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E06124: The Greek Martyrdom of *Loukianos/Lucian of Antioch (theologian and martyr of Nicomedia and Helenopolis, S00151) survives in a 10th century metaphrastic redaction of an earlier text that was possibly written in the 4th century or later, possibly in Bithynia. It recounts the childhood and scholarly career of Loukianos, as well as his arrest and journey to Nicomedia, his imprisonment and eventual death there, together with the miraculous recovery of his relics. The text also mentions a number of other martyrs of the tetrarchic persecution.

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posted on 2018-08-17, 00:00 authored by Nikolaos
Martyrdom of Loukianos (BHG 997)


§§ 1-4: Loukianos is born to a noble Christian family in Samosata in Syria. After his parents die, he distributes his wealth to the poor. He studies under a biblical exegete, Makarios, in Edessa, receives baptism and adopts an ascetic way of life, and is later consecrated priest in Antioch and opens a school there. He also retranslates or re-edits (ἐπανενεώσατο, 'renews') the Holy Scriptures from Hebrew, since their text has become corrupt over time, and due to intentional tampering by pagans.

§§ 5-9: The emperor Maximinos [to be preferred, as a lectio difficilior, to the reading Maximianos, since according to Eusebius (E00318) the saint was martyred in 312 under Maximinus Daia], who is persecuting Christians, learns of Loukianos and orders him brought to Nicomedia. Loukianos tries to hide, but he is betrayed by Pankratios, a Sabellian presbyter. *Anthimos [bishop and martyr of Nicomedia, S00124], *Petros [bishop and martyr of Alexandria, S00247] and two unnamed children are martyred by the emperor. While travelling through Cappadocia, Loukianos manages to win over many Christian soldiers who had yielded and betrayed their faith, and most of them suffer martyrdom, numbering at least forty [possibly the *Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, S00103].

§§ 9-10: Others too are similarly encouraged by him, and Loukianos has many followers, some of whom accompany him during his trials in Nicomedia. Among these is his disciple Antoninos, whom he uses as a secretary for his correspondence. *Pelagia [martyr of Antioch, S01093], who lived near mount Amanus at Antioch in Syria, is also said to have been one of his disciples; she is said to have committed suicide to avoid her pursuers.

§§ 11-15: After arriving in Nicomedia, the saint is at first promised various honours by the emperor, if he would but renounce his faith. When he refuses, he is imprisoned and tortured, being also deprived of all food except sacrificial meats, of which he will not partake. Weakened by the torture and starvation, Loukianos finally dies in prison, but not before secretly celebrating the Eucharist with his disciples one last time at Theophany.

§§ 16-18: The emperor has his body thrown into the sea with a great rock tied to his right hand in order to prevent him being buried (according to some, however, he is still alive when this is done). However, after a fortnight in the deep, on the fifteenth day a dolphin carries it back to the shore. The martyr appears in a dream to his disciple Glykerios, who is staying on the other side of the gulf of Nicomedia, telling him to go in the morning to a certain place on the shore. When Glykerios and his fellow disciples come to the place, the dolphin appears and transports the martyr to the shore, where he/it expires at once [Gr. ὁ; presumably the dolphin is meant]. The martyr's right hand, however, remains in the deep attached to the rock, although according to some it also emerged from the sea later and was reattached to the body by those who found it.

§ 19: The special honour given to the right hand is a tribute to Loukianos' scholarly activity in correcting the Scriptures. As proof that the martyr's body was indeed brought back from the sea by a dolphin, the hagiographer cites the testimony of 'many contemporaries' and states that he himself, from an early age, remembers a hymn or poem in honour of the martyr, ending with the phrase δελφὶς δ' ἐπὶ νῶτα κομίζων ἐξέπνευσε φέρων ἐπὶ γαίην ('a/the dolphin carried [him] on its back and expired bringing him to land'). In order to prove that this was due to divine providence and was not a random accident, he also recounts that, having emerged from the sea, the martyr's body had remained completely uncorrupted (save the loss of the right hand).

§ 20: The martyr's body is initially buried by his disciples, who construct his grave or tomb (σῆμα) in such a fashion as they are able. Later the empress Helena builds on the spot, in the martyr’s honour, the city of Helenopolis, including a large church which is now an eminent landmark visible to both travellers and sailors passing the city.

