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E03175: The Martyrdom of *Candida (martyr in Persia, S01397) is written in Syriac in Sasanian Persia during the 4th or 5th century. It describes the martyrdom of the Christian wife of the shah Bahram II (r. 274-293).

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posted on 2017-07-05, 00:00 authored by sminov
Martyrdom of Candida


The title describes the work as the 'martyrdom' (Syr. sahduta) of Candida, a woman who 'was taken captive from Roman territory and came to Persia where she became the wife of the King of kings Vartran.' The writer describes her martyrdom as 'the first persecution that took place in the country of the Persians,' dating it to 'the days of Vartran, grandfather of Shapur, King of kings of Persia'. (Title and § 1, p. 178 in Brock's edition)

A Roman captive, Candida was taken by the Persian king as a wife because of her beauty. Even in her new state, she did not abandon Christianity, but 'held on to her faith' and 'used to preach her Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ, openly to her companions and maids'. The king's exceeding love for Candida provoked jealousy among his other wives, who accused her before the king of not conforming to his 'way of thinking' and worshipping 'her own god'. (§§ 2-4, p. 178)

The king summons Candida and tries to persuade her to abandon her religion and convert to Zoroastrianism, to 'worship the Sun and the Fire, and honour the Water, so that my love for you may increase and I shall add to the honour you receive and make you chief queen in my realm'. Candida, however, refuses to comply. After several attempts to persuade her by words, the king becomes angry and resorts to harsher measures, threatening that 'he would destroy her in a horrible way' if she would not do his will. (§§ 4-8, pp. 178-179)

As the threat fails to change the martyr's mind, the king orders that she be imprisoned, put into irons and given only enough bread and water to keep her alive. When this punishment fails to reach its purpose as well, the king orders that Candida be brought into his presence and beaten, while stripped naked and standing before him. After that, she is brought outside and taken around the city all day, naked and in chains. (§§ 9-12, pp. 179-180)

Enraged by the steadfastness of the martyr, the king orders that one of her breasts be cut off and placed in her hand, and that she be made to go around the city streets in such a state. When Candida is brought back to the king and refuses to do his will once more, he orders that her second breast be cut off and that she walk around the city again. As she was walking the streets, the martyr 'was radiant with joy, and her mouth was full of laughter and praise'. (§§13-15, pp. 180-181)

The surviving narrative breaks at this point so that the concluding section of Candida's martyrdom is missing. Presumably, she was beheaded with the sword, given a brief reference in § 1, that says that she 'received her crown by the sword'.

Text: Brock 1978. Summary: Sergey Minov.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Candida, martyr in Persia, ob. 3rd c. : S01397

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Syriac

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region


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

Susa Susa Շաւշ Šawš شوش Shush

Major author/Major anonymous work

Persian martyrdom accounts

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Zoroastrians Monarchs and their family Women


The Martyrdom of Candida is an account of the martyrdom of Candida, the Christian wife of the shah Bahram: most likely Bahram II (r. 274-293; on this identification, see Brock 1978, 168-169). Accused of adhering to Christianity and refusing to convert to Zoroastrianism, she was put under severe torture and beheaded by the sword. According to its editor, 'the account contains elements which inspire confidence in the basic historicity of the martyrdom, even though there are naturally a number of largely fictional embellishments' (Brock 1978, 168). While it is difficult to establish the work's date with certainty, it has been suggested that the 5th century seems to be a likely time of the Martyrdom's composition (Brock 1978, 168, 172). Preserved only partially (the concluding part is missing), the Martyrdom is attested in a single manuscript, British Library Add. 12142, dated to the 6th century (see Wright 1870-1872, vol. 3, 1092-1093). It was edited by Brock in 1978. Syriac text: Brock 1978, pp. 173-177; English translation: Brock 1978, pp. 178-181. For general information, see Brock 1978, pp. 167-172; Strong 2015.


The Martyrdom bears witness to the local cult of the martyred Christian wife of Bahram II, which apparently developed during the 4th or the 5th century among the Christians of the Sasanian empire. Whereas no other unambiguous references to the veneration of Candida from Late Antiquity seem to survive, it remains open for discussion whether she should be identified with the martyr Candida, commemorated on 7 February in the Syriac Martyrology of 411 (E01433); see on this Brock 1978, 170.


Edition and translation: Brock, S.P., “A Martyr at the Sasanid Court under Vahran II: Candida,” Analecta Bollandiana 96 (1978), 167-181. Further reading: Strong, J.D., “Candida: An Ante-Nicene Martyr in Persia,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 23:3 (2015), 389-412. Wright, W., Catalogue of Syriac Manuscripts in the British Museum, Acquired since the Year 1838. 3 vols (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1870-1872).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity