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E06666: The Greek Martyrdom of *Zosimos (martyr of Anazarbus in Cilicia, S02505) tells of the hermit Zosimos, who, with the help of a talking lion, manages to convince his pagan persecutor of the truth of God before mysteriously disappearing into the chasm of a rock. Written probably in Cilicia, possibly around the 5th century or later.

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posted on 2018-10-02, 00:00 authored by Nikolaos
Martyrdom of Zosimos (BHG 2476-2477)


§ 1: When the comes sacrarum largitionum (κόμης τῶν θείων λαργιτιόνων) Dometios arrives in Cilicia on his journey to the East, saint Zosimos is brought before him. Zosimos is a hermit living in the mountains, like John the Baptist and Elias, in the company of wild beasts who follow him during the day as he performs the daily prayer offices; after Vespers, he releases the beasts and continues to perform the night-time offices before resting. His wish is to thus temper the savagery of the animals and produce from among them a martyr for Christ.

§ 2: The magistrate Dometios, while holding court at Anazarbus, proceeds to interrogate Zosimos. The hermit confesses to being a Christian and accuses people of behaving savagely in that they worship creation instead of the Creator, while the animals know God and worship him, the Creator. Dometios attempts to persuade him to sacrifice to the pagan gods, to no avail. He then has the saint's ears pierced with hot irons, but this does nothing to dissuade Zosimos. Next the saint is thrown into a boiling cauldron full of foulness, but God brings forth rain from a cloud, and the cauldron becomes colder than snow. Zosimos emerges unscathed and promises to persuade the persecutor that animals recognise God.

§ 3. Zosimos is hung upside down with a rock hanging from his neck. He prays God to send a lion with a 'spirit of speech' (πνεῦμα λαλοῦν), to embarrass Satan and his servants. A lion appears, roaring but not harming any of the onlookers, and places itself under Zosimos, supporting the weight of the rock. The taxis [τάξις, often denoting a magistrate's retinue of officials] and the people flee, leaving Dometios alone. He too attempts to flee, but the lion catches him at the entrance and forces him to remain upon his throne, speaking to him in a human voice and exhorting him not to fear. The beast then returns to supporting Zosimos' rock.

§ 4: When those who had fled hear the lion speaking in a human voice and realise that it has not harmed anyone, they all return to the praetorium. This encourages the magistrate, who urges them to slay the lion for him. The lion objects, saying it is willing to shed its blood for Christ together with Zosimos, but wishes to speak first in defence of the faith (ἀπολογία). The magistrate consents to this. After an initial dialogue, the lion gives him a lecture on how the Word of God was born of a virgin, became subject to human nature and died in order to save humanity from death, and how on the last day he will return to judge the world. Dometios acknowledges that it is good to believe the lion's words, and he has Zosimos taken down from his hanging position.

§ 5: Dometios confesses again that it is good to believe the lion's words, if they are true. He would like to send the beast to the emperor in order that he too might partake of the divine doctrine, and reward the lion with double rations (διπλὰς ἀννώνας). Zosimos, however, prays and makes the sign of the cross over the lion, and sends it away. The beast leaves the city, harming no-one and returns to Zosimos' mountain dwelling, and proclaims the Gospel to the other wild animals.

§ 6: Zosimos now tells Dometios that he has treasure in his dwelling, which he wishes to bequeath to the magistrate. Dometios, believing that the hermit speaks of a material treasure, sends him there together with Athanasios the court clerk (κομενταρήσιος, i.e. commentariensis). When they arrive at the dwelling, the wild animals pay respects to Zosimos in various ways. Seeing this, the clerk is terrified and declares his faith in Christ, but confesses that he fears being tortured by his master. Zosimos encourages Athanasios and baptises him.

§ 7: Finally, Zosimos lifts his hands towards the heavens, gives thanks to God and prays Him to receive their souls lest further trials compel them to renounce Him. At once a chasm opens in the rock, and receives into it Zosimos, Athanasios, and the lion.

Text: Halkin 1952, 254-261.
Summary: N. Kälviäinen.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Zosimos, martyr of Anazarba in Cilicia : S02505

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Anazarba Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Places

Other (mountain, wood, tree, pillar)

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Miracle during lifetime Miracles experienced by the saint Miracles causing conversion Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miracle with animals and plants

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Pagans Officials Animals


The Martyrdom is preserved in two versions BHG 2476 (edited by Halkin, see Bibliography) and BHG 2477 (which remains unedited): In terms of literary affinities, the text bears some or all of the hallmarks of the 'epic' subgenre of Greek martyrdom accounts (Martyrdoms characterised by a relative detachment from historical reality and often including extravagant, even fantastical, elements; see H. Delehaye, H., Les Passions des martyres et les genres littéraires, Brussels, 1966 (2nd ed.), 171-226).


The Martyrdom of Zosimos lacks practically any obvious indicators of relation to cultic practice, since no relics or cult site of the saint are mentioned (unless the hermit's mountain dwelling and/or the rock into which he had disappeared were places of cult), and what is more, there is no indication even of a feast day in the presumably older version, BHG 2476. In the other version, BHG 2477, by contrast, the saint's day of death is given as 3 January (see BHG III, 80), but this probably reflects a later adaptation of the tradition for the purposes of insertion into the Byzantine festal calendar. Instead of having an obvious cultic focus, the text seems to function more like an edifying story, possibly influenced by the myth of Orpheus, although openly only John the Baptist and Elijah are invoked as Zosimos' role models; the talking lion was possibly influenced by the Apocryphal Acts of Paul: (Halkin 1952, 249-251) which goes so far as to flirt with the boundaries of established doctrine in its presentation of animals as exemplary servants of God, contrasted with a fallen and idol-worshipping humanity (although, on the other hand, it is stressed that the lion does not act on its own initiative, but as inspired by God). It is pointed out by Halkin that the presentation of the lion as what effectively amounts to a martyr companion of Zosimos (!) seems to have been a little too much for later compilers of synaxaria (as well as BHG 2477, see BHG III, 80), who omit the statement that it accompanied the hermit and the clerk into the chasm of the rock (Halkin 1952, 251). The figure of the persecutor, the comes sacrarum largitionum Dometios (a name seemingly recurring in martyrdom accounts of the Taurus region, with some variation) is suggested by Halkin to have been influenced by the memory of one Domitianus, who historically held that office in the mid 4th century before becoming praetorian prefect of the East (PLRE I, 262 no. 3; but cf. the Discussion in E06121). He also suggests that, since Anazarbus did not become a provincial metropolis until c. 400, it is unlikely that it would have been thought of as a potential setting for a high official's tribunal before then. On the other hand, because the references to the Virgin in the text do not use the term Theotokos, he supposes the text may not postdate the Council of Ephesus (431) by a long period of time. Halkin therefore concludes that the text was most likely written in the 5th century (Halkin 1952, 252-3). Nevertheless, none of these arguments can be considered truly conclusive; as Halkin himself admits, popular hagiography does not always follow established theological discourse rigourously, while the figure of Dometios may constitute a literary loan from other texts. Without any more decisive arguments in favour of a more concrete dating, the Martyrdom can only generally be attributed to the late antique period. However, a relatively early date does not seem unlikely in this case.


Text: Halkin, F., "Un émule d'Orphée. La légende grecque inédite de S. Zosime, martyr d'Anazarbe en Cilicie," Analecta Bollandiana 70 (1952), 254-261. (BHG 2476)

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity