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Seven Sleepers of Ephesus

the heroes of a famous legend that, because it affirmed the resurrection of the dead, had a lasting popularity in all Christendom and in Islam during the Middle Ages. According to the story, during the persecution of Christians (AD 250) under the Roman emperor Decius, seven (eight in some versions) Christian soldiers were concealed near their native city of Ephesus in a cave to which the entry was later sealed. There, having protected themselves from being forced to do pagan sacrifices, they fell into a miraculous sleep. During the reign (AD 408-450) of the Eastern Roman emperor Theodosius II, the cave was reopened, and the Sleepers awoke. The emperor was moved by their miraculous presence and by their witness to their Christian doctrine of the body's resurrection. Having explained the profound meaning of their experience, the Seven died, whereupon Theodosius ordered their remains to be richly enshrined; and he absolved all bishops who had been persecuted for believing in the Resurrection

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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