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E07140: Greek Life of *Epiphanios (bishop of Salamis-Constantia on Cyprus, S00215) recounts the life and miracles of its hero, based on the purported notes of two of Epiphanios’ disciples, Ioannes/John and Polybios. It also records a legend concerning *John Chrysostom (bishop of Constantinople, S00779), which was later included in his hagiography. Written in Salamis-Constantia (Cyprus), in the late 5th or the 6th century.

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posted on 2018-12-03, 00:00 authored by erizos
Life of Epiphanios (BHG 596-599)


I. Life after Ioannes/John (BHG 596)

1-4. Epiphanios is born to a Jewish family of moderate means near the city of Eleutheropolis in Palestine. From an early age he exhibits a virtuous character.

5-6. After his father’s death, Epiphanios is adopted by a wealthy Jewish man, under whom he receives his education. His adoptive father also dies a few years later, leaving Epiphanios with a large inheritance.

Monasticism and Miracles
7-12. Loukianos, a Christian monk, convinces Epiphanios to convert to Christianity and take up the ascetic life. Epiphanios is baptised by the local bishop and parts with his inheritance. His sister is baptised at the same time, and goes on to live with a community of virgins at Bernike.

13. At sixteen, Epiphanios joins the community of Loukianos, which consists of ten monks who earn their living as scribes. Their convent is called Spanydrion.

14-18. Epiphanios performs various miracles, including turning wine into water and healing the blind eye of a Saracen. Through him, a Saracen converts to Christianity and becomes his disciple. He takes the name Ioannes/John and starts compiling notes on the deeds of Epiphanios.

19-29. At the invitation of the Persian king, Epiphanios travels to Persia to heal the king’s daughter who has been assailed by a demon. He restores her health and is invited to stay in Persia as the king’s advisor. Yet he declines the offer and returns to Palestine. On his way back, he resurrects a dead man and admonishes a group of Persians on proper burial.

30-36. More miracles and exorcisms are performed by Epiphanios. His fame spreads among the nearby Saracens who build houses for him, and for the community of fifty monks that has gathered around Epiphanios.

37-44. A famous philosopher from Edessa, whose name is also Epiphanios, engages in a disputation with the saint. When the philosopher sees Epiphanios exorcise a young man, he decides to be baptised and joins the monastery. The philosopher later becomes the abbot of Spanydrion.

45-51. In order to escape from crowds, Epiphanios journeys to the Upper Thebaid in Egypt. On the way, he heals a woman and converts a Jewish rabbi – he sends the latter to Athanasios, the bishop of Alexandria, to be baptised. He encounters Abba Paphnoutios, who tells him about the life of Antony (the 'Great', S00098), and prophesies that Epiphanios will become the leader of the Christians of Cyprus. He journeys on to Nitria to see the fathers there, on the way correcting the beliefs of a heretic named Hierax. He visits John of Lycopolis in the Upper Thebaid and stays at Boukolia for seven years. The philosopher Eudaimon accepts Christianity through Epiphanios.

52-55. In Palestine, Epiphanios finds out that his old master Hilarion has moved to Cyprus, so decides to pay him a visit. Before setting out, he performs a number of miracles and is joined by a new disciple, Polybios.

Episcopate in Cyprus
56-62. On Cyprus, Epiphanios sees his old master and, although he wishes to return to Palestine, he is forced to stay on the island due to bad weather. Pappos, the old bishop of Chytri, ordains Epiphanios to the priesthood and then suddenly makes him the bishop of Constantia. Epiphanios’ episcopacy had been foretold to Pappos by God.

63-67. Epiphanios uses money from the episcopal coffers to free a Roman prisoner. This leads to a confrontation with one of his deacons who accuses Epiphanios of embezzlement. The deacon miraculously dies, and his wife donates all their property to Epiphanios.

68-69. A deacon is found to have had marital intercourse before mass. Epiphanios debars married men from becoming deacons.

II. Life by Polybios (BHG 597)

Episcopate and miracles
70-71. Ioannes/John, on whose notes the Life has so far been based, dies in Palestine. Polybios takes over the task of compiling notes on Epiphanios.

