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E02421: Latin translation of the Greek Martyrdom of Babylas and his Companions (*Bablyas, bishop and martyr of Antioch, S00061, and the *Three Children, S00319), produced by the 7th century at the latest.

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posted on 22.02.2017, 00:00 by dlambert
Martyrdom of Babylas (BHL 889)

BHL 889 follows the Greek Martyrdom (BHG 205, $E02684) very closely. Its structure and narrative, including the dialogues of Numerian with Babylas, the three children and their mother Theodula, and Numerian's henchman Victorinus, are virtually identical to the Greek Martyrdom.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Babylas, bishop and martyr in Antioch, and his companions, ob. late 3rd c. : S00061 Three Children, martyrs of Antioch : S00319

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Children


BHL 889 is transmitted in numerous manuscripts. BHLms ( lists 45, the earliest dating from the 8th/9th century (Turin, BN D. V. 3, 153r-157r). Two other Latin versions of the Martyrdom of Babylas are listed in BHL. One of these, BHL 890, is simply another recension of 889, with minor variants. The other, BHL 891, is also based on BHL 890, but is significantly reworked: while the narrative is the same, the language is much more elevated and rhetorically ambitious. The dialogues in particular are rewritten to make them more dramatic. The date of BHL 891 is unclear; according to BHLms no surviving manuscript of it dates from earlier than the 12th century.


The Latin version of the Martyrdom of Babylas must have been in circulation by the late 7th century, since it was used as a source by Aldhelm in his prose On Virginity (E06566). Verbal parallels show that Aldhelm was using BHL 889, or a version of the text very close to it. For example, when Numerian asks Babylas whether the three boys are his sons, his reply in Aldhelm closely follows that in BHL 889: BHL 889: Secundum Deum filii mei sunt. Mulierem vero non noui. Aldhelm: Filii mei vere sunt secundum Deum. Mulierem autem coram Deo meo non cognovi, ex quo natum. By contrast, the reply in BHL 891 is quite different (this is also a representative illustration of the difference in style between BHL 889 and 891): Filii mei sunt educationis labore et amoris affectu, ceterum concubitum feminei sexus ignoro.


Editions: Acta Sanctorum, Ian. II, 571-573 (BHL 889). Acta Sanctorum, Ian. II, 573-576 (BHL 891).

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