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E02523: The Homily (memrā) on *Sergios and *Bakchos (soldiers and martyrs of Rusafa and Barbalissos, S00023, S00079) is written in Syriac during the late 5th/early 6th c. by Jacob of Serugh (c. 451-521). It celebrates the story of the martyrdom of Sergios, while putting emphasis on the martyr's steadfastness and love of God.

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posted on 2017-03-08, 00:00 authored by sminov
Jacob of Serugh, Homily on Sergios and Bakchos

Whereas the title of the Homily features the names of both Sergios and Bakchos, the text itself relates only to the former. In his exposition of Sergios' martyrdom, the author does not seem to follow the main narrative line of their life as found in the Acts of Sergios and Bakchos ($E02523), limiting himself to allusion to some of its main points. Lacking a clear structure, the homily elaborates such themes as Sergios' allegiance to two kings (i.e. Maximianus and God), the emptiness of pagan religion, the martyr's Christ-like endurance of suffering and humiliation, as well as his love for God. In the concluding section, the following reflection on the efficacy of saints' relics is offered:

     'God is present within the dust of the bones of the just / and his strength is inseparable from the soil of his servants and He is content [with them].
     He is a good companion and whosoever have joined Him and journeyed with Him, / He does not abandon them, nor, even in death, does He disown them.
     For in a miracle He shows the love he bears towards one who loves Him, / for He does not change towards those He cherishes, so as to forget them.
     On their dust abides His shekinah in a holy way / and his power radiates from their bones in a mighty way.
     He is a good friend, who, once those He loves have died in his hope, / even after death shows that his love is great towards them.
     On the skeletons of his friends He gazes and is attentive to them / and causes to shine out from them his great power, in order to increase their fame.
     In the bodies of his friends, on dust, He shows his power, / so as to teach the world that not even in death does He abandon his friends.'

Text: Bedjan 1890-97. Translation: Palmer 2015, 365.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Sergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 303-311 : S00023 Bakchos, martyr in Barbalissos (Syria), ob. c. 303-311 : S00079

Saint Name in Source

ܣܪܓܝܤ ܒܟܘܤ

Type of Evidence

Liturgical texts - Hymns Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Syriac

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region


Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Serugh Edessa Edessa Ἔδεσσα Edessa

Major author/Major anonymous work

Jacob of Serugh

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Chant and religious singing

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified


The Homily on Sergios and Bakchos is a poetic celebration of the martyrdom of Sergios, a Christian officer in the Roman army, who was executed in the fortress of Rusafa, supposedly during the reign of the emperor Galerius Maximianus (r. 305–311) (see on him Fowden 1999). An original Syriac composition, it was almost certainly produced by the West-Syrian poet Jacob of Serugh (c. 451-521). From the presentation of the story of Sergios in the Homily one can conclude that Jacob derived his information about the martyr from the Syriac Acts of Sergios and Bakchos (E02523), a hagiographic work translated into Syriac from Greek (see Fowden 1999, 25-26). The Homily belongs to the literary genre of memrā, a narrative poem that employs couplets all in the same syllabic meter. Such poems, which appear to have been recited rather than sung, were presumably used in the liturgy, though there is no evidence from Late Antiquity of exactly how it happened. There is not yet a critical edition of the Homily. Its Syriac text was published by Bedjan on the basis of a single manuscript, Paris syr. 196, dated to the 14th c. (see Vööbus 1973-1980, vol. 1, 129-130). The Homily is attested in several others manuscripts, the oldest of which is Damascus Patr. 12/13, dated to the 11th c. (for the complete list, see Palmer 2015, 347). Syriac text: Bedjan 1890-1897, vol. 6, 650-651; English translation: Palmer 2015. For general information on Jacob and his oevre, see Brock 2011; Lange 2004; Alwan 1986.


The Homily presents so far the only specimen from Late Antiquity of the liturgical commemoration of the martyrs Sergios and Bakchos. Similarly to several other Jacob's homilies dedicated to saints, it contains neither references to the saints' miracles nor appeals for their intercession.


Main editions and translations: Bedjan, P., Acta martyrum et sanctorum. 7 vols (Paris / Leipzig: Otto Harrassowitz, 1890-1897). Palmer, A., “Jacob of Serugh’s Metrical Homily on Sargis and Bakhos,” Parole de l’Orient 41 (2015), 347-366. Further reading: Alwan, K., “Bibliographie générale raisonnée de Jacques de Saroug († 521),” Parole de l’Orient 13 (1986), 313-384. Brock, S.P., “Ya‘qub of Serugh,” in: S.P. Brock, A.M. Butts, G.A. Kiraz and L. van Rompay (eds.), Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2011), 433-435. Fowden, E.K., The Barbarian Plain: Saint Sergius between Rome and Iran (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999). Lange, C., “Jakob von Sarug, † 521,” in: W. Klein (ed.), Syrische Kirchenväter (Urban-Taschenbücher 587; Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 2004), 217-227. Vööbus, A., Handscriftliche Überlieferung der Mēmrē-Dichtung des Ja‘qōb von Serūg. 4 vols (CSCO 344-345, 421-422, Subs. 39-40, 60-61; Louvain: Secrétariat du CorpusSCO, 1973, 1980).

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