He was the twelfth bishop of the Holy Apostolic See of Antioch which was founded by the Holy Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul in the first century. During the Roman persecution of Christians (250) Bishop Babylas made an unwavering public confession of his Christian faith in defiance of the law. His life is recorded by St. John Chrysostom in his Acts of the Martyrs and by the church historian Eusebius in his History of the Church.
Once, Emperor Philip the Arab, who had murdered the Emperor Gordian, passed through Antioch and attempted to enter a church where Bishop Babylas was serving the Easter vigil. Coming to the door, the Bishop forbade the Emperor, as a pagan and murderer, to enter the house where the only True God was worshipped. The Bishop instructed the Emperor to take his place outside the door with the penitent sinners.
The humiliated Emperor took his revenge and had Bishop Babylas imprisoned along with several of his young Christian students, including St. Urban, St. Prilidian, and St. Epolonius. St. Babylas was made to watch the beheading of each of his beloved students. Having given them encouragement he then submitted himself to beheading. At his own request he was buried in the chains with which he had been bound. Bishop Babylas and his students were quickly revered as martyrs and their relics were preserved by the local Christian community.
After the establishment of Christianity in the Roman Empire, the Emperor Gallus had a church built in honor of St. Babylas near the site of a temple to Apollo, outside Antioch. When Emperor Julian the Apostate, a pagan, came to Antioch in 362 to consult a famous psychic there, he found that the psychic had been deprived of its power by the presence of a Christian church nearby. Julian ordered the relics of St. Babylas to be dug up and removed from the Church. As soon as this had been done a thunderbolt destroyed the shrine of Apollo, which Julian did not dare to rebuild. Saint John Chrysostom, then Archbishop of Antioch, preached a sermon on these events within a generation after their occurrence.
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