Comments to: David Woods
Last Updated: October 1999

The Origin of the Cult of St. Christopher

Summary: St. Christopher was a member of the north African tribe of the Marmaritae. He was captured by Roman forces during the emperor Diocletian's campaign against the Marmaritae in late 301/early 302 and was transported for service in a Roman garrison in or near Antioch in Syria. He was baptised by the refugee bishop Peter of Alexandria and was martyred on 9 July 308. Bishop Peter arranged for the transport of his remains back to Marmarica in 311. He is really identifiable with the Egyptian martyr known as St. Menas. In so far as the author of the lost, original acts of St. Christopher seems both to have been based at Antioch and to have wanted to encourage missionary activity, he is probably identifiable if not as bishop Theophilus the Indian himself, present at Antioch c.351-54, then as one of his circle.

According to the earliest Greek (BHG 309-11) and Latin (BHL 1764) accounts of St. Christopher, he was a soldier who was martyred for his faith at Antioch in Syria. Unfortunately, the majority of modern reference works ignore these early accounts in favour of the more fantastic medieval accounts - western, i.e. Latin, accounts only - which culminated in the description of St. Christopher as a giant who carried Jesus across a river on his shoulders.1 The Latin account of St. Christopher suffered tremendous evolution from a very early date, and the beginnings of very many of the misunderstandings which were to force this evolution can be found even in our earliest surviving accounts of his martyrdom.2 It is important to emphasize that there are considerable differences of detail between our earliest Greek and Latin accounts of St. Christopher, and that the earliest surviving Latin account is not a simple translation of any of the earliest surviving Greek accounts, but represents a separate branch of evolution from the original Greek text. In order to recover the details of this original text, one must use both the earliest surviving Latin account as well as the earliest surviving Greek accounts, because various versions of the text often preserve important details which the others have lost.

The most important element of both the earliest Greek and Latin texts is the opening story of how St. Christopher was captured in a war and forced to serve in a military unit which the Greek text names as the numerus Marmaritarum, to give a Latin translation, or "The Unit of the Marmaritae" in English. The Marmaritae were a north African people from the region of modern Libya which the ancients knew as Marmarica. This information is extremly important because there was only ever one military unit which included the name of this people among its titles. This was a unit whose name has been otherwise preserved only by a late Roman document composed c.401, the Notititia Dignitatum.3 This mentions a Cohors Tertia Valeria Marmaritarum ("The Third Valerian Cohort of the Marmaritae") which served under the military commander of the late Roman provinces of both Syria and Syria Euphratensis.4 The title Valeria shows that it was the emperor Diocletian (284-305), whose full name was Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus, who had recruited this unit. The fact that Christopher was martyred in Syria and that the Cohors Tertia Valeria Marmaritarum served in Syria confirms that this was the unit into which Christopher is alleged to have been conscripted. This proves that Christopher cannot have been martyred before 284.

The recent publication of a unique story preserved only in a 14th-century Ethiopic manuscript provides an unexpected insight into the war which resulted in the formation of the Cohors Tertia Valeria Marmaritarum, i.e. the war in which St. Christopher was captured and forced to serve in the Roman army. The story focuses on the role of bishop Peter of Alexandria (300-311) in ransoming some of the prisoners whom the Romans captured during this war, and runs as follows: 5

"The story is like this: he was appointed bishop on the nineteenth year [of the reign] of Diocletian. Once, after he celebrated Easter, there happened the captivity of Marmarica and the deportation (?) which took place by [the order of] Diocletian. While the captives of Marmarica were driven and deported (?) through Alexandria, he redeemed five hundred captives of Marmarica and sent them to go back to their country. Having done this act of charity, he set out after Easter to tour the land of Egypt. Now there was a certain Tarfon, a priest who was sent from the Marmaricans, (who were left behind from the people with the blessed Peter), with many letters to beg for the redemption of the captives. Tarfon fell into the hand of the governor who took Marmarica captive. The governor trembled against it with anger saying, "Who is this Peter whom all these write this much ?" He cut off the hand of Tarfon the priest and sought for the blessed Peter who was teaching and straightening the faith in hiding. He appeared to the public like a lamp after giving plenty of alms, covering the naked, and feeding the hungry until his faith shone like the sun. Having completed the good deeds of Our Lord Jesus Christ, he decided to give himself in the redemption of all people. He undid his cincture for them and submitted his neck to them; he was martyred in front of all. The day of the blessed Peter, the Archbishop and the feeder with faith, entered into the book of life that will never perish [but] live for ever and in the world to come. Amen."

If nothing else, this story proves that the war against the Marmaritae postdates Peter's appointment as bishop of Alexandria in 300. Furthermore, since Peter would not have been able to ransom hostages after the outbreak of the general persecution of Christians on 23 February 303, this campaign must date to the campaign-season of either 300, 301, or 302. Finally, since this text names Diocletian in particular as the emperor responsible for the campaign (rather than his junior co-emperor Galerius Maximianus), and other evidence suggests that Diocletian did in fact visit Egypt during late 301 and early 302, 6 it reasonable to conclude that we should date this war to the time of this visit. Hence St. Christopher was captured in war in late 301 or early 302. He was then transported overseas in the train of the emperor Diocletian who reached Antioch in Syria by the autumn of 302, and it was there that he and his fellow captives were formed into a new unit, the Cohors Tertia Valeria Marmaritarum, for service in the local Syrian garrison.

The identification of St. Christopher as a member of the tribe of the Marmaritae is vital to the correct understanding of a passage which has caused more problems than most, the description of his nativeland present in all the earliest surviving accounts of his martyrdom, both Greek and Latin, according to which he came from a land of cannibals and dog-headed peoples. The Greek tradition came to interpret this passage absolutely literally, and this is why Byzantine icons often depicted St. Christopher with a dog's head. In time, of course, this led to a reaction against St. Christopher. The Latin tradition developed along different lines, however, since early Latin translations did not always render a literal translation of the original Greek term "dog-headed" (kunokephalos), and some seem to have translated it as "dog-like" (canineus). This was amended to read "Canaanite" (Cananeus) as time progressed since it was obvious that he could not really have been "dog-like".7 It is important at this point to emphasize that the description of Christopher as from the land of the dog-headed has absolutely nothing to do with the Egyptian cult of the jackal-headed god Anubis.8 The real explanation is rather more prosaic. In brief, the civilised inhabitants of the Greco-Roman world had long been accustomed to describe those who lived on the edge of their world and beyond as the strange inhabitants of stranger lands, cannibals, dog-headed peoples and worse.9 So when the author of the original account of the martyrdom of St. Christopher described his origin from the land of cannibals and dog-headed peoples he was merely signifying that he came from the edge of the civilised world as the inhabitants of the Roman empire saw it, and the Marmaritae did indeed inhabit such a peripheral region.10 He was not to realize that later generations would misinterpret this common cultural metaphor in an entirely literal fashion.