Text: Bidez - Winkelmann 1981, 184-201.
Summary: N. Kälviäinen.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Loukianos/Lucian of Antioch, theologian and martyr of Nicomedia and Helenopolis : S00151 Anthimos, bishop and martyr of Nicomedia : S00124 Petros, bishop and martyr of Alexandria, and companion martyrs : S00247 Pelagia, martyr of Antioch : S01093

Saint Name in Source

Λουκιανός Ἄνθιμος Πέτρος Πελαγία στρατιῶται ... οὐκ ἐλάττους τὸν ἀριθμὸν τεσσαράκοντα

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

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Helenopolis Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/hostile attempts to prevent veneration of relics

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miracle with animals and plants Bodily incorruptibility Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future) Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miracle at martyrdom and death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - bishops Pagans Torturers/Executioners Monarchs and their family Prisoners Animals Heretics

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Construction of cult building to contain relics Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics Raising of relics


The metaphrastic text summarised here (BHG 997) presumably dates from around the late 10th century, but by all accounts it appears to follow its older model faithfully at least as far as the main elements of the narrative are concerned. It was established by Franchi de'Cavalieri (1897) that the narrative of the death of Lucian contained in a Life of the emperor Constantine (BHG 365) is derived from a version of the same older Martyrdom paraphrased in the metaphrastic version BHG 997. It has also been proposed that this common source of BHG 365 and BHG 997 ultimately goes back to an early text from which the ecclesiastical historian Philostorgius also drew material for his account of Lucian (Bidez - Winkelmann 1981, cxlviii-cxlix), but this is not entirely certain (Eyice and Noret 1973, 371, n. 2). In any case, the account of Philostorgius (E04193) transmits the same story in its essentials (the last communion in prison, the salvaging of the body by a dolphin, the building of Helenopolis). Another (premetaphrastic) Martyrdom of Loukianos (BHG 996z) is transmitted in two manuscripts of the 11th century, but to our knowledge has not yet been edited: see According to Noret, who examined the text and published a section of it, it is too different from the metaphrasis BHG 997 to be its immediate source. The account of Lucian's travels differs fundamentally from the account known from the metaphrasis; according to BHG 996z, instead of being captured and transported to Nicomedia, he leaves Antioch on his own volition on a mission to convert unbelievers. Travelling through Cilicia, Pamphylia and Cappadocia, he converts pagans, Jews and heretics before rushing to meet the emperor Diocletian in Nicomedia, accompanied by a small retinue of disciples. A critical edition and study of this text is required before it can be securely placed in the context of Lucian's hagiographic dossier, but it could well prove to be an 'epicising' offshoot of the original Martyrdom: embellishing the story, detaching it from the original historical setting and recasting it in a heroic form; for the 'epic' Martyrdoms in general, see Delehaye, H., Les Passions des martyres et les genres littéraires (2nd ed.; Brussels, 1966), 171-226.


If the hypothesis mentioned above, proposing that the original of the metaphrastic text BHG 997 goes back to a source which was also used by Philostorgius, should be correct, this would mean that the oldest Martyrdom of Lucian was in existence by the early 5th century, before Philostorgius composed his history around 425-433; this is in itself plausible, given the overall tone of the narrative summarised in the present entry, which is relatively down-to-earth and with a highly individual character, quite unlike the stereotypical 'epic' martyrdom accounts which from around the 5th century acquired a predominant position. On the other hand, some time will probably have passed after the martyr's death and the composition of the original text (cf. the testimony of the author in § 19, assuming that this section goes back to the original and is not a later interpolation). Thus, although the evidence is not conclusive, it is possible that the original Martyrdom was composed around the second half of the 4th century. As for the location, Helenopolis in Bithynia is the most likely candidate; the text ends with the martyr's body located in his namesake church there (cf. E00396), and the lengthy description of the fate of Lucian's body may betray a degree of familiarity with local geography and traditions, while there are no indications that the author had any special connection with any other place, such as Antioch for example. As a final note, it may be noted that it is not entirely certain whether Lucian was actually born in Samosata, or whether this tradition is due to a confusion with his famous namesake, the 2nd century rhetorical satirist Lucian from Samosata.


Text (BHG 997): Bidez, J. and Winkelmann, F., Philostorgios Kirchengeschichte. Mit dem Leben des Lucian von Antiochien und den Fragmenten eines arianischen Historiographen (Die griechische christliche Schriftsteller 21; 3rd ed., Berlin, 1981), 184-201. Migne, J.P., Patrologia Graeca 114 (Paris, 1903), 397-416. Excerpts (BHG 996z): Eyice, S., and Noret, J., "S. Lucien, disciple de S. Lucien d'Antioche. A propos d'une inscription de Kırşehir (Turquie)," Analecta Bollandiana 91 (1973), 372-376. Further reading: Franchi de'Cavalieri, P., "Di un frammento di una Vita di Constantino," Studi e documenti di storia e diritto 18 (1897), 104-109.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity