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E07156: Sophronius of Jerusalem, in his Miracles of the Saints Cyrus and John, recounts how *Kyros/Cyrus and Ioannes/John (physician and soldier, martyrs of Egypt, S00406) punished and then healed a certain Athanasia who doubted their sainthood on account of the lack of reliable trial records for their martyrdom. Written in Greek in Alexandria, 610/615.

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posted on 12.12.2018, 00:00 by julia
Sophronius of Jerusalem, The Miracles of Saints Cyrus and John, 29

There was a certain woman Athanasia, wife of Markellinos, who came from a very rich and noble family. She did not believe in Cyrus and John's sanctity. She believed that they were not martyrs and had not suffered for Christ, because there was no written trial record of their martyrdom, except for Cyril of Alexandria’s sermons recounting their story (see $E03563). Sophronius proceeds to refute this argument:

Εἰ γὰρ μόνους σχοίημεν μάρτυρας οὓς ἐν ὑπομνήμασιν ἔχομεν, ἄρα Χριστὸς δωρεὰν ἀπέθανεν, ὀλίγους αὐτοῦ τῶν παθῶν κοινωνοὺς ποιησάμενος· ὀλίγοι γὰρ οὗτοι πάνυ τυγχάνουσιν· ἐν κινδύνοις δὲ καὶ ἡμεῖς γενησόμεθα, μὴ μυριάσι μαρτύρων φρουρούμενοι, καὶ ταῖς οἰκείων ἱμάτων προσχύσεσι, ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν τὸν Χριστὸν πρεσβεύοντας ἔχοντες. Εἰ γὰρ καὶ μηδόλως εἰσὶν ὑπομνήματα, ἵνα καὶ τὴν Κυρίλλου παρήσω διάλεξιν τὸ πᾶν ἀρκοῦσαν πιστώσασθαι, τὰ τοὺς ἀγῶνας τῶν ἁγίων κηρύττοντα, καὶ τὴν κλῆσιν αὐτῶν ὑποφαίνοντα, τὸ πλῆθος ἐχρῆν τῶν δυνάμεων τῶν δι’ αὐτῶν ἀδιαλείπτως γινόμενον, παρασχεῖν αὐτοῖς μαρτύρων ὑπόληψιν.

Εἰ γὰρ ἔργα μαρτύρων οὐ πράττουσιν, καὶ χαρίσματα δυνάμεων οὐκ εἰλήφασιν, δι’ ὧν τοὺς ἀσθενοῦντας ῥωννύουσιν, εἰ καὶ ἡμῖν οὐ δοκεῖ (οὔτε γὰρ ταύτης τῆς δόξης ὑπάρχομεν), πλὴν παρ’ αὐτοὺς μὴ λεγέσθωσαν μάρτυρες· εἰ δὲ καὶ μαρτύρων πλεῖον ἐνεργοῦσι τεράστια, τίνι λόγῳ μὴ λέγονται μάρτυρες; [...]

Ὁμοίως γὰρ ἅπαντας τοὺς μάρτυρας σέβομεν, καὶ τοὺς θαύματα πράττοντας, καὶ τοὺς οὐ πράττοντας θαύματα· καὶ λέγειν ὑπὲρ ἁγίων οὐ καταλέγειν ἁγίων σπουδάζομεν. Ἡμεῖς μὲν οὖν οὕτω περὶ Κύρου καὶ Ἰωάννου τῶν ἁγίων μαρτύρων καὶ τοῦ λοιποῦ τῶν ἁγίων μαρτύρων στρατεύματος ἔχοιμέν τε καὶ ἕξομεν.

'If we had had only those martyrs whom we find documented in trial records, then Christ would have died in vain, for he would have caused only few people to share in his suffering. Such martyrs are indeed very few. And we would ourselves have been in danger, since we would not have been protected by myriads of martyrs interceding with Christ on our behalf by the shedding of their blood. Yet even if there had been no trial records at all (to put aside Cyril’s account, even though it is entirely sufficient to confirm the reliability of the whole story) proclaiming the contests of the saints, and demonstrating their [heavenly] calling, the multitude of the miracles which are incessantly performed by them should have granted them their fame as martyrs.

For, if they perform no workings of martyrs and have received no grace of miracles whereby to heal the sick, let them indeed not be called martyrs in violation of the martyrs’ title – even if we do not like this, for this is indeed not our opinion. However, if they perform even more prodigies than martyrs do, for what reason should they not be called martyrs? […]

For we indeed revere all the martyrs equally, both those who perform miracles and those who do not perform miracles. And we seek to talk about the saints and not to speak against them. This is and will be our attitude towards the holy martyrs Cyrus and John and towards the rest of the army of holy martyrs.'

Athanasia did not revere the martyrs. They had thus to correct her attitude, lest she remained in sin. One day, when she was discussing religious matters with various people at her home and mocking the saints, an insect severely bit her ankle, as if defending the saints. The woman bent down to catch the insect, but was unable to stand up in a normal upright position. The saints thus inflicted on her an inclined position proper for animals that lack reason. This punishment was accompanied by great pain, and Athanasia summoned physicians, but they were unable to help her.

The martyrs appeared to her in a dream and said that they came to heal her. She asked them who they were. They responded that they were the martyrs Cyrus and John whom she incessantly mocked, but nevertheless they wanted to give her their grace.

When Athanasia woke up, she began invoking Cyrus and John and went to their sanctuary where she was healed at once. As soon as she reached its threshold, she was restored to the upright position and thanked the martyrs for both healing her body and correcting her views. Not only did she acknowledge them as martyrs, but said that they occupied the first rank among the martyrs. She made numerous rich offerings, both on account of earlier sins and of her recent love for Cyrus and John.

Text: Fernández Marcos 1976, lightly modified in the light of Gascou 2007. Summary: J. Doroszewska, E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Kyros and Ioannes/Cyrus and John, physician and soldier, martyrs of Egypt : S00406

Saint Name in Source

Κῦρος καὶ Ἰωάννης

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Alexandria Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Places

Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Uncertainty/scepticism/rejection of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miracles causing conversion Healing diseases and disabilities Punishing miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



Sophronius (c. 560-c. 637) was born to a Chalcedonian family in Damascus, and was probably familiar with both Greek and Syriac culture. He was educated as a teacher of rhetoric, but in c. 580 became an ascetic while in Egypt, and entered the monastery of St. Theodosios near Bethlehem. He travelled widely to monastic centres in Egypt, the Near East, Aegean, and North Africa, accompanying his friend, the monk and writer John Moschus, who dedicated to him his treatise on the religious life, the Spiritual Meadow (Leimon pneumatikos). In 633-634, Sophronius travelled to Alexandria and to Constantinople in order to persuade the patriarchs to renounce Monoenergism. In 634, he was elected patriarch of Jerusalem. He is venerated as a saint in the catholic and orthodox churches; in the Byzantine rite he shares with John Moschus a feast day on 11 March. He died in Jerusalem in about 637. His extant doctrinal writings include a Letter to Arcadius of Cyprus and the Synodical Letter against Monenergism. Other works have also been preserved, such as an encomium on the Alexandrian martyrs Cyrus and John (in gratitude for healing his vision), The Miracles of the Saints Cyrus and John, a collection of 23 Anacreontic poems, and several patriarchal sermons on such themes as the Muslim siege of Jerusalem and on various liturgical celebrations. The Miracles of the Saints Cyrus and John comprise 70 stories; this number, as explained by the author in the Preface, consists either of 7 decades or 10 heptades, both of which refer to biblical and pagan (Pythagorean) arithmetic, where 7 is a mystic number and 10 is a perfect number. References to the number 7 and its multiple (14) recurs in the work several times (Miracles 5, 15, 23, 39, 43; Gascou 2006: 11 with notes). The significance of other numbers has also been noted: for the number 3, see Fernández Marcos 1975: 42, n. 15; for the number 67 (Miracle 1), see Nissen 1939: 377, n. 2.  All 70 stories concern miraculous healings performed by the two martyrs, considered saints of the first rank by Sophronius (Miracle 29), in their sanctuary at Menouthis, near Alexandria. The first 35 miracles concern Alexandrians, the next 15 Egyptians and Libyans, mostly of the Alexandrian region, and the last 20 foreigners of whom some were settled in Alexandria. Sophronius wanted to flatter in this way the self-esteem of the Alexandrians who were the possessors of the saints' relics. He also argued that the miracles of Alexandria were particularly credible, since they delivered plenty of verifiable facts. For the same reason, the miracles selected by him were limited to those of his own times and concerned persons who were still alive and could testify to the events. Sophronius seems also to have had at his disposal earlier and parallel collections. A powerful feature of the miracle stories is a disdain for secular doctors, but not medicine per se, who are seen as ineffective in comparison to the power of the saintly healing of Cyrus and John. The collection is also notable for Sophronius’ polemic against Miaphysites, who evidently attended the shrine. The most recent edition of Sophronius' text is Fernandez Marcos 1976, but Gascou in his translation of 2007 includes several textual emendations which we have followed when they occur.


Text: Fernández Marcos, N., Los thaumata de Sofronio. Contribución al estudio de la "Incubatio" cristiana, Manuales y anejos de "Emérita" 31 (Madrid, 1975), 243-400. Translations: Gascou, J., Sophrone de Jérusalem, Miracles des saints Cyr et Jean (BHGI 477-479) (Paris, 2006). French translation and commentary. Peltier, D., "Sophrone de Jérusalem, Récit des miracles des saints Cyr et Jean" (unpublished dissertation; Paris 1978). Further reading: Duffy, J., “Observations on Sophronius' Miracles of Cyrus and John,” Journal of Theological Studies 35 (1984), 71-90. Duffy, J., “The Miracles of Cyrus and John: New Old Readings from the Manuscript,” Illinois Classical Studies 12:1 (1987), 169-177. Gascou, J., “Religion et identité communautaire à Alexandrie à la fin de l'époque byzantine, d'après les Miracles des saints Cyr et Jean,” in: J.-Y. Empereur and C. Décobert (eds.), Alexandrie médiévale, 3 (Cairo, 2008), 69-88. Gascou, J., Les origines du culte des saints Cyr et Jean (2006); online document: Le Coz, R., “Les Pères de l'Eglise grecque et la médecine,” Bulletin de Littérature Ecclésiastique 98 (1997), 137-154. Maraval, P., “Fonction pédagogique de la littérature hagiographique d'un lieu de pèlerinage: l'exemple des Miracles de Cyr et Jean,” in: Hagiographie, culture et sociétés (IVe-XIIe siècles), Actes du Colloque organisé à Nanterre et à Paris (2-5 mai 1979) (Paris, 1981), 383-397. Nissen, T., “Sophronios-Studien III, Medizin und Magie bei Sophronios,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 39 (1939), 349–81. Papaconstantinou, A., Le culte des saints en Égypte des Byzantins aux Abbassides. L'apport des inscriptions et des papyrus grecs et coptes (Paris, 2001). Sansterre, J.-M., "Apparitions et miracles à Ménouthis: de l'incubation païenne à l'incubation chrétienne," in E. Dierkens (ed.), Apparitions et miracles (Brussels, 1991), 69-83. Schönborn, C., Sophrone de Jérusalem. Vie monastique et confession dogmatique (Paris, 1972). Wipszycka, E., “Les confréries dans la vie religieuse de l'Egypte chrétienne,” in: E. Wipszycka, Études sur le christianisme dans l'Égypte de l'antiquité tardive (Rome, 1996), 257-278.

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