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E02993: The Greek Life and Martyrdom of *Athenogenes (martyr of Pedachthoe, S00065), of the 4th/5th c., recounts the miracles and martyrdom of a bishop of the village of Pedachthoe (northern Asia Minor), reportedly based on an earlier document, reworked by a certain Anysios; it includes an account of several other martyrdoms. Written at Pedachthoe. Overview entry

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posted on 2017-06-14, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Anysios, Life and Martyrdom of Athenogenes (BHG 197b)


1. <Τὸ μαρτύριον> τοῦ βίου καὶ τῆς ἀθλήσεως τοῦ τρισμακαρίου μάρτυρος Ἀθηνογένους παρὰ πολλῶν ἐπιζητούμενον μόλις εὑρὼν ἐν παλαιοτάτῳ βιβλίῳ παρά τινι ἰδιωτικῷ λόγῳ συγγεγραμμένῳ καί, φιλαληθῶς εἰπεῖν, οὔτε κατὰ τάξιν οὔτε δὲ ἀκολούθως συγγεγραμμένῳ, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον καὶ ἐλλειπῶς· ἀναγνοῦς δὲ τὸ βιβλίον, ἀναγκαῖον ἠγησάμην μᾶλλον ἀκολούθως τοῦτο συγγράψασθαι, ὥστε καὶ τοὺς ἀκροωμένους πληροφορεῖσθαι.

‘The Account of the Life and Combat of the thrice-blessed martyr Athenogenes, which many had been looking for, I found with great difficulty in a very old book, written in simple style and, to say the truth, written without order or sequence, but even with gaps. When I read the book, I found it necessary to write it in an orderly manner, so that the audience may make sense of it.’

Summary of the Life and Martyrdom

2. Athenogenes was born in a Christian family at the village of Epiklesa/Epiklesoi, in the district of Sadopine under the city of Sebastopolis. He was married and had a son, Patrophilos. He lived a holy life and was ordained priest and chorepiskopos (superintendent of a rural district) by the bishop of the time.

Miracle 1: Captives and Miracle with a dragon
3-7. During an invasion of Goths, numerous people are taken captive. Athenogenes collects money and travels to the barbarian lands in order to ransom them. On his way, he finds a child bound by a lake, offered by the locals as a sacrifice to a dragon. He frees the boy and kills the monster, hitting it three times on the head with his stick. The local bishop ordains him to the episcopate. Athenogenes ransoms the captives and returns them to their families. He settles at his village of Pedachthoe, where he lives together with his son, Patrophilos – the latter later became a chorepiskopos and confessor. He keeps his episcopal ordination secret, so as not to distress the bishop of Sebastopolis.

Miracle 2: Fire in the church
8. Gothic invaders set fire to the church the saint had built. Athenogenes prays and the fire is put out by a miraculous wind.

Miracle 3: the mares of Goloe
9-10. Athenogenes administers justice with wisdom among the locals. At the nearby village of Goloe, a dispute about mares breaks out. At Athenogenes’ prayers, all the mares of the village die and no mares can be raised or owned by that community ever since.

The martyrs Theophrastos, Maximinos, Hesychios, Theophilos, and Kleonikos, and the shrine built for them ($E02996).
11-13. Under Diocletian and Maximian, a persecution breaks out, while the provincial governor was a certain Agrikolaos. The martyrs Theophrastos, Maximinos, Hesychios, Theophilos, and Kleonikos are arrested. Athenogenes visits them in prison and strengthens them with a letter, the text of which is quoted (12). After their martyrdom, he builds for them an octagonal shrine and tomb at Pedachthoe where later Athenogenes himself is buried.

Miracle 4: Water in the mountain
14-15. Athenogenes retires to a mountain, where he causes a spring of water to flow from the rock.

Premonitions of martyrdom
16. Athenogenes returns from the mountain and holds a feast (synodos) at the village of Kimouasos, near Pedachthoe. On his way back to Pedachthoe, he stops with his associates near a swamp to rest. There, they see a star flashing during the day, which Athenogenes interprets as a premonition of trials. He has a dream of eating sacrificial meat, and they are attacked by a multitude of ants while sleeping.

17-18. A garrison comes from Sebasteia seeking Athenogenes. He initially pretends not to know who the man is, and sends them to Pedachthoe. Yet he soon changes his mind, invites the soldiers to lodge at his house and there he hands himself over to them.

Farewell to the community
19-21. On their way to Sebasteia, Athenogenes and the guards arrive at the village of Sadopa. There he bids farewell to the clergy and people. He reveals to them his episcopal ordination, and ordains two priests, lest he dies without making use of his episcopal grace. He writes a letter to the bishop of Sebasteia.

