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E01718: Martyrdom of *Paulos (martyr in Tanis, S00982), *Bilos (martyr in Tanis, S00983), *Teon (martyr in Tanis, S00984), *Iron (martyr in Tanis, S00985), and their companions, martyrs of Tanis, Egypt, surviving only in Georgian, recounts their martyrdom and killing in Thessalonike by Emperor Maximian (286-305). The text dates from the 8th c. at the latest.

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posted on 2016-07-12, 00:00 authored by naleksidze
Martyrdom of Paul, Bilos, Teon, Iron and their companions


When the Emperor Maximian arrived in Thessalonike, he ordered all local rulers to eradicate Christianity from the area through all possible means. The Emperor's order was duly executed and a terrible persecution of Christians was initiated. In those days, in Egypt there lived a local judge called Ampelianos, who sat in his palace and made his servants bring all kinds of instruments of torture to demonstrate to all the severity of punishment for practising Christianity. The fearsome tools scared many, but others were not moved by this demonstration of cruelty and arrived in the presence of the judge, openly confessing their Christianity. After interrogating them, beating them and tearing their flesh apart, Ampelianos sent them to Maximian.

At first Maximian jailed all of them but then ordered the killing of 32 of them. These were covertly buried by a Christian called Eusebios. The Emperor ordered those who were less paralysed by beating to be selected and brought to his court. The four chosen were Paul, Bilos, Teon and Iron. The interrogation revealed that they were from Egypt, natives of a village called Tanis; they were not afraid of the emperor and did not care about his orders.

Numerous tortures followed confession: they were hung on a pole and were beaten by large heated forks. But through the saints' prayers, Christ appeared to them and comforted them. Immediately thereupon the fire was extinguished and the soldiers were unable to move their arms.

ვითარცა ესე ესმა მეფესა, ბრძანა მიყრაჲ მათი მხეცთა და მაშინ მიისწრაფეს ყოველთა მკჳდრთა ქალაქისათა თიატრონად, რაჲთა იხილონ აღსასრული იგი წმიდათა მოწამეთაჲ. და დაჯდა მეფჱ ასპარეზსა მას და უბრძანა მიტევებაჲ ყოველთა მხეცთაჲ. და ვითარცა მიუტევნეს ლომნი იგი, კუდითა უკუმიდეს პირთა წმიდათა მათ, ხოლო ძუვნი ლომნი ენითა ლოშნიდეს ფერჴთა მათთა. ხოლო სხუანი იგი მჴეცნი იბრძოდეს და უხდებოდეს ერთი-ერთისა ტენებით, რომელმან-ძი მათგანმან უსწროს და შეეხეოს წმიდათა მათ, რაჲთა ღირს იქმნენ მათგან კურთხევასა; და შეეხებოდეს და ეგრეთ უკუნიქცეოდეს კუალსა თჳსსა და წარვიდოდეს.

'When the Emperor heard this, he issued an order to throw the holy men to the beasts in the circus. Many people came to attend the show. The Emperor sat in the circus and ordered the unleashing of lions. But when the lions came close to the holy men, they started wagging their tales, and others were licking their feet, while the rest of the beasts were fighting with each other and pushing each other in attempts to approach and receive blessing from the saints. Thus they would touch them, turn back and leave.'

Having witnessed this great miracle, the multitudes present in the circus praised the Lord. Enraged by such an open confession of Christianity, Maximian ordered the massacre of the people present. Their bodies were thrown to the same beasts but the beasts never touched them. Then the Emperor ordered the slaughter of the beasts too. The faithful buried the bodies of those killed in the circus, but the Emperor made his people dig up the earth and threw other people's bodies, together with the bodies of the animals, into the pit.

After this, Maximian decided to behead the four Egyptians. The verdict was executed outside of the city walls on 2 July.

