Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Martinianus, Hermit at Athens

Article

Martinianus was born at Cæsarea in Palestine, during the reign of Constantius. At eighteen years of age he retired to a mountain near that city, called, The place of the Ark, where he lived for twenty-five years, among many holy solitaries in the practice of all virtues, and was endowed with the gift of miracles. A wicked strumpet of Cæsarea, called Zoe, hearing his sanctity much extolled, at the instigation of the devil undertook to pervert him. She feigned herself a poor woman, wandering in the desert late at night, and ready to perish. By this pretext she prevailed on Martinianus to let her remain that night in his cell. Towards morning she threw aside her rags, put on her best attire, and going in to Martinianus, told him, she was a lady of the city, possessed of a large estate and plentiful fortune, all which she came to offer him with herself. She also instanced, in the examples of the saints of the Old Testament, who were rich and engaged in the conjugal state, to induce him to abandon his purpose. The hermit, who should have imitated the chaste Joseph in his flight, was permitted, in punishment perhaps of some secret presumption, to listen to her enchanting tongue, and to consent in his heart to her proposal. But as it was near the time that he expected certain persons to call on him to receive his blessing and instructions, he told her he would go and meet them on the road and dismiss them. He went out with this intent, but being touched with remorse, he returned speedily to his cell, where making a great fire, he thrust his feet into it. The pain this occasioned was so great, that he could not forbear crying out aloud. The woman at the noise ran in and found him lying on the ground, bathed in tears, and his feet half burned. On seeing her he said: “Ah! if I cannot bear this weak fire, how can I endure that of hell?” This example excited Zoe to sentiments of grief and repentance, and she conjured him to put her in a way of securing her salvation. He sent her to Bethlehem to the monastery of Saint Paula, in which she lived in continual penance, and lying on the bare floor, with no other sustenance than bread and water. Martinianus, as soon as his legs were healed, which was not till seven months after, not being able all that time to rise from the ground, retired to a rock surrounded with water on every side, to be secure from the approach of danger and all occasions of sin. He lived here exposed always to the open air, and without ever seeing any human creature, except a boatman, who brought him twice a year biscuit and fresh water, and twigs wherewith to make baskets. Six years after this, he saw a vessel split and wrecked at the bottom of his rock. All on board perished, except one girl, who, floating on a plank, cried out for succour. Martinianus could not refuse to go down and save her life: but fearing the danger of living on the same mountain with her till the boatman should come, as was expected in two months, resolved to leave her there to subsist on his provisions till that time, and she chose to end her days on this rock in imitation of his penitential life. He, trusting himself to the waves and Providence, to shun all danger of sin, swam to the main land, and travelled through many desarts to Athens, where he made a happy end towards the year 400, being about fifty years old. His name, though not mentioned in the Roman Martyrology, occurs in the Greek Menæa, and was in great veneration in the East, particularly at Constantinople, in the famous church near Sancta Sophia. See his acts in the Bollandists, and in most compilers of the lives of saints.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Martinianus, Hermit at Athens”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 12 February 2013. Web. 26 October 2014. <>