The Legacy of Demetrius of Alexandria 189-232 CE: The Form and Function of Hagiography in Late Antique and Islamic Egypt, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Legacy of Demetrius of Alexandria 189-232 CE

The Form and Function of Hagiography in Late Antique and Islamic Egypt, 1st Edition

By Maged Mikhail


216 pages

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pub: 2016-12-13
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This is the first full-length study of Demetrius of Alexandria (189–232 ce), who generated a neglected, yet remarkable hagiographic program that secured him a positive legacy throughout the Middle Ages and the modern era. Drawing upon Patristic, Coptic, and Arabic sources spanning a millennium, the analysis contextualizes the Demetrian corpus at its various stages of composition and presents the totality of his hagiographic corpus in translation.

This volume constitutes a definitive study of Demetrius, but more broadly, it provides a clearly delineated hagiographic program and charts its evolution against a backdrop of political developments and intercommunal interactions. This fascinating study is a useful resource for students of Demetrius and the Church in Egypt in this period, but also for anyone working on Early Christianity and hagiography more generally.


"The Legacy of Demetrius is a multi-faceted jewel of historical investigation. Mikhail first gathers together and contextualizes virtually all that we know of Demetrius himself, and then draws out for us the process through which Demetrius the legend evolved. Through this complex investigation new windows are also opened onto the distinctive shape of Christianity in late antique and Islamic Egypt. Rarely does a study so well combine these different style of exploration."

- Lewis Ayres, Durham University, UK

"Due to [his] innovative approach and a sovereign handling of the sources, Mikhail's book is considered very successful. His deconstruction of hagiographic legends and motifs, coupled with his analysis of various editorial levels, would have to set a new standard for the study of hagiographic texts."

- Daniel Vaucher, Universität Bern, Germany, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017

Table of Contents



Part I: The Genesis and Evolution of a Hagiographic Program

1. The Bishop and the Scholar

2. Sources

3. Early Imprints

4. Date and Socio-Literary Setting of the Sahidic Coptic Tradition

5. The Encomium on Demetrius as Hagiography

6. Hagiography across Language and Culture

7. Arabic Recensions, Amendments, and Omissions: Emergence of the Normative Hagiography

8. Lent and Epact in Alexandria

9. Form, Function, and Meaning

Part II: Texts – Demetrius’s Bio-Hagiographic Dossier

I. Earliest Evidence

II. An Encomium on Demetrius of Alexandria

III. Demetrius’s sirah in the History of the Patriarchs’ Primitive Recension

IV. Eutychius’s Nazm al-jawhar (The String of Pearls)

V. Kitab al-tawarīkh and the Chronicon orientale

VI. The Coptic-Arabic synaksar (Synaxarium)

VII. Abu al-Barakat’s Musbah al-zulma (A Lamp in the Darkness)

VIII. The Difnar (Antiphonarium)

IX. Doxologies and Praises

Works Cited


About the Author

Maged S. A. Mikhail is Professor of History at California State University at Fullerton, USA.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the Early Christian World

Routledge Studies in the Early Christian World offers monographs and edited collections which explore the most cutting-edge research in Early Christianity. Covering all aspects of world of early Christianity, from theology, archaeology and history, to urbanism, class, economics, and sexuality and gender, the series aims to situate these early Christians within the wider context of Late Antiquity.

Comprising both regional studies and broader thematic surveys, this series explores what changed with the advent of Christianity, what remained the same, and how early Christians interacted with, made sense of, and shaped the world around them. Aimed at early Christian scholars, classicists and historians alike, Studies in the Early Christian World is an invaluable resource for anyone researching this fascinating period.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Ancient / General