Mark The Simple, Saint

MARK THE SIMPLE, SAINT (feast day: 10 Hatur).

The story of Mark who simulated madness is among the perhaps legendary stories of DANIEL OF SCETIS (sixth century). There are versions in several languages of the Christian Near East: in Greek, which seems to be the original (Clugnet, 1900; Clugnet, 1901); in in the editions of the Vitae Patrum (see the different editions of this work in Peeters, Bibliotheca Hagiographica Orientalia: Subsidia Hagiographia, Vol. 10, p. 15, and no. 608); and in Arabic (probably made from a Syriac version [if the text was summarized from Greek or Coptic, the name would be Marcos] in the Arabic of the SYNAXARION from Upper Egypt, ed. Basset, 1907, pp. 271-73; Forget, Vols. 47-49, pp. 292-93 [text] and 78, pp. 112-14 [trans.]).

The story of Mark is preserved in the stories placed under the name of the HEGUMENOS of Scetis, Daniel (485-570). The text of the Synaxarion from Upper Egypt begins, not like a customary commemoration “In this same day such and such a person died” (or “was martyred”), but like a quotation from a homiletic text: “Know, brethren, that on this same day Saint Anba Markiya went to his rest” (such a transcription suggests a Syrian provenance).

The Arabic text indicates that he was a native of Alexandria, which is not in the Greek. He is said to have undergone the assaults of, or been dominated by, the demon of fornication for fifteen years, then to have returned to himself and become a monk at the monastery of the Pempton (near Alexandria, to the west), where he remained for eight years, which the Arabic omits to say. At the end of the eight years, he decided to go into the town and there simulate madness, which he did.

He gained some small change, kept ten small pieces for his own needs and gave the greater part of it to the other “madmen.” He lived in the hippodrome, sleeping on its benches, to the point that he was described as “the idiot of the hippodrome.” He passed eight years in this way of life. This theme of madness simulated for God is well known both from the example of Mark and from others; it has been studied by Guillaumont (1984, pp. 81-82), who sees in it a supreme form of the eremitic life, and by Vogt (1987, pp. 95-108).

At the end of the eight years, which Mark judged as a penitence, Daniel of Scetis came to Alexandria, for it was the custom that the hegumenos of Scetis should pay a visit to the patriarch—this was surely, as H. G. Evelyn-White thinks, TIMOTHY III (d. 535)—for the great feast, beyond any doubt that of Easter. He met Mark, and divined that he was a very holy monk, for Daniel was endowed with a sure discernment.

He made him tell him his life and introduced him to the patriarch. He slept in the episcopal residence, near Daniel, but the latter had to confirm in the morning that Mark had died in the night. He held a splendid for Mark, for which he together monks come from Scetis, from Nitria, from the Kellia and, the Greek adds, from all the “lauras” in the neighborhood of Alexandria.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Clugnet, L., et al. “ et récits de l’abbé Daniel de Scété.” Revue de l’Orient chrétien 5 (1900):49-73; 254-71; 370-91.
  • . et récits de l’abbé Daniel le Scétiote. Bibliothèque hagiographique orientale 1. Paris, 1901.
  • Evelyn-White, H. G. The Monasteries of the Wadi’n Natrun, pt. 2; The of the Monasteries of Nitria and Scetis. New York, 1932.
  • Guillaumont, A. “La Folie simulée, une forme d’anachorèse.” Revue des historiens d’art, des archéologues, des musicologues et des orientalistes de l’Université d’Etat de Liège 1 (1984):81-82.
  • Peeters, P. Bibliotheca Orientalis. Subsidia Hagiographica 10. Brussels, 1910.
  • Vogt, K. “La Moniale folle du monastère des Tabennesiotes.” Symbolae Osloenses 62 (1987):95-108.

RENÉ-GEORGES COQUIN