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E02486: The Martyrdom of *Calocerus, Parthenius, *Victoria, Anatolia and Audax (martyrs of Rome and of Picenum, S00679 and S01406) is written in Latin, presumably in Picenum, at an uncertain date, most probably before the late 7th c. Probably written originally as a single text and later fragmented in manuscripts, it narrates the trial, death and burial of Calocerus and Parthenius in Rome next to the tomb of *Sixtus (bishop and martyr of Rome, S00201), the vow of Victoria and Anatolia, in Rome, to keep virginity, their forced and separate travel to different cities of Picenum where both perform miracles and conversions, including that of Audax who is then martyred, and their death and burial in the same region.

online resource
posted on 2017-03-08, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Calocerus, Parthenius, Victoria, Anatolia and Audax (BHL 1534 + 8591d + 418)


BHL 1534:

§ 1: Philip is the first Christian emperor, and makes his son, also called Philip, co-emperor. He founds Philippopolis in Thrace [the manuscript has phyloppolis]. The two emperors celebrate the millennium of the city of Rome. At this time, Aemilianus, vir illustris, is summoned from the East to Rome, and becomes consul. He dies before taking up office, leaving a daughter called Anatolia Callista. The elder Philip is killed at Verona by Decius; the younger at Rome; both manifestly Christians. The wicked Decius becomes emperor and now turns his attentions to the Christians. At Rome he has the bishop, Sixtus, and his archdeacon Laurence killed; at Jerusalem, bishop Alexander; in Antioch, the priest Babylas. By killing the heads of the churches he hopes to kill the whole Church.

§ 2: Calocerus and Parthenius [eunuchs given by the dying Aemilianus to his daughter] are arraigned before Decius. He accuses them of having misappropriated the patrimony of Aemilianus after their conversion to Christianity and of having taken all of Aemilianus’ daughter's wealth and given it to the poor. Calocerus protests that Aemilianus was a Christian who had left his property to the poor. Decius orders that they offer sacrifice, but Calocerus objects that he has no fear of Decius’ censures; rather he fears God, who punishes those who betray him for eternity. Decius asks if they, well brought up young men, seek an ignominious punishment. Calocerus rejoins that it is Decius who is rushing headlong towards an ignoble end on account of his impiety. Decius exhorts them to offer sacrifice and becomes his friends, otherwise they will be tortured. Calocerus replies that those who become Decius’ friends become enemies of God. He thus avoids Decius’ friendship. Decius now asks Parthenius for his opinion, and Parthenius confirms what Calocerus has said: death is life, and they will earn eternal life and the crown of martyrdom.

§ 3: Decius orders his urban prefect, Libanius, to torture them at his offices if they still refuse to sacrifice, otherwise to admit them to friendship with the emperor. Libanius, summons them in Tellure, and tells Calocerus that he can either become his friend or be punished, but Calocerus protests that to accept is to incur God’s enmity. He refuses to give in, even when threatened with torture, saying that he will not obey Decius, but rather the Lord (dominus) Jesus Christ, against the worship of idols. Libanius has him tortured on a rack, with torches and claws. Calocerus tells Libanius that the tortures endured bring him greater favours from God and cannot defeat him. Libanus orders Calocerus to be taken away and Parthenius to be led in.

§ 4: Libanius asks him to explain Calocerus’ recalcitrance. Parthenius provides a summary of their faith, based on the Gospels, from Jesus Christ’s incarnation, preaching, crucifixion, resurrection to his ascension to heaven. Just as Christ overcame death, so Parthenius and Calocerus will not fear it either.

§ 5: Libanius responds by professing that his own god is the almighty Jupiter, while Parthenius worships a crucified man. Parthenius sneers at him, recalling the immoral deeds of Jupiter, even to members of his own family. If this is Decius’ god, it will lead him to suffer eternal fire. Hearing this the prefect’s assessor, ripping off his tunic, responds that this may make the gods angry, if Christians are not punished in the flames.

§ 6: Thus Libanius orders that Calocerus and Parthenius be burned to death. As they enter the fire they are left unharmed. The minister takes a burning cudgel and crushes their heads; praising God they give up their spirit. Immediately after their deaths, their bodies are taken away by Christians. Although Libanius orders that their bodies are to be left unburied and thrown in a forest, their bodies are nowhere to be found. Meanwhile Anatolia gathers the bodies and buries them, adorning their tombs with porphyry columns, in a crypt where the body of pope Sixtus, killed by Decius, was buried. In that place favours abound up to this day. They had come to Rome from the province of Armenia, sons of the same mother and father, Calocerus the elder one, Parthenius the younger. They were martyred on the 14th day before the Calends of June [= 19 May], in the year when Decius Augustus and Gratus were consuls [250 AD].

Text: Lanéry 2014, 83-85 (paragraph numbers taken from Acta Sanctorum, Mai., IV, 301-303). Summary: M. Humphries, The Roman Martyrs Project, Manchester University; adapted and revised by M. Pignot.

BHL (8591 and) 8591d + 418:

After the martyrdom of Calocerus and Parthenius, the vir illustris Titus Aurelius asks to marry Anatolia, but she delays answering his proposal, gives away all her wealth and states that she is sick and cannot marry him. However, he hears that her refusal is because she is Christian and asks his friend Eugenius, the spouse of the virgin Victoria, to send her to persuade Anatolia to accept his proposal.

Victoria tries to persuade Anatolia, telling her that God does not condemn marriage and that it could be a means to convert her future husband. Anatolia however promotes virginity with references to biblical passages; the two debate the relative merits of virginity and marriage, Anatolia underlining that virginity is a much higher good. She tells of a dream she had after giving away her wealth: a shining young man wearing precious garments and jewels praised virginity as a way to earn eternal life; then she woke up in tears. She started praying prostrated on the ground, asking to hear him again. She then had a vision of the young man further praising virginity, which fully convinced her to embrace it.

Victoria asks to be granted a similar vision through Anatolia’s prayers, and it happens: a shining and bright angel appears and they are frightened. The angel reassures them and exhorts them to keep to virginity. Victoria, however, replies that she is Christian since childhood and always heard that God does not condemn marriage. The angel explains at length, with a number of metaphors, that virginity is the highest good compared to chastity and marriage. Then he disappears. Victoria decides to follow Anatolia’s example and to become a virgin of Christ and give alms to the poor.

Eugenius learns of this and holds Titus Aurelius responsible. Instead of accusing them publicly, which would mean that the virgins’ possessions would be lost to the state, Titus Aurelius suggests that each of them should go to their estates, thus separating the virgins, and force them to marry. Victoria is brought in suburbio Tribulani territorii and Anatolia in territorio Turensi, to unwelcoming places where they receive only a little bread in the evening (this being done to tame their will).

In the civitas Tribulana, there is a serpent (draco) killing many and leading the people to abandon the city. The governor Domitianus comes to Victoria’s dwelling place and explains to her that he is escaping from the serpent. She tells him that if they convert the serpent will leave. The governor agrees to bring all the citizens to Christianity if the serpent is chased away. Victoria promises to expel it in three days; the people assemble, Victoria fasts from Friday to Sunday morning, then prays. An angel appears and is at her side (although invisible to others). She goes to the city and meets Domitianus with all the citizens. They reach the serpent’s cave and she chases it away in the name of Jesus Christ. The people venerate her as a goddess, but she refuses this and asks for an oratory to be built in the cave and virgin girls to be associated to her. More than sixty virgins from the age of nine are offered, and she instructs them to chant hymns and psalms.

Her spouse Eugenius is still reluctant to denounce her, to avoid her possessions being seized by the state. After three years, Iovianus, priest of the Capitol, sends to her the count of the temples (comes templorum) Taliarcus, who tries to compel Victoria to adore and offer sacrifice to the goddess Diana. As Victoria speaks against him and the emperor, he kills her with a sword and flees, fearing the people of the city. The city mourns her for seven days, then priests (sacerdotes) come and bury her in a new sarcophagus. There, her prayers abound up to this day. The other virgins kept their vow, while Taliarcus first lost his hand then died after six days, and was taken by worms. Victoria died on the 15th day before the Calends of January [= 18 December] and was buried on the 10th day [= 23 December].

Anatolia, keeps fasts and prays with such joy as if she were celebrating Easter. The son of Diodorus, governor of Picenum, named Annianus, is taken by a demon and calls for Anatolia. Diodorus, a staunch pagan, sends him through various temples and groves and he arrives at a sacred grove near Anatolia’s dwelling. He loses his chains and falls at the feet of Anatolia, who blows on him and expels the demon. The man tells his father, who comes to Anatolia with his wife and children, offering her vast amounts of riches. Anatolia tells him to give them away to the Christian poor and to believe in Christ.

Her reputation reaches the whole province of Picenum and the sick and the possessed come to her, are cured and converted. Pagan priests tell Decius about her; he sends Festianus to compel her to sacrifice. He takes her to the civitas Turensis and tortures her on a rack and with burning torches, but she still refuses to offer sacrifice. She is shut up in a chamber and a Marsus named Audax sends a serpent that she tames during the night with hymns, psalms and prayers. In the morning, the Marsus opens the door and the serpent attacks him. However, Anatolia chases it in the name of Jesu


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Calocerus and Parthenius, martyrs in Rome, ob. ??? : S00679 Victoria, Anatolia and Audax, martyrs of Picenum in central Italy : S01406 Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of Rome : S00037 Xystus/Sixtus II, bishop and martyr of Rome : S00201 Al

Saint Name in Source

Calocerus, Parthenius Victoria, Anatolia, Audax Laurentius Sixtus Alexander Babylas

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 Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

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

Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

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

Distribution of alms

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracles experienced by the saint Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miraculous sound, smell, light Exorcism Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures Miracles causing conversion Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Officials Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Eunuchs Relatives of the saint Family Demons Animals Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Children Pagans Aristocrats Crowds

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Calocerus, Parthenius, Victoria, Anatolia and Audax 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 Calocerus, Parthenius, Victoria, Anatolia and Audax Lanéry, bringing forward the study of Paschini who had already underlined the connection between the martyrdoms of Victoria and Anatolia, argues that the earliest versions of the martyrdoms of Calocerus and Parthenius and of Victoria, Anatolia and Audax (respectively BHL 1534, BHL 8591a and BHL 418), all originally belonged to a single narrative, before it was fragmented in manuscripts. See the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta ( for a list of manuscripts for the various versions (BHL 1534, BHL 8591-8592d, BHL 417-418c) as well as the lists in Mara 1964, 159-161. The earliest are from the 9th to 10th century: Brussels, Bibliothèque des Bollandistes, 14, f. 140bisv-141v (BHL 8591); Rome, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Farf. 29 (alias 341), f. 236r-237v (BHL 418); Turin, Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria, F. III. 16, f. 51r-53r (BHL 1534) and f. 54r-58r (BHL 8591d + 418). According to Lanéry, the Turin manuscript, containing the full cycle (partially fragmented), is a witness to the original unity of the narrative that was progressively torn apart. This manuscript has been taken as the basis of her edition, which we follow here.


The martyrdom of Calocerus and Parthenius takes place in Rome, while the narrative of Victoria and Anatolia’s martyrdom starts in Rome but ends respectively in the civitas Tribulana (now Monteleone Sabino) and in the civitas Turensis (perhaps Castel di Tora or Colle di Tora), both said to be in the region of Picenum where their cult is attested from an early date, before becoming more widespread (see S01406). The Martyrdom (here understood as the whole hagiographical cycle) is of uncertain date of composition. Found in manuscripts since the 9th-10th century, it was composed before the late 7th century if one accepts Lanéry’ hypothesis that the martyrdoms of Calocerus, Parthenius, Victoria, Anatolia and Audax were all composed as a single text, since Aldhelm borrows from Victoria and Anatolia’s martyrdom (E06534, E06657). The martyrdom account of Calocerus and Parthenius is generally dated to the 5th or 6th century (Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2174; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 56). However, Lanéry suggests that the full hagiographical cycle should rather be dated to the 6th or 7th century (a dating also put forward by Mara for the Martyrdoms of Victoria and Anatolia), perhaps in connection to the development of cult of Victoria and Anatolia outside the region of Picenum, notably in Ravenna in the second half of the 6th century. Lanéry also argues that the Martyrdom was perhaps composed in Rome rather than in Picenum, as would be shown by the knowledge of local topography; it also seems to bear contacts with other Roman martyrdoms, in particular those of *Nereus and Achilleus (E02033), *Eugenia (E02490), and *Gallicanus, Iohannes and Paulus (E02520). Lapidge, who does not adhere to Lanéry’s hypothesis about the original unity of the hagiographical cycle, only considered the martyrdom of Calocerus and Parthenius, which he tentatively suggested to date to the first half of the 7th century, on the basis of possible borrowings from the Martyrologium Hieronymianum and early itineraries (see evidence under S00679).


Editions: BHL 1534: Acta Sanctorum, Mai., IV, 302-304. BHL 8591d + 418: Mara, M. G., I martiri della Via Salaria (Rome, 1964), 172-201. BHL 1534 + 8591d + 418: Lanéry, C., “Cum sociis plurimis: la mémoire des martyrs à l’épreuve du cycle hagiographique,” in: Marin, O., Vincent-Cassy, C. (eds.), La Cour céleste. La commémoration collective des saints au Moyen Âge et à l’époque moderne (Turnhout, 2014), 83-91. Translation (BHL 1534): Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 576-581. Further reading: 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 303-305. Lanéry, C., “Cum sociis plurimis: la mémoire des martyrs à l’épreuve du cycle hagiographique,” in Marin, O., Vincent-Cassy, C. (eds.), La Cour céleste. La commémoration collective des saints au Moyen Âge et à l’époque moderne (Turnhout, 2014), 75-96. Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 573-576. Mara, M. G., I martiri della Via Salaria (Rome, 1964), 151-170. Paschini, P., La Passio delle martiri sabine Vittoria e Anatolia (Rome, 1919).

Continued Description

s Christ. Audax proclaims his faith in Christ and is summoned and interrogated by Festianus. He states his faith and Festianus sends a report (relatio) denouncing him as Christian. The reply to the report condemns him to capital punishment and it is carried out, but in the meantime Audax has been made a Christian thanks to Anatolia. She is killed by the sword, her body being transpierced from her right side to the left as she prays with her hands raised. The citizens steal her body and bury it where it is revealed to them. Anatolia was martyred on the 8th day before the Ides of July [= 8 July], and buried on the 7th day before the Ides of the same month [= 9 July]. The body of Audax, who was from the East, was taken by his wife and children and brought by boat, as is written in a libellus.Text: Lanéry 2014, 85-91. Summary: M. Pignot.

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