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E07077: The Greek so-called 'Arabian' Martyrdom of *Kosmas and Damianos (brothers, physician martyrs of Syria, S00385), and their brothers and companion martyrs *Anthimos, Leontios and Euprepios (S01544), survives in two recensions, the common original of which was probably composed in the 5th-6th century, perhaps in Rome, or in Cilician Aigai, or elsewhere in the East.

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posted on 2018-11-08, 00:00 authored by Nikolaos
The short recension of the 'Arabian' Martyrdom of Kosmas, Damianos, Anthimos, Leontios and Euprepios (BHG 378)


§ 1: In the consulship of Diokletianos and Maximianos, during the governorship of Lysias in the city of Aigai, on 25 November, the governor (ἡγεμών) sits in the temple of Adrianos and orders the Christians to be brought before him. The taxis [τάξις, the governor's staff] replies that they are present. The governor questions two Christians, who reply that they are two brothers from the city of Arabia, called Kosmas and Damianos, of a great family, physicians by profession. They have three other brothers, called Anthimos, Leontios and Euprepios, and they are all Christians by religion. Lysias commands them to forsake their religion and sacrifice to the gods; the five brothers refuse steadfastly.

§ 2: The governor orders the saints to be tortured with hands and feet bound, until they recant. But while being tortured, the saints merely call for more intensive torture. The governor orders them to be bound and thrown into the sea. But their bonds burst miraculously, and the water lifts them up and carries them ashore. Lysias, impressed at what he believes to be magic, agrees to follow the saints, but two demons appear, seize him and whip him on both cheeks. The governor, believing the demons to be gods, fears they are angry with him. The saints deny that the demons are gods.

§ 3: Lysias is determined not to let the saints blaspheme against the gods. After much torture to no effect, he commands brushwood and logs to be brought for a great pyre, and the saints are thrown into the fire. But the ground breaks open and receives the saints within it; and the fire leaps to burn the onlookers. Once the fire has died out, the saints re-emerge unharmed. The governor makes one more attempt to persuade the saints to sacrifice, but is rejected. He orders Kosmas and Damianos to be crucified and pelted with stones, but the stones change direction in mid-air and strike those throwing them. The governor summons four units (νούμερα) of soldiers to come and shoot the saints with bows, but the arrows too change direction and when they have all been spent, the saints remain unharmed but five thousand men and women have been slain by the returning arrows. The governor, recognising defeat, orders the saints to be beheaded. And they consummate their martyrdom in Aigai, in the quarter (τόπος) of Adrianos, on 25 November.

Text: Deubner 1907, 218-220. Summary: N. Kälviäinen.

The long recension of the work (BHG 379, in Deubner 1907, 220-225) contains basically the same story, in a higher stylistic register with plentiful rhetorical embellishment and detailed description of the torture scenes. The following differences may be noted, among others (the numbers in parentheses refer to Deubner's chapter divisions):

a. Lysias is not a governor but a dux (δούξ), who happens to be spending time in the 'southern' city of Aigai on official business when he receives letters from the emperor (§ 1).

b. Kosmas and Damianos and their companions are found by the dux's men hiding in a cave in fear of persecution (§ 1), a detail vaguely reminiscent of the 'Roman' Martyrdom, BHG 376-377 (E07076).

c. After their first torture, the saints spend a night in gaol during which an angel appears and heals their wounds (§ 3).

d. When the saints reappear after being thrown in the sea, Lysias is so furious that he blasphemes against Christ, and is seized by a bout of mental illness; the saints heal him with a prayer, but this does nothing to improve his attitude (§ 5).

e. The saints are executed on 17 October (§ 7).

Text: Deubner 1907, 220-25.
Summary: N. Kälviäinen.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

Saint Name in Source

Κοσμᾶς, Δαμιανός Ἄνθιμος, Λεόντιος, Εὐπρέπιος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Aigai Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Miracles experienced by the saint Punishing miracle Miracles causing conversion Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Healing diseases and disabilities Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Pagans Relatives of the saint Aristocrats Officials Soldiers Physicians Prisoners Crowds Demons Family


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. The 'Arabian' text survives in two recensions, a shorter one and a longer one: the first is probably closer to the original, and in contrast to the slightly more idiosyncratic 'Roman' Martyrdom, shows all the stereotypical characteristics of the so-called 'epic' Martyrdoms (see H. Delehaye, Les Passions des martyres et les genres littéraires, Brussels, 1966 (2nd ed.), 171-226). The long recension is clearly a rhetorically reworked version of the original text and could well be much later in date than the short, possibly middle Byzantine or later. For the manuscript tradition of the 'Arabian' text, see: (BHG 378, short recension) (BHG 379 long recension) For the 'Asian' Life and the 'Roman' Martyrdom, see E06712 and E07076, and for the collection of Miracles of Kosmas and Damianos (BHG 385-392, according to Deubner connected exclusively to the 'Asian' Life) see E0XXXX.


A (stereo)typical 'epic' Martyrdom, the 'Arabian' text places the legend of Kosmas and Damianos in the time of the emperors Diocletian and Maximian, under a governor Lysias (a name which occurs multiple times in martyrdom accounts); these are, of course, not to be seen as historically accurate details but as a matter of hagiographical convention. In addition to belonging to the 'epic' genre in general, it was recognised by Deubner that the text has a specifically close connection with the Martyrdom of *Zenobios and Zenobia, martyrs of Aigai in Cilicia (E06668), but, despite Deubner's own conviction (based on arguments stemming from his analysis of the history of the cult of K. and D.) that Kosmas and Damianos' 'Arabian' Martyrdom is modelled on Zenobios and Zenobia, neither scenario has been conclusively proven. At first sight, the most obvious place for the composition of the 'Arabian' Martyrdom would of course be Aigai in Cilicia, since this is where the saints' martyrdom is situated. Deubner, however, argues against this, partly on the grounds that there is no trace of a cult of Kosmas and Damianos in late antique Aigai (which is correct; however, it must be said that neither is there any trace of e.g. Zenobios and Zenobia, and in general the gaps in the archaeological record in the East are such that many a small-scale cult may well have escaped detection until today). In Deubner's view, the 'Arabian' Martyrdom of Kosmas and Damianos was composed around the 5th century in order to promote the cult of Kosmas and Damianos in Rome. It is certainly true that this is the version of the legend which is known in the West, by the early 7th century, to authors such as Bede (E05629) and Aldhelm (E06567), although the extant Sahidic Coptic fragments also belong to the 'Arabian' tradition (E03560). Nevertheless, one may ask whether Deubner's arguments (see Deubner 1907, 71-81) can truly be considered ironclad; for all we know, the 'Arabian' tradition might have originated in the East and been adopted afterwards in the Latin West.


Text: Deubner, L., Kosmas und Damian (Leipzig, 1907), 218-220. 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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