Macarius, Saint


A Syrian martyr in fourth-century Egypt (feast day: 22 Abib). Macarius was the son of Basilides, an Antiochene general under the emperor DIOCLETIAN. His Passion is part of the late Basilidian CYCLE, which emerged in Coptic in a Bohairic codex of the ninth century. The first part of the codex is incomplete, but it can be reconstructed from the Copto-Arabic SYNAXARION.

When Diocletian began to persecute Christians, Macarius refused to give up his faith and was denounced. Since Diocletian did not want to upset the city of Antioch by punishing a prominent citizen, he sent Macarius to the prefect Armenius in Alexandria with instructions that he be tortured and put to death.

Actually, Macarius suffers three martyrdoms in Egypt. The first takes place at Alexandria, the second at Pshati (under a Eutychian perfect), and the third at Shetnufe (Shatanuf, another spot in the Delta). After each of the first two, he is miraculously resurrected, according to a well-known device in this kind of Passion (see HAGIOGRAPHY); the third is final. John of Aqfahs, a fictitious personage who generated another cycle and to whom the authorship of the text is ascribed, is present at the third martyrdom.

The Passion is followed by a passage narrating the following events: Diocletian is punished by heaven and becomes blind. The emperor Constantine restores Christianity and sends the perfect Eulogius to substitute for the recalcitrant Armenius. Eulogius wants to remove the relics of Macarius, but the latter appears in a vision and orders them to be left at Shetnufe, where a large sanctuary is built. For these supplements, the Passions of EPIMA, ISIDORUS, and EUSEBIUS can be consulted.


  • Hyvernat, H. Les Actes des martyrs de l’Egypte tirés des manuscrits coptes de la Bibliothèque Vaticane et du Musée Borgia. Paris, 1886-1887.


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