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E06600: The Greek Martyrdom of *Adrianos and Natalia (martyr of Nicomedia and his pious wife, S01342) recounts the trial and execution in Nicomedia (north-west Asia Minor) of Adrianos, a convert to Christianity, the support given him by his Christian wife Natalia, the translation of his and his companions' relics to the shrine of Argyropolis near Byzantion, and Natalia's final journey to the shrine and her death there. Probably written in Constantinople at some point in the 5th-7th centuries.

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posted on 2018-09-25, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Martyrdom of Adrianos and Natalia (BHG 27)


§ 1: During the second 'tour' (περίοδος) of the emperor Maximianos, he comes to Nicomedia and the city is filled with animal sacrifices, while the emperor's agents scour the city and the regiones [ῥεγεῶνες, estates outside the city] for Christians in order to deliver them to the provincial governor. Many inform on their fellow citizens.

§§ 2-5: A group of Christians is found and arrested while singing psalms in a cave; they mock the emperor's edict compelling all to sacrifice, and are tortured. They are then led to the prison.

§§ 6-7: Adrianos, a leading official [lit. τις τῶν ἡγουμένων τῆς τάξεως], questions the saints (ἅγιοι) about their faith and is himself converted and declares himself publicly a Christian, causing the enraged emperor to have him imprisoned together with the others to await trial.

§§ 8-12: Upon being informed of these events, Natalia, the wife of Adrianos, who is herself secretly a Christian, is filled with joy and runs to congratulate her husband for his discovery of the faith; he then sends her home to await his trial and execution. Natalia leaves after kissing the saints' fetters and speaking words of encouragement to her husband.

§§ 13-15: When the day of the trial draws nigh, Adrianos bribes the prison guards in order to go home and fetch his wife, leaving the company of the saints as guarantors for his return; but he is seen on the road by servants who mistakenly report to Natalia that he has been released. Thinking that her husband has renounced the cause, Natalia is grieved and, when Adrianos arrives, she rebukes him harshly and refuses to let him in, disbelieving his explanations.

§§ 16-17: At length Adrianos manages to convince Natalia and praises her for her virtue. They then depart together in harmony for the prison, where Natalia stays with them for seven days, treating and bandaging the wounds of the saints.

§ 18: On the day of the trial, guards arrive and transport the saints to the courthouse. The emperor orders them to be brought in for interrogation and torture, but the presiding official (ὁ ἐπιτεταγμένος τὰς δίκας) convinces him that the others are not in a condition to suffer more torture and would merely expire at once; Adrianos, however, is in perfect shape to be interrogated.

§§ 19-21: The emperor duly orders him to be brought in, while the other saints and Natalia speak to him words of encouragement. The emperor then tries to convince Adrianos to renounce his 'folly', but the martyr remains firm; he is then beaten with wooden sticks.

§§ 22-24: In the meantime, Natalia constantly informs the imprisoned saints about the events taking place in the courthouse. The emperor again attempts to win Adrianos over, but in vain; the martyr is then beaten in the stomach by four men until his insides fall out. The emperor offers to have him treated by physicians, but the martyr's resolve does not falter. The saints are then sent back to the prison to await further proceedings.

§§ 25-27: Adrianos is badly bruised and asks for the others to pray for him. The saints' wounds are treated by Natalia and other noblewomen, female deacons. When the emperor forbids any women to visit them, Natalia shaves her head, dresses as a man and continues to visit the prison. She begs her husband to ask God to take her with him, so that she may escape being married off by the tyrant to a pagan after his passing.

§§ 28-29: Other women follow her in dressing as men in order to administer to the saints. The emperor, upon learning of this and that the saints are near death, orders their legs to be broken by iron bars upon bronze anvils rather than allowing them to die on their own. Natalia requests that they begin with her husband, lest he lose heart; after his legs are cut off, she asks him to extend his hand and places it too on the anvil for the executioners to cut off. Adrianos surrenders his spirit to the Lord.

§ 30: The other saints are killed in the same manner, and the emperor orders their bodies to be burnt in a furnace so that they may not be worshipped by the Christians. Natalia, however, takes with her the hand of Adrianos, and anoints herself with the blood dripping from the bodies as they are carried to the furnace; other women as well collect the blood with purple cloth and other valuable fabrics, and even purchase later the bloodstained garments of the executioners. Natalia and the other women stand near the furnace and beseech the martyrs to remember them.

§ 31: When the bodies have been thrown into the furnace, the fire is suddenly put out by a thunderstorm accompanied by an earthquake. Some of the executioners flee, while others fall down and die.

§ 32: The women seize their chance to recover the bodies of the martyrs, which are found miraculously unharmed by the fire. A man named Eusebios and his wife approach them, explaining that they used to live outside the city but left for Byzantion due to the prevailing godlessness. They request to be allowed to take away in a ship the relics and deposit them in their land for safekeeping until the death of the persecutor, after which they could be buried with the proper ceremonial.

§ 33: The request is duly granted and the relics are taken away to Byzantion, but Natalia keeps the hand of Adrianos just in case the security of the other relics should be compromised; secretly, she wraps the hand in a purple cloth doused with myrrh, and hides it in her pillow. After a while a tribune (χιλίαρχος, lit. 'chiliarch') petitions the emperor to marry her, seeing as she is at once beautiful, noble and rich, and approaches her through certain familiar women. Natalia pretends to acquiesce and asks for three months' time, ostensibly in order to prepare for the wedding, but in reality planning to make her escape and travel to where the the relics are located.

§§ 34-35: She pleads with God to rescue her from the suitor, and one of her husband's companion saints appears to her in a dream, revealing that Adrianos too was accepted by God and summons her to journey to the location of the relics. Taking up company with a band of others also fleeing the tyrant, Natalia makes the sea voyage taking nothing with her save the hand of Adrianos.

§ 36: The tribune, learning of her flight, gives chase accompanied by many soldiers, but a contrary wind and waves force them back. Next, a demonic apparition in the form of a ship with an experienced crew tries to lure Natalia and her companions to their doom in the open sea by insisting that they are off course and should make a leftward turn.

§ 37: Even as the pilgrims attempt to change their course, Adrianos himself appears, warning them of the devil's ruse; at once the phantom ship disappears. A favourable wind leads them to their destination, and before dawn they arrive at Argyropolis opposite Byzantion [i.e. on the northern side of the Golden Horn, at modern Fındıklı/Gümüşsuyu]. After landing, Natalia venerates the relics, laying Adrianos' hand to rest next to his body, and prays.

§ 38: By now weary of her toils, Natalia sees Adrianos in a dream summoning her to God, and surrenders her spirit. Her companions bury her close to the martyrs and, after praying, seal the domed structure (τὸ τρουλοειδὲς ἐκεῖνο οἴκημα).

§ 39: Many men and women remain there, having renounced the world, and serve God in fasting and prayer. The martyrdom of the saints took place on 26 August.

Text: AASS, Sept. III, 218-230.
Summary: Nikolaos Kälviäinen.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Adrianos and Natalia, martyrs of Nicomedia : S01342

Saint Name in Source

Ἀδριανός, Ναταλία

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

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Argyropolis Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Cult activities - Places

Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/hostile attempts to prevent veneration of relics

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Punishing miracle Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures Bodily incorruptibility

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Pagans Unbaptized Christians Monarchs and their family Soldiers Officials Torturers/Executioners Aristocrats Physicians Prisoners Demons Family

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Bodily relic - arm/hand/finger Bodily relic - blood Making contact relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Division of relics Privately owned relics


The Martyrdom of Adrianos and Natalia (BHG 27-27a) is currently known to be preserved in 12 manuscripts, the earliest of which is codex Parisinus graecus 1470, dated to the year 890:


