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E03254: The Martyrdom of the *Greek martyrs, Hippolytus, Hadrias, Paulina, Neon, Maria, and their companions Eusebius, Marcellus, Maximus, Martana and Valeria (martyrs of Rome, S01873) is written in Latin, presumably in Rome, at an uncertain date, perhaps in the 8th or 9th c. It narrates their trial, martyrdom and burial at the first milestone on the via Appia in a sand-quarry.

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posted on 2017-07-11, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of the Greek Martyrs (BHL 3970)

§ 1: During the consulship of Valerian and Lucillus [= 265 AD] the monk (monachus) Hippolytus lives in hiding in crypts and converts many individuals through preaching, who are baptised by the bishop of Rome Stephanus. The urban prefect Maximus tells Valerian about this, who tells Decius. Then Decius gives orders for all to offer sacrifice to Jupiter at the Capitol.

§ 2: Stephanus speaks to the Christian community and asks any pagan whom they know to be brought to him to be baptised; Hippolytus tells of the Christian Hadrias, his pagan wife Paulina and their pagan children Neon, ten years old, and Maria, thirteen years old. Hippolytus tells Stephanus that the children frequently visit him; the bishop advises him to keep them with him so that when they fail to return home, his parents will come and be persuaded to convert.

§ 3: Two days later, Hadrias' children Neon and Maria are sent to take food to their uncle Hippolytus in a crypt. Hippolytus tells Stephanus who comes and they all stay together for three days. The parents come to Stephanus and are exhorted to baptism, then Stephanus leaves.

§ 4: Hippolytus further exhorts them to abandon the worship of idols but Hadrias fears for the death of his children and does not want to lose the wealth he has brought from Greece. Paulina adds that, as they travelled by sea to Italy, they have vowed to offer sacrifice to Jupiter in Rome. Hippolytus replies that he was there with them when they made the vow, but that he has since abandoned the worship of idols, has been baptised and repents of his former life. Hadrias asks Hippolytus to provide more proofs to convince them.

§ 5: Hippolytus tells Stephanus who sends the priest Eusebius and the deacon Marcellus to the sand-quarry where Hadrias, Paulina, Neon and Maria live. They are exhorted to seek baptism by Eusebius but reply that they will decide on the following morning.

§ 6: That night, the parents of a certain Pontianus, who is paralysed, bring him to Eusebius. After a prayer by Eusebius, he is cured and baptised. They celebrate the Eucharist and tell Stephanus who signs him with the cross.

§ 7: In the morning, following this miracle, Hadrias and Paulina ask for baptism. They are interrogated about their belief, initiated and asked to fast until evening. Then they are baptised and signed with the cross by Stephanus and they take part in the Eucharist.

§ 8: Hadrias, Paulina and their children live with Hippolytus, Eusebius and Marcellus in the crypt, praying, fasting and chanting psalms. They also start taking care of the poor. Valerian learns about it and promises half of their property to anyone who finds them. The commentariensis Maximus seeks them, disguised as a poor Christian man at the ara Carbonaria on the Caelian hill, where he meets Hadrias.

§ 9: Maximus follows Hadrias and the others but he is possessed by a demon, revealing his wrong intention. Thanks to prayers he recovers and asks for baptism. When asked by Stephanus, he reveals the plans of Valerian. He is initiated and baptised and lives with Stephanus for 24 days. Valerian learns that he has become a Christian. Officials are sent to his house, find him in prayer and arrest him. Maximus tells Valerian of Jesus Christ, who has enlightened him. Valerian orders him to be thrown off a bridge. Eusebius takes his body and buries it in the cemetery of Callixtus on the Via Appia on the 13th day before the Calends of December [= 19 November].

§§ 10-11: Hadrias is arrested and put in prison by seventy soldiers together with his family, Eusebius, and Hippolytus. After ten days, he is brought before Valerian’s tribunal in the Forum of Trajan. Marcellus comes and protests, he is denounced by the togatus Secundianus and arrested. Valerian interrogates them individually then sends them all to the Mamertine prison (custodia Mamertini).

§ 12: After three days, they are brought at night to the temple of Tellus (in Tellude) where tortures have been prepared, while a tribunal is made ready in front of the temple of Pallas (templum Palladis). As they refuse to sacrifice, they are tortured and Paulina dies. Eusebius and Marcellus are beheaded on the 13th day before the Calends of November [= 20 October] ad Petram Sceleratam next to the amphitheatre, ad lacum Pastoris. A certain Hippolytus collects the bodies and they are buried, following an order of Stephanus, in a sand-quarry (arenarium) at the first milestone from Rome on the via Appia where they frequently gathered. Hadrias, Hippolytus, Neon and Maria are sent back to prison.

§ 13: After seven days, they are taken to the home of Secundianus, who attempts to seize Hadrias' wealth. As they all resist, Neon and Maria are taken ad Petram Sceleratam, and killed by the sword in front of Hadrias and Hippolytus. Their bodies are left there unburied on the 6th day before the Calends of November [= 27 October]. Then Stephanus collects and buries them in the same place at the first milestone on the Via Appia where they used to gather.

§ 14: After eight days, Secudianus tells Valerian, who orders Hadrias and Hippolytus to be tortured and compelled to sacrifice. A tribunal is prepared in the circus Flamineus where Hadrias and Hippolytus are brought in chains. They are summoned to give up their wealth and sacrifice, but refuse. They are beaten with lead-weighted scourges, then Valerian orders their public execution. They are taken to the pons Antoninus and beaten to death. Their bodies are left next to the insula Lycaonia. At night the deacon Hippolytus collects and buries their bodies, following the order of Stephanus, in the same place at the first milestone on the via Appia next to the bodies of the other saints, where they frequently gathered, on the 5th day before the Ides of November [= 9 November].

