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E03565: The Martyrdom of *Barhadbeshabba (deacon and martyr in Persia, S01466) is written in Syriac in Sasanian Persia during the 4th or 5th c. Describes the martyrdom of Barhadbeshabba in the territory of Arbela (Northern Mesopotamia) under Shapur II (r. 309-379).

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posted on 2017-08-15, 00:00 authored by sminov
Martyrdom of Barhadbeshabba


The brief surviving account of his martyrdom relates that Barhadbeshabba, a deacon in the city of Arbela in northern Mesopotamia, was arrested by the city's Zoroastrian judge Shapur Tamshapur 'in the fifteenth year of the persecution'. After the deacon was severely tortured, he was ordered to 'honour fire and water' and to 'eat blood'. In a brief dialogue between the judge and the martyr, Barhadbeshabba refuses to do this, insults Shapur Tamshapur, and confirms his adherence to the Christian faith. Enraged, the judge orders him to be executed. The execution, which took place outside the village of Ḥazā 'on the 20th of the lunar (month) of Tammuz' (i.e. 15 July), was carried out by an apostate Christian, a certain ‘Agay, who was also arrested for refusal to worship the sun. After ‘Agay beheaded Barhadbeshabba with the sword, he was immediately punished by God – his right hand swelled, his body putrefied and he died. The narrative concludes with a brief story of how two local Christian ascetics managed to snatch the martyr's body away from two guards, who were watching over it. After they tried unsuccessfully to bribe the guards, they attacked and beat them, carrying away the body, in order to bury it in a secret place.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Barhadbeshabba, deacon and martyr in Persia : S01466

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, village, etc


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

Arbela Edessa Edessa Ἔδεσσα Edessa

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

Torturers/Executioners Zoroastrians Officials

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


The Martyrdom of Barhadbeshabba is a brief account of the arrest, interrogation and execution of Barhadbeshabba, a deacon from the city of Arbela in Northern Mesopotamia. Arrested and interrogated by the city's Zoroastrian chief-priest Shapur Tamshapur, he is said to have been beheaded by the sword during the fifteenth year of the 'Great Persecution' of the shah Shapur II (r. 309-379), i.e. in the year 354/5. While it is difficult to establish the work's date with certainty, the second half of the 4th, or the 5th century seem to be a likely time for the composition of the Martyrdom. The Martyrdom is attested in a number of manuscripts, the oldest of which is British Library Add. 14654, datable to the 5th or 6th century (see Wright 1870-1872, vol. 3, 1081-1083). There is not yet a critical edition of the text. The most recent edition is that of Bedjan 1890-1897, based on the 19th c. manuscript Berlin, Königliche Bibliothek, or. oct. 1256 [= Assfalg 26] (see Assfalg 1963, 53-56). Syriac text: Bedjan 1890-1897, vol. 2, pp. 314-316; Latin translation: Assemani 1748, vol. 1, pp. 129-130; modern Arabic translation: Scher 1900-1906, vol. 1, pp. 306-307. For general information, see Peeters 1925, 276-277.


The Martyrdom bears witness to the local cult of the martyred deacon Barhadbeshabba, which apparently developed during the second half of the 4th or the 5th century in the city of Arbela in Northern Mesopotamia.


Main editions and translations: Assemani, S.E., Acta Sanctorum Martyrum Orientalium et Occidentalium in duas partes distributa, adcedunt Acta S. Simeonis Stylitae. 2 vols (Roma: Typis Josephi Collini, 1748). Bedjan, P., Acta martyrum et sanctorum. 7 vols (Paris / Leipzig: Otto Harrassowitz, 1890-1897). Scher, A., Kitāb sīrat ’ašhar šuhadā’ al-Mašriq al-qiddisīn. 2 vols (Mossoul: Imprimerie des pères dominicains, 1900-1906). Further reading: Assfalg, J., Syrische Handschriften: syrische, karšunische, christlich-palästinensische, neusyrische und mandäische Handschriften (Verzeichnis der orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland 5; Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1963). Peeters, P., “Le “Passionaire d’Adiabène”,” Analecta Bollandiana 43 (1925), 261-304. 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).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity