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E01221: Coptic Martyrdom of Apa *Mena/Menas (soldier and martyr of Abu Mena, S00073), presenting him as a native Egyptian from Nepaiat in the Mariotes, district serving in the regiment Loutouriakon. The account includes the return of his bones to Egypt and the building of his martyr shrine in the Mariotes (Abu Mina). The Martyrdom is of uncertain date but survives in a manuscript from the 9th c.

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posted on 2016-03-23, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Martyrdom of Apa Mena

The text is fragmentary and badly preserved, particularly in its central section, so that the edition only gives the beginning and the end of his martyrdom account.

Under the hegemon Firmianus, the order to serve the pagan gods reaches his regiment. Appalled by this order, Apa Mena leaves his regiment, refusing to even witness these false sacrifices, and settles in solitude, keeping only a few camels with him. Eventually Apa Mena is summoned from his hiding place and brought to fulfil his martyrdom. The actual confrontation between the prosecutor and the saint is not published, and needs to be supplied from the Greek account of his martyrdom (see $E06942).

After his death, his remains are collected by his sister, who had been instructed to do so prior to his death. She puts his bones into a basket and closes it by sewing it up. She takes a ship to sail to Alexandria. Upon arrival in Alexandria, crowds worship the martyr’s remains and prepare it for burial. They are building a shrine in Alexandria, but the Lord appears to the archbishop in a vision instructing him to place the body of Apa Mena on a camel and to let the camel choose the place for the saint’s burial. This is done, and when the camel knelt down in the desert place called Nepaeiat, it is received there with joy and a burial shrine is built. The body is placed in a silver coffin and placed in an underground burial chamber where it is claimed to still be located.

The text then says that the Saviour fulfilled all he had promised to Apa Mena, which supposes a ‘final prayer scene’ somewhere in the lost parts of the martyrdom in which the account of the saint’s powers were listed. By way of referring to this, the saint’s healing powers are mentioned here again.

The fame of the saint’s power spreads to Alexandria and the neighbouring regions, and pilgrims begin to gather at the shrine spending seven days eating, drinking and sleeping at the site. The account ends with an address to the audience to do good deeds so as to be able to partake in the divine inheritance together with the saints, through Apa Mena’s intercession.

Apa Mena is identified as being of Egyptian origin twice, once near the beginning of the martyrdom and then again at the end:

Ed. Drescher, p. 2, col. 1, lines 10–14:
ⲡⲉϥⲅⲉⲛⲟⲥ [ⲇⲉ] ⲛⲉϥⲏⲡ ⲉⲧⲉⲭ[ⲱⲣ]ⲁ ⲛⲛⲉⲙⲁⲣⲓⲱⲧⲏⲥ · ⲧⲉⲧⲟⲩⲙⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲉⲣⲟⲥ ϫⲉ ⲧⲡⲁⲉⲓⲁⲧ
'His family belonged to the land of the Mariotes which is called Tpaeiat (read Nepaiat).'

Ed. Drescher, p. 6, col. 1, lines 5–8:
ⲡϩⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲇⲉ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲏⲛⲁ · ⲛⲉⲟⲩⲣⲉⲙⲛⲕⲏⲙⲉ ⲡⲉ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲡⲉϥⲅⲉⲛⲟⲥ
'Saint Apa Mena was an Egyptian with respect to his family origin.'

But he was martyred in Tkounthia, in Phrygia:
Ed. Drescher, p. 6, col. 1, lines 12–19:
ⲁϥⲉⲣⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲟⲥ · ⲉϫⲙ ⲡⲣⲁⲛ ⲙⲡⲉⲛϫⲟⲉⲓⲥ ⲓⲥ ⲡⲉ ⲭⲥ ϩⲛ ⲧⲕⲟⲩⲛⲑⲓⲁ ⲧⲛⲟϭ ⲙⲡⲟⲗⲓⲥ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲫⲣⲩⲅⲓⲁ · ⲛⲥⲟⲩ ⲙⲛⲧⲏ ⲙⲡⲉⲃⲟⲧ ϩⲁⲑⲱⲣ
'He became a martyr for the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Tkounthia, the great city of Phrygia, on the 15th day of the month Hathor.'

The sister thus has to sail across the sea to bring the saint’s remains back to Egypt:
Ed. Drescher, p. 4, col. 1, lines 1–31:
ⲁⲧⲉϥⲥⲱⲛⲉ ⲇⲉ ⲱⲗ ⲛⲛⲉϥⲕⲉⲉⲥ · ⲁⲥ[ⲧⲁⲁⲩ] ⲉⲡⲉⲥⲏⲧ ⲉⲩⲃⲓⲣ · ⲁⲥⲧⲟⲣ[ⲡ]ϥ · ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲑⲉ ⲛⲧⲁϥϫⲟⲟⲥ ⲛⲁⲥ ⲛϫⲓⲛ ⲡ[ⲱ]ⲛϩ · ⲛⲧⲉⲣⲉⲥϩⲉ ⲇⲉ
ⲉⲧⲉⲩⲕⲩⲣⲓⲁ · ⲁⲥⲁⲗⲉ ⲉⲩϭⲓⲛⲟⲩⲏⲗ ⲛⲑⲁⲗⲁⲥⲥⲁ · ⲁϥⲉⲛⲧⲥ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲉⲧⲡⲟⲗⲓⲥ ⲣⲁⲕⲟⲧⲉ · ⲉⲣⲉ ⲛⲉⲕⲉⲉⲥ ⲙⲡϩⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲏⲛⲁ ⲛⲧⲟⲟⲧⲥ ·
ⲛⲧⲉⲣⲉⲥⲟⲩⲁϩⲥ ⲇⲉ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϩⲙ ⲡϭⲓⲛⲟⲩⲏⲗ · ⲁⲩⲉⲓ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϩⲁ ⲧⲉⲥϩⲏ ⲛϭⲓ ⲛⲁⲧⲡⲟⲗⲓⲥ · ⲁⲩⲡⲣⲟⲥⲕⲩⲛⲉⲓ ⲛⲛⲉⲗⲓⲯⲁⲛⲟⲛ ⲙⲡϩⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲉⲛⲁ · ⲁⲩϫⲓ ⲛⲛⲉϥⲕⲉⲉⲥ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲛϭⲓ ⲛⲁⲧⲡⲟⲗⲓⲥ ⲣⲁⲕⲟⲧⲉ ⲁⲩⲕⲟⲟⲥⲟⲩ ⲕⲁⲗⲱⲥ · ⲁⲩϩⲓⲧⲟⲟⲧⲟⲩ ⲉⲕⲱⲧ ⲛⲁϥ ⲛⲟⲩⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲓⲟⲛ ⲛⲥⲉⲕⲱ
ⲙⲡⲉϥ[ⲥ]ⲱⲙⲁ ⲛϩⲏⲧϥ ϩⲛ ⲧⲡⲟⲗⲓⲥ ⲣⲁⲕⲟⲧⲉ
'His sister gathered his bones and placed them down in a basket. She sewed it up, just as he had instructed her, when alive. When she found the right moment, she boarded a sea ship. It brought her to the city of Alexandria, the bones of saint Apa Mena being with her. When she had disembarked the ship, the citizens came forth to greet her and bowed before the remains of saint Apa Mena. The citizens of Alexandria took his holy bones and buried them properly. They began to build a martyr shrine (martyrion) for him in the city of Alexandria in order to place his body inside it.'

But since God had intended for his body to be taken elsewhere, he sends an angel to the archbishop with a message:
Ed. Drescher, p. 4, col. 2, lines 11–25:
ϫⲓ ⲙⲡⲥⲱⲙⲁ ⲙⲡⲙⲁⲕⲁⲣⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲏⲛⲁ · ⲧⲁⲗⲟϥ ⲉⲩϭⲁⲙⲟⲩⲗ ⲙⲡⲉⲣⲧⲣⲉ ⲗⲁⲁⲩ ⲛⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲥⲱⲕ ϩⲁ ⲧⲉϥϩⲏ · ⲕⲁⲁϥ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲛϥⲙⲟⲟϣⲉ ⲙⲁⲩⲁⲁϥ ϣⲁ ⲡⲙⲁ ⲉⲧⲉⲣⲉ ⲡϭⲁⲙⲟⲩⲗ ⲛⲁⲉⲛⲕⲟⲧⲕ ⲛϩⲏⲧϥ · ⲛⲧⲉⲧⲛⲕⲱⲧ ⲛⲁϥ ⲛⲟⲩⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲓⲟⲛ ϩⲙ ⲡⲙⲁ ⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ
'Take the body of the blessed Apa Mena and place it upon a camel. Do not let anyone lead it on its way. Let it go loose and walk by itself to the place where the camel will rest. At that place build him (the saint) a martyr shrine (martyrion).'

This was done just as the archbishop was told and the camel was set free to choose the place where the shrine would be built and the final burial of Mena take place.
Ed. Drescher, p. 4, col. 2, line 33–p. 5, col. 2, line 2:
ⲁϥⲙⲟⲟϣⲉ ⲙⲁⲩⲁⲁϥ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ ϩⲙ ⲡⲧⲟⲟⲩ ⲉ[ⲙⲛ] ⲗⲁⲁⲩ ⲛⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲙⲟⲟϣⲉ ⲛⲙⲙⲁϥ · ϣⲁⲛⲧⲉϥⲡⲱϩ [ⲉ]ⲩⲙⲁ ⲉⲩⲙⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲉⲣⲟϥ · ϫⲉ ⲧⲗⲓⲃⲏ ·
ⲛⲛⲉⲡⲁⲓⲉⲁⲧ · ⲛⲧⲉⲣⲉϥ[ⲣ] ϩⲛⲁϥ ⲇⲉ ⲛϭⲓ ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ · ⲁⲡϭⲁⲙⲟⲩⲗ [ⲉ]ⲛⲕⲟⲧⲕ ϩⲙ ⲡⲙⲁ ⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ ⲁⲛⲉⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲇⲉ ⲙⲡⲙⲁ ⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ ·
ⲁⲩⲟⲩⲉϩ ⲡⲥⲱⲙⲁ ⲙⲡⲙⲁⲕⲁⲣⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲏⲛⲁ [ⲉⲡⲉⲥ]ⲏⲧ ϩⲙ ⲡϭⲁⲙⲟⲩⲗ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲁⲩ[ⲥ]ⲱⲣ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲛⲧⲥⲛⲧⲉ ⲛⲟⲩⲕⲩⲙⲓⲧⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ · ⲁⲩⲕⲟⲧϥ
ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲡⲉϥ[ⲉ]ⲙⲡϣⲁ · ⲁⲩⲕⲱ ⲙⲡⲉϥⲥⲱⲙⲁ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲛϩⲏⲧϥ · ⲁⲩⲧⲁⲙⲓⲟ ⲇⲉ ⲛⲟⲩⲧⲁⲓⲃⲉ ⲛϩⲁⲧ · ⲁⲩϯ ⲙⲡⲥⲱⲙⲁ ⲙⲡⲙⲁⲕⲁⲣⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲏⲛⲁ ⲉⲡⲉⲥⲏⲧ ⲉⲣⲟⲥ · [ⲁⲩ]ϫⲓⲧⲥ ⲉⲡⲉⲥⲏⲧ ⲉⲩⲕⲁⲧⲁⲃⲁⲥⲓⲥ · ⲁⲩⲕⲁⲁϥ ϩⲙ ⲡⲙⲁ ⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ · ϣⲁ ⲉⲣϩⲁⲓ [ⲉ]ⲡⲟⲟⲩ ⲛϩⲟⲟⲩ
'It (the camel) walked by itself into the desert unaccompanied, until it reached a place called Tlibe of Nepaieat. As God desired it, the camel rested at that place. The people at that place took the body of the blessed Apa Mena off the camel. They laid out the foundation of a burial site (kymiterion). They built it according to his worthiness and placed the holy body in it. A silver coffin (ⲧⲁⲓⲃⲉ) was made, and the body of the blessed Apa Mena was placed inside. The coffin was taken down into a crypt (ⲕⲁⲧⲁⲃⲁⲥⲓⲥ), and the body was kept at that place until this very day.'

