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Headword: *babu/las
Adler number: beta,10
Translated headword: Babylas
Vetting Status: high
Bishop of Antioch. When Numerianus -- or some say Decius[1] -- was prompted by some demon to go into a crowded church,[2] Babylas stood in front of the door and kept him from coming in, saying that as far as it was in his power he would not allow the wolf to go in among the flock.[3] Numerianus at once backed off from the door, either sensing the sedition in the crowd or changing his mind for some other reason. But he was not happy about the bishop's opposition, so after he went back to his quarters at the palace he summoned him to his presence and brought an accusation against him for hindering him. He then ordered Babylas to sacrifice to the deities if he wanted to avoid a trial on this charge. The bishop spoke in his own defense against the charge and responded to the challenge, first of all, that for him as a shepherd it was entirely appropriate feel strongly about his flock. Moreover, he said that he would not turn away from the real God and sacrifice to destructive falsely-named deities. Then Numerianus, seeing that Babylas was not persuaded, ordered that he be bound by chains and fetters and taken off to his death by beheading. As Babylas was being led off to die, he answered in the words of the Psalm: "My soul, turn to your rest, for the Lord has made you prosper."[4] They also say that there were three boys, brothers by birth, all very young, that had grown up in Babylas's household. The Emperor seized them also and, because they refused to sacrifice even though induced to by all kinds of threats, the Emperor ordered that they should be beheaded. When they came to the appointed place, Babylas stood before them and encouraged them not to tremble or to draw back from their deaths. And he proclaimed as they were being beheaded, "Look, I and the children God has given to me."[5] Then he offered his own neck to the sword, bidding those who collected the bodies to bury the chains and fetters with him, "so that they may adorn me as I lie there," he said. And they say these [chains] are still with him.
Greek Original:
*babu/las, e)pi/skopos *)antioxei/as. ou(=tos, fasi\, *noumerianw=|, oi( de\ *deki/w|, kata\ dh/ tina dai/mona ei)selqei=n ei)s plhqu/ousan th\n e)kklhsi/an proqumoume/nw|: sta\s ga\r pro\ tw=n qurw=n a)ntisxei=n fa/skwn, ei)s du/namin mh\ perio/yesqai lu/kon tw=| poimni/w| e)peiserxo/menon. to\n de\ parauti/ka me\n a)nakrousqh=nai th=s ei)so/dou, ei)/te sta/sin tou= o)/xlou u(peido/menon, ei)/te kai\ a)/llws au)tw=| metabouleuqe/n. e)n xalepw=| me/ntoi th\n a)nti/stasin tou= e)pisko/pou poihsa/menon, e)peidh\ w(s e(auto\n e)pi\ ta\ basi/leia a)phlla/gh, parasth/sasqai/ te au)to\n kai\ prw=ta me\n th\n ai)ti/an th=s kwlu/sews e)gkalei=n, e)/peita me/ntoi keleu/ein au)to\n toi=s dai/mosi qu/ein, ei) bou/loito/ ge th\n e)pi\ tw=| e)gklh/mati di/khn diafugei=n. to\n de\ pro\s th\n e)pe/gklhsin a)pologh/sasqai kai\ th\n pro/klhsin diakrou/sasqai th\n me\n, fh/santa poime/ni o)/nti e(autw=| pa/nta prosh/kein u(pe\r tou= poimni/ou proqumei=sqai, th\n de\, mh\ a)\n e(le/sqai tou= o)/ntws a)posta/nta qeou= yeudwnu/mois o)leth=rsi dai/mosi qu/ein. ei)=q' o( me\n w(s e(w/ra mh\ peiqo/menon prose/tacen au)to\n a(lu/sesi kai\ pe/dais e)ndhsame/nous th\n e)pi\ qana/tw| a)/gein th=s kefalh=s a)fairh/sontas. o( de\, e)peidh\ h)/geto teqnhco/menos, tau/tas a)nalabw\n h)=|de ta\s tou= yalmou= r(h/seis: e)pi/streyon yuxh/ mou ei)s th\n a)na/pausi/n sou, o(/ti ku/rios eu)erge/thse/ se. fasi\ de\ kai\ trei=s pai=das a)delfou\s to\ ge/nos komidh= ne/ous u(p' au)tw=| a)natrefome/nous a(rpagh=nai/ te au)tou\s u(po\ tou= basile/ws, kai\ w(s ou)d' au)toi\ qu/ein h)/qelon, kai/toi pantoi/as a)na/gkhs au)toi=s prosagome/nhs, kai\ au)tou\s e)ke/leuse tw=n kefalw=n a)fairei=n. ou(\s, e)peidh\ h(=kon ei)s to\ prokei/menon xwri/on, o( *babu/las e(autou= prosthsa/menos, prote/rous prosh=ge tw=| ci/fei, tou= mh/ tina tre/santa au)tw=n a)nadu=nai to\n qa/naton. kai\ a)potemnome/nwn tau/thn a)neipw\n th\n fwnh/n: i)dou\ e)gw\ kai\ ta\ paidi/a, a(/ moi e)/dwken o( qeo/s, e)/peita au)to\s prou)/teine to\n au)xe/na tw=| ci/fei, e)nteila/menos toi=s to\ sw=ma au)tou= sullecome/nois ta\s a(lu/seis kai\ ta\s pe/das au)tw=| sunqa/yai. i(/n' h)=| moi tau=ta, fhsi\, keime/nw| ko/smos. kai\ nu=n met' au)tou=, w(/s fasi, tau=ta tugxa/nei kei/mena.
