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E07364: Sophronius of Jerusalem, in his Miracles of the Saints Cyrus and John, recounts how *Kyros and Ioannes/Cyrus and John (physician and soldier, martyrs of Egypt, S00406) liberated a certain Theophilos from a magical binding spell at their shrine at Menouthis (near Alexandria, Lower Egypt). Written in Greek in Alexandria, 610/615.

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posted on 16.01.2019, 00:00 by julia
Sophronius of Jerusalem, The Miracles of Saints Cyrus and John, 35


There was a certain Theophilos who fell victim to magic. Some people invoked Satan to help them accomplish a plot against this man. Satan obeying their abominable invocations (miarai epikleseis) bound (syndeomai) his hands and feet and tormented him with terrible pains, either because he wanted to, or because God allowed him to torment the man. Theophilos turned to physicians, since he did not know the true cause of his misery. The physicians, even though they tried various remedies, could not cure him, since they also did not know the cause of the disease. When they realized their powerlessness, they advised Theophilos to go the martyrs Cyrus and John, who bring healing to suffering mortals.

Theophilos thus went to the martyrs’ sanctuary and supplicated them. Shortly afterwards the martyrs appeared to him in a dream and prescribed him the following. He was to engage the philopones to carry him to the sea shore. He was then to see a fisherman casting his net into the sea and agree with him a reward for what he was going to take from the water. This thing when made uncovered was to bring him healing.

In the early morning next day, Theophilos recounted the order of the martyrs to the philopones (they are the sick who have some strength) and asked them to take him outside of the sanctuary to the sea. Once they got there, they saw the fisherman who was fishing. Theophilos addressed him, asking what would be the price of what the latter was going to catch in his net. The fisherman said it was one carat (keration), which Theophilos eagerly promised to pay. In a moment, having cast his net, the fisherman brought out a basket (thibe). It did not contain Moses, but an evil (kakourgema) similar to that of Jannes and Mambres, that is a demonic product. However, neither the fisherman, nor the sick Theophilos knew that. They discussed the find instead. The fisherman said he was not selling the basket, but a fish from the water. Theophilos replied that he was buying whatever was caught in the water, not necessarily a fish. Not only the basket, but also the fact that it was closed with leaden seals, fomented this quarrel.

Since they could not reach an agreement, they turned to the manager of the sanctuary (oikonomos) to arbitrate in their quarrel. However, he would not agree to pass judgement before the basket was opened. He therefore opened it in public and found inside a figurine of a human form which resembled Theophilos, with its hands and feet fastened with four nails. Everybody present was astonished, since they did not know what it was. Nor did Theophilos himself understand the benefit this find was to him, until the martyrs again helped. They caused the manager to check what the nails fastened to the members of the figurine were for. The manager told one of the people present to try and remove the nails. That person took the nail stuck in the right hand of the figurine and violently removed it.

Immediately Theophilos’ right hand was liberated and the pain he suffered receded. The martyrs proved the powerlessness of the demons and sorcerers, showing that their own power reaches all the elements: air, water, fire and earth. When everybody saw that Theophilos could move his right hand, they celebrated the martyrs with great joy and removed the rest of the nails from the figurine's body. This way Theophilos' other bodily members were freed of both the nails and the tortures caused by the diabolic operation. Theophilos with his hands raised ran towards the tomb where the martyrs’ relics lay, praising them in full voice, and along with him the other people present praised them as well.

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


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 - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures


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.


Jannes and Mambres were the names of Egyptian magicians mentioned in the book of Exodus; they frequently appear in ancient Christian and Jewish literature. Jannes and Mambres is a Latin version of their names, since the Greeks used rather the form Jannes and Jambres; see Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, s.v. 'Jannes and Jambres'; cf. Gascou 2007: 123, n. 705. The philopones were members of a lay group which undertook certain duties in church; here they were apparently recruited from among the sick present at the shrine to obtain a healing miracle. A carat [keration] is the 1/1728 of a pound of gold (see Liddell-Scott Greek Lexicon) and the 1/24 of a gold solidus, which means that the price indicated by the fisherman was quite high (Gascou 2007: 123, n. 702).


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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