University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E07359: Sophronius of Jerusalem, in his Miracles of the Saints Cyrus and John, recounts how *Kyros and Ioannes/Cyrus and John (physician and soldier, martyrs of Egypt, S00406) healed and converted the teacher of medecine, Gesios, at their shrine at Menouthis (near Alexandria, Lower Egypt). Written in Greek in Alexandria, 610/615.

online resource
posted on 2019-01-04, 00:00 authored by julia
Sophronius of Jerusalem, The Miracles of Saints Cyrus and John, 30


There was a certain Gesios, a very learned man who was a teacher of physicians (iatrosophistes). He gained celebrity among students of that time. He was baptised, but he openly mocked his own baptism, since he had submitted to it because of the threats of the emperor [Zeno, r. 474-491]. Furthermore, he mocked the Christians in general, who, in his opinion, venerated Christ wholly unreasonably and obeyed his precepts like slaves. He also mocked the very martyrs Cyrus and John, saying that they healed people through medical art and not by virtue of divine and supernatural power. He pretended that they prescribed the same remedies that were used by Hippocrates, Galen, and Democritus, and that are to be found in their writings. The martyrs therefore punished him with a disease which affected his back, and his shoulders and neck, so that he could not make the tiniest movement and suffered terrible pains. Since he ignored the true cause of the disease, he tried to cure himself with various ointments and purgatives, and different diets, but without any effect.

He thus began to visit the most skilful physicians. They, however, suggested the remedies that he himself had already tried. When they learnt that their patient had applied to himself the same remedies as the ones they tried to use in his case, and that the disease did not at all recede, they told him that the only physician who could heal him was the God of the Universe, whose power surpasses that of humans. They instructed Gesios to go to the martyrs Cyrus and John and have himself examined by them, since the martyrs participated in divine grace and performed healing miracles by virtue of the power of God. The physicians quoted innumerable examples and cases of miraculous healing accomplished by the pair of martyrs; but Gesios rejected all they said. Eventually, however, he surrendered and decided to go to the sanctuary of Cyrus and John, but less because of their persuasion and more because of the great pain he suffered from.

Once he got to the sanctuary, he supplicated the martyrs, asking to regain his health. The martyrs reacted immediately, since they wanted to punish Gesios who held himself to be wise, whereas he was a fool. So they appeared to him in a dream and told him to cover his back with the skin of an ass, shoulders and neck with it, and make a tour of their sanctuary, screaming “I am foolish and mindless!” Having obeyed this order, he would regain his health at once.

When Gesios woke up, he though that the vision was only an illusion, so he did nothing of what he was told to. He kept supplicating the martyrs instead. So another night the martyrs appeared again to him in a dream and told him to put the asinine covering on himself and suspend a bell to his neck, and, so equipped, to make a tour of the sanctuary, shouting “I am a fool!” Again Gesios, once he awoke, said to himself that this vision was merely a delusion, and turned with his prayers directly to God, asking him to heal him rather then mock him with such illusions.

Yet the martyrs, who are truly divine and merciful, appeared to him once again, and this time they commanded him to add to the things previously prescribed also a bridle to his mouth, and make himself be carried by one of his servants. When Gesios woke up, he was afraid of insisting that this third version of the vision was only a delusion. Thus, out of fear of the martyrs’ wrath, he did everything he was told to do by them. He covered his back, his shoulders and his neck with the asinine covering, he suspended a bell to his neck and took the bridle in his mouth, and, carried by a servant of his, made ten tours around the sanctuary, according to witnesses. He regained his health immediately afterwards.

On the following night, the martyrs appeared to him in a dream and told him that everything he was saying about their healing methods was a lie, since the remedies used by them can be found neither in the writings of Galen, nor in those of Hippocrates or Democritus. Still in the dream, Gesios was stupefied and astonished by this wise refutation, and had nothing to say to oppose the martyrs. So he admitted that they healed people by virtue of divine power. Then he left their sanctuary.

Text: Fernández Marcos 1976, lightly modified in the light of Gascou 2007. Summary: J. Doroszewska.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Kyros and Ioannes/Cyrus and John, physician and soldier, martyrs of Egypt : S00406

Saint Name in Source

Κῦρος καὶ Ἰωάννης

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Alexandria Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Places

Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Scepticism/rejection of miracles

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Punishing miracle Miracles causing conversion Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



