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E03553: Coptic fragments concerning the Life of *John of Lykopolis (ascetic of Egypt, ob. c. 395, S00102), praising his prophetic, diplomatic, and healing skills and describing his travel to Constantinople on a cloud; written in the early 5th century, with later material added afterwards.

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posted on 09.08.2017, 00:00 by gschenke
The Coptic text preserved on these fragments follows for the most part Palladius’ Lausiac History, showing only a few and minor differences.

Till, KHML I, p. 140, line 23–p. 141, line 16:

ⲡⲡⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲇⲉ ⲟⲩⲛ ⲱϩⲁⲛⲛⲏⲥ · ⲛⲉⲟⲩⲛⲧⲁϥ ⲙⲙⲁⲩ ⲛⲟⲩⲥⲟⲛ ⲛϣϫϭ · ⲁϥⲃⲁⲡⲧⲍⲉ ⲙⲙⲟϥ ⲉϥϩⲛ ϫⲟⲩⲧⲏ ⲛⲣⲟⲙⲡⲉ · ⲁϥⲕⲁⲁϥ ϩⲛ
ⲛϩⲉⲛⲉⲉⲧⲉ : ⲙⲛⲛⲥⲱⲥ ⲛⲧⲟϥ ⲡⲡⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲱϩⲁⲛⲛⲏⲥ · ⲁϥⲃⲱⲕ ⲉϩⲣⲁ ⲉⲡⲧⲟⲟⲩ ⲛⲥⲟⲟⲩⲧ · ⲁϥⲁⲛⲁⲭⲱⲣⲉ ⲉϩⲣⲁ ⲉⲡⲙⲁ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ·
ⲉⲁϥⲥⲙⲛ ϣⲟⲙⲛⲧ ⲛⲇⲁⲙⲟⲛ ⲙⲙⲟⲛⲁⲥⲧⲏⲣⲟⲛ ⲁϥⲧⲁⲙⲟ ⲛⲁϥ ⲙⲡⲉϥⲃⲏⲃ ϩⲣⲁ ϩϫⲱϥ ⲙⲡⲧⲟⲟⲩ · ⲁϥⲃⲱⲕ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲉⲣⲟϥ ⲁϥⲉⲛⲕⲟⲧⲕ ·
ⲉⲁϥⲧⲁⲙo ⲛϣⲟⲙⲛⲧ ⲙⲙⲁ : ⲟⲩⲁ ⲙⲉⲛ ϩⲛ ⲟⲩⲥⲁ ⲉⲧⲣⲉϥϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲛϩⲏⲧϥ ϩⲙ ⲡⲙⲁ ⲛⲧⲥⲁⲣⲝ : ⲕⲉⲟⲩⲁ ⲇⲉ ⲉⲧⲣⲉϥⲣ ϩⲱⲃ ⲛϩⲏⲧϥ : ⲁⲩⲱ ⲕⲉⲟⲩⲁ ⲉⲧⲣⲉϥϣⲗⲏⲗ ⲛϩⲏⲧϥ : ⲡⲁ ϭⲉ ⲡⲁϥⲣ ⲙⲁⲁⲃⲉ ⲛⲣⲟⲙⲡⲉ ⲉϥⲟⲧⲡ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲁϥϫ ⲛⲛⲉϥⲭⲣⲁ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϩⲧⲛ ⲟⲩϣⲟⲩϣⲧ ϩⲧⲟⲟⲧϥ
ⲙⲡⲉⲧⲇⲁⲕⲟⲛⲉ ⲛⲁϥ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲁϥⲉⲙⲡϣⲁ ⲙⲡⲉⲭⲁⲣⲥⲙⲁ ⲡⲁ · ϩⲱⲥⲧⲉ ⲛϥⲉⲙⲉ ⲉⲛⲉⲧⲧⲏϣ ⲉϣⲱⲡⲉ · ⲙⲡⲁⲧⲟⲩϣⲱⲡⲉ · ⲉⲟⲩⲁ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ
ⲛϩⲏⲧⲟⲩ ⲡⲉ ⲡⲁ : ⲁϥϫⲟⲟⲩ ϣⲁ ⲡⲙⲁⲕⲁⲣⲟⲥ ⲛⲣⲣⲟ ⲑⲉⲱⲇⲱⲥⲟⲥ ⲉⲧⲃⲉ ⲙⲁⲝⲙⲟⲥ · ⲡⲇⲩⲣⲁⲛⲟⲥ ϫⲉ ⲕⲛⲁϫⲣⲟ ⲉⲣⲟϥ · ⲛⲅⲉⲛⲕⲟⲧⲕ ϩⲛ
ⲅⲁⲗⲗⲱⲛ : ϩⲱⲙⲁⲟⲥ ⲟⲛ ⲉⲧⲃⲉ ⲟⲩⲅⲉⲛⲟⲥ ⲡⲇⲩⲣⲁⲛⲟⲥ · ⲁϥϣⲣⲡ ϫⲟⲟⲥ ⲛⲁϥ ⲉⲧⲃⲏⲏⲧϥ :

‘Saint John then had a brother, a dyer. He baptised him, when he was 25 years old. He put him in the monasteries. Afterwards, saint John went into the mountain of Siout (Assiut/Lykopolis). He withdrew into the holy place, constructing three monastic rooms. He made his cave for himself in the mountain. He went in and lay down, after having created three chambers: one at one side to let him be in it, as the room of the flesh. Another to let him work in it; and yet another to let him pray in it. This is then where he spent thirty years closed in. He received all his necessary things through a window from the hand of the one who served him.
And he was worthy of this gift which is that he would know the things which were determined to happen, before they happened. One of them was this: He sent to the blessed emperor Theodosios about Maximus, the tyrant: “You will be victorious over him and settle in Gallia.” Likewise again, concerning Eugenios, the tyrant, he told him this (same thing) in advance about him.’

The following report is not included in the Historia Lausiaca. It relates the story of the saint’s diplomatic skills when he intervened on behalf of the city of Lykopolis.

Till, KHML I, p. 147, lines 1–6:

ⲁⲩϫⲟⲟⲥ ⲟⲛ ⲉⲧⲃⲏⲏⲧϥ ⲛⲧⲟϥ ⲡⲙⲁⲕⲁⲣⲟⲥ ⲱϩⲁⲛⲛⲏⲥ · ϫⲉ ⲙⲡⲉⲩⲟⲩⲟⲉϣ ⲛⲑⲉⲩⲇⲱⲥⲟⲥ ⲡⲣⲣⲟ ⲛⲉⲩⲥⲉⲃⲏⲥ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛⲭⲣⲏⲥⲧⲁⲛⲟⲥ
ⲉⲙⲁⲧⲉ · ⲛⲉϥϣⲟⲟⲡ ⲡⲉ ϩⲛ ⲧⲡⲟⲗⲥ ⲥⲟⲟⲩⲧ ⲛϭ ⲟⲩⲛⲟϭ ⲛⲁⲅⲱⲛ · ⲉϣⲁⲣⲉ ⲙⲙⲏⲏϣⲉ ⲥⲱⲟⲩϩ ⲉⲡⲁⲅⲱⲛ ⲛⲥⲉⲑⲉⲱⲣⲉ : ⲁⲡⲟⲩⲁ ⲙⲙⲉⲣⲟⲥ ϫⲣⲟ ⲉⲡⲟⲩⲁ ·

‘It is also said about him, the blessed John, that at the time of Theodosios, the very pious and Christian emperor, a great contest was taking place in the city of Siout (Lykopolis), for which the crowds would gather and watch the contest. One fraction was victorious over the other.’

As a result, the sore losers killed the winners by locking them up in the public bath where they died of overheating. Soon there was uproar and fighting in the whole city. When the emperor Theodosios heard about it, he sent an official to Lykopolis with the command to destroy the entire city and to kill all its inhabitants.
Once the citizens were aware of the danger, they sent to enquire with the saint on what to do. He instructed them to receive the official with open arms and to lead him into the local church. The official then heard about the saint and went to visit him with his son who suffered from a demon. The saint healed the son, and in return the official wrote a letter to the emperor asking him to have mercy on the city. The official entrusted this letter to the saint, who flew on a cloud to Constantinople and handed the letter to the emperor. Reading the letter of his official, the emperor then changed his mind and instructed his official to only destroy the circus where the ill-received contest had taken place. The saint took the letter from the emperor and travelling back on a cloud delivered it to his official.

(Text: W. C. Till, KHML I, 138–153; summary and trans. G. Schenke)


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John of Lycopolis, 4th-century monk in Egypt : S00102

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Assiut Lykopolis

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

Assiut Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis Lykopolis Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future) Invisibility, bilocation, miraculous travels

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Children Officials Crowds


Fragments of two parchment codices are preserved in the papyrus collection in Vienna. Codex A: K 391a, p. 37/38; K 9453, p. 39/40; K 9454, p. 41/42; K 391b, p. 43/44, K 2581, p. 45/46, and K 9455, p. 47/48. Codex B: K 9516. The manuscripts are datable to the 9th–11th century according to layout and script. Other fragments are housed in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples (Z 219) and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.


See E03325. The travel by cloud reminds one of the mode of transportation frequently used by Shenoute to get to Constantinople, as reported in the collection of his miracles (known as the Life of Shenoute ascribed to his successor Besa).


Text and German translation: Till, W.C., Koptische Heiligen- und Martyrlegenden. 2 vols. (Rome: Pont. institutum orientalium studiorum, 1935-6), vol. 1, 138–154; vol. 2, 137–140.

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