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E01957: Ammianus Marcellinus in his Res Gestae, written in the 380s, mentions the violent killing by a pagan mob in 361 of *Georgios of Cappadocia (bishop of Alexandria, S01145), along with the Christian officials Dracontius and Diodorus. Their remains are burned and thrown into the sea, lest they be venerated as martyrs by the Christians. Written in Latin in Rome.

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posted on 2016-10-23, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, 22.11.8-10

The events recounted below occurred in Alexandria when news arrived of the execution of the unpopular dux of Egypt, Artemius:

(8.) Ecce autem repente perlato laetabili nuntio indicante exstinctum Artemium plebs omnis elata gaudio insperato uocibus horrendis infrendens Georgium petit raptumque diuersis mulcandi generibus proterens et conculcans diuaricatis ... pedibus. (9.) Cumque eo Dracontius monetae praepositus et Diodorus quidam ueluti comes iniectis per crura funibus simul exanimati sunt; ille, quod aram in moneta, quam regebat, recens locatam euertit, alter, quod, dum aedificandae praeesset ecclesiae, cirros puerorum licentius detondebat, id quoque ad deorum cultum existimans pertinere. (10.) Quo non contenta multitudo inmanis dilaniata cadauera peremptorum camelis imposita uexit ad litus isdemque subdito igne crematis cineres proiecit in mare id metuens, ut clamabat, ne collectis supremis aedes illis exstruerentur ut reliquis, qui deuiare a religione compulsi pertulere cruciabiles poenas ad usque gloriosam mortem intemerata fide progressi, et nunc martyres appellantur. poterantque miserandi homines ad crudele supplicium ducti Christianorum adiumento defendi, ni Georgi odio omnes indiscrete flagrabant.

'(8.) And lo! On the sudden arrival of the glad news that told of the death of Artemius, all the populace, transported by this unlooked-for joy, grinding their teeth and uttering fearful outcries, made for Georgius and seized him, maltreating him in diverse ways and trampling upon him; then they dragged him about spread-eagle fashion, and killed him. (9.) And with him Dracontius, superintendent of the mint, and one Diodorus, who had the honorary rank of count, were dragged about with ropes fastened to their legs and both killed; the former, because he overthrew an altar, newly set up in the mint, of which he had charge; the other, because, while overseer of the building of a church, he arbitrarily cut off the curls of some boys, thinking that this also was a fashion belonging to the pagan worship. (10.) Not content with this, the inhuman mob loaded the mutilated corpses of the slain men upon camels and carried them to the shore; there they burned them on a fire and threw the ashes into the sea, fearing (as they shouted) lest their remains might be collected and a church built for them, as for others who, when urged to abandon their religion, endured terrible tortures, even going so far as to meet a glorious death with unsullied faith, whence they are now called martyrs. And these wretched men who were dragged off to cruel torture might have been protected by the aid of the Christians, were it not that all men without distinction burned with hatred for Georgius.'

Text and translation: Rolfe 1935-39.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Georgius, martyred Arian bishop of Alexandra, ob. 362 : S01145 Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

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

Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/hostile attempts to prevent veneration of relics

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 325/330–after 391) is the most important historian of the 4th century. Born in Syria and a native Greek-speaker, he pursued a career in the army under Constantius II. By the 380s, he had settled in Rome where he wrote a Latin history (Res Gestae) of the Roman Empire from the accession of Nerva in AD 96 to the death of Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The early books are lost, and the extant text begins with events in 354.


This passage is one of two references in Ammianus Marcellinus to the cult of the Christian martyrs (for the other one, see E05273). The account refers to an outbreak of anti-Christian violence in Alexandria, following the news of the execution of the unpopular dux of Egypt, Artemius, in 362, which cost the life of the bishop of Alexandria, George the Cappadocian, and two Christian officials. Recounting the destruction of the remains of the victims by the mob, lest they be venerated by the Christians, Ammianus explains to his readership what a martyr is. Ammianus is perhaps the only pagan author of Late Antiquity, whose references to Christian matters are devoid of resentment and criticism. George became bishop of Alexandria with Arian support, when the orthodox bishop, Athanasius, was exiled. He is described as violent and very unpopular both among the supporters of Athanasius and the magistrates of the city. Ammianus’ note that even the Christians hated the bishop, and therefore did nothing in order to save him, is not far from the truth, but by that we must probably understand the Nicene community. Gregory of Nazianzus, in his oration of Athanasius in 379, refers to the violent death of George as a well deserved punishment, omitting to mention that he was killed by pagans (E01235). It seems, however, that the Arian community honoured him as a martyr, and even claimed that Athanasius was the instigator of his murder, as stated by the Eunomian Arian historian Philostorgius (Eccl. History 7.2.2). The Nicene church historians of the 5th century, Socrates and Sozomen, record George among the martyrs of Julian's persecution in a neutral manner (E04103).


Edition: Seyfarth, W., Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae. 2 vols. (Leipzig: Teubner, 1978). Translation: Rolfe, J.C., Ammianus Marcellinus (Loeb Classical Library 300, 315, 331; Cambridge MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1935-1939). Further reading: Rinaldi, G., La Bibbia dei pagani. 2 vols. (Bologna, 1997), vol. 1, 319-414.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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