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E05670: John Malalas in his Chronographia mentions the martyrdom of *George (soldier and martyr, S00259) and *Babylas (bishop and martyr of Antioch, S00061) under Numerian (r. 283-284). Written in Greek at Antioch (Syria) or Constantinople, in the mid-6th c.

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posted on 2018-06-08, 00:00 authored by erizos
John Malalas, Chronographia, 12.35

Μετὰ δὲ τὴν βασιλείαν Κάρου ἐβασίλευσε Νουμεριανὸς Αὔγουστος ἔτη δύο. ἦν δὲ μακρός, λεπτός, ἁπλόθριξ, μακρόψις, λεπτοχαράκτηρος, εὐπώγων, μιξοπόλιος, εὔρινος, εὐόφθαλμος, μελάγχροος. ἐπὶ δὲ τῆς αὐτοῦ βασιλείας διωγμὸς χριστιανῶν μέγας ἐγένετο· ἐν οἷς ἐμαρτύρησεν ὁ ἅγιος Γεώργιος ὁ Καππάδοξ καὶ ὁ ἅγιος Βαβυλᾶς· ἦν γὰρ ἐπίσκοπος Ἀντιοχείας τῆς μεγάλης. καὶ κατέφθασεν ὁ αὐτὸς βασιλεὺς Νουμεριανὸς ἀπιὼν πολεμῆσαι κατὰ Περσῶν. καὶ θέλων κατασκοπῆσαι τῶν χριστιανῶν τὰ θεῖα μυστήρια ἐβουλήθη εἰσελθεῖν ἐν τῇ ἁγίᾳ ἐκκλησίᾳ, ὅπου συνήγοντο οἱ χριστιανοί, εἰς τὸ θεάσασθαι τί ἐστιν ἃ ποιοῦσιν μυστήρια, ἀκούσας, ὅτι κρυπτόμενοι τελοῦσι τὰς λειτουργίας αὐτῶν οἱ αὐτοὶ Γαλιλαῖοι. καὶ ἐλθὼν πλησίον ἐξαίφνης ὑπηντήθη ὑπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου Βαβυλᾶ· καὶ ἐκώλυσεν αὐτόν, λέγων αὐτῷ, ὅτι· ‘μεμιαμμένος ὑπάρχεις ἐκ τῶν θυσιῶν τῶν εἰδώλων· καὶ οὐ συγχωρῶ σοι ἰδεῖν μυστήρια θεοῦ ζῶντος.’ καὶ ἀγανακτήσας ὁ βασιλεὺς Νουμεριανὸς ἐφόνευσεν αὐτὸν εὐθέως. καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἀπὸ Ἀντιοχείας καὶ ἐπεστράτευσε κατὰ Περσῶν· ἐν τῷ δὲ συγκροῦσαι αὐτὸν τὸν πόλεμον ἐπετέθησαν αὐτῷ οἱ Πέρσαι, καὶ ἀνεῖλαν τὸ πολὺ πλῆθος τῆς βοηθείας αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔφυγεν ἐν Κάραις τῇ πόλει· καὶ φοσσεύσαντες οἱ Πέρσαι παρέλαβον αὐτὸν αἰχμάλωτον καὶ εὐθέως ἐφόνευσαν αὐτόν· καὶ ἐκδείραντες τὸ δέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐποίησαν ἀσκὸν καὶ σμυρνιάσαντες ἐφύλαξαν αὐτὸν εἰς ἰδίαν δόξαν· τὸ δὲ λοιπὸν πλῆθος αὐτοῦ κατέκοψαν. τελευτᾷ δὲ ὁ βασιλεὺς Νουμεριανὸς ὢν ἐνιαυτῶν λϛʹ.

