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E03559: The History of the Monks in Egypt recounts the martyrdom of *Apollonios, Philemon, and their companions (S01001, S00386), whose shrine and relics in the Thebaid (Upper Egypt) were venerated by the author in 394. Written in Greek at Jerusalem, 395/397.

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posted on 2017-08-11, 00:00 authored by erizos
History of the Monks in Egypt, 19.

Apollonios is a monk and deacon in the Thebaid, who performs various miracles. During the persecution he encourages many martyrs, and is arrested. Pagans come and harass him in gaol, including a flute-player called Philemon. Apollonios replies to his abuse by praying for Philemon’s forgiveness, which affects the latter profoundly. Philemon appears at the court, defending Apollonios and confesses to being a Christian himself. The judge has both Apollonios and Philemon tortured, and condemns them to be burned alive. Apollonios prays and a shining cloud appears, which extinguishes the fire. Both the crowd and the judge are converted to Christianity. The governor sends guardsmen to bring them to Alexandria. On the way, even the guardsmen are converted, and all of them together present themselves to the governor. The latter condemns them to be thrown into the sea. Their remains are found on the shore and buried together. Miracles occur at the shrine. The chapter ends as follows:

οὓς ἅπαντας ὁ ἔπαρχος θεασάμενος ἀμεταθέτους τῇ πίστει τῷ βυθῷ θᾶττον κελεύει παραδοθῆναι· τοῦτο δὲ σύμβολον αὐτοῖς ἐγένετο τοῦ βαπτίσματος. εὑρόντες δὲ αὐτοὺς οἱ οἰκεῖοι πρὸς τὰς ὄχθας ἐκρεριμμένους, πάντας ὁμοῦ τέθεικαν. ἔνθα ἐποίησαν δυνάμεις πολλάς, αἳ καὶ νῦν ἐπιτελοῦνται· τοσαύτη γάρ τις χάρις γέγονεν τοῦ ἀνδρός, ὥστε καὶ περὶ ὧν ηὔξατο εὐθὺς εἰσηκούσθη τοῦ σωτῆρος αὐτὸν οὕτω τιμήσαντος. ὃν καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐν τῷ μαρτυρίῳ εὐξάμενοι ἐθεασάμεθα ἅμα τοῖς σὺν αὐτῷ μαρτυρήσασιν. καὶ προσκυνήσαντες τῷ θεῷ ἠσπασάμεθα αὐτῶν τὰ σκηνώματα ἐν τῇ Θηβαΐδι.

‘As the governor saw all of them unmovable in their faith, he ordered that they be quickly commended to the bottom of the sea. And they received that as a symbol of their baptism. Their people found them thrown on the shores, and buried them all together. They have performed many miracles there, which still take place. Indeed the man’s grace was such that the things he prayed for were immediately heard by the Saviour who honoured him like that. When we prayed at the shrine (martyrion), we saw him ourselves, together with those who were martyred alongside him. And we worshipped God and venerated their dwellings [= bodies] in the Thebaid.’

Text: Festugière 1961.
Translation: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Apollōnios, martyr at Alexandria : S01001 Philēmōn, Apollōnios and companions, martyrs in Antinoopolis, ob. 303-305 : S00386

Saint Name in Source

Ἀπολλώνιος Ἀπολλώνιος, Φιλήμων

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Monastic collections (apophthegmata, etc.)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Jerusalem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Miraculous protection - of people and their property Miracles causing conversion

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Public display of relics


The History of the Monks in Egypt is the account of a pilgrimage through the monastic centres of Egypt, undertaken by a group of Jerusalem-based monks from c. September 394 to c. February 395. The narrators are a group of seven Greek and Latin speaking monks, including an ordained deacon, whose monastic base was the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem – very probably the monastery of Rufinus of Aquileia and Melania the Elder. The text was produced at the request of other members of this monastic community, between 395 and 403, when Rufinus of Aquileia translated it into Latin. Since he is likely to have acquired it before his departure from Palestine in 397, the text may indeed have appeared between 395 and 397. The identity of the author is unknown. Some of the manuscripts erroneously ascribe the text to Palladius of Helenopolis or Jerome. Sozomen, who used it as a source in his Ecclesiastical History, ascribes it to Timothy of Alexandria (d. 385). None of these attributions can be accepted, though Sozomen’s claim may suggest that, in fifth-century Constantinople, the work circulated under the name of a certain Timotheos. C. Butler (1898, 277) suggested identifying him with Timothy, archdeacon of Alexandria in c. 412. More recently, A. Cain (2016, 48) proposed the hypothesis that the author was the Spanish monk Anatolius, a companion of Melania the Elder and member of the monastery of Rufinus.


This chapter is the only case where the author of the History of the Monks and his companions report having visited a shrine for the purpose of veneration. The account provides the first dated attestation of this important shrine and cult of the Thebaid. The version of the story is particularly valuable as a testimony of an early stage in the development of these saints’ legend, which can be compared to the more developed version offered by their Greek martyrdom account (E03564). It is particularly interesting how certain themes are preserved but presented in a reworked, expanded or totally altered form in the later text. The authors simply state that the shrine was in the Thebaid, without naming the city. The martyrdom account of these martyrs places it at Antinoopolis, which was also the centre of the cult of *Kollouthos, mentioned in the Lausiac History (E03333). The preference of our author and his party for Apollonios and Philemon may have been related to the monastic identity of Apollonios. Interestingly, in the saints’ later hagiography, the main protagonist of the story is Philemon. The author's statement that he saw the skenomata of the saints, probably suggests that the relics of these martyrs were physically visible and displayed at the shrine - despite the expressed disapproval of Athanasius for this practice, it probably remained popular in Upper Egypt (E00669). The public display of the relics seems to be echoed in their martyrdom account as well (E03564).


Text: Festugière, Andre-Jean, ed. Historia Monachorum in Aegypto, Subsidia Hagiographica 34. Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1961. Translations: Frank, Karl Suso, Mönche im frühchristlichen Ägypten (Historia monachorum in Aegypto), Düsseldorf: Patmos-Verlag, 1967. Russell, Norman. The Lives of the Desert Fathers. The Historia Monachorum in Aegypto. London: Mowbray, 1980. Further reading: Bammel, C. P. "Problems of the Historia Monachorum." Journal of Theological Studies 47, no. 1 (1996): 92-104. Baumeister, Theofried. "Der Märtyrer Philemon." In Pietas. Festschrift für Bernhard Kötting, edited by Ernst Dassmann and K. Suso Frank. Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum Ergänzungsband 8, 267-79. Münster: Aschendorfsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1980. Butler, E. Cuthbert. The Lausiac History of Palladius. Texts and Studies 6.1-2. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1898, 1904. Cain, Andrew. "The Greek Historia Monachorum in Aegypto and Athanasius’ Life of Antony." Vigiliae Christianae 67:4 (2013): 349-63. Cain, Andrew. The Greek Historia Monachorum in Aegypto: Monastic Hagiography in the Late Fourth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 2016. Frank, Georgia A. "Miracles, Monks, and Monuments: The Historia Monachorum in Aegypto as Pilgrims' Tales." In Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt, edited by David T.M. Frankfurter. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 134, 483-505. Leiden: Brill, 1998.

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