და იყო ვინმე კაცი ქრისტიანჱ, რომელსა ეწოდა პანეს, ნათესავი მეგჳპტელი; ამან მისცა საფასჱ დიდძალი მჴედართა მათ, რომელთა მოსწყჳდნეს წმიდანი იგი მოწამენი, და მოითხოვნა გუამნი იგი მოწამეთანი და წარიხუნა იგინი და შემოსნა სამოსლითა პატიოსნითა და მრავლითა სულნელითა შემურნა იგინი და დაჰკრძალნა ადგილსა ფარულსა შიშისთჳს უშჯულოთა მათ მეფეთა კერპთმსახურთაჲსა. და შემდგომად რავდენთამე წელთა კაცმან ამან ღმრთისმოყუარემან აღმოიხუნა მიერ გუამნი იგი წმიდათა მოწამეთანი, სადა იგი დაკრძალნეს, და მრავლითა პატივითა მოიხუნა იგინი ეგჳპტედ, ქალაქად თჳსად თანის, ვინაჲცა იყვნეს კეთილად-მძლენი წმიდანი მოწამენი, და დაჰკრძალნა იგინი ადგილსა დიდებულსა, ვითარცა შეჰგავს მათა, რომელნი იღუწიან სახელისათჳს ქრისტჱსისა. და მოიღეს წმიდათა მოწამეთა ნიჭი იგი საღმრთოჲ, მადლი კურნებათაჲ ზეგარდმოჲ, და მისცემენ უხუებით მათ, რომელნი მოვლნენ მათა სარწმუნოებით, და აღმოეცენების მათ მდიდარი კურნებაჲ ნაწილთა მათგან წმიდათა, ვიდრე დღენდელ დღემდე, ქალაქსა თანისს.

'There was a Christian man, whose name was Panes and who was Egyptian by birth. He paid a lot of money to the soldiers who had killed the holy men. He requested their bodies and took them and wrapped them in expensive clothes and sprinkled their bodies with ointment and, fearing the godless and pagan kings, he buried their bodies in a secret place. Several years later, the same faithful man unearthed the bodies of the holy men and brought them with great honour to Egypt, to his native city of Tanis, for their bodies were incorruptible. And he buried them in a magnificent place as it is fitting for all who labour in the name of Christ. The saints brought with them the divine blessing and the grace of healing and they gave it away in abundance to whoever came to them in faith. And from their relics ample healings were emerging, until our days in the city of Tanis.'

Text: Kekelidze 1946. Translation: Nikoloz Aleksidze.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Bilos, martyr of Tanis, Egypt : S00983 Theon, martyr of Tanis, Egypt : S00984 Iron, martyr of Tanis, Egypt : S00985 Paul, martyr of Tanis, Egypt. : S00982

Saint Name in Source

ბილოს თეონ ირონ პავლე

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Georgian

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

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

Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

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 during lifetime Miracle after death Miracle with animals and plants Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Aristocrats Soldiers Animals

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries Attempts to prevent the veneration of one's relics


The martyrdom of the saints of Tanis is incorporated in the so-called Sinai Menologion (Mravaltavi), which is dated to the 8th century. Most of the Mravaltavi is translated and edited by a certain Seith who lived in the 8th century in Mar Saba Monastery. The text is a translation from the Greek original, similarly to other numerous martyrologies of the Mravaltavi. Despite this, the source of the translation is, as of now, unidentified. Equally unknown to the Greek sources are the names of martyrs Paul, Bilos, Teon and Iron.


The martyrdom must have taken place during the rule of Maximian, between 286 and 305. The Martyrdom also mentions a certain Antimos who was killed not too long before the events described. Maximian brings him as an example to scare the future saints. Most likely, this must be *Anthimos of Nicomedia (S00124) and the martyrdom of the saints of Tanis must have taken place soon thereafter. The most dramatic miracles of the account occur in the circus in Thessaloniki with the active participation of the beasts who were supposed to slaughter the martyrs. The beasts themselves become martyrs of sorts by refusing to kill them and by receiving blessing from the saints. The beasts are then buried together with the multitudes who witnessed the miracle and perished at the circus.


Edition: K. Kekelidze (ed.) ქართული აგიოგრაფიული ძეგლები, ნაწილი პირველი. კიმენი, ტომი II [Georgian Hagiographic Literature, part I. Kimeni. Volume II] (Tbilisi: Publishing House of the Academy of Sciences of the Georgian SSR, 1946), 17-26.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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