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E07135: The Greek Life and Martyrdom of *Ioulianos and Basilissa (martyrs of Antinoopolis in Egypt, S01341) recounts the celibate marriage of its heroes, and the martyrdom of Ioulianos alongside several companions. It mentions the establishment of their shrine at the great church of Antinoopolis, and their feasts on 21 June and on Epiphany Day (6 January). Written in Antinoopolis (Egypt), probably in the 6th century.

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posted on 2018-11-28, 00:00 authored by erizos
The Life and Martyrdom of Ioulianos and Basilissa (BHG 970, 971)


I. The Life of Ioulianos and Basilissa (BHG 970)
1-5. Ioulianos is the son of a noble family, receives an excellent education in both worldly and Christian letters, and is exceptionally bright. He constantly visits saints in prison. At the age of 18, his parents suggest that he should marry, and he requests seven days leave to consider the matter. After intense prayers, he has a vision of Christ announcing that he will receive a wife, but they will both remain chaste and will become the tutors in asceticism of several young people. Basilissa, the daughter of a wealthy and notable local family, is chosen as the wife for Ioulianos. People from the neighbouring cities gather at Antinoopolis and a sumptuous wedding is celebrated.

6-10. In their nuptial chamber, the couple sense fragrant flowers, and pray for Christ to confirm his plan for them. The floor of the house opens up, and in a great light, Christ and Mary appear, accompanied by saints who acclaim Ioulianos and Basilissa. Christ confirms that both of them will be counted among the virgin saints. The couple divide their household and create two monasteries. Ioulianos becomes the leader of ten thousand monks.

11-16. A persecution breaks out, under Diocletian and Maximian. The saints pray for God’s protection. Christ appears to Basilissa and announces that she and her virgins will die a natural death, while Ioulianos will endure martyrdom and will lead many people to victory. Another vision confirms that Basilissa’s nuns are free of sin and will go to heaven. They die within the appointed period, and Basilissa has a vision of them in heaven. She dies herself while praying with Ioulianos. The latter’s brotherhood continues to flourish.

II. The Martyrdom of Ioulianos and his companions (BHG 971)
17. The governor Markianos, accompanied by his wife and only son, arrives in Antinoopolis and demands that all people keep images (eikon) of Zeus at their homes. Hearing about Ioulianos, who has been joined by several clerics fleeing the persecution, Markianos sends his symponos and cornicularius to seek him out. They treat the saint with respect, because he is the son of a proteuon [leading councillor of the city].

18. The symponos reminds Ioulianos of the imperial decree, but the martyr declares his and his companions’ determination to resist.

19. The symponos reports to Markianos, and the latter orders that Ioulianos be arrested and the rest be burned in the monastery. Miracles take place and voices singing Psalms can be heard on the site of their martyrdom at the times of prayer.

20-22. Ioulianos appears before the tribunal of Markianos, and the people gather to watch. The governor orders him to offer sacrifice, but Ioulianos refuses to, and denounces the idols.

23-26. While Ioulianos is being tormented, one of the executioners loses an eye. Ioulianos challenges Markianos’ pagan priests to heal him, so as to see whose god is greater. The demons from the temple admit defeat, and more than five-hundred precious idols are miraculously destroyed. Ioulianos heals the torturer’s severed eye. The man is converted to Christianity, and the governor immediately has him executed.

27-32. Ioulianos is paraded through the city in fetters and tormented. The governor’s son (named as Kelsios in § 44), who is at school, sees the martyr and has a vision of a white-clad crowd talking to him. He decides to join Ioulianos, and confesses to being a Christian himself. He drops his books and clothes, and goes out to a square where the martyr is being paraded. He declares Ioulianos his new father. The news spreads through the whole city and reaches Kelsios’ parents. Markianos and his wife appear and reproach Ioulianos for destroying their family. The boy denounces his parents for the sake of Christ.

33-36. Markianos has them all imprisoned in a dark and stinking cell, but the prison miraculously becomes fragrant. Seeing the miracle, twenty soldiers convert to Christianity. Markianos replaces them with cruel guards, and has them imprisoned. A group of seven local Christian brothers with their priest, Antonios, are notified by a vision and come to the prison, in order to baptise all the new converts. They join the martyrs.

37-40. Markianos writes to the emperors, who instruct that Ioulianos and his companions be burned in cauldrons with burning pitch. The trial at the governor’s tribunal resumes. A funeral procession crosses the square, and Ioulianos raises the dead man. Markianos adds him to the arrested Christians (in § 59 he is named as Anastasios).

