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E02481: The Martyrdom of *Alexander, Eventius and Theodolus (respectively bishop, priest and deacon, all martyrs of Rome, buried on the via Nomentana, S00127), and of *Hermes (martyr of Rome, buried on the via Salaria vetus, S00404) and *Quirinus (martyr of Rome, buried in the cemetery of Praetextatus on the via Appia, S01225) is written in Latin, presumably at the principal martyrs’ shrine on the via Nomentana, near Rome, before the 8th c. It narrates the miracles performed by Alexander and the conversions of the prefect Hermes, the tribune Quirinus and his prisoners, their martyrdoms and burial. Quirinus is buried on the via Appia in the cemetery of Praetextatus; Hermes on the via Salaria vetus, and Alexander, Eventius and Theodulus at the seventh milestone of the via Nomentana, where a bishop is appointed to oversee their cult.

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posted on 2017-03-08, 00:00 authored by mpignot, dlambert
Martyrdom of Alexander, Eventius, Theodulus, Hermes and Quirinus (BHL 266):


§ 1: Alexander is the fifth bishop of Rome, loved by all the people, converting a large number of senators to the Lord. He baptises the prefect of the city Hermes with his daughter and sons, as well as his 1250 slaves and their wives and children, whom he first freed, then baptised at Easter, and to whom he gave gifts.

§ 2: The emperor [Trajan] hears of this and sends Aurelianus, count of both military services (comes utriusque militiae) of Seleucia Isauria to kill all Christians. Following God’s will, Trajan dies that year and Aurelianus arrives in Rome and rules over the Senate as if he were Trajan. Pagan priests (pontifices) come to him and incite him to arrest Hermes and pope Alexander. There follows an uprising among the Roman people (populus Romanus), who want either Alexander or Hermes burnt alive.

§§ 3-4: Hermes is brought in chains to the tribune Quirinus who interrogates him, wondering how he can endure his downfall and believe in life after death. Hermes emphasises the contrast between the passing life on earth and the eternal life in heaven. Quirinus is ready to be convinced by Hermes, but when Eventius tells him that Alexander has taught him, Quirinus thinks that Hermes has been deceived; he tries to convince him to offer sacrifice and thus be restored to his post as prefect, noting that if Alexander can free himself and Hermes too, let him do it. Hermes makes a parallel with Christ on the cross, to whom it was said by the Jews that he should set himself free. He notes that Christ would have done it if the Jews had been ready to believe. They then agree that Quirinus will tell Alexander that he will believe if, after chaining him more securely and bringing more guards to keep watch over him, he will find him reunited with Hermes in Quirinus’ house at dinner time.

§ 5: After Quirinus goes and tells Alexander, the bishop prays to Jesus Christ, asking Him to send an angel who will bring him to Hermes in the evening and back to his cell by the morning. At night a boy with a torch appears and tells Alexander to follow him, however Alexander asks him first to kneel and say the Lord’s prayer. The boy, who seems not to be more than five years old, kneels and prays for half an hour, then gets up and says the Lord’s prayer. Then he brings Alexander to a closed window, opens it, and leads Alexander to Hermes, in a closed room in the house of Quirinus.

§ 6: Quirinus enters the room, finds them praying and is afraid. They tell him that now he should believe, but to avoid him thinking that they escaped, he will find them again in chains the following morning. This has been done to free him and bring him to believe that Christ the son of God is the true God. Quirinus wonders whether it is magic, but Hermes speaks to him about the miracles performed by Jesus Christ.

§ 7: Hermes narrates to Quirinus how he came to believe. His only son was severely ill, and he brought him to the Capitol; sacrifices were offered and gifts given to the pagan priests, but he died. His wet-nurse (nutrix) told him that if he had brought him to the threshold of saint Peter (ad sancti Petri limina) and had believed in Christ, he would have been healed. As she had been blind for five years, he agreed that if she could be cured by believing in Christ he would also believe. She left at the third hour and came back healed at the sixth, took his son, brought him to Alexander and asked for him to be resurrected in exchange of her being blinded again. Alexander told her that Christ would resurrect the boy but not take away the healing performed on her. After a prayer, the boy was brought back to life and Alexander took him back to Hermes, who fell at his feet, asked to be made a Christian, and believed. Alexander was made the tutor (tutor) of Hermes’ son and received the inheritance of the son’s dead mother and part of Hermes’ own patrimony; the rest was given, together with their freedom, to Hermes’ slaves, who were made Christian with him. He was now ready for martyrdom.

