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E02474: The Greek Martyrdom of *Areadne (martyr of Prymnessos, S01596), of the 4th/6th c., recounts the story of a young female slave who flees to the mountain in order to escape her persecutors, and is miraculously swallowed up by the earth; her feast is on 8 October. Probably written in Prymnessos (Phrygia, west central Asia Minor).

online resource
posted on 2017-03-07, 00:00 authored by erizos
Martyrdom of Areadne of Prymnessos (BHG 0165)


1. Hadrian and Antoninus send orders that Christians should either offer sacrifice or be taken to trial. The Christian girl Areadne is a slave of Tertyllos, chief citizen (πρῶτος τῆς πόλεως) of Prymnessos in Phrygia Salutaris.

2. Tertyllos celebrates a sacrifice on the birthday of his son, but Areadne fasts instead of participating in the banquet. She is accused of being a Christian by one of her fellow servants to her mistress who attempts to force her to eat. Areadne resists: she has been a Christian, like her parents, and although her masters own her body, they do not own her soul.

3. The mistress informs her husband, and Tertyllos has Areadne flogged and locked up in his house, offering her just a small amount of food.

4. Thiry days later, it is reported to the governor Gordios that Tertyllos, first man of Prymnessos, has a Christian woman at home, and people are worried that the city might be punished by the emperors. Gordios summons all the council and the people at the council house and reads out to them the decree of the emperors: it prescribes death and confiscation of property for anyone that fails to report a Christian person to the authorities; the accuser of such a person is reimbursed with three hundred dinars; anyone planning to conceal a Christian should also be brought to trial.

5. The city council requests leave to defend its case and Gordios orders that written records be kept. A scholar called Nikagoros undertakes to defend Tetryllos, who happens to be his uncle. He lists manifold offices Tertyllos has held, and various acts of service and largesse he has performed for the public, including feasts of the imperial and civic cults, of which he was an archpriest.

6. Gordios demands that the defendant focuses on the current issue. Nikagoros continues that Areadne was acquired by Tetryllos as part of his wife’s dowry. She was born in the household, while her parents, also Christians, had been purchased slaves. Tertyllos has subjected her to torture, but she persists in her religion.

[this section is missing in the Greek manuscript, due to the loss of one page, but it is known from a Latin translation of the text, where the martyr is called Maria]

7. All the council testifies in favour of Tertyllos, and Gordios declares him free of all charge, while he summons the girl to trial.

8. She is brought to the tribunal, while the people demand that she be burned alive. She offers a prayer to Christ.

9. The governor keeps quiet for an hour, and interrogates the martyr. She confesses her faith and renounces the gods.

[The Greek text resumes here]

10. The martyr continues her confession, and the governor threatens her with torture unless she sacrifices. He orders that she be prepared for torments and hung on a stake.

11. The people plead that the martyr be pardoned.

12. They ask that she be given three days to reconsider.

13. The governor grants the grace, while Areadne requests that her master be freed of all charges. The governor accepts that, and promises to give her property and freedom, if she converts. He orders that she be under guard, but free.

14. The martyr is taken down from the stake, crosses herself, and prays citing Psalm 120 (I lift up my eyes to the mountains, Where does my help come from?...). She runs to the neighbouring mountain, while the people chase her. She prays asking for Christ’s protection.

15. A rock opens up and receives the saint. The pagans find only a piece of her clothing hanging by the rock. They return and report to the governor.

16. The governor orders a certain Philokomos, chief temple verger, to go with a large group to the site and dig up the ground. Philokomos invites the people to join him in avenging the goddess of the city, and they gather at the temple, bringing tools. While they are about to set off, a thunderbolt and earthquake occur, and two fearsome horsemen appear from heaven. They strike and kill some of the pagans.

17. The rest are chased to the gates of the temple, while the verger dies at the gateway. Fire comes down from heaven, burns the temple and idols, and kills some pagans. 2700 people die or get injured.

18. The rest run into the city, confessing the Christian God. They enter the church and pray for atonement. Three thousand people are converted. The martyrdom of Areadne brings an end to the persecution. She died on 4 October.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Areadne, martyr of Prymnessos : S01596

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

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)

Prymnessos Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Place of martyrdom of a saint

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Punishing miracle Miracles causing conversion

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Pagans Officials Crowds Aristocrats Slaves/ servants

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes


The text is preserved only in the 10th-century codex Vat. Gr. 1853, on which see: (accessed 06/03/2017)


The Martyrdom of Areadne of Prymnessos is an important piece of hagiography from Phrygia, providing insights into the composition of late antique passiones. Although dating its story to the times of Hadrian and Antoninus, the text is clearly a late antique composition, since it mentions Phrygia Salutaris, a province attested after the mid-fourth century, and certainly not pre-dating the administrative reforms of Diocletian. The text is very probably a largely fictitious synthesis of local legends and historical elements derived from inscriptions or archival documents. It can be divided into the following sections: 1-3: The first confession and incarceration of Areadne at the home of her masters. 4-7: The trial of Tertyllos. 8-13: The trial of Areadne. 14-15: The flight and disappearance of Areadne in the mountains. 16-18: The destruction of the temple and conversion of the pagans in Prymnessos. The text is of great interest with regard to the information it provides about the legal status and rights of slaves: Areadne is the daughter of a family of Christian slaves bought by the family of Tetryllos’ wife, and accrued to his property as part of the dowry he received through his marriage. The text probably echoes the reality of the spread of Christianity among the lowest social strata in the high imperial period, introducing an idea of fundamental importance for the evolution of slavery in the late antique and Byzantine worlds: Areadne declares to her mistress that she is the owner of her body, but not of her soul (paragraph 2). The text opens (par. 1) describing the martyr as a slave who was none the less absolutely free in Christ, asserting the Pauline dictum ‘For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman’ (1 Cor. 7: 22). The association of religious and social dichotomies is a central theme in the text, which presents the political and religious traditions and institutions of the old civic elites of the Hellenic polis as custodians of idolatry and complicit in the persecutions of the pious. The whole process starts with the feast of a great aristocratic family, the martyr is first tortured and incarcerated by her master, later accused and tried by the governor and the whole boule, and finally the temple verger and his pagan followers attempt to destroy the site of her martyrdom. An interesting detail is the sympathetic stance of the populace (ochlos) towards the martyr in paragraphs 11 and 12, where the people plead for clemency and request three days of grace for the girl to reconsider. In some ways, the hagiographer seems to be ridding the commoners of Prymnessos of the guilt. The name of the master of Areadne, Tertullus, seems to be based on the historical figure of the prominent Asiatic aristocrat, Tiberius Claudius Vibianus Tertullus, whose career in the AD 170s and 180s is known from several inscriptions in Anatolia. Recently, P. Thonemann demonstrated that the cursus honorum recounted by Nikagoros in section 5 follows very closely two inscriptions set up in honour of Tetrullus at Perge in Pamphylia (I.Perge 193) and Sagalassos in Pisidia (CIG III 4377). The author of our text may have had these inscriptions in mind (whatever this may mean for the provenance of the text), but it is possible that a similar inscribed text was displayed also in Prymnessos. In our text, Tertyllos is described as protos tes poleos (first man of the city), a term specific to Caria, Pisidia, Phrygia, and northern Lycia (on which, see references in: J. N. Bremmer, ‘The Apocryphal Acts: Authors, Place, Time and Readership,’ in J. N. Bremmer [ed.], The Apocryphal Acts of Thomas, Leuven 1991, 158). The somewhat grotesque episodes of the last section (the destruction of the temple, the miraculous appearance of horsemen, the deaths of the temple verger and pagans, and the en masse conversion of three thousand pagans) are motifs known from other ‘epic’ martyrdom accounts, and could echo violent conflicts between pagans and Christians during the era of Christianisation in Late Antiquity. The end of the martyr in the rock conforms with a topos peculiar to Anatolian apocryphal/early hagiographic writing. This is how *Thekla ends her life in Seleucia and, to some extent, how *John the Evangelist dies in Ephesos. In the case of Thekla and Areadne, the account of the girl flying from her persecutors into the wilderness and disappearing in the earth can be seen as a Christianised version of the myth of Daphne who is swallowed up by Gaia, her mother, while being chased by Apollo. It seems that the Christians were fond of this story which they saw as a proof of the demonic and maleficent nature of the pagan deities (for example, see its use by John Chrysostom in his sermon On *Babylas, par. 6 [E00095]), featuring as it did a god seeking to defile a chaste girl. Besides, it seems that Christian devotion in Anatolia developed respect for sites associated with the death of saints without a known burial spot or physical remains available. It is most probable that Areadne’s cult focused on a shrine at a rocky place on the mountain, and that her legend was shaped in order to justify this cult. Her story recalls the case of *Basilissa of Nikomedia, whose cult focused on a sacred spring (E05106). The two hagiographies share the common feature that the saint does not die in martyrdom, but disappears or is buried at the site where she is venerated. The rather detailed reference to the scrap of Areadne’s cloak (maphorion) may suggest the existence of such an object as a relic. Alternatively, it may echo the devotional practice of dedicating pieces of cloth at rural shrines and holy trees, which is widely attested and practiced in Asia Minor until today.


Text, Translation, Commentary: Seeliger, H. R., and Wischmeyer, W., eds. Märtyrerliteratur. Herausgegeben, Übersetzt, Kommentiert, Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur, vol. 172. Berlin/München/Boston: De Gruyter, 2015, 364-385. Further reading: Thonemann, P. ‘The Martyrdom of Ariadne of Prymnessos and an inscription from Perge,’ Chiron 45 (2015), 151-170.

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