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E01220: Coptic Martyrdom of Apa *Apaioule (S00736 ob. 303–311), a monachos, and Apa *Pteleme (S00737 ob. 303–311), a soldier, providing thus far the only attestation of these two Diocletian martyrs at Hnes/Herakleopolis (Middle Egypt), preserved in a mid 9th century manuscript.

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posted on 2016-03-23, 00:00 authored by gschenke
Martyrdom of Apa Apaioule and Apa Pteleme

Under the reign of Diocletian when Clodius Culcianus was the governor (hegemon) at Alexandria. The martyrdom of both saints takes place within hours of each other at Hnes (Herakleiopolis) under the comes Sebastianos.
When Sebastianos went from Alexandria south into Egypt, he reached the area of Hnes/Herakleopolis. At the village called Psoutoumet, he set up a tribunal by the river with his soldiers gathered around him, read out the edict of the emperor, and everyone of the soldiers worshipped Apollo, Artemis, Athena, and Zeus.

One young soldier, however, did not, a man named Pteleme, who was much liked by all the soldiers. He was 33 years of age and a Phoenician from Antioch. When the comes Sebastianos urged him to worship the imperial gods, he refused and quoted extensively from the Bible. The comes became very angry and threatened him with tortures. The soldier replied with more citations, and was thus subjected to numerous tortures. He was eventually thrown into a prison cell full of fresh dung, intended to die there of starvation and thirst. Due to his prayers in prison he is visited by Christ, with his angels, who prepares him for martyrdom, announcing that he has already prepared his throne, crown, and shining garment among the legions of angels in the aeons of light.

ed. Reymond/Barns, p. 134, lines 2–8:
Ϯϣⲟⲟⲡ ⲛⲙⲙⲁⲕ ϣⲁⲛⲧⲉⲕⲧⲱⲟⲩⲛ ϩⲁ ϩⲉⲛⲕⲟⲩ ⲛⲃⲁⲥⲁⲛⲟⲥ ϩⲙ ⲡⲕⲟⲥⲙⲟⲥ ⲧⲁⲥϩⲁ ⲙⲡⲉⲕⲣⲁⲛ ϩⲛ ⲛⲁⲓⲱⲛ ⲛⲁⲧⲧⲁⲕⲟ ⲁⲩⲱ ϯⲛⲁⲁⲁⲕ
ⲙⲙⲁⲧⲟ ⲉⲩⲗⲉⲅⲉⲱⲛ ⲛⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲟⲥ ϩⲛ ⲛⲁⲓⲱⲛ ⲙⲡⲟⲩⲟⲉⲓⲛ ⲉⲡⲓⲇⲏ ⲕⲉϣⲁⲙⲛⲧ ⲛϩⲟⲟⲩ ⲛⲉⲧⲉⲟⲩⲛⲧⲁⲕⲥⲟⲩ ϩⲙ ⲡⲓⲕⲟⲥⲙⲟⲥ ⲙⲛⲛⲥⲱⲥ
ⲧⲁϫⲓⲧⲕ ⲉⲛⲁⲓⲱⲛ ⲙⲡⲟⲩⲟⲉⲓⲛ ⲛⲁ ⲉⲧⲉ ⲙⲛϭⲟⲙ ⲙⲙⲟⲕ ⲉⲧⲱⲟⲩ(ⲛ) ϩⲁ ⲛⲁⲕⲧⲓⲛ ⲙⲡⲉϥⲟⲩⲟⲉⲓⲛ · ⲁⲟⲩⲱ ⲅⲁⲣ ⲉⲥⲟⲃⲧⲉ ⲙⲡⲉⲕⲑⲣⲟⲛⲟⲥ
ϩⲛ ⲧⲙⲛⲧⲣⲣⲟ ⲛⲙⲡⲏⲩⲉ · ⲁⲕⲱ ϩⲓϫⲱϥ ⲛⲟⲩⲕⲗⲟⲙ ⲛⲉⲟⲟⲩ ⲙⲛ ⲟⲩⲥⲧⲟⲗⲏ ⲉⲥⲣⲟⲩⲟⲉⲓⲛ ⲛⲑⲉ ⲙⲡⲣⲏ

'I am with you, until you rise from the few tortures on earth and until I write your name among the indestructible aeons. I will make you a soldier for a legion of angels in the aeons of light, since it is three more days which you have in this world. After this I will take you to the aeons of light, these which under the rays of its light you are unable to endure. For I have already prepared your throne in the kingdom of the heavens. I have placed upon it a crown of glory and a garment which shines like the sun.'

He also announces that He will send him a companion in martyrdom, a monk, who will be taken to the same shrine (topos) as Pteleme.

ed. Reymond/Barns, p. 134, lines 9–12:
ϯⲛⲁⲧⲛⲛⲟⲟⲩ ϣⲁⲣⲟⲕ ⲛⲟⲩϣⲃⲏⲣ ⲛⲧⲁⲕ ⲉⲩⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ ⲡⲉ ⲡⲧⲟⲡⲟⲥ ⲅⲁⲣ ⲉϯⲛⲁϫⲓⲧⲕ ⲉⲣⲟϥ ⲉⲓⲛⲁϫⲓ ⲙⲡⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ ⲉⲣⲟϥ · ⲡⲉⲕⲗⲟⲙ
ⲉⲧⲉⲕⲛⲁϫⲓⲧϥ ⲛⲧⲟϥ ⲡⲉⲧⲉⲣⲉⲡⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ ⲛⲁϫⲓⲧϥ · ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϫⲉ ⲡⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ ⲟⲩⲥⲕⲉⲟⲥ ⲛⲥⲱⲧⲡ ⲛⲁ ⲡⲉ

'I will send you a friend for you, who is a monk/solitary, since the topos to which I shall take you, I will take that one as well. The crown which you will receive, he is the one who shall receive it too, because that man is a chosen vessel for me.'

