University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E02145: Asterius of Amasea, in his Homily XII, On *Stephen the First Martyr (S00030), delivered on the saint’s festival on 26 December, presents a contemplation on the story and martyrdom of Stephen. Written in Greek at Amaseia/Amasea of Pontus (northern Asia Minor), in the late 4th or early 5th c..

online resource
posted on 2016-12-18, 00:00 authored by erizos
Asterius of Amasea, Homily XII, On Stephen the First Martyr (CPG 3260.1, BHG 1656)


1. The festival follows the feast of Christmas.

2. Cain first defiled the Earth by the blood of fratricide, but Stephen first blessed it by the blood of martyrdom. Peter, James, and John, the Apostles, whose festivals follow, should not be jealous of Stephen’s distinction.

3. Peter and James are undoubtedly distinguished and praiseworthy, but Stephen was the first to obtain martyrdom.

4. The memory of Stephen’s story has not been overshadowed by the passing of time.

5. Stephen was the first of the deacons, and he preached under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

6. Summary of Stephen’s speech to the Jews (Acts 7).

7. Stephen’s vision of the Father and the Son (Acts 7:55-56).

8. God appeared himself to Stephen, rather than sending his angel to support him. He thus inaugurated martyrdom.

9. Stephen loudly confesses his vision and is therefore stoned to death.

10. Stephen’s last prayer, requesting the forgiveness of his persecutors.

11. Paul was present at the martyrdom, but would soon experience his own conversion.

12. Special reference to the fact that Stephen’s vision was of the Father and Son. It was the result of divine providence, anticipating the false doctrines of Sabellius concerning the divine substances.

13. The vision does not mention the Holy Spirit, but Acts states that Stephen saw his vision, while being full of the Holy Spirit.

Text: Datema 1970.
Summary: Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Stephen, the First Martyr : S00030 Peter the Apostle : S00036 James the Apostle, son of Zebedee, ob. 1st c. : S00108 John the Evangelist : S00042

Saint Name in Source

Στέφανος Πέτρος Ἰάκωβος Ἰωάννης

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Amasea Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Asterius of Amasea

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Asterius was bishop of Amasea in Pontus (north Anatolia) between the 380s and 420s, perhaps having been a rhetorician before joining the clergy. He is only known from his homilies (16 preserved intact), which provide us with pretty much all we know about Asterius’ life, since he not mentioned by other sources from Late Antiquity. His work attracted much attention during Iconoclasm and in the Byzantine period, when his homilies were widely appreciated as models of Christian rhetoric. His Ekphrasis on Euphemia of Chalcedon (E00477) was among the texts quoted in the Second Council of Nicaea (787), in support of the use of images in Christian worship (sessions IV and VI; Mansi XIII, pp. 16-18, 308-309). Ten of Asterius' homilies are quoted in the Bibliotheca of Photius (cod. 271). On the manuscript tradition of this homily see: Datema 1970.


This sermon is very close in content to the sermons of Gregory of Nyssa on the same subject (see E01830, E01831). It provides yet another attestation of the important set of festivals in honour of the first martyrs and apostles celebrated in Anatolia and other eastern areas after Christmas (Stephen on 26 December; Peter, James, and John on 27/28 December). For a discussion of these feasts, see E01830, E01831.


Text: Datema, C., Asterius of Amasea, Homilies I-XIV: Text, Introduction and Notes (Leiden: Brill, 1970) Translation and commentary: Dehandschutter, B., "Asterius of Amasea," in: J. Leemans (ed.), 'Let Us Die That We May Live' : Greek Homilies on Christian Martyrs from Asia Minor, Palestine and Syria, (c. AD 350-AD 450) (London: Routledge, 2003), 176-184. Further reading: Baldwin, B., "Asterios of Amaseia," in: A.P. Kazhdan, A.-M. Talbot, and A. Cutler (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 213. Speyer, W., "Asterios von Amaseia," in: Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum (Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1980), 626-639. Voicu, S.J., ‘Feste di apostoli a la fine di Dicembre,’ Studi sull’ Oriente Cristiano 8.2 (2002), 47-77.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager