The Testament of the *Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (S00103) designates the village of Sareim in Helenopontus (northern Asia Minor) as the only legitimate place of burial and veneration for their relics. Written in Greek in Pontus (northern Asia Minor), between the 4th and 7th c.
Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts
Literary - Letters
Testament of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (BHG 1203)
Διαθήκη τῶν Ἁγίων καὶ Ἐνδόξων τοῦ Χριστοῦ Τεσσαράκοντα Μαρτύρων τῶν ἐν Σεβαστείᾳ τελειωθέντων
Μελέτιος καὶ Ἀέτιος καὶ Εὐτύχιος οἱ δέσμιοι τοῦ Χριστοῦ <τοῖς> κατὰ πᾶσαν πόλιν καὶ χώραν ἁγίοις ἐπισκόποις τε καὶ πρεσβυτέροις, διακόνοις τε καὶ ὁμολογηταῖς καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς ἅπασιν ἐκκλησιαστικοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ χαίρειν.
1. (1.) Ἐπειδὰν τῇ τοῦ θεοῦ χάριτι καὶ ταῖς κοιναῖς τῶν πάντων εὐχαῖς τὸν προκείμενον ἡμῖν ἀγῶνα τελέσωμεν καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ βραβεῖα τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως φθάσωμεν, τότε καὶ ταύτην ἡμῶν τὴν γνώμην κυρίαν εἶναι βουλόμεθα ἐπὶ τὸ τὰ λείψανα ἡμῶν ἀνακομίζεσθαι τοῖς περὶ τὸν πρεσβύτερον καὶ πατέρα ἡμῶν Πρόϊδον καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς ἡμῶν Κρισπῖνον καὶ Γόρδιον σὺν σπουδάζοντι λαῷ, Κύριλλόν τε καὶ Μάρκον καὶ Σαπρίκιον τὸν τοῦ Ἀμμωνίου, εἰς τὸ κατατεθῆναι τὰ λείψανα ἡμῶν ὑπὸ τὴν πόλιν Ζήλων ἐν τῷ χωρίῳ Σαρεῖμ. εἰ γὰρ καὶ ἐκ διαφόρων χωρίων τυγχάνομεν πάντες, ἀλλά γε μίαν καὶ τὴν αὐτὴν τῆς καταπαύσεως εἱλόμεθα κατάθεσιν. ἐπειδὴ γὰρ κοινὸν ἐθέμεθα τὸν τοῦ ἄθλου ἀγῶνα, κοινὴν συνεθέμεθα καὶ τὴν κατάπαυσιν ποιήσασθαι ἐν τῷ προειρημένῳ χωρίῳ. ταῦτα οὖν καὶ τῷ ἁγίῳ πνεύματι ἔδοξεν, καὶ ἡμῖν ἤρεσεν. (2.) τούτου ἕνεκεν ἡμεῖς οἱ περὶ Ἀέτιον καὶ Εὐτύχιον καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς ἐν Χριστῷ ἀδελφοὺς ἡμῶν παρακαλοῦμεν τοὺς κυρίους ἡμῶν γονεῖς καὶ ἀδελφοὺς πάσης λύπης καὶ ταραχῆς ἐκτὸς γενέσθαι, τῆς δὲ φιλαδέλφου κοινωνίας τιμῆσαι τὸν ὅρον καὶ τῷ βουλήματι ἡμῶν σπουδαίως συνάρασθαι, ὅπως τῆς ὑπακοῆς καὶ τῆς συμπαθείας τὸν μέγαν μισθὸν παρὰ τοῦ κοινοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν κομίσησθε. ἔτι δὲ ἀξιοῦμεν πάντας μηδένα τῶν ἐκ τῆς καμίνου ἀνελομένων λειψάνων ἡμῶν ἓν ἑαυτῷ περιποιήσασθαι, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῆς ἐν ταὐτῷ συναθροίσεως φροντίσαντα ἀποδοῦναι τοῖς προειρημένοις, ἵνα καὶ τῆς σπουδῆς τὸν τόνον ἐπιδειξάμενος καὶ τῆς εὐγνωμοσύνης τὸ ἀκέραιον αὐτῶν τῶν πόνων τῆς συμπαθείας τὸ κέρδος κομίσηται. καθάπερ ἡ Μαρία προσκαρτερήσασα τῷ τάφῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ πρὸ πάντων θεασαμένη τὸν κύριον, πρώτη καὶ τῆς χαρᾶς καὶ εὐλογίας ἐδέξατο τὴν χάριν. (4.) εἰ δέ τις τῷ βουλήματι ἡμῶν ἐναντιωθῇ, τοῦ μὲν θείου κέρδους ἀλλότριος ἔστω, τῆς δὲ παρακοῆς πάσης ὑπόδικος, μικρῷ βουλήματι ἀπολέσας τὸ δίκαιον, τέμνειν ἡμᾶς ἀπ’ ἀλλήλων ὅσον τὸ ἐφ’ ἑαυτὸν βιαζόμενος, οὓς ὁ ἅγιος ἡμῶν σωτὴρ ἰδίᾳ χάριτι καὶ προνοίᾳ τῇ πίστει συνέζευξεν. (5.) εἰ δὲ καὶ ὁ παῖς Εὐνοϊκὸς νεύματι τοῦ φιλανθρώπου θεοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ τοῦ ἀγῶνος καταντήσει τέλος τὴν αὐτὴν ἡμῶν ἠξίωσεν ἔχειν καὶ καταμονήν· ἐὰν δὲ διαφυλαχθῇ ἀβλαβὴς τῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ χάριτι καὶ ἔτι ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐξετάζοιτο, σχολάζειν αὐτὸν μετ’ ἐλευθερίας τῷ μαρτυρίῳ ἡμῶν παραγγέλλομεν καὶ τὰς ἐντολὰς τοῦ Χριστοῦ φυλάττειν παρακαλοῦμεν, ἵνα ἐν τῇ μεγάλῃ τῆς ἀναστάσεως ἡμέρᾳ τῆς μεθ’ ἡμῶν ἀπολαύσεως τύχῃ, ἐπειδὴ καὶ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ὢν τὰς αὐτὰς ἡμῖν ὑπέμεινε θλίψεις. (6.) ἡ γὰρ πρὸς τὸν ἀδελφὸν εὐγνωμοσύνη δικαιοσύνην βλέπει θεοῦ, ἡ δὲ πρὸς τοὺς ὁμοιογενεῖς παρακοὴ ἐντολὴν θεοῦ πατεῖ· γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι Ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὴν ἀδικίαν μισεῖ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ψυχήν.
2. (1.) Τοιγαροῦν ἀξιῶ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφὲ Κρισπῖνε, καὶ παραγγέλλω, ὡς πάσης κοσμικῆς ἡδυπαθείας καὶ πλάνης γενέσθαι ξένους. σφαλερὰ γὰρ καὶ οὐκ εὔτονος ἡ τοῦ κόσμου δόξα, ἣ πρὸς ὀλίγον μὲν ἀνθεῖ καὶ αὖθις μαραίνεται χόρτου δίκην, ταχύτερον τῆς ἀρχῆς δεξαμένη τὸ τέλος. προσδραμεῖν δὲ μᾶλλον θελήσατε τῷ φιλανθρώπῳ θεῷ, ὃς πλοῦτον μὲν ἀνελλιπῆ παρέχει τοῖς εἰς αὐτὸν προστρέχουσι, ζωὴν δὲ αἰώνιον βραβεύει τοῖς εἰς αὐτὸν πιστεύουσι. (2.) καιρὸς οὗτος ἐπιτήδειος τοῖς σώζεσθαι θέλουσι, ἄφθονον μὲν παρέχων τῆς μετανοίας τὴν προθεσμίαν, ἀπροφάσιστον δὲ τῆς πολιτείας τὴν πρᾶξιν, μηδὲν ἀναβαλλομένοις πρὸς τὸ μέλλον. ἀπροόρατος γὰρ ἡ τοῦ βίου μεταβολή. ἀλλ’ εἰ καὶ ἐγνώρισας, ὅρα τὸ χρήσιμον καὶ ἐν αὐτῇ ἐπίδειξαι τῆς θεοσεβείας τὸ ἄχραντον, ἵνα ἐν αὐτῷ καταληφθεὶς τῶν προγεγονότων ἁμαρτημάτων ἀπαλείψῃς τὸ χειρόγραφον· Ἐν ᾧ γὰρ εὕρω σε, φησίν, ἐν τούτῳ καὶ κρινῶ σε. (3.) σπουδάσατε οὖν ἐν ταῖς ἐντολαῖς τοῦ Χριστοῦ εὑρεθῆναι ἄμεμπτοι, ὅπως φύγητε τὸ ἀκοίμητον καὶ αἰώνιον πῦρ· ὅτι γὰρ ὁ καιρὸς συνεσταλμένος πάλαι βοᾷ ἡ θεία φωνή. (4.) ἀγάπην οὖν πρὸ πάντων τιμήσατε· αὕτη γὰρ μόνη τιμᾷ τὸ δίκαιον φιλαδελφίας νόμῳ πειθομένη θεῷ· καὶ γὰρ διὰ τοῦ ὁρωμένου ἀδελφοῦ ὁ ἀόρατος τιμᾶται θεός· καὶ πρὸς μὲν τοὺς ὁμομητρίους ἀδελφοὺς ὁ λόγος, πρὸς δὲ πάντας τοὺς φιλοχρίστους ἡ γνώμη. καὶ γὰρ ὁ ἅγιος ἡμῶν σωτὴρ καὶ θεὸς ἐκείνους ἔφασκεν (5) ἀδελφοὺς εἶναι, τοὺς οὐχὶ τῇ φύσει κοινωνοῦντας ἀλλήλοις, ἀλλὰ τῇ ἀρίστῃ πράξει πρὸς τὴν πίστιν συναπτομένους καὶ τὸ θέλημα ἐκπληροῦντας τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν τοῦ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.
