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E02533: The Latin Martyrdom of *Marinus (martyr of Rome, S01240) is written at an uncertain date, by the 8th c. at the latest. It narrates the many tortures miraculously endured by Marinus; his death by beheading and burial in an 'elevated place' in Rome by the care of bishop Theophilus and other clerics; angels coming down from heaven to adorn his burial place; the death of the emperor Martianus. Probably a translation from the corresponding Greek text.

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posted on 2017-03-09, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Marinus (BHL 5538)


§ 1: Short prologue praising martyrs (starting: “Verbo vitae seminato”). Marinus, vir illustris, is the son of a senator of Rome. He is arrested by the emperor Martianus and interrogated. He tells the emperor that he is Christian and is summoned to offer sacrifice.

§§ 2-5: Marinus refuses to sacrifice, is tortured on a rack then sent to prison. The next day he is again summoned to sacrifice, and tortured on a rack as he refuses. Marinus prays to God as he is tortured and refuses to yield to the emperor’s request. He is further tortured, his legs are broken, but he praises the Lord, while the torturers are exhausted. They tell the emperor that they cannot defeat him. The emperor tries other ways to quickly kill Marinus but they fail, and he tries in vain to convince Marinus to sacrifice.

§§ 6-8: The emperor orders a burning gridiron to be prepared, Marinus gets on it, makes a sign of the cross, thanks God and asks for refreshment. Immediately water flows and extinguishes the fire. The commentariensis Simplicius suggests a frying pan be heated and Marinus thrown into it. When this is done Marinus glorifies the Lord and tells the emperor to eat some of his flesh, if the Lord does not prevent it. Immediately dew comes down from heaven, extinguishes the fire, and refreshes the pan. Martianus then tries to kill Marinus in a hot bath of pitch following the governor Culcius’ advice, but it again fails, as the copper container in which he is thrown breaks. Then the emperor brings him to the circus and two hundred ministers come to witness the spectacle. Marinus is again summoned to sacrifice but refuses.

§§ 9-10: Marinus is tortured on a rack in front of the crowd, then brought into the arena, where a lion and a leopard are prepared. However, the lion at first refuses to enter the circus; when forced it enters with the leopard, and stays around Marinus’ legs, while the leopard stays at his feet. The emperor is surprised while Marinus prays to God. Although the emperor orders the animals to be taken away, they do not move until instructed to do so by Marinus. The emperors sends a huge lioness (leaena) and a huge she-bear (ursa), which rush at Marinus’ feet, tear his garments and die. Marinus prays to Jesus Christ asking to be freed from the devil; he is further threatened by the emperor but keeps his resolve.

§§ 11-12: The emperor sends a leopard and a tiger that come to Marinus, one of them kissing Marinus’ mouth the other wiping his sweat. Martianus is amazed and orders Marinus to be bound to a bull’s horn, then the bull’s back to be burnt. However the bull does not move but licks Marinus. He is then sent to prison. The guardian of the prison Simplicius suggests that Marinus should be burnt by fire, first on a pyre and, if it fails, in a burning furnace. He remains untouched by the fire in the pyre. Marinus then prays to Jesus Christ asking for his help and evoking the three Hebrews in the furnace (Daniel 3:23), makes the sign of the cross and enters the furnace; two angels come and place a throne in the middle of the fire on which Marinus sits, the fire soon being extinguished. Marinus praises the Lord.

§§ 13-14: The next day the emperor orders the furnace to be opened, aiming to discard Marinus’ dust to avoid it being honoured by Christians in a monument (memoria). Marinus comes out of the furnace telling the ministers that he is freezing. He is brought to the emperor, and they again fight each other in a dialogue. The commentariensis Simplicius suggests that Marinus should be further tortured.

§§ 15-16: Then Marinus pretends that he agrees to offer sacrifice. Martianus rejoices and, to celebrate, prepares a great spectacle in the circus for all the Roman citizens in honour of Serapis and Augustus. Marinus is brought to offer sacrifice to the gods Serapis, Diana and the mother of gods in the Capitol. Marinus asks who is the greatest among the gods, Martianus tells him that the greatest are Serapis and Chronos. Marinus kneels and invokes God the Father, then stands up and gives thanks to God in a prayer and asks Him to show his glory by destroying all the gods. Immediately all the gods are destroyed and become dust. All the people of the city of Rome proclaim that the Christian God is great. Marinus tells the emperor that he is ready to sacrifice if the gods raise again but that it will not happen as they have been destroyed by God. Martianus orders him to be beheaded.

§§ 17-18: Hearing this order Marinus greatly rejoices, asking God to come and take his head, as well as his soul. Marinus’ father, seeing his son being led to die, tears off his garments, puts ashes on his head, and cries out in despair. Similarly, his mother tears her hair and garments revealing her breasts to the judge and, comparing her only son to a calf stolen from the herd, she still comforts him and tells that she has offered him to Christ. Marinus kisses and embraces his mother and greets everyone. Arriving at the place of execution, he prays thanking God and asking him to be freed from the devil. He greets all, kneels and hands his spirit to the Lord. He is beheaded when he is already dead.

