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E02482: The Martyrdom of *Anastasia and Companions is written in Latin, presumably in Rome, in the 5th or 6th c. It narrates the trial and martyrdom of *Chrysogonus (martyr of Aquileia, 00911) in Aquae Gradatae near Aquileia, of the sisters *Agape, Chionia and Irene in Macedonia (martyrs of Thessalonike, S00206), of *Theodota and her three sons (martyrs of Nicaea, S00257) in Nicaea, and of Anastasia (martyr of Rome, S00769) in the insulae Palmariae.

online resource
posted on 2017-03-08, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Anastasia and Companions (BHL 1795, 118, 8093, 401)


BHL 1795:

§ 1: Prologue promoting the writing and reading of martyrdom accounts.

§ 2: Anastasia is the daughter of the vir illustris Praetextatus; she was to be taught by the Christian, Chrysogonus. Although a rich aristocrat, she leads a humble life, taking care of prisoners. When her husband Publius learns this, he confines her to their home.

§§ 3-4: Chrysogonus is imprisoned by Diocletian for two years in the house of the vicarius, Rufus, who becomes a Christian together with his whole household. An old woman serves as intermediary between the confined Anastasia and Chrysogonus, bringing him a letter of Anastasia. In her letter, Anastasia says that she has been a Christian since childhood; she is married to the pagan Publius but keeps her virginity, feigning illness. She is in despair since Publius holds her captive and has seized her wealth. She asks Chrysogonus to pray for her husband to convert to Christianity or die.

§§ 5-7: After praying with many confessors, Chrysogonus writes back comforting her. Publius, before leaving for Persia on a legation, increases the number of guards watching over Anastasia, and orders her to be left to die without food, hoping to seize her wealth on his return. Anastasia writes in despair to Chrysogonus stating that she will soon die. Chrysogonus writes back exhorting her to endure suffering willingly. After three months, Publius’ body is brought back and all the guards flee. Anastasia goes to Chrysogonus, sells all her goods and takes care of prisoners.

§ 8: As Diocletian stays in Aquileia, he orders all Christians held in custody to be killed except Chrysogonus who is summoned before him. As Chrysogonus refuses to sacrifice, even when offered a prefecture and the consulship, he is beheaded at Aquae Gradatae and his body thrown on the seashore near an estate called ad Saltus, where the three Christians sisters Agape, Irene and Chionia live together with the old priest Zoilus.

§ 9: The priest collects the body, places it in a wooden coffin and buries it in a crypt in his house. After receiving a vision, he also finds the head and joins it to the body. Before dying, on the thirtieth day after collecting the body, Zoilus has a vision of Chrysogonus telling him that the sisters will be arrested in nine days and that Anastasia will visit them before that. Upon relating his vision, Anastasia comes to the house and is shown Chrysogonus’ body. After a night, she returns to Aquileia and Zoilus dies. Chrysogonus was beheaded on the 8th day before the Calends of December [= 24 November] and buried on the 5th day before the same Calends [= 27 November]. This leads us to narrate the martyrdom of Anastasia and her companions.

BHL 118:

§§ 10-11: Agape, Chionia and Irene are summoned by the emperor Diocletian and interrogated successively. As they reject the emperor’s offer to marry them to illustrious men and his request that they worship idols, they are sent to prison, where Anastasia visits them. With her wealth, Anastasia takes care of all Christians who are in great need because of persecutions.

§§ 12-14: Imprisoned Christians follow Diocletian to Macedonia. The emperor orders the governor (praeses) Dulcitius to torture all Christians who refuse to sacrifice. The three sisters are summoned before Dulcitius who lusts for them. At night, he comes to the house where they are detained and spend their time chanting psalms. However, tricked by a demon, he embraces and kisses cooking utensils and comes out of the house black with dirt; everyone runs away. Still unaware of this, he goes to the palace, is mocked by everyone and mourned by his family. As he recovers his mind, Dulcitius summons the three sisters and orders them to be stripped of their clothes, but any attempt fails. Dulcitius falls deeply asleep and is brought home.

§§ 15-16: The count (comes) Sisinnius is sent by the emperor to question the sisters. As Irene resists the request to sacrifice she is sent to prison. Chionia and Agape are then summoned to sacrifice as well but refuse. They are burnt alive by soldiers and die after a prayer, while their bodies remain untouched by the flames. Anastasia’s men collect the bodies and she organises their burial in a new sarcophagus.

§§ 17-18: Irene is interrogated then sent with soldiers to be sold as a prostitute. However, the soldiers are misled by two soldiers who appear to them and lead them on the top of a mountain where Irene then prays. When Sisinnius realises the soldiers have been tricked, he goes after Irene but fails to reach her. One of the soldiers strikes Irene with an arrow and she dies. Her body is taken by Anastasia’s men and buried together with her sisters. Agape and Chionia were martyred on the 4th day before the Nones of April [= 2 April] and Irene on the day of the Nones [= 5 April] during the eighth consulship of Maximian [= 304 AD].

BHL 8093:

§§ 19-20: Diocletian returns from Macedonia to Sirmium. Theodota, who fled Nicaea because of persecutions, and her three sons, are brought before him. The count (comes) Leucadius gains authority over her and wants to marry her; she replies that he should first seize her wealth and then come back. In the meantime, she takes care of prisoners together with Anastasia. Diocletian orders all imprisoned Christians to be killed on the same day. Anastasia goes to visit them, unaware, and finds no one. A man comes to her as she weeps and learns that she is Christian. He denounces her to the prefect of Illyricum.

§§ 21-25: The prefect Probus interrogates her. He learns that she is a Christian from Rome, the daughter of Praetextatus, and that she has sold all her property to take care of the Christian prisoners. She is ready for martyrdom. Being informed that she is the daughter of Praetextatus, Diocletian tells Probus to guard her. The prefect interrogates Anastasia about her wealth but she replies that everything has been sold. Diocletian leaves and Probus is in charge of her trial. Anastasia tells Probus that she has melted the idols of her father and mocks the worship of idols. She is summoned to sacrifice but refuses, in a dialogue that is then reported in writing to the emperor who wonders what to do.

§§ 26-28: A man called Ulpianus, high priest (summus pontifex) of the Capitol, obtains permission to seek marriage with Anastasia, or take her property and kill her if she refuses. He takes her home and shows her his riches and instruments of torture. He gives her three days to decide whether she wants to marry him or be tortured. Anastasia replies that she chooses tortures as a way to go to Christ, whom she loves. Ulpianus sends her to spend the three days with ten women related to her, who try to lure her, but she remains in prayer the whole time. Then, as Ulpianus tries to embrace her, he is struck blind. He is taken to Capitol to seek for help; there, demons tell Ulpianus that he will stay in hell with them forever. He returns home and dies. Anastasia goes to Theodota’s house and tells her what happened.

§§ 29-30: Leucadius returns from Bithynia, but as she refuses to marry him, he sends her back with her sons to the consular (consularis) of Bithynia and hands Anastasia over to a judge (iudex). Theodota is summoned to sacrifice but refuses. The consular Nicetius shows instruments of torture to her sons, but the eldest, Evodius, explains that they do not fear them. Evodius is beaten before his mother but she comforts him. A certain Hyrtacus is brought forth, and asked to put her with prostitutes. As he tries to seize her, his nose bleeds heavily and he states that a well-dressed young man standing next to her has punched him in the face. Nicetius orders them to be burnt. Theodota was martyred in Nicaea with her three sons on the 4th day before the Nones of August [= 2 August].

BHL 401:

§§ 31-33: Anastasia is handed over to the prefect Lucillius. He asks her to give away her wealth to him so that she may be a true follower of Christ. She tells him that she cannot give him wealth as he is rich. After a dialogue, Lucillius orders her to be imprisoned and tortured. Anastasia refuses the food that is given to her.

§§ 34-35: Theodota appears to Anastasia with plenty of food. They pray together and Theodota tells her that the Lord has permitted martyrs to visit and console Christians. At the cockcrow Theodota disappears. These visits continue for thirty days, then Lucillius enquires about her and sees that she is stronger and happier. He orders her to be imprisoned for another month and seals the door with his own ring. As she still strives, being fed by Theodota, Lucillius orders her to be put on a ship and drowned along with other criminals, among whom is a rich Christian named Eutychianus whose properties had been seized. Nearly 120 people are put on the ship, which is then holed, and left to sink in a tempest. However Theodota appears and helps them, preventing the ship from sinking. All the criminals convert. On the third day they arrive on the islands called Palmariae where bishops, priests and religious men had been exiled. They are received with hymns and psalms.

§ 36: Fishermen report what happened to the prefect. He sends men offering them gifts and asking them to sacrifice. More than 200 men and 70 women, not counting children, all refuse to sacrifice and are killed in various ways. Anastasia is burnt with her hands tied and dies. Apollonia, a Christian matron, takes the body, kisses it, embalms it, wraps it in linen clothes and buries it in the garden of her home. Then she builds a basilica on the site of burial. Anastasia was martyred on the 8th day before the Calends of January [= 25 December] and her body kept hidden. Her body was then translated to the basilica built in the house of Apollonia o


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Agapē, Chionē and Eirēnē, martyrs of Thessalonike : S00206 Chrysogonos, martyr of Aquileia, venerated in Rome, ob. c. 303-305 : S00911 Theodota, martyr of Nicaea : S00257 Anastasia, martyr in Sirmium (Illyricum, modern Serbia), c. 302-305 : S00602

Saint Name in Source

Agape, Chionia, Irene Chrysogonus Theodota, Evodius Anastasia

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


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

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - sarcophagus/coffin

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miracles experienced by the saint Miracle at martyrdom and death Miracles causing conversion Punishing miracle Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Changing abilities and properties of the body Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Aristocrats Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Slaves/ servants Family Prisoners Angels

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - head Bodily relic - entire body Touching and kissing relics Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Privately owned relics Construction of cult building to contain relics


