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E01853: Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical History mentions the martyrdoms in early 3rd century Alexandria (Egypt) of *Leonides (father of Origen and martyr of Alexandria, S00939), and of Origen's pupils *Ploutarchos, Serenos, Herakleides, Heron, another Serenos, Herais (all pupils of Origen and martyrs of Alexandria,S00940), and *Basileides (martyr of Alexandria associated with Potamiaina, S00945). Written in Greek in Palestine, 311/325.

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posted on 2016-09-12, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 6.1-4


In his account of the life of Origen, Eusebius mentions the martyrdom of Origen’s father, Leōnidēs, who was arrested and martyred by beheading under Septimius Severus (6.1). Origen, then still a young boy, wrote a letter to his imprisoned father urging him to martyrdom and exhorting him not to think about his wife and children (6.2.6). In a later persecution (but still under Septimius Severus), seven of Origen’s followers at the catechetical school of Alexandria, Ploutarchos, Serēnos, Hērakleidēs, Hērōn, another Serēnos, Hērais, and Basileidēs, become martyrs (6.4).

Summary: Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Leōnidēs, martyr in Alexandria, early 3rd c. : S00939 Ploutarchos, martyr in Alexandria, early 3rd c. : S00940

Saint Name in Source

Λεωνίδης Πλούταρχος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Caesarea Maritima

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

Caesarea Maritima Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Eusebius of Caesarea

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts


Eusebius lived in Caesarea Maritima in Palestine between c. AD 260 and 340. He was a pupil and friend of the martyred Christian intellectual Pamphilus. Under Constantine, he emerged as one of the most influential Christian figures of the Roman Empire, and was ordained bishop of Caesarea. Written between 311 and 325, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History is the first literary work to employ the methodology and objectives of classical historiography – which, since Herodotus and Thucydides, had traditionally focused on military and political events – in a novel field, the history of the Christian community. The first paragraphs of the work outline its chronological framework and thematic range: it is a narrative of events in the life of the Christian community from the times of Christ and the Apostles to the times of Eusebius (c. AD 260-340); it records the leaders of the most important communities (i.e. successions of bishops in Alexandria, Antioch, Rome and Jerusalem); it records the most notable exponents of Christian doctrine and their works, and also the main heresies and their proponents; it finally records persecutions and people that suffered and were martyred during them. The Ecclesiastical History is mostly a synthesis of quotations and summaries from other sources, for which Eusebius often gives concrete references. Thus his work preserves excerpts from early Christian texts which do not survive in their full form. Eusebius’ source material consists mostly of Greek texts, originating from Christian communities in Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. These areas constitute the main geographical range of his narrative, while his information about Christianity in the European provinces of the Roman Empire (except Rome) and North Africa is very limited. The text survives in several Greek manuscripts, in a Latin translation by Rufinus, and in Syriac and Armenian translations.


Book 6 of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History mainly discusses events in Egypt during the early and mid 3rd century. The main aim of Eusebius in this book is to cleanse the ambiguous memory of Origen, his predecessor as head of the Christian catechetical school of Caesarea. Eusebius portrays his reputed predecessor as a formidable champion of the faith, and as a man who prepared his own father and seven of his pupils for martyrdom. Eusebius draws his information mainly from archives of letters, including the personal correspondence of Origen, probably preserved in the Christian library of Caesarea or Jerusalem. This material apparently included a number of letters by which Origen received or spread information about events and martyrdoms in his native Egypt. In these documents, Eusebius found information about outbreaks of anti-Christian violence under Septimius Severus (193-211), Maximinus Thrax (235-238) and Decius (249-252), which he defines as persecutions. The chapters concerning the ‘persecution of Severus’ mention the deaths of people taught by Origen, while he was chief catechete in Alexandria. Eusebius lists six Egyptian martyrs whom he mentions very briefly, without giving details on their martyrdom. He also claims that the martyr *Basileides, keeper of the martyr *Potamiaina (see E01868), was also a disciple of Origen, but he does not explain the nature of their connection. None of these martyrs appears in later hagiography, Greek or Coptic, and they do not seem to have received any particular cult.


Edition: Schwartz, E., Mommsen, T., and Winkelmann, F., Eusebius Werke II: Die Kirchengeschichte. 3 vols. (Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte NF 6/1-3; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1999). Translations: Lake, K., Oulton, J.E.L., and Lawlor, H.J., Eusebius of Caesarea: The Ecclesiastical History. 2 vols. (Loeb Classical Library; London and Cambridge, MA: Heinemann and Harvard University Press, 1926). Williamson, G.A., and Louth, A., Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine (London: Penguin, 1989).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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