= (with minor differences) John of Damascus, The Passion of the Great Martyr Artemius 54-5, adapting the account of Philostorgius (7 fr. 8, pp. 89-92 Bidez-Winkelmann), which is paraphrased somewhat differently by Photius.
Babylas does not begin to make much of an impact on our surviving sources until a century or so after his death, when Julian the Apostate tried to have his remains moved and was met with unambiguous signs of divine disapproval. The traditions relating to his life and martyrdom are accordingly diverse.
[1] A number of sources place the martyrdom under Numerianus, emperor 283-4: e.g. Joannes Malalas 303.17, Synaxarium ecclesiae Constantinopoleos 9/4, Symeon Logothetes 81.12. Our best and earliest sources give it a decidedly earlier date, but not without confusion. Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica 6.39.4, mentions Babylas by name as having been martyred under Decius, emperor 249-51, but also (6.34.1) relates a story about an unnamed church leader forbidding entrance to the church to Philip the Arab (emperor 244-249). For a similar doublet see Chronicon Paschale 503-4, citing Leontius, bishop of Antioch: Babylas was martyred under Decius, but for forbidding entrance to Philip and his wife. Others favoring Decius are Zonaras (3.132) and George the Monk (Chronicon 110.552). Cedrenus wavers between Philip (1.451) and Numerianus (1.464). The likeliest explanation is that Babylas died in the persecutions under Decius, and that at some point local legend-makers (represented in the surviving record by Leontius of Antioch) connected his story with that of the earlier cleric who stood up to the emperor, even though in Eusebius' account the nameless cleric is not martyred, or even punished, but instead induces the emperor to confess his sins.
[2] In the incident related by Eusebius (6.34.1), the occasion was the vigil on the evening before Easter Sunday.
[3] The reason for Babylas' refusal is reported variously. The Synaxarium ecclesiae Constantinopoleos (see n. 1) alleges that the emperor (Numerianus) had sacrificed the son of the Parthian king in a pagan ritual. Leontius, in the Chronicon Paschale, claims that the emperor (Philip) had murdered the son of his predecessor, Gordian, to obtain the throne.
[4] Psalm 114:7 LXX (116:7 RSV); again at epsilon 3440.
[5] Hebrews 2:13, which is itself a fragmentary quotation of Isaiah 8:18.
Keywords: biography; children; Christianity; chronology; daily life; ethics; geography; historiography; history; law; politics; religion
Translated by: Anne Mahoney on 6 September 1998@18:48:44.
Vetted by:
Edmund P. Cueva on 14 March 2000@06:46:48.
Catharine Roth (added note and link) on 13 December 2001@20:00:44.
Catharine Roth on 13 December 2001@20:02:11.
Catharine Roth (added note) on 5 March 2002@00:54:16.
Catharine Roth (added note) on 5 March 2002@13:28:58.
David Whitehead (rearranged and augmented notes) on 11 July 2003@07:03:08.
David Whitehead (added x-ref) on 18 July 2003@03:12:43.
Catharine Roth (augmented reference) on 28 November 2004@23:45:08.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 3 October 2005@07:29:02.
William Hutton (modified translation, augmented notes, added keywords, set status) on 17 February 2008@17:51:44.
Catharine Roth (tweaked reference) on 31 December 2011@18:01:49.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 30 May 2012@00:13:09.
Catharine Roth (tweaked reference) on 7 July 2014@19:47:44.
Catharine Roth (tweak) on 11 November 2014@17:11:35.
David Whitehead (coding and other cosmetics) on 12 September 2015@09:21:32.


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