Seven Ascetics Of Tunah

SEVEN ASCETICS OF TUNAH

This is a classic story concerning martyr hermits. No details are given about their life except that they lived near Tunah. It seems, moreover, that only five of them were ascetics, and that Anba Psate (or Basidi) and Anba Kutilus, who was a priest, joined the ascetics in their confession of Christ. The governor (it is not said where he resided) tortured and imprisoned them but, achieving nothing, sent them to Alexandria, where they were tortured again. Then, as a last resort, six of them were beheaded when they refused to worship the idol of Apollo. Kutilus (the priest, apparently) was consigned to the flames.

These seven martyred ascetics are known only from a brief notice in the recension of the SYNAXARION of the Copts from Lower Egypt.

This text presents two problems for the reader. First is the question of the place called “the mountain of Tunah.” It could be the town that disappeared in the floods of Lake al-Manzalah or the mountain called in Middle Tunah al-Jabal, in the district of Mallawi. E. Amélineau inclines to the second site (1893, pp. 525-26), but it seems that in fact it is the town of this name that is meant. In fact, if that were the case, it is more natural that the governor should send them to Alexandria.

Second, the names of these martyr ascetics are not certain, for the spelling varies greatly from one manuscript to another. What seems certain is that two of them had a foreign name—they are said to have called themselves “Kutilus” (the transcription credited to a Syrian saint “Gawbdalahu” [22 Tut]). It may therefore be that these two ascetics were of Syrian origin. The other names appear to be Egyptian. In any case, they all seem thoroughly “pagan,” and hence guarantee their antiquity. The Ethiopic version of the Synaxarion renders jabal (mountain) as “monastery,” and precedes the name Tunah by the word “town.” It therefore interprets “al-jabal Tunah” as designating “the monastery of the town of Tunah” (without doubt an anachronism), and places it in the Delta rather than in Middle Egypt.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Amélineau, E. La Géographie de l’ a l’époque copte. Paris, 1893.
  • Budge, E. A. W. The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Church, 4 vols. Cambridge, 1928.

RENÉ-GEORGES COQUIN