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E00213: Eusebius of Caesarea, in his Ecclesiastical History, summarises the martyrdom account of *Apollonius (martyr of Rome, S00106), an aristocrat martyred in Rome under Commodus. The original account may have been a pamphlet written in Greek which Eusebius included in his collection of ancient martyrdoms, now lost. Written in Greek in Palestine, 311/325.

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posted on 24.11.2014, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 5.21

(1.) Κατὰ δὲ τὸν αὐτὸν τῆς Κομόδου βασιλείας χρόνον μεταβέβλητο μὲν ἐπὶ τὸ πρᾶον τὰ καθ’ ἡμᾶς, εἰρήνης σὺν θείᾳ χάριτι τὰς καθ’ ὅλης τῆς οἰκουμένης διαλαβούσης ἐκκλησίας· ὅτε καὶ ὁ σωτήριος λόγος ἐκ παντὸς γένους ἀνθρώπων πᾶσαν ὑπήγετο ψυχὴν ἐπὶ τὴν εὐσεβῆ τοῦ τῶν ὅλων θεοῦ θρῃσκείαν, ὡς ἤδη καὶ τῶν ἐπὶ Ῥώμης εὖ μάλα πλούτῳ καὶ γένει διαφανῶν πλείους ἐπὶ τὴν σφῶν ὁμόσε χωρεῖν πανοικεί τε καὶ παγγενεῖ σωτηρίαν. (2.) οὐκ ἦν δὲ ἄρα τοῦτο τῷ μισοκάλῳ δαίμονι βασκάνῳ ὄντι τὴν φύσιν οἰστόν, ἀπεδύετο δ’ οὖν εἰς αὖθις, ποικίλας τὰς καθ’ ἡμῶν μηχανὰς ἐπιτεχνώμενος. ἐπὶ γοῦν τῆς Ῥωμαίων πόλεως Ἀπολλώνιον, ἄνδρα τῶν τότε πιστῶν ἐπὶ παιδείᾳ καὶ φιλοσοφίᾳ βεβοημένον, ἐπὶ δικαστήριον ἄγει, ἕνα γέ τινα τῶν εἰς ταῦτ’ ἐπιτηδείων αὐτῷ διακόνων ἐπὶ κατηγορίᾳ τἀνδρὸς ἐγείρας. (3.) ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν δείλαιος παρὰ καιρὸν τὴν δίκην εἰσελθών, ὅτι μὴ ζῆν ἐξὸν ἦν κατὰ βασιλικὸν ὅρον τοὺς τῶν τοιῶνδε μηνυτάς, αὐτίκα κατεάγνυται τὰ σκέλη, Περεννίου δικαστοῦ τοιαύτην κατ’ αὐτοῦ ψῆφον ἀπενέγκαντος· (4.) ὁ δέ γε θεοφιλέστατος μάρτυς, πολλὰ λιπαρῶς ἱκετεύσαντος τοῦ δικαστοῦ καὶ λόγον αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τῆς συγκλήτου βουλῆς αἰτήσαντος, λογιωτάτην ὑπὲρ ἧς ἐμαρτύρει πίστεως ἐπὶ πάντων παρασχὼν ἀπολογίαν, κεφαλικῇ κολάσει ὡς ἂν ἀπὸ δόγματος συγκλήτου τελειοῦται, μηδ’ ἄλλως ἀφεῖσθαι τοὺς ἅπαξ εἰς δικαστήριον παριόντας καὶ μηδαμῶς τῆς προθέσεως μεταβαλλομένους ἀρχαίου παρ’ αὐτοῖς νόμου κεκρατηκότος. (5.) τούτου μὲν οὖν τὰς ἐπὶ τοῦ δικαστοῦ φωνὰς καὶ τὰς ἀποκρίσεις ἃς πρὸς πεῦσιν πεποίητο τοῦ Περεννίου, πᾶσάν τε τὴν πρὸς τὴν σύγκλητον ἀπολογίαν, ὅτῳ διαγνῶναι φίλον, ἐκ τῆς τῶν ἀρχαίων μαρτύρων συναχθείσης ἡμῖν ἀναγραφῆς εἴσεται·

'(1.) During the same time, of the reign of Commodus, our affairs changed towards tranquillity, and, by the grace of God, the church through the entire world enjoyed peace. At that time, the word of salvation was leading every soul, from every race of men, to the pious worship of the God of all, so that now also several of those particularly distinguished by their wealth and origin, turned to their own salvation together with all their households and relatives. (2.) But the demon who hates what is good, being malignant in his nature, could not endure this, but he prepared himself again for various devices against us, contriving them. And he brought to court in the city of Rome Apollonius, a man renowned among the faithful of the time for his learning and philosophy, having stirred up one of his servants, who was well fitted for these things, to accuse him. (3.) But that wretched man made the charge unseasonably, because by imperial decree it was forbidden for such informers to live, and therefore his legs were broken immediately, for such was the sentence Perennius the judge pronounced upon him. (4.) But the martyr, most dear to God, being earnestly entreated and requested by the judge to give an account of himself before the Senate, made in the presence of all an eloquent defence of the faith for which he was witnessing. And, presumably by decree of the Senate, he was put to death by decapitation: an ancient law of theirs was valid, requiring that those brought to the judgment seat and refusing to recant should not be liberated. (5.) Anyone interested to know his speeches before the judge and his answers to the questions of Perennius, and his entire defence before the Senate, will find them in the record of the ancient martyrs we have collected.’

