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E02642: Latin Martyrdom of *Phileas (bishop of Thmuis, martyr of Alexandria, S00125), probably early 5th century.

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posted on 2017-03-31, 00:00 authored by gschenke
Martyrdom of Phileas, bishop of Thmuis

The trial takes place in Alexandria and is conducted by the prefect of Egypt Clodius Culcianus (303–306, PLRE I, p. 233) who tries to reason with the bishop, discussing the latter's responsibility for others and the nature of religion.

The text begins as follows:

Imposito Philea super ambonem, Culcianus praeses dixit illi: Potes iam sobrius effici? Phileas respondit: Sobrius sum et sobrie dego. Culcianus dixit: Sacrifica diis. Phileas respondit: Non sacrificio.

'Phileas was placed in the prisoner's dock, and the prefect Culcianus said to him: "Can you not now be sensible?"
Phileas replied: "I am sensible, and this is the way I live."
"Sacrifice to the gods," said Culcianus.
"I will not," answered Phileas.'

The Latin texts resembles both Greek versions concerning the dialogue between prefect and bishop. Contrary to the Greek texts, the Latin one preserves the end, linking Phileas with a fellow martyr Philoromus, as follows:

Aderat tribunus tum Romanorum Philoromus nomine, hic cum uidisset Phileam circumdatum lacrimis propinquorum nec tamen frangi posse, exclamauit dicens, Quid inaniter et frustra constantiam uiri temptatis? quid eum qui Deo fidelis est infidelem uultis efficere? num uidetis quod oculi eius uestras lacrimas non uident, quod aures eius uestra uerba non audiunt quia oculi eius caelestem gloriam contuentur? post haec dicta cunctorum ira in Philoromum uersa, unam eandemque cum Philea subire sententiam proscunt, quod libenter adnuens iudex ambos ferire gladio iubet.

'There was present at the time a Roman tribune by the name of Philoromus. He saw Phileas pressed by the weeping of his kinsfolk and yet unable to be broken. So he cried out: "Do you not see you are foolishly wasting your time attacking this man's courage? Why do you wish to make one who is loyal to his God betray Him? Do you not realize that his eyes do not see your tears, his ears do not hear your words, because his eyes behold the glory of heaven?"
When he had said this everyone's anger turned against Philoromus, and they demanded that he be given the same sentence as Phileas. The magistrate gladly acceded to this request and ordered both to be slain by the sword.'

Standing at the place for his execution, Phileas addresses his children and urges them to obey the commandments of Christ and to accept suffering as part of becoming the disciples of Christ. Afterwards, both men are beheaded.

Text and translation: Musurillo 1972. Summary: Gesa Schenke.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Philorōmos, martyr in Alexandria, ob. 303/313 : S00126 Phileas, bishop of Thmuis (Lower Egypt), martyred in Alexandria, ob. 303/313 : S00125

Saint Name in Source

Philoromus Phileas

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

Egypt and Cyrenaica Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Alexandria Thmuis

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

Alexandria Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis Thmuis Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts


The Latin text is close to the Greek text, P.Chester Beatty XV, dating from the first half of the 4th century (E02631), and is believed to have been produced not later than c. AD 425 (see Pietersma, 23). According to the Greek and Latin manuscripts, the trial takes place in Alexandria and is conducted by the prefect of Egypt Clodius Culcianus (303–306, PLRE I, p. 233) who tries to reason with the bishop, discussing the latter's responsibility for others and the nature of religion. Thus far there are eight Latin manuscripts known, dating from the 9th–14th century (see Pietersma, 103).


For the Coptic and Greek manuscripts of the Martyrdom of Phileas of Thmuis, see E00349 and E02631.


Latin Text with Introduction and Translation: Musurillo, H., Acts of the Christian Martyrs, vol. 2 (Oxford, 1972), xlvi–xlviii and 344–353. Editions: Halkin, F., "L'«apologie» du martyr Philéas de Thmuis (Papyrus Bodmer XX) et les actes latins de Philéas et Philoromus," Analecta Bollandiana 81 (1963), 5–27. Kortekaas, G.A.A., "Acta Phileae," in: A. A. R. Bastiaensen et al. (eds.), Atti e passioni dei martiri (Milan, 1987), 247–337 and 498–581.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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