Eshab-i Kehf

Grotto of Seven Sleepers - Yedi Uyurlar Mağarası

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Location: Ephesus, on the northern slope of mount Pion. 18 km from Kusadasi between Kusadasi and Selcuk. Acarlar Köyü.
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Ephesus, known from the Bible, is the place where St. Paul worked around 55 AD. But the relation to an underground location is the following legend:

Decius came to Ephesus between 249 and 251 AD to enforce his laws against Christians. They were very hard and meant persecution. Seven noble young men, named Maximillian, Jamblichos, Martin, John, Dionysios, Exakostodianos, and Antoninos, were found to be Christians. The emperor gave them a short time for consideration, untill he came back again to Ephesus. So they gave their property to the poor, took only a few coins with them and went into a cave on Mount Anchilos to pray and prepare for death. When they heard of his return they said their last prayer in the cave ant then fell asleep. When found asleep in the cave Decius ordered to bury them alive by sealing the cave with huge stones. A Christian came and wrote on the outside the names of the martyrs and their story.

Years passed, the empire became Christian, and Theodosius reigned. There are two Theodosius, so it may have happened between 150 and 200 years later. A rich landowner named Adolios had the Sleepers' cave opened, to use it as a cattle-stall. The sleepers awoke, thinking they have slept only one night, and send Diomedes to the city to buy food, that they may eat before they give themselves up. Diomedes came into Ephesus and is amazed to see crosses over churches. People cannot understand whence he got his money coined by Decius. At last it comes out that the last thing he knew was Decius's reign. The bishop and the prefect go up to the cave with him, where they find the six others and the inscription. Theodosius is sent for, and the saints tell him their story.

In his time some heretics denied the resurrection of the body. But every one rejoices at this proof of the resurrection of the body. The sleepers, having improved the occasion by a long discourse, then die praising God. The emperor wants to build golden tombs for them, but they appear to him in a dream and ask to be buried in the earth of their cave. The cave is adorned with precious stones and a great church built over it. Every year the feast of the Seven Sleepers is kept.

Symeon Metaphrastes (q.v.) in his "Lives of the Saints" for the month of July.

This legend was originally of Greek origin and the version of Symeon Metaphrastes is probably the most original written version. But this kind of legends is rather common. Sleepers in caves are found in all times and all countries, there are similar stories in the legends of King Arthur or the sleeping Emperor Barbarossa.