The question now arises as to the date and circumstances of St. Christopher's death. According to the earliest Greek passion (BHG 310), the events leading up to Christopher's martyrdom occurred during the 4th year of the reign of the emperor Decius (249-51). We have already discovered that Christopher was alive and well as late as 302, so this cannot be true. It is noteworthy also that Decius actually ruled less than two years.11 The emperor who ruled the Orient on a day-to-day basis for most of the period of the so-called Great Persecution of Christians 303-311 was the Maximinus whom Galerius Maximianus hailed as his Caesar, i.e. his junior colleague and co-emperor, at Nicomedia on 1 May 305. His name before his rise to power was Daza.12 It is tempting, therefore, to understand the name Decius as a corrupt reading of the name Daza in much the same way that the Latin tradition soon corrupted the name of Decius to read Dagnus (e.g. BHL 1766). Alternatively, and more probably, tradition may only have preserved the knowledge that St. Christopher had been killed during the 4th year of the emperor concerned and have lost the name of the emperor himself, so that author of the lost, original acts of St. Christopher was left to guess at the correct name of this persecuting emperor. Whatever the case, if it was the emperor himself who presided at Christopher's trial, as all the earliest accounts make clear, then it was most probably Maximinus Daza who did so, definitely so if we date Christopher's death after 1 May 305, since no other emperor had the opportunity to visit Antioch after 305.13 As for the claim that the events leading to Christopher's death at Antioch occurred during the 4th year of the reign of the relevant emperor, this cannot be true of any of the emperors who had the opportunity to visit Antioch before 305. However, it remains possible that Maximinus did visit Antioch during the 4th year of his reign, i.e in 308.14 Hence one may tentatively date the martyrdom of Christopher to the 4th year of the reign of Daza, i.e. in 308.

We now come to the vexed question of Christopher's real name. The name Christopher, the same in Greek and Latin, meant "Bearer-of-Christ". There is no evidence to support its usage as a first-name at this early date. It was still being used as an honorific title only, it would seem. According to the earliest Greek passions, Christopher only took this name at his baptism, before which he had been known as Reprebus. The earliest Latin passion reports a similar tale except that they preserve the name as Rebrebus. Both names look very like corrupt readings of the Latin term Reprobus meaning "wicked". Hence these texts seem to tell the tale of a wicked man, i.e. Reprobus, who became a bearer-of-Christ, i.e. Christopher, and to that extent they read suspiciously like a moralising tale rather than a factual report. It is arguable, therefore, that St. Christopher's real name has been lost. In so far as there exists an inscription commemorating the dedication of a Church of St. Christopher in Bithynia in 452, it is clear that it must have been lost at a very early date.15 Indeed, the fact that none of the surviving versions of the acts of St. Christopher preserve his real name suggests that this name had already been lost before the author of the lost, original acts composed his work based on the few surviving facts that tradition had managed to preserve until that time.

The earliest surviving accounts of St. Christopher's martyrdom might easily give the impression that St. Christopher was captured in war, forced to serve in the Roman army, then martyred, all within a relatively short space of time. We have seen, however, that a closer examination of the evidence reveals that he was captured in 302 and executed in 308. To this extent, the surviving sources have distorted the chronological perspective of their ultimate source, even if they have preserved snippets of information which allow us to recover the correct perspective in the light of modern historical research. It is important to realize, therefore, that even though these accounts give the impression that St. Christopher was forced upon the path to martyrdom by the issue of a general edict of persecution against the Christians, this was probably not the case. We know of no such legislation issued in 308, from Antioch or not. If one seeks an explanation for his relatively late martyrdom in 308 rather than in 303, for example, the year of the first edicts against the Christians, then it may well lie in the identity of the cleric who baptized Christopher, indeed in his very decision to be baptized, whether or not one believes that we can identify this cleric. According to the earliest Greek texts (e.g. BHG 310, ch. 7), it was bishop Babylas of Antioch who baptized Christopher, but since Babylas had himself been martyred in 251, we may dismiss this possibility. This allegation represents a late Antiochene development about the earliest tradition. In contrast, the earliest surviving Latin text (BHL 1764, ch. 7) names the cleric reponsible as a "presbyter" by the name of Peter. Given what the above-mentioned Ethiopic source has already revealed concerning the ties between bishop Peter of Alexandria and the Marmaritae, it is worth asking whether it was bishop Peter who baptized Christopher. In support of this possibility one notes that Peter was absent from his own see of Alexandria from 306 until just before his martyrdom in 311.16 One source records that he wandered throughout Palestine, Mesopotamia, and the province of Syria Phoenice.17 It is not unreasonable to suggest, therefore, that he may have persuaded members of the Cohors Tertia Valeria Marmaritarum to afford him temporary shelter on account of the kindness which he had earlier shown their people, and that several conversions resulted from this renewed contact, including that of the man we know now as Christopher. Hence Christopher's martyrdom may best be interpreted as a consequence of his conversion and baptism by Peter rather than as a result of any particular new measure by the regime itself.