Text: Schwartz et al. 1999. Translation: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Apollonius, martyr in Rome under Commodus, ob. 180/185 : S00106

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Caesarea Maritima Rome

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

Caesarea Maritima Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Major author/Major anonymous work

Eusebius of Caesarea

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Aristocrats Officials


Written between 311 and 325, the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea is the first literary work to employ the methodology and objectives of classical historiography – which, since Herodotus and Thucydides, had traditionally focused on military and political events – in a novel field, the history of the Christian community. It survives in several Greek manuscripts, in a Latin translation by Rufinus, and in Syriac and Armenian translations. The first paragraphs of the work outline its chronological framework and thematic range: it is a narrative of events in the life of the Christian community from the times of Christ and the Apostles to the times of Eusebius (c. AD 260-340); it records the leaders of the most important communities (i.e. successions of bishops in Alexandria, Antioch, Rome and Jerusalem); it records the most notable exponents of Christian doctrine and their works, and also the main heresies and their proponents; it finally records persecutions and people that suffered and were martyred during them. The Ecclesiastical History is mostly a synthesis of quotations and summaries from other sources, for which Eusebius often gives concrete references. Thus his work preserves excerpts from early Christian texts which do not survive in their full form. Since the author knew Greek and Syriac, but no Latin, his source material is confined chiefly to Greek texts, originating from Christian centres in Anatolia, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. These areas constitute the main geographical range of his narrative, while his information about Christianity in the western provinces of the Roman Empire (except Rome) is very limited. Eusebius lived in Caesarea Maritima in Palestine between c. AD 260 and 340. He was a pupil and friend of the martyred Christian intellectual Pamphilus. Under Constantine, he emerged as one of the most influential Christian figures of the Roman Empire, and was ordained bishop of Caesarea.


Eusebius gives a summary of the martyrdom account of Apollonius, a Christian who was brought to trial and executed under Commodus (180-192). It is unclear if this Apollonius is to be identified as the Christian author of that name, whom Eusebius mentions as writing against Montanism (Ecclesiastical History 5.18). The version of the martyrdom Eusebius used apparently presented Apollonius as a learned aristocrat, probably a senator, living in Rome. The source-text apparently mentioned Commodus as the reigning emperor and a certain Perennios as the judge who tried Apollonius. The latter can probably be identified as Tigidius Perennis, praetorian prefect in Rome 180-185. It seems that the text emphasised the extraordinary execution of Apollonius, even though there was officially no persecution of Christians at that time. Apollonius is betrayed by his own slave and handed over to the Praetorian Prefect Perennis. The latter, applying a law against slaves testifying against their own masters, punishes the accuser by the breaking of his legs (crurifragium). He interrogates Apollonius and probably refers the case to the senate. Apollonius gives a learned apologia of the Christian faith, and is sentenced to death by beheading. The whole story and the paradox of both the accuser and the accused being punished under different laws, seems consistent with the Roman legal and judicial system and may indeed refer to a true historical event. A pamphlet containing the trial acts and the apologetic speeches of Apollonius was apparently circulated by the Christians. The structure and strongly apologetic outlook of the text may have resembled – and perhaps influenced – the Martyrdom of Pionios of Smyrna (E00096). It is almost certain that Eusebius found this text in a Greek version, since it is almost exclusively through Greek source-texts, mostly acquired from Anatolia, that he draws his information about early Christianity in Rome and the West. Anatolia was also the region of origin of the late 2nd century Martyrdoms of *Pionios of Smyrna, the *Martyrs of Lyon and Vienne, *Polycarp of Smyrna, and *Karpos, Papylos and Agathonike of Pergamon, all of which were used by Eusebius, and republished by him in his lost collection of the Ancient Martyrdoms (E00139). Thus Apollonius is the only Roman martyrdom extensively known to Eusebius who, although relatively well informed about ecclesiastical authors and episcopal successions in Rome, had almost no information about its martyrs. The Martyrdom of Apollonius circulated in the East and was integrated into Byzantine hagiography. In an abridged and restructured form, it survives in a Greek (E###) and an Armenian version (E###). Based on Eusebius or the martyrdom account itself, the story of Apollonius was included by Jerome in his De Viris Illustribus (ch. 42), written in Bethlehem in AD 392. Eusebius’ Latin translator Rufinus may have known a Latin version of the martyrdom, since his translation of the piece from Eusebius contains significant modifications (Klette 1897, 1-16). Nevertheless, the story of Apollonius seems to have remained marginal in Rome and the West. No particular cult or shrine of his is known in the city of Rome during Late Antiquity.


Edition: Schwartz, E., Mommsen, T., and Winkelmann, F., Eusebius Werke II: Die Kirchengeschichte. 3 vols. (Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte NF 6/1-3; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1999). Translations: Lake, K., Oulton, J.E.L., and Lawlor, H.J., Eusebius of Caesarea: The Ecclesiastical History. 2 vols. (Loeb Classical Library; London and Cambridge, MA: Heinemann and Harvard University Press, 1926). Williamson, G.A., and Louth, A., Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine (London: Penguin, 1989). Further reading: Klette, E.T., Der Process und die Acta S. Apollonii (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der Altchristlichen Literatur; Leipzig: J.C. Hinrich’sche Buchhandlung, 1897). Delehaye, H., Les passions des martyrs et les genres littéraires (2ed.; Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1966), 92-93. Harnack A,, "Der Process des Christen Apolllonius," in: Sitzungsberichte der K. K. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, 1893, pp. 721-746. Mommsen Th., "Der Process des Christen Apollonius unter Kommodus," in: Sitzungsberichte der K. K. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, 1893, 497-503. Acta Sanctorum, 18 April, Apollonius.

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