The Testament of the Forty Holy and Glorious Martyrs of Christ who died at Sebaste (A Translation from the Greek Text).

The Testament  of the Forty Holy and Glorious Martyrs of Christ  who died at Sebaste [1].

Meletius, Aetius, and Eutychius, prisoners of Christ, send greetings in Christ to the holy bishops and presbyters in every city and country, to the deacons and confessors and to all others who pertain to the Christian Church.

1. When by God’s grace and the common prayers of all we accomplish the contest set before us, and hasten to the prize of our heavenly calling[2], then this is the determination we wish made with regard to the collection of our remains by the friends of our father, the presbyter Proidus, and our brothers Crispinus and Gordius, with all their zealous community, and Cyril, Mark, and Sapricius son of Ammonius, so that our bones may be laid to rest in the town of Sarim below the city of Zelon[2]. For, though we come from different localities, we have none the less decided that we should have one and the same place of rest. We endured the same contest: and therefore we have decided to have a common resting-place at the spot we have mentioned. This was a determination of the Holy Spirit, and it was pleasing to us as well.

For this reason, we who are associated with Aetius, Eutychius, and our other brothers in Christ beseech our true parents and brothers to refrain from all grief and tribulation, to uphold the standards of brotherly loyalty, and earnestly to respect our wishes by a common pledge, that you may receive the great reward of obedience and affection from our common Father. Furthermore, we beg you all that no one should take for himself one particle of our remains removed from the furnace; rather they should hand them over to the aforementioned, bearing in mind that they are to be collected in one place. In this way, showing the intensity of their concern and the purity of their love, they might receive the reward of fellowship for all their labours. And so too Mary, braving her way to the tomb of Christ, saw the Lord before all the rest, and was the first to receive the favour of blessing and rejoicing[3]. If, however, anyone opposes our wishes, let him have no share in the divine reward, and let him stand convicted of total disobedience, overturning justice because of a mere whim, in attempting so far as is in his power to tear us from one another, when our sainted Saviour has by his grace and providence bound us together in the faith.

And if the young boy Eunoicus by the will of the loving God should arrive at the term of the same contest, he deserves to have the same resting-place as ourselves. If, however, he should be preserved unharmed by the grace of Christ and should still be counted among the living, we urge that he devote himself with all freedom to our tomb, and we exhort him to keep the commands of Christ, that on that great day of the resurrection he may share with us in our refreshment, just as he endured with us the same tribulations while on earth. For charity towards a brother looks to the justice of God; whereas disobedience towards one’s fellows tramples on God’s commandment. For it is written, He who loves injustice hates his own soul[4].

2. For this reason I beg you, brother Crispinus[5], and make the request that you remain aloof from all worldly error and luxury. For the opinion of the world is treacherous and insecure, for it blossoms for a time but soon afterwards withers like grass[6], coming to an end sooner than it began. Rather should you run to the loving God, who offers unfading wealth to those who trust in him[7]. Now is the time ripe[8] for those who wish to be saved, offering an abundant period for conversion, and the practice of the true life without pretext for those who will not put things off for the future. For the vicissitudes of life are unforeseeable. But once you recognize them, take care to show forth in them the unblemished worth of piety. Then when you are overtaken in such wise you might cancel the bond of former iniquities. For it is written, As I find you, so shall I judge you[9]. Take care, therefore, to be found blameless in the commandments of Christ, that you may escape the eternal fire[10] that never sleeps.

The inspired voice has long since proclaimed that the time has grown very short[11]. Hence honour love above all things; for it alone respects the bond of brotherhood by obeying God’s law. For the invisible God is revered in our brother whom we see[12]; and though this saying refers to our true brothers, the meaning is extended to all those who love Christ. For our God and holy Saviour declared to be brothers not those who shared a common nature, but rather those who were bound together in the faith by good deeds and who fulfil the will of our Father who is in heaven[13].

