(feast day: 8 Baramhat), fourth-century prefect of the Thebaid and portrayed in many Egyptian martyr legends as a bitter persecutor of the Christians, who later converted and became a martyr himself. In view of the novel character of these texts, one might think that Arianus, too, was an invention of their authors. However, the papyrus P. Grenf. II 78 of February-March 307 shows that Arianus is a historical personality (relevant passages in Vandersleyen, 1962, pp. 86-90). The activity of Arianus was thus known in later times, even if the passion story of a martyr was in other respects freely invented according to a popular pattern.
Other historical figures who likewise appear in novel contexts are the persecutors Culciannus and Hierokles. Such historical relics do not mean that we may uncritically regard other features of a legend as genuine reminiscences. In a legendary cycle probably deriving from Antinoopolis, Arianus is even presented as a Christian and a martyr.
The Greek Passion (Bibliotheca hagiographica graeca 1514) first relates the martyrdom of Saints APOLLONIUS AND PHILEMON, in which Arianus is the persecutor. A miracle serves as the connecting link to Arianus’ subsequent martyrdom. Arianus has archers take aim at Philemon, but the arrows remain suspended in the air. When Arianus looks upward, he is struck in the right eye by an arrow. Philemon, however, promises that Arianus will be healed after Philemon’s death if he applies to the blinded eye earth taken from the place to which Philemon’s corpse is brought. The prefect does so, is healed, and thereupon becomes converted to the Christian faith.
DIOCLETIAN learns of his conversion and sends for him. Arianus is buried alive but is miraculously delivered. Finally he is drowned in the sea along with the soldiers of his bodyguard, who also confess the Christian faith. In marvelous fashion the corpses are brought to Antinoopolis, and there laid to rest beside Philemon and Apollonius.
This account should make it clear that the text is an imaginative invention, probably composed in Antinoopolis in the fifth century. The Sahidic revision of this cycle, which F. Rossi published with an Italian translation (Atti della R. accademia dei Lincei, ser. 5, 1 :3-136, 307), includes major changes in the martyrdom of Arianus, which is conformed to the type of martyr legend predominant in Coptic hagiography.
- Baumeister, T. Martyr invictus, pp. 92, 105-08, 172. Münster, 1972.
- . “Der Martyrer Philemon.” In Pietas. Festschrift für Bernhard Kotting, ed. E. Dassmann and K. S. Frank. Münster, 1980.
- Delehaye, H. “Les martyrs d’Egypte.” Analecta Bollandiana 40 (1922):5-154, 299-364.
- Vandersleyen, C. Chronologie des préfets d’Egypte de 284 à 395, pp. 86-90. Brussels, 1962.