The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 13 (part 3)

Let’s carry on reading the “Annals” of Eutychius of Alexandria.  The translation that I am making from Italian is very rough, no doubt: but since nobody capable of doing so has ever made a translation of this work into English, it does at least give us some idea of what the work contains.

8. In the eighth year of the reign of Theodosius the Great, the young men who had fled away from the king Decius by hiding in the cave, in the city of Ephesus, reappeared (13).  In fact the shepherds, as time passed, had ended up removing, one after another, the bricks with which the entrance of the cave had been blocked, so much as to leave an opening like a door.  The youths believed that they had slept for only one night and said to their companion who was to buy them food: “Go, buy us something to eat and try to learn something of the king Decius”.  When he was at the entrance of the cave and saw that the building that had been there was demolished, he almost could not believe his eyes, but kept walking until he came to the gate of the city of Ephesus on top of which he saw erected a large cross, and, doubting himself, he said: “I am just dreaming”, and began to rub his eyes and look to the right and left to find something known to him, but he saw nothing and was disconcerted.  Then he said to himself: “Maybe I’ve gone the wrong way, or maybe this is not the city of Ephesus.”  He went into the city, took a dirham he had with him and handed it to the baker to get bread.  Seeing the man, so strangely dressed, panicked and terrified, with a coin on which was engraved the image of King Decius, the baker was confused and thought that he was dealing with someone who had found a (buried) treasure.  So he said: “Where did you get this money?”  But the young man did not answer.  The baker then called other people, who came forward and spoke with him, but he did not give any response.  Then they took him to the patrician, the governor of the city, named Antipater.  The patrician questioned him but the young man did not answer.  He threatened him, but he still did not open his mouth.  Then there went to him Mark, the bishop of the city, who spoke to him, but he did not answer.  Then he tried to frighten him by saying: “Talk to us, and tell us where you got this money, otherwise we will kill you.”  But the young man continued to stay silent for fear of the king Decius, because he thought that he was still alive.  Then they tortured him, and, forced by the great pain, he said to them: “Where is the king Decius?” They answered: “The king Decius is long dead! Many other kings reigned after him and the official religion is now Christianity and our king is Theodosius the Great.”  Having been thus reassured, the young man told them what had happened.  Those that were with him went to the cave, they saw his companions and found the copper box with inside it the lead sheet on which Thaddeus, patrician of the king Decius, had written their story and their misadventures with the king Decius.  Great was their wonder and they wrote to King Theodosius, informing him of the matter.  The king immediately set out, arrived in the city of Ephesus, saw them and talked with them.  But three days later, returning to the cave, he found them dead.  He then decided to leave them where they were and to give them burial in that cave, and he constructed a church in their name, and they began to celebrate a festival in their honour, every year, on the same day.  King Theodosius then returned to Constantinople.

From the time the youths had fled away from the king Decius into the cave and had slept, until the time when they were dead and reappeared, as we read in the history of their martyrdom, there had passed three hundred and seventy-two years.  In the thirteenth year of the reign of Theodosius the Great Sirnīqun was made patriarch of Rome (14).  He held the office for twelve years and died.  In the seventeenth year of his reign died Niqtāriyūs (15), the patriarch of Constantinople, after having held the office for sixteen years.  After him John Chrysostom was made patriarch of Constantinople (16).  He held the office for five years and six months, was sent into exile and died there.  In the sixth year of his reign Flavian was made patriarch of Antioch (17).  He held the office for six years and died.  In the twelfth year of his reign Porphyry was made patriarch of Antioch (18).  He held the office for ten years and died.  In the eighth year of his reign John was made patriarch of Jerusalem (19).  He held the office for sixteen years and died.  At the time of King Theodosius lived Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus.  King Theodosius had built the church of Gethsemane in Jerusalem in which was the tomb of Martmaryam (20).  It was destroyed afterwards by the Persians, when they invaded Jerusalem, along with the other churches in the city, and still lies in ruins today.

