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E02487: The Martyrdom of *Chrysanthus and Daria (chaste couple and martyrs of Rome, S00306) is written in Latin, presumably in Rome, before the end of the 6th c. It narrates Chrysanthus' education and asceticism; the conversion of the virgin Daria, whom he chastely marries; the tortures endured, miracles performed, and conversions triggered by the couple; the martyrdoms of the new converts, among them seventy soldiers, the prefect Claudius, his two sons, Iason/Jason and Maurus, buried by their mother *Hilaria (all martyrs of Rome, S00526) in her garden on the via Salaria, where she herself is later buried and where a church is built; the martyrdoms of Chrysanthus and Daria in a pit on the via Salaria, where, later, a crowd of Christians, amongst whom the priests Diodorus and Maurinus/Marinianus, is buried alive as mass is celebrated for the martyrs' feast. Account said to be written by priests.

online resource
posted on 2017-03-08, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Martyrdom of Chrysanthus and Daria (BHL 1787)


Prologue (§ 1): The martyrs can teach us how to neglect the flatteries and endure the sufferings of this world in order to focus on reaching glory in heaven and avoiding eternal punishment. Indeed, the martyrs endured all sorts of tortures willingly, looking to eternal glory. Following their example, we should reject this world and its pleasures, and, without a shadow of a doubt, read aloud (recitare) the story of Chrysanthus and Daria.

§ 2: Polemius, vir illustrissimus of Alexandria, comes to Rome with his son Chrysanthus, is received by the Roman Senate and greatly honoured by the emperor Numerian, and is appointed to a chair (cathedra) in the Roman curia. Chrysanthus is educated by his father in liberal arts and philosophical studies. He is very bright and, as he reads through all sorts of books (universa librorum volumina) he comes across the Gospels. Pondering the words 'seek and you will find', he realises that he now has found gold, silver, and precious gems, and should not reach further, but focus on the Gospel.

§ 3: Chrysanthus looks for a teacher of the divine Scriptures (expositor divinarum scripturarum); after the teaching of grammarians and masters of oratory, he now seeks to be instructed by humble peasants and fishermen. He finds out about a certain Carpophorus, most learned and Christian, but hiding in a cave because of the persecutions. After long prayers, God grants him to meet Carpophorus, priest of the fifth region; he stays with him for a few months. After having been fully trained in divine letters, he is instructed (instructus) and baptised. Seven days later he already starts preaching about Jesus Christ the son of God.

§ 4: Aristocrats tell Polemius that his patrimony is at risk because of his son speaking against the gods and proclaiming Christ as God. Polemius imprisons Chrysanthus, providing him only with only very little food, but Chrysanthus, man of God (vir Dei), sees this as training rather than torture. Polemius is advised that with Christians mild methods might work better: he should marry Chrysanthus to a beautiful girl, so that by learning to be a husband (esse maritus), he will forget about being Christian (esse christianus).

§§ 5-6: Polemius dresses Chrysanthus in fine clothes, places him on a couch, selects five of the most beautiful virgins among his maid-servants, dresses them well, brings them to him and orders banquets to be prepared. He tells the girls that if they fail to bring him to abandon Christianity, they will be killed. Chrysanthus endures the girls’ many attempts to tempt him, praying to God, presenting libido as a wicked beast (bestia maligna), and recalling the example of Joseph, who resisted temptation.

§ 7: When Chrysantus ends his long prayer the virgins have fallen into deep sleep. As soon as they are brought outside they wake up, but when they go back where Chrysanthus is praying, they again fall asleep. When Polemius learns what happens, he is desperate. A friend tells him that Chrysanthus learnt magic from Christians and thus defeated those simple girls. He advises him to send a most learned and beautiful vestal virgin, Daria.

§§ 8-13: Daria meets Chrysanthus, but despite her charm and talented speech, she is unable to seduce him. In fact, Chrysanthus tries to convince her to remain a virgin, adore Christ as her husband, reach paradise and be in the company of the angels, archangels, apostles and martyrs. In turn, Daria argues in favour of the worship of the gods. In a dialogue, Chrysanthus refutes Daria’s arguments and rejects the cult of idols, pointing to the wicked behaviour of the gods Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, Hercules, Apollo, Juno, and Venus, as described in the writings of poets, orators and historians, not to mention what could be said about minor gods. Daria responds noting that the gods are allegories of the elements, but Chrysanthus demonstrates to her that elements have no agency of their own but follow God’s command.