3. (1.) Προσαγορεύομεν τὸν κύριν τὸν πρεσβύτερον Φίλιππον καὶ Προκλιανὸν καὶ Διογένην ἅμα τῇ ἁγίᾳ ἐκκλησίᾳ. προσαγορεύομεν τὸν κύριν Προκλιανὸν τὸν ἐν τῷ χωρίῳ Φυδελᾷ ἅμα τῇ ἁγίᾳ ἐκκλησίᾳ μετὰ τῶν ἰδίων. προσαγορεύομεν Μάξιμον μετὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας, Μάγνον μετὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας. προσαγορεύομεν Δόμνον μετὰ τῶν ἰδίων καὶ Ἴλην τὸν πατέρα ἡμῶν, Οὐάλην μετὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας. προσαγορεύω καὶ ἐγὼ Μελέτιος τοὺς συγγενεῖς μου Λουτάνιον Κρίσπον καὶ Γόρδιον μετὰ τῶν ἰδίων, Ἐλπίδιον μετὰ τῶν ἰδίων, Ὑπερέχιον μετὰ τῶν ἰδίων. (2.) προσαγορεύομεν καὶ τοὺς ἐν τῷ χωρίῳ Σαρεῖμ, τὸν πρεσβύτερον μετὰ τῶν ἰδίων, τοὺς διακόνους μετὰ τῶν ἰδίων, Μάξιμον μετὰ τῶν ἰδίων, Ἡσύχιον μετὰ τῶν ἰδίων, Κυριακὸν μετὰ τῶν ἰδίων. προσαγορεύομεν τοὺς ἐν Χαδουθὶ πάντας κατ’ ὄνομα. προσαγορεύομεν καὶ τοὺς ἐν Χαρισφώνῃ πάντας κατ’ ὄνομα. προσαγορεύω καὶ ἐγὼ Ἀέτιος τοὺς συγγενεῖς μου Μάρκον καὶ Ἀκυλίναν καὶ τὸν πρεσβύτερον Κλαύδιον καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφούς μου Μάρκον, Τρύφωνα καὶ τὰς ἀδελφάς μου καὶ τὴν σύμβιόν μου Δόμναν μετὰ τοῦ παιδίου μου. (3.) προσαγορεύω καὶ ἐγὼ Εὐτύχιος τοὺς ἐν Ξιμάροις τὴν μητέρα μου Ἰουλίαν καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφούς μου Κύριλλον, Ῥοῦφον καὶ Ῥίγλον καὶ Κυρίλλαν καὶ τὴν νύμφην μου Βασιλείαν καὶ τοὺς διακόνους Κλαύδιον καὶ Ῥουφῖνον καὶ Πρόκλον. προσαγορεύομεν καὶ τοὺς ὑπηρέτας τοῦ θεοῦ Σαπρίκιον <τὸν τοῦ> Ἀμμωνίου καὶ Γενέσιον, καὶ Σωσάνναν μετὰ τῶν ἰδίων. (4.) προσαγορεύομεν τοίνυν πάντες ἡμεῖς οἱ τεσσαράκοντα ἀδελφοὶ καὶ συνδέσμιοι πάντες Μελέτιος Ἀέτιος Εὐτύχιος Κυρίων Κάνδιδος Ἀγγίας Γάϊος Χουδίων Ἡράκλειος Ἰωάννης Θεόφιλος Σισίνιος Σμάραγδος Φιλοκτήμων Γοργόνιος Κύριλλος Σεβηριανὸς Θεόδουλος Νίκαλλος Φλάβιος Ξάνθιος Οὐαλέριος Ἡσύχιος Δομετιανὸς Δόμνος Ἡλιανὸς Λεόντιος ὁ καὶ Θεόκτιστος Εὐνοϊκὸς Οὐάλης Ἀκάκιος Ἀλέξανδρος Βικράτιος ὁ καὶ Βιβιανὸς Πρίσκος Σακέρδων Ἐκδίκιος Ἀθανάσιος Λυσίμαχος Κλαύδιος Ἴλης καὶ Μελίτων. ἡμεῖς οὖν οἱ τεσσαράκοντα δέσμιοι τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ὑπεγράψαμεν τῇ χειρὶ δι’ ἑνὸς ἡμῶν Μελετίου καὶ ἐκυρώσαμεν πάντα τὰ προγεγραμμένα καὶ ἠρέσθη πᾶσιν ἡμῖν. ψυχῇ δὲ καὶ πνεύματι θείῳ εὐχόμεθα, ὅπως τύχωμεν ἅπαντες τῶν αἰωνίων τοῦ θεοῦ ἀγαθῶν καὶ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ νῦν καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. ἀμήν.
'Testament of the Holy and Glorious Forty Martyrs of Christ, who died at Sebastea
Meletios and Aetios and Eutychios, prisoners of Christ, greet in Christ the holy bishops and presbyters and deacons and confessors and all the rest of the church.
1. When, by the grace of God and by the common prayers of everyone, we accomplish the contest set before us, and hasten to the prize of the heavenly calling [Phil. 3:14], we then wish that this our will should come into effect: our relics [leipsana] are to be collected [anakomizesthai] by the companions of the presbyter Proidos, our father, and of our brothers Krispinos and Gordios, together with the zealous people, and Kyrillos and Markos and Saprikios, son of Ammōnios, in order that our relics be deposited at the village of Sareim in the district of the city of Zela. For, although we all happen to come from various villages, yet we have chosen one and the same place of deposition for our rest. Because, as we have fought the struggle of our contest in common, even so have we decided to have the same place of rest built at the said village. This was indeed both decided by the Holy Spirit and approved by us. For this reason, we, the companions of Aetios and Eutychios and of the rest of our brethren in Christ, beseech our honoured parents and brothers to refrain from all grief and distress, to honour the bond of our loving and brotherly relation, and to abide with zeal by our will, that you may receive the great reward for your obedience and affection, from our common Father. We also request from everyone that no one should keep for himself any of our relics removed from the furnace, but that he should take care that they be gathered together, and hand them over to the aforementioned people, so that he may demonstrate the strength of his zeal and the fullness of his gratitude, and that he may earn the reward for the very labours of his affection. Just like Mary who, having abode with perseverance at the tomb of Christ and having seen the Lord before everyone else, received the grace of joy and blessing first. But if anyone opposes our will, let this man be aloof from divine reward, let him face judgement for all his disobedience, for he overturns justice by mere whim, forcing us, as far as is in his power, to be separated from one another, we whom our Holy Saviour united in the faith, by his own grace and providence. Now, should the boy Eunoikos, by the will of the loving God, also arrive at the same end of the contest, he has requested to share the same dwelling with us. But, should he, by the grace of Christ, be preserved unharmed and still remain to be tested in this world, we order that he freely devote himself to our martyrium [martyrion], and we exhort him to keep the commandments of Christ, so that, on the great day of resurrection, he may be granted happiness in our company, for he endured the same tribulations with us while in the world. Indeed, gratitude to the brother looks to God’s justice, whereas disobedience towards one’s fellows tramples God’s commandment. It is namely written, he who loves injustice hates his own soul [Ps. 10:5].
