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E01812: The Martyrdom of Abbot *Baršebyā (martyr in Persia, ob. c. 340, S00918) is produced by an anonymous Syriac-speaking writer in Persia during the 5th or 6th century. It describes the martyrdom of the abbot Baršebyā and his eleven companions in the Persian city of Istakhr in the mid 4th century.

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posted on 2016-08-15, 00:00 authored by sminov
Martyrdom of Abbot Baršebyā


The narrative opens with the information that at the time of the martyrdom of *Miles (S00919) there was a monastery 'in the land of the Persians,' inhabited by the abbot Baršebyā and his ten disciples. (p. 281)

Some unnamed people accuse the monks of missionary activity, sorcery and undermining the Zoroastrian religion before the chief-priest and judge of the city of Istakhr. The latter orders Baršebyā and his companions to be arrested and submits them to various tortures. As the monks remain steadfast under torture, the judge sentences them to death. (pp. 281-282)

As Baršebyā and his companions are being executed one by one at the outskirts of the city, a certain Zoroastrian priest, who is travelling on the nearby road with his family, notices the crowd of spectators. Curious to see what is going on, the priest approaches the place of execution. As he is watching the monks being killed, the priest has a vision of 'tongues of fire standing up in the form of the cross' above their corpses. Astounded, he changes his clothes for those of his servant and secretly asks the abbot to join the group of martyrs. Baršebyā concedes and lets the priest be martyred together with the monks. The abbot is executed last. (pp. 282-283)

The heads of the martyrs are brought into the city and hung upon the temple of the goddess Anahid, whereas their bodies are devoured by wild animals and birds. The matter of the martyred Zoroastrian becomes known and causes many Persians, including his household, to convert to Christianity. (pp. 283-284)


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Baršebyā, martyr in Persia, ob. ca 340 : S00918

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Syriac

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region


Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Istakhr Susa Susa Շաւշ Šawš شوش Shush

Major author/Major anonymous work

Persian martyrdom accounts

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

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

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Zoroastrians


The Martyrdom of Abbot Baršebyā is a relatively short account of the martyrdom of the abbot Baršebyā and his eleven companions, who were executed on the charge of proselytising and sorcery in the city of Istakhr in Sasanian Persia, supposedly in the middle of the 4th century, as the author relates this event to the martyrdom of *Miles (S00919) who was killed in the year 340. It is an original Syriac composition, produced by a Christian author in Persia. The most likely place of the composition of the Martyrdom is the city of Istakhr in the Iranian province of Fars, the site of their martyrdom and the probable site of their commemoration. It is unlikely that this account was produced before the 6th century. Against an early dating of the Martyrdom is the presence of several anachronisms, such as the image of a cenobitic monastic community, a practice that began to flourish in Persia only during the 6th century (see Smith 2016, pp. 192-193). There is not yet a critical edition of the Martyrdom. Its Syriac text was published for the first time by Assemani and then republished by Bedjan on the basis of ms. Vat. Syr. 160 (c. 10th century). Syriac text: Bedjan 1890-1870, vol. 2, pp. 281-284; Latin translation: Assemani 1748, vol. 1, pp. 93-95; English translation: Smith 2016, 193-195. For general information, see Smith 2016, 191-193.


The Martyrdom bears witness to the local cult of the group of monk martyrs in the city of Istakhr, which apparently developed no earlier than the 6th century.


Main editions and translations: Assemani, S.E., Acta Sanctorum Martyrum Orientalium et Occidentalium in duas partes distributa, adcedunt Acta S. Simeonis Stylitae. 2 vols (Roma: Typis Josephi Collini, 1748). Bedjan, P., Acta martyrum et sanctorum. 7 vols (Paris / Leipzig: Otto Harrassowitz, 1890-1897). Smith, K.R., Constantine and the Captive Christians of Persia: Martyrdom and Religious Identity in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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