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E07146: The Greek Martyrdom of *Agathonikos and his Companions (martyr of Bithynia and Thrace, S01628) recounts the martyrdom of a leading Christian, arrested in the area of Nicomedia (north-west Asia Minor), and taken to Byzantium and Selymbria (Thrace, eastern Balkans) for execution. The text mentions martyrdoms and shrines in the surroundings of Nicomedia and Chalcedon (both close to Constantinople). Written in Constantinople, perhaps in the 5th or 6th centuries.

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posted on 2018-12-07, 00:00 authored by erizos
The Martyrdom of Agathonikos and his Companions (BHG 39-40)


Passio 1 (BHG 39)

1. Under Maximian, the comes Eutolmios is sent from Nicomedia to Pontus and Neocaesarea. He arrives at the Bithynian village of Karpin, where he finds *Zotikos and his disciples and kills them. The local Christians bury them at a solemn place. At Nicomedia, he hears about the conversion of the magistrate princeps by the wise Christian Agathonikos who converts many to Christianity. Agathonikos and his disciples live in the village of Kybera. The governor sends a great body of soldiers to arrest them.

2. On the way to Nicomedia, Agathonikos converts the soldiers. The governor holds a trial at the basilica of the place called Lausos, and they present to him Agathonikos who is a leading Christian, son of a noble family, son of the Prefect Asklepiades and of the lineage of the great Hippasios.

3. Agathonikos’ answer amazes the governor who has him flogged and orders that he and the martyrs be taken to Thrace, in order to be interrogated by the emperor.

4. During the journey, Agathonikos continuously preaches to the other Christians. The governor has *Zenon, Theoprepes, and Akindynos, former tribunati of Neocaesarea, killed by catapelta at the village of Potamoi, where they are buried with their fetters.

5. At Chalcedon, the governor executes the martyr *Severianos. They cross over to Byzantium where Agathonikos makes a brave confession of the Christian faith before the city council, and is badly flogged. He is taken to the emperor who happens to be at the place called Ammoi near Selymbria. After another confession, Agathonikos, the princeps, and many other Christians are beheaded. Their memory is celebrated on 22 August.

Passio 3 (BHG 40)

1. Prologue

2. Under Maximian, the comes Eutolmios from Nicomedia vehemently persecutes the Christians. He attempts to force the Christian *Zotikos to sacrifice, but he refuses. Eutolmios has him and his disciples beheaded, and the Christians bury them.

3. The governor roams the countryside with his men and summarily kills every Christian who happens to have some property. Out of fear, the Christians have fled from the cities to their estates in the countryside. Hearing that the emperor is in Thrace, the governor intensifies the persecution. Hearing about the wise Christian Agathonikos, who has converted a princeps, he sends a large group of soldiers to arrest at this estate in the village of Kybaina. On their way back to Nicomedia, they convert the soldiers to Christianity.

4. The governor holds a trial at the basilica of the place called Lampsos, and they present to him Agathonikos who is a leading Christian, son of a noble family, son of the Prefect Asklepiades and of the lineage of the great Hippasios. In his apology, Agathonikos invokes, among others, the words of *Babylas of Antioch toward the emperor Numerian, and reveals that he is the son of Asklepiades, the governor who arrested and executed the martyr *Romanos at Antioch. Having witnessed the martyrdom of Romanos as a child and having heard him preaching in the arena, Agathonikos and other members of his family became Christians.

5. The governor’s companions confirm that Agathonikos belongs to one of the most learned families of the city, members of which had been taken to Rome for studies under Augustus. Agathonikos disdains the nobility and learning of this world.

6. The governor condemns a large group of Christians to death, and refers Agathonikos to the emperor because of his nobility. Agathonikos, as leader of the local Christians, blesses the martyrs before their death.

7. The preaching of Agathonikos had converted many people of Nicomedia to Christianity. The martyrs are transferred, being tormented and left without food on the way.

8. At the village of Potamoi, the governor executes the converted soldiers *Zenon, Akindynos, and Theoprepes, stratiarchai and tribunati of the city of Caesarea.

9. At Chalcedon, pagan priests suggest that the governor should also condemn *Severianos, an old Christian, who had been kept in gaol for a long period, and had converted many. He had prepared *Euphemia for her martyrdom. Severianos is executed and buried by the local Christians. The governor crosses over to Byzantium.

10. The Christians are tried at the city council (bouleuterion) of Byzantium, which urges Agathonikos to come to renounce Christianity. Agathonikos refuses to, and he is taken outside the periteichisma, where he is tormented by being struck by the sword.

11. The governor hears that the emperor is nearby, and sends the martyrs to meet him at the seaside near Selymbria. The emperor Maximian recognises Agathonikos as his own relative. Agathonikos gives a speech about the Christian faith, salvation, and hell.

12. The emperor orders that Agathonikos and his companions be beheaded, and announces his intention to halt the persecution, in order to find out whether the Christian threat of eternal punishment is true. Agathonikos, the princeps, and several other Chrisitians die by beheading.

Text: BHG 39 . BHG 40: Acta Sanctorum IV, Aug.
Summary: E. Rizos


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Agathonikos and Companions, martyrs of Bithynia and Thrace : S01628 Zenon, Theoprepes, and Akindynos, martyrs of Potamoi near Nicomedia : S02758 Zōtikos, martyr : S01064 Dasios, Gaios and Zotikos, martyrs : S01098

Saint Name in Source

Ἀγαθόνικος Ζήνων, Θεοπρεπής, Ἀκίνδυνος Ζωτικός Ζωτικός

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

Constantinople and region

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

Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Aristocrats Officials


For the manuscript tradition of the hagiographical dossier, see:


The cult of the main hero of this account, Agathonikos, acquired a major importance in Constantinople, when his relics were transferred to one of the central churches of the city, in the late 5th or 6th century (see E04346). Given the fact that this transfer is not mentioned here, it is possible that this martyrdom account (or rather its source text, since the two extant versions are likely to stem from a reworked model) predates the transfer. The martyr is portrayed as a leading Christian and missionary, though not qualified in a concrete manner as a cleric or otherwise. The story is mainly interested in describing Agathonikos as a member of an aristocratic family of Nicomedia, thus linking him to the local civic past and its traditions. The references of the texts to the other martyrs and their shrines are particularly interesting, since these figures are not mentioned elsewhere. Two entries of the Syrian and Hieronymian martyrologies could perhaps be linked to Zotikos and his companions. The likeliest seems to be the 21 October festival of the martyrs Dasios, Gaios, and Zotikos (E01571; E04993).


Text: Van Hoof, G., "Acta Sancti Agathonici Martyris et Sociorum," Analecta Bollandiana 2 (1883), 99-115. Acta Sanctorum, Augusti IV (1739), 522-523.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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