It should be clear at this point that there is a strong historical core to the earliest surviving accounts of the martyrdom of St. Christopher. So what happened to St. Christopher's remains after his death ? Why do we possess no evidence for any central cult site such as that that developed at Euchaita in the case of St. Theodore, or at Resapha in the case of Ss. Sergius and Bacchus, to pick just two examples ? The earliest surviving texts are not very helpful except in so far as they do confirm that his corpse was returned to St. Christopher's nativeland. The earliest Greek text claims that a certain bishop Peter of Attalia paid a large ransom for his body and returned with it to his city. In contrast, the earliest Latin text records that it was a bishop Athanasius of Italy (Italia) who paid for his corpse. If nothing else, this serves as a stark reminder of how corrupt our surviving texts are. However, it seems probable that bishop Peter of Attalia is identifiable with the "presbyter" Peter who baptized Christopher, i.e. as bishop Peter of Alexandria. Our texts have preserved a dim account of how bishop Peter of Alexandria arranged for the return of St. Christopher's corpse to his nativeland via his see of Alexandria, probably at the same time that he himself returned to Alexandria, during the short break in the persecution which occurred between Galerius Maximianus' issue of an edict of toleration about April 311 and the renewal of active persecution by Maximinus in November of the same year. But why do Egyptian sources not record the commemoration of any martyr of this name ? The answer is that they did not know him by the name Christopher.

If one holds fast to the undisputable fact that Christopher was from the tribe of the Marmaritae, then one ought to concentrate the search for his cult in the region between Marmarica and Alexandria. This being the case one's attention is immediately drawn to the cult which grew up about the remains of St. Menas in a location 45km south-west of Alexandria which is now known as Abu Mina since its ancient name has been lost. The interesting thing about St. Menas is that nothing is known for sure about his martyrdom. The archaeological remains prove that his cult had sprung up over an underground burial chamber sometime during the 4th century.18 However, the earliest surviving Greek account of his martyrdom is complete fiction based, for the most part, on bishop Basil of Caesarea's account of the genuine military martyr Gordius of Caesarea. Furthermore, it has been plausibly argued that the author of this account was bishop Cyrus of Cotyaeum, a native of Panopolis in Egypt, writing c.450.19 The Coptic sources are no better in that they all seem to depend on this Greek account for the knowledge of Menas' death. Hence while the archaeology all but proves that Menas was a genuine martyr in that he enjoyed commemoration from a very early date over a genuine burial site, the literary sources preserve little genuine information concerning the circumstances of his death. Yet Cyrus' account of Menas is valuable, though, in so far as his choice of materials with which to work, and the very fact that he felt free to do as he did, identify a place of execution for Menas overseas, suggests that he was operating under only three main restrictions, traditional beliefs (1) that Menas had been a soldier, (2) that he had been martyred overseas, and (3) that his remains had been returned to his nativeland after his execution. This corresponds to what we now know of St. Christopher. In short, there is a strong case for identifying the historical St. Christopher with the historical St. Menas.