The text refers to the existence of a cult site in Argyropolis, on the northern side of the Golden Horn in Byzantion (modern Fındıklı/Gümüşsuyu), where the relics of the martyrs were deposited in 'a domed structure' (τρουλοειδὲς οἴκημα), commonplace for a martyrium; it also suggests that Adrianos' hand constituted a separate relic detached from the body. Additionally, the text's final chapter suggests there was present some kind of an ascetic or monastic community with both male and female members. This cult site also appears in the later Martyrdom of Adrianos, another homonymous martyr of Nicomedia (BHG 26), whose exact relationship to the earlier Adrianos is not entirely clear and whose body was supposedly transported from Nicomedia to Byzantion, exactly like that of Adrianos and his companions in the present text. The rest of his legend, however, is clearly different from that of Adrianos and Natalia: according to it, Adrianos' father is the emperor Probus and his brother, who becomes bishop of Byzantion, is named Domitios (for these names cf. A. Berger, "Mokios und Konstantin der Große. Zu den Anfängen des Märtyrerkults in Konstantinopel," in: Ἀντικήνσωρ. Τιμητικὸς τόμος Σ.Ν. Τρωιάνου γιὰ τὰ ὀγδοηκοστὰ γενέθλιά του (Athens, 2013), 166). Adrianos was preaching Christ in Nicomedia when arrested by the emperor Licinius, and tortured and beheaded after refusing to renounce his faith. According to the Martyrdom of Adrianos, when the translation of his relics to Argyropolis took place, the site already contained the relics not only of Adrianos and Natalia, but also those of Stachys, the legendary first bishop of Byzantion who had been ordained by Andrew the Apostle (AASS, Aug. V, 811). The Martyrdom of Adrianos, at least in the form we know it, is a very brief text, rather resembling a synaxarial entry or epitome, which can probably be dated to later than the end of the 7th century (since it refers to the legend of Stachys which only appears at around that time: see ODB I, 92) but earlier than the date of the only manuscript (11th century; see It is entirely possible that this second Adrianos represents an 'offshoot' or 'duplicate' of the original Adrianos, venerated at the same cult site, whose hagiographer, in order to distinguish him from the husband of Natalia, put together a new legend drawing on the traditional history of the episcopal throne of Constantinople. The Martyrdom of Adrianos and Natalia (BHG 27-27a) is also difficult to date exactly, but its simple language and relatively down-to-earth description of the saints' imprisonment, trial and execution (in contrast to the more exaggerated and much more stereotypical martyrdom accounts often termed 'epic'), and perhaps some vestigial hints of concern with the maintenance of judicial protocol (the torture, which is referred to as interrogation (ἐρωτᾶν), is kept separate from the execution of the death sentence, although the motivating factor given is the emperor's desire not to permit his victims an easy death) conjoin to paint an image of a text which would be at home in a late antique milieu. In addition, the saints' cult was clearly in existence by the 7th century, since their feast day was being celebrated in both East and West (on various dates, see e. g. E03032, E03188, E03667, E04706, E05651) and, what is more, a Latin hymn composed in Spain, and dated possibly to the 7th century, contains a summary of the martyrdom account as known from our text (E02828, without referring, however, to the part about the translation of the relics). All in all, it seems very likely that the original Greek text was in existence by the 7th century. It is, however, probably later than the early 5th century since, as pointed out by the Bollandists (AASS, Sept. III, 230) the suburb of Argyropolis received its name from Atticus, patriarch of Constantinople (406-425), according to the church historian Socrates Scholasticus (7.25.12-14). Finally, the reference to the regiones around the city of Nicomedia (estates not subject to the city, possibly imperial) could conceivably point to a degree of familiarity on the part of the author with the actual Bithynian landscape, although the text, at least as we have it now, was of course most probably written in Constantinople in the context of the Argyropolis shrine. Whatever the case may be, the fact that the Argyropolis cult site resurfaces in the clearly later Martyrdom of Adrianos seems to indicate its continuing activity at least during the intervening period, as well as the gradual accumulation in the period after the 7th century of additional saints' relics to accompany those of Adrianos, Natalia and their companions.


Text (BHG 27): Acta Sanctorum, Sept. III, 218-230.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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