Sophronius (c. 560-c. 637) was born to a Chalcedonian family in Damascus, and was probably familiar with both Greek and Syriac culture. He was educated as a teacher of rhetoric, but in c. 580 became an ascetic while in Egypt, and entered the monastery of St. Theodosios near Bethlehem. He travelled widely to monastic centres in Egypt, the Near East, Aegean, and North Africa, accompanying his friend, the monk and writer John Moschus, who dedicated to him his treatise on the religious life, the Spiritual Meadow (Leimon pneumatikos). In 633-634, Sophronius travelled to Alexandria and to Constantinople in order to persuade the patriarchs to renounce Monoenergism. In 634, he was elected patriarch of Jerusalem. He is venerated as a saint in the catholic and orthodox churches; in the Byzantine rite he shares with John Moschus a feast day on 11 March. He died in Jerusalem in about 637. His extant doctrinal writings include a Letter to Arcadius of Cyprus and the Synodical Letter against Monenergism. Other works have also been preserved, such as an encomium on the Alexandrian martyrs Cyrus and John (in gratitude for healing his vision), The Miracles of the Saints Cyrus and John, a collection of 23 Anacreontic poems, and several patriarchal sermons on such themes as the Muslim siege of Jerusalem and on various liturgical celebrations. The Miracles of the Saints Cyrus and John comprise 70 stories; this number, as explained by the author in the Preface, consists either of 7 decades or 10 heptades, both of which refer to biblical and pagan (Pythagorean) arithmetic, where 7 is a mystic number and 10 is a perfect number. References to the number 7 and its multiple (14) recurs in the work several times (Miracles 5, 15, 23, 39, 43; Gascou 2006: 11 with notes). The significance of other numbers has also been noted: for the number 3, see Fernández Marcos 1975: 42, n. 15; for the number 67 (Miracle 1), see Nissen 1939: 377, n. 2.  All 70 stories concern miraculous healings performed by the two martyrs, considered saints of the first rank by Sophronius (Miracle 29), in their sanctuary at Menouthis, near Alexandria. The first 35 miracles concern Alexandrians, the next 15 Egyptians and Libyans, mostly of the Alexandrian region, and the last 20 foreigners of whom some were settled in Alexandria. Sophronius wanted to flatter in this way the self-esteem of the Alexandrians who were the possessors of the saints' relics. He also argued that the miracles of Alexandria were particularly credible, since they delivered plenty of verifiable facts. For the same reason, the miracles selected by him were limited to those of his own times and concerned persons who were still alive and could testify to the events. Sophronius seems also to have had at his disposal earlier and parallel collections. A powerful feature of the miracle stories is a disdain for secular doctors, but not medicine per se, who are seen as ineffective in comparison to the power of the saintly healing of Cyrus and John. The collection is also notable for Sophronius’ polemic against Miaphysites, who evidently attended the shrine. The most recent edition of Sophronius' text is Fernandez Marcos 1976, but Gascou in his translation of 2007 includes several textual emendations which we have followed when they occur.


Gesios or Gessios is a historical personage. According to Stephanus of Byzantium (s.v. Γέα/Géa), he was originally from Gea, a city near Petra in Egypt; his name, therefore, stems from the city of his origin. He was a physician and teacher who lived at the end of the 5th/early 6th century. He was a close friend of many intellectuals of the circle of Gaza, such as Aeneas, Procopius, and Zacharias of Mytilene. He studied medicine under the Jew Domnos (Suda s.v. Γέσιος/Gésios) in Alexandria, where he practised as iatrosophistes (teacher of medicine). According to Arabic sources, he was the author of a Synopsis of Galen in 16 books. He also established the canon of both Galen's and Hippocrates' writings and included them in the teaching programme in Alexandria. Although opposed to Christianity, he was baptised at the instigation of the emperor Zeno, but retained a cynically negative attitude towards his new religion. Risking his life, he protected in his house the Neoplatonic philosopher Heraiskos. He was one of the greatest scholars of his times (see Gascou 2007: 101, n. 579).


Text: Fernández Marcos, N., Los thaumata de Sofronio. Contribución al estudio de la "Incubatio" cristiana, Manuales y anejos de "Emérita" 31 (Madrid, 1975), 243-400. Translations: Gascou, J., Sophrone de Jérusalem, Miracles des saints Cyr et Jean (BHGI 477-479) (Paris, 2006). French translation and commentary. Peltier, D., "Sophrone de Jérusalem, Récit des miracles des saints Cyr et Jean" (unpublished dissertation; Paris 1978). Further reading: Duffy, J., “Observations on Sophronius' Miracles of Cyrus and John,” Journal of Theological Studies 35 (1984), 71-90. Duffy, J., “The Miracles of Cyrus and John: New Old Readings from the Manuscript,” Illinois Classical Studies 12:1 (1987), 169-177. Gascou, J., “Religion et identité communautaire à Alexandrie à la fin de l'époque byzantine, d'après les Miracles des saints Cyr et Jean,” in: J.-Y. Empereur and C. Décobert (eds.), Alexandrie médiévale, 3 (Cairo, 2008), 69-88. Gascou, J., Les origines du culte des saints Cyr et Jean (2006); online document: Le Coz, R., “Les Pères de l'Eglise grecque et la médecine,” Bulletin de Littérature Ecclésiastique 98 (1997), 137-154. Maraval, P., “Fonction pédagogique de la littérature hagiographique d'un lieu de pèlerinage: l'exemple des Miracles de Cyr et Jean,” in: Hagiographie, culture et sociétés (IVe-XIIe siècles), Actes du Colloque organisé à Nanterre et à Paris (2-5 mai 1979) (Paris, 1981), 383-397. Nissen, T., “Sophronios-Studien III, Medizin und Magie bei Sophronios,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 39 (1939), 349–81. Papaconstantinou, A., Le culte des saints en Égypte des Byzantins aux Abbassides. L'apport des inscriptions et des papyrus grecs et coptes (Paris, 2001). Sansterre, J.-M., "Apparitions et miracles à Ménouthis: de l'incubation païenne à l'incubation chrétienne," in E. Dierkens (ed.), Apparitions et miracles (Brussels, 1991), 69-83. Schönborn, C., Sophrone de Jérusalem. Vie monastique et confession dogmatique (Paris, 1972). Wipszycka, E., “Les confréries dans la vie religieuse de l'Egypte chrétienne,” in: E. Wipszycka, Études sur le christianisme dans l'Égypte de l'antiquité tardive (Rome, 1996), 257-278.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager