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E06111: The ‘epic’ Greek Martyrdom of *Christophoros (martyr of Pamphylia, S00616) tells of Reprebos, an outwardly repulsive barbarian from a tribe of cannibals, who is baptised a Christian in Syrian Antioch, tortured and, after converting many followers, including Aquilina and Kallinike, is martyred under Decius in Perge (Pamphylia) or Antioch. Written probably in Pamphylia, possibly in the 5th century or later.

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posted on 2018-08-15, 00:00 authored by Nikolaos
Martyrdom of Christophoros (BHG 309-310c)


§§ 1-2: In the fourth year of the emperor Dekios, an imperial decree is issued commanding everyone to partake of sacrificial meats. A comes has taken prisoner in battle a barbarian named Reprebos, a physically repulsive Cynocephalus [a man with a dog's head] from the land of the Man-eaters, and enrolled him in the numerus of the Marmaritai. Reprebos is a godly man but ignorant of our tongue [Greek is most likely intended]; he prays to God and is given the gift of language.

§ 2: Reprebos goes to town and berates the persecutors, one of whom strikes him; but the saint does not retaliate.

§ 3: The man who had struck the saint reports him – and describes his fearsome appearance – to the emperor, who sends two hundred soldiers to capture or kill Reprebos.

§ 4: Reprebos sits down in front of a church to pray, and his staff blossoms with new growth (the miracle of the rod of Aaron), strengthening his resolve.

§ 5: A woman gathering roses sees Reprebos and, frightened because of his appearance, points him out to the soldiers sent for him. At first spying him from afar and then emboldened, they confront him.

§§ 6-7: The soldiers tell Reprebos why they were sent, and he consents to go with them. The soldiers offer to falsely report not having found him, but the saint wants to go, asking merely for a moment of respite. When the soldiers complain about their supplies having run out and not being able to wait, Reprebos performs the miracle of the five loaves through the mediation of the angel *Raphael (S00481), and feeds them. As a result the soldiers embrace the Christian faith and are baptised together with Reprebos in Antioch (of Syria in BHG 309) by the saintly bishop *Babylas (S00061). Reprebos is renamed Christophoros.

Text: van Hooff , Usener 1886,

§ 8: (In BHG 309, the saint and his companions now travel to Perge). As the company enters the imperial palace, Christophoros instructs the soldiers to tie him up and, for the time being, do the emperor’s bidding, but at the same time to reflect on their own salvation.

§ 9: Christophoros appears before the emperor, who is intimidated by his appearance, and rebukes him. Dekios questions the saint and attempts to persuade him to sacrifice, in vain.

§ 10: Christophoros is tortured, first by being hung by his hair and having a big rock tied to his feet, then by being struck with swords, then burned with three lamps, but each time the saint refuses to sacrifice. Dekios is then persuaded by his officials to attempt bribery instead, but to no effect.

§ 11: The officials now suggest to the emperor that Christophoros, as an ἀλλόφυλος or foreigner [presumably since barbarians were supposed to be less able to control their sexual drive], be seduced by women into sacrificing. Two prostitutes are accordingly decked up and placed in a room with the saint, but Christophoros prays to God for fortitude and, when he addresses the women, they are frightened by his appearance.

§ 12: The women, Aquilina and Kallinike, are faced by the dilemma of whether to face the wrath of Christophoros or of the emperor, but on reflection decide that the rewards of Christ are the greater.

§ 13: The women ask Christophoros to pray for their sins. Summoned before the emperor, they declare their faith in Christ.

§ 14: Aquilina confesses her faith and is martyred by being hung by her hair and having two (mill)stones tied to her feet, expiring as Christophoros prays for her soul (on 1 April in BHG 310).

§§ 15-16: After seeing the dead body of her friend, Kallinike is seemingly persuaded to sacrifice to Zeus, Apollo and Herakles, and enters the pagan temple amid great pomp and circumstance. However, her capitulation turns out to be feigned, and she mocks the gods who are unable to speak for themselves or defend themselves, as she casts down their idols.

§ 17: Kallinike is brought before the enraged emperor and belittles the pagan gods. Dekios orders a device to be constructed for her execution.

§ 18: Kallinike is impaled on a spit horizontally and stones are hung from her hand and foot, expiring, like Aquilina, as Christophoros prays for her (on 2 April in BHG 310). The emperor commands both their bodies to be kept until Christophoros is brought forward.

§ 19: The following day the emperor has Christophoros brought before him, and attempts to win him over, but the saint refuses.

§§ 20-21: The two hundred soldiers reappear and declare themselves Christians and followers of Christophoros. The emperor accuses them of rebellion and wonders if material concerns such as budget cuts in equipment or supplies are the cause of their discontent, trying to cajole them into accepting his rule, but they persist in their faith. Dekios, fearing they might set an example for others to follow, quickly has them executed and their bodies burned in a furnace (on 7 April in BHG 310).

§ 22: The emperor has Christophoros brought before him, complains that the saint has robbed him of his soldiers and, after Christophoros replies with his customary parrhesia (outspokenness), threatens him with torture (in BHG 310). Christophoros is nailed to a bronze bench, while around him wood is piled forming a circular covered structure, which is then doused with oil and set on fire.

§ 23: As the pyre burns with the saint inside, Christian onlookers await the chance to collect his relics, while pagan spectators wish to see him perish. Christophoros sits in the middle of the flames and narrates to the surrounding crowd a vision of his, in which a fair-faced, white-clad and glorious ruler is at first defeated in battle by an ugly, black and black-clad one, but later returns in wrath to crush his enemy’s war host and bind the wicked king in fiery chains.

§ 24: On witnessing Christophoros defy the flames and remain unharmed, a thousand men from among the crowd convert to Christianity, pull the martyr out of the fire and taunt the emperor, who, perturbed, withdraws to his palace. The Devil then visits him (only in BHG 310), disguised as a human, and urges him to action against the martyr.

§ 25: The next morning the emperor commands all to sacrifice to the heathen gods. Christophoros and his supporting crowd resist the order, and Dekios has his troops massacre the crowd, on 9 July (both BHG 309 and 310 – in addition, in BHG 309 they number 10203 and the day is Sunday).

§ 26: Dekios has a huge stone tied around Christophoros’ neck and has him thrown into a deep well, but the stone is crushed to dust and angels lift the saint out of the well. The emperor accuses him of magic and has a bronze cape heated up with fire and put on him, but the saint is unharmed. When the saint shows himself immune to the emperor’s threats and promises, the latter at last orders him to be executed by beheading.

§ 27: When Christophoros is led out to the place of execution, he asks the soldier taking him there to be allowed to pray. He asks Christ for the evil emperor to die in demonic torment eating his own flesh, and makes a set of requests on behalf of the Christians: for God to help them, for any piece of Christophoros’ bodily relic to have the power to drive away demons (BHG 309 also forgiveness of sins) and prevent agricultural problems such as hail, generic catastrophes [lit. ‘(your) wrath’, θυμὸς (σός)) and bad grape harvests (in BHG 309 also αὐχμὸς γεννημάτων, ‘crop failure due to drought’). In BHG 309 the saint’s martyrdom account, ὑπομνήματα, is also mentioned.] A voice from the heavens replies, granting the request. After this the saint convinces the soldier to slay him, which the soldier reluctantly does and then commits suicide.

§ 28: The bishop of Attaleia, Petros, pays a great deal of silver to obtain the saint’s body (and many others in BHG 309) and brings it to his city, which is near Pisidian (‘Persian’ in the mss.) Antioch and where God continues to perform many great miracles daily (BHG 309 seems to suggest that he guards the city from an annual flooding of the river). After the death of the saint, the emperor Dekios falls victim to a terrible disease which dissolves his body. Christophoros’ martyrdom took place on the 9th of May (which was Wednesday according to BHG 310).

Text: van Hooff 1882, 121-148, and Usener 1886, 56-76.
Summary: N. Kälviäinen.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Christophoros, martyr of Lycia or Antioch, perhaps under Decius (249-251) : S00616 Babylas, bishop and martyr of Antioch, and companions : S00061 Raphael, the Archangel : S00481

Saint Name in Source

Χριστοφόρος (Ῥέπρεβος) Βαβύλας Ῥαφαήλ

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Perge Attaleia

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

Perge Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia Attaleia Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Punishing miracle Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miracle during lifetime Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Miracles experienced by the saint Miracles causing conversion Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Pagans Foreigners (including Barbarians) Monarchs and their family Soldiers Torturers/Executioners The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves) Crowds

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Construction of cult building to contain relics Division of relics


The late antique/premetaphrastic text seems to be transmitted in a number of versions (BHG 308w-310d) with an uncertain margin of variance between them. Only BHG 309, 310 and 310c (partially) have been edited, on the basis of only three mss. out of a combined total of around 24 for BHG 308w-310d – for the manuscripts see; the earliest manuscript evidence dates from the late 8th century. Our description is based on the edited texts and is therefore out of necessity not nearly as well informed as would be desirable. The opinion of Hermann Usener, that BHG 309 represents a more authentic form of the text than BHG 310 and 310c (Usener, Acta, 54) may well turn out to be accurate, since it seems to contain certain crucial details missing from the other two versions (e.g. the reference to the city of Perge and some details in the saint’s final prayer), but without a thorough philological study we cannot be absolutely certain of the provenance of any element that does not appear in all the edited versions.


