The name given to a fictitious sister of Constantine in a Sahidic Coptic legend, which credits her with the discovery of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The legend is preserved almost intact in a single papyrus codex in the Egyptian Museum of Turin (Cat. 63,000, codex Ib, fols. 10v-41r, seventh to eighth century). A small fragment from another papyrus codex, containing parts of chapters 47-49, is preserved in the John Rylands Library, Manchester (Coptic Supplement 20, a, seventh century). The legend is made up of two parts: (1) the overthrow of DIOCLETIAN and accession of CONSTANTINE, the peace of the church and baptism of Constantine, and a war between Constantine’s forces and the Persians, brought to a miraculous conclusion by Constantine (chaps. 1-32); and (2) the story of Eudoxia (chaps. 33-105).
According to the story, Eudoxia, the virgin sister of Constantine, is admonished by Jesus in a vision to go to Jerusalem and uncover His tomb, which (at the instigation of the Jewish authorities) for 365 years has been covered with the refuse of the city. Eudoxia, encouraged by Constantine, obeys and goes with a large entourage to Jerusalem. The Jews refuse to tell her where the tomb is, but under torture a scribe named Joel refers her to a kinsman of Christ, the aged Jacob, a descendant of Jacob, the brother of the Lord. Jacob shows her the site of the tomb and the work begins. The tomb is eventually uncovered, and in it are found the bodies of the two thieves who had been crucified with Christ, as well as the inscription that had been nailed to the cross of Christ. Eudoxia remains for a time in Jerusalem, supported by the king and his nobles, directing various building projects at the holy places. She and her company then return to Constantinople, where they are welcomed by the king.
This story has been modeled upon a number of previously existing traditions, especially the story of the discovery of the cross by Constantine’s mother, Helen, and the endowments and building projects in Jerusalem carried out by the Empress Eudocia, wife of THEODOSIUS II (408-450). Constantine had a sister Constantia, known for her piety, but the name Eudoxia is clearly based on the name of the Empress Athenais-Eudocia, whose name also appears in late sources as “Eudoxia.” The same name is given to the sister of Constantine who accompanies him and his mother to Jerusalem to build the Church of the Resurrection. This is according to a Coptic encomium on Saint George of Cappadocia attributed to Bishop Theodotus of Ancyra (see Budge, 1888, p. 325), a story that may also have contributed to the formation of the legend of Eudoxia.
A very imperfect transcription with Italian translation was made of the Eudoxia legend by Rossi (1886), but the legend has received little notice until 1980, when it was published in a much-improved edition, with English translation and historical analysis. Drake’s extensive historical analysis suggests a time of composition for this legend of c. 640 to 650. Whether it is an original Coptic composition or a translation from Greek is debatable.
- Budge, E. A. W. The Martyrdom and Miracles of Saint George of Cappadocia. London, 1888.
- Drake, H. A. “A Coptic Version of the Discovery of the Holy Sepulchre.” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 20 (1979):381-92.
- Orlandi, T.; B. A. Pearson; and H. A. Drake. Eudoxia and the Holy Sepulchre: A Constantinian Legend in Coptic. Testi e documenti per lo studio dell’ antichita 67. Milan, 1980.
- Rossi, F. “Transcrizione di tre manoscritti copti del Museo Egizio di Torino con traduzione italiana.” Memorie della Reale Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, ser. 2. Scienze morali, storiche e filologiche 37 (1886): 84-115, 150-62.
BIRGER A. PEARSON