Acta Nereus et Achilleus
Standard abbreviation: Acts. Ner. Ach.
Other titles: Martyrdom of Nereus and Achilleus
Clavis numbers: BHG 1327; BHL 6058–6067
Category: Apocryphal Acts
Related literature: Act of Peter, Acts of Peter, Martyrdom of Blessed Peter the Apostle (Ps.-Linus)
Compiled by Richard I. Pervo, professor emeritus of the University of Minnesota.
Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Pervo, Richard I. “Acts of Martyrdom of Nereus and Achilleus.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. http://www.nasscal.com/e-clavis-christian-apocrypha/acts-of-nereus-and-achilleus/.
Posted April, 2017.
As Domitilla, “cousin of the Emperor Domitian,” prepares to marry Aurelian, a consul’s son, two eunuch chamberlains, Nereus and Achilleus, who had been baptized by Peter—as had Domitilla herself—seek to dissuade her with lavish praises of a life of virginity. Successful, they arrange for Clement (who succeeded Peter as Bishop) to consecrate Domitilla as a virgin. Aurelian, the frustrated fiancé, presses for Domitilla’s exile to the island Pontiana. The inhabitants of the island are in the thrall of Priscus and Furius, disciples of Simon the Magician. In a public meeting, Nereus and Achilleus propose writing the distinguished Senator Marcellus, a character from the Acts of Peter, for information about Peter’s conflict with Simon. His reply (chs. 12–17) includes creative revisions of several episodes from the Acts of Peter (chs. 8–10, 14, 25–28) as well as the story of Peter’s daughter from the Coptic Act of Peter. To the story is attached the martyrdom of another early Roman, Felicula, promptly followed by the passion of Nicomedes, the presbyter who preserved Felicula’s body.
After Marcellus’s letter there comes a letter from Eutyches, Victorinus, and Maro, three Christians on Pontiana, informing Marcellus that Nereus and Achilleus have perished. Aurelian sought to use them to convince Domitilla to change her mind and marry him. But they refused, so Aurelian had them executed. Speciosus, a slave of Domitilla, had them buried in Rome, close to Peter’s daughter.
To learn more about Eutyches, Victorinus, and Maro, Marcellus sends his brother Marcus to their island. Marcus reports back to Marcellus (chs. 19-25) that Aurelian had turned his attention to the three men, and each had been tortured and martyred. Aurelian then enlisted the help of his friends Sulpicius and Servilianus, who were engaged to Euphrosyne and Theodora. He transferred Domitilla to Tarracina on the mainland, where Euphrosyne and Theodora dropped by to convince Domitilla to marry Aurelian. Instead they became Christians after witnessing Domitilla perform healings. Sulpicius and Servilianus subsequently converted. Aurelian, however, remained as blind as ever and died after a feverish dance lasting two days and two nights. Luxurius, Aurelian’s brother, persuaded Trajan to require universal sacrifice. In the ensuing persecution, Sulpicius and Servilianus are executed and the three virgins were burned alive, although their bodies were preserved intact.
Named historical figures and characters: Achilleus, Anianus (prefect), Aurelian, Caesarius (deacon), Clement (bishop), Domitian, Domitilla, Euphrosyne, Eutyches, Felicula, Flaccus, Furius, Herod (brother of Theodora), Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, Justus, Luxurius, Marcellus (senator), Marcus (brother of Marcellus), Maro, Memmius Rufus, Nereus, Nero, Nicomedes, Peter (apostle), Petronilla (daughter of Peter), Plautilla, Priscus, Septempeda, Servilianus, Simon (Magus), Speciosus, Sulpicius, Theodora, Titus Flavius Clemens, Turcius, Victorinus, Zechariah (priest).
Geographical locations: Amiternum, Kotilias, Rome, Tarracina, Tiber River, Via Ardeatina (Rome), Via Latina (Rome), Via Noumentina (Rome), Via Salaria (Rome).
