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E04002: Sozomen in his Ecclesiastical History recounts the persecution of Christians in Persia under Shapur II (341-379), based on Syriac hagiograhical sources. These include martyrdom accounts of *Symeon/Shimun Bar Saba and his companions (S00592), *Pusai and his daughter (S01218), *Tarbo (S01611), *Akebeshma (S01725), *Aithala and Hapsai (S01482), *Azadan and Abdishu (S01726), and *Miles (S00919). Written in Greek at Constantinople, 439/450.

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posted on 2017-09-11, 00:00 authored by Nikolaos
Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, 2.9-14

Sozomen recounts the persecution of Christians in Persia under Shapur II, estimating a total of 16,000 known martyrs, plus an unknown number of anonymous figures. The martyrs named are as follows:

First year of the persecution
2.9 Ousthazades (Syriac: Gushtazhad), palatine eunuch, beheaded.
2.10 Symeones, bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (Symeon/Shimun Bar Sabbae) with 100 of his clerics, including the elderly presbyters Abedehalaas and Anninas. Beheaded.
2.11 Pousikes (Pusai), chief artisan of the king, and his virgin daughter. Beheaded.

Second year of the persecution
2.11 Azades, palatine eunuch and friend of king Shapur. Distraught by his death, the king limits the persecution to clerics only.
2.12 Tarboula (Tarbo), the virgin sister of Symeones (Simeon Bar Saba), with other women. They are cut into pieces by a saw.
2.13 Akepsimas (Akebeshma), bishop of Adiabene, and Iakobos, the centenarian presbyter.
Aeithalas and Iakobos, presbyters (Aithala and Hapsay?).
Azadanes and Abdiesous, deacons (Azadan and Abdishu).
The bishops Barbasymes, Paulos, Gaddiabes, Sabinos, Mareas, Mokimos, Ioannes, Hormisdas, Boulidas, Papas, Iakobos, Romas, Maares, Agas, Bochres, Abdas, Abdiesous, Ioannes, Abramios, Abdelas, Sabores, Isaak.
Dausas, captive from the village of Zabdaion, who died with the rural bishop (chorepiskopos) Mareabes and about 250 of his clerics.
2.14 Miles, former Persian soldier, who converted and became a bishop. Failing to Christianise a city, he cursed it, and it was later completely destroyed by the king’s army. Miles also went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and to the monks of Egypt. Sozomen knows Miles' Syriac hagiography.

2.14. 3-4
(3) … οἵων δὲ τοῦτον τὸν ἄνδρα θεσπεσίων καὶ παραδόξων ἔργων δημιουργὸν γενέσθαι παρειλήφαμεν, μαρτυροῦσι Σύρων παῖδες, οἳ τὰς αὐτοῦ πράξεις καὶ τὸν βίον ἀνεγράψαντο. (4) ἐμοὶ δὲ ἀρκεῖν ἡγοῦμαι ταῦτα τέως περὶ αὐτοῦ διεξελθεῖν καὶ τῶν ἐν Περσίδι μαρτυρησάντων ἐπὶ τῆς Σαβώρου βασιλείας. σχολῇ γὰρ ἄν τις ἅπαντα τὰ ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς γεγενημένα ἀπαριθμήσαι, τίνες τε ἦσαν καὶ πόθεν ἢ πῶς τὴν μαρτυρίαν ἐπετέλεσαν καὶ ποίας τιμωρίας ὑπέμειναν· παντοδαποὶ γὰρ τῶν τοιούτων τρόποι παρὰ Πέρσαις εἰς ὠμότητα φιλοτιμουμένοις. ὡς ἔνι δὲ συλλήβδην εἰπεῖν, λέγεται τῶν τότε μαρτύρων τοὺς ὀνομαστὶ φερομένους, ἄνδρας τε καὶ γυναῖκας, εἶναι εἰς μυρίους ἑξακισχιλίους, τὴν δὲ ἐκτὸς τούτων πληθὺν κρείττω ἀριθμοῦ, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐργῶδες φανῆναι τὰς αὐτῶν προσηγορίας ἀπαριθμήσασθαι Πέρσαις τε καὶ Σύροις καὶ τοῖς ἀνὰ τὴν Ἔδεσσαν οἰκοῦσιν, οἳ πολλὴν τούτου ἐπιμέλειαν ἐποιήσαντο.