Healing miracles take place at the site and pilgrims begin to arrive for festivals.
Ed. Drescher, p. 5, col. 2, line 3–p. 6, col. 1, line 4:
ⲁⲩⲱ ϩ[ⲱⲃ] ⲛⲓⲙ ⲛⲧⲁⲡⲥⲱⲧⲏⲣ ϫⲟⲟⲩ ⲙⲡϩⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲏⲛⲁ · ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲛⲧⲁϥⲉⲣⲏⲧ ⲙⲙⲟⲟⲩ ⲛⲁϥ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ ⲁϥϫⲟⲕⲟⲩ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲛⲁϥ · ⲁⲩⲱ
ⲟⲩⲟⲛ ⲛⲓⲙ ⲉⲧϣⲱⲛⲉ ϩⲛ ϭⲓⲛϣⲱⲛⲉ ⲛⲓⲙ · ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲃⲗⲗⲉ · ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉϭⲁⲗⲉ · ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲧⲟ ⲛⲇⲁⲓⲙⲟⲛⲓⲟⲛ ⲉⲩϣⲁⲛⲉⲓ · ⲛⲥⲉⲡⲁϩⲧⲟⲩ ⲉϫⲉⲙ
ⲡⲉϥⲥⲱⲙⲁ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ · ϣⲁⲩⲙⲁⲧⲉ ⲙⲡⲧⲁⲗϭⲟ ⲛⲧⲉⲩⲛⲟⲩ
ⲁⲛⲉⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲛⲧⲡⲟⲗⲓⲥ ⲣⲁⲕⲟⲧⲉ · ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲥⲧⲟϣ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ ⲉⲧⲕⲱⲧⲉ ⲉⲣⲟⲥ · ⲛⲧⲉⲣⲟⲩⲥⲱⲧⲙ ⲉⲛⲉϭⲟⲙ ⲙⲡ[ⲙⲁⲕⲁⲣⲓ]ⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲏⲛⲁ · ⲁⲩⲥⲱⲟⲩϩ ϩⲓⲟⲩⲥⲟⲡ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ · ⲁⲩ[ⲉⲓ] ⲉⲡⲉϥ[ⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲓ]ⲟⲛ · ⲁⲩⲉ[ⲣ] ⲥⲁϣ[ϥ ⲛ]ϩⲟⲟⲩ ⲉⲩ[ⲟⲩ]ⲱⲙ [ⲉⲩ]ⲥⲱ ⲉⲩⲛⲕⲟⲧⲕ · ϩⲙ [ⲡⲉ]ϥⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲓⲟⲛ · ⲉⲩϯ
[ⲉⲟⲟ]ⲩ ⲙ[ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ] ⲉϫⲉⲛ ⲛⲉϩⲙⲟⲧ ⲛⲧⲁϥⲭⲁⲣⲓⲍⲉ ⲙⲙⲟⲟⲩ ⲙⲡⲉϥⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲟⲥ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ
'Everything the Saviour had told saint Apa Mena and all the things he had promised him, he accomplished for him. Anyone suffering from any illness, the blind, the lame, and those with a demon, if they come and bow before his holy body, they obtain healing immediately.
When the people of the city of Alexandria and of all the surrounding districts heard about the miracles of the blessed Apa Mena, they all gathered together and came to his martyr shrine. They spent seven days eating and drinking, and resting in his martyr shrine, while praising God for the gifts he had bestowed upon his holy martyr.'

Text: Drescher 1946. Translation: Gesa Schenke.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Menas, soldier and martyr Abu Mena : S00073

Saint Name in Source

ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲏⲛⲁ

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 Egypt and Cyrenaica Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Alexandria Abu Mina Tkounthia

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

Alexandria Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis Abu Mina Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis Tkounthia Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Specialised miracle-working Miracle with animals and plants Healing diseases and disabilities Healing diseases and disabilities Saint aiding or preventing the translation of relics Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Crowds Relatives of the saint Soldiers Officials

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries Construction of cult building to contain relics


This text starts the Pierpont Morgan Codex 590, fol. 1r–18v. It is followed by the miracles of Apa Mena (E01222) attributed to Apa Theophilos, archbishop of Alexandria (385–412), fol. 19r–49v, and the encomium on Apa Mena (E01223) attributed to John, archbishop of Alexandria, most likely John IV (775–789), fol. 50r–68v. The colophon of the parchment codex gives the year 892/893 AD. This manuscript and the other Pierpont Morgan codices came from the site of the monastery of Saint Michael at Hamouli in the Fayum. There is no clear dating indication for the composition of the text as such other than being prior to the date of the manuscript given in the colophon.


The delivery of this martyrdom seems to have once been imbedded into a homily, parts of which remain at the end of the account. It addresses the audience and encourages them to be zealous too to please God with good deeds, in order to be able to partake in the inheritance with the saints in the kingdom of heaven, made possible through the intercession of Apa Mena (ed. Drescher, p. 6, col. 1, line 27–col. 2, line 16). Another interesting aspect concerns the saint’s bones, which seem to be handled with little reverence until they reach Alexandria where they are greeted and treated with respect thereby turning from ⲕⲉⲉⲥ 'bones' to ⲗⲓⲯⲁⲛⲟⲛ 'relics' (ed. Drescher, p. 4, col. 1, lines 19–22). The translation of his relics from Alexandria to the region of his home town is presented as predestined by the will of God (ed. Drescher, p. 4, col. 1, line 32–col. 2, line 5) which ascribes a high divine status to the burial shrine in the Mariotes.


Edition and translation: Drescher, J., Apa Mena: A Selection of Coptic Texts Relating to St. Menas (Cairo, 1946), 1–6 (text); 97–104 (introduction and translation). Further reading: Grossmann, P. "The Pilgrimage Center of Abu Mina," in: D. Frankfurter (eds.), Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt (Leiden, 2015), 281–302. Grossmann, P., "Abu Mina, Ägypten: Das Pilgerzentrum," e-Forschungsberichte des deutschen archäologischen Instituts 2015-1, pp. 1-3: Litinas, N., Greek Ostraca from Abu Mina (O.Abu Mina) (Archiv für Papyrusforschung und verwandte Gebiete, Beiheft 25; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008). Ward Perkins, J.B., "The Shrine of St. Menas in the Maryût," Papers of the British School at Rome 17 (1949), 26–71.

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