Ephesus Sightseeing – Grotto of Seven Sleepers
Ephesus Sightseeing – The legend tells the story of seven young men who were accused of belonging to the Christian community at the time of the persecutions by the Roman Emperor Trajan Decius. He reigned from 249 to 251 AD. At this time, a group of young Christian men were given some time to renounce their faith. Rather than do that, they distributed his wealth among the poor and hid in a mountain cave, where they began to pray. During the prayer, they became overcome by great sleepiness. When they were found sleeping in the cave, at the behest of the emperor the entrance to the cave was sealed. An alternative version of this story claims that Decius ordered the incarceration of young men in a cave as punishment for their beliefs.
Many years passed, and Christianity from a persecuted religion became the state religion. After over 250 years, during the reign of Theodosius II (i.e. between 408 and 450); a landowner decided to demolish walled up the entrance to the cave, because it planned to use it as a cowshed. He was genuinely surprised to find seven men sleeping inside. They woke up with the conviction that they slept for just one day. As they were tormented by hunger, they sent one volunteer to the city to buy some food. He was to be extremally careful not to get caught by the pagans.
When the man entered Ephesus, he noticed with great astonishment that there were crosses on many buildings in the city. The biggest sensation was caused by his attempt to pay for the food with old coins from the time of Decius. City residents called the local bishop, who heard the story of seven young men.
Since the earliest version of the story comes from the vicinity of Ephesus; the legendary cave was identified with the grotto on the slope of Pion Mountain. The cave was declared a sacred place and began to attract pilgrims. For hundreds of years, the faithful wanted to be buried as close as possible next to the holy youths. With time, numerous graves appeared, and the catacombs were built in the vicinity.