The monachos Apa Apaioule was from Hanepioor in the district of Hnes/Herakleopolis and used to collect the slain bodies of martyrs.

ed. Reymond/Barns, p. 134, lines 16–19:
ⲙⲛⲛⲥⲁ ⲛⲁ ⲛⲉⲩⲛ ⲟⲩⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ ⲛⲁⲛⲁⲭⲱⲣⲓⲧⲏⲥ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛⲁⲥⲕⲏⲧⲏⲥ ⲉⲡⲉϥⲣⲁⲛ ⲡⲉ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲁⲡⲁⲟⲩⲗⲉ ⲉⲩⲣⲙϩⲁⲛⲉⲡⲓⲟⲟⲣ ⲡⲉ ϩⲙ ⲡⲧⲟϣ ϩⲛⲏⲥ · ⲉⲛⲉⲡⲁ ⲅⲁⲣ ⲡⲉ ⲡⲉϥϩⲱⲃ · ⲥⲱⲙⲁ ⲛⲓⲙ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲙⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲟⲥ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲛⲁϩⲟⲧⲃⲟⲩ ⲛⲉϣⲁϥⲙⲟⲟϣⲉ ⲛⲥⲱⲟⲩ ⲛϥⲟⲗⲟⲩ

'After these things, there was an anchoritic and ascetic monachos, whose name was Apa Apaioule and who was man from Hanepioor in the district of Hnes. His concern was the following: each body of the martyrs which would be killed, he used to go after them and collect them.'

When he heard about the soldier Apa Pteleme being imprisoned, he joyfully went to visit him knowing that he would fulfil his own martyrdom with him. They comforted each other in prison, until the comes Sebastianos was told that a monachos had come to visit the soldier in prison. Sebastianos was very angry and called for them both to be put on the tribunal (bema). The monachos Apa Apaioule was first interrogated and tortured, but remained steadfast. Secondly, it was the soldier Apa Pteleme who refused again to sacrifice and was tortured. Finally, the comes ordered that the soldier should be beheaded, and so he greets the monachos and tells him that he will see him the next day in the bridal chamber of Christ (ed. Reymond/Barns, p. 136, lines 1–2: ϩⲙ ⲡⲙⲁ ⲛϣⲉⲗⲉⲉⲧ ⲙⲡⲉⲭⲥ). Pteleme is beheaded on day 20 of the months of Tybi (15 January). The monachos Apaioule is imprisoned for the night and beheaded the following morning on the 21st day of Tybi (16 January). Within hours of each other, they are reunited in the heavenly kingdom of Christ with the saints.

Text: Reymond and Barns 1973. Translation and summaries: Gesa Schenke.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Apa Apaioule, anchorite, ascetic and monachos near Hnes/Herakleopolis (ob. 303–311) : S00736 Pteleme, soldier near Hnes/Herakleopolis (ob. 303–311) : S00737

Saint Name in Source

ⲁⲡⲁ ⲁⲡⲁⲟⲩⲗⲉ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲡⲧⲉⲗⲉⲙⲏ

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom Late antique original manuscripts - Parchment codex


  • Coptic

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


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)

Herakleopolis/Hnes Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Places

Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Pagans Soldiers Officials


Pierpont Morgan Codex 583, fol. 168r–173v. The parchment codex dates to the mid 9th century. This manuscript, as well as the other Pierpont Morgan codices were found at the site of the monastery of Saint Michael at Hamouli in the Fayum.


Neither martyr is promised cult or miracles prior to martyrdom, nor does either perform a miracle prior to death, other than not collapsing under the enormous tortures. But a shrine (topos) is mentioned by Christ, when he visits Pteleme in prison, to which he is going to take both martyrs, Pteleme together with Apaioule. Unless one assumes that Christ here refers to the kingdom of heaven as the topos, one needs to assume that both were once venerated together in a shared martyr shrine. The concern of the monachos Apa Apaioule seems to have been for proper burial of the martyrs’ remains, although this is not made explicit. One of the examples for such behaviour of monks is mentioned in the Encomium on Apa Mena, whose body is rescued from the fire and given a proper burial by pious monks (see E01223). Also the bodies of Paese and Thekla are given a proper burial by a saint named Are of Shetnoufe (see E1225). The combination of an ascetic and a soldier also recalls well-known stories like the one of Pachomios, who as a Roman soldier was well treated by Christians supporting the troops with gifts of food, so much so that he later decided to become one himself, pursue an ascetic life, and eventually found a monastery. The text seems to use some typical Gnostic terms, such as aeons of light (ⲛⲁⲓⲱⲛ ⲙⲡⲟⲩⲟⲉⲓⲛ) or indestructible aeons (ⲛⲁⲓⲱⲛ ⲛⲁⲧⲧⲁⲕⲟ), as well as the term bridal chamber of Christ (ⲡⲙⲁ ⲛϣⲉⲗⲉⲉⲧ ⲙⲡⲉⲭⲥ) which is characteristic of Valentinian Gnosticism. Are these to be seen as examples of Gnostic martyrs, and the text as a late copy of an early martyrdom account of Gnostic martyrs, for whom this is the only evidence of cult? Similar terminology can be found in the Martyrdom of Thecla and Paese, from the same manuscript collection found at Hamouli (see E01225). The date of the original composition remains obscure.


Edition and translation: Reymond, E.A.E., and Barns, J.W.B. (ed. and trans.), Four Martyrdoms from the Pierpont Morgan Coptic Codices (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 129–137 (text), 223–228 (translation).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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