The fact that St. Christopher was martyred in one place but buried in a far distant region serves to explain the unusual development of his cult. The church of Antioch preserved a vague memory of his martyrdom, which included a few concrete facts, since it was there that he had been executed, while the local church at Abu Mina preserved the knowledge only that a member of their community had been executed as a martyr while serving overseas. However, the church at Antioch did not preserve Menas' true name, very likely because he had not been an active member of their community. Not only was he executed shortly after his conversion and baptism, but he had belonged to that class of persons whom the wider Christian community at Antioch would have had every reason to distrust during a time of persecution, the military. To make matters worse, he was a foreigner, from another region of the empire altogether, and only a recent immigrant to the Syrian region. It seems likely, therefore, that he had belonged to an immigrant church at Antioch provided for by immigrant clergy such as the refugee bishop Peter of Alexandria rather than to the main Christian church there. It was only sometime after the end of the persecution that a member of the mainstream church at Antioch decided to draw together the few facts preserved about a foreign soldier who had been martyred for his faith in their town and use them in the composition of a fuller martyrial account in the traditional sense, i.e. with a full account of the martyr's speeches before his judge and the judge's own comments. He could not discover the martyr's real name, though, so he simply referred to him by an honorific title of Christopher, "The Bearer-of-Christ". In time, however, this was misunderstood as his real name, and since it was common for Christians to change their names upon baptism, and it was his baptism which had inspired Christopher to act as he did, the temptation was to invent a name for him in his prebaptismal state. Hence the decision to call him Reprobus, "wicked", before his baptism. As for the reason why the church at Abu Mina did not preserve a fuller account of the circumstances of Menas' death, this is best explained by the renewed persecution of Christians 311-12 which saw the execution of the one man above all who knew any of the relevant details, bishop Peter of Alexandria. He was killed, it would seem, before he had time to compose a fuller record of Menas' death for the edification either of his own people or of the wider Christian community in Egypt.

The next question concerns the identity and purpose of the author of the original acts of St. Christopher. One would normally expect the author of the acts of a martyr to have composed them for liturgical use at the tomb of the relevant martyr, but since the contents of these acts show them to have been composed at Antioch while St. Christopher's body had actually been translated overseas, this explanation cannot suffice in this instance. Furthermore, the fact that the martyr's real name had been lost suggests that he had enjoyed no official liturgical commemoration until our unknown author decided to compose these acts in an effort to propagate the cult of a martyr who had been all but forgotten. So why did this author decide to act as he did ? The answer lies in the opening chapter of the oldest surviving Greek and Latin texts where the author claims that God helps not only (longstanding) Christians, but also those who have only been recently converted to Christianity, and the emphasis he places on the foreign origin and nature of St. Christopher, including the fact that he could not even speak "our" language. In brief, the author was trying to justify missionary activity among those who lived on the edge of or outside the Roman empire. Hence the author of the acts of St. Christopher is identifiable as someone (1) who resided at Antioch sufficiently long to have learned an obscure account of a martyr who had been almost entirely forgotten, and (2) who had a keen interest in missionary activity among peoples at the edge of or outside the empire. This immediately calls to mind the activities of bishop Theophilus the Indian.20 He had been born on the island of Diva, whose modern identity is disputed, and had been sent as a hostage to the court of Constantine I (306-37), so sometime after Constantine had acquired control of the eastern part of the Roman empire in 324. Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia ordained him deacon, others, whose names have been lost, consecrated him bishop, and the emperor Constantius II (337-61) sent him on a long missionary voyage to the Sabaeans and Homeritae in the Arabian peninsula, to his home island of Diva and other areas of "India", and to the Auxumitae along the African side of the entrance to the Red Sea. The most important points as far as we are here concerned is that he stayed at Antioch after his return and seems to have remained there until he accompanied the Caesar Gallus (351-54) on his fateful journey to the West in late 354.21 He seems to have died c.365 to judge from his disappearance from our sources at this time, and is not known to have left the empire after his earlier missionary journey. In fact, he spent most of the 350s out of favour and in internal exile because as a so-called Anomoean bishop he belonged to one of the smaller, losing factions in the theological disputes of the age. Given these circumstances, it is tempting to identify him as the author of the original acts of St. Christopher sometime during his stay at Antioch following his initial missionary journey. If this is the case, one should interpret his composition of the acts as an effort to drum up the interest, of the emperor, probably the Caesar Gallus, among others, in the sponsorship of a second missionary journey. Unfortunately, this was not to be.

