The Constantinople Synaxary

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[pp. 184-186]

THE CONSTANTINOPLE SYNAXARY<ref>“Synaxary” (Gr. Synaxarion: Ar. Sinkisār: Eth. Senkessār) is a book [more precisely, a collection of books, one for each month] containing a laudatory biographical note of the saints of each day of the year to be read during the liturgical prayer (synaxis). Although such books are not immune from historical mistakes, reptitions, etc., they often contain valuable archaeological information. The compilation of the Synaxarion of the Church of Constantinople, begun in the 6th century, was completed in the 10th century. Other churches, particularly the Armenian, largely depended on the Constantinople Synaxarion, and added more stories or details about local saints.</ref>

(10th cent. A.D.)

The following story about the Martyrs of Rhaitou (Tor Sina), is translated from Acta Sanctorum, Jan. 14, vol. I, pp. 966-967, which quoted the Constantinople Synaxary<ref>H. Delehaye (ed.), Synaxarium Ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae, Propylaeum ad Acta Sanctorum Novembris, Brussels 1902. Extracts quoted by MC 961.</ref>.

G: 4.

[p. 185] The Passion of our saintly fathers at Sinai [410 A.D.]<ref>Conti Rossini, Storia d’Etiopia, p. 211, places the incident at the year 378; the correct date is 410 A.D. as given by Nilos, Narrationes de Caede monachorum. PG 79, pp. 589-694.</ref>. They came from different countries. They had abandoned the world, their relatives, their properties, and had retired to Mount Sinai, where they became monks and devoted themselves entirely to the worship of God. They ate herbs. With them was the holy man, Nilos<ref>An officer in the court of the Emperor Theodosius I, who retired with his son Theodūlus to the Sinai desert.</ref> who had previously been eparch of Constantinople, a wise and pious man. It was he who wrote the passion of these holy fathers, while deploring the captivity of his own son Theodūlos. The devil was envious of them and aroused the savage nation of the Blemmyes (Blemmyōn) against them. They were living on [the coast of] the Red Sea from Arabia to Egypt.<ref>Sirāj ad-dīn Ibn al-Wardī [q.v.] places the Balliyūn between Egypt and Arabia.</ref> As they hoped to capture treasures, they went to pillage monks. On finding nothing but mats and monks wearing hair sacks, although they had received no harm from them, they became furious and massacred all of them.

[p. 186] A long time before this, during the reign of Diocletian [284-305 A.D.] the Agarenes (Agarenon)<ref>Also called Sarasins (sarakenoi).</ref> had killed some holy fathers at Sinai and Rhaitō [22 December].

[Another redaction]: The commemoration of the Forty-three holy fathers whom the Blemmyes have butchered on the Red Sea [coast], at the place of the Twelve Springs and the Seventy-two Palm-trees. Three hundred Blemmyes embarked in great pirogues (xylois megalois), crossed the Sea or Ethiopia (Aithiopia), came to the place of Aēla and found there a ship (ploion) - and crossed to the country of the Pharanites. The Pharanites went out to meet the Blemmyes, but were beaten and lost one hundred and forty-seven men [who were] butchered. (Delehaye, Synaxarium, pp. 390-391).<ref>The Martyrologium Romanum has the following entry [14 Jan]: “In Aegypto, in Rhaithi regione, sanctorum quadragina trium monachorum, qui pro Christiana religione a Blemmiis occisi sunt”. The Menologium Henrici Canisii: “Eodem die natalis Sanctorum Patrum XLIII in Raitho jugulatorum a Blemmyis in mari rubro, ubi sunt duodecum fontes et septuaginta arbores palmarum”. The Greek Maenea: “Ut prius Rahcel filios, nunc abates, luget Rhaitho, concisos gladiis. Hi beati patres religiosum agonem exegerunt uni duodecim sunt fontes ac palmae septuaginta. Cum trecenti Blemmyae vestis trabibus mare Aethiopicum tranmisissent, venerunt in locum quemdam ibique navigio reperto, ac consenso, in regionem Pharanitarum appulerunt. Occurrere iis Pharanitae, sed profligate sunt, desideratis suorum septem et quadraginta. Barbari coniugibus liberisque Pharanitarum abductis, ad castsrum properant, ubi sancti patres ecclesiam habebant. Hi vero clausis foribus, mortem opperiebantur. Ingressi Barbari, cum nihil pecuniae invenissent, omnes trucidarunt, et cum prioribus captivis ad mare se receperunt, minimeque reperto navigio (id servitia merserant, profugerantque) in furorem acto, captivos omnes jugulaverunt, deinde in socios versi, omnes mutuis vulneribus conciderunt”. (Acta Sanctorum, Jan. 1, p. 967). Cf. also Fr. Degenhart, Der hl. Nilus Sinaita, Münster 1915; and K. Heussi, Untersuchungen zu Nilus dem Asketen, Leipzig 1917.</ref>