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E01165: The Greek Martyrdom of Kyprianos and Ioustina of Antioch, of the late 4th or early 5th c., recounts the martyrdom of the bishop of Antioch *Kyprianos with the virgin Ioustina (S01704), and of a certain *Theoktistos (S00866), all near Nicomedia (north-west Asia Minor), under Diocletian and Maximian. Their relics are transferred to Rome and buried there. Their feast is on 26 September.

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posted on 2016-03-01, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Martyrdom of Kyprianos, Ioustina, and Theoktistos (BHG 455)


Kyprianos saves many from the devil (the persecution) in various areas by his letters, but the devil informs the comes of the East Eutolmios that Kyprianos the teacher of the Christians has overturned the worship of the gods, and perturbs the East, together with a certain virgin (Ioustina). Eutolmios has them arrested and brought to Damascus, where he interrogates them. Kyprianos tells him of his earlier life as a pagan, of the story of Aglaidas and of how his magic was defeated by Ioustina. He invites him to give up paganism. Eutolmios orders Kyprianos to be scraped and Ioustina to be scourged. The latter says a prayer of thanks. The comes orders Kyprianos to be kept in gaol, and Ioustina in the house of Terentios. Some days later, he interrogates them again, and orders fat, tar, and wax to be boiled in a frying pan onto which Kyprianos is thrown, but he remains untouched by the fire. Ioustina is temporarily scared, but, encouraged by Kyprianos, she goes into the frying pan, and the two of them lie there untouched, while Kyprianos says a prayer of thanksgiving. Eutolmios vows to defeat the power of Christ and orders the pagan priest called Athanasios to enter the frying pan himself. Athanasios does so, invoking Herakles and Asklepios, but he is immediately consumed by fire. Eutolmios is enraged by the death of his friend, and consults his relative, Terentios, who advises him not to harm the saints, but to send them to the emperor. Eutolmios writes to the Caesar Claudius Diocletian (sic) reporting that the two Christians have opted for death. They are taken to the river Gallos near Nicomedia (sic) for execution. They are given time to pray, and Kyprianos asks Ioustina to be beheaded first. A certain Theoktistos is passing by and greets Kyprianos. A certain Phouleanos (Fulvinus) orders that Theoktistos also be killed, and after him Kyprianos is beheaded. The bodies of the martyrs are left to be eaten by the dogs. Some days later, pious sailors from Rome, having heard that Kyprianos was their compatriot, collect the relics of the saints and take them to Rome. They hand them to Rufina, a noble matron of the lineage of Claudius, who buries them on a prominent hill in the middle of the city, on the forum of Claudius, where miraculous healings take place. These things took place in Nikomedia, under Diocletian and Maximian, on 26 of the month Panemos [i.e. September], four days before the kalends of October.

Text: The Martyrdom of Kyprianos and Ioustina has not yet received a critical edition.
A version of the Greek text can be found in: Acta Sanctorum, Sept. VII (1760), 242-245; while a fuller version of the text is available only in German translation, without the Greek original, in: Zahn 1882, 63-73.
Summary: Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Theoktistos, martyr near Nikomedia : S00866 Kyprianos and Ioustina/Justina, martyrs of Antioch : S01704

Saint Name in Source


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

Constantinople and region Asia Minor Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Antioch on the Orontes

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

Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Miracle after death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Aristocrats Merchants and artisans Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries


The Martyrdom (Passion) of Kyprianos and Ioustina was probably written in the late 4th or early 5th century, perhaps together with the Conversion of Kyprianos and Ioustina. These two documents were collated together with the earlier Confession of Kyprianos (see E01163), on which they are based. In the mid 5th century, the empress Eudocia produced an adaptation of the three texts in the form of Homeric hexameters (see E01166). In later manuscripts, however, the hagiographic trilogy is rarely preserved intact, since most manuscripts include only one or two of the three documents. The Martyrdom is preserved in 10 manuscripts dating mostly from the 10th to 12th centuries, on which see:


