A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

or EPHRAIM, a Syrian, born at Nisibis, flourished A. D. 370.

He spent his youth in diligent study, and devoted himself at first to a monastic life, but afterwards went to Edessa, where he was ordained deacon. He refused to proceed to the higher orders of the ministry, and is even said to have played the part of Brutus, by feigning madness in order to avoid elevation to the bishopric. He formed a close friendship with Basil, bishop of Caesareia, and shared his acrimony against the Arians and other heretics, whom he attacks with the violence characteristic of his age. He appeared in a truly Christian light at the time of a famine at Edessa, when he not only assisted the suffering poor with the greatest energy and most zealous kindness, but also actively exerted himself in urging the rich to deny themselves for their brethren's good. Sozomen (3.15) speaks with admiration of the manner in which Christianity had subdued in him a naturally irascible temper, and illustrates it by a pleasing anecdote, amusing from its quaint simplicity. At the conclusion of a long fast, Ephraem's servant let fall the dish in which he was bringing him some food. His alarm at having thus spoiled his master's dinner was removed by hearing him say, " Never mind, since the food has not come to us, we will go to it." Whereupon Ephraem sat down on the floor and ate the scraps left in the fragments of the broken dish. He died about A. D. 378, and in his last illness forbad the recitation of any funeral oration over his remains, and desired that his obsequies should be conducted in the simplest manner.