2. Accordingly, I ask and order you, brother Krispinos, to remain aloof from all worldly pleasure and error. Because the glory of this world is precarious and feeble, as it blossoms a little while and withers like grass, reaching end faster than beginning. You should rather take refuge with the loving God who offers unending wealth to those who resort to him, and rewards with eternal life those who believe in him. This [life] is an appropriate opportunity for those wishing to be saved, for it provides an ample period for repentance, but requires a way of living without excuses, putting off nothing for the future. Because overturn [= death] in life is unforeseeable. But, even if you have come to know it, recognise its usefulness [= of knowing the time of death] and demonstrate the pureness of your piety in it, so that you may be found [= by death] in this state, and you may erase the bond of your earlier sins. For He says, I shall judge you in whatever state I shall find you. So take care to be found blameless in the commandments of Christ, that you may escape the eternal fire that never dies. Indeed, the divine word has long since proclaimed that the time has grown very short [1 Cor. 7:29]. Now, honour love above all things. For it alone honours the bond of brotherhood by obeying God’s law. Indeed, the invisible God is honoured through one’s visible brother. Calling makes us brothers of our natural brothers, but belief makes us brothers of all those who love Christ. Because our holy Saviour and God used to say that brothers are not those related by nature, but those who are bound together in faith by good deeds and fulfil the will of our Father in Heaven.
3. We greet the lord presbyter Philippos and Proklianos and Diogenēs, together with all their holy church. We greet the lord Proklianos in the village of Phydela, together with all his holy church and his family. We greet Maximos with his church, Magnos with his church. We greet Domnos with his family and Iles our father, Ouales with his church. And I, Meletios, greet my relatives, Loutanios, Krispos and Gordios with his family, Elpidios with his family, Hyperechios with his family. We also greet those in the village of Sareim, the presbyter with his family, the deacons with their families, Maximos with his family, Kyriakos with his family. We greet everyone by name in Chadouthi. We also greet by name all those in Charisphōnē. And I, Aetios, greet my relatives Markos and Akylina and the presbyter Klaudios, and my brothers Markos, Tryphōn and my sisters and my wife Domna with my child. And I, Eutychios, greet those who live in Ximara, my mother Ioulia, and my brothers Kyrillos, Rouphos and Riglos, and Kyrilla, and my sister-in-law Basileia, and the deacons Klaudios and Rouphinos and Proklos. We also greet the servants of God Saprikios, son of Ammōnios, and Genesios and Sōsanna with their families. All we then, the forty brothers and all fellow prisoners, send our greetings: Meletios, Aetios, Eutychios, Kyriōn, Kandidos, Aggias, Gaios, Choudiōn, Hērakleios, Iōannēs, Theophilos, Sisinnios, Smaragdos, Philoktēmōn, Gorgonios, Kyrillos, Sevērianos, Theodoulos, Nikallos, Phlavios, Xanthios, Oualerios, Hēsychios, Dometianos, Domnos, Hēlianos, Leontios (also called Theoktistos), Eunoikos, Oualēs, Akakios, Alexandros, Vikratios (also called Vivianos), Priskos, Sakerdōn, Ekdikios, Athanasios, Lysimachos, Klaudios, Ilēs and Melitōn. So we, the forty prisoners of our Lord Jesus Christ, sign by our hand through one of us, Meletios, and ratify and approve of all which is written here. To the divine soul and spirit we pray that all of us may obtain God’s eternal blessings and his kingdom, now and to the ages of ages. Amen.’
Text: Musurillo 1972.
Translation: E. Rizos.
Cult building - independent (church) Rejection, Condemnation, Sceptisism
Burial site of a saint - unspecified
Considerations about the validity of cult formsNon Liturgical Activity
Condemnation/rejection of a specific cultic activity
Visiting graves and shrinesRelics
Composing and translating saint-related texts
Bodily relic - unspecifiedProtagonists in Cult and Narratives
Bodily relic - corporeal ashes/dust
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergyTheorising on Sanctity
Other lay individuals/ people
Relatives of the saint
Considerations about the validity of cult forms
SourceThe Testament of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste is preserved in three Greek manuscripts, one of which is from the 10th century, and in a Slavonic translation in a 15th century manuscript.
The document was studied by a number of scholars until the 1930s. Its students argued both for and against recognising the document as what it purports to be, namely a testament written and addressed by the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste during their imprisonment under Licinius (Franchi de’ Cavalieri 1949, 173-180 being the most extensive defence of the document’s authenticity).
On the manuscript tradition and bibliography, see: Seeliger and Wischmeyer 2015, 290-305.
DiscussionThe Testament of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste is particularly interesting with regard to the beginnings of one of the most popular martyr cults in the East, and to the cult of relics. It exemplifies the central role of relics, communities and local leaders, especially of the lower clergy, in the promotion of a particular shrine and cult.
The document has the format of an open letter addressed to the clergy of the entire church, which is reminiscent of other martyr-related texts of the pre-Constantinian period (Martyrdom of Polycarp, Martyrs of Lyon, Letter of Phileas etc.). The text purports to be a letter by the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste and raises the claim that the only place legitimately possessing their relics is Sareim, a village near the city of Zela in Helenopontus. The aim is evidently to deny the legitimacy of the possession of relics of these martyrs by others, and to persuade everyone to send them for burial at Sareim. The document warns those not complying that keeping relics against the will of the saints not only deprives them of their grace or protection, but it also inflicts divine condemnation.
The whole of paragraph 1 is exclusively preoccupied with the question of the possession and distribution of the relics. It presents the martyrs as knowing that their bodies will be cremated in a furnace, that their relics will be collected and distributed, and that a martyrium (martyrion, μαρτύριον) will be dedicated to them. All these were clearly written by a person familiar with the development of the cult of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, which spread thanks to the wide distribution of their purported relics. The author is providing a foundation story for the martyrium of Sareim, hoping to establish it as the exclusive centre of the cult. Of special interest is the use of the verb ἀνακομίζω (anakomizō = 'to recover/raise from the ground') and its derivative noun ἀνακομιδὴ (anakomidē), which became technical terms describing the solemn exhumation and translation of relics of saints for veneration, corresponding to the Latin elevatio corporis.
Paragraph 2 stands out by its different spirit and the quality of its language. Its contrast with paragraphs of 1 and 3 is so clear that it must be ascribed to a different author. We should also notice that its author uses the first person singular (2.1), whereas the author of paragraphs 1 and 3 consistently uses first plural in his effort to present the document as the words of the Forty Martyrs. In the way of content, the absolute absence of any connection between paragraph 2 and paragraphs 1 and 3 is striking. Otherwise, paragraph 2 provides no evidence about its date and author. It is possible that it belongs to a genuine paraenetic epistle of the age of persecutions.
The author of paragraph 1 seems to have written most or all of paragraph 3. A long list of salutations is addressed to clerics and other people with their families, naming five villages (Sareim, Phydela, Chadouthi, Charisphōna/Charisphōnē and Ximara) and the clerics of another five parishes. After the rather tedious list of salutations, section 3.4 offers the crucial identification of the martyrs as the Forty of Sebaste, which is not mentioned or hinted at in any other part of the document. A general greeting is addressed by a list of forty names, largely corresponding to the names known from the martyrdom accounts of the Forty Martyrs. As befits a proper testament, the martyrs ratify the document in notarial language, authorising Meletios to sign on their behalf.
The list of the martyrs' names suggests that the author of our text was aware of a version of the Martyrdom of the Forty Martyrs (E01303). This is also suggested by the story about the young Eunoikos, which very probably alludes to the story of the youngest of the Forty Martyrs. In the Martyrdom of the Forty Martyrs, is called Melitōn, and is followed throughout the martyrdom by his mother who encourages him. When all the martyrs die, he is still alive, and is left by the persecutors by the river, while the rest are taken away to be burned. His mother carries him on her back and throws his body onto the fire with the other martyrs. Yet it is of particular interest that our text addresses the possibility that the young man may survive and become a confessor.
The final salutations are interesting, as they provide information about the social environment which produced the Testament of the Forty Martyrs. These salutations are addressed to a cluster of rural parishes, with their clergy and notables, and we must underline the absence of a reference to the local bishop. It seems that the shrine of Sareim was entirely an enterprise of village-based communities and lower clergy – not of the higher, city-based, ecclesiastical hierarchy.
The geographical data provided by the text are interesting. The burial site of the martyrs is purportedly the village of Sareim in the territory of Zela (ὑπὸ πόλιν Ζήλων, hypo polin Zēlōn; mod. Zile, Turkey), one of the cities of the late antique province of Helenopontus (Hierocles, Synekdemos 701.5). A tentative identification has been proposed with the modern village of Kırlar (earlier Kırklar = Forty) east of Zile, which has reportedly produced ancient inscriptions and spolia (Ruge 1920, 2497). Gregory of Nyssa mentions a martyrium of the Forty Martyrs founded by his mother at the private estate of their family in the same province (E01298; Hierocles, Synekdemos 701.4).
BibliographyEditions and translations:
Musurillo, H., The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford Early Christian Texts; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), xlix-l; 354-361.
Seeliger, H.R., and Wischmeyer, W., Märtyrerliteratur. Herausgegeben, übersetzt, kommentiert (Texte und Untersuchungen yur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur, vol. 172. Berlin/München/Boston: De Gruyter, 2015), 291-305.
Franchi de' Cavalieri, P., Note agiografiche 7 (Studi e Testi 49; Roma: Tipografia Vaticana, 1928), 172-181.
Leemans, J., “Individualization and the Cult of the Martyrs: Examples from Asia Minor in the Fourth Century,” in: J. Rüpke (ed.), The Individual in the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 188-210 (esp. 189-190).
Maraval, P., ‘Les premiers développements du culte des XL Martyrs de Sébastée dans l’Orient byzantin et en Occident’, Vetera Christianorum 36, 1999, 193–211.
Ruge, 'Sarein', Paulys Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, 2. Reihe (R-Z), 2. Halbband (Stuttgart, 1920), 2497.
|ID||Name||Name in Source||Identity||S00103||Forty Martyrs of Sebaste||Ἡλιανὸς, Λεόντιος, Θεόκτιστος, Εὐνοϊκὸς, Οὐάλης, Ἀκάκιος, Ἀλέξανδρος, Βικράτιος, Βιβιανὸς, Πρίσκος, Σακέρδων, Ἐκδίκιος, Ἀθανάσιος, Λυσίμαχος, Κλαύδιος, Ἴλης, Μελίτων, Μελέτιος, Ἀέτιος, Εὐτύχιος, Κυρίων, Κάνδιδος, Ἀγγίας, Γάϊος, Χουδίων, Ἡράκλειος, Ἰωάννης, Θεόφιλος, Σισίνιος, Σμάραγδος, Φιλοκτήμων, Γοργόνιος, Κύριλλος, Σεβηριανὸς, Θεόδουλος, Νίκαλλος, Φλάβιος, Ξάνθιος, Οὐαλέριος, Ἡσύχιος, Δομετιανὸς, Δόμνος||Certain|
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Efthymios Rizos, Cult of Saints, E00255 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E00255