The Martyrdom (Passion) of Kyprianos and Ioustina was probably written at the same time, and perhaps by the same author as the text known as the Conversion of Kyprianos and Ioustina (see E01164). The two texts represent the development of the apocryphal legend of Kyprianos and Ioustina into a fully developed cult and hagiography. Their composition predates the mid-5th century when they were rewritten in a poetic form by the empress Eudocia. The two texts seem to have been unknown to Gregory of Nazianzus who gave a sermon summarising the legend in 379, but seems to have been unaware of its definitive form (E00886). Thus the texts can be ascribed to the late 4th or early 5th century. It is unknown how far the story related by the Martyrdom (Passion) of Kyprianos and Ioustina of Antioch relies on earlier sources. It probably incorporates elements from an earlier legend concerning the invention of the relics of Cyprian by a woman, which is mentioned by Gregory of Nazianzus (E00966). The text belongs to the category of martyrdom texts described by Hippolyte Delehaye as ‘epic’ (passions épiques), typical features of which are the extravagant descriptions of tortures, from which the heroes miraculously survive unharmed, and the placing of the plot to several different places, resembling a journey (Antioch, Damascus, Nicomedia, the river Gallos, and Rome). Like all epic passiones, our text is meticulous in giving names for every character appearing in the story. We should single out the name of the comes Orientis Eutolmios, because a figure of that name and title existed in late 4th century: this was Flavius Eutolmius Tatianus (fl. 357–392) who had a successful career in the administration of the Eastern Empire, as governor of Syria and comes Orientis in 370-374, Praetorian Prefect of the East in 388-390, and consul in 391. In 392, he was deposed and exiled, and damnatio memoriae was imposed on him. Tatianus was a pagan, known for the anticlerical bias of his administration, and he was blamed for flogging offenders to death during his tenure as comes Orientis in Antioch (for the sources, see: PLRE I, 876-877 – ‘Tatianus 5’). It is possible that the appearance of his name in the role of the pagan persecutor in our text reflects Tatianus’ negative memory among the Christians of the East. This would confirm a late fourth or fifth century dating for the text. The confused geography appearing towards the end of the text is particularly noteworthy: the saints are taken to be beheaded by the river Gallos ‘near Nicomedia’, the relics are collected by sailors from Rome; they are taken to Rome and buried in the forum of Claudius on a prominent hill of the city. Now the Gallus is known to be a river in Phrygia, nowhere close to Nicomedia, and the presence of sailors in that landlocked region would be paradoxical. Finally, no such Forum of Claudius has ever existed in Rome. The story about the pious noble lady keeping the relics in Rome and founding their first sanctuary is a well-known hagiographic topos, encountered in other texts. A version of it (probably with substantial differences) was known to Gregory of Nazianzus (see E00887). The paradoxical geographical data mentioned above, and the repetition of the name Claudius provide indications for the Anatolian cultural background of the cult. The reference to the Phrygian river Gallus, the transfer of the relics by boat to Rome, the reception of the relics by a matron of the gens Claudia, the building of a shrine on a central hill, and the repetition of the name Claudius (the emperor ‘Claudius Diocletian’, the noble lady Rufina of Claudian origins, the ‘Forum of Claudius’) very probably echo the legend about the introduction of the Phrygian cult of Cybele to Rome: according to it, the image of the goddess was brought from Anatolia by a boat (navis salvia) and received in Rome by Claudia Quinta in 204 BC. Her temple was built on Palatine Hill in 191 BC, and her cult achieved the full recognition of the Roman state under the Emperor Claudius (41-44 CE). The reference to the river Gallos also recalls the fact that the priests of Cybele were called Galli (Takacs 1999; Leach 2007). The presence of these details in the narrative discussed here is unlikely to be fortuitous, and may suggest that the cult of Kyprianos and Ioustina was somehow connected to that of Cybele.


Text: Bailey, R., "The Acts of Saint Cyprian of Antioch: Critical Editions, Translations, and Commentary," PhD diss., McGill University Montreal, 2017. Acta Sanctorum, September, 7 (1760), 242-245. Zahn, T., Cyprian von Antiochien und die deutsche Faustsage (Erlangen: A. Deichert, 1882), 136-153. Further reading: Delehaye, H., “Cyprien d'Antioche et Cyprien de Carthage,” Analecta Bollandiana 39 (1921), 314-332. Krestan, L., and Hermann, A., "Cyprianus II (Magier)," Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum 3 (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann, 1957), 467-477. Leach, E.W., "Claudia Quinta (Pro Caelio 34) and an altar to Magna Mater," Dictynna 4 (2007). Sabattini, T.A., "S. Cipriano nella tradizione agiografica," Rivista di Studi Classici, 21:2 (1973), 181-204. Takacs, S., “Kybele.” Der Neue Pauly 6 (1999), 950-956.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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