Basilides and Potamiana

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Saints Basilides & Potamiana
Born 1st century
Died ca. 205
Alexandria, Egypt
Venerated in Coptic Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Oriental Orthodox Churches
Roman Catholic Church
Attributes Basilides is depicted as a soldier
Patronage rape victims (Potamiana);[1] Polizia Penitenziaria (Basilides)

Potamiana, or Potamiaena (d. ca. 205 AD), is venerated as a Christian saint and martyr. According to her legend, she, along with her mother Marcella, were arrested in Alexandria, Egypt, and Potamiaena was threatened with being handed over to gladiators to be raped, if she refused to renounce her Christianity. Instead she managed to anger the judge such that, avoiding either fate, she and her mother were sentenced to be sunk feet first by degrees in a cauldron of boiling pitch.

After Potamiana had been sentenced to death, Basilides, an officer of the court, led her to execution; on the way, he protected her against the insults of the mob. In return for his kindness Potamiana promised him not to forget him with her Lord when she reached her destination.

Soon after Potamiana's death Basilides was asked by his fellow-soldiers to take a certain oath; on answering that he could not do it, as he was a Christian, at first they thought he was jesting, but seeing he was in earnest they denounced him and he was condemned to be beheaded.

While waiting in jail for his sentence to be carried out some Christians (Origen being possibly one of them) visited Basilides and asked him how he happened to be converted; he answered that three days after her death, Potamiana had appeared to him by night and placed a crown on his head as a pledge that the Lord would soon receive him into his glory. Basilides was then baptized and the next day he was beheaded.

Potamiana appeared to many other persons at that time, calling them to faith and martyrdom (Eusebius, Church History VI, iii-v). To these conversions, Origen, an eyewitness, testifies in his Contra Celsum (I, 46; P. G., XI, 746). The description of the episode of intercession of Potamiana on behalf of Basilides, narrated in Eusebius’ text, constitutes one of the first documents that concerns the intercession of saints.[2]

Six Christians, students of Origen, were martyred at the same time. Eusebius describes the martyrdom of this group:

The first of thee was Plutarch... After Plutarch, the second martyr among the pupils of Origen was Serenus, who gave through fire a proof of the faith which he had received. The third martyr from the same school was Heraclides, and after him the fourth was Hero. The former of these was as yet a catechumen, and the latter had but recently been baptized. Both of them were beheaded. After them, the fifth from the same school proclaimed as an athlete of piety was another Serenus, who, it is reported, was beheaded, after a long endurance of tortures. And of women, Herais died while yet a catechumen, receiving baptism by fire, as Origen himself somewhere says.

— Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History, [3]


The martyrdoms of Basilides, Potamiana, Marcella and six disciples of Origen are commemorated in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum on June 28. The Roman Martyrology commemorates only Basilides on June 30.[2]

In Italy, on September 2, 1948, Saint Basilides was declared patron saint of the Corpo degli Agenti di Custodia, today the Polizia Penitenziaria, the Prison Guards.[4]


  1. ^ Patron Saints Index: Saint Potamiaena Archived August 28, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b Santa Potamiena d’Alessandria
  3. ^ Book VI[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ San Basilide patrono della Polizia Penitenziaria Archived November 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "article name needed". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.