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E06712: The so-called 'Asian' Life of *Kosmas and Damianos (brothers, physician martyrs of Syria, S00385) is written in Greek, perhaps in Constantinople or elsewhere in the East, possibly in the 4th century or later.

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posted on 2018-10-05, 00:00 authored by Bryan
The 'Asian' Life of Kosmas and Damianos (BHG 372)


§ 1: A pious woman named *Theodote gives birth to two sons, the saints Kosmas and Damianos, and brings them up in the Christian faith and teaches them to read and write. By the Holy Spirit they are taught the art of medicine, in accordance with the Gospels, learning to cure the blind, the lame, those with deformed feet, to drive away demons and all bitterness in the human body. Following the Gospel commandment, 'freely you have received, freely give' (δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε), they never accept payment for their services.

§ 2: A woman named Palladia is bedridden and has spent all her fortune in vain on the services of doctors. Hearing of Kosmas and Damianos, she runs to them to beg for their help. After the saints heal her, and she discovers that they never accept a reward, she begs on her knees, swearing terrible oaths, that Damianos should accept three eggs. At length Damianos accepts. Hearing of this, Kosmas is saddened, and declares he does not wish to be buried together with his brother. However, the following night the Lord appears to Kosmas, telling him that Damianos did not accept the eggs as a payment but because of an oath sworn upon the name of the Lord. After the brothers accomplish many signs and many cures, Damianos dies a peaceful death and receives the crown of sainthood.

§ 3: Kosmas does not ply his craft merely in the city, but also goes out into the wilderness in order to take care of animals, and the sick follow him wherever he goes. In the desert, he heals a camel which had been 'broken by the devil' (κλασθεῖσαν ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου). After accomplishing many cures both in the city and in the desert, Kosmas too dies peacefully and receives the crown of sainthood. The crowd of his followers is uncertain as to how they should bury his relics. Suddenly, the camel returns and speaks in a human voice, declaring that God had revealed to Kosmas that he and Damianos should be buried together. The people then bury both saints in a place called Phereman.

§ 4: Near Phereman, a farmer out harvesting his crops lies down to rest in the shade of a tree and falls asleep with his mouth open. A snake slithers inside his mouth and as far as his stomach. Unaware of this, after waking up, the man returns to work. In the evening, after enjoying his dinner he goes to sleep, but the creature rips into him from the inside, and the man starts yelling. None can understand what is wrong, but the man invokes the God of Kosmas and Damianos for help. When the problem gets worse, he goes to the martyrs' shrine at Phereman and repeats the invocation. The saints cause him to fall asleep, then drive the snake out through his mouth. When the man wakes up, he shouts that no-one should lay their hands on the snake, for it has been commanded to go to Hell (γέεννα, Gehenna). The snake disappears.

§ 5: A man named Malkhos stays at the temple of the saints and observes the miracles (σημεῖα, signs) they perform. As he is setting out on a long journey, he invites his wife to accompany him to visit the shrine of Kosmas and Damianos. As they reach Phereman, Malkhos entrusts his wife to the saints' protection. He gives her a password, tells her that he will send for her and leaves. The Devil learns the password and approaches Malkhos' wife, disguised as a young man, telling her he has been sent by her husband to take her away. Reluctant to follow him even when he has told her the password, she asks him first to go inside the temple and assure her, his hand on the altar, that he means her no harm. The Devil does this gladly, underestimating the saints; he swears on the altar that he will deliver her safely to her husband, and she follows him. When they reach an uninhabited place, the Devil throws her off her steed and is about to kill her, but she calls for Kosmas and Damianos to help her. The saints appear in the form of cavalrymen and a large crowd. The Devil turns to flight and throws himself over a cliff; his bones scatter all about, and Hell (ἅδης, Hades) opens its mouth to swallow him. The saints take the woman's hand and lead her home. They reveal to her their names and that they helped her because of her faith in them. The woman gives a prayer of thanks to God.

Text: Deubner 1907, 87-96. Summary: N. Kälviäinen.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Kosmas and Damianos, brothers, physician martyrs of Syria : S00385 Theodote, and Anthimos, Leontios and Euprepios (mother and brothers of Kosmas and Damianos) : S01544

Saint Name in Source

Κοσμᾶς, Δαμιανός Θεοδότη

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle after death Miracle with animals and plants Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves Miraculous protection - of people and their property Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Relatives of the saint Physicians Other lay individuals/ people Crowds Demons Animals Family

Cult Activities - Relics

Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Bodily relic - entire body Oath made on a relic


There are three parallel early legends of Kosmas and Damianos, a diversity which most probably reflects the spread and diversification of their cult in Late Antiquity; these are conventionally termed the 'Asian' Life (BHG 372-372e), and the 'Roman' (BHG 376-377) and 'Arabian' (BHG 378-379) Martyrdoms. In the Byzantine tradition, their protagonists are venerated as three separate pairs of homonymous saints: the 'Asian' saints on 1 November, the 'Roman' on 1 July, and the 'Arabian' on 17 October (or 25 November according to the earliest Greek text). For an attempt to analyse the relationships between the three texts (and cults) and their derivates in other languages, see Deubner 1907, 38-83. According to Deubner's analysis, the 'Asian' Life of Kosmas and Damianos (BHG 372-372e) was the earliest text, which he assumes was composed for the purposes of a nascent cult in Constantinople the 4th century. It is also the one which survives in by far the largest number of manuscripts (for which see,and which was the most influential in the later Greek tradition, including serving as the model for the Metaphrastic redaction (BHG 374) and for a number of later Byzantine encomia (though it must be said that this is by itself in no way evidence for the primacy of the text). According to Deubner, the collection of Miracles of Kosmas and Damianos (BHG 385-392, see E0XXXX) is connected exclusively to the 'Asian' Life, not the 'Roman' or 'Arabian' Martyrdoms. For the 'Roman' and 'Arabian' Martyrdoms, see E07076 and E07077.


As pointed out by Deubner (1907, 47-48), the original 'Asian' Life gives very little in terms of spatio-temporal coordinates. No chronological indications are given, and the saints' homeland is not identified; only in the later Greek (synaxarial and metaphrastic) tradition are the saints said to hail from 'Asia'. The text does, however, identify the saints' final resting place and the location of their shrine as 'Phereman' (Φερεμάν), which according to Deubner (1907, 47-51) can be seen as corresponding to Περεμουν or Φαρμά, an alternative name of Pelusium on the coast of Egypt. Deubner does not, however, see this as an indication that the text was composed there; in his view, the twin saints' healing cult began at Constantinople, with Kosmas and Damianos as the Christian successors of the Dioscuri, and the hagiographer who composed their legend simply chose to locate it in Egypt.


Text: Deubner, L., Kosmas und Damian (Leipzig, 1907), 87-96. Further reading: Luongo, G. "Il "dossier" agiografico dei santi Cosma e Damiano," in: Sant'Eufemia d'Aspromonte. Atti del convegno di studio per il bicentenario dell'autonomia (Sant'Eufemia d'Aspromonte 14-16 dicembre 1990) (Soveria Mannelli, 1997). (Note: this article was not available to us)

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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