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E06779: The Greek 'epic' Martyrdom of *Eugenios and Makarios (confessors/martyrs under the emperor Julian, S02560) tells the story of two Christians who are first tortured by Julian the Apostate and then banished into Mauretania, where they convert the locals to Christianity and retreat to a mountain, where they confront a dragon, witness various signs and miracles, and finally die peacefully. Probably written somewhere in the East sometime in the 5th-8th century.

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posted on 2018-10-08, 00:00 authored by Nikolaos
Μartyrdom of Eugenios and Makarios (BHG 2126)

Βrief summary:

§§ 1-5: Julian the Apostate tortures the brothers Eugenios and Makarios on account of their refusal to renounce Christianity. The saints are first smoked, then put on a grill made of heated irons in fire, to no effect; at first Julian even believes that the fire has somehow been sabotaged. The emperor then summons serpent-charmers in order to have venomous asps attack them, but the snakes exhibit no hostility to the saints, although one makes a threatening move towards the emperor.

§§ 6-8: Frustrated in his attempts to persuade the saints, Julian has them bound in irons and sends them into exile in Mauretania. The brothers reach a city named Dindon(a) and convert the local populace, who are pagans. They then retreat to a nearby mountain, eighteen miles high, so high that the rocks are burnt like embers by the sun. On the mountain they confront a dragon of gigantic proportions that has been terrorising the region, which, through their prayers, is consumed by a wheel-shaped fire from heaven. The saints stay for a while in the dragon's cave and witness a shooting star falling into the East, a sign of Satan's defeat and inability to keep fighting against them.

§§ 9-10: As the saints remain in the wilderness, wild beasts gather round them and roll at their feet. They witness a second sign, a wheel descending from heaven with twelve lamps upon it, which causes a rock to open, giving out a stream of water; after drinking of this water, they no longer suffer hunger or thirst, as they were told by a heavenly voice. Finally, four months after their arrival, the saints foretell their death: they offer a last prayer to God, asking Him to help those who pray to Him through them, and surrender their souls on 22 February.

Text: Halkin 1960, 41-52.
Summary: N. Kälviäinen.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Eugenios and Makarios, confessors/martyrs under the emperor Julian : S02560

Saint Name in Source

Εὐγένιος, Μακάριος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom Literary - Hagiographical - Monastic collections (apophthegmata, etc.)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Cult Activities - Miracles

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

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Pagans Monarchs and their family Family Animals Other lay individuals/ people


The 'epic' Martyrdom of Eugenios and Makarios (BHG 2126) is currently known to survive in four manuscripts (11th-18th cent.), for which see: The dating of the text is extremely uncertain, but de Gaiffier argues that, since the Latin tradition is attested in the first half of the 9th century, the Greek must date from the 8th century or earlier (de Gaiffier 1960, 38). The use of the word protiktores (προτίκτορες) for the imperial guards sent by Julian to convey the saints to their place of exile (ed. Halkin 1960, 49) may suggest that the text is earlier than the 7th century, if the office had disappeared from use by then (ODB III, 1743).


The martyrs (or perhaps more correctly confessors, since according to the earliest sources they died peacefully, although death by decapitation is introduced later into the Greek tradition) Eugenios and Makarios are also known from the Martyrdom of *Artemios (E06781) as presbyters who were denounced to the emperor Julian in Antioch, subjected to torture and finally exiled to a place called Augasis, where they died forty days later, on 20 December (the normal date in the later Greek tradition, in contrast to 22 February in the present text); the miraculous appearance of water in their place of exile is here also mentioned. In the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, on the other hand, the date of 'Eugenus and Macharus' (according to de Gaiffier, possibly to be linked with the phrase in Mauretania attested under the same date) is 23 January (see E04620). It is difficult to ascertain exactly which elements belong to the original story of Eugenios and Makarios and which, by contrast, represent later secondary developments (for an attempt to reconcile the different sources, see de Gaiffier 1960), but it would seem that the following elements are either present throughout or at least not contested by the earliest sources mentioned above: 1) Eugenios and Makarios are first tortured under Julian the Apostate, then sent to exile (probably in Mauretania), to a place which is named, though the original form of this name is difficult to reconstruct, and 2) after spending some time in their place of exile and after at least the miraculous appearance of water on the mountain (quite probably the original story will have included all the miracles described in BHG 2126, assuming the composer of the Martyrdom of Artemios just singled out the 'water miracle'), they die peacefully on the 20-23 of a winter month (20 December being most likely, since it appears both in an Eastern and a Western source). As de Gaiffier notes, the identification of Antioch as the locus of the saints' torture might conceivably be a secondary modification due to the composer of the Martyrdom of Artemios. However, this possibility creates another problem: the basic story necessitates that the saints were first tortured somewhere (presumably in the East) by Julian the Apostate, and since the martyrs are obviously of eastern provenance, it is hardly realistic to attribute the origin of the story to a location in north-western Africa, far from a Greek-speaking environment. It remains unclear, therefore, where exactly the story arose. The reason for sending the heroes into the uttermost West is certainly not a desire to justify the establishment of a locally based cult, and indeed the text contains no indication to that effect (no mention is made, for example, of the saints' relics, although their more universally accessible intercessory powers are mentioned). The text may instead be read as a curious juxtaposition of two different hagiographical genres: initially, a stereotypical 'epic' Martyrdom but without the usual conclusion (see H. Delehaye, Les Passions des martyres et les genres littéraires, Brussels, 1966 (2nd ed.), 171-226), and then, an edifying story about a pair of ascetic holy men dwelling in the desert, confronting dragons, receiving homage from beasts, seeing visions and witnessing miracles. One can point to the paradoxographical tradition for details such as the description of the mountain, and indeed the choice of Mauretania as locale is best explained through the attraction of the extreme West as a semi-mythical place at the edge of the world, or, as the author of the Martyrdom puts it, 'where there is no more world [beyond it], but darkness from there onwards' (ὅπου ἕτερος κόσμος οὐκ ἔστιν ἔτι, ἀλλὰ σκότος λοιπόν) (ed. Halkin 1960, 49). One may recall, for example, that the pagan wise man, Apollonios of Tyana, also made a journey to those regions, according to his Life. It may also be noted that there is present a 'progression in virtue' characteristic of edifying ascetic stories and monastic biographies. The saints are initially frightened by the terrible dragon, but manage to overcome it through their prayers; later, the sign of the shooting star announces they have conquered Satan, whom the dragon symbolises and who can no longer harass them (the combination of dragon and falling star recalling the dragon of Rev. 12:3-9). It is after attaining this level of virtue that they receive homage from the wild animals and are granted the privilege of drinking from the waters of eternal life, after which they no longer hunger or thirst, this being the final stage of their perfection before being received into Heaven.


Text: Halkin, F., "La Passion grecque des saints Eugène et Macaire," Analecta Bollandiana 78 (1960), 41-52. Further reading: de Gaiffier, B., "Les martyrs Eugène et Macaire morts en exil en Maurétanie," Analecta Bollandiana 78 (1960), 24-40.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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