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E06222: The ’epic’ Greek Martyrdom of *Thyrsos, Leukios and Kallinikos (martyrs of Bithynia, S00612) tells of the trials and execution of three Christian converts over the course of a voyage that spans the neighbouring cities of Caesarea, Apameia, Apollonia and Miletopolis in Bithynia south of the gulf of Nicomedia. Probably written in Bithynia (north-west Asia Minor), possibly in the 5th century or later.

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posted on 2018-08-20, 00:00 authored by Nikolaos
Martyrdom of Thyrsos, Leukios and Kallinikos (BHG 1844z-1845)


§ 1: In the 24th year of the emperor Dekios [sic], a persecuting governor called Kou(m)brikios arrives from Nicomedia via Nicaea/Nikaia and Apameia to Caesarea/Kaisareia. A man called Leukios comes forward and declares his Christian faith. He is tortured and executed by the governor.

§ 2: Another would-be martyr, Thyrsos, comes forward and speaks against the pagan religion. He is tortured in multiple ways, including beatings and by pouring molten lead on him, which miraculously rebounds on the torturers, killing several of them, and afterwards imprisoned. The prison opens miraculously, allowing Thyrsos to seek out the local bishop, Phileas, and obtain the grace of baptism.

§ 3: A comes Silvanos, a Persian by birth, now arrives in Nicaea with royal authorisation to conduct persecutions, but comes to Caesarea upon hearing of Thyrsos’ feats to join forces with Koumbrikios against the martyr. He tries to persuade Thyrsos to sacrifice to Apollon, but Thyrsos destroys the cult statue. Torture with twisting instruments and boiling water ensues, and afterwards the saint is again imprisoned.

§ 4: Silvanos and Koumbrikios travel to Apameia, dragging Thyrsos along with them. Both perish suddenly of paralysis and fever respectively, their deaths having been foretold by the saint. A new governor, Baudos, an African by birth, arrives in Apameia and takes over the case, initially questioning Thyrsos. He then tries to drown Thyrsos in the sea in a sack but angels rescue the saint.

§ 5: Baudos takes Thyrsos with him back to Caesarea. He builds a wooden fortification in a place called “of Phileas”, inside which the saint is to be placed together with wild beasts. Thyrsos promises to sacrifice, but destroys the statue of Zeus. The saint is thrown to the beasts, but they do not molest him.

§ 6: Baudos takes Thyrsos to nearby Apollonia and at the temple of Apollon has him beaten with sticks, but the governor is suddenly seized by pain and the beaters’ right hands are paralysed, while the pagan statues come crashing down.

§ 7: A local Apollonian and devout pagan priest, Kallinikos [sometimes also called Asklepiades in Paris. gr. 1491], is inspired by Thyrsos’ contest and converts to Christianity, cutting off his hair and exchanging his clothes. After pretending to sacrifice and destroying a statue of Asklepios, he is executed by Baudos. A Christian called Acholios recovers Kallinikos’ body.

§ 8: Baudos takes Thyrsos to Miletopolis and goes hunting. He ends up in a place called Daphne, five miles away, where, as he rests in the shade, Satan comes to him and urges him to kill the martyr. Thyrsos is placed in a wooden casket and two men attempt to saw it in two, but the saw accomplishes nothing and the men grow tired. Thyrsos prays and a voice from the heavens announces his victory; the martyr then expires peacefully. Baudos, still in pain and tormented by angels, despairs as he finally recognises Thyrsos as a servant of God.

§ 9: Epilogue, given here in full save the final doxology (from Paris. gr. 1491 ff. 4v-5r):

