The fourth-century martyr of Antiochian origin, who was put to death in Egypt (feast day: 1 Misrah). He appears only in the later hagiographic Coptic tradition. Of his Passion, ascribed to an eyewitness, the servant Sergius, two Bohairic fragmentary manuscripts are preserved.
The first consists of four folios from Cairo (ed. Evelyn-White, 1926, pp. 88-93) and the continuation of the text in the Vatican Library (Copt 61ff, pp. 223-27, ed. Balestri and Hyvernat, Vol. I, pp. 242-48); of the second there are only two folios left in Leipzig (ed. H. G. Evelyn-White, 1926). The beginning of the text in the Coptic language is lost, but the reconstruction is possible through the abstract of the SYNAXARION and from the Ethiopic version, which is close in content even though different in form (ed. Pereira, 1907, pp. 73-98).
The Ethiopic text includes three passions—that of the general JUSTUS, his wife, Theoclia, and his son, Apoli, preceded by a narration of the previous history according to the typical late tradition of the Basilidian Cycle (see HAGIOGRAPHY). At the time of DIOCLETIAN, a war is waged by the great generals Justus and Theodore Anatolius. The events of the war are mainly centered on the capture of Nicomede, son of the king of Persia, and on the treason of the bishop of Antioch, who returns Nicomede to his father.
Diocletian, according to the advice of Romanus, another great general and brother of Justus, refuses the Christian faith; both Diocletian and Romanus try to convince Apoli to retract in vain. After consideration of the situation, Justus, Theoclia, and Apoli voluntarily choose to be martyred. With this purpose they leave for Egypt, where they confess their faith first in the presence of Armenius and then before Tolomeus; both prefects are unwilling to put them to death. At last Tolomeus will pronounce the condemnation.
The Coptic text begins when Apoli is already before Tolomeus who tortures him in various ways. As is usual, next follows the apparition of Christ, who comforts and cures the martyr—along with Michael and Gabriel. Then there is a long discussion with Tolomeus, who tries to persuade Apoli to refuse the Christian faith and the martyrdom.
It is hard to state how much the first part of the Ethiopic text is a true representative of previous Coptic redaction. Taking into account that Justus’ Passion preceded, in at least one code, Apoli’s Passion, the Coptic material at our disposal seems rather to witness the previous existence of separate passions.
These are related in content, since they belong to the same legendary Cycle built around Diocletian’s abjuration and around the war with the Persians in the episode of the king of Persia and the traitor bishop (see ANATOLIUS). Later some writers may have also formally grouped the narrations together, obtaining the actual Ethiopic text, but this could have happened either in Coptic or in Arabic (it should be assumed between Coptic and Ethiopic), or directly in Ethiopic.
- Balestri, I., and H. Hyvernat. Acta Martyrum, 2 vols. CSCO 43, 44. Baumeister, T. Martyr Invictus. Der Märtyrer als Sinnbild der
- Erlösung in der Legende und im Kult der frühen koptischen Kirche. Münster, 1972.
- Evelyn-White, H. G. New Coptic Texts from the Monastery of Saint Macarius. New York, 1926.
- O’Leary, D. E. The Saints of Egypt, pp. 80-1. New York, 1937. Pereira, M. E. Acta Martyrum, 2 vols. CSCO 37, 38. Paris, 1907.