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E01844: Coptic fragment from the legend of the *Seven Sleepers of Ephesos (brothers who fell asleep during the persecution of Decius, S00287), preserving the betrayal of their parents who give away their hiding place, as well as the names of two Christians who record their martyrdom; composed most likely during the 5th–7th century.

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posted on 2016-09-12, 00:00 authored by gschenke
K 09445

The text of the fragment begins with the parents of the seven young men legally distancing themselves from their children and giving away their hiding place:

ⲟⲩⲇⲉ ⲙⲡⲉⲛⲕⲱ ⲛⲥⲱⲛ ⲛⲑⲟⲧⲉ ⲛⲛⲉⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ · ⲉⲧⲃⲉ ⲟⲩ ϭⲉ ⲉⲛⲛⲁⲙⲟⲩ ϩⲁ ⲛⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ · ⲛⲁ ⲛⲧⲁⲩⲣ ⲁⲡⲟⲥⲧⲁⲧⲏⲥ · ⲁⲩⲣ ⲡⲕⲉϩⲁⲣⲡⲁⲍⲉ
ⲙⲡⲉⲛⲛⲟⲩⲃ · ⲙⲛ ⲡⲉⲛϩⲁⲧ · ⲁⲩⲥⲟⲣⲟⲩ ⲛⲛⲉϩⲏⲕⲉ :·· ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉⲥ ϩⲏⲏⲧⲉ ⲥⲉϩⲏⲡ ϩⲙ ⲡⲉⲥⲡⲩⲗⲁⲟⲛ ⲉⲧϩⲛ ⲙⲱⲭⲗⲱⲛ ⲡⲧⲟⲟⲩ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲡⲁ
ⲛϥⲟⲩⲏⲩ ⲁⲛ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲛⲧⲡⲟⲗⲥ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲥⲉϩⲛ ⲟⲩⲛⲟϭ ⲛⲑⲗⲯⲥ ⲙⲡⲙⲁ ⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ · ⲉⲧⲉ ⲥⲉⲟⲛϩ ⲉⲧⲉ ⲁⲩⲙⲟⲩ · ⲛⲧⲛⲥⲟⲟⲩⲛ ⲁⲛ ·

‘… nor have we abandoned the fear of the gods! Why then should we die because of those? These have become apostates! They have also stolen our gold and silver! And they have distributed it to the poor!
Behold, they are hiding in the cave in the Mochlon mountain. This is not far away from the city. They suffer great torment there, whether they are still alive, or have died, we do not know.’

In an attempt to preserve the bodies of the saints, God gives the emperor the idea to close the cave and turn it into their burial site:

ⲁ]ⲧⲉⲓ ⲇⲉ ⲉϥⲥⲕⲉⲡⲧⲉⲓ ⲙⲙⲟϥ ⲛϭ ⲡⲣⲣⲟ ϫⲉ ⲉϥⲛⲁⲣ ⲟⲩ ⲛⲛⲉϣⲏⲣⲉ ϣⲏⲙ ⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ :·· ⲁⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲡⲙⲁⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲛⲟⲩϫⲉ ⲙⲙⲟⲥ ⲉⲡⲉϥϩⲏⲧ
ⲉⲧⲣⲉϥⲧⲱⲙ ⲉⲣⲱⲟⲩ ⲙⲡⲣⲟ ⲙⲡⲉⲥⲡⲩⲗⲁⲓⲟⲛ ⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ ϩⲛ ϩⲉⲛⲱⲛⲉ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲧⲁ ⲧⲉ ⲑⲉ ⲛⲧⲁⲥϣⲱⲡⲉ :· ⲡⲁ ⲇⲉ ⲛⲧⲁϥϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲁⲛ ϩⲙ ⲡⲟⲩⲱϣ ⲙⲡⲧⲩⲣⲁⲛⲟⲥ · ⲁⲗⲗⲁ ⲡⲛⲟⲧⲉ ⲡⲉⲛⲧⲁϥⲟⲕⲟⲛⲟⲙⲉ · ϫⲉⲕⲁⲥ ⲉⲩⲛⲁϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲉⲩⲧⲟⲙⲥ ⲙⲙⲁⲩ ⲛϭⲓ ⲛⲥⲱⲙⲁ ⲛⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲉⲧⲙⲧⲣⲉⲗⲁⲁⲩ ⲕⲙ ⲉⲣⲟⲟⲩ :··

‘While the emperor was still wavering what he should do with those youngsters, God, the compassionate, put it into his mind to let him close them up with stones at the entrance of that cave. This is how it happened! This did not take place through the wish of the ruler, but it was God who arranged it, so that the bodies of the saints would be buried there, in order to ensure that no one would move them.’

The emperor then pronounces their death sentence:

ⲧⲟⲧⲉ ⲁϥϯ ⲛⲧⲉⲩⲁⲡⲟⲫⲁⲥⲥ ⲛⲧⲉⲩϩⲉ ⲛϭ ⲡⲣⲣⲟ ⲇⲉⲕⲟⲥ ⲉϥϫⲱ ⲙⲙⲟⲥ ϫⲉ ⲉⲡⲉⲇⲏ ⲁⲛⲁ ⲉⲣ ⲁⲧⲥⲱⲧⲙ ⲛⲥⲁ ⲧⲁⲡⲣⲟⲥⲧⲁⲅⲙⲁ ⲉⲧⲛⲁⲛⲟⲩϥ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲁⲩⲕⲁⲧⲁⲫⲣⲟⲛⲉ ⲛⲛⲁⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛⲧⲟⲟⲩ ϩⲱⲟⲩ ⲙⲁⲣⲟⲩⲣϩⲁⲉ ⲉⲡⲥⲁ ⲛⲧⲁⲙⲛⲧⲉⲣⲟ

‘The emperor Decius then pronounced their particular verdict, saying: “Since these (boys) have been disobedient to my good edict and since they have disrespected my gods, they themselves shall be deprived of the beauty of my kingdom!”’

Two Christians are named who will ensure that the memory of the seven brothers in the cave lives on.

ⲑⲉⲱⲇⲱⲣⲟⲥ ⲇⲉ ⲙⲛ ⲟⲩⲁⲣⲟⲥ ⲉϩⲛⲕⲟⲩⲃⲟⲩⲕⲗⲁⲣⲟⲥ ⲛⲉ ⲉⲩⲟ ⲛϩⲟⲧ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲡⲣⲣⲟ · ⲛⲉϩⲛⲭⲣⲏⲥⲧⲁⲛⲟⲥ ⲛⲉ · ⲁⲗⲗⲁ ⲉⲩϩⲱⲡ ⲙⲙⲟⲟⲩ · ⲉⲧⲃⲉ
ⲑⲟⲧⲉ ⲙⲡⲇⲱⲅⲙⲟⲥ :··

‘Theodoros and Varos also being guards, were among the entourage of the emperor. They were Christians, but did so secretly, for fear of persecution. …’

Text: W. C. Till, 21–24. Translation: Gesa Schenke.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, brothers who fell asleep during the persecution of Decius : S00287

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Coptic

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica

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

Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Children Other lay individuals/ people


Fragment of a parchment leaf, K 09445, housed at the Papyrus Collection in Vienna, the manuscript itself is datable to the 9th to 11th centuries. For further information concerning measurements etc. visit:


For the 6th century Latin version see E00647. The text here presents the closing of the cave as a divine plan to ensure the saints’ safety for posterity, rather than being a sign of particular cruelty on the part of the emperor wishing to punish these young Christians by burying them alive.


Text: Till, W.C., Koptische Heiligen- und Martyrlegenden. Vol. 1 (Rome: Pont. institutum orientalium studiorum, 1935), 21–24.

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