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E02383: John Chrysostom, in his Encomion on Egyptian Martyrs, refers to Egyptian martyrs (probably those of Palestine, S00196, S00197, S01213), whose relics were sent from Alexandria to various places. The saints protect these cities against enemies and demons. Written in Greek, probably at Constantinople in 397/407.

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posted on 2017-02-16, 00:00 authored by erizos
John Chrysostom, On Egyptian Martyrs (CPG 4363; BHG 1192)


Egypt produces martyrs and their relics are sent all over the world. They protect the cities against visible and invisible enemies. These relics are a precious possession, because the saints can propitiate God, even if the inhabitants of a city have committed sins. The martyrs were tortured, wounded, and condemned to labour at copper mines. They endured bravely, and were burned. Everyone should direct their lives according to the exemplar of the martyrs’ patience.

For an English translation of the text, see: Mayer 2006, 209-216


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Arēs, Promos and Ēlias, martyrs in Palestine, ob. 309 : S00196 Pēleus, Neilos, Patermouthios and Ēlias, martyrs in Palestine, ob. 310 : S00197 Ninety-seven Egyptian Confessors in Palestine : S01213

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Antioch on the Orontes

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

Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Major author/Major anonymous work

John Chrysostom

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries


John of Antioch, bishop of Constantinople, who came to be known as Chrysostom (the Golden Mouth), was born in 344/354 in Antioch on the Orontes where he studied under Libanius. He joined the Nicene Christian community of Antioch, led by bishop Meletios of Antioch, and was ordained priest by Meletios’ successor, Flavianos in 386. Acquiring a great reputation as a preacher, John was appointed as bishop of Constantinople in 397. Clashing with the bishop of Alexandria Theophilos and the empress Eudoxia in 403/404, Chrysostom was deposed and banished to Cucusus in Cappadocia and died in Comana of Pontus in 407. There is no critical edition of the text. It is preserved in 16 manuscripts, most of which are compilations of various works of the author, on which, see Rambault 2018 and:


The date and venue of this sermon are uncertain. Chrysostom opens his sermon with a resentful reference to Egypt as ‘God’s foe, utterly insane, the home of godless mouths and blasphemous tongues.’ The author’s relations with Egypt were hardly cordial: Alexandria was home to the heretic Arius, and to the Nicene church which opposed Chrysostom’s spiritual father, Meletios of Antioch. His episcopate at the imperial capital was marked by his conflict with Pope Theophilos of Alexandria, which led to John's deposition and exile. The introductory paragraph implies that the relics were sent as gifts from Alexandria to various places, but the text provides no evidence as to whether Chrysostom’s venue was in Antioch or Constantinople. The latter seems preferable for two reasons. First, most of the martyr cults attested there are associated with transfers of foreign relics, while the cults of Antioch focus on local martyrs. Second, there is no other attestation for relics of Egyptian martyrs in Antioch. By contrast, there is later evidence from Constantinople for relics of martyrs whose cult seems to be the matter of this sermon of Chrysostom. The martyrdom recounted by the author fits well with the story of a large group of Egyptian Christians who were exiled to Palestine and were condemned to labour at the copper mines of Phaeno in 309/310. Their martyrdom is recounted by Eusebius of Caesarea in the Ecclesiastical History (E00318) and in the Martyrs of Palestine (E00382, E00384, E00472). A special group among them were the bishops *Peleus and Neilos and the laymen Elias and Patermouthios, who were burned alive in Phaeno on 19 September 310 (E00384). The cult of these martyrs in Constantinople is attested by the 10th-century Synaxarion of the Church of Constantinople, which records their feast without mentioning relics, a shrine or a synaxis. On 19 December, however, the same document mentions another group of Egyptians martyred in Palestine, *Promos, Ares, and Elias (S00196), whose synaxis was held at the shrine of *Philemon in the Strategion quarter, in central Constantinople. In this entry, the Synaxarion states that John Chrysostom honoured these saints with a sermon. Since the only surviving encomium of Chrysostom on Egyptian martyrs is our text, it is possible that the author of the synaxarion refers to it. The martyrdom of Promos, Ares, and Elias is also recounted by Eusebius in the Martyrs of Palestine (E00390), but it fits less well with the narrative known to Chrysostom – they were tortured and Ares was burned alive, but they were not sent to the mines. A possible solution may be that the relics before which Chrysostom gave his sermon belonged to all these groups of Egyptian martyrs and confessors in Palestine. At any rate, this text suggests that some of the martyrdoms recounted by Eusebius of Caesarea evolved into notable cults in Egypt and beyond. A particularly interesting detail of the text is the author’s assertion that the relics of the saints protect the city against both visible and invisible enemies alike. His extensive reference to the theme of defence could suggest that the shrine was located near the city walls.


Text: Migne, J.-P., Patrologia Graeca 50 (Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1862), 693-698. Rambault, N., and Allen, P., Jean Chrysostome. Panégyriques de Martyrs I (Sources Chrétiennes 595; Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 2018) (critical edition, French translation, introduction, notes). Translation, and commentary: Mayer, W., St John Chrysostom, The Cult of the Saints: Select Homilies and Letters Introduced, Translated, and Annotated (Popular Patristics Series; New York: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2006), 209-216. Further reading: Downey, G., Ancient Antioch (Princeton, 1961). Drobner, H.R., The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 327-337. Kelly, J.N.D., Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom. Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995).

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