§ 8: Hearing this, Quirinus falls at their feet and tells them that he wants to arrange marriage for his daughter who is beautiful but has a scrofulous tumour (struma) around her neck. If she is healed he agrees to believe in Christ. Alexander tells him to fetch her and bring her to the prison, where Quirinus will set him free from his chains and take the collar bound around his neck (boia) and put it on her neck: she will be healed. Quirinus wonders how Alexander will be found in prison while he is now in his house, but Alexander tells him to hurry as he will soon be brought back to prison. Although Quirinus, exiting the room, wants to leave the door open for them, Alexander and Hermes compel him to shut it. Then, as they pray, the boy comes, opens the window for Alexander, and he is soon back in prison, chained.

§ 9: Quirinus comes to the prison, well guarded with doors intact, but finds Alexander in it. He falls at his feet asking for his prayers to avoid God’s wrath, but Alexander tells him that God only wants sinners to be converted. As Quirinus has brought his daughter to be healed, Alexander asks him to go and fetch Christian prisoners, the old priest Eventius, and Theodolus, who is said to have come from the East. Quirinus frees Alexander and asks him to put the collar on his daughter’s neck, then leaves. The boy with the torch appears, tells her that she will be healed and remain a virgin; he will show her her husband. Then he disappears.

§ 10: Quirinus arrives with Eventius and Theodolus and finds his daughter healed. He wants Alexander to be freed from prison immediately, but the bishop tells him that he wants all prisoners to be baptised. Although Quirinus underlines that they are criminals, Alexander replies that the son of God Jesus Christ came down from heaven and was born from a virgin to call all sinners to forgiveness. Quirinus calls any volunteer to become a Christian; those who will be baptised will be freed from prison.

§§ 11-12: All come to Alexander, who instructs them about God’s creation, his Son’s birth to a virgin, his preaching activity and miracles performed, and how He was crucified, died, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven and will come back at the end of time to judge the good and the evil. He exhorts them to believe and give their names to be made Christians. All believe [Tiddia’s edition has: ‘all give their names’], Eventius and Theodolus lay their hands on them and make them catechumens (catechumeni). Then Quirinus, his daughter Balbina, and the whole household are baptised, together with all the prisoners. The prison is open and becomes almost a church (ecclesia).

§ 13: When Aurelianus hears what has happened, he summons Quirinus and reproaches him for having been deceived by Alexander. Quirinus replies that he will remain a Christian no matter what sort of suffering he will endure. He underlines that both the prisoners and Alexander and Hermes all want to remain in prison as they are ready to die for Christ. He notes that he has requested all newly baptised prisoners to leave and put on white garments, as is required by the Christian religion (religio Christiana), but in fact they are all ready to be martyred.

§ 14: Aurelianus orders Quirinus’ tongue to be cut off, for him to be tortured on a rack, his hands and feet to be cut off, and finally for him to be beheaded and his body thrown to the dogs. Christians bury it on the via Appia in the cemetery of Praetextatus. His daughter Balbina keeps her virginity and kisses the collar that has healed her. Alexander, however, tells her to leave the collar and look for the blessed Peter’s chains (vincula) and kiss them instead. After finding them, she gives them to a most noble woman (illustrissima femina) named Theodora, Hermes’ sister. After Hermes is beheaded by Aurelianus, Theodora collects his body and buries in on the via Salaria vetus, not far from Rome, on the 5th day of the Calends of September [= 28 August; Mombritius has: ‘on the 5th day of September’]. Aurelianus orders all those baptised in prison to be taken out to sea on an old boat, and thrown into the water with stones bound around their necks.

§ 15: Then Aurelianus orders Alexander to be brought to him and questions him about the Christian mysteries (mysteria), but Alexander refuses to reveal them, recalling that Christ said that what is holy should not be given to dogs. He adds that Aurelianus is worse than a dog, that dies once, while men, made in the likeness of God, suffer eternal torments after death if they keep away from God’s worship, just as those who defile Aurelianus’ statues, made in his likeness, are punished. He however contrasts the suffering inflicted by Aurelianus with the eternal suffering inflicted by God. As Aurelianus still wants his questions answered, Alexander tells him that he cannot be instructed without believing.

§§ 16-18: As Aurelianus fails to convince Alexander to tell him why Christians are ready to die for their faith, he orders him to be tortured on a rack with claws (ungulae) and torches, but Alexander remains silent, puzzling Aurelianus, who again wonders why Alexander, who is thirty years old, is ready to die. Then Aurelianus’ wife asks him to free Alexander, to avoid him dying and her becoming a widow. As Alexander is removed from the rack, Aurelianus orders Eventius and Theodolus to be brought to him for questioning. He learns that Eventius, who is now eighty-one years old, was baptised at eleven and ordained a priest at twenty and has spent the last year in prison. Aurelianus tries to convince him to abandon Christianity, but Eventius rebukes him, asking him to repent and believe in Christ. Theodolus is also interrogated and shows similar resolve.

§ 19: Aurelianus orders a furnace to be h


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Alexander, Eventius and Theodolus, bishop, priest and deacon, martyrs of Rome : S00127 Hermes, martyr in Rome, ob. ? : S00404 Quirinus, tribune and martyr of Rome : S01225 Peter the Apostle : S00036

Saint Name in Source

Alexander, Eventius, Theodolus Hermes Quirinus Petrus

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

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

via Numentana

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

via Numentana Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

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 - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Meetings and gatherings of the clergy

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle at martyrdom and death Miracles experienced by the saint Miracles causing conversion Healing diseases and disabilities Power over life and death Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Invisibility, bilocation, miraculous travels Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Pagans Aristocrats Monarchs and their family Officials Slaves/ servants Angels

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Construction of cult building to contain relics Other activities with relics Touching and kissing relics


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Alexander, Eventius, Theodulus, Hermes and Quirinus 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 Alexander, Eventius and Theodulus There are a number of versions of the Martyrdom (BHL 266-269e), although the most widespread and probably oldest is BHL 266, our focus here (there are minor variant versions of BHL 266, recorded as BHL 266a-f). BHL 266 is attested in 121 manuscripts according to the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta (, the oldest being from the 9th c.: Brussels, Bibliothèque des Bollandistes, 14, f. 3r-5v (9th-10th c.), Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Reg. lat. 516 (9th c.), f. 83r-87v; Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 846 (9th-10th c.), f. 86r-89r. For a description of manuscripts of BHL 266 and their relationship see Tiddia 2014, 85-165. Nevertheless, an alternative version, which was then rewritten and mingled with BHL 266 (see variant versions BHL 267-269), is BHL 269c, which circulated from the 8th c. at least (Munich, BSB, Clm 4554, f. 54r-56r), and which places the narrative under the emperor Aurelianus, omits the martyrdoms of Hermes, Quirinus and Eventius, describes Theodulus as a layman (laicus) rather than a priest, and situates Alexander’s feast on 17 March instead of 3 May as in BHL 266 (this alternative date is also attested in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, see E04719).


The Martyrdom situates Alexander and his companions’ burial at the seventh milestone on the via Numentana and their feast on 3 May, thus corroborating a number of late antique sources about their cult (see S00127). The Martyrdom also provides information about burial sites for Quirinus and Hermes, respectively on the via Appia in the cemetery of Praetextatus and on the via Salaria vetus (corroborating other sources for the latter, see S00404). Particularly worthy of note are the mention of the veneration, by kissing them, of Peter’s chains (vincula) in Rome, and the reference to the appointment of a bishop to supervise the cult of the martyrs at the seventh milestone on the via Numentana. Dufourcq noted that the reference to Peter’s chains seems to indicate a particular devotion for them, perhaps mirroring the naming of the titulus Apostolorum after them in sources from the 6th century. The identification of the martyr Alexander of the via Numentana with pope Alexander I is attested both by the Martyrdom and the biography of Alexander in the Liber Pontificalis (E00169), although it remains uncertain whether there is any contact between the two texts (which bear some differences like Alexander's manner of death and Theodotus' rank in clergy) and which is the earliest. The time of composition of the Martyrdom (BHL 266) remains uncertain, but predates the 8th century: circulating in manuscripts since the 9th century, it was already used by Bede in his 8th c. Martyrology (E05546). There is no agreement yet on a narrower dating, scholars situating it, with diverse hypotheses, between the 5th and the 7th centuries (Latin repertories suggest the 5th or 6th centuries, following the hypotheses respectively of Llewellyn and Dufourcq: Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 51; Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2160). Debates about its dating particularly focus on its relationship to the Liber Pontificalis, the development of cult of pope Alexander on the via Numentana, and more broadly the early history of the diocese of Numentum where the three saints are buried (for an overview of dating hypotheses and information about cult, with further bibliography, see Lanéry 2010, 301-302; Tiddia 2014, 13-83; Lapidge 2018, 557-562). Lapidge, not mentioning the identification of Alexander as a martyr of the via Numentana in the Liber Pontificalis, puts emphasis on the fact that the same identification is found in the Malmesbury Itinerary from the mid 7th century, and suggests that the itinerary borrowed from the Martyrdom, which was thus perhaps composed between 600 and 650. However, the Liber Pontificalis, written a century earlier, shows that the identification was more widespread than assumed by Lapidge.


Editions (BHL 266): Acta Sanctorum, Mai., I, 371-375. Mombritius, B., Sanctuarium seu vitae sanctorum, 2 vols. with additions and corrections by A. Brunet and H. Quentin (Paris, 1910), I, 44-49. The original edition was published c. 1480. Tiddia, F., Passio sancti Alexandri, Eventii et Theoduli: studio storico-agiografico (Rome, 2014), 167-200 (this recent edition does not take into account the existence of variant versions and does not state which version of the text is edited, although the text printed mostly corresponds to that of Mombritius and the Acta Sanctorum). Translation: Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 562-572. Further reading: Amore, A., I martiri di Roma (Rome, 1975), 83-86. Belvederi, G., “La basilica e il cimitero di s. Alessandro al VII miglio sulla Via Nomentana”, Rivista di archeologia cristiana 14 (1937), 7-40 and 199-224; 15 (1938), 19-34 and 225-246. Dufourcq, A., Étude sur les Gesta martyrum romains, vol. 1 (Paris, 1900), 285-286. Lanéry, C., "Hagiographie d'Italie (300-550). I. Les Passions latines composées en Italie”, in: Philippart, G. (ed.), Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, vol. V (Turnhout, 2010), 15-369, at 301-302. Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 557-562. Llewellyn, P., “The Passion of Alexander and His Companions, St. Hermes and St. Quirinus: A Suggested Date and Author,” Vetera Christianorum 13 (1976), 289-296. Tiddia, F., Passio sancti Alexandri, Eventii et Theoduli: studio storico-agiografico (Rome, 2014).

Continued Description

eated, Alexander and Eventius to be bound back to back and thrown into it, and Theodolus to be forced to witness it, in order to bring him to sacrifice. Then Alexander exhorts Theodolus to join them, since the fourth man, who appeared to the Three Hebrews in the furnace [Daniel 3:8-30], is now with them. Theodolus enters the furnace and they all thank God, saying Psalm 16:3. Then Aurelianus orders Eventius and Theodolus to be beheaded and Alexander’s body to be thoroughly pierced. § 20: As Aurelianus thinks them dead, a voice from heaven tells him that they will enter paradise and him hell. Aurelianus is frightened and unwell. He tells his wife Severina that a young man has thrown a burning iron rod at his feet, in response to his deeds. He begs his wife to pray to her God for him. Severina, to avoid God’s wrath, decides to go and bury the bodies. She places Eventius and Alexander in one tomb (monumentum) on her estate at the seventh milestone from Rome on the via Numentana, and buries Theodolus in another place. All the Roman clergy (clerici romani) and religious men (religiosi viri) who have come to the burial ceremony (exequiae) remain there. Severina goes back and finds Aurelianus unwell with fever. She tells him that he failed to listen to her and now will leave her a widow. He soon dies choking on his tongue. Severina puts on a hair-shirt (cilicium) and lies long at the saints’ threshold (ante limina sanctorum) until the holy bishop Sixtus arrives from the East. Severina obtains from him that a bishop be ordained on that estate to celebrate the holy martyrs every day. Thus that place has its own bishop (sacerdos) up to this day. The feast of the saints is celebrated on the 5th day of the Nones of May [= 3 May]. [This is omitted in Tiddia’s edition].Text: Acta Sanctorum, Mai. I, 371-375. Summary: M. Pignot (paragraph numbers are taken from the Acta Sanctorum; the editions of Mombritus and Tiddia have been consulted, but only bear minor differences not systematically given here).

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