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E07076: The so-called 'Roman' Martyrdom of *Kosmas and Damianos (brothers, physician martyrs of Syria, S00385) is written in Greek, probably around the 5th or early 6th century somewhere in the East.

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posted on 2018-11-08, 00:00 authored by Nikolaos
The 'Roman' Martyrdom of Kosmas and Damianos (BHG 376-377)


§ 1: The most glorious of all the lives of the martyrs is that of Kosmas and Damianos, who were physicians that had received a heavenly grace, with God always by their side helping them in their work. Whether they are attempting to heal people or animals, the power of Christ always aids them, as they fulfil his commandment 'freely you have received, freely give' (δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε). They also sell their ancestral property for the benefit of the poor. For their work they accept no reward, save that whoever was being healed would believe in Christ, who was the one truly accomplishing the cures through his servants.

§ 2: The envious one [i.e. the Devil], unable not to suffer in seeing Kosmas and Damianos accomplishing all these things day after day, causes certain envious people to slander the saints to the emperor Karinos, reporting all their good and virtuous deeds as though something wicked. Agreeing with the slanderers, the emperor orders that the saints be brought before him.

§ 3: The emperor's men reach the village where the saints reside and ask the people about their whereabouts, declaring that they have been reported to the emperor as having abandoned the traditional religion and as performing deceptive magic tricks through some alien name. Upon hearing this, unwilling to lose their benefactors, the people bid the saints hide until the emperor's wrath passes. Kosmas and Damianos wish to fulfil their martyrdom and present themselves to the emperor, but the people of all the surrounding villages come together, abduct them and hide them in a secret cave.

§ 4: The people oppose the emperor's envoys, arguing that the saints have done nothing wrong and do not deserve to be harmed. The envoys, however, are unwilling to agree to this since they are under orders. Unable to locate the saints, they instead take men and women from the villages as prisoners and bring them before the emperor.

§ 5: The saints are unaware of these events, since they remain in the cave, fasting and praying. Upon hearing that the emperor's men have taken hostages in their place, they leave the cave and run to catch up with them, giving themselves up in return for the release of the prisoners.

§ 6: The following day Kosmas and Damianos are brought before the emperor, who questions them about their deeds, suggesting that they deceive and corrupt the people under the pretence of charity, and urging them to repent and return to the worship of the gods.

§ 7: The saints deny that they deceive people with trickery, explaining that they are following the commandments of the Saviour. They refuse to acknowledge the soulless idols of the pagans as gods, and exhort the emperor to abandon them and turn to Christ.

§ 8: Karinos retorts that he did not summon the saints in order for them to engage in rhetoric, but to sacrifice to the gods. The martyrs assert that they offer sacrifice only to the Lord, the one true God. The emperor attempts again to persuade them, threatening them with torture, but the saints command him to 'turn away in shame' (ἀποστράφηθι κατῃσχυμμένος), and at once the emperor's neck turns around leaving his face looking backwards, rendering him helpless.

§ 9: The onlooking crowd is astonished and glorify God. They all convert to Christianity and plead with the saints for the emperor to be healed. Karinos too removes his purple cloak and casts it upon the martyrs, and declares that he too believes in God, begging them to save him. The saints urge him to believe in Christ with all his heart. The emperor declares his faith, and Jesus heals him. The emperor gives thanks to God together with the people, and gives orders for the idol temples to be destroyed. The saints are allowed to return home.

§ 10: The saints' compatriots have heard of the events leading to the emperor's conversion, and receive them back with great joy. Kosmas and Damianos go on living in their home country, healing people, administering to the poor and preaching. Their labours bear fruit and the number or believers grows.

§ 11: After a while, the evil one who had attempted to trump the saints' virtue through Karinos, sets against them another adversary, their instructor (ἐπιστάτης) in the art of medicine, who is envious of their success.

§ 12: The jealous instructor, like another Cain, asks the saints to join him in collecting medicinal herbs on a nearby mountain, and they follow him like lambs to the slaughter. He has both of them engage in the work of gathering the herbs, and when they are distracted, he murders them one after the other by throwing stones at them. He then hides the bodies in a nearby aqueduct (ἀγωγός). Thus the saints were consummated.

Text: Deubner 1907, 208-217.
Summary: N. Kälviäinen.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Kosmas and Damianos, brothers, physician martyrs of Syria : S00385

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle at martyrdom and death Miracles causing conversion Changing abilities and properties of the body Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Pagans Monarchs and their family Physicians Peasants Prisoners Other lay individuals/ people Crowds Demons

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


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' (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 derivatives in other languages, see Deubner 1907, 38-83. According to Deubner's analysis, the 'Asian' Life was the earliest text, composed for the needs of the nascent cult in Constantinople in the 4th century, while the two Martyrdoms are later and represent a tendency to 'promote' previously ordinary saints to martyrdom. For the manuscript tradition of the 'Roman' Martyrdom (BHG 376-377), see: For the 'Asian' Life and the 'Arabian' Martyrdom, see E06712 and E07077, and for the collection of Miracles of Kosmas and Damianos (BHG 385-392, according to Deubner connected exclusively to the 'Asian' Life) see E0###.


Like the 'Asian' Life, so too the 'Roman' Martyrdom gives no geographical co-ordinates for the legend, while the only chronological indication is the name of the emperor Carinus (283-285), which of course must be understood purely as a hagiographical convention. The later synaxarial tradition locates the legend in Rome, but as Deubner points out, this is probably nothing more than an inference from the fact that the saints were brought before the emperor. The wide popularity of the cult of Kosmas and Damianos makes it all but impossible to determine where the text might have been composed. Chronologically, it must be anterior to the chronicle of Malalas (mid 6th c.), who summarises the 'Roman' legend in his account of Kosmas and Damianos (E05671).


Text: Deubner, L., Kosmas und Damian (Leipzig, 1907), 208-217. 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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