9. In the tenth year of the reign of King Theodosius died Sabur, king of the Persians, son of Sabur.  After him reigned Bahram (21), son of Sabur, king of the Persians, for eleven years.  The reign of Theodosius was a reign of tranquility and peace.  On the death of King Theodosius reigned his sons Arcadius and Honorius.  Arcadius (22) reigned over Rum in Constantinople for thirteen years, and his brother Honorius (23) over the city of Rome for eleven years.  This was in the seventh year of the reign of Bahram, son of Sabur, king of the Persians.  The king Arcadio sent for his preceptor Arsenius to kill him, because of his smoldering resentment against him.  But Arsenius heard of it and fled to Alexandria, embracing the monastic life in the monastery which is located in Wadi Habib, near Tarnūt, named al-Asqīt (24).  When later Arcadius had a son that he named Theodosius, he asked after his tutor Arsenius because he was concerned with the education of his son, and he was told that he had become a monk in the monastery of Scete.  The king then sent for him and assured him that he would never and in no way make an attempt on his life.  But Arsenius refused.  He was indeed so sweet and good to the messenger that the latter left him in peace and departed.  Fearing, however, that the king might try to take by force, Arsenius went to Upper Egypt and found a home on Mount al-Buqattam (25), at a village called Tura (26).  He stayed there for three years and he died.  Then the king Arcadius sent another messenger with the task of taking Arsenius by force, but when he came to the monastery of Scetis he was told that Arsenius was already dead on Mount al-Buqattam (27) The messenger returned from king and told him what he had heard.  The king then sent for a monk named Tarāsiyūs, and giving him a large sum of money said: “Go and build at the tomb of Arsenius a monastery that bears his name.”  Tarāsiyūs went to Egypt and erected over the grave of Arsenio a monastery on Mount al-Buqattam (28), which is still called “Dayr al-Qusayr” (29).


6 thoughts on “The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 13 (part 3)

  1. Keep up the good work, Roger! Be assured that I am punctiliously downloading your translation of Eutychius day by day, and transferring it to my files of other interesting Orientals, where he keeps company with Mari, Sliba, Amrus, the Chronicler of 819 and other obscure Christian chroniclers who should be on everyone’s bookshelves. Dead, brown Middle Eastern males, I suppose one might call them.

    Knowing as I do your love of close reading, I thought you might enjoy comparing the story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus as told by Bar Hebraeus (there’s another one) in the ‘Chronicon Ecclesiasticum’, abridged from a longer version in Michael the Syrian, with Eutychius’s version. There are quite a few differences, to say the least. I get the impression that these charming legends were treated with the same freedom as the fairy tales repackaged in the 19th century by Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.

    Here’s how Bar Hebraeus interprets this particular legend (Chronicon Ecclesiasticum, i. 141-45):

    At this period there appeared the seven youths of Ephesus, who had risen from the dead. They had fled during the persecution of Decius, and hidden themselves in a mountain cave. There they died in their sleep, by the will of God. When Decius asked after them, he was told that they had taken refuge in a cave, and he ordered its mouth to be blocked up, so that they should be buried alive. Then the Christians Athiodorus and Domnus wrote their memorial, and placed it inside this building. Now, 188 years later, in the thirty-eighth year of Theodosius the Younger, when various theories concerning the resurrection of the dead were being proposed and the emperor was little disposed to believe them, God stirred up the heart of a certain Aladisius, the lord of that place, to build a fold [143] for his sheep. While they were collecting stones, the entrance to the cave was opened. Then God breathed life into the sleepers, and they arose as though awaking from sleep, and said to one of their number, Dionnus by name: ‘Arise, go secretly to the city, buy us something to eat and find out what has been decreed about us.’ He set off, carrying some money of the old coinage with him, and arrived at the gate of the city. There he saw that a cross had been fixed to it, and stood amazed. To his eyes the city seemed to have changed so much that he asked its name. When he heard that it was indeed Ephesus, he was struck with fear and went in, intending to leave as soon as he had bought some bread. But the shopkeepers, noticing the old coins that he gave them, refused to let him go, saying: ‘Show us the treasure that you have found.’
    The story spread rapidly through the city, and the case was referred to the proconsul. The boy was brought to him, and the proconsul questioned him and ordered him to tell him where he had found the treasure. He replied: ‘In Ephesus.’ Then he asked him about his parents, and nobody recognised the names he gave them. Then some men said that the boy was mad, while others said that he was feigning madness in order to escape. Finally the proconsul summoned the bishop, and when he saw him the boy fell to his knees before him and said to him: ‘Tell me, my lord, where is the emperor Decius?’ The bishop replied that he had been dead for a long time. The boy said: ‘Come with me, and I will show you my companions in the cave, where we hid ourselves to escape from Decius.’ The bishop realised that this appearance had been prompted [145] by divine power, and he and his companions went with the boy. Then they came to the cave, where they found the confessors surrounded by great splendour, and they read the inscriptions that could be seen on all sides. Then they immediately reported the matter to the emperor, who raced to the spot, threw himself at their feet, and begged them tearfully to converse with him. Then Anachilius, the eldest of the seven, said: ‘It is on your account, Your Majesty, that the Lord has revived us before the time of our resurrection. Be troubled no longer, and do not doubt that the dead will be resurrected.’ After he said this, they once again fell asleep. The emperor wanted to bury them in golden coffins, but they appeared to him in a dream, saying: ‘Our bodies were made from dust, not gold’. So he left them where they were, and ordered a temple to be built over them.

  2. Thank you for the encouragement! (I admit that I find the kind of well-fed people who, wearing polycotton clothes and carrying iPads, whine about “dead white males”, utterly contemptible.) I think the Seven Sleepers is clearly a hagiographical narrative, and it seems to help if we treat these as folk-story rather than history. I wish someone would collect all the testimonia in which medieval authors discuss hagiography – somewhere in there must be some useful stuff on how they viewed it.

    Thank you very much indeed for the Bar Hebraeus version! The skeleton is the same, but the differences are just as striking!

  3. By the way, you might be interested to know that I have helped to get some funding from the British Library to enable an Assyrian enthusiast to photograph a lot of the Nestorian manuscripts originating from the Alqosh area. They have been taken away for safety by their Christian carers and spirited away into the Kurdish zone, out of the clutches of those murderous scum who call themselves Islamic State. With luck, they will be professionally photographed in the next few months.

    The Syrian Catholic monastery of Mar Behnam near Mosul, though, with its splendid architecture and the tombs of several Jacobite patriarchs from the 14th century onwards, has been destroyed. I find it impossible to understand the mentality of people who do this kind of thing. Fortunately, European scholars long ago catalogued all the inscriptions and manuscripts, so that’s something at least.

  4. Marvellous – well done, David! That’s really important stuff to do. Please keep me updated, if you will.

    I quite understand the mentality of the ISIS thugs. I saw it at school, as did most of us, I suspect. It’s a way to show your power, and cock a snoot at authority. There’s no real difficulty in dealing with people who respect only power. All you need is bullets and willpower. I imagine a couple of battalions of paras could slaughter the lot in the an afternoon. The real problem is not these scum – such have always existed – but their enablers in the corridors of power in the US, UK, and EU.

    It does make you realise that Syria was far better off being ruled by the French.

  5. Absolutely. Speaking as a former colonial administrator, surrounded by British colleagues who were as enlightened, honest and impartial as I myself was, I have had to watch the steady decline in the quality of governance and the growth of corruption and favouritism in Hong Kong since the handover to China in 1997, and it makes me sick. One of these days, it will be possible to take a dispassonate view of the achievements of the colonial powers in the 19th and 20th centuries, but in the present climate of political correctness we are supposed to believe that self-rule is always, and in all circumstances, better than colonial rule. What absurd nonsense! I console myself with the thought that Roman administrators watching the Middle East go up in flames during the Arab Conquests probably held very similar views. Plus ca change …

  6. Agree entirely: and yes, watching the darkness come in is awful. It’s why we have so few accounts of the Roman collapse. I remember how the colonies were really ruled myself, and the passion for good, honest, incorruptible government. This nonsense is all American in origin, based on their awful abuse of their slaves. Returning the peoples of our colonies into the hands of their traditional oppressors is a hideous crime. I imagine this will all be obvious when times change.

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