§ 14: Chrysanthus’ demonstration brings Daria to believe; they marry but choose to remain chaste. Daria is baptised in Chrysanthus’ house, becomes a virgin of Christ, learns all the divine Scriptures in a few days, and takes the veil. She is united to Chrysanthus not through the heat of the body but of the Holy Spirit. Both bring many people to adhere to Christianity.

§ 15: Many women become Christian virgins, and men adopt asceticism; this leads to a revolt in the city; young men and women, left without wives, husbands, and sons, complain to the prefect of the city, Celerinus, about Daria and Chrysanthus. The prefect orders both of them to be arrested and killed with tortures if they refuse to sacrifice. Chrysanthus is handed to the tribune Claudius, who orders him to be brought by seventy soldiers outside the city at a temple of Hercules and to be convinced to sacrifice, resorting to torture if necessary.

§ 16: Soldiers tie him very tight but the bonds are immediately dissolved, while the stake to which he is then bound dissolves into ashes. He is covered with human urine, which instantly becomes fragrant. They strip a calf of its skin and put him naked inside the skin in the burning sun for a whole day, but this does no harm to him. They bind his neck with iron chains and shut him up in a dark place. The bonds are dissolved and a bright light shines.

§ 17: When Claudius hears of all this, he comes, sees the great light and questions Chrysanthus, who tells him that he receives divine help. He explains to Claudius that if he had real wisdom and understanding he would reject the cult of idols. Claudius orders him to be cudgelled. However the cudgels become soft as feathers and tender as papyrus.

§§ 18-19: Claudius orders Chrysanthus to be dressed and to speak to the soldiers. He tells them that, because of the miracles performed, they should repent for what they have done and worship the God who prevails in every struggle. Claudius, with all the soldiers, kneels and asks to learn about the true God. Chrysanthus brings Claudius, his wife Hilaria, their sons Iason/Jason and Maurus, all his friends and relatives and the seventy soldiers to believe. All are baptised the same day and then, instructed by Chrysantus, they are ready to endure anything for God.

§ 20: The emperor Numerian learns of their conversion and orders Claudius to be thrown into the sea bound to a huge stone, and the soldiers to be questioned and either released if they abandoned Christianity or beheaded if they persevered. Jason and Maurus, Claudius’ sons proclaim that they are Christian even before being questioned and are killed. All the others follow their example and are martyred. There is an old mound (antiquus tumulus) where they are beheaded, and at night Christians bury them all there, not far from the city, on the via Salaria. Hilaria takes the bodies of her sons Maurus and Jason, embalms them and buries them in two sarcophagi.

§ 21: As she frequently prays at the saints’ graves (circa sanctorum confessionem) she is arrested, but before being taken away she is able to end her prayers first. She receives the Eucharist and, as she prays to Jesus Christ to be soon in the company of her sons called to martyrdom, she dies. Two maid-servants bury her with great care and build a very small church [ecclesia; Mombritius has ‘basilica’) over her body. The place where she died was her garden (hortus), and she had built herself a little dwelling (mansiuncula) there, where the saints had died.

§§ 22-24: In the meantime, Chrysanthus is put in prison in the carcer Tullianus, which has a terrible smell due to the canals full of waste passing through there. There is barely any light there. Daria on the other hand is brought to a brothel. Christ helps both of them: Chrysanthus receives divine light and perfume, while Daria receives the protection of a lion, escaped from the amphitheatre, that stays at her feet. Unaware of this, a man comes to Daria. However, she tells the lion, in the name of the son of God, for whom she is ready to be martyred, not to hurt the man but block the entrance, so that the man is forced to stay there and hear her speech. Then she tells the man that the lion obeys the name of Christ. The man tells her that he will tell everybody outside that Christ is the true God if he is allowed to escape unharmed. Daria commands the lion to leave the entrance, the man goes outside and then around the city saying that Daria is a goddess. Many try to catch the lion but it catches them all and brings them to Daria’s feet, who agrees to free them in exchange for them believing in Christ.

§ 25: All of them believe and proclaim that Christ is the only God. The prefect Celerinus orders a huge fire to be prepared at the door of Daria’s dwelling. The lion is frightened by the fire but Daria reassures it and tells it to go outside, where it will be freed. The lion leaves in the middle of the crowd, without hurting anyone or being caught. All are baptised.

§ 26: Numerian hears of what has happened and orders Chrysanthus and Daria to be tortured if they refuse to sacrifice. Chrysanthus is tortured on a rack, but the wood of the rack crumbles and his bonds are broken. Torches used to burn his sides are extinguished. Anyone who tries to touch Daria is stunned and endures terrible pain. Celerinus tells the emperor what has happened. Numerian thinks that it is magic rather than divine miracles. He orders them to be brought to the via Salaria, put in a sand-pit (arenarium) and to be buried alive with earth and stones. As Chrysantus and Daria are put in the pit, they chants psalms and pray. They are spouses united in martyrdom, the pit becoming almost their shared bed. Their way of death provided them with a tomb.

§ 27: As God bestows many favours on those who come to their t


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Chrysanthus and Daria, martyrs in Rome, ob. c.283 and martyrs buried with them : S00306 Hilaria, martyr of Rome : S00526

Saint Name in Source

Chrysanthus, Daria Hilaria

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 name in other Language(s)

Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

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 after death Miracles experienced by the saint Miracles causing conversion Miracle with animals and plants Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Miraculous sound, smell, light Miraculous protection - of people and their property

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Pagans Relatives of the saint Monarchs and their family Aristocrats Soldiers Officials Slaves/ servants Crowds Animals

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Construction of cult building to contain relics


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Chrysanthus and Daria 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 Chrysanthus and Daria There is one early and most widespread version of the Martyrdom, BHL 1787 (BHL 1787a differing from it only in its closing lines and BHL 1788 being a shortened version, see Lanéry (2010), 141-142 n. 390). BHL 1787 is attested in more than 120 manuscripts from the 8th century onwards; see the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta ( and an additional list in Lanéry 2010, 141-142 n. 190, who notes that the manuscript Munich, BSB, Clm 4554 from the 8th century, although not containing the Martyrdom, copied a model that contained it, as is clear from the index of the manuscript. The Martyrdom is also transmitted in Greek (BHG 313-313e), although the Greek version is now thought to derive from the Latin, perhaps at an early stage of the transmission.


Evidence in the Martyrdom about the burial of Chrysanthus and Daria in a crypt on the via Salaria corresponds to other early sources about the cult of Chrysanthus and Daria (see S00306). The Martyrdom was presumably written in Rome, as suggested in particular by the knowledge shown of Chrysanthus and Daria’s cult site: Lanéry 2010, 144 n. 299 underlines that the author may even recall passages of the inscriptions found on site; on their cult see also Lapidge 2018, 251-252. The Martyrdom was written in Late Antiquity, probably before the end of the 6th century, at an uncertain date (as recorded in Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2176a; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 57-58). Indeed, while it is attested in manuscript evidence by the 8th century, it seems already to have been borrowed in the late 6th century by Gregory of Tours (E00537), then by Aldhelm in the 7th century (E06568), and clearly by the 9th century martyrology of Lyons (H. Quentin, Les martyrologes historiques du Moyen Âge. Etude sur la formation du martyrologe romain (Paris, 1908), 153). Gregory describes Chrysanthus and Daria’s martyrdom and their shrine in terms very close to our Martyrdom and he underlines that he bases his description on a written martyrdom account. Lanéry has suggested a narrower dating hypothesis: she underlines that the language, expressions and vocabulary are close to other Roman late antique martyrdom accounts that she situates in the 5th century (Sebastianus, E02512; Caecilia, S02519; Eugenia, E02490), and that the polemical tone against paganism would better fit the second half of the 5th century than the 6th century.


Editions (BHL 1787): Mombritius, B., Sanctuarium seu vitae sanctorum, 2 vols. with additions and corrections by A. Brunet and H. Quentin (Paris, 1910), I, 271-278. The original edition was published c. 1480. Acta Sanctorum, Oct., XI, 469-484 Translation: Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 253-269 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 138-148 (with further bibliography). Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 250-253.

Continued Description

omb (sepultura), huge crowds gather on the day of their feast (dies natalis). Numerian hears this and orders the entrance of the crypt to be walled up. The celebrants are martyred, Numerian ordering sand to be thrown over them, as they are celebrating mass there. Among them are the priest Diodorus and the deacon Maurinus [Mombritius: ‘Marinianus’] and several other clerics, and a great number of people of unknown name and number.§ 28: We the brothers Varinus and Armenius, ordained priests by bishop Stephanus [Mombritius: brothers Virinus and Armenius, ordained priests by bishop Felix], have written down what happened and have sent it to all churches in the East and in the West to make the martyrdom of Chrysanthus and Daria and many others known to the whole world.Text:: Acta Sanctorum, Oct., XI, 469-484. Summary: M. Pignot

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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