Seven Sleepers of Ephesus
SEVEN SLEEPERS OF EPHESUS
According to a pious legend, stemming perhaps from the 6th century, seven early Christian Ephesians who were walled up in a cave near their city when taking refuge from the persecution of Decius. Their names, with certain variations, were Maximian, Malchus, Marcion, Denis, John, Serapion, and Constantine. To shield them from the wrath of the emperor, according to the story, God put them to sleep. Some 200 years later the seven Ephesians awakened and found that their city had become Christian. Discovered by the astonished citizenry of Ephesus, the seven sleepers promptly died and were venerated as saints. baronius, in the 16th century, challenged the authenticity of the story, which, as recorded by Jacob of Serugh and gregory of tours, had enjoyed great popularity in the East and the West. H. Thurston and D. Attwater describe it as a Christianization of a pagan or Jewish legend closely akin to the tale of Rip Van Winkle.
Bibliography: h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 1907–53) 15.1:1251–62. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater, 4 v. (New York 1956) 3:193–196. f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 1246.