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E04541: In his Church History, Rufinus of Aquileia, writing in Latin c. 402 in Aquileia (North Italy), describes the transfer of the relics of *Babylas (bishop and martyr of Antioch, S00061), from the suburb of Daphne to another place close to Antioch (Syria), at the order of the emperor Julian in 362.

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posted on 2017-12-30, 00:00 authored by robert
Rufinus of Aquileia, Church History 10.36

Dedit et aliud Iulianus vecordiae suae ac levitatis indicium. Nam cum in Dafnis suburbano Antiochiae iuxta fontem Castalium litaret Apollini et nulla ex his, quae quaerebat, responsa susciperet causas que silentii percontaretur a sacerdotibus daemonis, aiunt: 'Babylae martyris sepulchrum propter adsistere et ideo responsa non reddi'. Tum ille venire Galilaeos, hoc enim nomine nostros appellare solitus erat, et auferre sepulchrum martyris iubet. Igitur ecclesia universa conveniens, matres et viri, virgines iuvenes que inmensa exultatione succincti trahebant longo agmine arcam martyris, psallentes summis clamoribus et cum exultatione dicentes: confundantur omnes, qui adorant sculptilibus, et qui confidunt in simulacris suis. Haec in auribus profani principis per sex milia passuum tanta exultatione psallebat omnis ecclesia, ut caelum clamoribus resultaret. Unde ille in tantam iracundiae rabiem deductus est, ut altera die conprehendi Christianos passim et trudi iuberet in carcerem ac poenis et cruciatibus adfici.

'Julian also gave another sign of his madness and folly. When he had offered sacrifice to Apollo by the Castalian spring in Daphne, a suburb of Antioch, but had received no answers to his questions and asked the priests of the demon the reasons for the silence, they said, "The burial place of the martyr Babylas is nearby and for that reason no answer is given." Then he ordered the Galileans, for thus he called our people, to come and remove the martyr's tomb. The whole Church therefore came together, mothers and husbands, virgins and youths, and with immense rejoicing pulled along the martyr's coffin in a long procession singing psalms with loud cries and exultation and saying, "May all those be put to shame who worship carven idols and who trust in their images." This psalm the whole church sang in the hearing of the sacrilegious sovereign over a distance of six miles with such exultation that the sky rang with the shouts. He became so furious that the next day he ordered Christians to be arrested at random, thrust into prison, and subjected to punishment and torture.'

Here the story of the relics of Babylas and the temple of Apollo ends. Rufinus describes tortures imposed about a young Christian, but unlike later church historians, does not say anything about the destruction of the shrine by fire.

Text: Mommsen 1909, 958. Translation: Amidon 1997, 40.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Babylas, bishop and martyr of Antioch, and companions : S00061

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Aquileia Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Rufinus of Aquileia

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Procession

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/desecration of saint's shrine

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Pagans Monarchs and their family Crowds

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Transfer, translation and deposition of relics


In 402-403, some time after his return to Italy from Palestine, Tyrannius Rufinus, or Rufinus of Aquileia, translated the Church History of Eusebius into Latin. He added a few passages in books 1-9 and wrote two entirely new books (10-11), which continued Eusebius' narrative down to AD 395. He described mostly contemporary events and his sources are difficult to identify.


For the other accounts of this story see: John Chrysostom (E00095 and E02671), Ammianus (E07808), and the ecclesiastical historians Sozomen (E02274), and Socrates (E02293).


Edition: Mommsen, Th., Eusebius Werke II/2. Historia ecclesiastica (Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller 9.2; Berlin, 1908), 957-1040. Translation: Amidon, P.R., The Church History of Rufinus of Aquileia: Books 10 and 11 (Oxford, 1997). Further reading: Thelamon, F., Païens et Chrétiens au IVe siècle. L'apport de l'«Histoire ecclésiastique» de Rufin d'Aquilée (Paris, 1981).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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