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Anastasia and Companions 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 novel-like 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 new light on the rise of the cult of saints. The Martyrdom of Anastasia and Companions As discussed by Moretti and Lanéry, the Martyrdom summarised here was originally written as a coherent hagiographical cycle bringing together the martyrdoms of a number of saints, but was fragmented in the middle ages into numerous abbreviated versions and variant recensions (BHL 1795-1796, 118, 8093-8096, 401a-f). For the martyrdoms of the three sisters Agape, Chionia and Irene (BHL 118), and of Theodota (BHL 8093), the hagiographer took inspiration from Greek martyrdom accounts about these Eastern saints, respectively BHG 34 (on which see E00393) and BHG 1781. Later, BHL 118 was in turn translated into Greek as BHG 81. It is uncertain whether the prologue “Omnia quae a sanctis” found at the beginning of the Martyrdom was part of the original composition or added later in reaction to the pseudo-Gelasian Decretum (E03336 and E03338), to promote the reading of martyrdom accounts. The same prologue, at times modified, is found in other martyrdom accounts (E01915, E02507, E03221, E03248 etc.). For more details see De Gaiffier and Moretti 2006. There are more than 200 manuscripts of the Martyrdom, including either the full cycle or parts of it, in its various recensions, see the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta (, and additional lists in Moretti and Lanéry. There are more than ten manuscripts from the 9th century, while the oldest are from the 7th or 8th centuries: Bern, Burgerbibliothek, 50, f. 1r-v (fragment; 8th-9th c.); Munich, BSB, Clm. 4554, f. 117r-122r (end of 8th c.; BHL 1795 and BHL 8093); Roma, Biblioteca Vallicelliana, R. 32, f. 16-17 (7th or 8th c.; fragment of BHL 8093); Turin, Biblioteca Nazionale, D. V. 3, f. 166v-171v and f. 229v-232r (end of 8th century, respectively BHL 118 and BHL 401). The oldest manuscript of the complete martyrdom is Brussels, Bibliothèque des Bollandistes, 14, f. 127v-132r (9th or 10th c.).


The martyrs Anastasia of Sirmium and Chrysogonus of Aquileia become Roman martyrs in the Martyrdom, which identifies them with founders of the Roman tituli that bear these names (see more details about the various saints put together into this narrative in Lapidge 2018, and for a discussion of the milieu of composition, perhaps in a circle of aristocratic matrons, the diverging views of Moretti and Lanéry). The precise date of composition of the Martyrdom remains uncertain, but it is generally dated to the 5th or 6th century (see a discussion of hypotheses in Moretti 2006, 24-39). On the basis of borrowings from the Martyrdom in the Liber ad Gregoriam (which is uncertainly attributed to Arnobius the Younger but may date from the 5th or 6th century) and other Roman martyrdoms (notably Caecilia, E02519), Moretti suggests a composition in the mid 5th century, while Lanéry argues for an earlier dating, in the first half of the 5th century (followed by Lapidge, who suggests around 425). Later, the Martyrdom was notably borrowed by the Rule of the Master, Aldhelm, and Bede.


Edition (BHL 1795, 118, 8093, 401): Moretti, P. F., La Passio Anastasiae: introduzione, testo critico, traduzione (Rome, 2006), 102-187. English translation: Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 63-87. Further reading: De Gaiffier, B., “Un prologue hagiographique hostlie au Décret de Gélase,” Analecta Bollandiana 82 (1964), 343-344. De Gaiffier, B., “Un prologue ‘passe-partout’," Analecta Bollandiana 90 (1972), 118. De Gaiffier, B., “Nouveau témoin d’un prologue passe-partout,” Analecta Bollandiana 92 (1974), 352. Dolbeau, F., “Les prologues de légendiers latins,” in Hamesse, J., (ed.), Les prologues médiévaux (Turnhout, 2000), 345-393. 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 45-60. Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 54-63. Moretti, P. F., La Passio Anastasiae: introduzione, testo critico, traduzione (Rome, 2006), 1-99. Moretti, P. F., “L’edizione di un testo minore riccamente tràdito, la Passione Anastasiae. Problemi e vantaggi,” in: Cadioli, A., and Chiesa, P., (eds.), Prassi ecdotiche. Esperienze editoriali su testi manoscritti e testi a stampa. Milano, 7 giugno e 31 ottobre 2007 (Milan, 2008), 65-93 (esp. 90-91). Rizos, E., "Martyrs from the Northwestern Balkans in the Byzantine Greek Ecclesiastical Tradition: Patterns and Mechanisms of Cult Transfer," in: I. Bugarski, O. Heinrich-Tamaska, D. Syrbe, and V. Ivanisević (eds.), GrenzÜbergänge – „Spätrömisch“, „frühchristlich“, „frühbyzantinisch“ als Kategorien der historisch-archäologischen Forschung an der mittleren Donau (4.-8. Jh. n. Chr.) (Forschungen zu Spätantike und Frühmittelalter 4; Remshalden, 2017), 195-213.

Continued Description

n the 7th day before the Ides of September [= 7 September].Text: Moretti 2006, 102-187. Summary: M. Pignot.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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