41-46. Thirty-one burning cauldrons are set up, and the martyrs are taken out. They are miraculously preserved from the fire. Markianos accuses Ioulianos of magic, and the latter explains the Christian faith.

47-50. Markianos allows his son, Kelsios, to consult his mother for three days (in § 59, she is named as Markianilla). The martyrs pray for her conversion, and cause a vision of bright and fragrant light. She is converted and baptised by Antonios.

51-53. Markianos has them all imprisoned. One day later, he holds a trial at the forum and has the twenty soldiers and the seven Christian brothers burned alive. Ioulianos, Kelsios, his mother, Antonios, and the raised dead man are taken back to prison.

54-57. The governor asks that the temple of Zeus be prepared for an offering of incense. The martyrs pretend to agree to join the ceremony. They pray and the temple with the idols is immediately destroyed. Markianos has them imprisoned.

58. Basilissa and a group of deceased martyrs appear at night and announce to Ioulianos and his companions their imminent admission to heaven.

59-62. After further torments and miracles, the saints are beheaded. An earthquake destroys one third of the city and all the idols. Markianos flees and dies.

63 Christians and their priests collect the martyrs and bury them under the altar of the great church of Antinoopolis. The martyrdom took place on the 10th day before the kalends of July (21 June).

64. A spring of water flows from the relics, which fills the baptistery and heals all diseases. Once, a group of ten lepers came to be baptised on the saints’ feast, which is Epiphany Day. They were immediately healed by the water, and the voice of God confirmed that the miracle was granted for the sake of Ioulianos.

Text: Halkin 1980.
Summary: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Ioulianos and Basilissa, martyrs of Egypt and/or Antioch : S01341 Ioulianos, martyr of Cilicia : S00305

Saint Name in Source

Ἰουλιανός, Βασίλισσα, Κέλσιος, Μαρκιανίλλα, Ἀντώνιος, Ἀναστάσιος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Antinoopolis Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Miracle after death Miracles causing conversion Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miraculous sound, smell, light Miraculous protection - of people and their property

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Unbaptized Christians Relatives of the saint Officials Aristocrats

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified


For the manuscript tradition of the text, see:


This text represents a popular legend which was probably produced in Egypt in the 6th century. The text is a composition of two sections, comprising a prequel Life of the celibate couple Ioulianos and Basilissa (BHG 970), and a Martyrdom of Ioulianos (BHG 971). In the extant text, the Life is a translation from Latin, as indicated by the biblical quotations it contains, which demonstrably translate the Vulgate rather than quoting the Greek Bible. By contrast, the Martyrdom is an original Greek composition, of which the extant Latin version is a translation. Thus the Greek and Latin versions (BHL 4529) of the legend are closely related to one another. This raises the problem of the provenance of the story of the celibate marriage and the figure of Basilissa, for which the Latin version evidently has precedence. The concluding section of the Martyrdom indicates that the cult was based at the cathedral (megale ekklesia) of Antinoopolis, where the relics of the saints were kept. Yet various details (the date of the feast, the name of the persecutor, and various motifs in the story) indicate that the legend of Ioulianos of Antinoopolis was based on that of Ioulianos of Cilicia, whose cult was probably introduced to Antinoopolis and transformed into a local legend. This indicates a relatively late date for the original appearance of the cult of Antinoopolis, perhaps no earlier than the mid 5th century. The legend and cult of Ioulianos and Basilissa acquired remarkable popularity outside Egypt, especially in Gaul and Spain (E02685, E05253, E06570, E06571). The Western attestations, including the Latin version of our text (BHL 4529), date from the 7th century (Alwis 2011, 309-315). This provides a terminus ante quem for the appearance of the legend in Antinoopolis. It is interesting that the hagiography of Ioulianos and Basilissa, although referring to Upper Egypt and probably a product of Antinoopolis, is known only in Greek and Latin, and appears to be absent in the Coptic tradition. This may indicate a period of reduced contact between the Greek-speaking urban elite (associated with the cathedral) and the Coptic-speaking wider population, perhaps in the sixth century.


Text: Halkin, F., "La passion ancienne des saints Julien et Basilisse," Analecta Bollandiana 98 (1980), 243-296. Translation and commentary: Alwis, A. Celibate Marriages in Late Antique and Byzantine Hagiography (London, 2011).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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