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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world

The Greek Martyrdom of *Athenogenes of Pedachthoe (bishop and martyr, S00065), of the 6th/8th c., recounts in an abridged and significantly altered way the story of the saint known from his more extensive and probably earlier martyrdom account (E02993). It describes his shrine as a monastery. Probably written at Pedachthoe (northern Asia Minor).

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom

Martyrdom of Athenogenes of Pedachthoe (BHG 197)


1. Under Diocletian, a great persecution against Christians takes place. The provincial governor Philemarchos in Sebasteia orders the people to offer sacrifice, but the crowd responds that they are Christians and refuse to sacrifice. Many are tortured and become martyrs.

2. A certain
cornicularius Nikolaos reports to the governor about Athenogenes, the chorepiskopos, who lives in a monastery at Pedachthoe. Soldiers are sent, but, as they do not find Athenogenes, they arrest his disciples and take them to Sebasteia. The governor demands to have their leader as well.

3. The saint returns to the monastery and is distressed at the absence of his disciples. He prays by the cross of the church, and is visited by a deer which kisses his hands. Someone comes and tells him that the disciples have been arrested to be martyred, and he gives thanks to God for this.

4. Athenogenes blesses his deer and goes to Sebasteia, where he appears before the
praetorium reproaching the tyrant. He is put in jail, where he meets and blesses his disciples.

5. Next day, the tyrant orders them all to offer sacrifice, threatening them with torture and death. They remain steadfast.

6. The ten disciples are tortured and put to death by the sword.

7. Athenogenes is also tortured, and the voice of God is heard from heaven, encouraging him.

8. At the instigation of his assistant, Philippos, Philemarchos condemns Athenogenes to death by the sword. Athenogenes requests to be taken to his monastery for execution. En route, he sings Psalms and is met by the deer which he blesses, predicting that its offspring will be consumed by the attendants at his festival.

9. When they reach the monastery, he kneels and requests that those celebrating his memory and invoking God through his intercession be granted blessing and the fulfilment of every petition, whether it concerns sins, need, a fearsome trial, a bad dream or any other occasion. God replies, promising to relieve every need and forgive every sin of those who celebrate the memory or read the martyrdom account of Athenogenes at home. The martyrs will be the helpers of widows and orphans, strangers, the poor, the sick, and those possessed by evil spirits.

10. Athenogenes was beheaded on 17 July in Pedachthoe. The deer appears every year at the festival, offering its young before the altar, while the gospel is being read.

Summary: Efthymios Rizos.

Liturgical Activities

Service for the saint


Saint’s feast

Cult Places

Cult building - monastic

Non Liturgical Activity

Saint as patron - of an individual
Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts
Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts


Miracle at martyrdom and death
Miraculous sound, smell, light
Miracle with animals and plants
Miraculous protection - of people and their property
Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money)
Specialised miracle-working
Juridical interventions

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops
Ecclesiastics - abbots
Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


The text is preserved in 18 manuscripts, the earliest of which dates from the 8th/9th centuries, on which see:


This text represents an advanced stage in the development of the legend of Athenogenes, which led to a substantially abridged, simplified, and partly altered version of the story known from his more extensive Martyrdom (E02993). The most substantial changes are the removal of all references to the early life, miracles, and episcopal ordination of Athenogenes, and of references to earlier martyrdoms (the secondary figures of the original story here seem to have been grouped together as Athenogenes’ disciples).

Some significant changes seem to have been instigated by the development of the shrine of Pedachthoe. This is now described as a monastery and Athenogenes as its abbot. The shrine also claims to have been the site of the saint’s martyrdom, whereas the extensive martyrdom account places his death at Sebasteia. Finally, Athenogenes dies by the sword rather than by fire. Both changes probably reflect the development of cult at the shrine: the monastery of Pedachthoe very probably showed the presumed martyrdom site to its visitors, and perhaps substantial corporeal relics – hence the obliteration of the original account of an execution by fire which would imply only ashes. This is evidence that the general predilection of ‘epic’ hagiography for decapitations is a later development, which, in many cases, obliterated earlier accounts describing different forms of execution.

It is remarkable that the most stable elements of the narrative are the statements concerning the specialisation of Athenogenes’ miraculous help with bad dreams and the miracle of the deer.


Text, French translation, commentary:

Maraval, P.
La Passion inédite de S. Athénogène de Pédachthoè en Cappadoce (BHG 197b). Subsidia Hagiographica 75. Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1990.

Record Created By

Efthymios Rizos

Date of Entry


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00065Athenogenes, bishop and martyr of PedachthoeἈθηνογένηςCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Efthymios Rizos, Cult of Saints, E03171 -