τὸ τέλος τῆς ἀθλήσεως αὐτοῦ γένηται· μηνὶ ἐνδεκεμβρη ω τεσαρις κ(αὶ) δεκάτην· ἡμέρα τετράδι· οὗ τὸ σεμνὸν καὶ ἅγιον σῶμα· Φίλιππος Ἕλλην ᾐτήσατο προσελθὼν τῶ ἡγεμόνι· καὶ λαβὼν ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ γλωσσοκόμῳ ἔθηκεν αὐτὸν ἐν τόπῳ σεμνῷ καὶ παρέμεινεν αὐτῷ [corr. αὐτοῦ?] ἡμέρας ἑπτά· ἕως ἦλθεν Καισάριος ὁ ἐπίσκοπος· καὶ Λαδίκιος πρεσβύτερος ἀσκητής· καὶ ἄλλοι πλείονες κατ’ ἐπιτροπὴν τοῦ ἡγεμόνος καὶ παρεκάλεσαν αὐτὸν ἀνελθόντας· τοῦ δικαίου Θύρσου ἐν πολλῇ παρακλήσει ποιῆσαι ἱκετηρίαν, ἵνα συγχωρήσῃ †τὰ τῆς εἰρήνης ὥραν τυχεῖν τοῦ ἀποδοῦναι τὴν ψυχήν· ἀνελθόντες δὲ οἱ περὶ τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἐποίησαν σπήλαιον σεμνὸν ἅμα τῷ Φιλίππῳ· καὶ ἔθηκαν ἐν εἰρήνῃ καὶ σωφροσύνῃ· ὡς τελειώσαντα τὸν τῆς ἀθλήσεως αὐτοῦ δρόμον· ἐν χάριτι τοῦ κ(υρίο)υ ἡμῶν Ἰ(ησο)ῦ Χ(ριστο)ῦ· τοῦ στέψαντος τὸν μακάριον Θύρσον σὺν πᾶσι τοῖς ἁγίοις...

'The end of his contest took place in the month of December on the 14th, on a Wednesday. Philippos, a Hellene, came to the governor and requested his holy and venerable body. Upon receiving it he placed the martyr in the very same casket [i.e. in which they had tried to saw him in half] and remained close to it [more probably: it remained there] for seven days, until the bishop Kaisarios came, and Ladikios the presbyter, an ascetic, and many more, with the permission of the governor, and requested of him [Philippos?] that they should go and supplicate the righteous Thyrsos with much entreaty to allow him [the governor?] to give up his soul in peace. And going up [uphill?], the bishop and his entourage, together with Philippos, made a venerable cave and deposited there the martyr in peace and decorum, as having completed the journey of his contest, in the grace of our lord Jesus Christ who crowned Thyrsos and all the saints ...'

Text: Patrologia Graeca 116, 508-537, and mss. Vatic. gr. 1991 f. 170, Vatic. gr. 2123 ff. 103-112, and Paris. gr. 1491 ff. 1-5r.
Summary and translation: N. Kälviäinen.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Thyrsos and companions, martyrs of Bithynia : S00612

Saint Name in Source

Θύρσος, Καλλίνικος, Λεύκιος

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 name in other Language(s)

Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - other

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Punishing miracle Miracles experienced by the saint

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Aristocrats Officials Pagans Ecclesiastics - bishops Unbaptized Christians Demons Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Angels

Cult Activities - Relics

Reliquary – privately owned Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics


The late antique ‘epic’ Passion of Thyrsos, Leukios and Kallinikos (BHG 1844z) has not yet been edited; hence the present entry is restricted to a brief and incomplete survey of the text on the basis of the three mss. which were readily available at the time of writing (Vatic. gr. 1991 and 2123, as well as Paris. gr. 1491), all three of which preserve the text only partially (see below), and with some help from the metaphrastic version BHG 1845, which, however, seems to abbreviate the text somewhat (Patrologia Graeca 116, col. 508-537); there is in addition one ms. with a text from which the beginning is missing, Hieros. Patr. S. Sabae 18 (ff. 327-348). The mss. all date from the 10th to 12th centuries (note that there is however a Syriac version dating from the late 5th or 6th century, most likely a translation of an early form of this Greek text since no other premetaphrastic Greek version is known: E06243). The order of the fragments of the text preserved in the three mss. is as follows: 1) Vatic. gr. 1991 f. 170 (the title and beginning of the text and most of Leukios’ martyrdom), 2) Vatic. gr. 2123 f. 111 (part of Thyrsos’ torture by Koumbrikios, including the molten lead episode), 3) Vatic. gr. 2123 f. 112 (the initial conversation with Silvanos, the destruction of the statue of Apollo and the ensuing torture), 4) Vatic. gr. 2123 ff. 103-110 (from the journey with Silvanos and Koumbrikios to Apameia, to the attempt of Baudos to feed the saint to the beasts), 5) Paris. gr. 1491 ff. 1-5r (from the journey with Baudos to Apollonia, to the end of the text). For information on the manuscripts see:


The comes Silvanos, while of uncertain historicity (some kind of governor of Bithynia in 270/275? see PLRE I, 840 no.1) is clearly intended to represent the same person mentioned in the account of *Loukillianos and his companions, martyrs of Byzantium (E06125). Since the figure of Loukillianos, the repentant pagan priest, is also clearly parallel to that of Kallinikos the companion of Thyrsos (compare especially the parallel account of both shaving their hair and changing their clothes as a token of atonement: Delehaye, H., “Saints de Thrace et de Mésie,” Analecta Bollandiana 31 (1912), 188, and PG 116, 533), it seems that the composer of the present text is likely to have had in his mind the earlier account of Loukillianos. It can be noted that the name of the governor Baudos also occurs in the martyrdom account of *Ammon, deacon and martyr of Herakleia of Thrace, and his companions (E06581). As potential evidence of cult, the martyrs’ itinerary (notably similar to that of the martyr *Quadratus/Kodratos, E02075) suggests the possibility of a polycentral cult in which a group of four neighbouring Bithynian cities located on the southern side of the gulf of Nicomedia, namely Caesarea (also Germanikopolis, near mod. Tahtalı), Apameia Myrleia (near mod. Mudanya on the sea), Apollonia (A. ad Rhyndacum, near mod. Gölyazı on the Uluabat lake) and Miletopolis (mod. Karacabey) participated in some way, perhaps as a pilgrimage route passing through each city in turn; each site could then conceivably have displayed relics (e.g. the bodies of Leukios in Caesarea, Kallinikos in Apollonia, and Thyrsos in Miletopolis acc. to the text), contact relics or simply loci of memorable events. The burial cave mentioned in the epilogue, according to the text located (perhaps on elevated ground) near Miletopolis, has to our knowledge not been identified. The place called Daphne (i.e. 'laurel-grove'), where Baudos’ hunting party stops to rest in the shade (probably due to the onset of the summer midday heat), said to lie 'five miles away' from Miletopolis and 'on the mountain', could have been located in the hilly country that begins some 5-7 km north of Karacabey, which lies on a flat plain. Alternatively, one could consider the possibility that this is a distant echo of the sanctuary of Apollo Daphnousios located in the territory of Apollonia ad Rhyndacum, near modern Akçapınar south of the Ulubat lake (see Tanrıver, C. and Kütük, S., "The Katoikia of Daphnous and The Sanctuary of Apollon Daphnousios in the Territory of Apollonia ad Rhyndacum," Epigraphica Anatolica 21 (1993) 99-102). However, the distance between Karacabey and Akçapınar (some 28 km or around 18-19 Roman miles), the fact that no mention of a cult site of Apollo is made in the text, and the availability of the above mentioned easier solution conspire to make this identification unlikely. A further (unidentified) location mentioned is the 'locality/place of Phileas' (τόπος τοῦ Φιλέα; perhaps somehow related to the bishop of Caesarea, Phileas, mentioned earlier in the text) near Caesarea, where Baudos builds the wooden arena for Thyrsos and the beasts. This apparent display of knowledge of local topography reinforces the impression that the text was written in Bithynia for the needs of a local cult. One must in addition consider the possibility that the name of the bishop Kaisarios constitutes a garbled recollection of the consul (397) and praetorian prefect of the East (395/7), Kaisarios, who according to Sozomen built the magnificent church of saint Thyrsos near Helenianae outside Constantinople (E04058). If so (but this could be a coincidence), this would suggest that the text was written sometime later than around 400, perhaps over the course of the following century. A final point, not devoid of interest, is that in the manuscript Paris. gr. 1491 (f. 5r), the date of Thyrsos’ martyrdom seems to have been altered, with a newer hand writing over the old text the date μηνὶ ἐνδεκεμβρη ω τεσαρις κ(αὶ) δεκάτην 'in the month of December, on the 14th' (as indicated by the letters in bold); it is hard to discern what the original reading was (perhaps μηνὶ ἐνδεκ[άτῳ... ...καὶ] δεκάτην 'in the eleventh month, on the 1(?)th). But considering the wealth of feast days associated with the name of Thyrsos (see the Evidence records under S00612), it is conceivable that this alteration relates to a process of standardisation of the date in the medieval Byzantine church.


Text (metaphrastic version): Migne, J.P., Patrologia Graeca 116 (Paris, 1864), 508-537.

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