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E07083: The 'epic' Greek Martyrdom of *Romanos from Caesarea (martyr of Antioch, S00120) recounts his trial, torture, ability to preach even after his tongue has been cut out, and eventual execution by strangulation in prison. A Christian boy is also tortured, imprisoned and beheaded. Probably written in the 4th century.

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posted on 2018-11-11, 00:00 authored by cpapavarnavas
Martyrdom of Romanos (BHG 1600y)


§ 1: During the persecutions under pagan Roman emperors, the prefect Asklepiades intended to invade the church and persecute Christians. However, Romanos informs the Christian men of the church (among others, the subdeacons / ὑποδιακόνους) about the plans of the Roman prefect and encourages them to resist this impious action. Asklepiades hears about Romanos’ deeds.

§ 2: The Roman prefect orders that Romanos be brought before the court. When asked to explain his deeds, the Christian protagonist says that he attempted to prevent him from committing a wicked action in the house of God. Romanos’ response upsets Asklepiades who now threatens to burn him alive.

§ 3: Asklepiades orders that Romanos be hanged, but this punishment is interrupted, when the council (ἡ τάξις) publicly announces the status of Romanos as a patroboulos [πατρόβουλος: a title given to the sons of notable families from the 2nd century AD, indicating that they were destined to succeed their fathers on the city council, see C. Laes and J. Strubbe, Youth in the Roman Empire: The Young and the Restless Years? (Cambridge 2014), 175, 254]. The Roman prefect then asks the accused to confirm this status. Instead Romanos underlines his willingness and courage to defend his faith.

§ 4: Asklepiades impugns Romanos’ claim that Christian people are more honoured than the Roman governors. The Christian Romanos explains that Roman governors have merely an earthly power and not 'knowledge of God' (θεογνωσία).

§ 5: Romanos stresses the impiety of the Roman governors through a comparison between pagan and Christian attitudes. He explains, for instance, that Roman governors only wish to be in favour with the emperors who provide them with power. Christian people, on the other hand, are interested in the grace of God and the kingdom of heaven.

§ 6: The Roman persecutor refers to the command of the emperors, according to which all Christians should sacrifice to the pagan gods or be burned to death. Our Christian protagonist makes it clear that he is not going to abandon God in order to venerate pagan idols.

§ 7: Due to the provocative words of Romanos, Asklepiades decides to overlook the potential status of the Christian accused as patroboulos, and to subject him to corporal punishment. During his torture, the Christian martyr continues to preach the truth of God.

§ 8: In order to reveal the folly of the pagan emperors, Romanos challenges his persecutor to bring a child in. When a young boy is brought in and is asked to choose between the creator of the world, namely the Christian God, and the pagan gods created by man, he decides for the first one. The answer of the child displeases Asklepiades, who immediately begins to batter him. The boy says that he was taught about the only-begotten Son of the Father by his mother.

§ 9: The Roman prefect orders that the mother of the child be brought before the court to watch her son suffering torment. During his ordeal, the child beseeches his mother to give him some water, but she refuses by emphasising that he should head towards ‘the living water’ (i.e. Paradise, ἄπελθε πρὸς ὕδωρ ζῶν).

§ 10: Asklepiades again threatens to burn Romanos alive, while the Christian expresses his certainty that God will stand by his side during this torture. The Roman persecutor then consigns both Romanos and the boy to prison.

§ 11: The Roman prefect orders that a fire be prepared outside the city and Romanos be thrown into it. However, while the Christian protagonist is brought to the place, torrential rain breaks out, and the fire is extinguished. Romanos is led away again to the prison. During his interrogation, he argues that the rain arose from divine intervention. While hearing this version of events, Asklepiades is enraged and commands the beheading of the child. When that happens, his mother covers the body of her dead son in a shroud.

§§ 12-13: Thereupon, Asklepiades orders a physician named Ariston to cut off the tongue of the martyr. But even after the violent removal of his tongue, he continues to praise God. Asklepiades accuses the physician of disobedience, but the latter shows him the tongue of the martyr, holding it in his hand.

§§ 14-15: Romanos is brought again before the court and is commanded to offer a sacrifice to the pagan gods. He firmly refuses, and expresses his willingness to undergo bodily tortures in order to defend the Christian faith and find salvation. Asklepiades calls on the martyr to elucidate the meaning of Christian salvation, and Romanos seizes the opportunity for preaching.

§ 16: Asklepiades informs the emperor Maximian about these events. The Roman emperor orders that the Christian be strangled in prison during the night. The strangulation of the martyr takes place on November 18. Whereupon pious men take care of his dead body.

Text: Delehaye 1960, 58-78.
Summary: C. Papavarnavas.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Romanos from Caesarea, martyr of Antioch : S00120

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Children Women Pagans Torturers/Executioners Physicians


For the manuscript tradition, see: For the edition, see Bibliography.


The text does not provide any specific information about the cult of Romanos, nor, unusually, does it refer to the geographic place of his execution and burial, though the association of his cult with Antioch was well established in Late Antiquity. The story as told here is essentially that given by Prudentius in his Latin Peristephanon (E00946), written in Spain in around 400, though Prudentius also names the place of martyrdom (Antioch). Prudentius' source for the story was presumably a Latin translation of our text, or something very similar to it, suggesting that the Greek original was well established by the end of the 4th century. This is important, as clear evidence that 'epic' Martyrdoms, with accounts of successive interrogations and tortures, and of miraculous interventions, had developed as a genre before the 5th century. For further evidence of the early cult of Romanos, see in particular E00298, E00946 and E01584.


Text: Delehaye, H., "S. Romain martyr d'Antioche," Analecta Bollandiana 50 (1932), 249-260. Cf. also D. Romano, Studio sui documenti relativi al martirio di S. Romano (Palermo, 1960), 58-78. (BHG 1600y) Further reading: Giannouli, A., "Byzantine Hagiography and Hymnography: An Interrelationship," in: S. Efthymiadis (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography, II: Genres and Contexts (Farnham, 2014), 285–312, esp. 298-299.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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