Difficulties remain. One of the most interesting concerns the exact date of St. Christopher's death. According to the one early Greek source (BHG 309) St. Christopher was killed on 9 May (VI Idus Mai = 6th day before the Ides of May), but according to another (BHG 310) he was killed on 9 July (VII Idus Iul. = 7th day before Ides of July). Similarly, the earliest surviving Latin text (BHL 1764) dates his death to 10 July (VI Idus Iul. = 6th day before Ides of July) while later Latin lives (e.g. BHL 1766) date his death to 25 July (VIII Kal. Aug. = 8th day before Kalends of August), as does the 5th-centry Hieronymian Martyrology. The most probable solution, I suggest, is that Christopher was killed on 9 July as BHG 310 preserves, and that the scribe for the text of BHL 1764 has omitted an I from his Roman numeral. It is important at this point to note that the earliest surviving passions actually preserves two sets of dates, the date of martyrdom of two prostitutes whom Christopher converted as well as the date of martyrdom of Christopher himself. Hence BHL 1764, for example, records that the prostitutes were killed on 24 June (VIII Kal. Iul. = 8th day before Kalends of July). Given that the later Latin lives such as BHL 1766 preserve only one date, that of the martyrdom of Christopher on 25 July (VIII Kal. Aug.), it is clear that a twofold process has occurred to create this mistake. First, the date of the martyrdom of the prostitutes has been mistakenly interpreted as the date of all the activities described. Then, for whatever reason, the month of August has been substituted for that of July in the Roman form of this date. Hence 9 July was transformed into 24 June to be transformed into 25 July.

It is not surprising that the date of martyrdom of St. Christopher on 9 July does not correspond to any of the traditional Coptic feasts of St. Menas - 11 November (15 Hathor: the day of his martyrdom), 9 June (15 Paone: the day of the alleged revelation of his remains), and 25 June (1 Epip: the day of consecration of his shrine) - since the church at Abu Mina preserved practically nothing about the historical Menas. One suspects, though, that the date 11 November may well be based on genuine information preserved on some inscription at his tomb, painted or otherwise, but that it pertained to the date of his final burial rather than the date of his martyrdom, i.e. that bishop Peter of Alexandria managed to complete his burial a mere two weeks before he himself suffered martyrdom also on 25 November 311.

Finally, one cannot help but see divine providence at work in the fact that St. Christopher developed into the patron saint of travellers in the West. One cannot imagine a martyr more suited for this task than one who was transported so far overseas from his nativeland.


Notes

1     See, e.g, the entry in D.H. Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (3rd ed.: Oxford, 1992), 97-98; or the note by V. Saxer in A. di Berardino (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Early Church I (New York, 1992), 165, who dismisses the earliest accounts as a "collection of unlikely things".

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2     For comparative purposes, see H. Delehaye, The Legends of the Saints (repr. Dublin, 1998), 101-116, a description of how a simple account of the martyrdom of a cleric called Procopius was gradually transformed into a long and complex account of the martyrdom of a general called Procopius.

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3     On the date of this document, see now C. Zuckerman, "Comtes et ducs en Egypte autour de l'an 400 et la date de la Notitia Dignitatum Orientis", Antiquité Tardive 6 (1998), 137-147.

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4     Not. Dig. Or. 33.34. Unfortunately, the last word of this line has been lost so that we do not know where exactly in Syria this unit was stationed c.401.

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5     The translation is from G. Haile, "The Martyrdom of St. Peter Archbishop of Alexandria (EMML 1763, ff. 79r-80v)", Analecta Bollandiana 98 (1980), 85-92.

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6     See T.D. Barnes, The New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine (Cambridge, MA, 1982), 55.

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7     Many modern art-history textbooks display a very poor understanding of the sequence of events here. E.g. L. Ross, Medieval Art: A Topical Dictionary (Westport, 1996), 50, speculates that the Byzantine depiction of St. Christopher as dog-headed resulted from their misinterpretation of the Latin term Cananeus to read canineus !

