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E02399: The Martyrdom of *Iuliana (martyr of Nicomedia, buried near Pozzuoli, S01162) is written in Latin or Greek (and then translated into the other language), perhaps near Pozzuoli (southern Italy), attested in Latin by the early 8th c. It narrates Iuliana’s refusal in Nicomedia (north-west Asia Minor) to marry the prefect Eleusius and to abandon Christianity; her trial and tortures; her successful fight against a devil and her death; the transfer of her body to southern Italy and her burial near Pozzuoli; Eleusius’ death after a shipwreck.

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posted on 2017-02-20, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Iuliana (BHL 4522-4523)

Summary, based on the Latin text. (We have not carried out a comparison with the Greek; but Bottiglieri, who has investigated this issue, confirms that the story in both languages is essentially the same - see Discussion).

§ 1: Short introductory sentence about the martyrs’ perseverance (bearing only a slight variant between the Acta Sanctorum and Mombritius’ editions). At the time of the emperor Maximian, the senator of Nicomedia Eleusius, friend of the emperor, is betrothed to Iuliana, the noble daughter of the pagan Africanus. Iuliana is Christian: she prays to God and goes to church to hear the Scriptures. Iuliana refuses twice to marry Eleusius, first requiring him to become prefect, and when this is achieved, to convert to Christianity.

§§ 2-3: After failing to convince Iuliana to marry Eleusius and to abandon Christianity, her father beats her and hands her over to Eleusius. He threatens her with torture if she refuses to offer sacrifice to the gods, but Iuliana reacts by trying to convert him to Christianity.

§§ 4-5: Iuliana is then severely tortured and sent to prison. After a long prayer to God a devil appears to her in the guise of an angel and asks her to adore pagan gods.

§§ 6-11: With God’s help, the devil Belial, also called Jopher Nigrum, is immobilised and forced to reveal himself, providing a list of all his bad deeds since creation and recounting how he has been sent by his father Beelzebub to lead Christians to abandon their faith. The devil asks Iuliana to free him, but she refuses and beats him with her chains. Questioned by Iuliana he tells of all the bad things he has inflicted upon men.

§§ 12-14: When she is taken out of prison, Iuliana throws the devil into a pile of excrement. The prefect orders her to be further tortured on a rack with the help of soldiers; Iuliana endures the torture and is then freed by an angel.

§§ 15-16: After a long prayer of Iuliana to God, recalling episodes of salvation history and emphasising God’s mercy, the torturers of Nicomedia convert and are sentenced to death by the emperor together with several other converts, in total 300 people (Mombritius has '120 people').

§§ 17-18: Iuliana is burnt alive but an angel extinguishes the flames. She is then immersed in molten lead but is refreshed. The prefect orders her to be killed by the sword.

§§ 19-20: The devil appears and tells the prefect not to spare her, but then Iuliana sees him and the devil flees, fearing to be captured. [At the place of execution, Iuliana prays and addresses Christian converts, exhorting them to do penance, pray, read the Scriptures, love each other, hold vigils and sing psalms. Bidding farewell to everyone and asking them to pray for her], she then prays to God and is beheaded.

§§ 21-22: After a short time, a senatrix named Sophia (Mombritius has: 'Sophonia') passing by Nicomedia on her way to Rome takes the body of Iuliana and embalms it. As she approaches Rome, she has to stop on the coast of Campania because of a storm, and Iuliana is buried near Pozzuoli (territorium Puteolanum), in a tomb (mausoleum) a mile away from the sea. Eleusius travels by sea but his boat is wrecked in a storm. [24 people die and the bodies are thrown on a deserted beach where they are eaten by birds and wild beasts]. Iuliana died on the 14th day before the Calends of March (= 16 February; Mombritius has: ‘Idus februarias’ that is 13 February; other feast days are recorded in variant versions, see the discussion in Bottiglieri].

Text: Acta Sanctorum, Febr. II, 875-878 (from which paragraph numbers are taken; compared with the text published in Mombritius: parts in square brackets not found in Mombritius’ version). Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Juliana, martyr of Nicomedia : S01162

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy south of Rome and Sicily

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Pozzuoli Adriatic Sea Adriatic Sea Adriaticum Mare

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Chant and religious singing

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracles experienced by the saint Punishing miracle Changing abilities and properties of the body Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Exorcism Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Pagans Relatives of the saint Monarchs and their family Aristocrats Soldiers Torturers/Executioners Officials Demons

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries Transfer, translation and deposition of relics


Epic martyrdoms This is an anonymous literary account of martyrdom written long after the great persecutions of Christians that provide the background of the narrative. It is part of a widely spread literary genre, that scholars often designate as "epic" Martyrdoms (or Passiones), to be distinguished from earlier, short and more plausible accounts, apparently based on the genuine transcripts of the judicial proceedings against the martyrs. These texts narrate the martyrdom of local saints, either to promote a new cult or to give further impulse to existing devotion. They follow widespread stereotypes mirroring the early authentic trials of martyrs, but with a much greater degree of detail and in a novelistic style. Thus they narrate how the protagonists are repeatedly questioned and tortured under the order of officials or monarchs, because they refuse to sacrifice to pagan gods but profess the Christian faith. They frequently refer to miracles performed by the martyrs and recreate dialogues between the protagonists. The narrative generally ends with the death of the martyrs (often by beheading) and their burial. These texts are literary creations bearing a degree of freedom in the narration of supposedly historical events, often displaying clear signs of anachronism. For these reasons, they have been generally dismissed as historical evidence and often remain little known. However, since most certainly date from within the period circa 400-800, often providing unique references to cult, they are an essential source to shed light on the rise of the cult of saints. The Martyrdom of Iuliana The textual transmission of the Martyrdom is complex: it is preserved in a number of both Greek and Latin versions, which are closely related, and it is uncertain whether it was originally written in Greek or Latin. In broad terms, all versions share the same narrative; thus, concerning the Latin versions, the classification of variant versions in BHL (4522-4525) mostly aims at recording slightly variant beginnings (in particular the addition of a short prologue found as well in other Italian martyrdom accounts, for instance E02500) and endings. There is as yet no critical edition of the Latin Martyrdom (for the Greek see BHG 962z published by C. Angelidi). See Bottiglieri for an overview of differences between the various versions, a brief discussion of the textual transmission, and references to studies on Iuliana’s Martyrdom, particularly in the vernacular tradition. According to the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta (, with the additions provided in Bottiglieri and Goullet 2014 (attached cd-rom), the Martyrdom in its variant versions is attested in more than 100 manuscripts, the earliest from the 8th c.: Munich, BSB, Clm 4554, f. 141v-146r (late 8th c.); Paris, BNF, lat. 12598, f. 107r-109v (fragmentary, late 8th c.); Turin, Biblioteca Nazionale, D. V. 3, f. 183v-193r (late 8th c.); Würzburg, Universitätsbibliothek, Mp. Th. P. 28B, f. 9r-12r (8th c.).


Scholars have rightly noted that, despite Iuliana living and dying in Nicomedia, the narration of the translation of her relics to Campania suggests that the Martyrdom relates to a developing cult of Iuliana in Italy and could have been written there. The Latin versions of the Martyrdom are of uncertain date of composition, but were certainly circulating by the early 8th century, as Bede shows knowledge of the story of Iuliana's martyrdom in his Martyrology (E05527) and variant versions of the Martyrdom are found in 8th c. manuscripts (dating adopted in Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2201; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 72). For a recent discussion of dating hypotheses ranging from the 5th to the 8th century, with further bibliography, see Bottiglieri.


Editions consulted (BHL 4522-4523): Mombritius, B., Sanctuarium seu vitae sanctorum, 2 vols. with additions and corrections by A. Brunet and H. Quentin (Paris, 1910), II, 77-80. The original edition was published c. 1480. Acta Sanctorum, Febr. II, 875-878. Further reading: Bottiglieri, C., “Passio Iulianae. BHL 4523m,” in: Goullet, M. (ed.), Le légendier de Turin. MS. D.V.3 de la Bibliothèque Nationale Universitaire (Florence, 2014), 641-669, at 641-656.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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