The story of Ariston and Severianos
22. The author explains why the governor Agrikolaos was after Athenogenes. Two followers of Athenogenes, the reader Ariston and the singer Severianos, sought martyrdom without the approval of Athenogenes. They appeared in Sebasteia, carrying a pamphlet which offended the emperors. Agrikolaos held Athenogenes responsible.

23-26. [This section contains the dialogue between Agrikolaos, Ariston, and Severianos – probably based on trial acts.] Ariston confesses having burned down temples, but he does not know the names of the shrines. Agrikolaos asks Severianos about the motives of these arson attacks, but the latter only replies that there were others involved in the act. At the threat of tortures, Severianos reports that Athenogenes had sent them to become martyrs, and was the author of the offensive document. Agrikolaos condemns Ariston to be burned alive.

The martyrdom of Rheginos in Neokaisareia ($E02997)
27. The author points out that many confuse Ariston’s martyrdom with that of a certain Rheginos who actually died at Neokaisareia/Neocaesarea. He had been a disciple of Athenogenes, and the latter revered him as his personal patron, after his martyrdom.

The doe ($E02999)
28. While being transferred to Sebasteia, Athenogenes meets a female deer which he had raised. He blesses the animal and promises that her offspring will never be caught by hunters, but will be offered and consumed in his memory.

The wife of Agrikolaos
29-30. At the village of Daora, they stop to rest and Athenogenes is met by the wife of the governor Agrikolaos. She beseeches him to free her daughter from an evil spirit, promising to intercede with her husband for his release. Athenogenes grants the healing, but asks her not to impede his martyrdom, lest seven spirits possess her daughter.

Interrogation and condemnation
31-36. [This is a long dialogue section between Agrikolaos, Athenogenes and Severianos, probably also based on an earlier document.] Athenogenes denies knowing Ariston and Severianos and having written the offensive document. Severianos, in a partly incoherent way, reiterates his claim that the bishop has given him and his companions the pamphlet, with instructions that they be martyred. As Severianos sticks to his accusation, both under torture and without it, Agrikolaos asks Athenogenes to apostatise in order to save his life, which Athenogenes refuses to do. The governor condemns both Severianos and Athenogenes to death by fire.

The site of martyrdom in Sebasteia and the martyred bishop Petros. ($E02998)
37. The pyre is prepared at a place called agalma (‘statue’) in Sebasteia, where there is now a church. On the same site, an earlier bishop of Sebasteia, Petros, had been burned alive, much earlier than Athenogenes. He now rests at Bizaza. Shortly before the execution, a noble and rich woman called Eusebia meets the martyr and requests his intercession for the forgiveness of her sins. He asks her to collect and bury his body at the shrine he has built at Pedachthoe.

Final prayer, martyrdom and burial
38-39. Athenogenes prays that all those who celebrate his memory be granted forgiveness and anything they may ask for. Christ grants the request. Eusebia and her servants collect the body and transfer it on a cart to Pedachthoe. They bury it at the shrine the saint had built with perfumes and wrapped in a precious cloth.

Posthumous miracles ($E02999)
40-41. Every year on the saint’s feast day in July, miracles take place. A deer brings its fawn to be consumed in memory of the martyrs. No flies fly in the butcheries. Meat bought on the day is miraculously preserved for a very long time. Water is miraculously provided to those assisting in the festival. Athenogenes can be invoked, in order to avert the fulfilment of a bad dream.


42. Ἰλάριος δὲ ὁ τηνικαῦτα πρῶτος τοῦ βουλευτηρίου, ἐπικαλούμενος Πυρραχάς, πατὴρ ὑπάρχων Ἰλαρίου τοῦ ἀπὸ κυαιστόρων.

Ἀνύσιος γὰρ εὑρὼν τὸ μαρτύριον τῆς ἀθλήσεως τοῦ τρισμακαρίου μάρτυρος Ἀθηνογένους ἀτάκτως καὶ ἐλλειπῶς ἕχον συναγαγὼν συνέθηκα.

Ἐτελειώθη δὲ ὁ ἅγιος μάρτυς τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ὲπίσκοπος Ἀθηνογένης μηνὶ ἰουλίῳ ιζ’ ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ Διοκλητιανοῦ καὶ Μαξιμιανοῦ τῶν ἀσεβεστάτων, κατὰ δὲ ἡμᾶς βασιλεύοντος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ᾧ ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αὶώνων· ἁμήν.

‘42. At that time, the president of the council was Hilarios, the so-called Pyrrachas, who was father of Hilarios, ex quaestor.

I, Anysios, having found the account of the martyrdom of the thrice-blessed martyr Athenogenes in a disorderly and incomplete form, have collected and assembled it.