§ 19: The ministers throw Marinus’ body where the bodies of thieves are thrown. Martianus orders a watch to be kept over the body to prevent Christians from taking it, burying it and worshipping it in a monument (memoria). A huge flood follows and those guarding the body flee. The bishop Theophilus collects the body and looks for a place to bury the martyr, together with Apelius, Jacobus, Theagenes, Euthitius, Alexander, Marcus, Euthicus, Filetus, Rufus, Philippus, Alexander, Macedonius, Obsippus, Euthirius, Policarpus, Pionius, Strato, Aristides and other churchmen (viri ecclesiastici). At night they come and collect the relics (reliquiae) of the martyr and bury it in an eminent place (excelsus locus) of Rome, which is the actual name of the burial place. A loud sound comes down from heaven, and a multitude of angels, sanctifying the place where the relics of the martyr are laid down. They place a date palm (dactulus) by his head, an olive-tree by his feet and a vine to his left and right.

§ 20: After this, the emperor becomes mad, he is advised by his chamber-servants (cubicularii) to offer sacrifice to Diana and Serapis. After performing sacrifice, he orders the martyr’s parents to be brought to him in the Capitol to offer sacrifice but they do nothing. A sword (rumphea) falls from heaven on the emperor’s feet and he flees back to his palace. There, lying with fever, he realises that his illness is brought by Marinus and proclaims that the God of Christians is great, asking for his sins to be forgiven. Immediately he is healed and goes to adore Serapis in the Capitol. There, a burning rod (virga) comes down from heaven and hits him. He comes back to the palace, again proclaiming that the God of Christians is great, and asking for his help. He is immediately freed from any pain. He then asks Serapis to help him, but he immediately falls down on his face, worms coming out of his mouth and he dies. Serapis is of no help to him, but he is punished through God’s wrath. His soul goes to hell and his memory (memoria) is reduced to nothing. All this happens in the city of Rome, on the 7th day before the Calends of January [= 26 December].

Text: Catalogus codicum hagiographicorum latinorum bibliothecae regiae Bruxellensis, Pars I. Codices latini membranei, Tome 2 (Brussels, 1889), 184-191.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Marinus (Marinos), martyr of Rome : S01240

Saint Name in Source


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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Meetings and gatherings of the clergy

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Acceptance/rejection of saints from other religious groupings

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle at martyrdom and death Miracle after death Miracles experienced by the saint Punishing miracle Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miracle with animals and plants Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miraculous sound, smell, light Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics – unspecified Pagans Relatives of the saint Monarchs and their family Torturers/Executioners Aristocrats Officials Slaves/ servants Crowds Angels Animals

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Marinus 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 Marinus There is one main version of the Martyrdom, BHL 5538 (BHL 5539 is a shortened version). The database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta ( lists 14 manuscripts for BHL 5538, starting from the 10th c. manuscript Brussels, KBR, 7984 (3191), f. 15v-21r, from which it was published in the late 19th century. However, this list is incomplete and in particular does not include the earliest manuscript of BHL 5538: Munich, Clm 4554, f. 122r-125v, from the end of the 8th century. The first part, §§ 1-10 is missing, but additions provided in the lower margins by a later hand at f. 121v-122r. It is noteworthy that these additions provide an alternative prologue starting “Debitas laudes Christo impendimus cuius sanctorum natalia” (later also found in Augsburg, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. I. 2.4° 16, f. 145r-147v (12th c.)). The Latin version is a translation from a corresponding Greek original, BHG 2253, according to De’Cavalieri who published the Greek version from a single 9tjh-10th c. manuscript (see E06906). The Greek text however has a number of lacunae, particularly at the beginning; hence it is unsure whether and how the Latin prologues relate to the Greek version.


The Martyrdom is vague about Marinus’ cult, except that it provides information about plants put around his body, the feast day (26 December), and the place of burial, called an 'elevated place' (excelsus locus). The Greek version, describing the place in similar terms, adds that it is called ϕυτόν or ϕυτών ('planted place'), thus perhaps echoing the fact that the angels placed plants around Marinus’ body. However, outside our text there is no other early evidence about cult of Marinus in Rome. Rather, cult of a martyr Marinus is attested near Antioch, in particular in Malalas (E05738) and in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum on the same day (26 December), according to Delehaye’s reading (E01075). The reference to the bishop Teophilus in Rome is puzzling, as is the list of churchmen given, but it better fits Antioch. Both the Greek and the Latin versions nevertheless situate Marinus’ death in Rome, and nothing is known about the Marinus venerated in Antioch. It is possible that the hagiographer who composed our Martyrdom made a saint of Rome out of a saint originally venerated in Antioch. A potential echo from the story of Laurence’s martyrdom (see a number of sources under S00201), Marinus’ suggestion that the emperor should eat his cooked flesh, is found in § 6 and may provide a clue for further studies on the sources and context of composition of our Martyrdom. For a discussion of this and further parallels on the basis of the Greek version see De’Cavalieri. The Latin version of the Martyrdom is of uncertain date, but should have been written by the end of the 8th century at the latest, the dating of the earliest manuscript preserved.


Edition: BHL 5538: Catalogus codicum hagiographicorum latinorum bibliothecae regiae Bruxellensis, Pars I. Codices latini membranei, Tome 2 (Brussels, 1889), 184-191. BHG 2256: Franchi De’Cavalieri, P., Note agiografiche 5 (Rome, 1915), 85-93. Further reading: Franchi De’Cavalieri, P., Note agiografiche 5 (Rome, 1915), 71-93. Amore, A., “Marino,” Bibliotheca Sanctorum 8 (1966), 1171-1172.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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