A martyr in the persecutions of DIOCLETIAN (feast day: 8 Abib). The text of his Passion has come down in a Bohairic codex (Vatican Library, Coptic manuscripts, codex 66, fols. 96-123; Balestri and Hyvernat, 1908) and a Sahidic codex (Coptic Museum, Cairo; Togo-Mina, 1937).
The beginning of the Passion is connected with the CYCLE of Basilides and forms an introduction not necessarily linked to the Passion of Epima. It tells the story of the war between Diocletian and Shapur, king of Persia, the capture of Shapur’s son, Nicodemus, as a hostage, and the betrayal of Bishop Gaius, which provoked the anger of Diocletian against the Christians. The first martyr is a soldier whose name is not known (cf. Horn, 1982). Then the famous edict demanding a sacrifice to pagan gods is promulgated and sent to the perfect Armenius in Alexandria.
Here begins the real Passion of Epima, who came from Pankoleus, near Pemje (Oxyrhynchus). He has a vision and goes to the dux Culcianus at Pemje, who orders Epima to bring the priests and sacred objects to him. Epima refuses and is imprisoned and tortured. He has a vision of the archangel MICHAEL, who heals him; he is tortured again, and then sent to Armenius in Alexandria. Here he performs various miracles in prison. Julius of Aqfahs visits him, and his sister is healed by Epima. In court, there is a fresh argument with Armenius and also torture, miraculous healings, and visions. The duces Rucellianus and Sebastianus come to Alexandria, and Epima is handed over to them to be killed. Julius bids him farewell. After his martyrdom, the servants of Julius take the body to Shmum and then to Pankoleus, and return to tell Julius what has happened. Julius “signs” the text of the Passion.
This text, therefore, belongs to the Cycle of Julius of Aqfahs, and the lively inventiveness and the introduction would indicate that it is among the oldest in the cycle, dating to about the seventh century.
- Balestri, I., and H. Hyvernat. Acta Martyrum, 2 vols. CSCO 43, 44. Paris, 1908.
- Horn, J. “Der erste Märtyrer. Zu einem Topos der koptischen Märtyrerliteratur (mit zwei Anhängen).” In Studien zur spätantiken und frühchristlichen Kunst und Kultur des Orients, ed. G. Koch. Wiesbaden, 1982.
- Togo Mina (J. Muyser). Le Martyre d’apa Epima. Cairo, 1937.