensions. The first one is shorter and generally closer to the original, but sometimes it is the second recension which preserves the original text. Moreover, the additions that can be found in the second recension, unfortunately difficult to date, bear an interesting witness to the development of the cult of saints. The Itinerary can be compared with an earlier pilgrim's diary written in the 380s by another western pilgrim, Egeria. The Piacenza Pilgrim's itinerary is less detailed than her account, but shows the development of the cultic practices and infrastructure which had taken place in the course of two hundred years: there are more places to visit, more objects to see, and more saints to venerate.


Sergius and Bacchus (brothers-in-arms rather than blood brothers) were martyrs of the Persian frontier, Sergius attracting considerable and widespread cult (in both East and West), Bacchus less so. The information given in the first recension is largely consistent with the story of the Martyrdom of Sergios and Bakchos (E02791) and with what we know of their cult from other sources: Bacchus is killed first, and buried at Barbalissos; Sergius is taken down the Euphrates to Suras, where he is tortured, and then on to Tetrapyrgion (where our pilgrim believes him to have died and been buried). The Martyrdom and all other sources, however, place Sergius' death and burial one fort further on, at Rosaphon (Rusafa, later named Sergiopolis in his honour). Our pilgrim, with his statement that Sergius rested 'twelve miles further on in the desert, in Saracen country', makes it pretty clear that he was unable to visit the burial site (presumably because this was rendered too dangerous by the local Arab tribes), which can explain his comparatively minor error as to the precise location of Sergius' grave. The author of the second recension, however, makes a massive mistake in writing Sergius out of the story and substituting him with George. That this is a mistake, and not an interesting example of the conflation of two saints, is clear: both Sergius and George were soldier-martyrs of the East, but nowhere else is George associated with Bacchus and nowhere else with this sector of the Persian frontier. Furthermore, what the second recension says about George's body being in Tyre is supported by no other source and is directly contradicted by what the Itinerary has already recorded (in the second, as well as the first recension!): that he was at Diospolis/Lydda on the route between Jerusalem and the coast (see E00468). It is impossible to explain this confusion in the second recension, but it is interesting and useful for two reasons: it shows that, despite the fame of both Sergius and George, it was possible to confuse the two in the later sixth-century Latin West; and it helps establish beyond doubt that the author of the second recension had not visited the sites our pilgrim visited (or at least certainly not all of them), because no-one who had been in northern Syria or Mesopotamia could have made such a crashing error.


Edition: Geyer, P. (ed.), Antonini Placentini Itinerarium, in Itineraria et alia geographica (Corpus Chistianorum, series Latina 175; Turnholti: Typographi Brepols editores pontificii, 1965), 129-174. [Essentially a reprinting of Geyer's edition for the Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 39, Wien 1898.] English translations: Stewart, A., Of the Holy Places Visited by Antoninus Martyr (London: Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society, 1887). Wilkinson, J., Jerusalem Pilgrims Before the Crusades (2nd ed.; Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 2002). Further reading: For the cult of Sergios and Bakchos see Fowden, E.K., The Barbarian Plain: Saint Sergius between Rome and Iran (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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