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E02837: The appendix to the Greek Martyrdom of *Polyeuktos of Melitene (soldier and martyr of Melitene, S00325), of the 4th/5th c., mentions the transfer of a blood relic from Melitene to the city of Kana (in Lycaonia or Egypt?). It requires the annual celebration of the saint’s feast and the reading of his martyrdom account, and mentions feasts on 9 January and 25 December. Probably written in Egypt.

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posted on 2017-05-23, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Martyrdom of Polyeuktos of Melitene (BHG 1566-1567)

For the context of these passages, see E02836

The concluding paragraph (appendix) of the Martyrdom of Polyeuktos survives in two versions:

Short Version (BHG 1566)

(quoted from Par. Gr. 1449)
1. Καὶ τὸ μὲν τίμιον καὶ ἅγιον αὐτοῦ σῶμα ἐν Μελιτινῇ πόλει τῆς Ἀρμενίας κατέθεντο ἐν ἡμέρᾳ τετράδι, ἐννάτῃ τοῦ Ἰανουαρίου μηνός. Τὸ δὲ ὅσιον καὶ τίμιον αὐτοῦ αἷμα λαβὼν ὁ Νέαρχος καὶ ἐνειλίσας ἐν ὀθόνῃ λαμπρᾷ εἰς τὴν Κανανεωτῶν ἐκόμισε πόλιν. Ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ἐπράχθη ἐπὶ Δεκίου καὶ Οὐαλεριανοῦ, ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ διωγμῷ τῆς Ἀνατολῆς βασιλεύοντος τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ᾧ ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος σὺν τῷ πατρὶ καὶ τῷ ἁγίῳ Πνεύματι, νῦν καὶ ἀεὶ καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμήν.

‘And they buried his precious and holy body in the city of Melitene of Armenia, on a Wednesday, the ninth of January. As for his hallowed and precious blood, Nearchos took and wrapped it in a splendid sheet, and brought it to the city of the Kananeotai. All this took place under Decius and Valerian, during the first persecution of the East, when our Lord Jesus Christ reigned, to Whom be the glory and the power, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.’

Long Version (BHG 1567)

Quoted from Par. Gr. 513
2. Καὶ τὸ τίμιον καὶ ἅγιον αὐτοῦ σῶμα ἐν Μελιτινῇ πόλει τῆς Ἀρμενίας κατέθεντο ἐν ἡμέρᾳ τετράδι. Ἔπρεπεν γὰρ τὸν μάρτυρα τοιαύτῃ ἡμέρᾳ τελειωθῆναι τὸ τετράγωνον γὰρ καὶ ἄρρηκτον καὶ ἐδραιὸν τῆς πίστεως δι’ αὐτῶν τῶν ἔργων ἐπιδειξάμενον. Τὸ μὲν οὖν σῶμα ἐκεῖσαι οἱ ἀδελφοὶ κατέθεντο. Τὸ δὲ αἷμα λαβὼν ὁ Νέαρχος καὶ ἐνηλήσας αὐτὸ ἐν ὀθώνῃ λαμπρᾷ εἰς τὴν κανανεωτῶν ἐκόμισεν πόλιν μακάριόν τινα καὶ ὅπλον σωτήριον τῇ καναεωτῶν πόλει καὶ τοῖς ἐγγὺς καὶ τοῖς πόρρωθεν ἀποθησαυρίσας. Ταῦτα ἐπράχθη ἐπὶ Δεκίου καὶ Οὐαλεριανοῦ, ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ διωγμῷ τῆς Ἀνατολῆς. Μαρτυρεῖ δὲ πρῶτος Στέφανος έν Ἱεροσολύμοις, εἶτα Φιλόρωμος ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ, εἶτα Πολύευκτος ἐν Μελιτινῇ πρὸ τεσσάρων ἰδῶν ἰανουαρίων, βασιλεύοντος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας. Ἀμήν.

Καὶ μετὰ τὸ πάθος τοῦ μακαρίου Πολυεύκτου ἐγὼ ὁ ταπεινὸς Νέαρχος ὁ δοῦλος τοῦ Θεοῦ ἔδωκα τὰ ὑπομνήματα Τιμοθέῳ Κανανεώτῃ καὶ Σατορνίλῳ ὀρκώσας αὐτοὺς κατὰ τῆς πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ κατὰ τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ νίκης τοῦ μάρτυρος Πολυεύκτου κατ’ ἐνιαυτὸν ἐπιτελεῖσθαι τὴν ἡμέραν καὶ τὰ ὑπομνήματα ἀναγινώσκεσθαι ἐπιμελῶς. Ὅθεν Τιμόθεος λαβὼν ἀυτὰ ἔδωκεν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις ἐν αἷς καὶ ἀναγινώσκονται κατ’ ἐνιαυτόν δεύτερον πρὸ τεσσάρων ἰδῶν Ἰανουαρίων ὅτε ἔπαθεν ὁ ἅγιος Πολύευκτος καὶ τῇ πρὸ ὀκτῶ καλανδῶν Ἰανουαρίων ὅτε εἰς τὴν Κανανεωτῶν ἐτέθη τὸ ἅγιον αὐτοῦ αἷμα. Ὁ δὲ μεγαλόδωρος Θεὸς ὁ μέγας ἀγωνοθέτης καὶ ἡμᾶς στηρίξει ἐποικοδομουμένους ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις αὐτοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ ἀφθάρτῳ Θεῷ, σὺν τῷ ἁγίῳ Πνεύματι ᾧ ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος είς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμήν.

