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E00393: The Greek Martyrdom of *Chione, Eirene and Agape (martyrs of Thassalonike, S00206) recounts the trial and martyrdom of three young women in Thessalonike (south Balkans/Greece) in 304, and indicates 1 April as the day of Eirene's martyrdom. Most probably written in Thessalonike, the text is of an uncertain, but probably early date, with a plain description of the trial, devoid of references to relics or miracles; it is likely to contain genuine trial transcripts.

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posted on 21.04.2015, 00:00 by pnowakowski
The Martyrdom of Chionē, Eirēnē and Agapē (BHG 34)

Summary:

(§ 1) During the persecution of Maximian, three sisters from Thessalonike take refuge on a high mountain, where they live in prayer.

(§ 2) At that place, they are arrested and brought before the official who conducted the persecution. Their names are Chionē (‘Snow’), Eirēnē (‘Peace’) and Agapē (‘Love’). The official condemns them to death by fire. There follow the records concerning them.

(§ 3) The governor (hēgemōn) Doulkētios (Dulcetius) sits at the tribunal, and orders the commentarensis (clerk) Artemēsios to read the charge. According to it, the beneficiarius (officer) Kassandros reports that seven Christians, a man called Agathōn and the women Eirēnē, Agapē, Chionē, Kassia, Philippa, and Eutychia, have refused to eat sacrificial meat, and are therefore sent to be tried by the governor. The governor asks each one of them why they refuse to participate in the religious rites, and they reply that they are Christians and would prefer to die. The governor interrogates Eutychia about her husband, who has died seven months earlier, and about her pregnancy. He orders her to be imprisoned, because she is pregnant.

(§ 4) The governor asks Agapē and Chionē if they wish to venerate the emperors, which they refuse to. He asks them if they possess forbidden Christian books, which they deny. He asks them who taught them their ideas, and they reply that it was God. Then the governor condemns them to be burned alive, and solemnly reads the verdict. He orders Agathōn, Eirēnē, Kassia, Philippa and Eutychia to be imprisoned due to their young age.

(§ 5) After the execution of the first two martyrs, the governor summons Eirēnē and accuses her of keeping several books and writings of Christians. According to him, these were brought before her and she recognised them, although she reported that they were not hers; she therefore must suffer punishment, but the governor offers her the chance to reconsider and to eat sacrificial meat and offer sacrifice herself, which she refuses to. The governor asks who instructed her to keep the Scriptures until this day, and she replies that it was God who instructed them to love him to death, and that they were determined to die rather than betray the Scriptures. The governor asks who else knew about her keeping the Scriptures in her house, and she replies they did not even tell their own relatives, fearing that they would report them. The governor asks where they had hidden during the persecution of the previous year, and Eirēnē replies that they took refuge in various houses in the countryside and the mountains, that it was God who provided bread for them, and that even their father was unaware of their deed. Asked if any neighbours had known about their presence in the places they had taken refuge, she tells him to ask the neighbours themselves. The governor now asks her if, after their return from the mountain, they read the Christian books in the presence of others, and Eirēnē replies that they kept them at home, without daring to take them anywhere else; they were in great distress, because, after the imperial decree against the Christians, they had to hide the books, instead of devoting themselves to them day and night, as they had done previously. Doulkētios declares that Eirēnē must suffer a heavier punishment than her sisters. The agoranomoi (public guards) and the imperial slave Zosimos will place her naked in a brothel, where she will receive one loaf of bread from the palace as salary, without being allowed to leave.

(§ 6) The governor threatens Zosimos and the agoranomoi with severe punishment, should it be reported to him that Eirēnē has been removed from the brothel. He also orders the documents found in her cabinets and chests to be publicly burned. Eirēnē is placed in the brothel, but, by God's protection, no one dares to harm her. The governor summons her anew and asks if she has changed her mind, which she denies. He condemns her to death by fire.

(§ 7) They take her to a high site, where her sisters, Agapē and Chionē, had previously been executed, and order her to throw herself into a large pyre, which she does singing and giving thanks to God. Eirēnē was martyred in the ninth consulship of the Augustus Diocletian and the eighth of the Augustus Maximian [historically accurate date, corresponding to AD 304], on 1 April.

Text: Musurillo 1972. Summary: Efthymios Rizos.

History

Evidence ID

E00393

Saint Name

Agapē, Chionē and Eirēnē, martyrs in Thessalonike, ob. 304 : S00206

Saint Name in Source

Ἀγάπη, Εἰρήνη, Χιόνη

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

304

Activity not before

304

Place of Evidence - Region

Balkans including Greece

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Thessalonike

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

Thessalonike Drizypera Δριζύπερα Drizypera Büyük Karıştıran

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Place of martyrdom of a saint

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Pagans Officials

Source

The text is fully preserved in two manuscripts: Patmos Monastery, Codex 254 (11th century) Vatican Library, Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1660 (from AD 916) Excerpts are included in the 15th/16th century Vaticanus Graecus 1890 For the manuscripts, see: http://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr/notices/oeuvre/id/14391

Discussion

The Martyrdom of Chionē, Eirēnē and Agapē recounting the story of the three female martyrs of Thessalonike is only known from its circulation as a hagiographical reading in Byzantine menologia. The currently extant text includes large parts of what appears to be the genuine trial proceedings of five young Christians arrested for possessing Christian books, in violation of Diocletian’s edicts in 304. It seems likely that the structure of the original text was slightly altered or abridged at a later stage. The two introductory paragraphs (§§ 1, 2) are very probably secondary additions. Despite these alterations, however, the main body of the text (§§ 3-7) provides one of the most convincing examples of what may have been a genuine document of trial acts from the Diocletianic persecution. The text provided the narrative basis for the development of one of the secondary martyr cults at Thessalonike during Late Antiquity, centring on an extra-mural martyrium dedicated to the three sister martyrs near the west walls of the city. Typically of early martyrdom accounts, our text has no references to miracles or to the veneration of the saints’ relics. However, the last paragraph describes the place of their martyrdom as a lofty site, perhaps echoing the features of the location of their shrine.

Bibliography

Edition and translation: Musurillo, H., The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford Early Christian Texts; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), xlii-xliii, 280-293. Further reading: Delehaye, H., Les passions des martyrs et les genres littéraires (2nd ed.; Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1966), 103.

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