Christ’s holy martyr and bishop, Athenogenes, was put to death in the month of July on the seventeenth, during the reign of the most impious Diocletian and Maximian. Over us reigned our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power to the ages of ages. Amen.’

Text: Maraval 1990. Summary and translation: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Athenogenes, Bishop and martyr of Pedachthoe, ob. 305 : S00065 Theophrastos, Maximinos, Hesychios, Theophilos, and Kleonikos, martyrs of Pedachthoe, ob. 304/6 : S01388 Petros, bishop of Sebasteia in Armenia, ob. early 4th c. : S01124 Rheginos, mar

Saint Name in Source

Ἀθηνογένης Θεόφραστος, Μαξιμῖνος, Ἡσύχιος, Θεόφιλος, Κλεόνικος Πέτρος Ῥηγῖνος Άρίστων Ἀρίστων

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Sebasteia/Sebaste Pedachthoe

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

Sebasteia/Sebaste Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia Pedachthoe 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 - independent (church)

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Other

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle after death Specialised miracle-working Punishing miracle Miracle with animals and plants Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Women Children Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Pagans Foreigners (including Barbarians) Officials Merchants and artisans Animals

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Construction of cult building to contain relics

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious cloths


The text is preserved in one manuscript, the 10th-century Codex Sabaiticus 242, of the Patriarchal Library of Jerusalem, on which see:


This extensive version of the Martyrdom of Athenogenes is the earliest extant textual expression of a cult based at the village of Pedachthoe (modern Güneykaya, in Ottoman times known as Bedohtun) in the mountainous region north of Sebasteia/Sebaste (modern Sivas). The cult of Athenogenes acquired prominence relatively early, as his feast is recorded by the early martyrologies (E00), and he is mentioned by Basil of Caesarea in his work On the Holy Spirit (E01103). Our text is, as its opening and closing paragraphs state, a synthesis of different elements. Most of it seems to have been composed by the same author, perhaps the man signing as Anysios in the subscript. His statement that it was based on an earlier text seems to refer to the dialogue sections 23-26 and 31-36, and possibly the purported letter of Athenogenes, quoted in section 12 and his address to the people of Sadopa in 19-20. These sections indeed stand out by their style as different from the rest of the narrative. The interrogation dialogues appear so plausible that they can be listed among the likeliest cases of reproduction of trial acts – though not devoid of editorial interventions. Similarly, the presumed letter of Athenogenes (12) and possibly his address to Sadopa (19-20) follow the style of early Christian paraenetic letters, and may indeed be based on documents ascribed to Athenogenes. The use of vestiges of earlier documents is also to be observed in other Anatolian martyrdom accounts, like the Martyrdom of Pionios of Smyrna (E00096) and the Testament of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (E00255). Anysios incorporates the vestiges of this early dossier into a continuous account recounting the life and miracles before martyrdom, the martyrdom proper, and the posthumous miracles of its hero. This is reminiscent of the development of the hagiography of Polycarp of Smyrna, with the production of the Life of Polycarp (E00453), subsequent to the ancient Martyrdom. We should note the close similarity of the subscripts of our text with those appended to the Martyrdom of Polycarp (E00054). It is probable that the expansion of the hagiographies of Polycarp and Athenogenes took place in roughly the same period of time. Isolated from the rest of the text, the core martyrdom episode emerging from the interrogation sections (23-26 and 31-36) can be summarised as follows. Two Christians, Ariston and Severianos from a village near Pedachthoe, are arrested and interrogated by the governor of Armenia in Sebaste for having participated in the arson of temples and for circulating a pamphlet which offended the emperors. Ariston is sentenced to death by fire, while Severianos names Athenogenes, a leading Christian from Pedachthoe, as the author of the letter and the man who had instigated their subversive acts. Athenogenes is arrested and brought to Sebasteia, where Severianos insists on his accusation. Both are sentenced to be burned alive. The account of the life of Athenogenes (8-10) suggests that the hero was the leader of a Christian community in the rural district of Pedachthoe and the surrounding villages. The author is markedly careful in explaining the origins of Athenogenes’ ecclesiastical authority: he was a chorepiskopos (clerical superintendent of a rural area) who received proper episcopal orders in some indefinite country in reward for saving the locals from a dragon (6); he kept his episcopate secret out of humility, and lest he upset the bishop of Sebastopolis (7); just before dying, he ordained two priests, but requested that the local bishop be notified in writing (20). All this seems to suggest that there were problems of ecclesiastical authority and legitimacy of ordinations in Pedachthoe and its district, and possibly tensions with the local bishopric of Sebastopolis. Our author evidently strives to reconcile these possible irregularities with the canonical hierarchy. At the same time, however, he exhorts the local community to stick to the special liturgical and other traditions established by Athenogenes (19 and 20). The various villages named in the text and associated with episodes of Athenogenes’ life very probably reflect the jurisdiction of this rural bishopric (chorepiscopate). It appears to have encompassed two districts, under the villages of Pedachthoe and Sadopa/Sadopine. Athenogenes was born at the hamlet of Epiklesoi/Epiklesa, within the region of Sadopa, he lived and built churches at Pedachthoe, whereas at Sadopa he celebrated his last service, gave his last address, and performed ordinations. Other places include Goloe (in Sadopine) with its lack of female horses (9), and Kimouasos where Athenogenes celebrated a feast (16). These places must have contributed with oral traditions to the shaping of the story of Athenogenes and are likely to have had shrines or festivals in his memory. Other sites of possible cultic importance are the site of the saint’s arrest (17; the author mentions that the place is called ὅπου ἐκρατήθη ὁ κύριος [‘where the lord was arrested’]) and the village of Doara near Sebasteia, where Athenogenes met the wife of Agrikolaos (29-30). The miracle stories recall episodes of the Life of Gregory the Miracle Worker (originating from neighbouring Neocaesarea, E01878). The episode of the saint’s arrest (17-18) is reminiscent of the arrest account of Polycarp of Smyrna and *Phokas of Sinope (E01961). Besides, the miracle stories reflect the specialised miraculous powers ascribed to the saint: Athenogenes was revered for his power over animals (dragon, horses, deer, flies) and water; his cult included the sacrifice of a deer; he offered efficient protection against ominous dreams. The development of Athenogenes’ cult at the shrine of Pedachthoe and elsewhere informs much of the agenda of the martyrdom account (section 11 onwards). The saint’s tomb lay in a subterranean chamber under an octagonal shrine, which is described in paragraph 11 (E02996). This shrine was founded by Athenogenes himself. Besides the tomb of Athenogenes, it apparently contained the burials of other figures, the stories of whom are recounted in the text. The story of the five martyrs, Theophrastos, Maximinos, Hesychios, Theophilos, and Kleonikos (11-13), is based on the quoted letter of Athenogenes to them (12). It is possible, though not explicitly stated, that Ariston (23-26) and Athenogenes’ son and successor, Patrophilos (7), were also buried in the same shrine. Ariston’s martyrdom concludes the first interrogation document, and our author refutes inaccurate rumours which confused him with another martyr, Rheginos of Neocaesarea (27, E02997). Further issues clarified by our author are associated with Athenogenes’ martyrdom. An obvious problem is that the traitor, Severianos, became Athenogenes’ embarrassing companion in martyrdom – both of them were sentenced to be burned alive. It is unknown if Severianos was buried alongside Athenogenes, but it would be probable, if their remains were incinerated. Another question regards the site of Athenogenes’ martyrdom (37). This was reportedly a location in Sebasteia/Sebaste, which was marked by a church at the time when our text was written. The site was also associated with the martyrdom of another bishop, Petros of Sebasteia, whose shrine lay at a village called Bizaza (E02998). The fact that the remains of Athenogenes rested at Pedachthoe, whereas he had died at Sebasteia, required an explanation. For that purpose, our author employs the standard hagiographic motif of the wealthy matron (here called Eusebia) who collects and buries the martyrs (37 and 39). The remains of Athenogenes are taken and buried at Pedachthoe, at his own request. All these digressions result in a rather complex text. In later documents of the hagiographic dossier of Athenogenes, the information meticulously set forth by Anysios in our text is drastically simplified. Secondary stories and clarifications are edited out, the embarrassing figure of Severianos is simply eliminated, and all the secondary martyrs (Theophrastos, Maximinos, Hesychios, Theophilos, Kleonikos, Patrophilos, Ariston, Rheginos, and Petros) are grouped together as the ten disciples of Athenogenes. This simplified version, represented in the Greek tradition by the so-called epic martyrdom account of Athenogenes (BHG 197; E03171), prevailed in the manuscript tradition (preserved in 18 copies) and overshadowed our text which has survived in just one copy. Its survival is very fortunate, since it provides us with a fairly clear example of the development of a saint’s legend: initially, already in the fourth century, there is a corpus of texts related to Athenogenes; this is later (possibly in the fifth century) elaborated and extended into a unified life and martyrdom account (our text); this, in its turn, forms the basis for a simplified martyrdom account, written in the 'epic' style, possibly in the sixth century (E03171).


Text, French translation, commentary: Maraval, P. La Passion inédite de S. Athénogène de Pédachthoè en Cappadoce (BHG 197b). Subsidia Hagiographica 75. Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1990. Further reading: Laniado, A. "Hilarios Pyrrhachas et la Passion de Saint Athénogène de Pédachthoé (BHG 197b)." Revue des Etudes Byzantines 53, 1995, 279-284.

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