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8     A great deal of nonsense has been written on this subject because of the superficial similarities between Anubis and the traditional eastern depiction of St. Christopher. See, e.g., P. Saintyves, Saint Christophe: Successeur d'Anubis, d'Hermès et d'Héracles (Paris, 1936). For a review of various attempts to interpret different saints as the successors of a wide range of pagan gods and goddesses, see Delehaye (n. 2), 119-169, although he does not actually touch upon the cult of St. Christopher here.

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9     E.g. Herodotus 4.194. In general, see J.S. Romm, The Edges of the World in Ancient Thought (Princeton, 1992), esp. 77-81.

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10     For an excellent discussion of all this, see Schwartz, J. "A propos de l'iconographie orientale de s. Christophe", Le Muséon 67 (1954), 93-98.

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11     See, e.g., G.W. Clarke, "Dating the Death of the Emperor Decius", Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 37 (1980), 114-116, on the controversy concerning the exact date of his death.

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12     Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 18.13. See C.S. Mackay, "Lactantius and the Succession to Diocletian", Classical Philology 94 (1999), 198-209, esp. 207-9 on the spelling of Maximinus' original name as Daza rather than Daia as is sometimes claimed. Note also that no ancient source referred to Maximinus Daia by these two names. This is merely a modern convention.

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13     See Barnes (n. 6), 65-66.

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14     Note that there are several different ways of calculating regnal years. For example, if one dates Daza's 1st regnal year from 1 May 305 - 31 December 305, his 2nd from 1 January 306 - 31 December 306, and so on, then his 4th regnal year falls from 1 January 308 -31 December 308. Alternatively, if one dates his 1st regnal year from 1 May 305 - 30 April 306, his 2nd regnal year from 1 May 306 - 30 April 307, and so on, then his 4th year falls from 1 May 308 - 30 April 309. As we will see shortly, there is great confusion over the correct date of Christopher's martyrdom, but all the possible dates fall after 1 May, so that they all fall in 308 whatever system we prefer to use when calculating the 4th regnal year.

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15     See H. Grégoire, "Inscriptions historiques byzantines", Byzantion 4 (1927), 461-465.

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16     In general on Peter, see T. Vivian, St. Peter of Alexandria Bishop and Martyr (Philadelphia, 1988).

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17     See Vivian (n. 15), 68, for an English translation of the passion of St. Peter published and discussed by W. Telfer, "St. Peter of Alexandria and Arius", Analecta Bollandiana 67 (1949), 117-30.

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18     For an English summary of the history of Abu Mina, see P. Grossman, "The Pilgrimage Center of Abū Mīnā", in D. Frankfurter (ed.), Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt (Leiden, 1998), 281-302.

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19     See P. Peeters, Le tréfonds oriental de l'hagiographie byzantine (Brussels, 1950), 39-40. In general on Cyrus, see A. Cameron, "The Empress and the Poet: Paganism and Politics and the Court of Theodosius II", Yale Classical Studies 27 (1982), 217-289, esp. at 245-247 where he wholeheartedly approves of Peeters' identification.

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20     In general, see I. Shahid, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Fourth Century (Wahington DC, 1984), 86-106; also G. Fernandez, "The Evangelizing Mission of Theophilus "The Indian" and the Ecclesiastical Policy of Constantius II", Klio 71 (1989), 361-66, with some reservations in each case. It is clear from the evidence of the ecclesiastical historian Philostorgius, our only direct evidence for Theophilus' journey, that it began c.340, although neither of the above commentators accept this. A key point here is that Philostorgius seems to date Theophilus' mission about or just after the time that bishop Athanasius of Alexandria was expelled from his see and fled to the West (HE 3.3). However, although Philostorgius names the bishop who replaced Athanasius as George, and a George really did replace Athanasius in 356, it is clear from other sources that Philostorgius, or his source, has confused the names of the Gregory who replaced Athanasius in 339 with the George who replaced him in 356. The surrounding context further reinforces this point.

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21     Philostorgius, HE 3.15; 4.1.

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