‘After the reign of Carus, Numerian Augustus reigned for two years. He was tall, slender, with straight hair, a long face, delicate features, a good beard, greying hair, a good nose, good eyes and dark skin. During his reign there was a great persecution of Christians. Among them Saint George the Cappadocian and Saint Babylas were martyred; the latter was the bishop of Antioch the Great. The emperor Numerian arrived there as he was setting out to fight the Persians. Wishing to observe the sacred mysteries of the Christians, he resolved to go into the holy church where the Christians used to gather to see what the mysteries were which they were performing, because he had heard that the Galileans performed their liturgies in secret. When he drew near he was suddenly met by St Babylas, who stopped him, saying to him, "You are still contaminated by the sacrifices you have made to idols and I will not allow you to see the mysteries of the living God". The emperor Numerian was angry with him and put him to death immediately.

Then he left Antioch and began a campaign against the Persians. When he joined battle, the Persians attacked him and destroyed the larger part of his force, and he fled to the city of Carrhae. The Persians besieged him, took him prisoner and killed him immediately. Then they flayed his skin and made it into a bag, which they pickled with myrrh and kept for their own glory; the remainder of his troops they butchered. The emperor Numerian died at the age of 36.’

Text: Thurn 2000. Translation Jeffreys, Jeffreys, and Scott 1986.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

George, soldier and martyr : S00259 Babylas, bishop and martyr of Antioch, and companions : S00061

Saint Name in Source

Γεώργιος Καππάδοξ Βαβυλᾶς

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 Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Antioch on the Orontes

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

Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Major author/Major anonymous work

John Malalas

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts


The Chronographia of John Malalas (c. 490–c. 570) is a Christian chronicle of universal history, from Adam to the death of Justinian I (565). It appears to have been composed in two parts, the earlier of which focuses on the history of Antioch and the East, ending in c. 528 or 532. The second part focuses on the urban history of Constantinople up to the death of Justinian. Malalas is likely to have pursued a career in the imperial administration at both Antioch and Constantinople, writing the two parts of his chronicle while living in these two cities. Malalas was widely used as a source by Byzantine chroniclers and historians, including John of Ephesus, John of Antioch, Evagrius Scholasticus, the Paschal Chronicle, John of Nikiu, John of Damascus, Theophanes, George the Monk, pseudo-Symeon, Kedrenos, Zonaras, Theodore Skoutariotes, and Nikephoros Kallistou Xanthopoulos. The text of the chronicle is preserved in a very fragmentary form, based on quotations in other sources (notably the Paschal Chronicle and Theophanes), and on a Slavonic translation which follows a more extensive version of the original text. It is believed that we now have about 90% of the text. On the composition and manuscript tradition of the text, see Thurn 2000, and:


Malalas' record of martyrs in his Chronicle is evidently based on his hagiographical reading. His entries about George and Babylas are important attestations for the existence of versions of their martyrdom accounts in the early 6th century. The extant Greek Martyrdom of Babylas does indeed date the story to the reign of Numerian (E02684). In this passage, Malalas confuses Numerian with the emperor Valerian (253-260) who was indeed captured by the Persians in AD 260, and died in captivity.


Text: Dindorf, L., Ioannis Malalae Chronographia (Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae; Bonn, 1831). Thurn, J., Ioannis Malalae Chronographia (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 35; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2000). Translation: Jeffreys, E., Jeffreys, M., and Scott, R., The Chronicle of John Malalas: A Translation (Sydney, 1986). On Malalas: Carrara, L., Meier, M., and Radtki-Jansen, C. (eds.), Die Weltchronik des Johannes Malalas. Quellenfragen (Malalas-Studien 2; Göttingen: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2017). Jeffreys, E., Croke, B., and Scott, R. (eds.), Studies in John Malalas (Sydney, 1990). Meier, M., Radtki-Jansen, C., and Schulz, F. (eds.), Die Weltchronik des Johannes Malalas: Autor, Werk, Überlieferung (Malalas-Studien 1; Göttingen: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016). Treadgold, W.T. The Early Byzantine Historians (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 235-256.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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