The identification of the supposed locus of Christophoros’ martyrdom is a somewhat problematic question. Although all edited versions agree that the saint and his followers were baptised in Syrian Antioch by saint Babylas, in BHG 309 (but not 310 and 310c) the action is subsequently relocated to Perge, metropolis of Pamphylia. It seems likely that this information may go back to the original text, given that in the epilogue it is the bishop of Attaleia who collects the saint’s relics, Attaleia being situated a mere 15 km or so away from Perge; Syrian Antioch is much more distant, and it would seem that the function of that city in the martyrdom account is not necessarily as the locus of the martyrdom and cult but rather as a way of granting him extra legitimacy by having a famous earlier saint, Babylas of Antioch, baptise him and his followers. Nevertheless, it is true that there may be some kind of connection to a Syrian milieu, if the Bollandists are correct in identifying the 'numerus of the Marmaritai' in which Reprebos is enrolled with the Cohors tertia Valeria Marmantarum, listed in the Notitia dignitatum (of c. AD 400) as being under the command of the dux of Syria (see van Hooff, Sancti Christophori, 123 (n.1) and Usener, Acta, 56). If correct, this identification might suggest a date for the composition of the original martyrdom account, but it is hard to know how long the cohors Marmantarum was active in Syria; however, the documented existence of the cult of Christophoros by the middle of the 5th century (cf. E00953, E01076) supports the idea that some version of the Martyrdom had by then been composed. On the other hand, a 'legio of the Marmaritai' is also mentioned in the Martyrdom of *Theodoros the Recruit (E02052), 1,9-10, as deployed in northern Anatolia, specifically in Amaseia in Helenopontus (Delehaye, H., Les légendes grecques des saints militaires (Paris 1909), 127). It was also suggested to Usener by Gildemeister (Usener, Acta, 56) that the name Reprebos might be cognate with an Aramaic or Syriac word meaning 'large', but this is difficult to establish with certainty. There is also the problem of the much closer Pisidian Antioch (though in all the edited sources this seems to have been corrupted to a nonsensical “Persian” Antioch, with the name Pisidia restored by Usener) being referred to in the epilogue, ostensibly in order to help locate Attaleia in the minds of the listeners. Usener suggests that there either was a cult site of Christophoros in Pisidian Antioch, or that the composer of the account was attempting to promote one there; however, the evidence as we have it is rather ambiguous at best. (The theory of Woods, which places Christophoros in a specific historical (Alexandrian) milieu under Diocletian is to be rejected as unconvincing, since it is built on far too many unfounded assumptions, and fails, among a number of other things, to take into account the references to Perge and Pisidia: Woods, D., "St. Christopher, Peter of Attalia, and the Cohors Marmaritarum: a Fresh Examination", Vigiliae Christianae 48 (1994), 170-186.) The most secure piece of information to be gleaned from the text, then, is that there seems at the time of its writing to have been an active cult site of saint Christophoros in Attaleia, where the bishop Petros is said to have deposited his relics and where they continued to perform miracles. The location of the relics of Aquilina and Kallinike is not explicitly stated, but, according to BHG 309, Petros brought back more relics than merely the body of Christophoros from Perge, and it seems logical that in Attaleia Christophoros’ relics would have been accompanied by those of the two women and, possibly, some of his other followers. As for the date of Christophoros’ martyrdom, both BHG 309 and 310 give 9 May (as today in the Eastern Orthodox tradition), whereas only BHG 310 supplies the dates for Aquilina and Kallinike (1 and 2 April respectively), as well as those for the two hundred soldiers (7 April). Apart from the last one, all dates fall within the period from 1 April to 9 May, and form a kind of logical progression, working its way through the companions to Christophoros himself; this may denote a week of festivities commemorating all of these saints, recalling other cases such as Sergios and Bakchos (S00023, S00079). The only date not consistent with this picture is that given for the massacre of the crowd, 9 July, which appears in both BHG 310 and 309. However, the question of the dates of commemoration is made more complex by the fact that those of Aquilina and Kallinike and the soldiers (1, 2 and 7 April) appear only in BHG 310 and, therefore, their originality is in question; for all we know, they might belong in the original martyrdom text, but they could also have been added later to one branch of the tradition and thus merely provide evidence for the development of the cult at an unknown moment in time.


Text: (BHG 309 and (partially) 310c) Usener, H., Acta S. Marinae et S. Christophori. Festschrift zur fünften Säcularfeier der Carl-Ruprechts-Universität zu Heidelberg (Bonn, 1886), 56-76. (BHG 310) van Hooff, G., “Sancti Christophori martyris acta Graeca antiqua,” Analecta Bollandiana 1:1 (1882), 121-148. Further reading: Saintyves, P., “Saint Christophe, successeur d’Anubis, d’Hermès et d’Héraclès,” Revue anthropologique 45 (1935), 309-355. Woods, D., "St. Christopher, Peter of Attalia, and the Cohors Marmaritarum: a Fresh Examination," Vigiliae Christianae 48 (1994), 170-186.

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