ï~~Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 46 (2009) 291-292
Sophrone de Jerusalem, Miracles des saints Cyr et Jean (BHG I 477 -479), traduction commentee par Jean Gascou. Paris: De Boccard,
2006. 242 pages. ISBN 2-7018-0209-1.
This is the first translation into a modern language of the 70 "miracles"
(miraculous healings at the shrine) of the martyrs Cyrus and John reported
by the monk and "sophist" Sophronius, quondam patriarch of Jerusalem. The
Greek text exists in a modern edition (Fernandez Marcos 1975), but it is clear
from many of the 1355 footnotes to the translation that there is still room for
improvement. G(ascou) adds many corrections of his own to those previously
made by J. Duffy. The result is somewhat awkward to use on its own or even in
conjunction with the Greek text, especially when one is in a hurry. But paying
close attention to G's scholarship is always rewarding.
Sophronius himself was healed in about 610-615 by Cyrus and John, as
he reports in the last miracle (no. 70). For the other miracles he relies on eyewitness accounts of "groupies" at the shrine who had themselves been healed,
but also on stories going back a longer time and transmitted by a caretaker
or through earlier collections of miracles. Most of the miracles are (as usual)
"oniric" healings (through incubation) of "hopeless" cases that had been "given
up" by professional doctors. Sophronius is at pains to point out the inability of
traditional Greek (pagan) medicine to heal people. Instead he operates on the
notion that many diseases, especially the more spectacular ones, are caused by
demons. Cyrus and John are therefore supposed to be more effective.
Sophronius debunks the "iatrosophists" and has often been credited with
more than ordinary knowledge of the medical profession. G. is rightly skeptical
of this. Sophronius is a well-educated, clever man, and such medical "expertise" as he retails would not be outside the ordinary knowledge of the welleducated.
In the last miracle Sophronius reports a vision in which Cyrus and John
(under different identities) have a conversation about him. John is looking for
"Homer" (Sophronius), and luckily Sophronius is healed from his Homeric
blindness, both literal and literary (although he continues to use the occasional
Homerism in his text). G. (as Fernandez Marcos before him) refers to Jerome's
more famous dream in footnote 1320. Sophronius outdoes Jerome in that the
reference to Homer fits his blindness rather well.
What do papyrologists stand to gain from this text? A glimpse of life in
and around Alexandria in late Antiquity that is otherwise not very well known.
There is hardly anything directly relating to the rest of Egypt. This is partly
because Sophronius himself is a foreigner. Another reason is his reluctance to
engage in things Egyptian because by the early seventh century most of Egypt