‘The traditions about the extraordinary and admirable works this man [Miles] accomplished are attested by the Syrians who have written an account of his acts and life. (4) For my own part, I believe that what I have written about him and the other martyrs who suffered in Persia during the reign of Sabores is enough. For it would be difficult to relate every detail about them, who they were and from where, how they performed their martyrdom, and which kinds of torture they suffered. For the Persians indeed employ innumerable methods of torment, when they aspire to excel in cruelty. In sum, the number of the martyrs of that period known by name, both men and women, is said to have been about sixteen thousand, while the rest were even more, and therefore the making of a full catalogue of their names has proven to be difficult for the Persians, Syrians, and those living in Edessa, who have very diligently worked on this subject.’

Text: Bidez and Hansen 1995. Summary and translation: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Symeon/Shimun bar Ṣabbae, bishop and martyr in Persia, ob. 341 or 344 : S00592 Pusai, martyr in Persia : S01218 Aitalāhā/Aeithalas and Ḥapsay/Apsees, martyrs in Persia : S01482 Miles, bishop and martyr in Persia, ob. ca 340 : S00919 Tarbo/Therbou

Saint Name in Source

Συμεώνης, Ἀβεδεχαλάας, Ἀνίνας Πουσίκης Ἀειθαλᾶς, Ἰάκωβος Μίλης Ταρβούλα Ἀκεψιμᾶς, Ἰάκωβος Ἀζαδάνης, Ἀβδιησοῦς

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts


Salamenios Hermeias Sozomenos (known in English as Sozomen) was born in the early 5th c. to a wealthy Christian family, perhaps of Arab origins, in the village of Bethelea near Gaza. He was educated at a local monastic school, studied law probably at Beirut, and settled in Constantinople where he pursued a career as a lawyer. Sozomen published his Ecclesiastical History between 439 and 450, perhaps around 445. It consists of nine books, the last of which is incomplete. In his dedication of the work, Sozomen states that he intended to cover the period from the conversion of Constantine to the seventeenth consulate of Theodosius II, that is, 312 to 439, but the narrative of the extant text breaks in about 425. The basis of Sozomen’s work is the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates, published a few years earlier, which our author revises and expands. Like Socrates, Sozomen was devoted to Nicene Orthodoxy and the Theodosian dynasty, but his work is marked by stronger hagiographical interests, a richer base of sources, and different sympathies/loyalties. Sozomen probably lacked the classical education of Socrates, but had a broader knowledge of hagiographical and monastic literature and traditions, which makes him a fuller source for the cult of saints. Besides Greek and Latin, Sozomen knew Aramaic, which allowed him to include information about ascetic communities, monastic founders, and martyrs from his native Palestine, Arabia, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia, to which Socrates had had no access. Much like the other ecclesiastical historians of the fourth and fifth centuries, Sozomen focuses on the East Roman Empire, only seldom referring to the West and Persia.


Sozomen's extensive section about the Persian martyrs of the fourth century is one of the best examples of this author's access to Syriac hagiography. For a discussion of Sozomen's sources, see Devos 1966 and Wiessner 1967.


Text: Bidez, J., and Hansen, G. C., Sozomenus. Kirchengeschichte. 2nd rev. ed. (Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte, Neue Folge 4; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1995). Translations: Grillet, B., Sabbah, G., Festugière A.-J. Sozomène, Histoire ecclésiastique. 4 vols. (Sources chrétiennes 306, 418, 495, 516; Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1983-2008): text, French translation, and introduction. Hansen, G.C. Sozomen, Historia ecclesiastica, Kirchengeschichte, 4 vols. (Fontes Christiani 73; Turnhout: Brepols, 2004): text, German translation, and introduction. Hartranft, C.D. “The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen, Comprising a History of the Church from AD 323 to AD 425." In A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Second Series, edited by P. Schaff and H. Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 179-427. Further reading: Chesnut, G. F. The First Christian Histories: Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Evagrius (Atlanta: Mercer University, 1986). Devos, P. "Les actes Syriaques de S. Syméon Bar Sabbae," Analecta Bollandiana 84 (1966), 433-456. Leppin, H. Von Constantin dem Grossen zu Theodosius II. Das christliche Kaisertum bei den Kirchenhistorikern Socrates, Sozomenus und Theodoret (Hypomnemata 110; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996). Van Nuffelen, P., Un héritage de paix et de piété : Étude sur les histoires ecclésiastiques de Socrate et de Sozomène (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 142; Leuven: Peeters, 2004). Wiessner, G. Untersuchungen zur syrischen Literaturgeschichte I: Zur Märtyrerüberlieferung aus der Christenverfolgung Schapurs II (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Philologisch-historische Klasse III.67. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1967).

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