72. Epiphanios starts the construction of a large church in Constantia.

73-75. Epiphanios heals the sons of local wealthy men, who then donate large sums of money to be distributed among the poor.

76. Polybios is ordained to the priesthood by Epiphanios.

77-80. Ioannes/John, the bishop of Jerusalem, is an avaricious man who neglects the poor. Epiphanios visits him in Jerusalem, sells Ioannes' silver plates, and gives the money to the poor. Infuriated, Ioannes threatens him and is miraculously blinded in the left eye.

81. On his way to Cyprus, Epiphanios miraculously causes the death of a young man who tried to trick him.

82-92. Epiphanios is called to Rome to heal the sister of the emperors Arcadius and Honorius. In Rome, he is treated well by the emperors who invite him to stay for a while. Epiphanios restores the health of the emperors’ sister and, when her child dies, he brings the child back to life. The emperors express their wish to be baptised by Epiphanios. After getting the approval of the bishop of Rome, Epiphanios performs the baptism. Polybios becomes the godfather of Arcadius, and Isaac the godfather of Honorius. Epiphanios spends one year in Rome instructing the emperors. He returns to Cyprus, having accepted only five loaves of bread as a gift.

93-96. Cyprus suffers from a famine. Epiphanios works hard to provide grain for the needy. He finds gold in the temple of Zeus and uses it to buy grain from a local rich man, Faustinianos, who had been selling at exorbitant prices to make profit. Epiphanios punishes Faustinianos by sinking the ships that he used to transport grain from Calabria.

97. Epiphanios administers justice, protecting the poor against the rich.

98. A plot against Epiphanios’ life is miraculously uncovered.

Visits to Constantinople and the affair of John Chrysostom
99-104. The emperor Theodosius calls Epiphanios to Constantinople to heal the illness of his feet. He heals the emperor and stays in Constantinople for some time. While there, he is joined by the emperors Arcadius and Honorius, with whom he has a happy reunion. Faustinianos dies in prison, and Theodosius gives the rich man’s property to Epiphanios, who uses it for the benefit of the poor.

105-106. Epiphanios combats various heresies on Cyprus. He successfully petitions Theodosius to issue a decree against them.

107-108. In Constantinople, John Chrysostom readmits two brothers into the church, who had been excommunicated by the bishop of Alexandria, Theophilos, for insubordination.

109-111. Conflict rages on between John Chrysostom and the empress Eudoxia, when she refuses to part with a piece of confiscated land despite the patriarch’s protests. Chrysostom prevents the empress from entering the church, and so she starts looking for an opportunity to exile him.

112-116. Epiphanios involves himself in the conflict, when he is alerted to the situation by the bishop of Alexandria. Epiphanios arrives in the capital and, after exchanging a number of hostile letters with Chrysostom, he is urged by Eudoxia to exile the patriarch. However, unless a synod is convened, Epiphanios refuses to take part in the queen’s plot.

117. Because Chrysostom believes that Epiphanios is in on the plot, they exchange more hostile letters. The patriarch wishes that Epiphanios should never again sit on his episcopal throne.

118-119. Epiphanios sets out for Cyprus. He is nearly 115 years old and has served as bishop for 55 years.

120. Epiphanios’ outstanding qualities, as well as his fight against heretics, are praised.

121-126. Epiphanios gives final instructions to his disciples and dies on the ship during stormy weather. His dead body continues to perform miracles.

127-128. Polybios sets out for Egypt before the burial of Epiphanios takes place. He is ordained bishop of Rinocurura in the Upper Thebaid.

III. Letter of Sabinos of Constantia concerning Epiphanios' burial (BHG 599)

129-132. Polybios writes to Sabinos, Epiphanios’ successor as bishop of Constantia, requesting information about the saint's burial. Sabinos replies with a latter which reports that the saint's body stayed unburied for ten days, preserved in honey, during which time several sick people were healed by it. Two heretical deacons, Longinos and Petronios, opposed the idea of burying him at a church in the city, and a conflict broke out. On the tenth day, some clerics started digging the saint's tomb, and a safe sarcophagus was produced to protect the body from theft. The two opponents miraculously died. Epiphanios' death was reported to the emperor Arcadius who issued a special decree allowing Epiphanios to be buried in the church. On his arrival, the imperial messenger, Maximos, was healed of an evil spirit.

Summary: Arsen Nişanyan, Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Epiphanios, bishop of Salamis, ob. 403 : S00215 John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople, ob. 407 : S00779

Saint Name in Source

Ἐπιφάνιος Ἰωάννης Χρυσόστομος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Aegean islands and Cyprus

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Salamis Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Punishing miracle Miracles causing conversion Power over life and death Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Miraculous appointment to office Exorcism

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Monarchs and their family Jews Pagans Foreigners (including Barbarians) Aristocrats

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


For the manuscript tradition, see:


The text is thought to have been written in the second half of the 5th century, and purports to be the work of a disciple of Epiphanios, the bishop of Rinocurura/Rinocolura, Polybios, who used the notes of another disciple, the monk Ioannes/John. This is a relatively common claim in Cypriot hagiography, not least employed by Leontius of Neapolis in the Lives of John the Almsgiver and Symeon the Fool. Even if the names employed are just a literary device, it is clear that the two sections differ in writing style, and were probably written by different authors before being compiled together. The work of John portrays Epiphanios’ career as an ascetic, while Polybios recounts his episcopate. The text presents influences from Athanasius’ Life of Antony, and possible connections with Jerome’s Life of Hilarion. The author also made use of the ecclesiastical historians Socrates and Sozomen. The text is likely to have influenced other hagiographical works from Cyprus, such as the Acts of Herakleides. The text reflects the rise of the cult of Epiphanios, the famous 4th century ascetic, theologian, and bishop of Salamis in Cyprus (310/320-403). It is written based on historical aspects of the saint’s life, and on traditions and hagiographical topoi common in the writing of episcopal biographies. A delicate task for the hagiographer was to soften the story of Epiphanios’ involvement in the deposition of John Chrysostom, which is presented in a manner which removes blame from the saint: Epiphanios was lured into the affair by Theophilos of Alexandria and the empress, did not mean to harm Chrysostom, and had no active involvement in his deposition. The relevant section offers one of the earliest attestations of an episode which became important in Chrysostom’s hagiography, the affair of the widow’s estate (109-110). Our text is also one of the earliest to call John by the epithet Chrysostomos (Golden Mouth) (§ 108). The incident is also briefly mentioned in the Life of Porphyrios of Gaza which probably uses the same source as our text (Rapp 1992, vol. 1, 208). The episode of the widow’s vineyard is prominent in the two earliest lives of Chrysostom (by George of Alexandria, BHG 873, and Theodore of Trimythous, BHG 872). Rapp (1998, vol. 1, 197-212) demonstrates that these texts depend on the Life of Epiphanios. One of the most interesting sections of the text is the Letter of Sabinos concerning the burial of Epiphanios (it is not present in all manuscripts of the Life). Sabinos is historically attested, as he is probably the bishop of Salamis who attended the Council of Ephesus in 431. If genuine, the exchange of letters between Polybios and Sabinos will have taken place some time after Epiphanios’ death in 403. It appears that clergy wished to have the bishop’s body buried at the church which he had started building. Burial inside the walls and in a church was still prohibited, and therefore a conflict broke out. Epiphanios’ corpse was preserved in honey awaiting burial. Some of his supporters started digging a tomb, but it is evident that their plan found resistance among the locals. Sabinos leaves it somewhat unclear as to whether they waited for the emperor’s permission, but it seems likely that they did, which means that Epiphanios will have stayed unburied for several months. One of the basilicas excavated at Salamis has been identified as the church and tomb shrine of Epiphanios. The wonder-working activity of his tomb is recorded by Sozomen (E04054).


Text: Rapp, C., "The Vita of Epiphanius of Salamis: An Historical and Literary Study," DPhil Thesis, University of Oxford (1991), vol. 2. Migne, J.-P., Patrologia Graeca 41 (Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1863), 24-113. Dindorff, G., Epiphanii episcopi Constantiae Opera, vol. 1 (Leipzig, 1859), xxxi-xxxv, 3-78.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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