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E03585: Coptic fragments of the Martyrdom of *George (soldier and martyr, S00259), relating various miracles taking place during his trial under Tatianos, including a victorious contest against a magician, as well as miracle healings, resurrections, and the conversion of companion martyrs; written most likely not before the 7th century.

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posted on 2017-08-21, 00:00 authored by gschenke
Coptic Martyrdom of George

George of Cappadocia comes to Tatianos claiming to be a Christian. He refuses to sacrifice to the imperial gods, is tortured and is thrown into prison. Christ appears to him and strengthens his will. The magician Athanasios is brought to the tribunal to compete with the saint in supernatural powers. The magician loses, converts to Christianity, is baptised by George, and suffers his martyrdom on the 27th of Tybi (22 January).

After being put into prison, George is tortured to death and his limbs are thrown into an unused cistern, to ensure that no Christian will pick up his bones and build a martyr shrine over them. A quake shakes the land and Christ comes down to resurrect the saint. He orders Michael to put the bones back together. The general Anatolios and his regiment convert, making a number of 3999 souls who convert and suffer martyrdom on the 15th of Mecheir (9 February).

George is tortured again, this time even more brutally. He is then thrown back into prison and visited again by Christ who foretells that his martyrdom will last seven years, during which he will be killed and resurrected twice more, before he finally fulfils his martyrdom and is taken up by Christ.

George is asked for a sign to illustrate the power of his God. He is supposed to turn fourteen thrones back into fruit bearing and non-fruit bearing trees, according to the design visible on the thrones. The saint’s prayer proves successful: an earthquake shakes the place and the thrones become trees. In return the saint is tortured again and dies. His bones are thrown into a large pot filled with lead and pitch and burnt. His remains are buried with the pot, so that no Christian would be able to pick up his bones and built a martyr shrine around them. Christ comes down with his angels and again resurrects the saint who returns to town (text of codex A breaks off).

The preserved text of codex B begins with the date of the saint’s martyrdom.

Codex B (K 9479), Till, KHML 2, 106, lines 1–4:

ⲛⲧⲁϥϫⲱⲕ ⲇⲉ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲛⲧⲉϥⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲓⲁ ⲉⲧⲧⲁⲉⲓⲏⲩ · ⲛⲥⲟⲩ ϫⲟⲩⲧϣⲟⲙⲛⲧⲉ ⲙⲡⲉⲃⲟⲧ ⲡⲁⲣⲙⲟⲩⲧⲉ · ϩⲛ ⲟⲩⲉⲓⲣⲏⲛⲏ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ · ϩⲁⲙⲏⲛ

‘He completed his honourable martyrdom on day 23 of the month Pharmouthi (18 April) in peace of God. Amen.’

The beginning of the Bohairic manuscript has:

Balestri–Hyvernat, Acta Martyrum II, 270:

ⲥⲩⲛ ⲑⲉⲟⲩ
ϯⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲓⲁ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲡⲓⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲅⲉⲱⲣⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲡⲓϫⲱⲣⲓ ⲙⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲟⲥ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲡⲉⲛϭⲥ ⲓⲏⲥ ⲡⲭⲥ ⲉⲧⲁϥϫⲱⲕ ⲙⲡⲉϥⲁⲅⲱⲛ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲛⲥⲟⲩ ⲕⲅ ⲙⲡⲓⲁⲃⲟⲧ
ⲫⲁⲣⲙⲟⲩⲑⲓ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩϩⲓⲣⲏⲛⲏ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲫϯ ⲁⲙⲏⲛ

‘With God.
The martyrdom of saint George, the strong martyr of our Lord Jesus Christ. He completed his contest on day 23 of the month Pharmouthi (18 April) in peace of God. Amen.’

After having suffered many tortures, Christ appears to George at night and comforts him in prison.

Codex B (P 12916, fol. 82), Till, KHML 2, 107, lines 10–21:

ⲧⲁ ⲧⲉ ⲑⲉ ϩⲣⲁ ϩⲛ ⲧⲁⲙⲛⲧⲉⲣⲟ · ⲛϥⲛⲁⲧⲱⲟⲩⲛ ⲁⲛ ⲛϭⲓ ⲡⲉⲧⲟ ⲛⲛⲟϭ ⲉⲣⲟⲕ ϩⲛ ⲙⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲟⲥ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ · ⲉⲓⲥ ϩⲏⲏⲧⲉ ⲅⲁⲣ ⲧⲉⲕⲙⲁⲣⲧⲏⲣⲓⲁ
ⲛⲁϯ ⲥⲟⲉⲓⲧ · ϩⲛ ⲙⲙⲛⲧⲉⲣⲱⲟⲩ · ⲛⲅⲣ ⲥⲁϣϥ ⲛⲣⲟⲙⲡⲉ · ⲉⲩⲃⲁⲥⲁⲛⲓⲍⲉ ⲙⲙⲟⲕ · ⲛⲅⲙⲟⲩ ⲛϣⲟⲙⲛⲧ ⲛⲥⲟⲡ · ⲛⲧⲁⲧⲟⲩⲛⲟⲥⲕ : ϩⲙ
ⲛⲙⲉϩϥⲧⲟⲟⲩ ⲇⲉ ⲛⲥⲟⲡ · ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ϯⲛⲏⲩ ϣⲁⲣⲟⲕ · ϩⲓϫⲛ ⲛⲉⲕⲗⲟⲟⲗⲉ · ⲧⲁϫⲓ ⲛⲧⲡⲁⲣⲁⲑⲩⲕⲏ ⲛⲧⲁⲓϭⲁⲗⲱⲥ ⲉⲣⲟⲕ : ⲧⲉⲛⲟⲩ ϭⲉ ϭⲙϭⲟⲙ
ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛⲅⲧⲁϫⲣⲟ ⲛⲅⲧⲙⲃⲱⲗ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ϯϣⲟⲟⲡ ⲛⲙⲙⲁⲕ : ⲛⲧⲉⲣⲉ ⲡϫⲟⲉⲓⲥ ⲇⲉ ⲁⲥⲡⲁⲍⲉ ⲙⲙⲟϥ ⲁϥⲃⲱⲕ ⲉϩⲣⲁⲓ ⲉⲧⲡⲉ ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉϥⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲟⲥ
ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ·

‘“In this way, no one who is greater than you among all the martyrs shall rise in my kingdom. For behold, your martyrdom will be famous through the empires and you will spend seven years being tortured, and will die three times, and I will resurrect you. But at the fourth time, I come to you on the clouds and take the deposit which I have entrusted to you. Now then, be strong and firm and do not fall apart. I am with you.” After the Lord kissed him, he went up to heaven with his holy angels.’

In the course of his martyrdom, the saint also resurrects an ox which died whilst ploughing a woman’s field, as well as some people who had died 200 years before (and baptises them), turns a wooden column back into a tree, heals the son of a poor widow, and has the archangel Michael bring a table filled with food to the house of this widow.

He is tortured, killed, and resurrected again by Christ. The men who witnessed this miracle, Glegon, Klegatios, Lansiarios, and Mandrianos, convert, are baptised, and fulfil their martyrdom on the 9th of Phamenoth (5 March).

George ostensibly agrees to sacrifice to Apollo. As a reward he is brought to the palace and meets the queen, Alexandra, whom he converts. Instead of sacrificing to the gods, the saint destroys their images, and the queen fulfils her martyrdom.

George is to be beheaded. His mother Theognosta encourages him and suffers martyrdom herself. The saint’s final prayer is preserved only in small fragments, but will have laid out the parameters of his cult which are referred to in the miracles (see $E03586).

(Text: W. C. Till, KHML 2, 82–126; summary and trans. G. Schenke)


Evidence ID


Saint Name

George, soldier and martyr of Diospolis/Lydda : S00259

Saint Name in Source


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

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

Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Places

Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle at martyrdom and death Miracles experienced by the saint Miraculous power through intermediary Specialised miracle-working Miracles causing conversion Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miracle with animals and plants Power over objects Healing diseases and disabilities Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Relatives of the saint Pagans Monarchs and their family Aristocrats Soldiers Merchants and artisans Crowds


At least two fragmentary Sahidic parchment codices are known to have included both the Martyrdom and a collection of miracles of George centred around his martyr shrine. The pages of these codices are dispersed over collections in Cairo, London, Manchester, Naples, Paris, and Vienna. The range of the dates for the manuscripts seems to be the 10th to the 12th century, on the basis of their layout and script. The Sahidic version of the Martyrdom seems to match the known Bohairic ones, differing only at the very end where the Sahidic version includes the martyrdom of George’s mother Theognosta who encourages her son and asks him to pray for her. Following the saint’s final prayer, the Bohairic version has fire descend from the sky consuming the emperor and his entourage. The story of George's martyrdom in these Coptic versions is essentially the same as that in the Greek Martyrdom (for which see E06147), and it is clear that they translations (or closely based on translations) from the Greek.


Sahidic text and German translation: Till, W.C., Koptische Heiligen- und Martyrlegenden. Vol. 2 (Rome: Pont. institutum orientalium studiorum, 1936), 82–126. Bohairic text: Balestri, I. and Hyvernat, H., ‘Martyrium S. Georgii’, in: Acta Martyrum II, CSCO 86, t. 6 (Louvain, 1953), 270–311.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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