§ 15: Nine months later, their Greek relative Martana comes to Rome with her daughter Valeria, looking for them. Learning that they have died as martyrs, they rejoice and go to venerate the martyr’s tomb, where they stay in vigils and prayers, until their death, thirteen years later, after an edict prohibiting those who do not sacrifice to receive any food or water. They are buried there on the 4th day before the Ides of December [= 10 December].

Text: Acta Sanctorum, Nou. IV, 93-99. Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Greek martyrs of Rome (Hippolytus, Hadrias, Paulina, Neon, Maria, and their companions Eusebius, Marcellus, Maximus, Martana and Valeria) : S01873

Saint Name in Source

Hippolytus, Hadrias, Paulina, Neon, Maria, Eusebius, Marcellus, Maximus, Martana, Valeria

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

via Appia

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

via Appia Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Eucharist associated with cult

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - cemetery/catacomb

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Healing diseases and disabilities Exorcism

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Ecclesiastics - bishops Officials Pagans Women Children Soldiers Demons Crowds Family Aristocrats Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of the Greek Martyrs is an anonymous literary account of martyrdom written long after the great persecutions of Christians that provide the background of the narrative. It is part of a widely spread literary genre, that scholars often designate as "epic" Martyrdoms (or Passiones), to be distinguished from earlier, short and more plausible accounts, apparently based on the genuine transcripts of the judicial proceedings against the martyrs. These texts narrate the martyrdom of local saints, either to promote a new cult or to give further impulse to existing devotion. They follow widespread stereotypes mirroring the early authentic trials of martyrs, but with a much greater degree of detail and in a novelistic style. Thus they narrate how the protagonists are repeatedly questioned and tortured under the order of officials or monarchs, because they refuse to sacrifice to pagan gods but profess the Christian faith. They frequently refer to miracles performed by the martyrs and recreate dialogues between the protagonists. The narrative generally ends with the death of the martyrs (often by beheading) and their burial. These texts are literary creations bearing a degree of freedom in the narration of supposedly historical events, often displaying clear signs of anachronism. For these reasons, they have been generally dismissed as historical evidence and often remain little known. However, since most certainly date from within the period circa 400-800, often providing unique references to cult, they are an essential source to shed light on the rise of the cult of saints. The Martyrdom of the Greek Martyrs There is only one main version of the Martyrdom, BHL 3970 (with variant BHL 3970a bearing a shortened ending), preserved in only a few manuscripts. The database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta ( lists five manuscripts for BHL 3970, the earliest from the 12th century, and one manuscript for BHL 3970a from the 11th century: Vatican City, Archivio Capitolare S. Pietro, A.5 (alias D), f. 24v-29r.


The traditional hypotheses about the date of the Martyrdom largely depended on its links to two epigrams from the 6th century, one of them honouring Hippolytus, Hadrias and Paulina, and the other Maria and Neon (Ihm, Damasi epigrammata n. 77 and 78). The epigram for Maria and Neon refers to their ‘suffering’ (passio), perhaps pointing to a written account. Thus scholars had concluded that the two epigrams made use of our Martyrdom, which would thus have been composed in the 5th or 6th century (Dufourcq; Delehaye; Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2209; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 70). However, since Amore, scholars have underlined that there is no clear link between the two epigrams and the two groups of martyrs and that there are differences in the way Maria and Neon are portrayed in epigrams and in our Martyrdom (in particular, the epigram for Maria and Neon celebrates their care of the poor and conversion performed while in the Martyrdom they are only children). Thus it has been suggested that it was the Martyrdom that used the two epigrams and made the connection between them, while the passio in the epigram of Maria and Neon could be a lost account not corresponding to our Martyrdom or, following Lapidge 2018, 503 n. 7, not refer at all to a written account. To these arguments, Lanéry added that there is no early evidence for circulation of our Martyrdom and for associating all these martyrs together, while the earliest manuscript of the text dates from the 11th century. Lanéry, followed by Vocino, thus tentatively suggested a dating in the 8th or 9th century, at a time when relics of a number of the martyrs were translated within the city walls. Lapidge however underlines that the 7th century Itinerarium Malmesburiensis refers to the joint burial of Hippolytus, Hadrias, Eusebius, Maria, Martana, Paulina, Valeria and Marcellus. Thus for Lapidge, the association of the martyrs in this itinerary could only have been taken from our Martyrdom (although this only provides a potential source for the itinerary, not a clear proof of borrowing). On the basis of this argument, Lapidge dates our Martyrdom to the first half of the 7th century and relates it to the martyrdoms of Stephanus (E02514), Gordianus (E04567), and Eusebius and Pontianus (E02491), suggesting that they were all composed at the same period and perhaps even by the same author.


Edition (BHL 3970): Acta Sanctorum, Nou. IV, 93-99. Translation: Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 505-516. Further reading: Amore, A., “Sulla questione dei cosidetti martiri greci,” Antonianum 30 (1955), 15-26. Delehaye, H., Étude sur le Légendier Romain. Les saints de Novembre et de Décembre (Brussels, 1936), 143-151. Dufourcq, A., Étude sur les Gesta martyrum romains, vol. I (Paris, 1900), 179-183. Lanéry, C., "Hagiographie d'Italie (300-550). I. Les Passions latines composées en Italie," in: Philippart, G. (ed.), Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, vol. V (Turnhout, 2010), 15-369, at 293-295. Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 500-505. Moralee, J., Rome’s Holy Mountain: The Capitoline Hill in Late Antiquity (Oxford, 2018), 192-197. Vocino, G., “L’Agiografia dell’Italia centrale (750-950),” in: Goullet, M. (ed.), Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, volume VII (Turnhout, 2017), 95-268, at 172-173.

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