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E06874: The Greek Martyrdom of *Leontios (martyr of Tripolis, Phoenicia, S00216), tells the tale of two soldiers, Hypatos and Theodoulos, who are converted by a Christian preacher, Leontios, in Tripoli, and martyred; Leontios is then martyred as well, after undergoing repeated torture. The text was written somewhere in the Greek-speaking eastern Roman empire possibly in the 7th-9th century; however, there is appended to it a miraculous story involving the saint and a pious married couple, Ioannia and Mauros, which may be derived from a hypothetical lost Greek Martyrdom of Leontios presumably written in Tripolis in the 5th century.

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posted on 2018-10-15, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Martyrdom of Leontios, Hypatos and Theodoulos (BHG 986-986a)

Summary (BHG 986a):

1. In the reign of Vespasianos, an impious and cruel man named Adrianos learns of the existence of Christians who refuse to worship the pagan gods and seek to prevent others from worshipping them, with the use of magic tricks and devious words. He therefore requests the emperor to grant him authority to persecute them. The emperor duly obliges and grants Adrianos a position of authority, ordering him to send to him all who comply with pagan dogma, and subject to torture any who resist.

2. When the impious imperial decree is published, Adrianos is informed by certain people that in the city of Tripolis there is a man named Leontios who neglects and abuses the gods, and persuades others not to sacrifice to them. Adrianos is overjoyed and sends a sizeable force to arrest Leontios. However, a tribune of that numerus, named Hypatos, is suddenly seized by a strong fever which he attributes to his failure to sacrifice to the gods upon setting out on the journey. After three days of their tribune's fever not abating, the soldiers are at a loss as to what they should do.

3. That night an angel of the Lord appears to Hypatos, instructing him to invoke the God of Leontios in order to be saved. Hypatos, incredulous, repeats the question back, asking whether the angel is really saying this, given that Hypatos is on his way with his men to arrest Leontios; the angel, however, disappears, and Hypatos is dumbstruck. He summons his men and tells them of the vision. The strange tale makes an especial impression on one of the soldiers, named Theodoulos. In the morning, Theodoulos sits next to the tribune, and when his comrades ask him to join their customary meal, he rejects the invitation despite being numbered among the foremost pagans. Theodoulos falls asleep on the ground, having refused to eat anything. When he wakes up, he reminds his fellow soldiers that the governor Adrianos is arriving on the next day, and they have not accomplished their mission; he proposes to go in the city with the tribune Hypatos (who was cured of his fever shortly after having the vision), to find Leontios and entrust him to the centurions until Adrianos' return.

4. When Hypatos and Theodoulos reach the edge of the city, Leontios greets them as brothers and asks who it is that they seek. The soldiers reply they have been sent to find a wise and faithful man and friend of the gods, called Leontios, of whom the emperor Vespasianos has been informed, and whom the governor Adrianos is arriving to honour and take before the emperor. The emperor and the senate are eager to meet this man of whose accomplishments they have heard and who is a fellow-soldier of the foremost persons in the city of Tripolis. Leontios invites the men to enter his house as guests, promising to show Leontios to them; however, he says that Leontios is not a friend of the gods but a Christian and believes in Jesus Christ. Hypatos and Theodoulos wonder who their interlocutor is, and what his relationship to Leontios is; they ask his name. Leontios replies his name is a scriptural one, and quotes Psalm 90:13 'You will tread upon the asp and the basilisk and trample the lion and the dragon' as referring to himself. Hypatos and Theodoulos are mightily confused by this, but they are reluctant to reveal their wicked design to the man who invited them to rest.

5. When the men arrive at Leontios' house, Hypatos and Theodoulos ask him to show Leontios to them in order to be rewarded and honoured by Adrianos. Leontios finally reveals his true identity, and the men fall flat on their faces and beg him to forgive their attempted deceit and to pray to God to deliver them from evil and from the hands of Adrianos; from now on they too confess Christianity. Leontios launches into a lengthy prayer in which he requests God to help the two men, to infuse them with the Holy Spirit and to allow them to prevail over Adrianos.

6. After the completion of Leontios' prayer, a cloud full of water appears and miraculously baptises Hypatos and Theodoulos. Leontios dresses them in white and has them bear candles before them. When some of the city's pagans witness the miracle, they begin to agitate for the apostates from paganism to be destroyed.

7. After two days, Adrianos arrives in the city with his entourage. Standing before the city gates he wonders at the tumult inside; the most prominent citizens explain to him that there is a man named Leontios in the city, who drives people away from idolatry by preaching Christ, and has used sorcery to bewitch and lead astray the emperor's soldiers, and has since had them wearing white in his house for three days. Adrianos, severely angered, orders the trio to be arrested and brought before his tribunal. The soldiers duly take the saints to prison, where during the day Leontios advises the converts to stand fast in their faith in order to gain eternal reward; during the night he sings psalms.

8. In the morning, the governor has Leontios, Hypatos and Theodoulos brought before his tribunal. He questions Leontios, asking if he is indeed the one who dared lead the emperor's trusted servants astray with his magic; he also asks what Leontios' social position is (ποίας τύχης τυγχάνεις). Leontios replies he is the son of the true light and a soldier of Christ. He says Hypatos and Theodoulos too have found that light and abandoned the pagan gods because of it. At this response, Adrianos becomes incensed with rage and commands his men to crush Leontios' bones with rods, but Leontios, as he is being struck, simply states that he cannot feel the pain and the governor is in effect only harming himself. Witnessing the martyr's resolve, Adrianos has him thrown again into gaol.

9. Adrianos now questions Hypatos and Theodoulos, asking them why they abandoned their military career and rations, to the grievance of the emperor. The two reply that they have been given bread and wine from heaven [i.e. Jesus Christ and his body and blood] and the company of angels in place of their earthly military service. Adrianos replies that he believes the two are speaking words taught to them by Leontios, and he gives them the choice, as commanded by the emperor, of sacrificing to the pagan gods and receiving great honours and an advance in rank, or persisting in Christianity and having their bodies torn apart and destroyed. The saints affirm they choose the heavenly military service, and tell the governor to do whatever he wishes, for they will not obey him. Then Adrianos has Hypatos suspended and his sides scraped, while Theodoulos receives sword-blows. Nevertheless, both persevere without complaint, only prayers on their lips. Adrianos, seeing their resolve, commands both to be beheaded. The sentence is carried out by the executioner as the saints sing a hymn, commending their souls to God.

10. Adrianos has Leontios brought before him once more, and attempts to persuade him to accept honours from the emperor and the senate, and avoid the torments suffered by Hypatos and Theodoulos. Leontios declines, and offers to show Adrianos the rewards granted by Christ if the governor would accept Christianity. Adrianos derisively asks if he is to receive the same salvation as Hypatos and Theodoulos, but Leontios explains their death was not a punishment, and that they are now rejoicing in the company of angels. Adrianos asks who would seek to reject the light of the present world and the just gods Zeus, Apollon, Hermes, Aphrodite and the rest, in favour of an ugly death; Leontios replies with Psalm 95:5 condemning the gods as demons.

11. Seeing the martyr's unshakeable resolve in persisting in the faith, Adrianos has him laid on the ground and struck with rods by four men, while a herald proclaims the punishment to be suffered by whoever defies the gods and the imperial decrees. When the torturers grow weary, Leontios exclaims the tyrant may mangle his body but can never overcome his spirit. The governor has him suspended on a wooden frame and his sides and calves raked [with sharp instruments]. At length, when Leontios merely gazes heavenwards and prays to God to keep him safe, Adrianos orders his servants to take the saint down, for he believes the martyr directs his eyes upwards in order to supplicate the pagan gods for relief. Leontios mocks him, and Adrianos has the saint suspended again, head downwards and with a rock tied around his neck, and struck with rods. Leontios bears the torments with grace, and prays to God to keep his faith firm and not let him fall.

12. After the saint's prayer, Adrianos tries again to persuade him to befriend the pagan gods, but the saint refuses adamantly, condemning the governor to perdition. Adrianos remands him to prison pending a second round of interrogation. Leontios sings psalms throughout the night, and at one point an angel appears to him, recounting that God has sent him to reinforce the saint.

13. Adrianos summons Leontios again from prison and asks if he has reconsidered his position. The saint replies with a lengthy statement of faith influenced in part by the Nicene Creed, explaining why resistance is in his own interest. The governor, enraged, has the saint suspended once more in order to receive blows until death. As the saint is being tortured and blood flows, the governor tries one last time to win him over with promises of worldly honours, but Leontios refuses once more.

14. Seeing once more the saint's unwavering resolve, Adrianos at last passes the death sentence, which is formulated as a judge's decision naming the subject and laying out his crime and the corresponding punishment: to be strung up by four stakes and beaten until death. Having received the decision, Leontios thanks God and prays for the salvation of all the faithful who invoke him and remember his marty


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Leontios, martyr of Tripolis (Syria) : S00216

Saint Name in Source

Λεόντιος, Ὕπατος, Θεόδουλος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Private ownership of an image

Cult Activities - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miracles experienced by the saint Other specified miracle Miracle at martyrdom and death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Soldiers Pagans Officials Angels

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes Division of relics Reliquary – institutionally owned


The oldest known Greek Martyrdom of Leontios is preserved in two versions, BHG 986 (known from 3 manuscripts of the 9th to 11th centuries) and BHG 986a (attested in a single 11th c. manuscript; see Halkin 1964, 321-322). The summary given in this entry is based on the latter, which uniquely among the surviving Greek versions preserves the episode of the pious woman Ioannia and her husband Mauros (for which see below). For the manuscript tradition, see: (BHG 986) (BHG 986a) For the editions, see Bibliography.


The surviving Greek recension of the text presents a tradition of the martyrdom of Leontios radically different from that which survives in the Syriac and Georgian tradition, but presumably goes back to a lost Greek martyrdom account; in the tradition represented by the surviving Greek text, the saint is associated with Hypatos (or Hypatios) and Theodoulos, in the other tradition with *Pouplios/Publius (S01821; cf. E01720 and E03774), while the plots in general are quite different. While the tradition with Pouplios is attested already in the early 6th century, the one with Hypatos and Theodoulos possibly does not predate even the 9th century (Nau 1900, 9-13; Halkin 1964, 321). It is difficult to say where exactly the surviving Greek Martyrdom BHG 986 might have been composed, since it is likely to be a product of later centuries, after the Arab conquest of the East, and partly for this reason, quite possibly not written in Tripolis in the context of the original late antique shrine. Of particular interest is the episode of the pious woman Ioannia and her husband Mauros, which in our summary (ch. 15) is enclosed in brackets to indicate the fact that it was probably added later to the Martyrdom BHG 986; this is suggested by the way the author begins with the word ἡμεῖς ('we'), seemingly differentiating himself from the author of the Martyrdom (Halkin 1964, 337, n. 8), as well as by the slightly awkward way in which it appears to have been inserted between the description of the burial of the saint and the stereotypical ending phrase 'saint X was martyred on ... during the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ ...', but most of all by the fact that, among the manuscripts of the surviving Greek tradition, it is only present in the single manuscript bearing the version known as BHG 986a. The episode of Ioannia and Mauros resembles very much the separate miracle collections appended to many late antique martyrs' legends, and in effect it could be argued that in its present state it constitutes such a collection, although consisting of but a single item which is in a way made to represent the sum of the known miracles. This is pointed out by the author, who begins with the statement 'Wherefore we also shall recollect one of his many miracles, for the edification and benefit of the hearers' (ὅθεν καὶ ἡμεῖς ἓν ἐκ τῶν πολλῶν αὐτοῦ θαυμάτων μνημονεύσομεν ἐνταῦθα εἰς οἰκοδομὴν καὶ ὠφέλειαν τῶν ἀκουόντων). The miracle episode is particularly interesting due to the fact that, unlike the rest of the surviving Greek tradition of the Martyrdom, it is also known from the Syriac tradition (Halkin 1964, 321; Nau 1900). Therefore perhaps the most logical explanation is that it was borrowed by the anonymous redactor of BHG 986a from a now lost manuscript containing the first/original Greek Martyrdom, from which the Syriac and Georgian traditions are probably derived and which must have been in existence already by the early 6th century. This Greek original was in all likelihood composed sometime in the 5th century in the context of the shrine in Tripolis, which had become famous by the late 5th century (Nau 1900, 10-11, and see, for instance, E02001). Unlike the surviving Greek version BHG 986a summarised here, in the Syriac version (Nau 1900, 10) the episode of Ioannia and Mauros seems to have been an integral part of the story, since there it is Ioannia who recovers the martyr's body and buries it with honours; at the conclusion of the story Mauros is the one who builds Leontios a church. The episode thus constitutes at once a natural conclusion of the tale and the foundation story of the local cult site in Tripolis, and there is no reason to assume that this was not the state of affairs also in the presumed original Greek Martyrdom. In the later Greek BHG 986a, by contrast, the relation of the episode to the main story of the Martyrdom is somewhat ambiguous, as it could in theory at least be read as a later event separate from the martyrdom (see the note in our summary). Nevertheless, since on the basis of Nau's description, the Syriac version seems the more natural and seamlessly logical one, it is possible that this perceived ambiguity is due to the somewhat clumsy way in which the episode was incorporated in the later Greek version BHG 986a. Since the redactor responsible for BHG 986a already had a ready text that he was copying (a form of the regular BHG 986), he may have deliberately chosen to turn the conclusion of the original Martyrdom into a separate story more loosely appended to the end of his text. However the case may be, if the episode was present in the original as it is likely to have been, the important role assigned to the saint's icon is noteworthy in a text possibly dating as early as the 5th century (cf. the two versions of saint Procopius, in which icons play a role in the second but not the first – see E07128 and E07129), unless of course this element should prove to be a later addition.


Text: Acta Sanctorum, Iun. III, 555–562 (3rd ed. IV, 456-462). (BHG 986) Halkin, F., "Passion et miracle posthume de saint Léonce, martyr a Tripoli en Phénicie," Analecta Bollandiana 82 (1964), 322-339. (BHG 986a) Further reading: Nau, F., "Les Martyres de S. Léonce de Tripoli et de S. Pierre d'Alexandrie d'après les sources syriaques," Analecta Bollandiana 19 (1900), 9-13.

Continued Description

rdom. He then surrenders his spirit to God as his body is rent apart by the blows of four torturers. The martyr is buried/placed (ἐτέθη) in the harbour of Tripolis.[15. There is a Christ-loving woman named Ioannia, who goes to the place where Leontios' relic is located (ἔνθα ἔκειτο τὸ τίμιον λείψανον) and, opening his reliquary/casket (γλωσσόκομον) , invests the relic in luxurious clothes belonging to her husband, and aromatises it with myrrh and incenses, taking for herself the saint's image (τὴν τιμίαν εἰκόνα τοῦ ἁγίου χαρακτῆρος αὐτοῦ) as well as his shirt (ὑποκάμισον) and shoes (κρηπῖδας). [Note: this somewhat ambiguous description might be taken as meaning that the relic had already been entombed and that Ioannia was merely visiting a shrine; however, at least in the original version of the story it seems she is the one burying the martyr for the first time in this scene - see Discussion.] She venerates the saint devoutly at her home and prays to him for her husband, Mauros, who, while staying in Rome, has angered the emperor and is now under guard, possibly facing death. Leontios appears to Mauros in the prison where he is awaiting execution, wearing Mauros' own military garb which his wife had put in the reliquary. Mauros recognises the clothes but says nothing; upon being asked, he tells the story of how he ended up in the present situation. The saint comforts Mauros, telling him he will suffer no ill and will in fact eat in the company of the emperor the following day; he then disappears. During the same night, Leontios appears to the emperor and exhorts him to restore Mauros to his former position, which he does, summoning the man from prison and parading him with honours. Mauros is invited to lunch with the emperor, during which he requests to be allowed to return to his own city. Saint Leontios escorts Mauros all the way back home, dressed as a soldier, and disappears. Mauros recounts his adventures to his wife, and orders his servants to search for the soldier who accompanied him on the journey home, in order to reward him richly, but they are unable to locate the man, which distresses Mauros. However, his wife has guessed correctly, from the description of the clothes, that the man was in fact saint Leontios; she takes Mauros to her bedchamber and shows him the icon of the saint that she keeps there, and Mauros recognises the saint in great amazement. The couple then compare their stories. They lived piously ever after, glorifying God and venerating the martyr. The holy martyr of Christ, Leontios, was martyred on 18 June.]Text: Halkin 1964, 322-339. Summary: N. Kälviäinen.

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