SAINTS CYRIACUS AND JULITTA
A son and his mother who were martyred under DIOCLETIAN (feast day: 15 Abib). Cyriacus and Julitta came from Iconium (modern Konya, Turkey), but were killed at Tarsus in Cilicia. It appears that the text of their Passion, which is partially related to that of Saint George, was well known. It is mentioned in the Decretum Gelasianum, although the Greek text is unavailable. There is a Latin version (Acta Sanctorum, 4 June, pp. 24-28), as well as Syriac, Armenian, and Arabic versions (cf. Bibliotheca Hagiographica Orientalis, pp. 193-94). In Coptic, only a few fragments have survived (Michigan University Library, Inv. 554); however, these seem to bear witness to the existence of the entire text (ed. Husselman, 1965).
Julitta, a Christian woman from Iconium, had fled to Tarsus to escape the persecution of the governor Alexander. However, she finds him in Tarsus as well. After she refuses to offer sacrifice, she asks the governor to have her three-year-old son Cyriacus brought, saying that he would offer sacrifice to the gods he recognized. Cyriacus also refuses to offer sacrifice, whereupon both mother and son are severely tortured in various ways. In the midst of torture, the child pronounces a prayer of a vaguely Gnostic flavor, which is found in the Coptic, Arabic, and Syriac versions, but not in the Latin. After various miracles, both are beheaded.
The prayer appears to be the most important passage of the text. This prayer has been studied in detail by Gressmann (1921). Apart from the Passio of George, it is related to the “hymn of the pearl” in the Acts of Thomas. However, in Gressmann’s opinion the prayer is of Jewish, not Gnostic origin.
- Dillmann, A. Über die apokryphen Märtyrergeschichte des Cyriacus mit Julitta und des Georgius. Sitzungsberichte der Königlichen Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin 12-13, pp. 339-56. Berlin, 1887.
- Gressmann, H. “Das Gebet des Kyriakos.” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 20 (1921):23-35.
- Husselman, E. M. “The Martyrdom of Cyriacus and Julitta in Coptic.” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 4 (1965):79-86.