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E02573: The Greek Martyrdom of *Barlaam of Antioch (martyr S00417), of the 5th c. or later, recounts the story of an elderly Christian who died while being forced to offer incense on a burning altar.

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posted on 2017-03-15, 00:00 authored by erizos
Martyrdom of *Barlaam of Antioch (BHG 221)


Barlaam is kept in gaol at Antioch. The cruel governor summons and interrogates him. He confesses the Christian faith. The governor threatens him with death, unless he worships the gods. The martyr declares his willingness to suffer and die. The governor has him flogged, but he feels nothing. The governor sends him back to prison. Some days later, he summons the martyr and has him flogged. At the end, Barlaam is made to stretch his hand over a burning altar, holding incense. He does not drop the incense onto the altar until his hand is fully burned, and he dies. His martyrdom took place on 16 November.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Barlaam/Barlāhā, martyr in Antioch : S00417

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Activity not before


Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Antioch on the Orontes

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

Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Miraculous protection - of people and their property

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Officials Pagans


The text of this martyrdom account survives in four manuscripts of the 10th/11th and 17th centuries:


This text represents a developed version of the legend of Barlaam of Antioch, in the form of an epic martyrdom account. It is worth comparing the narrative of our text with the version of the same story known to John Chrysostom in the late fourth century (E02572): the latter reports that Barlaam eventually did drop the frankincense onto the altar, as a result of the burning of his hand, and that he suffered no other form of torture except this. These two facts caused doubts about the merit of Barlaam as a martyr, in Chrysostom’s times. One of the main objectives of our text was precisely to rectify these problematic aspects: in this narrative, Barlaam is tortured twice before the trial of the burning altar, and he does not drop the incense till the very end. Our text indicates 16 November as the feast day of Barlaam, which was the date of his celebration in Constantinople, according to the Synaxarion of the Church of Constantinople. This date is very close to the feast of another Antiochene martyr, *Romanos, whose date was 18 November. The Martyrologium Hieronymianum records both of them on 18 November. It is probable that both saints were buried at the ancient Christian cemetery of Antioch, the Koimeterion. This November celebration was not the only known feast of Barlaam. The Syriac Martyrology records his day on 14 August, while Slavonic synaxaria place him on 31 May.


Text and commentary: Delehaye, H., "Saint Barlaam, Martyr à Antioche," Analecta Bollandiana 22 (1903), 129-145.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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