3.1 Manuscripts and Editions
C Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, gr. 1286 (16th cent.) (begins at 9:4)
Wirth, Albrecht. Acta SS. Nerei et Achillei graece. Leipzig: Fock, 1890 (editio princeps based on V).
Bolland, Jean et al., eds. Acta Sanctorum, Maii. Vol. 3. Antwerp: Cnobarum, 1680; 3rd ed. Paris: V. Palmé, 1866. (Edition of Surius with readings from additional manuscripts, by Gottfried Henschen and Daniel van Papebroek, pp. 6-10.)
The Golden Legend ch. 75. Edition in Grässe, J. G. Theodor, ed. Jacobi a Voragine, Legenda aurea vulgo historia lombardica dicta. 2nd ed. Leipzig: Impensis Librariae Arnoldianae, 1850. English translation: The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints. Translated by William Granger Ryan. 2 vols. Princeton. NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993. (vol. 1, pp. 309–10).
3.2 Modern Translations
Fastré, J. A. M. The Acts of the Early Martyrs. Messenger Series 6. Philadelphia: Cunningham & Son, 1873 (pp. 188–221).
Molinari, Andrea L. “I Never Knew the Man”: The Coptic Act of Peter (Papyrus Berolinensis 8204,4), Its Independence from the Apocryphal Acts of Peter, Genre and Legendary Origins. Bibliothèque Copte de Nag Hammadi, Section Études 5. Québec: Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2000. (Reproduces Fastré’s translation of chs. 11–15 on pp. 62–71, and provides her own translation of ch. 15 on p. 76).
Pervo, Richard I. “Acts of Nereus and Achilleus.” In New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, vol. 2, edited by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, forthcoming.
Leclercq, Henri. “Les Actes du martyre des saints Nérée et Achillée, à Terracine, sous Trajan (?).” Pages 193–201 In Les Martyrs. Recueil de pièces authentiques sur les martyrs depuis les origines du christianisme jusqu’au XXe siècle, Vol. 1, Les Temps néroniens et le IIe siècle. Paris: Oudin, 1903. (Partial translation).
Surius, Laurentius. Bewerte Historien der lieben Heiligen Gottes. Translated by Johannes à Via. 6 vols. Munich: Adam Berg, 1574–1580. Translation of De probatis Sanctorum historiis partim ex tomis Aloysii Lipomani. 6 vols. Cologne: Calenius and Quentel, 1570–1575 (German translation of the Latin text in vol. 3, pp. 121–26).
3.3 General Works
Ficker, Gerhard. Die Petrusakten: Beiträge zu ehrem Verständnis. Leipzig: J. A. Barth, 1903. (See pp. 47–51).
Leclercq, Henri. “Nérée et Achillée.” DACL 12 (1935): 1111–23.
Leclercq, Henri. “Les Actes du martyre des saints Nérée et Achillée, à Terracine, sous Trajan (?).” Pages 193–201 In Les Martyrs. Recueil de pièces authentiques sur les martyrs depuis les origines du christianisme jusqu’au XXe siècle, Vol. 1, Les Temps néroniens et le IIe siècle. Paris: Oudin, 1903.
Lipsius, Richard A. Die Apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden. Ein Beitrag zur altchristlichen Literaturgeschichte. 2 vols. Braunschweig: Schwetschke, 1883–1887. (See (vol. 1, pp. 200–206).
Molinari, Andrea L. “I Never Knew the Man”: The Coptic Act of Peter (Papyrus Berolinensis 8204,4), Its Independence from the Apocryphal Acts of Peter, Genre and Legendary Origins. Bibliothèque Copte de Nag Hammadi, Section Études 5. Québec: Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2000.
Rossi, Giovanni B. de. “Di tre antichi edifici componenti la chiesa dei ss. Cosma e Damiano; e di una contigua chiesa dedicata agli apostoli Pietro e Paolo.” Bulletino di Archeologia Cristiana 5 (1867): 66–71.
Vouaux, Léon. Les Actes de Pierre. Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1922. (See pp. 155–60).