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E07440: The late 4th to 6th century collection of Miracles of *Menas (soldier martyr of Egypt, S00073), ascribed to Timothy of Alexandria, recounts thirteen stories of prodigies performed at the saint’s shrine near Alexandria, focusing on miracles of justice, such as punishment of crimes and perjury. It mentions several types of vows and donations, and provides information about the organisation of the shrine. Written in Greek in Alexandria. Overview entry.

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posted on 10.03.2019, 00:00 by erizos
Timothy of Alexandria, Miracles of Menas (CPG 2527, BHG 1256-1269)

Contents:

Prologue (BHG 1256)
After the death of Diocletian, the first Christian emperor Constantine comes to power and ordains that churches be built in honour of the Christian martyrs. Some people from Alexandria seek and find the relics of Menas, and start building a church, in the construction of which the whole province assists.

Miracle 1: The pilgrim (BHG 1257) ($E07441)
Miracle 2. The man who promised to dedicate a plate (BHG 1258) ($E07442)
Miracle 3. The sterile woman (BHG 1259) ($E07443)
Miracle 4. The Jew and the Christian (BHG 1260) ($E07444)
Miracle 5. The crippled man and the mute woman (BHG 1261) ($E07445)
Miracle 6. The Samaritan woman (BHG 1262) ($E07446)
Miracle 7. The three brothers (BHG 1263) ($E07447)
Miracle 8. The rich man and the widow (BHG 1264) ($E07448)
Miracle 9. The camel (BHG 1265) ($E07449)
Miracle 10. The rich pagan man (BHG 1266) ($E07450)
Miracle 11. The donor of timber (BHG 1267) ($E07451)
Miracle 12. The demoniac (BHG 1268) ($E07452)
Miracle 13. The man who stole pigs (BHG 1269) ($E07453)

Text: Pomialovskii 1900.
Summary: E. Rizos.

History

Evidence ID

E07440

Saint Name

Menas, soldier and martyr buried at Abu Mena : S00073

Saint Name in Source

Μηνᾶς

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

380

Evidence not after

700

Activity not before

325

Activity not after

650

Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Abu Mina Alexandria

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

Abu Mina Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis Alexandria Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Punishing miracle Miracles causing conversion Saint denying or suspending miracles Specialised miracle-working Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miraculous protection - of people and their property Exorcism Power over life and death Miracle with animals and plants

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Jews and Samaritans Unbaptized Christians Pagans Heretics Soldiers Slaves/ servants Crowds

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious material objects Ex-votos

Source

The collection is preserved, not always intact, in 69 manuscripts, on which see: https://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr/notices/oeuvre/9359/

Discussion

This collection was apparently compiled and published by the great shrine of Menas, south-west of Alexandria, and provides some interesting evidence about the character of the shrine and the cult practised at it. In its most complete form, this collection comprises thirteen miracle accounts, but there are reasons to believe that its extant form only represents part of a more extensive work. The fragmentary Coptic Miracles of Menas mention seventeen stories, but preserve the text of only eight, most of which coincide with those of the Greek collection, but two of them do not (E01222). The prologue of the Greek collection indicates that the text was a sequel to a martyrdom account of Menas, which ended by recounting the saint’s burial. This pre-Metaphrastic martyrdom has been lost, but it is likely to have recounted the legend as it is known from the Coptic version (E01222). The precise date of the text cannot be deduced from internal evidence, even though it can be said with confidence that it is late antique and predates the 7th century. In most of the manuscripts it appears under the name of Timothy of Alexandria, which may allude to Patriarch Timothy I (381-384) or one of the later Timothies, Timothy II Aelurus (457-460), Timothy III Salophakiolos (460-475), or Timothy IV (518-536). The Coptic collection ascribes the text to Theophilus of Alexandria (385-412). Whatever the historical basis of these attributions may be, a 5th or 6th century date appears preferable. Although the type of cult practised at the shrine was incubation in pursuit of healing, it does not feature prominently in the collection (it is only mentioned in miracle 12). The majority of the miracles take place outside the shrine, especially in the villages and desert between the shrine and lake Mareotis, a dangerous area which pilgrims had to cross on their way to and from the shrine. In their majority, they can be described as miracles of justice, by which the saint punishes the reckless behaviour of greedy individuals, or intervenes to protect their victims. Menas appears on horseback and rescues people from murder and rape, he punishes greedy worshippers who neglect to fulfil their vows, or who dare to commit perjury at the saint’s tomb. The focus of the miracles on the punishment of crimes and greed is reminiscent of the Miracles of Theodore the Recruit (E04625). The text particularly attentive to the donations made to the shrine after each miracle, and provides some information about the structure of the shrine as an institution. The main clerics of the shrine are the archipresbyteros (chief presbyter) and the oikonomos (steward, managing priest), and there is a host of individuals, both male and female, who live permanently at the shrine, offering their services in various ways. In Miracles 9 and 13, we find that the shrine owned camels and pigs, and some of its members served as herdsmen. It appears that these resident servants of the shrine had some kind of monastic status, since, in miracle 12, we read that one such person was ‘tonsured’ when he was dedicated at the shrine. The text also contains references to the architectural formation of the shrine, such the crypt (katabasis), sarcophagus, and ciborium where the saint’s remains rested. One of the most interesting features in this collection is the saint’s appearance in his interventions. When Menas performs his miracles, he is always on horseback, followed by a large entourage, and, in most cases, he does not appear in dreams, but in living reality, and his interventions seem to imply a physical presence. It must have been stories like these that triggered a lively theoretical discussion in the 6th century with regard to the nature of visions, and whether the saints’ souls were actively present in them. The problem of visions of saints on horseback is explicitly discussed by Eustratius of Constantinople, but he does not mention the miracles of Menas among his hagiographic sources (E04192).

Bibliography

Text: Pomialovskii, I., Житие преподобного Паисия Великого и Тимофея патриарха Александрийского повествование о чудесах св. великомученика Мины (St Petersburg, 1900), 61-89. Further reading: Delehaye, H., "Les recueils antiques de miracles des saints," Analecta Bollandiana 43 (1925), 5-85, 305-325. Efthymiadis, S., "Collections of Miracles (Fifth-Fifteenth Centuries)," in: S. Efthymiadis (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography II: Genres and Contexts (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), 106.

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