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E06896: The Latin Martyrdom of *Philippus (bishop of Heraclea of Thrace, and martyr of Hadrianopolis, S00394) and his companions Hermes and Severus recounts the trial of its heroes, their execution by burning, and their burial in a village near Hadrianopolis. Translation of a probably fourth-century Greek original from Hadrianopolis of Thrace (Balkans).

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posted on 2018-10-15, 00:00 authored by erizos
Martyrdom of Philippus, bishop of Heraclea (BHL 6834)


1. Philippus is a blameless man, elected to the episcopate, and has two disciples, Severus the presbyter and Hermes the deacon, whom he instructs to the same level of virtue.

2. During an imminent persecution, he refuses to leave the city, but encourages his flock to have courage.

3. The stationarius Aristomachus comes and demands that the church be shut by order of the governor.

4. On Sunday, the governor Bassus finds Philippus with others outside the church. He asks for their chief, and Philippus presents himself. Quoting the imperial decree, Bassus demands that the Christians hand over all their precious vessels and books, and that they offer sacrifice. Philippus declares their readiness to suffer; he allows Bassus to take vessels from the church, but not the scriptures. Severus is arrested and Philippus is tortured. Hermes says that, even if all the scriptures are removed from Earth, more will be written about the suffering of Philippus, and the faith will be increased. He enters the room of the vessels and the scriptures, followed by Publius, the adsessor of the governor. Publius removes the vessels and beats Hermes in the face, injuring him severely. Bassus is enraged with Publius and orders that Hermes be given medical care. He orders that Philippus and the rest be taken to the forum for public trial.

5. As they are being taken to the forum, the scriptures are carried by the soldiers. Bassus is eager to destroy all churches, wherever they are, removing their roofs and decoration. Flames and destruction make the city look as if in a state of civil war. Philippus addresses the crowd in the forum, warning the people about eternal punishment, referring to the destruction of Sodom, and invoking the volcanos of Sicily as a proof of the existence of eternal fire. He refers to the destruction of idols by fire at various shrines.

6. Dialogue between Philippus and Bassus. Philippus denounces the false gods.

7. Dialogue between Bassus and Hermes. The latter reveals that he is a decurion. Bassus threatens to have him burned alive, and orders that they be taken to prison. Philippus is beaten, while they are being taken away. After some days in jail, the martyrs are taken to the nearby house of a certain Pancratius, where they are kept in custody. The Christians visit them and attend Philippus’ teaching.

8. Bassus, whose clemency is partly due to his Christian wife, finishes his term as governor and is replaced by a harsher man, Iustinus. Philippus is summoned to the tribunal by the magistrate Zoilus. Refusing to sacrifice, he is taken to jail again.

9. The persecutors seek the presbyter Severus, but fail to find him. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he presents himself spontaneously. He refuses to sacrifice despite the governor’s threats.

10. Iustinus has him imprisoned, but two days later he orders that the martyrs be kept in home custody, thus temporarily relaxing his strictness. He changes his mind, however, and has the martyrs brought back to jail where they are kept for seven months. Then he orders that they be taken to Hadrianopolis, thus causing distress to the Christians of Heraclea. At Hadrianopolis, they stay at the villa of a certain Symphorus, preparing to appear before the governor. The governor arrives and, after spending one day at the baths, he summons Philippus. Iustinus says that all this delay was deliberate, in order that Philippus might reconsider. Philippus persists in his confession. He is stripped of his clothes and is badly beaten.

11. Three days later, Iustinus summons them again to the tribunal. Philippus declares that he has always served the emperors faithfully, but cannot obey these decrees. Hermes gives a lengthy oration defending the Christian faith, and denouncing the devices of the Devil. Iustinus issues a condemnation of Philippus and Hermes, ordering that they be burned alive. They happily set out for their martyrdom.

12. Left alone in gaol, Severus offers up a long prayer to God, in the form of anamnesis /commendatio animae, requesting that he be granted to complete his martyrdom.

13. Philippus is led to martyrdom, carried by others because of an ailment in his legs. Hermes follows on foot, although he also suffers from a similar pain. Philippus announces to the crowd that, while in gaol, he has had a vision of a dove landing on his breast and offering him some very tasty food. This is a sign that Christ has judged him ready for martyrdom. The two martyrs are buried to the knees, with their hands bound behind their backs. Hermes addresses a certain Christian Eulogius in the crowd, requesting of him to pass on a message to his young son, Philippus.

14. After the fire has gone out, the burned bodies of the two martyrs are found in an extraordinary state. Philippus’ hands are extended in prayer, and his elderly figure has been turned youthful again. Hermes’ face has a flourishing and lively colour, resembling an athlete returning from a contest.

15. Iustinus orders that their remains be thrown into the river Hebrus, but the Christians go with boats and catch the bodies in nets. Three days later, the martyrs are buried at a village called Getistyron (which means 'the place of landowners' in the local tongue), twelve miles away from Hadrianopolis. It is a beautiful place, with springs, fields, pastures, and vines.

Text: Franchi De' Cavallieri 1953.
Summary: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Philippos, bishop of Heraclea-Perinthus and martyr of Hadrianopolis (Thrace), and companions : S00394

Saint Name in Source

Philippus, Hermes, Severus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Balkans including Greece

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Perinthus-Heraclea Drizypera Δριζύπερα Drizypera Büyük Karıştıran

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Officials

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


According to the Bollandist database BHLms (, there are five manuscripts of BHL 6834. The earliest, Paris, BNF, lat. 05643, fol. 017r-035r, dates to the period from 901-1000 AD. For the dating of the text, see


This text is very clearly the translation of an early martyrdom account originally written in Greek. The Greek version of the story is preserved in the unedited BHG 1567f (E06837), which uses the narrative about our martyr, replacing Philippus’ name with that of Polyeuktos. In its extant form, the story of Philippus betrays an early model, possibly dating from the 4th century, and composed in a relatively learned style, under the strong influence of the Martyrdom of Pionios and elements which recall other accounts such as those of Polycarp of Smyrna, Fructuosus, and Theodore the Recruit. Its account echoes the reality of the tetrarchic persecution in a factual rather than novelistic manner. It contains one of the most vivid descriptions of the shutting of a church and confiscation of Christian vessels and books under the rulings of the first anti-Christian decree of the Tetrarchs in 304. The elderly bishop Philippus/Philippos of Heraclea-Perinthus and his young deacon Hermes and presbyter Severus are arrested when, after the shutting of the church of Heraclea, they are found gathered outside the building for the Sunday service. After a long imprisonment in Heraclea, the martyrs are taken to Hadrianopolis, where they are executed by being burned alive, except for Severus who is kept in jail. The description of the execution is strikingly realistic, involving the burying of the martyrs to their knees, and the tying of their hands behind their backs. There follows a description of the burned bodies, the forms of which are interpreted as a miraculous manifestation. This is closely related to the description of the burned body of Pionios of Smyrna which, like that of Hermes, is also described as that of an athlete returning from a contest (E00096). The execution by fire and the disposal of the bodies in the river is frequent in early martyrdom accounts, thus confirming the considerable antiquity of this text. The text finishes by naming a village called by the Thracian name Getistyron, ten miles from Hadrianopolis, as the site of the saints’ burial and shrine. This toponym may be identical with Getristaus, a settlement mentioned by Procopius of Caesarea in the province of Haemimontus (Procop. Buildings 4. 11).


Text and commentary: Franchi de' Cavalieri, P. "La «Passio» di Filippo, vescovo di Eraclea," Note agiografiche No. 9 (Studi e testi 175; Rome, 1953), 55-165.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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