3. We greet the venerable presbyter Philip, Proclianus, and Diogenes, with their holy community. We greet the venerable Proclianus who lives in Phydela[14], together with his holy church and all his community. We greet Maximus and his community, Magnus with his. We greet Domnus with his community, and our father lies, and Valens with his church.

And I, Meletius, greet my kinsmen Lutanius Crispus and Gordius with their community, Elpidius with his people, and Hyperechius with his.

We address all those who dwell in the town of Sarim, the presbyter with his flock, the deacons with their people, Maximus with his folk, Hesychius with his people, and Cyriacus with his. We greet individually all those who live in Chadouthi; and we greet individually all those who dwell in Charisphone[15].

And I, Aetius, greet my kinsfolk, Mark, Aquilinus, the presbyter Claudius, my brothers Mark and Tryphon, my sisters, and my wife Domna with my child.

I, Eutychius, greet those who live in Ximara[16], my mother Julia, my brothers Cyril, Rufus, and Riglus, and my sister Cyrilla, and my wife Basileia, and the deacons Claudius, Rufinus, and Proclus.

We greet also the servants of God, Sapricius son of Ammonius, Genesius, Susanna, and their people.

Thus all of us send our greetings, we the forty brothers and fellow prisoners: Meletius, Aetius, Eutychius, Kyrion, Candidus, Aggias, Gaius, Choudion, Heraclius, John, Theophilus, Sisinnius, Smaragdus, Philoctemon, Gorgonius, Cyril, Severian, Theodulus, Nicholas, Flavius, Xanthius, Valerius, Hesychius, Domitian, Domnus, Aelian, Leontius (also called Theoctistus), Eunoicus, Valens, Acacius, Alexander, Vicratius (also called Vivian), Priscus, Sacerdon, Ecdicius, Athanasius, Lysimachus, Claudius, Ilês, and Meliton.

We forty prisoners of the Lord Jesus Christ have signed this by the hand of our Meletius, and we have ratified what is here set down as the wishes of all of us. To the divine soul and Spirit we pray that all of us may obtain God’s eternal blessings and his kingdom, now and for ever. Amen.


The Acts of the Christian Martyrs. Introduction, texts and translations by H. Musurillo, Oxford 1972, pp. 354-361.


[1] Phil. 3: 14.

[2] Sarim (Sarein) and Zelon (Zela?) are difficult to identify: see the attempt of W. Ruge, ‘Sarein’, RE ia (1920), 2497.

[3] John 20: 1-2, 14-18.

[4] Ps. 10: 5.

[5] Here it has been suggested that the names of Gordius and of others may have been lost, since the ‘you’ is plural; but this is not strictly necessary.

[6] Cf. Isa. 40: 6-8, but the metaphor is frequent in the Old Testament.

[7]  A paraphrase of 1 Tim. 6: 17-18; cf. also Matt. 6: 19-20.

[8] Cf. 2 Cor. 6: 2.

[9] A well-known agraphon, attributed at times to Jesus, for example by Justin in his Dialogue with Trypho 47. 5 (ed. Otto, i. 1, 157); but John Climacus, Scala Paradisi, gradus 7 (PG 88. 8130), attributed it to the prophet Ezekiel (see Ezek. 7: 8; 8: 30, and elsewhere). See M. R. James, The Apocryphal JSlew Testament (Oxford, 1955), agraphon 2, p. 35; and consult the discussion by A. J. Bellinzoni, The Sayings of Jesus in the Writings of Justin Martyr (Leyden, 1967), pp. 131-4.

[10] Cf. Matt. 25: 41.

[11] 1 Cor. 7: 29.

[12] Cf. 1 John 4: 20.

[13] Matt. 6: 9.

[14] Cannot be identified: see H. Leclercq loc. cit.

[15] Neither Chadouthi nor Charisphone can be identified.

[16] Perhaps to be identified with Zimara, between Satala and Melitene in Armenia: see H. Ledercq, loc. cit.