‘And they buried his precious and holy body in the city of Melitine of Armenia, on a Fourth Day [= Wednesday]. For it was proper for the martyr to be put to death on such a day, since he had demonstrated the square and unbreakable and sturdy character of his faith. So the brethren buried his body there. Now, Nearchos took the blood and wrapped it in a splendid sheet and brought it to the city of the Kananeotai, thus storing up a blessed man and saving weapon for the city of Kananeotai, its neighbours, and those further afield. These things took place under Decius and Valerian, in the first persecution of the East. The first to be martyred was Stephen in Jerusalem, then Philoromos in Alexandria, and then Polyeutkos in Melitene, on the fourth before the Ides of January, during the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory to the ages. Amen.

And after the suffering of the blessed Polyeuktos, I the humble Nearchos, the servant of God, gave the acts to Timotheos the Kananeotes (?) and to Satornilos and put them under oath by the faith of Jesus Christ and the victory in Christ of the martyr Polyeuktos, that the day be celebrated every year and that the acts be read carefully. Hence, Timotheos took them and gave them to the churches, where they are read twice very year: on the fourth before the Ides of January (9 January), when Saint Polyeuktos suffered, and on the eighth before the Kalends of January (25 December), when his holy blood was deposited at the city of Kananeotai (?). May the greatly generous God, the great president of the contest, support also us in our edification in His Churches, in Christ Jesus, the incorruptible God, with the Holy Spirit, to Whom be the glory and the power in the ages of ages. Amen.'

Text: Aubé 1882.
Summary and translation: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Polyeuktos, soldier and martyr of Melitene, ob. 250/260 : S00325 Philorōmos, martyr in Alexandria, ob. 303/313 : S00126 Stephen, the First Martyr : S00030

Saint Name in Source

Πολύευκτος Φιλόρωμος Στέφανος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor Egypt and Cyrenaica Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Melitene Qena Kana

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

Melitene Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia Qena Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis Kana Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people Relatives of the saint

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - blood Bodily relic - entire body Contact relic - cloth Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious cloths


The text survives in 15 manuscripts of the 9th to 17th centuries:


The appendix of the Martyrdom of Polyeuktos survives in two versions, longer and shorter, the date of which is uncertain. It is of great importance, since it recounts the foundation story of the cult and shrines of the martyr. One of the most striking aspects of the hagiography of Polyeuktos is that it recounts the story of two friends, only one of whom becomes a martyr. The surviving friend collects the blood and establishes a second shrine at a different place. This story is closely reminiscent of a similar account in the longer version of the Martyrdom of Demetrios of Thessalonike, where the saint’s companion, *Nestor (S00797), collects his blood in a cloth (E01344). This motif first appears in the Martyrdom of Perpetua and her Companions (E01688). In the cult of Poleuktos, it is unclear if Nearchos received some form of veneration, especially since this is the only version of this hagiographic legend to survive. The text states that the main shrine of the martyr was at Melitene, where the body of Polyeuktos was presumably buried. Besides this, however, it also mentions the existence of a shrine possessing Polyeuktos’ blood at the mysterious πόλις Κανανεωτῶν (‘city of the Kananeotai’). There are two possibilities for the identification of this town: one is Kana in Lycaonia, and the other Qena/Maximianopolis in Egypt. The cult of our martyr is epigraphically attested in Upper Egypt, and Qena/Maximianopolis was a military centre, sharing a similar cultural background to that of Melitene. Therefore, it is a possible place for the transfer of the cult of a martyr closely associated with the army. In the territory of Qena-Maximianopolis was also Mons Claudianus, one of the greatest stone-quarries of Roman Egypt. A possible association of the cult of Polyeuktos with stone-cutting is perhaps suggested by the bizarre statement of our text that Polyeuktos died on a Wednesday, in order to demonstrate the square and unbreakable and sturdy nature of his faith – probably a wordplay connecting the Greek name of Wednesday (Tetras, ‘the fourth/square day’) with squared stone blocks. The connection with Egypt is also supported by the fact that our text associates the feast of Polyeuktos with that of the Alexandrian martyr Philoromos. If this is correct, it would suggest that Polyeuktos was one of those martyrs of Anatolia whose cult was transmitted to Egypt. Finally, a remarkable motif is the fact that Nearchos subjects to Timotheos and Satournilos to an oath by the martyrdom of Polyeuktos. This recalls the testimony of Gregory of Tours that the martyr was venerated as an avenger of perjury (E00655).


Greek Text with Latin and French translations, and two Latin versions: Aubé, B. Polyeucte dans l’histoire (Paris, 1882). Further reading: Delehaye, H., "Castor et Pollux dans les légendes hagiographiques," Analecta Bollandiana 23 (1904), 427-432. Rendel Harris, J., The Dioscuri in the Christian Legends (Cambridge, 1903). Walter, C., The Warrior Saints in Byzantine Art and Tradition (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), 236-238.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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